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Hal shares his perspective on HP's new five-year R&D program; gives directions for using HP 200LX PC Cards in HP 300LX Series Palmtop PCs; and describes a few interesting freeware/shareware programs.

By Hal Goldstein

As you can see from the article on page 30, there are strong feelings from many HP 200LX users about the Windows CE platform. Those of us who use HPCalc, the HP 200LX database program, the full version of Lotus 1-2-3, and run DOS programs will be slow to switch. Others who use a handheld for phone book, appointment book, and want the ability to easily synchronize with Windows 95 desktop programs should look seriously at the HP Windows CE machine. These users will appreciate having Pocket Word and Excel on their handheld and will like HP's larger screen and keyboard.

 HP is certainly committed to the handheld arena. According to a news report: "Hewlett-Packard is injecting $28.5 million ($40 million Singapore) dollars into its Asia-Pacific Personal Computer Division (APCD) in Singapore, to develop new technologies designed to give a boost to handheld computing through a five-year R&D program. HP will use the funds to design and develop products aimed at tapping the growing palmtop market, especially as Microsoft's Windows CE operating system begins to find wide acceptance."

 HP is focused on H/PC

 I asked Kheng-Joo Khaw, General Manager of APCD, the division responsible for producing palmtops, to confirm the report. Khaw e-mailed back to me: "We are 'dead serious' about making the H/PC successful. My whole organization is focused on H/PC and nothing less."

 The handheld future is exciting. Hundreds of third-parties are creating applications for Windows CE-based handhelds. Just by examining current technology we can guess that handhelds in the coming years will include color screens, voice and handwriting recognition, wireless communications, and more.

Microsoft wants Windows CE to be the operating system for a variety of electronic devices including other types of handhelds. According to PC Week, future versions of Windows CE will allow manufacturers to create thin, keyboard-less, Pilot-like devices. For those of us who pioneered this field owning HP DOS LX palmtops, it will be fun to watch what happens. At the same time many of us have a renewed appreciation for what the HP Palmtop engineers achieved beginning in 1991.

 Why not an upgraded 200LX

 As you can see from the letters section, we receive many letters and e-mail complaining about HP's commitment to the HP 200LX. Users don't understand HP's seemingly poor marketing efforts on behalf of the 200LX. They don't understand why engineering dollars can't be spent upgrading the 200LX. Here is my analysis of the situation.

 When HP Corvallis created the LX series they had great engineers with years of calculator experience, but little marketing savvy in the new palmtop marketplace with few marketing dollars. When HP Singapore took over at the end of 1994, they fell victim to the classic NIH (not invented here) syndrome.

HP R&D started over and created the OmniGo 100 organizer, with a number of innovative features, but missed the mark. HP now works closely with Microsoft on Windows CE. HP sees the potential for future handheld PC sales working with Microsoft to create a standard handheld operating system. Unfortunately, even though Singapore has a lot of marketing savvy, they never got behind their orphan, the HP 200LX.

Rather, they invested most of their R&D and marketing dollars into the OmniGo 100 organizer and now the HP 300 and 320LX palmtop PCs. In other words, the timing was never right for HP to properly get behind the HP 200LX.

 Using your HP 200LX PC Card in the HP 300 Series

 For users who do want to move from the HP 200LX to the HP 320LX, a common concern is PC cards. Since PC storage cards are expensive, users don't want to have to purchase new cards. There is good news and bad news. Basically, older cards won't work, newer cards will.

Software-wise, the file systems are compatible. This means, for example, that Pocket Word, which reads text files, can read Memo files. (However, Pocket Excel does not have conversion capability and cannot read Lotus 1-2-3 files.)

If your card is of the newer 3-Volt variety it should work; if it is a 5-Volt card, you may only be able to read it; and if it is a old 12-Volt card, you can't use it at all. (The SDP3B-XX and SDCFB-XX [CompactFlash] SanDisk cards, which have been produced in 3.3V as well as 5V versions, are useable in the HP 300/ 320LX Palmtop PCs.) According to the HP manual, the largest capacity that the HP 300/320LX can use is 32 Mg. However, SanDisk reports that there are no problems using its higher capacity 40 Mg and 85 Mg cards.

 My last column not appreciated by some men of science or religion

 We received several subscription cancellations based on my column last issue. In the column I described the palmtop as a tool to learn new subjects using as an example, learning the meanings of tarot cards. Two (former) readers wrote saying they appreciated The HP Palmtop Paper but were disappointed (to put it mildly) with my column. In one letter the author provided Biblical passages that he felt condemned the subject matter of the column. He wrote that he did not want the information contained in the issue in his house. In the other cancellation, a scientist stated that articles such as mine in credible publications help perpetuate ignorance and superstition.

 Even though I am a religious person and a proponent of scientific thinking, I wasn't surprised by the cancellations. The subject matter contradicts much scientific thinking and some religious sentiment.

On the other hand, both science and religion teach that the world is a mysterious place, that there is much more that we don't know than we do know. The universe is vast. Our senses of perception limit and determine what we know about our world. I believe that there is much wisdom contained in ancient traditions when humans were much closer to nature. Most of this knowledge has been lost or distorted in the modern world. Hopefully, religion and science are powerful enough to incorporate ancient knowledge that can be shown valid and useful even if it seems counter to current understandings.

 I can just imagine a discussion 500 years from now. Someone speaks of a palmtop that many people used as their primary computer, that ran 10,000s of programs, many of them free. It had a full implementation of a spreadsheet; it had a numeric keypad with an intuitive, powerful, multi-function calculator; and it made use of a super-flexible database engine. According to mythology these palmtops only needed 1 megabyte for memory and storage and ran on an incredibly slow "8086 processor." Priests of the Gatesian religion study their manual and call these notions sacrilege. The scientists say impossible, just palmtop mysticism.

 Interesting Freeware and Shareware

 Back to the world of palmtop computing. I have come across the following freeware and shareware that you may find of interest.

Free Palmtop Editor/Spellchecker combination

 Andreas Garzotto, who has contributed so much to the HP palmtop user community, has upgraded his popular PalEdit (PE) program to include a spell checker. Andreas is the author of WWW/LX, a palmtop Web browser from D&A Software. He created HV, a Palmtop hypertext (HTML) viewer and PE to work with www/LX. Andreas has made HV and PE available for stand-alone usage as copyrighted freeware.

Andreas describes the new version of PE as follows: "PalEdit (PE) 2.0 is a PAL based DOS text editor with the same look and feel as the built-in applications. It also accepts many of the commands the famous EMACS editor accepts. Major features: edits multiple files of unlimited size and with long lines, incremental searches, sends and receives e-mail using WWW/LX. New in 2.0: integrated spelling checker, reads formatted Memo documents, undo function. Copyrighted freeware by D&A Software Inc. Developed by A. Garzotto."

Games

 I came across two new games for the palmtop. The first is shareware TILES, a Mah Jongg-like solitaire game where the player removes matched pairs off a pile (see screen dump on previous page). I am not sure why the fascination, but it is challenging and addicting to try to find matches and eliminate the pile.

 TILES is an addicting shareware game where the player removes matched pairs off a pile.

 The other freeware game, IGO, is a subset of the classic Japanese game of GO. GO is normally played on a 19-by-19 board. IGO lets you play on a 9-by-9 board, ideal for fast games and for learning how to play. The rules of the game are simple but strategies are complex. The player and the computer take turns placing "stones" on the intersections of the board. Each player tries to surround the other. The player controlling the most squares at the end is the winner. The good news is that this version is freeware. The bad news is that the company that publishes the full commercial 19-by-19 version seems to be out of business.

 In the freeware game IGO, the player and the computer take turns placing stones on the intersections of the board. IGO is a subset of the classic Japanese game of GO.

Food database

 Several databases on food have emerged through the years. The 37K FOOD.GDB file is small, straightforward, but may contain all the information you need.

 The database contains over 400 common foods. It can be used for people who are on diets, in training or just want to be conscious of the foods they eat. The file contains the following fields: Food Name, Category (meat, fruit, cereals, etc), Calories, Protein, Carbohydrates, Fat, Sodium, Cholesterol. The database comes sorted by food name. I have been told to watch cholesterol, so I sorted by the cholesterol field to study the worst offenders.

Shareware/freeware mentioned in this article

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