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    UHN Palm Newsletter (September 2001) - PDA Pourri

    This month we have a grab bag of things that have been piling up on my desk but don't seem to have a unifying theme. So here are some news items and links to Palm products and software that enhance security, provide expanded capabilities, get longer battery life while on the road, and more.

    On the Move

    PEPID IS A PORTABLE medical reference text that has long been available for physicians. Now there is a new version for EMS personnel. The developer claims that it provides more streamlined access to the information (eg. drug dosages) you need when on scene. Check it out at

    Paramedic personnel may also be interested in Mapopolis ( which provides maps of destinations you specify, that can be downloaded to a Palm PDA. While only available for USA destinations at the moment, this is a bleeding edge idea for the near future for rescue personnel.

    New devices for making presentations or lectures continue to enter the market. PresenterToGo is an attachment for Handspring Visors only which enables you to project info from the PDA onto the screen (

    Attachments for PDAs that can read barcodes or swipe credit cards are starting to appear. You can see bar code readers attached to Palm PDAs at many Home Hardware stores where they help with stock management. Read about credit card swipers at This technology is aimed at point-of-sale credit card billing but has great potential for charting if we start using more health cards with patient info encoded in the magnetic stripes.

    Still Paranoid….

    SECURITY ISSUES CONTINUE to make the news. There has been a spate of items about cracking Palm passwords (for example, see the following article on CNet: . For more depth you can check out the advisories at the AtStake website ( which is particularly good on these issues. Recent articles you may be interested in: (PDA security) and (retrieving PDA passwords).

    More mundane security issues exist. How do you keep someone from looking over your shoulder while you work with your PDA? ttools' SOLOvision(TM) Security Screen is a combination screen protector and diffuser. It protects the screen from scratches and also makes it difficult for someone not directly in front of the PDA to read the screen. For more info, see

    Palm will be offering a new operating system, OS 4.0, on or around November 01. Apparently, it will provide better security options. Meanwhile there is an upgrade (v3.53) to the current system which is supposedly more stable than v3.5. If you want to install it, v3.53 is a free download from the Palm website ( and detailed instructions can be found there. I installed it on my IIIxe and nothing has blown up after two weeks but it has not made a big change in my day-to-day computing….

    Keep the Bunny Hopping

    HOW CAN YOU keep your PDA running longer? How do you recharge the batteries if you can't get to a store or even plug a recharger into a wall socket? This question came up recently in a discussion I had about a resident who was going to do six months of rural medicine in Tanzania. I know most of us won't be going to Africa soon, but we might want to take our PDA with us on a car trip or camping (look up snakebite management while hiking?).

    Various ideas came up as we brainstormed. Here are some of the best and most interesting:

    Somewhere in all of the above is a combination of gizmos to solve any power supply problem.

    HotSync Tips

    WHENEVER YOU HOTSYNC between your PDA and your desktop computer, a number of different programs compare their data and updates flow, perhaps in both directions. Built-in applications, like MemoPad or Calendar have to match so that you can use either desktop or Palm device and not worry about mistakes. Applications you install, such as medical references, texts, games, merely make backups onto the PC of what's on the Palm. Some programs, like AvantGo, retrieve updates of news and web pages from the internet when you sync, and this can add considerably to the duration of the sync process.

    If you find your HotSync is taking too long, review the list of activities to see if some should be disabled. You can review this queue by right-clicking on the HotSync icon in the tooltray at the lower right of your PC screen, and selecting "Custom" from the menu that pops up. You will then see a list of actions that are performed with each HotSync. You can disable them individually on a one-time or permanent basis.

    AvantGo users can change the Server Preferences to turn off AvantGo's tendency to update its listings every time you HotSync. On your handheld, launch AvantGo, click on the Menu button, then select Options, then Server Preferences. Uncheck the "Update During Next Sync" option.

    NoSync ( is a program you put on your PC desktop. It allows you to set or unset items for HotSyncing faster than the other methods I have described so far.

    Medical "Doc" of the Month

    THE CANADIAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION JOURNAL now produces a Palm version. It can be downloaded from their website ( and read on your handheld.

    Hack of the Month

    SCREENWRITE IS A SHAREWARE program that lets you use the stylus anywhere on the screen to write Grafitti strokes, instead of just the small input area at the bottom. As you write, Screenwrite draws lines on the screen so you can improve your Grafitti skills. Try it.

    Medical Computing is a good place to get info on using Palms in family practice and to download reference materials, electronic medical record software, and other tools for primary care personnel.

    In Times to Come

    I work in the Emergency Department and see people from all parts of the world every day. Not all of them speak a language I know. I have tried all sorts of strategies for extracting a medical history and giving discharge instructions in other languages. Next month we will have a look at a few ways that a Palm PDA can help with this task.

    Until then, enjoy!

    This is the latest issue of a newsletter on Palm handheld computers, prepared for doctors, nurses, paramedics, IT professionals and others who need tools that work. 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:

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