Journey into SuperWaba

Ever wonder what it takes to write programs for your PDA? I did, and so now I am beginning a journey to try my hand at writing something for the PalmOS. SuperWaba, a variation of Java for the PDA, is my language of choice. And I'm a novice, which makes it all the more unpredictable. Hope you'll come along for the ride! Note: You can read multiple posts on one page if you click on an archive link.

Monday, July 05, 2004

Starting With SuperWaba

Today, I’m going to describe an overview of what I’ve discovered so far relative to SuperWaba. I knew right off the bat that there were some things I probably needed to get familiar with to program using SuperWaba: Java, SuperWaba, Waba, Palm Programming, and some associated tools or scripts.

A search on the web for SuperWaba led me to the main site, with all kinds of information. You can use either, or the site you are directed to, which is . There’s a wealth of information there. You can register and download the SuperWaba software. And if you look around, you’ll see links to articles and other items of interest.

(You had better just get used to the idea of some web registrations because you’ll need to do at least three of them just to get going. Plus a lot of downloading, so you’ll need either a lot of patience or access to a broadband connection.)

Anyway, I downloaded superwaba. I also registered for and downloaded the Sun Java SDK (the standard SDK edition, not J2EE, and not just the Java Runtime Edition).

And the best decision of all was to download an IDE that is built just for SuperWaba. It’s the Tauschke MobileCreator, and the personal edition is free at after you register. Basically, it doesn’t have debugger support or package support in the free edition. Both are important in big projects, but seem to me to be no big deal for the kind of thing I would be creating. There are also free alternatives if you want to use another IDE, but that’s getting ahead of myself. The neat thing about MobileCreator is that the whole process of compiling into palm installable files and testing it out on an emulator is so simple and automated that it happens with the push of a button. Once I know how that all works under the covers, I might not care so much if I have to do it on my own, but since it’s all a mystery at the moment I’m really happy to see it happen “automagically”.

Incidently, an IDE is an Integrated Development Environment, which is a fancy way to say it’s software that provides a nice way to write and keep track of code. Usually it provides features to help with things like compiling, testing, syntax, version control, etc.

So let me make a quick pitch for MobileCreator now. We should let the developers know that we novice programmers and hobbyists are appreciative that they have made this IDE available for personal use. Sure, there are some other Java IDEs that could be used with SuperWaba, and they have free versions. And certainly the MobileCreator developers will make some money by getting people hooked on a free version to upgrade later into a paid version. But let’s give credit where credit is due. By providing this for free personal use, the developer has done a great service to the Palm community, and I for one am thankful. It’s just one example of how Palm developers are the “good guys.”

Now everything thing I’m describing here is based on the “you’re not going to try to sell your software” assumption. I don’t understand all the licensing yet, but the basic idea seems to be use it for personal and/or non-profit purposes and you’re okay as long as you include the right information and credits when you distribute. If I start thinking about publishing software useful to the world, then I’ll have to learn more about licensing. But for now, I think it’s pretty safe to say that you can use it for your own personal use without any problems.

For those of you that have another favorite Java IDE like JBuilder or Eclipse, for example, you can use it with SuperWaba. There is even a free basic version of JBuilder available. Eclipse is GPL (free), has a plug in for SuperWaba, and I think it has a debugger and package support. Other possibilities are things like TextPad. Newsgroups are full of info on how to do that, but until I give it a serious try it’s out of scope for this blog. And, besides, the whole compile and build process with things like ANT, Warp, Exegen, Jump and Matchbox are kind of intimidating to me at the moment. But with MobileCreator it’s pretty much automatic. And you can even use the same code to generate for Pocket PC in case you’ve “gone over to the dark side” as they say in Palm circles.

So let’s get back to what we have to do.
--> Download and install SuperWaba
--> Download and install the Sun SDK
--> Download and install the Palm Emulator or Simulator, and
--> Download and install MobileCreator.

If I remember right, the path I took was to download all four, but for some reason I decided to install SuperWaba first and MobileCreator next. It probably looked so good I wanted to see if it was self-sufficient before I went any farther. And I believe the installation setup program instructed me to do the SDK and Emulator downloads as part of the install process! Funny thing... Most software install instructions and information for the user seem somewhat misleading or ambiguous to the uninformed user. Somehow the MobileCreator designers were able to break that pattern and write excellent instructions. They were brief and informative, and I was comfortable the whole way through. Very impressive.

To download the Palm Emulator, you need to register at The Palm Emulator is what I chose because I have a Sony Clie SJ33 running OS4.1. Apparently the Palm devices running on the older architecture and processors use an emulator. In addition, you’ll need to download a ROM that has the guts of the machine you are emulating. Plus you can add a skin if you like to make it look pretty.

If you are trying to develop for Cobalt (OS6), I don’t know if any of this SuperWaba stuff works yet. I’d guess “no”, but I’m just not sure. I do think it can handle OS5 though. The difference is that, for testing, instead of using an emulator (POSE = Palm OS Emulator, I think), you choose the Palm Simulator at the Palm developer site. They have more details there if you dig around, but I think I’ve captured the basic idea. I also went for a ROM with debug built in. I think that means that it can tell you if you are using “bad” code. I.e. code that is lacking in compatibility with various devices or future versions of the OS.

The hardest part of getting all this software is really just figuring out which file to download, and knowing what part is for what. It’s pretty straightforward, especially for MobileCreator and the Java SDK (as long as you remember that the JRE Java Runtime Edition is not enough all by itself, and J2EE enterprise edition is too much.) Here is a link to load that core Java SDK: (as opposed to the Desktop Java which is the JRE only).

Now, if you have installed SuperWaba, MobileCreator, the Sun Java SDK, and a simulator or emulator, you are all set to move forward.

Next… Java HelloWorld


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