Retro-computing on daily basis

Before some time (a year or so) Logout asked me to write an article about my daily life with my SGI O2 workstation. Honestly, some things have been changed from that time. I even started to use a products of the Microsoft. But only in the work, of course (I still refuse to take something strange to my home). And, I don’t use my O2 to write this text. I’m doing that while siting on the sofa in our living room andwhile using my Psion MC600 laptop (yes, that weird thing that can run 60 hours on a set of 8 AA batteries). Anyway, I can connect my MC600 to my O2 workstation and transfer the text via the Kermit.

Of course I can not add images to the article without the O2.

So how powerfull is my main workstation? It’s the SGI O2 with the MIPS R10000 processor (at 250 MHz) and with a maximum possible 1 GB of RAM. Your phone has higher CPU clock and most probably also somewhat larger RAM, doesn’t it have?

O2 desktop

A full report about my hardware:

CPU: MIPS R10000 Processor Chip Revision: 3.4
FPU: MIPS R10010 Floating Point Chip Revision: 0.0
1 250 MHZ IP32 Processor
Main memory size: 1024 Mbytes
Secondary unified instruction/data cache size: 1 Mbyte on Processor 0
Instruction cache size: 32 Kbytes
Data cache size: 32 Kbytes
FLASH PROM version 4.18
Integral SCSI controller 0: Version ADAPTEC 7880
  Disk drive: unit 2 on SCSI controller 0
  CDROM: unit 4 on SCSI controller 0
Integral SCSI controller 1: Version ADAPTEC 7880
On-board serial ports: tty1
On-board serial ports: tty2
On-board EPP/ECP parallel port
CRM graphics installed
Integral Ethernet: ec0, version 1
Iris Audio Processor: version A3 revision 0
Video: MVP unit 0 version 1.4
AV: AV1 Card version 1, Camera not connected.
Vice: TRE
1600SW Flat Panel adapter board and display.

Working...

So, what is my typical work on the computer? There are actually only a
few task that I done often:

  • Writing of texts (lectures, presentations for my work, scientific
    articles and so on) with use of LaTeX (good old CSLaTeX with standard packages for the most of this work and LaTeX Beamer for presentations which require a bit better look). I use the Vim (GVim) and the Ispell here (and few other small tools).
  • Programming in the GNU Octave. I do this mostly as a preparation for my teaching and sometimes also when I need to test various stuff.
  • Programming in the C language (CLI programmes usually, but I’m also doing some Gtk+ and OpenGL stuff). I still use Gtk+ 2.x and OpenGL 1.1. It’s because most of my code uses them and I don’t have enough time just to rewrite 100000+ lines of working code in order to be more modern. The C that I’m trying to use is the ANSI89 standard but I also actively use and (well, much less actively) a code which use the old K and C standard (that thing was initially developed to run on a really old machine where modern compilers cannot run but I used to use it more regularily). It is a fun to have a code that actually can run on a PDP-11, isn’t it?
  • Some actual computing: a finite element analysis of building and underground structures. I can do here only a relatively small computations. But it’s usualy fine for me. I use my own software for these tasks (there are some open source packages for these tasks, like the Z88 or the FElt, but I have a limited experience with them).
  • Creating of images with the XFig or (much less often) with the QCAD: warious small illustrations fopresentations adn articles, simple schemes and so. I also make graphs with the Gnuplot.
  • Viewing of images (I do no editing of photos) with programs like the XV and the GQview.
  • Sometimes I listen the music. Radios in MP3 with the XMMS and CDs (yes, that silver discs – I have a good selection at home) with the build-in CD Player.
  • E-mail. Well, I use the Thunderbird. It isn’t slow and it just works.
  • Web browsing. That’s probably the biggest problem. I use the Gopher when possible (but today there is not too much possibilities: the Gopherpedia, the gopher pages of Logout and a few more). If an access of the WWW is necessary, I use the Links browser (a graphical one). If it is not enough the I have to use the Firefox 3.x (nothing better is available on the IRIX). Do I care about the security? Yes. So I access web servers with sensitive data only from my laptop with an up-to-date Linux (it’s a IBM T23 with the Debian). Some web pages are not accessible with the Firefox 3.x at all. So I have to use the laptop also for these pages.
  • Office stuff? Yes, there is the OpenOffice available (the version 1.0.3), there is the Ted Text Editor (it can edit RTF files) and more but I actually wrote less than 10 pages of word documents and made few simple spreadsheet tables at home during the whole time that I own the O2 (it’sabout 10 years). If I have to make a table then I prefer to use the “sc” spreadsheet. It is usually mere than enoug for my needs.

Current desktop 2/2013

Do I forgot something? Most probably, yes. Games, for example? Printing and scanning? Synchronisation with my PDAs? Well, these hings can be topics of further articles.

Sharp Zaurus SL-6000N

Well, I got this thing before some time but I didn’t find time to write something about it (it’s the one on the left). It was the last one in Pulster‘s stocks ;-)

Sharp Zaurus SL-6000N

It’s the biggest Linux-based Zaurus and also probably one of the biggest PDAs. The hardware is similar to other Zauri but it has a more traditional PDA layout – landscape screen (4+”, $480×640) and a keyboard under the screen – it is hidden under sliding panel with controls. Even being pretty heavy it is still very easy to hold and use. Actually I got it for few trips as it is nice for reading (with the FBReader), taking notes or playing music (but one can compile programs or edit and compile LaTeX documents or even edit DOC and XLS files on it, if necessary).

And it also looks very vell in its leather case (Piel Frama one).

A note: if the 6000N’s display looks to be too dim, it is because I use lowest level of backlight (it’s enough for normal use but it looks bad under the camera flash). The NanoNote (the black clamshell thing in the reight of picture) has only one backligh level.

Pebble Smartwatch

After few years without working wristwatch I decided to try a new one: the Pebble Smartwatch. Yes, if was after this post by Logout.

They were designed as an external display for a mobile phone but their possibilities are higher. Actually, I do connect it to the phone only when I want to update OS or applications. The most of stuff that I use on the Pebble is offline:

  • time (several watch faces)
  • calendar
  • compass (shown in the photo)
  • pedometer
  • list of basic formulas (math, physics,…)
  • and few others..

Pebble Smartwatch vs Ben NanoNote

I will probably write more about the Pebble later. There is a possibility to develop own applications and I have few ideas for the future. Maybe I will be able to find some time to translate the ideas into computer code….

Just for fun

I am still dreaming about a Ben NanoNote connected to a serial GPS. I have both ingrediences (a GPS module and the NanoNote) and the only think to do is a soldering of three cables. But I didn’t do anything in this direction for more than two years. So at least I have taken my NanoNote to my car to make some pictures of the NanoNote running the NanoMap software.

NanoNote + NanoMap in car

Sharp Zaurus SL-C760 and Zocalo

For some time I have been playing with a new toy: a white Sharp Zaurus SL-C760 (it’s the white one which is on the right).

Ben NanoNote vs Zaurus SL-C7600

It is slightly smaller and lighter notebook-style PDA than my SL-C3200 but it is still larger than the Ben NanoNote (the NanoNote is still my main pocket computer – I use other devices mostly as toys).

I was somewhat surprised that someone is still actively developing software for the Zaurus. There are nice tools, for example the December image viewer and the Zocalo RSS reader.

Zocalo RSS Reader

I still use the console-based SnowNews RSS reader on my NanoNote. The Zocalo runs in the Zaurus GUI (it’s based on the Qt toolkit) and it of course looks better. It is also optimised for the hardware controls of the Zaurus. Actually it is very comfortable to use the Zocalo both in landscape and portrait modes of the convertible Zaurus screen. The only problem is that I didn’t find a way how to open article in WWW browser without use of GUI icon (maybe there is a shortcut for this operation but I didn’t find it, yet).

Snownews on Ben Nanonote - specific feed

I use this Zaurus only sometimes and a RSS reader and the FBreader are the most used applications. Of course the Zaurus can be used for more tasks. There is a (rather simple) word processor and a spreadsheet and the TeX and the Gnuplot are also available, for example.

The main limitation of my machine is the wireless access (there is no build-in WiFi chip – one has to use a PCMCIA card – and wireless-related software is old) and very old WWW browsers. So the online access is insecure and the only practical use of the WiFi is access to RSS news and public WWW sites.

PDP-11 for a (big) pocket

Do you think that PDP-11 computers can only work in a conditioned rooms? And that they are not portable. Well, you are almost right. But in the Soviet Union everythink was possible. They even had a portable PDP-11! It was called Elektronika MK-90.

Well, it is a bit limited machine: it has a LSI-11-compatible CPU and it run an ancient version of the BASIC interpreter. No UNIX can be used here because of a very limited memory (16 kB) and storage (up to two MPO-10 battery-backed memory moduli of 16 kB each).

Portable PDP-11 computer

Anyway, it is a cool little computer with graphical capabilities and other nice features. Ant it runs on four AA batteries.

So I finally have my very own PDP-11!

Geocaching in Armenia

I visited the Armenia recently (I was near all time in the capital city of Yerevan). I visited several geocaches but with a very limited success (many of these geocaches were damaged or missing).

Garni Temple

Anyway, it is a very nice country with very friendly people.

Cascade, Yerevan

And there are many interesting places and the country has a very rich history. So there is very much things to visit and to see.

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