Chip(s) for your pocket

Well, no potato products will be discussed here. But there is something interesting: a pocket verision of the posibly world-cheapest ($9) computer – the C.H.I.P.. Yes, I have got the Pocket C.H.I.P. thingy.

It cost me more than the advertised $49, of course. I live in an expensive country and the shipping was also not free. By it’s still quite cheap.

After some limited success with the bare C.H.I.P computer (which is less or more equivalent to the original Raspberry Pi) I decided to try the pocket version.

By the way: my main trouble with the C.H.I.P itself was the video output: only a TV-grade output was available at the beginning and I don’t have a proper TV. The rest was OK, except the speed with the default XFce desktop (the thing has a 1 GHz ARM processor but only some 512 MB of RAM).

But back to the main topic: the Pocket C.H.I.P. look a bit cheap (but it has to look cheap because it is..) and the keyboard is a bit strange but it is functional and easy to use. It is relatively big. So it is large for a pocket but big enough to be comfortable bot for reading and for typing. The screen resolution is 480×244 which is unusual and very low for today’s standards but optimal for an indented use. By the way, using RXVT means that you have perfectly readable text which is pleasant for your eyes. And the DOOM is also not that bad here…

MicroDef on PocketC.H.I.P. computer

I must confess that I got the thing with no particular reason of plan for an use. I was just curious for what the thing can be usefull. At the moment I thing that it is not so bad as portable calculator (Octave + Gnuplot) and I even managed it to compile and run my MicroDef. Fortunately, I have modified the MicroDef for very small screens in the past (for my Ben NanoNote computer) so the use on an another small device required no code changes.

The OS of this thing is a normal Debian (armhf) with the X11 (no Mir, no Wayland, no other mess is here) so things are very simple here (there is a custom launcher and a simple setup tool but the rest is stock Debian). One can install almost anything here if the software fits in it’s 4 GB flash space (there is no expansion port) and if the software can work of its low-resolution screen.

At the moment, I can confirm that lot of stuff actually works on the computer: gcc, GNU Octave, Gnuplot, TeX (latex at least), Vim, RXVT, Calc (apcalc),…

Chip(s) for your pocket

GCC on Ubuntu Touch

Indeed, one can have less or more complete UNIX environment in the Ubuntu Touch device. Direct use of the “apt-get” is not recommended as the filesystem is purposely made read-only. But it is possible set up and to use chroot environment and the have a separate system for the tools.

A nice guide is here.

Vim on Ubuntu Touch

There are limitations, of course. You have a separate space with no link from inside to outside and there is no (simple) way to use GUI or graphical applications. But most of CLI stuff works well (the Octave, the GCC, the Lynx and the Links, the Vim and so on).

GCC on Ubuntu Touch

Aquaris M10: first few notes

Yes, I do have one of these. It is cool to have a real Ubuntu tablet. But don’t expect any wonders.

A few first impressions and notes:

  • It isn’t fast. The performance is rather average. But it was expected, I think. So no problem here.
  • There is a XMir to run full Xorg-based applications. But they look ugly (no theme is applied on them).
  • One cannot use virtual keyboard for these Xorg application. Just a Bluetooth one (so no Firefox or in the tablet mode…).
  • There is no way to switch layouts of the hardware keyboard at the moment. One can use, for example, a Czech keyboard (and it works well) but it is niot possible to change it to an English one in an easy way. It is delcared as a work in progress.
  • One cannot install more Xorg applications in an easy way. This isn’t nice. So you will be limited to the Gimp, the Firefox, the OpenOffice and the Gedit.

More on that topic later. I don’t say that I’m not happy with my tablet. But there is a bit more limitiations that I expected.

Aquaris M10: first few notes

Some use of Palm III PDA

I have realised that I use my Palm III relatively frequently. Aclually, I have it sits on my desk all the time. There are some applications that I used imore frequently in the past (the EasyCalc or the DopeWars) and I also limited to use its PIM functions (a calendar, a to-do list or the notetaking appliication). I also don’t read e-books on the Palm as frequently as I did before ten years.

But I still have some use for this tiny computer. It is used to store of passwords as I don’t want so save some of them in the machines connected to the Internet (well, one can use any Zaurus for that, too).

Using Palm III with IRIX desktop

I also use it for some BASIC programming. It’s mostly done for fun as the pen-based input is slightly complicated for this use. Anyway, I have (and use) a portable keyboard for the Palm. It makes code writing much faster. I have an older version (0.6) of the SmallBASIC installed. It can be used to write not only text-based programs but also for graphical ones (but not GUI-based). The speed of interpretation is not guite good (its fast enough for most of my needs, much faster than BASIC on my Elektronika computers).

But the main use of the Palm is a bit different. In these days I often don’t have too furf the web. So I do batch download of several pages of my interest and then read them on the Palm. I use Plucker application for this. The web pages can be converted to the Plucker format by the jPluck application, for example (yes, it uses Java, it is slow, old and unsecure). Of course, it is necessary to do not include the images due to space limitations of the Palm (the Plucker supports images, even color ones – but my Palm screen on ly recognises a few shades of gray). Then the pages can be transferred to the Palm via the pilot-xfer tool.

The reading is easy, the Plucker viewer is quite straightforward. It has several nice features: the parts of the viewed texts can be copied to the Palms integrated Memo application. And the unaccessible web links can be exported too.

The text export is prety usefull if one has to try some basic codes, for example from And the link export is even more usefull – the memos can be synchronised (I’m lasy to use command line tool for that so I use the JPilot) with the desktop applications and then opened in the WWW browser. I’m doing this with some action servers: I copy results of my standard search routine to the Palm for offline viewing and when I have the time then I open just the interesting items on the desktop.

But don’t worry, I’m not going to abandon my Linux gadgets and use the Palm exclusively: this text was written on the Zaurus during in a train…

Some use of Palm III PDA

Batch conversion of office documents

Sometimes it is needed to convert some modern office formats (docx, xlsx) to something that can be read by older devices (odt, ods, rtf, doc, xls,..). The LibreOffice can be used for that. There are some discussions related to the topic.

So if you have a LibreOffice Calc (and an Unix shell) installed then you can convert a bunch of XLSX files to older XLS with this script:

for aa in *.xlsx ; do localc --nologo --convert-to xls $aa ; done

Obviously, the localc is the LibreOffice Calc program. Other programs can be used accordingly (for DOCX the Writer, for PPTX the Impress):

for aa in *.docx ; do lowriter --nologo --convert-to doc $aa ; done
for aa in *.pptx ; do loimpress --nologo --convert-to ppt $aa ; done
Batch conversion of office documents

Just a screenshot…

I have made a better screenshot of the RockWork software on my Ubuntu Touch phone. The funny thing is that the smartwatch screen (which you can see) is simply the latest screenshot of the real watch (the RockWork has a nice functionality for saving of screenshots from the connected watch).

RockWork connected to Pebble Smartwatch

It seems that most of things works: upgrading of a Pebble OS, software installations and configurations, phone’s calendar integration with the TimeLine, and more. I don’t use the Pebble for notifications so I cannot comment how good it is. I just synchronize the smartwatch with my phone once per few days. For this type of use the RockWork is even better than the official smartphone application.

The official app can also put weather forecast to the TimeLine which I miss a bit.

Just a screenshot…

Using stuff in train

I’m writing this in a train. On a Zaurus. Of course. Actually, I have had my notebook with me (a 17″ Dell Vostro) and I used it for some work-related stuff (word processing and a spreadsheet work). It made sense this time as the travel time was quite comfortable (in the normal working hours) and the rest of my moving was done by public transport. There were no longer walks with a heavy laptop.

Anyway, when the work was finished then I moved the notebook to the bag and opened the Zaurus as it occupies much less space. Then I was able to put a cup of tea and a snack on the small table in the train. And the Zaurus is enough for some writing and hobby programming, you know.

Desktop in train

I also have had a Ben NanoNote with me. I wanted to test its WiFi card… and it still works. But it’s keyboard is much less ergonomic than the keyboard of the Zaurus so I used the Ben mostly as music player this time. As I forgot to get a CF WiFi card for the Zaurus, I had to use the NanoNote to sync the stuff with the Git (I don’t know it the Zaurus WiFi can work at all – it’s the old “b” standard and event if it will do then the Zaurus, of course, cannot run the Git). Then I pulled the microSD card from the Zaurus and inserted it to the NanoNote to copy the data. It’s a bit stupid solution but it works (the microSD card is a 1 GB one which can be accepted by the Zaurus: bigger cards don’t work).

In theory it should be possible to replace both machines with a smart phone. For example with the Ubuntu one. In practice, this doesn’t work. The phone has no comfortable keyboard and it’s screen is uncomfortably tall. Also the approach of isolated applications (which has been adopted by all phone OS vendors) only makes desktop-style use of phones more complicated. In a contrast with this, both the Zaurus and the NanoNote are actually pocket-sized unix workstations (the Zaurus is more close to that), albeit with strange user interfaces (there is no viable X11 suppport). The TeX and the gcc works well were, and many other traditional tools work (the Gnuplot, for example), too. There are no problems with isolated applications directories – a normal system of unix access rights is applied here.

More on this topic after the next train journey…

Using stuff in train