UHN Palm Newsletter (March 2002) - The Handover
At the end of February I took delivery of my new PDA. It has many new features that I plan to make good use of. And I have to migrate all my work from the older PDA that is being retired. Let's get busy.
The Handera 330
The title says it all. As I discussed in last month's issue, I shortlisted the Sony T415 or the Handera. The Handera is a little nonstandard due to its larger screen, but this is more of a plus than a minus unless you play games or use your PDA to view digital photos. The larger screen has the great virtue of displaying more text and larger tables, both useful for medical references.
The HE330 is also faster than my old Palm IIIxe, which means I don't need Afterburner any more. Afterburner 3 (available at PalmGear) uses various tricks to overclock your Palm PDA. The speed increase was quite noticeable on my IIIxe and I never had any stability issues. If you are thinking of using it, you should be aware that overclocking will shorten your battery life and may theoretically interfere with timing sensitive programs like HotSync or appointment alarms. Urban legends to the contrary, your PDA is unlikely to melt from overheating when you speed it up. You can read more about overclocking at DeepWave. Worthwhile to inject a little life into older Palms.
Another hardware feature of the HE330: two expansion slots for add-on cards. One is for Secure Digital (SD) and currently only supports rather slow memory storage cards. The other is for Compact Flash (CF) and supports memory, modems, wireless and wired network cards. I can even share CF cards with my Canon camera, although viewing snapshots on the Canon's colour LCD screen is bound to be better than on the HE330's monochrome and lower resolution panel.
One complication of that extra memory: it's harder to keep track of what's loaded and where. There are basic file management software tools included with the HE330, but there are also lots of third-party programs. McFile impressed me the most for copying files and memory card management due to its excellent capabilities and ease of use. It also makes good use of the HE330's enlarged screen to display more info. There are more: MegaLauncher and FilePoint are loaded with features, while MyWorkBench has file management features and will also launch applications. PowerRun is also popular although it didn't run well on my new PDA. Filez is freeware, unlike all the others mentioned in this paragraph, but it will handle the basic chores. Read a review of some of these products at BrightHand. Overall, I plan to stick with the tools that came with the Handera, and take my time testing some of these other utilities in the coming months.
Another potential problem with having room for great numbers of applications is how to organize them so you can find them. The basic Palm application launcher can show different screens for different categories which you define. On the IIIxe I preferred to use Launch'em (see figure at right) or Launcher III which created an on-screen tab look for the various categories. I had one tab for medical references, another for Palm system files, etc. But I don't need that many categories so perhaps I can get by without a special launcher at all on the new machine. For now, since I own a copy of Launch'Em, I will load that and decide later whether to use it or not.
A great timesaver for me is a grafitti stroke shortcut that pops up a list of apps I use most often. LaunchEmAppHack and McPhling are the two best I have found although eLauncher (try looking on Palmgear) can do great things by assigning some of the Palm's buttons to launch applications. I plan to stick with McPhling for now.
All these add-on programs have other features I didn't mention. Many support colour. Some support high resolution screens such as found on the Sony Clie series and the Handera 330. Others will not run on or will crash your high res PDA. That's why "Try before you buy" is a great concept for new software. I just wish it was possible for new PDAs.
End of an Era?
While I was happy to get a new Palm PDA, I couldn't help wondering whether the platform will still be around in a few years. Things that may kill Palm off
- Xerox lawsuit. Palm recently lost a suit over who developed the Grafitti SW. If it has to pay royalties to Xerox for all the machines it has ever sold Palm may implode
- Market Slump. The economic bad news has hurt corporate sales of Palm PDAs and is starting to affect consumer demand too.
- PocketPC takes over. This seems unlikely: PocketPC PDAs are popular in the corporate milieu but are too heavy/big and have too poor battery life for most other customers, especially now that decent colour is available from Palm, Sony and Handspring. Still, noone ever got rich counting Bill Gates out.
- Convergence meltdown. Does Palm have to compete in every niche for small computing devices? PocketPC may kill on computing features and cellular telephones with organizer features may crowd the low end of the market. Palm can't make much money competing with everyone, but then what is its core business?
- Market fragmentation. Now even Sharp makes PDAs (the Zaurus, for Linux). Will PDAs soon be commodity items, discounted in the remainders bin at Walmart?
- Another gorilla. Sony has licenced PalmOS and is producing so many successful models with such rapidity that it is now selling more PalmOS PDAs than any other manufacturer except Palm itself. Will Sony buy Palm and take over development of the product line?
Any of these developments might be fatal for Palm which is struggling to make money right now. On the other hand, I only expect my PDA to give me a few years of service and won't have any qualms about shifting platforms if the need arises: I don't develop software and have no business model or income stream to defend. Of course, this newsletter would cease to exist
Acrobat Reader for Palm
Adobe wants you to read PDF files on your Palm. Accordingly they have released a converter to allow you to move PDFs from your PC to your Palm and a free reader program for Palm PDAs. I tried both out and don't think this is a threat to Documents to Go, iSilo or QuickOffice yet. All of the latter programs can import documents in various formats into Palm files. By and large they are more reliable too. For example, the Acrobat converter was unable to correctly untangle an article from the Journal of Emergency Medicine with its snaking columns and graphic headers. The resulting file was a jumble of paragraphs out of place, and painfully slow to load when I tried to view it on the Palm IIIxe. All graphic files were gone and navigating through the text was painfully slow. On the plus side, newer PDF files can be created with embedded tags to facilitate conversion - but this practice hasn't caught on yet. This program is not ready for prime time: scope it out now or wait for the updated versions.
Date Book Tips
Would you like to change the appearance of your appointment screens? The PalmOS Date Book's Preferences command adjusts the number of visible hours in a day. You may prefer to view only the hours from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., for example. If you'd rather only see your appointments on the screen (with no blank time slots), specify the same hour for the start and end time for the day in the Preferences. This eliminates all the empty timeslots from view. Downside: now you can't tap on an empty time slot to initiate a new appointment at any time you choose, but you can still tap on the time indicator in the left most column to open a dialog box to set up a new appointment that way. Or tap on the blank line after the last scheduled appointment to create an entry at THAT time. In the picture at right, you can see that no times are shown between 1000h and 1400h because there are no appointments.
Finally, if you don't like the dotted underlining of every appointment you can hide it with ClearHack.
Medical "Doc" of the Month
GCS (or click here) helps calculate a patient's level of consciousness. Useful for beginners, it also permits you to demonstrate to students how different scores for individual components of the assessment lead to overall GCS changes, wiith implications for management.
Other Medical Goodies
You can find an Apache II calculator (and other software too) at FreewarePalm.
Pocket Practitioner Lite is a free patient tracker. Try it at PDA Cortex. There is also a full-featured version available at a price.
ProcLog is for housestaff who want to log procedures. Customizable for databases, locations, mentors. The screen at right gives you an idea of what it can do.
Hack of the Month
I reviewed several (LaunchEmAppHack, McPhling, AfterBurner) above when evaluating what to migrate from my old Palm to the new one. I couldn't improve on those suggestions.
This year the American Nursing Informatics Association conference takes place in April. Find out more.
Handhelds are popping up all over. A discussion of their use in health care and future trends can be found here.
American military medevac medics use Palms and synch the patient records to base PCs. Those with long memories may recall that just last year I discussed this very possibility in a civilian EMS role. Read about the military system at Wireless News Factor.
Slightly off-topic? Regions EMS has published on its website clinical guidelines for prehospital care. These can be freely copied to use as the basis for a study program, or to copy onto your Palm as the index for a comprehensive, searchable portable reference document.
In Times to Come
Next month we look at how to move applications and documents over from the old Palm device to the new. I will also migrate all my appointments, phone numbers and ToDo list. Not only is this not scary but I can suggest some ideas for synchronizing common files (such as a phone directory) for a whole group of Palm users.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org