PDA, Bluetooth, SD-USB Blog downloads on the road
We have a blog and will be wanting to update it as and when we find a internet cafe but to avoid wasting time sitting in expensive internet cafes we want to get a way of typing up the text before hand and then simply cut and past into a email. So I have spent some time trying to decide what would be the best hardware solution for us. First I thought of taking my Toshiba Portege 3440 laptop which is so small it vanishes into the bottom of my topbox. But that is just overkill.
I have now decided to the take my HP5550 PDA, a bluetooth keyboard and have fitted one of those nifty SD cards thats folds over and can work as a USB card. So save the files on PDA as a txt onto the memory stick. Take it out and plug it into the internet cafe computer and cut and paste into email...and hey presto...
I will point out that I bought my PDA as a impulse buy from a mate of mine who flogged it off on me so I am not up to speed with it's detailed operation. I know how to type a file and use the calender. I'm one of those that has decided to give up trying to keep up with the pace of changing/advancing technology. No I don't own a Ipod... :)
So to the technoguru's out there; where's the risk in this it solution. I read the recent post about USB corruption and viruses etc but they are welcome to copy my blogs which will be in the public realm anyway. Just wont store any confidential into on the card which I was thinking of doing.
I thought about doing the same thing for a while. The issues I hit were more to do with space and wanting to minimise the amount I carried, which would have been the following:
- HP iPAQ
- folding keyboard (infrared)
- power adapter for bike
- spare battery for keyboard (CR232, or something similar)
- SD card (x2 - in case one goes belly up)
- small SD card reader with USB plug (in case the internet cafe PC doesn't have one)
I had to buy a new battery for the iPAQ, as they are known to die after a year or two. I'm not sure how the iPAQ would handle the vibrations and heat of the bike on the road. I suppose if a laptop can stand up to it, then a handheld should be able to though.
My final solution, all things considered, was a little journal with waterproof paper, plus a pencil. It was less likely to "fail", and I wasn't able to back it up, but it took up less space, and was one less thing to worry about.
Keyboard for PDA
I recently bought a Asus MyPal A639 which is a great little machine, it has a built-in GPS, wifi, bluetooth and all the usual things. It has Win Mobile (version 5 I think?).
I tested it at home and connecting to the internet I can pay all my bills online logging into my bank/credit cards account without the worry of my details being stolen on internet cafes (these was a thread about USB sticks and internet cafes a few weeks back here on the hubb). Only one of my credit cards had a site it couldn't be viewed by Internet Explorer mobile but that's their fault I suppose.
It also features an email client so you can connect to the internet just for the time needed to receive and store your emails for later viewing or to send emails you have previously written offline.
It also has Skype so free international calls PC-to-PC from every wifi spot (hotels, coffeshops etc).
It takes SD cards, the same media one of cameras uses so sending or uploading pictures to websites is even easier.
The price was very competitive: £220 and it comes with all the bits&bobs, desktop charger/cradle, usb charger, 12v incar charger, very nice machine, even the battery lasts decently, I installed TomTom, Destinator and Fugawi (Pathaway) and they all work great.
I have been using it for a couple of months now and "it passed the test": I am taking it with me on the 1/2 (semi) RTW trip.
The only big big downside is that I cannot find a wireless keyboard compatible with this model, I have been searching the net a bit but my Asus is not listed on any of the "compatibility charts" and when I email the vendors they just say "I don't know".
Now, I am not an expert so my question is: is ANY keyboard supposed to work via infrared with ANY pda? Is it like with PCs that you just install the driver and the new hardware is found???
I see there are a lot of "dedicated" keyboards but the Asus MyPal639 doesn't seem to have one and the manual is hopelessy thin and vague. I was thinking to write a bit while travelling but with the touchscreen and stylus is going to be a big challenge and it will soon put me off.
Any IT genius over there who knows?
It's still not necessarily safe to enter your credit card details if you're connecting to the web via a wireless connection (on either a PC or a handheld), *unless* the connection is via a secure website (look for the padlock symbol at the bottom of the browser).. otherwise, it's possible for the guys who own the network cafe to simply install a network sniffer (Wireshark/Ethereal, for instance) to see every packet of data that you send across the network (wirelessly or otherwise).. and this would show them your credit card number, expiry date, and anything else you keyed in, if they were prepared to dig a little!
On the infrared keyboard issue, the overall compatibility should be fairly good.. as long as the software is compatible with the OS.. look for a keyboard which has drivers for the OS that you're using, and ask the vendor if it's ok to return the keyboard if it turns out to *not* work. Infrared keyboards work via serial emulation, so they're fairly standard (and slow) compared to the bluetooth keyboards.
I have an infrared keyboard, and if you want to try it out on your handheld, you're more than welcome. I'm not sure about OS compatibility, but you can look for yourself: it's a "Targus PA870". I see you're located in London, and so am I (E14).
One other thing I found about the keyboard was that if the handheld battery discharges completely, you need to re-install the keyboard drivers on the handheld, which means bringing a driver CD, getting access to a PC with a CD drive, and having the cradle, or a bluetooth connection to reinstall the driver.. hence my comment earlier about getting a new battery for the handheld.
Hope this helps.
I'd take a Bluetooth keyboard, more flexible than IR that requires "direct" connection. It is probably more expensive, though.
Also, there is not a lot of Wi-Fi in 3rd world. ;)
To take drivers and applications with you put them on a backup SD card, not a CD. Then if your unit fails and you need to re-install your applications and drivers, you can re-install directly from SD card. With this setup you can also restore all your applications to a brand new PDA if you are forced to buy a new one. Just remember to keep your license info/unlock keys of your applications on the backup SD card as well.
Yes, one of the specifications for the Windows Mobile 5 operating system was for permanent storage that didn't vanish when the main battery went flat. It is quite hard to buy a new PocketPC PDA device that isn't now running this OS or the just-released Mobile 6.
As far as using an external keyboard, I'd suggest it's just additional cost/complication. I don't think you're really going to use the device to compose War and Peace, but it IS useful for jotting notes to flesh out once you're in front of a complete QWERTY/AZERTY etc keyboard. Ignore the default hunt-and-tap popup keyboard and try learning one of the the 'gesture' recognising Input methods - particularly the one with separate areas for upper, lower and numeric inputs. It's like using predictive text on your mobile: there's a threshold after which it becomes much easier and faster and you wonder how you'd cope if forced back to the old ways. Don't try and use the complete character-recognising input method: I've never seen it work.
Bear in mind that if you get a device with an SDIO slot there are also analogue modems available. These work relatively well. It's my sad experience that pairing with a bluetooth modem can be a bit hit-and-miss the first time you try it. Once you've worked out exactly how your particular devices need to be configured it's OK but each pairing of new hardware seems to be individually quirky. Same goes for WiFi. There always seems to be a period of intense anxiety trying to make a new connection to a new (secure) network.
Overworked and underpaid PDA Software Engineer
Thanks for all the good responses.
I have the system up and running and tested and it works...
But I am now thinking that my current mindset is London-Pace. By the time we reach Italy I just wont be bothered with wanting to fight with another gadget and will simply resort to good old pen and paper, which we are taking along anyway.
So we end up spending more time in cyber cafe's...hey...it's just another opportunity to meet more interesting people.
Will let you know which way we go.
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