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The LX-Files : The Stuff Is Out There

The LX-Files : The Stuff Is Out There

Trust no one who tells you that DOS is dead. Larry Garwood offers convincing proof that there is still a lot of good software available for the HP Palmtops: you just have to know where to look and what to look for.

J. Lawrence Garwood, M.D.

John Garwood and Ed Keefe have spent hundreds of hours coming up with the palmtop software bonanza chronicled in this issue. Their discoveries, experimentation, and documentation have brought the HP Palmtop to a whole new level of usefulness and enjoyment. The tree articles in this software bonanza section both describe these discoveries and list upgrades of already popular pieces of palmtop software.

You can find all the software described in this section in our 1999 HP Palmtop Paper CD InfoBase and at http://www.palmtop.net/super.html, which is now sponsored by our new website http://www.PalmtopPaper.com.

Hal Goldstein

Before I discovered the Internet, my only source for HP software was The HP Palmtop Paper ON DISK. However, the Disks seemed to offer the same programs over and over. Then with the coming of Windows 95 and Windows CE, the false rumor started that DOS and the HP 200LX were dead. Since the HP 200LX is my main computer and since my 200LX does far more than any Windows CE machine, I began to panic. I could imagine that the end was in sight. Yet I knew there were still some good uses for the 200LX. So I started to look for MS-DOS software on my own.

My quest began with a search for a classic set of text adventures by Scott Adams (not the cartoonist). I had enjoyed these adventures on my old Atari computer and thought it would be great to have them on my Palmtop as well. The quest led me down a trail where I learned about the history of the Adventure International company, its bankruptcy, and finally the salvation of its software. During the search I found several similar pieces of software, e.g., the Howarth Adventures. This was a real bonus.

I began looking at other resources and found a wealth of software which makes the HP Palmtop leave the CE machines, and possibly Windows 95 machines, in the dust.

I thought it was just a matter of time before The HP Palmtop Paper would begin to feature the things I had found, but it didn't happen. I asked Hal Goldstein, the publisher, if he would be interested in some "new" software he could feature. He referred me to Ed Keefe to whom I've been sending software treasures for the past couple of months. Now I can share the wealth.

Some reflections on a search

During the course of my search, I came across all kinds of shareware that ran on the Palmtop. Much of what I found didn't appeal to me, but since my dross might be someone else's gold, I passed these programs on to Ed. I found myself using the golden oldies every day. It was time to pay the programmer. Not to do so would amount to software piracy.

I'm convinced that software piracy will eventually destroy the software industry. My experience with the orphaned Atari computer is a case in point. People stopped creating programs for that machine and put the company in limbo because of piracy. As a result, I try to register all the Palmtop software I use. I want my HP 200LX to last me a long time.

Furthermore, since the computer world is being overwhelmed by Windows 95/98, it is important to encourage Palmtop software developers. Give them what they ask for whether its E-mail, a postcard or money. Keep the programmers happy and they'll probably write something else you can use.

Some programmers ask for money but usually not much. My suspicion is that programmers couldn't possibly be making a living off the little they ask for a program. They must get their rewards elsewhere. The money is just a concrete way to let them know that others love what they've done. Our job as users is to make sure they continue to love their work.

Some goals in shareware hunting: Look for Palmtop specific software

Because of the Palmtop Application Library (PAL) programmers can develop software with a "Palmtop look and feel." These programs work very well and tend to be constantly honed with upgrades. That makes them ideal for the Palmtop. Some of the programs are so good that I use them on my desktop with the Palrun program.

Look for EXM software: All things being equal, its better than EXE software

"EXM" programs are those that use the Palmtops System Manager program. Such programs allow for task swapping and they use as little memory as possible, leaving the rest for other programs. In any System Manager session only one DOS window is permitted. I have configured the default memory for this window to be 200K, which leaves very little base memory for other applications. One can get around this problem by using Software Carousel or by defining the amount of memory each individual DOS program gets. The real no-brainer is to have the software be System Manager compliant.

Look for DOS software that has a compatible video mode

A lot of DOS software will run on the Palmtop. However some of it is hard to read. Programs that rely on color-coded text just don't cut it on the Palmtop. Unless a program is a "killer app", having to press the color toggle keys (ON / and ON * ) is a nuisance. Ideally, DOS software should have a command line switch that forces it to use a black and white video mode. Sure you can run the TSR utility CGAhelp to force text to appear as black and white but, again, this is a nuisance rather than a feature.

Some commercial software such as the Many Faces of Go, Info Select, Fritz 2 and Word Perfect look perfect on the Palmtop. Othello will never look right.

Abandon "Abandonware" (Almost)

The term "abandonware" refers to software which is more than five years old, is no longer sold, and seems to have been forgotten. It should be remembered that not all abandonware is as abandoned as it seems. Often the person who owns the rights to the software will re-release the software in a bundle. This is what has happened with the Ultima series, the Wizardry series, and the Infocom series of games. All of these programs run on the Palmtop, and may find new life there, but to use these programs without paying for them is piracy.

Lotus Agenda appears to be an exception to this rule. It is freely distributed by the Lotus Corporation on their Web site. There is no support available but sometimes you can find a support book in a used book store. Agenda is not immediately intuitive, so some help is needed to get started with it.

Abandonware sites on the Internet come and go. They operate on the fringe of legality. Sometimes the software on these sites is truly abandoned, and this will be the only place to find the software. Ill take a look at what's offered on these sites, but only after I start my anti-virus program.. There may be a clue in the "abandoned" program about how to get legitimate versions of the software. For example, the game "Dark Designs" runs very well on the Palmtop. In the copy I found on an abandonware site it became apparent that the program was written by John Carmack who happens to be involved in developing games such as Quake. He was kind enough to return my inquiries about Dark Designs. The program is still commercially available: volumes I and II are for the PC, volumes I-VI for the Apple II. So I ordered the Apple II versions, and now my quest continues for an Apple II emulator that will run on the Palmtop.

Where to look

Since my treasure hunting began as a supplement to The HP Palmtop Paper ON DISK, it seems redundant to list this as a resource. Still, The HP Palmtop Paper ON DISK is the best place to get started. It contains software that relates to the articles in the current issue and the software is always the latest version. System More Menu (SMM), my favorite replacement for Application Manager, was found only through the Paper.

The CD InfoBase

The CD InfoBase contains all the software from past issues of The Palmtop Paper ON DISK, the Power Disks, Best Tips, and PC-Cards Disks.

If you have all these disks, you could get by without the CD ROM. However, if you're prone to misplace disks or forget what's on them then the CD InfoBase can save a lot of time and aggravation.

Here's a tip for using the CD InfoBase. If you're looking for a particular program use the built-in search engine to get a list of the software; go to the end of the list and work backwards. That way you'll get the latest release of the program. I just wish there was some way to remove older versions of the same program from the CD. Do we really need all the older versions of the VDE editor or the ZIP.COM file transfer utility?

CompuServe

The HP Handheld forum is the only reason I maintain my subscription to CompuServe. The folks on this forum are helpful and friendly. Most Internet providers charge about $20 a month. For an extra $5, I can participate in this group. It is well worth it. The HPHAND libraries contain most of the tried and true software for the HP Palmtop, but if you're looking for more you'll need to look to the Internet.

The Internet

If you want to search the Internet for "lost software treasures," Id suggest starting with the HP Palmtop Ring maintained by Teng-Yan Loke, at www.geocities.com/SiliconValley/Park/4335/hpr_index.html

From there you can branch off to other HP 100/200LX sites. Often there is much to be learned from other experienced users. If they love the Palmtop enough to create a Web site, you can be sure they are fairly knowledgeable about it.

The S.U.P.E.R. site is the single most comprehensive spot for palmtop software (www.palmtop.net/super.html).

Various FTP sites have a wealth of material. These include the Eddie and Monash sites, ftp://eddie.mit.edu/ pub/hp95LX/hp100LX/ and ftp:// ftp.cc.monash.edu.au/pub/palmtop/

The Vector site (www.vector.co. jp/common/dos/util/machine/hp/) is where you can begin to look for Japanese software. The excitement here is that rarely will there be any English documentation, so you will have to figure out if you can use the software provided.

Guels site (spock.vector.co.jp/ authors/VA002322/lx.html, English and Japanese version) not only offers most of his software, but also provides links to other Japanese sites. What is interesting is that these programmers do not cater to the English market at all. Many of the programs are on Nifty-Serve and are not available unless you subscribe to that service.

Sometimes you'll see a reference to a program and be frustrated by its apparent unavailability. Keep browsing, eventually you may find it. For example, I know that Guel has written an IPEX Clock program, but I still haven't found it.

Used/Recycled Software

There are a number of sites on the World Wide Web that advertise recycled and/or used software. Here are a few of the ones I've found. Your search engine may find others.

www.siteworx.com/pds/predrivn.html

www.microstar.com/business.html

www.echosoftware.com/usedcat2.html

www.completelyfreesoftware.com/

www.wdn.com/ems/oldtools/index.html

The last site listed above has a lot of older Borland C and Pascal compilers that may be of interest to programmers.

Friends

Sometimes friends will have old software that they no longer want or use. Offer to buy it from them. Most often they will give you the software as they no longer need it. This is how I acquired Info Select and Quattro Pro (both of which work very well on the Palmtop).

If you regard corporations as friends, you will find that they can be most helpful. The Word Perfect Corporation (when they were still in Utah) had the attitude that once you had purchased Word Perfect, you were entitled to use any previous versions as well. They would sell you the previous versions for the cost of the diskettes only.

Old Bookstores Etc.

I found Scrabble for DOS in a used book store it works well on the Palmtop. From a used software store, I found the SoftKey dictionary (the American Heritage) which worked well as a pop-up TSR with Word Perfect. I used this for a year or two until The HP Palmtop Paper offered the Collins dictionary.

Sharing the Treasure

After just a couple of months of searching, I have accumulated enough software to fill five disks.

I realize that's too much to distribute with The HP Palmtop Paper ON DISK, but perhaps it will appear on the www.PalmtopPaper.com web site in the near future.

In the meantime, let me share with you what I consider the best programs I've found.

Without a doubt, X-Finder is the most powerful application I have found. It works like Windows 95 Explorer. It can launch EXM, EXE and COM files regardless of whether or not the EXM program was installed in MOREEXM.INI or APNAME.LST. It uses file associations as is done in FILER.INI. It treats ZIP and LZH archives as subdirectories. It can display uncompressed icons directly. It sends deleted files to a trash bin so they may be easily restored. The program can even be used to browse a desktop, and backups to the desktop are possible. X-Finder can also launch other applications from a secondary menu. Both ZIP and LHA are native to X-Finder which means that you can use it to compress or decompress files any way you want. In short you can use X-Finder either as a menu system or file manager or both. The program even permits long file names!

X-Finder.

The main problem with X-Finder is the lack of English documentation. Furthermore X-Finder calls two other programs, Memo Express and Log Express and these two programs will not run without Japanese fonts. I have tried to minimize this problem by using extensive file associations in the FINDER.ENV file. I've substituted Flexpad for Memo Express as the Editor, and PNS200 for Log Express as the viewer.

Best runner-up EXM programs: WhereIs and Icon Editor

I found both of these programs because of X-Finder. The "finder" program calls these other applications and therefore I knew they existed. I kept hunting for them until I finally found them.

WhereIs is especially useful for those who have upgraded their Palmtops to 32 or 64M bytes or who have 40 Mbytes or greater flash disks. On these large memory Palmtops its all too easy to lose track of a file or two. WhereIs makes it easy to find them again.

Icon Editor is an EXM icon editor which will not consume a DOS window, nor will it hog an exceptional amount of memory (13 K by my count).

WhereIs

Best EXE/COM program written for the Palmtop

Owen Samuelsons IconVu is fast, can view icons from many predefined directories, shows 44 icons at once, and links to two other icon programs which I use. Check out the great "about" screen!

IconVu

Best runner-up EXE / COM program: Fruit95

Fruit95 is my pick of the crop. This little sleeper has been sitting around for a long time and nobody seems to know about it. It was written for the HP95LX but runs quite well on the HP 200LX. Fruit95 is a challenging puzzle game every bit as fun as Sokoban.

Best DOS freeware/shareware:

My choice here is the Scott Adams adventure games. These were the games that got me interested in computers back when I used an Atari 800 computer. I was very pleased to find DOS versions of these games 20 years later and I am also pleased that they are available for legal use again.

Editor: Larry Garwood has performed a remarkable service for the Palmtop community both in starting a search for lost DOS software and sharing his discoveries with the rest of us.

The accumulated files would fill at least five or six high-density disks: far too many to duplicate and mail. We intend to make all of the files available in a special section on our Web site and on the 1999 CD InfoBase. See the article entitled "The LX-Files, Part 2" in this issue for an annotated list of all the software Larry has found.

iPhone Life magazine


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