Ubuntu Touch after it’s end

As you may know, the Canonical (the company which develops Ubuntu) halted all development of the Ubuntu Touch earlier this year. That is, no new devices (phones, tablets) for the Ubuntu Touch systems, no system updates, no new applications. Some users already reinstalled their devices with the Android. And Canonical also halted development of the Mir display server and their complete Unity desktop (all these things were the base of phone GUI system for the Ubuntu Touch).

But there is a great effort of UbPorts folks – it was initially a group interested in porting of the Ubuntu Touch to other devices.
They not only released updated system images for most of previously supported devices but they also working on further development of the system and it’s applications.

Ubuntu Touch on a big screen

There is also a new App Store – the OpenStore was initially meant for applications that cannot obey security rules defined by Canonical (for example apps that need direct access to some hardware) but now it’s a home for all Ubuntu Touch applications. And there is a good flow of new applications: not only most of the interesting applications from old official App Store has been migrated here but also new ones have been appearing.

Of course, there are no new devices but the old can be still used.

Piel Frama Case + Jorno keyboard

I personally have wo Ubuntu devices: the phone (the bq Aquaris E4.5 – the low-end one) and the tablet (the bq M10HD – the best one available) and both are still useful. The E4.5 is my sole mobile phone and serves me very well. Actually, I haven’t noticed any stability nor other problems in last 12 months. There are some issues with Bluetooth input devices (the GUI may restart after the device is connected) but I haven’t used the keyboard with the phone for a long time (I even lost the keyboard and didn’t noticed that…). The Bluetooth speakers seems to work without such problem. To be honest, I finally have managed to remove all unnecessary stuff from the phone (to save space – it has only 8 GB of storage for everything * including the OS) and not there are only applications that I really use on the phone.

The tablet is an another story – the last update of the Ubuntu (in January 2017, I think) broke the external screen support. So now the X11-based applications work well on an external screen but the native (mostly) fail. So one can use the device in the desktop mode only if the internal (10″) screen is enough for his/her needs. There is also still the issue related to virtual keyboard for X11 applications – only specially prepared ones can use in. So the Firefox and the OpenOffice are OK but applications which are installed by the user can only work with an external hardware keyboard. And it limit’s the device usefulness on the move. This is not ideal, but for light work it may be OK.

So I actually use both devices: the phone on a daily basis and the M10 tablet mainly for testing of new applications and for lighter tasks (for example, it’s still better for WWW browsing than any of my computers except the Lenovo X61). During holidays I even used it as a desktop (on a stand with a keyboard, a mouse attached and speakers attached) without issues. It can use also the USB keyboard and mouse the GUI works without restart if no Bluetooth is involved…) but then it cannot be charged at the same time.

I’m still not brave enough to reflash my M10 tablet with the new system image from UbPort…

So things are not that bad as they may look.

Ubuntu Touch after it’s end

IRIS Indigo(s)

In recent months I have got two SGI IRIS Indigo machines: an older one with the 32bit MIPS R3000 CPU and a newer one a much more powerful MIPS R4000 processor (the firs 64bit CPU which was available for the SGI computers).

The boxes are both pretty snappy. Of course, when it comes to raw CPU power, they may be a bit slow. But for most normal applications they are more than OK (I have the IRIX 5.x on both). But even the R3000 one is not slow (it has a 33 MHz CPU). For example, I spent last night in debugging of my program for the GNU Octave and it wasn’t slow. There is a problem with 3D stuff – my machine has no Z-buffer card so many IrisGL and OpenGL programs or refuse to start at all (the FSN, for example) or they have some problems (the Andy Johnson’s Battalion). But a lot of things works well. Actually, I haven’t have too much time to play with it 3D graphics here. I will do it in a future, I hope.
I also did installed the MeshTV visualization software but at the moment I have no software which is able to output it’s SILO data format.

It is quite hard to use such machine for WWW browsing (the Gopher is OK, though). Available programs even cannot connect to most sites (the HTTPS support is too much outdated here). Fortunately, there still are some sites which are optimised for older browsers. So I installed the Netscape 3.0.1 for IRIX and started to use it.

The interesting thing is that the box is very quiet. It’s two SCSI drives are noisy at all which is quite unusual. It’s much quieter than my main workstation (the SGI O2).

The Indigo with the R4000 CPU arrived last week and only today I have managed to set it up. There are some damages from shipping (they broke the frontal doors) but it works. It is interesting that the CPU is a PC model (no secondary cache) which is known to be too slow in modern systems (the Indy and the Indigo2). But this system is fast (at least it feels fast). This machine came with the “Entry” graphics which is really basic: no (Iris|Open)GL hardware, just 8bit colors with dithering and only the 1024×768 resolution (and nothing better or worse). But it has a normal VGA connector which is nice (the 13W3 connector is here, too). So it’s more a general-purpose workstation for 2D tasks than a workstation for 3D modelling.

Actually, I’m thinking about making it my main machine for non-internet and non-3D tasks as it is possible to run here the most of things that I need (the LaTeX, the XFig, teh GNU Octave, Gnuplot and most of my own program codes). But I will see…

IRIS Indigo(s)

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

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

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