Remembering Palm Foleo

You might remember that around 2007 there was announcet an interesting palm product – a Foleo mobile companion. Essentially a subnotebook with Linux which has designed as an add-n to the Palm Treo smartphones. The Foleo had a comfortable keyboard, a large screen (at least compared to the Treo’s screen) and worked as an extension of the phone. It has it’s own WWW browser (which most probably wasn’t dependent on the phone) and used e-email, calendar and office applications shared with the phone.

The main idea was that user should be able to works with it’s data, e-mails and documents or on the phone or on a larger but still very portable device. Tehere is a lot of places where laptop-style device can be used: in trains, in airports, hotels and so.

Palm Foleo from Wikipedia/Wikimedia

Well, the things went wrong as in the same time the netbook hype was started (do you remember the Eee stuff from ASUS? – after all, some of their netbooks were very nice – we still have Eee 901 at home and it still has some use). The netbooks has similar size and battery life but they were much more universal than a very specialised and phone-bound Foleo. Thus the Palm decided to kill the product.

Anyway, some of the machines got to the wild. On can find photos at Flickr or even auctions with never used Foleo.

Well, the Foleo is dead (and the Palm itself is dead, too) and it is irreversible. But is there a modern device with similar idea. Well, two of them: these Chromebooks have somevhat similar idea – they are WWW browser-centered devices. They are less bound to a phone, though.
But there is a something called Superbook which is pretty close – it’s a notebook-style device which is actually an extension of an Androuid phone. I’m a bit curious how it will be succesfull.

Remembering Palm Foleo

Keyboard and case for phone

It is obvious that the phone has to have a proper case. Even the Ubuntu Touch phone should have one. So I have got one (the Piel Frama Universal Book case for 5″ devices). That’s an expensive one (actually it cost me much more than the phone itself – I’m always late so I have had to get my phone as a second hand item – it was sold out before I decided to get it…).

There is not much to be said about the case – just that it is better to get a 5″ one even if the Aquaris has 4.5″ screen – the 4.5″ case seems to be small for this phone but 5″ case is perfect. The case is of very high quality and protects the phone very well. The “notebook” position is stable enough, too. But it’s something that is expected from the Piel Frama, isn’t it?

The colour is orange – they offer only 3 colours for this case (orange, black and maroon). The black is too boring and the maroon is too strange. So I have got the orange.

Piel Frama Case + Jorno keyboard

It is a less obvious to have the Bluetooth keyboard. It’s useful in situations when a table is available and a long text has to be entered. As I damaged my Stowaway one, now I have to use the Jorno keyboard. It’s expensive when new (once more, I have hot mine as a second hand item) but you can find the some device with a different branding and for lower price (I’m not sure what is copy and what is the original as the history of the Jorno is unclear to me).

It’s small, it’s hinges make no problems during writing (they look more terrible than they actually are) but the keys are smaller than normal and the Esc is only available as Fn+Esc, which is stupid. So writing needs more attention but it is still quite comfortable. The tactile feedback is nice (much better than on the most of mobile and notebook keyboards).

There is one caveat: only the centre of the keyboard is in contact with the desk. The left and the right parts are in the air. So if you have to press mre on the wings (well, the Esc+Fn is this case) then the keyboard may become unstable. Only a small movement is possible but still it is disturbing. So some training is probably needed here.

The biggest issue is, of course, the phone itself – the text can be entered via keyboard (including language-specific characters – the Czech just works!) but many of GUI things cannot be controlled via the keyboard and screen tapping is sometimes necessary. But Unity bar can be accessed easily and te Alt+Tab and the Alt+F4 shortcuts work as expected.

Anyway, it’s hard to say if I’m satisfied with the whole thing or not…

Keyboard and case for phone

Geocaching (and other stuff) in 2016

It was not a very active year in the area of geocaching: just few tens of caches. But it includes some T5 caches (well, just relatively easy ones – those available on via ferratas).

View from the Krippenstein

The rest were mostly new caches near the Ostrava, Czech Republic. I don’t say that they were not located in interesting places – some of the places were new to me and some were beautiful.

Just forest

But there was little time for geocaching but also for my all other hobbies, unfortunately. Only a few lines of code were written (and most of them were work-related). The biggest new is that now I have the real SGI IRIS Indigo (even if it’s a rebadget Siemens Nixdorf one) with it’s special keyboard and mouse (but I actually use it with a PS/2 converter). It’s is the early model with the 33 MHz R3000 CPU so it’s limited in OS and software options but it’s nice to play with.

SGI Indigo R3000

There are no big changes in my mobile stuff. Except the fact that I retired the iPhone 3G – I finally (after 2 years!) managed to cut my second SIMM card to the miniSIM size so now I have both my SIMs in a single phone (the bq Aquaris E4.5 Ubuntu Edition) which.

Stowaway ThinkOutside Sierra + bq Aquaris E4.5

My wife also found her Sony Clie UX/50 which is a nice clamshell PalmOS device. So we started to use it on a non-regular basis. Possibly, I will try to use it for some development (SmallBASIC runs well here and also the OnboardC works well here – and it’s text editor works perfectly with is’s non-standard screen). But it depends on a free time – at the moment it seems that the things will not improve in a near future…

That’s probably all for the 2016. Happy new year 2017!

Geocaching (and other stuff) in 2016

KVM

There is little new here – except one thing: after many years I have finally managed to make full use of my KVM (keyboard-video-mouse) mechanical switch. It means that I have connected four keyboards and four mouses (I don’t use the video part at all as an acceptable picture is only guaranteed for resolution no higher than 1024×768 and my worst LCD is 1280×1024).

So what is connected:

  1. SGI O2
  2. SGI Indy
  3. Intel Compute Stick (my Linux PC)
  4. SGI IRIS Indigo

It’s an old mechanical PS/2 + VGA switch so it works in most cases (the Stick requires USB to PS/2 converter).

As you may expect, most time I use the !. and the 3. Other boxes are used sometimes (the Indy is much quieter than the O2 but also much slower and the Indigo I have just because I always wanted to have such thing).

KVM

Silence

This blog is very silent in last few months. There are two main reasons: I publish mostly on gopher and at work I am too busy.

I do lot of boring office work but sometimes I am able to do something more interesting: some computing, modelling and so. In these cases my desktop looks like on the picture.

Some boring work...

I needed to co some computing with use of my FEA package. Of course, I have found several bugs. I also found that some features are already implemented… (I forgot that they exists – fortunately they were describen in the manual). That was funny.

There are some issues: the GUI of software is written in Gtk+ 2.x (and there are fallbacks to Gtk+ 1.2.x and to the basic CLI + GLUT interface). And it’s old and very slow. I wrote most of the GUI before 2006 and I mostly didn’t touched it after that. So portability to Windows or Mac is limited and it is not posssible to run it natively on Ubuntu Touch (nor run it under the Android at all). I though about making of Motif GUI but I never started to code it. And now it probably makes no sense as Motif is even les portable than the Gtk+.

Freshly compiled uFEM on Ubuntu Touch

Honestly, the GUI is fully functional in the Ubuntu Touch but only inside the Libertine container (via the XMir) so it looks ugly and it requires external hardware keyboard to be usable. But that’s a small problem. The bigger one is that the only Ubuntu Touch device which I can use for such task is the Aquaris M10 tablet. And it is surprisingly slow when doing this type of computing (but speed in GUI is OK). I’m thinking about Qt5 port but it looks like a long-term problem now.

Silence

Bluetooth Keyboard for Aquaris E4.5

As I wrote on Gopher, I have got a wireless keyboard (Bluetooth-compatible) – the Stowaway ThinkOutside Sierra. It’s externally almost identical to these ThingOutside keyboards which were designed to use with old good Palm handhelds (I personally have Palm III-compatible one but I’m not sure if there was version compatible with older Palm machines).

So it’s rather small and compact. The main difference is that there is no Palm-style connector. Instead there is a space for AAA battery and for Bluetooth electronics. The stand for the device is located at the bottom of the keyboard and it is used detached.

Stowaway ThinkOutside Sierra + bq Aquaris E4.5

As I have the keyboard for just a few days but it seems that it have eaten my alkaline battery in two weeks (I have no idea if the battery was OK initially so I will have to investigate this issue a bit more).

The biggest issue of the keyboard probably is its glossy metal enclosure (every tap of finger is visible here). It’s not a problem during use as these parts are on the bottom (they are visible only when the keyboard is folded).

The size was ideal when if was new: it is just about size of a Zaurus PDA and just lightly bigger than a Palm III. However, my current device (bq Aquaris E4.5 Ubuntu Edition) is much more slim and it is not so wide.

The typing on the keyboard is OK. It is foldable and it has 3 hinges and these hinges havesome influence on keyboard stiffness (my Palm-compatible one is stiffer and it less deformed in the center – I assume that is is related to what this particular piece of keyboard was shored and handled in the past).
The keys have normal size and distances. They have a short travel when pressed but it is comparable with normal notebook keyboard (yes, old ThinkPad keyboard is better but not much). There is even a numeric row. So typing (even in an arcane language like Czech) is easy and comfortable. The only important missing key is Esc (Fn+Tab here) and the right Shift and Enter are alightly smaller than
usual.

Of course, the non-standard Esc is a problem for us, active vi/vim users…

I typed this text on that keyboard which was connected to by E4.5 phone without issues (no missing/doubled letters and so). The only problem is too agressive energy-saving policy (the interval to disconnect the keyboard is too short) but
it should be an issue of the phone OS (the OTA-13 Ubuntu update didn’t changed this behaviour, by the way).

Bluetooth Keyboard for Aquaris E4.5

SGI Indigo

As you might already noticed on my gopher, I have got the SGI IRIS Indigo workstation. Actually. a Simenens Nixdorf RW 320 which is an Indigo with grey plastics and S-N logo.

My machine is an first-generation one, which has 32-bit MIPS processor R3000 on 33 MHz (there is a second generation of the machine which sports a much more advanced R4000 at 100 MHz – that’s the 64-bit processor, one of the first that were used in desktop computers). The Indigo was introduced in 1991. My one is from 1992 or so.

The full specification of the machine are (according to the output ot the hinv command):

1 33 MHZ IP12 Processor
FPU: MIPS R2010A/R3010 VLSI Floating Point Chip Revision: 4.0
CPU: MIPS R2000A/R3000 Processor Chip Revision: 3.0
On-board serial ports: 2
On-board bi-directional parallel port
Data cache size: 32 Kbytes
Instruction cache size: 32 Kbytes
Main memory size: 48 Mbytes
Integral Ethernet: ec0, version 0
Integral SCSI controller 0: Version WD33C93B, revision C
Tape drive: unit 3 on SCSI controller 0: DAT
Disk drive: unit 2 on SCSI controller 0
Disk drive: unit 1 on SCSI controller 0
Iris Audio Processor: revision 10
Graphics board: GR2-XS24

The GR2-XS24 graphics board is quite advanced for its time. It supports 24-bit colors, some 2D and 3D acceleration and make machine to feel to be fast. It’s only drawback is absence of a Z-buffer hardware (it makes some 3D thing slower and, surprisingly, even erratic: for example graphics in the Battalion is a bit incorrect). By the way, the graphics supports 1280×1024 resolution at max.

SGI Indigo R3000

My machine came with IRIX 5.3 preinstalled and it can run it very well. The GUI is snappy and responsible and it’s low CPU speed and small memory is only noticeable when something large has to be computed.

Of course, I didn’t tried to run softare like the Mozilla/Firefox or the OpenOffice (it simply does not run here) and even not the Netscape. But Adobe Acrobat Reader (3.0.x line) runs well. Also GNU Octave (2.0.5) works quite nicely and there is also things like Gnuplot. I also compiled my own software and it runs flawlesly and on a decent speed (for small data, of course). But I only tried a GLUT-based version as I am lazy to install Gtk+ (and I don’t believe that anything based on the Gtk+ can be fast os any SGI).

There are also some 3D packages that can run here – of course old versions have to be used (a Blender 1.x, and old AC3D to mention these less or more freely available).

For Internet tasks I have installed the Lynx (yes, there were times when computers were shipped without Internet browsers pre-installed.. you may remember…). It’s enough for the machine as it can access gopher:// and http:// (and for such machine, the Gopher is more useful today, in my opinion).

A quite bad news are that there is a lack of modern text editors. The Vim can be fond precompiled only in the version 3.0 which is quite limited (no syntax highlighting and so). Fortunately, at the ftp.nekochan.net (in the folder of the user foetz) is a NEdit in quite modern version (5.6). It needs a long time to start (about twenty seconds) but then it is fast and it supports lot of things (including syntax highlighting).

The computer itself is relatively quiet (and extremely quiet for being a SGI workstation). I found that it can be used for a lot of things: writing of texts, small programming (C/Fortran/…), typeseting of documents (in TeX, for example) , for some computing (there is an Octave for that) and for many other tasks (there are some pre-installed applications for sound editing and 3D graphics so some people can use also these applications).

If you will get the Indigo then it is recommended to visit Megarat’s Indigo site not only for tips and tricks but also for a software archive.

SGI Indigo