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Archive for February 26th, 2009

The Death of My Dictionary

Yesterday, after five years of dedicated service to my learning goals, my PDA kicked the bucket.  Just last summer my iBook died from a logic board failure after five years of service.  I suppose five years is the magic number, eh?  While upgrading to a new MacBook was wonderful (so much faster!), I don’t really think I can gain much from a new PDA.

I don’t really use it for note keeping and what not.  Perhaps I might if I purchased one of those foldable, portable keyboards.  I don’t know.  In fact, I mostly used the PDA to run a pen-style input Chinese dictionary that I came to depend on more than I had realized.  When I came across a character I did not know, all I had to do was draw it on the screen the dictionary would recognize it and display the pronunciation and the meaning.  It also had flash card support so I could review vocabulary while I was commuting to work in the train or bus.  The software truly made me more productive in my Chinese studies, and now I feel quite lost without it.  Last night I was working through a story in my Chinese reader and I had to skip over the parts I couldn’t read because I could not look the meanings up on the spot.

So now I’m left with a problem: do I replace the PDA?  PDAs seem to be a dying market.  Palm has end-of-lifed their product and that effectively leaves you with old Palm devices still on the market or Windows Mobile devices.  With palming exiting the market, it means that I can either get a Windows Mobile type PDA for around US$300, or I can get a smart phone.  If I lived in Europe or Greater Asia (ex-Japan, ex-Korea)  I’d go with the smart phone as I could take my phone on any network and just swap out the SIM card when needed.  I could use the phone for years and not have to worry about upgrading to a new phone if I switched providers.  But in Japan and the US, the mobiles seem to be so tied to the carriers, and in the case of the US, a big move could force one to switch to a new provider as the former provider might not even have a network deployed in the new city.

I  guess I will have to decide if it is worth the cost to get a new PDA. My palm device was US $150, and if you spread that out over five years, I paid US $2.50 a month for it.  For the productivity boost in my language studies, it was surely worth the expense.  A new PDA will cost my $300 + $50 for synchronization software, and if it lasts five years it would come out to $5.83 a month, still worth the expense I think.  HOWEVER, Windows Mobile PDAs are complex devices and I seriously doubt one would last five years.  The Palm was so simple, but PDAs these days have WiFi and card readers and what not–the more features, the quicker they break down!

I can’t see myself hauling around a paper dictionary though.  While paper dictionaries are still invaluable, I often do my study during commutes and lunch breaks when I don’t have anything else to do.  The other option is to study at home and use the Internet based dictionaries.  While they are helpful, I hate studying in front of a computer because the Internet is quite distracting!  I can’t imagine being a university student these days with all of the mobile phones and Facebook and Youtube all of that.

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