Saturday, September 28, 2002

External Memory

OK, if you are a busy medic in a busy hospital, you might be carrying around 60mb of pharmaceutical data on your Palm, but does the average user really need external memory?

The two main uses of external memory are to back-up internal memory and to carry large data files. If you Hotsync every day, the chance of serious data loss is small. Only if the data entered since the last Hotsync is critical and hard to duplicate does the possibility of on-board back-ups become essential. And if you have flash ROM, these may be possible without resorting to external memory. I often write down notes or thoughts on my Palm, and feel that it would be disastrous if I lost them, but I am sure I overestimate the loss and underestimate my ability to remember and reconstruct.

So what about large data files? A quick review of the applications I use which support VFS is revealing:

1. Various ebook readers: I carry about 6 books on the memory card, but in fact only ever have one on the go at a time, so I could easily keep that one in RAM and change it when I finish it.
2. HandBase: I only have a few databases here and none is big enough to warrant keeping on a memory card.
3. iSilo: Now I must admit that I keep a copy of the latest Foxpop upload on my Palm and at 1.6mb highly compressed, that has to live on a memory card. But that is a luxury, and the other websites I read offline (The Guardian and the Met Office five day forecasts for York and London, plus my own Blogs) come to less than 250k.

None of my other data heavy apps have VFS support (Avantgo does not, nor the Radio Times, nor pedit, nor Life Balance), but I still seem to be getting on OK with 1.8mb free on an 8mb unit.

So if I am honest, external memory is a luxury, and not essential for my PDA to do its job.