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Handhelds Hardware

Filesystem Problems with the Treo 650s 289

Kaisa Tarasov writes "It turns out PalmOne's new Treo 650 is shipping with a major problem that's causing first adopter users and developers to cancel their orders in droves. The new Treo, along with the Tungsten T5, utilizes a new FAT based nonvolatile file system. Not only is the new system much slower, as the data has to be loaded into a SDRAM chip before running, but in this filesystem PalmOne switched from using directly addressable storage, to storage addressed in 512 Byte blocks. This has caused many files to swell in size - up to 500% in some cases (such as the address book). Users, already flustered with the small 23 MB of available memory, when trying to sync their old data onto the new device are discovering that their old data does not fit on the new Treo. What does PalmOne do?"
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Filesystem Problems with the Treo 650s

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  • What do they do? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 21, 2004 @01:14PM (#10881305)
    Easy. Palm should write a efficient 512 byte FAT block mapping layer.
    • Re:What do they do? (Score:4, Informative)

      by WillerZ ( 814133 ) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @03:59PM (#10882233) Homepage
      Or go back to the PalmOS 5 way of storing data.

      I prefer the Palm database model to the desktop file model for use on handhelds, as it fits in nicely with how the majority of handheld applications want to work.

      As someone who's used Palm and PocketPC devices (and developed my own programs for both) I definitely preferred the Palm approach. Which is why my Tungsten C gets carried around and my HP Jornada is at the bottom of a box somewhere.

      Of course the main reason is that my jornada used to crash a couple of times a day, whereas my Tungsten C has crashed a couple of times (both when an 802.11 connection got dropped by a faulty access point).

    • by EmbeddedJanitor ( 597831 ) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @06:31PM (#10883205)
      FAT, in embedded devices, is the worst way to save data that you care about. FAT is also veeeerrrrryyyy slow relative to some other options. For anything you care about, they should use a well proven fault tolerant file system like YAFFS or JFFS2.These file systems are designed for use with flash storage which makes them far more efficient.

      For amyone that wants to know more about this hit Google for YAFFS or JFFS2.

      Bias acknowledgement: I wrote YAFFS. I quite often get emails of the type: "We tried file system xxx but could not make it reliable enough to ship. Since switching to YAFFS we have no more problems".

    • by shokk ( 187512 )
      As explained during the recent Treo 650 roadshow, the reason they chose this type of file system use is that, with the low low price of flash memory cards, you are expected to use that expansion port for something like a 1GB memory card to store files in.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 21, 2004 @01:14PM (#10881313)
    What does PalmOne do?
    File for bankruptcy?
    • Lets just hope they release all their documentation and open source their OS and drivers before they do, so that at least their hardware will have some use in the world.

      Otherwise, we may as well just throw them straight in the recyclotron. My next palmtop will have a full strength OS, either a true windows box (like the OQO) or a linux box from Japan.
  • Ouch! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 21, 2004 @01:15PM (#10881316)
    Who gets fired for this? Q&A? The engineers? Managament?

    It's too bad that such a glaring problem got missed in production. Hopefully they will be able to fix it.
    • Re:Ouch! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by baywulf ( 214371 ) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @01:21PM (#10881350)
      It should be the management getting fired because if it was successful you would see quotes praising the leadership effort of the management in making the project a success. Since they are calling the shots and credit they should take the blame.

      • Re:Ouch! WRONG (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 21, 2004 @01:37PM (#10881447)
        "It should be the management getting fired".

        It should, but unfortunately nowadays "management is another form of politics". In this era, presidents/management take the glory for flasely labeled "Mission Accomplished" and hard workers or people who gave their entire lifes for their jobs get sacked for the failure of the management/president.

        I have seen it many times.
    • Re:Ouch! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Simon Lyngshede ( 623138 ) <> on Sunday November 21, 2004 @01:34PM (#10881433) Homepage
      Firing people isn't always the solution.
      • Re:Ouch! (Score:3, Insightful)

        by scribblej ( 195445 )
        I read a story - I think it was in an old, old copy of "How to Win Friends and Influence People." The details are fuzzy now; I imagine the story named some rich Oil Baron by name, but I don't recall.

        The story was basically that an employee had fucked up and cost his company $10,000 -- and he came in the next day and said to his boss, "I expect you'll want my resignation now." To which the oss replied, "Hell no, I just spent $10,000 on your education!"

        • Re:Ouch! (Score:3, Informative)

          by djupedal ( 584558 )
          The story was about Lee Iaccoca, who had an automotive Engineer cost the company $17 million - When asked if he intended to fire the Engineer, Lee said "Hell, no - I just paid $17mil for his education!"

          Which is a bit different with this case, in my opinion. Someone will take the fall, of course, but that's all we will ever know...the details will be buried in someone's memory, I'm sure.
    • They ultimately approve the specifications, so they're responsible for why the filesystem is the way it is.
  • an excellent product (Score:5, Informative)

    by pbrinich ( 238041 ) * on Sunday November 21, 2004 @01:17PM (#10881327)
    I think this new item is a bit too negative. I just upgraded from a 600 to a 650 and I think it's a great product. I didn't even know about any of the filesystem "issues" before reading this news. While, I guess this may be an issue for some users, I have not had any problems myself. Also to note:

    - the 650 loads programs at least 3 times faster than the 600 from my experience (likely due to the faster processor, but still!)

    - the 650 has 4X the resolution of the 600. It can be argued that the 600 should have had 320x320 to begin withy, but either way, it's worth the upgrade by itself.

    - Also, one of the benefits of the new memory is that you don't loose data when you loose power completely. Making the removeable battery system feasible.

    - Finally, it's the first sprint phone (to my knowledge) to have bluetooth. I love my jabra :)

    Well, just my $.02, I thought palmOne was getting a little too harsh of a rap, the 650 is a very good product in my opinion.
    • I dunno what PalmOne does, but I go shopping for another PDA.
    • Second phone from Sprint to have Bluetooth... they released the Sony Erricson t608, but only through Telesales, and it sucked... so it may be better to say that it's the first good Sprint phone to have Bluetooth :)
    • It has some nice features but the memory/file problem is a hugely big deal to many of us and to most serious business users. A major screwup that makes many users unable to use the latest model with all those fine features is about as negative as it gets short of blowing up in your hand.

  • by aldoman ( 670791 ) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @01:17PM (#10881328) Homepage
    I think that PalmOne is right in choosing to use a block based filesystem. There is obvious limits on the the old method, and while this has some problems, from what I gather they could easily solve them by instead of having each contact data in a seperate file, moving it to one file (or having a 'zip folder' which could expand and look like a normal folder when opened).

    The main problem is that PalmOS is looking very dated compared to WinCE and Linux, and it's going to require serious pain that I don't think PalmOne can take to modernize it fully. This is just one step.. think how much it's going to hurt to get proper multitasking in etc...
    • by DoctorPepper ( 92269 ) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @01:30PM (#10881415)
      I don't know, I've owned one Windows CE device and two Palm OS devices, and I have to say I much prefer the Palm OS devices. Longer batter life, clean simple interface, easy to use and understand.
      • by ForestGrump ( 644805 ) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @01:50PM (#10881510) Homepage Journal
        i agree with you.

        I started off with a pilot 1000 with 128k of ram.

        Then it was a palm V with 2 meg. Wow, 2 meg was ALOT.

        Then this summer i got an axim x5 basic. When buying it I thought, gee 32 meg. I'm moving from a 2 meg Palm V...what the heak am I going to do with 32 meg?

        So when I first start playing with it, the multi tasking thing got me confused. I was used to one program at a time. Ok, so I figured that multi-task thing out. But to add insult to injury, it would RANDOMLY CLOSE running programs.

        Now I know 32 meg of ram is NOT ENOUGH. Geez, I never realized how different the Palm and Windows Mobile architectures are.

        But after reading this, I'm glad I went with Microsoft. (yes, I'm glad I went with M$ in this case)

      • I own a TRGpro (PalmOS) and an Asus MyPal A716 (PocketPC). It's not a fair comparison, but I'll make it anyway. This post was made on the Asus. They both have CF slots, but the Asus has drivers for far more of the hardware I'm interested in. Basically I use the Asus far more than I ever used the TRGpro.
    • by BenjyD ( 316700 ) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @01:38PM (#10881453)
      Each piece of contact data is not in a seperate file, they are each a seperate record in a database. In the past, each database record took up (size of record+8) bytes. It looks as if that it is now (size of record+8) and round up to nearest multiple of 512 bytes.

      All the current applications for PalmOS use the database way of accessing files. So there's no real workaround for it, except rewriting applications to combine records into one and use their own database access wrapper.

      This will affect the program I develop for Palm OS too, as it stores small (~100byte) macros in seperate records of a database.
    • I think that PalmOne is right in choosing to use a block based filesystem. There is obvious limits on the the old method, and while this has some problems, from what I gather they could easily solve them by instead of having each contact data in a seperate file, moving it to one file (or having a 'zip folder' which could expand and look like a normal folder when opened).

      That's a very informative comment. (I can't be bothered with reading this article about something I don't and won't own.) The summary w

    • by rudedog ( 7339 ) < minus distro> on Sunday November 21, 2004 @04:02PM (#10882243) Homepage
      I think that PalmOne is right in choosing to use a block based filesystem.

      Except that they haven't really. They've moved from storing their databases on battery-backed RAM to NVRAM. Their implementation uses a block-based filesystem, but the API continues to be the same as it always was (DmQueryRecord, DmWrite, DmReleaseRecord, etc.).

      The backing store uses FAT, but I believe that each database is still stored in a single FAT file, that the programmer never sees or knows about.

      PalmOS uses a cache to arbitrate between the NVRAM backing store and the Dm* functions. For performance, their cache implementation pads records up to the nearest 512B block, which is why databases with small-sized records seem to bloat.

      The solution to me is simple: add a new header flag to the database that tells PalmOs not to pad records on that database. This would go back to the way that PalmOS exports databases to normal flat files without padding each record.
  • ARGH (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Andy Dodd ( 701 ) <atd7.cornell@edu> on Sunday November 21, 2004 @01:18PM (#10881331) Homepage
    Dammit, yet another possible replacement for my Kyocera 6035 proves to be insufficient.

    I was hoping for the 7135 to drop in price, but Verizon outright pulled it instead.

    None of the current batch of smartphones appeal to me in design. They're all more PDA than phone, the Kyos were EXCELLENT phones. I *need* tactile feedback when dialing my phone, and all of the current smartphones use on-screen dialing.
    • Re:ARGH (Score:4, Funny)

      by mordors9 ( 665662 ) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @01:24PM (#10881376)
      Hmmm, it says it is slower and has less space, what's not to love.
    • Re:ARGH (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @01:29PM (#10881405) Homepage Journal
      I went from a Kyocera 6035 to a Treo 600, and I've been extremely pleased - smaller, but not too small (like many phones), smarter, but not too smart (like a palmtop PC with all its problems), acceptably good Internet connection, color, stereo music, 1GB SD cards, camera, keyboard + stylus, yeah! I might not go for a 650 so fast, since they're delaying PalmOS6 (multitasking), and skipped the 1.3Mpxl camera (though the new VGA camera seems much better). But this FAT issue seems fairly trivial, especially with 1GB+ SD cards and Bluetooth. Maybe the next iteration sometime in 2005 will have all that, plus the hirez camera, plus EV-DO/EDGE WAN (>130Kbps, up to 1.5Mbps) which is the threshold for the mobile multimedia terminal the Treo 600 almost became.

      Frankly, I chucked my 6035 beneath the wheels of an oncoming train to stop it (the phone, not the train :). Its many bugs and inconsistencies made using it like shaving with a nicked razor. Treo 600 reinspired my love of Palm - once again, Pilot is my co-god!
      • They skipped the camera because the 1.3Mpxl version doesn't create significantly better pictures, but it does increase the file size. So it would take longer to send them, but not make them appreciably better in terms of quality.

        • Re:ARGH (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Doc Ruby ( 173196 )
          How does a 1.3Mpxl image look insignificantly different from a .3Mpxl image? We're talking 1280x1024 vs. 640x480 - each old pixel gets at least 4 new ones - an order of planar magnitude higher rez.
    • The Treo 600 offers a choice of on-screen of keypad dialing. You are not forced to use on-screen dialing by any means.

    • May I highly reccomend taking a look at the new Blackberry 7100. I switched from my Tréo 600 to the BB 7100 because first and foremost I wanted a phone, and the 7100 is an awesome device. Bluetooth, speakerphone, web browsing (and not just WAP - even supports swf flash files). Definitely worth taking a look at and it's very reasonably priced, too. My only gripe is no SD card slot but I'll live.
    • Motorola MPX (Score:3, Informative)

      by DoorFrame ( 22108 )
      It's not quite out yet, but the Motorola MPX [] looks like it's going to be a great combination of PDA and phone. It's got a snazzy dual hinge clamshell design which will allow it to open vertically to function as a phone, and then open horontally to function as a Pocket PC PDA.

      It's supposed to be out sometime in the next three or four months.
      • Sadly, this is looking to be a large disappointment, designed for gee-whiz factor in the press releases rather than for actual use. The `snazzy' dual hinge design seems to get in the way of important buttons regardless of which orientation you choose, the actual specs on the device are not as nice as people had predicted, and the device was ``supposed'' to be out in September, and then in November, and now ``sometime next year''.

        With any luck, Motorola will use the extra half-year to fix the various hardw
        • I know it's had some setbacks, but I've been desperate for a phone that does a good job of combining Pocket PC with phone function, without it having the form factor of a PDA. I'm tired of carrying around two devices, and I can't get rid of either one.

          I can deal with not have access to the keyboard with the dual hinge... I don't use a keyboard now, I use a stylus. That's not a problem for me. I don't want an exposed to be scratched screen (like the Treo) and I don't want a tiny, non-touch display (like
    • Re:ARGH (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gessel ( 310103 )
      I agree with the sentiment. I want a phone first, not a PDA, not a game boy, not a video player. I want something that fits in my front pocket (and doing so doesn't risk grievous bodily harm to sensitive bodily regions when I sit down). I also don't want it to call my friends when I do sit down.

      Dear phone people: release a phone with the following features: I promise I will buy it.

      1) Flip style smart phone like the i500. Flat phones are too big and I hate making accidental calls.

      2) Palm OS. I sim
      • I love CF, I have tons of cards for my camera (including some 2G CF cards)

        But Sd is better for a phone. the CF card itself is big, and the hardware required to read CF is big. It would be the size of most phone's batteries at least.

        But I do think have 7 different standards is stupid. 2 would do.
  • by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @01:21PM (#10881354) Homepage Journal
    Why move from the major innovation of *all database storage* backwards to a FAT filesystem that even Microsoft doesn't use anymore? The way to get compatibility with prepackaged Flash storage that unwisely stuck with the ancient FAT system was to include a Palm DB wrapper for the Flash legacy filesystems. Yet another reason Palm should open their PalmOS source, so manufacturers can make it work across platforms, and Linux hackers can make Palm a GUI mode as we take over computing.
    • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) * on Sunday November 21, 2004 @01:32PM (#10881423)
      One advantage I could see is that the FAT filesystem is well understood and supported by a lot of things - it might make it much easier to mount the device as portable storage and make direct modifications.
    • Why move from the major innovation of *all database storage*
      • It wasn't an innovation (lots of systems had used that kind of storage before)
      • Palm's implementation of the concept was poor
      • Whether you like it or not, handhelds need to be able to deal with files

      Palm needed files. The real question is why they didn't put the Palm application environment on top of a nice Linux kernel and ReiserFS, instead of hacking in FAT.
  • We die
  • FAT (Score:5, Funny)

    by vijayiyer ( 728590 ) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @01:26PM (#10881387)
    Ah, FAT. The cornerstone of any modern operating system...
    • by ThePhilips ( 752041 ) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @02:03PM (#10881559) Homepage Journal
      You do not know what you are talking about.

      Another day I have heard screams in computer room. I went there just to find my friends literally laughing to death. They were trying thru laughing point to the screen of WinXP with error message.

      As soon I have taken a look at screen - I have joined them laughing to death under table.

      "Invalid MS-DOS function"

      For sure, we had over-reacted, due to couple of M$ Zealot who tried to persuade development department that WinXP is complete rewrite of Windows from scratch. And it has nothing to do with MS DOS.

      As a person who switch to Linux & Apple long time ago I find bit fuzzing insistence of some companies on using technology from 80s. If you haven't noticed, all external hard-drives are shipped formated with FAT.

      No-one yet came out and proposed read-write file system for hard-drives supportable by all OSs. File systems are not standard - I'll love to see OpenGroup/POSIX/ISO having standardize some file system in order for interoperability between OSs. Just like it was done for CD/DVD media.

      P.S. Message in our case was showed when one guy tried to delete file with name 'nul' with Explorer. Who remember DOS times - it is reserved name which is presumably impossible to give to a file. Some tools do allow to create/delete files with such name under WinNT/friends.

      • XP is based of NT, and NT is definitely not based on DOS. Learn your history. []

        Now, whether old code from the FAT file system was eventually ported to NT (NTFS is the native file system in NT) for compatibility reasons -- that's a good question. I don't know the answer.

      • Re:FAT [Off-Topic] (Score:5, Informative)

        by ctr2sprt ( 574731 ) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @04:49PM (#10882497)
        Who remember DOS times - it is reserved name which is presumably impossible to give to a file. Some tools do allow to create/delete files with such name under WinNT/friends.
        Try \\?\path, e.g., \\?\c:\nul.

        C:\>echo Hello, world! >\\?\c:\nul

        C:\>dir \\?\c:\nul
        Volume in drive \\?\c: has no label.
        Volume Serial Number is 2007-5968

        Directory of \\?\c:

        11/21/2004 03:38 PM 16 nul
        1 File(s) 16 bytes
        0 Dir(s) 0 bytes free

        C:\>type \\?\c:\nul
        Hello, world!

        C:\>del \\?\c:\nul

        C:\>dir \\?\c:\nul
        Volume in drive \\?\c: has no label.
        Volume Serial Number is 2007-5968

        Directory of \\?\c:

        File Not Found
        Think of it as an issue of escapes. Remember the days of files called "-rf"?
        % echo 'Hello, world!' >"/tmp/-rf ."
        % echo rm *
        rm -rf . sess_c22cc906b82ec003d96a0c9aae5158cf
      • Yup - I was once called to look at a 'wierd problem' where someone had typed and saved a long document and it had disappeared.

        Turned out the customer was typing up a contract and was trying to call it con.doc (CON is a DOS reserved file name too) - the WP application was reporting 'file exists - do you want to overwrite it' to which the user was happily saying 'yes' all day. The next day when they went to load it and carry on though...
  • If it's anything like me, it'll go home and cry.
  • by bumbobway ( 111020 ) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @01:30PM (#10881408)
    Given this scare with the 650, I did a search on eBay to see if people are unloading their treos. What I found was a lot of listings for people selling COUPONS to get the Treo 650 at a discounted price of $349. I noticed that some people were obviously mistaken and bidding upwards of $300 for this coupon, rather than the actual device. Does anyone have any information on this coupon?
  • by Levendis47 ( 90899 ) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @01:31PM (#10881417) Homepage
    Call me wacked but sometimes the best way to wipe egg (or in this case, a whole omlette) off your face is to ask someone to wipe for you (eek...).

    Palm could reach out to the OSS community for help in dealing with this...

    1) Rapidly turn around a six-month trial developers kit and a limited-licensed SDK for OS development.
    2) Make it extremely easy to find/download/bootstrap.
    3) Setup a contest... List the top five major issues/flaws in the software at any given moment with corresponding prizes for the individual/team that develops a viable solution for a given issue/flaw.
    4) Filter solution entries though a rapid in-house QA and system testing process.
    5) Release patches in "leap frog" pattern (i.e. say four-month cycles overlapping for bi-monthly update releases).
    6) Build and distribute a Palm Desktop conduit for System and Application updates. Call in "pa1m OneUpdate Utilities" or such.

    Just an idea... Run with it at will...

    I have a Treo 600 that I waited for two update cycles to occur before I bought... I've been burnt by Palm and WinCE before. And while I loved Handspring products, I can't think of a single one that didn't have some odd problem (shiver, the Visor Edge...).


  • reiserfs (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wotevah ( 620758 ) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @01:37PM (#10881448) Journal

    They should have licensed reiserfs. It uses a block system but small files can share a block: [].

    You can get a special license to include it in your own proprietary OS.

  • by TheSHAD0W ( 258774 ) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @01:40PM (#10881465) Homepage
    Adding an extra couple megabytes to the built-in storage would solve any upgrade problems. As for slower access, I think it's worthwhile considering it makes the memory non-volatile, don't you?
  • by hkb ( 777908 )
    What does PalmOne do?

    From the look of things, they go the way of the do do. Their serious lack of smart choices has really put them behind the Windows Mobile devices.

    They don't listen to their customers. They STILL haven't released a PalmOS Cobalt device after what... a year? They're still using a crappy, old, severely limited, non-multitasking operating system that's getting its ass handed to it by the infamous Windows CE for god's sake.

    They have great hardware (well, I consider the Tungsten C the penu
    • Re:Do Do (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ccage ( 742617 )
      I see where you're coming from, but I think Palm and PPC are just really different animals. PPC is robust and can do all sorts of things, but is a truly lousy organizer. Palm is a great organizer, but really doesn't do other things that well.

      As a developer, I traded in my Palm for a PPC a few years ago -- mainly because I was embarassed when a client would ask me a question about the organizer functionality (which I'd never used). After a year of it, I couldn't stand it anymore and happily switched back
  • by ccage ( 742617 ) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @01:41PM (#10881471)
    I know that at least two of the major cell phone manufacturers provide beta test units to their employees. Even though you hear of some problems being corrected (like a camera whose lens protruded too much and was easily scratched) there seem to be 10 major problems for every one corrected. Are the employees just not USING the devices? Or are the companies just not listening?

    At least Palm isn't alone:

    - How could the original Nokia nGage get into consumer's hands with the game cartridge located UNDER the battery?

    - Why didn't Motorola figure out that their beautiful smart flip phone had to run for more than an hour or so on a charge?

    The list goes on...

    • Eating the dogfood (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ratboy666 ( 104074 ) <> on Sunday November 21, 2004 @02:02PM (#10881553) Journal
      Actually, the employees typically DON'T use the devices.

      I have engineered features for a set-top & tv box -- and I don't have (probably never will have) that tv.

      I have worked for computer companies whilst never owning ANY of their product.

      I have just done some engineering work for a printer company, and while I *have* in the past owned the vendor product, I will never own this particular product (and, indeed have never SEEN the product).

      I have worked with a major graphics board company, and, though I do own several of their products, I was never given one to "home test".

      In other words, the engineers put in the features, but we DON'T actually "eat the dog food". That job is left to Product Managers who probably don't care, and Marketing who probably doesn't either (make sure it meets the requirements).

      So, if a "one-hour battery life" was in the requirements (or worse, no mention of battery life at all), that's what gets delivered.

      And the justification? The employees/contractors won't BUY the stuff (why would we?); the company feels it is too expensive to build extra prototypes -- and besides, what does the employee know anyway? Stick to engineering; that's what we pay you for.

      Does lead to Dilbert moments, though.


  • Why do manufacturers always do jugheaded things like this? It never ceases to amaze me how people can take what should be killer app products and cripple them with 'features' or release them to market with limitations that ultimately make them undesirable. I'm glad I didn't rush out and preorder this one.

    Just the other day engadget featured a bluetooth wireless speaker adapter [] that incidently introduces a delay that causes audio to get out of sync with the video.

    • by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @03:11PM (#10881954)
      I'm glad I didn't rush out and preorder this one.

      This should be a good lesson for anyone who has. There is almost nothing out there, made by large companies, that is worth rushing out and getting the very first model of. As other posters have noted, these companies don't even do any real usability testing to see if there's major problems with them, and engineers don't ever even see the finished product, or get to try out the prototypes, to see if there's something obvious that was missed. Amidst all this, there's simply no reason for anyone at the company to care one whit about the product itself; engineers just have to worry about keeping their jobs and getting a good review, managers just care about being able to spin things to their managers so they can get a bonus or raise, and executives just care about pushing the stock price higher. In the end, no one in large companies gives a rat's ass about the products they're making. If they don't care, why should anyone else?

      If you're looking for products to get excited about, I only see two options: 1) make your own products. MythTV and other open-source software makes it fairly easy to build your own computing/entertainment systems using commodity components, and since you can build it the way you want it, you can leave out crap like DRM, monthly fees, inability to skip commercials, etc., and put in features you really want, like Ogg compatibility, a one-touch slideshow linked to a directory full or pr0n on your home server, or whatever else floats your boat.
      2) Look for products from small companies where the engineers run the company, and are building the product because it's something they want. A good example of this is SlimDevices [].
  • by mysterious_mark ( 577643 ) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @01:48PM (#10881504)
    As Palm developer I've never found the lack of file system to be a problem. Moreover the siplicity and compactness of the DB system is quite desirable. The best thing about Palm OS is that it is simple and robust. I tend to think that the file system got added because other operating systems have such.

  • FAT? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kasperd ( 592156 ) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @01:51PM (#10881512) Homepage Journal
    Who says they use FAT? The linked article does not mention FAT anywhere. Besides FAT is just not a good choice. Other file systems like reiserfs have been carefully designed to avoid the slack problem being described here. Of course it could easilly have been avoided by not storing all data in a bunch of small files.

    Just about anything would have been better than FAT. The minix file system is simpler and more efficient, but it doesn't help on slack. Reiser is more complicated, but does solve the slack problem. I don't know if they really need any journaling. It is quite easy to come up with a file system, that is better than FAT, and even one that is simpler and solve the slack problem. It is builtin, and there doesn't seem to be any need for compatibility with anything else.
  • Simple... (Score:3, Funny)

    by Philzli ( 813353 ) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @01:54PM (#10881526) Homepage
    FSCK IT!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 21, 2004 @01:59PM (#10881540)
    I am a expert handheld reviewer and I have to say that its shocking to see what a poorly presented and researched piece this is. Are the real editors sleeping in on sunday morning?

    While the lower addressable amount of memory is disappointing this is not a major issue, and I think this article is WAY too over-negative. Sounds like the submitter has some sort of bias on palmOne and the new Treo.

    How can people be returning units in droves when only a few hundred have shipped!!!!

    Only the most hardcore techie is even going to notice this sort of filesystem procedure, it is not a bug but a symptom of the Non volatile memory architecture.

    Give me a break, The Treo 650 will do just fine.

  • Palm OS vs. Copland (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TimmyDee ( 713324 ) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @02:11PM (#10881592) Homepage Journal
    As I've been monitoring the discussions of the 650 at TreoCentral (I'm thinking about getting one myself when the GSM version comes out), I couldn't help but thinking that PalmSource and PalmOne seem to be in a position very similar to Apple a few years ago. I know, they're two separate companies where Apple was (and is) one and their new OS is actually off the ground, but bear with me.

    A few years ago, Palm/PalmSource probably realized that their OS wasn't going to cut it in the New World of modern computing. They were making the transition from 68k processors to the StrongARM/Xscale series much like Apple made the switch from 68k to PowerPC. All arguments aside, I'd say this was the right thing to do for both companies, but it left them in a bit of a predicament -- legacy code. The only option for both companies was to develop an emulation system so the old could be run on the new. They both work really quite well, but everyone knows you can't run on a hack forever. The time to break with the old had come.

    So, Palm decided to start developing Cobalt and Apple started to develop Copland. Preemptive multitasking, protected memory, better multimedia handling -- the calls to arms were the same. Yet where Apple failed with Copland, Palm didn't. Sort of.

    Copland was a nightmare. Years of legacy code had turned the Mac OS into a bunch of spaghetti and for some reason the Copland developers thought they could use that spaghetti and bake a tieramisu. It didn't work. Drained of billions of dollars sunk into development, Apple started shopping around in 1996. They looked at BeOS (to what degree of seriousness is a matter of debate) and NeXT and some others, thankfully settling on NeXT. Palm, too, had likely started from the bottom up, found themselves a bit stuck, and then stumbled across the devalued Be, Inc. Purchasing Be, they gained huge strides in the multimedia area and were on their way. They also created PACE, an emulation environment similar to Classic in our beloved Mac OS X, for all that legacy code.

    Cobalt should be a runaway success like Mac OS X is. But it's not. You could say that Cobalt is like Mac OS X when it was new. Everybody thought it had great promise, but even Apple was afraid to use it because it just wasn't finished. Now, I'm not sure how "unfinished" Cobalt is at this point, but it could be in the same boat. There are also issues of licensing fees (which I hear are significantly higher for Cobalt compared to Garnet) that cause the analogy to break down a bit, but for the most part it holds.

    So in the end, Palm OS 5 is starting to look a lot like Mac OS 9. It works well, but man does it have its problems. Adoption of Cobalt will be key, but PalmSource needs something killer to drive that. It's a shame for PalmSource/PalmOne that they didn't pick up Dominic Giampaolo with the Be acquisition, but I'm also a Mac user and I'm sure glad he's on our team now.
  • to storage addressed in 512 Byte blocks. This has caused many files to swell in size - up to 500% in some cases

    This is news for nerds. Don't you think we figured that out as soon as we read the 512 blocks - or did you just need to juice the story up?

    I swear this place is turning into my local news, with all the pomp and circumstance...
  • by iamacat ( 583406 ) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @02:25PM (#10881648)
    On regular Palm devices, you can read from and write to database records directly. It goes something like this:
    MemHandle mh = DmQueryRecord(db, recNum);
    void *p = MemHandleLock(mh);
    MemSemaphoreReserve(true); // write-unprotect storage memory
    // Do some access to database record here
    MemSemaphoreRelease(true); // Restore protection
    Granted, MemSemaphore calls are undocumented and Palm asks you to use DmWrite to update a database block instead. The trouble is, Palm devices used to have 36K(!) of regular heap and for recent ones it's around 256K. And C++ compiler wants like 30K for each program/shared library (which is another sorry tale) for virtual functions, exceptions and jumps between 32K segments that you need to partition your code into. Finally, say your database record is a list of stuff >36K and you want to sort it. Imagine how good 2 DmWrite calls to do every record exchange will be for your performance and code readability.

    So if you want to do some good stuff in your program, you just allocate "database" pointers and use them as your regular heap. I doubt it would for with Flash on Treo 650, since it will not even know which records are dirty. Even if they still support these calls, performance of your heap being swapped out to flash in 512 byte chunks would be dreadful.

    The trouble is, programs that needed to use MemSemaphore calls are probably the ones that do something worthwhile. Try business applications, 3D games, VM-based programming languages... They are going to cripple the most cool programs written for their platform. Should have just included a rechargable backup battery just enough to swap out RAM on power failure.
    • They already announced a year ago that they'd be breaking MemSemaphoreReserve() in Palm OS Cobalt, so most developers have been aware of the problem for a while now and the good ones have likely already managed to write around it. Which isn't really all that difficult on a fast device - most of the slowness in DmWrite() is not in the copy operation (which is really just an inter-heap memcpy()) but in the bounds-checking that comes before it, so if you need to make a lot of little changes you can simply read
    • Oh, and I don't know where you got that 256K figure but most current Palm OS devices (including the 650) ship with several MB of heap memory.
  • by jdb8167 ( 204116 ) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @02:25PM (#10881651)
    If you read the threads, this isn't something that is going to affect most users. This guy is trying to put 22,000 contacts on his phone. It is taking up over 11 MB. Not good but we are talking an edge case here. I can't believe that this is a normal usage pattern for a phone!

    I have about 100 contacts on my phone and I don't know who many of them are. They were added during business meetings or various introductions. How can anyone keep track of 22,000 contacts?

    The supposed problem with the Treo 650 seems to be completely overblown from what I can see.
  • by ardiri ( 245358 ) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @03:22PM (#10882012) Homepage
    as an owner of the Treo 650 for a few months now (yes, i got it early) - it is definately the best phone/pda combination that exists; it gives users everything that the Treo 600 users have always been asking for.

    as for this being a problem, its not.

    palmone can get an update out for this to use the memory layout for its file system much more efficiently and then users can run a simple rom updater application (direct from SD card) to get the latest rom image flashed to the device.

    if the device had mask rom, it would be an issue. but, i've been updating my treo 650 every week with new rom images. its a small issue, the developers should fix it quite quickly and then its just a matter of getting the flashable SD card image out to normal users to fix the problem.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I'm a third-party Palm developer, so let me shed some light on why this has happened. Or at least on my theory as to why it has happened.

    OK, first of all, the current shipping version of Palm OS is 5.x. PalmSource (the software company that makes Palm OS -- Palm was recently split into PalmSource for software and PalmOne for hardware) has been working on OS 6.x. But, OS 6 is not out yet. They're basically done with it, but no devices running it have yet been released.

    Now, OS 6 adds many great thin

  • by jchristopher ( 198929 ) on Sunday November 21, 2004 @04:12PM (#10882293)
    Seriously, why is Palm so cheap with the storage in this device? For the (IMO ridiculous) amount of money they ask for this device, users deserve perfection!

Variables don't; constants aren't.