Computer

Virtual Reality

My daughter bought a Samsung Galaxy S7 smartphone several months ago and wasn't using it. I took it over to possibly use for Android software development. After seeing some reviews of virtual reality, I discovered that Samsung also made the Gear VR headset. I figured this would be a good and low cost way to experience virtual reality.

While I don't have a lot of experience, I think this technology needs more improvement before it will be widely used. I was initially concerned about wearing my trifocal glasses with the Gear VR. Luckily I have some glasses that have only one prescription that work fine. The Gear VR also has a focus adjustment dial on the top. Even then the display is not in focus at all points. Also the resolution of the phone display is split into two images, one for each eye, and magnified to reveal the pixels. Possibly, more expensive units have better viewing quality. Even with the display quality, it is easy to overcome with action and motion in the images.

The Gear VR supports a stereo audio output jack so you can use whatever earbuds or headphones you wish. It has a small trackpad on the side and two buttons for Back and Home control. I also discovered that my SteelSeries Nimbus controller works through wifi with the Gear VR. I bought the controller for my AppleTV but have to disconnect it from the AppleTV to use it with the Gear VR. Note that the Gear VR only works with a few of the Samsung smartphones and not my new iPhone 7+.

One last comment: the battery of the S7 phone only lasts 3-4 hours and gets pretty hot. There is an external power input that can also be used but I found that VR is too disorienting and tiring to use for more than an hour at a time.

GearVR

TI-99 on iPad Pro

Recently, I purchased a iPad Pro, the largest model of the iOS product family. This iPad has a 12.9 inch Retina display with a resolution of 2732×2048 pixels. In addition to having the most powerful processor to date in an iOS device, it has a "Pencil" stylus for drawing and writing on the screen. It is the second Apple product with a stylus or pen after the Newton which was produced between 1993 and 1998. I have an eMate which was a variation of the Newton released in 1997.

Apple also produces a Smart keyboard cover to match the iPad Pro but I don't use a keyboard enough to pay the $169 cost. Instead I have a Logitech K480 Bluetooth keyboard ($40) that can switch between three different devices. It supports both Windows and Apple devices.

I also recently bought an inFocus Kangaroo Windows 10 PC. http://www.infocus.com/kangaroo. This is a miniature PC measuring 2 x 3 inches, the same size as my iPhone 6+ though twice as thick at 14mm. The Kangaroo has an Intel Atom 5x processor, 4GB of memory, 32GB storage, a 4 hr battery and a fingerprint reader. It also has both USB2 and USB3 ports along with an HDMI display port. It runs the 64bit Home version of Windows 10. The main reason I bought it was because it works with iPads though the OSLinx app which runs on both devices. The iPad is connected through a USB to Lightning cable and acts as a display for Windows 10, complete with touch capability. It also supports the Apple Pencil for drawing on the screen.

The whole combined system works pretty well though I had some difficulty setting up the Bluetooth devices. I now have the keyboard, a speaker and headphones all connected through Bluetooth. I have had a few problems with the fingerprint reader, but it works most of the time. When the iPad goes to sleep, it loses connection with the PC, but reconnects when the cable is disconnected and reconnected.

Everything I have tried running works ok, even Win994A which simulates a TI-99/4A home computer from the early 1980's. I have loaded about 200 cartridges images files from the TI computer and many more floppy disk and cassette tape images are available. I use the Bluetooth keyboard and am investigating option for a joystick controller. The following is a screen capture from the iPad Pro running TI-Invaders in the Win994A simulator. In the background is the simulator manual


IMG_0071

LiveCode Minnebar 9 Presentation

The following is my presentation at the Minnebar 9 conference on April 12, 2014. It has been updated with screen shots of the LiveCode IDE and Mac, iOS and Android versions of app developed. The projection system was a problem and clipped the right side of the screen so this shows the full tool bar. I also forgot to include the stack code for full screen scaling so the Android screen did not scale appropriately. See the MobileMarch version to prove that it does work.
Livecode Minnebar9 2014

LiveCode MobileMarch 2014 Presentation

The following is my presentation at the MobileMarch conference on March 20, 2014. It has been updated with screen shots of the LiveCode IDE and Mac, iOS and Android versions of app developed.
Livecode MobileMarch 2014

HyperCard to LiveCode

In 1987, Apple released its first version of HyperCard. Since I was already a Mac user, I jumped on the opportunity to use it. I used it to develop a version of the Bible named the HolyHyper for my GospelWare business.

HolyHyper 5

I also used HyperCard in my job at Honeywell to keep track of all kinds of data including my telephone calls, tasks, calendar, contacts, paper files, notes, mail and network resources.

Hypercard work mail

The “Work” HyperCard stack opened with a small icon bar showing all 8 sub-stacks that could be opened at the same time. There were links between the stacks. Mail was imported from the Unix mail system. Network logons and repeated operations were scripted. With the power of HyperCard, I had complete control of my data and did things that I still cannot do today with all of the Apple apps on the Mac or iOS.

I also used SuperCard, a competing product, for advanced projects including a specification generation system and a computer tools catalog. Unfortunately, a job change at Honeywell required me to use Windows at work and Apple stopped supporting HyperCard. I can still access HyperCard and SuperCard on a PowerMac G5 running Tiger OSX 10.4 and the Classic OS9 environment through ScreenSharing from my MacPro running the latest OSX system. The above screenshots were made from the MacPro screen.

In the past several years, I have started learning
LiveCode which is a derivative of HyperCard. LC has cross platform support for Mac, Windows, Linux, iOS, Android and server modes. There are both open source (Community) and commercial versions so anyone can learn it for free and then distribute packaged versions for sale.

Install SSD in Mac Pro

My 2008 Mac Pro has seemed to get slower over the years after three upgrades of Mac OSX from 10.5 Leopard to 10.8 Mountain Lion. Each of these was an upgrade without starting from a fresh reformatted hard drive. I decided that I was going to do a fresh system rebuild and also install an SSD (Solid State Drive) at the same time. I contemplated configuring the drive as a fusion drive which Apple supports in OSX 10.8 and ships in many of the new systems. With a fusion drive, an SSD is configured with a regular hard disk (HD) to form one logical volume. Then OSX would manage this volume to keep the most active files on the SSD portion and move unused files to the slower HD. I started out to do this but had problems with mounting the volumes during the process. I decided to clean up my files and reduce the active user and systems files to fit on the SSD instead.

My Mac Pro has 4 drive bays and had 3 - 1 TB HDs with OSX files and one 160GB drive with Bootcamp and Windows 7. I work off one of the main 1 TB drives and use the other 2 for backups. In updating the system, I swapped one of the 1 TB drives for a 240 GB SSD. My main issue was how to physically mount the SSD since it is a 2 1/2 inch form factor vs the drive bays which were for 3 1/2 inch drives. In addition the drive sleds on which the drives are mounted attached to the top of the drives and not the sides. The drive sleds allow the drives to quickly taken out and swapped without the use of any cables. Since I did not have a drive sled that would mount the 2 1/2 inch SSD, I contemplated putting the SSD in the extra DVD drive bay and running SATA cables to the mother board where there are two extra SATA ports. I may still do that to allow for mounting of all 4 3 1/2 inch drives.

Instead, a little research revealed a converter called the Icy Dock available at the local MicroCenter computer store. The Icy Dock SSD & SATA HDD Converter,
Model NB882SP-1S-1B, is shown in the following pictures. The converter is essentially an enclosure that has a connector for the SSD inside and presents a standard SATA HDD connector on the outside. The top cover flips up, the SSD is inserted and the spring loaded cover forces the SSD into position with the connector inside. There are no screws required and the converter box acts just like a larger HD. The converter is attached to the Mac Pro drive sled just like a regular drive. Note the other picture shows the SanDisk Extreme 240 GB SSD.

After cleaning up files and moving stuff out of the user, library and applications directories to other areas of the 1 TB main drive, I installed OSX 10.8.2 on the SSD. I then rebooted on the new SSD and used the OSX migration tools to move the user account over along with the applications and system library. The whole process took a couple of days of cleanup where I deleted 100 GB of unneeded files. It then took less than 2 hours to move about 200 GB to the SSD leaving about 30 GB empty for further growth. I didn’t get the exact time since I went to lunch with a friend and it was done when I came back.

The system is much faster now than it was before. I did some tests just for restarting the system. The old system would take about 3:24 minutes to restart with about 136 seconds of this time after the startup chime. Restarting off the SSD would take about 1:35 minutes with about 25 seconds after the chime. Restart time is more important than just a raw startup time since I rarely shut down the system completely. Actually, I rarely restart either. Note that the time from clicking the restart button to the chime was the same in either case, about 1:10 minutes, and doesn’t seem to depend much on the drive speed. So overall the SSD seems to be about 5 times faster than the HD in loading the system. 136/25 = 5.44.

I suspect that some of my speed improvement was from cleaning up files and splitting the files over two volumes, but glad to have the increase either way. I plan to do some more testing of applications as well, but there is a definite speed up of 2 to 3 times.

Icy Dock 1

Icy Dock 2Sandisk SSD

Old iPhone Reactivation

World of Wireless fixed my problem for $20 though now the SIM does not pop out.  I need to pry the SIM carrier out.  Beware! Do not use a safety pin.  I think the sharp point might slip inside the slot and mess something up.
friday, 24 september 2010 13:30
I have an original iPhone that I wanted to use without the AT&T cellular service.  We bought a new iPhone and didn't need this one for calling.  After we removed the SIM card to put into the new phone, the old phone still worked for apps and music though it warned us that it had no SIM card.  All was ok until I decided to restore iOS to get rid of all the original data and settings.  After that it needed to be reactivated through iTunes, but would not do so without a SIM card.
I talked with both AT&T and Apple who told me that I could use a SIM card from my current 3GS iPhone and iTunes on my Mac to activate the phone. Note that I had already tried a blank SIM card at AT&T's suggestion. There is no way to connect to iTunes or do anything with an unactivated phone.  I could not even jail-break the phone.  But this should be no problem since once I activated the older phone, I could just put the SIM back in the newer phone.  Except for one problem, the older phone uses a different $20 data plan because of the slower EDGE only phone service.  For that reason, AT&T had problems activating the phone through iTunes and even trying to do it manually. They said that the $30 data plan would be restored when I put the SIM back in the 3GS iPhone. After claiming that the old phone was activated and they could ring the number, the phone never rang and was not activated according to iTunes.  I also talked with Apple support who tried everything until they went to escalate the call and I lost the connection.
I called AT&T back again, but I would have had to go through the whole trouble shooting process again. I finally decided to just get another phone number and new SIM card.  The guy from AT&T support said they could waive the normal activation fee and that I could cancel the new phone number account at no charge.  But he could not send me a SIM card for an iPhone though he could for other phones.  I would have to go to a local AT&T store and beg them to do the same thing for my iPhone. Instead, I got a SIM mailed to me for an old Motorola Razr phone that I still had. I had to supply the IMEI number from the Motorola phone.   When I received the SIM today, I just put it in my old iPhone and it worked perfectly.  The old iPhone is reactivated and running like normal.
Well, almost like normal.  I still have a problem with the on-screen keyboard in the portrait orientation. It is difficult to press the .?123, Space and Return keys to work.  Part of the time, the Shift, Delete or other 2nd row keys will "press".  Interestingly, the problem does not occur in all applications.
I doubt the ordeal is over yet though.  Supposedly, my 3GS iPhone is back on the $30 unlimited data plan and I still need to cancel the new phone number account.  Will see how the billing turns out.
One last point: in the process of removing the SIM card, I used a safety pin instead of a paperclip.  When I went to put a SIM card back in the old iPhone, it would not go in all the way.  A local store named

iPad Review for Education

Available applications - Last week, there were 520 iPad education apps; today 636.  Of these 508 are paid and 128 (29.1%) are free.  In addition last week, there were 14780 iPhone education apps; 15188 today.  Interestingly, 12356 of these are paid and 2832 or 18.6% are free. The general thought is that iPad apps are more expensive than iPhone apps, but that is not true so far for education apps. Note that most iPhone apps run on the iPad and iPod Touch unless they require specific hardware such as GPS or phone capability. These numbers were derived from the iTunes app store on the Mac where counts are shown.
According to
148Apps.biz, there are 204,812 apps in the iTunes App store. 27.35% are free and 7.7% are classified as education, 15% as games, 11% as entertainment and 17% as books.  The average price of an app is $2.77 and it would cost $568,303 to purchase one copy of all apps.
Restrictions - The iPad and iPhone have a setting to control "student" access to apps and media content files. Using the Settings app, you can turn on Restrictions under the General setting category.  To apply restrictions, you need to enter a 4-digit passcode twice to set it and again to change or turn off restrictions.  Note that Restrictions apply to all users since the iPad does not have separate user accounts.
You can Allow or Disallow access to the Safari, YouTube and iTunes apps.  If you turn off these apps, their icons don't even appear on the Home page.  You can also disallow Installing Apps, In-App Purchases or the collection of Location information.
If Install Applications is turned off, there will no App Store icon on the Home page, but this does not prevent the deletion of apps.  Students can still delete apps through the normal method.  They can touch an app icon for a second or two until the icon starts to shake.  Then if they touch the X at the upper left corner of the icon, the app will be deleted. The only way that an App can be restored is through iTunes on the PC/Mac.  The iPad Install Apps needs to be turned back on temporarily because it also prevents any changes of the Apps layout in iTunes.
Apps Rating - There are content Rating categories for nine countries including the U.S., though all countries do not have rating systems.  You can set restrictions using that country’s ratings system for the following categories of content: Music & Podcasts, Movies, TV Shows and Apps.  Apps can be rated by 4+, 9+, 12+ and 17+ years of age.  If apps are restricted at a 4+ level, all apps rated 9+ or higher are prevented from running. Again, their icons will not appear and they will not show in a search.   Apps "Not Yet Rated" are included in 17+ rating.  If "Don't Allow Apps" is selected, then only the main iPad apps will appear on the Home page.
But how do you know what the apps are rated? If you restrict their use to a certain level, they don't show up on screen or in Search, but otherwise there is no indication of the rating at the iPad level.  You need to look at the Library Apps section of iTunes on the PC/Mac where the ratings symbol is shown after the app title and also in Get Info about the app.
 
thursday, 27 may 2010 00:00
Over the past month, I have investigated the use of iPads in our local elementary school where my wife teaches.  Last week, I presented my findings to a small group of teachers, the prinicipal and technical support staff.
While most of the presentation was a general overview of the iPad, there were a few specifics relative to education that I will review here.  I had 68 slides of which about 40 were direct screen shots from the iPad, Mac or PC screens. The presentation was developed with Apple's Keynote application on a Mac and presented through Keynote on the iPad.  An iPad VGA adapter cable was used to connect to an overhead projector, but does not support direct projection of the iPad screen.  Only output from Keynote, YouTube and other video apps can use the VGA adapter.

TI99 CF7+

TI99 user group which is hosted by Yahoo! Groups.  This group has 619 members from all around the world and is very active with over 72000 messages in the past 10 years.  The group also has two user conferences in the Fall each year.  One conference is in Chicago while the other moves around in Europe.


I have a couple of new additions to my old TI99 computer systems in the last week [May 2010].  First, I now have 10 reconfigured cartridges that include brand new circuit boards with a 64k EPROMs.  These were developed, manufactured and distributed by members of the international
ti99-cf7
These new circuit boards include sockets for the 64k EPROMs which can be programmed with a long list of TI99 programs, some new and some old and very rare.  There are jumpers to configure the board for 8/16k, 32k or 64k EPROMS. I have three 64k versions, one with TI-Workshop and the other two set up as multicarts.  A multicart can hold up to 7 regular 8k programs along with a Multicart program that switches between them. The other 8 EPROMs are set up as 16 or 32k and include one program each.  It is possible to put multiple 16 or 32k programs on a 64k EPROM, but then the circuit board need to be modified with jumpers and switches.  Each new circuit card is mounted in an old TI-Invaders cartridge with a new label added. Additional information can be found at Jon Guidry's web site. Note that the cartridge with the white label in the picture is a multicart.
The second addition to my TI99 systems is a CF7+ Slim Profile card that attaches to the side port on the TI99/4A computer console as shown in the above picture.  This is normally where the PEB (Peripheral Expansion Box) cable attaches.  The CF7+ is circuit board that includes a Compact Flash memory card that emulates an array of floppy disks and three disk drives.  The number of floppies emulated depends upon the size of the CF.  A 32MB CF can emulate 39 floppies that can in turn be mounted on one of the three emulated drives.  The card also includes 32k of RAM that can be used to extend the main TI99 memory. The card includes a PIO parallel expansion port that can be used for a printer.  In essence, the CF7+ replaces a PEB with memory card, printer card and disk drives and controller.  The only limitation is that there is no serial RS232 port or other expansion capability.  I am not sure where the "7+" portion of the name comes from.  I think an earlier version did not have the PIO port or 32k RAM.  Earlier versions also extended outward from the TI99 console whereas this Slim Profile version has all components parallel to the side of the case and extends out only about 3/4 inch.  The card itself is 3 inches high by 3.5 inches long. [Since this was published, I obtained a version with an RS232 port in place of the PIO port]
Another part of the CF7+ system is software that runs on a Windows PC, Win98 on a Dell PC in my case. Two DOS programs come with the CF7+, a dsk2cf.exe to transfer .DSK images files to the CF and a cf2dsk.exe to backup CF volumes to the PC.  A CF To Disk Transfer Utility program that is a graphical front end to the previous two transfer programs and further documentation is available on
Stuart Conner's web site.
 

iPad Experience

friday, 16 april 2010 12:24
It has almost been three weeks since I received my new iPad through UPS delivery. I really think it is a paradigm shift in computing.  I currently have an iPhone, a MacBook Pro (MBP) laptop and a MacPro tower in addition to this iPad.  If I had to give up one of the four, it would be the MBP. But if I could only have one of the four, it would be an MBP, possibly a new upgraded version.  When I travel again, I would probably just take the iPad and leave the MBP at home unless someone with me wants internet access as well.
I am actually using the iPad as a touchpad and a keyboard while editing this article on the MacPro. The Mobile Air Mouse Pro app has versions for the iPad as well as the iPhone. It essentially changes the iPad into a large touch pad for the Mac or PC. In addition, it has a keyboard layout that can be hidden and works in either portrait or landscape orientations.  It work pretty good though the right-click equivalent using a two finger tab is sporadic.  It also communicates through wi-fi which is flakey and slow through my local router.  This problem was alleviated by setting up internet sharing using my MacPro airport wi-fi and connecting direct to the MacPro.  Note the other apps work fine through my local router and routers at other locations.  it is just the latency that is a pain with the touchpad method to the Mac.
The mobile mouse pad also shows the Mac dock and allows switching between apps. The keyboard also has all function, arrow and control keys as well as four programmable keys. It uses a server app on the Mac which is is configurable for different apps.  It has special buttons to control iTunes and Safari.
I actually had some problems editing this Joomla article directly on the iPad.  The iPad keyboard would not pop up to enter text in the main editor field.  It worked fine for other text fields.  The work around is to switch to editing HTML, but I chose to use the touchpad method and edit it on the Mac.
I could add much more about using the iPad, but am enjoying using it rather than writing about it.
 

iPhoto Problem Solved

I have used iPhoto for years, since it was introduced by Apple for the Macintosh in 2002. At this time, I have 9914 items in the iPhoto library. A few of these are actually Quicktime movies from my new iPhone 3GS. Many have been imported directly from my Canon A85 digital camera. Others have been scanned in, saved directly into iPhoto from email messages or dragged in from any other window on the Mac, even from Windows XP.

Anyway, I have had a small problem with syncing iPhoto with my
AppleTV for a couple of years. I just exported any photos that I wanted to use elsewhere. I forgot about the problem until a few days ago when I purchased the new Bento 3 database program which has integration with iPhoto. When I first fired up Bento, it could not see the iPhoto library. I checked the Bento User Forum and found a similar problem discussion that got me started on a path to finally solving my problem. The problem revolved around the operation of the iLife Media Browser which shows up only as a menu item in iLife applications on the Mac.

After researching this further, I remembered that I had actually saved a link to an 
Apple User Forum which points to possible corruption in the iPhoto Library. A little more testing with techniques from the Apple Forum to see if I could fix the corruption, I finally decided to create a new library. The new library worked fine with Bento and I started exporting from the old and importing into the new. Since this proved to be a lot of work I decided to dig deeper to solve the corruption problem. 

I discovered an application named iPhoto Library Manager that identified the corruption in the AlbumData.xml file that is part of the iPhoto Library. That gave me the line number and text that was causing the problem. I then used TextWrangler to view the XML file and edit it, but iPhoto kept recreating the error. I examined the lines around the error and noted that it was part of an album definition. With the album identified, I went back into iPhoto. I selected all the photos in the problem album and created a new album from the selection. I deleted the old album and quit iPhoto. After checking the library with iPhoto Library Manager which gave no error, I went back into Bento which loaded the iPhoto library with no problems.

Now I can see my iPhoto Library within Bento, my AppleTV, my iPhone, the Mac desktop/screensaver, GarageBand and possibly a few other Mac applications.
 
Thursday, 01 October 2009 18:00

TI99 Update



Dreambox

Recently, I purchased a
Jaton X-Media Dreambox which converts TV and other video signals to SVGA for viewing on an LCD or other computer monitors. It was a $150 converter on sale for $30. My main reason to buy it was to eliminate a TV monitor that I was using on one of my TI99/4A computers which now can display on the Dell PC monitor. I actually use one of the A/V inputs leaving two other A/V and S-Video inputs that could be used with a DVD or VCR. A 15 pin computer monitor input allows switching to use the PC normally. There is also a regular TV/cable input and 125 channel analog tuner built-in so that broadcast TV can be watched. The converter also has an audio mini-jack input and output which is switched depending on the video input selection through a remote control or buttons on the box.

The picture above shows the A/V input which comes from the TI99 console shown in the first picture below. The Dell PC is connected through the Dreambox VGA input as well and the display is switched between the PV and the TI99. The other picture below shows the TI99 Peripheral Expansion Box with one internal 5 1/4 inch floppy drive and 2 external floppy drives.

TI99PCmonitor
TI99org
 
 
 

Dual Screen Recliner



friday, 08 may 2009 18:00
Dual-screen_platform
I recently updated my LazyBoy recliner to two screens. Back in Feb 2006, I posted my setup with an iMac G5 mounted on a PVC pipe arm. In Oct 2006, I upgraded that to a MacBook Pro with a second monitor. About a year ago, I purchased a MacPro and used it with the monitor which I had. About a month ago, I purchased another 20" monitor and modified the base stand to support both monitors. I was able to find another Sanus monitor support arm that matched the one I had. Both PVC pipes have a steel pipe within for added strength and less flexing. In this picture, you can also see the HP All-in-One printer and the extended carpeted base. The MacPro is a quad-processor running at 2.8 Ghz with 6 GB of memory and 3 SATA hard drives totaling 1.14 TB. I have space for a 4th hard drive which I plan to fill soon with at least another TB.

Dual-screen_platform2














This second picture, looking from the back corner, shows the Logitec wireless keyboard and mouse. My iPhone is also sitting on the side-shelf which is a place to set the keyboard and mouse when I am not using them.

I can also connect the MacPro to my Sony 46" LCD TV and effectively have 3 monitors. (Note the perspective makes the 20" monitors look bigger than the 46" TV). The TV and Mac are connected to separate Sony and Coby surround sound systems. The Coby system also has an AM/FM receiver and DVD player built in. An AppleTV (essentially a Mac computer) is networked with the Mac and connected to the TV as well for direct internet access to Apple's iTunes store. To complete the setup, an EyeTV box is connected to a Comcast DVR as well as direct to the cable and a VHS tape player. This allows video recording on the MacPro from all three sources.

Dual-screen_platform3


Note that the raised base for the chair provides a stable support for the monitors and makes it easy for me to stand up with my arthritic knees.
 
 

Macintosh 25th Birthday


sunday, 25 january 2009 18:00

MacWorld+Premier+1984
There has been much publicity over the weekend about the Macintosh computer turning 25 years old. It was at the Superbowl in 1984 that the famous adran. It was shortly after that I saw my first Mac at a local Dayton's store. My 3 yr old daughter was with me and was readily using the mouse and MacPaint within a few minutes. I own the premier issue of MacWorld magazine shown to the left as well as issues of Byte and Popular Science that featured the Mac on the cover in the next several months. A good review of the Mac history can be found in today'sMacWorld online article.

It wasn't until mid-1985 that I bought my first Mac though it was really a MacXL, a repackaged Apple Lisa that ran the Mac software. It had a larger screen and a 10MB hard drive built in. At one point, I had 3 MacXLs as shown in the photo below, but sold all on eBay in 2000.


MacXL+x3.JPG
My February 2008 post listed all of the 44 computers that I owned at the time. 27 of these are Macintosh though I had purchased and sold others that are not listed. Some of these were given to me by people cleaning out their closets. Actually I should count the iPhone as well since it runs a version of Mac OSX. Anyway, I am no where close to the 1500 Apple computers owned by Wayne Bibbens who was featured on the DVD Welcome to Macintosh.

Prior to 1990, I was a Mac developer for a few years and bought a new Mac when they came out about every 6 months. I got a 50% discount from Apple and sold my old Mac for what I paid for it, upgrading to the next level. That got me to a Mac IIci level which I used until 1998 when the iMac was produced. A complete description of all Mac models can be found at the 
Apple History web site. Note the list on the right side of the page.
 

Computer Inventory


wednesday, 27 february 2008 18:00
I was just exchanging email with an old friend and mentioned this blog to him. I said I needed to update it so decided not to procrastinate any further. This update will relate a current inventory that I did of my computer collection. Note this is somewhat an update to the posting of Feb 15, 2006 titled "Summary of Computers Used" except these are computers that I presently own. The number in ( ) is the number that I have of that model. That should total 44 "computers" in my museum though only about 80% are working. Wolverine Adding Machine Post Slide Rule TI99/4 (2) TI99/4A Black & Silver (9) TI99/4A Beige TI99/4A Modified with Mechatronics 80 Column Card & Rave 101 Keyboard Mac Plus (2) Mac SE/30 Mac Classic II (2) Mac IIvx Mac IIci (2) Mac PowerBook 170 (2) Mac LC II Mac LC III Mac Quadra 660AV Mac Performa 630CD Mac Performa 636CD Mac Performa 6116CD (2) Mac Powerbook Duo 2300C iMac G3 Bondi Blue iMac G3 Strawberry iBook G3 Blue iBook G4 iMac G5 PowerMac G5 MacBook Pro 15" (Dual processor, away at college) Mac Pro (Quad processor) AppleTV Dell Dimension XPS R400 PC - Win98 Nobilis PC - WinXP

Obsolete Already

wednesday, 25 october 2006 18:00
Well, I have just had this MacBook Pro (MBP) for a couple of months and now Apple has come out with a new version that is 39% faster. The new model uses the new Intel Core 2 Duo processor and more memory, but costs the same as the old one. Actually, my "old" MBP runs at the 50% idle even when recording video off my TV cable and playing two other videos at the same time. At the same time, I am using only 2/3 of of my 1 GB memory. I am not sure what I would do with the extra power though I am sure to find some benefit. I am still appreciating the other technical features of my new system. For example, the MagSafe power connector has already been tested. Instead of using a conventional plug and socket, the power cord connects magnetically and comes off with any sidewards pull. When I accidentally jerked the power cable, it popped off rather than stressing the connection or pulling the MBP off on to the floor. Now if the MBP does fall, it detects the movement with its Sudden Motion Sensor and parks the hard disk heads before it can hit the floor. Someone has hacked into this sensor to produce a program that can display the acceleration of the MBP in all three directions. Another programmer has written a program which can sound an alarm, take a picture of the thief and email it if it senses motion of the MBP. There is much more unique technology in this computer, but that's all for now.

MacBook Pro LazyBoy

MacBook Pro LazyBoy
 
tuesday, 10 october 2006 18:00

LazyBoyMacBookPro

I didn't realize that it has been 6 months since I last posted here. Anyone who was checking has probably given up. I have no real excuses though I have been updating my other 
blog on a weekly basis. If you go back to my second entry on Feb 12, you will see an iMac G5 with VESA mount and my LazyBoy recliner. With demise of my wife's eMac, the iMac G5 was passed down to my son and I picked up a new computer from my daughter.

Shown here in my new 15.4" 
MacBook Pro coupled to a 20" Samsung Syncmaster LCD display with 1600 x 1200 resolution. On the big screen, you can also see that I have replaced my homemade support arm with an articulated arm, Model VM3 from Sanus Systems. Both displays are active effectively extending the image area. The video connection to the display is digital DVI, but I also have a composite video adapter to send the image to a TV.

This computer is fast with a 2.16 Ghz Intel Dual Core processor, effectively 2 computers in one. I also have the 
Parallels virtual desktop software that allows me to run Windows XP at the same time as Mac OSX. Windows XP is essentially running directly on the Intel processor at close to native speed.

 

TI99 Computer

 
TI-99/4A Home Computer
TI99w2PEB

I purchased my first home computer in the Fall of 1979. After using an Apple II computer at work and investigating what was available, I decided to buy a Texas Instruments TI-99/4 computer. This was the first 16-bit personal computer, based on TI’s 9900 processor used in business computers. It also had several technical capabilities not seen in other personal computers. It had an accuracy of 13 digits based on its Radix 100 notation and a method on context switching found in Control Data mainframes. Unfortunately, it also used a double-interpreted BASIC making it slow since the base machine was programmed in GPL, a Graphic Programming Language.

My first TI-99/4 computer cost about $2500 with all the accessories. TI included a video monitor with the original console. It had a total of 16K bytes of memory built in, used programmed cartridges and stored BASIC programs on a cassette tape. I then added a 32KB memory expansion, an RS232 interface, a disk controller with two 5 1/4” floppy drives. These were all “sidecar” boxes about 7” wide, which along with a Speech Synthesizer and the 15” wide console, resulted in a computer train about 39” wide. [See the picture on the Home page.]

Later, TI came out with an upgraded TI-99/4A model and a Peripheral Expansion Box (PEB) that contained cards for each expansion connected to the console through a wide, shielded ribbon cable. The picture included here actually contains the 4A model with two PEBs that also contain two 5 1/4” floppy drives, a 3 1/2” floppy drive, a p-Code PASCAL card and an IDE interface card connected to a 2 GB hard drive. The bottom PEB is actually used just for its power supply and to mount the 3 1/2” floppy and hard drive. The IDE interface and HD were just added in December 2004. The console also has a cartridge expander that allows switching between three cartridges.
 

Modems

Modems
 
thursday, 02 march 2006 18:00

AcousticCoupler

Last night, I started checking my computer inventory for a modem that my sister could use to access the internet. I told her I would set her up with an old PC that I had, but discovered it had no modem built-in. I knew that I had a 56KB modem around here some where, but I have not found it yet. But what I did find was amazing, taking me back to 1979 and showing the changes that have evolved in home computer communications since then.

By the way, the term modem is short for modulator - demodulator. This is a way to convert a computer's digital data in a manner to transmit it over telephone lines. In the early days, this was done with an acoustic coupler in which a telephone handset was placed. These were built into old Teletype machines like I first used in 1969. The one shown here is from my first TI 99/4 home computer that I bought in 1979. These typically worked at 150 or 300 baud (bits per second). I also found other hardwired modems running at 1200, 2400, 4800, 9600 and 14,400 baud. As the technology advanced in speed, these would negotiate the highest speed they could operate on with the modem on the other end of the telephone line. When you dialed to connect to another computer, you would hear this chirpy, hashy noice, increasing in frequency until it matched what the other modem and the quality of your telephone connection could handle.

Starting around 2000, I have had Qwest DSL service that ran at about 256 Kbaud. Though I upgraded to their Deluxe DSL which was supposed to run up to 1.5 Mbaud, it never ran at half that speed and degraded back down to about the 256 Kbaud level last year. Finally, in December, I switched over to the Time-Warner Road Runner cable internet service. This evening, the cable modem speed has varied between 1.5 Mbaud and 4.8 Mbaud, probably averaging around 3 Mbaud. Imagine, over the last 25 years, we have experienced a 10,000 times increase in speed at least with a typical home computer. Dedicated commercial lines and the main internet trunk networks operate at much higher speeds.
 

Virtual Machine

The majority of readers will think that IBM entry into personal computing was with the IBM PC in 1981, but my first introduction to IBM’s promotion of personal computing was a few years earlier. I remember attending an IBM personal computing presentation with anticipation, but finding out it was about their VM/CMS capability on their System/370 mainframe. VM stands for virtual machine. CMS is Conversational Monitor System. VM/CMS essentially gave each user their own personal computing environment even though it was on a dumb IBM 3270 terminal in a timesharing mode. I also used IBM’s TSO (Timesharing Option) at the time.

The concept of a 
Virtual Machine has been around for over 40 years. I was reminded about this while reviewing an upgrade to our VMwareVirtual Machine environment at work this week. Another variation that I use today is Microsoft’s Virtual PC where I can run Windows 98 and Windows XP under Mac OSX on my iMac G5. I also run Windows remote to a system at work through a Citrix ICA client and VPN.

 
wednesday, 22 february 2006 18:00

Analog Computer

Today, it is very rare to use or even see an analog computer in real life. But back in 1968, this was the type of computer that I first used while a Mechanical Engineering student at Michigan Technological University. I don’t remember what class it was for or the problem that I solved on it. I don’t remember what the exact model was either, but it was similar to a Donner Scientific 3100 shown at the Analog Computer Museum web site. I remember using a Problem Board on which we setup our solution and then plugged that into a bigger system.

Today’s digital computers are sequential devices, operating on data one step at a time. It represents data internally in a representation called binary. Thus a single transistor in a digital computer can only store two states, on and off, and requires many transistors to store a number to any degree of precision. Digital computers are programmed through instructions which switch transistors on and off at the lowest level.

An analog computer operates differently than the digital computer. It offers continuous solutions to the problems on which they are operating. All components of an analog computer are part of a complete circuit that operates in parallel. The system is setup with electrical components that simulate portions of a real system. A mechanical spring-mass system may be represented by resistors, capacitors and inductors. When a switch is thrown, the system starts operation and results are measured as voltages and currents.

Note that there were actually mechanical analog computers many centuries earlier. An automobile speedometer is a mechanical analog computer that measures the rotations per minute of the drive shaft and translates that measurement into a display of miles or kilometers per hour.
 
saturday, 18 february 2006 18:00

Summary of Computers Used

tuesday, 14 february 2006 18:00
What I hope to add to this blog in the future is a little info about computers that I have used in the past. The following is just a list of what I can remember now though I will update the list if I remember more. They are in chronological order: Wolverine adding machine Post slide rule Analog computer IBM System 360 - card reader GE Timeshare TeleType - paper tape DEC PDP 8/e HP 35, 45, 25 calculators IBM System 370 General Automation SPC16 Computervision Control Data 6600, 7600 Apple IIe TI99/4 home computer Commodore 64 IBM TSO/CMS VAX 780 Apollo Control Data 830 IBM PC - DOS DEC Rainbow PC - CP/M Apple Lisa Mac XL Mac 512, Plus, SE, SE30, IIci Compaq PC - Win3.1 iMac HP Unix workstation Toshiba laptop - Win98 Compaq, Dell - Windows 2000 Sun workstation - Solaris Power Mac G4, G5 - OSX Virtual PC - Windows XP eMac, iBook iMac G5

iMac G5 VESA Stand

iMac G5 VESA Stand
 
saturday, 11 february 2006 18:00

iMacStand
Seeing that I started this blog with a picture of my "first" computer, I figured I would go next to my latest and then fill in with others that I have worked with over the years.

Shown here is my 20” iMac G5 containing a 2.0 GHz PowerPC G5 processor, 1.5 GB of DDR SRAM memory and 250 GB internal hard drive. It has built-in Airport and Bluetooth wireless capability so the only cable that it needs to run is the power cord. I have it connected up to a AC-powered DYNEX hub containing 3 USB and 3 Firewire ports which is then connected to a number of other peripherals. I have a 250 GB LaCie Firewire hard drive that is my backup, completely mirroring my internal drive. I also have a Maxtor 200 GB USB hard drive that is used for backup of other computers as well as video data.

My keyboard and laser mouse are wireless from Logitech with the wireless transmitter connected to the USB portion of the hub. This means that I have no wires to contend with when using them on my old LazyBoy recliner. The laser mouse works great on the arm of the chair without any need for a mouse pad.

Also connected to the hub is a Canon flatbed scanner for capturing paper docs and an EyeTV 200 converter, which allows me to watch and record cable TV on the iMac. I occasionally connect an iPod mini, a Canon PowerShot A85 digital camera, a Canon ZR-10 video camera and a Blackberry 7250.

Undoubtedly, you noticed the special setup on my homemade computer stand. This is actually my second-generation stand; the first was used to mount a 17” LCD display connected to a PowerMac G4. In this case, the 20” display contains the complete computer. (See the Apple store for the original desktop stand that I removed.)

The iMac had a VESA standard mounting option that I have bolted to a 2” steel pipe stand. The rest is regular PVC plumbing pipe, the main members of 2” pipe and supporting members 1 1/2”. The original stand was made all of 1 1/2” pipe, but deflected too much with the 25 lb weight of the iMac. The vertical portion of the pipe has a steel insert that I happened to have in my collection. This allows the arm to swivel. The last piece is the base made out of 2x6s and plywood with a corner hole and PVC wedges to hold the vertical pipe secure. The weight of the wood and the LazyBoy are enough to make this setup very steady.

I also have a portable PVC stand that I can use on a desktop and another portable floor-based design under construction. I have deflection problems with the portable floor-based system and need to try larger pipe on the lower portion.

This iMac has a little history before me. I bought it from Scott Sheppard, Editor-In-Chief – OSXFAQ, back in August. Scott had some excess inventory from his office that he posted on his email list. I jumped on the opportunity and saved $200 for a new system, sealed in the original box. Check out Scott’s web site, Tip-of-the-Day and email list at http://www.osxfaq.com