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Palm Column

Life changes, and my Palm changes with it

by Shawn Barnett
August 1999, issue 29

Life does give us lemons sometimes, doesn't it? I've been feeling pretty lucky lately, life has been going well. So when I discovered recently that I have diabetes, I could have complained to the wind about the lemons hitting me in the head, or I could have done what I did: no, I didn't make lemonade, because it has too much sugar, but I did find a nice program for my Palm that helps me track my blood sugar, and gives me something useful to review for the next issue.

I was very pleased that my Palm could join me in coping with this tough situation that will follow me for the rest of my life. Now it's more than a PC companion, it's my partner in helping me maintain my health.

The program is GlucoPilot. It offers a simple way to enter the information that a diabetic must manage into a computer that is portable enough to keep with your BG (blood glucose) test kit. In my case, I keep the Palm with me anyway, so it's bringing the test kit that I have to get used to. Keeping it simple, I just use GlucoPilot to monitor blood sugar levels, but the program can track insulin usage, carbo intake, and a lot more that I don't yet understand. But it's more than just a ledger, it can chart your levels with line, pie, and histogram charts, and filter your tests by category. The line chart quickly reveals trends over time, and helps me the most.

I placed a call to find out more about the program at SoftCare Clinical Informatics. They were very helpful, and acquainted me with their other offerings, many of which I'll be giving a look in the future. Out of curiosity, I asked if anyone will be making a BG tester that would upload data into a Palm computer for storage and analysis. "As a matter of fact, I have a prototype of one sitting right here next to me." The way development is going for the Palm platform, you practically think of it, and someone's sure to have it available or in development.

Coincidentally, the first of the many BG testers they're going to be linking the Palm with is the very tester I use: the Johnson and Johnson One Touch Profile. Watch for a review of this item when it comes out. In its first version, the connection kit will be a cable that connects the two devices, but the already small size of the One Touch Profile suggests that it wouldn't be too tough to fit the basic components into a Palm modem-size snap-on tester; it would certainly obviate the need for an LCD screen. I believe SoftCare is looking for a hardware developer to handle this product, because they're primarily a software company.

In the works from SoftCare is the ability to link data from a user's Palm to their PC, and to a website that their doctor can access to track their condition. This feature will more likely apply to a new program that is more comprehensive than GlucoPilot, called GlucoLog. GlucoPilot is apparently designed more for Type I diabetics, who use insulin, whereas GlucoLog will have more features for both Type I and II. I'll clearly have to do a comparison review soon. A beta version of the program is available on their website: You'll also find the site's namesake, DietLog, as well as ExerLog, WeightLog, and GlucoPilot. Each of these has or will soon have a companion application on the PC for syncing, storing, and analyzing data.

So much going on
The list of items I wanted to review in this issue is very long. There is so much going on in the world of Palm it is both exciting and staggering. There are many wireless applications coming online for the Palm VII, which we'll be covering in the future. I have my best writer on the job as you read. Then there are the new announcements about Palm embracing WAP. There are a few PDAs I'd like to give a good WAP, but that's another story. Wireless Application Protocol promises to give us true Web access on a future Palm, and many other devices.

1999 has seen a lot of announcements from Palm, and you can expect a few more before the year's out. Expect upgrades to the Palm OS that allow for larger screens, color screens, and other form factors. It appears from the interviews I've read and the conversations I've had that 3Com's Palm Computing will continue to mainly produce Palm computers in their current size, leaving the pioneering of other shapes and sizes to other companies, such as Handspring. Other comments I've heard from executives have hinted at the possibility of wireless modems for existing Palm Computers, effectively upgrading them to Palm VII functionality. Now that would be stinkin' great, but it may never happen, because executives say all kinds of things. Look at the pointy-haired boss on Dilbert. I have hope, though, given Palm's past record of faithfulness to their existing customers.

Speaking of pointy-haired bosses, I just have to wonder about the knucklehead who decided that the iMac-colored Palm (see page 70) should only be available to college students. The market has been crying out for this product since the iMac itself, and they decide to "test market" it among people with no disposable cash? Admittedly, the cool translucent cases will make missing a few cafeteria lunches seem worthwhile, and make the lack of an expansion slot easier to forgive. It's either a blunder or sheer genius, making middle-aged Palm lovers jealous of college students for more than their youth. Either way, Palm will win in the long run.

Shawn Barnett can be reached via e-mail at

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