JPilot – Sync Your old Palm OS Device with Linux

Yes — it’s 2022 and you can still bring life to an old Palm OS device using software called J-Pilot.

It’s hard to believe Palm OS devices started rolling off the production line twenty-five years ago. These devices, once a mainstay of busy professional’s pockets everywhere, have been long superseded by smartphones. It may seem hard to believe, but there is a growing user base dusting these devices off and using them again. There is a busy marketplace for these devices on second-hand sites like eBay, mostly for very affordable prices, depending on the model. Some enjoy the nostalgia for simpler times, others enjoy the non-connected privacy the devices bring. The fact that these twenty-plus year old devices can still find new life speaks volumes to the quality of the software and the durability of the hardware from Palm, Inc.

Many will remember that if you wanted to install software or create a backup that can be updated with the latest info on the device, you would have to synchronize it with a PC. That classic “HotSync” sound is nostalgic for many. This functionality was actually very important to these devices, especially the earlier alkaline-battery powered Palm Pilots through Palm VIIs. I’ve done the scramble with three triple-A batteries to try to keep the memory from getting wiped during a battery change plenty of times.

Palm Desktop was the tool used to sync Palm OS handhelds to computers. There was a Windows and Mac OS version, and those are long gone, mostly incompatible with newer operating systems. If you run Linux however, you can still sync your device with your PC via software called J-Pilot. More specifically, if you use Ubuntu or an Ubuntu-derived distro, you can install and run J-Pilot easily.

J-Pilot is an open-source tool that functions much like Palm Desktop. You can backup your device’s data, install new software, add new events, tasks, etc. The software has been provided through the project’s own personal package archive that you can add to your software sources by using the instructions as provided on the home page (see the link in the paragraph above). This is certainly the fastest way to install the application. You can also download the .deb files individually or even get the source code, licensed under the GPL v2 and hosted on GitHub.

J-Pilot is a great option for Linux users who want to synchronize their old Palm OS devices. Since it is also open source, it has a small but growing community of volunteers who are helping to test and improve the experience with the app, which has been under development since 1999. There’s plenty of resources on the web site as well as a mailing list for support. If you have an old Palm OS device and use Linux, I’d definitely recommend trying J-Pilot.

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