The SAGE meets my Palm III

by Brian Jepson

Some time ago, I signed up for wireless Internet service with Verizon Wireless. When I signed up, I opted for the Novatel Wireless SAGE serial modem. Sure, it's clunky and doesn't plug into a compact flash or PCMCIA slot. But, it has a big antenna, can be reoriented easily, and has its own battery pack. Plus, it's a standard 9-pin serial modem, so it can work with laptops, desktops, and handhelds.

I use this modem with my laptop a lot. You can read all about that right here. I recently started wondering if I could use it with the random collection of handheld computers I have. My handhelds aren't particularly new - I have a Palm III, a Compaq PC Companion, and most recently, a Diamond Mako (which is, to the best of my knowledge, a rebranded Psion Revo).

The first handheld I tried my modem with was my Palm III. If you try this at home, don't bother with the cradle - it will work, but it's too easy to knock the Palm out of the cradle, so it's no good for surfing the web while you hold the Palm. Instead, get your hands on a hotsync cable. It grips the Palm quite well, so you can move the Palm while you're using it. You'll also need a null modem adapter (9-pin male to 9-pin male), and then you can plug your Palm into the SAGE modem.

To create the connection between the Palm and my CDPD service:

  1. I first opened the Prefs applet and chose Connection from the menu in the upper right. Then, I created a new connection called "SAGE" that uses "Serial to PC" as the Connection Method. I clicked the Details button and set the speed to 19,200 bps and enabled Flow Control.

  2. Still in the Prefs applet, I switched over to Network and set up a new service called "Sage". I left the username blank (since there is no user name for my CDPD service), and set the Connection to "SAGE" - the connection I created in the previous step.

  3. Next, I clicked the Details button and specified PPP as the connection type. I disabled Query DNS and keyed in the name server address that Verizon gave to me. I did the same with my IP Address.

  4. Next came the all-important script. The CDPD modem doesn't use a phone number - instead of something like ATDT555-1234, I dial its internal PPP server with AT\APPP. Listing 1 shows the contents of my script (note that I had to escape the \ in the AT dial command). This script was inspired by the chat script from Tramm Hudson's Minstrel Hacking Page.

Send CR:
Send CR:
Delay: 1
Send: ATE1V1
Send CR:
Wait For: OK
Send: ATS57?
Send CR:
Wait For: OK
Send: ATS202?
Send CR:
Wait For: OK
Send: AT\\APPP
Send CR:

Listing 1. My CDPD connection script

After I saved the script, I was able to connect by returning to the Network preferences, choosing the Sage service I had created, and clicking the Connect button (hint: to watch the progress of your login script while you are connecting, press the scroll down key after you click connect). It generally connects OK, but sometimes I have to turn the modem off and on to disconnect and re-connect again.

So, what can you do with a Palm III once you are connected to the Internet? Qualcomm makes an excellent web browser and email client that are part of the Eudora Internet Suite. A free download is available if you don't need to sync with your desktop email program.

My only gripe with this setup is that I can't use a keyboard with the Palm at the same time I use a modem. This is because both the modem and the keyboard have to connect using the Palm's only serial port. I wonder if anyone has developed a keyboard for the Palm that uses the infrared port?