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Global Communications and Computing
Palm Treo 750 Smartphone/Pocket PC

Introduction

The Vodafone Palm Treo 750v is the second PDA/Smartphone we obtained. We had for some years been trying to find a replacement for our old and trusted HP palmtops, Pete's HP95 is now over 15 years old and Pauline's HP200 over 10 years. They had been ideal for holding contacts and for quickly writing up when on the move but it had been becoming increasingly difficult to find a way of transferring data from them to our laptop - since the advent of Windows XP the IR connection and software no longer works. So we were looking for pocket sized machines with a QWERTY keyboard for writing up, contacts, appointments and a spreadsheet with the ability to communicate with the laptop and desktop. In parallel we have been looking for better ways of connecting and collecting email whilst abroad and traveling in the UK so any replacement machine ought to have data capability for email and, ideally, basic web browsing capability. Pete was the first to replace his HP and upgraded to an 02 XDA Executive (HTC Universal) which he finds excellent and then we had a bit of luck which resulted in Pauline getting a Vodafone Palm Treo 750v.

When we got back from a holiday there was a note that there was a parcel waiting for us at the post office - we had not ordered anything so Pauline went into town to collect the mysterious package. It turned out that Pete had won one of the latest Palm 750 Smart Phones in the Vodafone Big Ideas competition. He is not even quite sure what the idea was - we had been to a Wine Appreciation Dinner the night before and were roaming Convent Garden looking for Xmas ideas the following day when we came on a big red Vodafone bus. Pete went in to have a look at the latest business toys and was persuaded to fill in some form seeking Big Ideas. He recalls the idea was some extension of the Open Source software principles of harnessing the user and development communities in other fields of business to improve visibility and reliability with reduced development times but has no record of what, if anything, he wrote! Anyway it solved the Big problem of Pauline's Christmas present!

Our PDA/Smartphone Requirements

We had already defined what we needed and wrote it up in Pete's 02 XDA Exec article but it is interesting to revisit those requirements and see how two O2 and Vodafone top of the line alternatives match up. The requirements we came up with were.

Size: Small and light enough for a pocket so as not to count as hand luggage when traveling but large enough to have a sensible screen and practical QWERTY keyboard. (XDA 280 gms; Treo 150gms)

Convenience: No delays waiting for booting up and at least 8 hours when used as a PDA including an hour of Internet access before recharging. (HP95 gave 16 hours on 2x AA, XDA 16 hours; Treo TBD but circa 12)

Storage: a slot for a removable card for data, ideally Compact Flash to match current camera otherwise Secure Digital as that is used in most new cameras we might buy. (XDA SD; Treo Mini SD for which passive converters available)

Telephone: The requirement was not for another telephone but it would clearly be useful to have Voice and TXT when a suitable SIM is fitted to give us two telephones. (XDA can be used as phone but best with Bluetooth headset; Treo normal phone)

Internet Connectivity: WiFi for Internet Cafes. Internal access to Dial-up GSM, GPRS and 3G. Connection via an external modem in a phone is desirable for flexibility - so one can, for example, use an internal SIM with GPRS/3G data capability during the day and external Dial-up via phone to use our free minutes in the evenings without changing over SIM cards. (XDA satisfies, WiFi and via IR/Bluetooth; No WiFi on Treo but IR and Bluetooth)

Use as a Modem: The ability to serve as a modem for Internet access for the Laptop if fitted with a data only SIM or our existing Vodafone UK and Vodafone NZ SIMs. (XDA - USB under Windows with some difficulty and via Bluetooth under Linux; Treo TBD but should be the same)

Computer/Phone connectivity: Bluetooth to Phone and laptop, USB cable to desktop with IR desirable for phones and laptops. (XDA fully satisfies and it should be the same for both)

Contacts: The ability to store and synchronise our complete contacts list from home (600 but allow 1000+ with growth) and to transfer (or ideally synchronise with) from laptop/desktop and also to send individual contacts to the phone via Bluetooth or IR. (XDA synchronises using ActiveSync under Windows but only single transfers under Linux; Treo should be the same)

'Office' Software: Microsoft Pocket Office (Word, Excel and Outlook) or equivalent functionality with interchange with Microsoft Office 2003 files. (Both satisfy)

Secure information An ability to store a limited amount (about 2 Mbytes) of encrypted information. (XDA has Truecrypt installed; Treo TBD but should be OK with Truecrypt)

Data cost Monitoring. It is highly desirable to be able to monitor data costs on a connection, day and month basis (XDA has Spb GPRS Monitor software supplied by O2 on the CD; Treo none included)

Backup to PC and Data Card It is desirable to be able to back up the system configuration as well as data because configuration takes a significant time. (XDA none included, Treo has full backup software by Sprite to MiniSd and PC included on the CD)

There is a general discussion of how we work away from home in Global Communications and Computing

The Palm Treo 750 compared to the XDA Executive

Compairing the XDA and the Palm in more depth, the important differences come down to size, convenience as a phone, and as a laptop substitute. The XDA Executive is a PDA with added phone, The Palm Treo 750 is a Phone with added PDA facilities (Smartphone) and is much lighter 150 v 280 gms, smaller and easier to use as a phone. The downside is that the QWERTY keyboard is a thumbs job so less suitable for bulk typing, there is no WiFI and battery life is less (300 v 450 min talk time on GPRS, much less on 3G).

They are both badged machines made by HTC so of similar quality and the HTC Universal (XDA Exec and Vodafone 1640) is available in SIM free versions at circa £650. The Treo 750 is currently claimed to be a joint development available only through Vodafone - it comes locked to the Vodafone UK network and will not even work with a Vodafone NZ SIM until unlocked. It is available with a Pre-Pay card at £400 and unlocking by vodafone usually is £20 and a 2 week delay.

They are both running Windows Mobile 5 so facilities should are very similar and only real use will enable us to come to any further conclusions - at this time and if both were available at the same price unlocked Pete would probably chose the O2 XDA Exec again because of keyboard, screen and WiFi but Pauline would probably chose the Vodafone Palm Treo because of size and convenience. One should also look at the Vodafone

Nokia E61 which seems to have a lot going for it including WiFi and does not use Microsoft software but has compatible applications - more chance with Linux - and cheaper.

Setting Up and using the Palm Treo 750

The Palm is a little different to using a normal phone because of the touch screen, QWERTY keyboard and extra control functions. It runs under Microsoft Windows Mobile which seems to be much more secure and stable than other Microsoft software although the have managed to make many of the operations non standard and idiosyncratic - for example many of normal shift functions !"£$%^&@ etc) are on a function key! The smartphone version has a number of multiple functions on some keys which are logical but need to be got used too and differ from the version on the XDA PDA version. I have decided this time to list basic things you need to know to operate the smartphone and those you need to set up to connect to the Internet, receive and send mail, and how to synchronize contacts, tasks, calendar etc with Microsoft Outlook (2002 or 2003) which will also serve as a check list of what to re-do if you ever have to do a hard reset.

Basic Operation

Some less obvious key etc operation you need to know before you can use the Palm Treo 750 effectively include:

Basic Setup

There are a few settings you need to make before you put it in your pocket and take it away from home including:

Internet Access Setup

You have to make/check at least one setup before you can access the web. We use two basic methods to get Internet access for browsing and email.

Email Setup

You will need to set up one or more accounts to receive and send emails. By default a copy is left on the server for normal collection latter and only the first 2K is downloaded. To delete an email it has to not only be deleted from the Inbox on the Treo but also from the deleted mail folder. Longer messages can be marked for downloading as can attachments. Many email accounts be set up and they are completely independent with separate inbox, Outboxes, sent mail, deleted items etc., and you have to do separate send/receives.

The procedure to set up an email account is to use the wizard (Email -> Menu - Tools -> New Email Account and follow the wizard) - provided you have the information on username, password and POP and SMPT server addresses it is a fairly straight forwards and self explanatory procedure You will need to use the Vodafone SMPT server for sending mail (may not work roaming) or better still an authenticated SMTP server from your ISP which will need a separate username and password set on the advanced button at step 3 .
Note that when you are connected to the PC via ActiveSync you can access the internet via the PC which is very good for setting up - I missed that in the documentation.

Synchronisation and ActiveSync

Synchronisation with a PC is via ActiveSync which works very well under Windows XP with Outlook. Each Windows Mobile PDA can synchronise with two PCs but PCs can synchronise with many PDAs. Do not get confused and backup your PCs first! The software has to be loaded from the CD and includes a single copy of Outlook 2002 which requires activation. We already have Outlook 2003 and ActiveSync on our chosen machines but the ActiveSync needed to be updated from version 4.1 to 4.2. Unlike the XDA the connection cable is not USB to USB and it does not charge the Treo - it is recommended that the power supply is also plugged in. The ActiveSync connection also allows browsing and file transfer from the PC and for loading of programs onto the Treo

I had some difficulties during my trials in installing everything from the CD provided so I recommend the following procedure to install and set up ActiveSync between the PC and Treo 750v:

ActiveSync Firewalls and settings needed for the Free version of ZoneAlarm

ActiveSync communicates with the a PDA on a network TCP/IP connection so there is usually a need to configure the firewall to let this take place. There is information and a list of how to do it for most firewalls other than the free version of ZoneAlarm at http://www.microsoft.com/windows mobile/help/activesync/default.mspx . In the case of the free version of ZoneAlarm open it and go to the Firewall tab and Zones tab. In the list you will see a new adapter called Windows Mobile Device and this needs to be in the Trusted Zone not the Internet Zone. Click on the element of the table containing Internet and change the zone to Trusted. Whilst you are there also click Add an IP Address and fill in the boxes as 169.254.2.1 (one lower than the adapter subnet), the Trusted Zone and call it ActiveSync.

At various times after this the firewall will put up the screens saying various of the ActiveSync programs want permission to access the Internet and Trusted zones, tick the always box and allow them to work. There are 4 programs in total and if you want to avoid waiting you can go to the Program Control -> programs tab and look for programs in the c:/program files/ActiveSync/ folder and give all of them full permissions. The list is on the site link above includes Wcescomm.exe Rapimgr.exe WCESMgr.exe and CEAPPMGR.exe and all the boxes should be ticked.

Communication via Bluetooth and IR - Beaming Contacts and Files etc

I have tried both Bluetooth and IR for sending contacts and files between the XDA, my T610 phone, Pauline's Treo 750v Smartphone and our laptops. The remainder of this paragraph and the next section is common to the XDA and Palm Treo 750v we own which both use Windows Mobile 5. The Menus for many items such as files and contacts have an item called Beam. This allows you to send the file or contact to another device (computer, PDA or telephone) by either Infra Red (IR) or Bluetooth (BT). Using IR to a compatible device is very easy although you first have to set up Windows Mobile Devices to receive incoming beams by Start -> Settings -> Connections -> Beam and tick the box. Then align the two IR ports about 5 cms apart and Menu -> Beam and select IR. You can also use Bluetooth (BT) which has much greater range but does need both devices to be set up, paired and with BT turned on.

Bluetooth - basics and pairing

Bluetooth is an excellent way to send contacts and files between machines and also allows the modem in one device to be used by another. For example we have a O2 SIM in our mobile phone which has free evening calls which we use for slow but steady internet connections from the Laptop, XDA and Treo in the evenings via bluetooth connection. During the day we can use the Data SIM in the XDA from other devices over Bluetooth thus avoiding moving SIMs round. Before you can do this the various devices must be 'paired' - this means that you set up a 'PIN' on both to give a secure communication without anybody else being able to hijack your mobile. The other security feature is that once paired you stop your devices being 'discovered' by other peoples machines which are searching for devices with Bluetooth (BT) turned on. This all sounds a bit complex and it does take a little while the first time.

The way Bluetooth is set up varies a little between machines so here I will use two Windows Mobile 5 devices, our Palm Treo 750v and our O2 XDA Executive as an example for pairing etc. On both the XDA and Treo do Start -> Settings -> Connections tab -> Bluetooth -> Mode tab and tick both Turn On and Make Discoverable. Then go to the Devices tab on say the Treo and tap New Partnership to pair the first time. The Treo will scan for other devices which are 'Discoverable' and find the XDA (or PC etc). Tap the chosen device and you will be asked to enter a code ('PIN') and you then have to rush to the XDA where a message asking if you want to continue and enter a matching 'PIN' pops up. At any future time you can work down the same menus to the devices which are paired and click on one to set which functions on your machine you will allow the other machine to use from a list - on Windows Mobile machines this may only be Dial-up-Networking as file and contact transfers are covered under the Beam settings.

I have written more about Bluetooth and mobile phones such as the Sony Ericsson T610 on the Mobile Communications and Computing Page. You can use its modem from the XDA or Treo and also send contacts and pictures too and from them although the T610 only stores a limited amount of contact information so take care with transfers from a phone to a PDA of anything but a new contact.

Bluetooth Headsets

The Palm supports handsfree Bluetooth profile for mono headsets but not, as far as I can tell, a Bluetooth stereo headset for music. Pairing a headset is driven from the Palm Treo end as most headsets have a fixed PIN/passcode. The typical proceedure such as for a Vodafone Plantronics 320 headset is:

From now on you can just use the single button on the Plantronics as below:

Many headsets follow a similar proceedure to pair and mode of operation.

Use of a Windows Mobile PDA as a Modem for accessing the Internet access from a PC via USB

Although the comprehensive handbook and advertising material by Microsoft indicates this this is possible on most PDAs it took considerable research on the internet to implement the use of my XDA Exec (a badged HTC Universal which is also badged as the Vodafone V 1640) as a modem for GPRS/3G access from a PC. This was not entirely unexpected as it took a very long time to find out how to do the same with our Sony T610 phone. We finally succeeded and provided detailed instructions which work for a USB cable on the XDA Exec page which feedback indicates have been found very useful by many other frustrated users. I have therefore included the proceedures here but note well that as yet they have only been tested on the XDA Exec - they should be applicable to any PDA running Windows Mobile 5 including the Treo 750v but use them at your own risk.

Firstly one must understand that use of PDA as a modem for accessing the Internet involves running a built in program called Wireless Modem on the PDA which simulates a modem on the PDA USB port (or on the Bluetooth or IR connections). When this program is running it is just like an old fashioned external modem box with a screen display with an online and data lights - when the program is running the USB connection is completely different and when it is plugged in it will be recognised as a new modem device. One must therefore install a USB modem on your computer which uses the special driver supplied on the applications disk with the PDA. Only then can you set up a Dial-up internet connection using the PDA.

The use of GPRS/3G requires the setting up the PDA modem by a special initialisation string with details of the GPRS access point or, in some cases it will be already set if you have just made a connection using the required access point. You then connect (dial) using a magic code of *99# instead of an ordinary telephone number. You need to know the access point, username and password for you providers GPRS/3G service to do this in the case of O2 the access point is mobile.o2.co.uk , the user name is web, o2web or faster and the password for all of them is password. In the case of Vodafone UK prepay the access point (APN) is pp.vodafone.co.uk , the username is wap and the password is also wap . Try Ross Barkman's Page or http://www.formatc.de/roaming/gprs.htm for complete sets of GPRS settings world wide

So in detail:

  1. Disconnect the PDA USB cable from your computer if it is plugged in
  2. If you have installed ActiveSync on the computer it should be disabled by Right clicking the ActiveSync icon in your computer tooltray, open "Connection Settings" and Uncheck "Allow USB Connection".
  3. On your PDA: Go to "Beam" (in Settings/Connections), and uncheck "Receive all Incoming beams".
  4. Turn on the telephone in Wireless settings and check you have a signal.
  5. Then in Programs, click on "Wireless Modem" click on Tools/Options and Check the Preset GPRS connections and write in the APN, your network provider's internet access point (mobile.o2.co.uk for O2 and pp.vodafone.co.uk for Vodafone) and click OK. Set the Connection type to USB and click on "Start" and leave the program running.
  6. Now, connect your PDA to the computer with the USB cable and after a few seconds the "Found New Hardware Wizard" should start on your computer. Click "Install from a specific location", then "Don't search. I will choose.", then click on "Modems", and "Have Disk." and go to the folder on the CD provided which contains the HTC USB Driver or where you have downloaded the driver from the web. The HTC USB Modem will be shown in the compatible hardware: click to install. Continue if you receive the alert of the software not passing the Windows XP compatibility test (Continue anyway). Click Finish.
  7. Now, in Control Panel of your computer, open "Phone and Modem Options". Select the "HTC USB Modem" and click on "Properties". In the "Advanced" tab type or cut and paste into "Extra initialization commands" the following string AT+CGDCONT=1,"IP","xxx","",0,0 where xxx is your internet access point ie for Vodafone the string is AT+CGDCONT=1,"IP","pp.vodafone.co.uk","",0,0 . Click Ok to finish.
  8. Finally, on your computer, go to "Network Connections" and click "Create a new connection". Choose "Connect to the internet", then "Set up my connection manually". Click "Connect using a dial-up modem", then give a name to your ISP. In phone number type *99#. Get username and password from your network provider - for Vodafone UK use wap for both
  9. Make a shortcut of this connection on your desktop for quick access.
NB ALWAYS use the same USB connector or you will need to set up another DUN!

Every time you want to use the PDA as a modem:

  1. Disconnect PDA USB cable if connected
  2. If necessary Disable ActiveSync on your computer as above by unchecking the "Allow USB connection"
  3. If necessary turn on the telephone and check for a signal.
  4. Open Wireless Modem program on your device and push on Start (with the Connection Type on USB) and leave it running.
  5. Connect your device USB cable (always using the same connector on the PC )
  6. Dial from your desktop using the shortcut you created

After you have finished:

  1. Close the connection on the computer to stop being charged then
  2. Remove the USB cable before you
  3. Close the Wireless Modem program but remember to
  4. Enable ActiveSync by re-enabling the USB connection before you
  5. reconnect the USB cable (always using the same connector on the PC) when you want to start synchronisation.

The above procedures are an extension of those found in an excellent posting by Tekflow on the http://forum.xda-developers.com/ web site - a site full of useful information. There is also a good write up on the Treo web site

We had no matching success with Bluetooth or IR so far for GPRS access. We can detect the bluetooth modem but it seems to need special drivers for the PC. After much work I have however made GSM and GPRS connections via Bluetooth to the XDA Exec work from a Ubuntu Linux system - this is covered in Ubunto Linux on the Move - so it should be possible under Windows.

Additional programs

The Treo seems to have slightly more memory available for additional programs, the XDA may need a SD card if you plan to add a lot of programs. PDF support is built into the Palm but the XDA needs a program loaded from their CD. The XDA however has full ZIP file support including the use of encrypted and password protected archives preinstalled. Additional programs are loaded from the PC via ActiveSync and remain ready for uninstalling and reinstalling on the PC.

Sprite Backup

The Palm Treo 750v comes with a copy of Sprite Backup (from a NZ firm based in Auckland) on the CD. I installed this at an early stage and did a backup to the PC. It has many options and can also backup to a MiniSD card on demand or on a schedule. It seems to close the machine down for the backup and then restart. I have tied it out and it restored almost everything from the self executing backup card on the MiniSD card I had added. It seems to close one of the big gaps in the system software. It works well and I may buy a copy for for the XDA at $29 and I have trial of Spb Backup which is cheaper. Both need to do resets because they need to access and save the registry settings. The Sprite backup is quicker far far and has a complex way you can transfer settings to another Palm or restore after a ROM upgrade but is more expensive.

Spb GPRS Monitor

This is a very useful program for monitoring the time and costs of your connections via GPRS where you are charged for data usage. I had a copy provided with the XDA and I plan to try a 15 day free trial version on the Palm Treo 750v. If it works on the Treo as well as on the XDA it will be worth buying - as well as monitoring you connection costs, providing graphical logs over the year and alerts at 3 predefined limits on a daily and monthly basis it also has estimating procedures for battery life which is very important whilst you are connected. Summaries and indicators are also added to the Today Menu and in the top bar in some versions.

Zip and Unzip programs

I have not found a free Zip utility which works and am looking at the Spb Pocket Plus suite which does that and more at $24.95 it seems sensible to standardise and I have the GPRS monitor from Spb Software House on the O2 XDA which works well and they say they all integrate into the today screen.

Cryptainer PPC LE

This as a free Encryption program providing a virtual encrypted and compressed drive of up to 2 MBytes. It is a program I use on the XDA and may try out for Pauline on the Palm. Watch this space.....

Vodafone Support

It is all very well having a nice piece of high technology kit when everything goes well but it is very important that the support is available when one needs it. I have always found Vodafone to be reasonable and they used to have a good support web site - that has recently been redesigned and the technical support is either reduced or difficult to find. The telephone support is however very good and 191 support calls are now free for the automated system and a flat rate of 25p for accessing support staff. I first called to get my phone unlocked to the world wide Vodafone network as I have SIMs for New Zealand and Australia - my Vodafone Connect Card and earlier phones already allow their use. This was done free of charge by L' (I will not risk spelling the name) and I was given the Code immediately because I was an existing customer (registered for 3 years or more) with a good record and had a valid reason. Normally the charge is £20 and a delay of 2 weeks to make sure you do not get a deal, cancel and have an unlocked phone to go elsewhere.

The second support call was more serious as the phone had never been very sensitive but it was falling and I could no longer make voice or data calls when other phones on the Vodafone Network were showing sensible signal levels and making reliable calls and data connections. I was led through the various resets and checks (sensible although I had done most already) by Adelle who was very helpful, and then told to go into a shop for service or replacement.

I went in on a Saturday between Xmas and the New Year, perhaps the worst day in the year and received knowledgeable and good support from Kiran who spent a long time on a busy day. She asked and checked all the obvious things and obviously knew what she was talking about. She also checked out the Network settings for the SIM cards and made one minor change which may help in the future. The area had a high signal strength and under those conditions it was working however it has been sent away to be check and repaired/replaced if necessary with a fixed time for collection in five days time - very much quicker than I had expected. I could, in theory, follow progress on the web but the information became conflicting so I tried to contact the shop but could not find the shops number and was routed to the 191 system which does not allows you to be put through to a shop, the best they can do was to reluctantly email and ask the shop to call.

I shortly got a call from the Manager James who confirmed that ithad not arrived and chased it up and a working day later rang to say an exchange replacement was in his hands. He also agreed to unlock it ready for me by the time I got into the shop and made sure it worked with my Vodafone NZ SIM. I was however not overly pleased when I found it was a repaired exchange replacement. It still had an old screen protector in place and I discover it had not been cleared of data so I was able to contact the previous owner who I discovered had returned it after only a couple of days so it is probably as new as mine had been. If you every take one in for service make sure you do not leave information on it - the Palm is new and mostly Vodafone have to return them for repair and cycle through with exchange replacements - I am amazed however that they did not hard reset it before reissuing. For reference a hard reset take 10 seconds - hold down the on key and press the reset in the side and it is back to factory state - make sure you have a backup! I was sufficiently concerned at the repair situation I took out their insurance policy on the spot - £30 per year for a £400 PAYG phone seems a bargain - half the price I pay with O2.

Overall a very mixed performance on service - the shop was good, phone support good, communications terrible and if I had paid £400 for the phone a few days before I would have been livid at getting a repaired exchange replacement. I would also have been extremely upset if my phone had been reissued with all my data and I had to suggest clearing my own with a hard rest in the shop. The replacement does seem to be much more sensitive as long as it is set for GPRS rather than 3G.

The Bottom Line

The Palm Treo is steadily growing on me. It is better thought out and implemented in many ways than the XDA Exec and is much better as a phone. I miss WiFi

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Content revised: 18th January, 2007
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