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    The Medical Palm Review

    November, 2003 (V4N11) - Stop the Presses

    This month's issue was just about ready to "put to bed" when something derailed the whole process - a new PDA with built-in cell phone.

    Holy Paradigm Shift, Batman

    I started using Palm handheld computers for several reasons. One was to reduce the pain of maintaining my pocket phone directory. Another was to have a pocket reference book and medical note repository that would never be full and would weigh less than a small library.

    Over the years I have upgraded three times - looking primarily for more speed and memory. Also I have sought bigger and sharper screens to display text, tables, and graphic images. This culminated in my recent purchase of a Sony Clié NZ-90, (see photo at right) which has lots of internal memory, two memory storage slots, and the biggest and most brilliant screen I have ever seen on a PDA. It also weighs around eleven ounces - or as much as some pocket reference books. It seemed I had reached a certain plateau with respect to size and features.

    Longtime readers of this newsletter also know that there is another path, another core function of handheld devices which I had chosen not to follow. I mean using a PDA for eMail, web-browsing, and as a cellular phone. In the struggle to balance the two sets of needs, large screen reference tool vs. communications centre, I have always stayed firmly on one side of the line.

    All that was thrown into a cocked hat at the end of October.

    A group of friends from the Information Systems department at the University Health Network (located in sunny downtown Toronto, Ontario) gave me a new PDA. And not just any PDA either; it's a Kyocera 7135 (see photos at right and below). The Kyocera is a full-blooded Palm computer with a built-in cell phone. It integrates the phone so well and comes with such an efficient suite of software tools in such a compact package that I am quite impressed..

    A device like that can induce a complete paradigm shift. It's got me thinking hard about my priorities and the purpose of carrying a handheld. With this Kyocera on my belt I could have almost all the advantages of my Sony except the big high-res screen, but in a package with half the weight. Add (or subtract) the cell phone I could then leave at home and I would be getting lighter all the time. The major downside would be reconfiguring some homemade reference documents and databases to make them readable on the smaller Kyocera screen. Also, I can forget about showing photos of skin rashes or ECGs to students. Which path to take? Maybe I should carry both and risk my wife refusing to be seen in public with me...?

    This new gizmo is sure to be loads of fun as I explore all its capabilities over the next few months. And what will become of my Clié? Stay tuned as I develop some of these themes in future issues of the Medical Palm Review.

    There is one nagging suspicion I have to get out in the open. The IS folk and I have a long shared history of struggling to get the Emergency Department's computer systems working up to potential. I have spent more time with some of them than with some of my fellow doctors. We have not always seen eye to eye on some issues. Considering how disruptive getting a new PDA in the middle of publishing this month's newsletter, rewriting my departmental website, and working shifts, I wonder if the Kyocera is a gift or if it is revenge. Dismissing this tongue-in-cheek idea, I have to say the Kyocera is a wonderful gift and much appreciated.

    People are Talking About...

    In the 18 October issue of The Economist, there appeared an article about how PDAs are doomed unless they incorporate cell phones and wireless internet. As the article notes, cell phone sales exceed those of PDAs by at least an order of magnitude. Furthermore, as cell phone makers add PDA-like features (web-browsing, application software, day-timer functions), PDA manufacturers have been adding cell-phone function to their handhelds. Convergence towards a common function set is apparent.

    Despite this assertion, palmOne has just rolled out several new models. The Tungsten T3, Tungsten E and Zire 71 models feature more memory, better screens, faster processors, lower prices - but no built-in communication capabilities. Check out the website.

    You can add communications hardware to Palm PDAs in various ways. Here is a new one. If you want to play with WiFi and modems but don't want to have to plug your PDA into a cell phone to do it, check out the Guyver. This clip-on sled allows you to use industry-standard PCMCIA cards with your Palm PDA. That means networking, wireless networking, and wireless telephony. Interesting gadget, but do people want to fiddle with that instead of more compact solutions?

    Garmin has just released its iQue PDA with built-in GPS but no other communication tools. You can read a detailed review here. The integration of the Palm features with the ability to find your way across town using a map and the built-in satellite locator is very effective.

    It looks like the controversy whether to build communications into PDAs is not being resolved in favour of one side or the other. So, I am in good company as I ponder my own situation.

    Share and Share Alike

    Speaking of communicating, here are a few more ways to get your desktop PC and your Palm PDA to share documents:

    • Adobe has released a free software package that permits Palms to read and print PDF files. Palm Infocenter has a review.
    • RepliGo is a document conversion software system for Palms. InfoSync has a brief story and you can surf over to the developer's website. As with many similar systems, the viewer for your Palm PDA is free, but you pay for the conversion software that runs on your PC.
    • The newest version of Doc2Go provides better support for MS Word, Excel, and eMail attachments. It's available from Dataviz.

    Medical "Doc" of the Month

    Common Simple Emergencies from NCEMI is a nice reference textbook. It needs 500 Kb of memory to reside on your PDA, and US$50 from your wallet for either a hard copy or PDA version.

    Medical Computing

    PDA Cortex is offering a "webinar" (ie. online seminar) about nursing and PDAs. You have to sign up to listen. I didn't so I can't say if it is worthwhile or not. However the very idea illustrates two interesting trends in Internet content provision. The first is making "live" events available for replay later (CBC radio does this too). The second is making you sign up for a newsletter or other "membership" in order to get access to online content.

    Even if no money is changing hands with this PDA Cortex sign-up, it seems to me that you are enrolling for unsolicited eMail and maybe targeted advertising without even getting a chance to review the webinar content beforehand. I really couldn't find out much about its content. Call me old-fashioned, but I like to know what I am signing up for before I give out my personal info and agree to be spammed and eMailed.

    This is what makes having multiple junk eMail accounts attractive: I create a new eMail ID and use it to sign on for these sort of things. Every month or so I then delete that ID and create a new one. It works for me.

    Even less attractive, in my view, is the new Virtual Detailing being offered by MDConsult. Well, it had to happen sooner or later. MDConsult wants us to sign up for a "service" that will bring us eMails offering cash honoraria to read pharmaceutical ads masquerading as info. They sent me an eMail offering to sign me up if I went to their website. Then I would get messages periodically inviting me to surf on over to the ad, er, Virtual Detail. In exchange for my eyeballs they will pay me cash. I predict that now I have a wireless PDA they soon will want to send the junk right to my PDA. What can I say? I don't know how I ever got along without this service. But I hope to continue without it for a while longer.

    In Times to Come

    Some of our readers claim to prefer something brief so as to get through the whole issue in a single session online. Others want details packed in like sardines. This issue was deliberately trimmed as a style experiment. Let me know whether you like it or feel short-changed.

    The time I saved was spent learning about the Kyocera. I hope to share some of what I discovered in next month's issue.

    Until then, enjoy using your Palm!

    This is one of a continuing series of newsletters on Palm handheld computers, prepared for doctors, nurses, IT professionals, educators and other people who need tools that work. Feel free to pass copies around electronically or on paper. To subscribe, or complain, contact the author at the following address:

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