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Software Review of:
PhotoBase for Palm OS
Wanna See My Grandkids?


Joyce McDonald is a local free-lance writer who specializes in how-to books. Her other interests are cats, tai chi, feng shui, and Star Trek.

From the October, 2002 issue of PC Alamode Magazine

Ah, Clarke, you are a sly one. When you asked me to review ArcSoft's Photobase 2.00.42 for the Palm operating system, you had all your bases covered. Proofing my monthly articles for PC Alamode clued you into the fact that I am a Palm addict. And you probably remember from my Visor fiasco that my favorite feature of that Handspring offering was the EyeModule, which allowed me to take pictures of my grandkids and view them on my PDA. And yes, I still miss that feature. 

So there was no way I was going to turn down a request that would allow me to once again carry pictures of my grandkids on my Visor's replacement, my color Palm M130. Now, not only do I have color pictures of my grandkids on my PDA, but I have a slideshow that loops continuously and uses horizontal bars (think Venetian blinds opening and closing) to fade from one picture to the next. Were I so inclined, I could change the fade feature to vertical blinds, but what would be the point?

Photobase is fairly easy to use, although not quite as easy as ArcSoft would have you believe. Like all Palm OS products, the menu items are fairly self-explanatory, and Tool Tips on the menu bar explains some of the more arcane icons. 

However, the biggest concern is not how to use the software, but how to get the pictures on your PDA to begin with. In order to find out, you have to get hold of the manual, which does not automatically come with the software. Nor does ArcSoft make it easy to find it. 

Photobase is the first program I have run across where the read me file was an advertisement rather than a piece of vital information. If I offered one piece of advice to Arcsoft, it would be to put some information in the read me file  about the directories it creates, how to get information, and what to do if you can't get the documentation to display.

I'm getting ahead of myself. I'll describe the steps as I went through them. Clarke sent me the program as an attachment, so all I had to do was run the file he sent in order to install the needed files on my desktop PC. Installation was a breeze. It was very quick, easy and uneventful. Then, suddenly, the installation was finished, all windows closed, and me with no clue as to what to do next.
When a program does this, I restart my computer, then open Windows Explorer and do a search for recently created files or directories. I discovered a new Web directory in the Palm folder. Clicking the Webserve.HTM file presented me with a Web page that gives options for getting information. However, you have to be logged into the Internet to access most of the items. Since I have a cable modem this was no problem.

To get the manual, I had to click "Service and Support," then "Downloads." I scrolled down to PhotoBase for Palm OS, and clicked "Manual." Curses! I still had Windows Explorer open! I got a fatal exception error, which made me start all over again. At least this action it didn't reboot my computer, which often happens when I try to open Acrobat with Windows Explorer already open. I wish that they would warn you when they plan to open an acrobat window.

When I did manage to open an acrobat window, I got another error message, this time complaining about fonts. I wasn't able to test my theory, but I suspect that someone got fancy with some exotic non-standard font without testing the consequences. As a result I was not able to view the first page of the document, but was able to print pages 2 through 8. I should feel fortunate that I had not yet upgraded to Acrobat 5 because now that I have 5, I can't open the manual at all.

The manual was poorly organized. When you install the software on a PC, the next logical step is to install the software on your PDA and transfer your pictures. The manual starts by telling you about the menu options available on the Palm OS. You don't locate the transfer instructions until you reach page 6.

The transfer instructions clue you into the fact that the installation added another directory to your PC in the location c:\My Documents\My Pictures\Arcsoft Sync. Any pictures that you want transferred to your PDA have to be placed in that directory. What it doesn't tell you is that you cannot place any pictures in that directory that you do not intend to transfer to your PDA, because each time you HotSync, it will try to install those pictures. 

The transfer instructions also told me that if someone has a color PDA and PhotoBase or a similar program, I could beam selected pictures to them. If I had a Web-connected PDA, I could transfer pictures to and from a secure site on the Web. If I had a storage card, I could do the same with a storage card. 

Aside from the documentation, I found Photobase to be reasonably easy and fun to use. Some caveats: PhotoBase takes up a lot of memory, although it is only about one-fourth the size of my Palm Reader. Photo size can also be a factor. I didn't have much space left on my Palm, because I have a lot of e-books loaded. I wasted a lot of time trying to load a 380K picture when I didn't have enough space for it.

For that reason, it annoyed me to see that PhotoBase inserted a Bitmap picture into the introductory screen, something that annoyed me as a waste of space. I did notice that the battery life on my PDA was reduced significantly, although I can't say for sure that PhotoBase was the culprit.

Once the software and pictures were installed on my Palm, I did enjoy the pictures. In fact, I showed them to friends, relatives and perfect strangers. I had two lines: "Want to see my grandkids?" or "Want to see the neat software I'm testing for PC Alamode?" This way, everyone got to see my grandkids. Clarke, want to see my grandkids?

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