Auriga, cave survey freeware
Auriga runs on any PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) with Palm OS 3.0 or better,
even with limited memory or slow processor
(it may be a good opportunity to recycle for underground PDAs otherwise deemed obsolete.)
If you still use a Palm III, IIIx, IIIxe, V or Vx running Palm OS 3.x,
I encourage you to reflash its ROM to
Criterias for selecting a Palm OS PDA for Auriga:
In August 2010, Aceeca introduced the PDA32, a semi-rugged Palm TX equivalent, but with a double capacity battery (229 $ with IR and Bluetooth).
Advices: A Palm IIIxe is an interesting dirt-cheap choice: this robust device can be had for less than 20$ on eBay, yet its monochrome screen with 16 shades of gray is the best of the III series (others are greenish with 4 shades) and it features an upgradable ROM that can be reflashed to Palm OS 4.1. In Mexico, its 8 Mb of RAM would easily hold our 29 caves totalling 5200 survey shots (and 45 km). This memory was just barely below the limit to display the whole network at once, but smaller ad hoc networks could be built with neighboring caves when a connection was expected. In a month of use, we changed batteries only once. Another interesting cheap device is the m125: a rare combination of color, SD slot and replaceable batteries. If Bluetooth is required, the Bluetooth-enabled PDA32 has the best battery duration among such PDAs (20 hours), the Tungsten E2 is second, but by far.
My personal choice? My "city" Palm is a Tungsten TX, but underground I use an Aceeca PDA32.
An Android or PocketPC version of Auriga?
No port of Auriga towards Android or PocketPC (Microsoft's OS for handheld computers) is considered for the moment.
But it is possible to run Auriga under Android or PocketPC in emulation mode with StyleTap. Things work well, up to Bluetooth and access to the internal GPS. Only Palm OS conduits are not supported, but with Auriga's import/export features, it is not a problem.
Carrying a PDA underground?
It is possible to keep a PDA dry and clean in a wet or muddy cave by using proper protection, as illustrated here.
The waterproof PDA case from DryPak (15 $) can be screwed inside a regular survey notebook to allow simultaneous input of numeric data (on the Palm) and sketching (on paper.) Writing is done through the vinyl window, without taking the PDA from of the case. The closure is positionned at the bottom to allow IR beaming.
A homemade solution with clear vinyl and a slit tube closure is indeed possible. In a dry and easy cave, a Ziploc may sometimes be enough.
Armor offers a water-tight protective case (50 $). It only lacks an easy-to-build hard cover (wood, metal or plastic) to protect the write-through screen.
Despite my best efforts to find and fix possible bugs, Auriga can sometimes crash. According to all reports received, no data loss was ever noted, only the device had to be reset. When a program crashes under Palm OS, the system displays an alert with a Reset button. Depending on the nature of the problem, this button may not work, requiring to depress the microswitch on the back of the device. The device will remain on (and cannot be turned off) until it is reset, a situation that could drain the battery and then cause a data loss. It is thus wise to carry a paper clip, taped to the back of the device (to avoid damaging the waterproof case.) The pencil lead can indeed be used to depress the microswitch, at the risk of ending up with a piece of (conductive) graphite on the circuit...
©Luc Le Blanc, MMXIX