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HP 100LX Connectivity Pack

HP 100LX Connectivity Pack

A first look at the new HP 100LX Connectivity Pack that lets you communicate with your desktop PC and comes with desktop versions of the HP 100LX PIM software.

By Robert Roney

Users have been waiting months for the release of the HP 100LX Connectivity Pack. Now that it has finally arrived, it is getting very mixed reviews. Some users love it, others think it should be sent back for further testing and improvements.

The HP F1021A Connectivity Pack (also referred to as CPACK 100 in this article) lets you connect your HP 100LX to a DOS based PC compatible computer. CPACK 100 also gives you desktop PC versions of most of the 100LX built-in applications. It comes with a 9-pin PC- to-100LX serial cable and adapters that let you connect the 100LX to the following:

  • 25-pin serial port of a PC.
  • 25-pin serial port on a modem.
  • 25-pin serial port on a printer.
  • a 9-pin serial port on a modem.
  • 10-pin male to 4-pin female so the cable can be used with the 95LX or 48SX.

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CPACK 100 Software

Although both 95LX and 100LX Connectivity Packs have similar functions, most programs in the 100LX version were completely rewritten. CPACK 100 comes with PC versions of most of the 100LX built-in applications on both 3.5" and 5.25" disks. The software includes Application Manager (the main screen), Appointment Book, Phone Book, HP Calc, Data Base, Memo Editor, Note Taker, Filer, and Setup. It also has two applications not on the 100LX: Xlate/Merge and Server.

XLATE/MERGE allows you to merge separate Appointment Book files or Phone Book files into a third file. It also lets you translate Appointment Book files or Phone Book files between 95LX Phone and Appointment, 100LX Phone and Appointment and Comma Delimited. In addition, it has a "Synchronize" function to make two Phone Book or Appointment Book files Identical.

SERVER lets the 100LX's built-in REDIRECTOR software treat the desktop PC drives like additional drives. That means that you can connect your Palmtop to your desktop and access your PC's drives as if they were additional drives on your 100LX.

Finally, the 100LX Connectivity Pack software may be run as a DOS application under Windows. HP supplies a PIF file and icon file to make the Windows installation easier.

Good Functionality With a Few Ragged Edges

The over all selection of software and its functionality is good. However, like a new suit finished in a rush, there are a few ragged edges, a few missing pieces and some last minute patches.

CPACK 100 is missing Stop Watch, World Time, and System Macros applications. (The equivalents to all these programs are included in the 95LX Connectivity Pack software.)

Both the 95LX and 100LX let you "task switch" between applications by pressing the blue hotkeys. It's one of the most convenient features of the Palmtops. The 95LX Connectivity Pack software lets you task switch, but the 100LX Connectivity Pack software does not. The lack of task switching between applications, makes using the 100LX Connectivity Pack software very different than using the same suite of programs on the 100LX.

Another feature missing from the CPACK 100 software is the ability to run System-Manager Compliant EXM programs on your desk- top. The 95LX Connectivity Pack software would let you create an APNAME.LST file on your desktop and run an .EXM program. You cannot do this with CPACK 100.

Strengths and Weaknesses: A Comparison

The following list of strengths and weaknesses of the HP 100LX Connectivity Pack is based on our own experience and user reactions from CompuServe's HP Handheld forum:

STRENGTHS

  • The manual is fairly complete.
  • PC versions of all the main built-in 100LX programs runs faster, with the same user interface on the larger screen of the desktop PC.
  • FILER works well for transferring files, even at 115,200 baud. The built-in REDIRECTOR allows you to connect with another PC and access its drives as though they were local 100LX drives.
  • The FS.COM program is included to fix some of the problems with REDIRECTOR.
  • You can Merge and Synchronize PHONE & APPT files.
  • The user can resolve conflicts when merging two phone or appointment books by giving one file priority or making a selection at each conflict.
  • CPACK 100 allows translation between any three file formats, PHONE, APPT, and Comma Delimited when importing or exporting files.

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WEAKNESSES
  • No task switching.
  • No System Macros.
  • EGA or greater required, doesn't work on CGA or MONO screens. Requires a 286 processor, will not work on XT class machines.
  • REDIRECTOR slow with intermittent problems.
  • REDIRECTOR requires FS.COM, fixes two problems: improves the performance when running at higher baud rates and eliminates destroying database files when the 100LX is running as the client.
  • REDIRECTOR drive mappings can conflict with your network drive mappings, even if you don't use redirector.
  • Can't run EXM System-Manager compliant programs.
  • Can't import/export or synchronize PHONE or APPT databases with a non-standard field order.
  • World Time and Stopwatch are not included.
  • TSR's loaded on the your desktop may conflict with loading the program or with ALT key menu selection.
  • Reports of Import or Comma Delimited Files failing. Merge apparently has similar limits.
  • The default IRQ settings for COM 3 & COM 4 are not set and they must be properly configured in SETUP before use.
  • Tricky (but possible) to make it work under OS/2.
  • The TREE directory of the PC hard disk drive displayed from FILER can have missing subdirectories.

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Room to Improve

The exclusion of System Macros and task switching is surprising. Many 95LX users make extensive use of System Macros to automate repetitive tasks and for switching files and applications. Also, the inability to run EXM programs (System-Manger Compliant software) on the desktop PC limits the users ability to accomplish the same tasks on the PC that they can on the 100LX.

The REDIRECTOR is part of the 100LX's built-in ROM software, and as such is always available. However, users are frustrated by its slowness, especially when compared with the transfer speeds of LapLink 3.0, ZIP .COM, and Interlink (see Ron Crain's timed tests in the Tips section of this article). The FS.COM program speeds up REDIRECTOR a little, but its slowest competitor is still three times faster.

Finally, requiring an EGA or higher monitor and a 286 processor to run support software for the 100LX, a CGA / MONO system with an 8086 processor, seems illogical. Some users of the HP Palmtops are quite happy with an older, less expensive XT class machine and will simply not buy the 100LX Connectivity Pack. The CPACK 100 sports a full-sized screen, but some of the flexibility found on the 95LX Connectivity Pack is missing.

Even with the above mentioned problems, the 100LX Connectivity Pack programs are still very useful to have on your desktop PC and many users have not run into any of the reported problems. The PHONE and APPOINTMENT book merge and synchronization capability will be especially useful to those who have an assistant entering information at the office while they are out.

The operating problems seem to appear most on desktop PC systems that have many TSR's running. I didn't encounter any problems installing or running on HP 100LX Connectivity Pack software on my system. I was also able to install it in Windows using the PIF and icon files provided with CPACK 100.

Filer works well for transferring files. I had no trouble with the REDIRECTOR. It is not fast, but if you don't have 4 megabytes of files to move or move them infrequently, it is neither difficult nor painful to use. The built in applications are useful to manage and merge files on the PC. For the average user it's a very useful package. If the problem areas or the missing features mentioned are important for your planned use, check them out carefully before you buy.

HP has generally spoiled us with great products. As an improvement on the 95LX, the 100LX went way beyond many of our expectations. It was natural to expect the same level of superiority in the add-on products like the 100LX Connectivity Pack. When we got less than that, we may have felt some disappointment.

Hewlett-Packard has said that they are aware of some problems with the HP 100LX Connectivity Pack. They are reportedly working on an upgrade that will fix the problems and provide more features.

To sum things up, the HP 100LX Connectivity Pack is a nice suite as is. However, a few alterations here and there will help to improve its fit.

iPhone Life magazine


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