It all seemed easy enough. The task: Set up the iBook (the computer my wife uses) so that it would synchronize with her Palm Vx. The actions: Download the latest Palm Desktop installer; run the installer; synchronize. The reality: Installation Hell. If you've encountered problems installing or using Palm's Mac software, hopefully my experience below will help.
The Price of Free -- First, a rant about getting the free software. After following a few links at PalmOne's site to locate the Mac Palm Desktop software, I clicked the Mac OS X link and ended up on a page where I had to specify my handheld type and (again) my operating system version (even though, as near as I can tell, the Palm Desktop installer is the same software for every Palm handheld).
On the next page, I had to provide my name, email, country, handheld type (again), and (yes, third time) my operating system version; oh, and be sure to make a point of turning off the option for PalmOne to send junk via email.
On the next page... I was told to look for an email message that would tell me where I could download the software. (I'll save you the trouble: use the second URL below to access the Mac OS X download directly.)
I can understand wanting to exchange name and email information for free software, but these hoops are flat-out stupid. Do companies not realize that it's in their best interests to make it as easy as possible for their customers to connect with them and download free updates?
Install, Install, Install -- With installer in hand, I ran it on the iBook and got an error stating that the application Transport Monitor could not be launched due to a shared library error. Fortunately, I ran into this problem when I first upgraded to Mac OS X 10.3 Panther; at the time, the solution was to log in as root and install the software using that account.
On the iBook, however, this trick didn't work. I tried installing under multiple admin users on the machine; tried using Brian Hill's utility Pseudo to install; tried installing while logged in as the root user. Nothing. I uninstalled, reinstalled, manually removed all traces of Palm Desktop and HotSync from the various Library subfolders, and generally spent way too much time trying to get it to work.
Finally, hours later, I realized that the solution was at hand - or rather, buried in an old email that, thanks to Eudora's excellent search capabilities, I was able to retrieve in a few seconds. Following the publication of my TidBITS article, "PalmSource to Drop Mac Support in Palm OS Cobalt," I received a friendly note from TidBITS reader Pamela Crossley, who wrote:
"All one has to do is take the HotSync Libraries file that was installed under Jaguar, and manually drag it to /Library/CFMSupport/. Any permissions issues (which, as you note, probably are what prevents this file from being installed correctly in the first place) can be resolved at that point through the info panel for the CFMSupport folder. It is all extremely simple, and people who have done this don't have problems with HotSync and Panther afterward."
I don't have any machines currently running Jaguar, but I did have a Previous System folder on the iBook's hard drive from when I upgraded to Panther. Sure enough, the HotSync Libraries file was there. I replaced the newer version with the older version, logged out, logged back in under my wife's account, and everything worked.
Customers Must Be Earned -- Sadly, this is an issue that's been around since February. The latest version of Palm Desktop (4.2.1), released in May, was supposed to fix the problem, but in my case, for whatever reason, it didn't. I acknowledge that my problems don't automatically justify development effort on a company's part, but I'm not the only one affected by the problem - and a solution has been found, so I can't imagine it would be difficult for PalmOne to incorporate a fix.
PalmOne recently revamped the Mac-specific area of its Web site to trumpet how Palm OS handhelds can work with iCal, Address Book, Entourage, and other solutions, such as transferring photos. Unfortunately, I get the sense that PalmOne lacks the interest, or the manpower, to get beyond the marketing and consider Mac users as what we are: devoted customers.