Lost my PDA, Going Paper-Based...

I'm not a forgetful person, but in the four days before Tina's first surgery, I forgot at various times: my jacket, my credit card (x2), and my Pocket PC Phone Edition PDA. Must have had something else on my mind. I got the jacket and credit cards back, but my PDA is now the property of some kid living the dream in Haleiwa.

A decade ago, the Palm Professional utterly changed my working life. I was dedicated to the Palm until a few years ago, when I switched to a Pocket PC Phone Edition. The PPC-PE was a good PDA, but not a great phone. Then I bought a Smartphone, thinking it would give me the best of both worlds. It didn't and when it died (like, a week after the warranty ran out) I switched back to the PPC-PE.

There are 4 things that I want to carry around:

  • a phone
  • music and podcasts
  • my "next tasks" to-do list
  • something into which I can enter notes quickly

The first two can obviously be satisfied with existing devices, but digitizing the last two are debatable. True, I would love it if I could (a) take notes quickly and (b) have those notes synchronize with my OneNote-based notebooks (which is how I now guide my working life). Unfortunately, there are 2 downsides:

  • Pen-based PDA input is slower than normal handwriting (absent SHARK / ShapeWriter) and is more error-prone than handwriting on the Tablet PC. Phone-based T9 input is a non starter for note-taking.
  • When you have a \$300+ device, you fret about it -- you don't want to take it the beach, you worry if it will fall out of your pocket, you don't want to scratch the screen, etc. And, well, when you forget it in a Mexican restaurant in Oahu 5 days after synchronizing, you're really screwed (lost software, lost notes, lost time records, lost phone, etc.)

I had hoped that a phone with audio recording would give me a solution (I wrote a prototype that did voice recognition on the recorded note and added a link to OneNote, but the quality of the transcription was so poor that I abandoned the project).

I'm tempted by a PDA/Phone with a thumb-keyboard, but they still seem to be very expensive. For the moment, I'm using a 7" x 5" notebook. Not a fancy Moleskine for me -- they're too gorgeous to abuse: I favor Sherbert Notes 80 pages. Good ruling, good binder, low emotional content.