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March 2001

Palm Desktop under OS/2

By Teruel de Campo ©March 2001

PalmPilot and OS/2: http://www.stellarcom.org/palmstuff/index.html
Odin website: http://www.netlabs.org/odin/index.phtml
ODIN - Windows/9x - NT applications on OS/2: http://www.os2ezine.com/20001116/odin.html
Palm Desktop software version 3.0.1. http://www.palm.com/support/downloads/
Ray Gwinn's SIO drivers: http://www.gwinn.com/
win32inst.zip: http://hobbes.nmsu.edu/cgi-bin/h-search?key=win32inst.zip
FAT32 IFS: http://www.chello.nl/~henk.kelder
BackAgain 2000: http://www.cds-inc.com

PDA (Personal Digital Assistance), is a name use to include a small device with its own operating system used to store/retrieve information from the device as well as from the internet. It can also connect to private networks (for sending alphanumeric messages to pager etc.)

By far the most popular operating system is the Palm OS. The Palm and clones need a Desktop PC to be able to load applications as well as backup or transfer data both ways. The Palm comes with software called the Palm Desktop for this function.

Click on the image for a larger view of the Palm Desktop running on OS/2

The connection between the Palm device and the PC is through a cradle connected to a serial port

The Palm Desktop is a Microsoft Windows application that includes a PIM (Personal Information Manager) and conduits. A conduit is a piece of desktop-resident code that is executed when the HotSync button of the cradle is pressed. The conduits let you synchronize the data between the PDA and the PC. The conduit can be accessed over a number of physical media such as wired serial, wired/wireless modem or wired network. A conduit is implemented as a DLL (dynamic link library) or Java application.

There is no Palm Desktop under OS/2. However, this does not mean that you can not run the Palm in an OS/2 system. This is the place to start: http://www.stellarcom.org/palmstuff/index.html. There are OS/2 programs written for the Palm as well as a Java desktop under development. The object of this article is to describe the steps to installing and running the MS Windows version of the Palm Desktop application under OS/2 using ODIN. "ODIN is the name of the project and software that allows users to run Win32 (Windows 95 and Windows NT) applications in OS/2 Warp operating system natively, almost as if they were intended to be OS/2 applications in the first place" http://www.netlabs.org/odin/index.phtml.


The installation environment is Warp 4.0 FixPak12. The PDA is a Palm VII, and the Palm Desktop application is 3.0.1. I use the serial cradle connected to COM1.

1. Palm Desktop software version 3.0.1. http://www.palm.com/support/downloads/

2. ODIN: odin32bin-20010131-release.wpi. ftp://ftp.os2.org/odin/daily/

3. There are two ways to install the program and both have different requirements:

4. The first success I had installing the Palm Desktop was associated to the use of Ray Gwinn SIO com port driver 1.60d. I was not able to HotSync with the IBM comport drivers that come with OS/2. However Markus (Markus Montkowski) from the ODIN team has been working hard in improving the serial port handling and has introduce some changes in the code that are included in the release 20010131 of ODIN that has solved this problem. With this version of ODIN I have tested the Ray Gwinn GA 1.60d, The IBM drivers that come with OS/2 and the new and excellent beta from Ray Gwinn and I am happy to tell you that you can HotSync with all of them. My preference is for the excellent Gwinn drivers. http://www.gwinn.com/

Note: I tested the new Palm Desktop application v 4.0. I have not been able to load the desktop application. The HotSync and the Instapp may be OK but so far the desktop program is unusable.


1. You need to install ODIN. http://www.netlabs.org/odin/index.phtml. A good review of installing Odin can be found in OS/2eZine: http://www.os2ezine.com/20001116/odin.html

A couple of tips <g>:

  • Open the config.sys and be sure you do not have the ODIN driver installed: look for a line like: device=d:\path\win32k.sys and REM it. You do not need it for this application and it can cause some problem.
  • Have the Joliet support enable in your CD-ROM installable file system. You may have to add the /W parameter like IFS=C:\OS2BOOT\CDFS.IFS /W
  • Set the path correctly before you run the PE loader.
    SET PATH=C:\odin\system32;%PATH%
    SET BEGINLIBPATH=C:\odin\system32

    Or create an ODIN.CMD to facilitate the work (see reference)

    Test ODIN with one of the windows Applets like notepad.exe or even
    regedit.exe. Sometimes you think the applications are not working
    under ODIN and the problem is ODIN itself.

    2. Method #1. Install Palm software in OS/2 under ODIN. The Palm Desktop comes with the 16 bit version of setup.exe and _isdel.exe. ODIN will not be able to run the setup. You will need to copy the CD to a Hard Disk and then replace the two setup files with the 32 bit counterparts.

    The 16 bit files come with the read-only attribute checked so you can not delete them. To delete them you can right mouse click to bring up the Properties menu; Files tab, then 2nd page and remove the check then you can delete them. You also can use the attrib command. (ATTRIB -R file.ext). Lewis G Rosenthal uploaded the necessary files to Hobbes: /pub/windows/win32inst.zip.

    3. Method #2. Transfer the windows installation to OS/2. This procedure is a little more complex. It requires that you see the Palm directories under OS/2 and also that you have transferred the key entries of the *.dat files into OS/2.

    To be able to see the Palm windows directory structure you need a file system that OS/2 can read. FAT is one option (I have not tested) the other one is FAT32 partition using Henke's FAT32 IFS under OS/2 (this is my setup). http://www.chello.nl/~henk.kelder. I have a FAT 32 partition under win98 and OS/2 with the same drive letter. This simplifies the setup. Also it does not matter where I do the HotSync (win98 or OS/2) all the files are up to date.

    Because under windows initially I had only two partition to make the letter the same I create 4 dummy partition (very small) in front of the FAT32 I wanted to share between the 2 OS's. With the new IBM Convenience Pack it may be different (or easier) but I have not installed it yet.

    If you do not have shared partitions, you can backup/restore from windows to OS/2. BackAgain 2000 is a perfect application for this because the OS/2 and the win98 application are file compatible so you backup with the win98 application and restore with the OS/2 application. http://www.cds-inc.com

    Using the Method #2 you will have to export/import the key entries/key values from windows *.dat files to OS/2 *.dat files. There are two editors that can read these files: under windows is regedit.exe and under OS/2 is regedit2.exe.

    Click on the image at the right for a larger view

    Use the windows regedit.exe for BOTH procedures: (a) under win98 open regedit.exe select the key and export a file to the share partition; (b) under OS/2 open win98 regedit.exe under ODIN and import the previous file. Repeat for both keys.

    The following are the 2 keys that have to be migrated:

    US Robotics
    Pilot Desktop

    Palm Computing
    Palm Desktop

    Select: US Robotics and Palm Computing. If your partition letter are different under both operating systems you have to change the paths in both entries. For example if in windows the directory is D:\PALM and under OS/2 is I:\PALM you can open the regedit.exe and using the find command look for D:\PALM and replace it. Or you just can go manually through both key values. Of course you will NOT need all these if you do the SETUP under ODIN.


    Be sure all the resources required for the Palm Desktop software are in place:
    The \ODIN\SYSTEM32\ must have the following files:
    If some are missing copy them from the windows NT or 98. I have them from NT.


    Start HotSync.exe. Place the device in the cradle and press HotSync button. The HotSync window will show up.

    If the HotSync.exe is loaded, it will HotSync even if the Desktop application is closed like in windows.


    Click on the image at the right for a larger view

    I usually download the Palm applications into the Palm\Add-on directory and then press the Install button in the Palm Desktop application. After you select the application it will be install during the next HotSync operation. If for any reason the path is not correct when you create the program object, the program will complain with an error message <instapp.exe received an error and can not be started>. Correct the path or just run the Instapp.exe under ODIN.


    (1) Often when you run Palm.exe it loads the hotsync.exe. The way to know if it is loaded it is to go to the menu HotSync and see if you can see the choices. If they are greyed-out it means hotsync.exe has not being loaded it. Close the program and first run hotsync.exe under ODIN and then palm.exe.

    (2) I can not change the behavior under which conditions the hotsync.exe will load or close. So far the HotSync stays loaded, which appears to be the preferred behavior and to kill it you have to kill the process using the kill feature of the WarpCenter or a program like WatchCat. If the HotSync is in memory you can HotSync without opening the Desktop application.

    Click on the image at the right for a larger view

    (3) Be sure you have selected the correct com port HotSync/Setup/Local

    (4) Lotus Notes for OS/2 can not connect to the POP3 or SMTP server when the Palm Desktop is loaded. Just close the Desktop application and kill the HotSync thread if it is still running.


    Robert Henschel has an IBM Workpad (Palm clone) that comes with a modifed version of the Palm Desktop software (Workpad Desktop Version 3.0). He was able to install the software with the Method #2. The Method #1 replacing the setup files did not work. Otherwise he reports everything is working well including the HotSync.


    (1) The Palm Desktop PIM application load and works very well .
    (2) The HotSync works very well.
    (3) The Instapp.exe which is the program to install new applications works very well.
    (4) The HotSync process remains loaded, to remove it you have to kill the process.
    (5) The program closes with an error message of no significance. The error does not affect HotSyn.exe.

    In summary: almost perfect. I am sure the remaining minor glitches will be solved. My sincere appreciation for the tremendous work of the ODIN team.

    Teruel de Campo is a physiciam (MD). He also is a C Programmer and Java "student" and enjoys cycling for recreation. And of course connecting to his Palm under OS/2. :-)

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