Hack 50. Find Cheap Palms
So you've come up with a cunning planthe laser sharks are ready and all you need are a couple dozen Palms to run your battle robots, all without breaking your evil overlord bank account.
The first step in finding cheap Palm devices is to figure out what your requirements are. Do you need color devices or will black and white suffice? How much RAM do the devices need? Are there any special requirements like a headphone jack, camera, or wireless connectivity? Finally, figure out what OS version you need. Check the applications you want to run and see what versions they work on. If you're not sure, you can test software against a particular Palm OS version [Hack #42]. Find the range of versions that all of your applications work with.
The classic place to find anything for sale is eBay (http://www.ebay.com), of course. Palm devices can be found under a few different categories: Consumer Electronics/PDAs and Handheld PCs/Handheld Units, Cell Phones/Phones Only (Treos), and Consumer Electronics/GPS Devices (Garmin iQue). You can also search for devices by name (e.g., Clié, Visor, Palm, Zire, Tungsten) or by manufacturer (Sony, Palm, Handspring, Handera, Tapwave, Garmin) or by searching for Palm OS. You can sometimes find good deals by searching for typos such as "Plam" or "Zrie."
8.2.2. Amazon Auctions
Amazon (http://www.amazon.com) has auctions similar to eBay. Palm devices can be found under Computers and Software/Hardware/Handhelds/Palm, Electronics and Photography/Communications/Mobile Phones. Also, if you visit the product page for a particular device, Amazon will point out any used items that are available for sale.
Freecycle (http://www.freecycle.org) is an attempt to keep junk out of landfills. It can be very hit-or-miss, but you might be able to find some Palm devices. You sign up with a local Freecycle group. Then, if someone has something to get rid of, they can send an email to the group. Items in Freecycle are always free, but the chance of finding the specific item you want is low, so be flexible.
8.2.4. Government Surplus
You can occasionally find Palm devices through government surplus. These usually go fairly inexpensively even for newer models.
8.2.5. Computer Swap Meets
You might think that they are archaic in the Internet world, but there are still computer swap meets. Sometimes you might be able to find a set of Palm devices, especially if you aren't concerned about getting all the same model.
8.2.6. Electronics Stores
With Sony (at least in the United States) and Tapwave exiting the PDA market and the high turnover in models, you can sometimes find recent models at much less than their original prices. Also, electronics stores will sometimes carry refurbished (i.e., used) models at a significant discount. Fry's Electronics (http://www.frys.com) sometimes has great deals like this. You'll find open box items in electronics stores. These are discounted items that have either been returned or opened for some random reason. Be sure to ask whether the full warranty applies when you buy an open box item.
If you are working on a non-profit project, then you might be able to get a donation from a Palm-device manufacturer. You would need to contact the manufacturer directly and explain the situation to see if they could help.
8.2.8. Palm PluggedIn Developer Program
If you are going to develop software for Palm devices, then you can join developer programs sponsored by the manufacturers. For example, Palm has a developer program called PluggedIn (http://pluggedin.palm.com/) that provides discounts on hardware for development purposes.
Patience is the key to finding cheap Palm devices. If you need something in short order, you may end up having to pay full price. If you have more time before you need the devices, though, you may be able to find a good deal.