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Palm Tipsheet 29 - April 2002
Considering a move away from AvantGo? In this issue, I'll explore alternatives to AvantGo for Palm handheld users considering a switch. In the Tipsheet Interview, we'll hear from Guy Orridge about his handheld experience and the popularity of Palm handhelds in New Zealand.


Editor's Welcome
Notable Links
  AvantGo Alternatives
  The Tipsheet Interview: Guy Orridge
End Note

Palm Doc Edition (18k):

iSilo Edition (17k):


The Palm Tipsheet is sponsored by readers like you! You can Donate to the Palm Tipsheet with our new Amazon Honor System Donation Page using the link below. Donations are voluntary and are greatly appreciated! :-) -- The Best selection of PDA cases on the Web! NEW ON THE SITE: DirectCase DISCOUNT CENTER!! First quality cases and accessories from 20+ manufacturers with GREAT Prices!! A new case for you or a friend! As always FREE SHIPPING in the continental US!! Call (307) 732-1400 or visit our website: -- PILOTING PALM, the new book from Andrea Butter and David Pogue offers a unique insider's view of Palm, Handspring and the birth of the handheld industry. All purchases made with our Amazon affiliate link provide referral rewards to the Palm Tipsheet. :-) -- The NEW Visor Treo combines GSM voice and wireless internet connectivity with powerful Palm OS organizer features, in an incredibly small package! The Treo 180 is $399 with service activation or trade in of a VisorPhone module, or $599 without service activation.

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April in Wisconsin is an odd, Twilight Zone-like season. Spring is so close, yet winter threatens a last-ditch snowfall for good measure. Still, I'm encouraged by the promise of warm, sunny days in May. :-)

In the world of Palm handhelds, I've had an opportunity to do an in-depth test of a new Handspring Treo 180 and will be writing a review for the May issue. I've also traded my trusty Visor Deluxe for a Sony Clié; an article about the transition is already planned for the June issue.

I'm pleased to announce iSilo and Plucker formatted versions of the Palm Tipsheet (starting with issue 29) for download from the Issue Archive page. Special thanks to 'Team Plucker' members Rusland Brest and Philipp Reif for converting Plucker editions each month!

Finally, if you're interested in the history of the Palm handheld industry, check out 'Piloting Palm', by Andrea Butter & David Pogue. It's a unique insider's view of the handheld history with many behind the scenes stories. The book is $20 in print or e-book format. Our affiliate link is below if you'd like to support the Tipsheet. :-)

P.S. Last month's Tipsheet interviewee, Raul Reynoso, has changed his email. Raul, if you're reading this please contact me!

Spring greetings,

Mike Rohde, Editor


Sony's Latest Clié Line a Blockbuster! -- WOW! Sony has hit its stride with the release of their two newest Palm handhelds, the Clié N70R and N70RV. The NR70 line is available in Japan and was recently announced for US delivery in early May:

The new handhelds sport a 320 x 480 color screen with a soft Graffiti area, 66MHz Dragonball processor, magnesium body, built-in camera (NR70V), Palm OS 4.1, MP3 player, Memory Stick expansion slot, Jog Dial and enhanced IR remote control functions. They also feature a flip-rotate hinge which offers 3 positions: a protected shell when fully closed, a laptop-style screen and QWERTY keyboard when opened and a standard PDA (sans hard buttons) when the screen is flip-rotated. For more photos check out these sites:

Palm Replaces m500 Series 'SUDS' Cradles -- The m500 series phenomenon dubbed SUDS (Suddenly USB Doesn't Sync) has finally been recognized by Palm, Inc., who is offering to replace USB cradles for those experiencing SUDS. The program runs from 1-Apr-02 through 30-Sep-02 for US customers with qualifying cradles; info for international customers is coming soon:

Palm Desktop 4.0 Released for Mac OS & Mac OS X -- The new Palm Desktop for the Mac is here! Version 4.0 includes an updated Palm Desktop and HotSync software. Be aware that most 3rd party conduits must to be updated for the new release and Handspring has not 'officially' endorsed this version of the desktop (though some Visor users have made it work).

Palm Pays Back Program Launched -- Palm fans who excel in convincing people to buy Palm handhelds, should check out the Palm pays Back program. Sign up for detailed info on Palm products and If you help someone buy a Palm-branded handheld you earn Palm Bucks, redeemable on the Palm website:

Enjoy a Cuppa at -- Here's a new website aimed at uniting Palm and Pocket PC users. The site offers interesting features, news stories, reviews, forums, live chat, polls and gatherings:

Acrobat For Palm OS 2.0 Public Beta Released -- Adobe has added new features to Acrobat for Palm v2.0 beta, including better font and image translation, support for color, secure PDF files, VFS cards and Macintosh:

Regain Digitizer Sanity -- If you own a Palm V, Vx or other Palm handheld with funky digitizer syndrome, check out DigiFix, an open source utility from Cooperative Computers. This tool remembers your digitizer prefs and can restore them when your handheld goes wacky:

Cool Cases From Spain -- Through the Gadgeteer, I've learned of Piel Frama, a Spanish leather case company, making beautiful leather cases for handhelds. Cases are available in tan, black or two-tone tan & black, for the Palm m500/505, Clié N700 and T600 series, and several Pocket PC handhelds. The cases feature high quality leather for $60 to $65 each are shipped in a hard case for protection to Europe, Asia and America.

Palm Job Opportunity in New Zealand -- Will Lau, part of the team rolling out the upcoming LauncherX, wrote in about a completely separate startup. He's looking for an avid techno-literate Palm enthusiast living in New Zealand, looking to join their team over the upcoming months. Contact Will and let him know your background, and don't forget to let him know that Palm Tipsheet sent ya! :-)


AvantGo Alternatives
by Mike Rohde

Change isn't always a welcomed guest, but I've learned that unexpected change can be beneficial. Change often challenges me to explore and discover better long-term solutions.

Take for instance AvantGo's decision to change their custom channel policy. As of 01-Mar-02, many popular channels went dead for the majority of their subscribers. Why? AvantGo had decided to limit custom channels to 8 users maximum. The idea was to reduce the traffic burden on AvantGo's servers from excess custom channel subscriptions and to encourage unofficial content providers to sign up for official channels.

It worked... too well. Content providers noticed, as did AvantGo users with dead channels. Many happy AvantGo users did the unthinkable -- they deleted AvantGo and began a search for alternative solutions. I was one of them.

AvantGo eased their custom channel policy just 30 days later, to allow channels which had been subscribed to organically, but it may have been too late. I believe many users had already left or were contemplating leaving.

So, if you're considering a switch, or you're curious about what alternatives exist, I've written this article for you. I'll share details of my research into free, open source, shareware and commercial alternatives to AvantGo. I'll discuss the pros and cons of each and I'll list aggregator sites that have gathered handheld-friendly websites.

What Is AvantGo? -- I should explain what AvantGo is, for those who may be unfamiliar with it. AvantGo is a software suite and service consisting of a Palm application, desktop HotSync conduit and web server which grabs HTML pages from the internet, compresses and formats them for reading offline on a Palm handheld. Users create a profile on the AvantGo website and select channels to be downloaded to their handhelds at each sync.

The Pros & Cons of AvantGo -- It's only fair to begin by mentioning the advantages of AvantGo, which I think is a great solution for many people. In fact, in Palm Tipsheet issue 12, I wrote a feature article about AvantGo:

First, I think AvantGo's strength is its seamless sync process, which automatically activates at HotSync. During synchronization, the AvantGo conduit logs into a webserver, finds your profile, dumps old pages and grabs updated pages from your specified channels, then installs the new data directly to your handheld. This automated approach is unique, as most other solutions use manual methods to grab web pages.

AvantGo also boasts a large selection of 'official' channels, paid for by content providers (websites) who want appear in their website's channel listing. The agreement signed by an AvantGo content provider specifies that the official channel URL be kept secret, so official channels are available only to AvantGo subscribers.

AvantGo is an offline HTML reader but can work as a web browser with a modem or IR to a mobile phone connection. Even in offline mode, AvantGo's Palm app stores web form entries and then posts them when it HotSyncs.

Most attractive is AvantGo's price -- its a free download, which makes it a popular add-on application for many users who may be on a tight budget.

However, AvantGo also has negatives. First, AvantGo's Palm OS application is large, weighing in at around 375k (not including channel data). The app size and channels make it a tight fit on a 2MB Palm handheld. AvantGo's servers track channels you choose and the pages you read in an aggregate form, which for you may be a privacy issue. Syncing can be slow at peak periods. I've occasionally had channel syncing problems, though these were exceptions rather than the rule.

In general, AvantGo is a great solution for many people, with auto updating at each sync and many premier channels often only available through AvantGo.

Now let's look at the alternatives.

HandStory Suite -- A $20 shareware multi-purpose Palm app which displays Palm DOC files, Images and Memos has added a Clip feature, similar to AvantGo's channels, added in version 2.0:

The Windows PC app selects Palm DOC files, images and 'Clips' to sync to the Palm app. HandStory's Clip Service offers pre-built Clips for various websites. The desktop app enables users to add custom clips. Conversion is performed on your computer rather than a centralized server, and can be activated automatically every 24 hours or manually, as needed. A Mac converter is in the works.

HandStory offers a 'Direct Clip' option to convert websites optimized for handhelds, a 'Script Clip' option to convert non-optimized sites and a 'Fast Clip' option to download pre-converted files from the HandStory site for direct Palm installation.

The HandStory Palm app is 190k and views multiple formats and supports reading from VFS removable media, high-res 320 x 320 pixel screens, images, colors, and beaming. HandStory requires Palm OS 3.1 or better, 3.5.2 on Cliés or TRGPro to use VFS capabilities.

HandStory has a few negatives. Automatic conversion is limited to 24 hours max; manual conversion must be performed for updating clips more frequently. The toolbar on the base of the Palm app's screen can't be hidden. HandStory won't let you copy text from Clips but will from Palm Docs and Memo files.

While HandStory isn't free, it's a useful multi-function tool, with unique features which may make it a more practical solution for your needs. HandStory's collection of handheld Clip service channels make a switch from AvantGo a bit easier.

iSilo & iSiloX Suite -- This suite enables users to convert text and HTML files with the iSiloX desktop converter for viewing on a Palm handheld the iSilo Palm app.

The free iSiloX desktop converter grabs local text/HTML files or internet websites and converts them into iSilo files. These files are saved directly into one or more 'Install' folder(s) for installation at HotSync, to any other folder you wish or directly to VFS removable media. iSiloX, is a GUI converter available for Windows and iSiloXC, is a command line converter available Windows, Linux, Free BSD and Mac OS X. A beta version of iSiloX is an option for Mac OS 9 and Mac OS X.

Unfortunately, iSiloX doesn't offer automation features and is not activated by a HotSync, so manual conversion of iSilo files is required prior to syncing. It does save the list of converted sites as an XML document, used for regularly grabbing sites.

The $17.50 iSilo Palm app weighs in at 306k and it can read Palm DOC files, plain text files (from VFS cards) and iSilo files. iSilo and Doc files can be read in RAM or from VFS cards. The Palm app supports formatted text, hyperlinks, bookmarks, images, 1-bit to 16-bit color screens, tables, text copying and high-res fonts for Clié and HandEra screens. Full-screen mode is available on a one-time or on a document-by-document basis. iSilo for Palm requires OS 3.0 or better.

iSilo also has downsides. iSiloX can't automatically grab and convert webpages; files must be converted manually prior to sync. Once a file is converted to iSilo format there are no tools to convert it back to original form (though text can be copied within the Palm app), the Palm app is large (though smaller than AvantGo). The 2.x Palm app can't open 3.x files (iSilo 3.x Palm app can view 2.x files).

Overall, the iSilo suite offers a high level of control for file conversion and nice features for viewing, especially high-res screens on Sony and HandEra machines. While it's shareware, iSilo has a good history of regular support and updates.

Mobipocket Reader & Web Companion -- This free suite is an e-book and Palm DOC reader, as well as Mobipocket 'eNews' files:

The Mobipocket reader includes the Mobipocket Web Companion for Windows and Mac OS and a conduit which transfers web pages into the eNews format for viewing with the Palm reader. The suite is available in English, German French and Spanish. The Web Companion desktop app is used to add Mobipocket eNews sources (requires free registration), which are loaded to your handheld at HotSync.

Mobipocket eNews channels can be updated manually, automatically at sync or set to update when the eNews channel itself is changed. Unfortunately, only eNews web channels provided by Mobipocket are currently available. A software developers kit (coming soon) will allow the creation of custom channels. You can, however, select a local HTML file for conversion to eNews format.

The Palm app is 417k with required support files and can view Palm DOC, OpenBook, XML, HTML and Mobipocket eNews files with BMP or GIF image files. Mobipocket Reader also supports sub-pixel rendering for high-res Palms, multiple font sizes, faces, colors, alignments, tables, VFS cards and external dictionaries. However, eNews files can't viewed on VFS cards.

Mobipocket has negatives, including an app size larger than AvantGo, a somewhat slow-launching viewer app and a full-justification mode that looks funky on a low-res handhelds. Mobipocket also requires registration to get new eNews channels.

This software suite is free and only requires registration at Mobipocket to access eNews channels. Mobipocket's auto-update at sync is a nice touch and the ability to read Palm DOC and eBook formats makes this a useful tool.

Plucker -- Plucker is an open source software suite for Windows, Linux, and Macintosh. Like some of the other alternatives, it converts pages on your computer rather than via external webserver. Plucker relies on Python, scripting software for multiple platforms (Windows, Linux, Mac) which handles website file conversion.

Once installed, the desktop app's prefs must be configured to pluck websites. Selected web pages are plucked from the internet and converted for Plucker's Palm viewer. The conduit installs converted Plucker files via HotSync but does require that you run the parser prior to syncing. However, as Plucker is based on a scripting language, Plucker can be scripted to pluck sites on a regular schedule.

The Plucker Palm viewer app plus ZLib library file is a svelte 115k and offers the features of AvantGo and more. It supports color and grayscale, formatted HTML text, autoscroll, beaming, configurable toolbar locations, full-screen mode, a 'copy URL to Memo' feature, form and email support and a narrow font option.

Plucker has some drawbacks. Body text can't be copied to the clipboard, there is no high-res screen support, the DOS command line desktop tool may be slightly complicated for casual users without basic HTML knowledge.

Overall, Plucker is a powerful open source solution for grabbing web pages on various platforms if you're technically savvy. The Palm viewer app is a prime example of excellent, small footprint programming for the Palm.

Fling-It -- This open source tool from the University of Michigan is a variation of Plucker for Mac and Windows platforms. It was created so that elementary school kids could transfer websites directly onto Palm handhelds.

Fling-It differs from Plucker mainly in the way it moves websites onto a handheld. There is no desktop application -- instead, a 'Fling-It' menu is added to your web browser for flinging sites. When you find a site you want to fling, set the specs in the Fling-It menu, turn on your handheld and place it in a cradle (Serial only). With the handheld on, launch the Fling-It viewer app on the Palm and fling the site over.

Fling-It's 108k Palm viewer and required ZLib library is a specially modified version of the Plucker viewer so it offers similar features and limitations as its cousin.

Fling-It's main drawback is the cumbersome, live Palm-to-computer serial connection it requires. USB ports won't work and because Fling-It requires a live serial connection and user interaction, it can't be automated and it offers no way to save flung webpages as Palm .pdb files on a hard drive.

Fling-It is a great open source alternate to Plucker and works similarly to it. Fling-It is especially suited to users who prefer flinging sites as they encounter them, rather than a specific set of regularly read web pages.

Pendragon Browser -- Pendragon Browser is a nice, compact offline webpage reader and online Palm web browser.

The desktop app works much like other website grabbing tools, turning internet websites into files viewable on a handheld. The package can save regularly updated web pages and offers an automated update feature. Pendragon Browser is free for personal use, while corporate users must buy a $125, 5-license package.

The Pendragon Browser for Palm has a tiny 56k footprint and yet provides decent features. It's an online and offline browser supporting HTML files, Web Clippings and can save form data in offline mode and send it at the next HotSync. The Palm app requires Palm OS 3.0 or better.

Pendragon's browser's negatives are the Palm app's lack of color support, no full-screen mode, and no Mac or Linux conversion tool.

Overall, Pendragon Browser is a free, functional offline and online web browser and offline reader with basic features and a very small footprint.

Sitescooper -- A very powerful, open source Perl-based site 'scooping' tool. It doesn't require a particular viewer -- instead it scoops sites and saves them in text, HTML, Plucker, iSilo, RichReader or Doc formats.

However, Sitescooper's power comes at a price -- it can be daunting for a casual user to install. It's clearly aimed at tech-saavvy users, familiar with perl and complex install procedures. Sitescooper runs on Windows, Mac and Linux boxes with Perl and certain important modules installed.

Still, Sitescooper is a great tool for tech savvy users because of its many powerful options and multiple output formats.

Handheld-Friendly Website Listings -- If you choose an AvantGo alternative which doesn't offer a collection of pre-selected handheld-friendly websites you'll should visit a website with links of popular sites you can convert manually.



Small Sites:


Interestingly, some websites with official AvantGo channels also offer identical 'mobile' channels in a separate location. Aggregator sites often list these 'mobile' channels making the switch from AvantGo a bit easier.

Conclusion -- Whether you're a happy AvantGo user or are considering alternatives, I hope I've provided a clearer view of what's available. Special thanks to J. Kevin Wolfe and Gail Rohde for their research.

The Tipsheet Interview: Guy Orridge
This edition of the Tipsheet Interview features New Zealander Guy Orridge, a IT professional in the travel industry. Guy has had both a Palm IIIxe and Sony Clié T615 surgically implanted to his body for the past 4 years. He uses his Palm handheld to record ideas, manage his business and personal life, plan projects, keep his travels in order, read the news, track his golf scores and to play Bejeweled.

*PT: Guy, thank you for taking the time to share your Palm experience with the Palm Tipsheet.

Glad to be here!

*PT: You live in New Zealand -- 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?

Most of my friends and colleagues have handhelds, but this is probably due to the industry we are in -- Computer Reservations Systems for the airlines.

In general they are gaining in popularity but are still relatively expensive. Lack of choice had been a major reason but nowadays you can pretty much get hold of devices from the major manufacturers, but it still takes time for new models to filter down to the local market in New Zealand.

*PT: When you are using your Palm, what kinds of reactions do you see from people? Are they intrigued by your Palm? Do you have opportunities to 'evangelize' the Palm to them?

The usual reaction I have from people is that it's just a glorified diary. I travel a lot for a work, so I usually show people TravelTracker, CityTime or AvantGo, this usually gets people interested in finding out more about the Palm. Otherwise if I come across other Palm users we usually find out what each other have and beam programs across.

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

Travelling for a living means having my flights, hotel details, appointments etc., on hand is vital. I also use it for priority lists and working on personal projects such as a wine tracking program. I also like doing expenses at the end of each day and having all my contact details at hand in the Address Book. I use built-in apps for my agenda, to-dos and memos.

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

*TravelTracker -- superb for someone who travels a lot and great for tracking frequent flyer mileage:

*AvantGo -- reading news on the go:

*Quicksheet -- I use excel a lot in projects and found this to be the best as I can edit and create spreadsheets on the go:

* CityTime -- Invaluable, my partner is an air hostess and frequently away, so this helps with times to call, (i.e. if it's 10PM in Auckland what time it is in Bermuda?). It's also handy for working out several time zones at once when coordinating conference calls in between different countries:

*HandyShopper -- Used for packing lists and groceries:

*Currency -- Used to convert between various currencies:

*Bejeweled -- Great for passing the time:

*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'll probably buy a keyboard and keep an eye on where Bluetooh is heading.

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

I was seeing an important client and noticed he had a Palm IIIc, so we talked about the programs we use. I showed him CityTime, which I knew looks great in colour (at the time I used a Palm IIIxe). He asked me to beam it to him, so I did. I then switched on his unit, but I got a fatal error when I tapped the home icon. This occurred again after a reset. I was getting a bit worried that I had caused this as he was a very important client.

I asked if this had happened before and he said no. It only seemed to happen when tapping the home icon. He had that icon mapped to an old version of Launcher III, which kept giving the fatal error. I couldn't get to any other programs apart from the built-ins using the hard buttons!

Finally, I remembered some versions of Launcher III are not compatible with OS 3.5 and guessed this might be the case. After a hard reset, I went to the built-in launcher and deleted Launcher III. The fatal errors stopped and City Time worked just fine. After all that, all the client mentioned was how often his handheld had locked up before I did the troubleshooting!! :-)

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

Thanks for giving me the opportunity to evangalise the Palm in this corner of the world and a word of warning -- Bejewled is very, very addictive.

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 isn't already represented) and send an email to for consideration.

The list of upcoming interviews includes: Thailand, Venezuela, Malaysia, Chile, Singapore, Italy, The Philippines, Belgium, South Africa, Bahrain, Barbados, Russia, Romania, Honduras, Saudi Arabia, Greece, Argentina, Guatemala, Portugal, Slovenia, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Kenya, Croatia, Denmark and South Korea.

The list of past interviews includes users from: New Zealand, Mexico, Argentina, Canada, Switzerland, Spain, Israel, The Netherlands, India, Costa Rica, Ireland, Germany, Australia, Brazil, Britain, China, France, Japan, Norway, Poland, and Turkey. If you are from a country *not* represented on either list, feel free to apply with an an e-mail For consideration.


It's been great to have you here again for another issue. I hope my AvantGo alternatives article proves a useful guide. A special thanks to Guy Orridge for sharing his thoughts in the Tipsheet Interview!

Want more? Check out the Palm Tipsheet website for archived issues, article and interview listings, Tipsheet FAQ, the 'About the Tipsheet' area, our mobile edition 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, Editor

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Copyright 1998-2002 (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 by 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, in any language, in plain text, HTML, AvantGo or Palm doc formats.

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