Palm Computing® Resources
by John Walker
To each generation, its badge of the geek! When I was maturing
from nerdlet to proto-geek, it was the slide rule, the bigger and
fatter the better, preferably carried in a leather holster
on your belt. Then along came the first Hewlett-Packard
calculators in the 1970's, and soon the HP-35, HP-45, and
the programmable HP-65 were all the rage--and they
came with leather holsters too!
The plastic pocket protector, ideally stuffed with at least
six pens of different colours has endured for decades, but
with the paperless lifestyle now becoming the epitome of
geek chic, there's little need for one pen, no less half a
dozen. So what now? PalmPilots, of course! When I attended a
computer conference in April 1999 in California, I was
about the only person there who didn't have one; everybody
else was scribbling away with their styli during the sessions
and infrared beaming business cards and cool programs to
one another during the breaks. One fellow even showed up with
an electric car whose diagnostic connector he'd managed to
interface to a PalmPilot so he could monitor details of
the battery state while driving.
Geeky, programmable in C, and by golly there's even a leather
belt holster available--needless to say when I boarded the plane back to
I was packing my own brand new
Palm IIIxTM organiser
and the O'Reilly
book. After the inevitable slow-going involved in mastering
the first completely new software environment I'd encountered
in the last decade, I became comfortable developing for the
platform and have written, to date, the following utilities.
All are in the public domain, include source code, and may be
used in any manner, including incorporation in your own
programs without any restrictions whatsoever.
The following programs run on the Palm Computing device
and some include companion desktop applications.
When I wrote The Hacker's Diet
in 1989-1991, I developed a set of computer tools to illustrate
various topics discussed in the book and to facilitate dieting
and weight management. All of these tools were Microsoft Excel
spreadsheets, many with associated macro packages. The Excel
version of the tools remains available today and may be
from this site.
The Palm Computing Platform is an ideal host for the centrepiece
of The Hacker's Diet computer tools: the weight and
health monitoring system. The key concept of The Hacker's
Diet is that, simply by monitoring one's weight on a
day-to-day basis, it is possible to determine, over time, the
actual balance between the number of calories you eat (whatever
the food) and the number you burn (however active you are).
This balance determines whether you will gain, lose, or maintain
a constant weight, and since it's easy to determine the number
of calories you eat, knowing the balance allows you to adjust
your meals to achieve and maintain whatever weight goal you
I call this the
A regular watch tells you what time it is. The Eat Watch
tells you when it's time to eat, and how much. Wearing
a watch doesn't make you punctual; but it provides the information
you need to be so, if that's your goal. Neither does the Eat
Watch guarantee you'll maintain the weight you choose, but
it too provides the essential information you need to accomplish
Once you've become accustomed to having a Palm around, it's
probably never far from your side; many people use it as an
alarm clock in addition to its many other functions. So it only
takes a couple of seconds to write your daily weight into the
Palm Eat Watch
application, right after you weigh yourself.
There's no need for paper logs, copying them to Excel, or for
that matter Excel or any Microsoft products whatsoever, and you
can immediately review your progress, weight trend, calorie
balance, and charts right on the Palm. Weight logs on the Palm
are automatically backed up to your desktop computer whenever
you HotSync and a companion desktop utility allows you to export
logs as illustrated HTML documents including charts, or in CSV
format for transfer to other applications.
The following programs run on desktop machines (for example,
Unix or Windows) but process files in formats used by the
Palm Desktop software.
If you're developing for the Palm platform, sooner or later you're
probably going to want to look at the contents of a Palm resource
) or database (.pdb
) file on the desktop.
dumps these files with header and record
information in human readable form and the contents of each record or
resource in side-by-side hexadecimal and ASCII/ISO character form.
runs on Windows and most Unix platforms and
is insensitive to byte order and structure packing conventions of
the desktop platform. A ready to run WIN32 executable file is
included along with complete source code.
Once you've developed a Palm application you may ask yourself,
"Now how do I get the database it needs from the desktop machine
onto the handheld?
is a generic
(non-application specific) desktop program which accomplishes this.
It takes an arbitrary desktop file, text or binary, and embeds it into
a Palm Program DataBase .pdb
file. Once you've created a PDB
file with PDBMake
you can install it on the handheld (or
emulator) just like any other application or database. When you next
HotSync, the database will be installed, then your application can
access it through the usual Data Manager mechanisms.
runs on Windows and Unix platforms, and is
insensitive to platform byte order and structure padding conventions.
Complete source code and a ready-to-run WIN32 executable are included.
Don't you just hate it
when you're about to close a
clandestine munitions deal and your partner raises a
question about the relative applicability of Rules of
Acquisition 35 and 177? You'd look like a lobeless altruist
if you had to stop and ask whether Rule 35 is "Peace is good for
business" or "War is good for business"! Install this Memo
Pad document containing a compendium of the Rules of
Acquisition on your Palm OS®
profit from the distilled wisdom of generations of Ferengi
in the palm of your hand. Since this reference is provided
as a Memo Pad archive, you can read it using the built in
PalmOS Memo Pad application; there's no need to install a
document reader application, and you can modify the document
using the Memo Pad editing functions.
Airline pilots, military personnel, cops, amateur radio operators, and
others who need to accurately transmit sequences of letters
and numbers across voice communication links with limited
fidelity mostly rely on a phonetic alphabet developed in the
1950's by NATO. This document provides both a
to the phonetic alphabet and a version you can download
and install on your
Palm OS handheld
There's nothing better to fill those odd moments of
downtime . . . standing in line at the post office or
supermarket check-out, waiting in the dentist's
office for your name to be (gulp) called, whiling
away that seemingly endless interval between
blinding flash and deafening
report . . . than whipping
out your PDA (PalmPilot, PocketPC, etc.) for a little
light reading. Aleatory occasions for literary
indulgence of unpredictable temporal extent demand works
which don't require a great deal of concentration nor a
long attention span; early 20th century juvenile pulp
fiction fills the bill superbly. I've been reading through
the original Tom Swift novels written by
Victor Appleton between 1910 and 1941 on my PDA; here's
a library so you can do likewise, should you wish. These
books are based upon the Project
Gutenberg Etext editions, but reformatted for reading on a
handheld computer with
or any of its predecessors. HTML, PDF, and plain ASCII editions
suitable for reading online or printing are also available.
The modest collection of titles will grow slowly and sporadically
as I work my way through the series.
by John Walker