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January 27, 2009
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John Rivera Technology Helpdesk
with John Rivera

P1 Tech Help: Precis of Pocket PCs and PDAs

We all know how fast technology has grown in the past few years, from the cell phones that started in a carry bag to a portable one you could build a wall with. Now we have cell phones that not only make phone calls but also store pictures, type messages, and can browse the Internet from just about anywhere in the world.

We’ve come a long way in a relative short time. As I’ve mentioned before, when computers were first used for commercial ventures, they occupied entire floors of buildings. Jump ahead forty or so years and we now have computers that literally fit in your pocket.

Pocket PCs have been in existence for about thirty years. Calculators were the first type of handheld computers that were readily available to the general consumer. Other technological innovations followed but none was truly portable until Casio released the Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) in 1983. Other companies (Palm and Apple for instance) followed with their versions of the PDA.

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PDAs featured a touch screen that was activated with a stylus to enter information or navigate from screen to screen. Once the information was entered into the PDA you could then synchronize the PDA to your computer and synchronize or back everything up. The downfall was that images on the screen were monochrome and the devices didn’t offer much storage space.

For the most part, today’s PDAs run on two operating systems Windows mobile or Palm OS. Both operating systems offer similar software features but (frustratingly) are not interchangeable amongst each other. Other operating systems exist but are used for cell phones that are used as PDAs (i.e. Smartphones such as Blackberry).

PDAs and Pocket PCs have many features that were not offered when they were first released to the public. They hold much more information than early versions. Current Pocket PCs can have separate memory cards that can greatly multiply the amount of storage space such as documents, photos, and even sound recordings. The ease-of-use for these devices has gotten much simpler even as the tasks they’re capable of have become increasingly complex. Just one use for PDAs and Pocket PCs that you may not have thought of: taking photos and making brief voice recordings to yourself that you can play back later as you write up your reports.

Pocket PCs can be a useful tool in police work because you can enter data much like you enter in to your work computer such as daily notes, activity logs, photos and many other functions. Once you enter the data in the PDA you can synchronize it to your computer and utilize the data from your very computer.

Pocket PCs can be purchased from just about any electronics store or online. If you buy from an online store be sure that it comes with the installation CD and synchronizing cable. The cost varies with how much onboard storage space the Pocket PC has and what other functions it is capable of.

If you choose to buy one of these tools, be sure to shop around and choose one that will suit you and your particular job at your agency. Many of you may already have Pocket PC in the form of a Blackberry; if you do have one, read the instruction manual. You may find out that you can utilize it in many more ways than you have been using it up to now.

Until next month. Stay safe.

About the author

John Rivera is a Patrol Officer with the Bremerton Police Department. John’s career BPD started as a Volunteer Reserve Officer and while he volunteered his time as a reserve officer he work as Police Officer at Naval Base Kitsap. He was hired full time in 2006 and attended the Washington State Police Academy. While at the academy, John was selected as the class “Techy” to help with the technologically deficient class instructors. Before John’s law enforcement career, he gained his computer experience through earning a degree in Computer Programming and then working in the computer industry as a Network Administrator and Systems Engineer for several companies.

Contact John Rivera

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