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Handhelds

Journal: Dana is not enough for me.

Journal by Nomad7674
A few months back, I was looking an Alphasmart Dana that was for sale on eBay and was admiring the simplicity of its design. A laptop powered by the Palm operating system which can run for a week on a couple AA batteries. You get powerful writing capabilities and the ability to run some simple games and other productivity software in a package that is relatively cheap. As someone who fancies himself a writer (even if I have never been published) it was mildly tempting, but not really to the point where I was going to buy.

Then suddenly I saw the price on the Dana and laughed. The current bidding price was way below what it worth, even with relatively weak demand right at that time (just after Christmas). Well - I thought - I'll help this guy out by pushing up the price. I enterred a small bid increment, intending to push the current bidder up into "cheap but not insane" territory and clicked [Submit]. Well, you can guess the rest of the story. The current bidder had not placed a bid of even a penny more than their current shown bid. I wound up winning the cool-but-unwanted device and paid for it and hoped that I would find a good use for it.

Well, after about a month of use, after installing all of my stories, essays, etc. on the unit and carrying it with me at home and work, I have to say that the unit is stubbornly failing to be useful for me. The writing works fine, but is missing some simple functions. And then when I am out on the front porch with it and realize I want to check something on the Net, I can not attach to my 802.11b network - as I could on my Apple TiBook if I were using that for my writing. Furthermore, the rechargeable battery discharges even when the unit is not used and in about a week it is completely dead. So if I spend a Monday writing hard, do not sync, and then do not get back to it until Friday, it is as likely as not that the content is lost. (Though I could alleviate that risk by buying SD cards to hold the writing instead.) Furthermore, it would not be useful for me in cases where I wanted to bring the unit with me on vacation, as the file can not be transferred to another computer or e-mailed back to myself at the home computer - even when I get a modem working - because th files are stored as PDB (palm database files) and are only changed back to Word-compatible files when synced with the host computer.

At this point, I would say the Dana is really only good for those who need a digital writing device for long trips or while camping, etc. Journalists in harsh conditions may also find them useful, as the unit is sturdy and the batteries do last a week (well, a little under for me). But the average person looking for a cheap alternative who will always have a power outlet available within 2 or 3 hours is probably better off buying a used older ThinkPad on eBay and using that for their writing tasks.

For what it is worth. I give the Dana a 9/10 for good intentions and a 5/10 for execution and actual usefulness.

If you are looking for a good place to get info on a Dana or get help for the use of your Palm Dana, THIS SITE is a great place to get help from the experts, including actual AlphaSmart engineers.

If the facts don't fit the theory, change the facts. -- Albert Einstein

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