A look at the TDS Recon by Mark Passerby

See a full description of the unit at http://www.tdsway.com/handhelds The unit is being used undergound for data collection for surveying. Currently we are using a Spreadsheet appliction called SpreadCE for data input and a drawing program for sketching the survey(see screenshots below). .

New to the market in 2003 the Recon is in my opinion one if not the only unit available worthy of consideration for underground use. Other PDA’s what I will refer to as “consumer” units will by necessity have to be encased in an Otterbox and even then are not built to be continually banged and bumped around for what would amount to days and days of rugged use underground.  When considering the price, however groups need to consider how much time the unit will save by avoiding double entry, how much the unit will be used and the conditions of use. Another important factor is that the Recon has no RAM file system. All files installed on Recon are installed either in Flash Memory or onto an external Compact Flash card.  Thus ALL data is maintained in the event of a complete power loss.  The thought of completing 10 hours of survey with a consumer unit then realizing the unit has hard reset itself and lost your data should be unsettling enough for big projects to see the value:

*15 hours of continuous use without a recharge
*Weighs only 17 ounces
*2 Compact Flash Slots for added storage or backup
*Two built in I/O ports(serial and USB)
*Data not lost on hard or soft resets or even with complete power loss.
Specs can be seen by

Pricing as pictured $1,499 U.S. and $1,529 configured for use outside the U.S. To view various options, and accesories

The confidence to use the Recon while in demanding conditions makes it ideal for use in all aspects of the survey including the total replacement of the survey book.
The WindowsCE drawing program we have chosen to use is Cat Doodler 3 available as a trial or purchase at
http://www.onemanandacat.com . It works much like Macromedia Freehand or Illustrator. The vector graphics drawn are individually available as objects which allows a drawings objects to be grouped and subsequently added to the programs “symbols library” for point and drop ease at any time later. Thus things like survey points, ceiling heights, cobble sections, rotatable compasses and everything else can be drawn once and saved for repeated use later. The screenshot to the right shows the following: 1) top menu i.e. File, Edit, Object, Page and Help all of which have options for performing specific functions related to the drawing and program settings 2) sample of symbols on the left side of the grid 3) Tool box just below the top menu and 4) the Library and drop down to select items for placement in the drawing
Before beginning a new section of cave a piece imported in to Cat Doodler as a .bmp can be brought in from the end of the last couple of points in the working map from a previous trip.  This gives the sketcher the ability to begin their new drawing by tying into the sketch of a prior trip.  Below left is a drawing being worked on in Cat Doodler.
A desktop version is available as well which will enable you to open up the .oce Cat Doodler file on your desktop computer and export the sketch as an .emf thus retaining its vector properties for further touch up and use in Freehand or Illustrator.  To download the desktop version

The Recon operating system and long operating times pave the way for inputting the data from the survey with full confidence that the data will not be lost. SpreadCE comes with the Recon on the resource CD.  The application operates and saves file as .xls files that are easily transferred and opened in Excel where they can be properly formatted and readied for opening in Compass.  A macro as well could be used to automate much of this process as well.  The convenience and visual availability of data inputted in a spreadsheet may in the end prove to be of more value than a well organized Graphical User Interface, but only testing will bear this out.  SEE SpreadCE Shots below
To Download Spread CE go to http://www.byedesign.freeserve.co.uk/


Bob Kirk beginning to enter data into SpreadCE on the Recon