Say Goodbye to Hacks in OS 5

InfoWorld has convinced a few developers to leak some information on Palm OS 5, which is currently being developed. Palm announced long ago that its next-generation operating system would run on ARM-based processors, forsaking the Motorola Dragonball ones that have powered all Palm handhelds up until now. But for the most part, the company has managed to keep the lid on other details of the OS.

One detail Palm has made clear is that OS 5 will still be able to run most current applications, though there will be some exceptions, including applications that don't follow Palm's ground rules for developing apps.

The much faster ARM 7-based processors will allow the handheld to emulate the current generation. The developers willing to talk to InfoWorld said that this made some current applications run faster, while some ran slower. They have noticed a significant speed increase in general.

One class of applications that don't work at all is Hacks. The change in the operating system is significant enough that none of these work at all.

OS 5 does use multitasking and multithreading, allowing the handheld to handle more than one simultaneous operation, like downloading a file and updating the calendar at the same time. Another change from the current version is OS 5 is 32-bit.

The developers were less happy about a lack of built-in multimedia features, like MP3 playback.

OS 5 will be officially unveiled early next month at PalmSource, Palm's annual developer conference.

The question everyone is asking is when will handhelds running OS 5 be available. According to InfoWorld, this will be in the third quarter of this year. Palm's Chairman and temporary CEO Eric Benhamou confirmed this in a recent interview.

Thanks to Michael Covington and tej for the tips. I urge you all to read the InfoWorld article, as it goes into a bit more detail. -Ed

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No MP3 playback?

I.M. Anonymous @ 1/17/2002 9:22:06 AM #
The developers were less happy about a lack of built-in multimedia features, like MP3 playback.

What?? no MP3 playback?


RE: No MP3 playback?
Mojo @ 1/17/2002 9:24:40 AM #
Give it some time, while Palm may (or may not, speculating on speculations) belive that mp3 is a needed feature, other developers might not share the same view. Use Sony for an example. f they continue the Palm line and adopt OS 5, then if they follow their past units MP3 will most likely be a feature on their higher end models.

Leaving It Up to Third Parties
I.M. Anonymous @ 1/17/2002 10:09:29 AM #
Most computers don't come with a mp3 player either. Does that mean they can't play mp3s? Of course not. Get your self a third party player and your in business. The same will be true of ARM based palms.

I like it better this way. The mp3 player in the Sony 760 is lame but there aren't any good alternatives because one comes with the handheld and no-one's going to buy one, even a better one, when they've got a free one already.

Everyone thinks Palm should do EVERYTHING. Why doesn't Palm make a hardcase? Why doesn't Palm make a word processor? Because that's not what they are good at. They make handhelds. Leave mp3 players and cases up to companies that are good at it.

If you are going to bitch about having to pay for a third party mp3 player, there'll surely be a freeware one that's lame but free. Pay for it and you can get a good one. You get what you pay for.

RE: No MP3 playback?
I.M. Anonymous @ 1/17/2002 10:59:04 AM #
I think these developers are reading way too far into things. What Palm is making available now is for developers to make sure their existing apps will be compatible with OS 5. These devices will certainly be capable of multimedia functionality, including MP3.

RE: No MP3 playback?
I.M. Anonymous @ 1/17/2002 11:01:31 AM #
Of course, for MP3 playback to be addes as 3rd party software, it would require the handheld hardware having some sort of sound capabilities. Or else it will be like today. beep.

RE: No MP3 playback?
I.M. Anonymous @ 1/17/2002 11:06:45 AM #
I have to disagree with a previous post. The MP3 playback in the Clie is not lame. It is infact comparable to the PPCs.

What are you talking about?

RE: No MP3 playback?
I.M. Anonymous @ 1/17/2002 11:32:58 AM #
I would imagine Palm will offer some type of mp3 software as a bundle or optional add-on.

I think this is a good move on their part, because mp3 is a "niche" function, and Palm has, and always should, focus on the core applications that are most useful to the most people. Micro$oft likes to trumpet what their machines CAN do. I'm more interested in what I WILL do, and so is Palm.

RE: No MP3 playback?
I.M. Anonymous @ 1/17/2002 11:36:26 AM #
I don't know much about MP3's nor did I think I would ever use one, but I just purchased a 760 and I think the built in MP3 is terrific. I have a large cD collection which I have no saved on my computer. I have a 128m card and I can store almost 3 full CD's. On the road I can add or delete using my laptop. Very easy, very cool.

RE: No MP3 playback?
I.M. Anonymous @ 1/17/2002 11:42:03 AM #
> I have to disagree with a previous post. The MP3 playback in the Clie is not lame.
> It is infact comparable to the PPCs.

I just don't like the app. The UI isn't so good. Playback sounds good.

RE: No MP3 playback?
I.M. Anonymous @ 1/17/2002 11:44:28 AM #
it's pretty decent for a palm OS app...

RE: No MP3 playback?
mtg101 @ 1/17/2002 12:14:56 PM #
The UI on the Clie's MP3 player isn't the best. Then again, I hardly ever use it. The Clie comes with a remote control on the headphones, and I just use that - no need to get involved with the Palm app at all.


Diga ao Falante pelos Mortos

Why should there be?
I.M. Anonymous @ 1/17/2002 3:58:43 PM #
Why should MP3 playback be *built-in*? Of course this will be left up to third-party developers. So much the better, because I only want to play my .OGGs*. I'd hate to have space/resources used up on a built-in feature that I don't need. That's like saying the OS ought to have the built-in ability to read MS Word Docs. Sure that's great functionality, but it's not the OS's job.

-webgremlin <><

*ogg-vorbis is an open-source audio compression technology. advantages: technologically superior to MP3 and no patents, no copy protection. disadvantages: not currently supported by many (if any) hardware players, no copy protection.

What did they buy BE for?

huggy @ 1/17/2002 9:24:17 AM #
... "The developers were less happy about a lack of built-in multimedia features, like MP3 playback."...

Then what did they buy BE for???!!! It seems we will get bulkier devices, slower execution of current programs, and short battery lives... wow, I can't wait to see the new Arm based pocket PC's -did I say that? I meant Palm devices... or whatever, there will be no difference!

I say, get the T615, it will be the last sleek Palm OS handheld...

-------------- huggy ---------------

RE: What did they buy BE for?
mtg101 @ 1/17/2002 9:37:51 AM #
Palm have ben working on PalmOS 5 for years, they had a working demo at PalmSource 2000 (December 2000).

They only bought Be recently, it's not really sensible to expect them to have incorporated Be software into the new OS in that time.

Battery life need not be that bad. The devices will use ARM-7 processors, the same ones that are used in most (cell) phones, so battery life should be pretty good. PPCs use StrongArm processors, which are not as battery efficient.

Also battery life is more a function of screens, acessories and so on that the processor. A B/W ARM-7 device will have a better battery life than a color DragonBall based device.


Diga ao Falante pelos Mortos

RE: What did they buy BE for?
I.M. Anonymous @ 1/17/2002 9:38:49 AM #
Palm absorbed BE too late to make an impact on the first version of OS 5. That's why I'm going to wait for OS 5.5 or whatever it will be called.

RE: What did they buy BE for?
I.M. Anonymous @ 1/17/2002 10:16:59 AM #
    The first order of business is to put the product development schedule on a much faster track. That was the whole motivation behind acquiring the Be assets. The Be guys have been in the licensing and platform business longer than we have, and had developed more sophisticated bill and process tools that are suited better for licensees than tools we had. The development tools were worth at least $11 million, and the 50 engineers we got are priceless.

    David Nagel

RE: What did they buy BE for?
I.M. Anonymous @ 1/17/2002 10:42:37 AM #

You are going to hear that "priceless" comment again....when the Be guys come in and ask for a raise!!

Kidding aside...good luck to you and your team. We are all pulling for you.

Jim Kershaw

RE: What did they buy BE for?
I.M. Anonymous @ 1/17/2002 10:46:10 AM #
I posted the quote from David Nagel above and I ain't him. That's from the San Diego Times. I hope Nagel does read this site.

RE: What did they buy BE for?
I.M. Anonymous @ 1/17/2002 1:16:33 PM #
In late 1999, Palm recruiters told me that they are strictly developing on Arm. As OS 5 is the first Palm product to use Arm technology, it has likely been under development for at least two years.

RE: What did they buy BE for?
I.M. Anonymous @ 1/17/2002 1:24:05 PM #
Well I guess no one would of known anyway... Seeing how everyone is Anonymous.

-Bill Clinton
"mmmm, mmmm..... Just love them Cubin Cigars".

Multimedia is coming
bcombee @ 1/17/2002 1:59:13 PM #
In the NON-CONFIDENTAL PalmSource preview webcast yesterday, Palm's OS group said that they would be revealing new security, multimedia and user interface APIs at PalmSource 2002, and that they would be showing Palm OS 5 on at least three different ARM development boards.

What happened to simplicity???

I.M. Anonymous @ 1/17/2002 9:32:59 AM #
All we need are more accessories for the palms we currently have!!!

RE: What happened to simplicity???
I.M. Anonymous @ 1/17/2002 10:18:43 AM #
Can't agree with this more. I think we're starting to lose site of what made the Palm a success over the Newton (historically) and Pocket PC (now).

It wasn't a replacement for your PC, it was simply a way to carry the important information with you when away from your PC. That's what Palm does well.

Sure, MP3 playback would be nice, but it's not required and certainly not convenient until xpansion prices come down and space goes up. "Gee I love listening to these 8 songs. . . over, and over and over again all day long."

Video? Are you high? What's the point of that? Tiny screen (or people are going to complain that it's a brick) means you can't see jack. Past the "ohh. . . that's cool. . . ." point of interest. What's the use?

RE: What happened to simplicity???
I.M. Anonymous @ 1/17/2002 12:42:22 PM #
Videophones perhaps?
Handspring show the world what you are capable of.

RE: What happened to simplicity???
I.M. Anonymous @ 1/17/2002 1:29:41 PM #
The question should be, "Are you High?"

You're right, MP3 playing isn't needed in a device like a PDA, but wouldn't it be nice if the PDA could do it if we wanted too. Maybe I don't want to listen to music but listening to an audio book could be useful. And your right.. Who the heck is really going to watch a video on such a small screen? But they do have devices that you can run a presentation off of a PDA and on to a projection. Sure beats carring aroung 5 pounds of laptop.

Wake up and look around. The only reason why Palm was successful, was because there was no other game in town. Newton's where HUGE, and cost close to a thousand bucks. The Palm Pilots as they were called back in the day were much smaller, and in compareds to a Newton, much cheaper. WinCE and PPCs weren't even around. That's why Palm were successful, because it sure wasn't for the crappy PIM software they built in to their OS. Who do you know really uses that alone anyway? Everyone I know is running some other third party app in it's place.

And last, the reason why Palm is beginning to "fade" away as one recent news articale put it, is because of their aragant way of thinking. Not wanting to change the Palm WITH THE TIMES. Sure, it was fine to not need or want color, or play Mp3s and have no more than 256 kbs on your Palm back in 1995, but come on, now there are Cell phone with color displays, more memory, and a better processer than the Palm has today.

It takes companies like Sony and even Handspring to show Palm that their users were dieing for something more and better.

RE: What happened to simplicity???
Quik_Fix @ 1/17/2002 4:40:29 PM #
This is an often touched on topic, but I still have to side with greyscale. Color screen phones are just as expensive as color screen PDAs. There will be a time someday where everything will be color (hypothetically), but it's a long time in coming, and people still would rather pay $100 less for greyscale.
I'm not sure I agree that there are cell phones with more memory than Palms (admittedly, I don't know, but I'd love an example). And I do know a great number of people who own m100's and Vx's and use only the basic functions. A lot of people lack the proficiency to play with 3rd party apps and such. They don't even know about them till I beam them to their palms. So I don't think that sticking to those basics is necessarily arrogant. But I do agree that if they don't provide for the niche market who wants mp3 and good video, etc. they're losing an important piece of the market.

...In accordance with the prophecy...


RE: What happened to simplicity???
sub_tex @ 1/17/2002 5:10:25 PM #
"Video? Are you high? What's the point of that? Tiny screen (or people are going to complain that it's a brick) means you can't see jack."

I agree that most of your time using your PDA will not be video playback.

BUT if my PDA could do it and had, say, a 256 meg CF card in it i would definitely watch some simpsons episodes while in the waiting room at the doctors.

It's not a question of "we NEED NEED NEED this or that". It's more along the lines of thinking "someone MAY want this."

The option is there. if you want it, use it. if not, don't.

More options can never be a bad thing. Different PDA's for different users. That's what will work best.

They need to stop thinking "people only need to use this" or whatever. You *don't* know what user X wants or doesn't want. Give the option, and let him or her decide if they will use it or not.

What, no Hacks?!

mikecane @ 1/17/2002 9:39:43 AM #
I hope there will be a way to replace the functionality of the Hacks I absolutely *must* have:

PopUp Note
PopUp Time
PopUp Calc

-- no MP3, huh? No video, either?!

RE: What, no Hacks?!
mtg101 @ 1/17/2002 9:43:13 AM #
If the OS is capable of multitasking / multithreading, you won't need hacks. Just like you no longer need TSR programs on your desktop :-)

The main reason for hacks, especially those you've cited, are that the OS can't run 2 programs at once. PopUp calc is also my fave hack, however it will be redundant come OS 5 as you'll be able to run a calculator and another app at the same time anyway.


Diga ao Falante pelos Mortos

RE: What, no Hacks?!
mikecane @ 1/17/2002 9:54:36 AM #
Yes, I understand all that. I'm just hoping the developers of Hacks will convert their programs to multitask/thread/window apps. I want, say, PopUp Note to still do what it does: place a new window over what I am doing with access to the MemoPad. (I don't want the PPC model: switch screen, switch screen, switch screen...)

RE: What, no Hacks?!
mtg101 @ 1/17/2002 10:14:44 AM #
I see your point. I fully agree that I don't want the PPC functionality where ever application openeded does so over the top of the previous one, leaving you to use the 'task' button to manage which application is shown in the foreground.

I would imagine that the current hack authors will update their software. Making applications that work like hacks have done in the past under OS 5 will be much easier because of MultiTasking. This should also mean that they'll be more applicatios with hack-like behavior on OS 5.

Also, the application running 'under' PopNote will continue to run. So if you're waiting for the computer to take its turn at chess, you can flip to editing memos, and return when the computer has finished. At the moment when you change to PopNote the application under it stops doing any work.


Diga ao Falante pelos Mortos

RE: What, no Hacks?!
I.M. Anonymous @ 1/17/2002 10:16:01 AM #
I will never use OS 5 if I cannot have the functionality of MiddleCapsHack included somehow.

RE: What, no Hacks?!
mikecane @ 1/17/2002 10:47:03 AM #
If I might also note something bizarre about PPC: Some dialogs take up the entire screen!! This is especially annoying in PocketWord, when you call up the Format dialog. What were these people thinking? ("We're Microsoft. Tough!")

That's a great point about not having to wait for one app to complete an operation while another is open.

Let's see what else leaks out from PalmSource!

RE: What, no Hacks?!
mtg101 @ 1/17/2002 12:16:59 PM #
Once PalmSource has happened, all the information will be freely available to all. And if it isn't those of us who are going will soon fill everyone in on what we find out.


Diga ao Falante pelos Mortos

RE: What, no Hacks?!
bcombee @ 1/17/2002 2:04:15 PM #
In yesterday's PalmSource preview, David Fedor, Palm OS Architect/Evangelist, said he would be giving a talk at the show about how to write hacks, both the for 68K-based devices and for the ARM-based ones. It seems that Palm isn't going to be able to make the new OS compatible with existing hacks, but they are providing a mechanism for people to do similar things on the new OS.

RE: What, no Hacks?!
I.M. Anonymous @ 1/17/2002 2:48:54 PM #
The only Hack I *need* is ScreenShot. - rs

RE: What, no Hacks?!
LarryGarfield @ 1/17/2002 7:11:19 PM #
I actually gave a talk on hacks not long ago at a developers meeting, and I've spoken with a few other developers on the subject. This is a slightly techincal explaination, so bear with me. :-)

Like any OS, the PalmOS has a bunch of functions that it makes available to developers in their programs, called an API. However, the functions in the PalmOS are not tied to their names. When a program calls a system function (such as "pop up the keyboard dialog"), the OS first looks up what code snippet is registered to "pop up the keyboard dialog" in a table, then goes and runs that code. It also, however, provides two functions that developers can use to edit that table, one to search it directly and one to change what code snippet the function points to. Hacks work by changing the table to read "first run this block over here, THEN pop up the keyboard dialog", or the other way around, or any other imaginable code the developer wants to stick in there.

The problem is, all existing hacks are coded for Dragonball chips, which are VERY different internally than ARM chips. Older applications can be run in an emulation mode where the OS first mangles the code to make it ARM-friendly, but doing that for hacks, which for all intents and purposes become part of the OS, is impossible. It would have no way of telling what hack was coded for what. That's why Palm never directly supported hacks, they knew they would all break with OS 5. (Hacks were a backdoor discovery and invention in the first place.)

Palm also apparently has taken out the function to edit that table, to avoid older hacks totally messing up the device. Whether or not they will provide some other "system extension" mechanism, I don't know. If not, some intrepid programmer will probably find a way anyway, just as they did with hacks. :-)

Personally, I'm much more interested in if this new "multitasking, multithreading OS" will work on XIP like the current OS or with a split memory architecture like WinCE. The split memory architecture is the single WORST feature of PocketPC, and I really really hope Palm doesn't fall into that trap.

This post is ROT26 encrypted. Reading it is a violation of the DMCA

RE: What, no Hacks?!
I.M. Anonymous @ 1/17/2002 7:24:47 PM #
I thought when Palm got rid of their court jester, Carl Yankowski things will get better.

After spending millions buying BeOS they decided not to include an essential component of a multimedia device - MP3. To top off that, they have been talking about the "Palm Economy" and isn't things like hacks part of it? The beauty of hacks is that we can customize Palms to the way we like it - considering the fact that Palm isn't always very good at putting things in the first place.

I can't help but feel Palm is like a rudderless ship sometimes. Damn, why can't they have a more persistent vision like Microsoft. Damn, if they had and with that market share...

RE: What, no Hacks?!
I.M. Anonymous @ 1/17/2002 10:03:53 PM #
I doubt Palm would take away the ability for third-party developers to customize the operating system in creative ways.

"Hacks" are inherently "hacky". They are an imperfect solution that can cause conflicts and problems.

Have you considered that perhaps Palm has implemented another mechanism in Palm OS 5 for third parties to extend the operating system in "non-hacky" ways that are more compatible and stable?

Think about it. Then watch the news from PalmSource and learn. In the meantime, be patient and don't believe everything you read.

RE: What, no Hacks?!
mikecane @ 1/18/2002 10:49:13 AM #
Thanks, Larry, for that explanation. It makes sense. Perhaps some coder will come up with "The Missing Hack Table" to run Hacks under OS5.

And you're right -- the PPC split memory method is terrible. People go through more anguish deciding between "32MB vs 64MB" PPCs right now than is sensible. Palm users focus on the basics: mono or color? (I just wish Palm's VFS worked as seamlessly as PPC's card handling, however! OS 5 better bring that to the table!)

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