New file system reduces Treo 650 storage capacity

The change to flash memory from DRam (dynamic Ram) for PalmOne's new Treo 650 smartphone appears to reduce the amount of memory...

The change to flash memory from DRam (dynamic Ram) for PalmOne's new Treo 650 smartphone appears to reduce the amount of memory that is actually available to users and PalmOne has offered a free 128Mbyte expansion card to Treo 650 purchasers to get around the problem.

Small files, such as contacts or tasks, must now be stored in chunks that are much larger than the actual files themselves. This means that the same files a user stored on a Treo 600 might not all fit on the Treo 650. The Treo 650 was released to the public last week through Sprint and PalmOne's website.

The capacity problem is a design tradeoff caused by the decision to use a new file system that allows users to quickly change batteries and protect their data when power runs out, a PalmOne spokeswoman said. Treo enthusiast websites such as were the first to highlight the problem.

On the latest version of the popular Treo smartphone, PalmOne made two important changes to the system's design. The device now uses flash memory, rather than DRam, to store data.

Flash memory is non-volatile, which means it can store data without a constant supply of electricity and protect that data in the event of a battery failure or unintended shutdown. PalmOne users have clamoured for flash memory for years, and were finally accommodated with the release of the Tungsten T5 and Treo 650.

In order to use flash memory, PalmOne had to switch the file system technology that decides how files are stored.

The Treo 650 now uses the NVFS (non-volatile flash system) file system to store data in clusters. This file system is based on FAT (file allocation table) technology, which was the underlying file system technology for Microsoft's DOS operating system as well as Windows 95 and Windows 98. The Windows NT and XP operating systems use a different technology.

PalmOne believes that the issue will affect only a small percentage of users who have filled their Treo 600 units with data, the spokeswoman said.

However, the company will offer a free 128Mbyte SD (Secure Digital) expansion card to any purchaser of a Treo 650 who requests the card, she said. Users should check PalmOne's support pages starting in early December for details about the free offer. A 128Mbyte SD card costs around $15 at retail.

Tom Krazit writes for IDG News Service

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