Monday Apr 14, 2008

My old app on a new medium

    I enjoy dabbling in programming, particularly when I doing it for my own interests. As a matter of fact, that's how I first got started with computers, back in high school. Computers weren't even part of the curriculum yet, but the math department had one for scoring tests, and if you came in early or stayed after school, you could program in BASIC on it. With a keyboard and monitor no less. Which was more than I had at MIT and Northeastern University in the years to follow.

    Over the years I have programmed in Visual BASIC, which I learned while a phone support engineer for a PC email app and had a developer respond to a customer feature request that it was something anybody could do in Visual BASIC so I learned how. I've also played with Java, Perl, Pascal, VAX Assembler, BeyondMail Rules, DOS batch, shell scripting, and who knows what else. And they have all been fun in their own way.

    When I got my first PC, a Leading Edge IBM compatible, I started playing with 8086 assembly programming. Those were the heady days of Norton and his books on the inner workings of DOS and PCs. I've always tended to prefer programming useful things, at least to me, like utilities, and despite there being several already in existence, I started coding a PC identification program. I got far enough to display the usual basics before getting distracted by other things. I have also been known to have pack rat tendencies, which I am sorely regretting these days as I drastically downsize. Fortunately, I saved most of my coding, exe and source, and still have my PCC.EXE app from all those years ago.

    For some reason, perhaps the pack rat instinct in an odd way, I like emulators. Right now I have both VMware Fusion and Sun's VirtualBox installed on my MacBook Pro, as well as a Palm emulator and Basilisk II, an old Mac emulator. I won't be surprised if others show up eventually as well. Just recently it was noted, on a Palm blog I track called TamsPalm, that the PALMDOSBOX code was picked up by a well qualified Palm OS developer and made to work on some newer Palms, including my T3. Naturally, I had to play with it, as I have several other DOS apps I sometimes play with for old times sake. And it works, although the built in virtual keyboard doesn't have a \\ key, oddly enough. Makes it hard to change directories. Without further ado, a picture of PALMDOSBOX running on my T3, with my PCC.EXE app running under PALMDOSBOX.

Tuesday Oct 30, 2007

Lotsa Loss Lately

    I seem to be going through a phase of loosing stuff lately. Not to say that I couldn't use a little loss of stuff, as I have way too much. But I've been loosing stuff I use somewhat regularly and really didn't want to loose. Maybe I'm getting old and not paying as much attention, but that doesn't explain all of it.

    A little over a month ago I went to Charlotte, NC for a 2 day business trip, which went fine. But somewhere on the way back, I lost a farbic glasses case. It had 3 slots for pens, and I had at least 2 of my favorite pens in there, as well as a pair of reading glasses with clip-on sun glasses on them. I carried it hanging off my fanny back by a small carabiner, and I know I lost it after leaving Charlotte, as it fell off when I got out of the rental car and I put it back on. I'm pretty sure I remember it being in the way while driving home from the airport, but the most likely place for me to loose it was in the crowded airplane. Bummer.

    Next up, the major loss, and not really my fault, although the lesson is hopefully learned. Although I am getting better, partly due to the fact that I have been doing more travel the past year, I still bring too much stuff with me when I travel. I get this idea that I'll have free time while in transit or after hours to play with my 'toys', etc. and it never turns out that way. But with the CEC 2007 being more of a geek fest than most of my travels, I loaded a few more toys in my checked bag. Sadly, this list of 'toys', see below, was no longer in my checked bag when I opened it at the hotel in Lost Vegas,.. er Las Vegas. Most, if not all, of this can be replaced from eBay, but that requires the 'justification' exercise all over again. \^_\^ I have had the TSA inspect my checked bags before, but they usually don't take anything, and usually leave a nice note saying they took a peak. I immediately called Delta and reported, but don't expect much of a result. Yup, I'm already trolling eBay for some replacements. >Rant Alert< And I blame the GOP Administration for the fear mongering TSA restrictions, that remove the ability of ordinary citizens to fight back like they did on the 911 flight over Pennsylvania against the terrorists who will get weapons on board anyway, >End Rant Alert< for the loss of my Swiss Army Knife, which I have had for 25+ years. Interestingly enough, the Swiss Army Knife was in a separate compartment from the rest, so whomever took the stuff went through several compartments.

  • Power-to-Go battery in green fleece glasses case
  • T3 w/aluminum case
  • Sharp Zaurus SL-5000 w/power cord
  • Nikon binoculars in case
  • T3 charger w/AA batteries
  • Victorinox Swiss Army knife - Red Swiss Champ model
  • Dlink WAP
  • USB mini hub
    And most recently, I lent a Fisher Bullet pen with PDA Stylus tip to my youngest at a restaurant, so he could amuse himself with drawing on the paper placemat. This is a lesson I should have learned before, but taking hungry, energetic boys to a restaurant can be distracting. Needless to say, I no longer have the pen, and don't remember getting it back at the restaurant. Unfortunately, the restaurant is an hours drive away, and probably wouldn't have it anyway, which is what happened 2 months ago with a different pen I lent my son at a different restaurant. Well, it was still a Fisher bullet pen, but with out the stylus tip, and this one was a purple one I got for my birthday. I called that restaurant, but they hadn't seen it. :-(

    I'm trying to stem the flow at this level, by paying more attention, and not bringing so much stuff with me. And then there is that one time when I needed the such and such from my fanny pack...... :-)

Monday Oct 22, 2007

Newton, the sequel?

    Here they come again, rumors of Apple delivering a new PDA, ala Newton, per this Slashdot article, Newton II. I've owned a Newton for several years, including my 2000 upgraded to a 2100. Great little PDA, with a dedicated community still going strong. Would a new PDA from Apple do everything the Newton could and can? Doubtful. Would it need to? Probably not. Despite protestations to the contrary, a new Apple PDA would not, and probably should not, need to follow in it's Newton predecessor foot steps. The broader consumer market prefers things that fit in a pocket, and that was just not one of the Newton's design points. Yup, there are people still using Newtons for just that reason. It had a healthy amount of screen real estate, and I admit that at times I find that nice. But I'm amongst the vocal minority, who have pretty specific and demanding wishes for a PDA, which the general populous does not. And if I want a device with a retail life longer than a year, it is going to have to appeal to the unwashed masses.

    As an example of the size direction devices are taking, Palm recently announced their newest entry in the Treo family, the Palm Centro. Kinda cute looking, but clearly not aimed at the aging baby boomer market, as the screen is smaller than previous Treos, as is the keyboard. Another small step in Palm's turtle paced evolution of their products. Many faithful Palm owners continue to wait for the kind of innovation and compelling features that were the usual norm for early Palm devices. I'm one of those still waiting, and looking to replace my stolen backup T3 with another eBay purchased T3.

    Another example of the size matters state of affairs, and a rather sterling example to boot, is the Apple iPhone. I thought about linking to the iPhone, but if you haven't heard of it, and likely seen and played with one already, you're reading my blog from under a rock. This little gem is another case of superb design and engineering from Apple, and another one of their products I am dreaming of getting. I'll probably wait until it gets a few more of the kind of handy little functions I like, or opens up more to someone else adding them, but I expect sooner or later to own one. While it's size is small, Apple still appreciates the need for screen real estate, making the iPhone front mostly screen. It's a small device, I would estimate at least 1/3rd the size of a Newton, and sports a lot of functionality, including some that goes beyond what the Newton could do and some that feels like a step backwards to some.

    The handwriting recognition engine in the Newton was both ridiculed and praised. Early on it got a tarnished reputation, but those who used it regularly, particularly with the later units, swore by it. As for me, by the time I got a Newton, I had been a long time Palm user and well trained in Graffiti, so rather than spend time with the Newton's HWR, I got Palm's Graffiti for the Newton and continued with what I knew. Neither of these are available on the iPhone. It does have a built-in on-screen keyboard, which is a bit different from most and so takes getting used to. Because of the multi-touch technology in use on the iPhone, it requires the use of a finger, and so stylus based text entry technologies like the Newton's HWR and Palm's Graffiti just don't make sense. Is this a step forward or backward?

    So, would an iPhone based PDA from Apple make everyone happy? Would it sport more of the Newton's functionality than the iPhone itself? Is the iTouch that device? time will tell, but for reasons stated above, there will never be a device that satisfies the Newton loyal and the new markets. The real question is whether there is a compromise device that will satisfy enough of a market, without feeling like a compromise device to us pickier types. Either way, I plan to keep my Newton for a long time.

Wednesday Sep 05, 2007

Bye Foleo, that was quick.

    A little hype, a lot of panning, and before it got started, the Palm Foleo is dead. I blogged on it's announcement in June, and here we are 2 months later and Palm CEO Ed Colligan is blogging on his commitment to focus on the next gen platform, which the Foleo doesn't use and so they are dropping it. He seems convinced there is a market for such a device, and may get back to something for that market based on their next gen platform, but for now, bye bye.

    Maybe I'm just cynical, but it looks to me that they saw the writing on the wall and finally accepted that this was a poorly received product, and therefore a small niche. Or maybe there was just too much hype and action around the iPhone, so they would have a hard time getting traction. I really hope this means they will be coming out with a stellar new PDA, although with their focus on smart phones, I may have to keep doing surgery on my Palm Tungsten T3 for a few more years. It is holding up well, although it started to exhibit a battery problem recently. Couldn't hold a charge as long, got to a point where it wouldn't even recharge fully. I found, and ordered, a larger capacity replacement battery from ebay, but before it arrived I tried a power reset, i.e. disconnecting the battery (after a full backup of course) and it was back to normal. I'll hold off putting in the batter for now, but look forward to better battery performance in the near future, and continued use of my T3 for the foreseeable future. Yup, I'm not disappointed with the loss of the Foleo. :-)

Wednesday Jul 18, 2007

My Palm crashed today

    I'm not sure which I think is more worrisome, that I eventually discovered my Palm T3 had crashed hard, with the display 'On' trying to drain the battery, and being completely unresponsive, ultimately requiring surgery to disconnect/reconnect the battery for a power removal reset. Or that my backup and recovery procedures are so well defined and practiced that I had my Palm back up and fully recovered in less than half an hour while attending a presentation. Fortunately, I didn't need to take notes during that preso. :-)

Friday Jun 01, 2007

Palm's Foleo - savior or failure?

    I was excited to see the news that Palm was announcing a new device, particularly when it was touted to be creating a new category of mobile device. Even more alluring was the fact that Jeff Hawkins, Palm founder and Handspring founder, is behind this effort, so the promise of well thought out, functional engineering seemed strong.

    Alas, what I have seen since that announcement has not impressed me. Looks like it will run Linux, which explains this Linux Devices article. But when I look at more of the details in this PC Magazine article on Palm Foleo, it seems that despite the openness of the Palm OS, and even more openness of Linux, this will be a closed OS, losing all the existing Palm apps, and losing out on all the benefits of large numbers of developers and the apps and functionality they bring.

    At least one good thing has come from the announcement so far. The Wired Gadget blog on sub-notebooks as alternates to Palm's Foleo has enlightened me to some interesting laptops to consider when I get a new laptop. And who knows, it may not be that long before I can get a low-cost Palm Foleo on eBay. :-)

Thursday Feb 08, 2007

A satisying thumb keyboard

    Entering text on a PDA, even a larger one like an Apple Newton, can be challenging. I've owned a Palm of one type or another for 7 years, and I've tried a variety of input methods. I'm not picky about formatting, as I'm an advocate of LCD, Least Common Denominator, so plain old ASCII text is fine by me. Never met a platform I couldn't use ASCII text on. Even with such simple requirements, I haven't found the perfect text entry method for me.
    Then again, I collect pens and enjoy using a variety of different ones, depending on my mood, so there may very well not be a perfect text input method for me. But I've thought a thumb keyboard might work well for me. I've tried on screen thumb keyboards, like dotnote and Thumboard, but wasn't satisfied. I purchased a clip-on thunboard for an M series Palm, hoping it would work with my Palm T3 since it has the same Universal Connector, but alas, it fit, though tight, but did not work.
    I don't really care for the Palm Treo PDAs, as they seem to be too much of a compromise on both a cell phone and a Palm, so I haven't tried the keyboard on one. My love of gadgets drew me to the Sharp SL-5000, having seen one that a friend had. Well, I got tempted by eBay again, and bought an SL-5000 to play with. It really is a Linux PDA, complete with text boot messages and X-Windows. And the button panel slides down to reveal a thumb keyboard. Now I don't see this replacing my Palm T3 anytime soon, but it is fun playing with Linux on the go. And I really do like the thumb keyboard. I find it quite usable, at least for the 2 thumb typing I do. I wrote this blog with it while flying home from Charlotte, NC. I'm just starting to play with it, so I'll have to beam this, which I can do, to my T3 to post, since I don't have a blogging app on here yet. Looks like I'll need to get a new battery, as the one that came with it doesn't hold up as well as I would expect, but it's fun, and i may post more about it if I can get the Palm emulator and/or Basilisk II working on it. :-)

Tuesday Dec 12, 2006

She's dead Jim

    I've had my Palm Tungsten T3 for 2+ years, and I learned in the first month or so that some apps could cause it to hang in an 'On' state, completely unresponsive to any reset except a power reset. Unfortunately, the T3 has a built in battery, meaning you have to take it apart in order to disconnect the power. I have done this, so it is possible, but not something I care to do often. Besides, it means loosing everything in RAM (eek)
    One thing I haven't encountered is it hanging in an 'Off' state. Guess what? I'm on a 2 day business trip, and it is silently reminding me of stuff while I network with new associates. I snooze a last alarm as I'm wrapping up, and return to my room. As I set up my power tree to re-charge my various gadgets, I try turning on my T3 to check something. Nothing. OK, I've drained it before, and a quick reset brings it back. Not this time. Fine, it just needs a recharge. Plug it in, and the LED is green. Still no response to reset. Maybe an overnight charge is in order. Meanwhile, OK I'm a geek, I start planning to bring my spare T3 online (Yup, it's traveling with me).
    Aaaaggh. Next morning finds it in the same state. I've preached the importance of backups for decades (OK, I'm an old geek), and I've been burned more than once by my various Palms when I got lax with syncing and backing up. But I do have a good sytem in place now, with Resco Backup for regularly scheduled backups, and OnGuard Backup for backing up app dbs upon exiting the app. And my most recent full backup was the day before, so I relax as I restore to my spare T3.
    All restored and I'm ready for another day of meetings. My first T3 is dead, but I'm holding out hope that as soon as I have some quiet time, I can take it apart and do a power reset. Hmmm, my list of DAs seems off. Yup, it's short and some are missing. Hey, where's TealPhone? Ah yes, I use JackFlash to put some apps in flash, and I don't have them in flash in this T3. Now I'm worried, because I don't remember everything I had in flash on the dead T3, and if I can't get it back to life......
    To make a long story short (too late), I limp along until I get some time at home, dig up the steps for taking the slider off my T3, remove and re-attach the battery, and bingo, I'm back in business. And to avoid some of these problems in the future, I start to backup the apps in flash, only to discover that I wasn't so lax way back when when I first installed JackFlash. I did actually create a directory on my SD with the stuff in flash, I had just forgotten all about it. All is well with my original T3, and I'm blogging from it right now. What will I ever do when both T3s die? I hate having to learn a new gadget just to do the stuff my old gadget did fine. I was one of the last hold outs to move off of Windows 3.1 to Windows 95. I do enjoy a new gadget when it's for fun, but I'm such a creature of habit, I prefer consistency in the use of technology for my daily tasks. There's that oldness again. :-)

Monday Nov 13, 2006

Big iron, little iron

    I like doing some geeky things just for the experience, and some because I can. I also like flexibility in my gadgets, so that I have more than one way to do a variety of tasks. It makes me feel better prepared for when Murphy's Law or one of it's corollaries strikes, as they so often do, particularly when least appreciated.
    That's how I found myself using my T3 to install Solaris 10 on a Sun Enterprise 4500. One of the first accessories I bought when I got my Palm Tungsten T3 was a combo cable, with both USB & serial connectors. I can use it for charging and syncing in the usual way as well as using it to sync w/older machines. And by using a terminal app that supports serial connectivity, like MarkSpace's Online, I can use my T3 as a VT100 terminal.
    I'm setting up the E4500 as a Sun Secure Global Desktop server, and wanted to do it on Solaris 10 so I could play with some of the new functionality in Solaris as well. My eyes are getting older, so the tiny font means I won't do this by default, but I get my laptop set up in my office du jour and I hate to have to move it. Besides, the install takes a bit of time, and rather than staying in the lab the whole time, since there isn't much else to play with in that lab, I'll put in the next CD and go do other things, which wouldn't be as easy with my laptop.
    It works OK, all things considered. I had a problem with some of the configuration screens that had hierarchical selections, as I could expand a selection, but couldn't figure out the keys or macro to move to the next level and select an option. Guess I might have to RTFM. :-) Next up, VNC from my T3 to my Sun Ray session.

Wednesday Nov 08, 2006

Bakst, Diaghileff and mobility

    In the late 1980s to early 1990s I was actively involved in a local theatre company, which specialized in stage combat. I did it all, writing plays, acting, fighting, set building, directing. It was great fun, and being single, I had plenty of time to do it. Theatre seems to be one of those activities that uses up as much time as you give it, and then some.
    What did I enjoy the most about those days in theatre? The people. They were a very friendly, fun loving group of folks. My wife has suggested many times since then that I should do some more theatre, and I've told her and others that my interest in theatre was more in the people than the plays.
    I could go on for way too long on this topic, but it's not the point of this entry. I did finally take my wife's suggestion, and I am currently doing a local production of "You Can't Take It With You', as Boris Kolenkhov. During an early rehearsal I was backstage working on my lines and found that I had no clue what Bakst and Diagheleff meant, and since they were words in my lines, I figured I would be able to deliver them better if I knew what they meant.
    Out comes the T3, I fire up Opera Mini and off to Google I go. Turns out Bakst was a famous Russian artist who later in his career designed sets for the Russian Ballet. And Diaghilev was a well known Russian ballet choreagrapher, whom Bakst teamed up with to produce some of the best Russian ballet productions in the early years of the 1900s. Now the line made sense and I could deliver it with the gusto and feeling it required. And I was educated on some ballet greats at the same time. All from backstage while waiting for my entrance.
    Oh yeah, my fellow thespians are a fun, talented bunch and our director has pulled it all together with aplomb, despite the difficulty of getting men for a very male heavy production, some of whom we didn't get until 2 weeks before opening. And don't tell them I was doing this blog doing the last rehearsal. :-)

Saturday Oct 28, 2006

More gadgetry

I have posted from my Palm Tungsten T3 to this blog before, but it was a bit painful, using a browser to the main menu entry interface. A lot of net traffic when your cell signal is suspect. So, after my success w/Flickr's email blog posting service, I'm giving an actual blog client called uBlog. So far I find it easier, particularly for working on entry drafts w/o needing cut & paste, which BTW Opera Mini doesn't support :-( And now to post this collection of words.

Wednesday Aug 23, 2006

Update and new toys

    I've spent a little more time getting familiar with the tools available for this blog site, and blogging in general, so hopefully my blogs will not looks so bad. :-) Part of the reason for finally getting around to doing this, is that I wrote up some helpful information, and was encouraged to post it in a blog. I've done that over on the Think Thin group blog. It was an entry on configuring options 49/66 for Sun Ray use. I hope to do more posting of useful information there as time goes on.

    So, now to some of my new toys. A while back I won an iPaq H3955 PocketPC PDA on a eBay action for $150, and I've been playing with that, including getting the Sun Secure Global Desktop client running on it. It's a big bulky beast compared to my Palm Tungsten T3, but it came with an expansion pack with a CompactFlash slot, so now I can finally use the Socket CF wifi adapter I got a few years back for my Handera 330. I use the iPaq for wifi hotspots to access the Internet, and my T3 with bluetooth connection to my Nokia 6310i when there is no wifi near.

    Another toy I just recently got, again via an eBay auction, is a Psion Revo. Great little design for a PDA, running EPOC, which is the pre-decessor to Symbian. I haven't had much time to play with it, because the built in rechargeable batteries were dead, so back to eBay for new batteries. Now that I've used my limited soldering skills to get the new ones installed, I'll have more time to play. :-) Gotta go, time for a walk.

Friday Dec 10, 2004

OK, passion time

    As I've read the occasional web log, in an effort to see how other's are using this new medium, one thing I have noticed is folks tend to discuss topics they have some passion for.

    So, I'm going to include entries about Palm PDAs, and in particular my newest addition to my collection, my Tungsten T3. This is a very cool PDA, although I am still nervous about the mechanical MTBF potential of the slider. I upgraded to it from an Handera 330, which still has more features than any other Palm PDA, but Handera got out of the hardware business last year, my 330 was getting long in the tooth, and I was concerned about loosing 'hack' functionality with the oncoming Palm OS 6 (Cobalt). That and my eyes getting old so color helps.

     I have been happy with it so far, and it screams compared to my Handera. One issue I've discovered, which is new to me in my 6 years of Palm experience, is that some apps can cause the T3 to hang in such a manner that no kind of reset will make a difference. It just sits there on until the battery dies. The first time, after the battery dies, I was able to recharge it and it came back to life, but this did not work the next time I encountered this problem. Some googling turned up a site which described how to take the T3 apart, and this triggered a memory of the note on PalmOne's site about power disconnect resets. Unfortunately, that kind of reset is only available on 1 or 2 models, despite the fact that most come with built-in, non-replaceable rechargeable batteries. Well, it turns out it is relatively easy to dis-engage the slider enough to disconnect the battery cable from the main board and reconnect it, and this does allow the T3 to recover from the aforementioned hangs.

    I do not relish doing this often, so I am more hesitant to try old apps on this new unit. One app I did note causing this problem is Lunar Year, an app about the Chinese lunar year animals. I'll make note of others if I encounter them. Feel free to let me know if you have encountered this same problem, and what apps or actions caused it. Although I hope no one else encounters this problem, because it is so serious, and can be stressful if you don't back up regularly. Perhaps next time I will discuss some of my back up strategies.

A place where Perley Mears sounds off on topics relevant to his work at Oracle.


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