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COLUMN: The Savvy User

COLUMN: The Savvy User

Our Savvy User discusses his initial experiments with his 95LX: getting to DOS, successes running DOS Software, transferring files to other PC's without The Connectivity Pack, getting the WorldPort MNP modem to work, and cutting and pasting.

By Thomas Page

Why Savvy User?

 Since this is my first column in the premier issue of The HP Palmtop Paper an introduction is proper. My name is Thomas Page and the name of the column is The Savvy User. I have written a column with the same name for The HP Palmtop Paper's sister publication, The Portable Paper for almost three years. I live in Houston, Texas, where I am employed by one of the nation's largest natural gas pipeline companies. I am a long time user of microcomputers and in fact was perhaps the first user of microcomputers in the natural gas industry.

Compared to the mainframe computers of ten years ago, my 64K, HP-125 microcomputer was considered a mere toy. I thought it was wonderful. It was much more powerful than any calculator and turn-around was instantaneous in comparison to the next day turnaround many mainframe applications provided. In 1984 I joined the front lines of the portable computer revolution by purchasing one of the original HP Portables. It was ridiculed and called a toy by the IBM-PC clique since it had only 296K of memory and was not 100% IBM compatible and could only run a few programs. I was not bothered. It ran 1-2-3, an OK terminal program, and editor. The important thing about any computer is not what it doesn't do but what it does do.

Compared to the current standard (386 CPU) for microcomputers the 95LX seems a toy. Although the 95LX is classified as a PC compatible, most programs designed for the current PC standard are too big for the 95LX. If you are using a 95LX there is no way to be a `power user' but you certainly can be a "savvy user."

 Like you, I have not had my 95LX long enough to know everything about it. I am not a computer professional, but I keep experimenting in order to make the HP 95LX more useful to me. As you will see, I am not always successful in my experimentation. Hopefully as you read Savvy User, you will find not only my results, but the process of getting those results of value.

 Using DOS

 The 95LX's FILER is an effective file manager program. However, at some time or another most of us will need to go to DOS to accomplish some task. Below is a batch file to make getting into DOS easier. Name it ADOS.BAT or something like that to make it appear near the top of the list of files when FILER is invoked. To run ADOS, put the cursor line on ADOS.BAT within FILER and press Run (F4).

 echo off

 cls

 serctl /o

 prompt $p$g

 path c:\;c:\_sys;c:\_dat;c:\bin

 command

 Note the "serctl /o" command. Every time FILER is invoked the serial port is turned on and it does not turn off on a DOS exit. Including this command in the batch file turns the serial port off to conserve the battery. If you want to print from a DOS application you must turn the serial port back on by entering serctl /w.

 Also note the three subdirectories included in the PATH command. \bin is a subdirectory that many users including me use to store program files. The \_sys and \_dat directories are built into your HP 95LX. Since by default MEMO leaves files in the \_dat directory, you may wish to leave your BAT files in that directory. (The PATH command tells DOS where to look for program files.)

 The \_sys directory is hidden and is not normally displayed by FILER or the DOS DIR command. If you exit the FILER to DOS, you can easily take a look at \_sys by typing:

 cd \_sys

 dir

 From FILER you can see the \_sys directory by pressing Goto (F5) and typing _sys.

DOS Software on the 95LX

 You may not be able to go down to you local software emporium yet and buy many programs for your 95LX. However, there are a number of good programs available written for PC's that are well-suited for the 95LX. You may even have them stashed in a box somewhere. For example, Directory Sort, File Find and Quick Unerase from Norton Utilities version 3.0 are much smaller than the current version and are almost as effective.

In addition there are a number of small public domain DOS utilities you might find useful. Two that come to my mind are CHANGE.COM* and VDL.COM*. CHANGE allows changing a file's attribute. CHANGE lets you protect a file from being modified or deleted by making it read-only. VDL works like the DEL command from DOS, but prompts you with the names of files and asks for verification before each file is deleted.

 Transferring Files Between a 95LX and a Computer without the Connectivity Pack

 The Connectivity Pack provides an excellent means for transfer-ring files between the 95LX and a PC compatible, but unfortunately my primary computer is an HP Portable Plus, which will not run the Connectivity Pack. As a result I had to find a different way to transfer files. HP 95LX users with computers other than a PC compatible can use a similar approach.

 A short analysis of options led me to the conclusion that I could connect the serial ports of the 95LX and any other computer using a serial cable. I could then use communications programs on each end and transfer files using XMODEM protocol.

 Making the connection between the HP 95LX and the Portable Plus was not difficult at all since the HP 95LX serial cable (#: HP82222A, $35) equipped with the 25 pin adapter mated perfectly with my Portable Plus's modem cable. I loaded Reflection, my Portable Plus communications program and the 95LX's built-in COMM application. I then made sure the serial port parameters were set consistently, including setting the baud rate at 19,200. Next I issued commands in Reflection on my Portable to XMODEM SEND a file and turned to COMM on the 95LX and issued a command to XMODEM RECEIVE a file.

After a few retries the computers synchronized and the file was transferred. I transferred a number of files, but it seemed the 95LX indicated an extraordinary number of retries before synchronization. Since files were transferring I let it pass. I then tried transferring a file from the 95LX to the Portable. The file transferred almost instantly.

Since I could see a number of situations when it might be desirable to swap files with a computer not equipped with the Connectivity Pack, I decided to try the XMODEM file transfer with another computer and a different communications program. Since it was available, I decided to try an old version (3.61) of CrossTalk XVI on my roommate's 386 PC compatible. Connecting the 95LX to the 386 was accomplished by plugging the 95LX serial cable to a modem cable attached to the COM1 port of the 386. I loaded CrossTalk and the 95LX COMM program and was able to establish a link and transfer files between the two computers.

Using the 95LX with the WorldPort MNP Modem

 One the greatest powers of a computer is its ability to transfer data over great distances using a modem and the telephone system. I was unable to immediately test the 95LX with my WorldPort 2400 MNP modem since I did not have the necessary adapter to mate the 25-pin female port with the 95LX serial cable. A trip to my neighborhood Radio Shack store yielded a 25-pin male/female null modem and a 25-pin male/male gender changer. Although not especially elegant, these two parts provided a suitable bridge between the end of the 95LX serial cable with 25-pin adapter and the WorldPort.

Since the 95LX, unlike my Portable Plus and most other computers, does not provide a DTR signal, I had to adjust switch #3 in the modem to cause it to turn on in response to data transmission from the computer. Switch #3 is the second from the left as viewed through the battery compartment. In my configuration all switches are down except #3 which is up.

Although the modem turned on after I moved switch #3 from the down to the up position, I spent a number of fruitless sessions at-tempting to connect with CompuServe before I decided I should try connecting the WorldPort to AC power to eliminate the problem of turning the modem on. Plugging in the WorldPort's battery eliminator causes the modem to turn on and stay on as long as the battery eliminator is connected.

 Unfortunately my WorldPort's battery eliminator had decided to "go South for the Winter" long before the end of Summer. A Saturday morning stroll down to Electrotex, my other neighborhood electronics supplier, produced a suitable replacement.

After I connected the battery eliminator I discovered I could very easily control the modem from the 95LX's COMM program and had no trouble dialing and connecting with CompuServe. Since I am somewhat hard headed and am used to directly controlling the modem with AT commands, I did not test the 95LX's built-in dialing feature. After I connected with CompuServe I went to the HP forum and tried downloading some files from the 95LX library. I tried several times but I was unable to download any files using the XMODEM protocol. Later I called back and tried to download using Kermit. Again I was not successful but I must admit that I have no experience with Kermit. After reading the HP 95LX manual I had no difficulty capturing data that displayed on the computer's screen to a file, but I still could not download files with XMODEM.

After using the modem with the battery eliminated, I tried using it on battery again.

 Again I had no luck.

 I called U. S. Robotics, manufacturers of the WorldPort. They told me that the 95LX is incompatible with the WorldPort 2400 MNP. I am not convinced of this as I will explain later.

 CrossTalk on the 95LX

 I then decided to run a standard communications program on the 95LX and see how it would work. My choice for this was CrossTalk XVI, version 3.61. To minimize its size I processed the program with LZEXE before transferring it to 95LX. [LZEXE reduces EXE and COM files in the same way DIET does. See article on page 18 - Ed]. This reduced its size from 80,308 bytes to 41,735 bytes. The standard CrossTalk configuration file, STD.XTK, added an additional 1,196 bytes. I did not even think about transferring CrossTalk's very large help file.

Although CrossTalk expects a 25-line by 80-column display, I had little difficulty using CrossTalk on the 95LX. CrossTalk is my favorite PC communications program and I've used it over seven years. I avoided changing communications parameters by presetting them with the default configuration file. When it became necessary to enter a CrossTalk command on the HP 95LX from DOS, I simply pressed <Shift>-<ALT>-<Up Arrow> to display the CrossTalk command line. Using CrossTalk I had no difficulty establishing a connection with CompuServe and downloading files. To provide maximum control, rather than depending on CrossTalk's built-in automation, I placed CrossTalk in `local mode' and directly controlled the modem by typing AT commands.

Using this configuration, I ran the WorldPort MNP modem on battery power despite what US Robotics told me!

After this fortunate experience I took another look at my modem manual and discovered a recommendation that the modem be configured to ignore DTR if DTR is not being used for power-on. This is accomplished by sending the command, AT&D0&W, to the modem. I did this and then tried again using the 95LX COMM program and the modem on battery power. I achieved no better results. It looks like the 95LX terminal program needs improving or there is something more to learn about it. It does seem that if a 5- year-old version of CrossTalk will work on the 95LX, a program designed especially for the 95LX should be just about perfect.

My experience with computer communications indicates that magic is involved. If you discover the proper incantations please share them with us.

 [Editor's note: The HP 95LX COMM program can be made to work downloading CompuServe files with XMODEM protocol. The 95LX's built-in configuration file for CompuServe communications sets the serial port to operate with 7 data bits, even parity. The XMODEM protocol uses 8 bits, no parity. The HP-95LX should be set to use 8 bits, no parity. The first prompt from CompuServe may look like garbage, but the user ID should be entered anyway. CompuServe will detect that you are using 8 bits, no parity, and switch to support that. XMODEM transfers should now work. Unfortunately, Tom's HP 95LX serial port went "South for the Winter" and had to be repaired before he could test this.]

 Cutting and Pasting

Copy and Paste are available within APPT, PHONE, MEMO, 1-2-3, and HP CALC. They are listed on the function key menu at the bottom of the screen. (You have to press <CTRL> to get these options in HP CALC and 1-2-3.)

 For example, in the Calculator program you can duplicate an equation in the Calculator's Solve Catalog. This is especially useful since editing an equation is easier than rewriting it from scratch. You can also use Copy and Paste to copy information between applications. For example, you can copy a Lotus range into MEMO.

It will be interesting to see how practically HP 95LX users will implement this feature.

 Next Issue

 Getting the most out of 1-2-3 on a computer with a small screen may require some techniques you are not currently using. Next issue I will share with you a few techniques that work for me. I have become fascinated with the Equation Solving feature of CALC. We will see what I come up with worth sharing.
 
 

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