Who wants some good ol’ home-cooked Palm software?

Photo: My Handspring Visor Platinum in a frying pan with a spatula.

If you’ve got an idea for an application for your Palm or Handspring PDA, I might be able to cook one up for you. It’ll also be suitable for low-carbohydrate diets.

The problem

My ongoing job search has made it quite clear to me that I have a problem with my portfolio.

In my two years of work for OpenCola, I wrote a lot of software prototypes that never made the leap to finished, complete, released application. With my friend and co-worker Chris Cummer, I wrote an application that grabbed video and MP3 files from the Gnutella file-sharing network and broadcast them as a stream, essentially creating a “what’s on the Internet?” station; the lawyers killed that project. I also worked on the user interface for two version of OpenCola’s file-sharing-and-news-finding software. both these versions were scrapped and bear only a very fleeting resemblance to the current version.

My recent work — an Web-based player registration and account management system for Silvercloud’s online trivia game — will probably never see the light of day. The company ran out of money in August, the partners have gone their separate ways, and the other members of the programming team bailed for less deadbeat pastures.

The end result is that my interviews with placement agencies and prospective employers sound similar to this conversation between a builder and someone looking to buy a house:

Potential house buyer: So, Mr. Builder, may I see the last house you built?

Builder: Um, you’re looking at it.

Potential house buyer: Looking at it where?

Builder: Right here. Right…ah…in front of you.

Potential house buyer: This is a model of a house, made out of balsawood!!

Builder: I prefer to call it a working prototype. See? A nice island in the middle of the kitchen; it’s all the rage on the home decorating shows. Look here: that’s real water coming out of those miniature sinks! And feel here — the heating ducts work! There’s a miniature water pump in ther basement, and I’m simulating a furnace with a Zippo lighter! And don’t tell me you don’t like the teeny halogen lights in the dining room…

Potential house buyer: I’ll say that the design’s very good, but do you have anything that I could actually live in?

Builder: Erm…yes. Right this way; it’s just next door.

Potential house buyer: You’ve got to be joking! This house is just a living room!

Builder: Actually, it a living room and front hallway. And the bathroom’s mostly done…

Potential house buyer: The living room is missing one wall!

Builder: Well, we would’ve gotten the rest of the house done, but we ran out of drywall. And two-by-fours. And, um…bricks.

Potential house buyer: I think I’ve seen enough. Thank you very much, Mr. Builder, and I look forward to seeing you in whatever new career you eventually follow.

Builder: Wait! You haven’t seen my cottage design! I have sketches!

The solution

I’ve managed to snag a little contract work, so in about a month or so, I may actually have some recent examples of actual paying work to show to potential employers and clients. However, where portfolios are concerned, more is better, and here’s where you come in.

I need ideas for Palm applications. If you’re an avid user of a PDA that runs the PalmOS — which means a Palm handheld, a Handspring Visor, or Sony Clie, and if there’s some program you wish existed for it, maybe I can help you. I’ll write the application and give it to you — for free. I’ll also make it available for download off this site, and credit you with the concept. It’s win-win: I get a fatter portfolio, and you get software you want.

Why a handheld application? Well, it’s an area which is still wide-open, and it’s one of the two “big directions” in which computing is travelling (the two directions being mobile computing and wireless networks). The limited memory and screen of a PDA also sets certain limits of the scope of a programming project, hopefully guaranteeing that I can finish the project in a reasonable amount of time and that it won’t grow into a Herculean task.

(Yes, I do have my own ideas for Palm software that I could write, but I figured that it might be better to write software that someone out there wants. Who knows — your ideas might be better than mine.)

If you’ve got an idea, drop me a line or leave a note in the comments.

Leave a Reply