Palm Toolkit: RSS, eBooks, and Storage by David Whelan I’ve dived in head first into getting back into the Palm world and making my device as functional as possible. I decided on a Palm T|X because of the large screen (like the Pocket PC) and the communication features: both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi wireless. These are the applications and devices I’ve added to the base installation.
Plucker on a Hi-Resolution Palm; Scroll Feature at Top (from Plkr.org)
I have become entirely reliant on my Google Personalized Home Page and the RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds that I’ve collected there. Both on my previous Palms and Pocket PC, I used the Avantgo application. It is fantastic on its own channels and now offers custom RSS channels as well as the personal channels. But I found the RSS channels wanting, and many of the sites I grabbed didn’t get pulled down properly. This is no slam on Avantgo – they’re up front that the RSS may not work as well as the other channels.
I looked at both free and fee readers for Palm. There were really only three that I considered: Sunrise, Quick News, and Mobipocket. If my only criterion had been Internet-only synchronization, I would have chosen from between Quick News and Avantgo. Both can be sync’d using Hotsync as well as a direct Internet connection. Quick News used to be known as Hand/RSS.
But Quick News had a couple of drawbacks. First, it only grabbed the index of the RSS feeds, so I only got the first snippet of information – to read the entire posting, I had to connect to the Internet and I really wanted to have the content loaded locally. Second, it has no PC component (some would say that’s a plus!) but it meant that manually typing in RSS feeds would take a while. It has a “Search for Feeds” feature but common ones like the New York Times didn’t appear (I searched for “new york times” and “ny times” to no avail).
So it came down to Mobipocket and Sunrise. Sunrise was formerly known as JPluck, is an open source application, and has a very nice and easy to use interface. But I could not get ANY of my RSS feeds to properly synchronize. They all hit some file on any given RSS site and failed. I couldn’t figure out why that particular file failed nor how to avoid it. So I went with Mobipocket. For so many reasons, it is an excellent choice for any PDA.
As I’ll describe below, Mobipocket is a great ebook reader as well. Our public library has a number of ebooks and between the Adobe Reader for Palm and Mobipocket, I can read them all. It’s free, which is always the right price, and it has a PC component so that I can use a full keyboard to add and manage my RSS feeds. The synchronization works cleanly and I can order my feeds (as I could in Sunrise) into categories. Except for RSS feeds that have multiple pages, it grabs and stores the content without any difficulty. Best of all, I can be anywhere – with or without an Internet connection – and read the content that I downloaded through Hotsync. It also has no space limitations, unlike Avantgo’s free account which is restricted to 2 MB.
I will probably end up keeping my Avantgo reader and Mobipocket and use a blend of them, because the Avantgo reader is still far superior for my uses because of its Internet-sync support. But since I’ll need Mobipocket for ebooks, there doesn’t seem to be any reason not to use it for RSS as well.
I have three and there is not really a feature reason, but these are driven entirely by content. Adobe Reader for Palm and Mobipocket are the two formats in which ebooks from our public library are available. Both require an additional piece of software on the PC. For Mobipocket, it is the same application that manages your eNews RSS feeds. For Adobe Reader, it manages the compression to the Palm as well as any digital rights management (DRM) for ebooks. I have also added Plucker because it is a much improved way of viewing books from Project Gutenberg. I particularly like the auto scroll feature so that I don’t have to page up as I read (although I find my eyes continue to scroll even when I stop the auto scroll!).
SD Card Data Transfer
I found the SanDisk MicroMate, which enables you to take the SD card from your device and make it available as a removable drive through any USB port. I don’t otherwise have an SD reader and now I don’t need one. If you don’t already have an SD card, you can get this Micromate and 1 GB SD card bundle at Amazon, which is a pretty reasonable cost even for a 1 GB flash drive.