Hardware

The TRGpro: A high-flying Palm Pilot IIIx

In this Daily Feature, Mike Jackman introduces you to the TRGpro, a Palm Pilot that really knows how to fly.


One of the best additions to the PDA line isn't a new machine fresh off the factory floor—it's a reworking of one of the most popular PDAs. TRG has taken the Palm IIIx and modified it to hold 8 MB of DRAM (the Palm IIIx comes with 4 MB), 2 MB of Flash memory, a CompactFlash card slot, special programs, and a few other extras. This is one Pilot that really knows how to fly.

III cheers for the TRGpro
As you can see in Figures A and B, the TRGpro resembles a Palm IIIx. That's because it is a Palm IIIx, with enhancements. It has the same slim build, except for a tiny bulge in the back case necessary to fit the CompactFlash slot. One of the sturdiest Palm models, the IIIx runs on two AAA batteries, which last for weeks.

Figure A
The TRGpro is a modified Palm IIIx.


Figure B
The back case bulges slightly to make room for CompactFlash memory.


About TRG
Longtime Pilot users may be familiar with TRG because of its original raison d’etre: adding memory to Palm Pilots and Palm Pilot Professionals. You used to send in your PDA, and TRG would swap out the board for you, or you could buy memory board kits. In addition to its memory kits, TRG invented award‑winning software, FlashPro, that lets you move programs to non‑volatile Flash ROM, where the Palm OS and built‑in apps were stored. Not only did you squeeze more memory out of your Pilot, but programs that worked under Flash ran faster—and didn't disappear when your batteries ran out of juice or when your Palm device crashed.

With such an expertise in memory, it was just a matter of time before TRG reached for the next level—a modified machine. TRG is a Palm licensee. (In the old days, TRG's modifications voided your Palm's warranty.)

TRGpro: A superior road warrior
Surely one of the most frustrating things about using a PDA is data loss. Data loss—meaning, "Oh shoot, there's nothing left on my Pilot"—occurs for a variety of reasons. For example, your batteries may die, a program could cause a catastrophic error, or you drop it. In all but the latter case, you can recover—but that's always been a pain. If you haven't HotSynced in a while, your data won't be up-to-date; if you don't have all your programs handy, your Pilot configuration will be incomplete; if you're away from your computer and you can't remote-HotSync, tough luck, old chap.

The clever folks at TRG, however, added a CompactFlash slot and a cool, built‑in program called CFBackup. You just purchase a CF card and back up your PDA to your heart's content—every five minutes if you're paranoid. Next time your data flies south, just restore everything. CompactFlash is great for a number of reasons. For instance, CF cards:
  • Are a recognized standard for many devices.
  • Are fairly inexpensive. You can buy a 16-MB SanDisk CF card, for example, for $50.00.
  • Use non‑volatile memory—what you put there stays there.
  • Can be read by Windows.
  • Draw very little power.
  • Are not just for storage. You can buy a variety of devices—such as serial ports, modems, and bar code readers—in CF format.

You may wonder why you’d want to purchase a CompactFlash modem or serial port. With a CF modem, you could use the HotSync port to attach to a keyboard while using the CF modem. Or, using the keyboard as mentioned above, you might run a terminal emulator or other network diagnostic tools through the CF serial port.

CF cards are also useful for transferring files between Windows machines. With the purchase of a CF card reader, you can copy Windows files and share them. I use a USB reader, but PC Card adapters are also available. This means my little square CF card not only backs up my Pilot but also stores Windows files and digital photos as well. To make using the CF card even more useful, TRGpros come with an additional app, called CFpro. This app lets you copy or move individual files back and forth between CompactFlash and RAM. You can create directories, too. Beginning with the upgrade to OS 3.5, a utility called AutoCF lets you run programs right from CompactFlash. Figures B and C show CFBackup and CFpro at work.

Figure C
Use CFBackup to create backup sets,


Figure D
You can use CFpro to copy files between RAM and your CF card.


Other modifications
One of the earliest “home improvements” to the Pilot made by fearless users was to drill tiny holes in the case over the speaker. These holes had the effect of increasing the volume of alarms. TRG's done that for you, and it’s provided a higher quality speaker, built-in sound filter, volume control, and WAV player. In addition, now that the new upgrade to Palm OS 3.5 is out, TRG has added another neat app. This one, called AutoCF, lets you run applications and databases from the CompactFlash card. While some units purchased through distributors may still have OS 3.3, switching to 3.5 is an easy online upgrade. AutoCF is available via download from TRG’s Web site.

The TRGpro at a glance
Model TRGpro (Palm IIIx)
Palm OS 3.5
Memory 8 MB of DRAM, 2 MB of Flash ROM
Extras FlashPro, CFpro, CFBackup, and AutoCF
Modifications to the Palm IIIx CompactFlash slot; higher quality speaker, sound holes, audio amplifier and filter for better sound and louder alarms.
Suggested retail price $329.00 US
For more information http://www.trgpro.com/

Conclusion
Not only does the TRGpro let you fully realize the organizer capabilities of PDAs, it takes your Pilot one step closer to being a palm-sized laptop. You’ll have enough memory available to run larger mail, database, Web browser, mapping, document, and other programs, and you’ll be able to use a variety of CF attachments. When you use the TRGpro, your Pilot will fly higher and faster.

Mike Jackman is an editor in chief of TechProGuild, an editor of PC Troubleshooter and Windows Support Professional, and also works as a freelance Web designer and consultant. In his spare time (when he can find some), Mike’s an avid devourer and writer of science fiction, parent to two perpetually adolescent cats, and a hiking enthusiast.

The authors and editors have taken care in preparation of the content contained herein, but make no expressed or implied warranty of any kind and assume no responsibility for errors or omissions. No liability is assumed for any damages. Always have a verified backup before making any changes.

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