|Subject:||[Nerps] [STUFF] Resubmit: Pocket Secretaries|
|Date:||Thu, 15 Apr 1999 09:55:52 -0400|
for NERPS: Stuff
(>) Last night, I helped a chummer pull some data from a captured pocket
secretary. The intel ended up saving her life and earning us both a few
nuyen. With that in mind, I thought I'd post this article from last week's
Consumer Watch on the current crop of pocket secs so you know what's out
there. As always, please share what you know about these beasts, and how
runners can use them.
(>) Capt. Chaos
Pocket Secretaries: Not Just For Suits Anymore
Long a symbol of corporate affiliation and white-collar success, the pocket
secretary is growing in popularity in increasingly non-corporate markets,
such as education, farming and manufacture. You can even find them in many
auto-body shops around the world. This year's models begin to target this
emerging market and, combined with the breakup of Fuchi, this is crowding
the field. With this new market in mind, in addition to the usual product
analysis, Consumer Watch is pleased to offer a introduction what you can
expect for your money when buying a new pocket secretary.
(>) Consumer Watch claims to be a non-profit organization which does not
accept money from any corporation. I find that hard to believe. What's the
(>) Near as I can tell, it's true. I think the corps realize the PR benefit
of a good rating from a "non-partial" source. In some ways, its the best
sort of free advertisement you can get. What is not common knowledge,
though, is that megacorps, and some second-tier corps, send "coaches" (I'll
spare you the official corp-speak term) to Consumer Watch to make sure that
they know about the strengths and best features of their products, and that
can significantly impact a review. I know this for a fact because I
personally was one of these "coaches" when I worked for Fuchi.
Pocket secretaries are just that personal, electronic information managers
which can fit in your pocket, or at least in your briefcase or backpack.
Pocket secretaries, often called "pocket secs", are designed to be owned an
operated entirely by a single person. They function as a constant digital
companion, allowing you to stay in touch with others and organize your time,
needs, ideas and even desires in a single, powerful package.
(>) And this is why pocket secs are so useful to us. Shadowrunners, I mean.
People tell their secs stuff they'd never dream of telling their spouse,
lover, boss or shrink, even stuff that should never be written down. I have
literally found a pocket sec with a date book entry that said "2:00pm:
Initiate double-cross of hired thugs".
(>) Man on the Moon
(>) With you being the thug in question, Moon? Doubt it. Seriously, though,
if you are looking to blackmail or leverage someone, you could do worse than
to grab their pocket sec.
(>) I can do much worse than that!
(>) Flip, the Bird
All secretaries contain digital cellular phones in some fashion, and most
act as pagers as well. In most cases, pager and phone service is extra, so
must be factored when considering the cost of a new pocket secretary.
Fortunately, pocket secs use standard cell phone technology, and in most
cases can be added to an existing plan.
(>) Just to spell it out for you slowpokes: this means that using a pocket
secretary carries all of the eavesdropping and triangulation risks of a
normal cell phone.
(>) Works both ways, chummer. You can intercept a suit's call, too.
Many cell-phone service providers sell voice-mail service for cellular
customers, but most pocket secretaries come with software which provides
call-screening, caller-id, voice-mail, and other advanced communications
(>) One of my favorites is the ability to digitally record the conversations
you have. You never know when a recording like that can be useful.
(>) Oo, Myra, one of the things I love about you is that you play with fire.
Your own recordings can be used against you as well, so take care. I'd hate
to see anything happen to those beautiful curves.
(>) Your concern is noted. Nauseating, but noted.
Many of the devices reviewed here support vidphone communication. Usually, a
small compartment holds a miniature camera at the end of a two meter wire.
The camera is held or connected to an object in front of the speaker with a
built-in clip. Some models feature a rotating camera mounted above the
screen. In either configuration, the camera can also be used to snap photos
and flat video as well.
Being digital, most devices reviewed here can be made to make periodic
connections to the Matrix to download (or upload) information. This is
typically done to check e-mail on a regular basis, update stock prices and
synchronize banking transactions.
(>) What? I thought pocket secs couldn't use the Matrix!
(>) Of course they can, dolt! Sure, you can't use them to deck, or even get
a VR interface, but they can connect and move data to and from the Matrix
just like any other computer. Just not as quick as a deck.
(>) Hmm, this means that I could wait for the target to hook his sec up to
the Matrix, then deck into it and read his files. Easy.
(>) Sorry, chummer, but the bandwidth is to narrow to deck out of, what
makes you think you could get in?
(>) True, but that's not the real reason you can't deck into a pocket sec.
Avalaros is thinking "the sec is just a computer, and when a computer is on
the Matrix, I can deck into it, therefore I can deck into a sec when it's on
the Matrix". The flaw in this logic is the second statement. You cannot deck
into all computers on the Matrix, only those designed to accept Matrix
connections. Pocket secs are not. First off, they just don't have the juice
to act as a Matrix host. Secondly, they just aren't designed for it.
(>) In the Matrix, when you look at a pocket sec, it really doesn't look
like a computer. The closest comparison is a Matrix connected device, like a
(>) So? I can tell a maglock to unlock from the Matrix. Why not tell a sec
to give me its data?
(>) You can only tell a maglock to unlock if it is designed and programmed
to let somebody unlock it remotely. There are plenty of maglocks hooked up
to security systems which can't be unlocked remotely by anyone, not even
valid users. Some are hooked up only to respond to the question "are you
locked?". If that's all they are built to do, that's all they can do for
anyone, even legitimate users. Decking isn't telepathy; if a valid user
can't do it, you can't either. Pocket secretaries are personal devices and
are not constructed or programmed to allow remote users to download or
(>) This isn't always true, though. You could run software on your sec for
the sole purpose of making it remotely accessible. If you ran such software,
you'd open your doors to Avalaros. It's a lot like running a hypertext
server on your desktop machine or deck, though why anyone would do this is
beyond me. The sec is supposed to be with you at all times, so why would you
ever need to get at it remotely?
(>) Even so, most sec owners are computer morons, so Trojan horses can
sometimes work. You just create a program which "opens the door" and trick
the poor fragger into downloading and running it. Usually you do this by
hiding the code in a program Mr. Suit is downloading voluntarily. Tough, but
(>) You all overlook one fact: to peek into the secretary, you have to
access its connection point. If the sec is downloading data through its
phone, that connection point will be deep inside the computers of the
company providing cellular service to the secretary.
Nearly all pocket secs have a standard I/O port for connection with desktop
computers, datajacks, Matrix connections, external displays and other
peripherals like trideo cameras. Many of these devices also contain infrared
communication ports which can send data to and from other pocket
secretaries, or any other device that uses Renraku's IRX standard.
Since banking is an important part of what a pocket sec does, most of these
devices contain a port for a credstick. This allows electronic banking in
the palm of your hand. (Many of these credstick readers also allow data
storage options as well. See "Storage", below.)
The other component of day-to-day pocket sec use is the software inside it.
Most pocket secs come with a suite of personal productivity applications.
(>) I'm stepping in here. The article goes on at length about the wonders of
modern application software. Snip, snip. The short version is that most
pocket secs come with an integrated software package which provides:
word-processing, spreadsheet capability, date book, address book, banking
and finance, e-mail, and so on. Usually, the OS also has advanced internal
search abilities and hypertext display system. This stuff usually takes up
(>) Capt. Chaos
(>) It bears mentioning as well that pocket secs are computers, and can run
a number of third-party software titles. I love Cartesia, a map display and
route analysis product. One of the best selling titles is the truly
impressive Stark, a financial analysis system from Tablelands software. It
ties into the financial information in the secretary, and gives financial
advice. If you hook your sec up to the Matrix on occasion, Stark can
download stock information and give stock tips as well.
(>) Like any other computers, pocket secs can be programmed. I've written a
number of custom applications for the secs of my running team.
(>) Like what?
(>) I wrote a cheesy voice modulator, for example. Wouldn't fool a voice
analyzer, but most people wouldn't recognize the voice. You know, kind of
like those interviews with people who don't want to be seen and it sounds
like they're talking through water. There's other things, but that would be
(>) I coded a controller for my pocket sec that would call up my home
computer and issue instructions to run the place, like turning lights on and
off and so on. I can also suck images from some cameras I put in my
apartment from far away. There's some risk to wiring your doss like this,
but it has saved my hoop at least once.
You control your pocket secretary through three primary methods: stylus,
keyboard and voice. Not all pocket secs allow all three of these, but most
offer at least two. Stylus control involves drawing and "gesturing" directly
on the screen with a pen-like object that comes with (and stored within) the
device. Stylus control is coupled with real-time handwriting recognition,
translating what you write into digital symbols. Stylus control is useful
for drawing applications, but is used most often to input non-roman
languages, especially Japanese.
Nearly all pocket secs have windows and icons which represent standard
actions and applications, and these can be manipulated with the stylus using
a "point and tap" interface. The interface is nearly identical to
mouse-based interfaces on personal computers.
Keyboard input is naturally only available to devices which have keyboards,
about half of those on the market. Our tests have found that most tasks are
better suited to stylus or voice control than keyboards; however, the
keyboard is extremely useful in situations where you wish to compose a
message without speaking aloud, such as on an airplane. Most people can type
much faster than they can write, so the keyboard beats the stylus soundly in
terms of speed.
Industry experts widely regard the current generation of pocket secretaries
as the first generation universally offering perfected voice interface.
Voice interface has long been a staple of modern computing, but it is now so
advanced that it can appear nearly magical, mostly because it has been
integrated with sophisticated "agent" software. For example, you can tell
your pocket sec to "schedule a meeting with Bob next week" and your device
will find Bob in your address book, find time next week in your date book
when you are available, send Bob a standard schedule request e-mail, wait
for a reply, then create an appointment in your date book at the agreed time
and tell you about it. If it needs help along the way (if there are more
than one Bob, for example), it will ask you for clarification. Just like a
real secretary, the device will learn about your preferences as it interacts
(>) An interesting weakness in the corporate world is that this "standard
schedule request e-mail" that got sent to Bob will likely be answered by
Bob's own pocket sec, not Bob himself. Out of the box, Bob's pocket sec will
figure out the best time, and will ask Bob for confirmation; however, Bob
might get tired of always answering these confirmations. Most suits, sooner
or later, end up issuing filter instructions to their secs like "always
accept any meeting request coming from my boss", or "I never want to have a
meeting with anyone who is not in my address book", and so on. The sec will
stash all this info in memory, and from it, we can learn quite a bit about
how Bob interacts with certain people. You can almost always tell who his
superior at the company is, and usually the members of his project or team.
(>) The learning behavior was found to be the primary reason for the
tendency of corporate employees to view their pocket secretary as an entity,
complete with personality quirks and feelings, rather than an object. As the
device changes the way it relates to the user, the user changes the way it
relates to the device.
(>) This can form a real emotional bond between the user and the device. I
personally witnessed a pocket sec used to enhance the material link to a
ritual sorcery target.
The voice interpretation of a pocket secretary also turn your works into
text in real time with great accuracy. Generally, the device will only make
mistakes a real person might make, such as misspelling names or other proper
nouns. It uses context to decide among homonyms (different words that are
pronounced the same, like "bare" and "bear"). It also analyzes
even inflection, to provide text formatting, such as paragraph breaks. The
pocket sec will, for example, italicize words from languages other than the
main language of the document being composed or the names of books. It also
does a good job of putting the right text in quotation marks, so you can
dictate a dialog in a fiction book without the need for retouching.
(>) Mostly useless fact of the day: you can usually tell that a document was
dictated to a sec if all of the commas are in the correct places.
Most devices reviewed here can read back text as well, in a quite reasonable
voice. Some can even read back to you in a different language, again using
the context information to assist in the translation.
(>) A new trend is to install custom voices into your sec. I hear someone is
releasing the late, lamented Euphoria's voice in a few months. Sign me up!
Apart from its "voice" the pocket secretary can also communicate to you with
sound. Most have advanced alarm abilities and can play CD-quality music. The
screen is the other primary method of communicating to the user. The current
generation of machines uses full color ruthenium grids for display screens,
at densities from 470 to 940 dots per centimeter.
(>) For you Yanks, that's about 1200 to 2400 dpi.
Available in a wide range of internal storage capacities, most pocket
secretaries can also use external storage. Some contain one or more slots
for standard 1,000Mp optical data chip cartridges [sr3.288]. Other units,
either in addition to or in place of standard chip ports, have moved to the
Dataspike public standard, invented in 2056 by Fuchi and now controlled by
the International Standards Organization. The latest version of this
standard houses 1,000Mp of storage into a spike with the same dimensions as
a credstick. Dataspike readers, designed with pocket electronics in mind,
can read both credsticks and dataspikes, allowing two critical components of
a pocket secretary to be combined into the same physical space.
To complete their functionality, the vast majority of pocket secretaries
come complete with multimedia capabilities. Most have at least one decent
speaker, usually two, as well as a standard jack for headphones or external
speakers. Sound output is of CD quality, and many support surround sound,
though this requires external speakers. Sound may also be recorded at CD
quality from a built-in microphone or external source, using one megapulse
per minute [sb.99].
Many models reviewed here contain built-in digital photo systems. The same
camera used for vidphone communication is pointed at the subject, and you
can see the image live on the screen. The quality of the image is
adjustable, depending on how much storage you wish to use per photo. In
standard mode, you can fit 60 photos per megapulse [sr3.299].
The camera can play back full-screen video at 30 frames per second. Units
that support vidphone communication can record video as well (including
vidphone calls). Though not as good as a dedicated video recorder, image
quality of recordings made by the pocket sec is adequate. Standard video
requires one megapulse per minute in addition to the storage used by any
sound recorded with the video [sb.99].
Pocket secretaries cannot directly display trideo, but can be used to drive
external trideo displays, during presentations, for example.
(>) Renraku tried to market a pocket sec that had a simsense player in it
last year. Failed miserably. I guess it was just to big.
(>) Nope. It failed because most pocket secs are bought by corps, who give
them to their suits. Corps don't want their suits braindancing, they want
'em on the real world, making money.
Like most products, the various brands of pocket secretary differentiate
themselves from each other on the basis of capability, features and cost;
however, the actual shape of a pocket secretary greatly influences who uses
it and why. Thus, shape is one of the most important product differentiators
in the pocket sec market, with most corporations targeting a certain kind of
Pocket secs come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, and this makes
blanket comparison of them a spotty proposition. Rather than a single
recommendation, in our final analysis, we recommend several models, based on
the which model might fit the needs of a certain kind of user.
In general, pocket secs break down into a handful of types. The most common
is the "pad" format. These generally have no keyboard, instead relying on
stylus and voice input, and range in size from a pack of cigarettes to a
paperback book. Next is the "book" type, which usually has a keyboard. These
vary greatly in size and are usually built in two sections that fold
together, one with a keyboard and one with a display screen. Others are
"phone" models, which look mostly like cellular phones, often with a screen
on the back. Recently, models based on a "notebook" design, with a dozen or
so electronic pages that can be turned, have become very popular. There are
other, more unique concepts, such as the Renraku PDS or the headset design
(>) Most people don't realize that the shape of pocket secretaries has
changed very little in over sixty years, when they were called "personal
digital assistants". While computers have shrunk, human beings haven't. You
can only make a computer so small before it becomes impossible to interact
with. When you sneeze, you don't want to worry about blowing your computer
into someone's eye. The end result: more and more processing power keeps
getting pushed into the same case.
"Book" and "notebook" style devices usually have a detachable earpiece
acts as both the speaker and microphone during phone conversations (the
microphone picks up vibrations from the ear). "Pad" style devices either use
a similar earpiece, or have a small arm that swings out, turning the pad
into the body of a phone handset.
Pocket secretaries tend to drive consumer battery technology. The current
generation improves on last year's already impressive battery life. The
devices reviewed here universally host rechargeable batteries which support
20 days of continuous use. Most users can expect their device to run for
nearly a year before a recharge is required. Phone use takes the most power,
so users who make more phone calls than average can expect to recharge more
This year marks an exciting evolution in the pocket secretary arena with
both Pueblo Corporate Council and Renraku releasing a thought-based
interface to their product lines. That's right, you can now think your
commands and compositions to your pocket secretary.
(>) The Pueblo systems are sweet. They are an extension of the cybercomm
link technology [ct.20] that a lot of sammies I know use.
(>) Yeah, but is it backward compatible? Can I use the cybercomm implants I
already have with the sec? I don't really need the communication side of the
unit, but the ability to check my appointment book without having to pull
the thing out of my pocket if my hands are full intrigues me.
(>) Texas 2-Step
El Paso: Never surrender. Never forget. Never forgive.
(>) You can do this without the cybercomm, Tex, as long as you have a
datajack. They might use the same tech as the cybercomm, but they're not
really the same kind of beast.
These systems require that the device be plugged into a datajack to
function, and commands must be "thought out loud" to be understood by the
device. This requires you to make a conscious choice to use the device,
filtering out more subconscious thoughts. In practice, it works much like
the vocal interface, including stenographic abilities. When translating
thoughts to text, the systems are a bit more error prone than the voice
systems, especially the Renraku ThoughtBook, but can be slightly faster.
(>) What do they mean by "more error prone". I use a cybercomm system and it
doesn't seem error prone.
(>) Chaos Engineer
(>) Your cybercomm also costs about 15 times as much. The thought
translation in the Pueblo products is watered down a lot. In particular, it
doesn't really carry inflection, which is one of the main things the
speech-to-text systems use to distill context. So, the thought-to-text is
more likely to screw up homonyms and so on.
(>) Couldn't a cybercomm be used to get around this problem? Since it is
already advanced enough to carry inflection and generate, essentially, a
transmitted spoken voice, couldn't you just feed that voice into the speech
input system of the pocket sec?
(>) Interesting. I don't see why not, but none of the existing products do
this. You'd have to build your own at this point. I guess you'd need to hook
a radio receiver to the sec and then wire it into the "speech center" of the
sec, as if it were a microphone.
(>) Insecure. You'd be better off wiring the cybercomm to feed through a
datajack and writing some software on the secretary end. Apart from having
to open the skull, this would be pretty easy.
As mentioned above, some units come with language translation abilities,
some in nearly real time. Software modules are available for major
languages, and you need a module for both the source and destination
language to get a translation. Systems that support this option come with
basic modules for English and Japanese. Other modules are available, vary
widely in size and price. The simplest modules take up only two Mp and cost
50¥. Very advanced modules can cost up to 800¥ and require as much as 32 Mp
Most pocket secretaries offer some sort of password protection, usually
requested when the device is made active, or sometimes before a phone call
is made. Passwords are often just text, but can also be pictures, or even
clicking patterns on the screen.
(>) And, man, is this easy to break. The "password" on most of these systems
isn't really a key at all, just a dialog supposedly stopping you from
continuing. All you do is hook up a memory reader to the internal storage
and convince the dialog that it has been given the correct password. Most of
the time, you can even see the real password in memory. To do this, you need
to crack the case open, but this isn't usually a problem.
In practice, though, such password schemes are meant to deter the average
user, not real data thieves. For security conscious users, some units come
with data encryption systems which scramble the data stored on the device.
Such devices can either encrypt the entire device under a single password
key, or can encrypt single files under different keys, or both.
(>) This is more serious, but usually not by much. Most of these devices are
made to sell all over the world, and so often the key length is short enough
to make brute force attacks practical. A good decryption utility on a fast
deck should be able to find the key in a few days.
(>) Some of the higher end ones are serious drek, though. The Attaché and
Correo use pretty serious algorithms, with real key lengths. For these
you're better off using real cryptanalysis or a rubber hose attack.
(>) A what?
(>) It means beating, blackmailing or bribing the key out of someone who
knows it. This is almost always the fastest way to get through strong
encryption. The disadvantage is that the owner of the data then knows you
(>) Not always. Don't forget the decker's maxim: people are stupid. I once
got access to all the data on an encrypted an Attaché because the drekwit I
swiped it from had entered the key, then left the thing running without
clearing the key. He also turned off the fragging timer that would
automatically clear the key every few hours. People also tell their
passwords to people, like secretaries, kids, lovers, spouses. Some even
write it down somewhere.
(>) There really are some stupid fraggers out there. One thing suits do is
pick really dumb-ass passwords. Try birthdays, anniversaries, the names of
kids, lovers, spouses, pets. Even keyboard patterns like "qwerty" and
"fred". Groove into the corp culture for hints. I've dug out about fifty
passwords from Renraku mid-level suits, and honest to God, 10 of them used
the same word for their password: "blowjob".
(>) Anybody heard of magic? A mind probe spell can pull a key out in no
(>) I wouldn't know, but surveillance works well, and doesn't give away that
you know the key. It's easier to surveil pocket sec passwords, because
people use them when they are on the move, out in the open. Know your
(>) Looky Lou
(>) And avoid making these mistakes yourself.
Some devices also encrypt the device's phone communications. This kind of
protection is much more expensive, but prevents people from understanding
your conversations. Usually, this kind of protection uses public key
encryption, functioning nearly invisibly. You do not need to enter a
password for these kind of systems, as the phone has a built in and changing
key system. For encrypted phone communications, both parties must be using
the same encryption system.
(>) This is harder to deal with, because the phone generates a public and
private key for each phone call, then negotiates with system on the other
end of the line, exchanging public keys. If you can't decode it with a
decrypt or cryptanalysis, your only hope is to record the transmission and
brute-force it. Naturally, the short key length of most pocket secs exists
here as well, which helps.
(>) Why not just insert a fake public key into the transmission?
(>) Even assuming you could alter the signal at the right time, this
wouldn't work. The way public key systems work, this would prevent at least
one of the parties from properly decrypting the signal. The result would be
static. If you want to prevent the conversation from occurring, this would
be a good tactic, though.
(>) There is another kind security that pocket secs have: protection against
signal jamming. Most have rudimentary ECCM systems, but some have more
Form: Notebook Storage: 300Mp Cost: 20,650¥ Score: 91
This leather bound portfolio unzips to reveal twelve full-page, double-sided
sheets of stiff electronic "paper", each about a millimeter thick. The last
page is touch sensitive and can be configured to operate as a keyboard, if
desired. Otherwise, a stylus, inserted into the top of the spine, provides
the primary manual interface. The bottom spine of the portfolio contains a
Dataspike port, while the inside back cover contains slots for two standard
optical chips and a phone earpiece. An arm with the camera at the top of the
book will swing out and up.
The Attaché features good communication security and the strongest data
encryption of the devices we reviewed. These features cost though, making
the device one of the priciest. Of the notebooks we tested, the Attaché
rated the highest, and it certainly wins big for style.
Form: Phone Storage: 75Mp Cost: 12,950¥ Score: 88
Ares SecComm Executive
Form: Phone Storage: 150Mp Cost: 14,500¥ Score: 89
These two phone systems differ from each other only in the amount of memory
they contain and the addition of a optical chip port in the Executive model.
Both phones feature the same communications security of the Attaché and
include a less robust, but still satisfactory, data encryption system.
Both systems are hampered by reliance on voice as the primary interface,
featuring no stylus or keyboard, though the screen is touch sensitive. Also,
neither can turn your text into speech, instead forcing you to read from a
small screen where the keypad of the phone should be.
Though these lacks prevent us from recommending it as a general purpose
pocket secretary, Ares has targeted this device more as an advanced, secure
phone, with extra data capabilities. In this arena, it heads the pack.
Cross Applied Technologies TiMax-50
Form: Watch Storage: 50Mp Cost: 750¥ Score: 80
In spite of having nearly no data input abilities, this wrist phone
qualifies as pocket secretary, just barely. The TiMax is meant mostly as a
data display system, combined with wrist phone abilities. Users must enter
data on a personal computer or cyberdeck, then transfer the data to the
watch. The watch features a number of buttons used to scroll through data
and change the way it is displayed. Though it features none of the standard
multi-media capabilities, the watch does accept a limited range of voice
commands, including a well thought out search system. Naturally, this device
is to small to have chip ports.
Targeted mostly at the Japanese "gadget" market, this device lacks the
storage to be useful, even given its reduced abilities.
(>) I know some riggers who love this baby.
Cumbre Systemas Correo
Form: Pad Storage: 200Mp Cost: 84,650¥ Score: 75
Though only available to high security and military markets, Cumbre Systemas
submitted this device, so we tested it.
(>) Sounds like some of your "coaching" was done here, Courtesan.
(>) Big time. This is a pure PR move. Cumbre wants to flex. It should go
without saying that Cumbre Systemas is Aztechnology's consumer electronics
The Correo hosts communication encryption hardware that, not surprisingly
for military hardware, far surpasses any of the other systems we reviewed.
It's data encryption is also superior, matching that of the Ares Attaché.
The Correo is a stylus-based system that has a Dataspike port and a
standard chip port.
Like other Cumbre systems, the phone is a distinct entity from the main body
of the secretary; however, the Correo includes a phone unit, unlike it's
Cumbre Systemas Nut-100
Form: Pad Storage: 100Mp Cost: 750¥ Score: 91
Cumbre Systemas Nut-200
Form: Pad Storage: 200Mp Cost: 2,300¥ Score: 90
The cost for these units is much lower than other devices with similar
features, because these devices do not come with phones. Instead, they are
meant to tightly integrate with all brands of cellular phone. Each comes
with a stylus-based interface and a Dataspike reader. Following Ares' lead,
the difference between the two Nut systems is that one has an optical chip
port and twice the memory.
Though solid pieces of equipment, the only feature which makes the Nut
systems stand out is their ability to work with third party phones.
Form: Book Storage: 200Mp Cost: 3,050¥ Score: 91
Form: Book Storage: 350Mp Cost: 7,050¥ Score: 91
Form: Book Storage: 500Mp Cost: 10,050¥ Score: 91
This line features a unique design and a wide range of storage capacity.
Shaped like keyboard which can fold in half, the screen of the IQ pulls out
from the back of the two sections. When fully extended the screen meshes
together for a seamless look. The result is a very small unit which unfolds
to provide one of the largest keyboards in the pocket secretary arena. At
the bottom of the hinge is a Dataspike port and an optical chip can be slid
into each side.
Unfortunately, the IQ is marred by the inability to draw on the screen with
a stylus. Instead a strange joystick nubbin sticks out from the keys on the
left side for screen tracking. Though a first rate machine in every other
respect, the lack of stylus is significant enough to prevent our
recommendation of it as a general use pocket secretary.
Form: Book Storage: 200Mp Cost: 4,000¥ Score: 97
Novatech's first entry into the pocket secretary field, the Soren has roared
onto the scene with first-rate performance and a classy look. The Soren is
consciously meant to look from the outside like a metal cigarette case
(available in silver, gold and gunmetal), monogrammed if desired. Opening
the unit reveals one side to be a screen, and the other a small keyboard. On
the right of the screen, a small panel will tilt open slightly to hold a
cred stick or data spike. Just below this, rests a space for the phone
earpiece. A small stylus is tucked into the hinge of the case. The camera
pops out on a small turret from the other side of the hinge.
In all, our judges docked the Soren points only for its lack of an optical
chip port and slightly small screen. It clearly leads the pack for general
purpose pocket secretaries.
(>) I'm hearing rumors that for its own high-level suits, Novatech makes
Sorens with a small fingerprint reader on the back, and the sec only opens
if you have the right print. Can anybody confirm this?
Form: Pad Storage: 50Mp Cost: 725¥ Score: 92
Form: Pad Storage: 75Mp Cost: 1,175¥ Score: 92
Form: Pad Storage: 130Mp Cost: 2,000¥ Score: 95
These systems from Polyglot (owned by Yamatetsu) possess superior language
translation abilities (see "Options" above), and are targeted primarily at
the Far East. These systems use the stylus as their only manual interface,
and contain the best support for written Japanese that we tested. All three
systems use identical chassis, differing only the amount of memory they
contain. Each have a Dataspike port, an optical chip port, and store a
double ended stylus in the right side. This stylus boasts a standard pen tip
on one side, and flat, calligraphic tip on the other. It is also the most
comfortable stylus we tested. A microphone for phone communication slides
straight down on an arm from the center of the back. The camera disconnects,
and includes a clip to hold it in place.
Unless you only want language translation, stick with the Jade model. The
others cost less, but do not contain enough memory to perform both
translation and other tasks.
(>) Yamatetsu (and some of the other corps) cut costs in their design by
completely removing any ECCM from their systems. This is not widely
advertised, but might make a big difference to you.
Form: Pad Storage: 190Mp Cost: 5,000¥ Score: 96
Form: Pad Storage: 250Mp Cost: 12,700¥ Score: 93
The thought-based interface of these models provided the most pleasant
surprise in our testing. Though it is not yet perfect, thought control is a
joy to use. Our only complaints are its expense and that it cannot be used
to "think" phone conversations. You can command the device with a thought
but, to have a phone conversation with someone, you must speak aloud.
The two models are identical in appearance, each sporting a Dataspike port.
These devices use the stylus as their only manual interface, but we almost
never used ours, preferring thought control. (The stylus is much easier when
drawing, however.) The more advanced PSILock system contains more memory as
well as very good data encryption and decent communication protection.
The Empath is a close second to the Soren on our pick list, with only its
cost preventing it from beating out the Soren. The PSILock is equally
impressive, but even more expensive.
Form: Book Storage: 150Mp Cost: 3,050¥ Score: 94
One of many in Renraku's varied line of pocket secretaries, this device is
essentially just a relabeled version of the most popular pocket sec of all
time, the Fuchi Pente. As can be inferred from the none-to-subtle name,
Renraku acquired the rights to the design during the recent liquidation of
With much of the same lineage, the Buyout shares many features with the
Soren. The Buyout is a bit bigger, but still based on the same folding
principle as the Soren. In addition to its Dataspike port, it does contain
an optical chip jack. It comes in only one memory configuration, but the
Shiawase Archons are the same device with slightly different storage sizes.
In spite of the new name, neither the design of this device, nor its
interface has changed much in the past two years. Granted, the Pente led the
industry during those two years, but it is now slightly behind its
Renraku Personal Data System (PDS)
Form: Jack plug Storage: 50Mp Cost: 750¥ Score: 86
This experimental design looks unlike any other pocket secretary we've seen.
The PDS consists of two main pieces, connected by a thin, strong wire. The
main piece looks very much like one of the jack plugs used to prevent grime
from accumulating in a datajack while not in use. In fact, this piece is
meant to plug directly into a datajack and display information onto a data
link or other cyber information system. The other end is an
The PDS can accept rudimentary cybernetic commands, but is not capable of
the "thought-to-text" features of the Pueblo systems. Data input is also
problematic, but the PDS is designed to work with data already in headware
memory. The PDS was the least cumbersome of the devices we tested and hard
to spot in use. For people with lots of headware, this device is probably
useful only for its phone system. Those without large amounts of headware
(in particular, an encephalon) might gain some use out of the system's data
Form: Book Storage: 100Mp Cost: 2,000¥ Score: 93
About the size of a paperback book, the WorkBook has long been the model
that people think of when they hear the words "pocket secretary". A
venerable design got some new style this year, replacing the keyboard with a
touch screen that can be configured to display various styles of keyboard or
data instead. The book opens along its long axis into revealing two screens
inside. The touch screen is on the right, but the system can be turned so
that the touch screen orients more like the keyboard on a laptop computer.
The system contains one Dataspike port (in the bottom of the hinge), but no
chip ports. The phone earpiece pulls out of the bottom edge of the book,
while the camera pops out on a turret from the from top of the hinge. A
stylus slides into the outside edge. The WorkBook is one of the most durable
devices we tested, able to survive drops onto concrete from more than five
Long the workhorse of the pocket sec industry, the WorkBook is starting to
show its age. The new configurable touch pad is wonderful, however, and ads
a breath of new life to this model.
Renraku WorkBook Pro
Form: Notebook Storage: 700Mp Cost: 14,000¥ Score: 87
Form: Notebook Storage: 700Mp Cost: 15,150¥ Score: 87
Though not as stylish or secure as the Attaché, the WorkBook Pro is smaller
(more like a lab notebook), much more rugged, cheaper and contains over
twice the storage, giving the WorkBook Pro the most memory of any of the
models we tested. Cased in hard plastic are five double sided, rigid
electronic "pages", much like those in the Attaché, but about 50%
The inside back cover of the case holds a large, configurable touch pad,
just like that in the WorkBook, but twice as large.
Other accessories, too, are clones of those in the WorkBook, including the
Dataspike port. The Pro version, however, adds three standard optical chip
ports in the inner front cover.
While a solid performer, the WorkBook Pro needs more pages, and lower cost,
even if it means reducing the WorkBook Pro's generous storage.
The ThoughtBook is a WorkBook Pro with Renraku's thought-based interface
added in. If you need thought-based interface, we recommend staying with the
Pueblo devices. The ThoughtBook is an admirable try, but no where near the
level of the other thought products.
(>) I snuk a peak at the OS code of the ThoughtBook and noticed that it bore
striking similarities to the Pueblo products. I'm guessing Renraku snatched
some of Pueblo's research. Anyone wanna prove me right?
Form: Book Storage: 100Mp Cost: 2,100¥ Score: 93
Form: Book Storage: 200Mp Cost: 4,100¥ Score: 93
Replacing Shiawase's hideous "clamshell" models of last year are more
legacies from the dismantling of Fuchi. These systems are also relabeled
Fuchi Pente models, making them identical to the Buyout, but for differences
in memory configuration. The Archons also contain basic data encryption
The Archons score a point lower than the Buyout, due to some problems we had
with technical support.
Übertragen Technologies Munin
Form: Book Storage: 100Mp Cost: 2,050¥ Score: 93
Übertragen is a joint venture between Renraku and Saeder-Krupp, targeting
the European market. Though more streamlined in appearance (and available in
custom colors and textures), the Munin is a functional clone of the Renraku
WorkBook, with the addition of standard optical chip port.
Form: Headset Storage: 50Mp Cost: 750¥ Score: 89
This strange looking device is targeted at markets which require hands free
operations, such as cab drivers, pilots, ambulance crew, mechanics, even
commuters. The LBT is a headset device with a microphone and a heads up
display which is suspended like a lens in front of the eye. The camera (see
Media, above) is connected above the opposite ear. Data input is done
entirely by voice, or from an external system. Wuxing claims that the LBT is
often plugged into a vehicle's computer, and will integrate with it, but we
did not test this.
This system cannot send vidphone signals, but can receive them. It does not
contain any ports for external storage. The interface is Spartan, but allows
hands free navigation with voice command better than any other device we
(>) Ten points to anyone who can find out what LBT means.
(>) I thought I'd have to do some decking to earn these points, but when I
was wining and dining a Wuxing contact to try to ferrit out the best place
to go looking, I decided to risk just just asking. And what do you know, she
told me. It stands for "lobot". She wouldn't tell me what that meant,
(>) Cheeze Wiz
Though somewhat under-powered, we found this system to operate hands free
very well. We also appreciated the design of the headgear, which is quite
comfortable (even after long periods) and contains a number of extra straps
and clips to hold extra devices, like a flashlight.
(>) Hey Courtesan, what's the deal with these "Scores"? They are almost all
within a spread of 11 points. Not a big deal if we have a scale of 1 to 15
or 20, but these values differ by only a little over 10%. How are
"consumers" supposed to figure out what to buy? Then they try telling us
that they have no links to the corps. Right!!!
(>) Chaos Engineer
(>) Well, normally I'd agree with you, but the pocket sec is what we called
an "entrenched commodity". That's corp-speak for a product line that has
been around so long that the really drekky products have been forced out of
the market. By and large, pocket secs these days are pretty good at what
they do. They nearly all get perfect scores in the "basic features"
category, so differ only in the bells and whistles.
The I/O ports of all pocket secretaries have an IO speed [sr3.207] of
roughly 2 Mp per combat turn (40 Mp per minute). The IR ports on pocket secs
transmit and receive with an IO speed of 0.5 Mp per combat turn (10 Mp per
Pocket secretaries which can translate languages must have a language module
for both the source and destination language. Such devices translate with a
skill equal to the lowest rated language module used in the translation. The
device can translate between any languages for which it has language
modules, but can only translate a given language to one other language at a
time. For example, a pocket sec has three language modules: Japanese (3),
English (3) and German (2). It can be set to translate Japanese to English
(which it will do with a skill of 3), German to English (with a skill of 2)
and English to Japanese (with a skill of 3) simultaneously. It could not
translate English to both Japanese and German at the same time.
In addition, no pocket secretary can drive a language module with a rating
greater than 4. Because of the slight lag time in translation, all social
interaction which relies on the translation suffers a +1 penalty to social
tests [sr3.94]. The pocket secs which can translate languages include
English and Japanese modules, both at rating 2.
The size of a language module is based on the language skill rating, and can
be found on the Program Size Table [sr3.223], using a multiplier of 2. (An
equivalent method is to take the square of the rating, and double it.)
Language modules cost 25¥ for each Mp of size. Language modules cannot be
used as lingasofts.
Costs for the devices presented here follow a basic formula. The base cost
for a secretary is equal to the cost of its memory (20¥ per Mp). The base
cost, legality rating and availability are modified by the ECCM system
[sr3.289]. Cost and legality is further modified by standard costs for
communication encryption [sr3.290] and data encryption [sr3.293]. Some costs
were manually adjusted further.
Data Comm Street
Name Conc. Weight Mp ECCM Encr. Encr. Cost Index Legal
Ares Attache 2 1.5 300 3 6 3 20,700¥ 2.5 6P-U
Ares SecComm 3 1.0 75 3 3 3 12,950¥ 2 7P-U
Ares SecComm Executive 3 1.0 150 3 3 3 14,500¥ 2 7P-U
Cross TiMax-50 8 0.25 50 750¥ 0.75 Legal
Cumbre Systemas Correo 7 0.25 200 6 6 6 84,650¥ 4 3-W
Cumbre Systemas Nut-100 7 0.25 100 750¥ 0.75 Legal
Cumbre Systemas Nut-200 7 0.25 200 2,300¥ 0.75 Legal
Mitsuhama IQ-200 5 0.25 200 3,100¥ 0.75 Legal
Mitsuhama IQ-350 5 0.25 350 1 7,100¥ 0.75 Legal
Mitsuhama IQ-500 5 0.25 500 1 10,100¥ 0.75 Legal
Novatech Soren 7 0.5 200 1 4,000¥ 0.75 Legal
Polyglot Amber 7 0.25 50 725¥ 0.75 Legal
Polyglot Jade 7 0.25 130 2,000¥ 0.75 Legal
Polyglot Ruby 7 0.25 75 1,175¥ 0.75 Legal
Pueblo Empath 7 0.25 190 1 5,000¥ 1 Legal
Pueblo PSILock 7 0.25 250 1 5 2 12,700¥ 1 8P-U
Renraku Buyout 5 0.3 150 1 3,050¥ 0.75 Legal
Renraku PDS 8 0.25 50 750¥ 0.75 Legal
Renraku ThoughtBook 2 1.0 700 1 15,150¥ 0.75 Legal
Renraku WorkBook 3 0.5 100 1 2,000¥ 0.75 Legal
Renraku WorkBook Pro 2 1.0 700 1 14,150¥ 0.75 Legal
Shiawase Archon-100 5 0.3 100 1 1 2,100¥ 0.75 Legal
Shiawase Archon-200 5 0.3 200 1 1 4,100¥ 0.75 Legal
Übertragen Munin 3 0.5 100 1 2,050¥ 0.75 Legal
Wuxing LBT 6 0.25 50 750¥ 0.75 Legal