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PalmOS on Raspberry Pi (pmig96.wordpress.com)
169 points by Tijdreiziger on Sept 10, 2021 | hide | past | favorite | 86 comments

I worked on the original PalmOS. This is TREAT to see. thank you thank you for making my month!

I still use my Palm T3 every day (well, every working day at least). There's a TimeSheet application for PalmOS which I've never been able to replace with anything for Android or anything else. It's still going strong, original battery from 2004. I actually have two T3, the one I use now is one I bought new in 2004, the other one I bought used around the same time (that one has the Sanyo (I think) LCD, this one the Sony LCD).

For the second hand T3 I bought a Lithium Poly battery with slightly higher capacity and replaced the original one (there was a huge thread about the procedure on BrightHand at the time), and used that T3 most of the time for many years, until the battery gave out. So now the other one is the one I use - and the battery is still fine.

In the past I used the T3 for many things, with a wifi adapter it was my wireless email/network gadget, I used TomTom software for navigation, etc. But now it's just that TimeSheet application, and I'll probably continue using that for years to come.

There are PalmOS android emulators so conceivably you can run the TimeSheet app on it on Android: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.perpendox.... https://www.styletap.com/

Do note that neither of them works very well on recent Android devices.... the first one has many bugs including wrong timing (e.g. everything is accelerated), and is also 68k only (so PalmOS < 5.0), while the second one is "HLE", incredibly expensive, doesn't look at all like PalmOS, the UI is annoying, Alarms work flaky, etc.

Wonderful that you use the time sheet still. Something about their software design was so simple and efficient I use the contacts software daily. It's Installed on Windows7 and 10, and Mac, and Unix. It is still the best most logical. Anna adaptive contacts manager. Also converted to Android, where it's useable, but not so flexible.

Very interesting, Is there any particular feature in that TimeSheet application which you do not find in Android/iOS apps?

Palm had a set of "rules" for programmers as to how the UI should work - and one was that nothing should take more than 3 clicks, IIRC. The needs I have for a time sheet app is to simply keep track whenever I change what I work on during the day. I may be working on project 1234, then someone wants me in a meeting on project 6566 work package 312, and my time app must keep track of that. The TimeSheet app does that in the simplest way possible - I do exactly one click, and it tracks the other project.

During the day I may have to work on a number of projects, for shorter or longer periods. I have a list of those projects and work packages in TimeSheet. When the time comes to input all of that into the corporate time system TimeSheet presents me with the total sum of all work packages for each day (and other ways, if I need them).

It's extremely simple. I just can't find anything with the same easy functionality on Android or elsewhere. They seem to have a different focus, and way too many clicks to go through.

Thanks for the detailed explanation, I have to see some PalmOS videos to understand it better.

Ah man, the T3. I wanted to love it. Between the buzzy screen, astonishingly hot Wi-Fi card, and poor battery life I just couldn't do it. I swapped to a Tungsten C.

Reading Brighthand reviews was my introduction to tech lust. Terrible shame the only archived versions are text-only.

PalmOS was a HUGE part of my childhood (I begged my parents to buy me the first edition Handspring Visor). Thanks for your work!

I spent a lot of time playing with Kyle’s Quest on my Visor

I used to love making custom games for Kyle's Quest! I wish games like that existed today.

I used my palm for book reading waaaaaaaay before ebook readers or even cheap tablets were a thing. I don't know how many hundreds or thousands of hours I spent on it but its a significant number. It's still around here somewhere, and worked when I last tried it.

Oh yeah, especially with the eReader app and desktop software. Drop whatever ebook you want into it and get it converted to PDB. The default palmos font was incredibly easy on the eyes too.

And no problem using it under strong sunlight (models with transflective TFT LCD).

Wow, this just inspired me to pull my old Palm IIIe out from the drawer. My first thought was it was hopeless because the battery is probably dead and no one still makes that battery. But I was wrong, it refreshingly uses two AAA batteries. I put them in and it turned on and seems to be working great! My old iPhones will probably never boot up again.

My favorite part from an Amazon review of Palm m125:

"Another negative feature with this specific model is the poor battery life. The m125 requires 2 AAA batteries (included), however they only last aprox. 2.5 weeks under normal use (compared to the 1-2 months of the m105 and most other PDA's)."

I don't know much about electronics or iPhone hardware. Does anyone know if it would be possible to get old devices with dead batteries to boot when connected to a proper power supply? I don't mean a cell phone charger, but connecting the positive and ground (and whatever else?) from a bench power supply to the appropriate solder points on the phones mainboard itself?

One of the people I follow on Twitter collects old electronics and I’ve seen him do some pretty interesting hacks to boot his vintage devices without using the long-dead original battery. I’ve seen him use 2 different rechargeable battery packs used for development boards attached to the battery terminals of an older laptop and even seen him using a screwdriver tip with leads attached to fit inside the female power port of an older device.

I don’t know his exact Twitter handle but you can find him under “foone”


I follow him too. He's a treat and always so interesting. Happy to give him a bit of extra publicity. His links always show up on HN.

I don't think you can just pretend your PSU is a battery, since real battery has a data connection to give it health and charge information, although I have no idea how hard it would be to just mimic that interface

Yes, feed 3.3V to + and - pins. Exact voltages may vary.

almost all apple idevices will not run plugged in if the battery is dead. thought I could do this on an old click wheel iPod but nope, had to replace the battery before i could use it. it did not use to be common, i had no issues keeping other devices like my xperia play powered on when removing the battery, but that is also a device where the battery is meant to be user replaceable.

Lots of battery-powered gadgets cannot run off the charger alone, because they rely on the battery as a massive capacitor to handle transient current spikes that are beyond the capacity of any cheap, compact charger.

But that's entirely different from replacing the battery itself with an expensive bench power supply. That can definitely work, especially if it's a high-end source/measure unit capable of being programmed to emulate the discharge curve of a real battery.

"Lots," eh?

Every laptop I've ever owned will run with the battery disconnected.

Except the Macbook, of course.

The simple fact of the matter is that Apple routinely makes design decisions that are not only questionable, but compromise the usable life of the device in the process. And keep repeating the same mistakes over and over.


Having reduced or nonexistent performance after removing the battery was never normal. It's bad design. Period.


It's not just Apple. I can confirm that a Samsung Galaxy Note S4 will not run from its original charger on its own. A Battery is required during boot (whether to act as supply for current peaks, compensate for losses on the thin cable during such current peaks or whether the system expects to talk to the controller built into the battery, I cannot say).

You said "almost all apple idevices", which pretty clearly indicated you were talking about more than just laptops. I replied in that context.

Your argument is that iDevices like the iPod and iPhone require more stringent 'massive capacitor' power delivery with an inline battery over... more power demanding/complex devices like laptops? And other phones that had removable batteries?

Sounds like an attempt to handwave away bad design principles.

The extent to which a device relies on the battery as a capacitor even when plugged in depends on both the peak current draw of the device, and the size of the charger.

Smaller devices like phones tend to be paired with downright tiny chargers, but modern smartphone SoCs can draw a lot of power in short bursts (cf. all the controversy about Apple trying to prevent brown-outs when operating the phone with a worn-out battery). Apple's laptops are usually paired with power bricks that roughly match the maximum sustained power draw of the laptop. Windows gaming laptops tend to ship with power bricks that are 2-3x larger than any Apple power brick.

I tried to get my zire 71 working a while back but sadly it wouldn't come to life, presume the battery gave out.

It was a wonderful piece of technology though, especially in the pre smart phone days

I had a couple of PalmOS devices back 20 years ago. I think my last one was a Sony CLIÉ. WiFi, this newfangled thing called Bluetooth that I could use to transfer files to the Nobody Else I Knew Who Had Bluetooth, digital camera (it wasn't too bad for the time), MP3 player, and a Memory Stick Pro slot for removable storage for all those MP3s and pictures. It had this beautifully tactile selector dial on the side. You could roll it with your thumb to move menu selections up and down, then press it in to click. Oh, it was so good.

I switched to PocketPC/Windows Mobile shortly after that, though. Dell Axim, IIRC. The screens were nicer. They had CF card slots for removable storage and peripheral devices. The WiFi wasn't as flaky and it even had a basic 3D graphics accelerator. I could program for it in C#, and it was very easy, no more difficult than programming on desktop. Actually, I experimented for a while with writing apps that ran on both desktop Windows and Windows Mobile and it was quite a fascinating experience.

That was a problem with PalmOS. If you wanted to develop for them, you either got stuck using J2ME (which was hot garbage), or you had to pay to get access to a C compiler. PocketPC and .NET Micro Framework were significantly much lower barrier to entry. Completely unlike trying to figure out Android development today. I think that's why I never really bothered to learn Android development. I've never really had an impetus to push me to chug through the learning curve, plus I already knew it didn't have to be that stupid. I've rathered stick to webdev and make whatever I need as mobile responsive PWAs.

I look at my smartphone today and it has never felt as good as that CLIÉ or Axim.

I think your PalmOS experience must have been from a specific time period.

The earliest PalmOS systems had gcc, don't remember there being any commercial tools, this was before Java had been released.

Actually an appropriate gcc target didn't exist at the beginning. Initially there was only Codewarrior, which was commercial. There was not even an emulator. That came from the open-source side and was embraced by Palm.

However J2ME was not really an option. By the point Java existed, gcc prc-tools already did.

The whole j2me toolchain was pretty rough too. For a while when i started i used DOS history to get through it. then my life changed when my prof told me what a batch file was for. ( There werr four commands you had to run in sequence anytime you wanted to test your code )

Programming on j2me was like 7x better after that...

Palm... I just remember, as a 12-year old, being fascinated by my older cousin's Palm Pilot Professional. The thought that you could have a tiny computer in your pocket, with all sorts of programs, read articles and books, play games... Two years later I would buy my beautiful Palm Vx, while staying in Montana as a foreign exchange student (and be made fun of because of it by my farmer American father hahah). I actually though Graffitti was extremely intuitive and I was able to write faster on the palm device than with a pen on paper. I think I read five or six books on that tiny screen as well - and I thought it was great.

Different times.

My handwriting changed after getting used to Grafitti. I still mark Xs on forms with the symbol for X (like the K, but mirrored). This is over two decades after the fact.

To this day, trying to hand write an e when printing quickly? Your hand still does a double joined c. And a T is written like a 7. It's amazing how the muscle memory stays with you. It was so simple to learn, and stayed with you. Swype is the first phone writing technique, that has beaten Palm.

> It's amazing how the muscle memory stays with you

It is because it made sense. Not just a convention, the graffiti gestures are a convincing set of compressed (minimal full information, simplest one line per character) glyphs.

They were great devices. Functional, and well made. It's a shame how managment ran that company into the ground.

It was your older cousins palm pilot hip holster fashion statement that amazed me

20 years ago i built a functional wireless waiter system (edit: using palm pilots + j2me) like you see at applebees/chillis today.

I had no business sense to figure out how to sell the thing. I also was a young 20 something year old...

A Palm Zaire 31 was the first mobile device I owned. I could type on it with an external keyboard, which was awesome. You could stick an SD card full of music in and use it as an MP3 player or stick a card full of Atari 2600 games in and play. So I kinda got to play with the mobile future a bit early. But the touchscreen was squishy and you had to type with a stylus. They really pushed the glyph recognition but it never worked very well for me.

I had always been super fascinated by Palm pilots since I was a kid and I finally got my hands on a Palm Zire 31 as an adult and later one of my first(maybe my first) smartphone was a Palm Treo 755p. Sure PalmOS had its shortcomings(especially by the time I got my hands on it), but I still have fond memories of my PalmOS devices. In fact the major impetus for replacing my Treo wasn't the OS, but the lack of onboard WiFi or GPS, especially has Google Maps came on to the scene.

This looks, AFAICT, like a wine-style compat layer: https://pmig96.wordpress.com/2019/11/22/reviving-palmos/

"The application “thinks” it is running on a PalmOS device, but instead it is running natively on Linux."

So PalmOS isn't open-source. This is some kind of emulator or reimplementation.

It's sad how much source code is rotting in a vault somewhere, long past the point where it's useful to anyone but hobbyists.

The palm used an arm processor, right? Is there any chance that user-space applications wouldn't need emulation (just system call hooking)?

Or is the ARM in the Pi just too radically different to be helpful?

They used 68K until some point, when they switched to Arm and wrote a translation layer to allow running 68K apps on Arm.

100% win for coolness. Palm were great machines and great software. Now a lot all this into a case with a good battery and it’s Palm resurrected:-)

Palm was influential on me as was Symbian on Psion for how things could be. I loved the pre-touch Blackberry devices.

For business communication these devices simpler easier and (from memory) more robust than what we use today. Entertaining? No. Dull? Yes. Efficient and productive? Hell yeah!

Also had one of the best contact apps. Transferable - syncable with all operating systems. And easy to back up.

My father still uses the Palm contacts software on Windows, i.e. the software that your Palm service synced _to_. He doesn't use the Palm itself anymore though.

Same. Don't use the palm. But keep adding to contacts. I found a an easy app to convert Palm contacts to Android. It works. But all that issues with Google! So computer is still back up still works in Windows 10.

I wonder if this would work on the PinePhone… could actually be really cool to resurrect the OS on a mobile device and use the Palm/Pumpkin UI.

At Garmin, we ran PalmOS as a process on top of our RTOS. Fun times.

I worked on that project from the Palm side. Visited Olathe a couple times too. That was one of the more fun integrations.

any chance i could ask you some more Qs about that? (me@dmitry.gr)

Did you write apps for PalmOS? I think I might have cracked them when I was less mature...

Palmpowerups.com is me

I have used your apps for the Palms that I owned. I keep the Treo 650 up to 2010 where I used UDMH on every boot. Thanks.

Well, that was pretty standard for PalmOS. m68k PalmOS ran on top of AMX, which was also technically an RTOS...

palmOS and nokia n9 are the most promising and the most failed projects in the last decade i think. it had so much potential but failed miserably.. I would really want to live in alternate reality where these two projects are successful :(

> palmOS and nokia n9 are the most promising and the most failed projects in the last decade i think.

Palm OS came out 25 years ago.

Maybe thinking of Palm webOS (I had a Pre in 2009, it was way ahead of its time)

That and RIM's BlackBerry OS 10. It was fantastic and remarkably consistent across the board, even third-party apps like WhatsApp. Android's and iOS's swipe-up-to-go-home feature may have originated in BB10, but BB10 did it way better.

yes, was talking about webOS and palm Pre devices

The first time I SSH'ed into my Pre and saw it was basically just another RedHat-based Linux was /so cool/. I thought for sure it was the future of mobile operating systems.

I love this sort of home-brew computing. There's so much to be pessimistic about when it comes to the beast we've unleashed, but hackers mucking around with a Raspberry PI isn't one of them.

Read this as WebOS for a moment and got excited then realized it was PalmOS

Does anyone remember a game with a frictionless, slimey blue guy sliding through puzzles?

I bet using a RPI0w will transform this to a more portable PalmOS device.

Wait, this isn’t a copyrighted Palm ROM running on an emulator!?

This brings back memories.

One--how much I liked my TX. (One of the first little devises you could get on the internet with. I was a Goodguy's Liquidation sale. They had 500 Halo 2 Collector's editions for $5.00/piece. I needed the price on ebay. Everyone had a dumb phone. I went to a closed public library, and logged on with no password. I saw a high of 50 bucks. Went back and bought them all. I thought I had a upper hand in pricing stuff at auctions, etc. A year later, and it seemed like everyone had a smart phone.

two--dissapointment over how this company was mismanaged to the ground.

The palm hand writing system was amazing. Instead of trying to teach the computer to recognize everyone's handwriting, people - the users, adapted by learning a few very simple rules, to write notes. It took about 3 minutes to learn. After 5 minutes of use, you could take down written notes, almost as fast as on paper - which were digitised. You could do it without looking at the screen. (20 years later old Palm users still have a few weird handwriting quirks.)

Just FYI, it lives on, and there's an android keyboard app that implements it! mostly useful if you have a device with stylus, of course: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.access_com...

You don't need a stylus. I've been using this app since I got a smart phone and only have a stylus if I am sitting at my desk. It's much quicker -- for me -- than the keyboard.

With Android 11, I've noticed that sometimes it "locks" up and I need to switch to the Samsung keyboard for a couple of characters and then switch back. (This could be a Samsung issue, as I never had a problem with my Sony phones.)

> mostly useful if you have a device with stylus

I have been using graffiti since I use Android, and I use it with fingers more frequently than with a stylus: no problem. You do not need the stylus.

(But I use a modified application with the option to set the graffiti area height - that may be an enabler on some systems.)

My AST Gridpad (aka Tandy Zoomer) had Graffiti. To this day I still have the strokes in muscle memory.

> two--dissapointment over how this company was mismanaged to the ground.

pardon the pun, but they had the mobile market in the palm of their hand. They could have exploded as a smartphone provider had they evolved. Instead they faded to nothing. So frustrating.

They did a superb job with Palm Pre/webOS, they did. Only they then gathered people to watch it live a painful death suffocating in Sprint exclusivity. It was like having delivered regular updates about a random person with terminal cancer. To this day I still don't understand why the public had to watch graphic death scenes of Palm and RIM each going down.

My observation was that sprint hampered our growth (maybe) but chasing Verizon killed us. It was a terribly negotiated deal. Verizon kept upping the purchase order and forcing us to have the inventory on hand only for the demand to never materialize. This caused the liquidity crunch and eventual sale to HP. At least, that’s my understanding of the story but I was a low IC new grad at that point.

"This brings back memories."

Yeah I can remember seeing this yesterday.


I had a Palm Treo that I used to use for looking up things at yard sales on eBay, hoping to find things to flip for huge gains.

Damn thing only lasted for about two hours of eBay use so I couldn't even make it through a full morning of garage sales.

> this company was mismanaged to the ground.

You've said that twice on this thread. I honestly don't remember; is there a story somewhere? Wasn't there another company (Treo) also building hardware with Palm OS?

>Wasn't there another company (Treo) also building hardware with Palm OS?

Handspring (later bought by Palm) and Sony were the most notable third-party vendors, although there were many others: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Palm_OS_devices

Internet or the web?

Off topic, but PalmOS sounds like an OS for porn.

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