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MemPlug MemoryStick
Mon Mar 11, 2002 - 10:53 AM EST
By Scott Hanselman

Name MemPlug MemoryStick
Company Portable Innovation Technology
Availability Unknown
$69.95

MemPlug MS - MemoryStick

I've always been a CompactFlash person. I've got CompactFlash cards all over my house...at least 5 or 6 of them. My Digital Cameras use them; I've prettymuch standardized on CF as my personal format. I figured that I'd never see another format in my house. Then, in the space of about 2 months, my wife gota Sony Clie (which included a Memory Stick) and I got a Sony Digital8 Camcorder (also included a Memory Stick). So, suddenly, I've got a more than one memory format in the house. What to do? My wife is taking digital still photos with the Sony Camcorder and viewing them on her Sony. You have to admit, it's a pretty cute little stick.

Now, enter the MemPlug MS. I've always liked what the guys at Portable Innovationhave been doing.I was impressed with the MemPlug for SmartMedia, and I use the MemPlug for CompactFlash all the time. Thesoftware suite is tight andworks great with no thought on my part.I had high expectations for the MemPlug MS. Since I've seen first hand how tightly integrated the Memory Stick is in my wife's Sony Clie, I was interested to see how smoothly 3rd party software would work with my Visor Prism.

The Sony Clie's have a build in Memory Stick slot slightly off center in the top above the screen. They also include gMovie for making tiny videos for viewing on your PDA. Sony doesn't include Backup Software though, so right off the bat the MemPlug was looking pretty good.

The Hardware

The MemPlug MS is the exact same size and shape as the previous MemPlug CF and MemPlug SM. It sticks out slightly (less than 2mm) from the back of the Visor. These few extra millimeters of thickness are not noticeable and do not affect the Visor's fit in cases.

Unfortunately the Memory Stick is longer than the length of the springboard slot, so when the Memory Stick is inserted in the MemPlug is sticks out. Not a lot, just about 1/8". But, it's enough to make me uncomfortable. The pictures below show the Memory Stick fully inserted in the MemPlug. If you are using a flip-top case then you'll have some problems.If you want to keep the Memory Stick in theMem Plug all the time,be sure tothink about the feasibility of fitting your newly sized Visor into your lifestyle. I can't imagine how they could have done a better job fitting a Memory Stick into a Springboard.

The Software


The MemPlug MS (Memory Stick) is a true SpringBoard module; it has the software you need to use it built-in. These apps reside in the 1 megabyte of Flash memory that is inside the module, they don't use any memory on your MemoryStick. What's cool is that the software that comes with the MemPlug MS is the SAME software that comes with the entire suite of MemPlug products! The MemPlug is also completely software upgradable via Flash Updater software you can download from Portable Innovation Technology.

The MemPlug MS includes a full suite of software, but there are two software extensions that are particularly interesting.

PiVFSMgr is an extension to the existing PalmOS that adds the Palm OS 4.0 VFS (Virtual File System) extensions to any version of the Palm OS that's available on the Visor. This allows Visor Users (including Visor Deluxe!) to run VFS Compatible Software like Launcher III that would ordinarily only work on Palm 4.0 systems. Now I can store my SplashPhoto images on external media instead of cluttering up my minimal internal memory. VFS provides a standard set of APIs for Palm Developers to write to that allows unified access to External Media. VFS is only available with Palm OS 4.0, unless it's added by a third party like Portable Innovation or Kopsis Engineering. Today, nearly all developers creating PalmOS applications that support expansion cards are using VFS as the means by which they access the card.

PiDirect is sold separately for $19.95 and makes an external expansion card like a Memory Stick look like additional Read-Only memory. Existing applications don't need to write to an API like VFS, PiDirect effectively "lies" to the system making it look like it has more memory than it does. Until all applications support VFS, PiDirect fills a gap by providing transparent compatibility with existing applications - but only in a Read-Only fashion.

The MemPlug MS includes these software applications:

PiBackUp
Backup your entire Visor with a click of a button and store the Memory Stick separately from your Visor.
PiMover
Store your Palm OS applications and databases on the Memory Stick and free up space for other applications.
PiPrefs
Quick formatting of memory cards, and manages other preferences
PiViewer
Direct decoding and viewing of JPEG images fromMemory Sticks in 16 bit color or 16 grey scale display. This is where the MemPlug really shines. If you have a Visor and a Sony Digital Camera that uses Memory Stick, this app allows you to preview all your JPEGs - even LARGE ones! I'm so used to looking at 30K images on my Visor, but when I saw a 400K JPEG being decoded and viewed on my Visor, I was impressed. Offers support for 2560x1920 maximum pixel JPEG images. I used this to look at still photos I'd taken with my Sony Digital 8 Camera.

CSpotRun for MemPlug
C
SpotRun for MemPlug is a free reader for documents in the popular Palm DOC format. It enables the Memplug to directly access any Palm DOC files stored on the memory card.

To read your ebooks from the memory card directly, place your documents on your memory card under the path \Palm\Programs\CSpotRun\. Tap the CSpotRun icon in the lanucher to enter the application. CSpotRun should be able to detect those .pdb Palm DOC files that are stored in the above directory.

gMovie Player
Easily playback rich media, including video and animation directly from Memory Stick cards. When you see a Movie running on a Visor, you realize how we've subconsciously bought into the "superiority" of the PocketPCs with their 150+ Mhz Processors. I was amazed. The quality of the image and frame rate isn't as good as TealMovie, but gMovie allows you to play movies directly from the memory card! I was able to play a number of 12meg+ Movie Trailers that lasted several minutes in full color. The gMovie Player also runs on my black and white Visor Deluxe! That's impressive. There is no sound yet, but it's a start.

This really gives one an idea of what you can still accomplish on a Visor. Now with VFS Support in software like TealMovie, Video on the Visor is more than a possiblity.

PiDirect (sold separately for $19.95)
Seamlessly access read-only Palm applications and databases stored on the memory card. PiDirect is special proprietary software that makes your Memory Stick look like a standard Flash Memory. It sllows read-only Palm applications and databases stored on the memory card to be accessed by your Visor as if they were stored on internal memory. (See the compatibility list for details)

PiVFSMgr
This is a really exicting development. It brings Palm OS 4.0 VFS capability to your Visor. Allow most Palm OS 4.0 VFS-supported applications to run on Visor handheld device. Applications run just like they would on Palm m50x series, Sony CLIE, Handera etc., which have an external memory card slot. It basically upgraded my aging Visor Prism to a device that's better than a Palm 505!



Conclusion

The MemPlug MS is yet another example of why I still love my Visor. Ya, I have Sony Clie envy occasionally...I check out the Palm 5x5 series but just can justify the money for a new PDA. I wonder when I will end-of-life my trusty Visor Prism. I mean, I spent $400 on it the nanosecond it came out. But just as I get ready to buy a new Palm, a new springboard comes out that reminds me why the Visor is so superior. You've got CompactFlash? Use it. You've got SmartMedia? Use those. Now, I can use a Memory Stick as well. I use CF Cards in my camera, but my wife prefers Memory Stick. Now we have a way to share media. Very cool. I've basically just upgraded my Visor Prism to all the functionality of a Sony Clie for the price of a $69 module!

The MemPlug MS includes a complete and powerful suite of tools, a picture viewer, movies, backup. If you have MemorySticks and a Visor, it's a no-brainer. I recommend the MemPlug MS highly. I thought when I'd bought a Sony Digital Camcorder with memory Stick that I'd doomed myself to a lifetime of Memory Format incompatibility. Not so.

The only major drawback of theMemPlug MS is that the Memory Stick does protrude from the top of the Visor. This will have a tendancy to keep you from storing it inside the Visor all the time. It's not impossible, just slightly inconvenient.

Now that Portable Innovation has a complete line of SpringBoard Modules that handle all memory formats, with a unified software suite to back it up, there's really no other game in town when it comes to memory expansion for the Visor. I'd recommend it highly.

Cost/Benefit - 4
Setup - 5
Usability - 5
Features - 5
Final - 5

Pros
- Virtually unlimited storage!
- Great Bundled File Management Software
- View JPGs directly from MemoryStick
- Backup/Restore Software built in!
- Is simple enough that anyone can use it!

Cons
- Introduces some concepts of "File Management" to your Palm
- Memory Stick sticks out the top of the Module
- Can't use plastic Visor cover while Stick is inside.
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