RIP original Palm OS

The original Palm OS is dead. The company did not make a big deal about it, but they just recently stopped production of all older Palm devices that run the original Palm operating system (OS).  Instead, they are focusing on their completely new WebOS used in the Palm Pre and upcoming Palm Pixi. While this is no surprise given how the company needs to stop hemorrhaging cash, it is still sad to see this venerable operating system gone with such little fanfare.

Palm’s CEO Jon Rubinstein said:

We’re launching more great Pam WebOS products with more carriers, and turning our sights toward growth.

What Made Palm OS Special

Born in 1996, the Palm OS had three main things that made it special in my view:

Graffiti1) Graffiti: The Palm OS had a modified version of handwriting character recognition called Graffiti. Unlike Apple’s earlier ambitious attempt at full handwriting character recognition in the Apple Newton, the Palm worked simply and reliably.

2) Applications: The Palm could load applications and games that you downloaded and installed yourself. This was before the concept of a closed-off Application Store, such as the for the iPhone or Palm Pre.  Palm OS’s approach was less elegant than the modern app store, as many apps crashed and there was no single location to buy apps. Still, there were over 50,000 applications available online, more than any other PDA had at the time.

3) Synchronization: Unlike the Sharp Wizard or other pocket organizers, the Palm had sync software called HotSync which could deal appropriately with updates from the computer (using Palm Desktop) and the Palm. Although it wasn’t fancy, the synchronization worked great.

Corporate Fun

The corporate maze that Palm and the Palm OS went through was amazing.

Before the Palm OS’s development in 1996, Palm Computing Inc. was bought by US Robotics in 1995. US Robotics was in tern bought by 3Com in 1997. Palm was then spun off to its own company in 2000. In 2002, the Palm OS part of the company was made a subsidiary company to Palm named PalmSource. PalmSource (makers of the OS) then spun off to a completely independent company and licensed back the OS to PalmOne (hardware maker). In 2005, PalmSource was acquired by a company named ACCESS who then licensed it back to Palm, Inc (hardware maker, formerly PalmOne) in perpetuity.

As if that weren’t enough confusion, the original inventors of the Palm Pilot were frustrated and started their own company called Handspring in 1998. They made a competing device running the Palm OS called the Handspring Visor. In 2002 they started the successful Treo line, which weren’t yet phones.  In 2003, they merged back with Palm (hardware maker) and formed PalmOne.

Sony also sold Palm OS devices until 2004.

OS Development

All this craziness hampered the development of the OS, but there were updates to the OS over the years. The last released version, 5.4 (Garnet), supported WiFi, Bluetooth, and multiple screen resolutions. However, the Palm OS was still not scalable or modular compared to Windows Mobile or the current Apple iPhone OS which competed recently with the Palm OS in Palm Treo phones.

Palm OS 6.0 (Cobalt) was announced in 2004 and was actually a completely new OS based on the acquired assets of BeOS. This was an attempt to truly evolve the OS. It provided modern features: multitasking, memory protection, and better graphics. This iteration of the OS never saw the light of day, however, as it did not get any interest from manufacturers and was never used in any devices.

Because the Palm OS was antiquated, Palm started selling both Palm OS and Windows Mobile versions of their Treos in 2005. Along with recently stopping production of Palm OS devices, Palm has just stopped production of all their Windows Mobile devices.

WebOS was announced in January 2009 and has now replaced Palm OS. If you need to run some old Palm OS applications, there is a third-party emulator called MotionApps Classic that runs the original Palm OS within WebOS. With the rapid adoption of WebOS and the Palm App Store, most people won’t need this.

Palm’s CEO Jon Rubinstein said on their August 28 2009 earnings call:

We had a really unique opportunity in being able to develop Web OS.. and the old Palm OS lasted us for 16 years, which is really amazing when you think about it. We are designing Web OS to last us for the next 10 or 15 years.

Off to OS Heaven

Although Palm OS has had a difficult life, it’s been the most dependable pocketable operating system for me until a few years ago. From my first US Robotics Palm Pilot 5000 to my Palm Vx (my personal favorite) to my Palm Tungsten 5 with color and WiFi, the Palm OS has been a great companion. It is now part of OS history, off to join other notables such as IBM’s OS/2 and the AmigaOS.

Palm Pilot 5000 Palm VPalm Tungsten T5

Snow Leopard Review

Snow Leopard

Snow LeopardThe latest version of Mac OS X is out, already with a system update available.  It costs $29 but you can find it cheaper at places like  Overall it is probably worth getting for most users but it is not without its troubles.

The Good

The behind-the-scenes components have been optimized to be far more efficient.  For apps that are designed to take advantage of the new OS, they are significantly faster.  For now, that mainly means Apple applications like Mail or Safari.  Boot time and resume time are also much faster.

There is a new dock expose feature where you can hold down on an app icon in the dock to see all of its windows only in expose.  This can be handy if you have a lot of open windows and only want to see those of a particular program.  This is one of the very few new features since this OS is mainly just background improvements.

Several of the OS enhancements are not being taken advantage of yet by third party application providers.  Once snow leopard versions of programs come out, the benefits will become far more prominent.  The new OpenCL feature is particularly interesting.  Typically your powerful graphics card is not doing very much.  OpenCL allows programs to perform calculations that would normally be done on the CPU to also be done on the video card.  For many tasks, this could result in massive speed improvements.  Only time will tell how many developers take advantage of this but it seems likely for the big developers like Adobe to do so.

The Bad

Besides Apple apps, most programs don’t seem much faster.  In fact, some seem a tad slower, probably in need of a snow leopard built version.  In the worst case, there are some applications that don’t run in snow leopard at all.  Some of the more notable ones are older versions of Photoshop or Parallels.

Since installing snow leopard, I’ve seen an odd behavior every few days where the transparent menu bar becomes opaque white and the system becomes quite sluggish for no apparent reason with no programs using up a lot of resources.  Only a reboot resolves things.  This is very un-Mac behavior.  This is an upgraded system that has been migrated from other Macs a few times so it is possible it just needs a fresh install of the OS from scratch but that just makes me feel like I’m using Windows again.  I’ve only seen this on one system, a current model Mac Pro.

Perhaps the worst thing about Snow Leopard is just that it isn’t a major change and there isn’t much obvious benefit besides some current performance improvements while waiting for programs to further take advantage.


Snow Leopard will probably be pretty sweet once there are more programs built to fully use it.  In the mean time, I do enjoy the fastest browser I’ve ever used and having my email pop up instantly.  You definitely can’t argue with the $29 price.  However, there’s really no rush for most users to upgrade.  Waiting a few months is probably more than fine so you can give developers time to make necessary changes.

Flash Drive Speeds

What should be important to you when buying a flash drive, besides capacity? Speed and reliability.

Amazon and Newegg provide useful user reviews that can alert you to drives with high failure rates. I also look for good read and write speeds.

Read and Write Speeds

Flash DrivesSpeed tests can be calculated manually, but I used HD_Speed software to determine speeds of these common drives.

Size GB Read MB/s Write MB/s
Kingston DataTraveler I 8 17.8 7.8
SanDisk Cruzer Micro 16 24.9 5.2
Corsair Flash Voyager 16 28.8 6.9
Kingston DataTraveler 200 64 28.6 10.7

The speeds will vary depending on the size of the files transferred (block size). Larger files can be moved more efficiently than smaller files.

As you can see, the write speeds lag the read speeds. The latest generation of flash drives, such as the Kingston DataTraveler 200, are often significantly faster than older models.

Fast read speeds do not always translate into relatively fast write speeds, as demonstrated by the SanDisk Cruzer’s slower write speed than the Kingston DataTraveler I.

Speed should be more important to you when looking at larger drives since you’ll really notice it when moving more data. People didn’t tend to worry about the speed of 3.5 inch floppy drives when they only held 1.4 MB of data.


Another thing to watch for is counterfeits. Apparently there are several counterfeits of the Kingston DataTraveler 150 64GB often sold on eBay for around $50, less than half what they currently should cost. These drives still have 64GB of storage. They are just slow and prone to failure, leaving you without your data.

Counterfiet Flash Drive on eBay

T1 Business Support from Verizon

Lightning Strikes

A  small office near Dulles airport in Virginia had a Business T1 line from Verizon because they didn’t qualify for DSL or cable Internet. Everything was working great for about 3 months. Then there was a big lightning storm.

When people showed up to work the next day, the Internet was down. Verizon told them that the line was good and that it was likely due to their router being hit by lightning. This seemed to make sense. But unfortunately Verizon was no longer responsible for the router after they installed it. Even though Verizon had sold them the router and set up all its configuration files, it was the office’s responsibility to diagnose any router problems and fix it. So the office asked me to take a look.

Finger Pointing

I ran a series of T1 loopback tests on the router and everything responded correctly. I even spoke to Adtran (makers of the router) and they agreed that everything looked good. So I called Verizon. Then the fun back and forth began.

Verizon VanVerizon said that they were sure it wasn’t their fault because they ran their own loopback tests. I asked them to come out. Eventually they did, but they didn’t come out when they said they would so I didn’t get to see them do any tests. When they reported that everything was fine, I didn’t believe them. I knew that they hadn’t even gone into the room with the customer jack and router since no one in the office saw Verizon enter the building.

So I had to set up what Verizon calls a “vendor meet”. Verizon said this was the only way to arrange a specific time. But Verizon warned me that if it didn’t end up being their problem, the business would be charged. Verizon didn’t show up for our first vendor meet because one of their techs was sick. On their second meet, the tech noticed some weird line activity but the Internet came back up.

The next day the line was down again. This process happened three more times, with the Internet going in and out and Verizon coming out occasionally but still maintaining that it was probably the router. Four weeks after the storm, one of Verizon’s techs finally switched out their line between the phone room and the customer jack. That fixed the problem and it has been up ever since.

The router wasn’t broken. Evidently the storm somehow damaged the last bit of line that Verizon owned, but that line was past the phone room that Verizon typically tested against.

The office had been ready to give up when this was finally solved. They were going to move to a cellular Internet solution.

Lesson: Verizon Sucks

This story illustrates Verizon’s failure to properly handle their business customers who pay $500 per month for T1 Internet service. By not being responsible for the router that they sold, Verizon was able to just point fingers instead of properly investigating the problem. Small businesses without a tech staff have no way of dealing with that. They can’t easily log into the routers and type Cisco commands to prove Verizon wrong. These aren’t as simple as Linksys routers for the home.

Verizon should provide a business solution that is responsible for Internet all the way to the local area network. This would have saved the customer a lot of time and money.

The only positive thing that I can say about Verizon is that at least they aren’t Comcast.