Fossil Wrist PDA

The Fossil (also sold as the Abacus) Wrist PDA was actually a full-featured but miniaturised version of older Palm pocket computer. It even has the same screen resolution.

The smallest Palm PDA

This particular Fossil Wrist PDA smartwatch is the model 2.0 from about 2004. I have got this one for a cheap but is is a bit weared and the Back button is damaged (so it is impossible to switch the programs). It was also necessary to replace the battery (compatible bateries are available for modern sporttesters).

It’s passive black-and-white display seemed to be obsolete when it was introduced (the comparable Palm PDA computers – Palm III, V and the m500 lines were from 1998-2000.

Its main problems were (and still are) moderate battery life (1-3 days) and its weight (over 100 grams – a comparable PDA was about 180 grams). They also aren’t water resistant. The 1″ screen is also not optimal for many users (there is a mode with bigger icons – only 4 can be shown – but the rest of probrams has still the same size).

There are other issues – the integrated stylus is very small and it is uneasy to target the UI elements (menus, buttons) with it. Also the calibration procedure requires a lot of precision and patience. But the writing itself is not that hard as one can use whole screen area to enter Graffiti characters (so the actual writing area is not much smaller than on an usual Palm device).

Anyway, it offers to have a complete Palm-compatible PDA on the wrist. It supports Graffiti data input, most of Palm OS applications. The stylus is included, of course (it’s hidden in the belt). Obviously, there are some limitations: unavailability of some standard hardware and software buttons – so one cannot control some programs and cannot even open the program menu – it’s a case of the CSpotRun.

But there are rich (for it’s time) connection options: miniUSB connector (both for charging and data transfer) and infrared port – thus one can exchange data (and even applications!) with other Palm devices (and not obly with them) without any trouble.

In comparison with modern smartwatch stuff it is not so bad: it has better than average battery life and it is actually a full computer with ability to locally store data (calendar items, contacts, passwords,…) and create and edit them. It probably still can be synchronised with computers (at least with Linux ones as it is long unsupported on the Windows platform).

I normally use the Pebble smartwatch which has much better screen, is is lighter and has extreme battery life. But is’s mostly for reading only (it has no easy way to enter/edit data or to store them locally). As I don’t use connection between the Pebble and the smartphone, this old Fossil can be better for me in many cases. But I need to address it’s technical problems first (well, I have to find a way how to repair it’s buttons…).

Fossil Wrist PDA

Walking and Seeing

A somewhat non-technical post today. We tried to make a light walk near the Slezka Harta water reservoir (north of Moravian-Silesian part of Czech republic, near the Bruntal city). There was a snow storm past days ago and there is still some snow (it’s April 21, so it’s not usual – even for this lower part of the Jeseniky mountains).

We saw lot of animals, mostly deers, does and many birds. But a very few people, fortunately.

Running doe

We tried to compare our Pebble smart-watches (my wife has a Time Steel one and I have the Pebble 2) – both work well, mine have a heart-rate monitoring functionality which is interesting but they have faulty compass. The Time Steel ones are great and perfectly working (even after more than year of continuous usage.

We also tried to compare our cameras – my favorite (the old but relatively small and AA battery-compatible) HP Photosmart 735 and the Sony DSLR-A200 which is bigger but it should by better in any aspect (and which is preferred by my wife).

So, there is the Velky Roudny vulcano taken by the HP:

Velky Roudny (2)

And there is the same hill taken by the Sony:

Velky Roudny (1)

Walking and Seeing

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

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

Downgrade (a sort of)

Among others, I have an old and semi-working Zaurus SL-C750. I got it mainly for some experiments. It has damaged sound chip and its cosmetic conditions are also quite poor. Also the hinges are not perfect. I also got it with a poor battery. Except these issues the device works well (a perfect screen and a keyboard, working data card slots and no stability issues).

I initially installed a high-capacity battery (the same that is in C3xxx and C1xxx models) and a larger battery doors. But I find that this Zaurus is not used frequently so the bigger battery is probably not necessary. It was also my oldest battery and the most heavily used one – an original one – which was removed from my SL-C3200 Zaurus. So it’s remaining capacity was also quite limited.

On the other side, it makes sense to have a slimmer Zaurus for infrequent use (the SL-C3200 is quite thick for my liking). So I have found a new small battery (an original replacement part for Zauri) and put it into the device.
So the Zaurus is now a bit lighter and much thinner and thus easier to handle.

The battery life is a big unknown now. It should be expected that it should allow about 3 hours of continuous use (which is enough for my typical use) or even more. The sleep time may be more important. Now I only know that 12 hours of sleeeping resulted in use o 5% of the battery capacity.

I tried to put a Hitachi Microdrive (a real harddisk in a small form factor) to the CompactFlash slot and use it for some compilations. It resulted is use of 15% of battery in about 15 minutes. The HDD is power-hungry so it’s seems to be OK.

A first week long use indicates that even with the small battery it can survive whole week in suspend without charging. And the second week of use was the same – no problems with battery life. That’s nice. As I use the Zaurus infrequently it means that I can have it always ready for use without being too worried about an empty battery.

Downgrade (a sort of)

Palm OS laptop

Introduction

This text has been written on the AlphaSmart Dana laptop computer. It’s not a typical laptop but rather a computer keyboard with attached screen. The AplhaSmart devices are an intelligent keyboards: one can type text on the go and view it on a small screen. When the device is attached to the computer then the text can be transferred from the AlphaSmart unit to a real computer. It simply emulates computer keyboard (you can even use it as an ordinary keyboard if you wish to). There are several devices – the first ones have just an ADB port and they were compatible with Apple machines (IIGS computers and Mac ones) then they got a PS/2 port for a PC compatibility. Later devices have an USB port so they are compatible even with current computers.

Many Media

The image is borrowed from the Flickr… (click on the image for more info). I haven’t made the picture of my Dana, yet.

Features

The Dana is a bit special: it can work exactly as every other AlphaSmart but it is actually a large PDA with a Palm OS 4.x. There is even a stylus. It means that:

  1. it has much shorter battery life (~20 hours of use),
  2. it is expandable – it can run most of Palm OS applications.

It has also some connection options: an infra-red port, an USB port (actually two) and a pair of SDIO slots. There is also a WiFi (actually two versions of the Dana exist: a basic one and the Dana Wireless one).

It has extermelly wide screen – it’s like three ordinary palmtop screens combined. That’s nice for text editor but not so great for other applications: the screen size is non-standard for the Palm OS and thuw only a few applications can use it. The wast majority of programs uses only a central one third of the screen. The Dana’s screen height is slightly smaller than a Palm III screen so the applications are even less comfortable to view than on the PDA. But this difference is relatively unimportant. The excellent (full-sized) keyboard is much more important.

Some people complain about the speed of the device. It is possible that I’m quite patient person but I din’t think that Dana is slow. It is true that a comparable PDA (the Palm IIIx in my case) is noticeably snappier but the Dana is still faster than many modern PDAs (my Ubuntu phon does not react faster than the Dana). The main source of the speed issueas is probably the (relatively) large screen of the device (there is no dedicated graphical coprocessor or card and the main processor is an old Motorola DragonBall one).

Usage

The device is designed to be used mainly as a smart keyboard: one can write text on it and then connect it to a desktop computer and send the text to it. It’s really easy: if the device is connected to a PC the it behaves as an USB keyboard. The file form the Dana can be send by single press of the Send button (it sends the text to the PC as a normal keyboard does). But it has also possibilities: it support normal hotsync of the Palm OS and it also supports IRDA (to other portable devices, too).

Aside from that it is still a (rather) normal Palm OS device an it can run most of applications that are compatible with the Palm OS 4.x or older. No big surprises can be found here. But it means that the Dana can be used (less or more) as a simple laptop: one can have here games, calculators, spreadsheets, text editors, PIM stuff, programming environments and more (of course, Palm applications are limited in size and features). There is no multi-tasking, of course and speed of more complicated stuff can be low but for many cases it can be more than enough. The device has 16 MB of RAM (the Palm IIIx has just 8 MB) so lot of applications can be installed here (do not forget that Palm applications are very small – usually they are in tens of kBs). It’s also good to mention that almost anything can be controlled from keyboard (there is a stylus, of course) – there are shortcuts for most used functions and more. The battery life is not bad (20+ hours), it is light and there is no noticeable heat from the device (of course, because is is powered by 3 AA batteries and they cannot produce much heat…). There is one caveat: as any older Palm, the loss of power means that all data AND user-installed applications can be lost. Fortunately, at least the AlphaWord can save files on SD cards.

This text was written on the AlphaSmart Dana, of course…

Palm OS laptop

Top ten software on Palm OS

Yes, I sometimes use Palm stuff. I have a small collection of Palm III devices and clones (all have Motorola DragonBall CPUs). At the moment I use a Palm IIIx. Its one of the high-end models (good CPU, good screen, 4 MB of RAM, OS 4.1…).

I used to use a Palm device on daily basis – the Palm Vx was actually my very first PDA (I seld it in 2006, I think). Recently I have found that I am still quite good in writting of the Grafitti, thus I decided to start to use the Palms a bit more.

The Palm can be easily synchronised with my desktop (with pilot-xfer and/or JPilot) an it can easily exchange data with the Zaurus machines via IR. And its default PIM apps are simple but effective.

I use these programs frequently:

  1. Plucker
  2. SmallBASIC
  3. Keyring
  4. ToDo
  5. Memo
  6. CSpotRUN
  7. DopeWars
  8. FileZ
  9. MetrO
  10. EasyCalc

And do not tell me that capacitive screens are better!

Top ten software on Palm OS