MobileInfocenter
Developer: The Price:
  • $16
The Pros:
  • Looks Nice when it works

The Cons:
  • Doesnít work most of the time
  • Many application problems
  • Expensive for itís features

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*Maximum Rating is FIVE (5) InfoPalms



BackDrop GC Review
By Davy Fields
4/7/2002


Overview
BackDrop GC is a classic example of "Itís not my fault". The program itself isnít causing the problems that are so prevalent, itís the other ones. Unfortunately, they canít blame other companies for the garbled text, system crashes, massive slowdown, lack of high-res support, and memory card access flaws. BackDrop GC is a great idea on paper that translates into a poor Palm product.

Setup
To install BackDrop, you have to activate "Trap Weaver" which apparently helps the system avoid problems, and then install Backdrop GC with the themes. You can use the "brightness" command to turn up the pictureís brightness, to make everything easy to see. I had a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge, and when I set it up right, it looked great.

Then, I went to the default Palm Launcher. Many icons break the "Code of Palm" about having transparent icons, and this is the case here. Many icons had blank white space around them, immediately killing the coolness of the launcher.

Next, I tried Palmís default apps, which all worked great, and looked very cool with the image in the background. I was quite pleased at this point, but unfortunately I decided to continue testing.

Third-Party App Problems
I donít use Palmís Memo Pad, so I fired up WordSmith. It showed my documents correctly in the "navigate mode", but as soon as I clicked on and opened a document, it showed garbled, unreadable text. This was the first application that I disabled the background on.

Next, I tried out SilverScreen 2.5, which was a huge disaster. The Ticker crawled across the screen, with odd colors in place of former blank spots. Everything ran slow, and the icons were still as messed up as before. So, I disabled the background on that application.

Next, I tried out McFile, which resulted in two miniature screens fragmented on the top of the display, in bizarre colors. I disabled this, and many other applications, until I was down to Palmís default applications. At this point, I would have been happy with it running in those, because it was bearable to have it off in Silverscreen and Wordsmith.

Memory Card Problems
Unfortunately, that wasnít all. Every single application on the memory card had the background behind it. I frantically searched for the reason. I disabled the Backdrop for every single application on the Palm, and it didnít help. I keep my applications in the launcher folder, where SilverScreen activates them, so there was no helper file to choose, I suppose was the problem. Because of this every application on the memory card (mainly images/videos and games) either slowed to a crawl, or had heavy display problems. At this point, I had had enough, and I disabled the software.

Youíll notice the dearth of screenshots in this review, because BackDrop GC generates errors in Palm OS Emulator, and the Screenshot hack that I installed didnít take the pictures properly, but you probably wouldnít want to witness them anyway.

Conclusion
BackDrop GC is a good idea, and one that has promise. In applications that it worked, it was really cool to have things in the background. Perhaps in the future, in the days of OS 5 when application developers have to follow Palmís code more fully, Backdrop GC will work.

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LOL

cykalan @ 4/7/2002 3:17:28 PM #
The Pros:
Looks Nice when it works

The Cons:
Doesn't work most of the time


I like this one....What da fun!

Alan
----
Read your manuals before you ask!!

RE: LOL
msmasitti @ 4/7/2002 3:57:16 PM #
LOL. Well, that must say something about the prog...

So, if you use the built in apps, it's good, but it has problems with 3rd party apps...

------------------------
Mario
CLIE Moderator
http://www.geocities.com/msmasitti

RE: LOL
I.M. Anonymous @ 4/7/2002 7:20:50 PM #
When I was still using my m505 I had no problems at all with Backdrop GC. Yes there were some apps that the background was too annoying so I disabled them. And there were a few that simply didn't work. But overall it worked great for me. I was using Launcher III and I just wish I could use it (and Launcher III for that matter) on my T615. And I am not surprised that it goes slow using Silver Screen. Silver screen has always run dog slow for me all by itself. It never needed help from another app to go sloooooow. (Cache the card icons SS developers or give us the option of when to refresh)

I can't agree with ''Not my fault!''

mikemusick @ 4/7/2002 3:32:03 PM #
Without trying the app firsthand with a debugger, this is an educated guess... but by the reported incompatibilities it sounds like BackDrop GC is consuming massive amounts of the dynamic heap, leaving nobody else with enough room to run.

Interesting idea and nice try, but full-depth, full-screen color takes a lot of working memory by itself. This concept is going to be really difficult to do without smashing other things in the process.

Evaluating performance using the built-in apps is not an accurate assessment, anyway. The built-in apps are still based (mostly) on their Palm OS 1.0 origins, which were very, very, VERY stingy with dynamic heap. By far most 3rd-party apps are going to assume Palm OS 2.0 (or even 3.0) or better, which assumes a lot more elbow room.

So I have to agree - great idea on paper, but it doesn't work in the real world.

RE: I can't agree with
I.M. Anonymous @ 4/7/2002 4:04:43 PM #
are you saying Palm falls apart when running a simple wall paper program?

get PocketPC!, some of the wallpaper are in 'Flash'

RE: I can't agree with ''Not my fault!''
I.M. Anonymous @ 4/7/2002 7:48:44 PM #
Get out of here PPC troll, this is a forum for Sony Clie users.

RE: I can't agree with ''Not my fault!''
I.M. Anonymous @ 4/7/2002 9:55:45 PM #
Very clever, Sony troll.

RE: I can't agree with ''Not my fault!''
popko @ 4/7/2002 11:00:32 PM #
LOL

---------------------------------
I am lost. But I am going to find myself. So if I return before I get back, please ask me to wait.

RE: I can't agree with ''Not my fault!''
swinginjonny @ 4/8/2002 11:23:05 AM #
Funny!

:)

The Cons (Cont.)

I.M. Anonymous @ 4/7/2002 4:03:44 PM #
The Cons:
Doesn't support Hi-Res

RE: The Cons (Cont.)
I.M. Anonymous @ 4/7/2002 4:15:57 PM #
let's make it this way...

The Pros:
- They said they will support Hi-Res in the future

The Cons:
- But this is a promise they make a year ago

LOL

RE: The Cons (Cont.)
cykalan @ 4/7/2002 4:31:47 PM #
Don't you realize it's a pro?

The Cons:
Doesn't work most of the time
Many application problems
Expensive for itís features

The Pro:
It won't work with Hi-Res, so I don't need to experience all these...

Alan
----
Read your manuals before you ask!!

Strange, it's been working for me...

I.M. Anonymous @ 4/7/2002 4:42:06 PM #
Well, I am scratching my head on this one.
I've been using BackDrop GCV2.0 for about two months and have lots of non-trivial software on my M505: Quickoffice (QuickWord QuickSheet & Quick Chart), Avant Go, Fireview, JPG View, Pocket Quicken, Worldmate, Fast CPU, Button Manager, FindHack, Sidelight Hack, RootM, Blocks, Tide Tool, Star Pilot, pSatellite, Pocket Sat, etc. etc.

It is all working fine!

In fact, the only thing that seemed to have a problem was one of the new SEGA demo games that were mentioned is a recent Palm Info Center Post. To make that run, I had to turn the backdrop program off.

RE: Strange, it's been working for me...
Davy @ 4/7/2002 4:52:51 PM #
Most of the applications you mention work fine, when you can turn them off.. For Instance, you don't try to run it under Fast CPU, do you? From what I know, it screwed up Silverscreen, McFile, TealMovie, Wordsmith, and Quickbits, all of the on-m505 apps I tried. Everything on the memory card failed, because it was mainly games, movies, and other stuff that always call for a screen full of the program, and when the background is forced behind it, it causes problems.

RE: Strange, it's been working for me...
I.M. Anonymous @ 4/7/2002 6:22:24 PM #
Yes Davy, this is the case. There is a feature on Backdrop that allows you to select which applications should have the backdrop or not. For instance, I turn backdrop off when I am in things like NotePad, JPGView, and things than display pictures.

I wasn't trying to be contrary, just wanted to offer a point of view that helps people understand it can be made to be congenial with other applications in an M505

RE: Strange, it's been working for me...
Davy @ 4/7/2002 7:16:29 PM #
Yes, and that feature works well. My beef is that it doesn't allow you to turn off the memory card ones, and partially, that it causes so many problems with apps in the first place. What's the point of a theme program if you have to turn it off in everything?

Changing the background...

big_raji @ 4/7/2002 5:02:48 PM #
Is there a way or a program to simply change the default background color and text color?

I'd love to be able to just have a dark background with white lettering in my apps.

---
If you sing in french while hopping on one foot, the evil birds won't come out of your bathroom mirror.

RE: Changing the background...
EnocH @ 4/7/2002 5:38:25 PM #
Try getting Khroma http://palmgear.com/software/showsoftware.cfm?prodID=12575
Its free and it does what you wanted big_raji. Email me if you need help.

----------
God Bless,
EnocH
RE: Changing the background...
big_raji @ 4/7/2002 6:00:21 PM #
Thanks for the tip Enoch.

---
If you sing in french while hopping on one foot, the evil birds won't come out of your bathroom mirror.
RE: Changing the background...
I.M. Anonymous @ 4/7/2002 8:42:15 PM #
Try a Program Called Launch Em.

RE: Changing the background...
big_raji @ 4/7/2002 9:13:34 PM #
No, I was asking about a hack/app/whatever that would change the colors of all (or most) applications. I think Launch'Em would only change the colors of the launcher... unless there's something about Launch'Em I don't know.

Feel free to point out if I'm talking out of my ass. :)

---
If you sing in french while hopping on one foot, the evil birds won't come out of your bathroom mirror.

RE: Changing the background...
I.M. Anonymous @ 4/8/2002 1:26:03 AM #
I used to want the same thing, big_raji--white on black, and used Khroma for a while to do so, but I discovered that it illuminated every teensy speck of dust or scratch or smudge or whatever else was on my screen to the point that I gave up and went back to black on white where everything looked a lot cleaner.

RE: Changing the background...
big_raji @ 4/8/2002 11:21:29 AM #
Yeah, I'm noticing the exact same thing now. :)

It's a heck of alot easier on the eyes, but I had no idea that I also suffered from the notorious Clie screen dust problem. Gah!

Here I thought I was dust free. (sigh) ignorance is (was) bliss.

---
If you sing in french while hopping on one foot, the evil birds won't come out of your bathroom mirror.

RE: Changing the background...
I.M. Anonymous @ 4/8/2002 12:50:38 PM #

i don't understand the fascination

I.M. Anonymous @ 4/7/2002 6:56:47 PM #
i've never understood the fascination with full screen background images. i know it's a big deal on the pocket pc with programs like dashboard featuring a background image early on, and ppc 2002 offering the today screen images. from what i've seen, all these images do is obscure the information that is struggling to be prsented, unless the image is flat, low contrast, and highly screened. you don't know how many times i've seen skins where the sample image has areas where the text is unreadable in some areas.

RE: i don't understand the fascination
I.M. Anonymous @ 4/8/2002 1:28:52 AM #
You sound like my dad

"Why do you want your hair to look like that? Get it cut."

RE: i don't understand the fascination
I.M. Anonymous @ 4/8/2002 3:56:05 AM #
I agree with the original poster, too. And he is using the views from customer experience (or usability).

Anyone heard YiShow?

tiger_bb @ 4/8/2002 2:04:37 AM #
http://www.anc.meta.ne.jp/~yibing/japanese/palmware.htm

sorry that the homepage is in Japanese, no English homepage available.... It's a very good launcher + file manager like software, and you can choose a 256 color BMP image in MS/SD/MMC as wallpaper...

it has versions for CLIE (Hi-Res.) and Palm...

RE: Anyone heard YiShow?
paulnaama @ 5/15/2002 4:50:09 AM #

Response From The Developer

jfreeman @ 4/8/2002 6:05:01 AM #
    I'm sorry that Mr. Fields had a poor experience using my product, Backdrop GC. It appears, however, that he did not read the documentation or any of the additional information that I provided to Palm Infocenter. Mr. Fields is certainly entitled to have a negative opinion of my software, however, I feel that it was wrong to base a Palm Infocenter review on what seems to have been a quick judgement without fully informing himself about the features of the program.


  • Mr. Fields' main issue, the one which caused him to end his review, was that he did not know how to disable the applications on the memory card. Communication between the reviewer and the developer is usually not needed, however, in this case, I feel that it was warranted, because he found this problem to be so severe that he cut off all further testing. I think that Mr. Fields has done a disservice, not just to myself, but also to his readers, by not making the effort to contact me in order to try and obtain additional information on this problem so as to provide an informed review regarding this particular issue. Had he chosen to get in touch with me and given me the opportunity to respond to his showstopper, I could have quickly informed him of one of a couple of ways of disabling memory card apps. I think he could've also figured this out on his own by reading the documentation:

        In the section of the documentation titled, 'Choosing Applications', (http://www.twilightedge.com/bdgc_docs.html#Apps), the text describes Backdrop's default setting for app modes. (The app mode setting determines whether or not to display the background while that application runs).

        Perhaps this should have been stated explicitly in the documentation, but the default app mode setting is exactly what its name implies - it is a default setting which is used for applications for which the user has not manually specified an app mode. The default setting will apply to all applications which Backdrop does not see in its application list, such as those which have been installed since the last time Backdrop was run, or, implicitly, those not on the device, such as on a memory card.

        I believe that if Mr. Fields had experimented with the default mode setting, he would've found that setting the default mode to 'OFF' would remove the background for all of the apps on his memory card (as they don't appear in Backdrop GC's app list). This setting will also hide the background for all on-device apps using the default mode, but further down in the same section of the documentation, it describes how to use the 'Set All To:' button, which can be used to set all listed, on-device apps back to 'ON' (256 Colors).


  • Another issue that Mr. Fields has with Backdrop GC is its incompatibility with some applications. However, he greatly exaggerates this issue on his 'Cons' list:

        "Doesn't work most of the time".

        While this statement may simply reflect his frustration at not being able to remove the background for memory card apps, I must strongly take issue with it. Where is the evidence to back up this statement? Mr. Fields himself writes that he only tested Backdrop GC on one device, for a short, limited time, with a small number of apps. A broad, sweeping dismissal from just the small amount of exposure that he has shown reflects poorly not just on the reviewer, but also on Palm Infocenter for allowing this baseless statement to be posted in a review on their site. Since before its initial release over a year ago, Backdrop GC has been tested on a huge number of applications, in many different device configurations. Undeniably, there are incompatibilities. Do these incompatibilities represent "most" applications? No.

        Again, I feel that the reviewer has done a disservice to the reader by reaching a conclusion without enough information. While there may be other users like Mr. Fields that find a number of incompatibilities between Backdrop GC and the apps they have on their device, some users may not find any at all. I would argue that on average, Backdrop GC will work with the majority of programs for which a background is appropriate, that is, programs that don't preclude the need for the image by filling their own screen real-estate with graphics, as with games, movie players, and image viewers.


  • Mr. Fields also writes that he was forced to disable WordSmith because of problems with the text. Had he read the documentation section titled, 'Known Incompatibilities/Bugs', (http://www.twilightedge.com/bdgc_docs.html#Incompatibilities), he would've found a workaround to get the text to display properly.


  • Backdrop GC is heavily optimized for the actual hardware. On the Palm OS emulator, this causes it to run extremely slowly and pop up some dialogs (which may be disabled). In my initial email to Palm Infocenter's editors, I offered my assistance in creating screenshots for the review *specifically* because of the issues with the emulator and its incompatibility with ScreenShot hack. The fact that Mr. Fields mentions in his review that he a) Couldn't get screenshots, and b) Tried both the emulator and screenshot hack, implies that he was not aware of this information.


    For the reasons stated above, I do not feel that this review was accurate or fair. My argument is not with the fact that the reviewer formed a negative opinion. (Of course, that doesn't make me happy, but I realize that this software will appeal to some people and not to others). My problem with this review is that there are serious gaps in the reviewer's information, gaps which he apparently did not make the effort to overcome in order to develop a reasonably informed opinion.


    Josh Freeman

    Twilight Edge Software

    http://www.twilightedge.com


  • RE: Response From The Developer
    cykalan @ 4/8/2002 6:25:28 AM #
    "believe that if Mr. Fields had experimented with the default mode setting, he would've found that setting the default mode to 'OFF' would remove the background for all of the apps on his memory card (as they don't appear in Backdrop GC's app list). This setting will also hide the background for all on-device apps using the default mode, but further down in the same section of the documentation, it describes how to use the 'Set All To:' button, which can be used to set all listed, on-device apps back to 'ON' (256 Colors)."

    ok, so how about if i want to enable some of the apps on my memory card to use backdrop gc? there's apparently no way to do so.

    i would also suggests to other readers that...in that case..turning off backdrop gc at ALL would also disable backdrop gc for all of the applications on the memory card...right? this make no sense man.....

    Alan
    ----
    Read your manuals before you ask!!

    RE: Response From The Developer
    I.M. Anonymous @ 4/8/2002 6:57:10 AM #
    Sounds like another case of the developer blaming everybody elses software for his bugs.

    Quite frankly, until the "known" bugs and incompatiblities are worked out, the software should be free.

    RE: Response From The Developer
    Manicorp @ 4/8/2002 9:05:56 AM #
    I've been using BackDrop GC for the last 2 months and I thought it was the greated apps I registered. I don't use launchers or the word smith so I've never had any problems with any other applications, including 3rd party apps.

    One thing I did was that I READ the instructions when I installed the application.

    IMHO, this is a great app to show off color m505 or m515. I agree with the developer that there seems to be some issues with some handful of programs but majority of apps work fine with BackDrop... :)
    I'm very satisfied customer...

    What I use commonly: m505, bible reader, bugMe, chess, HanDBase, Kidometer, Mathpad, Palmpix, PalmReader, HandheldMed reader, Splash photo, Supermemo, Tarascon pharmacopia, x-Master, Filez, Hi-Note, McFile, Only Me... I've never had problems with above apps...

    Sam

    RE: Response From The Developer
    I.M. Anonymous @ 4/8/2002 12:42:58 PM #
    >Sounds like another case of the developer blaming >everybody elses software for his bugs.

    >Quite frankly, until the "known" bugs and >incompatiblities are worked out, the software should >be free.

    That would mean that all software should be free because just about all software has "known" bugs and incompatiblities.

    RE: Response From The Developer
    mikemusick @ 4/8/2002 12:49:15 PM #
    "Thou protesteth thy innocence too much."

    RE: Response From The Developer
    Beavis @ 4/8/2002 1:02:21 PM #
    If software has a known bug, then it should not be released until the known bug is released. Why should we pay for software that does not work properly? Why should we pay to be beta testers?

    RE: Response From The Developer
    I.M. Anonymous @ 4/8/2002 3:53:22 PM #
    Are you kidding Beavis? Do you use any MS products? Any large software package has loads of known bugs. Hundreds of them. Known and ignored.

    RE: Response From The Developer
    I.M. Anonymous @ 4/8/2002 4:01:23 PM #
    Hundreds? For MS product, I think you at least missed 2 zeros.

    RE: Response From The Developer
    cykalan @ 4/9/2002 11:01:14 AM #
    "Any large software package has loads of known bugs. "

    yesyes.......
    so you call "BackDrop GC" a LARGE software package...?
    oh well....

    Alan
    ----
    Read your manuals before you ask!!

    RE: Response From The Developer
    I.M. Anonymous @ 4/10/2002 11:09:47 AM #
    Not only required me to HARD RESEST my Clie 610 to get rid of the f*@!ing thing, but when I restored from BBVFS, Megalauncher didn't work properly.

    A low-res disaster. Download at your own risk on Clies.

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