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Maximizing the HP Palmtop with Japanese Software

Maximizing the HP Palmtop with Japanese Software

By Hiroyuki Sekiya

Probably I am a little biased, but with over 90 System Manager compliant applications developed (most of them freeware), I believe that Japan leads the world in the development of software for the HP 100/200LX.

Why so much development activity in Japan? In my opinion it's because originally nothing was available in Japanese. When the Palmtop was introduced in Japan, it couldn't even display Japanese characters. The most basic Japanese language environment had to be created from scratch.

When the programming tools became available, Japanese developers began to produce a number of very useful programs. It is impossible to introduce all the good software from Japan in this article. Following is my selection of some of the more interesting applications.

Illustrate Databases with graphics

The Database application on the 100/200LX is strong and sufficient as long as it's dealing with text data. However, information isn't always found as text a picture is sometimes worth a thousand words. This motivated two authors to develop programs that enable the Palmtop to display graphical data in combination with the Database program.

   Click to see larger image 

 Top screen: MAPPOT displaying a map with pointer showing the location of the shop. Middle screen: iPeX displaying a map locating the business along with the individual Phone Item. Bottom screen: iPeX displaying Hal Goldstein's photo in a custom contact Database.

MAPPOT = (Program by Masaki "Brahma" Tsumori)

MAPPOT is a program to display a map in combination with a Database. For example, you might have a Database listing the location of businesses in a city. MAPPOT lets you select a particular business in the Database and display a graphical map showing its location (see top screen, previous page).

 With GETAREA you locate the shop first on the map and a small label shows the name of the shop.

 There are a number of MAPPOT-compliant databases published in Japan, for restaurants, electronic shops, film theaters, etc. I can find no MAPPOT-compliant databases published in the United States or other countries, but the English-language version of MAPPOT comes with a sample Database and map of San Francisco.

iPeX = (Program by Masaki "Brahma" Tsumori)

iPeX is another image display software program created by Brahma, the author of MAPPOT. In MAPPOT you highlight a Database entry and switch to the corresponding map. iPeX displays a graphical image in the Database itself. The screen at the bottom of the previous page shows a custom contact Database with the photo of the individual displayed. The middle screen shows a phonebook Database displaying the map locating the business along with the individual Phone Item. iPeX works with Database, PhoneBook or Appointment Book.

GETAREA = (Program by Eiichiroh Itoh)

GETAREA is an extension of the function of MAPPOT. It enables the look-up in reverse direction, that is, from the map to the Database. For example, you can select the area on the map and show the shops within that area in the subset of the Database. You can mark multiple records in the database and show them all on the map, with its shop name in a label (see screen display above). There are not many GETAREA-compliant databases so far, but hopefully that will change soon.

BMP2LX = (Program by Takeo Katoh (Take))

BMP2LX is a utility that converts a graphic file from the BMP format (a standard graphic format in Windows) to the PCX format (the standard graphic format on the HP 100/200LX). It also converts color pictures into monochrome and changes the picture size to fit the Palmtop's 640x200 screen. All is done almost automatically. Since numerous software utilities are available to convert JPG, GIF and other formats into BMP, any graphic format can be converted to PCX for the display on the 100/200LX.

Transferring images from digital cameras to your HP Palmtop

Digital cameras save images in graphic files, not on film. They are very popular in Japan and are becoming more so in the rest of the world for two good reasons:

First, pictures are stored in internal memory so you don't have to keep buying film. The number of pictures you can store is limited by the amount of memory the camera has. Some of these cameras have slots for memory cards, but these cards are expensive.

Second, you can easily transfer the images to your personal computer to store, manipulate or print them out. Transferring images to a personal computer helps to overcome the problem of limited internal memory. Transferring images to the Palmtop, or to a memory card in the Palmtop, is particularly useful because the Palmtop is with you wherever you are.

The following two software programs were developed to transfer graphic images from digital cameras to the Palmtop.

QVCom = (Program by Masaki "Brahma" Tsumori)

The Casio QV-10 digital camera, with its built-in color LCD monitor to display the picture, ignited the current digital camera boom. At first it was marketed only in Japan, but now it can be purchased in other parts of the world.

QVCom is a software utility for the Palmtop that lets you transfer the picture images between the QV-10 and the 100/200LX, connected together by a serial cable. With QVCom running on the Palmtop you can view thumbnail images of the pictures stored in the camera, select the desired images and transfer them to the Palmtop in one simple operation (see screen, top of next page). QVCom is not shareware or freeware, but "photoware." Try it out free of charge to see if you like it. If you decide to continue using it, send a photograph you've taken with your QV-10 to QVCom's author, Brahma.

QVCom was created for the first generation of the QV-10 series. It can be used with the QV-10A and QV-30, but does not support the high resolution mode of the QV-100. The author wanted to add more functions to QVCom and asked Casio for details about the communication protocol of the Camera. Casio rejected his request, making further development of QVCom, and support for the QV-100, impossible. I hope Casio reconsiders its decision.

LXDC = (Program by Eiichiroh Itoh)

The DC20 digital camera from Kodak is famous for its compact form-factor. However, its compactness may contribute to the fact that it only holds eight pictures in its internal memory. This capacity is too small to be practical, unless you have a way to transfer images off the camera. The DC20 is bundled with software that lets you transfer images to Windows and Macintosh computers. Unfortunately the desktop and notebook computers running these operating systems are not as portable as the Palmtop.

A program called LXDC lets you easily transfer images between the DC20 and the 100/200LX. Like QVCom above, LXDC lets you select images from a thumbnail display. You can also transfer all the images by one simple operation.

The sound of music

The sound reproduction capabilities of the Palmtop are pretty basic. It's good for beeps and simple alarm melodies, but is not designed for playback of sophisticated real sound data, such as PCM (pulse code modulation) format or MIDI (music instrument digital interface) format. However, there are a few programs written to enhance the sound function of the 100/200LX.

Click to view larger images

 Top: Thumbnail images are transferred from the QV-10 to the 200LX. Bottom: Thumbnail images are transferred from the DC20 by LXDC.
 
 

LXMIDI (Program by HARUYA)

This astounding software helps to overcome the Palmtop's sound reproduction limitations. The program enables the playback of the maximum 16-note polyphonic MIDI sound data. It is really touching to hear complex music come out of the Palmtop. Of course, the built-in speaker is still a limiting factor, but some users have wired a jack for an external earphone into their Palmtop (see page 34).

playEX (Program by MeW)

If you have modified your Palmtop with the double-speed crystal upgrade described on page 32, the alarm sound is played twice as fast. Simple beeps can be tolerated, but the alarm melodies sound funny. playEX corrects this situation. You can also use playEX to play tunes written in MML (Music Macro Language), which is compatible with the syntax used to create custom alarms on the 100/200LX.

Numerous tunes in MML and the Palmtop's alarm format are available in the data library of the FHPPC Forum on NIFTY-Serve. Alarm Sound Collections by Jun-ku or by UnROM are particularly famous, based on copyright free classics or other material.

CliPlay (Program by Junji Masamitsu)

CliPlay replays tunes written in the custom alarm format of the Palmtop. You simply highlight the alarm code and press (Fn)-(=) to copy it to the Palmtop's clipboard. Then run CliPlay to play the tune. This program makes it easy to set up a Database or NoteTaker file with a list of tunes and play them one at a time.

Improvements to System Manager

A number of small programs are available in Japan, which improve the functioning of the System Manager, making it easier to use.

MoreEXM <ON DISK icon> (Program by Hiroyuki Sekiya)

One of the biggest headaches associated with using AppManager is that you can only install eight additional EXM applications (System Manager compliant applications) on the 200LX and nine on the 100LX. Actually, you can install more than eight/nine, but when you try to run them, you encounter the error message: "Cannot find application to open."

MoreEXM is a TSR program that overcomes this annoying limitation and lets you install and use a practically unlimited number of the EXM applications. MoreEXM is absolutely necessary, if you want to utilize the abundance of EXM applications made in Japan.

 The screen of SMMx resembles the AppManager, but lets you display folders and data files as well as applications in an AppManager type menu.>

An application added by MoreEXM does not appear on the menu of AppMgr as an icon. It should be started by the assigned Hot Key. If you want to start the application from an icon in a menu screen, please use SMMx (see below).

MoreEXM also has a function that suppresses the clearing of the previous screen when you start an EXM program. This function gives software developers an easy way to make a program pop up on top of another application. Take a look at Pocket Launcher and 123g (described below) to see how this feature is utilized.

SMMx <ON DISK icon> (Program by Tabi Kuro)

The debut of MoreEXM eliminated the limitation to the number of EXM programs that can be used on System Manager. System Manager lets you start programs in one of two ways: by installing the program in the Application Manager or by assigning a hotkey to the program in the APPNAME.LST file. MoreEXM is a TSR program which supports this second method. It does not display an icon in AppManager and the EXM program must be launched by pressing the hot key assigned in APPNAME.LST.

SMMx displays a menu that looks similar to the AppManager menu, but displays the EXM applications added using MoreEXM (see screen below). A unique feature of SMMx, not found on AppManager, is that it lets you display folders of related materials, and data files, as well as programs. If you select a folder, it leads you to another menu listing the files in that folder. If you select a data file, SMMx checks its file name extension, searches for the application it is associated with and opens it.

EXkey (Program by Yoshihiro Hanaoka)

EXkey is a TSR utility that adds greater macro capability to the Palmtop. It is not an add-on program to enhance System Macros, but a fully independent utility program with many advantages over the built-in System Macro function, including the following:

You can have more than 10 macros.

The macro start keys are not limited to Fn+F1 through Fn+F10. Any keys can be assigned as a macro start key, including the alphanumeric keys.

A set of macros can be assigned to each application. (This feature is valid only for the users of the HP 200LX Japanese Language Kit).

You can use EXkey while operating in DOS.

You can use simple conditional branches. (For example, you can create a macro to do one thing if a certain condition exists and another thing if it doesn't.)

The syntax of an EXkey macro is upward compatible to System Macros which enables you to easily replace a System Macro with an EXkey Macro in most cases. EXkey's only drawback is that the maximum length of a macro is shorter than a System Macro. If you use very long macro, you better stay with System Macro.

[Editor's note: We mentioned the use of EXkey in a Quick Tip on page 58 of the Nov/Dec 96 issue of The HP Palmtop Paper. In that issue we incorrectly identified EXkey as a shareware program and list a previous version of the archive file for this program. ExXkey is copyrighted freeware and is available in the location shown at the end of this article.]

 The screen of KeyM. The highlighted title shows a running application.
 
 

KeyM <ON DISK icon> (Program by CARGO)

If you use MoreEXM to add a larger number of EXM programs, or EXkey to expand the number of macros you use, you're going to have a lot more hotkeys and macro key combinations to remember. KeyM was created to overcome this problem. It displays the start keys for EXM applications and macros in a highly organized screen (see figure above). You can even launch an application from this screen.

Pocket Launcher (Program by TONTATA)

With Pocket Launcher, you can register the applications, data files, and/or keyboard macros, which you frequently use. You can invoke them easily when you need it. You can quickly open the file you need by starting Pocket Launcher, searching by the initial letter of the title, and pressing (ENTER) (see bottom screen). The other advantage is that the titles displayed in the list of Pocket Launcher have no 8 plus 3 character restriction of the DOS file names. You can use more recognizable and readable names.

 The screen of Pocket Launcher. You can run the application by selecting with the cursor keys and pressing (ENTER).
 
 

123g (Program by guel)

 The screen of 123g . You can execute most of the operations of the Lotus 1-2-3 on the pull-down menus.

 The built-in Lotus 1-2-3 program uses the menu structure of the DOS version (with the exception that (MENU) as well as (/) activates the menu). The Lotus menus are different from the menu structure of the other built-in applications. If you're a long-time user of 1-2-3, you're used to the Lotus structure and can work with it easily. However, if you start using the 1-2-3 for the first time on the 100/200LX, you may feel uncomfortable with it. New users may want to try 123g. As the screen below shows, this program displays the 1-2-3 menus as pull-down menus, with the look-and-feel of the other built-in applications.

Connecting up to the Internet

D-Mail (Program by Makoto Watanabe)

 The Menu screen of D-Mail.

 D-Mail is a software program that lets you send and receive e-mail from a DOS computer like the HP Palmtop (see screen above). It supports packet driver, PC/TCP, InetBIOS, and direct serial communications, giving you a variety of ways to send and receive e-mail. It's easy to configure it to display Japanese or English menus. You can define your favorite editor or viewer to work with D-mail, and adjust parameters such as the number of lines per screen. This particularly helps users of the Palmtop adjust for its tiny screen.

 DosLine <ON DISK icon>, described in the subsequent List of Japanese Software, provides a pop-up window on the Palmtop to access DOS commands from the built-in applications. In this example, the DOS CHKDSK command is visible at the bottom left corner of the Filer screen.
 
 

Click to see larger images

 Four consecutive screens from EVA <ON DISK icon>, a movie player with sound for the 100/200LX. EVA is described in the List of Japanese Software on the next page.
 
 

Use LXDC.EXM to transfer photos from Kodak's DC20 Digital Camera to the Palmtop

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