need help finding the RIGHT PDA

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I am not a typical yuppie looking for the latest toy so I have some
specific requirements for a PDA.  I'm hoping that I can get some
suggestions based on my needs.

My use of a PDA will be for data acquisition in the field.  I will be
using it as a survey device to enter cartographic data and rough map
sketches to be uploaded to a more powerful machine after returning from
the survey.  the idea would be to enter compass, clinometer, and distance
measurements while cave/mine surveying and have an application that
immediately draws a vector diagram and lets me sketch in passage detail
while I am underground.  This is essentially a replacement for the paper
survey books we currently use.

My requirements are:
1) MUST support USB or IR connection to a Linux based PC
2) support Java applets I write on the PC and download to the PDA
3) use REMOVABLE commonly available batteries
4) accept flash memory or CF memory cards formatted as VFAT filesystems
    and allow execution of programs that reside on those cards
5) async serial connectivity (RS232C)
6) lots of internal memory
7) cpu capable of running my custom applets
8) industrial strength weather resistant body
9) runs an OS that is interoperable and based on open standards

Features that are meaningless to me:
1) MPEG/MP3 processing or any audio/video capabilities
2) office type applications
3) wireless RF connectivity
4) thumbprint security lock

Needless to say, the (you want fries with that?) salespeople at retail
electronics stores haven't been able to help me and I cannot find the
level of information I seek in my online searches.

Any suggestions?

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Re: need help finding the RIGHT PDA

Hi Wiseguy,

let it make me short.

No yuppie, standard batteries, java, high quality

use Psion 5mx Pro.

it's old and unfortunately not longer in manufactured.
However, you will love it. big display (640*240,gray scale with back light),
2 standard AA-Batteries (between 8 and 14 hours run time),
RS232 interface,
Java 1.4.0 is running,
tons of free software
running on Epoc (the antecessor of symbian OS, not GPL but very very
stable and user-friendly)
own programming language OPL very user friendly and powerful. (You may
even use OPL instead of Java)
Cheap on Ebay
and the best at the end a full functional keyboard.

A lot of people use it already for similar cases like yours. Sailing
navigation, Car navigation with GPS, Hiking, etc. etc.

You may interested, that a nice first aid database is also available ;-)

Additional to that use the otterbox (



Re: need help finding the RIGHT PDA

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Don't ask much, do you? <smile>

Unfortunately PDAs are coming to be more and more tailored as mobile PIM
devices and games/media players, and so are becoming less and less
suitable, in general for the sort of use you propose.

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I think post modern PDAs will do those (though I'm not sure whether Pocket
PC devices can talk to linux)

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That depends rather on what you mean by "based on". It might rule out
PocketPC and/or Palm devices ...

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How much is "lots"?

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It'll be very hard to find either of these on modern PDA devices. RS232 has
been pretty-much replaced by USB in modern PDAs, and I've *never* seen a
device sold as a PDA that was even moderately weather-reistant.

You can get 3rd-party waterproof housings for some PDAs ... but, from your
questions, I suspect that you want to use this data-collection device with
some sort of wired data-capture peripheral, and that might not be
compatible with any waterproof case.

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Most modern PDAs use internal non-user-replaceable rechargeable batteries -
this is pretty-much mandated by their use of colour screens. Just a few use
removable rechargeable batteries so you can actually carry a spare.

One can get external battery packs that take ordinary alkaline cells and
can be used to run the devices and recharge themin the field, though. These
can be kinda clunky.

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Oh, they *all* have 1 & 2, and many of the top-end ones have 3. Avoiding
those will be fun!

The only device I can think of that even begins to fit the bill is the
Sharp Zaurus range ... they're not particularly rugged or weatherproof,

Hav you looked at devices from Symbol ( and Psion
( They're not sold as consumer PDAs and may be
better suited to the tasks you wish to perform ... though being more rugged
more specialized they are quite a bit more expensive.


Re: need help finding the RIGHT PDA (Wiseguy) wrote:
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Req #8 pretty much rules out most PDAs, #3 and #8 together rule out
most of what's left...
As others pointed out already, you should look for "rugged(ized)"
handhelds for industry, data collection, etc.
Here are a few links, courtesy of Google. (1/2 are from an usenet
thread titled "Need PDA to work in cold weather")










Fujitsu + otterbox




Itronix: /

Symbol: /





Roberto Waltman.

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Re: need help finding the RIGHT PDA

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Have you considered a Tablet PC? Some of the newer ones are getting smaller.

With respect to your requirements, why do you need both the USB/IR
connectivity and RS232? Seems redundant. Also how much are you willing to
pay? Getting industrial strength and weatherproofing built-in are going to
cost you unless you opt for a ruggedized case.

Take a look at this one: /


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