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The King Is Dead... Long Live the King.

The King Is Dead... Long Live the King.

A long-time HP fan reacts to the article about the demise of the HP 200LX and suggests that the HP Jornada 680 may be an alternative.
By William Quinlan
Let me preface my remarks by stating that I am a long time HP 200LX user. It has been my main computer since 1994. I have steadfastly refused to move away from the Palmtop and have invested countless hours developing programs and databases that run on it. I have constantly asked myself how could I give it all up and for what?

When I read the article, " The Beginning of the End of an Era" in the Sept/Oct issue of The HP Palmtop Paper, I thought that it was peculiarly one-sided. The article seemed to imply that only "newbies" would give up their Palmtops for a WinCE handheld and that veteran users would find WinCE machines unacceptable.

My experience told me otherwise. I have been using HP calculators since 1978, starting with the HP 67 and moving through seven different models until I wound up using the HP 48. HP calculators have changed in size, shape, keyboard layout and displays. They have also changed internally. Programs designed for the HP 25C wouldn't work on the HP 41. Programs for the HP 41 won't work on the HP 48. However I've found that the one constant factor in all these changes is the need to preserve, in one form or another, all my algorithms, programs and data. With the calculators, each step along the way was difficult, but the hardest transition was to the Palmtop format. I was furious with HP for shifting from RPN based number crunchers to a DOS based machine. I was so ticked off that I refused to buy an HP95LX. When the HP100LX came out, I tried it and gradually converted all my data into Palmtop format. My early programming tools were Lotus 123 and HPCalc-solver. I got to love the Database applications, Appointment Book and Worldtime. Eventually everything I valued in the HP41/48 format was moved over to the Palmtop or I found substitutes. Later I discovered that QBasic 4.5 would run on the Palmtop and my computing life was complete. The best thing about the Palmtop was that it had a large screen, compared to all the calculators I'd used.

When HP announced the Jornada 680, I took one look at the color screen and decided that my tired old eyes could stand a rest from squinting at the Palmtop's display. However I didn't rush out and buy one. I gave serious thought to how I could convert my data (remember, that is the critical factor with any system change).

Then I ran across a message on the HPLX-L mailing list that mentioned a WIN CE DOS emulator. I found the website (www.xt-ce.com) and downloaded a demo version. The demo came with both a 32 bit DOS emulator that would run under Windows 95 and an emulator that would work on a WIN CE machine. I didn't have a WIN CE machine, so I played with the PC version (XT-PC). Imagine my surprise. The emulator ran almost all my CGA, XT programs and, more importantly, it ran most HP 200LX programs written using the PAL library. It even ran Cpack200 and Lotus 123 v2.4 almost flawlessly. Lotus 123 runs as a mouse version with full help, macro and graphing features but not WYSIWSG. The emulation of Cpack200 still has some glitches, but HPCalc, including Solver, Filer, and Appointment book work fine. The databases are readable but can't be changed on a WIN CE machine. The developer of XT-CE, Ian Dean, is diligently working on this problem.

 So on the basis of what I had discovered about the XT-PC emulator, I bought an HP J680 and I have no regrets. It has opened me up to the world of WIN CE and I like it! I found an astronomy program (PUniverse 2000) that is second only to my Macintosh astronomy program and works as well as anything I have in my Palmtop. I found stopwatch and deskclock programs that are better (because of color) than the programs I was using on my Palmtop. Pocket Excel reads my Lotus spreadsheets just fine except for graphs and I have Lotus 1-2-3 running under XT-CE whenever I want to draw a graph.

I found an HP48 WIN CE emulator that lets me run my HP48 programs on the J680. That was something I had to give up with the Palmtop. Now I can resurrect all my HP 48 programs and use them again. QBasic 4.5 runs perfectly in XT-CE mode and I am even thinking about learning Pocket C. I will dearly miss Worldtime especially with the Buddy overlay, but World Clock is very impressive and I can run GeoClock under XT-CE.

 The list of programs that I have been able to run in XT-CE mode is impressive. They include SkyGlobe, the Collins Dictionary and Multilingual Dictionary, PCGlobe, PCUSA, BestClock, Computer Desktop Encyclopedia, Automap, Flight Simulator, Days, LXPIC, LXMAP, most of Curtis Cameron's great games, QBasic 4.5, GeoClock, Lotus 1-2-3, Cpack200, most PAL programs including World Travel, etc. It is almost easier to list what it won't run: Clock-O-Doom, for example. Conversion of my databases is the biggest problem. Until XT-CE is fixed to run Cpack200 perfectly, I have no way to edit my databases in my Jornada 680. I'll have to admit that Pocket Access and Contact are mere shadows of the HP200 database engine.

If HP had any marketing savvy they would bundle XT-CE with every Jornada! XTPC on my Windows 98 machine is faster, more reliable and neater than a DOS box. XT-CE is slightly faster than a normal HP200 except for Cpack200 which, at the present time, is slower.

 The HP J680 is not just another pretty WIN CE machine. HP has put a lot of effort into making it more like an HP200. For example, HP has added special programs to integrate the Calendar, Contact and Task functions. It has added software for easy settings and customizations. It has created a program called HP Quick Pad that is like Notetaker on the Palmtop, but Quick Pad has a lightening fast search engine. I put my clients, business contacts and personal databases in Quick Pad and now can find information much faster than on the HP200. HP also added a business calculator called OmniSolve, which is like an HP19B business calculator without the Solver and Statistic functions. For Solver I have HPCalc in XT-CE mode. For List Stat I wrote an Excel spreadsheet.

There are programs for changing the 11 soft keys at the top of the machine. Also, there is a freeware program called Hotkeys which lets you assign programs, documents, spreadsheets, sounds, pictures, etc. to key strokes using the WIN key + 0-9, A-Z, with CRTL and ALT add-ons. This makes me feel like I am in user mode on a HP41/48!

 Synchronization and backup are a snap on the Jornada 680 using MS Active Sync 3.0. It is far simpler and faster than any method I used on the HP200 including Zip and Transfile WIN 200. HP has even provided an onboard method of backing up to a flash card. And, speaking of flash cards, all of my cards work perfectly on the Jornada 680. I have a 30mb compact flash card and an 85 mb type II card. I have also been able to use my type III Viper hard drive on the Jornada 680 with a special port extender! In XT-CE mode, I can even access the flash cards directly and run the same DOS programs that are loaded into the HP200.

 Pictures and sounds are very nice on the Jornada 680. I ported over all my favorite topcards from the HP200 as wallpaper. There is even a program to swap the wallpaper at set intervals. The Internet has numerous wallpapers ranging from color pictures of the world and planetary system to movie themes. Sound is a mixed bag. XT-CE cannot emulate the HP200 sounds so I have lost an extensive collection of alarm sounds. But I now am able to play very clear WAV renditions of the Hawaii Five-0 theme, HAL speaking, Clint Eastwood's "Go ahead: make my day," Bruce Willis' famous pizza statement from Die Hard, etc.

 The HP J680's size and weight are acceptable for my purposes. It will fit in my suit coat pocket but I bought a neoprene case from The Pouch that has a back clasp that lets me hook it to the strap of my briefcase

 Admittedly the price of the HP J680 is high, but in my opinion it is worth it.

So where does that leave me? Kind of sad. I always knew the day would come when I wouldn't need to carry my HP200 and that makes me feel like a traitor. But then I remember that my new machine carries all the same programs that I valued and created on my HP200. I even wrote this article on the Jornada 680. By the way, Jornada is Spanish for day's journey. I looked that up in the Collins Multilingual Dictionary in XT-CE mode on my new "machine"!

 I intend to continue my subscription to The HP Palmtop Paper for as long as it is published. I also intend to subscribe to Handheld PC Magazine which is the only magazine dedicated to WIN CE handhelds. Who knows some day I may even send my beloved HP200 to Thaddeus to have it souped up and backlit.

 Editor's note: Bill Quinlan's remarks are well put and well taken. Admittedly the article about HP's discontinuing the HP Palmtop was skewed to the "dark side" of the news and, granted, the article did not give the "new kid on the block" a fighting chance.

We're happy to hear that Ian Dean continues to work on the DOS emulator for WinCE machines. The news that there is an HP 48 emulator for WinCE machines is also intriguing.

Having said that, let me state that The HP Palmtop Paper is dedicated to the HP Palmtop. Our sister publication, Handheld PC Magazine, does an admirable job of singing the praises of the WinCE machines.

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