Don’t call me DOM

11 January 2006

Using a Treo 650 PDA with Debian on a Dell

My Treo 650 showing this very web page

I just got a brand new PDA-phone last Monday, a Tréo 650 running PalmOS.

I have been reluctant to cell phones for a long while, finding them rather invasive: when you own a cell phone, people expect to be able to reach you on it pretty much all the time and everywhere. At some point, the trade off between this cost and the advantage of being able to call some people all the time and everywhere tipped the balance, and I finally decided to get a cell phone for my personal usage.

With this new toy, not only am using now a cell phone for my professional usage (the primary reason behind it), I’m also jumping into the PDA adventure; again, I’ve never been really convinced by the need to get a PDA; I organize most of my work using my computer, and even though I move quite a bit for my work, the need to have access to all my data all the time has never appeared so urgent to me.

But even if the primary reason to couple my cell phone with a PDA was to get my hands on some real Mobile Web experiences [Note to self: this site looks horrible on my PDA], I’m hoping to also make this an opportunity to give a shot at using a PDA for real, with access to my calendar, my email messages and a Web browser. Maybe the few times I remember having thought “too bad I can’t look this up” combined with the geeky joy of using a new gadget will make me a real adept of the digital life on the move?

Debian and Bluetooth

The first step in that direction was to make the said PDA to work well in cooperation with my Dell laptop (Latitude D600) running Debian, and where I keep most of the data relevant to my PDA using Gnome and Evolution.

Some part of this process were fairly easy, but way too many were incredibly difficult compared to the task.

Setting up my laptop to talk to my PDA using bluetooth was really simple, mostly thanks to Bill Wohler’s complete description of the steps needed to get Debian to work with the Treo. I guess I hope at some point most of this configuration work could be automated using hardware detection (e.g. HAL), but the current cost of editing a few text files is more than acceptable to me.

Getting them to talk together means that:

  • they can detect each other and authorize each other as Bluetooth devices
  • I can use my laptop as a network gateway for my PDA, thus making it possible to test all the network operations without eating my GPRS paid time

Picture of Dominique Hazael-MassieuxDominique Hazaël-Massieux ( is part of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Staff; his interests cover a number of Web technologies, as well as the usage of open source software in a distributed work environment.