(Last edited Feb 27, 2008)
This is part three of the Putting it all together series. If you haven’t read part one, please check it out here
The power of the expansion card slot (SDIO): more storage for running programs
Once you’ve removed the programs and have enough RAM to run them, you’re pretty much stuck with whatever RAM memory you have and will have to resort to uninstalling and re-installing programs if you want to use it, right? Wrong.
You are not limited to the amount of RAM in the device for running and storage of your programs. You can easily run directly off the expansion flash memory card (SD or Secure Digital). There are mainly two ways to have the capability to run programs from the card.
Screenshot of the Quick Install window with the Tour.prc file placed in the Expansion card area to be installed
1 – Install the Palm program directly onto the expansion flash memory (SD) card and Hotsync so that the program and files are on the card directly.
Screenshot of the App menu and the resulting Copy screen
Select the application to copy or move and its destination, tap Copy. And then Done. You will need to go back and delete the file from RAM or wherever it was originally so that you don’t have it on both RAM and SD card (unless you want to).
2 – If the Palm programs are in RAM, you can easily copy or move the program files to the expansion flash memory card and then run them off the card.
While both ways do work and many program can run directly off the card this way, these methods aren’t the best way. Why? Because many programs require specific preferences files to be loaded in RAM when it’s run, even if the program is on the card. So what happens is that, when you’re finished running that program from the card, the files loaded in RAM stay there. They are not automatically removed and moved back to the card. So, even if you run application programs on the card, a lot of files are hogging up RAM, even if you aren’t using it, or you have removed the program from the card.
Check it out yourself. Many, programs, even when launched from the SD card, will load extra preferences or files into RAM. When you exit out of the program, these files will remain in RAM, unless you monitor it yourself and manually delete them.
One way around this or prevent this is to use third party applications that will monitor the files that are loaded and delete them from RAM when the program exits. A very popular program, PowerRun, does this very well. Simply install PowerRun (64k in size) in RAM. Then select the applications you wish PowerRun to move to the card. Once done, in the Launcher, you will notice that those applications that are monitored by PowerRun on the expansion card will have an asterix (*) at the end of the name.
You can copy, delete, move files to and from RAM to expansion card and vice versa. So, when you launch something that has been monitored and moved to the card by PowerRun, the RAM will stay the same before and after you run it.
Palm Launcher showing PowerRun moved apps: Aeroplayer*, BDicty*, EasyAddress*
Simulation of copying an application from RAM to expansion (SD) card
Alternative links: Image Shack
This simulation shows the previously mentioned method of copying and moving a program originally installed in RAM to the expansion (SD) card. As well, I’ve demonstrated how to use PowerRun to achieve the same result as well as a quick overview of the menus in PowerRun.
The simulation will play through to the end unless I’ve inserted a pop up note for specific points.
To continue playing the simulation, press the button.
To go back to a previous paused segment, click on the button.
To pause the simulation at any time, press the button. To continue after it’s paused, press the button again.
To scroll forwards or backwards in the simulation, click anywhere on the left (to go back earlier in the simulation), or right (to go forward in the simulation) on the progress bar.
Aside from being able to run most (but not all) programs, the expansion card provides an external storage for various files including picture and image files (.jpg, gif, bmp), compressed audio files (mp3, ogg, wma), compressed video files (avi, mpg), various Palm database files that can store ebooks, documents, etc. The amount of storage space is only limited by the size of the expansion card. If you filled up one expansion (SD) card, you can put the data in another card. So, it’s virtually unlimited, well, only limited by your budget.
There may be a slight delay before the program launches via PowerRun depending on the size of the program and how much RAM it requires. This is similar to using the hard drive as a virtual RAM on your computer. Physical RAM will always be faster.
There are other similar applications that offer similar features to PowerRun but I’m not sure whether they delete the files from RAM that PowerRun does when it exits out of the program, or merely creates shortcuts to programs moved over to the SD card. MagicLink, PocketShortcut. If they only create the shortcut and doesn’t manage the files that get loaded in RAM when run, then I’m not sure if it’s much different from doing a straight application move over to the card. Obviously, I haven’t tried these so I can’t really comment much on them. All I can say is that PowerRun is stable, popular and works very well.
There are other various applications that can allow you to run applications from the expansion card by creating shortcuts. Many launcher applications like ZLauncher, LauncherX, etc has that capability in the program.
Personally, I like using small programs and PowerRun is only 64k in size while most launcher applications are around 400k or more. So, for me, I prefer PowerRun since I’m more practical and prefer substance over style. If there’s a program that is small and does the job and another one that looks nicer, I’d go with the smaller program. But that’s just me. I’d suggest trying and going with what suits you.
There are some programs that won’t support running from the card like some parts of Dataviz’s Documents To Go. But, Dataviz has provided a tool that can allow you to move some portions of the Cocs To Go program onto the card, to free up some RAM. It’s called Dataviz Tech Tool. I’ve freed up a few hundred kilobytes of RAM by using this tool.
One main disadvantage of using something like PowerRun is that you are no longer able to run something in the background when running programs with PowerRun. For example, if you enjoy being able to have your favorite mp3 player like Pocket Tunes or Aeroplayer running while you’re reading your ebook, then, you won’t be able to do it if you move the mp3 player to the card with PowerRun. Once you exit out of the mp3 player, PowerRun will exit and assume that you’re quitting the program.
If you don’t mind being limited to running only one specific program so that you can free up some RAM by storing the program on the expansion (SD) card, then PowerRun or similar programs is a great workaround for the limited amount of RAM on the Palm device. You may have to decide which programs you need in RAM (such as those mp3 player applications that has background running capability) and move the others.
Importance of backing up to the expansion flash memory card
In addition to having the capbility to store and run Palm programs from the expansion card, you can also use it as a place where you can backup all the data and files currently stored in RAM. If you recall, RAM requires a trickle of battery charge to retain storage. Should there be a brief moment when the electricity is lost, or a static charge causes a hard reset or whatever, you may potentially lose all data. This is similar to the RAM in your computer. If you have not saved your work and suddenly experience a power outtage, whatever you’ve done on the computer that hasn’t been physically saved is gone. This is irrecoverable. So, it can be extremely important to have a storage medium for backup because you can easily restore the Palm exactly back to a previous Palm state if you have the backup on the card. This is something similar to restoring a hard drive from an image file (snapshot) you’ve created using something like Powerquest Drive Image or similar software. I have discussed this topic in this posting on backup programs and solutions
In the next part, I will discuss the various ways you can create a backup of your Palm as well as discussing various backup programs available.
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