Friday, December 31, 2004

Happy 2005 from a TamsPalm point of View

I am proud to welcome you all to the last TamsPalm post of this year. All of you shall have a nice silvester party without computer crashes, hardresets, palms drowning in alcohol, etc... .
While most other news portals are currently discussing important events, this blog handled that at christmas. So, now it is time for a little roadmap! Many things have been changed/improved and many more will change in the next few weeks. Treat this as a shortcut over all the upcoming events:

Things that already happened
  • TamsPalm's date settings were changed to match vienniese time. Now you know at what time data was posted!
Things that shall hapen soon
  • The counter provider shall be swapped for one last time. The new service will allow more efficient tracking of referrer sites, an thus effective controling of advertising effects
  • A shoutbox from NVNCBL(when they let me log on) or another provider will soon appear in the sidebar. Feel free to leave short posts behind there. To all who are new with the concept: A shoutbox is like a slow chat, where you can see posts that were there before you logged on.
  • When all problems with random HTML tags appearing in the Atom XML feed, a universal feed shall be made available to both RSS and Atom reader systems. The neccecary technology is already here-its only Blogger that needs to fix up the Atom system! Meanwhile, take a look at the stage of the procedures at http://tamspalm.blogspot.com/atom.xml
  • Obtaining the so-called permalink of an article(so that you can always access it directly) shall be simplified->just click the post title and get the link in a few weeks
  • A template change is planned(more PalmOS-related)
  • Maybe, the ads will move to the top of the page as the template gets changed
Things that might happen
  • TamsPalm may get a forum for more comfortable discussion(maybe in cooperation with one of the big portals)
  • Category list-find posts by category
  • Google Search-search the Web and the blog directly from TamsPalm
  • Link list-find Palm OS links and resources on the internet
  • Image gallery(dependant on cheap webhost and PHP skills)
What don't you like here. What do you have to suggest? I am looking forward to comments and oppinions! Thanks to all of you who keep visiting my blog! Lets see each other again in 2005.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

PODS and variables or standards vs. comfort

I recently ported a small, but working OnboardC project over to PODS 1.0 to benefit from the comfort of the large screen standing on my desktop. According to friendly advice gathered from the developer newsgroup, getting sources and XRD files to the PC was a painless process. After having faced a few minor difficulties at the Windows 2000 command prompt, everything was set. I now expected a painless build cycle - but the app didn't even survive the parser. Parse errors at almost every variable definition. An Update to the latest and greatest version didnt help. Treat this as an example:

switch(var)
{
//Useless code
case foo:
int bar;
//More useless code
}

A parse error occurs immediately when the code above is compiled-and the variable is not accepted. A short post at the user group brought enlightment to the coder-ANSI C requires that variable definitions must be the first code in a block-and this requirement isn't met above.
While some compilers(at least OnBoardC) accept variable definitions anywhere, the PODS(Ben Combee says that this is GCC's fault, as we all known PODS is based on GCC) is picky.
However, ANSI C has a comfortable way of combatting this problem-the creating of instruction blocks. Many C programmers treat the {} as a fixed part of the syntax-but actually they only group instructions together. Each block gets its own stack space-and can thus have lots of local variables. So, just put your code into a block-and alas, the PODS accepts it. The corrected example would look like this:

switch(var)
{
//Useless code
case foo:
{
int bar;
}
//More useless code
}

A possible second way is to change the C file uinto a C++ file by changing its filename to .cpp and then reinserting the file into the project-C++ dors not impose this limitation.

Altough it is difficult to call this 'pedantery' shortcoming or even bug, it can still pull nerves and cause headaches.
Feel free to comment!

P.S.This article isnt published to bash Palmsource. It should just save developer's time. PODS is a cool product in general, but knowing possible traps is always good.
Full disclosure: This article was sent to Ben Combee for correcting before it was published here!

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Protect your stylus-it saves your screen

Most of you want to keep their screen scratch-free. Some purchase adhesive screen protectors, others use overhead foils, and others put trust into hard cases. However, most users do not quite understand the importance of caring about their stylus. They chew on its front and back, ignoring that it also touches the screen.
Let's look at two different styli:

Both are stock PalmOne T1/T3 styli. However, one of the two was dropped twice and gnawed on for many, many times.
Soon, the overhead foil used with the "damaged" stylus began to get scratchy, and needed to be exchanged once a week. Accidentally, the stylus was exchanged against another one-and all problems were finished.
So, today's advice from Tam: Don't ever remove the stylus from its silo when you don't want to use it immediately. This reduces damage to screen protectors and screen. Gnawing/sratching/drumming may be nice for the nerves, but a bad screen....
Tell me your stylus/screen protection strategies!

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Acer vs. PalmSource-a phyrrus victory

Recently, PalmSource announced their quarterly bilances which were positive. In addition, a long-waged legal battle(vs. Acer) was won. Everything seems to be perfect-but the Wall Street does not share this view. PalmSource stocks plummeted down seriously, see the chart below for details:

My collegue at 1src accused the traders to hinder business. However, now lets take a look at their bilance. The profit wasn't that bad(2.1 million), and a special income of 2.6 Million USD appears. Without this "donation" from Acer, PalmSource would actually be negative(-0.4 Milion). While Palmsource performed worse last year(-9.1 Milion $), Handheld unit shippings also declined seriously, from 1.3 Million to 1.2 Million units. David Nagel himself announced that he wasn't too happy with the outcome, and that break-even shall be approximately reached this quarter.
In addition, Acer once was a Palm OS licencee. Few people know that Acer once produced Palm OS handhelds-here are a few handhirn pages about their devices:
http://www.handhirn.de/en/search.php?show=manufacturer&manufacturer=Acer
Now, lets have that sink in. Palmsource fought one of its licencees-as if they could breed licencees like they breed turtles in singapore. They may be positive now, but stock exchanges live off exectations and predictions. And when a licencee gets sued, he isn't all that likely to produce another device with the OS of the suer. Sony already left the ship, now Acer will follow suite. Handspring and Handera are dead-and the remaining companies products aren't that popular. It looks like PalmSource gets more and more PalmOnes pet-but why did the companies split up in the first place then?
What do you think about this topic?

i took my Information from a german source-Find a few english analyst reports here:
http://www.iii.co.uk/

Friday, December 24, 2004

The palmary christmas speech

Well, it is christmas now. The announced promotions will soon end, and everything will be back to normal soon. There is-however-one last item waiting to be grabbed: Handango gives away free software each week(its MobileDB currently, looks like open-source databases/Mobile Access finally get better). In addition, there are a few promotions floating around the different boards and forums-if you still need presents, StylusCentral is said to have this nifty 20% price drop... .
Now, thats enough said about promotions. This re was full of movement and change for the Palm community-CEOs quit, Palm.net died, a WIFI card, Tapwave, Sonys retreat, OLED screens, another m505-like "runt", native Powerpoint and more. Only one thing stayed the same-Palm1s customer care. This article is written on a T3 that was repaired three times now-and came back with the wrong display type(no more stagelights, dim is just perfect for bad eyes in Palmones oppinion).
I wish all my readers a merry christmas-TamsPalm will of course be updated regularily in the vacation weeks.
There's only one more question waiting to be answered: Will Mike Cane dare to write his prognosis this year?
All best!!!

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Sarcasm: The Tungsten T5 Stylus or applied Zire72 methodology

Recently, different users report their T5 styli becoming blue or black where touched after a short time. See the different userboards for photos and discussions!

PalmOne's customer care does not seem to care about the problem-like with my comrade's Tungsten T. The paint was falling off, but service was only offered on grace. Palm's limited warranty explicitly excludes the physical appearance-so no chance unless fuzz is generated.
Now, lets take a look from another side: the Zire 72 view. The blue plastic was falling off, and what happened? A special version of the handheld was released, that simply wasn't painted. Think of it-it isn't a bug, its a feature. When the stylus accepts fingerprints, it has a special intrudion protection feature. You can immediately find out who used your handheld. This sarcastic thoughts motivated me to the following comic:

Multifunctionality everywhere, God save the PalmOne.
BTW, feel free to comment. How do you like the comic, what can be improved....

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

(Christmas) promotion/giveaway-handle with care

Its christmas time. We all love it for its promotions and shopping opportunities. Developers offer huge discounts and sometimes even free applications. Everything is fine in palmieland...
However, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Everybody wants to make money, and nobody has anything to give away! I already urged developers to participate in giveaways a few weeks back, and it looks like quite a few companies had the same ideas. Lets take Astraware as an example:
They have given away a few old programs for free and paired it with hefty discounts. Users had to visit the Astraware store to reclaim the freebies. Thus, many users will visit the page and get the free programs. As they navigate through the different views, many will also take one or another of the discounted programs... .
This fictional approach may not be 100% what AstraWare thought, but it should get pretty close. When you look at the programs that they give away, it is pretty clear that there is no loss involved. Nobody would buy them anyway, so give them away for free and generate sales.....
So, to cut the story short: A discount is not neccecarily a loss. Give away some junk and get rich at it...
Come on, tell me what you think about/how you handle sales!

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Thoughts about buying a new mobile phone

It cannot be beleived-good ole T68i-using Tam got himself a new phone. Actually, it was my mobile phone provider and my father jinxing me into accepting a free phone upgrade - and so I went today, ending up having a long talk with my T-Mobile store clerk(he is an expert on mpbile phones and handhelds) and buying a Sony Erricson T630.
Well, then following points seemed noteworthy to me:
1) Question-Which phone should I get that works with my Palm?
The answer of the clerk immediately was-get anything Sony Erricson and be on the safe side. I do not know why this company has such a high reputation for beeing compatible, maybe it was because of the CLIEs. I really don't know.
2)Question-Where have the TREOs gone to
The clerk said that he didn't know why T-Mobile does not run any Palm powered smartphone, altough they had them on offer a few years ago. Its all blackberry and MDA there. However, the following sentence was issued: "They were always very difficult when it came to exchanges". I can actually understand T-Mobile here, I am currently at Exchange numer ten or so with my Tungsten T3.

After having opened my T630, thought struck me. The phone was full of images, sounds and games-and most important of all, most of it was T-Mobile branded in one sort or the other. The battery even was charged to 50%. Basically, immediately after switching the device on, you have an enormous WOW-Factor. Now compare this to a stock Palm. Turn it on, and nothing... Maybe a few boring images of a mountain and a bridge-but no stuff that really gives bang. Most of the cool stuff hides in the CD, only to be seen after purchasing the device..

I now wonder why licencees can't put all the stuff in the ROM of their devices instead of cramming it on a CD. This would really increase the impressiveness of the handheld... . even Microsoft took this up by now, fixly bundling two pretty addictive games with the OS-Jawbreaker and Solitaire. I wonder why PalmSource can't integrate games into the OS too-they neednt be big or difficult. Impressive visuals and bang-thats all what counts.
BTW, if PalmSource needs a game programmed, contact me. I will try my best!

Your comments are appreciated...

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Update wisely-and be loved(Part 2)

Welcome back, fellow readers for the second part of the updating article. In case you missed out on the first piece, find it at
2)Force users to update-they will hate you for it
This example comes from Agendus, where the version 8.006 does not work well on Tungsten T5 and Treo 650 handhelds. However, version 9.0 works well. Now, at the first look, this is perfectly o.k. Version 8 got discontinued-and version nine came out. But why did users make a terrible fuzz here? Well, I see two reasons here:
The first reason was the short time between the versions, where each was about half a year from each other. Even huge companies like Microsoft leave at least one year of development between the versions-according to 1), users feel more of the development this way. The second problem with Agendus is that a more-less buggy product was abandoned, so users felt forced to update in order to be able to use what they already bought. Of course, this will not be accepted....
3)Increase version numbers fast and keep your updates expensive
Now we are in the king's class of annoying users. Documents to Go version 7 is an excellent program(I tested it on a comrade's T3 and loved it). However, most users were pretty unhappy about the update. The reason was simple-the update was way too dear. When a program costs x, let the update be about x/4. Prices can of course vary a bit, depending gn how much cash your users have.
Regardless of how much your program costs, the update must be significantly cheaper to keep buyers happy. lf you want to be a nice developer, give away a free update to those users who bought your program-say-30 days before the new version came out. In addition, have your CustomerCare offer a few grace days to reduce bickering...

BTW, a companion in a german foroum thought about releasing an update once a day to stay in the Toplist at the portal-I can only say: check out GravityBall, dude..

Well, that's it about updates for now-come back for more Palm stuff regularily! And-don't forget to comment...

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Update wisely-and be loved(Part 1)

Users all over the world tend to see iambic as an ill-mannered company. Documents To Go 7-an uproar about why this product wasn't called v6.012. GravityBall-german users unhappy because of too many, daily updates.
-different reports and quotes from german boards and the vienniese PUG

All the cases above represent unhappy users-users unhappy with updates of the software they once bought cheerfully. An unhappy user generates fuzz-more than 100 happy users. And many unhappy users get you a place on this blog-as counterexample. To prevent you from beeing the next example, you will now find a short description of why each of the three products mentioned above failed and a few other hints too. It is not my intent to point fingers at anyone-I just want to save other developers from making the same mistakes.
1)Over-updating kills your user base (GravityBall)
Young developers-usually-are eager. They like to code and enjoy supplying their fellow users with the latest features and levels straight from the compiler. Not every release works well though. Thus a bugfix follows each release, usually followed by another release with even more features as an apology to users. Alas, a circulum vituosum starts off... While fast update cycles are ok in a CVS, they tend to annoy users. Keep in mind that the user has to visit his portal or launch his email app, download the program,... .
Many game developers think that they help their users by releasing a new level once a day. However, think of a game with 100 levels. When the developer updates once a day, game value increases by approx. 1% each time. Nobody will really feel that. When the developer updates once a week though, thats 7%. And that will be felt, beleive me! So, don't update too often-users will not feel the improvements that much and will get annoyed in the process.
Tune in on friday for the rest-look forward to the following dont's:
  • Force users to update-they will love you for it
  • Increase version numbers fast and keep your updates expensive

Until then, feel free to discuss your software updating processes.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Oh no-my Palm doesn't run anti-virus software

Recently, my password manager got richer by one entry-the login data for 1src's forum. One of the hottest topics discussed anti-virus software for the Palm OS. Many different programs were suggested-some free and some hilariously expensive. However, nobody was there to tell the poor souls the truth about the problem: they were making a huge fuzz about nothing.....
Practically, 4 virii are currently known on Palm OS handhelds-and none of them is easily available(not even in the underground, beleive me as I am there-more about this some other day). After downloading a few hundred programs from different sources, the virii still didn't pop up. Even the zillions of spam mails hitting the inbox never bore one of these elusive files in their womb.
A short google search brought up interesting lists of details about the malwares.
To save you the effort of reading: the damage caused by these programs is local-you loose all of your data in the worst case. That is, if you synchronize the infected handheld(usually you will notice the virus pretty fast). However, the virus doesn't spread itself via email or working programs-once infected, the programs transform into copies of the virus. If the program works on the other handheld, it can be beamed/sent around safely.

So, to cut a long story short: Virii for Palm powered handhelds do exist in theory-but practically nobody finds them. No average palm user needs an antivirus program on his handheld-and discussions or advertising people should maybe just be given a link to this page.
Tell me what you think(if you manage to find one of the virii-please mail it to me).

Saturday, December 11, 2004

5way nav et al-fighting the button-o-rama

Recently, more and more licencees start to integrate the five-way navigators that were introduced with OS5. In addition, the licencees always could introduce their own hardware buttons. While users enjoy the flexibility of the extra knobs, developers have to wrestle with different keycodes that can only be obtained in the licencee's SDKs. It's the usual thing in Palmieland-the tech is here, but where is the standard/who implements it?
This article will present you with a few hints to "improve your odds" when hardware buttons are concerned!
1)Harness the switch, dude
Most developers know switch as universal solution to problems where multiple choices need to be handled. Less developers know that the break; following the end of each case statement can be omitted-the program will compile o.k. However, the switch block will not be exited. The code of the cases below will get executed until the block ends or a break; is found. Now, lets say that one licencee defines a buttons keycode as 1101, the other as 1102. The following switch(its pseudocode) would handle both the same:
switch(keycode)
{
case 1101:
case 1102:
HandleButton();
break;
//Other buttons
}
2)Let the user select the buttons
Some developers have found a really innovative solution for the problem. Since keycodes stay the same for the whole lifetime of a device, they can be stored as application preferences. When the app starts for the first time, a special form pops up requesting the user to press the hardware button he wants to assign(and a cancel button if he "runs out" of buttons). The form's event handler traps and handles the keydownevents and stores the keycodes in the preferences(see the Palm OS documentation/the datebook sample for details).
Then, when a real keydownevent is encountered, the input is compared with the stored values. However, if must be used for the comparation, as switch expects constants.

Tell me how you solve your button-related events. I am looking forward to a lively discussion!

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Palm OS and Linux

There are new and crazy news-PalmOS and Linux gang up some way or the other! PalmSource today issued the following open letter to the Linux Community:
http://www.palminfocenter.com/view_story.asp?ID=7383
Now, what should that bring? Wasn't OS6's kernel totaly rewritten just a few months ago? Lets face it-there is quite a lot of Linux/Unix applications that can now be ported easier, while still not needing the fat X11 implementation and a window manager for dispaying graphics. PalmOS will be a layer on the top of Linux, maybe replacing the X11 and other Linux GUI parts.

In my oppinion, the main reason for this port is different, however. The Linux Kernel runs on x86, MIPS,RISC, SPARC,.... CPUs, while the PalmOS is bound to ARM CPU platforms only and will be difficult to port. Now, licencees can use their existing handheld hardware and snatch a linux kernel for it-and alas, it is Cobalt compatible! The PalmOS layer still contains PACE though, so most 68k applications will work without porting. Native Cobalt apps will need to be recompiled for the Linux PalmOS version, but will then run too!

So, maybe we shall soon experience the PalmOS runing on different mobile phones and handhelds-even if they do not support ARM CPU's. I personally think that Cobalt isn't widely accepted because it is pretty complicated to design a hardware that can work with it! However, Linux runs everywhere-and so, soon Cobalt shall be there too...

I am as always-looking forward to comments!

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Low-Res isn't dead

Recently, more and more software titles get released that don't support grayscale or lowres displays anymore, e.g. Bejeweled 2 from Astraware. Users wanting to play the game should upgrade their handhelds. It is simply too much effort to create a low-res port......

When you think about this at first it makes perfect reason. All new handhelds have a High-Res Screen, and the Zires are dead anyway. Nobody wil ever buy an app for a 99$ handheld....
However, this definitely isn't true. Four best-selling PalmOne Handhelds have either a LowRES or a grayscale display(Zire, Zire 21, Zire 31, Treo 600), and in addition, there is a huge user base with older handhelds too! Stripping off features from the all-new graphics engine is definitely painful, seeing all the visual eye-candy going down the drain! You investend hours and hours into pixel FX and shadows, only to cut them out now. A developers heart will break th the thought of it.
But, dont cry too much! The stripped-down version will consume much less power than the old one(less calculations), and will also be attractive to an entirely different user base! The high-end-Palmers will still use their optimized version, but the low-end boys can buy your product too. And that leads to more revenue, which is always good!

I am-as always-looking forward to comments!

Monday, December 06, 2004

The VGA-Train wont drive over us yet

Palm's time at the zenith of high-resolution displays seems to be over. The PocketPCs now ship with VGA displays that have a resolution of 640x480. These displays have 100% more pixels than the best HiRes+-Palms. Look at the graphic below for a comparison of a few different screen sizes:
Attention-This graph has a little bug-QVGA is 320x240(but the dimensions are right)! I will fix it when I get home!
Tam Hanna

This looks like we are behind the PPC once again. But, as so many times before, the operating system is the part that slows the platform down.
While fonts and buttons look smoother, the better screen does not show significantly more information. The statement above is also true for most other core components of Windows Mobile 2003SE. When Sony shipped the first CLIE, it's OS was optimized to the max-the user immediately had the advantage of beeing capable to display more data. However, it won't be that easy to promote a device where the OS does not work well with the screen-core components can't be updated by third-party engineers that easily. And even if the user installs VGA-capable applications, some components still stay 'Low-Res'.
Concludingly, the VGA PPCs aren't that much of a threat as one may beleive. Their hardware is definitely better, but the OS doesn't support the new features. So, we are back in the old situation-the PPC's hardware rules, but the simplicity of the Palm OS equalizes the equation just like in the old days of the IIIc.
I am-as allways-waiting for comments.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

New marketing method-Giveaways make rich

Recently, I wondered why many portals(also Information ones, not only software vendors) give away a few free licences in a lottery-like game! You just type Email Address and Name, and off it goes. Well, the portals definitely don't make any income from this-so why do they do it then?
When you look at these giveaways a second time, you immediately understand that only people visiting the portal can participate. Thus, a possible reason is generation of new visitors! But, people who don't know about the portal won't even hear about the giveaway-and thus won't come. This reason cannot really be accepted then! Criminal motivations(selling the addresses) will be left aside now..
However, looking more detailledly at the pages, usually a list of prices can be found. As software portals are getting more and more expensive(an ad for SplashPhoto was spotted in a german newspaper called c't), it gets more and more difficult to tell users about your new or updated app! But without advertising, nobody will find the program. Nowadays, even the smallest categories at PalmGear's contain more than hundred applications!
When the user participates in a giveaway, he usually looks at the prices to know what he can win there! And alas, he sees the new/updated app. His interest is awaken, and he googles up a demo version that should be readily available and not too crippled! If he wins it, he is lucky. If not, there is a chance that he buys it off his favourite portal!
So, to cut a long story short: Developers, support giveaways at your local/global portal! If you offer a few licences of your app for free, you may get 20 times as many registrations and net a nice profit. The "loss" that you make will still be much less than the cost for a newspaper ad(the c't is expensive, boys). In addition, users will think of you as a "nice" developer.
And that's always good!

Friday, December 03, 2004

Mice for PDA's

Brighthand today reviewed a mouse for PocketPCs-and the reviewer was full of praise for the unit. The Targus product connects to the PocketPC via Bluetooth and then works like a regular desktop mouse! Impressive, isn't it? The left mouse button works well with most PC apps(replaye stylus tap), but e.g. the right mouse button isn't suported. By the way, neither Smartphones with Symbian nor Palm OS handhelds are supported.
This report lines up with the information that a new HP PocketPC has a touchpad instead of the 5-Way navigator that can opeate like a notebook's touchpad! It looks like PDA's will soon move away from the touchscreen...

Actually, when I have a keyboard on my PDA with a big screen(like a Tungsten T3), I sometimes long for a mouse too in order to save me the grip to the stylus. A Notebook-like Unit like the UX50 would also become more usable if equipped with a mouse.
However, with an IIIc or another Low-Res handheld, the mouse pointer would practically just take up way too much screen space. And using it on the go would be a pain too. I can still remember trying to use my Gericom Notebook with an external mouse(yes, it was a 486) in a car....
In addition, many third-party developers haven't yet added support for mice into their Applications. Also, PDA's are intended to be small. Mice, however, need to be approximately as big as half a hand-so they will incrase the size of the units.

Concludingly, Mice are a good idea, but not for everyone. I don't that PPCs will become more mouse-centric, because well-a touchscreen still is faster than using a mouse or touchpad(that's why I dont own a Laptop). In addition, Mice require too much space when used-PDA's must still stay small and comforatble to use on the go!

Tell me your experiences? Have you ever used a PDA with a mouse? Did you like it? I am-as always-eagerly waiting for comments and discussion!!

Thursday, December 02, 2004

WLAN/Wifi - Part Tapwave + Free email client

I alreay thought that the Wifi topic was finished-but hell, am I wrong! The boys at Tapwave's have recently released drivers for a multitude of Wifi cards and also a mail app for the Zodiac.
While the official anouncement at the Tapwave homepage states that a PalmOne WIFI card is required, other pages at Tapwave's state that a Sandisk card shall be used. In addition, Tapwave states that the older Sandisk card with additional 256MB of memory on-board shall be supported pretty soon.
In addition, Tapwave released a Zodiac version of PalmSources email client available for free to all Zodiac owners. The program's feature list seems to be quite impressive, as it supports attachments, IMAP and POP3 and even SSL. The documentation that ships with the program still says PalmSource Cofidential at the bottom side of each page and states that OS 5.4 is required. This is amusing because the Zodiac runs on a OS 5.2 derivate! I tested the program on my Tungsten T3, and it installed alright. Even the setup app worked. The program itself didn't start up though-looks like Tapwave checks the device creator feature to limit the program to its own devices.

Now, if that isn't customer support! Tungsten T owners are stil waiting for a free VersaMail or WebPro update. We see that Tapwave-unlike other manufacturers-is really caring about its customers. When my TT3 breaks(or I get a refund for it), my next handheld will definitely be a Zod. That's a company that earns every cent of my money for a change!

Multitasking with non-cobalt PalmOS

Multitasking is one of the oldest discussion topics-essentially, it exists in three variants: Does a Handheld OS need it, how does it work in Cobalt and how does it work in older Versions of the OS?

Here, I will discuss the third incarnation. The Palm OS documentation itself contains the following passage:

The Microkernel

Palm OS has a preemptive multitasking kernel that provides basic task management.

As we see, the Palm OS is a Multitasking OS. Now, why can't more than one App run at the same time? Applications run in a special program called UIAS. Palm licenced the original kernel used in the 68k machines from an RTOS manufacturer called Kadak or Kodak. In order to reduce the licence price, Palm agreed to keep the multitasking API hidden from third-party developers. Thus, there was no need to make the rest of the OS multitasking-capable. Only the parts that needed to multi-task(e.g. Hotsync, TCP-IP-Stack, sound streams) were coded in a special way to allow this kind of operation. This is the reason why the creation of Cobalt took that much time.

Now, that doesn't help the developer trying to create the impression of multitasking. After reading lots of documentation and discussing with others on the developer forums, I see two ways of solving the problem:

The first method is to take a look at the Palm OS sources in the resource pavillion (Hotsync,TCP/IP-Stack) and at the functions labeled system only. BTW, the only documentation about them is in the source file where they reside-there is more there than in the books. PalmSource insiders say that this method is difficult because of the badly designed code-but still possible. However, a program created this way will need thorough testing on each handheld to ensure compatibility.

The second way is officially documented by Palmsource and also widely implemented-actually, I experience it right now. This blog article was written in my Tungsten's Memo application. I switched over to Plucker to retreive the passage about the microkernel. When I returned, the memo was in the same state. I had a really comfortable feeling doing all of this, because my handheld stayed blazingly fast. Unlike the PocketPC, the application had no chance to damage any data without me noticing immediately. When every developer implements this behaviour into his program(s), the multitasking experience is perfect. The preferences allow easy storage of the data needed for such a process. The Palm OS UI Guidelines provide additional infos on the topic-look it up in the section on exiting applications.

Comment about this article, please. I am always interested in hearing developer's oppinions.