Sunday, July 18, 2004

Weird Crash

So, my adventures with AppLock were not the only highlights of last night - I also had to reset the password on my T|E. I am not sure what had happened, but it would not recognize the password I thought I had set or any of the variants I usually use. In itself this is no big problem, because the only security I routinely use is an encrypted database (I like Secret! because it is just a clone of the MemoPad with 128-bit encryption, so I can have freeform data stored in it), but I do keep a password for the device assigned, just in case someone else does it for me!

Removing the password is no problem. According to the Palm OS instructions, you will lose all your records marked 'Private' but they will be restored at the next Hotsync. That does not work for me, but doing a back-up to card before resetting the password and then restoring the crucial databases does the trick. [Which, incidentally, is another example of why the Palm OS security is very weak - private records are easily accessible to anyone.]

But then I had an interesting phenomenon - the Palm would crash during Hotsync, and at exactly the same point every time: during the back-up of ToDoDB. If I used Filez to change the Backup bit to 'off', then the crash was avoided.

I spent ages trying everything to stop this happening, including recreating the database by deleting it and restoring TasksDB-PTod.pdb from the card, but in the end all I could do was set the backup bit to 'off' and remove SyncAll (which automatically sets all backup bits to 'on' so that everything is properly backed up).

That solves the problem at little inconvenience, but I still want to know why this was happening. How can the backup conduit cause the Palm to crash over a particular database? I wonder if it is something to do with BackupBuddyVFS?


AppLock from PocketScience was free at PalmGear yesterday. So I thought I would give it a try. And thus I have discovered an interesting new way to 'kill' your Palm!

AppLock allows you to set a password to open selected applications, rather than for the Palm as a whole. You can either set a list of apps which need a password, or the reverse, and set a list of apps which don't need a password. Since anything with sensitive data on my Palm is already encrypted, I decided to try the second option as a way of creating a safe environment for my daughter to play games on my Palm without messing anything else up. So I simply added all the games to the 'Unlocked' list and set a password.

While messing around trying to see how and when the password was triggered, I needed to do a soft reset, and here the problems started. As part of the boot procedure on my T|E both Tealmaster and Fitaly are activated. But they were not on the 'unlocked' list (never occurred to me), so I needed to enter the password twice to complete the procedure. Sounds tedious but simple to the inexperienced ear, doesn't it?

Event sequence: OS loads, then Tealmaster loads. Up pops the AppLock password dialogue. While I am entering the password, Fitaly loads in the background and another AppLock password dialogue pops up over the first. But because I have not completed the first password, I cannot even enter the password a second time: the Palm just freezes.

The obvious solution is to perform a warm reset and delete AppLock. Because if the programmers didn't spot that one coming, who knows what other data-trashing booby traps they have left lying around?