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.

Monday Dec 10, 2007

Hacking my T3

    I mentioned in a previous post that I had ordered a new higher capacity battery for My Palm T3 off eBay, but found I didn't immediately need it. Well, this weekend I finally succumbed to the thinking that I might as well benefit from the longer battery life now, rather than wait until my current original battery shows significant signs of decay. I had been gathering the battery and it's directions, which had wandered to different parts of the house, during the week, and took time to get started. Naturally, a full backup was in order. One of the reasons I had hesitated in the past is that for some reason, after a hard reset and restore, Diddlebug looses sync with the sound database, so anytime an alarm goes of, it crashes the T3. To resolve this, you have to go through the process of reselecting each alarm sound you have specified, and since I use Diddlebug for a variety of repeating alarms, mostly for chores, it takes a little extra effort. But the urge for a better T3 overcame that obstacle.

    The printed directions that came with the battery were really for Tungsten T, so once I was under way, I got a bit nervous and Googled T3 specific steps, finding a very nice writeup with pictures. A few deep breaths, and some careful prying later, I was in. Tada, here it is, in it's dissasembled glory:



    More careful prying, so I could re-use the double sided tape that holds the battery in place, and I had the new battery in place. Re-assembly was pretty straight forward, and the new battery had plenty of charge for me to verify everything was working OK. Start a restore, drop it in the charger cradle, and I'm back to where I was before I started, except with more power. Then, before Didlebug starts alarming me with crashes, I took the time to reset the sound pointers. 2 days later, and I'm pleased with the results. Next up in T3 work - rebuild from hard reset to figure out why Bluetooth to my RAZR has problems. Prior to the theft of my backup T3, I'm pretty sure I tested BT to RAZR with out any of my stuff on it, and it worked fine. So, something somewhere is amiss. While I have managed to do a lot more on my RAZR than I expected, I still miss some of the things my T3 could do accessing the Internet. :-(

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...... :-)

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. :-)

Saturday Aug 04, 2007

Plucking the Public Domain

    I've been a fan of the concept of ebooks for several years, but I've been very disappointed by most of the implementations I've encountered. I have read ebooks on my various Palm platforms, using about every reader and format I could find, including Peanut Press (now eReader), Palm DOC (via a wide selection of reading and writing apps), iSolo, TomeRaider, MobiPocket Reader and Plucker. I got sucked into a long series, 'The Survivalist' by Jerry Ahern, which I read a lot of on long sleepless nights pacing with one son or the other in my arms trying to get them back to sleep, and bought most of the ebooks from eReader.

    I have gotten books and stories from Fictionwise, but mostly the free ones they give away of award nominees. One of the things I like about Fictionwise, is that I can get short stories and small items for a more reasonable price. They have a micropay system for supporting purchases in cents vs dollars. They also support a variety of formats, including several DRMed/secure formats. For the time being, MobiReader is my preferred secure format, with eReader second. Unfortunately, our local public library network doesn't loan out many books in my preferred formats, as they seem to be focused on PC readable formats like MS Reader and Adobe Secure PDF. I'll admit that despite the limited selection, I am impressed with the fact that I can even borrow ebooks from the library.

    One format I have really taken to is the Plucker format. Plucker is an Open Source reader, designed with web pages in mind. There are a variety of tools out there for converting web pages and sites into Plucker format, and it makes it pretty easy to access web pages offline on my Palm. It even supports the virtual graffiti srea on my T3, for a larger readable area. For creating my own Plucker files, I mostly use JPluck, a Java-based Plucker tool for creating Plucker files, and use it for grabbing reference type sites, like documentation or quick reference stuff. While getting the URL, it looks like it is no longer being maintained, and the sourceforge link for JPluck points to Sunrise. I kinda liked JPluck, because I could use it regardless of the OS I was booted in at the time, but it looks like those days are over, as sunrise has OS specific binaries.

    Another favorite source of ebooks for me is Project Gutenberg, and a recent visit there to restock some reading material gave me the opportunity to discover that they appear to have adopted Plucker as one of their primary formats. Cool. Now I can enjoy public domain books etc. in my favorite portable format. And I've been putting it through it's paces. I found a 1950s-esque young adults in space series, 'Tom Corbett, Space Cadet', which I have been reading to the boys for their bedtime story, at least until the recent Harry Potter book forced a hiatus. I've also found several classic Sci-Fi writers with works on Gutenberg, including Andre Norton and her various nom-de-plumes, Lester Del Rey, and others.

    A few years back, I availed myself of Project Gutenberg to actually read some classic Sci-Fi I had only seen the movies of or known as the 'well-known' stories their popularity made them, including Frankenstein, and Dracula. They were both quite interesting, particularly when compared with modern incarnations, but I particularly liked Frankenstein. This book seemed to me to be much more of a study of human nature and the relationship between man and his creator, than a standard horror story. I don't often read books more than once, besides comic/cartoon books, but this one I expect I will read again. And yet there is so much to read out there, if only all of it were as easily accessible. :-) So, if you see me with my nose stuck in my T3, I may be reading some more classics. :-)

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

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