Friday, June 19, 2009

Palm's Angsty Update

Due to heavy thunderstorms in the Chicago area, a large swath of the city and suburbs were plunged into darkness, including my own home which was without power for about four and a half hours. Without TV and without DSL Internet access, I turned to my phones with their 3G connections for information. Thanks to Palmdoc's Twitter feed, I learned that there is a new update for my Palm Pre which breaks the Classic emulator. So I'm sitting in the dark with only a flashlight to illuminate me, my Pre's battery is down to less than 50%, and I could break one of the applications which I depend upon the most. Naturally I had to try it.

And sure enough, when the update installed and the Pre restarted, Classic crashed. But I wasn't too worried. I'd gone over the Treocentral thread which reported the problem carefully and thought that I had a good idea of what was going on so I connected my Pre to as a USB drive and cleaned out the ClassicApps directory, moving everything to my netbook. When I disconnected and started Classic, it came up just fine.

Interestingly enough following the 1.03 Pre update, Classic now reports its version as "1.1.05." It looks like there was an undocumented update for the Classic bundled in the Pre update. Which explains the crashes and the subtle changes in Classic's behavior. For one thing it is a little "slower" to start up in that the MotionApps logo takes longer to fade away even if though it is still possible to scroll through the Launcher and launch apps while the logo is displayed. Also, Classic now informs me that none of my apps is "Classic certified." (Tapping on this message launches the browser and displays Classic's web page but does not appear to offer any solutions at this time.) I'm not too worried about this as they all continue to work properly.

Classic has also added a Preferences item with a number of options. "Emulation Mode" allows you to choose from "Games," "Normal," "Fast," and "Safe" modes. Fast appears to be the default. Games mode enables sound in Classic but warns that it is very experimental and could cause Classic to crash. And indeed it does tend to crash once it has been restarted a few times. Normal also enables sound but toggles off Classic's "Turbo" mode. (Turbo mode is probably the reason why MotionApps claims that Classic is twice as fast as real PalmOS devices.) The speed difference between Normal and Fast modes are negligible but turning on sound support tends to cause Classic to crash. Safe mode turns off both sound and Turbo mode. In general the default Fast option seems to work best on with Classic.

Classic also has a new directory structure. (Which perhaps is what caused all the crashes in the first place.) It mimics a Palm SD card more closely by creating a PALM folder with Launcher and Programs folders underneath it. Notice from the screenshot that there are now two Install folders. The one underneath the Launcher folder is the new "Install" folder for Classic. You put .prc and .pdb files here if you want Classic to import them when it starts up. The other Install folder, the one directly underneath the ClassicApps folder is the old install folder and will cause Classic to crash if it is used. Naturally Classic dutifully recreates it if you delete it....

If you avoid the first Install folder, you should be fine but MotionApps would be wise to delete it altogether in order to avoid confusing users.

Update: Precentral reports that MotionApps has put up a blog post and FAQ to address the issue.

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