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PCMag Thinks Palm Should Open Source Palm OS

Somewhat reminiscent of the controversial editorial posted by Engadget back in August, another "open letter" has been written to Palm. This time around, Lance Ulanoff, longtime PC Magazine contributor, has penned "An Open Letter to Palm" in which he kindly offers "out of love" that Palm go ahead and release "Palm OS" into the open-source community.

While Mr. Ulanoff's piece is pleasantly worded and his intentions obviously vested in a sincere appreciation of the simplicity of the Palm OS, the reality of the matter is not quite as simple as the PC Magazine piece might lead some readers to believe. First off, Japan's Access Co. Ltd. owns the Garnet/OS 5 source code. Palm Inc. has the rights to ship devices running OS 5.x and alter the code base in any way they see fit under terms of a perpetual licensing agreement (signed late last year). Still, the Palm OS remains technically the property of Access and the former PalmSource, NOT Palm Inc.

Palm would likely incur catastrophic legal repercussions if they were to release source code and APIs owned by Access into the open-source community. Palm even acknowledged their efforts to acquire the Palm OS IP outright via a purchase of PalmSource in 2005 during a furious bidding war.

In addition, Mr. Ulanoff quite mistakenly claims that his 700p runs OS 5.2 which is downright impossible. The only Treo ever released running OS 5.2 was the Treo 600. All NVFS-enabled Palm devices (every model released since fall 2004, in fact) runs some variation of OS 5.4, culminating in the current 5.4.9 found on Ulanoff's Treo 700p and still shipping on the most recent Palm OS device, the Centro.

Experienced users, especially those owning the same 700p as the author may be boggled by some of the terminology found within the piece. For example, the complaint of the Treo “going to sleep” is likely caused by the cellular radio in Mr. Ulanoff’s Treo searching for a signal in a marginal service area. The more common system delays, commonly known to be NVFS-related lag, are more frequent yet do not persist for a minute at a time. The NVFS memory architecture is present on every single current Palm OS 5.4.x device. In fact, the degree of NVFS lag and overall performance varies drastically from device to device depending on the specific memory architecture of each respective model, with the pre-patched 700p 1.06 ROM generally regarded as the laggiest Palm device ever, aside from the Microdrive-based LifeDrive mobile manager. Additionally, the bullet point criticizing the “never shuts down” aspect is a sign that there is quite possibly something amiss with Mr. Ulanoff’s Treo such as an unintentional software conflict. Normally, on the 700p, a press of the center 5-way navigator button will not power on the screen, regardless of the radio’s power state. All Palm and Handspring Treos have utilized the “radio off, screen off, instant on” process that has become a hallmark of Palm’s devices. Had the cancelled Foleo sub-notebook reached the market, Mr. Ulanoff would have likely experienced instant-on behavior from the Foleo very similar to his Treo.

While the article offers a variety of suggestions for improvement targeted primarily at Palm’s OS, a few hardware-related suggestions are also offered. Mr. Ulanoff makes no mention of Palm’s announcement from earlier this year regarding the Analyst Day announcement of their upcoming Linux-based Palm OS replacement.

While the article makes a good starting point for the variety of issues plaguing the antiquated Garnet OS, Mr. Ulanoff only skirts the surface of issues that are true detriments to Palm’s next-generation products such as Garnet’s lack of UMTS/HSDPA capability, its 128mb RAM ceiling, and noted difficulties with storage volumes in excess of 4GB. Interested Palm OS users should view this list as more of an easily-digested summary of many of the problems plaguing the antiquated-yet-current Palm OS 5.x code rather than an comprehensive overview of the current situation of the complex structure surrounding Palm, PalmSource/Access and the cloudy future of the platform.

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My Palm is sleepy, too

chayashida @ 10/4/2007 1:12:45 AM # Q
While I don't know if I agree with releasing the Palm OS as open source, I do believe Mr. Ulanoff when he says that his Palm "falls asleep." I have a similar problem with my Treo 680.

I believe the root of my problem to be the synchronization of my Treo with my work's Exchange server. I think the synchronizing in the background is slowing down the responsiveness of the Palm, so that it appears to "fall asleep." The pause isn't that long, usually less than 15 seconds, but it is annoying.

I have also experienced some of the other issues that he has mentioned.

At any rate, I am looking forward to a new, backwardly-compatible operating system on a shiny new phone when a new (and hopefully much improved) Palm OS in the future.

Chris

RE: My Palm is sleepy, too
hkklife @ 10/4/2007 9:43:25 AM # Q
Sure, we've all experienced at least one or two of those issues but, trust me, I've spent MANY AN HOUR on the various 700p boards (TC, Brighthand, 1src etc) and I've never seen reports of it conking out for upwards of a minute at a time. But then again, I don't poll an Exchange server either, but 60+ seconds just sounds excessive at any rate. I'm always fair in my criticisms and the 700p has many issues but that's one I've never experienced or noted to be widely reported.

While I'm not making any excuses for the rickety nature of FrankenGarnet or Palm's oftentimes questionable memory architecture/hardware specs (especially in the case of the 700p), I just think that Ulanoff's piece does a disservice to the community by making things sound worse than they really are (at least for 99% of users).

Certainly someone in Ulanoff's position on board THE print stalwart (not that it stands for much nowadays) of the PC/tech industry should be held to higher journalistic standards and be able to do better fact-checking. At the very least, get your Palm OS version correct! It's quite easy to bring up the "Info, Version" screens.

I mean, the Engadget "open letter" wasn't perfect, but it at least came within shouting distance of the truth on most of the pertinent matters and it CERTAINLY raised some eyebrows at Palm and in the tech community in general (recall that it came out mere days before the Fooleo's cancellation). But this PC Mag piece is just some half-arsed, un-researched piece that contains less accurate information than the vast majority of the PIC posts on any given day!

SV, thanks for the link to the clause in the Palm 8-K. I was in a hurry to finish the news item and couldn't turn that one up quite so easily, figuring SOMEONE in the crowd would chime in with the actual bits on open source prohibition.

Pilot 1000-->Pilot 5000-->PalmPilot Pro-->IIIe-->Vx-->m505-->T|T-->T|T2-->T|C-->T|T3-->T|T5-->TX-->Treo 700P

RE: My Palm is sleepy, too
hkklife @ 10/4/2007 9:53:50 AM # Q
P.S. John C. Dvorak (my favorite tech curmudgeon/pundit) would probably flog Lance Ulanoff for his poor fact-checking and shoddy journalism.

Pilot 1000-->Pilot 5000-->PalmPilot Pro-->IIIe-->Vx-->m505-->T|T-->T|T2-->T|C-->T|T3-->T|T5-->TX-->Treo 700P
RE: My Palm is sleepy, too
LiveFaith @ 10/4/2007 10:06:48 AM # Q
** un-researched piece that contains less accurate information than the vast majority of the PIC posts on any given day! **

I resent that. I'm doing my best to disseminate the most inaccurate Palm info, but do it with a load of passion! :-D

Pat Horne

RE: My Palm is sleepy, too
hkklife @ 10/4/2007 12:43:49 PM # Q
Another point:

It'd have been helpful had Ulanoff made a brief note if his 700p was the 1.06 or 1.10 version (and with which carrier).

I'm all behind pointing out the flaws, bugs etc. of Palm's various devices but IF there is a possible solution out there that just has not been tried then that't not good reporting/journalism.



Pilot 1000-->Pilot 5000-->PalmPilot Pro-->IIIe-->Vx-->m505-->T|T-->T|T2-->T|C-->T|T3-->T|T5-->TX-->Treo 700P

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terrible journalism

nybble @ 10/4/2007 3:55:11 AM # Q
That's just terrible journalism. There's a lot of things you can say to palm, but that "open letter" isn't any of it. It's mostly rehashing a few obvious palm issues but it mixes in tons of un-fact checked facts and suggests something that obviously can't happen since, as you note, Palm doesn't own Palm OS in the first place. It's so obviously dumb - it's no different than suggesting that Palm open source Windows Mobile. Sigh.

<http://comments.deasil.com/> that is my tech blog. There are many like it, but that one is mine.
RE: terrible, ignorant journalism
ChiA @ 10/4/2007 5:33:00 AM # Q
This journalist seems extremely ignorant and unobservant. The 700p has ACCESS powered stamped on its backside. It boots up with the ACCESS powered logo. PCMag has lost all credibility seeing how they've published an article based on a fundamental mistake, something which was easily checked, and widely known to those who actually follow the Palm OS scene.


We should all be grateful to Ryan and Palminfocenter.
Once again, a big thank you Ryan for a great site.

RE: terrible journalism - standard stuff - nonterrible is news!
SeldomVisitor @ 10/4/2007 7:00:39 AM # Q
What a stupid naive article.

The contract between PALM and ACCESS outright says PALM =cannot= open source anything they got from ACCESS. It took me longer to write this post than it did to both find the contract AND find that clause:

== "...3.7 Prohibition on Open Sourcing..."

Page 18ff.

-- http://tinyurl.com/27fnx5

The Me-Too Media strikes a-GAIN!

RE: terrible journalism
LiveFaith @ 10/4/2007 10:10:05 AM # Q
** The Me-Too Media strikes a-GAIN! **

You forgot to mention the "OMG-I've-gotta-meet-my-monthly-quota-media".

Pat Horne

RE: terrible journalism
dvoulgaris @ 10/4/2007 10:28:38 AM # Q
Why doesn't he ask MS to open WinMobile or even Windoze so third party developers make it a stable OS? I just hate those "driven" reports and open letters, who are just written for the 90% of the possible customers: people who don't know anything about computers or OSs. :-(

See ya...

RE: terrible journalism
ocspub @ 10/4/2007 11:17:58 AM # Q
> The contract between PALM and ACCESS outright says PALM =cannot= open source
> anything they got from ACCESS. It took me longer to write this post than it
> did to both find the contract AND find that clause

Well, you might want to spend a bit more time searching. The clause you pointed to (3.7) to prohibits *ACCESS* to open source the software they are *licensing* to Palm:

"At no time during [**] following the Acceptance Date shall ASA sell, offer to sell, license or distribute as Open Source Software all or substantially all of the Garnet Software... If ASA breaches the restrictions in Section 3.7(a) or Section 3.7(b), Palm shall be entitled to a one-time payment of [**] as Palm’s sole and exclusive remedy."

(ASA = Access Systems America)

(that's not to say that there isn't something in the contract that would prohibit Palm from distributing the source in any way (open source or not) to third parties... I am just too lazy to look for it).

Visit www.tapland.com for Zodiac news and discussion.

RE: terrible journalism
SeldomVisitor @ 10/4/2007 11:24:05 AM # Q
Sigh.

I pointed to a clause, you refered to a paragraph.

Read again, indeed.

RE: terrible journalism
ChiA @ 10/4/2007 12:30:26 PM # Q
that's not to say that there isn't something in the contract that would prohibit Palm from distributing the source in any way

from SEC filing:

3.7 (d) Licensee will not (i) modify the Garnet Software ... in any manner that would convert a material portion of the Garnet Software into Open Source Software or (ii) convert a material portion of Garnet Software code ... as Open Source Software; unless such material portion of the Garnet Software code ... has already been converted into Open Source Software by or for ASA or with ASA’s approval.


I am just too lazy to look for it

It took me less than five minutes to find the relevant info and make this post.

Seems ocspub "works" as a PCMag journalist too, assuming work is the right word to use.

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Open Sourced? It'd be called...

mikecane @ 10/4/2007 11:14:56 AM # Q
MAEMO II!

Run for your lives.

Reply to this comment

The Party Palm Will Miss

mikecane @ 10/4/2007 11:20:47 AM # Q
http://www.techworld.com/mobility/news/index.cfm?newsID=10252&pagtype=all

Wow.

Had history gone differently, Palm would have *created* this market...

RE: The Party Palm Will Miss
rpa @ 10/4/2007 6:15:11 PM # Q
Agree completely.....the sage of the Palm O/S mismanagement and lost opportunities would make a B School test case.

rpa
Palm Pilot >> Palm Tungsten E user
RE: The Party Palm Will Miss
rpa @ 10/4/2007 6:15:56 PM # Q
sorry....meant SAGA not sage...

rpa
Palm Pilot >> Palm Tungsten E user
RE: The Party Palm Will Miss
freakout @ 10/5/2007 4:05:40 AM # Q
The problem is that UMPCs suck. They have the whole idea arse-about-face: instead of hacking away at the desktop and trying to shoehorn the power (and accompanying bloat) of big machines into small ones (and then always winding up with an expensive heavy unwieldy-looking brick) they should be looking at ways of expanding those computers we're already carrying with us. Namely, phones.

After all, what does anyone actually need a UMPC for? You got your PDAs and smartphones already out there doing pocket-computing tasks, and you got your laptops & desktops for the big stuff. UMPCs are a solution looking for a problem. And they're not a very good one, at that.

RE: The Party Palm Will Miss
DrewT3 @ 10/5/2007 4:21:01 AM # Q
I never understood the draw of a UMPC type device, even back in the '90s when they were Windows CE "Desktop Companions". Too big for a pocket, too small and proprietary to get any real work done.
Give me a Centro with a modern multitasking OS and Opera Mini and I'll be happy. Until then my Nokia E61 works very well.

Reply to this comment

Why I Hate Palm Today

mikecane @ 10/4/2007 12:18:14 PM # Q
You b*ast*rds! You could have at least given me a full-size FOLEO BROCHURE at DigitalLife. No. Not even that.

Die!

The Device that never was: Palm Foleo
http://www.geardiary.com/2007/10/03/the-device-that-never-was-palm-foleo/

RE: Why I Hate Palm Today
Gekko @ 10/4/2007 7:39:45 PM # Q

As predicted -

"I can tell you this about the Foleo, the browsing on WiFi isn’t as smooth as it should be. I was expecting it to be a little more peppy if ya know what I mean, but it is just not as smooth as some other devices."

http://www.geardiary.com/2007/10/03/the-device-that-never-was-palm-foleo/


so it didn't sync with the treo well and wifi web surfing was pokey.

friggin fooleo.

RE: Why I Hate Palm Today
LiveFaith @ 10/5/2007 9:49:47 AM # Q
Puhleeeeze! It's got instant on. Who cares!

Pat Horne
RE: Why I Hate Palm Today
SeldomVisitor @ 10/5/2007 9:53:41 AM # Q
True.

As long as you only run the applications that have been specially modified to be "instant on" compatible.

RE: Why I Hate Palm Today
mikecane @ 10/5/2007 10:33:22 AM # Q
Damn. That bit about the WiFi must have been added since I looked (just like the pulling of the Centro picture, which I did see originally).

I thought using frikkin Opera would screw up that device. It was lousy on the Nokia AAnti-Internet Tabs (cue Beers) and it's lousy there.

If they ever bring it back: Firefox!!

With double the CPU horsepower, at least.

RE: Why I Hate Palm Today
mikecane @ 10/5/2007 1:05:51 PM # Q
By contast, the fekkin Asus Eee seems bloody miraculous. Here's part three of a huge French review. It uses Firefox, CAN DO YOUTUBE, has built-in webcam, and is the death of Foleo:

http://www.blogeee.net/?p=156

Reply to this comment

LINUX

tryingtoquit @ 10/4/2007 12:47:31 PM # Q
What about the new stuff they can't do. Can't they open source that stuff so their progammers can have more time to devote to their preschool studies?

RE: LINUX
rpa @ 10/4/2007 6:10:24 PM # Q
I would like to see Palm just bite the bullet and go linux as their main platform (WM as a necessary 2nd). Many users would be upset about the loss of continuity with their 3rd party apps but in the long run, you would have the entire linux community writing stuff (and possibly something for legacy Palm apps to work in linux). Waiting 18 months for a new O/S to come out is a waste of time.

rpa
Palm Pilot >> Palm Tungsten E user
RE: LINUX
SeldomVisitor @ 10/4/2007 6:13:13 PM # Q
I think the 18 month period IS for a Linux phone with GUI enhancements that PALm can sell as "special sauce".

And nothing more than that.

I challenge ANYONE to find the words FROM PALM that say PALM is going to have some sort of PalmOS (any variant) emulation layer that can backwardly run applications.

Such words might exist, BTW, I simply HAVE NOT seen them to date.

RE: LINUX
hkklife @ 10/4/2007 6:50:01 PM # Q
At this stage, really, I've basically resigned myself to the fact that I'm going to have to re-buy all of the important apps for PLinux ANYWAY. So just give me the familiar UI and a FLAWLESS way to import every shred of PIM data from my Treo/TX and I'll be mostly happy.

Heck, probably 3/4 of the apps/games I've purchased over the years have either been adandoned by their developers, won't even run on a modern NVFS-enabled Palm OS 5.4.x device and/or have some issues with control or hard button input. So I've basically been expecting this SINCE Cobalt was supposed to arrive in 2004ish.

For what it's worth, it would probably behoove Palm to keep a legacy PDA or two around just to run the old Garnet/OS4 apps. Look at Sony: they're just going to give up trying to nail PS1/2 backwards compatibility via software with the PS3 and just tell people who want to play the old stuff to go buy a PS2 now that they will soon be down to $100. Not a very elegant solution, I know, but in many ways it's easier on everyone in the long run to just do it that way.

Pilot 1000-->Pilot 5000-->PalmPilot Pro-->IIIe-->Vx-->m505-->T|T-->T|T2-->T|C-->T|T3-->T|T5-->TX-->Treo 700P

RE: LINUX
SeldomVisitor @ 10/4/2007 6:57:58 PM # Q
Yes, I believe they'll try to keep SOME sort of "special" UI, though I'm not sure PALM's antiquated one IS the one to "keep" (simply not sure, BTW, not negative toward the idea).

But, due to Fooleo thoughts and ease of "instant-on/sync" etc, I'm not so sure legacy data will ALWAYS be bidirectionally transferable. That is, I think MAYBE you'll get the chance to import your data but once that's done it's done - no going back, no weaving NEW legacy data into existing "new format data".

But that's just a shot (thought) in the dark with little hard basis - I am an outsider trying to push a thin stick through a small hole into a large box and figure out what's in there.

RE: LINUX
Gekko @ 10/4/2007 7:41:22 PM # Q
>At this stage, really, I've basically resigned myself to the fact that I'm going to have to re-buy all of the important apps for PLinux ANYWAY.


hkk - at this point, you should resign yourself to switching to ANOTHER PLATFORM. it's only a matter of time before you have to anyway.

RE: LINUX
hkklife @ 10/4/2007 9:47:11 PM # Q
Gekko;

Right now I'm going to ride out my 700p contract (ends May or June '08) and see where the ride takes me. Besides, I have a duty to Ryan/PIC/the community to see this ride through to the bitter end, one way or another. I am keeping a very close eye on the iPhone and expect it to really be something swell by about the 3rd or 4th generation.

If nothing else, I still have two TXs that will remain as perfectly capable PDAs . WinMob still offers very little to me...but I'm not a big BB fan either, even though their latest devices are finally packing pretty decent hardware (GPS AND a 3.5mm headphone jack!)

Pilot 1000-->Pilot 5000-->PalmPilot Pro-->IIIe-->Vx-->m505-->T|T-->T|T2-->T|C-->T|T3-->T|T5-->TX-->Treo 700P

RE: LINUX
TooMuch @ 10/6/2007 9:54:50 AM # Q
"I still have two TXs that will remain as perfectly capable PDAs"

This TX statement seems to be oft said. POS has been a GREAT UI despite the phone difficulties. I have genuine hopes for POS II.

Reply to this comment

PC Mag getting a bad reputation lately

JackG @ 10/4/2007 3:51:49 PM # Q
I enjoy reading forums, and the ZD Net forums is one I watch (albeit slightly). There are several authors who get zinged regularly for either their obvious bias, or their inept reporting.

I find sites such as PIC to be more informative, more technically accurate, and more enjoyable to read. Keep up the good work PIC, for those of us who still use the Palm platform. You're a daily read on my list.

Oh, and I was as furious as anyone over the 700p debacle, and have posted on several forums, including Palms offical blog, about my aggravations. I experienced with my 700p all of the bluetooth complaints, the lags, the PTunes skipping, etc. I was angry, and am still disgusted, with how long it took Palm to get an update out on this very expensive piece of hardware. My opinion is that their product support is very deficient, but I am hoping the recent tone from Palm would indicate that their attitudes are shifting in our favor. At least they appear to be listening. (I must confess I moved temporarily to the Sprint Mogul from HTC due to my anger over the 700p. Nevertheless, the lull of the Treo pulled me back, the update makes the 700p the phone it should have been from the start, and I am using it again, and readying a sale of a Mogul on eBay. Oh, the dog slowness and bluetooth issues on the Mogul have helped to sway me back too).

By the way, I thought the Engadget open letter was pretty good. But then, they are one of the sites that I think does a good job overall. ZD Net and affiliates need to learn from Engadget and PIC on how to convey good info to the community!

RE: PC Mag getting a bad reputation lately
LiveFaith @ 10/5/2007 10:09:10 AM # Q
No wonder. I read this Open Blather too. What stupidity. I don't think this guy has ever owned or really used a Palm PDA. He probably got the 700P from Palm as a gift because they wanted to torture him. :-D Now, after using it a while, he's a regular armchair Eddie Colligan.

Here's his 2 step solution for Palm:
#1 Spend a ton of $$$ on marketing now.
#2 Release the OS source code, which is owned by another company, to the open source community, but keep "control" of the kernel.

Wow. I bet RIM has already offered him a job. With help like this who needs enemies. Or who knows, maybe this is Palm Inc distraction by their directors. This sure would make me a lot happier as an investor knowing that management may be bad, but at least it's not suicidal?

The most hilarious of all is the open source solution. He states that Palm "should keep control of the kernel". Sweet Mother Mary! Has this buffoon never even written a macro for MS-Word? The kernel is the problem Sherlock! He wants the open source community to create a multi-tasking OS, while Palm keeps the non-multitasking kernel unchanged! Boy, does that ever evoke visions of stability and power.

To pull this off, Micro$oft would probably have to donate and devote 95% of it's current staff, and the entire Linux community would have to come on board to get such an albatross off the ground. Total lunacy.

One funny part is where he talks about app switching not working. It's almost like he lifted his opinion straight from 2 or 3 articles he's read about Palm OS losing place in apps. Anyone with a little Palm OS operational knowledge knows that "properly written" Palm OS apps return to their last point when returning to the app. This is from Palmsource themselves, although they break their own rules in the PIMs. This guy apparently wants to pontificate to Palm while their down, yet is more clueless than the assistant mailroom clerk in Cupertino.

PCMag had better get control of the house if they want to turn their old media force into the new media success.



Pat Horne

RE: PC Mag getting a bad reputation lately
BaalthazaaR @ 10/5/2007 10:21:38 AM # Q
PCMag hasn't been worth the paper it's been printed on for years now. Move on, nothing to see here.
RE: PC Mag getting a bad reputation lately
SeldomVisitor @ 10/5/2007 10:53:28 AM # Q
Gotta bring back the original Byte magazine:

-- http://www.computercloset.org/ByteIssue1.jpg

Now THOSE were the days!

[I actually may still have that issue somewhere down in the basement with all the other cool stuff!]

RE: PC Mag getting a bad reputation lately
SeldomVisitor @ 10/5/2007 10:56:37 AM # Q
Of course, THAT image got it wrong - it was 1975, not 1976:

-- http://www.digibarn.com/collections/mags/byte-covers/BYTE-1975-09-cov1.jpg

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