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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

January 14, 2009

What kind of BASIC is this?

NS Basic for Palm is a complete BASIC development environment for Palm OS devices. NS Basic/Palm provides a full, modern implementation of BASIC, with proper subroutines, user defined data types and no line numbers. The development environment runs on a Windows desktop. Programs can be tested using the POSE emulator, which runs on Windows, or on the device itself. NS Basic/Palm produces standard Palm .prc files as executables.

NS Basic/Palm includes over 150 statements and functions. Support is provided for file I/O, serial I/O, trigonometric functions and a set of standard screen input and output objects and dialog boxes. Applications you create are freely distributable and are write-once, run anywhere. A 150 page spiral bound Handbook and lots of sample code is included.

The environment features a Visual Designer, which allows you to graphically lay out your objects and set their properties.

What Palm devices does it run on?

It will run on all Palm OS devices running Palm OS 3.0 or newer. We've tested it on devices from Palm, HandSpring, Sony, HandEra, Kyocera, IBM and Qualcom with no problems. It also runs very quickly on the new Palm OS 5.x devices, such as the Palm Tungsten and Sony NX. Of course, the TX, Treo and Centro are all supported.

We've even tried it on Palm OS 2.0.5 units, such as the Palm Pro. It works, but can't use features that were introduced with Palm OS 3.0. For example, it can't use the additional fonts.

How about the Pre, and Web OS?

The new generation of Palm products were just announced a few days ago at CES. Actual units are not expected to ship until June or July, so nothing is final yet.

One thing that Palm has not announced is a compatibility layer for Palm OS apps. There are at least 3 products out there that could do this: POSE (owned by Palm themselves), StyleTap and ALP (from Access, Inc.). It remains to be seen if any of these will be supported. Existing NS Basic apps will run if any of these are implemented in WebOS.

How big is the Runtime?

About 150k. Furthermore, there is a build option that combines it with your app to make a single executable, making it easy to distribute your applications. Since NS Basic/Palm compiles your program into pcode, programs are very memory efficient.

What is the look and feel of an NS Basic app?

NS Basic/Palm apps look and feel just like other apps in the Palm OS. NS Basic/Palm uses all the Palm UI guidelines and implements its objects using the Palm ROM. The benefits of this are small size and programs that work just as users expect them to. Yes, standard Palm menus are implemented.

Does it run on the color devices?

Yes. You can use color with bitmaps, icons and other user interface items. Using Themes, you can control the full color palette of the Palm OS.

Does it use the full 320x320 on Palm OS 5 devices?

Yes. You can draw text, line, shapes and images in 320x320 mode. Using the PinMgr library, you can hide the Graffiti area to use a full 320x480.

Older Sony OS 4.x devices with HiRes support used another standard that is not supported.

Where can I buy it? What does it cost?

NS Basic/Palm is available for $149.95 USD directly from NS BASIC Corporation's website. It is also available from a number of resellers of Palm OS software: they are listed on the order page.

How fast is it?

Most applications written in NS Basic/Palm appear to run at a similar speed as the built in applications. Operations which involve updating the screen should be just about the same speed. It won't be as fast as straight C code for heavy computations, but the Shared Library facility lets you add such code into your app.

For specialized operations, With Palm OS 5, NS Basic has picked up a lot of speed, due to faster hardware and more optimized Palm OS code.

How much faster is Palm OS 5?

It depends on the hardware in the device, of course, but here are some numbers:

	Palm IIIx, Palm OS 3.5, NS Basic/Palm 2.1      488 seconds
	Palm Tungsten, Palm OS 5.0, NS Basic/Palm 7.0    2 seconds
					
As you can see, there is better than a dramatic improvement.

Much of the improvement is certainly due to the hardware. But even that isn't so simple. The ARM chip is a lot faster than the Dragonball. However, since the instruction set is different, Palm apps use a Dragonball emulator called PACE that runs on the StrongArm. Now here is where it gets interesting...

Much of the Palm OS has been recompiled into native ARM code, which means it doesn't run in the emulator. However, since good ARM compiling environments are not yet really available, very few apps have any native code. They are all running in emulation mode. In some cases, the apps do not run any faster in OS 5 (this according to Palm's testing).

The trick to getting good performance out of Palm OS 5, then, is to make good use of the OS stuff that is ARM optimised. That's always been one of NS Basic Corp's mantras: Plunder the ROM! In this case, we were able to move easily to the new rev and get a good speed boost at the same time.

What support is there?

NS BASIC provides support by email and on our web board. We post bug fix updates to our support site on a regular basis. Check the Web Board for the latest announcements. The web board is a very active and enthusiastic community.

What documentation is included?

We provide a 150 page handbook with NS Basic/Palm. It's spiral bound, so it lies flat. In addition, documentation and examples for commands and functions are available in on line help. There is also a series of handy Tech Notes.

In addition, you can order NS Basic Programming for Palm OS from Amazon or from us. It's a 300+ page book full of tips, explanations and samples to help make you a better NS Basic programmer. It is also included in pdf form under the Help menu, starting with NS Basic/Palm 7.0.

There are many additional samples in the files section of the Web Board.

Can I distribute my applications?

Yes. The programs you write will run on any Palm OS device running Palm OS 3.0 or later. You may distribute your apps royalty free.

Why isn't NS Basic/Palm just like NS Basic for Windows CE or Newton?

There isn't any practical way to do this on handheld computers.

These devices are all very resource bound. There isn't much memory, cpu speed or screen size. To make a product like this work efficiently, one has to make full use of what is available in the hardware and the ROM. The devices all have very different architectures. Cross OS compatibility has a real overhead cost, and there's not room for overhead on these devices.

Futhermore, each operating system has a unique user interface. We wouldn't make people happy if the applications they created for Palm looked like Windows CE apps.

The BASIC language itself is pretty much the same.

What we can do is stick with our core objective: make a development tool that is easy and rewarding to use. Add good documentation and support, and the family resemblance of the products is complete.

How does it compare to NS Basic/CE?

Like NS Basic/CE, NS Basic/Palm is easy to use and powerful. Both languages are based on industry standard BASIC and make heavy use of resources found the underlying OS. NS Basic for Palm requires far less memory for runtime applications.

NS Basic/Palm is a typed language. You need to DIM all variables before using them, and identify their type as Integer, String, etc. A nice addition is the ability to create your own user data type structures.

You do all development on a Windows computer. To test your program, you use the Compile option to produce a standard Palm .prc file. The program can then be run on the Palm OS Emulator (POSE) on your desktop, or downloaded to your Palm on the next Hotsync.

How does it compare to using Metrowerks CodeWarrior for Palm?

CodeWarrior was used by many professional programmers to develop commercial applications. It is based on the C programming languages, with a lot of include files that are specifically for the Palm OS. C++ extensions are supported. There's a substantial learning curve, even for experienced C programmers, who have to learn the specific APIs and memory management requirements.

You can still find a copy if you look around. However, it is no longer supported.

NS Basic/Palm simplifies things considerably. It takes care of memory management for you. It uses a familiar Visual Basic like environment and language. The learning curve is quite short.

One of testers reported it took an hour and half after opening the NS Basic/Palm package to duplicate most of a project he'd work on for a month using CodeWarrior.

Of course, if you have to do heavy calculations or get into the guts of the machine, CodeWarrior is still the way to go. Even if you're an ace Codewarrier for Palm programmer, you'll find NS Basic/Palm is a much faster way to prototype apps.

Does NS Basic/Palm compete against NS Basic/CE?

The question being asked here is really, "Does Palm compete against Windows CE?" Our belief is that while the form factors are similar, they are really very different products. The Palm is a simple, convenient device with clear limits to what it can do. Windows CE devices are more powerful and complex, and take over someplace above the Palm OS units.

We believe both products have an important part in the marketplace, and support both products equally.

I already have NS Basic/CE or NS Basic/Newton. Do I get a break on NS Basic/Palm?

Yes! There is a special order form. You'll need your serial number to get the discount.

Is there a demo?

Yes! You can download it here.

How does NS Basic for Palm deal with Hotsync?

NS Basic for Palm allows you to create your own databases directly within a program. A database is a collection of records that you can read by record id or sequentially. The format of each record is up to you: a record is a series of values of numbers, string, dates and other data type. Your program is responsible for the format of the records.

The databases that NS Basic/Palm creates are standard Palm databases. The backup bit is set, so they are automatically copied to the Archive folder on your Desktop during a Hotsync.

You can copy databases to the Palm by using the Install option of the Palm Desktop, then use NS Basic/Palm to read and write the files.

On the desktop, a Visual Basic program can open the copy of the file in the Archive folder.

More advanced control of files on the Palm from the desktop is possible using the SyncManager, documented in "Developing Palm OS Conduits", from Palm Inc. The SyncManager includes a number of calls that allow you to read and write databases and records on the Palm unit. Using these calls from a desktop Visual Basic or C program, you can create your own conduits to read, update and write out databases used by NS Basic for Palm.

For more information on databases and syncing to the desktop, see this Tech Note.

Is there Japanese/Chinese language support?

Yes. NS Basic/Palm provides full double character support.

NS Basic/Palm is available in a Japanese edition.

What other languages are supported?

The documentation is available in English, German and Japanese.

NS Basic keeps all its messages in a string table. By translating the string table, versions of the IDE can be produced for other languages. The IDE is currently available in English, Spanish, German and Japanese. If you're interested in creating a version for your own language, please contact us.

What debugging facilities are there?

You can test your programs on the Windows desktop using the Palm OS Emulator, a true emulator of the Palm OS. There are also commands you can use while debugging your program, such as DISPLAY, which show all your variables.

How big a number can be represented?

NS Basic/Palm uses 8 byte float values for all calculations.

Can external routines be called?

Yes, through a variety of mechanisms:

  • API functions can make OS calls directly within an NS Basic program.
  • Standard Palm Shared Libraries can be called.
  • External apps like PalmPrint can be launched

Will it run on a Mac?

We like Macs here. We've tested NS Basic/Palm on a Mac running Parallels and VMWare. It has also been tested with Virtual PC: it works fine. We also have reports that it works well under SoftWindows.

Will it run on Linux?

Yes. We have reports that it works well on Win4Lib and VmWare.

Who is NS BASIC Corporation?

NS BASIC was formed in 1993 to create applications for developers using hand held computers. The initial product, NS BASIC/Newton, started shipping in 1994 and became one of the top selling packages on the Newton platform.

In late 1997, NS BASIC released its next product, NewtCard, a product inspired by Apple's HyperCard application. NewtCard has probably garnered more "Best of" awards than any application produced for hand held computers.

NS Basic/Newton and NewtCard are two of only three software products to ever garner a "First Class Award" from Mobile Computing.

In 1998, we released NS Basic/CE. The product made it possible for many people to easily create applcations for Windows CE. The product has gotten top scores in many reviews, and continues to be actively developed and sell well. It won "Best Development Tool" in the Microsoft Mobile Solutions Challenge in 2003, best Tool in Pocket PC Magazine 2004 and Finalist in SmartPhone's "Best Sofware Awards 2005". (These competitions have not been held subsequently.)

NS Basic/Palm was released in 2000. It went on to become the most widely used commercial development tool for Palm OS.

In 2007, NS Basic/Symbian OS was released. It allows NS Basic/Palm programs to run on Nokia devices.

Over the years, NS BASIC Corporation has developed a large body of special expertise in creating development environments for hand sized computers. Combining effective user interfaces for small, pen based screens with efficient use of resources built into the ROM, NS BASIC's applications are surprisingly powerful, small, and easy to use. You can contact NS BASIC Corporation by email at info© nsbasic.com, phone at 1 888 NSBASIC (416 264-5999) or fax at 416 264-5888.

 

So what does the "NS" stand for, anyhow?

Nice & Smart.

 

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