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Re: OT: PDA Recommendations? (long)

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Gary -

I've been using an iPAQ 5555 for several months now, and I'm very
happy with it.  You can buy an expansion keyboard (75% size) for it,
and several types of expansion chassis (CF, PCMCIA) which allow
you to do a variety of things such as: add extra memory, add straight
ethernet connectivity, or connect your device to a full-size VGA/XGA
monitor -- each using the appropriate plug-in cards (above-and beyond the expansion chassis). It has built-in bluetooth and 802.11b networking.
I've used the latter a couple of times, but the former only once.

Drawbacks:

- It can be a power hog.  I go about 1-2 days without
  recharge, assuming I don't use too many expansions (cards, keyboard).

- It's expensive.  I paid about $500 for mine (after taxes), and
  the keyboard is another $50, the expansion chassis anoth $99, etc.

- It's *not* a laptop and never will be.  There are lots of micro-laptops
  that are slightly larger than a PPC (and significantly more costly),
  but will run all stadard software.  This is a consideration if you
  have limited tolerance for learning new and different software, and
  discovering incompatabilities (usually at the worst time).

- The touch screens can wear out quickly if you're not careful, and
  this is considered normal wear-and-tear, not covered by warranty.
  I recommend getting a "complete replacement plan" from your PDA
  dealer, whatever make/model you buy.  I havent had to use mine (yet),
  but I know people who have.

- PDAs, like laptops, are delicate.  Mine survived a recent 25-30 mph
  bike crash (a bit better than I did, in fact), but it was in a soft
  (unpadded) case, had the compactFlash expansion chassis (which has
  an integral lexan screen protector), and was in my backpack at the
  time.   However, I know someone who dropped his PDA (either a Zire
  or a Handspring, I forget which) on a carpeeted floor and it failed
  irreversibly.

It comes with PocketWord and PocketExcel, but both are *awful*.
You lose alomst all desired functionality when you go to the
"Pocket" version (e.g. solvers & plotting in PocketExcel, most
text formatting in PocketWord).  They're really dreck.  And there
seems to be no official MS Powerpoint equivalent.

I recommend buying the Office-equivalents from a company called
Softmaker.  They have TextMaker (Word) and a final-release candidate
of PlanMaker (Excel) for the PocketPC.  There is also a PowerPoint
lookalike called Pocket Slides, which I have used to prepare and
modify presentations.  If you're not doing anything fancy,
PocketSlides is great.  If you are, you can switch back-and-forth
between Powerpoint and PocketSlides fairly readily.

There are also a variety of AutoCAD-compatibles for the PocketPC,
although the ones that look the best seem to be the most expensive
(~$500).

I second Dennis Wish's comments from an earlier thread recommending
PhatPad from PhatWare.com  I use PhatPad all the time.  No more
napkin scrounging when I want to show someone an idea or brainstorm
for a test program.  Since I can export the results as a jpeg, I can
send it around for comments before developing a final drawing.



Charley

--
Charles Hamilton, PhD EIT               Faculty Fellow
Department of Civil and                 Phone: 949.824.3752
    Environmental Engineering           FAX:   949.824.2117
University of California, Irvine        Email: chamilto(--nospam--at)uci.edu




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