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In spite of sparse HP technical documentation, Mark Scardina has come up with a method to quickly and easily make software SystemManager compliant. For fun, Hal explores programs that create words, sounds, and music on the 95LX.
By Hal GoldsteinSome Technical Documentation Please
The Hewlett Packard / Lotus creation of the HP 95LX seems even more extraordinary now, 1 years after its introduction. Despite all that we read in the computer press about the explosion of the Palmtop marketplace, there is as yet no real competition for the 95LX. No existing palmtop matches the built-in capability or compact size of the 95LX.
Given the leadership position of the HP 95LX and the uniqueness of the Lotus System Manager, we would have thought by now, complete technical information needed by developers, small or large, would be available. Furthermore, we have heard complaints from small developers that they have not been able to access the free technical information that HP has been able to provide. Not providing access of technical information to small developers is a big mistake. Already, the best HP 95LX software we have seen has been produced by the dedicated individual programmer as opposed to larger software entities.
Once again, we implore Hewlett Packard and Lotus to make available, for some reasonable fee, all the technical information needed by developers to write good 95LX applications. Good 95LXoriented software can only sell more HP 95LX's.
Mark Scardina to the Rescue
While we continue to urge Hewlett Packard and Lotus to publish this technical documentation, particularly on System Manager, contributing editor Mark Scardina of The HP Palmtop Paper may have come up with an alternative solution. Mark tells me that he is crafting a method for developers to quickly and easily make their software "System-Manager compliant." What that means is that any developer who is willing to spend an hour recompiling his program can make his DOS based program work in conjunction with the 95LX built-in applications. (Naturally, for such a program to run on the 95LX, it would still face limited disk space and system memory, and have to conform to the non-standard 40 x 16 graphics screen.)
Mark tells me that he now has the highly touted shareware editor, VDE, and shareware communications package, COMMO, working with the built-in applications. In fact, Mark has the blue MEMO and COMM keys starting VDE and COMMO, rather than MEMO and COMM! There are already a number of commercial programs, such as Grandview, InfoSelect, Agenda, and WordPerfect 4.2, that run reasonably well on the HP 95LX. These too could work in the System Manager environment alongside Phone, Appointment, and 1-2-3. The manufacturers of these products would only have to re-compile their programs with Mark's minor changes.
The beauty of Mark's plan is that once these programs are recompiled, they remain MS-DOS EXE or COM program files. They run as before on a PC compatible and from DOS on the 95LX. What Mark does is create an additional 1K (EXM) file so that the program runs with the built-in applications. Unlike MENU95, supplied on the Subscribers Disk, these modified programs have all the characteristics of the built-in applications. Given enough System Memory, you could open PHONE, 1-2-3, and, say, this special version of VDE, and switch back and forth between these applications.
WHAT'S THE CATCH?
The only other thing needed for these revised DOS based programs to become system compliant is for the HP 95LX user to install a version of SWITCH, marketed by ACE Technologies. The SWITCH program contains a Systems Manager enhancer. Those of you who installed our free Subscribers Disk may understand this. The Subscribers Disk automatically installs Mark's SYSMGR.EXE, which fixes problems that impede running existing, dedicated system compliant (EXM) software. A more advanced version of this program, SWITCH.COM, will be packaged with SWITCH, and will allow software that has made Mark's specified minor changes work just like a system compliant application. This is good news for developers and users alike. We expect to have quite a bit more detail by the next issue of The HP Palmtop Paper. Note that current users of SWITCH will be able to upgrade for a nominal fee.
If you are a developer and want to discuss this with Mark, contact him at his CompuServe ID [76711,732] or call Mark at 415-681- 9672.
Now, on the lighter side:
Sound and the HP 95LX
Those of you who played with Ramon Santoyo's U-SOUNDS (ON DISK ICON) were perhaps surprised to learn of the HP 95LX's capabilities to produce sound. There are a number of freeware and shareware programs available that allow the HP 95LX to speak. Be thrilled by the "Lone Ranger" -- three minutes of the William Tell Overture; train the 95LX to say a colleague's name, or reminders; distinctly hear the call of trumpets or the Terminator saying "I'll be back." The good news is that these programs work on the 95LX. The bad news is that the volume, quality and understandability vary greatly. Specific phrases or sounds can be quite clear -- at the expense of disk space and lack of flexibility in producing the sounds you wish.
THE HP 95LX SINGS
Contributing editor Ed Keefe recently sent me hours worth of music playable on the HP 95LX in a file called MUS95.ZIP (ON DISK ICON). To give you a flavor of what's on the collection, here is a menu which allows you to choose which piece you would like to play.
As you can see, you can choose from Mozart to Scott Joplin's "Entertainer," from the "Godfather Theme" to the William Tell Overture (the Lone Ranger theme). Further, its medley selection contains another 40 themes including "Auld Lang Syne," "California Here I Come," "God Save the Queen," "Dance of the Marionettes" (the Alfred Hitchcock Theme), and the Carmen Habanera.
If you expect CD quality sound you will be disappointed. However, I found the tunes genuinely enjoyable and appreciated the novelty.
THE 95LX SPEAKS
Robert Williams, the physician who wrote last issue's profile, found a program called TALKER.EXE. (ON DISK ICON) TALKER lets you type a word into your 95LX, and have your 95LX attempt to pronounce it. You can type anything: A name, a profound pronouncement, or a four-letter word. Type your phrase and then press (ENTER) and the computer attempts to enunciate what you just typed in. If you know ahead of time what the computer is trying to say, it seems to do a reasonably good job. However, normally it is difficult to understand the 95LX's speech patterns and interpret what is being said. Some phrases come out better than others.
Dave Marsh's sound program, SNDPLAY.EXE (ON DISK ICON) does a better job in 95LX speech synthesis. The program was written explicitly for the 95LX's sound capability. Unfortunately, SNDPLAY limits you only to sound patterns that have already been created. For example, you can clearly hear Hal, the computer from 2001: A Space Odyssey, tell Dave in a soft calming voice, "I am completely operational and all my circuits are functioning perfectly." You can also understand bass voiced Darth Vedar telling the emperor "As you wish." In addition there are preprogrammed sounds for the "Three Stooges," dog barks, a baby greeting his father, and others, all with surprising clarity.
Another program, BEBACK.COM (ON DISK ICON), picks out one small sound phrase and echoes it in the 95LX. Run BEBACK.COM on the 95LX, and you will hear the Terminator (Arnold Schwartzenegger) in his Austrian accent state: "I'll be back."
Sound on the HP 95LX is still a novelty with limited usefulness. The programs dedicated to specific sounds can be quite life-like, but the programs are relatively large and give the user no flexibility. Programs such as TALKER (30K) don't take up much disk space, but the quality of the sound is severely limited. Music seems to take up much less disk space than speech synthesis. So for example, the phrase, "I'll be back" takes 12K, where Ed Keefe's music medley of 25 songs takes 15K.
The other limitation known by those of you who have tried to use the HP 95LX as an alarm clock, is that the volume is low. Music plays the loudest, but in general you need to put the 95LX to your ear to hear clearly what it is trying to say.
THE 95LX CHIRPS
You Star Trek fans remember the chirping sound when Captain Kirk uses his communicator to talk to the Enterprise? Well, Dave Goodman has just the thing for you. Run STARTREK.COM (ON DISK ICON) and you will see a nice United Federation of Planets logo appear on your screen.
Now turn the 95LX off and on again, and you'll hear your HP 95LX communicator chirp. Thank you Dave (from Hal).
Control Your Home Entertainment Center from the HP 95LX
Some of the best HP 95LX programming minds have teamed together to create myREMOTE, a software package that lets you use the HP 95LX to control your TV, VCR, CD player, and so on via the HP 95LX IR port. Dave Goodman, who has written some of the best shareware utilities for the HP 95LX, has teamed up with The HP Palmtop Paper's Mark Scardina and ACE Technology's Andy Fu to develop the $29 package. We will take a detailed look in a future issue. If you want to test to see if your remote controlled equipment is controllable from the 95LX, you can download RMTEST.ZIP (ON DISK ICON) from CompuServe, or find it on this issue's HP Palmtop Paper on Disk.
Lithium AA Batteries Available at These Locations
The Eveready Battery Company announced the retail availability of the Energizer Hi Energy Lithium L91 AA Battery. As discussed in previous issues, these batteries at least double the HP 95LX battery life. The following retailers will merchandise the battery, two per pack, starting in September, 1992: KMART and Walgreen Drugs (nationwide U.S.), and Payless stores (Northwest U.S.). Check in the photography sections of these stores for the batteries.
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