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StarLink Impressions

StarLink Impressions

By Mark Scardina

The StarLink Newscard is a different type of paging device that is full of surprises. For one thing, it doesn't need to reside in your 100LX's card slot. It works for weeks off of its own internal AAA battery and can store up to 128K of messages in its own internal flash RAM.

Message Notification

Carrying the StarLink card around by itself presents two problems: The flashing green LED that indicates incoming messages is recessed and not visible unless you are in the dark or looking straight at it. In addition, its message beeper is barely audible and easily missed if StarLink is tucked away. Fortunately, StarLink can use the 100LX's internal speaker to trumpet a message's arrival -- but only if StarLink is in the card slot.

My first impression of the news options was mixed. I welcomed having the latest headlines, entertainment news, and business updates at my finger tips. But I disliked having to be constantly checking my Palmtop each time it beeped, to see if it was an important message or just news. Fortunately, you can set StarLink to announce different types of messages in different ways, including short and long beeps, and excerpts from classical music. A total of 15 sounds are available with StarLink inserted in the 100LX and 10 sounds for the card alone. Custom sounds are not available, but you can adjust the volume to three different preset levels when using StarLink with the 100LX.

When messages are received, they are displayed in an index screen as shown below.

StarLink Message Index: Graphic

 Highlight a message and press (ENTER) to see the text. The text cannot be edited directly, but it can be highlighted, copied and pasted into any built-in applications.

Reception was mostly error-free, although I did get some transmission errors in a number of office buildings. (StarLink flags messages with errors, see display above.) Most of the time it's pretty easy to figure out the missing or misspelled text, but if you can't, you can call StarLink's 800 number to have a message read back to you over the phone. A flashing red LED in the card indicates an out-of-range condition. The card can also provide an audible indicator of this condition.

Installation Options

The StarLink Newscard lets you install its software on the C: drive, or use it directly from the Newscard in the A: drive. However, all incoming messages are initially stored on the C: drive. (They can be marked and printed to a file on a card or a printer.) The installation to C: drive requires 80K of disk space. Installing the software on a memory card still requires a 17K Help file be put in C:\_SYS directory.

Other Features

The StarLink software is the first application to use the Static RAM Feature of System Manager. Many of you may have wondered about this option (found in Setup by pressing (MENU) Options System Advanced). Its purpose is to set aside some RAM memory for a System Compliant application to run a task in the background without being disturbed. Less than 3K is required. This is similar to the Terminate-And-Stay-Resident (TSR) function in DOS. StarLink uses static RAM to keep active an incoming message alert feature. Even while you are in another application, StarLink can alert you to an incoming message.

Messages can be called into a live operator at 800-800-8955 and sent to either a person's name or an I.D. number. A message can update your Appointment Book or ToDo list only if the sender has the proper account number and the feature is enabled. Messages can also be sent with a modem. (See product announcement in HP News, this issue.)

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