One Last (Long) Gasp For Garnet

I was thinking about new software lately and pondering the $20 mail-in rebate for pre-ordering Mac OS 10.5 from when I stopped myself in my tracks and remembered the release of 10.4 and all the programs it broke.

Much like Microsoft, Apple is now breaking your computer with each and every software release. The big difference between the two is that Microsoft tries (in vain) not to break things while Apple relentlessly exploits new hardware rendering all old versions obsolete.

After growing accustomed to being productive I’ve decided to sit this round out for a few months and have someone else compile a list of everything that doesn’t work and then make a calculated move into the future. Regular consumers have become such a great test lab that they’re unwittingly included in “beta testing” for pretty much any new technology that hits the market.

And this is the very reason I realized that it was time to give my Treo one last booster shot to get me through the release of the Palm Linux, not to it.

Though Palm promises an Apple-like experience in the migration (there will be a “classic environment” in which to run old Palm Garnet apps) this kind of strategy is a crutch and we shouldn’t have anything to do with it. Instead we’ll need to watch and wait (some more) for new applications to come along and fill our launcher back up to it’s previous glory.

So until then, Garnet works but needs to look a little better. I set out on a mission this week to find a way to display some wallpaper on the startup screen thinking that would be a quick and easy way to pretty it up a bit. It almost immediately (d?)evolved into a OS X-iPhone-KDE mash-up which not only made my phone look really slick but it also revealed one of the beautiful things about the rev 1 iPhone: if you are forced to simplify your launch screen you find the OS gets out of your way and you end up using your phone and tools more and tweaking it less.


What I was originally thinking: A simple wallpaper, though the problem of clutter still remains.

What it turned into: An all-out launcher replacement with wallpaper and custom icons:

Going back to large icons (which were always available on Palm) and having the ability to use the 5-way button to go left and right through categories forced me to rethink my applications. Now instead of having 5 categories, everything I do regularly is on the first screen, useful but less frequently used tools are on the 2nd screen and everything else is hidden. All of a sudden everything is a quick touch away, not multiple clicks and presses.

So how did we do it? Unfortunately it’s not an installer package (partially due to potential copyright issues and also because I’m not a programmer) but here is a brief overview:

I found this page with 28 Mac OS X backgrounds on google. The Treo 700’s screen resolution is 320×320 but 320×480 will work fine as the extra height will be cropped off. Below is the one I picked:

Sadly the built in launcher does not seem to support wallpapers on any screen but the phone screen (weird) and I couldn’t find a way to “hack” one in via Resco Explorer so an outright launcher replacement was in order. ZLauncher, Silverscreen, VisualArts and others seemed really clunky and I was very happy to have found Treo Launcher ($12.95 Shareware). Out of the gates it’s kind of ugly but it can be customized with wallpaper and custom icons if you have an external SD card to store them on (no internal storage right now…)

Note about wallpaper: Apparently the pnoJpegLib.prc is required to use a .jpg as a background image. It comes with TreoLauncher so you don’t need to get it separately. The two advantages of .jpegs are:

1: most wallpapers you find will already be jpegs and won’t require conversion and
2: They are a LOT smaller. My example .jpeg above is 16kb wheras a bmp of the same dimensions will be 528kb. Size still matters on small devices like this one.

The option to use custom icons is particularly great because there are a handful of very popular apps out there (like pssh and Toccer) that don’t have an icon and use a generic 3D blue box. By adding your own icon you can add that level of polish to the interface that should have been there from the beginning.

Speaking of polish, most Palm icons are pretty horrendous to begin with so it might be worthwhile replacing them all if you have the time.

If you are going to keep text beneath the icon you’ll want to make a 57x57px photoshop file and only use the top-middle 48x48px square to get the effect illustrated above. You will want to save the icons as transparent .gif images with no background and follow the naming and filing instructions provided with TreoLauncher.

TreoLauncher also allows you to turn off the text giving you room for full iPhone-like 57x57px icons.

Most icons these days are getting shiny thanks to Apple’s lead with OS X. I pulled a collection of photos from all over including forums, product pageslinux icon sets and google searches.

Here are a few of the main problems you’ll run into with Palm icons:

Since you’re making transparent .gif images you will run into the problems of a white haze showing around soft, anti-aliased edges. You’ll want to trim your icons down as tightly as you can and save them with a matte color as close to your wallpaper as possible. Monochromatic wallpapers work best with this effect.

Any icon that has pure white in it will need to have a “replace color” done on it so that it’s a few shades into light gray. For some reason pure white renders as clear even though it is not. The Treo’s have very bright screens and the light gray will be solid and will still look white.

Once you’re done and organized you can use the left-and-right buttons on the 5-way navigator to flick between screens:

IF YOU’RE GOING TO GO ALL OUT…: Check out the “For a laptop look and feel” section of an earlier article on the Treo 700p. It links to:
– Palm Revolt. Interface skins including OS X “Aqua”
– pTunes iTunes skin

Join the discussion about this and other Treo Launcher topics.

These custom icons, wallpapers, skins and interfaces seem to work with most Palm Treos including the Treo 600, Treo 650, Treo 700p and Palm Centro

Leave a Comment