Don’t call me DOM

11 January 2006

Using a Treo 650 PDA with Debian on a Dell

Gnome and Palm Synchronization

In theory, that meant they could synchronize each other as well; namely, I wanted to make sure that the data in my Evolution Calendar and in Palm Calendar stay synchronized. The logical software solution for this was gnome-pilot. Unfortunately.

To make a long story short, I never managed to get gnome-pilot to work with bluetooth; as far as gnome-pilot is concerned, this meant syncrhonizing over a network interface, which is apparently very buggy in the current code. Although I did find patches (in Gentoo Bugzilla and in Gnome’s), the CVS version of gnome-pilot would not compile. The only good news on that matter is that there seems to be some recent activity about this, so maybe this will be fixed by a generous soul.

In the meantime, I have reverted to using synchronizing through the USB cable provided with the Tréo; even that wasn’t as easy as I wished to set up. First, I had to compile usbserial and visor as kernel modules [I sure wished Linux would have a better way to get new modules than by compilation of the kernel souce]; Debian and udev took care as needed to set the proper device files once that done (/dev/ttyUSB001). But it took quite a few gpilotd restart, and adding a line to /usr/share/gnome-pilot/devices.xml as suggested on Centos to get it to finally detect my Treo. In case it may help someone, here is what my configuration file for gnome-pilot looks like in ~/.gnome2/gnome-pilot.d/gpilotd:


[General]
sync_PC_Id=123456789
progress_stepping=1
num_devices=1
num_pilots=1

[Device0]
type=1
name=Cradle
device=/dev/pilot
speed=57600
timeout=0

[Pilot0]
name=MyPilot
pilotid=0001
creation=-2082816000
romversion=88092695
pilotusername=dom
basedir=/home/dom/MyPilot

Once that done, I finally managed to get synchronization to work between Evolution and the PDA; it did crash once in the middle of a synchronization (although without data loss as far as I can tell), and the gnome-pilot daemon doesn’t look very stable nor error resistant. But at least, I think I can now trust these two guys to speak together.

The last step was to install the Gnome Bluetooth subsystem to be able to beam data between the laptop and the PDA; although I had to compile it since it’s not available in Debian testing at this point, the compilation was relatively painless. The installation had a few broken paths and part of the installed tools didn’t work, but I understand this is being fixed, and at least the basic tools I needed did work.

Obviously, most Gnome users either don’t have a PDA, or don’t use synchronize it with Gnome; the current level of pain to get them to work together is way too high for most people to bear. Given how much I like Gnome for the general goal of “just making it work”, I’m certainly hoping that the recent show of activity on that topic will make this much more accessible in a not too far future.

Using a Palm

Beyond getting my PDA to work with my laptop, how does using a Palm fairs at this point?

Mostly, it is cool; being able to get Web pages on this relatively small object is very nice; I’ve been able to retrieve my mail on IMAP over SSL without too much trouble, and the calendaring application seems complete enough for my needs.

There are a few glitches that make the user experience less good that it could be; I’m having problems getting used to how the various buttons/keys interact, and with some of the interactions between the phone part of the device and the more PDA-oriented one. But this is another story which I may write up after having taken more time to get familar with it….

Picture of Dominique Hazael-MassieuxDominique Hazaël-Massieux (dom@w3.org) 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.