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  1. #1
    Kevin Luce's Avatar
    Kevin Luce Guest

    Default What do you think about using a PDA

    This question is directed to anyone that uses a PDA for their report data collection. Even though there are different methods for collecting information, I would like to focus on the PDA.

    Over the years I have done data collection by pen and paper, tablet, laptop & voice recording. I am now looking at a PDA to help collect information. I was wondering what your experience is with PDA when it comes to viewing, ease of use, battery life, etc when it comes to the home inspection software you use.

    I know different programs that use PDA's will have different results but I'm just looking for the overall opinions about these little toys before I spend the money.

    At this time, I'm looking at the Pharos Traveler 535e PDA http://accessories.us.dell.com/sna/productdetail.aspx?sku=A1283608&cs=19&c=us&l=en&st =ena%20data%20feed&dgc=ST&cid=25689&lid=584388

    or the Mogul GTS 6800 http://nextelonline.nextel.com/NASApp/onlinestore/en/Action/DisplayPhones?filterString=PDA_Smartphone_Phone_Ch ar&id12=UHP_PhonesTab_Link_PDAandSmartphones. Located at the bottom of the website page.

    Both have about 4 hours of battery life and come with a voice recorder which I still think is nice to have when doing home inspections.

    OREP Home Inspector E&O Insurance

  2. #2
    Ted Menelly's Avatar
    Ted Menelly Guest

    Default Re: What do you think about using a PDA

    Kevin

    I don't know what state you're from but I live in a world of slab homes with an occasional crawl thrown in (thank God not many)

    On occasion (very rare) I could use a little help with note taking.

    Example

    Yesterday I did a 7 year vacant rat infested home. Electric, plumbing, roofing, fascia, crawl, grading, drainage, appliances, HVAC, water heater etc. etc.

    I took about 60 pictures. I did not take one note. I did part of the report on site and then went to another inspection, I did the report for the second inspection on site. I finished part of the first inspection report at home last night and then finished the rest of the report this morning (day off).

    I got to a point a long time ago that when I am in inspector mode I become a sponge and absorb it all. I do not want my clients or Realtors there till the end. My pictures trigger some points of the inspection. The report itself triggers the rest (almost the only trigger I need). I used an old pda a long time ago and I also use to use a voice recorder. My reports took 2 plus times longer with all the note taking and back and forth on the voice recorder.

    Have you seen the kids working behind registers trying to figure change when you hand them a 20 dollar bill and 60 cents and the total was 13.60. Its like, HELLO. Sometimes too many toys get in the way and dulls your own sharp mind.

    I do have a cell phone and I did recently buy a Tom Tom excel so I don't have to look thru books or print a map before I leave for the day. I have my laptop and portable printer. I just can't see the need for more expensive toys (I do like toys though)

    Just me and my opinion


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
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    Santa Rosa, CA
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    Default Re: What do you think about using a PDA

    Kevin,

    I have used Windows based PDAs since 2001 and have gone through several in that time. A month or so ago I broke yet another one and went back to paper, temporarily, until I replaced it. I found that I spend less time making the notes on paper than I did on the PDA and my report writing on the computer seems to be taking no longer than it did when I used the PDA. Consequently, I have been finishing with my inspections and reports earlier than ever. Not sure if this is a coincidence (maybe I have been inspecting better houses for the past couple of months), but at this time, I am going to stick with paper notes and data entry into the computer in my office.

    Department of Redundancy Department
    http://www.FullCircleInspect.com/

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Dallas, Texas
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    4,112

    Default Re: What do you think about using a PDA

    I tried the PDA or "pocket PC" as it is more appropriately named according to the literature.
    It slowed me down, but then I came of age before the world had PC's and message texting. I tried for over a year to get used to using the computer to record data, but never liked it.
    I went back to using my camera for notes and writing the report back at the desk top.
    No more expensive report gizzmos for me.

    Jim Luttrall
    www.MrInspector.net
    Dallas, Texas

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
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    Chicago
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    923

    Default Re: What do you think about using a PDA

    I too find using a computer on site to time sucking.
    Camera is all I need to remember most, but with an increase in commercial inspection and going through a number of living units, one bathroom pipe begins to look like another.
    Fumbling with a dry board or pen and paper can even be a bother at times when trying to juggle them along side the camera and tools.
    I just bought a Sony Cyber shot T300 which has the graphic program PAINT built in which will allow me to draw arrows and write comments directly to the LCD touch screen.
    Should be a great time saver.


  6. #6
    Ted Menelly's Avatar
    Ted Menelly Guest

    Default Re: What do you think about using a PDA

    I guess there is always a qualifier. When I do a multi unit building I always take note. Yes unit 21 and unit 121 are identical, you have to take notes.


  7. #7
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    Mar 2007
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    Default Re: What do you think about using a PDA

    I have experimented with Homeguage on both a Axim 51v PDA and a Motion Computer M1400 tablet. The table is much more practical, but neither was nearly as satisfactory and my voice recorder + camera and preparing the report on the three display setup in my office. Note however that I do a LOT of older properties and I seem to see something new almost every inspection that requires some thought and adding comments to the library - if I was doing mostly newer condos, or ranches on a slab with truss roofs, entry on-site on the tablet might be more practical.
    ---------

    BTW, I've spent a lot of time optimizing Homeguage for fast reporting and have rewritten *every* word of the comments, and I'm convinced that I had it running about as well is as possible for my style of reporting with the tablet.

    One thing I did do when I was experimenting on the tablet was set up a templet which auto inserted a smart-text comment that linked to the comment library for many of the items we are required to report here in IL (mostly building systems/description stuff like "identify main electrical disconnect location") and after the inspection I would cruise through around 20 min of input just to make sure I had not failed to record the required information while I was still on-site. I no longer find that necessary as recording this material is now pretty much instinctive, but I still use the templet at the start of entering every report as it considerably speeds up the process of initial data entry.

    Michael Thomas
    Paragon Property Services Inc., Chicago IL
    http://paragoninspects.com

  8. #8
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    Default Re: What do you think about using a PDA

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Thomas View Post
    preparing the report on the three display setup in my office.
    Michael,

    Got a photo?

    I run two displays off my desktop, works good, but have not seen a three display set up like it.

    Currently, my third display is my notebook, but it really is not "three displays".

    Thanks.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  9. #9
    James Duffin's Avatar
    James Duffin Guest

    Default Re: What do you think about using a PDA

    I have my computer in my living room and watch tv while doing my reports. My office is my chair with a wireless mouse and keyboard with a 22" monitor. Today I did a noon inspection and got home about 3:00. I downloaded my pictures and then entered my general information. I then went to the store and got some charcoal and lit the grill when I got back home. I then worked on my report until the grill got ready. Then I cooked some hamburgers while I did some more of the report. Then we ate and cleaned up. I worked on the report some more and then went swimming. I just finished this report at 9:00 pm. I did this with one monitor sitting in my TV watching chair with a puppy at my feet and wet hair. Why do you need two or three monitors to do an inspection report?


  10. #10
    Ted Menelly's Avatar
    Ted Menelly Guest

    Default Re: What do you think about using a PDA

    James

    Are you trying to make a point as well???


  11. #11
    Kevin Luce's Avatar
    Kevin Luce Guest

    Default Re: What do you think about using a PDA

    I'm also not sure why two monitors are needed but three?

    Let me take a guess.

    One monitor is for working on the report. Easy one.

    The second monitor is also a TV to watch while working on the report. Likely

    The third monitor??? The third monitor is for the web cam outside the door so he can turn off the TV monitor and make it appear that he has been working on the report the whole time when his wife walks in. Possible


    This coversation reminds me when I wanted to hook my CPU up to my 63" plasma TV to work on the report. The screen splits in half so on the left side will be the report and the right side will be the TV. The wife clearly informed me it wasn't going to happen.

    Like I always say. I wear the pants in the family, she just tells me which ones to put on.


  12. #12
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    Mar 2007
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    Default Re: What do you think about using a PDA

    My setup:

    - Homeguage on display 1, at center of desk.

    - Photoshop, file management, archived documentation, manuals etc., and windows to move files on monitor 2, to left.

    - Firefox, Email, scheduler and access to .pdfs of all previous reports on display 3.

    I pull the SD card, stick in in the reader, and "click through the inspection" writing he report as I go.

    I can enlarge and scroll the pictures in the viewer as needed, and if I need to adjust contrast, etc. Photoshop is right there, as is quick access to my documentation library (anytime I have to research something I save it to disk as a .pdf, using Free PDF Converter. Convert from HTML To PDF online. Web page to pdf. URL to PDF Converter. if it started life as .html), I also have a 65 page word doc with all my notes open on this monitor).

    Then I run through my comments on the digital voice recorder (I use a Panasonic rs-us006, which fits in a stand with a speaker, and has FF/FW, etc.) and add anything I did not pick up the the pictures.

    When the phone rings I have my scheduler, GOOGLE Streetview, the assessor's data base, my contact form, and quick access to all previous reports on the right hand screen, which is also where I do all my browsing.

    I could do all this on one screen, but I really like having full screen versions of the pictures available at the same time as I'm entering data to the report, and the right screen allows me to answer calls, etc. without disturbing my work environment and perhaps losing track of what I was doing when the phone rang.

    All I needed to set this up as XP professional (XP home will only drive two displays), two dual-head video cards (purchased used on e-bay), and three monitors (the largest is a 24" Viewsonic purchased refurb for $219).

    My wife calls this setup "NASA control", but it all fits comfortably on 48" wide desk, with workspace to both sides of the keyboard, looking out my kitchen window.

    We all work out a method that fits in with our mental map of the inspection and out reporting style, this is mine. YMMV.

    Michael Thomas
    Paragon Property Services Inc., Chicago IL
    http://paragoninspects.com

  13. #13
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    Default Re: What do you think about using a PDA

    To get back to PDAs, my problem was that given the display size, and the necessity to move through multiple screens if you wanted to build highly customized comments, every system I saw ended up either A) Producing what amounted to a checklist report, though easier to read as there was no handwriting and/or B) Took too long to produce highly specific comments, especially those locating and describing a defect in detail.

    IMO you might be able to compromise and use the PDA to (for example) describe defects at a water heater - where 99% of the time you are identifying the same half-dozen defects time and again - but even then it did not seem to be saving me time in the end.

    I can envision a tablet based system that would be much faster to use, but the interface would not be structured much like those I've seen to date.

    -----------

    I do think a PDA/tablet would be easier to use if (like one of he posters above) you excluded your clients until the end of the inspection, but that's antithetical to the way I work, and the way I market my services at residential inspections.

    Michael Thomas
    Paragon Property Services Inc., Chicago IL
    http://paragoninspects.com

  14. #14
    Patrick McCaffery's Avatar
    Patrick McCaffery Guest

    Default Re: What do you think about using a PDA

    The problem I found with PDA's is that you spend more time focusing on the PDA, than focusing on the inspection. I now use a voice recorder and camera. This saves about 30 minutes on site, which the Realtors are greatful for. I do spend more time at home on the report.


  15. #15
    Kevin Luce's Avatar
    Kevin Luce Guest

    Default Re: What do you think about using a PDA

    Quote Originally Posted by Patrick McCaffery View Post
    The problem I found with PDA's is that you spend more time focusing on the PDA, than focusing on the inspection. I now use a voice recorder and camera. This saves about 30 minutes on site, which the Realtors are greatful for. I do spend more time at home on the report.
    That's one of the two problems I had with the tablet computer. The screen was too small (10.5 inches) to properly view the report, plus I had to set the tablet down when I needed to use both hands which slowed me down. It was nice when getting back to the office when 80% of the report was done.


  16. #16

    Default Re: What do you think about using a PDA

    I've been using 3-D for 6 years now in various versions. I tried Pocket 3-D for a while on an Axim X-5. Data input, especially text for special comments, was way too slow using "Graffiti". I would then transfer the report to the laptop anyway to clean it up, add pics and print. This method was just too cumbersome and took MORE time.

    I started with a conventional lap top but decided that I was doing double work. Writing notes and comments on paper then writing them again into the computer.

    I now use a Motion LE-1600 tablet (for the last 2+ years) No more double entry, use bookmark system built into 3-D to mark when photo taken, handwriting recognition is excellent. I do a high volume of inspections (2-3 per day) AND print on site most times.

    I am gradually weaning the agents off getting hard copies and getting the PDF sent later that evening (or even while I'm at the site using my EvDO card). Just print one for the client so we can go over it then send them the pretty PDF with color pics later as well.
    Let them use up their colored ink!

    This system has been honed over these past two years and works very well for me.
    Been thinking of getting a new printer with blue tooth but since I'm trying to get away from printing as much as possible, that is counter intuitive.

    True Professionals, Inc. Property Consultant
    877-466-8504

  17. #17
    Join Date
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    Default Re: What do you think about using a PDA

    I've been using a pDA with Inspectvue for several years now. Do the reports onsite and when I get home I'M DONE!!!!

    While James may find his system satisfying, I would just as soon blow my brains out than be working on a report 6 hours after I got home. When I get home, I like to be done, then I'm free to do what I want, and not have to say "Just a little longer, I've got to finish this report....", when the family wants to do something, or go some where..

    As far as the PDA screen being too small, I find it fine for what I use it for. My PDA might even have a voice recorder, I don't know. I found them a waste of time when I tried using them.

    But, whatever method used, if it works for you, then it is a good system/method. Far be it for me to tell someone my system is the best way or only way. It only has to work for me, not anyone else.


  18. #18
    Kevin Luce's Avatar
    Kevin Luce Guest

    Default Re: What do you think about using a PDA

    I ended up getting the Mogul GTS 6800 http://nextelonline.nextel.com/NASApp/onlinestore/en/Action/DisplayPhones?filterString=PDA_Smartphone_Phone_Ch ar&id12=UHP_PhonesTab_Link_PDAandSmartphones. Located at the bottom of the website page and so far it is a great phone.

    I have Report Plus from AHIT and their handheld software works great for what I was wanting. Viewing the screen, entering the findings and transferring the info to my computer is easy. The software has some limitations that some might not like but I can do about 70% of the report on site. It is easy to enter and voice record information to the PDA phone which can be done quickly. I also like that the PDA phone can replace my SUPRA key which will save me $180 a year plus get my deposit back.

    The tablet was fine to use, but the PDA software is basic in look, basic in function and the PDA phone is small enough to carry on your hip. The limitation (for the software I use) is that you cannot do a full report and print at the job site which I wasn't looking at doing anyways.

    At this time, I would give this PDA phone a 9 out of 10. Making phone calls is not the greatest with the touch screen but entering info with the keyboard into the PDA really surprised me.

    The software I use I would give 7 out of 10. As noted above, you cannot do the whole report with the PDA only. Also you have to enter the location of the problem in the "Note" section of the software or like I do, on the voice recorder.

    After a few months, I'll come back here and give my opinion again since this is something that I have had for less then a week.


  19. #19
    Ted Menelly's Avatar
    Ted Menelly Guest

    Default Re: What do you think about using a PDA

    Kevin

    "I also like that the PDA phone can replace my SUPRA key which will save me $180 a year plus get my deposit back."

    How does your pda phone replace the supra key? Does your PDA send some kind of signal to the supra box? Don't understand. Please splain to me.


  20. #20
    Kevin Luce's Avatar
    Kevin Luce Guest

    Default Re: What do you think about using a PDA

    Quote Originally Posted by Ted Menelly View Post
    Kevin

    "I also like that the PDA phone can replace my SUPRA key which will save me $180 a year plus get my deposit back."

    How does your pda phone replace the supra key? Does your PDA send some kind of signal to the supra box? Don't understand. Please splain to me.

    I did an inspection on a house yesterday when a Realtor used her PDA to get access to the key in the Supra lock box. I called the local Realtors association and they looked up my phone and informed me that it is compatible. All I know at this time is that I have an appointment with them Wednesday morning. There is a $30.00 set up fee and $16 every 3 months. With the Supra key, I was paying $250.00 once a year plus they have my $150.00 key deposit. I also get that key deposit back on Wednesday.

    I just did a general search on the Internet and came up with this site.
    SRCAR - FAQ's about the Supra Key/Lockbox
    The pictures of the PDA/phones are about half way down.


  21. #21
    Kevin Luce's Avatar
    Kevin Luce Guest

    Default Re: What do you think about using a PDA

    Quote Originally Posted by Ted Menelly View Post
    Kevin

    "I also like that the PDA phone can replace my SUPRA key which will save me $180 a year plus get my deposit back."

    How does your pda phone replace the supra key? Does your PDA send some kind of signal to the supra box? Don't understand. Please splain to me.
    Do you have ekey option in your area?

    I found this website that gives some information about ekey and the displaykey.
    Chicago Association of REALTORS®: Questions About Supra


  22. #22
    Ted Menelly's Avatar
    Ted Menelly Guest

    Default Re: What do you think about using a PDA

    Thanks for the info Kevin. I will have to check into that.

    So you must still have to be a member of one of the real estate associations. It would be nice if we did not have to be. I really don't see the sence. WE are already licensed by the Texas Real Estate Commision.


  23. #23
    Kevin Luce's Avatar
    Kevin Luce Guest

    Default Re: What do you think about using a PDA

    Quote Originally Posted by Ted Menelly View Post
    Thanks for the info Kevin. I will have to check into that.

    So you must still have to be a member of one of the real estate associations. It would be nice if we did not have to be. I really don't see the sense. WE are already licensed by the Texas Real Estate Commision.

    No. I'm just considered a "Key Holder". I pay for the Supra ekey and that is it. I can be an affiliate member for extra $ which would allow me to see more on the MLS plus talk at the meetings and get a booth at the Realtor Expo. I just don't see the need for it. There is a franchisee around here that really sucks up to the Realtors using this method.

    Here is what is written about Affiliate members on the GNIAR website.(the only association around here that I have to deal with.) I underlined the part that I just mentioned.

    Affiliate Members -- Individuals who, typically, are not licensed in the real estate professions as appraisers, agents or brokers*, but have a professional interest in the real estate industry. These individuals may be involved in home inspection, mortgage and financing, construction and development, etc. They generally have interests that necessitate access to information concerning the real estate industry and a need to network with the members of the association. They generally understand and embrace the objectives of the association.

    Last edited by Kevin Luce; 07-20-2008 at 06:57 AM.

  24. #24
    Ted Menelly's Avatar
    Ted Menelly Guest

    Default Re: What do you think about using a PDA

    We cannot even get a supra key unless we belong to one of the area associations. Like I said, Pretty silly where we already are Licensed by TREC


  25. #25
    Kevin Luce's Avatar
    Kevin Luce Guest

    Default Re: What do you think about using a PDA

    The area I live in is a good area. We have many good home inspectors; we don't have too many home inspectors. The state did a pretty good job on the licencing; the builders are (overall) good at building houses. It seems that there are a lot of good Realtors % wise but the number of bad Realtors is still too many and the Realtor's Association isn't that bad.

    The only thing I can see that the Realtor's Association needs to do is get rid of the test preparation class that is required before taking the licensiing exam and require them to take a class on how to be a Realtor. The class doesn't even teach them the basics.


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