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Palm Tipsheet 17.0 / April 2001
In this month's issue guest writer Andy Bauer offers a hands-on first impression of the Handspring Visor Edge and we'll travel down under to meet Australian attorney and Palm user Antoine Pace in the Tipsheet Interview.

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Notable Links
  The Visor Edge: First Impressions
  The Tipsheet Interview: Antoine Pace
End Note

A Month of Blockbuster Handheld Announcements! -- March has certainly proven to be a fun month for Palm handheld announcements. I'll provide brief coverage for each of these announcements in chronological order:

*Palm m105 -- The m105 was the first device released in March and is essentially an m100 with 8MB of RAM, Palm OS 3.5.2 and no Flash RAM. However, the $200 handheld does include the Palm Mobile Internet Kit, a Palm AOL client and AvantGo with the package. Snap-on faceplates are $20 each.

*Sony Clie PEG-N700C -- Rumors of a new color Sony Clie came true in March as the PEG-N700C was announced in Japan. This Palm handheld offers new features unavailable on any other Palm device: a high-resolution 320x320 pixel color screen and the ability to play compressed ATRAC 3 music files. The new Clie is priced at 50,000 Yen ($415) and is being sold only in Japan. However, the new Clie may be sold outside of Japan later in 2001.

*Handspring Visor Edge -- Next to be announced was the $400 Handspring Visor Edge, which is thinner than the Palm V series, has specs similar to the Visor Platinum, with the exception of a rechargable battery, silent LED alarm and a 'Fast Lookup' Address Book application. Be sure to read guest writer Andy Bauer's hands-on impressions in this issue for more details.

*Palm m500/m505 -- And finally, Palm announced the much-anticipated m500 and m505. Both devices feature 8MB of RAM, 4MB Flash RAM, Palm OS 4.0, a Secure Digital (SD) card slot, a rechargable battery and a new universal USB connector. These devices differ mainly in screen specs and pricing: the m500 is $400 and offers a grayscale screen, while the 505 is $450 and offers a 16 bit color screen. Unfortunately the m500 won't be available until sometime in April, the m505 sometime in May or even June.

Palm Buys Peanut Press -- The Palm m105, m500 and 505 weren't the only major announcements from Palm this past month; the company also purchased Peanut Press, a leading e-book content provider. Their free Peanut Reader was renamed Palm Reader and will be bundled with all new m500 and m505 handhelds, Peanut's e-books range between $1 and $35 per title.

Report Calls Palm OS 3.5 Insecure, Freeware Fix Offered -- The security firm @Stake has reported security holes in Palm OS 3.5.2 and earlier, which can make breaking into a 'secure' Palm relatively easy via developer shortcuts (which bypass the Palm OS built-in password security features).,1282,42198,00.html

Palm OS 4.0 addresses these security holes, but for those still using an earlier Palm OS, Daniel Seifert (creator of EasyLock) has created ShortFix, a free utility for removing the offending developer's backdoor shortcuts.

If you grab a copy of this useful utility, be sure to say thanks to Daniel for using his talents to help all of us in the Palm community! :-)

The Palm Phenom -- Here's a good read at Business 2.0 online, covering the phenomenon that is the Palm. The story offers a brief history of the Palm handheld, compares it to PocketPC platform and provides comments from Palm's CEO Carl Yanowski, Microsoft's Ben Waldman among others. Also featured is an interview with Handspring's Co-CEO Jeff Hawkins.

Palm Handhelds for Genealogy -- This article by Mark Howells describes how some folks are making use of Palm handhelds and a variety of Genealogy software titles to track down Family history. Handhelds are small, powerful and can act as useful tools for data gathering while in the field.

Palm Cameras Compared at Piloteer Magazine -- If you're contemplating the purchase of either the Kodak PalmPix for your Palm or the EyeModule for your Visor, check out this helpful article from Rick and Lynn Cousins. These cameras are compared in price, features and image quality, with sample images posted on the page for a quick comparison.

A New Look for EuroCool -- Palm software website EuroCool has a new look and several new features on their site. EuroCool offers listings of latest Palm apps, 'All Time Favourites', and 'The Coolest' (as reviewed by Palm users) both on the site and in weekly email newsletters. The site also offers over 2700 apps categorized by author, category or software type.

HanDBase Plus Features a New HotSync Conduit -- DDH Software is now offering a new $30 HanDBase Plus bundle which includes the popular HanDBase Palm application, Windows application and a new HotSync conduit for Windows. Registered HanDBase users can purchase the $10 conduit for just $7 until April 30, 2001 when providing HanDBase registration information.

Visor Presentations with Presenter-to-Go -- If you frequently show PowerPoint presentations and want to lighten your load, check out the new Presenter-to-Go Springboard module from Margi Systems. This $300 module works with any Visor and stores PowerPoint or HTML presentations from a Windows PC, then displays them at 1024 x 768 via a projector or VGA display.

UPDATE: Palm Desktop 4.0 and Visor Handhelds -- Chris Holt, the Visor user who originally provided info on using a Visor with Palm Desktop 4.0 (PDT 4.0) says Palm has now modified their PDT 4.0 installer to report a 'compatibility' error message and quit when trying to install over Handspring's USB HotSync software. He recommends un-installing the Handspring desktop and HotSync software, installing PDT 4.0 and then re-installing *only* the Handspring HotSync software as a workaround. Our thanks to Chris for these updates and handy workaround procedures! :-)

Palm Tipsheet Website Updates -- I've made a few recent updates to the Tipsheet website which might interest you. The issue archives page now offers a Coola option for syncing Doc issues to your handheld and an 'About' area has been added to share history, hows and whys of the Palm Tipsheet.


The Visor Edge: First Impressions
by Andreas C. Bauer

As a long-time Apple Newton user, I've been watching the Palm platform with interest for several years now -- knowing that I will eventually have to replace my Newton with a different platform.

However, I still feel there is no other handheld on the market that can fully replace my Newton Message Pad 2100: the big screen with 320 x 480 pixels, my 28MB of Flash RAM which gives me lots of storage space and no worries ever about losing data due to empty batteries, the 162 MHz CPU, the wonderful write-anywhere-on-screen 'Rosetta' handwriting recognition, the two internal type II PC-Card slots...

Yet still, admittedly, the Newton is big and heavy. A smaller, easier to carry handheld would be very attractive and I know there are Springboard Compact Flash and SmartMedia card adapters which could possibly suit my needs for lots of permanent data storage.

I do feel Palm OS handhelds are inching closer to what I would consider an ideal handheld, albeit slowly. Therefore, I'd like to share my first impressions of the Handspring Visor Edge -- from the perspective of a long-time Newton Message Pad owner. Hopefully my impressions of the Edge will be insightful and offer Palm users a glimpse of the Palm platform through the eyes of a Newton user.

Visor Edge Specs -- The Visor Edge is essentially the same as the Visor Platinum, wrapped in a thinner aluminum metal case with a rechargable Lithium-Ion battery in place of the two AAA cells (they just couldn't fit AAAs in the new slimmer case!).

The $400 Visor Edge features 8MB of RAM and no Flash RAM (standard fare for the Visor line), a 33MHz DragonBall processor and Palm OS 3.5.2H in ROM -- which cannot be exchanged or upgraded, although software patches could add minor features or bug fixes in the future. The Edge also includes an attachable metal stylus, metal flip cover and a matching USB HotSync cradle.

Apart from a slimmer case the Visor Edge offers a few other new features:

*A silent alarm -- Basically a green LED behind the ON button in the lower right hand corner which can flash instead of an audible alarm. It is *not* a vibrating alarm though.

*The Fast Lookup feature -- This new feature allows the search of contacts in the address book without the use of a stylus simply by re-mapping the application buttons for spelling out the name.

*A new expansion connector, at the top of the unit. While there will be 'Edge-only' expansion modules in the future, every Edge comes with a detachable Springboard slot, allowing users access to all existing Springboard modules. I'll share more about this connector and the detachable Springboard slot later in the article.

The Edge's Appearance -- I was able to closely inspect the new Visor Edge at MacFest in London, a small road show geared towards Macintosh users. My very first impression when seeing the Visor Edge was simply: cool! It looks even better in real life than in pictures!

When I picked it up, how small and light it was! Pretty much the same size as the Palm Vx (the lid hinge makes the Edge about 1/5 inch taller). The Visor Edge felt really nice when held in my hand, quite unlike the Palm Vx. I've always felt uncomfortable holding a Palm Vx due to its sharp left and right edges where the stylus and flip cover go in.

The lid, back and front of the Edge are made of aluminum. However it is not metal all around: the four sides are made from a slightly translucent white plastic. This two-toned design -- metal front and back with lighter colored sides done in a different material -- works quite well and is a feature it shares with another recently introduced bit of tech hardware: The Apple Titanium Powerbook G4 (Ti).

Looking at the silver color unit I was immediately reminded of the new Ti notebook. Coincidence? Perhaps. The PowerBook's titanium is a bit more towards a graphite gray hue than the Edge's more whitish aluminum hue. However, both do go really well together in color and design: at MacFest both (Ti and Edge) were setup next to each other allowing for a good comparison. Since I'm interested in purchasing a PowerBook Ti somewhere along the line, this similarity is very attractive; I think it would be for Ti owners who are also Palm handheld users.

Handspring was also showing the blue version of the Edge. However, the blue color is not as muted as one might think looking at pictures on the web. It's a very *intense* 'bluish-blue' and therefore not really my cup of tea -- although in general I do like the color blue. The lid hinge of the blue unit is black as opposed to a light gray on the silver unit. The sides are dark colored on the blue model, while white on the silver one. They didn't have the red Visor Edge on display, but judging from the blue unit it should be a very bright, strong red. The Red edition is only available directly from the Handspring website.

Wireless Internet Options via IR Port -- The guy demonstrating the Edge showed me the infrared capability first. He aligned both his mobile phone and the Edge's IR ports next to each other. Then a few taps on the Edge and he was already online checking his e-mail and downloading the latest news. All completely wirelessly with no cables whatsoever. Quite cool!

Expansion Options: The Detachable Springboard Slot -- Then he went on to show me the detachable Springboard slot, which comes bundled with every Visor Edge. First one has to remove the metal lid by opening it and then pulling it away from the unit. The lid is attached to the Edge via a plastic hinge with two little plastic 'feet' which plug into the Edge. I'm not too sure however, how often one can do this, since the whole construction is just plastic. If the plastic 'feet' break off, I'd think the lid would no longer stay in place.

Removing the lid of the Edge reveals a new expansion connector on the back, at the top edge of the unit. I was told the Edge also comes with a small plastic connector-cover which allows for using the Edge lid-less without risking a short-circuit on any bare contacts.

Where the lid comes out, the detachable Springboard slot goes in -- at least the part which connects it to the Edge. The whole Springboard slot unit sits sort of 'piggyback' on the backside of the Edge. It's a bit bulky, about as thick as the Edge itself and half its height, essentially making the Edge twice as thick. Therefore, I would not consider using it constantly.

This whole concept of a detachable Springboard slot might not be ideal for modules intended for a constant use like additional memory or the VisorPhone. But it's certainly perfect for add-ons used only now and then -- like backup modules or modems. Nevertheless, it is generally good that one can continue to use all the existing Springboard modules as it provides a nice upgrade path.

Further, the demonstrator mentioned that third parties are working on 'Edge-only' modules that attach directly to the new expansion contacts omitting the need for the detachable Springboard slot.

Here's another nice detail: the Springboard slot as well as the HotSync cradle are made from a smoky dark blue translucent plastic. It's not completely see-through (it's too smoky for that), but it is definitely translucent and not a plain dark gray or black. Very nice, elegant color.

The Clip-On Stylus -- The provided stylus is all metal but with a soft rubbery tip, has a very nice feel and is very comfortable to write with. The top of the stylus features a little 1-inch long 'pen clip' which goes into a 'groove' at the right hand side of the Visor Edge. It's not that the whole stylus inserts all the way into a side-long groove as with the Palm Vx. The stylus actually sits outside the unit. Still, it seems to be 'parked' securely enough, with no imminent risk of falling out. Using this approach is quite good, because Handspring could make the stylus thicker (and hence easier to hold) than if the stylus was to be stored fully inside the slim casing of the Edge.

The Screen: Grayscale For Now, Color to Come? -- The Edge's screen displays 16 shades of gray, and is very legible. I was assured, it's exactly the same size as in all Handspring units. It doesn't use smaller pixels like in the Palm m100 or m105.

I also inquired about a color version of the Visor Edge. The demonstrator said that it might happen, but definitely not in the same form factor. They will not be able to make a Visor Edge as thin with a color screen -- it will have to be thicker, at least with currently used screens.

The grayscale vs. color debate has been an on-going discussion among handheld users since the first days of the Newton: are grayscale screens enough or do we need color? Having discussed this question quite a bit over the years, my answer is yes, color is better since our world is in color.

However, color screens come at an expense -- they're much harder to see in bright sunlight, and using the backlight drains the battery. Further, storing and displaying color images requires significant RAM. And programs too require more RAM if they are to take advantage of color. It all adds up to a point where a color screen probably isn't very practical on an 8MB unit. In the end I think color only makes sense when battery power and RAM size are no longer an issue.

Problems With the Edge's Lid -- The only real *problem* I saw with the Edge's design, was that the otherwise flat aluminum lid would not flip back all the way behind the unit for easy storage when using the Edge. Instead it sort of locks at an odd 160 degree angle, literally pointing up and away from the unit. Rather stupid if one is to use it on a packed-full commuter train in the morning. You can't ram the metal lid into your neighbor's back, can you? But you'd have to. And since the lid's hinge is mostly plastic, I'm not sure whether it would survive any accidental hit like a commuter train braking without a warning, causing you to bump the open lid into something! So, I suspect the lid may become the mostly sought after replacement part for the Edge.

Now of course one can remove the lid altogether but then the screen is no longer protected against scratches, which is not a good idea. This should be a perfect third party opportunity: designing an aluminum lid for the Edge that not only comes with a sturdy metal hinge but also allows for folding the lid all the way back behind the unit. I'd be the first to buy one!

Conclusion -- The new Handspring Visor Edge is truly a cool looking handheld. Better yet, using it feels just as wonderful as it looks. In my opinion, it has the best design of any Palm platform unit so far. It is what the Palm Vx or the Sony CLIE should have been. Well done Handspring!

The detachable Springboard slot is also a nice feature, providing compatibility with existing Springboards, although I don't think it would be useful on a constant basis since it makes the unit too bulky.

I only have reservations about the lid's plastic hinge. It might break sooner rather than later. Hopefully a 3rd party will work quickly on a proper metal lid & hinge which are sturdy and can fold back behind the unit.

As nice as the Edge is, being a Newton user I'd still have to face all the usual Palm limitations, like the 8MB RAM limit. The reference materials I have on my Newton are about 10MB in size (including a huge dictionary). This wouldn't even fit on an Edge -- except when using the detachable Springboard slot. But that would make the unit too bulky. Perhaps I could split them and keep only the bare minimum in the internal RAM and have the rest on an external 16MB Springboard module, or Compact Flash card with CF adapter?

Now, if Handspring would design an Edge handheld with more internal RAM, a low power 320x320 reflective TFT color screen (like the Sony CLIE PEG-N700), a headphone jack with volume control for listening to MP3s and perhaps even two internal Secure Digital card slots for further RAM expansion, this might be as close to perfect as can be achieved with Palm OS 3 or 4. I would certainly consider replacing my Newton with a device such as this.

But whatever the future may hold, of all the handhelds I've seen so far (and I've seen many!) I consider the Visor Edge the only one I could ever imagine replacing my Newton with. And from a long-time Newton user, this is a pretty big compliment!

Editor's Note: -- Andy Bauer is a Macintosh consultant, currently lives in London, UK and is on the lookout for a junior WebObjects / Java programmer job. In case a reader knows about any such UK job vacancy, please drop him a line at . My thanks to Andy for sharing his impressions of the Visor Edge from the Newton user's perspective! --Mike

The Tipsheet Interview: Antoine Pace
It's time to hear from an international Palm user and how they use their handheld in everyday life. This time I'll talk with Antoine Pace, an Australian attorney who works in the e-commerce department of an Australian Bank. He uses his Palm IIIx to track his business and personal life, check and send e-mail, read the news, take photos, control his audio-video systems and to wake him each morning.

*PT: Antoine, thanks for sharing your experiences with the Palm Tipsheet.

No problem Mike!

*PT: You live in Australia -- I'm curious to know how popular Palm handhelds are there. Have they been gaining popularity recently, or have you noticed them being used by people for a long time?

Palm devices have been popular in Australia for the last two and a half years or so. However they seem to be gaining even more popularity recently. They are becoming far more mainstream -- especially after the Palm Vx launch. There has also been a big increase in interest in newer models on the horizon like the Handspring Prism, the Edge, and the Palm m500/m505. These haven't officially arrived here but the rumour mills are buzzing.

*PT: When you're using your Palm, what kinds of reactions do you get? Are people intrigued? Do you have opportunities to 'evangelize' the Palm?

Most people are surprised when they see me using a Palm -- especially when I am using it to do something unusual like sending my e-mail on the train. The programmers and project managers at my office seem more surprised than anyone. They seem to think that lawyers are luddites and that there is nothing that the programmers don't know about Palms. They are most surprised because I am usually the one telling them about new apps or ways of doing things more efficiently.

And yes I do get a lot of opportunities to evangelise. I get many free lunches where I am asked to help set up people's Palms.

*PT: How does the Palm help you in your everyday life?

Well, from the moment I wake to the time I go to bed my Palm is with me. It wakes me up in the morning; it picks up my daily reading; and reminds me of whom I'm meeting and what their telephone numbers are -- and then it helps me call them too. I have a very bad memory so its handy to have this unit around to remind me of things... and I also type letters and notes into it using the Palm folding keyboard!

*PT: Are there any programs which you use daily and couldn't live without?

This is going to be quite a list:

GSMtool -- Shareware Infra Red phone dialer and SMS messaging tool:

Top Gun Postman -- Freeware e-mail add-on to enable Palm's standard mail tool to send mail via mobile phone:

BigClock -- Freeware "BIG" clock with multiple alarms and timers:

Earth & Sun -- Freeware graphical world clock app:

World Mate -- Shareware world clock application with exchange rate info that is easy to update:

Cryptopad -- Freeware Memo Pad replacement with encryption. Its companion Cryptopad desktop is a freeware program for Windows and allows you to encrypt and decrypt Cryptopad-encrypted files: (Source code is available too!)

Launch Menu Hack -- Free 'Start-menu' much like the Windows start button:

Tiny Sheet -- An MS Excel-compatible spreadsheet program -- a conduit is available too!

iSilo -- an offline reader that in conjunction with its converter program, can be used to read web pages offline. I use it with MS Word and Excel to read large documents on my Palm (just convert them to HTML and then to iSilo format, then bingo!). The reader is shareware:

and speaking of bingo:

Buzzword Bingo -- A free game just to liven up meetings:

Remote (also called OmniRemote) -- a shareware program that you teach to control your TV and other infra red-controlled things using the IR port:

Kodak PalmPix (camera and software) -- A snap-on digital camera for Palms:

Pilot install -- A fast and free installer (saves the long tedious HotSync):

... and last but by far not the least: WordSmith -- the last word in word processing that syncs with my PC:

*PT: Are there any hardware or software items that you plan to buy in the near future? What functions will you use these for?

I think I will wait for the Palm m505. I have upgraded my Palm IIIx so it has 8MB of RAM. I also have the Palm foldable keyboard, the Kodak PalmPix and the Pacific Neotek OmniRemote Module. I will have to replicate all of these for the new unit if and when it comes along, so I don't think that I will be in a real hurry.

*PT: Would you share a funny story that relates to your Palm with us? :-)

The oddest thing that I have used the Palm for was to send someone a message in a meeting. The guy was one of my colleagues, and he was sitting opposite me at a desk in a large meeting. There were other people there and we were negotiating a contract. This guy was just about to put his foot in it when I sent him an SMS message. His phone beeped at him at just the right time. He looked down and read the words "SHUT UP YOU MORON!"

... He did!!

*PT: Thanks for taking time to share your Palm using experience in Australia with the Palm Tipsheet. Are there any final comments you'd like to share?

As you might have guessed, I love the power of my Palm. It gives me the freedom to do a lot of my work on the fly. And best of all, it can only keep improving.

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.

Currently the list of confirmed Palm users includes: Germany, Ireland, Costa Rica, India, the Netherlands, Spain, Israel, Switzerland, Canada, Argentina, Mexico, Thailand, Venezuela, Malaysia, Chile and Singapore. If you're from a country not represented in this list, feel free to apply for consideration.

Well, this wraps up another issue of the Palm Tipsheet. Special thanks to guest writer Andy Bauer for his impressions of the Visor Edge and to Antoine Pace for sharing his experiences and insights in the Tipsheet Interview.

Hungry for more? Check out the Palm Tipsheet website for archived issues, article and interview listings, Tipsheet FAQ, the new 'About the Tipsheet' area, our unofficial AvantGo channel and the handy search tool:

Feel free share the Palm Tipsheet website with new Palm users. If this issue was forwarded by a Palm friend, you too can get the Palm Tipsheet sent to your e-mailbox free each month. Follow the subscription instructions below, or use the subscription tool on the website to join the mailing list.

Until next time,

Mike Rohde


Copyright 1998-2001 (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 with written permission. 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, AvantGo or Palm doc format. Remember, it's always fun until someone loses an eye.


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