I used a Palm Tungsten E2 for several years before moving to an iPod touch a year and a half ago. The Palm was my external brain in GTD style. They work great except that the screen goes out every two years. My solution to that was buying Staples’ $60 extended warrantee, where they would replace the unit one time, “no questions asked.” When the screen got fritzy, I would take it in, get a new one, and buy another extended warrantee. After the initial purchase price I was just renting it from Staples for $30 a year. Not bad.

This arrangement ended when the saleswoman at Staples (Eugene, OR) led me to believe that the warrantee she was selling extended the manufacturer’s one year warrantee for two more years–three years total. I naively took her word for it. When the screen died in 2 1/2 years, my warrantee had been dead for six months. Instead of re-upping I started using a hand-me-down 8GB iPod Touch from Reanna.

There are ways, of course, that an iPod is more useful than a PDA. You can watch videos, check email, and surf the net, for example. I hadn’t been missing those features, though, so what I most noticed when I made the change was that the iPod was way slower, less stable, and badly set up to be my GTD external brain, compared to my PDA. The neat-o factor was strong, though, and free fit my grad-school budget perfectly, so I spent several months slowly figuring out how to get it to do what I needed. Here’s what I came to:

For the Palm’s calendar function, I use the iPod calendar synced with iCal on my Mac desktop. This setup works adequately, though the iPod calendar is very slow to load and iCal occasionally freaks out and starts replicating “all-day” events every few minutes, which is a serious pain to fix. On the upside, both the iPod and iCal calendars are super cool to look at and you can color-code your calendars in any shade of any color. I love that.

For the address book, I use the iPod’s contacts app synced to Address Book on my desktop. Apart from being a little slow, this works just as well as the Palm.

For the Palm’s Tasks, I use Todo on the iPod synced with the desktop version of Todo. The desktop version cost me $15 extra and it was totally worth it. Toodledo online was terrible and I tried using iCal’s to-dos for several weeks first and that system sucked worst of all. Todo has its problems–it’s slow on the iPod and occasionally forgets how to sync and I have to relearn how to set the sync back up–but it’s a slightly more powerful system than the Palm’s. (By the way, I use Todo’s Lists as GTD contexts, not Todo’s contexts. Lists sort items way better. The downside is that Lists in Todo are basically iCal calendars, which can make your Lists list very long. I just put an @ at the beginning of each context-List so that they show up at the top of the list of Lists. (Leave me a comment if that explanation was both important to you and impossible to understand. I’ll try it again.))

For Palm’s Memos, I use Simplenote on the iPod synced to Notational Velocity on my desktop. Aside from Simplenote being infuriatingly slow, this system works great. It’s better than Memos. I tried out Evernote, which looked awesome–actually bought it–but it crashed my iPod every time I tried to use it.

For Palm’s Expenses, I use a project in Todo. This is not a great system, but I’m limping along with it.

Palm’s Notepad was cool and I used it a lot, but I don’t seem to miss it much now. There is probably a good drawing app for the iPod, but I quickly became conservative about adding new apps. About half of the ones I tried (Skype and Evernote, off the top of my head) crashed the iPod. For one thing, I need a stable system way more than I need a cool drawing app, and for another, I hate having to buy something to find out if it crashes the iPod.

I never used my Palm’s Media function, so I can’t really compare it to the iPod, but I’m sure the iPod would easily win in that category. I don’t use my iPod to store photos or videos, but I do love being able to store music and podcasts on it. And I do enjoy being able to stream videos on it. I also really like that I can plug a mic in and record–I keep an audio journal and this means that I don’t have to carry around an extra gizmo. (Though it sucks that Voice Memo is so unreliable. I lose about 15% of the longer recordings I make which, as a recording engineer, gives me a small heart attack every time. And I haven’t seen a recording app that seems better yet. Any suggenstions?)

And I really do love the interface. So neat! So pretty! I was fairly obsessed with it for a while. My friend Debra named my iPod “Petunia” and asked if Reanna was jealous, I was spending so much time with it.