How to get started with a Treo 650 on SuSE 10.0 OSS

In your hand you hold a Treo 650. You look at the shiny new handheld, then you look at your Linux box. You look back at the Treo, then back to the Linux machine. “Maybe,” you think, “maybe I can get these two to work together.”

For some weird reason, the Treo 650 comes with software that only works on the Macintosh and some obscure operating system called “Microsoft Windows”. If you’re like me, then you’re probably interested in going with something a little more mainstream, like SuSE Linux 10.0 OSS. Nothing says “mainstream” like a pure Open Source Software Linux distribution put together by Germans.


First things first, plug the Treo into your computer via the provided USB cable. Nothing will happen, as is expected. Open up a new shell and monitor the system log:

japan:~ # tail -f /var/log/messages

Now, hit the HotSync button (either the hardware button on the cable, or the icon in the software) and watch what happens in the log:

Mar 19 16:17:54 japan kernel: visor ttyUSB0: Handspring Visor / Palm OS converter now disconnected from ttyUSB0
Mar 19 16:17:54 japan kernel: visor ttyUSB1: Handspring Visor / Palm OS converter now disconnected from ttyUSB1

No, I don’t know why the Treo is connected to two USB devices. And no, I’m not going to spend the rest of the day learning about udev in order to make the device always appear as /dev/pilot. I happen to know from experience that I want to use that second USB device and so I’ll be referencing /dev/ttyUSB1 in these examples. Once you’ve seen what device the Treo gets assigned, cancel the HotSync.


At this point, your Treo needs to be assigned a username and userid. This isn’t your SprintPCS Vision username – this is a username that you assign to your Treo using the installation software. Fortunately, we don’t need the installation software to do this. As I understand it, you can choose anything for your username and any integer for your userid. Here is how I set my username/userid:

  1. Hit the HotSync button so that the Treo will connect to the software device.
  2. japan:~ # install-user -p /dev/ttyUSB1 -u "theoden" -i 1234


Fire up KPilot (though you could use JPilot if you want something that looks like crap and pays zero attention to user-friendliness). In the settings you’ll want to make sure that the device is /dev/ttyUSB1 and that you are transferring at 57600 baud instead of 9600. I like to be thorough, so I specified “Backup” in the little menu that pops up when you click-and-hold on the little HotSync button (not the big HotSync button). KPilot will then tell you, “Next HotSync will be: Backup. Please press the HotSync button.” Hit the HotSync button on your Treo and watch the data fly!


The next thing I did was take the somewhat risky step of merging data from my 4-year-old Handspring Visor into the Treo 650. Before you do something like this, I would recommend backing up the Treo first (read previous section). In the end, I managed to get my old data on there, but all the category information was missing. This meant that all memos, contacts, and such that I merged had a null category; not “Unfiled”, but empty. So once all the data was merged, I did the following on my Treo:

  1. Open, for example, Memos.
  2. From the category drop-down, choose “Edit Categories…” and add all the old categories.
  3. Select the “All” category to see all entries.
  4. Edit each entry, placing it in the appropriate category.

Doing that was annoying, but certainly better than if I had had to enter all the data by hand. Maybe it is the case that if you enter the categories before merging, the entries will be slotted correctly. I didn’t do extensive web research on the subject, so maybe there is a simple way to merge the categories in there. Anyway, now that you know all that, here is how I merged the data:

  1. Hit the HotSync button so that the Treo will connect to the software device.
  2. japan:~ # pilot-xfer -p /dev/ttyUSB1 -m old_pilot/MemoDB.pdb
  3. When the merge completes, go to the appropriate Palm app in your Treo and make sure that your old data is there.
  4. Repeat for all the *.pdb files that you want to mege.

Happy syncing!

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3 Responses to How to get started with a Treo 650 on SuSE 10.0 OSS

  1. Martin Wittrock says:

    Great Guide! It’s is good to see that Linux is capable of doing some things much better than the W****** OS (Palm Desktop and Hotsync never belonged amongst my favorites). Its good to have syncing on my Treo.

    Unfortunately, I have an annoying issue. All my Calendar entries and To-Do’s gets “stolen” from the Treo (copy the entry to Kontact, delete on Treo). This is… very annoying. All other transmission works out just fine. Perhaps it has something to do with Kontact, but I do not know.

    I have not done any research for now, but perhaps you have an idea of what is going on and how to fix this issue. I have a Treo 650, Kontact 1.2.3 and openSuse 10.3. There are a LOT of entries in my contacts (600) because I never purge.

  2. theoden says:

    That does sound very annoying. Unfortunately I don’t use Kontact and so I don’t have much advice other than to google around or maybe try the opensuse mailing list. If you are able to do a backup with KPilot then that might narrow the problem done to some weirdness with Kontact.

  3. Pingback: Théoden’s Coding Tips » Blog Archive » Kubuntu 7.04 Fiesty Fawn and the Treo 650

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