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Tools for easier testing: Palm emulators let you test and debug on the desktop before loading your applications on a PDA.

THE PALM PDA IS A WONDERFUL DEVICE to have around, but have you ever tried demonstrating a Palm application to a large group of users? Or, have you ever wanted to use a Palm application, but left your trusty PDA behind and only had a laptop handy? Most importantly, while developing soft ware for the Palm, would you like to see how your coding is going without syncing to your PDA? If you've had any of these experiences, or think you might, Palm emulation software is a must!

Palm operating system emulator (POSE) software is available from Palm, Inc. The current version of POSE is available for download from http://www.palmos.com/dev/tools/emulator/. You can get emulation software for Linux, Macintosh, and Windows operating systems. The software shows an image of a Palm-based handheld that rots you use the keyboard and your mouse to input information as if you were using a stylus. Via the virtual handhold, you can load, execute, debug, and hotsync applications.

The software also visually and logically emulates different platforms using graphic images (skins) and a ROM image of the operating system. As new versions of the OS come out, Palm releases new ROM images to emulate older devices that have been updated to the new OS.

If you belong to the Palm OS Developer program, you can download ROM images for Palm in both debug and regular versions. There's no cost involved with joining the Developer program, but it might take several days for your application to be approved. If you need the ROM image immediately, you can download it from an available device via a serial hotsync connection. (Choosing the Transfer ROM option from the pop-up menu displays a dialog showing step-by-step instructions on how to perform the transfer.)

You can also download skins to make the emulator appear like different Palm OS hardware models. The download of skins version 1.9 from http://www.palmos.com/dev/tools/emulator/ includes 17 Palm, two Symbol, and three TRG models. You can get Handspring skins for all models from http://www.handspring.com/developers/tech_pose.jhtml.

Options galore

After you install the emulator on your workstation, you'll see something similar to the screen shown in figure 1.

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

You can use your mouse to manipulate the standard hardware buttons and mimic actions you'd normally perform using the stylus. Right-clicking exposes the action menu. Here, you can reset the virtual device, save a session for future use, or hotsync.

Installing applications on the emulator is simple: Open the pop-up menu and select Install Application/Database > Other. This opens a dialog box where you can choose any Palm executable file (.PRC), Palm database file (.PDB), or Palm query application (.PQA) files. After you install the new application, you must open a previously installed application and return to the main screen; the new application icon will then appear.

After you configure the emulator to meet your needs, you can save the settings. Choosing the Save As option from the pop-up menu displays a Save Session to ... dialog, through which you can save the Palm configuration file (.PSF) to disk. Opening a saved session lets you return to a known clean environment. This can be useful when you're testing applications or performing multiple demonstrations.

Let the Gremlins go to work

The emulator comes with a utility called Gremlins. I'm not talking about furry movie monsters or compact cars; this is an automated testing tool. The tool tests randomly generated, simulated stylus taps and graffiti text made up of random characters and quotes from Shakespeare.

A testing script is called a Gremlin Horde. You can choose which application to test, the number of Gremlins to run, and the number of events to execute for each Gremlin. You also have several logging options. The software automatically saves the session configuration after a predetermined number of events.

Documentation tool

You don't want to skimp on the important step of documenting your mobile applications. However, there isn't an easy way to take screen shots on a Palm device.

Fortunately, emulation software gives you two ways to perform this task. The first method is to capture a screen shot and use image editing software to display only the emulator. This method shows both the emulator skin and screen. To capture only the emulator screen, choose the Save Screen option from the pop-up menu. This saves the current emulator screen in .BMP format at 160x160 pixels. Choosing the White Background option in the skins setting from the popup menu increases the readability of the screenshot. Capturing screen images using these methods is a powerful tool to produce accurate and professional documentation.

Make your life easier

POSE software can be a handy utility when the need arises. It's a nice-to-have option for power users who want to test downloaded software before exposing their hardware to a new application. However, it s a must-have for developers during the all-important testing, debugging, and documentation phases.

What About the Other Guys?

Although poking around the Web will reveal a slew of Pocket PC emulators, there's only one "official" emulator: the Pocket PC 2002 Emulator. You can get it from Microsoft as part of Visual Studio 2003.

If you're developing for the Symbian platform, you can get an emulator (and other development tools) from http://www.symbian.com/developer/downloads/.

The emulators for each of these platforms offer functionality similar to the Palm emulation software.

MOBILE BUSINESS BENEFITS

Developers of mobile applications face the difficult task of writing applications on a workstation--when the application itself will run on a mobile device. This can make the testing phase unwieldy because the developer has to sync every change to the device before they can test it. Emulation software to the rescue: It lets developers write code and test it right on their workstation.

Keith Perry is president of KP Tech Enterprises, a consulting firm specializing in application development and computer security. He currently is managing a HIPAA project for a major health care insurance company. Keith recently completed sales force automation projects on both the Palm and tablet PC platforms. He has a bachelor's degree in computer science and a master's degree in business administration, kperry@gate.net.
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Title Annotation:Software Development
Author:Perry, Keith
Publication:Mobile Business Advisor
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2003
Words:1042
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