|UHN Palm Newsletter (May 2001) - More Goodies |
Well, no sooner was last month's issue sent off when news came of yet more goodies for those in the market for a new Palm PDA. If you bought a machine with a measly 8 Mb of RAM (like me, sigh) man, are you going to be annoyed.
Keeping up with the Joneses, Part II
It didn't take long for TRG, makers of Palm memory cards and their own Palm clone, to roll out a new machine to compete with the Palm m500 series (see the review in last month's issue). They even changed their name. The new Handera 330 can be found at www.handera.com and it has set the bar higher in every way. A few features to whet your appetite:
- Hide the Grafitti input area for a larger text viewing screen
- Speech recording for dictation and note-taking
- Accomodate two different types of expansion slots for memory cards and other gizmos (that's the technical term for cameras, bar code readers and telephone devices that don't exist quite yet)
- Thumb scroll button for one-handed operation
- Longer battery life with several recharging options
Read more about it at the Handera home page or at the following sites:
Why mention these sites? Apart from the reviews of this particular piece of hardware, these are decent places to explore more of what the Palm handheld universe has to offer - tips, software, links to other sites, reviews of what's out there. Get busy.
Although Handspring (http://www.handspring.com) released some new models at the beginning of the year, more are on the way. And Palm Computing isn't just sitting around either. Windows handheld devices have traditionally had an edge over Palms in memory and multimedia handling. It looks like that is under attack which means better, faster, cheaper hardware for us.
Unless, of course, you already spent this year's budget on one of the (apparently) lame older models. I'm not naming any names here
Where To Go
There are a whole raft of other websites which cater to Palm users. In fact, there are so many that I will restrict myself to a few suggestions and comments. Once you get started there's just no end to it.
Tucows (http://www.tucows.com) has an enormous library of Palm software in every category you can imagine. You can drown in the collections of stuff at ZDNet (http://www.zdnet.com/downloads/pilotsoftware/). Browsing all day (and night) at CNet (http://download.cnet.com/downloads/0-10002.html?tag=dir) will put an end to your family life.
For news and reviews about handheld computing and medicine you can't beat the down-to-earth basic approach of Jim Thompson (see website above) at http://www,jimthompson.net. Did I mention that he was an Emergency Physician? Ya just gotta love us
. If you insist on reading more widely, you could try http://www.palmstation.com.
Other very worthwhile sites include:
What, you want more? Check out http://home.kscable.com/cmm/pilot/links.html for links to everything Palm - cases, software, hardware, and more. Things change fast out on the frontier so be prepared for the possibility that some of these links won't work. If you can't find something you are looking for, a link doesn't work, try a good search engine. I like Google but there are lots. Don't get me started.
Show and Tell
Have you ever needed to illustrate an idea to a colleague? Or made sketches on scraps of paper while teaching? Would you like to be able to bring a slide show along to ward rounds? There are many approaches one might take to presenting information to others using your handheld computer.
There are all sorts of sketching and drawing apps out there. These allow you to make a quick cartoon. Popular programs can be found at any online Palm centre I listed above. Flash card programs are intended as study aids but can also be used to present sequences of text material - good for lecture notes if you can see the screen while speaking in a darkened lecture hall.
For more oomph consider ePaint (www.pointinception.com/product.asp?id=3) which can display simple slide shows of your sketches. FlipChart works similarly (www.middlecross.com). Sketch 2.0 creates a database of of your drawings, to make it easier to retrieve and reuse them (http://store.yahoo.com/bsoftware/sketch.html). Sketchpad 2 does monochrome or colour, creates animated sequences and exports to Windows BMP format (http://www.arcosoft.com/cskpad.htm). TealMovie (http://www.tealpoint.com) is a similar monochrome product that works on older Palms too. These might be useful for presenting material to very small groups if you don't mind getting very close to your audience.
For the real technogeek, you can use your Palm to aid presentations to larger groups. Pebbles (download free from http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~pebbles). This allows you to use your palm to control a PC either via the serial connector or infra-red. It lets you use your Palm as a mouse or control a powerpoint slide presentation as though you were at the keyboard of your laptop. Pebbles has been turned into a commercial product called SlideShow Commander available at http://www.synsolutions.com/software/slideshowcommander/.
If you need to give a presentation about the Palm PDA or its software, consider using the Palm Emulator running on a laptop PC or Mac, plugged into a projection system. This sure beats having fifty people squinting at your itty bitty Palm screen. The emulator is available from Palm's homepage (www.palm.com).
PowerViewer 2000 (http://www.ibrite.com/download_software.htm) transforms your Miscrosoft PowerPoint presentations into a slide show that can run on your Palm.
Bear in mind the quality of the Palm screen, the need for colour, the size of your audience and the venue of the teaching you will be doing. And remember, you can afford to give away sketches drawn on the back of a napkin, not so Palm computers.
Roll Your Own
Have you ever noticed that somehow none of your Palm apps work quite the way you would prefer? Perhaps you have considered writing your own medical software program to become rich and famous? Most of us will want to put on our geek-filter eyeglasses now, but there are tools here that even the relatively computer-naïve can use.
Due to its popularity, many programming tools are available for the Palm. The most powerful are programming "environments" which resemble C++, like CodeWarrior (http://www.codewarrior.com/), or the gcc gnu compiler which is free and supported, but not as sophisticated as CodeWarrior. See it at (http://www.gnu.org/software/gcc/gcc.html).
There are also visual programming environments like CASL (http://www.caslsoft/com), or AppForge (http://www.appforge.com/) (which extends MS Visual Basic to the Palm). There is even NSBasic (http://www.nsbasic.com/palm/) which codes BASIC on the Palm itself rather than doing the grunt work on a PC then transferring it to the Palm).
As we have discussed in previous issues, forms software like Satellite Forms (www.pumatech.com) or Pendragon Forms (www.pendragon-software.com) allow one to create data entry systems for database software that runs on a desktop computer. This is useful for, say, student procedure or patient care logs that can be downloaded to a central computer for a residency supervisor or teacher to review.
Simpler stuff (that even I can create) can be whipped up with database software like Jfile (http://www.land-j.com/jfile.html), HanDBase (www.ddhsoftware.com), or FileMaker Pro (http://www.filemaker.com), The latter two programs are now available for the Mac as well as the PC. HanDBase, for example, allowed me to create a simple patient tracking program in a few minutes, and modify it at will, on the Palm or on the desktop PC, until I was happy with the way it worked. Although these programs permit synchronizing data with a desktop PC, they don't make it easy to have multiple Palm users use a desktop PC as a central repository the way Pendragon or Satellite do.
For the truly ambitious who want to develop wireless software there are now lots of programs to help you. Check out these two sites for software you can use:
You can explore this topic further at Palm's developer support webpage (http://www.palmos.com/dev/tech/tools/).
Medical "Doc" of the Month
http://plaza.ufl.edu/mgprice/ECG_Palm_Brain_Info.htm has a very thorough ECG interpretation review for downloading. It even has illustrations. Its only drawback is that it needs about six hundred kilobytes (600 Kb) or RAM and I am running low on space on my PDA. This document requires iSilo (http://www.iSilo.com).
Hack of the Month
I didn't find any new ones I particularly liked this month. Sorry.
Here is a new one: RNPalm has a drugs-and-drips program "for nurses" at http://www.skyscape.com/products/nursingdrugs.htm. Not designed to replace the CPS or prescribing programs like qRx (http://www.epocratres.com) but very handy.
Here are a some articles on mobile computing in medicine. At http://www.pdamd.com/vertical/features/jf_eservices.xml?ts=0213 is a look at using PDAs for lab ordering, dictation, and prescribing.
http://www.pdamd.com/features/hdmstory.xml?ts=0213 describes using a PDA and preprogrammed templates to download clinic notes to patients' electronic chart at an Ortho/SportsMed clinic in (where else) the USA.
In Times to Come
What, you ask, no illustrations this time? After the last issue (one lousy pic of a Palm m505 needed nearly half a megabyte) I swore I'd go on a diet. Maybe next month.
Some of you may recall last year when my old Palm IIIx conked out. Marrying an expensive pocket computer to an active lifestyle can result in broken hardware. What do you use to reduce the risk of fumbles? What sort of carry cases are available? How can you protect the glass screen from scratches? We'll check it out.
Until then, enjoy!
This is one of a continuing series of newsletters on Palm handheld computers, prepared for doctors, nurses, IT professionals and video game afficionados at the UHN. Feel free to pass copies around electronically or on paper. To subscribe, unsubscribe, present burnt offerings, obtain back issues, change your email address or complain, contact the author at: firstname.lastname@example.org