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WWW/LX Web Browser for the HP Palmtop

WWW/LX Web Browser for the HP Palmtop

Now you can surf the Web, online, with your HP Palmtop and D&A Software's new WWW/LX online Web browser.

NOTE: All images have been thumb-nailed. Click on an image to see a larger view.

By Gilles Kohl

I confess! I have been lying to CompuServe HPHAND Forum members. The question How can I access the Internet with my HP 100/200LX or 700LX has been recently seen quite frequently on the Forum. Until now, I could only refer users to one of the existing, DOS-based, text-mode browsers and access programs as the best option currently available. The truth is that I have been using something far better myself and only now am I finally allowed to talk about it.

During the last few weeks, I have been one of the chosen few (about a dozen) beta testers of WWW/LX, a new World Wide Web (WWW) access solution for the HP Palmtops by D&A Software Inc. and Andreas Garzotto. Unlike existing packages, this solution has been developed on the Palmtop, for the Palmtop, and with the Palmtop in mind. It is fast, small, and easy to use and setup. It can run within System Manager (no need to close all applications and drop to DOS) and it is small enough to fit on the C: drive of a 1MB 100LX if necessary!

WWW/LX can also directly connect via the Nokia cellular phone of an HP OmniGo 700LX, without the need to use external DOS utilities.

WWW/LX Components and Architecture

There are three components that make up the WWW/LX Web browser:

Web interface -- this dials your Internet Service Provider (ISP) and understands the various Internet protocols like SLIP, PPP, TCP/IP, HTTP, etc.

Web browser -- this lets you view HTML documents on or off line. It can talk to the Web interface to retrieve Web pages from the net. The Web browser (HV2.ZIP) may be an old acquaintance to some users. It is an upgraded version of Andreas Garzotto's freeware HTML Viewer program HV (HTML is the language used for creating hypertext documents for the Web). This version in WWW/LX understands even more HTML tags and is able to talk to the Web interface component to retrieve live Web pages after you connect to an ISP. HV is available as freeware as before. WWW/LX is a commercial software product.

Installation/setup program -- more about that one later.

The WWW/LX is innovative in that it is neither a TSR, nor a comprehensive software program like NetTamer that attempts to do-it-all. Some DOS programs require that you load a Terminate and Stay Resident (TSR) software driver. This TSR needs to be loaded by the AUTOEXEC.BAT file when you first boot up your computer. You can quickly access a TSR whenever you want because it's always running. The downside of this arrangement is that the TSR is always occupying your computers system memory, leaving less room for other software programs. All-in-one approaches like NetTamer (N103-PT.ZIP) try to do everything and consequently are very large software programs. They are too large to run under System Manager, or fit easily on the C: drive (it will barely fit on a 2MB Palmtop, leaving room for little else). With NetTamer, if all you want to do is browse the Web, you still need to load its Telnet, Mail, Newsgroups and FTP parts as well.

WWW/LX-HV is a collection of software modules, each responsible for a different task. They work cooperatively with each other and only the components currently needed have to be loaded, requiring less system memory.

Installing WWW/LX

WWWSETUP is the program that lets you configure WWW/LX. I installed the program on my HP OmniGo 700LX. The process is almost identical on the HP 100/ 200LX. First, I created a subdirectory on the C drive of my 700LX, and copied all the necessary WWW/LX files into it. This includes the WWWSETUP program, the WWW program and its configuration file and documents, and the HV files.

WWW/LX's setup program lets you specify the location of the cache file and select a preconfigured configuration profile for CompuServe and other Internet Service Providers.

WWWSETUP's CompuServe configuration profile, showing modem type, baud rate, CompuServe's note phone number, CompuServe user ID and password.

The HV HTML viewer initial screen.

I ran WWWSETUP.EXE and it asked me for my users registration number as a copy protection. Then, I indicated where I wanted HV to be installed (you can put it into any directory you want), and where I wanted to install the WWW/LX cache file. The cache file is used to store the addresses of Web sites that you've already looked up once, so you don't have do it again.

Finally, I selected WWW/LX's preconfigured configuration profile for CompuServe (my ISP), and hit (ENTER) to set up my connection. I made the following modifications to the profile: I selected OmniGo as the modem type, 9600 as the baud rate, and inserted the phone number of the local CompuServe node. I also had to enter my CompuServe user ID and password. I didn't need to change any of the other parameters.

Finally, I created an Application Manager entry for the WWW.EXE program.

Running the program

Running WWW/LX is done by selecting its icon in AppManager and hitting (ENTER). WWW/LX will dial the ISP, and launch the HV version 2.0 browser as soon as the physical connection is established using a modem.

The graphic above shows the initial screen displayed by HV. Since there is no mouse on the Palmtop, HV does not underline links, but draws a rectangle around them. Links can be highlighted using the TAB or cursor movement keys. Press (ENTER) to select a link and HV jumps to the corresponding page.

WWW/LX hotlist--a list of your favorite web pages.

When several links are on the current page, it is often faster to just type the first letter of the link the selection will immediately jump to it. If several links start with the same letter, just hit it repeatedly. For example, to highlight The latest version of HV in the previous screen, I simply pressed T twice.

HV makes the most frequently used functions available through the Palmtop's function keys. Their labels are displayed on the bottom of the screen as usual:

F1 The Help key will pop up extensive online help in HTML format itself, of course.

F2 With Home, you can return to HV`s startup page (that has a few links to useful pages) or to another favorite page of yours.

F3 The Edit key is for those of you who want to design your own HTML pages - an editor (MEMO by default) will be called with the HTML source of the page currently being viewed.

F4 The Find key will search the current page for a given text.

F5 The Hot key will pop up your hotlist - also called Bookmarks list in other browsers. This is the collection of your favorite pages. You can go to a page already in the list, add the current page to the collection, or delete an entry (see screen above).

F6 & F7 The Back and Fwd keys let you navigate backwards and forwards in the history of pages you visited.

F8 The Info key shows information about the current page being displayed, as well as the current link and the amount of free memory currently available to HV.

F9 The Open key lets you specify a so-called Universal Resource Locator (URL) and go there directly. For example, to visit the Hewlett-Packard Handheld Homepage, you would hit (F9) (Open) and enter:

http://www.hp .com/handheld.

The dialog box that pops up when you select Open also includes a drop-down list with a history of sites you visited this way.

A few interesting Web sites

The following are screenshots of some Web sites I visited with HV.

Opening page for the HP Handheld website.

Opening screen for Digital Equipment's ALTAVIS1 search program.

The topics "omnigo" and "700lx" have been entered in the search box.

After using AltaVista to search for "omnigo" and "700lx" the following page was displayed.

The first screen above shows HP's new Handheld page. It can be found at http://www.hp.com /handheld. (Note that HV detected the use of JAVA applets on this page, and notifies the user that this is not supported. JAVA requires a fast 32 bit machine with at least 8 megabytes of memory to be able to run.)

The second screen from the top shows Digital Equipment's AltaVista search engine (http:// altavista.digital.com). This service lets you search the World Wide Web as well as Internet Newsgroups for specific topics. I searched on the words omnigo and 700lx. The result of this search is shown on the third screen. To display a newsgroup posting, I would select the desired title, and press (ENTER).

The screenshot at the top right of page 18 was taken in the middle of a File Transfer Protocol (FTP) download from the eddie.mit.edu FTP site. The file being downloaded is C&H-TC.ZIP (a collection of Calvin and Hobbes topcards), you can still see it highlighted. To connect to an FTP server with HV, you would hit (F9) (Open), and enter the server's name, directory and filename (if you know it). To download CH-TC.ZIP I entered the following:

ftp://eddie.mit.edu/pub/hp95lx /hp100lx/c&h-tc.zip

Of course, user-friendly Web pages simply contain links to files that you can download via FTP, so that you don't have to type all this in.

The second screen above shows how WWW/LX displays Web pages with embedded graphics. This particular page is the Tips and Tricks section of Shier Systems Web site. The tip describes the use of the undocumented icon editor on the Palmtop's D drive. Check out Shier Systems Tips and Tricks department at http://www.shier.com/ tips.htm for more on this.

This screen was displayed in the middle of a File Transfer Protocol download from the eddie.mit.edu FTP site. The file C&H-TC.ZIP is being downloaded.

The screen below displays a page from an article in the German magazine Der Spiegel (at http://www.spiegel .de). This page shows that the fonts that come with HV also include foreign characters. Graphics mode and Latin-1 fonts ensure that HV can correctly display pages in German, French, Swedish, etc. an important point, especially for HP OmniGo 700LX users.

WWW/LX limitations

A few weeks ago, many people would not have thought that a Palmtop Web browser was at all possible certainly not one that could fit on the C drive of a 100/ 200LX and run from System Manager. But as nice as it is to have a Palmtop Web browser, one needs to keep things in perspective when comparing the performance of WWW/LX with the latest desktop Web browsers. Current desktop computers are more powerful than the Palmtop and can run the latest versions of Netscape and MS Internet Explorer that have features not available with WWW/LX.

"Tips and Tricks" section of Shier Systems Web site, displaying a graphics abd text in one screen.

Page from the German magazine Der Spiegel, showing how WWW/LX displays non-English language characters.

For example, WWW/LX cannot do: Java, JavaScript, Netscape plug-ins, ActiveX, VBScript, Specific-specific extensions like FRAMEs, etc. WWW/LX cannot display .JPG graphics (although they can be displayed with an external graphics viewer). Finally, HV can display tables, but uses a fixed layout to display them. If a Website uses tables for laying out instead of using them for tabular data display, switch tables off in HV. The data will still be displayed, but will not be formatted as nicely.

These are relatively new developments that are usually specific to the two competing big players: Netscape and Internet Explorer. These programs also require a 32 bit and/or Windows 95 or NT platform, a fast CPU, and lots of memory. It is not clear which of these desktop Web browsers will become the standard the battle continues to rage.

Future directions

WWW/LX is more than the low-level work-horse or a Palmtop Web browser. It's a full-fledged Internet interface with assorted powerful application support.

A lot more interesting Internet-based applications are currently in beta testing, under development, or being considered for development. Imagine connecting to a UNIX host computer with TELNET, sending and receiving Internet e-mail, and reading Internet newsgroups all on the HP Palmtop, using an application with the same friendly interface the built-in applications have. The basis for all this is already there, in WWW/LX. And best of all, you decide which of these applications interests you. If you don't need one of these applications, there's no need to use up memory or disk space for it just don't install it.

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