How to get a PalmOne Zire to connect to the Internet from your computer using the USB cable

 

I am a long time user of the Eudora email program on my PC. I purchased the Zire on sale for a very reasonable price from the helpful people at laptops.dk because I discovered that Eudora Internet Suite 2.1 for the Palm Computing Platform is now Freeware and can both synchronise with the Eudora on the PC and send and retrieve email independently on the Zire. I purchased this inexpensive Zire model with the sole purpose of trying this program. 

[Note: Eudora Internet Suite also contains a webbrowser which I have not required and have not tested. It is not necessary to install the complete Suite.]

After installing Palm Desktop 4.1.4 and Eudora Internet Suite 2.1 I was soon able to use HotSync by USB cable and Infrared (IrDA) to synchronise Eudora on the Desktop with Eudora on the Zire. Also, it was possible to compose an email on Eudora on the Zire and it would be sent by Eudora on the Desktop by automation when a HotSync was performed. This was fine but I was unable to use Eudora to send and retrieve email independently, i.e. without Hotsync'ing to the PC,  from the Zire with the USB cable connection. 

My wish to be able to send/receive email directly on my Zire requires that I am able to connect to the Internet via my always-on cable connection (basically the same thing as a LAN) with the USB cable.

I contacted PalmOne Technical Support and was told  "I can inform you that it is not possible to make an Internet connection via the USB Hotsync cable."

Looking at the connection options available in the
Zire Network setup , it seems that the Zire's Network preferences are only configured in advance to connect to a dial-up connection or (if you download and install Phone_Link_Update_v3 from Palm support) by GSM or GPRS cellphone.


But I did make attempts to see if it could be done by tweaking the options available. With the USB cable connected, I have tried using the Windows RAS setting and I have manually configured the subnet mask and I have manually configured the DNS servers and let the
Zire determine the IP address automatically. I have tried with PPP and it times out. I have tried with CSLIP and SLIP and both report that a connection is established, yet nothing happens - if I try to send or retrieve mail from Eudora, it just times out.

I then searched the Palm website and consulted the manual and found no help. Then I Googled the Net and found bits and pieces of the information I needed, but each of these discoveries raised new issues when I tried to implement them. 

   


I found that you need a special third party PPP driver for your computer. You must then install and enable a new Network/Internet Connection called an advanced connection > Accept incoming connections to give allow the
Zire to initiate a connection to my (the host) computer and, through this, to the Internet. 

 

 


These are the third party Palm PPP drivers I was able to find:

Plug2Net (Shareware)
Plug2Net provides fast Internet access to your Palm powered handheld device from any Windows/PC desktop*. This pass-through connection may be established via USB, Serial, Infrared (IrDA) and Bluetooth interface for an easy to use, robust and cost effective solution.

Instructions: http://www.plug2net.com/support.asp

Download: http://www.plug2net.com/download.asp

Mocha W32 PPP (Shareware)
Mocha W32 PPP can be used to connect your Palm or CE device to Windows directly through a serial cable or the Hot-Sync adapter, giving direct access to the network (Internet) on your local PC. With Mocha W32 PPP you will not need a modem to use TCP/IP applications. 
http://www.mochasoft.dk/other.htm

Download: http://www.mochasoft.org/mppp.zip

Instructions: http://www.mochasoft.org/readppp.txt

Softick PPP  (Shareware)
Softick PPP is a Microsoft Windows driver that allows establishing PPP session between Palm powered devices and Microsoft Windows desktop computer. Softick PPP is designed to establish PPP sessions over Palm USB, Bluetooth/Serial and Infrared (IrDA) connections. 
http://www.softick.com/ppp/

Instructions (v1.04): http://www.softick.com/ppp1/desktopsetup.html  

                               http://www.softick.com/ppp1/palmsetup.html

Download v1.04: http://www.softick.com/files/SoftickPPP104-EN.exe

Download v2.19: http://www.softick.com/files/SoftickPPP219-en.zip

Download v2.21: http://www.softick.com/files/SoftickPPP221-en.zip

After checking out the available utilities I decided that the very simple v1.04 of Softick PPP (without Bluetooth ) was most suitable for my purposes. It is basically an Ndis (Network Driver Interface Specification) miniport driver. The Accept incoming connections method, which it utilises, uses Windows own security system to ensure which client is allowed to connect. The later PPP 2.X versions use another method ( a proxy server conduit?) to connect and don't check user name and password (they can be left blank), which I find unsafe.  

After resolving the setup issues I discovered - see below - the simple v1.04 of Softick PPP works great!  

[Plug2Net works fine but it uses a guest account with a 5 min limited password and then closes, which is annoying. I haven't yet tried using Mocha W32 PPP.]

I personally feel that this function is such a basic necessity, as so many PalmOS programs are capable of connecting to the Internet, that PalmOne should supply the necessary USB PPP driver for all users as a free download. Why only support connecting by cellphone or dial-up when the vast majority of users today have broadband Internet connections? 

 

 

Accept incoming connections:

But I discovered that it wasn't so easy to create a new Network/Internet Connection called an advanced connection > Accept incoming connections to give the Zire a connection to the Internet. (Note: all setup info here refers to Windows XP). 

This is what needed to be done (adapted and improved from http://www.softick.com/ppp1/desktopsetup.html ):

1. Run the SoftickPPP104-EN.exe setup package to install the driver. 
2. Create
an advanced connection > Accept incoming connections connection:  


However, when I tried to create the Accept incoming connections advanced connection I received a message that Routing and Remote Access would not start and that it was dependant upon the NetBiosGroup. I spent a lot of time troubleshooting this and trying a lot of ways to get this to work. There was no useful help on the Net. After a lot of trial and error I discovered that this required the Client Program for the Microsoft Network installed. When that was installed and active, the
Accept incoming connections advanced connection could be accessed and configured. 
 

 

Firewall issues:

OK. Now you configure the
Zire as per the instructions for the PPP driver: http://www.softick.com/ppp1/palmsetup.html

Note that the User Name and Password refers to the account you have selected on the Accept incoming connections advanced connection User Permissions tab/page.

Now tap the Connect button and the Zire will negotiate and connect to the computer ( a new connection icon is shown in the system tray). This worked fine but then I then I couldn't get any farther. Eudora on the Zire reported that it could not connect to the mail server. 

I connect to the Internet with a broadband cable connection that has a DHCP server which provides me with an IP address dynamically. 

When the
Zire HotSyncs with the computer using either a USB cable or Infrared (IrDA) there is no issue with my ZoneAlarm Pro firewall. 

But, when my
Zire directly connects to the Internet through a PPP driver and also is given it's own IP address, the email program is blocked by ZoneAlarm when it independently attempts to send/receive mail. To resolve this I discovered that I needed to determine the Zire's current IP address and add this to the trusted zone in ZA manually. But, I couldn't just leave this IP address permanently in the Trusted zone as it might later be given to some other random computer on the Network. 

I did some searching on the ZoneAlarm forums and found this advice regarding a similar host/client computer issue:

"On your host computer open up ZoneAlarm, go to firewall- then main- then click on advanced. Check - 'This computer is a ICS/NAT gateway'. This will allow your client to share

   

I gave ZoneAlarm the CURRENT IP address of my computer as the Local address of the ICS/NAT gateway. This is automatically changed when my computer gets a new dynamic IP address from the DHCP server. 

This worked! Solved my problem!  Note: Remember to disconnect now and then! You will get a fatal error crash of the Palm if you attempt to Hotsync while the Internet connection is open. 

 

 

Evaluation of Eudora Internet Suite 2.1 

Eudora on the Zire is now able to send and receive mail! And the connection and processing of mail is surprisingly fast!

As I purchased this inexpensive Zire model with the sole purpose of trying this program, what do I think of it now that I have taken the time and effort to solve all these problems? 

Using Hotsync, Eudora on the Zire only receives mail delivered to the In mailbox - mail filtered to other mailboxes is not sync'ed. This limitation does not exist when Eudora on the Zire directly accesses the accounts on the server using the USB to Internet solution. 

The only minus is that it does not download attachments, but that is understandable given that there is limited room on the device.  

I really think this is an excellent little program, and it is surprising what it is capable of doing.

 

 


Other Palm programs I like/use:


I also found these other programs (freeware) very useful for my
PalmOne Zire - an important prerequisite for my choices (especially of the versions chosen) has been that the programs must be very small, as the Zire has such a limited amount of available space. I think it is amazing what I can have on such a small unit with limited RAM!: 

The most useful program I have found:

 Today v2.3 - when set to start with the Zire it displays the date, current appointments, to do tasks, battery level and RAM available etc. all at once (see image) when you start your Zire

Programs:
Qvadis Express GT-Lite v2.01
- this is an excellent and small document/e-book reader. 
ZDocm v0.6a - is a small .doc file editor with many good features
AW-RoadLingua - this is a dictionary program  [
Note: link offers 2 pages of  freeware translating dictionaries in many languages prefaced with AW]
Converter v2.2 - converts all sort of units and measures.
Dave's CurrencyCalc v1.02 - a simple currency converter
Big Time v0.4  - tells you the time in different parts of the world [Note: If using Afterburner, set this to standard processor mhz]

Utilities:
Hackmaster and AfterBurner III v3.10 - I am able to overclock the unit to 1 -2 times its standard speed without any problems.
PDA Check v1.5 - gives system information,
Pocket Mark v0.2.1 - measures the performance before and after using Afterburner.
Benchmark v3.0 - is a simple graphic benchmark comparison with other Palms - use before and after using Afterburner.
Filez v4.0.1 - an old version of the best Palm file explorer program - much smaller than later high resolution versions. 
Screen Prefs v2.11 - changes default display mode from B&W to 16 grey shades.

Anti-virus:
Trend Micro PC-cillin for Palm Version 2.0 (freeware) - has real time protection and protection of HotSync operation!!! Important: get free updates here. Instructions are available here.

Games:
YahDice v2.01
- best little game I have found. 

E-Books:
I found many good e-books in the doc format for the Qvadis Express GT-Lite here: http://manybooks.net/ and here: http://www.memoware.com/

Useful little undocumented detail:

Pressing the Up button when the device is off pops up the time and date for a couple of seconds.

 

 

The PalmOne Zire Lighted Stylus:

   

The PalmOne Zire Lighted Stylus set is a real find - it is unfortunately out of stock and discontinued but you may, as I was, be lucky to find it. It contains two styluses. One with a battery powered (15 hours continuous use) stylus, which is great with a Zire without backlighting. The other is a ballpoint pen on one end and a stylus on the other, but the tip can be removed and reveal a reset tool. They are metal and very sturdy and attractive. Unfortunately replacement batteries cost too much and it is much cheaper to find some inexpensive device which is supplied with this battery.

Cases:

This very handy and compact hard/soft case was kindly provided
 by laptop.dk in lieu of the universally despised flip/top case. 

This is a rare Palm case from Filofax which I found on sale
 for a very reasonable price at a stationary shop.  


InfraRed Infrared (IrDA ) Dongle:

This SigmaTel USB Infrared (IrDA) Dongle has been very useful as an alternative connection between the Zire and my desktop computer:

Infrared Transfer
The Zire is able to accept and send data by Infrared (IrDA) from any other IrDA-enabled Palm OS handhelds, and it can Hotsync to a laptop or desktop computer with Palm Desktop 4.1 and an Infrared port. 

Even without the Palm PPP driver
an advanced connection > Accept incoming connections will offer to connect with Infrared if an IrDA port is available. 
 
My present project is to figure out how I might be able to use this Dongle to access the Internet from other computers with the Zire while travelling. This can perhaps be done by making joint use of the dongle with a USB memory stick with the necessary programs installed? 

Many thanks to Erik E. for this device! 

Evaluation of the PalmOne Zire

This is a discontinued model which was replaced by very similar models with more RAM (Zire 21) and later (Zire 31) with a colour screen. Still later a very much upgraded model (Zire 71) has a many major improvements. 

However, the original Zire model is a real little computer. You can add and remove new programs and you can configure the programs and you can tweak the interface and the system. Many useful freeware and commercial programs are available for installation. 

Altogether, very good! 

Dependent upon what you might need to have with you, this little device is able to have many useful programs installed (see my list above) despite its meagre RAM resources. 

The very definite and important minus is the lack of backlighting (which I have resolved with the lighted stylus). But, this gives a very long battery life when charged. 

I am certainly very pleased and pleasantly surprised with what was only bought as a "testbed" to try Eudora Internet Suite 2.1 

PalmOne Zire Specs:

Size & Weight: 4.4" x 2.9" x 0.6"; 3.8 oz. / 112x74x15mm;108 gram
Operating System: Palm OS  v4.1
Processor: Motorola MC68EZ328 Dragonball EZ 16MHz
Memory: 2MB RAM (1.8MB avail.); 2MB mask ROM
Display: Monochrome 160x160 pixel; 16-grey; no backlight
Audio: Piezoelectric speaker
Power: Rechargeable lithium-ion battery (3.7V, 600 mAh)
Connectivity: HotSync mini-USB with cable, Infrared (IrDA)
Software: Address Book, Date Book, Clock, To Do List, Memo Pad, Note Pad, Calculator, Expense, Security
Bonus Games on CD: Minehunt, Puzzle, Giraffe, Hardball

Most of the above material has been adapted from other sources.


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