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User to User
Take a quick look at some excellent freeware and shareware that didn't make it on the PowerDisk. Hal also reviews HP's Express Exchange service, some Palmtop peripherals, and Newton, Apple's "new" PDA.
By Hal GoldsteinWe spent thee last two issues looking at the new HP 100LX and the HP OmniBook 300 superportable PC. Time to get back to every day usage of the HP Palmtops.
1993 Subscriber's Disk
You should shortly receive your Subscriber PowerDisk in the mail. Thanks goes to Ed Keefe, who spent weeks sifting through a myriad of possible selections. With this year's disk you'll be able to listen to Chopin, (MUSIC-LX(ON DISK)), work through mazes (SOKOB-LX(ON DISK)), compress and archive your files (LH-A213(ON DISK)), assign a macro to any key (KEY100(ON DISK)), press a key twice quickly to get its shifted value (95BUDDY(ON DISK)), find out battery status (BATT95(ON DISK) and BAT100(ON DISK)), transfer files to a PC (ZIP(ON DISK)), and much more. There really is something for everyone, from games and utilities to source code and internal file specification.
Ed Keefe came across many shareware gems suitable for the HP 95LX and HP 100LX. (Ed promised to write about his favorites in an upcoming issue.) We couldn't include these on the Subscribers Disk, but you can find them on CompuServe or on The HP Palmtop Paper ON DISK.
I want to tell you about three of his discoveries that I have been using on my 100LX. All three programs will work on the 95LX, but they can be a little awkward to use because of the 40x16 screen.
PIANOMAN (ON DISK)
The first of these which I have enjoyed "playing" is PIANOMAN. Most of the music from Star Wars to Mozart found on the Subscriber PowerDisk was created using PIANOMAN. PIANOMAN turns your Palmtop keyboard into piano keys. Touch the keys and play a tune.
The diagram above shows the layout of the PIANOMAN keys on an AT keyboard. Because the Palmtop keyboard is a little different, it's awkward to find a few of the notes, but they are all there on both the 95LX and 100LX.
For example, the musical notes B, C, D, etc. are found on the second row from the top of the keyboard. On a desktop computer the keys would be Tab, Q, W, etc. However, the Tab keys on the Palmtops are found in different locations. Another example, the musical notes A#, C#, D#, etc are played by pressing Esc, 2, 3, etc. On an AT keyboard the numbers can run along the top row. On the Palmtops, the numbers are found on the keypad. The keys still work, you just have to look for some of them in a different place.
REVERSI (ON DISK)
A second of my favorites is an excellent version of the game Reversi, similar to the game marketed under the trade name Othello. I have seen the game for years but never tried my hand at it. The game can be played against the computer in around 15 minutes.
Reversi is an outflanking game. There are 30 moves per side and each move fills up an 8-by-8 grid board.
Each move requires that you surround a horizontal, vertical, or diagonal line of your opponents squares. Once surrounded, the color of the squares is "reversed" and they become your squares.
The side with the most squares at the end of the game, when the board is full, is the winner. After playing a few games I was able to win against "novice" and "intermediate" levels. You choose how far the computer thinks ahead for the advanced levels. So far I continue to have interesting matches without having to wait too long for the computer.
When playing "advanced," you are given the option of seeing how the computer quantifies the relative value of each of its moves. The program was created by David W. Parsons, who is ranked as one of the top ten Othello players in the U.S. by the United States Othello Association (USOA). The Reversi documentation gives information on how to join this association.
STEREO SHELL (ON DISK)
Finally, my third more practical favorite is a file manager called Stereo Shell that Ed Keefe has raved about for years. After watching over his shoulder while we examined potential Subscribers Disk programs, I finally became convinced to give it a try. Ed would point to a ZIPped or LHAed archive file, press a couple of keys, and list the files or unarchive them. He would move files back and forth between RAM card and Palmtop with ease. Ed typed 1 and the RAM card (A drive) would be displayed on the left side. Pressing (ALT)-3 displayed the C drive on the right side. The current directory is displayed in the middle. Move from one side to the other side with the cursor keys.
It is all very intuitive and easy to use if you spend a few minutes learning the novel approach its author took. I recommend it for HP 100LX and desktop users. HP 95LX users can give it a try if they don't mind scrolling a little.
The following programs became available after we completed the very full 1993 Subscriber PowerDisk. They are available on CompuServe and The HP Palmtop Paper On Disk. Some may be made available on next years PowerDisk.
VERTICAL READER (ON DISK)
Gilles Kohl, a native of Luxembourg living in Germany, recently introduced the first version of a "novel" program. Use his Vertical Reader (VR) program to read short stories or novels on your Palmtop, vertically, like a book. No more dragging around books -- put your things-to-read on a RAM card.
At first I was skeptical. However, if your eye sight is still good, if you have room on your RAM card, and if you can find what you want in ASCII format, VR is surprisingly useable.
Gilles lets you choose from seven fonts which vary in style, size, and boldness. You can include up to 10 book marks. Hold your Palmtop vertically with your left hand and with your left thumb hit the space bar to turn the page.
Apparently there is lots of copyright-free machine readable fiction and non-fiction available (the VR documentation tells where). Gilles has Alice in Wonderland and Moby Dick zipped to 600K on his 100LX. He tells of another user who has the English version of War and Peace (4MB) installed on a Flash Card.
There are versions of VR for both the HP 100LX and 95LX. The 95LX version comes with an additional tiny font contributed by Dave Goodman. Gilles thinks the 95LX version should be easy to read, with larger pixels and better contrast than the 100LX version.
Gilles has recently added directory navigation to VR and will soon add the ability to rotate output and scrolling features. Gilles is taking suggestions for VR enhancements as well as reviews of stories read. He can be reached at his CompuServe ID: [100114,3146]. Gilles has also created a sample 100LX database to keep track of texts you've read using VR. The database, VRTEXTS.GDB (ON DISK) is available in Library 11 of CompuServe's HPHAND forum.
The program is not completely free. Several registration plans are offered, ranging from sending the author a post card to donating to Project Gutenberg. (The goal of Project Gutenberg is to make a maximum of free electronic text available to everybody. Internet address of the project is: email@example.com .)
GBDUMP and GBDLOAD (ON DISK)
Another recently released free software program is GBDUMP and GDB- LOAD. These programs offer an alternative to GDBIO100 (included on the 1993 Subscriber PowerDisk) to translate data to and from the 100LX built-in data base and PHONE programs. Reports are that the programs are quite useful and easy-to-use once the documentation is understood.
Kudos to HP for Express Exchange
HP's new Express Exchange program for HP 100LX and OmniBooks under warranty or contract is great. I was having several hardware-related problems with my new OmniBook. Following instructions, I called HP tech support (got through almost immediately) and talked with a knowledgeable rep. One of my problems was user-error, but he verified the other problems as hardware. He took my name and address and serial number and told me to wait a day.
To my astonishment and pleasure, the next day a Federal Express package arrived with an OmniBook and simple instructions. I moved my OmniBook hard disk (as simple as removing a Palmtop RAM card) and modem to the new OmniBook. I then placed my original OmniBook in the supplied packaging, called Fed Ex for the pick-up, and that was that. Other users report the same positive experience returning their Palmtop for repair.
My only minor complaint was that my engraved name plate was no longer useable. Also, I lost the function key labels that came with the modem. HP so far has not sent my requested new nameplate and labels.
This is a world-wide service, though its implementation depends on where you live.
Express Exchange for the HP 100LX
The HP 100LX is automatically covered for one year under the Express Exchange program. An additional two years Express Exchange is $85, but must be purchased before the original one-year warranty expires.
The program works the same as described above. A replacement unit is sent for next-day delivery. You send your old unit back and that's that! Normally units are exchanged. However if you prefer to have your existing 100LX repaired, turnaround time is about one week plus shipping.
The Express Exchange SupportPack (HP H5465A) is available in the U.S. directly from HP dealers or from the HP Corvallis Service Center (call 800-757-2004 or 503-757-2002). Considering that the standard repair charge for a 100LX is $170, Express Exchange sounds like a pretty good deal.
According to Dave Snellard of SupplyLine, U.K., you can purchase the SupportPack in the U.K. at any time, as long as the 100LX is in working order. Users from other countries should check with local HP dealers for information on the SupportPack.
The New HP 100LX/95LX Adapter
The HP 95LX adapter cannot be used on the 100LX. The 100LX adapter (HP F1011A) can be used on both machines, and can be used to recharge NiCd batteries in the 100LX. I highly recommend this new compact and lightweight 100LX adapter, at least for U.S. users. The adapter can also be used with the OmniBook.
Thanks to Stanley Dobrowski for the following description of the adapter.
"It is very small -- literally the size of a deck of cards. The prongs for the plug fold up into the case so they essentially disappear when not being used. The plug is not polarized so it can go into an outlet either way -- right side up or upside down. It puts out 750 ma which powers my 100LX and 95LX at the same time or one Palmtop and a modem. The cord has a small right angle plug on the end for insertion in the side of the 100LX.
"A traditional, generic, transformer power pack is usually three times the size, and comes with a polarized plug that is always sticking out.
"Bottom line: if you're traveling, the HP adapter is the BEST. If you're using the adapter at a fixed site, a less expensive generic adapter will do if you glue the switches and adapter-plugs in place to keep them from getting changed or coming apart by accident."
Note that the plugs on the European version (ABB) of the adapter do not fold in. Since the U.S. version is also universal (100 to 240 volts, 50 to 60 hz) you could use the U.S. adapter and a plug adapter for the country you're visiting. Radio Shack sells plug adapters.
Sparcom Peripherals for the 100LX
Many HP 95LX users found Sparcom's Drive95 and Station95/SmartDock products quite useful. Our Drive95 floats from desk to desk as the many Thaddeus Computing 95LX users back up their data to a 3 1/2" floppy. Different versions of Station95/ SmartDock HP 95LX docking stations allow users to modem, fax, print, connect the 95LX to a PC, and charge the Palmtop without a tangle of cables and peripherals.
Drive95 can be used with the 100LX, but it is a bit slow. (Thanks to Craig Finseth for the following instructions.) "Install the driver on the 100LX as you would on a 95LX. Connect the Drive95 cable to the HP 100LX serial cable. Now go to FILER and press (F10) (Connect), and let the 100LX time out. The drive should now work normally in all modes."
Sparcom is looking for user feedback as to whether to create a DRIVE100 or a STATION100. They can be reached at 800-827-8416 or 503-757-8416; Fax: 503-753-7821; CompuServe ID: [75320,2440].
On the Road with the CP+ Coupler
Many hotel/motel phones can't be directly plugged into a modem. I have never wanted to fool with phone wiring when using a portable modem on the road. I finally got around to trying an acoustic coupler. I plugged the CP+ coupler into the modem connected to my Palmtop. I wrapped the coupler around the phone receiver as pictured above.
I then had my communications software dial the number .... and no connection, just the dial tone. However, the Coupler's simple instruction page explained that it might be necessary in some cases to manually dial the number after the communications software has attempted it. So I dialed the number from the phone and voila , I was in business.
You can buy the coupler along with various road warrior options. In my kit, the Tele-TravelKit International, there is everything you could need for international travel. See Order Information box at end of article for contact information.
I have thought of running a review of Globalink's language translation software since it was introduced. My concern has always been how to do both the product and its potential customers justice. I'll try to give the essence from a user's perspective and you judge if the package is for you.
The Globalink language translation cards were one of the few software packages introduced as stand-alone ROM cards for the 95LX. You can order the German, French, or Spanish translation cards.
What makes the Globalink package unique is that it does not just translate words, but whole sentences and even whole files. Given the ambiguity of language, this is no small challenge.
I used the two Spanish-to-English and English-to-Spanish cards in my travels in South America. I speak some Spanish, my wife speaks fluent Spanish: the Globalink cards were of help to both of us.
I used the English-to-Spanish card in my HP 95LX when teaching my brother-in-law Lotus 1-2-3. Unfortunately, there were few technical terms in the program's dictionary. In general, my wife was frequently amused by the awkward or mistaken translations. Despite these limitations, in practice the Globalink card was very useful in communicating with my brother-in-law. Similarly, when my wife did not remember how to translate a phrase into Spanish, she would type in the English. The Spanish output, no matter how partially correct, would usually trigger her thinking so she could express herself in Spanish.
If you use Globalink just for single sentence translations, then you might find it slow. It usually takes 20 to 30 seconds for a 4 word sentence, and up to 50 seconds for a one line sentence depending on the complexity of your sentence. The advantage of Globalink is that it translates the sentence idiomatically, which is probably why it takes more time.
The Globalink ROM cards work a little faster on the 100LX. Also, the program executes from DOS, which means you must close down other 95LX applications before running it.
In summary, because of the ambiguities of language and because Globalink was limited to 2 MB for its dictionary, the translations sometimes leave something to be desired. However, if you do not require 100% accurate or precise idiomatic translations, the cards ca L quite useful.
The big news event in the Palmtop arena is the introduction of the Apple Newton. This product was announced several years ago, although it didn't ship until this August. HP is much more conservative and doesn't announce a product until it is ready to ship. HP has shipped two highly useful Palmtop computers between Apple's announcement and first ship date.
Reviews of the Newton MessagePad can be found in other magazines. Its strengths are its handwriting recognition, its intuitive appointment and phone books, and its communications ability. There are reports of major bugs in the initial release.
Based on comments from users at this time, the Newton MessagePad is marginally useful. Most users see great potential once Apple and third party's introduce enhancements and new adjunct products. The MessagePad handwriting recognition user interface is intriguing and inviting, but has its limitations. The MessagePad is bigger than the HP Palmtops and cannot fit in your pocket.
At this time the HP Palmtops are clear winners in terms of the depth and breadth of what you can do with the machines.
In my view HP deserves a lot of appreciation and credit for its integrity. It announces products only when they are ready to ship. Early adopters of HP products can usually be assured that the products are ready for market.
Competition and innovation from companies like Apple and HP mean better products for all of us in the future. We pioneers in the Palmtop arena already know the value and power of this new technology. We will have much to look forward to in the future.
Copyright © 2010 Thaddeus Computing Inc