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Hand Held Computers?

VERSIONS of DRIVERS DAILY LOG for WINDOWS CE Operating Systems based hand held and palm tops and PALM brand hand held computers:

NO Palm OS or Windows CE versions of DDL are currently planned, thought some preliminary work has been accomplished for both hand held versions.

DDL development for versions in these possible hand held computer configurations is 'stalled' as of 09/07/2000. It is becoming clear that computers are not as wide spread within the truck driving community as I had hoped. The 'Visit Counter' is approaching 60000 after a 3+ years of DDL home pages on the internet. Though 60000 might seem impressive, it indicates to me that out of a community of 3,000,000 truck drivers in the USA, that only 2 in 100 truckers has access to a computer to run DDL. This ratio might even be lower since a significant number of inspectors, auditor, and small company safety officers use DDL as well. Plus DDL is used in Canada by drivers and others. There is probably a small but significant distribution of DDL via diskette among truckers which is not counted in the visit counter. The visit counter seems to detect and does not count repeat visits from the same visitor. So where are the truckers with laptops, or at least desktop computers at home?

As a result only computers running Windows 95 or later versions will be supported. If manufacturers succeed in producing a hand held or very small 'notebook' computer that runs Windows 98 or later version, then DDL will automatically be compatible - as long as 640 x 480 pixel resolution screens are supported as a minimum.

There is an increasing interest in the smaller computers that fall into two size categories, hand held and palm tops. There are also the sub-notebook sized computers, and they usually run the Windows 98 OS. Since the hand held and palm top units are smaller and lighter and therefore appear to be very convenient and useful, especially for truck/bus drivers; I would like to make the following general comments:

I feel that these computers are not particularly good values with regards to price and the available software. I will usually point out to people who email me, that a good laptop that runs Windows 98 can be purchased for $999 (plush S/H) from Winbook. These are nice units with 400 Mhz Pentium processors, 32 Meg of memory, 2 to 4 Gigabyte hard drives, etc.. I don't want to necessarily promote laptops, because they have problems too. But if you can tolerate the size and weight - they represent more 'bang for the buck'.

Palm tops with necessary memory, and cradle, and modem, etc. will run to $700 or as much as $1800 for the sub-notebook sized units from Toshiba. The Toshiba units run Windows 95 or 98 so they will already run the DDL program.. There is a Palm Pilot vIIIe for $149.95, but I don't know much about it, except the price is becoming attractive. I expect further price cuts this year (2000).

The one big draw back to laptops, in general, is that they must be handled quite gently, and driving around an 18 wheeler with a laptop powered up (truck vibration and bouncing) will probably cause it to fail pretty quickly. The problem is the moving parts, especially the hard drive. I have a Winbook laptop - about 2+ years old - and I have already had to replace the hard drive twice. After warranty expiration, the hard drives cost $400 for a 4 Gig byte unit from Winbook, or about $125 when purchased from the discounters.

I have also gotten good reports about the durability of laptops (surviving a fall out of vehicles, etc.), so my concern about the reliability of laptops may be too conservative. I think it depends a lot on 'luck' more than the quality of the laptop. They all use the same display and hard drive technology, and a metal vs. plastic case might provide some protection from damage as a result of a laptop falling to the ground or to the floor of a truck cab. I think the vibration and bouncing of an 18 wheeler is a severe strain on a powered up laptop. Some drivers report that they run their laptops virtually 24 hours a day in their trucks without any problems. The palm top computers will probably score better in the reliability department (no moving parts). I purchased a Palm Pilot IIIx as study model for a possible Palm DDL development project.

That is not say that I am going to ignore these palm top and hand held units. I studied the Windows CE versions because they seemed to represent less (but still a lot of) work to 'port' some version of the Drivers Daily Log to that operating system. It appeared that a Microsoft based hand held product would be that way to go for DDL on a hand held. After purchasing the necessary 'software tools' to develop a CE based DDL, and working on it (part time) for a couple of months, I 'threw in the towel'. Microsoft removed many of the Windows programming features that I consider the bare essentials. I had to write many of the functions that I needed for DDL for CE. I sort of got it to run briefly on a software 'emulator' of a CE based system, but after many more problems, I gave up. I do DDL for the fun of it, and CE was NOT fun. Apparently I am not alone in this situation, and Microsoft is getting the heat regarding CE in hand held devices. In fact, "Windows CE" is being remarketed as "Windows Powered" in attempt by Microsoft to 'reinvent' their hand held strategy. I don't know if this is just a temporary bump in the road for the Microsoft 'steam roller' or a more permanent 'road block'. I am going to give the Palm III a 'whirl' and see what happens.

The next logical choice is the Palm Pilots, in all their versions (even a color one is available - IIIc). A version IIIe seems attractively priced at $149.95, and I have begun to gather the things together for a possible Palm Pilot version of DDL (after DDL v2.0 is released). No promises.

The 3M Palm brand unit uses a unique and proprietary operating system - "Palm OS", and as a result will require a lot of work to create a version of Drivers Daily Log for it. The Palm brand units are currently more popular with users of palm tops than the Windows CE based units from other manufacturers.

There is a move on the part of truck manufacturers to provide a truck cab mounted computer (an on-board system), upon which a driver may run his personal 'productivity suite' of software - GPS mapping, dispatching, internet, email, fuel, repairs, expenses, DDL, etc. Kenworth has a special T2000 that they take to truck stops and truck shows that features, among other things, such a computer. DDL runs on this Windows 95 based system. Within a few years the truck cab mounted computer will be a standard option.

Qualcomm, Highway Master, and Synergistic-Systems (others?) have had truck cab mounted computers/communications/GPS terminals for several years, but these systems are more for the benefit of the trucking company, and provide little or no individual benefit to the driver, other than what the driver wants to pay for himself. The Highway Master system is primarily a cellular telephone based system, and if the driver wishes to use the cellular phone, it is priced on a per minute basis. Highway Master has a GPS component, but this 'feed' is not available to the driver with a laptop and mapping software. It is used by the trucking company to monitor the location of the truck, mostly for fuel and highway tax purposes - i.e. miles driven in a particular state.

The interesting future (available now but does not give nationwide coverage (yet)) is 'wireless' - a radio packet system that allows an individual with proper equipment to send/receive voice and data at anytime and anywhere. I see DDL programs in the near future, with the ability to send log sheet data (duty status records) directly to the trucking company computers, thus eliminating the paper log completely, or nearly so. Even today, a driver with access to email (via cellular or phone hookup at truck stops), can send DDL log files to his home office or terminal.

Currently the Drivers Daily Log is a hobby. I do it because I like trucks, truckers, and all the people who work in this industry, and that includes the people who watch over the industry: auditors, DOT inspectors and the highway police.

Unless you have a real need for a palm or hand held unit for reasons other than running a future version of Drivers Daily Log on it, .... Hold off and wait a year or so. The Microsoft Windows hand held CE 'steam roller' has stumbled, so it will be interesting how Microsoft recovers from this problem. Mean while, the Palm Pilots are going strong, and if time permits, I will work on a DDL version for Palm Pilot IIIe (the inexpensive one ($149!)).

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Questions or problems regarding this web site should be directed to  "Fritz" at  frbjorklund@driversdailylog.com
or "Bruce" at bruce@driversdailylog.com

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Copyright 1998-2013 Drivers Daily Log - Fritz Roland Bjorklund & Bruce A. Luebke.  All rights reserved.
Last modified: Wednesday August 27, 2014.