Palm Tipsheet 6.0 / May 2000
Are you considering the purchase of a Handspring Visor? In this month's issue, I'll be explaining the reasons behind my purchase of a Handspring Visor Deluxe over a Palm Computing handheld. I'll also discuss the importance of backing up your Palm organizer and provide useful links and techniques to help you protect your valuable information.
A warm welcome to all of you who are first-time Palm Tipsheet readers -- thanks for joining! This month I've received new subscribers from all over the world, including Africa, Asia, Australia, Canada, Europe, New Zealand, Russia, Scandinavia and South America. I'm _very_ pleased to have such a wide variety new readers on board and I hope you all enjoy your first issue.
The goal of this publication is to provide informative and relevant information on a monthly basis to people who use PalmOS handheld computers. I strive to provide you with clear, concise articles in easy to read language which can help maximize your Palm handheld's effectiveness in everyday life.
Specifically, each issue has a Notable Links section, containing several interesting short summaries of websites, services and software. Each issue also includes a feature section comprised of one or two in-depth topical articles about Palm related hardware, software or useful techniques.
The Palm Tipsheet is a free publication. However, there is a way to show your appreciation for the information and articles in the Palm Tipsheet if you find them helpful. Simply purchase a book or other item at Amazon.com, using the special link below. You will receive the item you desire and I'll receive a 5% referral reward from Amazon.com as a thank you.
Notable Palm Links
Features: A New Kid on the Block: The Handspring Visor
The Importance of Backing up your Handheld
**Microsoft's PocketPC Launched; Looks more Palm-Like** -- After the exit of several Windows CE handheld vendors due to lackluster sales, Microsoft has redesigned their handheld operating system yet again. The third generation PocketPC operating system was announced April 19, 2000, sporting a simplified "Palm-like" interface while retaining and expanding the core features of WinCE. Mixed reviews have followed the launch; most praise the simplified interface and improved speed of the new OS while others criticize crashes, continued user interface complexity, poorer quality handwriting recognition and the high entry level price tag of the new devices.
**PalmStation** -- Providing "News, Views and Reviews to Feed the Need" -- PalmStation is the place to get the latest Palm information. Not only does the site offer news, software, hardware and links, but visitors can sign up to comment on news items or ask questions of the PalmStation staff.
**PalmLounge** -- This recently launched site provides daily news and reviews of PalmOS and other handhelds in a clear and easy to read format. Created by GoToMac.com, the publishers of the Powerbook oriented Powerpage and iMac oriented NoBeige, PalmLounge is a handy Palm resource of the same high caliber.
**VisorCentral** -- For the Visor user, this website offers news and reviews of many Visor accessories and a forum area for voicing opinions. AvantGo users may have the latest information sent directly to their handheld by subscribing to the VisorCentral AvantGo channel. The VisorCentral Store offers online sales of a growing selection of Visor related items, at great prices.
**PureVisor.com** -- Another very useful Visor-centric site offering news, in-depth reviews and forums for Handspring Visor owners. This site is part of a larger family of handheld related websites, including PurePalm.com and MyPDANews.com, all offering specialized handheld related content.
**Smaller.com** -- Called the "Big Place for Small Devices" Smaller.com offers Palm news, in depth articles, discussion boards and software downloads as well as online sales of software, hardware and accessories.
**The Australian & New Zealand Palm Page** -- Catering to Palm users 'Down Under', this page provides information, software and contacts to locals as well as overseas visitors to Australia and New Zealand.
**Quick's Palm Software** -- Carl Quick's software website offers several free Palm software applications for download, including MyCheckbook, PalmLife and QuickTip. I love QuickTip's simplified yet user-friendly layout which makes calculating tips a breeze. I especially appreciate the handy tipping reference guide accessed by clicking the info icon in the menu bar.
**MyBible Software** -- Formerly known as Scripture, Laridian Software has converted this Bible reader software into MyBible. The application offers advanced features such as bookmarks for remembering favorite verses, fast word or phrase searches, and the ability to compare multiple Bible translations within the same application. The Bible texts are also very small, occupying only 1.5 megabytes of RAM a piece. You may also load only the books you wish to carry for more efficient RAM usage. The MyBible application is $10 and Bible translations range from $20 to $30 each.
**AlbumToGo** -- Here's an interesting application that I stumbled across while searching for software at the PalmGear HQ website. You can download the free Album To Go application for viewing images in slide show format on your Palm and either a Macintosh or Windows application which easily converts your JPEG photos into files that Album To Go can view. The quality of the 16 grayscale images is amazing, but best of all it's completely free!
**FontHack 123** -- Palm software author Sergey Menshikov has written a slick little font substitution hack which when used in conjunction with a font database, can replace the standard font on your Palm device. I especially liked the Tall Fonts family (also available for download from Sergey's page) as they help make the text on my Visor much easier to read.
Note that Fonthack 123 requires the $5 shareware utility Hackmaster, available from DaggerWare:
**UnDupe** -- Have you ever found multiple copies of entries your address book, datebook, to-do or memopad entries due to HotSync errors? If so, check out Stevens Creek Software's UnDupe, which removes duplicate copies of entries in the four standard Palm applications with a few clicks. The $8 shareware fee seems to be a bargain compared to the time you could spend manually eliminating duplicates!
**DirectCase.com** -- Looking for a new case for your Palm handheld? This site offers a wide variety of PDA and other cases produced by top name case companies at reasonable prices. Cases are shipped anywhere in the continental United States for $1.99, including package tracking.
**Fix Your Broken Palm Screen** -- The Power to the Palm website offers step by step instructions for repairing damaged glass screens in Palm Personal, Professional, III, IIIx, IIIe, and VII machines. Need a glass screen to make the repair? Power to the Palm provides OEM glass and LCD screens for sale and even email contacts of glass screen repair technicians for the faint of heart.
**A Comparison of Doc Readers** -- For those of you who enjoy reading or writing documents on your Palm handheld, you've probably downloaded a Doc format reader or two. CQ Codeworks has created a comprehensive comparison page with a chart-like grid of all available Doc readers on the market to help you find just the right Doc reader for your needs.
A New Kid on the Block: The Handspring Visor
by Mike Rohde, Editor
Since 1997 I've been an ardent Palm user, owning one of the earliest handheld organizers -- a US Robotics Pilot 1000. My Pilot 1000 was succeeded by a PalmPilot Personal which was further upgraded to a Palm III by installing a 2 megabyte upgrade board. Over these past 3 years I've been impressed and pleased with my Palm Computing handhelds, finding great uses for their power and portability in my daily life.
Yet this April I've broken my long-standing allegiance to Palm Computing and have purchased a Handspring Visor Deluxe. In this article I'll fill you in on Handspring and their Visor handhelds, explain my reasons for switching from a Palm to a Handspring device and offer my impressions of the Handspring Visor Deluxe I now own.
**Who's Handspring?** -- Handspring is the startup company founded in July 1998 by the creator of the original Pilot 1000, Jeff Hawkins, and his colleague Donna Dubinksy. Hawkins and Dubinsky also attracted a handful of Palm Computing staff and engineers to join in this venture. They believed in the Palm platform enough to break away from the first company they had founded (Palm Computing), license the Palm operating system and start another new company. Handspring's vision was to develop a handheld device for the consumer market, and they successfully released the Visor line in September of 1999.
**What's a Visor?** -- It's more or less a Palm clone; a handheld device that is about the size of the Palm III series, runs a modified version of the same popular PalmOS operating system, and shares several other similarities with Palm organizers such as graffiti handwriting recognition, 160 x 160 grayscale pixel screen, Infrared beaming port, 8 megabytes of RAM and is powered by two AAA batteries similar to its Palm cousins.
**What's different about the Visor?** -- While the Visor shares several things with Palm's organizers, it has several features that no Palm device offers: funky, iMac-like color cases, a new sync port optimized for faster USB connectivity, a built-in microphone (though it's currently non-functional), modified, feature added datebook and calculator applications, a world clock application which shows multiple time zones at a glance and a Springboard slot (a special plug-and-play slot on the back of each Visor) which offers additional functionality via Springboard modules.
Handspring offers three tiers of the Visor; the Visor and Visor Solo both offer 2 megabytes of RAM, and are available only in graphite (a very dark gray). The Visor Solo retails at $150 and comes with no sync cradle, while the Visor is priced at $180 and comes with a USB sync cradle for connecting with a USB equipped Mac or PC and both Mac and PC desktop applications on CD-ROM. The Visor Deluxe is Handspring's top of the line model, priced at $250 and offers 8 megabytes of RAM, a USB sync cradle, desktop software and is available in 5 colors: orange, green, blue, ice and graphite gray. A serial cradle for Mac or PC is also available in graphite or ice for the USB challenged (like me) for an additional $30.
**So, why did I switch?** -- Believe me when I tell you that I am still impressed with the handhelds that Palm Computing has on the market -- especially the svelte, powerful and attractive Palm V and Vx. I feel that Palm has done well to expand their line and offers a wide selection of machines for nearly any person and price range. So I'm by no means anti-Palm.
Rather, I can confidently say that it's mostly my wife's fault! She had been recently eyeing the Visor line which prompted me to take a closer look. When I began researching the Handspring line I found I liked the direction the company was taking towards consumers. When I saw my first Visor up close, I was impressed with its style and solid construction. But what really sold me on buying a Visor was the Springboard module slot and the future expansion possibilities it offers.
**What is a Springboard module slot?** -- It's a slot on every Visor that allows regular ol' users like me plug in Springboard modules to add to or enhance my Visor's functionality. Currently Handspring and several other vendors offer Springboard modules such as a modem module, 8 megabyte Flash module, 8 megabyte backup module and the Eyemodule digital camera module, just to name a few.
In the works are: a wireless modem module, wireless ethernet module (a la Apple's AirPort), voice recorder module (making use of the currently non-functional built-in microphone), GPS Module, MP3 music player module, pager module and more. This, I believe, makes the Visor a very compelling choice over a Palm device, since I can expand my machine by simply plugging in a springboard module.
**Other Upsides** -- There are however, several other reasons I was attracted to the Visor. I especially liked the idea of 5 colors to choose from and the iMac styling. I eventually selected the green Visor Deluxe after much deliberation. I felt that after three years of using a gray PalmPilot it was time to have a little fun and buy a cool looking handheld.
I also really liked the Datebook+ application which is a slimmed down version of the popular Datebk3 application from Pimlico software. It has many of the useful features found in the full application from Pimlico, though a DateBk3 user might still want to stay with the full shareware version. The minor tweaks to the stock datebook were perfect for my needs and I appreciated that Handspring was open to licensing third party software.
Finally, I loved the Visor's construction and attention to design details. Little things like the metal buttons with firm tactile feedback, the USB port allowing super-fast syncs and the overall solid feel that the Visor had over the Palm IIIxe I was also considering had a positive effect on my decision.
**Some Downsides** -- This is not to say that the Visor Deluxe is without flaws. Immediately disappointing was the cheap black plastic stylus that comes with the Visor -- it seems that every other design detail was included in the budget and the metal stylus didn't quite make the cut. I think a metal stylus of some sort ought to be standard issue, like the Palm offers with their handhelds.
Flash support is also missing in the Visor line, so I'm limited to a Handspring version of PalmOS 3.1. The operating system can be patched but not replaced, which is an option with many of the Palm handhelds on the market. An additional minus in not having a Flash RAM is I can no longer use my copy of FlashPro to store 3rd party applications or data in Flash as I could on my upgraded PalmPilot. However, this is offset by the availability of an 8 megabyte Springboard Flash module, which offers the possibility of a Visor with 16 megabytes of usable storage.
I've found that the snap on case, while very protective and designed to snap onto the back of the unit, is a real hassle to constantly snap on and off, when compared to the Palm III line's flip cover. I'm currently looking into a leather case to eliminate this problem.
Finally, the switch Handspring made from the Palm serial HotSync port to a special USB port leaves me with a Palm modem, Palm sync cables and an external keyboard which are now incompatible. However, I reasoned that the special USB tuned port offering super fast syncs would pay off in the long run and my Palm peripherals have already found good homes with other Palm using friends and family.
**Conclusion** -- If you're considering a Palm handheld, either as a new purchase or to replace an aging Pilot, PalmPilot or Palm III, I think that the Handspring line is worth serious consideration. It compares very favorably against the Palm IIIxe and though the Visor Deluxe offers no Flash ROM upgrade, I feel that the Springboard slot offers great promise for the future. I expect Handspring will do well selling Visors and pushing the handheld envelope in new directions.
The Importance of Backing up your Handheld
by Mike Rohde firstname.lastname@example.org
Often I appreciate the usefulness of the varied information which my Palm handheld organizer provides for me, and yet I generally don't consider just how valuable this information is -- or how easily a set of dead batteries could wipe it all out.
In this article I'll be talking about the importance of backing up your Palm handheld, provide links to freeware and shareware third party software tools to help you create better backups and offer some backup techniques to help protect your valuable data.
Several weeks ago I was faced with an "emergency backup" situation when my wife's PalmPilot experienced a dreaded battery failure. She lost all of her Palm's data in one fell swoop. Fortunately, she had Hot Synced her Palm at work earlier that week and roughly two weeks prior to the crash, I had synced her Palm at home. From these two backups, we were able to reasonably reconstruct and restore her handheld.
**Step One: HotSync Often** -- In order to be prepared for disaster you need to HotSync regularly. How regularly depends upon how much information you are willing to lose. If you can afford to lose a week's worth of data, then once weekly will do, but if losing even a single contact or appointment is not an option, then you may want to consider Hot Syncing daily, or even several times per day if you're really neurotic. :-)
**Step Two: Consider A Backup Utility ** -- while a standard HotSync will backup your datebook, address book, to-do and memopad data, if you regularly use third party applications on your handheld, be aware that these applications and their databases are _not_ always backed up during a routine HotSync. To help explain why this is, think of each file on your Palm having a list of hidden attributes, one of which is the 'backup' attribute. This attribute instructs the HotSync conduit on your Mac or PC whether to back up or leave alone a particular file.
Freeware and shareware backup applications have since been created to take advantage of this attribute. By turning this 'backup' attribute on, these utilities can force the HotSync conduit to copy the selected files to your computer's hard drive.
These utilities range from simple Palm applications like BackupAll and BackupBitster with the sole purpose of turning on the backup attributes of your files, to elaborate shareware backup applications such as PilotBackup, replacement PC and Mac conduits such as BackupBuddy, and even ZIP archiving solutions like PalmSaver. On the Mac platform Florent Pillet has developed PalmBuddy which can view a Palm device's RAM and ROM memory as if it were a Mac hard drive, with full and incremental backup features.
Many of these tools also make the task of restoring your data back onto a crashed Palm device smoother, which is something to consider before you make a purchase.
**Step Three: Make a Copy of your Backup** -- HotSyncing and using backup utilities won't help you if your data backups reside in only one location and that copy of your data gets damaged or destroyed. If you establish a regular schedule for backups, take a little extra time to copy your 'Users' folder (found inside the Palm Desktop Application folder) to a floppy disk. If you're using an 8 megabyte Palm device like a Handspring Visor Deluxe or Palm Vx, you may need to use several floppy disks to store your backups on, or you may want to consider using ZIP or Stuffit to squeeze your files down to the smallest archive possible before copying them to a floppy disk.
If you have a Zip drive or CD-R burner, you might alternately want to consider burning your important backed up data files onto a Zip or CD-R disk. I would suggest copying your Users folder to another location and adding a date to this copy of the folder before burning it to CD, which will help you locate a particular backup more quickly in the future.
Finally, you may also want to consider saving a copy of your back up 'Users' folder to one of the many free 'virtual hard drive' website services. Websites like Driveway.com let you sign up for their service, allot you 25 megabytes of server space on which to save whatever you choose -- so why not save your Palm data files there? If you travel often this option might be a real lifesaver!
**Conclusion** -- I hope that I've sparked some thought about the importance of backing up your Palm organizer's data. If you HotSync regularly, consider a third party backup tool and keep copies of your data on separate floppies, Zip drives, CDs or online, the dead battery blues won't catch you off guard. If you're still not convinced that backup is important, I'll leave you the adage: "There are only two types of computer users: those who have lost data, and those who will."
I trust that the links, information and articles I've provided in this month's issue will be helpful in making your Palm handheld experience a more effective and pleasant one. If you'd like to read a back issue or know someone who might enjoy receiving the Palm Tipsheet via email, have visit the Palm Tipsheet page:
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