I was unhappy. I loved my Palm IIIC. I bought it a modem and two different keyboards; I hooked it up to my cell phone; I
took it camping and I used it at work. It always carried at least half a dozen stories and a couple of computer related manuals. But it was
running out of room. Newer Palms, Visors, Handeras, and Sony Clies offer the promise of almost limitless capacity with
removable storage cards. The Palm's 8 Mb or RAM can be pumped up to 128 MB with a Memory Stick or CF Card. At least, that's the theory. A
few newer applications, like the iSilo Reader v 3.1, truly can find and read documents directly from an expansion card, but most readers and
database programs were written before Palm introduced VFS (Virtual File System, the expansion card memory manager Palm introduced in OS
4.0). Since these programs don't know that expansion cards exist, they don't look for data that is stored on cards. For instance, you might
have the excellent iSilo Reader v 2.52 on your Palm m505. You have a MultiMedia card with 32 MB of memory. You think, "Ah ha! At last I
can carry all the stories I want to read and not worry about running out of space." Using the Palm Desktop v 4.01, you HotSync the
collected works of DJWP directly to your expansion card. You open the iSilo reader and find... nothing. No files are listed. Before you can
read a story, you have to copy it from the card to your Palm's main memory. What's the point of that?
Palm was slow in recognizing the need for expansion cards. In fact, they were the last PalmOS PDA maker
to offer expansion, which means the market is highly fragmented. Sonys use MemorySticks. The Handera 330 uses CF Cards and SD cards. The
Visor uses the Springboard, or with a special adapter, CF Cards. Palms use SD cards or MultiMedia cards. Some have OS 3.5, others have OS
4.0. The Palms and Sonys use true VFS. The Handera and Visors use something slightly different. Once again, you have to ask: what's the
point of that?
All in all, the situation is much more complicated than it should be and very little works the way one
expects. This is where Helper Applications ride to the rescue. They do what Palm should have done, but didn't: make it possible to actually use
the expansion card to its full capacity. And, for the most part, they do it for free. I have a Sony Clie N610C with a 128 Mb MemoryStick. I
was determined to cram at least 32 Mb of fiction onto the stick, and I wanted to use both iSilo v 2.52 and iSilo v 3.1. After lots of
experimenting, many soft resets, and a spurt of foul language, here's how I finally succeeded:
The first thing I did was ditch the built in application launcher. This is my third PalmOS PDA, and I've
never used the built in launcher with any of them - so that wasn't a hard decision. I'd been using Launch 'Em on my Palm IIIC, and I'd
gotten addicted to Launch 'Em add-ons and plug ins - but Launch 'Em isn't VFS aware. On the new Clie, I tested Launcher
III v3.0.2 for awhile. It does allows you to open applications stored on the expansion card - an extremely useful capability - but it
seemed limited compared to Launch 'Em, even after I replaced Launch 'Em App Hack with McPhling. So I found myself stuck: neither launcher
was exactly what I wanted (though Launcher III was very, very close).
And while Launcher III opened iSilo v 2.52, it still couldn't find my documents unless they were stored
in RAM. Which was not what I wanted at all.
Since Launcher III was very very good, but not perfect (and no longer free), I looked at the HiRes
version of MegaLauncher.
Ahh! (If you buy a Clie, you will soon become obsessed with High Resolution applications. MegaLauncher offers a special version for Clie and
Handera PDAs with high resolution screens. It also sports a small collection of HiRes skins.) MegaLauncher is VFS aware and highly
customizable. Used in conjunction with the latest version of McPhling,
it gave me both the look and the functions that I wanted. But iSilo v 2.52 still couldn't find my docs (of course, iSilo 3 has no problems).
If you use Launcher III or MegaLauncher, you'll be very frustrated, at first, trying to get them to
actually launch an application. There is a secret to it. First, you must create a directory on your card, name it Launcher, and
designate it as the default folder. Piece of cake- you can do that with the Palm's built in file manager, right?. Umm, wait - what
built in file manager? OK - back to PalmGear....
The next thing you do is download Filez v 4.1 It is a versatile, freeware file manager that will allow you to create and
delete folders on your expansion cards as well as move, rename, and delete files. You can
download a copy here.
If you want an even spiffier file manager, you can buy a copy of McFile.
McFile will let you move files around on the expansion card itself, a feat that, last time I checked, still defeated Filez. With Filez, if
you want to move a document from The Launcher folder to the MS Mount folder, you must first move it back onto the Palm and from there move
it to the new folder on your card. Since files are small, this is still a reasonably quick task. And you may find yourself doing it once in
a blue moon. McFile is, in short, a bit more sophisticated but a lot more expensive.
Now the real magic begins -- it's finally time to find those databases and documents stored on the expansion card! You need
a memory manager for your Palm, an application that can move data in and out of RAM as needed. Once again, there is a freeware and a
shareware solution. The freeware application, MS Mount has been around for about a year. I use it for all my large, read only databases, and
I've never has a problem with it. Once you install it, you'll find it as a new entry in your Prefs panel - not in your application launcher.
Tap the Prefs icon on your Launcher. From the drop down list in the upper right hand corner, choose MS Mount. You'll see the screen at the
left. Notice two things: first of all, the default path for MS Mount is /Palm/Programs/MsMount You can create that folder using Filez. The
second thing to note is the Enable/Disable buttons. You cannot alter the MS Mount path while MS Mount is enabled. With MS Mount disabled,
create the folder, if necessary, move your data - documents, databases, pictures, whatever - into the MsMount folder, and then enable it.
You'll get a message saying MS Mount is reading your card. Anytime you add something new to the folder, you need to go to MS Mount, disable
it and then re-enable it so that it rescans the folder. Now go back and try opening iSilo v 2.5.2. Success! All the documents you placed in
the MS Mount folder are available. You can download a copy of MS Mount v 1.2 here.
the shareware solution to this problem. Like MS Mount, it is a virtual memory manager. However, it is somewhat faster and it can move just
the necessary pieces of large databases into and out of RAM, rather than the entire database. Why is that important? If you only have 3 MB
of RAM free on your Palm and you want to open the 4 MB version of the Noah dictionary, your Palm will crash. PiDirect won't try to move all
4 Mb worth of Noah - it will shuffle data back and forth depending on what parts of the database are in use. This makes it possible to work
with large documents in a small space. PiDirect also has an autoscan feature, so you don't have to disable/re-enable it when you add new
documents. And the latest version comes with a file manager that's very similar to Filez and McFile. What's the downside? MS Mount is free.
PiDirect costs $30.00.
Many Clie (and Palm and Handera and Visor) users also find PowerRUN,
another shareware application, indispensable. While MS Mount and PiDirect recommend that you only use read only databases, PowerRUN is
designed for use with both applications and read/write data. Visor owners using a CF card sleeve will definitely want to investigate Kopsis'
FlashAdapter with its VFSHelper or
PiDirect for MemPlug depending on
the sleeve they use.
So what's on my 128 MB MemoryStick?
Today, in the Launcher folder I have: Albums to Go, BackupBuddyVFS, BigClock, BugMe!, CryptoPad, DayNotez, iSilo v
3.1, ListMaker, PG Pocket, PhotoStand, SuperNames, SysAdmin, ThinkDB, ThoughtManager, ToDo Plus, and WordSmith.
In the MsMount folder, I have: Melissa Good's Champion and Silences
of the Soul, JLynne's Storms of War, Midgit's Heatwave,
Cruise's Ab Initio, Indiscretions,
and Provenance, DS Bauden's Home,
several ListMaker databases, a long list of Shadow, HanDBase and ThinkDB databases, both the HanDBase
and the ThinkBD versions of the Xena
Episode Guide (just because I can), two skins for MegaLauncher, a set of color icons for ActionNames, Thucydides Peloponnesian War, Jack
London's Call Of The Wild.
Installed directly to the card during a HotSync, in the iSilo folder, I have the last five episodes of Subtext Virtual Season Seven of
Xena in iSilo 3 format, with pictures...
...and tons more room.
And I still have about 4.5 MB of free RAM on the Clie itself.
Now I'm happy.