After a failed attempt with a laptop computer that proved neither efficient nor portable enough, I stumbled across a review of the HP 95LX in a PC Magazine roundup of palmtops. I was impressed enough by their comments to get one. I continue to find new and valuable uses for this splendid machine. Here are some valuable uses I've discovered so far.
APPT An unbelievable asset
Agriculture is a maze of schedules, including planting dates, watering dates, chemical application dates, harvesting dates, and employee work schedules. Timing is all important, and mistimed irrigations or chemical applications can mean the difference between a reasonable profit and a complete loss. I use my HP 95LX to keep track of when the last irrigation of each crop was, how much water was applied, which fertilizers or herbicides were incorporated with the water, and which employee was assigned to watch that application. I then plan the next irrigation and make a note on the appropriate date to recheck the field moisture level.
State regulations are strict about the application of chemical pesticides and fertilizers. I use the 95LX scheduler to keep track of the earliest reentry date (when workers can go back in the field) and the minimum number of days to harvest. Harvest dates are entered in the scheduler along with other production-specific notes for that harvest. This provides a valuable historical reference that allows me to accurately track what was done, and how effective (in terms of production returns) those actions were. (Sample Appointment Book file in FARM.ZIP (ON DISK ICON)).
Tracking Maintenance with To-Do Lists
The To-do list adds further functionality. When an employee mentions that a particular piece of equipment or property needs repairs, I make an immediate entry into the to-do list. I note the needed repairs and their priority, and schedule appointments if necessary. This technique keeps essential repairs from being forgotten, and saves time on multiple trips to town for parts. I check my to-do list while I'm in town and make sure I get everything I need for the farm in one trip!
PHONE -- Multi-Purpose Database of Vendor / Buyer Information
When I need to contact a vendor to order some merchandise, or when I need to contact a prospective buyer, I have the contact information I need in PHONE. Not only do I keep address and phone numbers, but I use PHONE to keep other useful data.
I have one Phone Book file that contains the names of major pieces of farm equipment and their serial numbers (EQUIP.PBK (ON DISK ICON)). The address section of the cards in this file lists common parts in the equipment, and their part numbers.
Equipment Phonebook: Graphic
I use a Lotus spreadsheet with this database. A User Defined Character macro accessing the Cut and Paste facilities, lets me copy the information about a piece of equipment from the .PBK database to Lotus.
F6 -- Goto 123
The spreadsheet truncates the entry, creates a filename and loads another spreadsheet that contains the complete service record for the requested piece of equipment. Repair dates, part numbers, vendors and tractor hours are all kept track of in these sheets. If I modify the spreadsheet, I use another User Defined Character macro to automatically save the spreadsheet and return me to the equipment database.
F7 -- Back Phone
I used this technique to keep my "Ranch File," a Phone Book database of where records on ground preparation, crop variety, acreage and production are kept. (I now use 95Buddy (ON DISK ICON) to accomplish this.)
Lotus 1-2-3 -- Office Data on the Road
Lotus is a versatile data storage and evaluation program that I have adapted to many uses. I use Lotus to keep product inventories, to calculate crop costs, and to make production forecasts. The various data I accumulate can later be easily downloaded to my desktop machine and imported into a variety of other programs and reports. By using Lotus, as well as the other 95LX applications mentioned, I am better prepared to make the quick, informed on-site decisions necessary to keep employees and equipment moving with a minimum of downtime. (Editor's Note: A number of John's spreadsheets can be found in FARM.ZIP (ON DISK ICON).)
HP CALC / Solver -- Quick Calculations
I use HP CALC and its Solver function to get quick answers to important mathematical questions. I can quickly and accurately figure water deliveries, tank mixes, application rates and temperature conversions vital to the job at hand.
Best Third-Party Enhancements
The preceding dealt with the built-in functions of the 95LX. Every issue of The HP Palmtop Paper, or every visit to the HP Handhelds forum of CompuServe yields a bounty of new ideas and enhancements for the 95LX. Below are the tools that I have found most useful:
Framework III -- Quick Information Access
I also use Framework III on my HP 95LX (loaded onto a 2MB RAM card). This integrated program gives me a quick and easy way to access other databases (D-base & Framework), Outlines, Spreadsheets, and text files on the HP 95LX. Framework lets me import/export to 95LX file formats.
State law requires that we must be able to produce on demand a list of any pesticides and herbicides applied to any field within the last year. Framework on the 95LX lets me have those records at my immediate disposal. Should a worker become ill at the job site, I can quickly look up and see if he has been exposed to any chemicals, and then call ahead to have a material data safety sheet for the product faxed to the doctor.
Multiday (ON DISK ICON) -- A Better View of the Appointment Book Graphic
This utility displays the appointments of a designated period chronologically, without all the dead space in between. In my business, many of tomorrow's decisions are based on yesterday's events. MultiDay lets me quickly scan past, present, and future appointments, giving me a better grasp of events.
For example, each time I treat a field with a pesticide, I have to be aware of when the last spraying was, how long I have to wait before I can go back in the field, and how long before I can harvest the crop. Multiday lists my appointments by the screen full, making it easier to keep track of all these variables.
Switch! -- Automatic Menuing System
This menuing system lets you put up to 48 System-Manager executable (.EXM) files and 48 DOS executable (.EXE, .COM, or .BAT) files per drive in an easy-to-use menuing system. (For more on Switch!, see page 8 of the Jul/Aug 92 issue and pages 25 and 54 of the Nov/Dec 92 issue.)
Switch! lets System-Manager and DOS programs peacefully coexist on the 95LX. The newest version, Switch! 2.0, lets developers turn any DOS program into fully system compliant, "SWITCHable" programs. This will allow you to turn your 95LX into a customized Personal Info Manager.
95Buddy (ON DISK ICON) -- Add New Features to the HP 95LX
If you don't have Buddy, GET IT! Buddy adds dozens of features and keystroke shortcuts to the built-in applications (see page 6, Jul/Aug 92 and page 18, Nov/Dec 92 issue).
One feature that I have found incredibly helpful is that 95Buddy lets you attach a text file to each entry in a Phone Book database. This lets you keep more in-depth information on an entry. Another feature lets you change the data field headings in Phone Book (Name:, Phone:, Address). I have used these two features to create a database of the farmland I use. The Phone Book database contains basic information about a specific plot of land. I press (F6) and Buddy loads a text file containing more information, including data on the Landlord, production and maintenance records, and physical structures on the property. This gives me one comprehensive resource for information on land, and takes much of the paper shuffling, memory straining, and guesswork out of my day-to-day decision making.
Mobile communications and data availability, as provided by the HP 95LX, are invaluable to me. They allow me to stay in touch with the necessary decision support information while remaining active in the day-to-day rigors of producing quality food for the American consumer. The quality and value inherent in the Hewlett Packard name are evident in the way the 95LX stands up to greasy hands and the rugged abuse of bouncing around over rough and dirty farm roads, sitting all day in 120 temperatures.
One modification I've made is to place a piece of Velcro on the bottom of my 95LX and another on the top of my briefcase. The briefcase acts like a small desk, and gives the 95LX a relatively stable base.
Modern agriculture is a long way from the mule and plow of 100 years ago. Using the HP 95LX is just one more way American farmers are applying the latest technological advances to the problem of producing the lowest cost, highest quality food for our country and the world.