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    The Medical Palm Review

    November 2006 (V7N10) - Old Enough To Know Better

    If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and love is blind then it must be time to use fewer metaphors.

    Old Enough Before His Time

    Just when you think you have the perfect partner, some sexy new thing turns your head. The once perfect mate now seems frowzy and ugly. Before you know it, the relationship is dead and you are shelling out a whole pile of dough. Marital breakdown? No, a new PDA.

    But the ugly truth is that the entire consumer electronics industry is possessed by the idea of selling to teenagers. More and more features and buttons jammed into ever smaller cases. Tiny screens, microscopic fonts, nubby little buttons on teeny little keyboards. I don't know why they hate adults. After all, we have more cash.

    There's nothing like having to master a new gizmo, with an alien operating system, complex computer software, unfamiliar buttons, and cryptic manual to make a fella feel old and useless. As any geek with a mid-life crisis will attest, a younger girlfriend can humiliate you in lots of ways, but a new PDA can make you feel really old and useless.

    So upgrading carries some risk, but so does standing pat. As your eyes grow dim and your fingers fumble, even a familiar six-ounce electronic bundle can become harder and harder to use. New devices may have enhancements that make life easier too.

    Anyway, let me be the first (before my wife and coworkers speak up) to admit that I am finding it harder to read the screen, to juggle tiny devices with little keyboards, and to remember to do what needs doing. So, without further ado, here is Dr. Arnold's grumpy list of peevish complaints about growing old, and how my techno-toys help or hinder me.

    Eyes. As I get more farsighted, it has become impossible to hold my PDA far enough from my face to be able to read text on the tiny screen, or see the impossibly tiny phone dialpad. It doesn't help that my Treo's screen is half the size of my previous Palm devices. I can set larger fonts but that doesn't help much. I would be forever putting on and taking off my reading glasses if a clever optometrist hadn't suggested progressive lenses. I can focus near or far with my glasses on and the depth of field lets me use them for reading, working with my PDA or tapping away at my laptop.

    Of course, the PDA screen itself is still cramped. I am still waiting for a head-mounted display that will give me a crisp, apparently large, hands-free view of my Palm screen, like the icuiti M920 - which works only with Pocket PC devices. Or the MyVu wraparound-style viewer for iPods and DVD players. As a clever extra, the MyVu's battery pack doubles as a protective case for the iPod. Why doesn't someone make this kind of thing for PDAs?

    I read somewhere that you could plug one of these headsets into a Margi Presenter-to-Go which would accept input from a PDA. Margi has apparently discontinued making them but you may still find a few in the retail channel or on eBay.

    Hands. My fingers are sometimes too big for the Treo keys, and the stylus is not that handy, now that Graffiti is not installed. The Memo applet doesn't even have a sketch or scribble capability. Anyway there is no dedicated scribble area at the bottom of the screen. Why won't someone create a decent Graffiti add-on for the Treo?

    I became so frustrated that I tried Graffiti Anywhere again. It doesn't do punctuation reliably because it conflicts with something. I know this because if I back up the Treo, erase all the memory on board, then install only Graffiti Anywhere I get better but not perfect operation. Still, the ability to scribble a note, even without punctuation, is better than nothing.

    Faster ways to enter text on mobile devices are frequently announced. Quikwriting which works on PDAs and desktops, or ShapeWriter from IBM which uses pattern recognition for text entry on tablet PCs, are clever. But neither will work on my Treo.

    There is some voice control software emerging, from companies like VoiceIt, but that is still a little awkward on handheld devices with limited processing power.

    Apart from keyboard entry blues, is it easier to drop the slippery things now or is it me? Ruggedized versions or impact-resistant cases might be a good idea. The Meazura from Aceeca is even waterproof.

    And for dexterity hassles you can't beat the awkwardness of fishing a smartphone out of a belt case when it rings in the car. I need a Treo car cradle perhaps, but then again it is probably safer for other drivers if I don't try to do two things at once.

    Memory. Not the PDA's RAM, but my failing memory. If I am religious about making notes about everything: appointments, shopping lists, patient lab data to check, then I can still function halfway effectively.

    BackupBuddy now has new features: automatic backup when your battery runs low, scheduled backups, checkpoints and multiple backups, incremental continuous backups (constantly update files as they change so you are always current). Even if you forget to perform backups regularly.

    Maybe I can boost my memory and postpone Alzheimer's by doing some mental calisthenics. Brain Age is only available for the Nintendo DS but a variety of Sudoku games are available for the Palm (e.g.. from TealPoint or Andrew Gregory to name just two).

    Medical "Doc" of the Month

    FHR for PDA is a reference text on fetal heart rate monitoring from MeisterMed. But is there portable hardware that you can use with this? There sure is - just search on eBay or Amazon for "portable fetal heart monitor". Some engineers recently built a FHR monitor into a PDA.

    EMERGENCY MEDICINE ON CALL FOR PDA. By Samuel M. Keim. New York, McGraw-Hill, 2004. This program was reviewed very favourably in the Journal of Emergency Medicine (V29N3, 2005, p365). It is a case-based problem-oriented reference to help on-call doctors manage common Emergency Department clinical problems.

    Medical Computing

    Pediatrics on Hand is an outstanding resource on paediatric PDA applications for healthcare professionals and parents to use.

    At the other extreme of life, Geriatrics at your Fingertips is offered for PDA by the American Geriatrics Society. It is packed with calculators, tools, assessment instruments, etc. Free with site registration

    Not strictly a medical resource, Wikipedia has made itself available on the move with Quikipedia If you find the wiki format useful, you can now access it from any PDA with wireless or dial-up networking.

    Nuts and Bolts

    I can never seem to remember what the Palm operation system developer calls itself these days. But maybe my memory isn't as bad as all that. One of the reasons is that (the company formerly known as) PalmSource changes its name every few months. Now that it is owned by Access (maker of cell phone software) PalmSource is changing its name again, to ....Access. In any case, the development of a Palm OS that runs in Linux on a smartphone is getting closer, according to at least one blogger.

    Screen scratches. They can be prevented with adherent plastic protectors. But can they be repaired? Headlight restoration kits for automotive use have been promoted for this purpose. Of course, kits specifically for PDAs and cell phones have also entered the market. These work by polishing out the scratch with fine abrasives. Done correctly, they work. Done incorrectly, they thin or further degrade the screen. If you are feeling handy and think this will make your screen more readable then it's worth a try.

    In Times to Come

    What are the best websites to visit for info on Palm PDAs? Everyone has their favourites. Next month I will share mine.

    Until then, enjoy!

    This is one of a continuing series of newsletters about Palm handheld computers, prepared for doctors, nurses, IT professionals, educators and other people who need tools that work. The Review is published monthly on our web site. Subscription is free; the principal benefit is receiving e-mail notification of new issues.

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