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By Robert Zach (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Data Backup...sounds simple right? But, who does it regularly? And, why not?...It's difficult, time consuming, and your never sure you did it right...well not any more for your Palm device.
Other backup products are on the market but the MemorySafe by NorthStar Mobile has got to be the easiest. This product keeps with the "Zen of Palm" and provides a simple single purpose solution to the backup problem (read on to understand why backup is highlighted).
Load the software, tap "backup", and forget! If you ever have a catastrophic failure - HotSync over the app, insert the module, run and tap "restore" - DONE. Simple.
Two versions on the MemorySafe for m100 are available - 2mb and 8mb sizes. These are also compatible with the Palm III and IV series handheld due to the similar HotSync interface. This device will also work on a Palm V with a PalmDockV (see past review) but the MemorySafe doesn't fit securely enough to make this worthwhile. And, the 2/8 versions fit the standard m100 and Palm III/VII series nicely.
The MemorySafe itself comes packaged in a nice box with the application/driver software included on CD-ROM, User's Guide, and a soft carrying pouch. The device is very tiny and light weight. And, my usage of the device didn't appear to make a noticeable drain on the Palm's batteries.
HotSync the application, then attach the device. The application will not run without the MemorySafe plugged in. After running the application, you are presented with the following screen. (Note the last date and time of backup is also displayed on this screen)
Simply click either large icon to "Backup All" for the whole device or select "Backup Files" to pick individual files to backup. A "Backup All" requires that the device contents be erased first - this ensures the MemorySafe always has a current snapshot of the m100 - you are prompted to confirm the erase operation.
Selecting the "Bbackup Files" option provides this listing of the Palm's contents. Here PDBs can be selected for selective backup. As you make your selections the total memory required is added up and the number selected displayed. I wish that the application's highlight bar ran the entire length of the screen. It can be difficult when there are very long names next to short ones to easily what is selected.
As the backup progress in either mode (all of files), a progress bar with percent completion is displayed. That's it for the Backup mode; Simple.
To restore files, simply tap "Restore" to put the application into that mode. The screen basically looks identical to backup mode; you can either restore all the files or select individual files to copy from the MemorySafe to your Palm. During any restore procedure the application prompts for a yes/no before overwrite if an application already exists on the palm PDA. It would be nice if there was a preference that could be set to force this to "yes" or "prompt" mode. Again, progress bars and percent complete are shown for both restore methods just as in backup mode.
One thing that I do feel is missing, is that the application does not warn you if you have selected a restore process which requires more memory than available on the Palm. Of course presumably you'd be restoring an erased Palm or replacing applications that already exist on the Palm so this would make the feature difficult to implement. Although I'd like this feature, remember this is a basic device rescue tool, not a feature packed storage and recovery tool.
The MemorySafe application has a few items under the pull-down menu. The standard "about screen" is there as well as "view contents". View lists the files currently backed up on the MemorySafe, but you can't do anything with them such as delete. "Initialize" basically formats and erases the MemorySafe. The "size info" can also be displayed which tells you how much memory is still available on the MemorySafe.
The final "Tools" allow you to set a password for access to the files stored on the module; and enable/disable that password. Losing your password requires that the device be reformatted before it can be used again. This appears to be a nice way to safeguard your information should you lose your MemorySafe module. So if you lose your backup, should you have a backup....ah redundancy ;-)
The application that shipped with MemorySafe (v1.4) exhibited few graphics problems (progress bar overruns and leftover popup windows graphics), but downloading the latest version (v1.5) from NorthStar support (here) seemed to clear things up. All but one graphical glitch remains from version 1.4. If you look at the "Handheld Contents" or "MemorySafe Contents" screens above you can see that there is a small line above the "DONE" button left over from the restore or backup button of the main screen - looks like the "contents" listing screens are two pixels too short in height. Actually the listings also have the top and right lines of the surrounding box missing - could also be due to the 2-pixel shift. Just a nit-pick!
My impression of the MemorySafe is that NorthStar Mobile has succeeded in replicating the Zen of Palm in a backup solution. It does this simply and reliably. If you are looking for a full-featured storage application that can run apps directly or use data on the MemorySafe you had better look elsewhere and be prepared to pay much more.
The one glaring problem here is probably the fact that if you really were on the road without a PC you wouldn't be able to recover from a total loss until you got back to a PC that had the MemorySafe application on it. The application MUST be HotSynced onto the Palm before any restore process can take place. NorthStar promotes this device as a "Backup solution while on the go" not as a "Backup and Restore Solution" so I guess technically that is accurate, but maybe a little misleading to the casual buyer.
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