Home / Issue Archives / Palm Tipsheet 18.0 Palm Tipsheet 18.0 / May 2001
If you've ever lost your Palm handheld or are concerned what might happen if you ever do, this month's feature article is for you. I'll offer ideas for keeping your handheld data protected should it be lost or stolen, and ways to prevent the worst from occurring. We'll also talk with German Palm handheld user Leonard Burtscher in the Tipsheet Interview.
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Palm Security Revisited
The Tipsheet Interview: Leonard Burtscher
Revolutionary HandEra 330 Announced -- As you may recall, March was chock full of new Palm handheld announcements. This April, HandEra enjoyed the spotlight with the announcement of the HandEra 330. Their silver, $350 Palm OS handheld offers many revolutionary features not found on *any* other Palm handheld, while maintaining backward compatibility with most Palm II peripherals through a Palm III-like shape and standard serial connector:
In a nutshell, the new HandEra 330 offers these revolutionary features: both Compact Flash (Type I & II) and Secure Digital removable media slots, a 240 x 320 pixel one-quarter VGA grayscale screen (double the 160 x 160 resolution of other Palm OS screens) with old style indiglo-blue backlight and the ability to rotate the screen 360 degrees. That's not all; the device also features a 'soft' Graffiti area which can toggle off to allow full use of the 240 x 320 screen, built-in microphone with voice recording software capable of recording WAV files directly to CF or SD cards, an enhanced (louder) speaker and headphone jack. The 330 requires 4 AAA batteries or a can use a rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack (included) for longer life and to supply power to energy-hungry Type II CF Cards.
However, the HandEra 330 does share features common in other Palm handhelds, like a 33 MHz Motorola Dragonball-VZ processor, 8MB RAM with 2MB Flash, Palm OS 3.5 and a standard Palm serial port and shape to allow the use of most Palm III peripherals. Finally, the HandEra 330 has a Jog wheel, much like the Jog Dial on Sony's CLIE. The HandEra is expected to ship in June 2001.
Kyocera Palm OS Phone Released -- Also released was the Kyocera QCP 6035, a hybrid device which melds a Palm OS handheld and CDMA mobile phone into one unit. The Kyocera is actually quite similar to the Qualcomm pdQ Palm OS/phone device from a few years ago, though it's significantly thinner and lighter. The QCP 6035 has the guts and screen of a Palm m105, though it's integration with a mobile phone offers access to e-mail, websurfing and can make use of Palm.net web clippings too! Check out the Gadgeteer comparison review for more details.
Palm m500 Shipping in the USA... Sort Of... -- Reports have been trickling in from users around the USA finding limited supplies of the Palm m500 and m505 handhelds in stores. I've heard OfficeDepot radio spots promoting these new handhelds and a free 16MB module with each purchase. International Palm users who want an m500, now is the time to schedule a spring holiday or renew old pen-pal friendships... ;-)
Multiple Palm Handheld Price Reductions -- If you're not dazzled by the new m500/505 or other new handhelds, this may be a great time to buy an older device at discount prices. Palm has reduced the price of the Vx and IIIc to $300 while HandEra has dropped the price of the TRGPro to $250. Keep your eyes open for more price drops and rebates as the new Palms ship.
Palm Use in the Field -- Last month I read an excellent article by missionary Jan Beaderstadt in March's Pen Computing magazine. In the story, he outlines ways his Palm handheld makes work in the mission field easier. Jan's IIIx helps with everyday tasks like tracking patients, keeping contacts, writing sermons and sending/receiving e-mails. Not only does the Palm provide more room in Jan's baggage for medicine, it also offers portability and flexibility no laptop could ever touch!
Group for Women Using PDAs Formed -- A new Yahoo Group was launched by my lovely wife in April, specially designed as a forum for women, novice to expert, who use PDAs. While the group is geared to women, everyone is invited to join the new group to share ideas and experiences on using PDAs.
Edgar's Graffiti Tricks -- If you're looking for better ways to write Graffiti strokes, then stop by Edgar's Graffiti tricks page. Edgar offers great alternate strokes to help you scribble more accurately. :-)
Adobe Acrobat Reader for Palm OS Released -- Adobe has been noticeably silent while other software developers (Aportis and DataViz) have offered Palm users text-only PDF viewing for the Palm. No more. Adobe has now released a public beta PDF viewer for the Palm OS. Acrobat Reader for Palm OS supports images and bookmarks, though PDFs with images can expand in size when converted to Palm PDF format. Check out Andy Woo's excellent overview on his website, WookieWeb.
AportisDoc PDF Converter:
DataViz DocumentsToGo PDF To Go Add-on Kit:
New Palm Mobilizes Web Loggers -- Weblogs, or 'blogs' are popular, since they let everyday folks share ideas and links regularly on home-grown web pages. Web loggers can now go mobile with a free, open source Palm app and Windows conduit from handX. The package lets users write web logs on a Palm and HotSync them directly to their weblog site via conduit. PHP is required.
Updated Macintosh Palm Desktop for m500/505 Users -- If you're a Mac user planning on buying a new m500/505, you'll want to download version 2.6.3 of the Macintosh Palm Desktop and HotSync software. The free update software supports Palm OS 4.0, installation of files onto SD expansion cards and a fix to the 'Instant Desktop' extension and menu tool.
Palm Security Revisited
by Mike Rohde
Picture yourself in a critical business meeting with the most important movers and shakers in the company. You're called on for a final project delivery date, reach for your trusty Palm handheld... and it's gone!!
This may not happen to you, though the more important question is, what plans have you made should it happen? Buying new hardware and syncing data to a new handheld is easy; in fact this might be considered one of the Palm's greatest strengths. However, the scary part of losing your handheld is what happens the information it carries? Your friends, family, spouse and kids contact information? Your daily schedule, project data and client list? Credit card and PIN numbers hidden in so-called 'private' memos?
These are questions you should consider long *before* you lose your Palm handheld and the information it carries. In this month's feature article, I'll share my ideas on protecting your Palm's data and offer links to tools to help secure and protect your handheld.
Security Again? -- Actually, this topic was addressed in the February 2000 Palm Tipsheet 5.0 article "Special Feature: Palm Security":
So, why follow up on a detailed security article? First, I know many readers are new users and may not be aware of how insecure their handheld might be. I'm trying my best to warn them to prepare for the worst *before* it occurs.
Secondly, I've recently read a report by Kingpin of the security firm @Stake, Inc. which details developer's backdoor entry points and security holes of Palm handhelds running OS 3.5.2 and earlier. I was reminded how many professionals use Palm handhelds to store sensitive data without understanding the security risks they may be taking.
Finally, my brother lost his Palm III at a restaurant last month, which has still not been found. This reality check hit close to home, reminding me how easily my Visor could be lost or stolen. I was challenged to review my security plans and adjust how I protect my handheld.
5 Steps to Better Security -- After reinforcing my Visor's protection I felt sharing my experience and ideas in the form of a feature article might be a benefit to you. I've boiled my ideas down to five steps; a simple process to consider for evaluating and updating your handheld's security.
Step 1: Limit Secure Information -- The easiest way to protect sensitive information is to not keep it on your handheld. Take time to consider how important each bit of data is and if it *really* belongs on your PDA. I do realize that while it's good to have a policy about what goes on your device, at some point you must decide which sensitive data is essential to carry. See the next four steps to help better protect this information.
Step 2: Protect Handheld Access -- Palm OS 3.5.2 and earlier provides a relatively weak password protection scheme which can be easily defeated. Your information can also be accessed on a desktop computer with any text editor (yes, even 'private' data) so you may want to consider a more powerful password access tool for your Palm Handheld and even consider securing your desktop computer. Palm OS 4.0 is said to address the security problems of 3.5.2, however OS 4.0 is new, and has not been fully tested.
For those still using Palm OS 3.5.2 or earlier, Daniel Seifert (creator of EasyLock) has created ShortFix. This free utility for removes offending developer's backdoor shortcuts cited in the @Stake security report:
Step 3: Encrypt Secure Information -- Limiting critical data may be impractical, and adding stronger password protection may still leave you feeling unprotected. If so, consider a strong encryption storage tool to protect your most critical data. Encrypted data could be cracked using a powerful computer, though most petty thieves will most likely not bother with strongly encrypted files in favor of selling your stolen handheld.
For more overall protection, consider a system level tool which encrypts your Palm's Address Book, Datebook, To-Do and Note Pad databases. Of course on-the-fly system-level encryption will slow your system's speed a bit but may be worth it for your peace of mind.
Step 4: Guard Your Handheld -- All these software protections are pointless if you aren't careful about guarding your handheld. Thefts of PDAs in public places are rising, so you must be vigilant about keeping your device close by. Some good practices are: never leave your device unattended, never leave it in your car or hotel room and be careful whom you accept beaming from. Consider turning off beam receive in your Palm's Prefs.
Professionals must be extra careful. Corporate and government high-tech theft is becoming much more common, so security measures are especially critical. While a remote scenario, a determined hacker could install a text-capture utility on an unattended PDA, steal a device later and use passwords retrieved by the capture utility to access even encrypted data.
Step 5: Insure Your Handheld -- To protect against your handheld being lost, stolen or damaged, you may want to consider insuring your handheld. In many cases you may have the option to add coverage to an existing renterıs or homeowner's insurance policy. This may be the least expensive option, though there may be limits to coverage (for instance, theft from an auto).
Alternately, dedicated PDA coverage may cover more loss scenarios. One such specialized service, PDAsLostOrStolen.com, insures 30 different PDAs and wireless modems against loss, theft or accidental damage. Prices range from $4 to $10 per month with $7.12 setup charge, and a $35-50 deductible.
If you choose insurance, make sure you read the coverage and ask questions, so you know whatıs covered and what isnıt before making a claim.
Security Add-Ons -- We've covered five steps to protect your handheld; here's a brief selection of Palm OS software tools to consider:
System-Level Encryption Tools
Jawz DataGator ($50 Professional, $40 Standard):
PDASecure ($50 Boxed, $40 Online):
Password Access Tools
Commander & Commander Lite ($15 & $11):
EasyLock & ShortFix ($5 & Freeware):
PadlockHack & Padlock Plus (Freeware & $5):
Strong Encryption Storage Tools
CryptoPad (Freeware MemoPad Replacement):
Password Store ($15):
Web Confidential ($20):
There are more tools than I can possibly list here; check PalmTracker, PalmGear and Handango to for many more security software tools:
Good Reading on Handheld Security
Smaller.com -- Protect Your PDA:
ZDNet -- Secure Your PDA:
ComputerWorld -- Walking Disasters:
Net.Worker News -- Keeping a Leash on your PDA's Data:
VNUNet -- Crackers can zap data off Palm Pilots:
SC Info Security Magazine -- Within Your Grasp:
Conclusion -- I sincerely hope this article draws attention to your own handheld's state of security. Whatever measures you consider adopting, take time *now* to implement them, so you won't have an awful experience later.
The Tipsheet Interview: Leonard Burtscher
In this month's Tipsheet Interview we'll chat with German Palm handheld user Leonard Burtscher, a soon to be university student, Macintosh consultant, Apple promoter and web developer. Leonard uses his Palm IIIx to manage his busy personal, school and work schedule, compute complex equations, convert units and to read the daily news with AvantGo.
*PT: Leonard, thanks for sharing your experiences with the Palm Tipsheet.
I am glad to support your great e-zine!
*PT: You live in Germany -- 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?
There are a few people who have been using Palm handhelds since the time when it was still called a PalmPilot (like me) but I think the demand for mobile devices has increased quite a bit in the last few months.
When working for Apple Computer in consumer electronic shops as a sales manager/promoter I often hear people considering buying a Palm or a PocketPC-based device instead of a device that only stores contacts such as those sold by Casio, which look more like a pocket calculator than a mobile computer. But I am still surprised every time I see a fellow Palm user, since they are still quite rare here.
*PT: Is your Palm an English version, or a localized German language operating system?
My Palm is running under a German version of Palm OS 3.1, although I'm using an international English version of Palm Desktop on my Mac (which works fine, BTW). Every Palm device sold here has a built-in German-language version of the Palm OS. Unfortunately, there is no localized Palm Desktop application for the Macintosh, though there is one for Windows PCs.
*PT: Is there a version of Graffiti which allows you to write special German characters on your Palm, or do you use other methods?
The standard version of Graffiti already comes with built-in support for German characters. The only special characters which do not appear in the English language are ä, ö, ü and ß. These special letters can be written by first drawing a regular vowel and then a special character, something like a double shortcut-sign, while the ß or 'S-set' is created with a backslash-B combination. It is a bit tricky but you get used to it quickly.
There is also a freeware Hackmaster hack called German Chars Hack:
This hack allows you to enter special characters more easily, though you have to get used to it -- which took me some time. However, once you find out how it works you will enter special German characters much faster. And there is of course my Palm Portable Keyboard with a German keymap, which I use quite often.
*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?
I'm writing these lines sitting in an Inter-City Express train and the person sitting next to me looks at me quite interestingly -- as if he wanted to prove whether or not Scotty has already beamed me up... ;-)
To be honest: The usage of Palm devices has increased tremendously in the last few months. When entering the train today I saw a man reading today's headlines on a PalmVx for example. But there are also many people who cannot imagine this can be done with a Palm. Even when traveling back from the German 'Systems' computer Fair last November, I was asked how that "Palm thing" worked. I always try to show other people what is possible with a good piece of technology today.
*PT: How does the Palm help you in your everyday life?
Most often I use the Palm for jotting down tasks or short notes and for offline-browsing with AvantGo.
I use the Palm notepad application to store almost anything you can imagine to be written in text in my PDA: access codes for websites, ISPs or FTP-servers, opening times of stores, the partition table of my Linux PC, an overview of all mailing lists I'm subscribed to (and the info on how I can unsubscribe), jokes, info about what gifts I gave to whom and when (and what gifts I plan to give), my bus timetable, recording the time needed to complete my daily bicycle training route and other little useful tidbits like statistics or my clothing sizes. This comes in handy when I sit in an internet café and cannot remember my ISPs e-mail access password. :-)
I've been planning to move to Würzburg to study physics at the university there (following my final school exam called the 'Abitur') so I've been using my Palm quite often lately. When I visit next time to get accommodated with the university, I will already have all relevant contact information, student information, important institutes and so on, right in my Palm -- so I won't need to query a telephone book.
I am also using my Palm to store an overview of the upcoming costs and a list of things I want to take with when moving. Of course I could do this on my desktop computer, but the advantage of having it in the Palm is that I can add or edit an item whenever I think of it and not only when sitting in front of my Macintosh.
*PT: Are there any programs which you use daily and couldn't live without?
Well, of course this is AvantGo:
This great free app lets you read websites off-line with your Palm device. For more information about AvantGo, see Palm Tipsheet 12.0:
For reading Doc formatted e-texts CSpotRun comes in very handy:
Doodle and MathPad -- For instance, on a trip to an open-house day some weeks ago my physics teacher and I were discussing how it was possible to determine an electron's radius. Neither of us had pencil or paper so I just got out my Palm and calculated it with Doodle and MathPad. We formed the equations (which took us three 'sheets' of Doodle) and then I entered all the info into MathPad to arrive at a result.
Doodle (source-code available too!):
Another very good utility is PalmPrint, which enables you to print virtually everything from your Palm to an IR-capable printer (like the HP 2100 series). This tool comes in handy especially when you have lots of interesting and important notes to print from your Palm:
Here are several astronomy related tools I use quite often...
Location Manager, which is used by other apps to let them know where (on earth) you are:
StarPilot, which shows the positions of Stars:
Planets, a very powerful app to compute the exact positions (RA/DEC), the rise, transit and set times and even the brightness and distance from earth of any planet in the solar system:
Messier, which computes the position of the 110 Messier objects (enclosing the brightest galaxies and nebulae like the Andromeda galaxy or the Orion nebula):
Sun Compass lets you determine where the north is by comparing the sun's position with the current date & time:
Last but not least I'd like to add YAUC (Yet Another Unit Converter) which lets you convert units like gallons into metric and vice versa. This converter knows 561 units in 39 categories and is a real must for anyone who must often convert units!
There are lots of other very useful apps for the Palm platform and I just want to encourage everybody to have a look at palmtracker.com, palmgear.com or the Palm section at tucows.com to see what is already possible with the Palm today.
*PT: Are there any hardware or software items that you plan to buy in the near future? What functions will you use these for?
The new Palm m500 series looks great. I think I'll upgrade to an m505 in the next few months because I'd like to have features like vibrating-alarm since the built-in speaker in the Palm IIIx is too weak to get me anywhere! ;-)
I would also like a color-display and rechargeable lithium-polymer battery. Basically I will use the new device as I use my IIIx now but I could imagine reading and writing e-mail on my Palm with a Palm e-mail conduit, available for either Linux or MacOS.
*PT: Would you share a funny story that relates to your Palm with us? :-)
One math lesson we were talking about solving a complex equation. When we did not find a solution to the problem, a class mate of mine said: "You cannot solve this equation without a huge, powerful computer!" Well, I said: "I can with my Palm!!" and solved the equation with the really great $10 shareware tool, MathPad (mentioned above). MathPad allows you to solve almost any equation -- even equation-systems! Buy and register it! :-)
*PT: Thanks for taking time to share your Palm using experience in Germany with the Palm Tipsheet. Are there any final comments you'd like to share?
With new mobile devices and much faster mobile connections provided by the UMTS technology in Europe and Japan for example, I think we Palm-users can look forward to a great "information future" coming up. Just imagine surfing with your Palm even faster than with today's standard cable-bound Internet access speed! The tech news say that you will not only be able to read some text on your Palm with AvantGo but to see live broadcast news in full color and motion for example... I'm sure there will be even more possibilities for mobile devices in the next, let's say five, years from today.
Long live the Palm! :-)
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 check the list of past and upcoming interviews (to make sure your country isnıt already represented) and send an email to for consideration.
Currently the list of upcoming Palm users includes: Ireland, Costa Rica, India, the Netherlands, Spain, Israel, Switzerland, Canada, Argentina, Mexico, Thailand, Venezuela, Malaysia, Chile, Singapore, Italy, The Philippines and Belgium.
The list of past interviews includes users from: Australia, Brazil, Britain, China, France, Japan, Norway, Poland, Turkey and Germany. If you are from a country *not* represented on either list, feel free to apply with an e-mail to email@example.com for consideration.
Thanks again for reading another issue of the Palm Tipsheet. I sincerely hope security issues raised in this issue will encourage many of you to tighten the security of your Palm handheld. My thanks to Leonard Burtscher for his sharing his perspective and information on the popularity of Palm handhelds in Germany.
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.
Auf Wiedersehen! :-)
Mike Rohde firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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