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Palm Tipsheet 12.0 / November 2000
Unsure about installing AvantGo on your Palm handheld? In this issue I'll offer a practical overview of AvantGo, how it works, and ways to make it work for you. In the Tipsheet Interview, Chinese Palm user Wu Dan talks about Palm handhelds and their use in China and Singapore.

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Notable Links
  A Practical Guide to AvantGo
  The Tipsheet Interview: Wu Dan
End Note


Color and Speed: Handspring Prism and Visor Platinum -- They're finally here! In October, Handspring released the much-anticipated $450 Prism and $300 Visor Platinum. The Prism features a 33MHz processor, PalmOS 3.5.2, 16-bit (65,536 color) backlit active-matrix screen, rechargeable battery and 8MB RAM wrapped in a slightly thicker cobalt blue Visor case. The Visor Platinum is essentially a silver-colored Visor Deluxe sporting a faster 33MHz processor, PalmOS 3.5.2, improved grayscale screen, 8MB RAM and is powered by two AAA batteries like the original Visor line.

Palm IIIc Price Drop -- Feeling the heat from Handspring, Palm reduced Palm IIIc pricing to $330, $120 less than the Prism. Both handhelds feature color screens; the Palm IIIc has 256 colors compared to the Prism's 65,536.

Welcome Palm Professor -- A warm welcome to Larry Becker, the Palm Professor! Larry writes a weekly column at, focusing on Palm productivity, tips and tricks, new hardware and software. Check it out!

MemoWare Launches The PDA Bookstore -- Looking for new fiction or nonfiction writing? Look no further than the MemoWare PDA Bookstore. From Sci-Fi to Biography, PDA Bookstore offers over 100 original books for your Palm handheld at very reasonable prices, all backed by the excellent reputation of MemoWare.

Dr. Salami's Guide to Palm and Mobile Phone Communications -- If you own an IrDa mobile phone and want to have it communicate with your Palm handheld, check out Dr. Salami's informative website. The site covers many aspects of combined Palm and Mobile phone use.

Buy or Sell Used Palms Online -- If you're interested in buying, selling or trading up to a used Palm handheld, this site might be the ticket. Even dead Palms can earn cash when sold for parts.

Your HanDBase Database Applet Could Fetch $1000 -- Create a HanDBase database applet and you could win a $1000. Submit your HanDBase applet by November 30th. The best applet wins the $1000 grand prize.

Build A Custom Palm Application with MobileCoders -- If you're looking for a custom Palm application, or you're a Palm programmer looking for work, check out Developer listings provide Palm programmer information, while the search tool helps coders locate projects to bid on.

A Sweet Deal for Medical Professionals -- is now offering the Medical Starter Kit, designed for physicians. The package is for medical professionals interested in trying a Palm handheld, those who would like a new device or those looking for a great gift. It includes an 8MB Handspring Visor Deluxe, The Handbook of Adverse Drug Interactions, WardWatch, PregCalc Pro and Redi-Reference Clinical Guidelines all for $249, a savings of $142.85 when purchased separately.

View and Edit Word and Excel Documents on Your Palm! -- If you want to edit Word and Excel files, check out DocumentsToGo Pro 3.0. This updated software package allows you to view *and* edit Word and Excel documents directly on your Palm handheld. Edits are transferred via HotSync conduit. DocumentsToGo Pro 3.0 costs $50, while owners of version 2.0 may upgrade for $20 with a 30 day money-back guarantee. A 30-day demo lets you try before you buy.

BackupBuddy Gets a Major Update -- If you're concerned about protecting the data on your Palm handheld, check out version 1.41 of Palm Buddy. This $30 Palm and PC/Mac application provides full backups of your handheld, with optional Flash RAM and Springboard module backup, syncing to network drives and web directories. Unfortunately, many features are PC only.

Send IR Mail Between Palm handhelds -- Beam e-mails to a colleague via IR Mail a $5 shareware application from Nathan Buggia at Ecamm. This little application makes beaming e-mails between Palm handhelds a snap.

Extract DiddleBug Sketches to your PC with DiddleEx -- If you use the notepad-like application DiddleBug and would like to send your notes to a PC, check out DiddleEx. This freeware PC application extracts DiddleBug drawings from your Palm for viewing, printing or faxing.

Add Photos to your Address Book -- To customize your Palm address book with pictures for each contact entry, check out this $12 shareware application. Address Album works in conjunction with a PC desktop application to crop and import images and requires PalmOS 3.5 and 16 level grayscale or color screen.

A Comprehensive Palm Dictionary and Thesaurus -- How would you like a full featured English dictionary and thesaurus on your Palm handheld? The ArsLexis $20 Noah Pro dictionary features a 122,000 word dictionary (3.9MB) complete with sample phrases, and the ability to create custom dictionaries. Noah Lite is a freeware version which omits sample phrases and custom dictionary capabilities. ArsLexis Thesaurus features small (194k) and large (370k) databases for $10.

Word Puzzle Lovers, Rejoice! -- Love word puzzles? Want to play them on your Palm handheld? Then check out WordPak from Notion Systems. This $10 shareware suite combines 4 games, including Word Search, Word Memory, Word Jumble and Word Untangle. WordPak comes in four languages: English, French, German and Spanish.

3D Racing for the Palm -- If you're a racing fanatic, then you *must* try Race Fever from Digital Fiction. This slick $25 shareware game provides three dimensional, grayscale racing action on your Palm with either stylus or button controls. Race Fever requires PalmOS 3.0 and 343k of free RAM.


A Practical Guide to AvantGo
by Mike Rohde

I'm sitting in a local cafe, drinking a coffee and reading the latest BBC News on my Handspring Visor Deluxe -- but I'm not connected to the internet. Impossible? Not with AvantGo, a popular Palm handheld software and service suite of tools.

How can viewing web pages offline with a Palm handheld be so popular? Convenience, portability and the fact that AvantGo is a free service certainly play a part. However, offline information offers a nice middle ground to those who choose not to be wirelessly connected, yet still want current information on their handhelds.

In this month's feature article, I'll explore AvantGo. I'll tell you how it works, its positives, negatives and how to make it work for you. When you've finished this article, I hope you'll agree that AvantGo is one of the most powerful and useful tools available for Palm handhelds.

What Is AvantGo? -- AvantGo is quite unique. It melds a Palm application, Mac/PC HotSync conduits and an internet service to update user defined channels on a Palm handheld. AvantGo does this by retrieving information from the web and importing it via conduit to the AvantGo Palm Application.

How Does It Work? -- The process begins at the AvantGo website. Here a new user signs up for a free account and downloads the Mac or Windows software installer. The software includes a Palm application and a Mac or PC Conduit for HotSyncing AvantGo channels to a handheld.

What Does AvantGo Install? -- On the Palm side, AvantGo installs a Palm application which is a small web browser. Each channel has pages with links, graphics, and text. The AvantGo Palm application also has refresh, forward, back and home buttons for easier navigation of channels. On the desktop side, AvantGo installs a HotSync conduit which retrieves content from the internet and installs it on a Palm handheld at each sync.

What does it take to run AvantGo? -- You must have a Palm handheld and either a Mac or PC with a HotSync cradle and a connection to the internet. AvantGo requires at minimum PalmOS 3.0, Windows 95 or MacOS 8.5 to operate. The AvantGo Palm application, its utilities and libraries claim about 300k of RAM, not including any channels you may decide to add later.

If you use an older Palm handheld and your RAM space is very limited, you may want to hold off until you have at least 400-500k free for the application and channels. AvantGo will also work with a Palm landline or cellular modem directly, though for this article I'll focus on the more common Palm and HotSync conduit method.

Getting Started -- Once the software is installed and an account is created, a user may then select one or more AvantGo channels at the AvantGo website. Channels include topics such as sports, news, lifestyle and technology. Users can also create 'custom' channels using any web page on the internet. Channels are limited only by the free RAM on a Palm handheld.

What's a Channel? -- A channel is a web site made up of HTML pages, which have been optimized for AvantGo. Channels are created by companies and individuals to provide information to AvantGo users. These mini-websites use small graphics and are constructed using a simplified HTML page structure. This allows AvantGo to pack the maximum amount of information into a minimum amount of RAM.

How Do Channels Get on My Palm? -- First, you must have the AvantGo software installed and an account created at the AvantGo website. If these steps have been taken, you may choose to add a channel to your account.

To add a new channel to your AvantGo account:

Step 1: Log into your account at the AvantGo website using your username and password. You would have defined this when establishing your free account.

Step 2: Look to the left edge of the website mainpage. Here you will see a large directory of channels to choose from, divided into categories. You can also use the search option to find a channel. Finally, the main body of the page lists featured channels.

Step 3: Pick a channel you're interested in by clicking one of the links in the categories to the left or using the search tool. If you use either of these, proceed to Step 4A. You may also click a featured channel in the main body of the page. If you click a featured channel, proceed to Step 4B.

Step 4A: You should now see a new page with channels listed and a brief description. Click the title link to see more information if you'd like, or you may simply click the (+) icon to add the channel to your account.

Step 4B: If you've chosen a link in the featured area of the main page you should see a detailed channel page. Click the (+) icon to add this channel to your account.

Step 5: Once you've clicked the (+) icon, the page will refresh and you should see this new channel added to your 'My Account' channel listing module on the right. Notice the channel name has a pyramid icon to its left; this means the channel will be added to your Palm on the next sync.

Step 6: Once you've finished adding channels to your account, put your Palm in the cradle and HotSync. The AvantGo Conduit will check for new channels and will download them to your Palm. Once the new channel information is on your Palm, you can view its contents with the AvantGo Palm application.

Creating Custom Channels -- One advantage to using plain HTML as the basis for AvantGo channels is any website on the internet can become a custom channel. Of course, simpler websites make better AvantGo channels, as large graphics, complex tables or frames can significantly increase a custom channel's size.

To add a custom channel to your AvantGo account:

Step 1. Enter your AvantGo account page. In the upper right side of the page look for the module entitled 'My Account'. If you have channels added to your account, they will already be listed here.

Step 2: Click the 'Create Channel' button at the bottom right side of this module. This will open a new page with form fields in which to enter your custom channel information.

Step 3: Enter a Title for your Custom Channel in the first field and the URL link in the second field. Click the 'View' button to verify the URL link.

Step 4: Now you need to estimate the channel size, link depth and other specs for your custom channel. Here are some details about each option on this page:


*Maximum Channel Size -- This can stay at 100k. The size will be updated by the server upon first sync. You may choose to increase it if the site is large or decrease this if you know the site is small.

*Link Depth -- Tells AvantGo how many levels down to include in the channel. Leaving this at '0' means AvantGo will only capture the page itself and no other links. Remember, more levels mean more RAM will be needed to capture a channel.

*Include Images: 'Yes' adds images, 'No' omits them. Adding images may substantially increase your channel size, so beware!

*Follow Off-Site Links -- If you choose to have a link depth of 1 or more, this tells the AvantGo server to include external links to the channel. This can also increase a channel's size significantly, as links to offsite pages can be large.



*on every sync -- Tells the server to update the channel on every sync.

*every [ ] hour(s) -- This defines how often to sync the channel in hours. Useful for pages which you don't want updated on every sync.

*only once -- Use this option if you want to sync a channel only once. Useful for web pages that change seldom, if ever.

*daily at () on the following days -- This lets you specify when and on what days to sync. Useful for pages updated on a regular daily or weekly schedule.

Step 5: Once you have entered the specs for your custom channel, click the 'Save Channel' button on the lower right of the form to add it to your account.

Step 6: When you next sync your Palm handheld, the AvantGo conduit will detect this custom channel and add it to your Palm application. How often the channel will refresh depends on the specifications chosen.

Modifying Channels -- If you want to modify the specs of any channel, simply click its title link in the 'My Account' listing of channels. The options for the channel will open in your web browser allowing you to edit them.

Custom channels may need tweaking to perfect them for your needs. At times you may need to increase link depth or channel size if a site is large, or you may choose to limit link levels or omit images to decrease a channel's size. This is a trial and error experiment, so don't be afraid to try varied configurations.

Deleting Channels -- After reviewing a channel on your Palm AvantGo application, you may want to get rid of it. You may delete a channel from your account at the AvantGo website in the account area or right in the AvantGo Palm application.

*On the AvantGo Website:

Step 1: Open your AvantGo account. Find the 'My Accounts' module.

Step 2: Notice that each channel has a small trash can to the left of the title. Click the trash can of the channel you wish to delete.

*In The AvantGo Palm Application:

Step 1: Click the AvantGo application icon to open the program. Make sure you are at 'home' level by clicking the small house icon in the upper right corner of the Palm screen.

Step 2: Just below the AvantGo logo on the right, find the 'add | remove' links. Click the 'remove' link.

Step 3: A new page will display each channel, listed next to a checkbox. Uncheck the box of the channel you wish to remove. Click 'OK' to return to the home page. Upon the next sync, the selected channel will be deleted.

Negatives of AvantGo -- There are a few negatives. AvantGo will not work on any PalmOS version before 3.0. Several channels can quickly reach sizes of 1000k, gobbling free RAM on 2MB machines. Images are usually low quality. Syncing to update information can be a hassle, but it is one of the tradeoffs when you don't want pay to be online wirelessly or to hassle with a Palm modem.

Positives of AvantGo -- Still, I think AvantGo's positives outweigh its negatives. Having current information on my Palm handheld is wonderful. I've found it satisfying to read news or check the weather while in a waiting room or in between tasks. It's great to have updated information and no Palm modem; I just sync and I'm set. Overall, AvantGo makes my Visor much more valuable and useful while I'm on the road.

Some Suggested AvantGo Channels -- Now that you have an idea what AvantGo is and how to use it, I'd like to suggest a few channels of interest. Note that an AvantGo account is required to view these links.

*BBC News -- In-depth news coverage you'd expect from the BBC. 100-150k

*Fox News -- Excellent news coverage, geared for US readers. 40-75k

*New York Times -- The New York Times in the palm of your hand. 115-140k

*Wall Street Journal -- Summaries of top business stories. 50-100k

*PalmInfoCenter -- The latest Palm news, reviews and message boards. 30-60k

*VisorCentral Mobile -- Latest news for Visor & Prism owners. 100-200k

*PDAlive -- News and reviews from 30-150k

*MapBlast -- Request maps or directions from your Palm. 35-100k

*Expedia To Go -- Provides itinerary and other travel info. 100-150k

*The Weather Channel -- Local weekly forecasts on your Palm. 30-50k

*Joke A Day -- Daily laughs and one-liners. 10-20k

*The Pillowbook of Jason Pettus -- A cool hyperfiction project. 80-160k

*Movie Habit -- Movie and video reviews, and a 'my rent' listing. 40-80k

Palm Tipsheet Mobile Edition -- While I'm on the topic of AvantGo channels, I'd like to invite you to have a look at the new Palm Tipsheet Mobile Edition: (25-40k)

Each month this channel will be updated with the latest issue of the Palm Tipsheet. While this is not an 'official' AvantGo channel, it can easily be added to your list of channels. Click the link listed above to visit the Mobile Edition page. Under the section 'Add This Page to Your AvantGo Channels' click the 'Palm Tipsheet Mobile Edition' link to add this channel to your AvantGo account.

Conclusion -- Hopefully I've inspired you to investigate AvantGo and find ways to make use of this powerful service. I enjoy having news, information, weather, and humor on the road with me, especially when I have short periods of time to kill. I hope you find AvantGo as useful as I have and will find ways to make it work for you.

The Tipsheet Interview: Wu Dan
Have you ever wondered how popular Palm handhelds are in China? In this month's Tipsheet Interview meet Wu Dan, a Chinese Palm handheld user. Wu is a student attending the Raffles Institution in Singapore and writes reviews for in his spare time. He uses his Ice Visor Deluxe to not only manage his school schedule and homework, but also as a mobile learning tool.

*PT: Wu Dan, thanks for sharing your Palm experience with the Palm Tipsheet.
My pleasure, Mike. Your Palm Tipsheet is really solid! I'm still learning about Palm so I hope to make new friends by sharing some of my feelings about Palm. In the future, I think they can also share things with me. That will be cool! Learning is about sharing, anyway.

*PT: How popular are Palm handhelds in China? Are they just gaining popularity, or have you noticed them in use for a long time?
I live in Mainland China. Before I came to Singapore to study about 2 years ago, I had never heard of Palm. Even now, Palm is still quite new because of the price. I also think Palm hasn't put enough emphasis on the Chinese market, since there have been WinCE based PDAs in China for quite some time.

We also have local companies who develop their own cheaper PDAs. Some are quite good, equipped with digital cameras, voice recorders and handheld scanners. However, most run on WinCE or their own OS. I also heard that Palm Inc. is developing a Chinese version of Palm OS in Shanghai, China. So I think Palm will catch up very soon in Mainland.

For Hong Kong and Taiwan (the Greater China regions), the situation is quite different. Palm is very hot in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Programmers there have developed a Chinese overlay of Palm OS, some even write their own apps in Chinese. There are also plenty of Chinese eBooks are available. Palms there are localised, so you can see full screen of Chinese instead of English.

*PT: Does your Palm run an English operating system, or a localized Chinese OS?
I use an English version together with a Chinese overlay. I prefer the English interface, which is faster than the Chinese one. But the overlay can turn every single English word into Chinese within seconds. I like to put in my friends' contacts in Chinese, it makes me feel better when I see them.

*PT: Is there a version of Graffiti which allows you to write Chinese characters on your Palm, or must you use other methods to enter them?
There are both handwriting recognition input method (our own Graffiti) and other special ways to enter both simplified and traditional Chinese characters. The 'simplified' version is used in Mainland China, the 'traditional' version is used in Hong Kong and Taiwan. This handwriting method has a very high recognition rate and even IBM has developed Chinese handwriting recognition for PalmOS called Dragon Pen. Apart from that, there are more than 10 methods for inputting Chinese into a Palm handheld.

One common method is called 'han yu pin yin' or 'Chinese sound spelling' for direct translation. Each Chinese character can be represented by a 'pin yin' or 'sound spelling', made up of English characters. For instance, the word computer in English sounds like 'dian nao' in Chinese. Just write the words 'dian nao' character by character, then choose the correct Chinese word from a list of similar sounding words to complete the translation.

*PT: When you are using your Palm, what kinds of reactions do you get? Are people intrigued by your Palm? Do you have opportunities to 'evangelize' them?
Well, I haven't brought my Visor back to China yet, so I mainly use it in Singapore, a front-runner in terms of Palm usage. Students, teachers, doctors, housewives, businessmen and CEOs use Palms, so seeing a Palm in public is considered quite ordinary (though sometimes people do stare at me). However, If you use a Palm IIIc here, people will look at you admiringly, especially those grayscale Palm users (e.g. me, in particular).

When my schoolmates see me using my Visor, they will often ask what it is and what it can do. Normally before I finish 'educating' them about what it can do, they will ask another question: "Any games inside?" I say yes, then let them play my favourite game called Zap!2000. Well, they may see it more as a game boy than a PDA. :-) What can I say? Palm is attractive to everyone!

*PT: How does the Palm help you in your everyday life? Are there any applications which you use daily and can't live without?
I mainly use it to manage my school life and aid in my studies. Anything which helps a student effectively manage time is great because students often waste lots of time and forget about things without reminders. Palm is ideal for getting it right! I would love if more apps for education were free.

I use Datebk4 to remind when to study subjects, Timetable Pro to tell me the right place to be at the right time and Due Yesterday to track my assignments and my project due dates. I've also collected many other apps to help me with different subjects. I use CSpotRun together with Noah Lite Dictionary to read eBooks and look up new words to improve my English, Flash! to memorise new vocabularies and History facts, BrainForest to jot down ideas for essays and projects, MathGraph to plot Maths curves and Periodic Table for Chemistry.

I also make my own Palm version of notes with PalmDocs which I can read and study anywhere, anytime I like. I also use Note Smart; a great website which provides free notes on subjects like Mathematics, Science, English, Literature, History, Geography, Computing, in DOC or iSilo format. Check out this cool site!

Don't get me wrong -- I'm not a bookworm who just studies 24 hours every day! I do play games and I like "Zap!2000" so I can release my anger and tension every time I blow up all the enemy aircraft :-)

I also use FireViewer to view photos of my beloved dog jin jin. :-)

These apps are just so simple and handy. Again, I really hope more Palm apps for students and teachers would be free in the future.

*PT: Are there any hardware or software items that you plan to buy in the near future? What functions will you use these for?
For hardware, I am looking for a electronic note taking pad that can communicate with my Visor. It will be useful if I were to take notes during class and sync them with my Visor later (my Graffiti can never keep up my teachers' voice).

*PT: Would you share a funny story that relates to your Palm? :-)
My friends shared this story with me and I'd like to share it with you now. Our school has a recess period at 10:10 am, but a lot of teachers tend to drag their lesson and eat in our recess time which is only about 40 minutes. The students were not happy about that, so they decided to set their Palm to alarm to 10:10.

One day, during Geography lesson, one of my friends' Palm beeped at 10:10 and he said to his teacher "Sorry ma'am, but..." The teacher turned to him and said, "I understand, but just let me finish this chapter..." When she just finished saying this, another student's Palm sounded, then the third and the fourth and soon the whole class was beeping! "Well, sorry boys, and you may go for recess now." She gave up. Yeah, they called it SPU (Students Palms United). :-)

*PT: Thanks for sharing your Palm experience in China with us. Are there any final comments you'd like to share with the readers?
I was introduced to the Palm world by my friend, Mr. Goh Beng Yeow and I really thank him. Although I've been using my Palm for a short while, I find it really wonderful! I hope more people get to know and use Palms in countries like China. Maybe in the future we'll have a PUU situation (Palm Users United). :-)

Interview Slots Still Available! -- If you're a Palm user outside of the US and are interested in being interviewed by the Palm Tipsheet, I invite you to send an email to for consideration. Thanks!

Thanks again for reading another issue of the Palm Tipsheet. I hope this month's practical guide to AvantGo will encourage you to give this handy service a try on your Palm handheld. Special thanks to Wu Dan for his experience using a Palm handheld in China.

Talk to you all soon,

Mike Rohde


Copyright 2000 (C) Mike Rohde. All rights reserved. There is no guarantee of accuracy in articles. The mention of a product or service does not imply an endorsement. Company names mentioned herein may be trademarks of their respective companies. This document is freeware and may be redistributed freely without modification. No portion of this document may be altered, reprinted, or sold to any person or entity without written permission of Mike Rohde. This copyright applies to all versions of the Palm Tipsheet, whether in plain text, HTML or Palm doc format. Remember, it's always fun until someone loses an eye.


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