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Palm Pre Dances Nicely with Linux
That Syncing Feeling
July 7, 2009
Summer releases of the latest smart phones from Apple, Blackberry, Google and Palm have excited geeks all over the world. The big question on the mind of Linux users has to be "Can I sync my Linux machine and my cool new phone?" We decided to find the answers specifically for the new Palm Pre.
Smart phones offer the ultimate combination of multiple gadgets like an MP3 player, PDA, camera and, of course, the cell phone. Apple set the standard high with the introduction of the original iPhone and has continued to improve on the original theme with new versions each year. This
year's iPhone 3GS includes faster data rates, longer battery life and new features like voice command, a hardware compass for navigation and the ability to record movies.
Palm was all but given up for dead with the majority of its market share taken by Blackberries, Windows Mobile phones and the iPhone. With the introduction of the Palm Pre at this year's Consumer Electronics Show, Palm gave notice that the writing of their obituary was a little premature. The Palm Pre comes with an all new operating system based on Linux with an innovative user interface unlike anything else on the market. Linux makes it possible for the Pre to multitask and to leverage the work of the Linux community for application development.
One of the things Apple did really well with the iPhone was to take the basic music features of their iPod family and expand the platform with a camera, an on-screen keyboard and a high-speed data connection for things like browsing the Web, e-mail and more. Users familiar with using an iPod and iTunes to manage their audio library would feel right at home with the user interface.
As the Palm Pre neared its release date the word got out about the ability to sync with either a PC or Mac using iTunes. That's all well and good unless you happen to be a Linux user. Fortunately, there are options that work quite well on most mainstream Linux distributions. Rhythmbox is the default music player for Ubuntu, and it recognizes the Palm Pre as a music device.
We were able to sync music between our Ubuntu desktop and the Palm Pre although we did experience a few problems. There is a known issue when syncing music between a Palm Pre that has already been synced with another machine running iTunes, causing some albums / songs to not show up on the Pre. Workarounds can be found in the Palm Pre forums on precentral.net although we were not able to get them to work in our case.
What did work in all cases is to simply connect the Palm Pre to the Linux desktop in USB mode and copy the music files to a directory on the device. The Pre's music player does a search for audio files when it starts up and found the files we copied over with no issues. We used this method to copy over podcasts as well as a variety of music files. The Pre does not support Windows Media format files (WMA), so you'll need to convert them to MP3 before copying them over.