The Deliverator – Wannabee

So open minded, my thoughts fell out…

Archive for the 'Windows CE' Category

When Presentation is Everything – Coraline Needs 3D!

Posted by Deliverator on 27th May 2009

I recently learned that Coraline was going to be released this month and I hoped for a true 3d release. Unfortunately, the only announced options were either conventional 2d or Anaglyphic 3D (those cheesy red/blue glasses that moviegoers rightfully consigned to history’s trash heap back in the 1950′s). I saw Coraline in 3D in a theater using the excellent RealD 3D projection system. I felt the presentation really added something to the experience and can’t imagine watching Coraline in anything other than true 3d. It may be a while till such an excellent 3d system as RealD becomes practical for home users with budgets less than several hundred thousand dollars, but there are plenty of excellent 3d home theater options available for under 5 grand.

Here is a listing of 3d projector options at The DepthQ series of projectors from Infocus for instance supports high framerates and can be found for as little as $2300 and uses commonly available active LCD shutter glasses to achieve its effect.

Samsung has a line of DLP based 3D capable HDTV sets that all support 3D via shutter glasses starting at as little as $1000.

There are numerous 3D LCD monitors (some even sold through big box retailers like Frys) capable of displaying true 3d video, some without even needing glasses.

I have a Headplay Personal Cinema Display, which is available for around $400, and can display 3d content from several different input sources.

In short, the technology for quality home 3d viewing is out there and available at modest cost. There are a ton of 3d movies coming out this year in theaters including Pixar’s UP and James Cameron’s much anticipated Avatar. 3D has already shown it can help make movies on the front end without increasing production costs greatly, but movies have lately made a large percentage of their revenues on the post theater DVD market and I doubt nearly as many people will want to purchase watered down 2d version of movies they first saw in 3d. While not a lot of home theaters are currently 3d equipped, the cost to do so is fairly minimal and the additional costs of releasing a frame sequential 3d DVD alongside the 2d and Anaglyphic releases are likely minimal as well. It costs the studios little to grow the market by releasing frame sequential titles and the only way they are ever going to solve this chicken and the egg problem is by doing so.

Posted in General, Media, Movies, Photography, Rants and Raves, Windows CE | No Comments »

Alphagrip AG-5

Posted by Deliverator on 23rd April 2009

I recently went searching for a handheld, touch-typeable input device for a wearable computer project, but came up pretty dry. Long standing favorites of the wearable community like the Twiddler 2 chording keyboard from Handkey are no longer being manufactured and are next to impossible to find through after-market channels like eBay. I found no single-handed device which combined both keying and pointing, but I did find a two handed one called the Alphagrip AG-5.

The AG-5 is shaped like a game controller and has discrete keys for all letters and a few of the most common punctuation marks, with less often used symbols as second functions. It also has a variable speed trackball. Sadly, there is no scroll-wheel and middle click is somewhat awkward to activate.

I’ve been practicing touch-typing using this typing tutor, which has a module for the alphagrip. I am not typing very fast yet, but I am touch typing with pretty high accuracy. I am slowly developing muscle memory and will hopefully be able to type much faster in the future. I’ve seen video of people typing at 40-60 wpm.

I really like the Alphagrip. It is pretty ergonomic for my size hands and comfortable to use for an extended time. I could see it benefiting those who have trouble typing on a conventional keyboard due to stress injuries. A lot of thought has obviously gone into key placement and overall design of the AG-5, and it is easy to believe that it went through 5 major revisions before being released to the public. It is not without its faults. The biggest is the lack of wireless support via either Bluetooth or a USB dongle. I can understand the need to bring a version 1 product to market to support future development, but at the same time it seems like an obvious feature which would greatly increase the appeal of the Alphagrip.

As you might have guessed, this entry was composed on my Alphagrip.

Posted in General, Rants and Raves, Windows CE | 1 Comment »

X on 720 Degrees Linux

Posted by Deliverator on 30th June 2006

Earlier this week, I finally managed to get X up and running on my Jornada 720 (running 720 Degrees Linux). Before getting a chance to try out any window managers, I managed to royally hose the filesystem, requiring a complete reinstall. I’ve had a number of work related projects on my plate this week, so didn’t get a chance to reinstall 720 Degrees Linux and do all the fidly X configuration until now. I managed to get X up and running and shortly thereafter had Window Maker running as well. The two biggest problems I have run into is the lack of a way to right click and the ginormous fonts used in the xterm. Hopefully, I will be able to rig up a modifier key to treat any screen taps while the alt key (or something similar) is held down as a right click. I am going to experiment with a couple other light window managers in the next couple days to see if there is a better fit for the Jornada’s small screen size and low resources (206mhz arm with 64 MB of ram).

Window Maker on J720

Posted in General, Linux, Operating Systems, Tech Stuff, Windows CE | 5 Comments »

Opera 8.6 on Netbook Pro (and possibly other CE devices)

Posted by Deliverator on 30th June 2006

I spent some time in #HPCDEV on Efnet with Monica (Cmonex on IRC), perhaps the most experienced CE application hacker in the world. She was attempting to get the latest release of Opera to run on CE .Net HPC devices. She had no luck with the NEC Mobile Pro 900c, but wanted to try it on a Netbook Pro, as many of the .dll function libraries on the Netbook Pro are far more complete than on just about any other CE 4.2 device. Working remotely, Cmonex diagnosed every error message and walked me through the edits needed to fix them. We (she, really) managed to get the final PPC 2003 build of Opera 8.6 running in just a few minutes. We then tried the WM5 build, which supposedly is a bit better than the PPC 2003 build in a few areas. This one took a bit longer to figure out, but she managed to get it working as well. Expect a post on HPC Factor shortly with instructions on how to DIY. She will likely post pre-edited versions on her site as well.

I am pretty impressed with Opera so far. The rendering quality is better than IE and probably edges out IE in speed as well. Minimo still has win for overall rendering quality, but is much slower than either Opera or IE. I think I will run Opera as my main web browser for a few weeks to get a better sense for its quirks. The version Cmonex hacked to get running on the Netbook Pro is a 30 day trial, but I believe that a modest $24 will net you a registration code to convert it to the full.

Posted in General, Operating Systems, Portable Computing/Gadgets, Tech Stuff, Windows CE | No Comments »

Minimo Much Improved

Posted by Deliverator on 14th June 2006

Minimo, the port of Mozilla Firefox to small devices, has been making steady progress of late. Version .16, which is much improved over .15 in terms of its user interface for VGA class device, was just released and is available here. I have been running the nightly builds of Minimo on my Netbook Pro and have been providing Doug Turner with frequent bug reports via email. Doug really seems to listen to user feedback and several of my feature requests/bug fix requests have made it into the release builds, usually only a few days after the report was submitted. I get the sense that Doug doesn’t get enough feedback. Minimo, imo, has surpassed Netfront, Opera and Pocket IE as the leading browser for portable devices, but can get better and more consistent across the plethora of devices on which it now runs, if users help test the nightly builds and provide feedback. The source and compilation instructions are available for Linux (including for the Nokia 770 mini-tablet) and precompiled .cab installers are available (so you don’t have to bother with that activesync nonsense) for Windows CE derived devices.

Posted in General, Portable Computing/Gadgets, Windows CE | No Comments »

Why, Yes!

Posted by Deliverator on 23rd April 2006

In can now response in the affirmative to to my earlier post, entitled “Is that a Linux Box in your Pocket?”

I have been mucking about with Debian on an old laptop for a while, to re-familiarize myself with the distribution and as a build environment for a Debian install on my Jornada 720. Under Debian, I had enough difficulty working with the compact flash to which my pint sized Linux distro would be installed, that I fell back upon a Ubuntu install in VMware on my main box. In my VMware hosted Ubuntu, I was able to work with the install files for 720 Degrees Linux, but attempting to uncompress the main install tarball would fail midway through, and most of the time would hang the VM. I finally hit paydirt with a boot-cd based distro, Knoppix 4.

Knoppix flawlessly detected my all my PCs hardware, including CF card and NIC, allowing me to download the install files for 720 Degrees Linux and extract them to the CF card (after a little partitioning, formatting and mounting). I plopped the card into my Jornada, booted into Wince and executed the bootloader. The Jornada 720 doesn’t have a flashable bootrom, so you have to boot into Wince to kickoff Linux. 720 Degrees Linux came up happily and I ran the base configuration tool to set up users, timezones, etc. I added 720 Degrees own apt repository, as well as the Debian ARM repository. Debian has an official APT repository for apps compiled for the ARM processor, so there is a wealth of GNU goodness just waiting to be installed.

I was able to get my trusty Orinoco Silver pcmcia card working and am now in the process of downloading all sorts of console applications. I am going to hold off with experimenting with the pain in the ass that is X until tomorrow :)

Jornada 720 Linux Jornada 720 Linux 2

Posted in General, Linux, Operating Systems, Portable Computing/Gadgets, Tech Stuff, Windows CE | 3 Comments »

Is that a linux box in your pocket?

Posted by Deliverator on 16th April 2006

Today, I installed Debian Linux on an old laptop (Pentium 150), to use as build/cross compilation box. My Jornada 720 hasn’t been getting much use since my Netbook Pro arrived, so I decided I would spend a few weeks playing with a few of the available Linux and BSD options. I backed up the ram contents of my 720 to a CF card, then backed up the card to my desktop. I now have two 512 MB CF cards and a 2.2 GB microdrive to which I can install the various distros. The Jornada can actually hold 2 cards simultaneously, but I want to leave one of the slots free for a wifi card. Most of the different PDA oriented distros require a desktop linux install for the initial setup. I was able to get my USB CF card reader working in my VMware hosted Ubuntu Linux install, but decided I would rather have a Debian based system, as most of the distros I plan on experimenting with on the 720 are derived from Debian.

In particular, a distro called 720degrees is being actively maintained by a HPC Factor user who goes by the nickname “Program Synthesizer.” 720degrees has a growing APT repository, so I shouldn’t have too much trouble finding applications, but even if I do, I should have enough space on the 720 for a full build environment for on-device compilation from source. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have a plan b, so I have the old laptop to fall back upon if I need to do some cross-compiling. Program Synthesizer is an even more gonzo addict of the HPC Factor forums than I am, so I shouldn’t have too much trouble consulting him for help if I go astray.

The other distro I plan on monkeying with is Jlime. Jlime has supported the Jornada 680/690 series for quite a while, but has just recently added support for the 7xx series. Unfortunately, almost all the documentation is still geared towards the 680 and would lead a mere mortal astray. The 680 requires a different bootloader and has a completely different processor architecture than the 720. In addition, the 680 has flash memory, while the 720 does not, resulting in drastically different install procedures. I will probably try this one out at next week’s hacknight. There are always half a dozen Linux gurus in residence at any given meeting.

Posted in General, Linux, Operating Systems, Portable Computing/Gadgets, Tech Stuff, Windows CE | 7 Comments »

Extreme Netbook Pro Overclock

Posted by Deliverator on 3rd April 2006

I’ve heard from many PPC owners that the Xscale series of processors are often very conservatively clocked. Most PDAs don’t need a whole lot of processing power for the tasks they perform. I believe that the first couple generations of palm pilot, for instance, were 16mhz Motorola processors, and almost all the applications I used to run felt quite snappy compared to their PC equivalent. Today’s PDAs seem to be clocked at between 300 and 600 mhz and are almost universally Xscale/Strongarm processors at this point. My needs are a bit more demanding than the typical PDA user, so I decided to see if I could overclock the Xscale PA255 processor in my Netbook Pro a bit. I managed to find a overclocking utility for the Xscale processor. The application is in japanese, but is fairly self explanatory, and full source code is included, so it should be possible to create an english language version. The application was designed for the NTT Docomo Sigmarion III, a japan only HPC that has gained a cult international following despite the japanese only Win CE OS version. The utility works fine on my Netbook Pro and is reported to run on the NEC Mobilepro 900c as well.

After some mucking about with the utility and some nominal overclocking just to test that the utility was actually working, I decided to put my Netbook Pro through its paces. I gradually increased the clock speed and benchmarked and looked for signs of instability at each progressively higher clock speed. I ran timedemos in quake, a video benchmark using TCPMP, ran the BMQ benchmark suite and calculated PI out to a rediculous number of digits. All the while I watch for signs of overheating (visual artifacts, hotspots of the case, weird smells, smoke, etc.) and found none. I also checked to ensure that the Netbook Pro’s CF, SD and PCMCIA slots were working properly. On my Strongarm based Jornada 720, I found I could overclock the unit, but that the expansion slots would stop working, rendering any overclocking of limited utility. On my Netbook Pro, I had none of these difficulties and was able to stably clock the unit to ~800mhz, double the units manufacturer clocked speed!

I am not sure how badly battery life would be impacted at this extreme speed, but I noticed no stability issues while running at this speed. General system navigation was perceptively snappier, and every quantitative indication of performance increased substantially. BMQ returned very high scores, with only an overclocked Sigmarion III scoring higher overall, due to its dedicated video processor. I would like to plant a thermistor on the CPU and get temperature readings at different speeds before overclocking on a more or less permanent basis, but am a little wary of cracking open my rather expensive Netbook Pro. All in all, I am quite impressed with the overclocking potential of the Xscale processor. Not since the mid 300 mhz Intel Celeron processors can I recall a processor that so easily overclocks to nearly twice its default clock speed.

Posted in General, Portable Computing/Gadgets, Tech Stuff, Windows CE | No Comments »

Minimo Nightly Builds

Posted by Deliverator on 19th March 2006

Doug Turner, the lead developer of Minimo, recently updated the project to build against the Mozilla 1.8 code tree. Minimo is now being compiled nightly, with a windows based installer available here. This is a nice change from the past, infrequent way that updated versions were released to the public. I wish that the nightly build was being released in .cab form, so that it could be downloaded directly onto a Windows CE device without needing to connect up to a full blown Windows box using Activesync. The windows based installer just plops a .cab file into the Activesync directory, to be installed when next the PDA syncs, so it isn’t like it would be hard to do. I know of several people whose sole computing device is their HPC, or who travel away from home for months on end, so a direct installer would be nice.

Posted in General, Portable Computing/Gadgets, Windows CE | 1 Comment »

Jeode Java EVM on Netbook Pro

Posted by Deliverator on 21st February 2006

One of the things that I have enjoyed about my Netbook Pro is that unlike any other HPC I have used, it ships with a pretty decent Java virtual machine. It includes an implementation of Sun’s Personal Java 1.2 specification called Jeode, made by Insignia Solutions. It include a plugin for Pocket IE 6 that allows for Java applets embedded in web pages. Most Java applications run in the applet context run just fine, but the story changes when trying to run Java programs locally. Jeode doesn’t seem to let one specify a working directory when starting a Java Application, so it is pretty much impossible to store Java Applications in their own folders, making for a lot of file clutter. I have been unable to find a way to execute any Java programs (that need access to the local filesystem) from anything other than the root directory. On a wince device, the root directory is stored in ram. I have gone to great lengths to avoid using ram as storage on my Windows CE based devices, as not only is it volatile (subject to erasure should the batteries loose power), but what little is available I try to allocate for use by running programs.

Anyone have any undocumented magic command line switches (that have not been documented in any of the official documentation or on the Interweb, afaict)? Sun’s own Personal Java implementation will do this with the -setcwd switch, but their implementation for CE is based on an earlier version of the spec and is a discontinued beta version.

Posted in General, Windows CE | No Comments »