Working with old computers

Palm Pilot Technology

Copyright 2010 by Stephen Vermeulen
Last updated: 2010 Apr 22
Computer Security

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The original Palm Pilot (from the late 1990's) struck an interesting (and very successful) balance between form and function, power and cost, features and easy-of-use. In fact, they pretty much got it right. Its easy to learn and use, ships with a standard set of tools that does pretty much everything that makes sense for a palm-sized device to do. Its light weight and pocket-sized so its there when you need it. There's now one for pretty much any geek budget.

The Tungsten T3

In January 2005 I replaced my SJ30 with a used T3 (one of my co-workers was selling so he could buy the latest Toshiba PDA). The T3 was about 6 months old at this point and running well. The Clie SJ30 had held up well to its two years of use, and my Wife will be putting it in her purse in the future. The T3 has a few extras that, while nice, are not essential for everyday use - more speed, more memory and a bigger display. The T3 displays photos a lot faster than the Clie did, and the T3 can play MP3s, has a speaker rather than just a beeper and has a much louder alarm signal. It can even do a decent job of playing videos by using The Core Pocket Media Player. The bluetooth feature is pretty limited (low speed and little range), WiFi would be much better.

After using it for a year now, I have to say I really like it. About my only complaint is that the digitizer seems to be a bit off, you just have to learn to click a little bit lower that the true position drawn on screen.

Replacement batteries for a number of Palm devices, including the T3 can be found here and here.

The Sony Clie SJ30

At the start of January 2003 I finally replaced my Palm Pilot Professional which had been my constant companion for the last 5 years. For the last 6 to 9 months of its life it had been full and I was having to periodically delete old memos and less-used applications to make space. Here's about what it contained:
  • 344 addresses
  • 3298 appointments
  • 691 memos
  • 407 to-do list items
The biggest consumer of memory were the memos, since I got a keyboard for my Palm I took a lot of meeting minutes. This Palm Pro started life with 1MB of RAM, at some point in time I upgraded that to 2MB (it was combined with a flash ROM so also gave it a couple of operating system upgrades) and added an IR port. The SJ30 comes with 16MB of RAM and can take up to a 128MB memory stick (I wonder if it will take the new "pro" memory sticks?), so feels quite spacious.

I bought the Sony folding keyboard for the SJ30, so I could continue my minute taking, this appears to be the same keyboard as I was using on my old Palm, but the interface module and connector has been changed. I look forward to wearing the lettering off this keyboard as well.

The SJ30 appears to be a great little organizer, its about as small as one could want, thinner would always be nice but that would come at the expense of battery capacity and I think Sony has made the right choice here. The battery is a lithium ion unit that is a little bit smaller than a standard 9V transistor battery, it appears to be field replaceable which is a very good thing as my past experience with rechargable lithium batteries has been that they last 2-3 years and the SJ30 (with back light on) consumes a lot of power. You'll want to use it with back light on since that makes the display look so nice.

I don't like the position and feel of the power button. I much prefer the front mounted button of my old Palm.  Also the Clie's button has got stuck in the pressed position twice so far - on edge of it seems to get caught under the edge of the case if you don't push straight down on it. Not a big problem, but not something that should be happening in a third generation product. The power button on Palm's new Tungsten is much nicer (but its twice the price). A work around to this is to tell the Clie to turn on and off by the "back" button (by the jog wheel).

Odd bit of trivia, the USB cable that comes with the Clie SJ30 has a standard computer end and a little end that fits into an adapter before attaching to the Clie. I just noticed that it appears to fit the USB port on my Motorolla C333 cell phone. Now only if I had some hot sync software for the phone...

I hot sync my Clie at home and at work, in both places I do this using USB on PCs running Windows 2000 Pro. At home I had no problems, but at work on my dual-Athlon workstation the hot sync would completely crash Windows back to a blue screen of death which would display a cryptic about interrupts for a few seconds before the PC would start to reboot. I tried updating from service pack 2 to 3 and even installing Direct X 9.0 (which I needed for something else), but to no avail. In the end I found that Palm was distributing version 4.1 of their desktop software, while Sony was still at version 4.0.1.  So I uninstalled Sony's and then installed the Palm software. From then on the hot syncing worked.

Sony's main web site is at

They have another that specializes in clie stuff at

Transferring Pictures

Victor Tapia in a clie-linux mailing list wrote:
I have had a play around with this. PictureGear file format is published, but I couldn't be bothered creating a program to convert to it.

After doing some hacking I wrote the included script which uses some ImageMagick programs to convert all the JPG files in a directory into the resolution of my Clie screen and rename them to dsc*.jpg. I can then copy these dsc*.jpg files to the mounted memory stick in the directory /mnt/memstick/dcim/100msdcf. I can then open PG Pocket on the Clie and tap over to the memory stick and get the list of images. If I try and look at them they look like crap... but if I then IMPORT them into the Clie's inbuilt memory using the import button in PG Pocket, they look great!

General Palm News and Links

  • 2010-Apr-22: The StyleTap platform brings Palm OS applications to various smart phones. [9085]
  • 2010-Jan-16: Aceeca is trying to release (in 2010) some PalmOS based PDAs. [8925]
  • 2009-Aug-13: A first look at the Palm Mojo SDK. [8396]
  • 2009-Jul-24: The HTC Click is to be an Android powered phone, and for some reason an unlocked version is supposed to be reasonably (for a phone anyway) priced. Perhaps this sort of thing might make for a good replacement PDA for an old Palm user? [8314]
  • 2009-Jun-28: The Palm Pre SDK for webOS is leaking into the wild. [8204]
  • 2009-Jun-23: The Palm Pre might be off to a good start with independent developers, with the root image of webOS leaking out, also here on Engadget. Apparently flashing new firmware onto the Pre is quite simple. A NES emulator and Doom have been ported to the Pre. Unfortunately Palm says the webOS SDK will not be available until the end of Summer - this reminds me of the early Amiga days when the ROM Kernel Manuals were a long time coming. Despite the lack of an SDK some developers have figured out how to install applications on normal Pre phones. Installing small apps can apparently be done through email. [8140]
  • 2009-Apr-02: The PalmOS may live on in emulation mode on the Palm Pre, now if only the Pre were sold without a phone contract. [7820]
  • 2009-Feb-27: Palm has released a webOS Mojo SDK Tutorial for those who want to learn about application development for the new Pre. [7656]
  • 2009-Feb-13: Palm has finally made it official, 2009 will be the last year they ship PalmOS based devices. [7568]
  • 2009-Jan-16: StyleTap is making a Palm OS emulator for the Symbian OS, so maybe you can upgrade your aging Palm with a Nokia device? [7439]
  • 2009-Jan-09: The Palm Pre gets introduced at the 2009 CES show. At last, something new from Palm. Some views of the user interface, both static and in action. [7413]
  • 2008-Aug-26: Engadget looks at [6739]
  • 2008-Aug-21: Palm OS 2 appears to have slipped again, this time to the first half of 2009. [6711]
  • 2008-Jul-20: How to make a USB charging cable for a Palm TX out of a dead wall power adapter and an old USB cable. [6547] [1]
  • 2008-May-20: The Linux based OS replacement for the Palm might be available in Summer 2009. [6194]
  • 2008-May-14: Hotsync 6.0.1 when running under Windows Vista may one day fail to finish transferring your calendar data. When this happened to me I did some searching and found that a common cause of this was that either one of the databases had become corrupt or that there were a large number of deleted items on the Palm (and as these get deleted once the hotsync is done, so the problem never clears up).

    There is a tool called DbFixIt you can install and run on your Palm to check to see if you have any database errors. This will also report the number of deleted records in each database. The registered version of this tool will also fix common database errors. By the time you need this you might be in a Catch-22 position where you cannot hotsync but you need to hotsync to install the tool. So to install the tool you will need to configure your hotsync manager (on your computer) and tell it not to synchronize the applications that are causing it to hang (the calendar in my case). When I ran the tool it told me that all the databases were fine and there were no records to delete. Later I tried hot syncing on a Windows XP machine, and much to my amazement the hotsync finished, but it did report an error:

    Some handheld records were not copied to your PC. Your computer may be full or you may have reached the maximum allowed records on the desktop. To correct this situation, delete some records and perform a HotSync operation again.
    Desktop = 6378, Handheld = 6375
    So my problem was that I had exceeded some fixed maximum number of records in the calendar. To test this theory I deleted a few records from the Palm's calendar and synced again, this time without incident. I then synced on the Windows Vista machine, and again, the sync ran without any issue.

    So now the question is: is 6375 the maximum number of calendar records, and can this be changed? [6157]

  • 2008-May-10: While replacing the battery of my Tungsten T3 (following these instructions) I noticed a screen that allows you to enter the rules for which days daylight saving time changes on. After completing the installation and reloading my Palm I could not find the screen this is entered on. I did the usual Google search and while this turned up Palm's official update for the new (2007) rules for DST in North America I thought it was odd that no one was mentioning that the Palm actually has a way of entering this information - somewhere! So I did a bit more poking about and eventually found it, here is how to do it:
    1. Go to the Preferences application
    2. Select Date & Time
    3. At this point you see the set date and time entry fields, and a Location, select the Location drop list
    4. Select Edit List...
    5. Now you see the short list of locations, select the location you want to fix and hit the Edit button.
    6. Now you are in the Edit Location display, and here (at last) are the two buttons that allow you to enter the rules for starting and ending daylight saving time.
    Kind of twisted, and this explains why Palm's people had forgotten their software already supported this feature and so released a tool to fix a problem that did not exist.

    The above procedure also works for the TX. [6131]

  • 2008-Feb-24: The Palm has been emulated on an iPhone, what a way to upgrade your Palm. This sort of approach might make sense for the Palm company - just sell a Palm OS emulation package that runs on different hardware packages, leaving the low-margin high-risk hardware development and manufacturing to other companies. [5149]
  • 2007-Nov-13: The Nokia N800 can now run Palm Garnet OS applications via an emulator. [4140]
  • SmartPad from Seiko, reviewed here and here and here.As of 14-Jun-02 Seiko has redesigned this unit and it now is called the InkLink,c looks like it might finally be a winner. [4074]
  • PalmWac software (includes source) which allows you Palm to look like it is a Wacom graphics tablet, now what I want is a Palm program that can receive data from one of these Wacom graphics tablets. [4075]
  • PalmBlvd review web site [4076]
  • sells lots of PDAs and accessories [4077]
  • has a good selection of PDAs and accessories, plus free ground shipping in Canada. Service seems to be quite prompt (Jan'05). [4078]
  • Open Source site for Palm stuff [4079]
  • FreewarePalm is another site for free Palm software [4080]
  • PalmSpot [4081]
  • A comparison table of the various Palm devices including the new Sony Clie PEG-S320. [4082]
  • A new keyboard layout from IBM called ATOMIK for the palm. [4083]
  • thinkingBytes makes thinkDB, a database package for the Palm. [4084]
  • PalmGear site for Palm stuff [4085]
  • LinuxDA offers both a Linux-based PalmOS like package (which will run on a Palm Pilot, looks like the 8Meg versions) and a PDA that uses their OS (wonder if you could load their PDA with PalmOS?). [4086]
  • looks like Handspring, who were a spinoff from Palm, have since been reabsorbed into palmOne, and their key Treo palm-phone product can be found here. [4087]
  • PalmMedic Canada provides parts and service for Palm and Handspring PDAs (and memory upgrades too) [4088]
  • palmOne Inc., are now the key technology owners (they were the original Palm Pilot people, after 3Comm, and after US Robotics, and after someone else) [4089]
  • HandEra also makes a good Palm clone [4090]
  • A version of PGP is available for PalmOS [4091]
  • The Palm Easter Egg page [4092]
  • Two solutions for using your Palm Pilot as a bicycle computer are referenced here [4093]
  • Iambic makes some productivity applications for the Palm [4094]
  • The new (28 Mar 02) Sony PEG-NR70 and PEG-NR70V series of SuperPalms [4095]
  • Bluetooth is finally available for the Palm from Palm [4096]
  • Maybe you made the mistake of showing you child how to doodle on your Palm device? Well now you can buy her the Pixter and save yours from certain ruin. [4097]
  • While this can hardly be considered a "palm-top", the Dana from AlphaSmart is based on PalmOS and brings it into the micro-laptop form factor (adding a built in keyboard) [4098]
  • 802.11b Wi-Fi networking may make it onto the Palm this year (2002) via the SD slot. [4099]
  • Linux DA brings Linux to the Palm Pilot (well the Palm IIIx at least) [4100]
  • STNE has memory upgrades for Palm based machines [4101]
  • A PalmPilot built into a watch [4102]
  • Targus makes a folding keyboard for the Sony Clie series (well most of them). Belkin also makes some keyboards for a number of Palm-type devices. I have an older keyboard for my PalmPilot-Professional (before the Palm III) and I find it to be an essential tool - very useful for taking notes in meetings. Logitech also makes two types of keyboards, their folding unit called the TypeAway and a "roll-up" unit called the KeyCase.Cyrez International also makes some PDA keyboards, possibily distributed under the Vortek Systems label in Canada. GrandTec also makes the PocketVIK, which is a roll-up keyboard. [4103]
  • replacement batteries for the Sony Clie PDA (this is a sub page of the site [4104]
  • This hot sync cable for the Sony Clie also allows for USB and Car charging. [4105]
  • MSMount is a freeware utility that allows you to run Palm applications from within a memory stick (freeing up memory) [4106]
  • has a lot of software for the Palm PDA [4107]
  • has PDA discussion forums [4108]
  • Jump2 a Java based development environment for the Pilot [4109]
  • MIDP for Palm OS, Java for the Palm from SUN [4110]
  • Fossil even makes a watch that contains a 2MB Palm [4111]
  • The Sony PEG-UX50 clam shell format PDA [4112]
  • Frodo, a Commodore 64 emulator for the Palm PDA, discussed on Slashdot here (well the ARM powered ones at least). I guess its getting time to cast off my SJ30... [4113]
  • The Clie TJ37 has WiFi built in [4114]
  • The AlphaSmart is build on PalmOS but it has a bigger screen and built in keyboard, sort of a Palm becomes a laptop idea. [4115]
  • has lots of accessories for palm-type devices [4116]
  • Shanghai Pocket Essentials is a Mah-Jongg solitaire game for the Palm [4117]
  • The Sony Clie PEG-VZ90, perhaps the most expensive Palm device in the world - and its got an OLED display. [4118]
  • A portable bluetooth keyboard and the Stowaway Keyboard and one from Brando [4119]
  • RPN is a full-featured reverse Polish notation style calculator for the Pilot [4120]
  • While this is not a Palm device, the idea of an electronic sketchpad (available here) is quite interesting. One strange thing is this is intended for use with A5 size paper (about 6"x9" in size) so the North American standard letter paper does not fit - though one could fold it in half. [4121]
  • In Sept 2005 the sale of PalmSource to Access (A Japanese cell-phone software company) was announced, is this the end of the road for Palm-based organizers? [4122]
  • The history of the Palm Pilot [4123]
  • Linux running on the PalmOne LifeDrive [4124]
  • Video playing solutions for Palm include: Fairuse and The Core Pocket Media Player (described here), the Kinoma Player, and TealMovie. PocketDivXEncoder does a reasonable job, and has been extended to the more powerful Lathe. [4125]
  • Feb'06 thoughts on where the PalmOS might be headded. Early Mar'06 and some more information on this. In Dec'06 a delay until the first half of 2007 was announced for the new Access Linux Platform. [4126]
  • Aerodrome Software makes AeroPlayer, an MP3, AAC and OGG player for the ARM based Pilots, this is well revieiwed and does have the ability to turn off the display backlight while playing on a Tungsten T3 [4127]
  • Softick makes a Bluetooth Audio Gateway that allows one to listen to stereo audio generated by the Palm on a pair of wireless Bluetooth headphones. Sounds pretty neat, wonder if it really works. Still at $269 for a pair of the Plantronics headphones you really got hate the old cable to want to do this. [4128]
  • VideoList, is a program to catalogue your DVD colletion, it has a PC part (to ease data entry) and a Palm browser. The Leonard Maltin Movie Guide also has the ability to track your collection. [4129]
  • Palm and PalmSource may be going separate ways in the future, with Palm once again developing the Palm OS [4130]
  • Bhajis Loops, a music studio in a box that runs on the Palm, like the Tungsten 3. Get if from Chocopoolp [4131]
  • StyleTap has built a PalmOS emulator that runs on Windows Mobile, so now you can move to different hardware and keep your Palm apps. This is confirmed here [4132]
  • In late 2006 another attempt to get a Python port working on PalmOS was announced. This is a good thing, it would be nice to be able to write little bits of code and run them right on the Palm. [4133]
  • Future (perhaps starting in 2007) Palm devices will be based on a Linux core, discussed here on Slashdot [4134]
  • Datastick makes a vibration spectrum analyzer (VSA-1214) based on a Palm TX [4135]
  • In Aug'07 Engadget sent a public message to Palm in the hope of waking them up [4136]
  • Some early history about the Palm company in Palm Before the PalmPilot. [4137]
  • Yaps is an encrypted data storage folder by MSB Software Engineering for your Palm device, to view the contents you must enter a password, if you switch applications or turn off your Palm it automatically locks up. When it syncs to your PC its backup database is encrypted, a second tool (Yaps Viewer) is available that lets you view the database on the PC. I highly recommend Yaps. [4138]
  • has replacement batteries for a lot of PDA including the various Palm models. [4139]

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