Mossberg’s Mailbox

Running the Treo’s OS on the Pre

Published on June 10, 2009
by Walt Mossberg

There’s no other major item most of us own that is as confusing, unpredictable and unreliable as our personal computers. Everybody has questions about them, and we aim to help.

Here are a few questions about computers I’ve received recently from people like you, and my answers. I have edited and restated the questions a bit, for readability.

I am a longtime Palm user and am wondering if the new Palm Pre smart phone can run all the Palm OS programs I have become used to on my Treo.

The Pre is a clean break with Palm’s former operating system and previous hardware, and was designed as a platform for a new generation of software programs, or apps. It uses a new operating system called webOS, which wasn’t built to run old Palm OS programs.

However, there is a $30 program called “Classic” by a company called MotionApps ( that emulates the old platform and makes your sleek new Pre look and work like an old Palm device. It is intended to allow older programs to run on the Pre inside this virtual environment created by Classic. I haven’t tested it with older third-party programs and so I can’t say how well they work in this emulation mode.

But there are some caveats to this method. First, not all old Palm programs will run inside the Classic environment, or at least run well. The company lists those certified to work well on its Web site. Second, the old apps can’t activate certain features of the Pre, such as the camera. Third, Classic’s maker says it hasn’t yet figured out how to sync the old apps with a computer using Palm’s old, familiar HotSync process.

Can the Palm Pre be used as a modem for my laptop?

Sprint, the carrier that is launching the Pre, says the answer to this question is no. The company says its data plans for the Pre don’t permit that scenario.

I use Time Machine for my Mac, but I would also like the belt & suspenders security of manually backing up my invaluable iCal data on an external hard drive. How would I do that?

It’s easy. Just go into iCal’s File menu, select “Back up iCal…” and you can save a copy of your calendar to any drive connected to your computer, or even to any computer or external drive on a network, or over the Internet, that your Mac can access. To restore your calendar, just go to the same menu, but this time select “Restore iCal…” and then select your backup file.

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