Palm data collection

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Contents

Introduction

Ever since Palm first introduced the Pilot, users have realized that it made an excellent low-cost data collection tool and have developed a wide range of applications to take advantage of it. Data collection with a Palm on a Linux platform has been difficult because even though the Palm apps run fine on the handhelds, synchronization with the host computer has proved difficult.

The methods described here were worked out for MEPIS 7, and should work with most Palm devices, whether or not synchronization has been established for desktop PIM applications such as KAddressBook (Contacts) or KCalendar.

Installation of data collection app

This method employs an excellent generic data collection for Palm called Pilot-DB. It may well also work, however, for other Palm applications that store data in the standard Palm database (*.pdb) format.

Download the latest build of Pilot-DB to your desktop, then right-click it and select Extract --> Extract Here. Inside the extracted directory folder you will see the file

db.prc

that you will be putting on your handheld. Be sure to browse through the directory folder plugins for any further files you might want on the handheld--they are described in the README file.

If your handheld is synched with the host computer through Kpilot or Jpilot (see here), you can install these packages through those applications. If not, you should be able to install them with Bluetooth through the OBEX Object Push client since most Palm PDAs have Bluetooth capability by default.

Data form construction and set up

The construction of a particular form for data collection is pretty self-evident, but there is a complete manual in the directory you extracted that is also online here.

Uploading project file

Once you have data collected, you need to get it back to the host computer to be able to use it. There are at least four methods of doing that:

  • If your handheld already syncs through KPilot or JPilot, you may be able to get it to upload your project data file. KPilot's Generic DB Viewer appears inoperative at the moment, however, so you may need an alternative method.
  • You may be able to use Bluetooth's OBEX Push Server to upload the file, see this discussion.
  • If that doesn't work, then try using ObexFTP, either as a command-line or a graphical application.
  • Finally, a workaround: install a file manager such as GentleMan or FileZ to your handheld, then use it to find your project data file and send it to the memory card on the handheld. Then you can remove the memory card, put it into a card reader, and transfer it to your desktop.

Viewing and using project file

Once you have collected data and uploaded your data file, you need to be able to access the data for further use. For the sake of this discussion, let's say the file is on your desktop and is named YourProjectData.pdb. Install from the repos using Synaptic:

palm-db-tools

If lacking in the repos, then you can get it from this page. If those do not build, try using the patch on this page. There is also a newer, pure python package that might work available from this page.

This package includes a number of handy tools, one of which we are going to call to do our work for us here.
MEPIS 7
Open a terminal, change directories to your desktop, and type:

pdb2csv YourProjectData.pdb > YourProjectData.txt

This will place a text file on your desktop with comma-separated values, which you can now import into any spreadsheet (OpenOffice Calc, KSpread, etc.).
MEPIS 8
The conversion does not work on MEPIS 8 correctly, as the field names are dumped into the converted file but the record values show up in the terminal. Here is a (clumsy) workaround:
1. Create a new text file called "PDB2CSV_template" and open it up.
2. Paste in the following text

#Use Bluetooth or another means to transfer the FileName.pdb to the desktop
#Open a terminal, change to where the file is, and run
##pdb2csv FileName.pdb FileName.csv
#Copy the headers and values in the appropriate location below
#Save the file, then open with KSpread or OO Calc
#Paste here the field headers that are placed in the Stratum.csv file
#use just the field names in quotes separated by commas
#Paste here the record values from the terminal output

3.Save this template somewhere where you can find it.

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