Palm Releases Sidelight Utility for m505

About a month ago, a Palm executive said they were developing an application that would perform the same function as GlowHack, keeping the m505's sidelight on. They have now released the Palm m500 Series Backlight Utility, which remembers the state the backlight was on when the Palm was shut down. It is free and less than 2K.

Don't be confused by the backlight/sidelight issue. The m500 has a backlight while the m505 has a sidelight. In documentation for the whole m500 series, Palm tends to refer to it as a backlight.

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Doesn't stay on in cradle.

scouter075 @ 6/21/2001 10:28:56 AM #
While the program does what it say it will do, it does not keep the light on when in the cradle. I'm going back to 505LightOn V1.32 form It's free and has more options.

RE: Doesn't stay on in cradle.
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/21/2001 10:45:00 AM #
Whats the purpose? I just program my m505 so when I stroke the home area to the screen the light comes on. I do not see the purpose, for additional programs unless these make a significant difference. Like adjusting the contrast of the light/screen. Other than that its not worth it to me, even if it is free

RE: Doesn't stay on in cradle.
Ed @ 6/21/2001 10:45:27 AM #
Dennis, I'm not clear on what you mean. My m505's sidelight in the cradle acts pretty much like it does outside of the cradle. Putting it in the cradle doesn't shut the sidelight off. If I turn it on and off in the cradle the sidelight comes on again. If I let it time out and turn it back on again, the backlight comes on. What's happening for you?

So far I think this is an improvement over GlowHack. I hope it doesn't have GlowHack's small bug, which caused the sidelight to not come on when some alarms went off.

News Editor
Palm Infocenter

RE: Doesn't stay on in cradle.
scouter075 @ 6/21/2001 10:59:50 AM #
Let me try to explain.

My 505 is set to "Stay on in cradle". When I turn on the sidelight, it turns itself off after a couple of minutes, even though the unit itself is still on. This means I have to turn the light back on. It's inconvenient. What 505LightOn does, (and what Palm's solution doesn't do) is leave the light on whenver the unit is on. That means when the unit is in the cradle the light is always on. Once again, not a show stopper, but a big conveneince.

Hope that makes sense.

RE: Doesn't stay on in cradle.
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/21/2001 11:10:14 AM #
I have not tried the new utility yet but Scouter075's problem is a definite bug in OS 4.0. The sidelight times out in accordance with the shut off setting when in the cradle and the "stay on in cradle' option is checked. The device stays on but the sidelight does not. A few of the programs that have been written to keep the m505 sidelight on since its release have mentioned and addressed this issue.

I also agree that 505LightOn is the "best of show" so far of these utilities for two reasons. First, it addresses the above-mentioned issue. Second, it turns the sidelight back on after a soft reset which, to my knowledge, none of the other utilities do. I should note that 505LightOn v1.32 at 18k does seem incredibly large for what it does and its size is something to keep in mind if you don't need the two additional features.

RE: Doesn't stay on in cradle.
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/21/2001 11:11:29 AM #
Well, since the sidelight is probably the first part to burn out on the unit, I wouldn't want to reduce its life by leaving it on unnecessarily. I'd be afraid of leaving it on all night long by accident. Is there a utility that lets you set a separate timer for turning off the light?

RE: how do you turn OFF sidelight?
Cheetah @ 6/21/2001 11:13:47 AM #
I used to just turn the palm off. Since the utility remembers the last state that won't work anymore.

RE: how do you turn OFF sidelight?
Ed @ 6/21/2001 11:30:53 AM #
> how do you turn OFF sidelight?

Hold the power switch down for 2 seconds.

News Editor
Palm Infocenter

RE: Doesn't stay on in cradle.
emmert @ 6/21/2001 11:31:57 AM #
Neither to it work well with ClockPop. The backlight/sidelight does not come back on after ClockPop turns the unit back off. Not a problem with SideLightHack.

RE: Doesn't stay on in cradle.
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/21/2001 12:09:56 PM #
Keep Lit Hack rocks--it can stay lit in the cradle, if that's what you wish. Give it a try.

RE: Doesn't stay on in cradle.
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/21/2001 1:48:28 PM #
> I have not tried the new utility yet but Scouter075's problem is a definite bug in OS 4.0.

How the hell is this a bug in OS4?! It's a completely separate utility, just like any other app. It actually seems like a pretty neat feature, but if you don't like it, get one of the other backlight hacks that work the way you want.

RE: Doesn't stay on in cradle.
Pepper @ 6/21/2001 2:13:06 PM #
The problem is the auto-off after ____ (fill in the blank) feature. The easiest way to get rid of auto-off is to open up an app (I use memo pad) and write the following: shortcut (NOT command) .3

I'm serious, this actually works. After you do it, a little message will appear afterwards to prove it (if you messed up, nothing happens) It is part of the OS so you can try it on any Palm (I don't know if some of the licencees omited it). Infact, there is a feature for every number (1-9), although I don't recomend doing them if you don't know what they do.

To undo it, simply soft-reset.

I hope this helps,

I love my Palm . . . do you?

RE: Doesn't stay on in cradle.
Pepper @ 6/21/2001 2:41:18 PM #
i just realized I wasn't that clear, when you write shortcut, don't spell it out - do the symbol! (it looks like a fish standing on its backfin)

Just wanted to clear that up,

I love my Palm . . . do you?

RE: Doesn't stay on in cradle.
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/21/2001 3:30:35 PM #
That shortcut trick does work, thats strange. what a weird feature.

What do the other ones do? Not sure if I want to try them.

RE: Doesn't stay on in cradle.
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/21/2001 3:37:25 PM #
what do you write exactly and where

RE: Doesn't stay on in cradle.
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/21/2001 4:15:30 PM #
It's not a bug in OS4, the Palm V and Vx have the same 'feature' The backlight turns off after the auto-off timer regardless of if the unit turns off or not.

RE: Doesn't stay on in cradle.
Ia3n @ 6/21/2001 5:08:46 PM #
>what do you write exactly and where

You can write it anywhere that has a text field. Memo Pad, even the text line requesting a password in the System Lockout dialog box. As far as I know, you can do it anywhere you can write.

You write a [shortcut] .3
Except don't really write [shortcut], but write the shortcut character.If you go into Graffiti Help and hit page down once it will show you how to write the shortcut character.

RE: Doesn't stay on in cradle.
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/21/2001 9:57:07 PM #
The other numbers do some interesting things. They open the serial portso it is constantly ready to accept a device (undo via soft reset), they set up beam recieve (auto exits when you time out or hit cancel), etc. etc. etc.


RE: Doesn't stay on in cradle.
AmericaV6 @ 6/22/2001 9:01:40 PM #
Not only you could write (shorcut).3 on a text field for the light to stay on. Even on non text fields it will work. Just wirete (shorcut) .3 on the graffiti area and that's all...

Roberto, New York.

Too little, Too Late.

I.M. Anonymous @ 6/21/2001 12:35:25 PM #

What is Palm thinking?

What we need is a utility to adjust the BRIGHTNESS of the sidelight, not this JASH (Just Another Sidelight Hack).

There are already at least 2 utilities that do the same as what Palm's offering does and more.

Palm's Chief Competitive Officer is known to read this board. Sir, please explain to us why a brightness adjusting hack has not been released.

RE: Too little, Too Late.
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/21/2001 2:14:17 PM #
While I agree with you, but I think you should get rid of your m505 and get a Clie N710C. Too much trouble!

RE: Too little, Too Late.
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/21/2001 2:31:06 PM #
I keep hoping that Palm will do the right thing and give us the ability to increase the brightness of the light. If it cuts battery life in half, then it will be my problem. I would gladly buy an extra charger for work. Users could choose between battery life and brightness.

For those of you who are happy with the current screen, I wish I felt the same as you but I just can't plunk down the cash for this dim screen. I love the form factor of the 505, and I'm dying to purchase an improved version of the 505. The Clie keeps calling me, but I've decided to give Palm until August to let us know they have a clue. After that, I don't think I'll be able to hold out much longer.

Can anyone say such a hack is possible?
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/21/2001 3:52:27 PM #
It sounds a little weird -- software that will make a light brighter (a light that is presumably hardwired at one brightness).

RE: Too little, Too Late.
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/21/2001 4:16:51 PM #
They didn't do it because it's NOT POSSIBLE with the current hardware. The backlight has 2 settings. On, and Off.

RE: Too little, Too Late.
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/21/2001 5:28:21 PM #
What exactly is "weird" about software that can make a light brighter?

Most of these LEDs have some variable voltage so that if:

1. Software increases power from battery to LED.
2. LED gets brighter.

Not weird at all if you ask me. (and I'm an embedded realtime software designer). the person who said it is "NOT POSSIBLE": you must either you work for Palm or you have taken an m505 apart, removed an LED and done some bench testing with it to determine that. My guess is neither.

RE: Too little, Too Late.
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/21/2001 6:19:58 PM #
If you're really an embedded software developer, you'll know that if the light is wired to a single digital output bit, the best you could possibly do would be to simulate a *dimmer* light by pulsing the bit with a variable duty cycle. To avoid really bad flicker, this'd need to be at a minimum frequency of 60Hz or so. Now unless you've got hardware to handle that, you'll need to do the work in an interrupt handler... and that means you're going to be burning CPU cycles and decreasing battery life.

There is no way, NONE, to make the light brighter unless:

1) it is already modulated to be dimmer as described above; or

2) it is connected to an output that isn't strictly digital and that voltage can be software controlled.

Neither of these are likely. To preserve battery life (a definite design goal), the engineer would avoid modulating the light through software. In any case, if Palm could address the criticism of its screen and make it brighter, why would it not do so?

Software isn't magic. If the hardware can't support the function, no amount of clever programming is going to change it.

RE: Too little, Too Late.
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/21/2001 10:14:51 PM #
You sound like you know what you are talking about so I'll assume that you do. What does Sony do that is different in their approach that allows them to control it by software?

Rather than hoping for a software fix from Palm, I was just hoping they could slide this feature into the next batch coming out of the factory (little board design change) similar to upgrading software from 2.0 to 2.1, just a little improvement.

Can you tell I haven't bought mine yet?

RE: Too little, Too Late.
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/22/2001 12:50:11 AM #
"2) it is connected to an output that isn't strictly digital and that voltage can be software controlled"

I'd like to believe this is the case (thought it may not be) for the following reason:

I know this is anecdotal evidence at best, but I talked to someone who was told by a Palm rep in NY that the brightness of the m505 is "all in the software". This rep's personal m505 was also noticeably brighter than any other he'd ever seen.

Regardless, Palm should come out and address this issue truthfully saying 1 of 3 things:

- "the current m505 is hardware limited to the current brightness, nothing can be done, period."

- "we optimized the m505 for maximum battery life, not visibility, it was our own business decision and that's that, like it or lump it. (or have a 3rd party hack it)."

- "we realize we made a mistake in not giving our intelligent customers the option of reducing battery life to gain a brighter screen, so we will be releasing a brightness utility shortly"

I'd be satisfied if they'd simply address it truthfully, with all the buzz about the screen being dim, etc, and comparisons with the N710C brightness, it's not like they don't know what's going on.

RE: Too little, Too Late.
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/22/2001 3:23:44 PM #
"You sound like you know what you are talking about so I'll assume that you do. What does Sony do that is different in their approach that allows them to control it by software?"

All I can do is speculate, since I don't work for either Sony or Palm and don't have the schematics for either device. I also haven't written any software that bypasses the Palm OS and writes directly to hardware.

The first and most significant thing Sony would have done differently is planned for the variable brightness feature. That decision leads to several implementation options:

1) Provide a light of some maximum brightness, then modulate it to dim it down. To save battery life, they probably wouldn't want the CPU to do this, so they'd put in a small oscillator circuit that could be adjusted with one or more output bits.

2) Use several digital output bits wired through a couple resistors for a poor-man's digital-to-analog converter, which would give you several brightness levels. The more digital lines/resistors used, the more brightness levels available (n lines gives you 2^n brightness levels).

3) Use an analog output of a digital-to-analog converter built into the chip (some microcontrollers like the 68HC11 build such a thing in, I honestly don't know if the CPU used in the Sony PEG has such a thing or not).

All of these schemes are slightly more expensive to implement than hardware that supports a simple on/off backlight. The only "free" dimmer you can get is one done in software --- I've done this with LEDs. But again, that requires frequent interrupt service, and with something like a handheld you want to let the CPU sleep as much as possible to preserve battery life.

I'm sure there are other ways this could be done as well. Embedded designers can be very clever in finding ways to minimize hardware.

Aside from the bright/dim control, Sony also needed to either use a brighter light (with whatever support electronics) or give the appearance of it by using a higher contrast LCD. I haven't seen a PEG in person yet, but if it looks much better than the m505 with both backlights turned off, then the LCD itself is helping the situation by giving whiter whites.

So both the Sony and the Palm run the Palm OS, both run on Motorola's Dragonball, but internally both may be wired very differently, with output ports tied to different hardware.

Sidelight Burnout

altema @ 6/21/2001 2:42:03 PM #
If the M505 uses a flourescent tube like the IIIc (different design of course), then you don't need to worry about the sidelight burning out, especially since the m505 does not (yet) have a brightness control. Perhaps someone with more knowledge in this area can (ahem) shed some light on the subject.

Remember that the IIIc backlight is on all the time, and many people are installing hacks for the 505 to do the same thing. I abuse my Palm more than most, using it for a flashlight, night light, etc, sometimes even falling asleep with it on in the cradle. No problems, it can take it.

RE: Sidelight Burnout
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/21/2001 2:43:38 PM #
Really? You use it as a flashlight, too!?! I thought I was the only one who did that with the color!

RE: Sidelight Burnout
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/21/2001 4:22:54 PM #
I use my Palm V as a flashlight when it is really dark. I was once hiking after dark and it started to rain. My flashlight burnt out, so i grabbed my Palm and ran Palm Mirror, and used the backlight to stumble along. After less than 5 minutes of this, i see another green glow heading towards me, and sure enough, it is someone else using a Palm III as a flashlight!

RE: Sidelight Burnout
PFloyd @ 6/21/2001 4:39:03 PM #
For what it's worth, I think the Prism makes the best flashlight. It's really, really bright.

RE: Sidelight Burnout
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/21/2001 4:49:56 PM #
The only two I have been able to compare as flashlights are the Vx and the M505. The M505 is much brighter than the Vx and works great as an unobtrusive flashlight. I use it when I need to stumble around in my bedroom at night, but I don't want to wake up my wife.

RE: Sidelight Burnout
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/21/2001 10:49:42 PM #
whoa! this is so wierd! we're all talking about using our palms as flashlights! normally that is one of the unspoken benefits to owning a Palm!

As for my Palm - the m500 makes a horrible flashlight! that new technology is too faint to be usefull for anything other than a backlight!

And dude in the rain - didn't your V get wet? My friend's V just suffered an ill fate involving cappacuino!

Isn't this pathetic?

Ia3n @ 6/21/2001 5:14:57 PM #
Isn't this pathetic? Sony and Palm both make a reflective LCD, sidelit screen. Palm actually OWNS the OS. Sony is a licensee. Which one has put a brightness control in their palm's system?

RE: Isn't this pathetic?
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/21/2001 5:34:14 PM #
Palm licenses out to them so they can do the innovating on the OS, then Palm rolls it in and standardizes it. So of course non-palm companies will be first with big innovation!

RE: Isn't this pathetic?
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/22/2001 9:11:03 AM #

Innovating on the OS? You got to be kidding?
The PalmOS has seen little innovation in years. It's companies like TRG and Sony and Handspring that should be writing the OS--not the clowns at Palm.

OS 5.0 will be the real innovation and methinks the next generation Palms will look alot like a PocketPC.

RE: Isn't this pathetic?
I.M. Anonymous @ 6/22/2001 4:01:14 PM #
At least software is still being produced that runs on Palms from several years ago. Can you say the same for Microsoft operating systems? The Palm OS is also more stable than WinCE. Don't ever be fooled into thinking that progress comes without a price.

No"Palm"in MY palm

ad"visor" @ 6/21/2001 9:05:17 PM #
For the money, you're forgetting a very good product... Visor Prism. and the IIIc, so there's no need for hacks to make up for poor design. I'm not here to write one of those "mine's better than yours..." articles. I would've purchased a IIIc if it weren't for Handspring's expansion slot. Palm should recognize the problem; re-design; re-call; and re-place the screens, so that you 505 users don't have to spend so much time agonizing over this.
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