Saturday, November 1, 2003

Housekeeping on the handheld


By James Booth

This article is intended to be a sort of follow-up to David Gewirtz' article "How to start clean with a new Palm handheld" (at in the November issue of Computing Unplugged. What prompted this article is the comment David made about the garbage that accumulates on his Palm device. I turned him on to how I keep mine clean and he asked if I would be interested in writing an article about it. So here we are. Be gentle, this is virgin territory for me.

Some of you may or may not know that many Palm applications create extra files and snippets as part of their ordinary operation. Sometimes, these little pieces are left over, cluttering up the memory when the application that created them is long gone. With this in mind, I intend to show you a couple of applications that can help you clear out all this garbage, and keep it out, freeing up that vital memory space.

First, a little bit of background information on Palm OS files. All Palm OS files have a Creator ID that identifies the application that created it. For example, the Creator ID 'HsBk' corresponds to my Handspring Backup Module. In many cases, the Creator ID of one of these files, such as a User Preference file or a High Score file, will be the same as the application that it goes with. And in some cases, the Creator ID is different. When it is different, these pieces frequently get left behind when the parent application is removed and these will begin to clog up the memory.

Luckily for us, there is Roy Perry and Northglide Systems. Roy is the creator of Cleanup and Uninstall Manager/Hack for Palm OS, which he distributes through his company Northglide Systems (at Either can stand alone, but their real strength is seen when used together.


Essentially, what Cleanup, shown in Figure A, does is scan the RAM and Expansion Card, comparing the Creator IDs of the files with the installed applications and a Signature File, which is periodically updated by Northglide. Any IDs that cannot be matched or verified are flagged for your further inspection and removal.


Cleanup scans RAM and and your expansion card, looking for little leftovers to remove.

A more thorough search can then be done on the individual files that were flagged so that you can see which applications, if any, are using that file. This more thorough search opens every single application on the handheld, looking for a reference to the file in question. This search will generally identify what application the file belongs to, if any. Once you're satisfied the file is no longer being used, it can be deleted. The newest version of Cleanup, version 3.05b, even provides the option to backup the file before deletion.