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    UHN Palm Newsletter (June 2001) - "They Say Everyone Needs Protection"

    TIME WAS, I CARRIED MY PALM IIIX around in my shirt pocket. Then one day I bent over to help my toddler and the Palm fell out. Did you know that when a Palm lands on concrete it can bounce? Unfortunately, my Palm bounced one way and the batteries (and the little door that covers them) went another. And my data went yet another way - far, far away.

    This month, I would like to share with you some ideas to avoid playing basketball with your Palm.


    Your Palm needs protection from the world. The batteries may die. It's easy to drop. The screen gets scratched if you just look at it funny. You could lock it away somewhere deep in your handbag but then it wouldn't be very handy would it?

    When I needed advice about how to approach these questions, my first stop was Jim Thompson's web site ( where he explores the carry case problem in some depth. Jim is an ER doctor in PEI who uses his Palm at work, as I do. It also never hurts to explore sites like the Palm Computing Home Page (, PDAMD ( and PalmGear ( See the May 2001 issue of this newsletter for other useful websites for Palm accessories. Or spend your entire weekend looking at the extensive reviews at This has to be one of the most extensive sites reviewing cases I have ever seen.

    There are many varieties of cases to carry your Palm. Some use a clip to attach the case to your belt. Most of these orient the Palm upright which makes it hard to sit down without the case digging into your thigh. Some cases can be swivelled but pay attention to the rivet on the back: if it loosens or breaks (some are plastic) you will need a whole new case. Zippers are another weak point for many designs. It would be pretty annoying to have to replace a US$40 case if the zipper failed.

    Others are designed to fit in your pocket. They can be decorative or armoured to withstand a fall. Business Depot in Toronto may still sell a rubberized case. You can also find models which require you to remove the PDA to use, or which allow you to flip back the lid.

    Check out some of these sites for reviews and pointers to protective cases:

    • The Slipper Case by EB Cases ( (see a review at is a clever design which clips to a belt and has a flipback cover so you use the PDA within the protective case
    • Rhino cases are armoured. For a review of the Slider case for the Visor go to (
    • The Jetpac ( can hold a Visor, though intended for the Palm III originally. It uses a belt clip strong enough to hang onto scrub pants too, although some people have complained that it can fall off scrubs if attached at the front
    • Devian ( clip-ons (DVP1) have both a belt loop and a clip for attaching to scrubs, and open from the side for sitting comfort. Devian makes several other styles as well
    • Vaja cases are hand-stitched fine leather from Argentina. Some buyers report reliability and responsiveness issues with the manufacturer so try to find a local vendor if possible
    • Of course Palm ( makes a modest line of cases also

    Many medical and nursing professionals don't use special cases at all. Instead, they keep their Palms with their stethoscopes, emergency meds and wallets in a fanny pack which you can find at any leather, camera, or sporting goods store. I tried this but found it frustrating to rummage inside - I need one with better dividers or pockets. The Scrub Pocket, specifically for wearing with scrubs, has lots of dividers (

    Noone has marketed a lanyard or cord with a clip to save you from dropping your Palm (hey, it worked for soap-on-a-rope!). But at least one company sells adhesive pads which improve your grip on slippery plastic electronic gear. Check out Grip-It at

    One of the reasons there are so many brands of cases out there is that the market is fiddly: everyone has their own preferences. As for me, after reviewing the options, I never did find a commercial solution that I liked. I ended up modifying a change wallet to attach to my belt. My Palm PDA nestles in an aluminum pocket inside the wallet and is fairly safe from bumps and falls. And I fastened the little plastic battery door with transparent adhesive tape to prevent sudden ejection of the batteries.

    One more note about about protecting your Palm. To prolong the life of the touch screen, consider getting protective skins. These are sold widely but are pricey ( or and many, many more).

    You could use acetate sheets (similar to overhead projector transparencies) but they make the screen a little dimmer and you have to press harder when writing Grafitti strokes with the stylus. And you'd need more transparent adhesive tape to hold the plastic in place. But I've tried it and it's tolerable. And, with all that tape everywhere I have really recaptured that nerdy look that Palm designers tried so hard to eliminate…

    You may prefer to cover only the Grafitti writing area and for that one can use tape, plastic and even PostIt note paper. Perfect for the artistically inclined child in your home.


    If you are one of the lucky people with spare memory on your Palm and a burning need to keep photographs somewhere other than in your wallet, then there is a software solution for you. Bear in mind that the Palm screen is small: only modest areas can appear onscreen at any one time, although some viewers permit you to move the image around to show one bit of it at a time. And, unless you have a colour PDA, your images will be all in shades of gray. At a resolution rather less than your average Polaroid snap. Up to you to decide if this does justice to Aunt Maude or the Krebs Cycle diagram you use to teach your students.

    First of all, you need a way to convert graphic image or photographic files that reside on your computer into Palm data format. Then you need a viewer on the Palm itself. Utilities for file conversion can be found at many online software sites. Popular viewers include the following:

    • Spec ( will meet the basic needs of many users.
    • Album to Go ( combines a Palm viewer with the ability to look at thumbnail-sized previews and slideshows.
    • Image Viewer III ( permits annotation of images, as well as tolerating oversized images that can be viewed a piece at a time.
    • SplashPhoto ( is another image viewer which can show thumbnails and can convert images on your PC or Mac to Palm format.

    Medical "Doc" of the Month

    For a look at what is happening in Medical Handheld computing currently, check out the following website. If you like it, they also publish an interesting newsletter about high-tech developments, and distribute it by email (just like you know who):

    Hack of the Month

    Xmaster is a freeware program that you can use to control all your little enhancement programs instead of HackMaster. Xmaster is completely compatible with HackMaster hacks, has fixed several bugs and provides better organization of hacks so that you an turn them on or off in sets. I enclose a copy for you to try. Obviously, if you don't use hacks, this program will do nothing for you. You can learn about hacks in several previous issues of this newsletter. Please remember that some hacks are unstable - HotSync your Palm before trying hacks and Xmaster.

    Medical Computing

    The US Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth has developed its own mobile medical computing solutions. Physicians there use Palm III handhelds to maintain patient files and access reference materials, pager numbers and notes from other members of the care team. Learn more from the article at

    In Times to Come

    One aspect of protecting your Palm didn't make it into this month's issue: data protection. Do you need passowrd protection of sensitive information? Do you keep patient data on your PDA? We will look at some of the promise and pitfalls of locking up your files.

    Until then, enjoy!

    THIS IS ONE of a continuing series of newsletters on Palm handheld computers, prepared for doctors, nurses, IT professionals. The author is a career emergency medicine specialist and inveterate computer nerd. Somehow his family put up with it all.

    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 about the weather, contact the author at:

    Visit our website for the latest Medical Palm Review newsletter and the archive of back issues.