Friday, November 28, 2008

Psion Netbook Pro: Follow-Up

There are various annoying issues with my Netbook Pro:
- unresponsive spacebar
- weakened battery
- crackling while playing mp3s

I managed to fix the spacebar rather quickly by inserting a small piece of thick paper between the rubber dome and the keycap. The second issue is a bit more pressing but since the battery still holds about 3-4 hours (with Ethernet), I can live with that for a while. However, I will be rebuilding the battery, if I decide to keep the Netbook in the long-term. The crackling sound is the biggest problem so far. What happens is that, if you do anything (task switching, scrolling, etc.) during MP3 playback, you'll get lots of crackling noise (like static) in the background. If you leave the computer alone, sound remains clear. Supposedly, there is a bug in later firmwares (400 and newer) and we're currently trying to find the last pre-400 firmware to test this.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Psion Netbook Pro: First Impressions

I recently recieved the Netbook Pro I ordered from Pulster. Everything was well packed and in excellent condition. So, how does a 5 year old Netbook compare to the modern netbooks? It's about the same size and weight as an ASUS eee PC but the screen is only 800x600. However, having a touch-screen does have its advantages and the keyboard is very comfortable. So far I've only tested a Toshiba Bluetooth SD Card 2 and SMC EZ Connect Ethernet PCMCIA card. Both worked out of the box, no drivers had to be installed. One of the bigger disadvantages of the Netbook is the inability to play video (or so they say). One of these days I'll see, if it can digest 640x480 at 25 fps. You also pretty much need to install Opera for a normal browsing experience. If you disregard the last two annoyances, you get a solid netbook for a fraction of a price and still unbeatable battery life. Who needs a netbook when we have the Netbook?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Logitech G5: First Impressions

Today I unpacked my brand new Logitech G5 rev.2 gaming mouse. Packaging is as always standard Logitech, no surprises here. The mouse itself looks and feels very much like my old MX510. Compared to the old G5 it now has two thumb buttons, the same as MX510. The texture is a bit rough which is a bit unusual but is quite comfortable. As far as the weight system goes, I think it's a good idea. I'm currently using four 4.5g weights as well as four 1.7g weights and I think that's just about perfect. The only thing I'm not too crazy about is the mouse wheel which feels wobbly and sticky compared to MX510. You also have to be careful to press it in the middle or it won't click at all! I guess this will take some getting used to. Apart from the middle-button issue, I give this mouse thumbs up! :)

Photo: Wikipedia

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

RedGear v1.0.0 available for purchase

Alpaxo Software is proud to announce the availability of RedGear v1.0.0, which may be purchased on the following page:

>>> RedGear - Alpaxo Software <<<

RedGear is an upgrade for Windows® CE devices running HPC2000 and CE.NET. It extends the operating system so that newer Windows Mobile software can now run on your HPC2000 & CE .NET device! RedGear™ retains the familiar look and feel of your device while allowing key applications such as Opera Mobile v8.65 to run perfectly. Plus, support for additional popular Windows Mobile applications is continually improving!

RedGear solves problems like:
  • "Cannot find _____.exe or one of its components."
  • "_____.exe is not a valid Windows CE application."
  • Manual modification of files ("hacking")
The following devices have been tested and found working:
  • HP Jornada 710/720/728
  • NTT DoCoMo Sigmarion III
  • Skeye Pad SL
  • SmartBook G138
  • Psion Netbook Pro
  • NEC MobilePro 900/900C (unmodified)
For further information or questions, please don't hesitate to visit the Alpaxo Software Technical Support Forums.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Game Review: In The Doghouse

In The Doghouse is a simple yet addictive puzzle game by Nitrome. The idea is simple: sort out the pieces of the puzzle so they form a path to the dog's food bowl in the kitchen. You don't move the dog directly but rather move a bone which the dog then follows. To make things more interesting there are additional obstacles in the form of cats, elevators, electric gates etc. I'm currently stuck at level 39 out of 40. Give it a try, I'm sure it won't disappoint you.

+ great gameplay
+ cute graphics
- repetitive music
- needs more levels (!)

Rating: 9/10


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

HPC News

Yesterday I finally placed an order for a used Psion Teklogix Netbook Pro at Pulster (DE). I just couldn't resist the low price of €150 (plus €15 shipping). The Netbook Pro will hopefully completely replace my Jornada 728 and take care of all my needs on the move. Why? The features just blow you away! It has a significantly bigger touch-screen capable of 800x600@65K, a nice, comfortable keyboard and runs Windows CE .NET 4.2. There's also lots of room for expansion in the form of a 16-bit PCMCIA slot, Compact Flash slot and SDIO slot as well as USB host. In theory the Netbook comes very close to being the perfect HPC.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Radeon 9800 Pro failing..

It looks like my good ol' PowerColor Radeon 9800 Pro AIW has failed. The funny thing is I originally bought this card because of the TV tuner and the remote. However, to this day both remain unused! My next purchase will for sure be a regular graphics card! I have yet to decide which one to get but I'm considering ATi X1650 Pro, ATi X1950 Pro or ATi HD 3650.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Goodies From The Mailbox

I returned from my vacation in Portugal on Saturday evening. When I got to my parent's place, all the stuff that I bought on eBay in the past month was already waiting for me. This includes:
- a Socket Bluetooth CF card
- a Newton MessagePad 120 w/ keyboard
- a Colorgraphic Voyager VGA CF card
- an Orinoco Silver 11 Mbps WiFi PCMCIA card

Socket BT card will probably end up being used with the Jornada for the time being. I will also be making the adapter cable so I can use the Newton keyboard with the Jornada. Orinoco Silver is just for backup and the Colorgraphic VGA card will probably stay in storage until I can get my hands on a Psion Netbook Pro.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Blog update

Added a second sidebar on the left. At the moment there's only one section, 'Reviews & Guides'. I'll also be adding a monthly poll soon. It'd be nice to see how many people visit this blog.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Palm Bluetooth SD Card Review

Palm BT SD card review

By default the m515 doesn't provide Bluetooth functionality. You need a separate SDIO card from Palm (made by Toshiba) which I'm sure wasn't cheap back in 2002. As you can see from the photo, the card is almost twice the size of a regular SD memory card and as such it sticks out of the SD slot quite a bit. However, for the majority of Palm users this shouldn't be an issue.

Before you can use the BT card you'll need to install software from the included CD which contains the following apps:
  • BlueBoard (share doodles via BT)
  • BlueChat (chat via BT)
  • Bluetooth (BT Wizard)
  • BT Print 995c
  • WAP Browser

In theory you should be able to:
  • hotsync to your PC/laptop
  • connect to the Internet using GPRS
  • send/recieve SMS's
  • dial phone numbers
  • print
As it turns out, not everything is so simple for us, Nokia owners. Palm only provides drivers for Nokia 6310i and Nokia 6210 phones while 6310i is the only one with integrated Bluetooth. This means that if you own any other Nokia phone but the 6310i, you won't be able to use any services which require 'Remote SIM Access' via Bluetooth. I must say I'm very disappointed with Palm and their lack of support in the form of new drivers.

NOTE: I was able to use the SMS app with my Nokia 6021 but only via IrDA and using the Nokia 6210 driver.

Palm BT and GPRS
Setting up a GPRS connection isn't very hard and works fine even on my Nokia 6021 as long as I set it up as a modem, not a phone. Trying to set it up as a phone ends in failure. A guide on setting up the GPRS connection will follow shortly.

The Palm BT SD card is not a bad product but leaves much to be desired. The biggest two questions for me are why aren't there new drivers for Nokia phones and why doesn't the card work with Palm OS 5.x?

+ simple installation
+ hotsync wirelessly
+ Internet access through GPRS
- sticks out of the PDA
- lack of GSM drivers
- doesn't work with OS 5.x

GPRS Madness

Palm m515
My first goal was to establish a GPRS connection via Bluetooth using Nokia 6021 and Palm m515. This took longer than expected since it took me ages to figure out what I was doing wrong while the solution was obvious. Every time I tried to establish a connection to the phone, the phone kept asking me whether I wanted to allow remote SIM access. I should have known this wasn't right the first time I saw the message! After browsing through dozens of websites it finally dawned on me. The m515 was trying to access the SIM card! Unfortunately Palm hasn't made drivers for 6021 so you can't send/recieve SMS or dial via Bluetooth. You can however use GPRS. All I had to do was choose 'Modem' instead of 'Phone' in the connection properties and add a connection string and it worked! A guide with screenshots is in the making.

HP Jornada 728
Setting up a GPRS connection via IrDA using the above mentioned phone and the Jornada 728 was simple thanks to this step-by-step guide from HP: HP Jornada 720 - Setting up a GPRS Connection.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

HPC Battery Test

Since I'm travelling to Portugal soon and my Jornada 728 is coming with me, I decided to test its battery. I did that by playing an m3u playlist over and over. The result was close to 6 and a half hours of playtime while the screen was off about two thirds of the time. I'm quite happy with the result although the testing method may not be the most accurate one.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Palm m515 review

After a week's use, here's my impression of the Palm m515.

At just 11.38 x 7.70 x 1.27cm this PDA is smaller than my wallet and only weighs 139 grams. As such it's probably still one of the smallest PDAs out there. You can put it in your pocket and after a while forget it's even there. The screen is a 160x160 pixel backlit color display and unsurprisingly seems dim compared to modern PDA devices. However, it's viewable indoors as well as outdoors even with the backlight off.

Small yet capable

The Palm m515 comes with Palm OS 4.1 preinstalled which includes all those nifty apps like To-Do List, Calendar, Memos, Address Book etc. For additional software you'll have to search the Net. I suggest you try for starters. So far I only installed Eudora Internet Suite 2.1 which is freeware and it works great with my GPRS enabled phone. Haven't tried the Eudora browser yet but at 160x160 I don't expect it to be of much use with regular web pages.

As far as connectivity goes the Palm m515 only offers IrDA and USB cradle/cable out of the box. For Windows XP I strongly recommend you install Palm Desktop 4.1 which will help you sync with the PC. You will also need it to install software and drivers. While IrDA is OK for syncing, it's unbelievably slow when it comes to installing applications. It took me about 20 minutes to install EIS and this is simply unacceptable. I believe using the cradle to do this would be a much faster option but I haven't tested it yet.

Thankfully the m515 has an SD/MMC slot which accepts memory cards and Palm BT card. It's unknown to me whether or not you can use the Palm WiFi card with this particular model but my guess is no. At the moment the slot in my unit is occupied by a 32 MB Palm SD card. I also ordered a Palm BT card recently so I can pair it with my phone when I need Internet access and don't want to use IrDA. The Palm Portable Keyboard provides a surprisingly comfortable alternative to Grafiti input especially when you need to write longer texts.

Battery and Conclusion
Considering the fact I bought a used unit, I must say I'm quite happy with the battery. When fully charged it lasts about 3 hours on full brightness. The m515 uses minimum power while switched off and it can be left turned off for days without the fear of losing your data. I usually charge mine once or twice a week, depending on how much I use it.

To make a long story short, I'm very happy with what I've got. Built-in Bluetooth would be great but hey, you can't have it all!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Palm m515

As my IBM WorkPad C3 recently suffered a complete battery failure and I needed a replacement, I went hunting on eBay. For 37€ I bought a pretty nice Palm m515, a leather case and a wallet, a 32 MB Palm SD card, DataViz Office 6 and a Palm foldable keyboard. All in all not a bad deal and it all seems to work fine.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Monday, September 1, 2008

Flea Market Finds #6

Yesterday I picked up an external ZX Spectrum keyboard and two Game & Watch games (Mario Bros, Donkey Kong II - boxed). It would seem I should have picked up the Spectrum as well because I'm missing two flat cables that go from the edge connector to the mainboard keyboard connectors. It's pointless thinking about it now because the Speccy was sold less than an hour after I bought the keyboard. I will obviously have to produce the cables myself although I have no idea how I'm going to connect them to the mainboard. Soldering the cables directly to the motherboard is out of the question. Tried googling for more info on the keyboard with no success.

Spectrum Professional Keyboard

Friday, August 22, 2008

Future Projects

IBM Model M keyboard mod is finished although I'm not quite happy with the result, I now have other things on my mind.

  • Newton keyboard mini-DIN to DB9 adapter (Jornada, Palm, Revo compatible)
  • connect an IBM LPFK to a modern PC (already been done by Mike Brutman)
  • add a 2x20 backlit LCD display to my HP workstation
  • further improve the Model M mod to make it all fit better

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

IBM WorkPad C3

My new toy is an old PDA, IBM WorkPad C3, which is basically just a rebadged Palm Vx. I have yet to find a use for this handheld however, that shouldn't be much of a problem considering there's still plenty of software avaliable for download. If everything else fails, I can use it as an auxiliary LCD display for my PC using PalmOrb.

+ excellent display
+ small & lightweight
+ responsive
+ vast software library
+ long battery life

- only IrDA and serial
- no memory expansion
- unusual backlight

Needs a new battery.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

IBM Model M modding

I recently bought a Model M that was used in a smoking environment. After I washed the keyboard it was obvious that the cable still carries a strong unpleasant odor so I decided to change it with the one from a non-functional Model M. To make it more interesting I decided the cable has to be removable. Since my soldering skills are poor the mod itself will be done by a friend of mine, Sandor.

Part list:
1 x PS/2 cable
1 x female RJ45 PCB connector
1 x male RJ45 cable connector
dremel tool for drilling holes
soldering iron
crimping tool

A tutorial should follow shortly.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Ultimate Keyboard #2

Last week I wrote about rubber-dome keyboards, why they're so popular and how it used to be. To an average user it may seem that clicky keyboards are no more but fortunately for us, it isn't so. There's a number of companies that still design and make clicky keyboards, most of which now use Cherry micro switches. So, who's still in the market?
As you can see, there's plenty to choose from. The only problem is, most of them are in the > $100 range. If I had to decide for myself, I'd get a Unicomp Customizer 101 or a CVT Avant Prime. Why? Well, based on my experience with the Model M, I'd say that Unicomp gives you the most value for your money ($69 for a Customizer 101) and it's the only maker I know of that still uses buckling spring technology. On the other hand, CVT Avant Prime is also a wonderful keyboard (rebranded Northgate OmniKey) with the possibility of macro programming (stores macros internally in a PROM chip). You can also buy brand new (old stock) IBM Model M's for about the same price as the Customizer from :-)

So, what IS The Ultimate Keyboard? Actually, I have no universal answer to that question. It all depends on your personal needs, taste and financial ability. For me, a used IBM Model M is all I need to be happy. They're still quite easy to come by at the local flea market and only cost a fraction of a brand new keyboard. The only thing better than an IBM Model M is the IBM Space Saver which is basically a Model M minus the NumPad. End.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Ultimate Keyboard #1

Today's market is flooded with many different models of rubber-dome1 keyboards. They come packed with (more or less useless) features such as media buttons, miniature LCD screens, backlights, glow-in-the-dark labels, built-in USB hubs and more. While some of these features have a limited usefulness, they're just bells and whistles2 added to make you feel you've been given more for your money (I call them 'geek magnets'). Who cares about the extra features, if typing itself is a joke? For example, I'm using a Logitech Internet 350 keyboard at work and it's disgustingly soft. The weight of a finger alone is sometimes enough to push a key. Shame on you, Logitech!

However, it wasn't always like that. Keyboards like the IBM Model M and Northgate OmniKey used buckling springs or micro switches which allowed for excellent tactile feedback as well as a much longer lifetime. Infact, many of them are still in use today which says a lot about build quality.

As a kid I learned to type on my mother's Peacock XT back in 1985. It had an excellent eighty-four key clicky keyboard and I learned to associate that clicky noise & feel with quality and sturdiness. When I got my first 486 PC about 10 years later, it unfortunately came with a cheap Cherry rubber-dome keyboard. I was stuck on those until late 2006 when I re-discovered IBM Model M. Immediately I went in search of one and in January 2007, Martin of Cyberpipe kindly let me have a fairly recent Model M (1996) that was lying in their storage. Thanks again!

- end of part 1 -

1 The term rubber-dome is used here to describe both, rubber-dome as well as membrane contact keyboards.
2 Nonessential features or enhancements intended especially to add commercial appeal.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Firefox 3 Download Day 2008

Download Firefox 3 and help set the record for most software downloads in 24 hours. Click here to download!

Download Day 2008

Monday, June 16, 2008

Computers = a Bottomless Money Pit?

I've been building PC's ever since I got my first 486 about 15 years ago. That little beast was running an AMD 486DX 40 MHz chip on a VLB motherboard with 4 Megs of RAM and it was all nicely packed in a large AT tower case (mind you, I still have that case). My first real upgrades were a VESA Local Bus EIDE hard drive controller card and a Cirrus Logic 5428 VLB video card. I still remember the performance boost I got out of that HDD controller. It took a bit under 10 seconds to start Windows 3.11 CE and I considered that lightning fast. As years progressed I've owned four other computers which means each got about three years of use in average.

Since I couldn't afford to buy a new PC every year, I upgraded a lot. The reason I did that was gaming and the fact that I liked to fiddle with computer parts. Ofcourse most of the upgrades involved replacing the CPU, adding memory or/and replacing the graphics card. Over the years I spent quite an impressive sum of money on upgrades but I also pretty much maxed out each PC before moving on to the new one. Was it worth it? Well, yes and no. The problem is it never ends. In order to play the latest games, you have to upgrade your PC all the time. Sooner or later you come to the point where you need a whole new computer because the platforms change and the cycle starts over. This is as true today as it was then.

My current system is about 4 years old and as much as I'd like to build a new one, I don't really have to. During the last year or so I virtually stopped playing games effectively eliminating the need to upgrade. I'm still running Windows XP and this hardware allows me to do everything I need at the moment. The fact is, latest hardware (Core Duo etc.) is an absolute overkill for most home and office users who use the PC for web surfing, e-mail, movies and MS Office. It's kind of pointless, isn't it? All those CPU cycles going to waste...

Just in case you were wondering, my current rig is:
ASUS A7N8X-E Deluxe
Athlon XP2400+ Barton Mobile
TwinMOS Twister Pro 2x512MB PC3200 CL2
120GB Seagate Barracuda SATA
ATI All-in-wonder 9800Pro

Friday, June 6, 2008

Flea Market Finds #5

My last visit to the flea market resulted in two new additions to my ever growing collection: a Nintendo Game Boy (works, cosmetically as new) and another IBM model M keyboard (a bit dirty but functional). Not bad but then again, nothing spectacular. Stay tuned for another episode of Flea Market Finds!

Monday, May 26, 2008

I want one (of each)

Office Space is one of those movies every working man and woman should see. I've seen it more than once and still haven't grown tired of it. Anyway, up until now, I had no idea Office Space action figures existed. Well, they do and you can buy them for about $18 each! Too bad it's not Christmas yet ;-)

Thursday, May 8, 2008


Did you know you can use your old breadbin as a serial ANSI terminal? All you need to do is build a small interface cartridge. Looks simple enough ;-) More info here: click.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

IBM Model M

Recently I aquired two used IBM Model M keyboards. Both were dirty but looked OK otherwise. Since I got a week off, I decided to take the time to clean them up. In order to do that I needed to buy a special 5.5mm screwdriver which cost me about 8 Euro. To be honest, that's more than what I paid for both keyboards combined :)

It took me about four hours to clean the keyboards and then it was time to test them. As it turns out, I should have tested them before cleaning because on of the keyboards is only partially functional. Luckily the other one appears to be fine. I'm left with a spare parts keyboard and a bunch of keycaps which are basically useless because all three keyboards are using different font on the keycaps. Interesting but still kind of annoying.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Flea Market Finds #4

After not seeing any old computer in months at our local flea market, I finally saw one breadbin being sold two weeks ago. Having enough Commodores as it is, I didn't buy it (but somebody else did). I did however buy another IBM Model M keyboard (this one also needs thorough cleaning) with two missing keycaps. It seems that it's nearly impossible to find a Model M with all the keycaps still in place. Anyhow, last Sunday I got lucky as I stumbled upon a boxed Atari 130XE complete with boxed cassette tape drive and a joystick. As I already have one such system, I picked this one up for a friend of mine that also collects old computers.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

BBC Micro seminar

As I'm writing this, a seminar titled "The BBC Micro and its Legacy" is about to begin at the Fellows Library of the Science Museum in London. I stumbled upon the news article while browsing the BBC News website this morning. I'd be happy to attend the seminar, if I knew about it earlier. Sadly, the teleporter hasn't been invented yet so I'll have to sit this one out. The BBC Micro was an excellent machine for its time and still represents an object of desire for many collectors world-wide including me.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Flea Market Finds #3

Last morning I decided to visit the local flea market. I was hoping to find more pins for my collection as well as Nintendo Game & Watch handheld consoles. In the end, I got a few interesting pins but more importantly, I found another IBM Model M keyboard! It's pig-dirty but nothing some soap and hot water couldn't fix :) It's a newer model with a non-removable cable and a PS/2 connector. For those of you unfamiliar with the Model M, they are one of the finest keyboards ever made. Not only are they a pleasure to type on but they're also virtually indestructible and weight a hefty 2 kilos! I've been using one for the past year and sometimes I miss the Windows key but I wouldn't trade it for a dozen modern Logitech keyboards!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Codename Soyuz

Back in 2006 I completed my first mini-ITX project using a Via Epia MII10000 motherboard and a HP Apollo workstation case. Now I'm warming up for another similar project which I decided to name Soyuz. It'll be a miniature PC based on a Via Epia NL10000G nano-ITX motherboard. I still don't know what I'm going to use it for when it's finished, but building it is sure going to be fun! For those of you unfamiliar with the mentioned motherboard, it measures only 12x12 cm, features a 1 GHz low-power Eden CPU, one SO-DIMM slot (up to 1GB) and a lot of other goodies. Unfortunately onboard video is still seriously underpowered. The rest should do just fine for Linux or WinXP.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Sony PlayStation Portable

This post is a few months late but I'm writing it never the less.

After lenghty consideration I bought a PSP at the end of October last year. I bought it mainly to play LocoRoco which I paid 20€ for. Anyhow, it's a fat PSP, original firmware version 2.71, TA-82 motherboard. Turns out I was lucky as you don't need much to downgrade a 2.71 even if it's an infamous TA-82. With any new PSP, your first job will be to downgrade to firmware 1.50. I downgraded mine using TIFF exploit and it took me about half an hour to do it successfully. Afterwards you have to upgrade to a more current firmware which was 3.52 M33 in my case.

Follow these steps:
1. put your PSP to USB Mode
2. run the PSP Upgrader/Downgrader in Windows
3. exit USB Mode and go to the Game - Memory Stick menu
3. run KXploit permanent patcher
4. run 3.52 M33 CREATOR
5. run 3.52 M33 UPDATE
and that's it.

Watch the whole process in this YouTube video:

Link to PSP Downgrader/Upgrader: