Originally Published: Monday, 24 April 2000 Author: Sylvester Smith -Linuxcare
Published to: learn_articles_support/Articles Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

Linuxcare: Using the Palm Pilot with Linux

Linuxcare'sSylvester Smith takes the time to show users how to use their Palm Pilot PDA with the Linux Operating System.

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Using the Palm Pilot with Linux

Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) are having a major effect on the way people operate in the business world. Many people use their PDAs to write memos, send email messages, manage appointments and store contact information. Most of this information would be useless unless the PDA user has access to another computer with more processing power. Many GUI programs have been written, thanks to the Linux development community, to aid the PDA user in transferring the information to their computer. However, if you're yearning for the speed and power of a command line utility to access and transfer data on your Palm Pilot, then the Linux development community has also come to the rescue. The software suite is called Pilot-link. The suite consists of 30 small but useful programs. Discussing all of them is beyond the scope of this article, but below is a short description on how to use pilot-xfer, the most commonly used utility from the suite.


First, download the software package. With root privilege, use these commands to configure, complile and install it: tar xzvf pilot-link.0.9.3.tar.gz cd pilot-link.0.9.3/ ./configure make make install ln -s /dev/ttyS0 /dev/pilot

You can also specify which serial port to connect to with the PILOTPORT environment variable. If that variable is not specified, the software defaults to using /dev/pilot.

USING pilot-xfer

Use the command pilot-xfer -help to see a complete listing of pilot-xfer's options. Below is a listing and example of the options I've found most useful. It's always a good idea to have your data backed up, both on your desktop machine and more so with your PDA.

After a busy week of data collection, I run the following command:

 pilot-xfer -b /home/pilot/backups

Then, I'm prompted to hit the HotSync button on the cradle, and the files on my Pilot are transferred to my desktop machine. As the files are being transferred, each file is printed to standard out in the following fashion:

Backing up /home/pilot/backups/Graffiti ShortCuts.prc ... OK Backing up /home/pilot/backups/BackdropEZ.prc ... OK Backing up /home/pilot/backups/Invaders.prc ... OK Backing up /home/pilot/backups/MahJonggDB.pdb ... OK

The -s(ync) option does the same as the backup option, yet it only backs up databases that have been modified or created.

The -r(estore) option takes the files in the specified directory and installs them onto the pilot.

Have fun using your Palm Pilot under Linux, and remember to backup regularly!


  • addresses: dump Pilot address book into generic format
  • ccexample: test program demonstrating C++ interface
  • debugsh: command-line interface to Pilot debug monitor
  • dlpsh: command-line interface to Pilot HotSync protocol
  • getrom: program to fetch ROM using getrom.prc or getrom2.prc
  • getrom.prc: Pilot program to help dump a 512K ROM
  • getrom2.prc: Pilot program to help dump a 1024K ROM (used for OS 2.x)
  • iambicexample: test program demonstrating C++ interface
  • ietf2datebook: convert IETF calendar to format used by install-datebook
  • install-datebook: import datebook records from a text format into Pilot
  • install-memo: import memo records from a text format into Pilot
  • install-todos: import todo records from a text format into Pilot
  • install-user: modify user name settings (and report lots of into) about Pilot
  • memos: export memos from Pilot in mailbox format
  • pi-csd: must be running to accept Network HotSync(tm) connects
  • pi-getram: program that retrieves RAM from Pilot
  • pi-getrom: program that retrieves ROM from Pilot (without getrom.prc)
  • pi-nredir: program that accepts connections and redirects them via the Network HotSync(tm) protocol
  • pi-port: experimental program to separate serial layer from pilot-link
  • pilot-addresses: import and export address book
  • pilot-clip: experimental program to import and export data from Pilot clipboard
  • pilot-debug: graphical and command-line program to interface with Pilot debug monitor
  • pilot-dedupe: strips duplicate records from Pilot databases
  • pilot-file: disect .prc and .pdb files
  • pilot-mail: import mail from POP3 mailbox into Pilot Pro's Mail application, and send mail via sendmail
  • pilot-schlep: store a single file on the Pilot
  • pilot-undelete: turn archived records into normal records
  • pilot-xfer: back up, restore, install & delete Pilot databases (This is a very useful program)
  • read-expenses: export Pilot Pro expense database into text format
  • read-ical: export Pilot datebook and todo databases into an Ical calendar (ical is required)
  • read-todos: export Pilot todo database into generic text format
  • reminders: export Pilot datebook into a 'remind' data file
  • sync-plan: completely synchronize the Pilot datebook with the Plan calendar
  • via netplan validate: experimental program to test C++ features

    Thanks to Jeff Dionne, Kenneth Albanowski and the many developers on the pilot-unix mailing list.

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