Monday, January 15, 2007

Installing ePocrates for OS X: a vendor on the edge

ePocrates is a widely used prescribing tool. I don't see patients, but I still keep a copy on my Palm. My wife uses hers; it's a significant driver of PDA sales to physicians. Alas, my latest installation shows that ePocrates on the Mac is all but dead.

The first sign of trouble was that ePocrates is using the obsolete .hqx file format to distribute the Installer. That format belongs to the current owners of Stuffit Expander, a notorious bunch of spammers. I had to reinstall StuffIt Expander to open it.

The next sign of trouble was use of the old VISE installer -- an obsolete tool that knows nothing about permissions. It aborted during the early install without an error message. To make a long story short the OS User who is doing the sync has to have admin privileges; I was foolishly trying to install the Mac OS X way -- using an Admin account.

Then, even with new admin privileges for my wife's account, and even with the Firewall off, and even with "enable Internet Connection Sharing" on or off, I couldn't get the ePocratest AutoUpdater application to contact its server. Clicking on "test" did nothing - no error message, nothing.

After a few retries it seemed to sync, but I never got the Rx application! I did get the data sets and the annoying marketing blurbs.

I found the .prc files in the ~/Documents/Palm/User_Name/ePocrates subfolder and made some guesses as to the ones I needed. After a few tries I was able to get the Palm to come up with the Rx data and without an error message.

I'll give ePocrates a break on the later issues -- but not the privileges problems and the total lack of error messages. I'm using Missing Sync to connect an old PalmOS 4.x Samsung i500 to a very modern OS X workstations. It's not surprising there are issues. The sad part is that the install could be very simple. Download a simple .dmg file, click on a few .prc files, check the firewall, and go.

Looking at what ePocrates has delivered I'd bet there's nothing left of the original team. I wonder how well they'll weather the Vista transition; that's going to be a real challenge for Palm as well. Ecosystem changes tend to eliminate the more frail species.

Update 1/16/07: An ePocrates employee who has worked at the Mac version left a comment asking me to contact him. I won't publish the comment (it was just a request to contact him) because it includes his corporate email address, but I will follow-up.

Update 1/22/07: ePocrates did not respond to my f/u email to them.

Update 1/26/07: I recently had to update my XP version of ePocrates. The install ALSO failed, though that could be a corporate firewall issue. The error message simply said the server could not be reached. The XP install offers a large variety of free add-on tools that are not available in the XP install -- though they are all simply prc files that could be easily added to any Palm device.

Also, I was asked for more details on how I got ePocrates working on the Palm. I'll check the backup directory for the device and see if I can enumerate the prc files used.


Anonymous said...

I'm having this exact same problem trying to get epocrates to run on my TungstenT5 from my macbook pro. If you could provide a little extra info on what you did to get it running I'd greatly appreciate it. Even if I could just get the drug lists it'd be a great help!

Anonymous said...

My install of Epocrates is working fine. Sometimes one must initially sync 2-3x or reinstall all prcs for it to work but no probs thereafter. I contacted Epoc support and they were timely. I use the non-free version, though, that includes ID, Sx, Dx, etc.