Idea number 241
I would also very much like the USAF to buy me a PDA. Not that I don't like my present platform, the Palm m500.

A commander some years back shared with us his vision that "someday the Air Force will not issue its airmen rifles, but computers." That vision is coming true haphazardly and unconsciously; we are now required to update dependent information through a website, for example, and we use the execrable FormFlow to prepare travel vouchers (the FormFlow version of the travel voucher still admonishes you to "press the pen firmly so all four copies are legible"---on an electronic form). But the automation has not penetrated deeply enough, and I still need the rifle.

Virtually all Air Force instructions ("regs") are available as PDFs now, downloaded from either a central Air Force site or from a CD-ROM copy. Technical Orders (equipment manuals) are beginning that painful transition from paper to pdf. My career field depends upon a constellation of AFIs, AFMANs, AFHs, TOs, and purpose-built network clients. I already share my schedule with two peers, two managers, three classrooms, and three email lists.

The only reason that all of these files cannot be crammed into 16 MB on a PDA is that the AF simply dumps full-size JPEG images into their pubs, in effect bloating a 300KB document to several MB by adding color photographs, even in a document that will only be printed in black and white anyway. If the AF simply hired some illustrators to take these photos and "compress" them the old fashioned way, Idea number 241 would. be. feasible. Today.

The AF then issues a standard PDA to everybody---Palm or the OS formerly known as Wince, makes no difference---and each office would have one or two cradles to dock them. "Hey, Tony, there's a new 10-2501 waiting for you at your next synch. Look at my notes attached to it. And there's a change 3 for 14P4 dash 15 dash 1!"
Yes, we do verbalize the dashes.

The AF could then stem the explosion in the number of desktop and notebook computers it has to buy, maintain, and replace. Even morale uses of these computers could be reduced---just read and compose emails to Significant Other offline, and they'll be sent the next time you dock. You can still get your Instapundit and your DavidMSC too.

In a small way, I've done this already---four of us bought our own Palm pilots before a recent deployment, and shared schedules, documents, and so forth. Sand didn't bother them (perspiration did---somebody needs to build a waterproof PDA).

If you came here from this post, then you can guess what's coming next.

Either the digital camera snaps on to the PDA, or communicates with it. The PDA uploads the images, calculates the contamination and digests it to a file. I would caution against using a flash memory device to transfer images from camera to PDA, because handling those little devices while wearing rubber gloves is difficult and invites ESD. Wireless would be unwise because RF on an airbase is discouraged. Infrared is cheap and proved, and you won't be using this capability while hostiles are watching you through night vision gear.

When the images are uploaded and digested, you get yourself to the nearest dock and blurt the digested information to the mapping terminal. If the PDA gets slimed, throw it away and restore your backup to a new one.

Then the mapping terminal blurts back to you a password-protected map of where the slime is.

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