Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Syncing Palm devices with the Mac via Bluetooth

Until I figured out how to sync my Palm based Treo smartphone with the Palm Desktop on my iBook, I had no use for bluetooth. Before then, bluetooth was one of those technologies that was around but that I largely ignored. Now, the thought of syncing via USB cable seems so 20th century. As a bonus, I cover how to transfer camera images from the Treo to the Mac via bluetooth.

This article documents all the steps needed to set up wireless syncing via bluetooth between a Treo and Palm Desktop for the Mac. Since there are a variety of Palm based devices and OS X versions, it is offered as is. Just because it "works for me" doesn't mean it will work for you. At the least, you may get some useful hints for your situation.


My main Mac is currently an iBook G4 1.33 Ghz running Leopard (OS X 10.5.1). My Palm device is a Treo 650 smartphone running Palm OS Garnet (5.4.8). Both devices have native bluetooth wireless hardware.

Bluetooth is a low power, short range radio technology (wireless) designed to link devices together in a personal area network. Bluetooth 1.x operates over distances of about 10 meters with a data transfer rate of 720 kbps. While the low data rate is useless for large files, it works great for syncing Palm data or sending a few images back and forth.

Installing Palm Desktop

My first stop was the Palm web site where I downloaded the latest Palm Desktop software for Mac. The version I downloaded was 4.2.1 rev D which came in disk image (.dmg) format. I mounted the disk image and ran the installer. At the end of the installation, a reboot is required, probably to load the background processes cleanly.

Bluetooth configuration on the Mac

After the reboot, I visited System Settings and went into the Sharing settings. There I enabled bluetooth sharing and required pairing for all actions. Pairing is the process of introducing bluetooth devices to one another using a shared passkey. I learned later that pairing was not really required for Palm syncing, but I prefer to use it for file transfer so I checked all the pairing boxes.

Configuring HotSync manager

Staying on the Mac, go to Applications and open the Palm folder containing all the Palm Desktop applications. Run the HotSync Manager, go to the Connection Settings tab, and enable the bluetooth-pda-sync-port.

The dialog box on my screen cut off the name, but if you select it, you can see the full name beneath the list of selections. It is the second choice in the list, below the bluetooth-modem.

As a final check of the Mac set up, I opened a Terminal and ran the following command to verify that the Palm Transport Monitor was running in the background:

iBook-G4:~ keithw$ ps aux | grep Palm
keithw 130 0.1 0.3 154888 3468 ?? S 6:01PM 0:04.04 /System/Library/Frameworks/Carbon.framework/Versions/A/Support/LaunchCFMApp /Applications/Palm/Palm Desktop/Contents/Resources/Palm Desktop Background.app/Contents/MacOSClassic/Palm Desktop Background
keithw 131 0.0 0.3 118108 3628 ?? S 6:01PM 0:00.79 /System/Library/Frameworks/Carbon.framework/Versions/A/Support/LaunchCFMApp /Applications/Palm/Transport Monitor/Contents/MacOSClassic/Transport Monitor

Bluetooth configuration on the Palm Treo

On the Treo, go to the Communications group and open the Bluetooth application (it uses the Bluetooth icon). Make sure bluetooth is "On" and Discoverable is set to "Yes".

Then, click the "Setup Devices" button and on the next screen, click the "HotSync Setup" button. This starts a wizard-like procedure with 4 steps. The instructions use PC terminology and may appear confusing, but all of the Mac side set up should be done. Click Next to continue.

Step 1: says to create a virtual serial port on your PC, just click Next.

Step 2: We've already enabled the bluetooth-pda-sync-port in HotSync Manager, so just click Next.

Step 3: The local serial port is already enabled on the Mac, so click Next.

Step 4: click on the Launch HotSync button, it should start the first HotSync immediately. The "HotSync Progress" dialog should appear on the Mac indicating the first HotSync is under way.

Depending on how much data you have on your Palm, the first HotSync may take a long time. It has to transfer all of your data over bluetooth to the Mac. After the first HotSync is complete, only changed data will be transfered and HotSyncs will typically be quick.

Transferring files via bluetooth

Like most cell phones today, the Treo has a built in camera. Even though it is low resolution, it is still useful and convenient. I was looking for a zero cost way to transfer photos from the Treo to the Mac. Bluetooth was the answer.

Bluetooth configuration on the Mac

See the section above with the same title for details and a screenshot for configuring bluetooth.

While pairing may not be absolutely required, I think it is the best practice to require it. Otherwise, anyone wandering by with a bluetooth device could upload files to your Mac. I can think of a lot of bad scenarios that might arise out of that configuration.

Pairing the Treo and Mac

On the Treo, open the Bluetooth application (it uses the Bluetooth icon). Make sure bluetooth is "On" and Discoverable is set to "Yes". Then, click the "Trusted Devices" button, then "Add Device".

Select the Mac (it must also be discoverable) and click OK.

The Treo will prompt for a passkey. Enter any sequence of digits (I only used 4 digits). Enter the same passkey on the Mac when prompted. Pairing is a one time set up procedure and you won't need to remember the passkey after they are paired.

Sending an image (or any file) to the Mac

To send a camera image file, open any image on the Treo in the Media application. Then, open the Media menu and select Send...

In the Send with dialog, choose Bluetooth..., then select the Mac you are paired with, then OK. The file will be sent and the Mac will prompt you to accept it.

After you accept it, the file is saved in the folder you configured in bluetooth sharing, the "Download" folder in my case. It will have a file name similar to "Photo_112307_003.jpg".