Linux and the PalmPilot

This article contains all the information you need to run Linux on the PalmPilot personal digital assistant.
Managing your Data

Once you've begun using your Pilot on a regular basis, you will want to do backups to your Linux box. Referring to the backup command we ran earlier,

pilot-xfer /dev/pilot -b directory-name

will do a complete backup of your Pilot. To do an incremental backup, give the command:

pilot-xfer /dev/pilot -u directory-name
The incremental backup should be done on an existing directory, but the complete backup should be done into a new directory. Like managing your Linux box, a good regimen of complete and incremental backups is recommended. Currently I do complete backups weekly and incremental backups whenever I add important data I don't want to lose.

Restoring lost data is fairly straightforward as well. The command

pilot-xfer /dev/pilot -r directory-name

will upload the backed up data from directory-name to your Pilot. Pretty simple, isn't it? The pilot-xfer program can also delete and merge databases and purge unwanted data and programs from the Pilot.

PalmPilot Software and Linux



U.S. Robotics' PalmPilot has an advantage over other PDAs because of its open architecture, which means it's easier for the general public to create applications for this PDA than for some of the other popular PDAs. Because of this openness, there are quite a few freeware, shareware and commercial applications available for the Pilot.

Pilot Manager Screen Shot

The PalmPilot software available for Linux may have the best configuration-to-usefulness ratio of any Linux software. It's a breeze to get running and makes management of the Pilot from your Linux box, or other UNIX systems, very simple. Since the tools are simple in nature they can easily be incorporated into other tools. This makes the PalmPilot a terrific addition to the ever-increasing range of tools available for your personal and business use of Linux.

Michael J. Hammel is a software engineer currently working on network management tools for Samsung Telecommunications America in Richardson, Texas. Mike's interests run the gamut of technical to athletic, with a beer or two thrown in for social measure. Visit his home page at and e-mail him at


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