We completely forgot to report on the ACT Health Library’s highly successful PDA fair in early March – sorry, Saroj! Reps from a couple of IT and medical software vendors were on hand to spruik their wares, and the Library teased the hordes with the actual HP iPAQs soon to be available for loan (in what appears to be an unprecedented move in hospital libraries, although we are of course willing to be educated otherwise!). One iPAQ and many licenses for various bits of medical software (MIMS, Australian Medicines Handbook, among others) were up as prizes, which did generate a lot of interest.

So now the Library is up to providing these PDAs for two-week loan to the general public. But there’s a snag. See, it would be nice to restore the PDAs to a standard setup when returned by a patron, so as to avoid the PDAs accumulating unwanted data and software, and to save time having Library staff manually tidying the PDAs before re-lending.

A backup-and-restore service would seem ideal for this process. Unfortunately, the backup-and-restore options previously built-in to the OS (Windows Mobile) and synchronisation software (ActiveSync, both Microsoft packages) was removed with the latest versions (Windows Media 5 and ActiveSync 4.5).

This seems a completely bizarre concept but is nonetheless reality.

An attempt to contact HP and find out whether their iPAQ had some kind of built-in system didn’t end so happily, either. In the interests of investigating The Interactive Web, they were contacted via their Live Chat service. The result was, to say the least, disappointing. After spending 15mins finding the requested Serial and Product numbers, entering in personal contact details, and watching automated welcoming messages pop up on the screen, the only non-scripted responses were firstly incorrect (a recommendation to remove and re-install an unnamed driver) and then obliquely unhelpful (“not on the ipaq”). Further attempts at communication went unheeded.

As an advertisement for virtual reference/support, it was a brilliant lesson on what not to do and how not to do it, and can’t be recommended for serious attempts at resolving product issues.

So it’s back to square one on these PDAs, with third-party software being investigated. The launch, by the way, is April 16. Reports on the success of this lending scheme will follow. Discussion on similar lending schemes – using iPods, PDAs, and other such portable devices, will be welcomed and we can just about guarantee any recommendations will be followed up …