So, we are in another year and it's a wonderful time to reflect on the past products that have made the Lifedrive an invaluable tool. Yes, it's true, the Lifedrive is an indelible PIA at times, but I have to admit that last year, without it, I would have been lost.
So, at the end of 2006, I decided to list all of the products that I own, including software, hardware, trinkets etc. related to the Lifedrive. They were not all medical components, but among them I decided to choose 5 products, both software and hardware related and rank them in a top 5 . The Criteria that I used included:
1. My Frequency of use.
2. My importance of use? What happened on days when I did not have the product or the Lifedrive with me.
3. Simplicity in use. Anything that is terribly complex cannot be used on a daily basis.
4. DNC (does not crash). This of course is a major point if you own a Lifedrive.
My final rankings are as follows for 2006 and remember, these are very subjective:
There was a scream for a tie between this product and Pennovate's Notes, but this one won out . In the end I had to decide which was used more, my Notes program or TCMP. TCMP won out. TCMP is the program that has made it possible for most Lifedrive owners to not give a darn about the slew of video gadgets (except the ipod video) and MP3 players that have been going around (Although NormSoft's Pocket Tunes is also a screamer for this position, given its deep array of settings). The fact that TCMP has been a free "beta" product for years, gives it the degree of popularity that it deserves. Although its founders are now going on to making a commercial product -The CorePlayer- it has been TCMP that has caught the imagination of just about every Palm device owner.
In August, I purchased one of the first 4 gigabyte SD cards to play movies for my kids and myself while on vacation. During a long drive I was able to view a full 2 hour documentary and a 2 hour movie in addition to a medical lecture that I had postponed watching (Alright, I know I was on vacation, but what else is a geek to do when everyone else is sleeping and you don't have to drive)? The playback was perfect and I have to say that I achieved 5 hours of video time before the Lifedrive gave up on me. Not bad!
But it was TCMP that allowed me to do this without a glitch. This little piece of software was the real ipod killer for me. But that lasted until the ipod video came out. That device created a genre of H.264 videos that just about killed TCMP. The quality of the iPod is superior and has made my TCMP driven Lifedrive somewhat jealous. Attempting to watch video podcasts is next to impossible if "created for the iPod." No such problems with the Sony versions of MP4, but again, the iPod ones do look better.
But I digress! TCMP is a worthy candidate and a must have for your Lifedrive. It is the program that creates a "wow" factor when people look over your shoulder at your "serious" PDA. It was TCMP that I used when I had to show the motions of a joint; and again when I attempted to show a surgical procedure to a patient that one of our local physicians did routinely in his office.
If there was ever a database that had to be bought without hesitation, I would choose this as the database. Smartlistogo has been a GodSend to me and has been responsible for me not jumping to the other side (Microsoft) for a long time. Every time I think that I want something with a little more complexity (ie. Mobisystems Database or Handbase), I am driven back to this simple program.
First you are drawn into its lair of simplicity, by making simple tables of names and addressess, effectively recreating your telephone book. For no apparent reason, other than to say that you can do it! Then, you become fascinated to the point of lunacy as you find new ways to do things. You begin to realize that there is an online manual and you start delving into a tricky arena or relational databases, combining data from one database with another. You then spend 4 hours in complete and giddy geek utopia, discovering that you can set alerts that will show up to tell you that something is due. You salivate at the possibilities: Crossreferencing touchdowns with attempted carries; Number of touches to goal ratio of Arsenal's Thierry Henry; Rating interviewees based on hastily created criteria that you have made up 5 minutes before the interview and then sorting them; creating an app of movies to see; Creating an ongoing bank account app. And of course, listing all of the CME and expense lists that you could possibly create. And then you finally get to the big enchilada. The App to beat all Apps in your mind: The Patient Rounding Application to record not only the patients that you have seen, but to capture all charges while at the point of service. You then create imaginative databases of patients and obstetrical due dates and other things.
So, what happens when you do not have all of this information available? You grind everything to a halt and go back to get your machine. Or you have two machines, an old Palm that has a back up of the smartlist app on it. That is how important this program is. It is the life blood of my Practice for patients that I see outside of the clinic. I can never remember them all and it places them in nice areas that I can recall them.
So what is the downside? The downside to this program is that you must backup everything constantly when you have to rely on it so desparately. But more importantly, it is not encrypted. Thus, you can use real names but you must shut down the entire Lifedrive to protect patient privacy. For myself, I carry an SD card that is encrypted and then decrypted when I have to use it in the Lifedrive.
With the advent of the Desktop App, creation is much easier of a more complex application, although it is nice to see that the application will work on either the computer or the Lifedrive regardless of where the program is made. Although Microsoft Access activity could be better, I rarely use Access and prefer to use the bluetooth method by sending the information to the memos program and printing it out or copying it directly via SD or Lifedrive to the computer and printing it out monthly.
This is a Lifesaver. Literally. I keep equations and formulae, associations and rankings in this product and although I have been looking for more complexity at times and an encrypted file system, the addiction of programming this software is just too much to leave. For the second year running, this is in my top 5.
3. Palm Lifedrive Metallic Case.
So, in July 2005 I received this incredible instrument - The Lifedrive. It is naked! The very next day I went out and purchased an overpriced metallic case and soon find out that this thing is so flawed that I want to bring it back to the store and get my money back.
First, I couldn't get the case to open without ripping the nails of my thumbs apart. I actually had to check my shot record to ensure that I had a tetanus booster. Then, I noted that there was no room for an SD card. Perhaps there was some belief that we did not need one, given the 4 gig hard drive.
So, why on earth would this contraption come in third? Especially since I have now purchased a Rhinoskin case?
Well, I have used this case for almost 15 months and I tried two other cases to see if I could get used to them. I found them all lacking! Even the Rhinoskin is lacking in all of the areas that I want. Secondly, the case now opens easily and readily. But the one thing that this case brings to the table can be exemplified by an event that occurred a month ago.
I was dining at a very nice Japanese Restaurant. While waiting for my table, the kids became restless. The guests who joined us for dinner also had kids the same age. They too were becoming restless. So I took out the Palm Metal Case with the Lifedrive intact and played movies. The case opens up in such a way that the cover molds itself, via hinges appropriately to the Lifedrive. But when the door is pulled all the way back, it produces a stand for the Lifedrive, thus allowing the Lifedrive to stand in Landscape view. PRICELESS.
But this was not the end of the interesting things found with this case. You may recall a piece I wrote called MacGyvering The Lifedrive Jack? Well that came about because of what happened after the playing of Chicken Little. One of my guests, along with my kids decided that once we were called to our table, they would pick up the Lifedrive and hand it over to me. Well, they didn't quite make it! Instead the Lifedrive went to the Floor! A hard, tiled floor. But it was encased and Chicken Little continued unabated. There was not a scratch on my Lifedrive. Oh, the sound eventually died, but the MacGyver tactic worked without a problem.
Protection, Versatility and function all serve to make the Palm Manufactured Metal Case the Number 3 piece of Hardware/Software for me.
2. Splash ID.
So, it's monday morning and I am up at 5am. I go downstairs for a cup of coffee, listen to the morning news and catch up on some office work. I then run for a half-hour and drive to the
hospital. I receive a call that Ms. Sickly is in the hospital while on my way to the office. I detour and sit to check her data on our computers. I suddenly forget my password, one of 7 that I have to remember and it just so happens, one that I do not use every day, having had no admissions in about 3 weeks. I reach into my pocket and find out that I do not have the PRECIOUS !!! It is still at my bed acting as an alarm clock!
I eventually get the necessary data and return to the office. But at the sight of the last patient leaving for the morning session, I am in my car hurrying back to the house! Why? Because without Splash ID, I have a very good chance of running into the same scenario without being able remember the passcodes for the day or getting help from someone.
If you have to run home at lunch time to get a piece of software, then you know that this product has to be listed in the top 2 of all programs for your Lifedrive. It is so essential that I sometimes question how many times I should back up the data. Once, I even questioned if backing up the data, overwriting the preexisting backup file, will corrupt the backup file! ?
Since November, I have had to have a backup plan! I have chosen to use two other encryption programs not found on the Lifedrive, just in case the day occurs and I have no Splash ID to fall back on.
This is again an essential piece of software, not just for the Lifedrive, but for ALL PALMS!
....drumroll, please, the number one accessory, either Hardware or Software for the Lifedrive is:
1. The Sandisk Ultra II 1- gig SD Card with USB.
This, my friends, is my number one pick for the Lifedrive. This product fulfilled all criteria in terms of necessity, ease of use and frequency.
First, before my family gave me an ipod for Christmas, this was my ipod-killer! It actually created a need. I had to purchase an in-car device to keep the Lifedrive charged while I listened to Podcasts, lectures and music.
So, I can hear everyone who does not own a Lifedrive questioning "why would you need this if you have a Lifedrive and 4 gigs of memory on a hard drive?" The answer to this is not quite that simple. But let's just say that trying to play your songs, podcasts etc from the hard drive was quite problemmatic. There are several delay points and eventual hard resets which make this a thankless task. I wrote something about this a while back (Which Memory do you serve?)
The drive of the Lifedrive is good for one thing --- Storage! Take a picture on your 1 gig SD card and transfer it immediately to the Lifedrive or download a file or a podcast directly to the SD card via USB - for those times when you do not have a cable - and voila it is accessible immediately.
There are a few drawbacks to the SD card approach, but this is mainly a problem with older computers. First, there is sometimes a physical limitation in inserting the SD card into the USB slot. This can be thwarted by using a USB extension or hub, but that defeats the simplicity factor. Secondly, it appears that it works best with just about all USB 2.0 and somewhat touch and go with USB 1.0 or 1.1. Other than that, this is a God Send.
I remember when I had to have a document downloaded as quickly as possible, along with a podcast that I wanted to listen to, on my way to a conference. I was able to go to the website and download the podcast to the SD card, drop my windows document, in the space of 2 minutes to the card and away I went, listening to a CME podcast on my way to a meeting and having the document and speech ready to go. No wires. Additionally, no Itunes aggregator to fool around with, just drag and drop.
The SD Ultra with USB card completes an incredible trifecta of download options what I consider a part of the essentials: The usual linked approach with wires , the wireless simplicity of bluetooth and 802.11 and the aforementioned SD/USB approach. This product makes the Lifedrive a very good tool to own.
Lifedrivedoc's Honorable Mentions:
Sensational program for the Palm, with automatic updates. Reason not listed in the top 5: They now have a desktop copy that is even better than the Palm version. I find myself using that a lot more. But if I am on the road or in the hospital, it is still the Lifedrive version that I use.
. Mobisystem's Office Suite.
I use this as my default word processing and spreadsheet reader and creator. However, it's core products - spreadsheet and word processing are spoiled by the lack of integration of its Database product and drawing program, which crashes the Lifedrive. Additionally, the Database program is not as good at "input" data as it is in comparatively using data. It is pretty and has a lot of "cool" features, but is much better suited as an advanced slide show or picture database program.
I have yet to upgrade to version 7, given the fact that they are using the Opensource PDF maker and viewer which has been notoriously unstable on the Lifedrive. Thus, Mobisystem's Office Suite did not make it into the top 5 this year.
I went gaa-gaa over this product late last year. A brilliant concept and an even more brilliant program, it is unfortunately only useful to you if you have a very high capacity data mobile plan or plan to do your geomapping from inside of a coffee shop or free wifi area. But it is gorgeous.
. Pennovate Notes.
A fantastic application. It allows me to use my crabscratch handwriting and save the finished document as a jpg file. Priceless during CME lectures or for jotting down something very quickly. Why is it not in the top 5? Lack of room. I have no negatives to report on this product. It's worth every penny.
. Rhinoskin Lifedrive Case.
Yes, I do love this case. Infact I am using it now. It has one major asset: A lot of room for saving those SD cards. Additionally, it has a faster access time than the original Palm metal case. So why is the Palm Lifedrive case in the top 5 and Rhinoskin getting honorable mention? On the grand scheme of things, if I dropped the lifedrive in the Rhinoskin, it's goodbye Lifedrive. Beauty gets you only so far.
. Riley's Kidometer.
An amazing database of facts for children's statistics. Is that heart rate normal for a 3 month old? Is that CBC correct in the newborn? All of these questions are answered in the Riley Kidometer. It is one of the best programs ever written for the Palm. So why is it not in the top 5? Well, I use it only about once per week or two weeks. Again, I have no qualms with this program. It is programming at its best.
Disclaimer: As always, all opinions are mine and there was and is no reciprocal reimbursement or commercial endorsement of any product. I have received no financial or other gains from this report. - LDD.
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