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Palm Database Programming:
The Complete Developer's Guide

A comprehensive guide to Palm OS programming, with special emphasis on database manipulation using the low-level Palm OS functionality and higher-level add-ons from Sybase and Oracle.

New! The first five chapters of the book are now reprinted on this website in HTML format. No registration required, but please respect the copyright and disclaimer notices.

Author:   Eric Giguere
ISBN:  0471354015
Publisher:  John Wiley & Sons

Published in late 1999, parts of this book are now dated. Interestingly enough, the first five chapters are still very relevant today, though, because the basic architecture of Palm OS (from 1.x to 5.x) has not changed significantly. If you're looking for a good introduction to Palm OS programming, even if you're not especially interested in the database aspects, the first five chapters are very useful. These chapters are now available online in HTML format for your reading pleasure.

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This book:

  • shows you how to write applications in C or C++ for the Palm computing platform;
  • introduces you to Palm databases and general relational database theory; and
  • discusses and demonstrates how to synchronize data on a Palm device with an external database, featuring technology from Sybase and Oracle.

Included with the book is a CD-ROM with a complete set of development tools, reference documentation and working examples. (CD-ROM contents are listed below.)

The reader is expected to know C or C++ and know how to use (as to opposed to knowing how to program) a Palm device. Database programming experience is not required.

Why I Wrote This Book

My wife gave me a PalmPilot Professional as a birthday gift in 1998, primarily because she had seen my excitement at playing with a co-worker's device. Once I got over the initial learning period and had made the device a useful part of my life, the geek in me (see my biography) was curious about how it worked. I didn't have a killer application to develop, but I was interested in learning about the operating system and discovering things like whether or not applications are suspended when you switch from one to another (they're not, by the way, it's all an illusion).

At the time, there were books on using Palm devices, but nothing about programming them. All you had to work with were the official reference materials from Palm Computing (which are actually quite good) and the sample source code for the built-in applications. Given the popularity of the device, that was soon to change, and right now there are several books (including mine, of course) dealing with this topic.

Meanwhile, my employer, iAnywhere Solutions (a Sybase subsidiary), had announced a very cool new technology called UltraLite, which was basically a way of building custom relational databases for handheld and embedded devices. Those custom databases had the built-in ability to synchronize (exchange) their data with conventional external databases. I wasn't on the UltraLite team at that point (I am now), but I was very interested in the technology and I thought it would make a good topic for part of a book.

My interest in Palm programming and UltraLite led directly to the development of this book, a book that strives to make you understand how a Palm device works and how to program it and then goes on to discuss the database programming options that are available to you on that platform.

Chapter-By-Chapter Descriptions

The book has ten chapters and two appendices, with the main body of text split into three parts.

   1. Introduction
Introduces the book and what you can expect to get out of it. Read online
   Part 1: Platform Basics
The first part is all about the Palm Computing Platform. After you read this part you'll know enough to build a simple Palm application.
2. What You Need to Know about Palm Devices
Describes the basic hardware of a Palm device, the operating system and memory management -- the basic set of information you need to know as a software developer.
3. Development Tools and Software Development Kits
Covers the Palm OS SDK, CodeWarrior, the GNU Tools, the Palm OS Emulator and other related topics.
4. Writing Palm Applications
Describes how to write Palm applications -- launch codes, event loops, user interface objects, and related material. Includes a discussion on strategies to use if your application is launched without being able to access its global data.
   Part 2: Databases
The second part is all about databases: Palm databases versus relational databases.
5. Palm Databases
Details the built-in APIs avaiable to Palm applications for using record- and resource-oriented databases.
6. Relational Databases
Describes what a relational database is and how to use it and how it compares with the native record-oriented databases on the Palm.
   Part 3: Database Applications
The last part takes the material from the first two parts and applies them to writing database applications that can synchronize with external databases and featuring technology from Sybase and Oracle.
7. Data Synchronization
Introduces the general concepts behind synchronizing two data sources.
8. Sybase UltraLite
Describes Sybase's UltraLite technology, a way to build a custom relational database embedded in your application that can synchronize with external ODBC data sources. Shows you the complete steps for building a Palm-based UltraLite application.
9. Oracle Lite Consolidator
Describes Oracle's Consolidator technology, a way to synchronize a Palm record database with an Oracle Lite database.
10. Conclusion
Wraps things up.
Two short appendices provide some additional information.
A. CD-ROM Contents
The contents of the CD-ROM and instructions on how to use it. See below for a list of what's on the CD-ROM.
B. Sybase Adaptive Server Anywhere
UltraLite is deployment technology for Sybase's Adaptive Server Anywhere (ASA) database. A fully-functional copy of ASA, including UltraLite, is included on the CD-ROM, and this appendix describes how to install and use it.

CD-ROM Contents

The accompanying CD-ROM includes the following:

  • Evaluation Software: Evaluation copies of CodeWarrior Lite Release 5 and Sybase Adaptive Server Anywhere 6.02.
  • Palm Computing Software and Documentation: Software, documentation and SDKs licensed from Palm Computing for inclusion with this book.
  • GNU Tools: The PilRC distribution of the GNU tools described in Chapter 3.
  • Samples: Complete source code for all the samples in the book.

The CD-ROM also includes a couple of miscellaneous utilities for UltraLite development.

Please note that these tools are all extremely dated now. Do not buy this book for the CD-ROM contents only!

For More Information

See my Palm OS pages for more Palm OS programming information.

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