I still use Ranch Manager’s sheep management database application, which I continue to like a lot. It supports sync’ing the PC app with a handheld device. But somewhat unfortunately, the handheld support is getting outdated. It is only compatible with Palm and Windows Phone, and not even the latest version of Windows Phone. RM has been promising new versions for the iPhone and Android (in that order) on their Facebook page for quite a while. But my impression is this must be somebody’s side job, so it gets done when it gets done. And it could be a long wait.

For a while, I held off upgrading my phone because of this- it was nice being able to carry my phone with me out in the field, and to also be able to do sheep data operations on the same device. I am probably a wildcard exception to the smartphone population rule, but honestly, this was my highest and most important use of the phone, was to record sheep happenings. But eventually I couldn’t stand it anymore, and upgraded to an Android phone (where now my most common use is to surf the web while waiting for an appointment). I resolved to either carry two devices when I’m outside, or sometimes I just don’t carry my phone at all.

The device gets a lot of abuse in the pasture- I use it in the rain, mud gets on the key pad, and bits of hay and dust creep in around the screen edges. And, of course, I drop it a lot. In hindsight, I realize that my flush-glass-fronted Android phone is not up to this rugged use anyway. I already smashed the screen once by dropping it on the pavement in a parking lot, and had to purchase a replacement. The Palm Treo, on the other hand, is pretty tolerant of stressors; and the screen is inset, so safer from trauma.

However, a week ago, my trusty Palm developed a fatal defect: it went into an infinite loop trying to sync. This is apparently a well known problem that’s caused by the phone being exposed to too much moisture, corroding the sync cable contacts and shorting them out. It’s usually irreversible. I gave it a few days sitting in the house, and tried all recommended recovery strategies, to no avail. So I replaced it with a new/used one for $28 from eBay. And, this would be the upside of using dated technology: replacements are cheap and easy to find.

A quick sync and I was back up an running, just in time for breeding season. I take the phone out morning and night and record all the breedings I observe from the crayon marks on the ewes; then sync with my PC to upload that data back into the main app.