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HOW TO USE Topcard and Buddy Help Lost Palmtops Find Their Way Home

HOW TO USE Topcard and Buddy Help Lost Palmtops Find Their Way Home

Your HP Palmtop is with you all the time, unless you accidentally leave it on a store counter, or in the airport lounge then you're in trouble! Here are some ways to increase the chances that your lost Palmtop will find its way home.

By Victor Roberts

The HP Palmtop is easy to take with you, wherever you go. Slip it out of your pocket in a phone booth to check a number, calculate a percentage discount in a department store, and check on appointments while waiting in an airport lounge. Unfortunately, its size also makes it easy to leave behind if you're in a hurry, or if your attention shifts to other important matters.

Many users tape a business card to the bottom of their Palmtops, giving the person who finds your Palmtop a contact phone number. Some find the business card too thick and photocopy it onto a thin piece of paper or adhesive label first, and then attach that to the bottom of the Palmtop.

Other users place similar information in the Palmtop's Topcard screen. Press (CTRL)-(FILER) to go to the Palmtop's SET UP application and press (MENU) Options Owner to get the Owner Screen. You have a Name, Title, and Company line to enter information. Many users put their name on the first line and a message like, "If lost, please call 111-222-3456" on subsequent lines. Some even offer a reward if the Palmtop is returned.

 HP Palmtop Topcard displaying If lost, please call... "information."

You can also set up the Owner screen to display a .PCX file as the topcard. Window's Paintbrush application and other graphics programs can create images with text and save them as .PCX files in the C:\_DAT directory. Then go into the Palmtop SET UP application and press (MENU) Options Owner. Press (ALT)- (P), select the .PCX file and press (F10). Make sure the Show Picture box is checked in the Owner dialog box and press (F10) again. Finally, press (MENU) Quit to exit the SET UP application. Whenever all applications are closed, the .PCX file will display as the Palmtop's Topcard.

For more on the built-in topcard display, see Topcard in the index of HP 100/200LX User's Guide. See also Ed Keefe's article titled, Using Windows 3.1 Paintbrush Program to Create Topcard (PCX) Files, page 33 of the Sep/Oct 92 issue. Finally, check out TCSCAN.ZIP, a file containing some tips for creating topcard images for the 100/200LX. TCS-CAN.ZIP also includes a dozen sample scanned images.

Problems with the Topcard approach

The main problem with this approach is that the Topcard is not always displayed. The person finding the Palmtop may press the ON button only to find the screen of an open application. He or she may not know how to close down the application, or even think it necessary to do so.

In addition, many 200LX users wisely enable password protection on their Palmtops. After it has been enabled, you cannot turn the 200LX on without entering a password of your choice. (See Passwords, Setting in the index of your HP 200LX User's Guide for more information on how to enable system-wide password protection.) System-wide password protection keeps your data safe, but makes the topcard (and any if lost, call... information) inaccessible. It won't display until after you enter the password. Fortunately, there's another approach to system-wide password protection available to 200LX and 100LX users a shareware utility called Buddy.

Buddy adds system-wide password protection

Buddy is a feature-rich utility for the HP 100LX and 200LX Palmtops (English-language displays only). It adds dozens of keystroke shortcuts and other options to the built-in applications, making it easier to use. A more complete list of Buddy features is found in the sidebar on page 44.

Buddy adds its own system-wide password protection option to the 100LX. This feature will also work on the 200LX, but the 200LX already has system-wide password protection built-in, making the Buddy feature redundant on that Palmtop.

The Buddy password protection feature has two advantages over the 200LX built-in password protection. First, the built-in feature on the 200LX cannot display the topcard until you enter the password. Second, Buddy's Owner Screen can display more information than the built-in Topcard. The disadvantage for 200LX users is that the Buddy password protection is not totally secure. For this reason, I think it's better for 200LX users to stick with the built-in password protection.

Once installed and activated on the Palmtop, the Buddy not only password protects your Palmtop, it can be configured to display an Owner Screen, displaying contact information and an If lost, phone here... message. Here's how it works.

Buddy displays an Owner Screen

Let's say the Buddy password feature is enabled on your 100/200LX and you lose your Palmtop. When a person finds the Palmtop and turns it on, the following message is displayed at the top of the screen:


If the finder presses (Tab), Buddy displays a screen of information called the Owner Screen, written by you. You can put any information in this screen you wish to help the finder locate you and return your Palmtop. A sample Owner Screen is shown below:

 Press (TAB) when prompted for a password and the Buddy Owner Screen lets you display information to help the finder locate you and return your Palmtop. You can display more information on the Buddy Owner Screen than you can on the 200LX Topcard screen.

 What if the finder does not press TAB, and starts pressing other keys? After he presses (ENTER) four times, Buddy interprets that as four failed attempts to enter the correct password, and will go ahead and display the Owner Screen.

The Owner Screen is written by you using Memo (as described below), and can be easily changed. For example, when I take a trip, especially overseas, I will often modify my Owner Screen to show the local hotel where I am staying.

Setting up the Buddy Password and Owner Screen

Buddy is a shareware program and the unregistered version that you will find on various on-line services (and on The HP Palmtop Paper ON DISK) does not have the password feature. The first thing you have to do is get a registered version of the program. (See the documentation file that comes with Buddy for more information.)

Next, you need to have the Buddy password feature enabled. First go to Buddy setup application in AppManager. Then go to the Global Preferences screen. Press the percent symbol (shifted (+)) and tab to the box labeled Fn-F Password. Key in your password, press (F10) and press (F4) to quit the Buddy setup application. Once this is set, you can activate password protection at any time by pressing (Fn)-(F) instead of (OFF) to turn off your Palmtop.

An easier and more secure method is to set Buddy to automatically activate the password feature after a specified number of minutes off. Go back to the Global Preferences screen in Buddy and tab to and check the box labeled Require PW if off (mins):. Tab one more time to the minutes box and specify a number of minutes (10 is default), then exit Buddy. Now whenever you leave your Palmtop off for 10 minutes, the Buddy system password feature activates. When you press (ON), you have to enter the password before you can go any further.

After setting up the password feature, you need to create the Buddy Owner Screen. Use Memo to create a file with the information you want. Put your name, any contact information you desire, an If lost... statement, offer a reward if you so desire. You can use the Bold or Underline attributes to emphasize important information. Limit yourself to 16 lines of text, as that is all that will be displayed. Save this file as BUDDY.OWN and place it in the same directory in which you keep BUDDY.ENV.

The default directory for BUDDY.ENV is C:\_DAT, but you can specify another directory for BUDDY.ENV on the BUDDY command line in your AUTOEXEC .BAT file. For example, I keep all my Buddy files in A:\BIN and the line in AUTOEXEC.BAT that calls Buddy reads: a:\bin\buddy.com a:\bin\buddy.env

Every time I reboot, this line starts Buddy and specifies the location of the .ENV file.

Once you've created BUDDY .OWN in Memo and placed it in the correct directory, your system is ready to go. If someone finds your Palmtop and tries to turn it on, they'll get the PLEASE ENTER YOUR PASSWORD (TAB' for info) message. When they press (TAB) the Owner Screen with the If lost... message is displayed.

There are two additional options associated with the Buddy password feature.

First, you can customize the "PLEASE ENTER YOUR PASSWORD (TAB' for info)" message that appears when you turn on a protected Palmtop. Go the Buddy Global Preferences screen, tab to the Prompt line of the Global Preferences screen and key in the message you like.

The second feature is the Method option, also found in Buddy's Global Preferences screen. The feature lets you select the background screen displayed when you try to turn on a password protected Palmtop. The three options are:

Scramble -- which displays a scrambled pattern on the screen;

Topcard -- which displays the Palmtop's built-in Topcard, not Buddy's Owner Card;

none -- which lets the application open when you turned off the Palmtop show through.

If you choose the Topcard option, please read the Buddy manual, as having the Topcard open over other open applications can lead to some problems. Also, note that these options do not apply to Filer or the Palmtop's built-in Topcard feature. If either of those applications were open when the Palmtop turned off, they will be displayed with the Buddy password prompt, even if the Scramble option is checked.

Not a perfect solution, but it helps

This solution is not perfect. If the batteries run down, the Palmtop won't display any message. In addition, Buddy displays the Owner Screen on top of any of the built-in applications, including Topcard, but will not display it over DOS.

The solution: don't lose your machine when the batteries are low or when a DOS application is open. If you can't guarantee that, you might take the extra precaution of having a name plate with contact information put on your Palmtop, or taping a business card to the bottom.


Shareware/freeware mentioned in this article

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