Build Databases on Palm Device with Pilot-DB

Dmitri Popov

Productivity Sauce

Jul 30, 2013 GMT
Dmitri Popov

I love the technology of yesteryear. That's why I prefer to shoot with my trusty Nikon F-501 film SLR. Film photography can be a great learning experience, but the lack of EXIF data makes mastering the basics more tricky. After all, knowing what aperture and shutter speed values were used in a specific situation can come in rather handy. To solve the problem I enlisted the help of another vintage device: Sony Clié PEG-NX73V. When launched almost a decade ago, it was mind-boggingly expensive, but I bought mine on eBay for peanuts. This Palm OS-based device from Sony features a swanky design, it runs for weeks on a single charge, and it's reasonably fast. More importantly, there are many excellent open source apps available for Palm OS, including my all-time favorite Pilot-DB database. This is a simple yet versatile database app that can be used for a variety of purposes: from maintaining lists and tracking tasks, to building more advanced databases. I used Pilot-DB to maintain a simple database (I named it RollDB) for storing key information (aperture, shutter speed, focal length, lighting conditions, etc.) for each film exposure.

Pilot-DB is capable of handling several field types, including Interger, String, Float, Date, and Time. In addition to that, the app supports more advanced field types like Calculated, Link, and List. The latter type is particularly useful, as it allows you to specify a list of values the user can select from, which can significantly speed up entering data. In RollDB, lists are used to quickly specify aperture, shutter speed, and lighting conditions from a list of predefined values. Pilot-DB also supports user-defined list views. Each list view can contain selected fields, and you can specify each field's size. The ability to duplicate the currently viewed record is a great time-saver which makes it easier to create records containing similar data. For example, when I shoot several frames at the same aperture and shutter speed, I can simply duplicate records instead of entrering them from scratch.

Once a film roll has been finished and developed, I import the digitized photos into digiKam and use it to add key EXIF values to selected images. I also use the Java Pilot-DB desktop application to view and manipulate data stored in the RollDB database. The application is written in Java and it doesn't seem to work with OpenJDK Java 7 Runtime, but it does run fine under OpenJDK Java 6 Runtime.

For your convenience, I made the Pilot-DB and Java Pilot-DB application along with the RollDB database available for download. You can grab them from

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