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PHEM Quick Start

This page covers the basics of how to get PHEM up and running. If you ever used the original Palm OS Emulator that PHEM is derived from, it'll be dead simple. But even if you never heard of POSE, PHEM is very easy to set up. If you prefer, the key information is covered in this video:

The Bare Bones

Here's the basic steps. If you're familiar with Palm PDAs and general emulator concepts, this list may be all you need:

  1. Install PHEM, run it once. It will create the directories it needs, then complain that it can't find any ROM files and quit.
  2. Place at least one Palm ROM file in PHEM's "roms" directory. Typically this will be in a place like "/mnt/sdcard/phem/roms".
  3. Fire up PHEM again. It will start up with the "Create Session" screen. From here, you can pick ROMs, specific Palm models to emulate, and how much onboard RAM should be emulated.
  4. Hit the "Done" button. PHEM will boot up the virtual Palm, and once it finishes booting up, you can start partying like it's 1997 to 2003!

If any of that isn't clear, don't worry. Just keep reading for the details.

PHEM's Directories

PHEM needs to read and store files on the Android device's storage. It uses the default location for storage - typically this is "/mnt/sdcard". Any Android file manager can be used to organize and manage these files. PHEM stores everything under its own directory - so again typically this will be "/mnt/sdcard/phem". Within that directory there are a few sub-directories:

You don't have to create these directories - PHEM creates them for you the first time it's run. The only directory that you are required to deal with is the "roms" directory - that is where PHEM looks for ROM images to boot from.

Palm ROM Image Files

PHEM emulates the hardware of a Palm PDA (the hardware of many different models of Palm PDA, actually). But in order to run Palm apps, you also need the Palm OS, the operating system software that runs on the hardware. These typically are named something like "palmos40-en-m505.rom" or "palmos353-en-handera330.rom".

The main (legal) way to acquire Palm OS ROM images is by downloading them off an actual Palm device. Tools like ROMeo, Pilot-link, or the original Palm OS Emulator can be used to pull the ROM off of a Palm device. Once upon a time, you could register as a developer with Palm and then download their ROM images, but Palm's developer program shut down (ahem) a while ago.

In any case, once you have at least one Palm ROM image, you're ready to use PHEM. Use whatever Android file manager you like to place the ROM image(s) into the "phem/roms" directory, then fire up PHEM again.

Setting Up An Emulation Session

PHEM organizes the Palms it emulates into "sessions". You can have multiple versions of a particular Palm model - say, several different Palm m515s with different software installed on them - or multiple different Palm models. You can save a session and reload it later, and switch between them at will, though PHEM only runs one session at a time. You might switch between emulating a Palm m505 (with a color screen, but 160x160 pixels) and a Handera 330 (with a grayscale screen, but higher resolution at 240x320).

To create a session, pick the "Manage Session" option from the menu or taskbar (icon: Manage Sessions icon), then hit the "New Session" button.

There are three options to pick. At the top, there's a drop-down list of all the ROMs that PHEM could find.

Below that, there's a drop-down list of all the models of Palm PDA that the selected ROM can support. Many ROMs only work with one specific model.

Finally, you pick how much RAM to emulate. By default, PHEM selects the maximum RAM the selected ROM and device will support. Usually this is around 8MB. In these days of multi-Gigabyte devices, that may sound limiting, but Palms were very memory-efficient and Palm apps are typically no more than a few hundred KB at most. 8MB is a lot of memory for a Palm.

Once you've chosen the options you like, hit the "Done" button, and PHEM will start up a new emulation session with those parameters.

Congratulations! You're up and running!

What Now?

At this point, you've got the equivalent of a shiny new Palm PDA to play with. But you probably want to do more than just look at it. Here's some information to get you started:


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