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Developers Move to Support Expansion Cards (Updated)

The expansion ports on the m500 series, the HandEra 330, and the Clié are good ways to store files and documents but developers are going to need to write new versions of their applications to allow them to access the cards. I spoke with many of the main Palm software companies to see what their plans were for supporting these new removable media.

Documents to Go
The latest version of Documents to Go already has Memory Stick support for the Sony Clié and a version with limited SD/MMC card support ships with the m500 series.

Wordsmith
Tamara Hinds of Blue Nomad said, "We are definitely going to be adding expansion card support for WordSmith. We will be adding it with our next major rev or soon thereafter... in the next month or so."

According to Ms. Hinds, WordSmith will load the copy from the card, let the user view or edit it, then save it back to the card. Editing directly on the card would be "horrifically" slow but as technology improves they will look into it.

Quickoffice
Cutting Edge's Quickoffice comes bundled with the HandEra 300 but it doesn't yet have support for expansion cards. Mike Compeau from Cutting Edge said, "We are working on adding support for removable storage like MMC/SD/CF to Quickoffice. Particularly in light with our arrangement with HandEra, this is a high priority for us."

Mr. Compeau said, "To edit Quickoffice files, they need to reside in RAM." When asked if Quickoffice applications will ever be able to edit files directly on expansion cards, Mr. Compeau said, "This depends on the device companies and the solution each chooses to implement. Because of the diversity of external file storage media that exists now and in the future (there are now Springboards that are announced or coming out that will themselves hold smart media cards or PCMCIA cards etc.) it shouldn't be expected that software developers can create efficient software to take advantage of these external storage capabilities unilaterally."

He explained, "The issue goes to hardware makers who need to create a standard for external storage card file access. HandEra has done a great deal of work in this area in the past and we expect them to be a visionary leader in this area, again, in the future."

TomeRaider New
Mat Ripley of PalmTec said, "We do plan to support the 500 and 505... but as yet we haven't got one so its hard to say when this will be out. I estimate within the next 6 weeks."

Qvadis Reader New
"We are do have plans to introduce versions compatible with SD/MMC/Memory Stick; which one we support first will likely depend on adoption rates for the devices," said Sam Peralta of Qvadis. "One of our design goals is to access and edit databases directly off the expansion card. How this is done, and the degree of difficulty, will depend on the actual medium."

Silver Screen
PocketSensei is currently working on a version of SilverScreen that supports the m500 series' SD/MMC slot. Bohm Kim said, "We will have a solution sometime in the 3rd quarter of this year that will surpass the basic functionality provided by Palm." He also said, "We are also in partnership with Sony and are working to promote the features supported by upcoming devices.The memory stick is not RAM, but we are looking at ways to make the memory stick more convenient."

GoBar
Aladdin Systems was a bit vague about their plans. A spokesperson for the company said, "It is Aladdin's goal with GoBar to both support and enhance the Palm OS. Now that removable media is supported by the Palm OS (as of 4.0), it would be natural for GoBar to support those API's in a future upgrade." However, they declined to give any more details or discuss release dates.

MobileDB New
Handmark is still looking over the various platforms and making plans. Cassidy Lackey, VP Engineering, said, "Although we have not announced any definite plans to support the memory stick or SD/MMC we are spending a good deal of time reviewing the technologies and support provided by Palm/Handspring/Sony for their respective technologies. I would expect to see some Handmark software on one or more of these expansion technologies by the end of the year."

JFile New
John Lehett of Land-J Technologies said, "JFile 5.x initially will not support SD/VFS/Memory stick databases directly - the whole VFS types of file system on these modules is just so completely different than normal PalmOS .pdb structures, and how they are normally stored in RAM, meaning that supporting true SD access will not be an easy task for file structures that are as complex as database app structures tend to be. "

However, he went on to say, "We WILL be looking at the possibility of supporting the 'move to RAM automatically (and back when done)' possibility though, and may try to have this capability ready for when JFile 5.x is available, but not 100% sure on this yet. JFile 5.x is currently in early stage beta testing, we haven't set a firm date for its release yet, as a lot will depend on the beta testing stages. We're hoping for a June or July release at the latest though as a target." All current registered JFile 4.x users will receive JFile 5.x free of charge when it becomes available.

thinkDB New
The next version of thinkDB will support removable media. Armando Neves, CTO for thinkingBytes Technology, said "We are planning to support SD, memory stick and compact flash cards. Databases will be copied into RAM to be edited and then moved back to the card."

Liberty
Aaron Ardiri, one of the developers of the Liberty GameBoy emulator, said that they had no plans to support removable media because not all handhelds supported it so it wasn't worth their development time.

PhotoSuite
A version of PhotoSuite Mobile Album comes bundled with the m500 series that supports the SD port on the m500 series.

Others
Olive Tree said a version of BibleReader that supports the m500 series should be available in about two weeks. Skyscape said and m500 series version of LexiDrugs would be out in 4 to 6 weeks.

This is part one of a two part series. The second half will cover application support for the high-resolution screens on the Clie and Handera 330.

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Docs to go won't support my SD

I.M. Anonymous @ 5/3/2001 1:36:26 PM #
I can't see any of the PDBs on my SD with the version of docs to go that came with 505. I can see a pull down called internal but there's no way of seemingly using the SD for editing or viewing.

RE: Docs to go won't support my SD
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/12/2001 3:54:11 AM #
An excerpt from the DataViz web page:

Currently, Documents To Go does not work with the Palm Secure Digital Expansion Cards. All Documents To Go applications and document files need to be stored on the Palm OS memory. We are looking into supporting this in a future version.


What about databases?

I.M. Anonymous @ 5/3/2001 1:39:42 PM #
How about database programs such as jfile, handbase, tealinfo, isilo, mobiledb, etc.? Whether or not these will be able to access files stored on the SD card on the m50x will be key.

RE: What about databases?
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/3/2001 3:17:20 PM #
I specifically wrote to the developers of JFile regarding this, and this is the response I received:

"Thanks for the inquiry. SD card reading of databases is not in the
near term future for JFile at this point. Unlike the Handspring
modules memory expansion, the SD card modules of the new Palm's are
VASTLY different in terms of storage, structure and layout, and for
apps such as JFile that require repeated and often record based
accesses, the supporting of such a new file system is a very major and
complex change (it is easier for apps such as document readers or
images that have just a continous 'file' of data). It is, however,
certainly something we will continue to look into here for possible
ways to implement this.

J.J. Lehett
Land-J Technologies"


======

Great... I wanted an m505 specifically so I could read large database files off of it. Nice to know that once again, JFile will be slow to update, if at all.

Don't know about ThinkDB or HanDBase -- if they add support for SD Cards, I'll instantly dump JFile and switch over.

RE: What about databases?
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/3/2001 3:21:41 PM #
Forgot to mention, I also wrote to the companies responsible for ePocrates and TealInfo about Expansion Card support. Haven't heard back from TealPoint yet, but here's what the ePocrates folk wrote:

"Thank you for your feedback. We appreciate your comments.
Memory constraints are a concern for many users and we have
gone through great efforts to compress our database. qRx
3.0 with AutoUpdate required just under 1 MB. You will note
that qRx 4.0 has many new data fields and much more robust
functionality, but requires only 1.1 MB of memory because of
our compression. Other handheld references like LexiDrugs
1.7 MB and the PDR 2.2-2.5 MB require much more memory.

We are continuing to explore other avenues in an effort to
further compress future versions of ePocrates qRx.

qRx is a dynamic database that cannot be moved into the
flash memory expander, but some other static programs can.

Please let us know if you have any other questions or
suggestions for improvement."

=====

So apparently, with ePocrates, only the main program can be placed on an expansion card, but the remaining databases must be left in regular Palm ROM. I'm beginning to wonder if ePocrates understood what I asked of them...

I'll add on here when I hear back from TealPoint...

RE: What about databases?
Ed @ 5/3/2001 3:22:21 PM #
Sorry, I missed a whole category of applications, didn't I? I've just written to the developers of HanDBase, thinkDB, MobileDB, and JFile asking them what their status is. I'll update the article when I get some responses.

---
Plenipotentiary
Palm Infocenter
What about Isilo?
Bubba @ 5/3/2001 3:58:21 PM #
What about Isilo? I have a TON of stuff in Isilo but have heard that it is not compatable with the SD cards. If anyone knows anything, please let us know!

About iSilo
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/3/2001 4:15:47 PM #
I specifically wrote to iSilo regarding the same issue with the Main file staying on RAM and the databases/docs residing on the SD card. This is their exact quote:

Support for the extra capabilities (e.g., color/reading of documents
on SD) of the M505 are under investigation for the future.

About iSilo
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/3/2001 4:17:44 PM #
If enough of us bug them with emails, maybe they will see how important this issue is and maybe they will make the "future" a "near future".

RE: What about databases?
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/3/2001 4:49:14 PM #
I agree. Here are some email addresses. Please write them and tell them you would like to see SD card support:

HanDBase: support@ddhsoftware.com
JFile: info@land-j.com or support@land-j.com
ThinkDB: support@thinkingbytes.com
ISilo: email@iSilo.com
MobileDB: support@handmark.com

Thanks everyone!

MobileDB
Ed @ 5/3/2001 4:54:57 PM #
I've added MobileDB's response to the article.

---
Plenipotentiary
Palm Infocenter
RE: What about databases?
mengshi @ 5/3/2001 9:06:00 PM #
For those who don't already know...

1) iSilo already can directly read files stored on CF card on the TRGPro and HandEra. I have been doing this for 1 year now. iSilo can be run from CF card as well. I have a 5MB iSilo file on CF from an online medical text book that I converted with iSiloWeb.

2) On the TRGPro/HandEra, JFile databases and the app can be read and run off the CF card as well. You just can't edit the dB in CF.

3) HandBase - the app can be run off CF but the dB has to be in RAM.

Not sure about the rest because I don't use them.

I know that the whose Lexidrug app and dB can be run off CF. If I'm not mistaken, all the SkyScape programs and dB can be run off CF. Only the notes / therapeutic indices when you create them are stored in RAM. These are tiny.

So, for those who need to do the above, it is worth checking the HandEra and TRGPro out. They've been ahead of everbody for a loooong time now.

RE: What about databases?
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/3/2001 9:36:35 PM #
Which online medical text did you convert?

Message from iSilo
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/3/2001 11:04:13 PM #
"iSilo does not currently have the ability to read documents from the SD memory card, but support for it is under research for a future version, and so it could potentially be available in a few months."


Message from JFile
jwouden @ 5/3/2001 11:06:07 PM #
What we are looking into currently, is a method similar to how applications on the SD card are handled - moving them to RAM when needed, and back to SD when finished with them. We don't yet have a definitive answer on this yet, but it is among our top priorities along with the release of JFile 5.x, which is due in the June or July timeframe.



Message from Skyscape
jwouden @ 5/3/2001 11:07:43 PM #
(They make Lexidrugs, 5 minute clinical consult, Apothecarium, etc.)

"Currently our products are not functional from the SD card. We are working on it now and should have ready soon."

RE: Message from JFile
Ed @ 5/3/2001 11:24:02 PM #
I added to the article the answer I got from
Land-J Technologies. It has a bit more information.

---
Plenipotentiary
Palm Infocenter
RE: What about databases?
mengshi @ 5/4/2001 6:16:07 AM #
> Which online medical text did you convert?

More specifically, Orthopaedic Text. I went to Wheeless Online Textbook of Orthopaedics and converted the whole site minus the pictures using iSiloWeb at a depth of 3 level. Took me > 5-6 hours on a 56K dial-up modem. With pictures, the file size exploded to > 15MB but I was unable to load this as I don't have a CF reader. At a level 3 conversion, I'm still missing some less important parts of the website dealing with abstracts. A level 4 conversion increases the file size exponentially.

Actually, you can use iSiloWeb to convert any site but it helps if the site has very little extraneous material because you can't specify much what not to include apart from pictures and whether to follow off-site links.

RE: ePocrates
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/4/2001 9:03:02 AM #
The response posted above from ePocrates looks like a standard boilerplate "sorry we use so much RAM" message, rather than a message tailored specifically to the SD/MMC issue.

Of course, this doesn't mean that they will be supporting SD/MMC, but it doesn't mean they won't, either.

Message from Mobile DB
jwouden @ 5/4/2001 3:18:26 PM #
"Thanks for the feedback. We are working on a new and improved version of MobileDB and we hope to make that version SD/MMC-aware. Since we are in the middle of development on that version it is unlikely we will add this functionality to the current version. We hope to release the new version later this summer."

Copying databases back to Palm: This is a problem!!!
jwouden @ 5/4/2001 5:15:50 PM #
I got this post off of palmblvd.com:

"Hi. I just got a m500 and a palm 16MB SD card from staples. I loaded the m500 with a doc reader and some docs from memoware. I then moved the docs to the card to save space on the handheld for more applications. NOW after I copied them over I wanted to read one of them. SO NOW i have to reverse the order and copy the DOC from the card back to the handheld BUT WAIT!!!! YOU CAN NOT DO THIS!!!!! IN the copy application it only list applications and NOT DATABASES or DOC FILES on the CARD. It lists them on the handheld BUT NOT on the card. So you can not retrive them. PLAM SCREWED UP! I called supprt and the tech guy at LEVEL TWO had no help and said this was a problem.... You can uyse the DELETE function and delete them off the card but you can not COPY back to the hanheld....

ANY ONE ELSE experince this????? HELP!!!!! I bought a m500 to save large doc files and databases (.PDB files) to the card for reference. If I can not g copy them back then the m500 to view them then the m500 is USLESS!!!!!! "

thinkDB and Expansion Cards
Ed @ 5/6/2001 1:04:40 PM #
I have updated the article with info on thinkDB.

---
News Editor
Palm Infocenter
Message from HanDBase
jwouden @ 5/7/2001 12:41:55 AM #
"The Current version of HanDBase is not able to see Databases on any Storage card including the New SD and MMC Cards that you can use in the new m500, m505 and
Handera 330. We do have plans to implement this in some way in a future version of HanDBase. We currently have HanDBase 3.0 in development and we hope to include support for those in that version."

Seamless memory

I.M. Anonymous @ 5/3/2001 1:47:21 PM #
I'm glad to see that launching from the SD card is being taken care of. Also, Handheldmed.com released their new reader program version 5.0 that can read off of the SD card without loading it into memory first they say.
Will the new Palm m500/m505 ever have seamless launching of the SD card or the ability to have apps simply pop up into a category instead of being it's own directory (I guess something like a TRGpro although I've never owned one)? Or is this something that's in the hardware and can never be overcome. Thanks.

RE: Seamless memory
mengshi @ 5/3/2001 9:18:33 PM #
I have been running HandHeldMed's Merck Manual and Harrison's off the CF card of the TRGPro for over 1 year now ! This is using their old reader.

Same thing will do for the HandEra but now it has both CF and SD slots.:-)



My big-db apps...

I.M. Anonymous @ 5/3/2001 1:51:14 PM #
The apps that I'm hoping will support the expansion cards are iSilo and ThinkDB. If I still used QuoVadis, that would be on my list too.

Bander


Generation 1 or generation 2 SD card

I.M. Anonymous @ 5/3/2001 5:17:28 PM #
Hi. I have heard that current SD memory expansion cards have a data transfer rate of 2Mb per second,
but that a 2nd generation will be released that will have a transfer rate of 10Mb per second. Does
anyone know if this is true and when the 2nd gen cards will be released?

Thanks.
Bill

RE: Generation 1 or generation 2 SD card
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/4/2001 2:48:31 AM #
Yes, that's true, go to http://www.panasonic-europe.com/sd/
They say that they will release a 256MB SD this year with 10MB transfer rate/sec.
A 1GB SD card is scheduled for 2002.

Ceers,
Roman from Austria

RE: Generation 1 or generation 2 SD card
David @ 5/4/2001 10:47:39 AM #
Here's the US site for the above information:
http://www.sdtrend.com/data/sdinfo/fast.html

Start at Square One again, Ed

I.M. Anonymous @ 5/3/2001 5:21:32 PM #
-- and ask all of them if they will support the new CLIE's features:

1) 320x320 resolution
2) Memory Stick

See what you've started?

Already Included
Ed @ 5/3/2001 5:35:53 PM #
I already asked all of these companies about their Memory Stick support. If they said they would, it is in the article.

As mentioned at the end of the article, I'm already putting together an article on what applications will support both the Clie's and the 330's higher resolution screens. Look for it in a few days.

---
Plenipotentiary
Palm Infocenter

RE: Start at Square One again, Ed
mikecane @ 5/4/2001 11:52:02 AM #
We shall have to rename this place: Ed InfoCenter, perhaps?

Medical People Great News

I.M. Anonymous @ 5/3/2001 6:03:13 PM #
I just checked out Handheldmed.com and the new Reader which is compatible with the Palm m50x and Sony Clie is now available for download.
Here is a cut/paste from the website:
Handheldmed Reader Version 5.0 for Palm OS Now Available!

Handheldmed has released version 5.0 of its reader for Palm OS. Version 5.0 has all
of the many features you have come to rely on with previous versions. In addition, we
have added the Sony Clie and Palm m500 series to the long list of devices that are
currently compatible with the reader. Among the many tools found in the
Handheldmed Reader is its unique ability to access book files stored on CF,
SmartCard, and MMC memory expansion cards without copying the files to RAM.
Yipee!

RE: Medical People Great News
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/3/2001 6:34:52 PM #
This is great news! Thanks for the tip.

RE: Medical People Great News
I.M. Anonymous @ 1/31/2002 3:58:28 PM #
i have installed reader both on my clie and on the ms and neither way allows you to access the merck manual, if anyone knows how to do this please email me

simon_k23@hotmail.com


You forgot one: PalmReader!

I.M. Anonymous @ 5/3/2001 7:20:52 PM #
Ed, you forgot to mention that there is one application that already supports reading databases directly off SD, MMC, and MemoryStick cards: PeanutReader (oops, I mean PalmReader). When I had a Palm m500 (before I returned it), I was able to put a ton of standard palm doc files as well as PeanutReader encrypted books on an MMC card and read them directly from the card using PalmReader. Scott over at Red Mercury confirmed that PalmReader also works with the Clie2, reading docs directly from the MemoryStick.

RE: You forgot one: PalmReader!
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/3/2001 9:51:56 PM #
How is this possible?? It doesn't look like PalmReader has been updated since Feb. 14, 2000. Version 1.52, right?

Thanks.

RE: You forgot one: PalmReader!
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/3/2001 10:29:06 PM #
Where are you seeing such an old version of PalmReader? The version string in the last version of Peanut Reader I used is 3.2.13, and then it was converted over to being PalmReader (v1.0) around the time the m500/m505's were announced, in March.

RE: You forgot one: PalmReader!
jwouden @ 5/4/2001 9:53:44 AM #
The Palm Reader comes with the m50x, right? Evidently Palm acquired PeanutPress (www.peanutpress.com).

Updates to Article

Ed @ 5/3/2001 11:38:57 PM #
I'm adding applications to the article as they come in from the developers. Anything labeled as "New" has been added since the article was first posted.

---
Plenipotentiary
Palm Infocenter
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