Migrating from Palm to Android: essential apps

November 30, 2011

I’ve been gradually moving from Palm to Android. In some ways this is a step back, because Android is a lot less polished than Palm. On the other hand, it’s a platform where people are actually writing code.

My perspective is a little different from most: I didn’t want to rely on Google to sync my calendar, contacts, etc. I wanted to do that myself. Palm makes it easy; Android makes it hard.

I’m running a Samsung Infuse with Android 2.2.1 currently. Here are the apps I’ve discovered so far to make the Android experience easier. Because I’m cheap, they’re all free unless otherwise noted:

  • The calendar app is the most obvious place where Android flunks. I’ve been able to get by with aCalendar for calendar display. It is a lot like the Palm app, and is actively supported. Android also sucks with alarms, so I use Calendar Event Reminder (paid app, around USD 2.50) so I get more than a single “ding” when the alarm goes off. Finally, I use iCal Import/Export to get my calendar events out to the SD card. This is no longer supported by its author unfortunately. It relies on unsupported API as well to get calendar data – but so far that’s the only one. (I heard from the author of aCalendar that he’s thinking about adding export code, though, so there may be hope there. He’s got a Pro verison due out soon, and I’m hopeful. I’ll definitely pay for it when it comes out.)
  • To see a percentage representation of battery life (similar to what you’d get on a Palm when you tap the battery icon) I use Battery Indicator.
  • I had Noah Pro on my Palm, so I wanted a good dictionary app. ColorDict Dictionary Wikipedia includes all of Noah Pro, and additional files and the ability to do web searches if you’re online. Very nice. (One hint: you need to install dictionary files separately, then run them before you can use them. Looks like a lot of Android users can’t figure that one out.)
  • Of course, you’ll need Graffiti for the real experience. I was happy enough with it that I went to the paid version, Graffiti Pro.
  • I had Yaps for password storage on the Palm. I eventually migrated to KeePassDroid. Here are more details about migrating from Yaps to KeePassDroid.
  • Android search is also pretty lame, especially in contacts. I use Power Search when I really want to find something.
  • On Palm, I loved EasyCalc. The best calculator I’ve found so far is RealCalc Scientific Calculator.
  • For games, I installed the Ken Magic Solitaire, since it seemed least likely to want to leak my info all over the world.
  • To back up applications themselves, I use ASTRO File Manager. This app is able to copy existing apps that don’t have the copy-prevent bit set onto the SD card.
  • Finally, to copy all the files up to a server, I use the SAMBA client AndSMB rather than messing around with USB or swapping out SD cards.
  • I’ve installed Memento Database as a replacement for JFile, but so far have not transferred my data over, so I can’t say how good it is.

The most surprising thing is the app I haven’t found a replacement for yet – the Notepad! All the apps I have seen so far want to sync to the cloud, rather than letting me export to SD. Bummer. I did use What’s for Dinner Premium for my notes which are recipes, and I think it’s great. (I got this free on the Amazon app store for their free app of the day; normally it’s about USD 2.00.) Right now I’m using the Samsung Memo app (installed with their Android builds) for the rest, but it can’t export so I’m not using it for much. If you know of a Notepad app that doesn’t want network access, please let me know in the comments.

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Converting YAPS to KeePassDroid

October 1, 2011

When moving from Palm to Android, one of my big concerns was password management. I had about a hundred passwords stored in YAPS, which is a great Palm password store.

I looked around and decided that KeePassDroid would suit nicely. It’s open source, does decent encryption, and is free.

That brought up the question: how do I convert from YAPS to KeePassDroid? I didn’t want to retype everything – and I eventually did manage to get things working. It was a bit of an effort, though – here’s what I did.

  1. First, get the required components. I used YapsView (not strictly necessary, but it makes things easier), cygwin perl, GNU emacs, and KeePass 2.16
  2. Export the Palm database into a file called Yaps.txt. I used YapsView to do this, but in theory you could use Yaps to export it to the Palm notepad and then cut & paste that to a file on your desktop.
  3. Once the file has been exported, convert all instances of \ to \\. I used emacs to do this.
  4. Convert all instances of ” to \” using emacs as well. (Do this after doing \ so you don’t expand the \ in \”.)
  5. Save the modified Yaps.txt.
  6. Next, I found a perl script that converted Yaps to KeePassX here. I hacked that up to create a script I called convertcsv.perl that convertes Yaps to CSV in the KeePass 1.0 format. It is convertcsv-perl.odt. (Sorry it’s an .odt file – WordPress doesn’t want you to upload .perl files. You’ll need to open it in LibreOffice and copy it into a text file called convertcsv.perl yourself, I’m afraid.)
  7. Run “perl convertcsv.perl” in the same directory as Yaps.txt. This will create yaps.csv.
  8. Create a new databse in KeePass 2.0. I set it to encrypt notes (under the “Protection” tab) and used defaults for the rest.
  9. Import yaps.csv into the database you just created. File -> Import… KeePass 1.x CSV. I said “Overwrite existing” but I don’t think it makes a difference at this point.
  10. Now move all the passwords to the proper categories in KeePass. This is dull. If you exported only a category at a time, this might be easier.
  11. Finally, export the 2.0 database into a KeePass 1.x file. Although KeePassDroid can read KeePass 2.x files, it can’t write them. I usually update passwords on my device, so I needed to be able to edit. I use KeePass 2.0 as the master on my desktop, but import from the 1.0 file from the device whenever I update a password.

That’s it. Your mileage may vary – especially if you have strange characters in your Yaps password file. I did have a few passwords with ” marks in them, and they appeared to migrate OK. A few minor edits was way better than retyping everything!


Palm to Android – missing contacts

September 2, 2011

I started moving from an ancient Palm handheld to Android. Moving the contacts over without putting them all in the cloud was pretty straightforward. I just used the Palm Desktop to export as VCard.

After doing that, I went through the VCard file and changed Palm-CustomN fields into NOTE;ENCODING=QUOTED-PRINTABLE: fields (or appended to an existing note). This is described in more detail at:
www.deepwave.net/articles/palm/palm_ctctvcard/.

After doing all this, I noticed that some of my contacts didn’t get moved over. In fact, they didn’t show up on the Palm Desktop either!

It took me a while before I realized that the records that were missing were the hidden records. Duh! I then set the Palm Desktop to show hidden records, exported them to VCard, hacked out the custom fields, and was off and running.

After doing the imports, I realized I should have exported one category at a time – this would have saved me recategorizing the whole wad on Android.