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User to User: Backlighting!

User to User: Backlighting!

Hal announces a bright idea for the Palmtop, backlighting, and gives his appraisal of a DOS emulator for WinCE machines.

By Hal Goldstein

Farewell HP 200LX? Not Yet.

In April someone from HP contacted me indicating that although nothing officially could be announced, it looked like the HP 200LX would be discontinued. He was concerned about my business. I told him that I thought HP's decision was a real shame, but we would still have a strong HP 200LX business for some years to come. Here's why.

Most importantly we have a strong customer base: many people still find the HP 200LX tremendously useful and see no compelling reason to switch machines. Frankly, I have been surprised how strong our HP 200LX business remains and how slow our Handheld PC Magazine for users of Windows CE has been to catch on.

In the next six to nine months we hope to make large buys on used HP 200LX's and HP 1000CX's. There are many companies throughout the world that use the HP 200LX for a single vertical application. Examples include Coca Cola field reps in Brazil, Dutch train conductors, Korean insurance sales people. A number of factors including discontinuance of these HP machines and no support for DOS software will force these companies to adopt a different platform. (If you represent any such company, please contact me at hal@thaddeus.com. We are interested in purchasing your machines).

If we can buy enough of these Palmtops, we will be able to resell and repair Palmtops for some years to come. Further, it is now theoretically possible to put a 486 motherboard in a HP 200LX case. If the technology is developed, and we could get enough of these Palmtops, we might be able to introduce new operating systems in the Palmtop form factor. For example, we might be able to offer 386 DOS, Windows, or Unix-like Palmtops. Of course, all this is speculation. If we have something to report, we'll publish it here and in our catalog. What, however, is no longer speculation is backlighting.

Backlight Your Palmtop

Ever been in a dark or poorly lit room when you wanted to use your Palmtop? Have there ever been times when you had to maneuver the position of the Palmtop screen just right to be able to read it?

No more. By the time you read this, an HP Palmtop backlighting solution should be available for the HP 100LX, HP 200LX, and HP 1000CX. We, Thaddeus Computing, will be able to backlight your screen by appointment. Alternatively, you can order a new or used Palmtop with backlighting.

It works well

"Backlight Your Palmtop" will allow you to easily read your Palmtop in low or no light conditions, conditions that normally make the HP Palmtop unusable. In addition, improved reflective characteristics of the upgraded screen mean that the display will be readable in lower light conditions without backlight. The new screen is easier to read than the standard display in bright light and also in poorer lighting conditions when the backlighting is turned off. You can turn the backlighting on and off simply with software. Battery life should not be significantly effected, perhaps a 10-20% degradation depending on usage.

The new, reflective, polarized, upgraded display may change the color of the display from a greenish color to gold under certain lighting conditions. The backlight itself is blue. To keep the backlight as low current, and because of size constraints, it is not as bright as a laptop's backlight Even so, Palmtop backlighting works well. Beta testers have found the backlighting perfectly useable.

Technical Details

The backlight is an internal, low-power electro luminescent (EL) backlight that takes its power from the Palmtop. It converts low voltage from the internal Palmtop power supply to alternating high voltage that drives the EL panel. The high voltage excites phosphorous in the EL panel, which discharges photons on the zero point of the alternating waveform. The high voltage is very stable and alternated fast enough so, to the eye, the panel looks like it is constantly emitting light.

Fortunately, there are some normally unused I/O lines. That makes it possible to control the on\off switch of the inverter board using the I/O of the Palmtop microcontroller. Consequently, no additional circuitry is required and the user will be able to turn backlighting on and off with software.

The upgrade itself is involved and takes a tech about 30 minutes. It requires a disassembly of the LCD display and removal of the existing reflective polarizer. The polarizer is replaced with a transflective polarizer. Then the tech installs the EL panel and a small inverter circuit board. The upgrade does not require a complete LCD disassembly but simply a board upgrade.

For more background read David Sargeant's article in the July/August, 1999, issue of The HP Palmtop Paper.

Ordering Information

Because of the amount of labor involved and initial expected demand, we will take appointments to backlight your current Palmtop. Email us at back light@thaddeus.com and we will set an appointment for you. With an appointment, you can expect to receive your Palmtop within five days after we receive it. Without an appointment or if you order a new or used unit, we will send back your Palmtop within one to three weeks. The cost of "Backlight your Palmtop" is $179. Speed and memory upgrades may be ordered at the same time.

The warranty will be 90 days on used or upgraded units. An additional $25 extends the warranty to one year. New upgraded Palmtops come with a one-year warranty.

Palmtop Paper Archives Online

We have had many requests to put archives of The HP Palmtop Paper on our Web site at www.PalmtopPaper.com, and to put this Web HTML version on our annual HP Palmtop Paper CD InfoBase. A number of users have volunteered to help Ed Keefe in this effort. By the time you read this, the project may be well under way. However, we still may need your help. Email ed@thaddeus.com and copy me at hal@thaddeus.com if you can assist.

Future of The HP Palmtop Paper

It is hard to believe, but the next issue completes our eighth year of publishing The HP Palmtop Paper. Ed Keefe and I have spoken frequently about its future. Since not many new HP 200LX's are sold, most of our subscriptions are renewals. That means our paid subscriber base has dropped quite significantly over the past two years. Ed wants to move the publication to the Web where the articles would be more current and the time needed to go from idea to readable material would be faster than two months. My feeling is that many people (myself included) like and often prefer information in a physical magazine format.

My thinking is that we might have the best of both worlds. We could publish on the Web and take the best of that material, clean it up, and continue with The HP Palmtop Paper. To do so, we need you to renew. (If we decide to stop publishing the print version of The HP Palmtop Paper and you do renew, we will offer you credit from our catalog or a refund). What do you think we should do? E-mail me.

Palmtop software on Windows CE Handhelds

There is an emulator available at www.xt-ce.com that allows DOS and even some 200LX-specific software to run on Windows CE handhelds. XT-CE is an 80188/80186 PC Emulator, which makes Windows CE handheld PC (H/PC) run like an older PC using an Intel x86 processor. The setup is not difficult, but a bit confusing. You need to install a version of DOS on top of the emulator. You can download Caldera's Dr DOS or you can create a DOS system disk from a pre-Windows 95 unit. Once properly installed, you can get to a DOS prompt by clicking from a shortcut that appears on the Windows CE desktop.

I tested the emulator on the Jornada 820. I made my HP 200LX's PC Card, which contains a lot of DOS and Palmtop software, the "C drive." Then I started to test programs with varied results.

Fortunately, DBV works. It is a useful program for the Palmtop that we have written about in the past. It allows for fast loading and searching of database files. That means that I was able to run DBV and view all my PHONE book entries, as well as NoteTaker and Database files. However, DBV only reads these files, it does not allow for new entries or editing of existing information.

In general the emulation seems a little slower than my double speed Palmtop although that varies depending on the software and on how fast the processor on the Windows CE handheld. Unfortunately, the screen gets refreshed often when running some DOS software. The effect of the refreshing is that it seems slower then it is, and it looks a little strange. Some keys needed in a DOS system might not be on an H/PC. To solve this, f1-f10 plus Ins, Del, Scl, CAP, Hm, End, Pup, and PDn are labeled and placed on the top row above the DOS screen. To access these keys you need to point, or used the mouse device on the H/PC.

In preliminary tests many DOS programs worked and some HP Palmtop-specific programs ran. Approximately 70% of the Super Software Carousel programs worked. Ian Dean is still working on improving XT-CE. He has been experimenting with getting the HP Palmtop Connectivity Pack to run. If he proves successful, then the built-in 200LX applications (minus Lotus 1-2-3 and Pocket Quicken) would be available for Windows CE users.

All in all XT-CE is a laudable start. However, there is a ways to go before the convenience of running DOS and built-in 200LX software is truly available on a Windows CE machine.

iPhone Life magazine


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