User to User

Hal reports on the excitement at the HP Handheld Users Conference , a new book by David Packard describing the history of HP, our 200LX/1000CX loaner program for developers, the 1995/1996 Subscribers PowerDisk, and some software that didn't make it into the PowerDisk, but is on this issues ON DISK and CompuServe.

By Hal Goldstein

HP Handheld Conference

Ever since HP invented the electronic calculator some 23 years ago, engineers and other number-crunchers have held the HP Handheld division in high esteem. HPs has produced many generations of extraordinary useful and rich handheld products. Kudos go to the Corvallis, Oregon Division, and the new home of HP Handheld development and production, the HP Singapore division.

Starting with the invention of the pocket calculator, the HP 35, Hewlett-Packard progressed to more recent high-end calculator products such as the HP 41, HP 48, and the new HP 38 for high school students. HP also made its mark in the business community with the 12C, which still remains a standard for many business users. These same HP divisions have assumed an industry leadership position with DOS compatible palmtops, the HP 95LX, 100LX and 200LX.

The HP handheld series spawned many users groups throughout the world and a number of newsletters and other organizations. For years a loyal dedicated group of people including Richard Nelson of EduCalc, Craig Finseth, Brian Walsh, Wlodek Mier-Jedrzejowicz, and many others have organized and attended annual events for fellow HP Handheld users. Papers are presented, proceedings distributed, contacts made, and friendships started and renewed. All this has been done on a volunteer basis.

Times have changed and numbers attending these events are dwindling. But at the same time, if the recent event at the Mall of America in Minnesota is any indication, the quality of the event has increased. This is demonstrated by the papers presented, the HP personnel and users in attendance, and the networking that takes place.

There were around sixty-five attendees in Minnesota. A half dozen were from HP and included the head of the Singapore division, KHAW Keng Joo, HP engineers, and HP marketing people. Representatives from Globalink, EduCalc, and Thaddeus Computing (Ed Keefe, Richard Hall, and myself) were there to show our wares and make contacts. The rest of the gathering were made up of hard core enthusiasts, speakers, and Palmtop users.

The future of HP handhelds

There were over 20 talks on Palmtops and calculators, many quite interesting even to the non-technical user. Mr. Khaw from HP began the conference by giving us a vision of the future of HP Handhelds.

Khaw sees four markets for his division: Calculators, Organizers, PC Companions (HP Palmtop 200LX series), and Communicators (wireless phone/handheld combos).

Khaw indicated that a GEOS-based organizer would be released before the end of this year. He was quite clear that this will NOT be a replacement for the 200LX. In fact later Mr. Khaw specifically asked me to tell our readers that HP is committed to the PC Companion / 200LX line. Any future products in the HP 200LX line will maintain compatibility with the current units.

Mr. Khaw's talk was followed by one from David Shier of Shier Systems, a Palmtop products developer. David spoke on how the Palmtop should be marketed as a laptop in your pocket a point that we have discussed in past issues of The HP Palmtop Paper. One of David's main points was that a computer is only useful if its available when you need it. The fact that HP is calling the HP 200LX a PC Companion, seems to indicate that HP is moving in that direction.

One talk was by an HP Corvallis calculator engineer, Diana Byrne on what it was like developing the HP 38G when half her team was in Singapore on the other side of the world. She gave insights and described tools on how the team was able to overcome time, geographical, and cultural differences. Her team made great use of the Internet and a private hypertext Web Page. The team had cultural training and physically visited each others sites. They conducted virtual meetings where everyone had head sets in front of their own terminals viewing the same data.

HP Palmtop Papers Ed Keefe made a high tech presentation explaining in simple terms what OOP (Object Oriented Programming) means. In another talk Paul Hubbert explained that the Rayovac recharging system works well on the Palmtops and that there are ways to use any alkaline battery with the Rayovac recharger.

Two of the most interesting talks from HP Palmtop users points of view will probably become future HP Palmtop Paper articles. Dale Curtis of Harvard Medical School spoke about how 400 medical students made use of HP Palmtops in their studies. Joe Powell of HP talked about how his team used the Palmtop to track customer satisfaction issues (e.g., problems, bugs with HP equipment, etc.). There was a lot of interesting useful material in these talks. However, what I found most intriguing and what I want to highlight in future HP Palmtop Paper articles, is the collective use of Palmtops. In other words, what are the unique challenges, techniques, and benefits when a team of people use Palmtops. For example, Joe Powell spoke of a shared Palmtop database with the master updated version residing on a network using the HP Connectivity Pack software. Dale said that all HMS students have a photo on the underside of their palmtop to avoid taking off with someone else's 200LX at the end of a meeting.

Next year in Los Angeles?

I think many of our readers would enjoy the stimulation, the ideas, and human networking provided by these conferences. We have tentatively planned to have the next meeting in August 1996 in the Los Angeles area. To make the event successful (200-800 people) I believe we would have to do the event in a more traditional manner.

We would have to plan and publish a listing of the topics and vendors well in advance. We would have to do a lot of direct mail with publicity in The HP Palmtop Paper and other periodicals. We have to make sure the event runs smoothly and is pleasant. All this cannot be done by volunteers. That means the event becomes a for-profit or at least a break even venture. Someone has to devote the resources and time to make it all happen. We are obvious candidates but I have to ask myself, Is this where Thaddeus Computing wants to invest our resources? A lot of it is up to you. How interested would you be in attending a conference in Los Angeles next year? What is a reasonable fee? What topics should be discussed? How many seminar tracks? If you have comments, please write, e-mail, or initiate discussions on the HPHAND CompuServe Forum. (See page 52 for information on how to contact us).

David Packard's History of Hewlett-Packard Company

I recently read David Packard's book, The HP Way. I found it worth reading, but I was a bit disappointed at the same time. It was worth reading to be reminded of all the great principles that made HP a great company. It was disappointing because Packard did not open himself up at all. I really didn't learn how he thinks, which is why I like autobiographies of great men and women. I did learn more about the fruit of his and Bill Hewlett's brilliant intellects, Hewlett- Packard. HP is a great company because there is an ongoing focus of building and improving the company itself. The great people it attracts, and the products it builds are an outgrowth of that focus.

Loaner Program for HP 200LX and HP 1000CX

Last issue we announced that we, Thaddeus Computing, will be selling the HP 100LX/200LX Developers Guide (see page 7). In addition to providing developers with technical and marketing information, we now have loaner HP 200LXs, HP 1000CXs, Connectivity Kits, and Flash cards. (The HP 1000CX is a 1MB HP 200LX without the built-in applications. It is an MS DOS XT class computer, see my User to User column, Vol.4, No.3, Pg.20.)

If you know of PCMCIA or DOS software developers that need a Palmtop for a month or two for testing, they should contact our advertising department who will be administrating the program. Those borrowing units leave us credit card information for security and agree on a date when the unit is to be returned.

The 1995/1996 Subscribers PowerDisk

Ed Keefe and I are now finalizing the 1995-96 Subscribers PowerDisk. We think you'll be pleased with the breadth and depth of entries. Since there has been a little confusion about what the PowerDisk is and who gets it, let me clarify our policies.

The Subscriber PowerDisk consists of the best free software we can find (usually no shareware). A few programs that we deem critical stay on the disk from year to year such as Garlic, which fixes corrupted Appointment Book, PhoneBook, and DataBase files. Most of the software is new.

Every subscriber is entitled to one Subscriber PowerDisk for each year he or she subscribes. Many of you will receive the 1995-1996 Subscriber PowerDisk shortly after you renew.

I need to apologize to about 3% of our readership who did not receive their 1994-95 disk. We have spent unsuccessful days trying to figure out why our system denied some these readers their disk. If you did not receive your disk and you should have, please use the contact information on page 52 to get ahold of us, and well send you your disk.

Note that the Best Tips On Disk is not free, and is different from the Subscriber PowerDisk. It contains about 4 times as much software as the PowerDisk and includes shareware as well as freeware. It can be purchased separately or is included free as part of the HP Palmtop Paper On Disk subscription (see page 45).

Good stuff that didn't make the cut for the PowerDisk

Ed Keefe and I spend a lot of time each year creating the Subscriber PowerDisk. (Over the years we have received surprisingly little feedback about the disk. There is some a lot of good software on each disk, but I always wonder how valuable users find it. My guess is that many do not get around to trying out the software). Next issue we will write about many of the goodies on the disk. However, in this column I will write about software that didn't make the cut. We may have excluded software from the disk because it was shareware (only free software is on the disk), because of its size, or because we discovered it too late.

One program that will make the HP Subscriber PowerDisk is CGAHLP.ZIP, a freeware from Japan. This program is important for anyone who has been frustrated by hard-to-read DOS software on the Palmtop. It makes it much easier to view DOS CGA software, including some of the software described below.

Although the programs described below will not be on our Subscriber PowerDisk, you can find them on CompuServe on the HPHAND forum or on this issues HP Palmtop Paper ON DISK. For example, lets first look at the game front.

A favorite among many of us as children was monopoly. MONOPO .ZIP reportedly works quite well on the HP Palmtop. In addition, there are a number of popular shareware adventure-type DOS games, including PTOMB.ZIP and ROUGE.ZIP.  Then there is the strategy game JAMMED.ZIP , written for the Palmtops. This game comes with a GUI (graphical user interface). You move an antibody through a maze of jammed blood clots towards a virus that has infected your body. BLITZ4.ZIP is a nice implementation of checkers.

Moving to the more practical side of things, TIMBIL.ZIP  is a simple- but-functional timekeeping system for the HP 100/200LX. TIMBIL will let you easily track your hours and save your notes on each project for those who bill by the hour or for those who want to track how long projects take.

A number of useful .GDB databases for the built-in DataBase program have been made available for fellow users. For Internet surfers, NETDB.ZIP lets you keep track of your favorite sites. Fields include for description, address (domain), path, IP address phone number, category, login ID, password, type of service, and notes. For CompuServe surfers/travelers, CIS.PDB and CISPEU.ZIP provide current CompuServe phone nodes for North American and Europe respectively. For travelers who do not like paying inflated hotel long distance phone bills, PHCRD.GDB provides worldwide access numbers for AT&T, MCI, Sprint, and Swiss Telcom calling cards.

For the bewildered, ACRONYM .ZIP contains a Palmtop database of over 2500 technical acronyms descriptions. Finally, the unusual MAP.GDB  is a database file for the 100/200LX that allows the user to quickly sketch a map of 4-intersecting streets.

If you want to launch any of these or any other GDB file directly from AppManager from an icon, check out DBL.ZIP .

CLASICAL.ZIP provides those with type A personalities, six soothing classical music custom alarms for the Appointment Book.

JAM.ZIP is an inexpensive and popular palmtop alternative to Stacker for file compression on your Flash disk. For those who would like to insert pictures and edit them in MEMO documents, look at the templates provided in PIC-ME.ZIP.

A favorite feature-packed alternative to built-in DataComm is COMMO which recently has been updated to version 6.5. Similar those who need a more powerful calculator than the built-in application should consider updated EXPCALC.ZIP  for the HP Palmtops. This powerful scientific calculator includes more than 100 functions such as statistical distributions, function plotting, simple statistics (mean, standard deviation, histograms, regression, polynomial fits) linear algebra (matrix inversion, linear equation systems), expression evaluation, and unit conversion.

Finally, VDE.ZIP came in too late to make it into the PowerDisk. This DOS menu system looks like built-in Application Manager. It lets you launch up to 120 DOS applications. It runs from DOS or Application Manager.