Initial Entry — Hey, this works!

PalmOS?  Pocket PC?  I have and use both: PalmOne Tungsten T3, Sony Clie TH-55, and a Dell Axim X30 currently in use, plus several "retired" models dating back to 1997 (I think) and a Compaq WinCE handheld with WinCE v1.0.

#1 Article — Utilities
My old Prism acted flakier and flakier.  A hard reset and restore from backup also restored the problems.  I’ve taken time to re-install everything from scratch on a new computer, downloading newer versions of some software.  I didn’t want to spend the rest of the month on this one project, so I did restore the Address Book, Date Book, and Memo Pad databases from a backup.  I can’t believe how much customization I’ve done — I had to find and change a lot of Preferences, type in registration codes…the fun never ends.

The PalmOS gets more complicated with each update, which is good. The Palm is capable of things we couldn’t dream of 3-4 years ago.  But one thing that hasn’t evolved as much is…utilities.  I would gladly have paid $30-50 for a program to track down my problem.  That would have saved much frustration, followed by hours spent fixing this.  $30-50 would have been a bargain!

There are many excellent programs and suites of utilities for the PC (thankfully, ’cause Windows is much more prone to problems)!  Where are their Palm and Pocket PC counterparts?  Here’s another example.  Every few months I have a glitch during the day with something stored on an expansion card.  I go home, pop the card into a reader, run Norton or Scandisk, and it’s fixed.  But what if I were hundreds of miles from home, or doing a very important business presentation?  There’s no ScanDisk, Defrag, etc. I can run from the Palm (there’s at least two such utilities if your handheld’s OS is Pocket PC).  Part of the "Zen of Palm" is simplicity — you don’t have to know about what goes on inside your handheld — just use it.  As the OS and programs get more complicated, we need Smart Utilities to be problem solvers.

PalmOS 6 sounds great.  I know many of us will be upgrading our handhelds when this is released (assuming the handheld is more exciting than the T5!).  One of the many things I look forward to is having lots of RAM, so I don’t have to pass up many good programs because I’m out of space.  I spent time reinstalling and recreating an 8MB machine — how much time would it take if I had a 64MB machine?  Way too much.  We need utilities so we don’t spend extra time rebuilding our handheld’s software "store" from scratch.

I spent lots of time last night on the PalmGear site making sure I had the latest versions of hacks, utilities, programs, etc.  I had forgotten how many useful programs there are on that site.  However, many are a year or two old, and were most popular and useful when OS 3.x was new.  We need the programming genius that created those programs to create "stuff" for OS 5 and 6.  Start planning now — OS 6 development tools will be available soon.

John Blasdell
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#2 Article
I wrote the article above a couple of days ago requesting more utilities to keep our handhelds running smoothly.  Shortly after, I came across a post talking about dbScan, a free utility from Pimlico Software, the DateBook folks.  This utility works with the PalmOS calendar database, regardless of the program you use to access this database.  I have used DateBook sice the days of the Handspring Visors, never had a problem, but decided to download dbScan, thinking it would return an "all OK" message and I would know that function was fine.  To my surprise, dbSCan found 23 "errors" when it ran.  Most were entries I had deleted months or years ago and thought they were gone.  They never reappeared on the handheld or Palm Desktop, but they still existed!  There were a few supposed errors I thought OK, but deleted them anyway.  They were long-standing reminders that trigger every few days or weekly.  Evidently the large number of events associated with each of these caused them to register as an error.  I recreated these events, ran dbScan again, and all was well.

Click here [http://www.pimlicosoftware.com/utilities.htm], scroll halfway down the page, and you’ll find the description and download link.

John Blasdell
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#3 Article
I frequently find Palm-related news on the web I want to save for reference or follow up later.  I just saw 3 articles of interest on another site.  If I return there later today or tomorrow, I’ll have to search the archives (lots of good news on that site!!)  If I click those links now, read the articles, download and try the software — that’s at least half an hour I don’t have right now.  I have a Word document titled, "Palm Web Notes."  I highlight articles of interest, right-click and select Copy, then in Microsoft Word select Edit, Paste Special, HTML Format to save the article complete with links that work.  I have other Word docs with similar articles about other computing topics.  If you save articles where you don’t need links and pictures, Paste Special as Unformatted Text.  Start your own info archive!

John Blasdell
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#4 Article: Education Please!
A story posted on the web (Palm In Plane Bomb Hoax) points out a problem that should never have happened.  I won’t comment on the incredibly stupid passenger — how about the flight attendant!?  I have several friends who have been told to turn off their Palms while in flight.  These were all "plain old Palms" not equipped with Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, not connected to a cell phone, etc.  A Palm device by itself cannot emit signals that will interfere with anything.  I remember reading a few months ago that PalmOne devices were recognized as "airline safe." (Does anyone remember exactly where/when that appeared on the web?)  Airline and TSA employees are supposed to be highly trained (quit laughing) and should be aware of the different types of devices.  This is the larger problem facing many travelers everyday.  Airline employees, usually flight attendants, don’t understand handheld computers and perceive them as a threat to the plane’s navigation systems.  We need a 3-pronged industry approach: 1) Educate airline and airport employees.  They should be aware and knowledgeable about all electronic devices from a security point!  2) The manufacturers should place a sticker on each handheld stating its RF capabilities.  3) The manufacturers, working with testing labs, should start an advertising campaign to publicize the safety of handhelds, and when/where they shouldn’t be used if such situations exist.  None of us want airline accidents or even incidents, but we should be able to use our handhelds in a safe manner while in flight.  As more and more of us replace laptops with handhelds, this problem, its frustrations and confrontations will escalate.

John Blasdell
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#5 Article: Software Fix
I just got off the phone with DataViz technical support, and thought I’d pass this fix along.  I’m using the latest build of Documents To Go on a new Tungsten T3.  I could sync some Words documents to expansion cards in native Word format; some documents only gave me the option of "Word To Go" or "Palm Doc" formats.  The Fix: the desktop documents all had the .doc extension, but it turned out that some were actually in Rich Text Format!  Figure that out.  I just had to "Save As… with each document, and change the file type to Microsoft Word Document.

Bonus Tip for Documents To Go v6.x: When you start the Documents To Go desktop program, you’ll notice a blue highlight/halo around the "Handheld" area.  Files will be added to the handheld’s memory.  Next, click on Expansion Card below.  The halo is now around the Expansion Card area.  Any files added will be placed on the expansion card.

John Blasdell
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#6 Article: T3 Fix
An earlier post said, "The Brighthand review of the T3 says that the virtual buttons in the Graffiti area can be remapped. I couldn’t find any reference to this in the T3 Handbook.  There also doesn’t seem to be any way to do it from the "Preferences" screens.  Can you re-map those buttons?"  Yes, and it’s easy!  When I first experimented with my T3, I couldn’t find this explained in the manual, or anywhere.  I discovered how by accident.  Tap and hold on any of the 4 icons in the Virtual Graffiti area.  A second later, the screen will show all the applications you can choose from.  Tap the existing icon again to cancel any change.  Tap on any application shown above the Virtual Graffiti area, and that application’s icon now appears in the Virtual Graffiti area.  I chose the Home and Menu icons on the left, and WordSmith and Preferences on the right.

John Blasdell
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#7 Article
I’m hoping PalmOne may take note of the content posted.  My T3 is “almost” perfect, but there are a few improvements I’d like to see.  Here are some suggestions for PalmOne:
1) Toshiba has a simple, obvious and great feature on their PDAs — a tiny OFF/ON switch.  The PDA is shipped with this switch in the OFF position.  The PDA uses no power until it’s first turned on, no matter how long it sits in a warehouse or store.  Want to store the PDA for an extended period?  Turn the switch OFF.  This is all much easier on the battery.  Handheld “freeze up?”  Instead of having to wait hours for the battery to discharge, then a couple more hours to charge the PDA, you simply turn the switch OFF, wait a few seconds, turn the switch ON, then Restore from a backup.  Much smarter!  I’d put the switch behind a little door or somewhere it would be almost impossible to move accidentally!
2) The Handspring Visor LED indicates charging status, blinking while it is charging, then becomes a steady green when charging is complete.  The LED on my Tungsten T3 lights up when the T3 is receiving power, but there is no indication as to “what’s happening.”  The LED should indicate charging status.
3) Size and weight are important.  The T3 is OK, but at the upper end of what I would call acceptable weight.  The HP 4150 is probably the best PDA in the size/weight category; it’s small, light weight, and includes Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.
4) When using one of the on-screen keyboards, above the T3’s status bar and below the on-screen keyboard, there is lots of “blank” space between icons for the various keyboards and the icon at right to switch back to Graffiti.  Put a couple of little arrows in the blank space.  Tapping on those arrows would toggle the cursor one character to the left or right.
5) The T3’s Calendar has only one “Snooze” button, preset for 5 minutes.  The Handspring Visor’s DateBook+ has a better feature – variable snooze times.  You can select OK, 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 30 minutes, or “Other” on the Reminder Notification screen.  Select “Other” and another screen allows you to select a variable snooze time to the next alarm.  This is needed when things are not on schedule, and you need a reminder in, say 40 minutes.  I needed this, so I purchased and use DateBook 5.
6) The new Memo Pad is an improvement but lacks features found in the freeware program “CryptoPad.”  CryptoPad allows you to encrypt individual memos; all encrypted memos are accessed with the same password.  CryptoPad allows multiple fonts and colors!  Unfortunately, CryptoPad hasn’t been updated to properly use the 5-way Navigator control or the larger memo size.  The developer is now lacking time to update this program, and wants to release the source code to developers.  This would be a powerful improvement to Memo Pad!  See PalmGear item #15721.

John Blasdell
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#8 Article: How I used my Palm Today, and Yesterday
I lost it!  I thought I’d laid it down at home under some papers, in a different place, or something.  It finally dawned on me that my Tungsten T3 was gone!  I remembered using it at the liquor store just before I came home — I have a Memo Pad entry with my comments about various wines.  The store was now closed, so I could only hope that an honest customer or clerk found it, and I can pick it up in the morning.  But what if it is really gone, for good?  Instead of going out (I wasn’t in the mood!), I spent the rest of the evening reading PDA reviews, and trying to decide what to buy if my worst fears came true.  I could buy another handheld on Sunday, charge it, install my software, and the new unit should be functioning for the work week ahead.  I thought I wanted another T3 for several reasons, among them I’m familiar with the T3 — no learning curve, and I have multiple T3 backups here on a SD card.  It would take only minutes to turn a new T3 into "my Palm."  However, the Sony UX-50 and TH55 are tempting.  I finally decided I’d "make do" with my old Visor Prism for a few days until I can think about this more.  Sunday morning I woke up with an urge to look in the trunk of my other car — not the car I drove Saturday.  Sure enough, my T3 was there.  I don’t remember being in that trunk, but I must have been.  The proof was on the trunk floor.  Thinking about my Saturday night of concern and worry, there was at least one good point.  When I thought I’d be starting over with a new PDA, and could choose whatever I wanted, I thought the PalmOS and the T3 were the best choices right now.  Yes, I’d like a UX-50.  Maybe I’ll come upon that deal I can’t refuse.

John Blasdell
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#9 Article: Two Halves Don’t Make A Whole
We all use our handhelds in different ways.  One of the most popular uses for desktop PCs, and the task I spend the most Palm time with, is word processing.  I can write and edit anywhere.  The problem is the tool…the word processing program.  One of the reasons I switched from WinCE to Palm three years ago was WordSmith, a much better program than Pocket Word.  Move forward three years, and there are some things WordSmith still doesn’t do.  Enter Documents To Go.  The pieces missing in WordSmith are mostly found in DTG, but DTG is missing many of the excellent features of WordSmith.  If I’m the main one using a document, I create it in or sync it to WordSmith.  However, if I may need to pass the document to others, I use Word To Go and save the doc in "Native Word Format."  What the Palm community needs is at least one word processing program with ALL the features.  One company buying the other would work; better yet would be both filling in the features they lack.  Programs must be rewritten to take full advantage of OS6/Cobalt; now is an excellent time for these programs and others to wow us with new versions of their programs.  Along these lines, I think Microsoft is missing a great opportunity to convert us.  If MS were to release versions of Internet Explorer, MS Reader, Word, Excel, and some games for the PalmOS, this would be an excellent way to infiltrate and propagandize us!

John Blasdell
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#10 Article:  PC Security
Spybot http://www.spybot.info/ is frequently mentioned to rid your PC of adware.  Spybot is good, but only part of the solution.  Ad-aware http://lavasoft.element5.com/ does the same thing, but it catches nasties that Spybot misses, and Spybot catches a few that Ad-aware misses.  I have both installed on 2 desktop machines; 1 PC uses McAfee while the other uses Norton.  I run Ad-aware and Spybot on both PCs weekly, and they always find several entries the antivirus software doesn’t catch.  Observation: McAfee seems to automatically download updates more frequently than Norton.  I hate to assume, but this may mean McAfee stays more up to date.  So far, nothing evil has gotten past either AV program.  Both Spybot and Ad-aware update their reference files (just like antivirus software), so be sure to check weekly for the latest updates.

John Blasdell
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# 11 Article: Online Services
Recently someone wanted to send an e-mail with some detailed information to my handheld (I was in my car).  Sounds easy enough.  I’m online with my T3 or Sony TH55 daily through my cell phone, and have a couple of e-mail programs on each.  However, I’d been busy, hadn’t checked my e-mail in over a day, so I’d have to download over 100 messages (or at least the headers) to get to the the one message I wanted.  Most of those 100+ messsages were junk mail.  My ISP has an anti-spam program, but this much is what gets through (over 1,000 messages a week are in my spam folder).  My first wireless PDA connected thru OmniSky (a CDPD service) and had a POP3 account at OmniSky.  The spammers never found that account, so the few messages I received daily were ones I wanted.  Webmail such as Hotmail can be hard to read on a small screen.  It dawned on me that I need another POP3 account, a "clean" address for the handheld, and so does most every other wireless user.  My ISP offers just one mailbox with a dialup account; I live too far from their switch to get DSL, which includes several mailboxes per account.  Along the same lines, it would be nice to have online storage for backup, files I may need, photos… many possibilities.  Then I remembered Spymac, a Mac-community web site.  They announced all this, and more, in a free package a few months back, but they experienced many technical difficulties those first few months.  I wasn’t even able to complete the signup process.  I checked again at http://www.spymac.com, set up an account, and sent test e-mails to and from the account.  I suggest reading their support forum http://www.spymac.com/forums/threadlist.php?catid=19 for details on activating features and solving provlems.  While the e-mail worked, I couldn’t access the other services.  After trying for several days, I sent an e-mail to Spymac Tech Support, who found 2 problems.  When I signed up, I hadn’t filled in my income.  That must be filled in.  My User Name contained an underscore; the User Name must contain only letters and numbers.  You can’t change the User Name on an existing account, so I had to create a new account.  This time, setup went smoothly.  The Spymac "package" includes many neat features, and is free!  I haven’t set up a web site there yet.

John Blasdell
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About pdacomputing

Small business owner in Pittsburgh, PA. I've used different mobile platforms over the years; currently using 2 very different platforms.
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