Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Mad Enough to Kill a PDA

If I had one of the programmers or engineers responsible for the Palm Pilot, Desktop or OS before me right now, I'd probably throttle the life out of them.

How this came to be

Many of you know that, as a result of owning two Palm Pilots of different Generations (The IIIxe and the T2), I had come to hate the brand with a broiling passion I normally reserve for select politicians.

My T2 died a hard death. Even the screen stopped working in the end.

I was so disgusted with Palm that I decided to ditch digital PDAs and go back to Paper.

The plan was simple. Print up my contacts and notes so I could put them in the old Day Planner I used for close to six years, most of it during college. Make notes in in and periodically update the contacts on the computer and print up a fresh copy.


Well, if my contacts weren't in the Palm software yes. Even exporting to CSV in the Palm software does things like dump all the "primary" contacts into one column, with no way of differentiating between Call, Home, Work and Fax numbers. For some contacts, their e-mail address was dumped into this column.

I did a good deal of research, and found that the easiest way to get your contacts out of the Palm Software and into something else was to sync the Palm Pilot to Outlook instead of the Palm Desktop. This works nicely as OUtlook has a template that appears to be perfect for my day planner!

The problem of course being that the T2 is dead as a doornail and can no longer sync.

The Event

So Whuffle generously offered to let me use her Handspring for the data transfer. I would sync her handspring to my desktop, wipe the handspring, and then use it to get my data out of the Palm Desktop and into Outlook. I would then put her data back in the handspring.

Whuffle went to work, and as I had an hour and a half until I had to leave, I set about hooking her Handspring to my computer.

The first thing I noticed was the battery was low on the Handpsirng, so I changed the batteries and checked to make sure the contacts were still there.

They were. Everything was fine after the battery change.

I then created a new username in my Palm Desktop install and started the sync process to get Whuffle's contacts onto my Palm Desktop.

I then went to get dressed.

When I got back, I noticed the Handspring had a message saying it needed to be reset. I pressed the little "Reset" button on the screen, knowing that the Palm Pilot would do nothing but give me that screen until I reset it.

I then found myself staring in horror at the screen. The Palm Logo had come up, but was distorted, as if it had been drawn on an etch-a-sketch that was subsequently shaken.

I grabbed a paperclip and hit the reset button. The Palm Pilot went through it's "New Palm" wizard. When I went to the contacts, they were empty except for one entry for Handspring tech support.

Panic set in.

I launched the Palm desktop on my PC and took a look at the username I'd created for Whuffle.

No contacts. No calendar events. Nothing.

I checked the sync log.

The Palm software had, in it's typical wisdom, installed an OS update for Palm OS 3.1 on the handspring, INSTEAD of syncing the damn contacts.

The end result of course being that all the data had been wiped form the Handspring.


I can not describe the rage I felt at that point. I can't remember being that angry without my mother being involved. My hands were shaking, and had my T2 not been a dismantled heap on my desk I would have smashed it into oblivion then and there.

For a frame of reference, imagine Bill Cosby's routine about his wife finding him giving the kids Chocolate Cake fro breakfast. Then imagine that her reaction would be considered "mildly annoyed" compared to my mental state.

All I did was try to hotsync, and it lost all it's data.

I called Palm Tech Support.

They were closed. They don't open until 9:00 am EST.

I called their sales line, which promptly hung up.

I called their sales line again. This time the rep who had hung up on me stayed on the line, explaining that he was only in sales, and that there were no technicians he could go grab from another office. He reiterated that I would have to call their tech support line. I advised he find a job with a company that makes products that DON'T mangle customer data on a regular basis.

I'm a bit calmed down now.

Intellectually, I know there's nothing I can do to recover Whuffle's Handspring data. I have a year plus old copy of her contacts in one of my Palm Pilot categories, but that had GOT to be seriously out of date now.

I haven't been able to reach her on the phone yet. She's still on the bus getting to work, and her cell phone is off.

My goal is to get all my data out of the Palm Desktop. Even with the Palm Hardware dead, the damn desktop insists on continuing to screw me over.

I will never, as long as I live, use another piece of Palm hardware or software. IF I ever had an employer who handed me a Palm Pilot and told me I HAD to use it, I'd be seriously tempted to find a new job instead of continuing to use an unstable, unreliable piece of garbage like the Palm Pilot.

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