Palm LifeDrive in a Windows 2000 QEMU VM


Today I wanted to run the Palm Desktop to HotSync my Palm LifeDrive PDA, as well as run the LifeDrive Manager to transfer media. I ran down a few options before deciding on a Windows 2000 VM in a QEMU VM. Windows 2000 is my go-to for legacy Windows stuff in VMs, given how badly Microsoft went off the design reservation from XP onwards. QEMU also works perfectly for this use case.

Installing Windows 2000

The first step is to create a boot volume for the OS:

$ qemu-img create -o qcow2 Windows2000.qcow2 32G

Then installing Windows 2000 the VM. Note that cd means boot from drive C first, then drive D which is the optical drive. cirrus graphics will also give you the nicest experience out of the box:

$ qemu-system-i386                           \
    -m 256                                   \
    -name "Windows 2000",process=qemu-win2k  \
    -hda Windows2000.qcow2                   \
    -boot cd                                 \
    -cdrom Windows2000-Installer.iso         \
    -vga cirrus                              \
    -net nic,model=rtl8139                   \
    -net user                                \
    -usb                                     \
    -device sb16                             \
    -writeconfig Windows2000.qemu.conf

Qemu has long had a -win2k-hack option to prevent a drive full error when installing Windows 2000, but I haven’t encountered a need for it.

Once installed, grab yourself copies of Service Pack 4 and the Update Rollup 1 if they weren’t slipstreamed into your installer.

Screenshot showing the About dialog box for Solitaire, running in a Windows 2000 QEMU VM. Thanks, Wes Cherry!

USB Passthrough

I plugged the USB HotSync cable into my FreeBSD machine and the Palm LifeDrive and saw the following details from dmesg(8):

# dmesg
==> ugen1.2: <palmOne, Inc. palmOne Handheld> at usbus1
==> uvisor0 on uhub0
==> uvisor0: <Serial Interface> on usbus1    

I took that address and put it into usbconfig(8):

# usbconfig -d ugen1.2 dump_device_desc
==> ugen1.2: <palmOne, Inc. palmOne Handheld> at usbus1, cfg=0 md=HOST spd=HIGH (480Mbps) pwr=ON (100mA)
==> bLength = 0x0012 
==> bDescriptorType = 0x0001 
==> bcdUSB = 0x0200 
==> bDeviceClass = 0x0000  <Probed by interface class>
==> bDeviceSubClass = 0x0000 
==> bDeviceProtocol = 0x0000 
==> bMaxPacketSize0 = 0x0040 
==> idVendor = 0x0830 
==> idProduct = 0x0061 
==> bcdDevice = 0x0100 
==> iManufacturer = 0x0001  <palmOne, Inc.>
==> iProduct = 0x0002  <palmOne Handheld>
==> iSerialNumber = 0x0005  <PVG0C5V5V1VD>
==> bNumConfigurations = 0x0001 

This gave me the Product ID and Vendor ID that I needed to pass to QEMU:

-device usb-host,vendorid=0x0830,productid=0x0061 \

When I booted the VM, I was greeted with the Found New Hardware wizard which asked me about my my palmOne Handheld. Yay, it worked! I dismissed this dialog, because I wanted to use the Palm software to install the drivers and software.

Installing Palm Desktop

The next step was to install the associated Palm software. I created an ISO disc image of the CD that came with my LifeDrive from eBay, and uploaded to if you need a copy.

Installation was straight forward, and I soon had my familiar Palm Desktop and HotSync system tray icon. No PIM software or smartphone since matches the simple elegance of these tools!

Screenshot of the Palm Desktop, with icons for the LifeDrive Manager, Palm Desktop, and palmOne Quick Install


Now I could HotSync this device! I booted the Windows 2000 VM, pressed the HotSync button on the connector to the LifeDrive, and I was transported back to my Palm Tungsten W smartphone days. I was also able to launch the LifeDrive Manager software which I’d never used before! Now I can copy what I want over to the device, from the comfort of my FreeBSD Panasonic laptop, or my MacBook Pro.

Screenshot showing the LifeDrive Manager.


My next experiment will be to see if this Palm software works in 32-bit Wine. I’m not sure how that works with USB, but it’d be worth a try.

Author bio and support


Ruben Schade is a technical writer and infrastructure architect in Sydney, Australia who refers to himself in the third person. Hi!

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