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Uses for a PDA


I am a geek, and I love gadgets. However, I don't own a PDA. Suprised? Well, I can't seem to come up with any good uses for it, so I never bought one.

I searched on JoS forum to see if I can find any related topics, and I did find one. It is from 2 years ago. People discussed uses for PDAs. Here is the link if you care to read it in its entirety. If you don't, don't worry. I will be summarizing its content.

http://discuss.fogcreek.com/joelonsoftware/default.asp?cmd=show&ixPost=3108&ixReplies=24

At the time, most people had the same experiences as me w.r.t PDAs. They are cool for sure, but are they really necessary? I personally don't think so, but that's my opinion. In the old thread, Meldroc (Saturday, February 16, 2002) has all the uses of a PDA that I can think of. Here they are:

(1) Calendar/scheduling
This is neat, but I am not busy enough to need a PDA to keep track of my schedule.

(2) Alarm clock functionality
Well, most watches do this. Even the cool looking (non digital) ones.

(3)To Do lists.
I personally use pen and paper. Do I *really* need a $300 tool to go to the local grocery store? As for ideas/long term goals, once again pen and paper works for me.

(4) Contact lists (electronic Rolodex)
This might be one good use, but I don't usually need it too often. Once again, pen and paper is cool. Entering this information into the PDA at a meeting/convention is the worst nightmare. If you are near a PC, then it's cool, but then again a PC already has this functionality. No need for a PDA. 

(5) Memo Pad. 
Pen and paper anyone?

(6) Password safes
Pen and paper anyone? :)

(7) Mapping software
Well.. This one is nice but hard to read on a tiny screen.
What do you think?

(8) Calculator
I have my own super duper fancy calculator which my PDA cannot possibly touch.

(9) Mini web browser
Once again, small screen is an issue for me... Not to mention the expensive service.

(10) Games
This one is in every field. Gaming is cool and makes a ton of money for everyone, but I probably should spend my time more productively. So this feature would not be a motivation for me.

These days I guess you can use your PDA for playing MP3s, taking pictures, e-mailing, etc...

There you have it folks. So now, please let me know if  anything has changed in 2 years since the old thread I put a link for above. Does anyone know of any other cool, great, unbelieveable uses for a PDA or a Pocket PC other than the ones mentioned here? Your answer may include any new features, any software you can purchase, and any hardware that you can attach to your PDA/Pocket PC that extends its capabilities.

By the way, there is a reason I am asking for your opinion and let's just say it is not because I am planning to buy a PDA!    ;)

Thanks for your time!

A non-PDA user
Sunday, February 15, 2004

I used to have a Psion Series 5mx, and used it all the time. I traded it in for a Palm Vx, and instantly regretted it. Among other things, the Palm alarm was really quiet -- the Psion could wake me up. If you can find a Psion on eBay, buy it -- they're lovely.

C Rose
Sunday, February 15, 2004

I think "smart phones" and PocketPC's have replaced PDA's for the most part.

Andrew Burton
Sunday, February 15, 2004

PDA's make excellent front-ends for headless embedded systems.

PDA Guy
Sunday, February 15, 2004

The great thing about todo lists on PDAs is that they automatically resort when you chang the priority or due date of a task. If you have a couple of hundred items in your todo list, this is really nice.

No need to spend $300 on a PDA by the way. The lowest priced palms are less than $100, and for just calendering and todo lists they are more than good enough.

Matthew Lock
Sunday, February 15, 2004

other than all the things u mentioned, I use mine to record quick notes-to-self.

Prakash S
Sunday, February 15, 2004

The two primary reasons I carry my PDA everywhere I go are (1) to provide for the rare occasion when I need a phone number or email address on the go, and (2) to compensate for my abysmally bad memory.

Of these, (2) is more important by far.  I can remind myself of the few TV/radio shows I actually care about, set a recurring alarm to remind me to leave the library wifi network and go to class (I've forgotten to go, and more spectactularly, I've forgotten to take a final exam), and I can actually make the leap from thinking, "Oh, I should call [Joe Schmoe]" when I'm on the bus to actually doing it a day or two later when I know they'll be around.

Of course, if you can actually remember things like your coworkers' names, a PDA may not do you as much good as it does me.

I might like a Tungsten C for its wireless capability, and if I had it to do over again, I might choose a model with a thumb keyboard instead of my Graffiti-based Palm Vx, but aside from that, a sub-$100 model will easily do everything I need it to.  (Although as a bonus, my Vx has low enough power consumption that it only needs charging every few weeks; I lost data on my original PalmPilot because -- say it with me now -- I forgot to change the batteries in time.)

Sam Livingston-Gray
Sunday, February 15, 2004

I use mine only for the address book.  I find it very useful to have complete contact info for everyone, and i keep it in my bag just for that purpose.  Also, being able to backup and save contact info is a nice change from carefull guarding my Little Black Book (which the palm replaced).

Now, I got it second hand (and free), so I don't know if I would have paid for it to use it only for contact info.  Probably not

eaw
Sunday, February 15, 2004

I have to concur with others, my uses are:
  - Address book
  - Meeting alarms
  - To-Do w/alarms
  - Minor notes
  - Ebooks for my road trips (see http://www.baen.org/)
  - Password safe (http://www.iliumsoft.com/site/ew/ewallet.htm)

A notepad would work except for the password safe (and Ebooks).  A notepad is a VERY bad password safe.  I use ewallet with full encryption and it syncs to my desktop.  If the PDA is lost, it will be near impossible to get at the list. 

As for $300, forget that.  Go for the lowest cost model that is rechargable.  I love my palm Vx, which you can now get on Amazon for about $80.

MSHack
Sunday, February 15, 2004

First of all, thank you for your feedback so far.

Please note that you may also comment on Pocket PCs. I think I meant to refer to a Pocket PC when I said it costs $300. I am not very price-aware really. If I made a mistake about that, I apologize.

How about any add-on modules? I know the early PDAs had wireless modem modules, but this is obviously useless at this point with PDAs mostly having this functionality built in.

I also came across this one guy mentioning that he uses his PDA to keep track of his finances (money and stocks), local movie times, weather, his residence history, his weight log program, his diet program, etc..

For the right person, these are all great uses. I have a specific use in mind, and I was wondering if anyone is going to mention it. If not, maybe I have a winner. I looked it up on Google but can't seem to find anything similar.

Anyway, please keep the uses coming...  :)

Thanks again for your time.

A non-PDA user
Sunday, February 15, 2004

With the new Palm and Windows smartphones (especially the models with mini keyboards) they're viable as email clients -- basically as alternatives for Blackberry-type devices.  They're not the best for composing long messages, of course, but they look adequate for reading email and composing short replies. 

There are also various third-party software products that can use the wireless data connection to keep your smartphone constantly synched with your desktop Outlook, so you don't need to use a docking cradle.  That looks very handy -- you can clean our your inbox during your morning commute, for example.

On the "fun" side of the equation, you can use the wireless connection to access streaming media.  This gets us one step closer to the ideal of the "universal jukebox" where you can use a handheld device to download and play music instantly, instead of having to preload it like with a traditional MP3 player.

http://www.vikrampant.com/treo600/pocket_tunes_and_streaming_audio.php

Also, there are lots of third-party apps for various niche uses.  For example, there's a listing of apps for Treo smartphones here:

http://www.handspring.com/software/

Robert Jacobson
Sunday, February 15, 2004

I have the Treo SmartPhone. Along with the calendar, ToDos, Address book, I love the internet access to get the driving directions, check the yellow pages, movies etc on the road. I don't fancy the plain PDA for personal use. I think they are more usefull for some vertical business applications. I do develop mobile apps, so I have a biased opinion. But I can't live without a phone+pda combo with the internet access.

Krish
Monday, February 16, 2004

I have a SonyEricsson P800 Smartphone and I use it mostly for Internet related stuff and the camera.  I don't use it for memos, or appointments, or anything like that.

The screen for viewing web pages is very good.  The phone uses the Opera browser and has a feature called small-screen rendering.  It does an excellent job of scaling down websites so that they look/work very well on the small screen.  Opera also handles all the Javascript just as you'd expect from the full desktop version.

I've posted to Joel on Software from my phone and I regularily read it when I'm out and about.  Up here in Canada, I'm on a $50 (CND) Unlimited GPRS plan -- which is really very cool.  I can use it on the phone or with my laptop over Bluetooth.

It's also great to be able to email from the phone.  I have a infrared wireless folding keyboard that I use for long typing sessions.  The email application on the P800 isn't all that great -- the RIM blackberry is much better for emails.  But it's passible in a pinch.

I also find the camera extremely handy -- but not for taking pictures as you would expect.  For example, when I was doing Christmas shopping I'd quickly snap pictures of items and price-tags to do comparison shopping.  It's more discrete than a camera and it's always on you.

Almost Anonymous
Monday, February 16, 2004

My $.02:

I used to use a Newton MessagePad 2100.  I used it for contacts, scheduling, and for a lot of netetaking and reference.  Oh, and for project hours/expensing, too.  In addition, it's really handy to have large reference materials on hand when you're out and needing them.  It's also really handy to be able to search through your meeting notes of the least 6 months to remember something said at a particular meeting.  I write myself a lot of notes, a lot of lists.  A wad of folded up papers is hard to organize.  It got so I wasn't using it, though, because I didn't want to carry it because of its size.

So, at the moment I'm using a Palm m500.  I love the battery life (a week or two, just like the Newton). I don't know if I'll ever be able to use a newer one with their 4-6 hour battery life.  Graffiti's not working near as well for me as the Newton's HWR--that was fantastic for taking notes, and the screen size was great for it, too.

Something like the Treo might be my next choice someday, as I'm used to recharging my cell every day, and it looks like it can handle all-day use.  I'd kinda like something high-res, though.

Rich
Monday, February 16, 2004

A great use for the PDA is for reading web material offline (like in the john). I have been reading a local newspaper for a number of years now only through the web version which I put automatically on my Palm V every morning via sitescooper/plucker/autosync.

The screen is small, but if you can get used to it it works just fine for plain text.

Some advantages to a paper newspaper or book:
* no problem taking it to the john when at work.  Just slip it into your pocket...
* if you already have it with you all the time because you need it for appointments or addresses, you will never get stuck again without reading material.

ICBW
Monday, February 16, 2004

What I use a PDA for, in rough order of frequency:

1) reading, whether e-books or other documents.  A PDA is nice for this because adding more reading material doesn't add anything more to your carrying load.

2) weight tracking.  Better than paper because it keeps a moving average and graphs for me.

3) schedule/to-do.  I don't have a schedule that is any busier than normal, but I *do* have a memory that is worse than normal :)  Also, I can attach some details of appointments/tasks which makes things easier.  Better than paper because I can easily run a search to find out when I did something and because it is backed up to more than one PC.  At the beginning of the year, I don't have to haul around two datebooks at the same time.  Also physically smaller.

4) address list.  I keep local numbers on my cell phone (also synchronized with PC), but I keep everybody, including overseas and international contacts in the PDA.  The PDA also lets you save more than just the phone number, including address or free form notes.

5) calculator.  Handy for quick back of envelope calculations or unit conversions etc. when you are away from your desk.  Unless you are an HP fanatic, you probably don't carry a calculator everywhere you go.

6) music player.  I listen to music on the bus.  I could carry an extra MP3 or minidisc machine, but why carry another device?

7) photogallery.  When searching for some locations, I can refer to a photo image I have received through e-mail...  makes it easier to associate an mailing address and a physical location.  Also allows me to show people photos of my dog etc. :)

8) stopwatch.  I actually have a chronograph wrist watch, but I got a grey market one with the instructions in Swiss or German so I've never been able to figure out how to use it...

9) games.  I used to play games on the bus and the subway, or when waiting in line etc. but I find that I usually get sucked in and play obsessively for a while before becoming bored.  I try not to play as much now.

Many of these are really only useful if you carry the device everywhere, which I do.  I favour Palm devices, but have also owned Pocket PC (very low usability when I last tried it), and Psion/EPOC (decent usability but terrible, terrible engineering for reliability).

radius
Monday, February 16, 2004

Oops, item 3.5 should be for short notes.  I keep lists of things I would like to buy,  copies of important bus schedules, ideas for e-mails or short essays, instructions and passwords for web services, etc.  A small notebook would work, but wouldn't have backup capability, wouldn't be carried everywhere, wouldn't have easily categorized or sorted notes, and would be more difficult to search.

radius
Monday, February 16, 2004

Pads of paper are all very well, but they do have some limitations.
Firstly they get all curled up and battered in my bag. Secondly, I lose them.

See, PDAs have one massive advantage that a pad of paper doesn't: I can make it beep once a day, ten minutes before I'm due to leave for work, so I can go find it, pick it up and take it with me.

Pads of paper are great. I write the shopping list on them, my things to do on them, phone numbers I need on them, and then I leave them on the table when I go out.

I have mild dyspraxia, which means I can't organise stuff - basically I can't remember things that need doing around thinking about anything else. You know that feeling where you go somewhere and on the way a hundred people try and talk to you and when you get where you were going you can't remember what you were supposed to do?

Having dyspraxia is like that, only it happens ALL the time. My whole life is spent desperately trying to remember things. Or waking up at night going "Noooooooooooo! I forgot to do that AGAIN!!!" and then failing to remember to do it the next day. I took to writing down things on index cards in a stack next to the bed, which just means that months later I have a list of all the things I forgot to do until it's too late: I haven't worked out a way of getting myself to pick them up in the morning.

{There are other symptoms, like being stunningly clumsy. But it's OK, that's treatable when you're a kid by having people say things like "Can't you just TRY to be careful!!?" and as an adult by just never going into glassware departments.[1]}

Some stuff I can do by habit - nine times out of ten I pick up my bag on the way out of the door, and that means I have housekeys so I can get back in... but even that's not guaranteed.

So I rely on having a whole bundle of things to attract my attention to things that need doing. Medication alarms are particularly useful, because they can do many alarms a day and remember which ones you acknowledged. My PDA and phone do the same things but are mobile and store the things I'm supposed to do.

So my PDA beeps to remind me to go shopping, and has the shopping list in it...

If I could a tasking list for my car, so that by the time my PDA reminds me, I haven't just driven all the way home, passing the shops, I'd save even more effort...


So, PDAs -- nice techy toy for some people, adaptive equipment for others.

[1] No... I'm not upset about this at all.

Katie Lucas
Monday, February 16, 2004

I mostly use my palm for the calender (I find that the palm is smaller than most P&P calenders and thus easier to carry around) and for reading ebooks.

Martin Schultz
Monday, February 16, 2004

The only reason you might need a pda is if your time is valuable and you have a lot of things to do. Or, perhaps you time is VERY valuable, but what you need to do is rather set (or, you have no control like being in a emergency room!).

If things on a daily basis are set for you, or can not be set!, then really, a pda may not help much.

The majority of people who can effectively use a pda tend to be self employed, and have quite a few people to deal with on a daily or weekly basics. In fact, for most self employed people your income is going to be based on the number of people you can deal with in a given amount of time.

In your case, time management, and you time does not seem to be short, or as you admit you don’t have much use scheduling your time.

Lets take a look at a few of your points:

>1) Calendar/scheduling
>This is neat, but I am not busy enough to need a PDA to keep track of my schedule.

I agree with you. If your schedule is always the same every day, or you do not have a lot of meetings then pda for meetings is not much good.

However, using a pda for birthday reminders, important dates (like upcoming anniversaries of parents, or relatives) etc. is a really great use. For most birthday’s, my pda gives me a 2 day warning. Further, once I enter in a persons birthday, then it will remind me forever! Again, if you don’t have much of a social life or you don’t have to balance the amount of people you see on a social level, then again the pda is not much use. I find the birthday / special occasions reminders one of the most useful features of the pda. So, even if you don’t have meetings, everyone should have events in their lives that are important to remember.

In my case, I don’t even have enough time to deal with the people who call me on a social level, let alone the business side of things. Using a pda can manage this problem of balancing work and social actives that we all have.

>(2) Alarm clock functionality
>Well, most watches do this. Even the cool looking (non digital) ones.

The alarm on my T3 is VERY load. It saves me packing an travel alarm. If you don’t travel much, or don’t have to get up when you travel, then again, I can agree with you.

>3)To Do lists.
>I personally use pen and paper. Do I *really* need a $300 tool to go to the local grocery store?

The problem for most of us is not that we have a to-do list, but the PROBEM IS that the list is CHANGING, and can be expanded upon. If you cross out 10 of the 18 things you have to do…fine. But, now add 4 more things. Your paper list beings to look like a huge uncontrollable mess.

How can you add, delete, update and modify a paper list? Again, if you don’t write letters, then a word processor is of no use. If you don’t have frequent to-do lists that don’t change, then once again a pda will not help you. However, if those to-do lists are in flux, with additions and removals then a pda is great. It is not that we have a list, but there is things going out (done) and things going in (new to do) that is real advantage here.

>4) Contact lists (electronic Rolodex)
>This might be one good use, but I don't usually need it too often.

As mentioned, if you have very few friends, or people that you know, and don’t care about remembering their birthdays, and wedding anniversaries etc, then once again, the pda will not help you. Or, perhaps you know lots of people, but don’t need to know things like birthdays etc.

>Once again, pen and paper is cool.

How about all those friends that change their phone numbers and email address ALL THE time! If you use a old paper address book, those things look like a mess after just a few months (each new addition, or change of a number means you have to scribble out the old ones…really yuk!). This is especially so today with so many people moving, and changing things like email and phone numbers.  Further, the majority of people I know now have at least 3 phone numbers…and they change!

>Entering this information into the PDA at a meeting/convention is the worst nightmare. If you are near a PC, then it's cool, but then again a PC already has this functionality. No need for a PDA.

You miss the whole point here! Why enter it via the pda? Virtually all pda’s allow data entry from the pc keyboard..and it TRANSFERS to the pda. So, sure, you go back home and enter all the new names and address into your computer. What happens when you run out the door for a coffee! You now are complete naked, and have no phone numbers, no new address, and not even an ability to return a phone call from that way cool person you just met last week!

The issue here is not that you have to try and type those new business cards in while traveling. Heck, save those business cards until you get back home. Then, you can type in the new names with a nice pc and a good keyboard. At least now you can chuck out all those business cards, and when you walk out the door all that info is WITH YOU in your pda. Even more cool that information is ALSO on your pc! It is of no use just having those names in your pc alone. When you walk out the door, and you have all phone numbers with you at all times…oh wow..what a great felling this is. Further, it is a great convenience if you need to phone someone. If you never go out the door, and are always by your pc, then sure…the pda will not help you here.


>(5) Memo Pad.
Pen and paper anyone?

>(6) Password safes
Pen and paper anyone? :)

Actually, this is a fabulous use of a pda. I have ALL of my CD keys (all regs keys for all my cds). This means I never have to walk over to some filing cabinet, or hunt for some cd key. Sure, you can use a piece of paper, but where will you put that piece of paper? I often have several cd’s in my notebook bag, and ALWAYS have a up to date list of the software keys.

What good is a piece of paper with all those keys unless you carry that paper with you? I don’t even have to get up and look for the paper. You can not imagine how nice of a feeling it is to never have to hunt, or try an find some piece of paper with some little number on it. I have all kinds stuff on my pda from phone code to alarm codes for my clients. The problem here is not using a piece of paper..but having instant access to that piece of paper at all times is the real trick.  I guess you could always carry those pieces of paper with you…but man…what a pain!

>(7) Mapping software
Well.. This one is nice but hard to read on a tiny screen.
What do you think?

Compared to what? If you are comparing the screens to a handheld gps, then the pdas most certainly are very nice. To me, the real problem is that you need to purchase a separate gps here. However, if you just need some maps to be downloaded, I do this all the time for my pda. And sure enough, often a few weeks later, I need some map to a place I visited, and there it is …right in my pda! Before, I remember I used to print out a map, and place it on the car seat. After using the map…of course it gets thrown out on the next cleaning sessions for my car. Now…a few months later when I need that little map again…it is right there in my handy pda. Not to mention I am now using a different (winter car) right now!

>8) Calculator
I have my own super duper fancy calculator which my PDA cannot possibly touch.

There is some incredible kick butt calculators availing for these pda’s. Many are actually emulation’s of popular programmable hand held calculators. And, since most pda’s are the same size of a calculator, then why not carry a device that is about the same size..but gives you zillions of things AND ALSO is a calculator. I mean, in both cases you have to carry the calculator. So why not carry one device that does much more then a calculator. Calculators are not even close to what pda’s can do!.


>9) Mini web browser
Once again, small screen is an issue for me... Not to mention the expensive service.

They are getting much better. My pda has 480x320 resolution. Further, wifi spots are popping up AT AN INCREDABLE RATE right now. And, most wifi spots will be free, so, I don’t think the expensive service is needed at all!

However, if you are talking about non wifi..but using a cell phone, then the expensive issue is killing this! The cell phone companies have really messed this whole web thing up right now. They really need to just sell air time, and not try and soak the customers. As a result, we will all lean towards free wifi spots when the cell providers COULD have had a huge client base by now..but ruined this with horrible price concepts for web access via a pda/phone. I kind of glad, since now the future road will be free wifi spots.

>10) Games
>This one is in every field. Gaming is cool and makes a ton of money for everyone, but I probably should spend my time more productively. So this feature would not be a motivation for me.

Yes, I do have some games on my pda: Solitaire, Vexed, Chess, Apple II emulator. (it is just so fun to run old appleII games on my pda!). However, you are right, there is NOT much needed. I am just waiting for a mame arcade emulator for the palm T3…as that will open up a ton of games! But, really, I don’t run, or use those games much at all.

>These days I guess you can use your PDA for playing MP3s, taking pictures, e-mailing, etc...

it is funny, but I have NOT been playing much mp3’s on my pda (I have some music). However, I never did listen to a lot of music anyway. However, perhaps next week while skiing I will try .

I do however watch a ton of news, and shows and programs on my palm. In fact, I even watched 2 hour movies. For me, being able to watch some news programs and some shows on my pda is fabulous. I watch at least 2, or 3 shows a week on my palm. Great use!

Pictures on the pda is also a another winner. I have pictures of loved ones, lots of my friends etc. During the Holiday months such as December most busy people have to attend a lot of functions (in fact, I have to pick and chose which parties etc to attend and my pda helps for this problem also!). Lots of those pictures from December are now on my pda.

Meeting business associates, and showing lots of pictures to friends that I have met during December is great fun. We all love to show off pictures, and a pda is just fab at this. I easily took 350+ pictures during the holiday season from just functions I attended. So, I have lots of new pictures to show to friends that I meet through the coming months. My friends and business associates all enjoy this..and in fact come to expect me to have lots of pictures with me.

Hey, Albert…do you have any nice pictures of that company party? It is so fun to sit down and enjoy some warm memories and laughs as we re-view the pictures. Great fun!

My palm also has a built in memo/voice recorder. I don’t use it that much, but I certainly have used it a few times. Again it was great since I don’t have to write anything down. You can use the voice memo as a reminder if you want…and for remembering something while driving…it is quite nice.

>Does anyone know of any other cool, great, unbelieveable uses for a PDA or a Pocket PC other than the ones mentioned here?

Yes, I use my palm with some billing software to bill my clients. I mean, if I am in the software industry, you would think I do something about piles of paper! I of course wrote my own custom billing software on the windows side. When on site, a few pen taps, and the billing process is started. When I leave, another pen tap stops  the clock, and thus calculates the time spent with that client (all stuff like billing rate etc is also saved). Now, to create all my invoices, I go home and press a button and invoices come out on the pc side! Perhaps in the future, I might even make it fax out the invoices for me.

So, on Friday on the way home, instead of worrying about a big pile of paper work as result of billing during the week, I stop off at the local pub and have a nice beer. I look around at the nice people I know at the pub, and life  feels great because I don’t have  big pile of paper work waiting for me when I get home. To bad the guy sitting next to me who is in sales is still writing out some sales orders because he don’t have a pda.

To me…my pda makes life grand and eliminates tons of paper. It allows me to be free as the wind, and not have a worry. While sitting sipping that beer, I have all phone numbers of friends and people I may want to invite out, or just say hello to after a long week of work. In fact, I am sure the pda makes my nice cold beer taste a lot better!

If the use of a pda can’t make your life more care free and enjoyable then they are not going to help you!

Using a pda is about maximizing the time and things you can do in a given amount of time. If you live life to the fullest and want to meet lots of people, and do lots of things, then a pda is simply a tool that lets you increase the enjoyment that life has to offer.

It is all about freedom!

Albert D. Kallal
Edmonton, Alberta Canada
kallal@msn.com
http://www.attcanada.net/~kallal.msn

Albert D. Kallal
Monday, February 16, 2004

Smartphones - devices that combine the features of PDAs and phones - are a boon because you gain the size advantage of a combined device.

Working with PDAs and smartphones, I get to see lots of new and exciting ones.

Truthfully, the Symbian-based ones (especially from Sony Ericsson, e.g. the P800 and P900) beat the socks for well-thought-out frameworks for 3rd party programmers.

i like i
Monday, February 16, 2004

My past work experience biases my view of PDAs or any portable devices. I have never seem them used for anything other than primarily as a productivity enhancing tool, so I can't chat about games or leisurely tasks like surfing or SMS texting. I have worked for companies that customize PDAs to fit intimately with:

* a transportation management system, using GPS and digital cell data/radio towers.

* logistics management system

* sales leads, market research, sales report, complaints and troubleshooting, sales support management system

* site configuration and site/stock tracking

The people who used these PDAs DEPEND on it, they can't conduct any business without these things. The well oiled machine literally grind to a half halt as the entire business tries to do things the old way (which isn't always graceful). How many of you tried faxing something during the Great Blackout? It was like that. Same goes for portables like ultra portables IBM laptops. You need these to help door-to-door sales persons synchronize stock and configuration of the sites they visit. They are absolutely critical. Often time whether you use a PDA or laptop becomes almost inconsequencial as both are getting very powerful (IPaqs and Sony laptops).

Li-fan Chen
Monday, February 16, 2004

The software technology involved in the above mentioned systems can range anywhere from PDAs with a completely inhouse developed OS + app to a completely retail item with say Embedded Visual C++/AppForge applications compiled to the platform of choice (PocketPC or Palm). The more PocketPCs and Palms PDAs can be customized for different applications the more they'll replace general laptops.

Durability, portability, customization, and specialization is on average get more bang for the buck when you choose say a Symbol PDA over say a Panasonic toughbook. Some of these aspects hurt mini format portable PCs.

In a complete system, a travelling staff will often have both systems available, laptops do what pdas don't and vise versa. That's what see on most FedEx and UPS trucks too.

Li-fan Chen
Monday, February 16, 2004

Storing passwords in PDA sound a good idea.
There is only one problem - what if somebody steals you the PDA?

Is it possible to encrypt the content?

Branko
Monday, February 16, 2004

You're right that paper can do all these things, that's why, when all my colleagues were going, "Look! I've got a 2-gig processor and an 80-gig hard drive all no bigger than my palm!" and "That's nothing! I've got a Cray the size of a wristwatch!", I was carrying around a Filofax the size of a breezeblock.

I couldn't leave it behind in case I needed to look up an address or stuff. Seething with resentment, I went out and bought a... Sharp text-only organizer which I still use.

Advantages: it is the same size as a PDA if not slimmer, weighs a few ounces, and pretty much stores the same stuff as my Filofax did.

It's been obsolete since long before I got it, so no expensive upgrade path!

No having to learn a new form of handwriting or go blip-blip-blip with an electronic stylus which I then lose; or alternatively buying a folding keyboard the size of a breezeblock, to put in my bag next to my space-saving PDA.

Fernanda Stickpot
Monday, February 16, 2004

I use a Palm app for storing passwords called TopSecret.  It's not strong encryption, but it keeps my passwords safe from casual browsers (like if I should ever lose my PDA).

Sam Livingston-Gray
Monday, February 16, 2004

Some of what I use my PDA for, I could do with a regular notebook.  Part of it is just the convenience factor of being able to sort, search, etc.  But there are also some things you can't get with a notebook:

* I no longer wear a watch.  And I don't watch the clock.  An alarm tells me to get up in the morning, another go to to work, another that it's lunchtime, and another that it's time to go home.  It goes off to tell me to go to class on Tuesdays or to music lesson on Mondays.  This is probably the benefit I feel the most; I feel much more relaxed not having to watch the clock or check my watch all the time to remember to do things.

* I don't overspend.  I use SplashMoney and record checks and credit card charges as I make them and know how much money I have all the time; without the convenience of the PDA I never did this.  As an added bonus, when I get my credit card bill it's never a lump sum shock because I've already recorded those purchases; it's just treated as a transfer from checking to credit card X, but my "net worth" stays the same.

* I keep up with the world by reading news on AvantGo.  (The only disadvantage is that I don't get as much local news since our local paper doesn't have an AvantGo channel.)

* I can save articles to read later, using MakeDocW to convert to Palm Doc format and CSpotRun to read them at my leisure at times when I don't have the Web handy, but I do have my PDA.

* I use a program called TikTok to keep track of things that have specific durations; e.g. I set it when I go to lunch, and 50 minutes later it goes off to tell me to head back to the office.

Of all these, the best is the alarms.  I hope never again to have to go back to wearing a watch and checking it all day to see if it's time for that meeting yet.  No more anxiety: when it's time, my Visor Prism chirps and I head off.

Kyralessa
Monday, February 16, 2004

Actually, I've decided I'm going to buy a Pocket PC in the next couple of weeks.

The main reason is that I am now on a half-teaching timetable because I have a lot of organizational work to do, and I reckon it must be easier to pen stuff in and then transfer it to an Outlook task, then to put it on paper, which I invariably mislay in the same place as the bosses pen, and have to type it in afterwards.

I would think Pocket Excell will prove useful when I am taliking to my house builders, and certainly I would like to be able to jot things down for comparision shopping.

Two things I find irritating:

One is that the cheapest combined phone/PDA is around $600 - $700, so that unless I want to spend a fortune I'm going to have to cart both around separately, which is a nusiance since I only wear a jacket for the two coldest months of the year. In fact I was holding off buying the Pocket PC for this reason.

The second is that to get certain features on a mobile phone you have to pay for a load you don't want. For example to get infra-red or bluetooth you have got to buy near the top of the range. Yet most of the world does not have WAP, let alone GPRS, and I cannot even send simple picture messages let alone multi-media messages. Yet just to have a small amount of memory for text messages I have to pay for Multi-media, WAP and a color screen.

Incidentally, even cheap phones now have quite a lot of the functionality of a PDA. You can certainly have reminders for the calendar, a stop watch, an alarm clock and a very clunky calculator. I would think that unless you enter a lot of text that a phone would do for many people.

Stephen Jones
Monday, February 16, 2004

Branko,
password wallets work by encrypting a single database/file (containing all your other passwords, credit cards, and what not) using a symmetric key. From there most password wallets do two things.

1) The symmetric key is then encrypted using an asynmetric key. Which is a derived hash of a long and safe password you provide everytime you want to open the wallet. Intruders don't have access to your "master key" will have no access to the database of passwords.

2) The symmetric key is derived from a hash of your password plus a fresh salt. About the same difference, as option 1)  and gives about the same protection.

There's a difference between option 1) and 2) which I can't remember just now.

Li-fan Chen
Monday, February 16, 2004

Check out the Hiptop.  (Sidekick if you look at T*Mobile)

It is not THERE yet in many areas (birthdays does not automatically associates with the calendars yet.  Outlook does not yet sync, blah blah)

But at $200-$300 for everything, and $30 for unlimited net?  I sure am enjoying mine.  :)

-T.J.

T.J.
Monday, February 16, 2004

I have a cell phone and a PDA (palm m500).

Both are used to store contacts and to-dos -- pda for work and cell for personal

And  I don't answer calls from unknown numbers.

Rick Tang
Monday, February 16, 2004

Is there an equivalent for TopSecret on PocketPC? How safe is Pocket Excel file with password?

Branko
Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Unless you are electronically inclined, this probably wont matter to you.  Anyways, there is this small computer board called a FlexiPanel, which allows you to use your PDA to control other electronic things, such as turn on your tv, turn on your sprinklers, turn on lights around your house, possibly unlock your car doors.  You can probably implement it into almost anything electronic.  While it is not necessary, it may make life a little bit easier, and for the geek, its pretty cool to be able to say turn on your water fountain in your backyard with your touchscreen PDA.  Also, you can now use your PDA as a remote control for your TV, DVD player, etc.  Those are just a couple more uses i thought I would mention.

Ryan
Tuesday, August 17, 2004

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