[ What is it - Screen Shots / Guided Tour - Download - Changes - FAQ - Future - Tools/Development - Contact ]

Sat Apr 12 12:18:00 EDT 2008 I've made a database that represents the new Extra question pool that's coming live on July 1 of this year. You'll want to download new figures, too. Note that this DB reflects the NEC updated question pool as of Feb 2 2008.
Sun Feb 18 18:24:35 EST 2007 0.9.6 is released. This is a bug fix release. KG6NFJ reported that the ARRL review tests were not working, and this has been fixed. He was also kind enough to provide a database for the 5th edition General Class manual, for the General question pool valid till July 1. I have also released a database for the new general pool valid after July 1st.
Wed Mar 22 11:00:04 PST 2006 N5NA brought it to my attention that I had not released a new PDB for the technicial pool for use after june 2006. I've done so, and the old tech pool for use before that date is still available. Also, a mistake was corrected that was putting the wrong executable in pveconv zip file. I've also archived the pool text files I use for conversion, since I often have to make minor changes to get them to parse.
Wed Aug 31 10:35:10 PDT 2005 Apparently the general element file I used to generate the post 7-1-04 PDB files had some errata in them that have been subsequently fixed by the VEC or whoever. The version number has not changed, and no additional features have been added, but the general.zip file has been updated. Check changes here for a description of the fixed errata.
Mon Nov 1 00:14:20 PST 2004 I've released version 0.9.5. Changes here.
Fri Dec 19 11:03:49 PST 2003 A new general question pool has been released for tests after July 1 2004. Also, new tools have been released.
Sat Nov 15 22:15:42 PST 2003 0.9.4 released, check out the changelog !
Sat Jun 21 16:28:56 PDT 2003 New, cleaner figure databases available for extra.
Thu Jun 19 20:22:05 PDT 2003 Version 0.9.3 released

What is it ?

PalmVE is a program for Palm based handheld computers that is built to aid as a 'virtual volunteer examiner' for amateur radio written tests. The program can create complete practice tests, or let you test on a specific sub element of questions. It also includes the figures that go with the test, so that you can view them while you take the test.

This thing is BETA quality right now. It should work fine, I use it okay, but it may malfunction on your hardware. If it does, let me now.

Screen Shots / Guided Tour

Here's the basic screens, in sort of the order you'd end up seeing them:

Shot Description
Main Form This is the main PalmVE form, and the pool selection screen.
Element Form Once you've selected an element, you can either select to take a full practice test or take all the questions in a group.
Question This is what the question form looks like on a device that supports collapsing the input area.
Question with Figure This is what the question form looks like when the question has an associated figure.
Figure This is the figure viewer dialog. You can pan around it by dragging the stylus or using the D pad on a tungsten. This is a screenshot of a device that supports a collapsible input area.
Test Summary And here's the test summary form. You can select a question you missed if you'd like to see it again. The first column is the question designator, the second is the CORRECT answer letter, and the third is the answer you gave. Looks like I need to keep studying !

These are screens from some of the more advanced features, the first set are data management, the ARRL review questions, and test templates:

Shot Description
Data Menu Data management, test templates, and the ARRL review questions are all available from the Data menu on the main form.
Data Management Form To delete, beam, and check which PalmVE databases you have installed, you use this form. The 'Manage' form.
Save Test Template Test templates are a way for you to save tests you want might want to take again. After you've taken a test, you are given the option of saving it.
Test Templates To take the tests you've saved again, you use the Test Templates form accessible from the Data menu. Here, all the test templates you have installed are accessible. All the tests you save are stored in the 'My Saved Tests' test template collection. Other collections can be installed externally or received from beaming.
ARRL Review Tests Another feature of PalmVE is ARRL Review Tests - these are special test templates composed of collections of the review questions suggested in ARRL license manuals. Access these from the Data menu on the main form. Check the FAQ for more info on these.

The last set of shots revolve around searching a question pool.

Shot Description
Search From a question pool's form, you can access a search function from the Pool menu. You can search by keyword in questions and answers. Any searches you make are added to the results box, which must be cleared manually. Once you have the terms you want in your results, you can take a test on all the found questions, if you desire.
Search Results This shot shows a find form with some results.


First, you'll want the program. PalmVE is currently at version 0.9.6. Check back here for updates. You can download the distribution as components or as one ZIP file containing all of the elements and the programs.

Detached GPG signatures and MD5 sums for these files are available.

Download the Entire Distribution

palmve-0.9.6.zip is the entire distribution. It contains all of the files necessary to test in all three elements of the amateur service, and the ARRL review questions for the 8th edition Extra manual.

Note that this zip file contains the extra pool for use before July 1 2008. To download the new extra pool, look below.

Download as Components

PalmVE.prc - The program itself.

Next, you will want one or more of the test question pools. Download whichever ones you'll want to test against.

extra.pdb - The element 4 extra class question pool (July 1, 2002)
extra-after-july-01-08.pdb - The new element 4 extra class question pool (July 1, 2008)
general.pdb - The element 3 general class question pool valid until July 1, 2007.
general-after-july-01-07.pdb - The element 3 general class question pool valid after July 1, 2007. There is a figure for this question pool, you can download it below.
technician.pdb - The element 2 technical class question pool (June 2006)

You will probably want to download the image databases associated with the question pool you're studying for. Currently, only the extra and technician tests have figures associated with them, so you wont find a general class image database.

general-after-july-01-07_figures.pdb - The general class figures for after July 1 2007.
extra_figures.pdb - The extra class figures (for both pre and post July 1 2008).

Optionally, you may wish to download a set of ARRL review questions.

arrl_general_tests.pdb - 5th Ed. ARRL Extra License Manual, valid till July 1. Provided by KG6NFJ.
arrl_extra_tests.pdb - 8th Ed. ARRL Extra License Manual

Install and Extras

Install the PRC file and the pool and figure databases for the elements you'll want to drill, and you should be on your way. These pools and images were taken from the ARRL's VEC question pool resource. The databases here noted are the most recent USABLE question syllabi as of July 1 2003. In the process of creating this application, I had to write a parser to parse these text files into a form the palm pilot could understand. I elected to have the parser write an XML file that described the question pool as sort of an intermediate format. That made it easier for me to verify the parser was working before it was shuffled into a binary file. If you can think of another use for those XML files, well, here they are for you to download. They're ZIP'd.

extra.xml - The extra question pool in XML.
extra-after-july-01-08.xml - The extra question pool (post July 1 2008) in XML.
general.xml - The general question pool (before July 1, 2007) in XML.
general-after-july-01-07.xml - The general question pool (after July 1, 2007) in XML.
technician.xml - The technician question pool in XML.

I did not create a DTD for this XML format. It is extremely simple though, and you should have no problem parsing it and doing whatever you want to do with it.

Test template DB's and ARRL review question DB's also get generated from simple XML.

arrl_general_tests.xml - ARRL 5th Ed General License Manual, Provided by KG6NFJ.
arrl_extra_tests.xml - ARRL 8th Ed Extra License Manual

Sometimes when I get the pool TXT files I have to make minor tweaks, they never release them in exactly the same format, and I can only do so much in the parser to make it 'universal'. For example, in the most recent technician pool, I had to add a bunch of newlines, remove some extraneous '~~' lines deliminating questions, lowercase some SUBELEMENT descriptions that pveconv expects actually start the subelement definition, and a few other things. I've made the files I use available.

pools.zip - Files used to generate above PDBs/XMLs.



What version of PalmOS do I need ?

3.5 and up should work.

How much does it cost ?

It's free.

Does the 5 way navigator on the tungsten do anything ?

I wrote this program so I could take tests 'on-the-go': on the bus, in a movie theater, wherever. So yes - it does.

The select button, when in the pool screen, will start a new practice test.

The up and down buttons in question forms will navigate the buttons on the screen. The right and left buttons will scroll the text of the field that is selected. So, if the A is highlighted, right and left will scroll the A answer. If no button is selected, right and left scroll the question text. You can use select to simulate clicking on whatever button is selected. That means that you can answer questions and view the test figure without the stylus.

In the figure display, the 5 way navigator can be used to pan around the figure, and the select button will close the dialog.

So, you should be able to take a test without using your stylus.

The DBs are big ! Can I put them on an SD card ?

Yes. You can either install them with your hotsync utilities directly to a card, or move them there with your launcher. When PalmVE finds a database on a card it will display it like normal, except you'll see '(card)' after the name of the database. Because of how PalmVE works, you shouldn't notice much of a performance difference when using databases on cards.

Note that the preferences DB is NOT stored on the card, but always in the palm's built in storage. That means you can't transfer a test in progress on a card, or your preferences. I may change that later, I haven't decided.

Because of how the launcher's move databases it is possible to end up with multiple copies of element databases on the card. If this happens to you, you can delete one of the sets. If the two sets are potentially different, then don't mix methods of getting the DBs on the card. i.e., install it directly with hotsync or move it with the launcher. (or, of course, copy it with a PC sd card reader or whatever.)

As of 0.9.5, PalmVE supports compressed databases. The databases on the website are compressed, and by default, the tools generate compressed databases.

Is there any color ?

Yes there is, in the test summary screen. Right answers are green, wrong answers are red.

I found a problem / wrong question / want a feature / something else

Well, let me know.

If I leave the program in the middle of a test, will it be there when I get back ?

Yes, you can leave a test to go use the calculator or whatever and the test will be displayed when you run the program the next time.

Some of the figures look grainy / are hard to read

Do you have the newest figure database (extra)?

The figures are monochrome - no shades of gray except black and white. This allows for good compression and the data in the figures are well suited to it. It does mean, however, that when the images are converted from their native forms into the form that PalmVE understands, some visual artifacts can be created due to gray pixels being interpolated one way or another in the source image. I've converted almost all of the source PNGs into two color images and cleaned them up as much as possible though, so most figures should look alright.

Feel free to send me better versions of the figures. :) You can use the tools to create new figure databases out of PNG files and see how they look on the palm. If you get a good set send them to me and I'll include them as the defaults.

Your thing said I passed the test but I missed too many questions !

PalmVE goes by the percentage, and it is calculated with integer precision. Because of that, it can be off. Also, since I go by percentage and not by a hard number of questions right vs. wrong, the application may differ with the VEC by a question or so.

If you're this close to the line, keep studying !

I don't like it that PalmVE corrects me right away when I answer a question

You can turn that off in the preferences screen. Check the options menu.

Gimme the source

I have no plans to release the source code for the palm application itself. The utilities, including the parsers and PDB/XML generators, are available here.

Could I use this to drill me on other multiple choice tests ?

For four choice tests, probably. It could be used out of the box if you could generate XML that conforms to the XML format of the FCC question pools. If there is enough interest in a more generic interface for generic four choice tests then I could probably put an alternate build together for that.

The launcher icon really sucks

I'm a software engineer - not an artist... :)

Can I use my palm to beam question pools and test templates ?

Yes - you can beam most PalmVE data from the Data Management form, accessible from the 'Data' menu on the main PalmVE form (the one you select a question pool from).

What are test templates ?

Test templates are a way for you as a user to store tests you might want to retake later. Using test templates, you could also prepare a collection of tests you may want to share with others, or package together specifically. After you take a test, you have the option to save it to your test templates. If you do so, it will be accessible from the Test Templates form accessible via the 'Data' menu on the main PalmVE form.

Test templates are really just a collection of individual tests, which are made up of a list of test questions. These collections are titled, and the default collection is 'My Saved Tests'. The PalmVE application is only capable of saving tests to this collection, and doesn't support moving tests between collections or creating new ones.

Using external tools however, you can create other named test collections and upload them to your Palm device. From there, you can also beam them to others.

What are these ARRL review questions ?

I asked, and was granted, permission from the ARRL to include test templates for the suggested review questions in those little gray boxes in the ARRL license manuals. Using this feature, you can use PalmVE and your handheld to take these review tests. Access ARRL review questions from the 'Data' menu on PalmVE's main form.

Unfortunately, the only recent license manual I have is the extra one. If you have one of the others, and are so inclined, you may want to prepare a list of review questions for your book. I can then include them with the PalmVE distribution. Check out the Dev/Tools page for more information on how to make a DB out of your list of review questions.

The Future

There are a few things on the list I'd like to do:

Feel free to contact me if there's something you'd like to see. I can't promise I'll do it, but it's possible.


I'm Michael Ballbach, N0ZTQ. I'm an extra class amateur radio operator and an accredited ARRL VE. You can email me if you'd like, with questions, comments, error reports, whatever.

Valid HTML 4.01!