By Joseph F. Schuler Jr.. Fed up with $400 in monthly film developing and after failed efforts to share a digital camera among five employees, remodeler A.J. Paron-Wildes bought PalmPix attachments for their m105 Palm handheld organizers. The affordable digital cameras (about $80) help in selection, production, and warranty processes.
The cameras, which are attached via serial connection on the organizers, have mostly helped the St. Louis Park, Minn., DreamMaker Bath and Kitchen franchise as a matter of convenience: Although the picture quality isn't ideal, being able to slip PalmPix into a purse or pocket (they weigh less than a quarter pound) means they're used more often.
The franchise's three designers, production manager, and general manager Paron-Wildes shoot pictures on every estimate so they don't forget key vent, outlet, or fixture locations.
The PalmPix cameras come in handy during jobs, too. It's easy to download pictures from Palms into desktop computers and e-mail jpeg or bitmap attachments to determine, for instance, if crown molding is placed where the client wants it.
She has also used PalmPix in suppliers' showrooms, to take pictures of fixtures or hardware to e-mail to clients. And by looking at a PalmPix photo, a manufacturer was able to determine that a subcontractor improperly installed a vinyl floor.
Paron-Wildes hopes that the franchise will soon add Internet capability to its Palms so employees can snap pictures and instantly e-mail them instead of having to snap, return to the office, and upload into a computer via a sync cable.
PalmPix requires no additional memory. Eight Palm models, the IBM WorkPad, and TRGpro handhelds can use PalmPix. Although it has two resolution settings, 640x480 or 320x240 pixels, it has no flash. PalmPix software uses 53K of memory in the organizer. In general, a picture uses 100K of memory; the Palm m105 has 8 MB of memory.
Paron-Wildes has stored as many as 30 pictures in her Palm. She says shooting photos does drain battery life. It also takes longer to sync with your desktop.
Kodak no longer makes PalmPix, although it still offers technical support ( www.kodak.com). But you can find PalmPix cameras for sale on eBay, Amazon, and in some stores, like Staples. Handspring ( www.handspring.com) offers a similar device for Visor handhelds, the Eyemodule.