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Message no. 1
From: Wordman <wordman@*******.COM>
Subject: [Stuff] Pocket Secretaries (second draft)
Date: Mon, 12 Oct 1998 22:43:19 -0400
Pocket Secretaries
for NERPS: Stuff
by Wordman

(>) 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

(>) 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 scan?
(>) Vasco

(>) 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.
(>) Courtesan

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

(>) 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.
(>) Myra

(>) 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.
(>) Lariat

(>) Works both ways, chummer. You can intercept a suit's call, too.
(>) Fungus

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
(>) Myra

(>) 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.
(>) Fungus

(>) Your concern is noted. Nauseating, but noted.
(>) Myra

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!
(>) Avalaros

(>) 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.
(>) Lipps

(>) 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.
(>) Avalaros

(>) Sorry, chummer, but the bandwidth is to narrow to deck out of, what
makes you think you could get in?
(>) Fungus

(>) 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 maglock.
(>) Steelseed

(>) So? I can tell a maglock to unlock from the Matrix. Why not tell a
sec to give me its data?
(>) Avalaros

(>) 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 browse it.
(>) Steelseed

(>) 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?
(>) Coma

(>) 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 not impossible.
(>) Deathbloom

(>) 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.
(>) Shryke

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

(>) 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 about 25-50Mp.
(>) 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
(>) Myra

(>) Like any other computers, pocket secs can be programmed. I've written
a number of custom applications for the secs of my running team.
(>) Scimitar

(>) Like what?
(>) Lipps

(>) 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 telling.
(>) Scimitar

(>) 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.
(>) Steelseed


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 with you

(>) 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
(>) Shryke

(>) 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.
(>) SocioPat

(>) 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.
(>) Jasper

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 context, and 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.
(>) Vertex

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
(>) Igni

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.
(>) Igni


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(tm) 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(tm) 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.
(>) Steelseed

(>) 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.
(>) Igni


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 user.

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 from Wuxing.

(>) 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.
(>) Coma

``Book'' and ``notebook'' style devices usually have a detachable
earpiece which 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 often.


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.
(>) Igni

(>) 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.
(>) Vertex

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.
(>) Vertex

(>) 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?
(>) Coma

(>) 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.
(>) Vertex

(>) 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.
(>) Igni

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 50Y. Very advanced modules can cost up to 800Y and require as
much as 32 Mp of storage.

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
(>) Coma

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.
(>) Coma

(>) Some of the higher end ones are serious drek, though. The Attache and
Correo use pretty serious algorithms, with real key lengths. For these
you're better off using real cryptanalysis or a rubber hose attack.
(>) Shryke

(>) A what?
(>) Myra

(>) 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
have it.
(>) Steelseed

(>) Not always. Don't forget the decker's maxim: people are stupid. I
once got access to all the data on an encrypted an Attache 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.
(>) Shepherd

(>) 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''.
(>) Deathbloom

(>) Anybody heard of magic? A mind probe spell can pull a key out in no
(>) Jasper

(>) 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 targets, people.
(>) Looky Lou

(>) And avoid making these mistakes yourself.
(>) Starch

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.
(>) Coma

(>) Why not just insert a fake public key into the transmission?
(>) Myra

(>) 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.
(>) Coma

(>) There is another kind security that pocket secs have: protection
against signal jamming. Most have rudimentary ECCM systems, but some have
more sophisticated hardware.
(>) Taco


Ares Attache
Form: Notebook Storage: 300Mp Cost: 20,650Y 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(tm) 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 Attache 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 Attache
rated the highest, and it certainly wins big for style.

Ares SecComm
Form: Phone Storage: 75Mp Cost: 12,950Y Score: 88
Ares SecComm Executive
Form: Phone Storage: 150Mp Cost: 14,500Y 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 Attache 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

Cross Applied Technologies TiMax-50
Form: Watch Storage: 50Mp Cost: 750Y 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.
(>) Avalaros

Cumbre Systemas Correo
Form: Pad Storage: 200Mp Cost: 84,650Y 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.
(>) Myra

(>) 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 label.
(>) Courtesan

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 Attache. The Correo is a stylus-based system that has a
Dataspike(tm) 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 civilian brothers.

Cumbre Systemas Nut-100
Form: Pad Storage: 100Mp Cost: 750Y Score: 91
Cumbre Systemas Nut-200
Form: Pad Storage: 200Mp Cost: 2,300Y 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(tm) 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.

Mitsuhama IQ-200
Form: Book Storage: 200Mp Cost: 3,050Y Score: 91
Mitsuhama IQ-350
Form: Book Storage: 350Mp Cost: 7,050Y Score: 91
Mitsuhama IQ-500
Form: Book Storage: 500Mp Cost: 10,050Y 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(tm) 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.

Novatech Soren
Form: Book Storage: 200Mp Cost: 4,000Y 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?
(>) Igni

Polyglot Amber
Form: Pad Storage: 50Mp Cost: 725Y Score: 92
Polyglot Ruby
Form: Pad Storage: 75Mp Cost: 1,175Y Score: 92
Polyglot Jade
Form: Pad Storage: 130Mp Cost: 2,000Y 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(tm) 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.
(>) Fecundity

Pueblo Empath
Form: Pad Storage: 190Mp Cost: 5,000Y Score: 96
Pueblo PSILock
Form: Pad Storage: 250Mp Cost: 12,700Y Score: 93

The thought-based interface of these models provided the most pleasant
surprise in our testing. Even 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 think aloud.

The two models are identical in appearance, each sporting a Dataspike(tm)
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

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.

Renraku Buyout
Form: Book Storage: 150Mp Cost: 3,050Y 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 Fuchi.

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(tm) 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: 750Y 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 earpiece/microphone.

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 display abilities.

Renraku WorkBook
Form: Book Storage: 100Mp Cost: 2,000Y 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(tm) 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 meters.

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: 14,000Y Score: 87
Renraku ThoughtBook
Form: Notebook Storage: 700Mp Cost: 15,150Y Score: 87

Though not as stylish or secure as the Attache, 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 Attache, but
about 50% thicker. The inside back cover of the case holds a large,
configurable touch pad, just like that in the WorkBook, but twice as

Other accessories, too, are clones of those in the WorkBook, including
the Dataspike(tm) 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?
(>) Igni

Shiawase Archon-100
Form: Book Storage: 100Mp Cost: 2,100Y Score: 93
Shiawase Archon-200
Form: Book Storage: 200Mp Cost: 4,100Y 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 ability.

The Archons score a point lower than the Buyout, due to some problems we
had with technical support.

Ubertragen Technologies Munin
Form: Book Storage: 100Mp Cost: 2,050Y Score: 93

Ubertragen 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.

Wuxing LBT
Form: Headset Storage: 50Mp Cost: 750Y 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 tested.

(>) Ten points to anyone who can find out what LBT means.
(>) Igni

(>) 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, though.
(>) 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.
(>) Courtesan



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 minute).

Language Translation

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 25Y 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 (20Y 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

Further Reading

If you enjoyed reading about [Stuff] Pocket Secretaries (second draft), you may also be interested in:


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