by January 11, 2000 0 comments

This month I shall talk about how to configure the Palm forInfraRed (IR). Cable and cradle are both good-to-have and at timesirreplaceable, but sometimes its so much better if you can do things wireless.

The Palm comes with an IR port that is very easy to use andconfigure. Before you configure, however, you may need to upgrade your Palm OS.If the version of your Palm OS is lower that 3.3 you
will need to upgrade it to 3.3. The best part about OS 3.3 is that you don’tneed to change many settings to use the IR
function. Let’s first see how you can upgrade your Palm OS before we talkabout using IR.

Palm OS upgrade

Not all Palms have the capability of being upgraded. Some ofthe lower-end models, like the Palm IIIe, cannot be upgraded because they don’thave flash ROM. For the purpose of using IR, however, you will not need toupgrade your Palm IIIe as it already comes with OS 3.3.

The first step to an upgrade is to have an adequate back upof all data on your Palm. The first time I did an upgrade on my Palm there weremany a tense moment, especially when everything on the Palm looked totallymessed up–the screen didn’t have a recognizable character set on it. So,backup is a must.

The upgrade has to be done from a PC running Windows, or evena MAC. I’m not sure if it runs under Linux. You should get the OS upgrade filefrom the Palm website (, which is just under 3MB, and followinstructions that come with it to the core! The documentation on the OS 3.3 isalso available as a separate PDF file that you may first want to go through tosee if the enhancements suit you.

While on the subject of upgrades, you may want to check thenew desktop as well. The earlier Palms had a desktop version 3.0 while thecurrent one is 3.01. 3.01 is a must have because even though it is about 7MB, ittakes full advantage of the new OS including enhancements in IR.

The OS on your PC

On the PC side you need to make sure you have an OS thatsupports IR. You can use Windows 98, or a Linux box, but not Windows 95. If youare using a notebook with some flavor of Windows on it, all you need to do isselect IR from the control panel and configure it to talk at 115,200 kBps. Makesure you select the correct serial port and IRQ for it and that IR is enabled inthe BIOS.

Talk with IR

Now to HotSync via IR, on the Palm select “IR to a PC orhandheld” from the HotSync applet. It’s that simple. Once you are able todo a HotSync, you can do other things via the IR port, such as e-mail, orAvantgo functions.

IR is not just limited to talking to your PC. It can also beused to talk to other IR-enabled devices. For TVs the Palm makes a greatuniversal remote. You will, of course, need to get some additional software forthis. One which I have tried and enjoyed is OmniRemote–great for switchingchannels in a restaurant or a bar where the remote is normally hidden away andthe TV is inaccessibly high! On a somber note, you can also use IR to control aprojector for presentations, to communicate with your cell phone and, of course,with other Palms.

It’s becoming common, especially at conferences, to seepeople “beam” their business cards rather than hand out their cards.The Palm address book application has an option that lets you set your ownbusiness card as a “beamable” card. So, instead of fumbling around topull out a card or, worse still, having to say, “sorry I am all out ofcards”, all you need to do is point your Palm at your friends Palm and beamaway.

Other features

Let’s look at the usefulness of the Palm without additionalthird-party software. The Palm can very much be used on its own without anyadditional software. If you find that the additional software that you may needrequires registration and is not easy to get in India, then don’t bother withit. I have found that many great programs are available for free while othersare priced so low that you can easily purchase them.

A useful feature is the buttons on the Palm’s face. Did youknow that you can get the buttons to select any program of your choice? Forinstance, since I rarely use the ToDo button (I manage all my ToDo’s from theDatebook), I have remapped my ToDo button to another application that I use moreoften.

Another great feature is the shortcuts. The Shortcuts option–likedate stamp, time stamp, date and time stamp–in Preferences is invaluable. Youcan also add your own options. To use the shortcuts, you need to write a short llike stroke in either the numeric or the text area and then the text of theshortcut. For example, do a graffiti l stroke and dts to get a date and timestamp.

Next month I will answer a much-asked question: Which Palm isright for me? Another topic that I will cover is a very useful application ofthe Palm that lets you carry documents and even edit them if you like.

In the meantime, happy beaming!

Kishore Bhargava 
is a technology consultantwith Linkaxis Technologies

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