If your handheld is running a version of the Palm operating system, you may be due for an OS upgrade. Let’s take a look at some of the available upgrades, their download sources, and some basic instructions for the easy upgrade process.
Prepare for an OS update by noting your handheld's make and model number. Though Palm's current release is version 4.1 (version 5 will be available shortly), the latest OS may not be appropriate for your machine. In fact, an inappropriate upgrade may harm your machine; be sure to check the manufacturer's Web site carefully to determine the version you need.
How to find your current OS
In addition to the make and model, you'll need to know the current Palm OS version. The upgrades you may be interested in are OS versions 3.5, 4.0, and 4.1, and any intermediate releases, such as 3.5.1. Here's how to find your current version:
- Tap on the Applications silkscreen button to start that application.
- Open the menu and tap Info (or write Slash-i [/i] in the graffiti area).
- In the Info screen, tap the Version box.
- The Version screen shows version numbers of all your installed applications. The handheld's OS appears on top, as shown in Figure A.
|This Handera 330 is running Palm OS software v. 3.5.3.|
What's in the newer versions?
Version 3.5 was a big change for Palm users. It incorporated features that had been available only in third-party software and made other useful changes.
Here are v3.5's top features:
- Masking private records.
- Support for 1-, 2-, 4-, and 8-bit color and grayscale.
- A Datebook Agenda view, which shows the day's appointments and ToDo list.
- An Alarm "Snooze" feature.
- Improved beaming categories.
- Auto-completion for address fields.
- A Command bar.
- Tapping an application's title bar to open a menu.
- Double-tapping a word to select it; triple-tap to select the line.
Palm made mostly internal changes in version 4.0 that supported development of more advanced devices. For instance, 4.0 added the ability to run applications from a memory expansion card (Handera added this feature to its proprietary version of OS 3.1) and to enable USB support (included in Handspring's version of 3.5).
Two security problems were also addressed. After viewing a masked record, the Palm used to stay in View Private Records mode. It now returns to the Mask Private Records setting. In addition, 4.0 fixes a bug that allowed the Palm to be accessed through the Palm debugger—an option meant only for programmers. Palm OS 4.0 also added cookie support for its Web Clipper (a Web browser) and added color support for the Clipper.
Version 4.1 chiefly consisted of fixes to bugs that could cause third-party applications to crash.
Table A lists popular handheld models, their original Palm OSs, and available upgrades. Click the links to download upgrades. Unfortunately, Palm decided to charge for upgrading 3.x versions with 4.1. The update CD costs $29.95, but also includes desktop updates and MultiMail. Upgrading to 3.5.3 is free.
Upgrading the Sony PEG N710C required sending it in for service ($49.99), but the offer expired on March 15. If you have this model, e-mail Sony support to beg for an upgrade, or call 1-877-760-7669 to complain.
The Palm OS running on Handspring devices can't be upgraded because the ROM can't be flashed. However, Handspring has released OS patches to fix problems with each device (these .prc files run as programs). Click on the models listed in Table A to download patches. Handspring suggests buying third-party software to give your PDA the capabilities of later OSs, adding to the cost of running this device.
OS upgrading 101
The procedure for upgrading your OS is simple, but naturally differs by manufacturer. Make sure to check the instructions that come with the download. Here's a brief overview of installs on PDA models.
Handera devices require a memory extension card before installing the update. After backing up all data (which will be lost during the update) and installing or recharging batteries, copy the update to the memory card's root directory. Next, while holding down the Date Book button, press and release the Reset button. Press the TO-DO button on screen to run the updater. Finally, restore your data and delete the OS update from the memory card.
The Palm 3.5.3 upgrade file (Installer353_enUS.zip) should be placed in c:\palm\update. Unzip the file and double-click the resulting .prc. This will add the .prc to the Palm Installer. HotSync the Palm. Finally, delete the installer file. (You can read more detailed instructions here.)
The method of updating Handspring PDAs is similar to Palm's. Install the .prc file on the handheld and run the updater. Reset the machine when finished. Finally, uninstall the updater. For Visor Prism and Platinum models, the updater will run when it's first installed during a HotSync.
In addition providing to Palm OS upgrades, Handera, Handspring, Palm, and Sony have released other patches for their models. Quite a few of these updates fix incompatibilities with Windows XP. Check the vendors’ Web sites to download the latest fixes.