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.


MacBASIC 1.0 Found

I found MacBASIC 1.0 on Mac GUI. It wasn’t part of a disk image file so was easy to transfer to my Mac Classic II. I put it on the same disk as the older version. It ran, showed an error in the Airfoil pgm and then bombed out. I gave it more memory in Get Info but it still bombs out in any pgm that I tried. Maybe I will look at the two books I have and see if I can resolve the Airfoil pgm error and type in another pgm to test. It has more extensive menus than the older version.

Anyway, here is proof that it exists. Someone must have hacked it

MacBASIC 1.0

MacBASIC Nipped in the Bud

Today is the 50th anniversary of BASIC developed at Dartmouth College in 1964. My first use of BASIC was during a Summer job at the GM Tech Center in 1969 using a teletype connected to a General Electric computer system. I later used BASIC on my TI99 Home Computer starting in 1980. When I switched to the Macintosh in 1985, I used Microsoft-BASIC. I still have an original floppy of MS-BASIC that still works.

Early in the Mac development, Apple was also developing their own
BASIC after using Microsoft’s on the Apple II. Apple dropped their MacBASIC in 1984 when Microsoft threatened to drop their support of the Apple II.

When I read the
Times article about BASIC this morning, I was reminded of MacBasic and that I had tried to find a copy of it 5 years ago. I did obtain a couple of books: Using Macintosh BASIC by Richard Norling (of which I have an autographed copy) and The Macintosh BASIC Handbook by Thomas Blackadar and Jonathan Kamin. There are at least a half-dozen more available on Amazon.

Anyway, I did another search for MacBASIC and found a copy on
Macintosh Garden. This is version .335 dated Feb. 27, 1984. I downloaded a copy to my PowerMac G5 where I run the Classic MacOS under OSX 10.4 Tiger. The copy is a disk image file in the old MFS 400K floppy format and would not mount on the G5. Taking up the challenge, I managed to get it on 2MB floppy which I was able to read on an old Mac Performa from the mid-80’s. I was able to mount it on the Performa running Disk Copy, but it wouldn’t run under the Performa’s MacOS 7.6. Not to be deterred, I copied the files from the mounted image disk to an 800K floppy and moved it over to a MacClassic II from around 1992. The MacClassic II was running MacOS 7.1, but MacBASIC wouldn’t run there either. Since the floppy included an old version of Finder & System, I tried to boot from it. Did not boot, but I found that I could run MacBasic off the floppy instead of the HD.

Following are a few screen shots that shows it running an Airfoil graphing program.
There are about 50 BASIC programs on the floppy. There is supposed to be a 1.x version of MacBASIC that I am still looking for.
MacBasic - 5

MacBasic - 4

MacBasic - 1

MacBasic - 2

MacBasic - 3

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.

Unlocking a Norwegian Chest


The njerd goes retro.

Recently, my mother-in-law died and left us an old Norwegian immigrant chest but no key. The chest was about 4 feet long, 2 feet wide and 2 feet high made of wood about 1 inch thick. It was very heavy and we joked that there might be a body inside.

The chest was dated 1792 and had an old fashioned lock that apparently used a large key with a 1/2 inch diameter hollow key. We talked to a number of locksmiths who claimed they could open the chest but not guarantee they would not damage the chest. I told them that I could certainly do just as well and took the challenge. We located a blacksmith associated with the 
Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah, IA who had opened similar chests for them. He was willing to come to Minneapolis sometime next month at a cost of $500, but was kind enough to explain to me what his process to make a key. It took me a couple of days, about 6 hours and 6 trips back and forth between my shop and the chest, but I accomplished the task. As I was working on this, I thought of the Norwegian carpenter/blacksmith who built this chest over 200 years ago and who had used it in the passing years.

I started with an old door 

hinge from which I cut one of the three rolled parts with part of the flat portions. It actually took me a couple attempts to get a piece the right length to use as a primary blank. I braised a piece of copper water pipe to the hinge blank and a steel ring bolt to the other end. To get the right lengths inside the lock, I used a bent paper clip to probe the depth of the lock and internal parts. The lock was almost 2 inches deep though the first inch was just to get past the wooden side of the chest. The lock was a basic "warded lock" with one ward requiring that I had to cut the key blank to allow rotation. I determined the location of the ward by dripping candle wax on the key and turning it to get an impression of the ward on the key. The ward seemed to be tapered since it took me about 4 attempts as I kept cutting more and more of my key blank away. By that time, I had my Dremel tool with me to make fine adjustments on site with the chest. 

As you can see from the final version of the key, I ended up cutting most of the blank away. It was a great feeling when the key finally turned in the lock and I raised the lid. Unfortunately, there was no great treasure inside, just heavy metal tools and some old clothes. A 1977 newspaper lined the chest, giving the best guess of when it was last opened.


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