Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) have come of age. New-generation PDAs let you back up data on your PC, retrieve email, and surf the Web. Handwriting recognition even works! We've found 3Com's Palm III connected organizer (http://www.palm.com) to be an ideal travel partner in a Microsoft Exchange Server and Outlook client office environment. In this article, we'll discuss using the Palm III organizer to retrieve and send email remotely. Specifically, we'll describe how to use conventional Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP)/Post Office Protocol 3 (POP3) and Palm III's HotSync features to connect to Exchange Server.

In a Windows NT 4.0 domain with Outlook 8.03 clients and Exchange Server 5.5, we conducted tests on Palm III PDAs running Palm OS 3.0.2 and the Network HotSync software add-on. (Enhanced HotSync technology, which enables remote TCP/IP-based network synchronization, is now standard with the Palm III.) We used two PDA modems: a NetComm SmartModem 336 (http://www.netcomm.com.au), which requires the Palm modem cable, and 3Com's PalmPilot Modem. We used Smartcode Software's HandStamp Pro (http://www.smartcodesoft.com) for the email client on the Palm III; a newer version, HandStamp 2.0, is now available.

To provide connectivity back to the NT 4.0 domain, we used a computer with Remote Access Service (RAS) installed, because our firewall prevented us from accessing the Exchange server directly with POP3. We used a bank of modems connected to the RAS server. This server also had SecurID installed. SecurID provides an additional level of authentication for dial-up access. For more information about SecurID, go to http://www.securitydynamics.com/ products/datasheets/tokens.html.

Like most email on the Internet, Exchange Server uses two standard protocols: SMTP for sending messages and POP3 for retrieving messages. To successfully send and receive email via any SMTP/POP3 provider, you need to configure Exchange Server to use with the Palm III.

Configuring Exchange Server for SMTP/POP3 Connectivity
You control POP3 capability at three locations on Exchange Server: the site, the server, and the mailbox. By default, Exchange enables POP3 in all three locations, but check the locations to be sure. If you need to enable POP3 for a mailbox, follow these steps:

  1. Start the Microsoft Exchange Administrator program.
  2. Highlight the Recipients Container to see a list of mailboxes in the right pane. To access the selected mailbox's Properties sheet, double-click the mailbox.
  3. Go to the Protocols tab, as Screen 1 shows, highlight POP3, and click Settings. On the Protocol Details screen, select Enable POP3 for this recipient.

Configuring the Palm III for SMTP/POP3 Connectivity
Configuring the Palm III for SMTP/POP3 connectivity is a bit more complicated than configuring Exchange Server. Follow these steps:

  1. Start the Prefs application, and select the Modem tab. Screen 2, page 12, shows the settings you need. We edited the modem string to name our modem Custom, but the Standard modem is fine. Adding X3 to the end of the standard modem string prevents the modem from waiting for a dial tone before it begins dialing. We found we needed this function on some telephone networks.
  2. Switch to the Network tab. Screen 3, page 12, shows a likely setup. You can edit an existing service, or choose Menu, Service, New to start fresh. Enter your username and password. If you're dialing into an NT RAS server, you might also need to prefix the NT domain name with the format NT_Domain\Username. Then, using the Palm III stylus, select Tap to enter phone next to the Phone prompt to bring up the Phone Setup screen. Enter the phone number of your RAS server, including any digits necessary to access an outside line. Tap OK to return to the Network tab.
  3. Tap Details to see the Details window for network preferences, as Screen 4, page 12, shows. The connection type is PPP. Your domain administrator can tell you whether you need to query the Domain Name System (DNS) or whether you need to specify the primary and secondary DNS addresses. Similarly, our IP address selection was automatic from the Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) server, but your administrator might need to provide you with a unique IP address.
  4. On the Details screen, tap Script. The Palm III uses a built-in scripting language to let information exchange begin immediately after logon. This script might include further authentication or notification of dial-back and offers the same functionality as the terminal window that sometimes pops up after you dial in from a conventional NT workstation.

Screen 5 shows the script we customized for our site. Select one of the nine commands (e.g., Send CR) by clicking the arrow next to the initial End command. Be sure to enter your commands in the correct order, because you can't insert or delete lines later; the basic editor lets you delete lines only from the bottom up, replacing the last command with End. When you're finished, tap OK twice to return to the main Network tab.

Using SMTP/POP3 Connectivity to Operate the Palm III
Many utilities and programs are available on the Internet for Palm III email connectivity; we chose HandStamp Pro, which sends and retrieves email via any SMTP/POP3 provider. Simply dial in and connect to your designated email server, which can be an Exchange server (you can connect directly or via a RAS server) or your Internet Service Provider (ISP). You'll need user-specific connection information (e.g., the name of the SMTP and POP3 servers) to configure the Palm III. Follow these steps to configure HandStamp Pro:

  1. With HandStamp Pro installed and running on your Palm III, tap Menu, Options, POP3. These settings tell the Palm III client where to look for incoming email; in our case, incoming mail is on the Exchange server. Screen 6 shows an example configuration. You must provide a POP3 server name (either a fully qualified domain name or the IP address), mailbox name, and password. For Exchange Server, the password is your NT Domain password. You can choose to leave mail on the server or delete it after you download it to the Palm III. Tap OK.
  2. The Menu, Options, SMTP settings tell the Palm III client which server to contact when it attempts to send messages. In our case, this server is the Exchange server. Screen 7 shows an example configuration. You must provide your SMTP server's name (or IP address) and your full email address; entering your name is optional. Tap OK.

To test sending and receiving email with HandStamp Pro, tap Menu, Mail, Retrieve. Screen 8 shows a retrieval operation. When you click OK, Palm III dials out, using the settings you've defined on the Preferences, Network tab. The remote email server automatically sends email to the Palm III HandStamp Pro Inbox. A flashing bar at the top right of the screen confirms that the Palm III is connected to a dial-up link. You can hang up or compose new email online.

If you want to observe your Palm III device's actions as it connects to your RAS or ISP service, press the down arrow on the front of the unit while the Palm III is dialing. This action provides on-screen information about the status of the connection.

Connecting Palm III to Exchange Server via Modem HotSync
The standard Palm OS installation lets you use an SMTP/POP3 connection to synchronize its email application with a variety of popular email clients on your PC, including the Outlook client talking to Exchange Server. To synchronize other Outlook folders (e.g., Calendar, Contacts, Notes, and Tasks) with the Palm applications (e.g., Date Book, Address, Memo Pad, and To Do List), you need a third-party product such as Chapura's PocketMirror 2.01 (http://www.chapura.com) or Puma Technology's IntelliSync (http://www.pumatech.com), and 3Com's HotSync technology. You can connect to and use HotSync in three ways:

  • Local HotSync: The Palm III sits in a cradle attached to your PC and synchronizes with Exchange Server via the Outlook client on your PC.
  • Network (or LAN) HotSync: The Palm III sits in a cradle attached to another PC on your LAN. The Palm III uses this remote machine to connect to your PC (via the IP address or hostname) and then synchronizes with Exchange Server via the Outlook client on your PC.
  • Modem HotSync: The Palm III dials in to a PC on your LAN. If the PDA dials in to your machine, the process works like a Local HotSync. If the PDA dials another PC on the LAN, the process works like a Network HotSync.

When you perform a Network HotSync (or Modem HotSync via a colleague's PC), you must log on to your PC. To maintain security, you need to lock the workstation. You can choose whether changes on the Palm III overwrite data on the PC, whether the PC's data overwrites Palm III's data, or whether to apply the latest changes to both devices.

To configure the Palm III for Modem HotSync, you can use the same modem and network setup that we described previously for SMTP/POP3. Then, go into the HotSync application. Under Modem Sync, tap Select Service (if you haven't selected a service) or confirm that the service selected is the one you want, then tap Done. Go to Menu, Options, Modem Sync Prefs, and ensure that you've selected Network. This choice tells the Palm III that you're connecting to someone else's PC on the LAN, so the PDA knows to use the IP address or hostname to find its partner machine. Tap OK.

To initiate HotSync, tap the Modem Sync icon on the Palm III (or press the HotSync button if you are using a PalmPilot Modem). The Palm III dials in to your RAS server; if you have a logon script, the script might prompt you for your domain username and password, for example. When the Palm III connects to the PC, the HotSync initiates. A flashing bar at the top right of the screen confirms that the Palm III is connected to a dial-up link. The connection closes as soon as the HotSync completes. The sidebar "Tips for Working with HotSync" will help you use HotSync efficiently.

Stay Connected
As we have shown, the Palm III can easily dial in to your network and send and retrieve mail quickly. With the appropriate software, it can completely synchronize all your information management needs and keep you up-to-date. In addition, the PDA eliminates the hassle of carrying around a laptop (and its accessories). And now, the Palm III simplifies the task of synchronizing data between home and office. With some minor configuration, the Palm III can connect directly to your Exchange servers (or any email server supporting SMTP/POP3). Information from the corporate LAN or Internet is available at the tap of a pen.

The demand for handheld computing has increased steadily. With the cost of PDAs falling and their functionality increasing rapidly, the future looks bright for PDAs.