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    The Medical Palm Review

    December, 2006 (V7N11) - Do It Yourself

    Anyone can write a newsletter given the motivation and time. What to write about? Well, you can make it all up as you go along, or you can pass along nuggets gleaned from other sources. I try to do a bit of both.

    Spread The News

    Where can one find interesting material about PDAs? I drop in on selected web sites regularly. Some of these even offer podcasts and RSS feeds which bring the news to the reader instead of requiring the reader to surf to the website. I particularly recommend the following:

    • 1SRC is an excellent nexus of news, reviews, and support for Palm devices, new and old. The library of freeware is useful.
    • MobileTechReview is a site to read reviews of all sorts of portable gadgets.
    • the gadgeteer reviews every neat gadget you've ever heard of and many you haven't.
    • medGadget helpful site for news about "emerging medical technologies". Lots of intriguing ideas which might, one day,be plugged into your PDA.
    • Medical Piloteer is the home of the medical PDA webring. Numerous related sites are all connected through this hub or you can jump from one to the next using the webring link on each affiliate's web pages. The result: hours of focused web browsing with no tedious searching.
    • MobileMag brings you news of anything that has electronics in it and isn't nailed down. They even discuss automobiles.
    • Mobility Today brings news and reviews about portable electronic devices of all sorts.
    • PalmAddicts is a long-running blog which hosts, among other things, users' descriptions of how they use their PDAs. As I read their posts, many leads emerge about all sorts of software.
    • PalmFocus is an eclectic blog with software compatibility lists, hardware and software reviews, and links to other useful sites.
    • PalmLoyal has less material and is not as "active" a site but is still worth a look from time to time.
    • Palm Infocenter has yet more news and reviews.
    • PocketGoddess takes a look at various PDAs and accessories, offering reviews and opinions.
    • The Palmdoc Chronicles brings news and opinions about PDAs and their use in medical fields.

    I subscribe to a few newsletters too. I don't restrict myself to PDA-centric material because much that happens in (for example) data security, wireless networking, and mobile telephony also affects mobile medical computing. It helps to cast a wide net. I will mention just two newsletters I highly recommend to any conscious, English-speaking adult.

    • Cryptogram discusses security issues and ranges from air travel to voting machines to telephones.
    • WindowsSecrets is subtitled "Everything Microsoft forgot to mention". This is much too modest. This team of writers offers tips and tricks and security advisories every month. They try to keep your Windows PC afloat but also remind us of all the dangers of a computing monoculture.

    Also, I check out websites which offer Palm software, looking for new stuff. For example:

    Add a dash of medical computing sites:

    So, to write your own newsletter, all you need to do is a little reading, collect disparate factoids, generate a few outrageous or outraged opinions, then start pecking at the keyboard. Shouldn't take more than a few hours per week. Every week. Or you can just keep surfing over to the MPR web site once a month.

    It's your call.

    Medical "Doc" of the Month

    The American College of Physicians offers a portable decision support program, PIER PDA includes Palm documents with up-to-date information on bioterrorism threats and substance abuse, uniform requirements for manuscripts from the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors, helpful tables for physicians instructing medical students and residents, an ethics manual, and many other medical documents. The software can be bundled with other textbooks and drug reference manuals through corporate partners of ACP.

    Medical Computing

    I work at a large teaching hospital and have been accumulating clinical cases with interesting or uncommon radiological images. Periodically I have students and often one can teach something useful around a particular case or X-ray. But the collection has grown unwieldy over the years.

    It was easy to use HanDBase, the database manager I purchased for my PDA, to build an index of these cases. With fields for patient identifiers (e.g. hospital ID number), body area (e.g. chest, abdomen), imaging type (X-ray, CT, MRI, etc.) and notes (for teaching points), I am now all set. Other programs should be just as capable of building a simple "flat file" database as this. However, HanDBase allowed me to encrypt and password lock the database for patient confidentiality. Whichever product you use, be mindful of privacy and security issues in your workplace, province and country. Make sure your PDA applications help you to not violate those guidelines.

    As a sidebar, I note that HanDBase is available not just for Palm but also for Pocket PC and Symbian devices.

    Nuts and Bolts

    Palm has announced a new smart phone, the Treo 680. This is a low cost entry level smartphone out just in time for Xmas. It doesn't break any new ground in features or capabilities but hope it sells well because Palm is talking a beating on the stock markets due to its recent unimpressive earnings. There is a detailed review on MobilityToday which includes some Flash videos.

    The Nike + iPod Sport Kit is a pedometer which gives athletes feedback as they run or walk. It brings together sports shoes with an imbedded sensor, an iPod Nano, and a radio receiver which plugs into the Nano. The receiver relays info about speed, time and distance from the shoe to the iPod's screen. Data from workouts can also be uploaded to the NikePlus web site where users can compare stats, and set challenges and goals for themselves or other customers. PC Magazine gave the kit and community features a very favourable review in July. There was a time when this sort of clever gimmick would be offered on a PDA. But the iPod?? it's not even a phone. One more sign of the decline of the Palm idea.

    The January 2007 issue of Consumer Reports reviews smart phones and gives top marks to the Palm Treo models for the quality and features of the Palm OS and applications for "heavy data" users. They preferred other, cheaper devices for users focused on telephony or e-mail.

    Speaking of cheaper devices, the rapacious NTP (fresh from taking a bite out of the makers of Blackberries) has launched a lawsuit against Palm for alleged patent infringements. Ouch.

    Hack of the Month

    Newer Palm PDAs use nonvolatile memory. This is great for protecting your data but causes some older apps to reset the Palm. Figuring out which are misbehaving is more than an academic exercise for me because I am currently experiencing exactly this problem with my Treo 650.

    Reset Doctor is an application you install on your Palm to track down errant software that causes resets. It also backs up preference and settings files so that your Palm can recover from even a complete memory wipe with all your personalized touches intact.

    Butler, from the same programmer as Reset Doctor, and Palmary Clock are also very handy utilities. If you use your PDA as a wristwatch replacement, alarm clock, stopwatch and more, then these two programs may interest you. Palmary Clock even has a wireless version that retrieves weather info from the Internet.

    In Times to Come

    January marks the beginning of the eighth year of publication of this Review. Is there anything new (left?) to write about? Should we change focus to include other platforms or other ideas?

    The mobile computing world is evolving. Perhaps the Review should also. Something to think about over the holiday season.

    Have a Happy New Year!

    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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