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Palm handhelds hit by dodgy DRAM bug

Data corruption glitch solved by patch. Phew...

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Palm has coughed to the fact that some of its handhelds contain duff memory chips that could destroy users' personal data.

And PalmOS licensee TRG has admitted some of its machines suffer from the same problem.

The fault appears in what Palm described as "a limited manufacturing run" of Palm IIIc, IIIxe and Vx machines. So, what's "a limited manufacturing run", you may well ask? According to Palm, it represents under three per cent of all of these models the company has shipped, and covers machines assembled between October 1999 and April 2000.

The dodgy part is an 8MB DRAM chip, which has now been eliminated from the company's production process, Palm said. Quite what the problem is is difficult to say. Certainly data corruption is a possible effect - it kicks in when the memory becomes full or nearly full - but Palm claims the glitch can be "eliminated" by installing a software patch.

The patch apparently prevents the DRAM from entering self-refresh mode, which it normally does every 60 seconds, prompted by the OS, to ensure data isn't lost. Instead, the OS is patched to use a 'burst refresh', which is unaffected by the DRAM's duff self-refresh circuitry.

The patch for the Vx and IIIc is already available - the version for the IIIxe will follow shortly. The patch can be downloaded from Palm's Web site.

TRG's TRGPro device also contains faulty 8MB DRAM, the company admitted yesterday. It recommends users upgrade to PalmOS 3.5.1, available from its Web site.

According to TRG, the problem's "most common symptom is a Fatal Exception error after the unit has been powered off for a period of time. Other symptoms include corrupted data in the unit". ®

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