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The Electronic Field Book has been the only data collection software to use on DOT projects for years now. And lets be honest, it does a pretty good job but it is a little past it's prime now but DOS based data collectors have become nearly impossible to find.
Enter EFB.Mobile! EFB.Mobile is a new version of EFB and has been designed to run Windows Mobile 5.0 or Pocket PC devices and Windows CE devices. These devices will be things like Rangers and Recons. It also runs just as well on a laptop computer.
Here are some details:
EFB Mobile runs on Windows Mobile 5.0 or Pocket PC devices and Windows CE devices. There are different program files to be used depending upon which operating system your handheld device utilizes. In all cases, Windows .NET Framework 2.0 must be installed on the device in order for EFB Mobile to operate properly. And the EFB Desktop version of the program can also be used on a laptop in the field for data collection if you so desire. It works just fine on Windows 7 and 8 too.
Here is a screen capture of the main interface. The soft input device (the Windows Mobile keyboard) will display in the bottom portion of the screen:
No new major functions are going to be added but there have been some good tweaks. It will still operate pretty much the way it always has. But, the X attribute for taking cross sections with EFB has been removed. I know, just makes you go "WTF"? And the desktop application does not support reference names when it comes to processing any more either.
EFB has been officially released by Central Office for use but you had better check with your District to make sure they are OK with you using it for production.
While I have been testing the new version, I have focused on running it on a Samsung Net Book computer. There were several reasons for this choice with the primary one being economics. You can spend in excess of $1,000 on a Windows Mobile based data collector (more if you buy one with a full keyboard) and EFB will work just fine. However, you will be limited to running programs written specifically to run on Windows Mobile. By running EFB on a laptop, you get the full power of a computer in the field and you can run anything written to run on a PC. Plus, this Net Book was only $350!
Cabling is an issue as modern laptops no longer come with a 9-pin serial connection unless you want to spend big bucks for something like a Toughbook. This forces you to use a USB to 9-pin serial adapter which can cause problems. These adapters are notoriously finicky and I had to try several before I found one that would work correctly. We still get the frequent communication error but I am at the point where I think that they are just "one of those things" that we will have to live with.
As an alternative form of communication, EFB supports Bluetooth for Leica and Topcon instruments. The Leica Bluetooth connection is strong and seems works with fine while the Topcon Bluetooth connection still has some issues. As stated before, we had been using EFB on a Net Book computer with a USB to 9-pin adapter and suffered through frequent locks ups to the point where productivity started to suffer. But, once we went with a SENA Parani SD1000 blue tooth radio link between the instrument and the net book, the lock ups virtually vanished! So, if you are running EFB on something with a good 9-pin serial port you should be fine. If you have an instrument and data collector with blue tooth you should be fine too. Just beware that a 9-pin to USB adapter is probably not something you want to use.
My suggestion is to use the built in option to write out a .OBS file and do so at the end of every setup. If you do that and EFB crashes and blows up your data file, you won't lose more that one setup worth of work. Better than losing an entire day!
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