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(archived) Technology News

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This page documents random thoughts, observations, reviews, criticisms, rants, anecdotes, tips, tricks, and discoveries by Blake Nancarrow. The notes here pertain specifically to information technology. They are dated and arranged in reverse-order, the newest items at the top.

2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001 | the '90s

 

Index of Postings

2003
26 Dec - resume timer (Psion)
11 Dec - lots of spam
13 Nov - new Netscape 7.1
11 Nov - new direction with Notes Domino
23 Oct - expansys comes to NA (Psion)
21 Oct - Office Stats (Microsoft)
15 Oct - Stats CDN (general computer)
13 Sep - More Animation (instant messaging)
7 Sep - Media Check
1 Sep - Fate (Psion)
28 Jul - Renewed
10 Jul - Old 'n Tiny (browsers)
8 Jul - Bookmark Anti-Chaos
4 Jul - kartoo
10 Jun - Irony (web tech)
5 Jun - Ribbon Repair 2 (Psion)
3 Jun - Expansys has 5mx's (Psion)
7 May - Trilly Pro emoticons (instant messaging)
11 Apr - CSS master list found!
7 Apr - DW MX ready (Dreamweaver)
6 Apr - webreview.com and CSS charts gone!
25 Mar - recycling rechargeable batteries
19 Mar - Trillian Pro (instant messaging)
1 Mar - more CF
11 Feb - CF (CompactFlash)
17 Jan - Pixels (now used on this site)
4 Jan - The Search for Psion
3 Jan - Ribbon Repair (Psion)

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26 Dec 2003 - resume timer

Some time ago, I started programming in 32-bit OPL (Psion's built-in interpreted language) on my Ericsson palmtop, so to build a 4-car racing timer. For many years I have used D.C. Roennau's excellent Stop Watch application but it unfortunately can only record 1 car and up to 20 laps.

I got so far in development as to complete the raw timing logic and capture hundreds of lap times for 4 cars. Then I shelved the project...

Over the holidays, I packed all my OPL books and notes, determined to reignite my work. I designed and programmed the main screen.

Psion 4-car timer

Now I just need to write the file-generation logic and I should be ready to then tie all the pieces together. It will represent my first, complete, menu-driven, touch-screen, full Psion OPL application!

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11 Dec 2003 - lots of spam

It is estimated that more than 50% of e-mail traffic on the internet is spam.

AOL says it blocks 2.4 billion spams a day.

  - source: Yahoo!News / Reuters

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13 Nov 2003 - new Netscape 7.1

Recently downloaded and installed Netscape 7.1 (128-bit version to make my bank happy) onto my Windows 98 box.

I like the ability to put multiple web sites onto separate tabs inside the browser... As I tend to leave my computers on continuously and keep the internet connection up constantly, over time, I'll have 10 or 15 or 20 different web sites up. This tabbed environment is going unclutter my windows...

This latest offering from Netscape feels fast. This is not empirical but the rendering looks faster.

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10 Nov 2003 - new direction with Notes Domino

I began my studies of Lotus Notes database development. I am receiving private tutorials, working from written materials provided, and practicing building databases.

I think my computer programming and RBDMS background lends itself to this. As well, my interest in web technology including HTML, XHTML, CSS, and JavaScript will prove useful.

Let's see where this goes...

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23 Oct 2003 - expansys comes to NA

Received the following email...

from: us-info@expansys.com
subject: eXpansys and Datanywhere Rebate
eXpansys and Datanywhere have joined forces to offer North America's best selection of PDA’s, Smartphones, GSM handsets and accessories. To celebrate we would like to offer you a 10% rebate (up to a limit of $100 rebate per customer) on any orders that you place with us between now and the 30th of November.

Yeh: reduced shipping costs!

Visit http://www.expansys.us/ for more info.

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21 Oct 2003 - Office Stats

MS Office runs on 94% of desktop PCs in the workplace, reaching 400 million users globally. Source: The Globe and Mail newspaper/site.

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15 Oct 2003 - Stats CDN

I learned that 7% of Canadians use a PDA and 60% have a PC. These are estimates from Palm quoted in The Globe and Mail newspaper/site.

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13 Sep 2003 - More Animation

I started using MSN's instant messenger version 6 at work. And I installed the newest version (2.0 beta) of Trillian at home. They have more new icons many of which are animated. So I'll be updating the emoticons list soon...

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7 Sep 2003 - Media Check

I received a Digital8 video tape today (of me racing at Mosport, woo hoo!). This is a new format which I don't have any others of. Which is thusly some new storage media in my life. Which reminded me that it's been a long time since I've done a "media check."

We have a lot of different media (and the necessary "readers") in our lives. Think about it... I have:

  • 3-1/2" floppy diskettes, low density (DD)
  • 3-1/2" floppy diskettes, high density (HD)
  • 5-1/4" floppy diskettes, low density (2D)
  • 5-1/4" floppy diskettes, high density (HD)
  • 9" floppy diskettes
  • IDE hard disks (various capacities)
  • SCSI hard disks (various capacities)
  • 5-1/4" removeable hard disk cartridges
  • CD-ROM
  • CD-R
  • CD-RW
  • Zip-100
  • computer backup tape cartridges
  • computer magnetic tape (reel)
  • IBM mark-sense computer cards
  • Compact Flash (CF) memory cards
  • SmartMedia (SSFDC) memory cards
  • Psion SSD RAM memory cards (various capacities)
  • Psion SSD Flash memory cards (various capacities)
  • video tape, VHS (LP, EP, SLP speeds)
  • video tape, Beta
  • video tape, Digital8
  • DVD
  • cassette tape, metal
  • cassette tape, chromium
  • cassette tape, standard
  • vinyl, LP
  • vinyl, EP
  • vinyl, 45
  • CD (audio)
  • identification cards with magnetically encoded strips (various)
  • oh, and paper

I'm sure I've forgotten a couple...

Updates:

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1 Sep 2003 - Fate

Was I tempting fate? It had occurred to me, over the course of 6 to 12 months, that I didn't have an extra EPOC palmtop as I considered that my Ericsson MC 218 was working well. And that it had been a long time.... Blam, on Sun 10 Aug, the ribbon cable broke! And it went quickly--usually you have a week or so of limited use of your screen until the cable completely lets go. I had but one day! Still, I sprang into action with a multi-pronged attack!

having it repaired

I considered calling Ericsson Canada to see if they could help. Never followed up on that... I looked into UK and US repair depots. I contacted an acquaintance at Psion/Teklogix (in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada) to see if they might be able to help. He said they could try. Never followed up on that...

Called Shiva of Palmtop Support Services (in Toronto, Ontario, Centre-of-the-Universe) and asked if he specifically repaired the ribbon cable only as opposed to swapping an entire (good) screen--he did, for US$160. I dropped off the machine on Thursday, we experienced the biggest blackout (see powerless) in history, and I had my tuned Ericsson back by Tuesday.

repairing it myself

I reviewed my blog and contacted SRS. They had the LCD screen ribbon cable available for purchase for EUR 55. So I obtained my first ever money order for Euros, sent it off, and a short time (and more dollars for duty, CDN$18) later the ribbon cable showed up.

I'm looking forward to repairing my old functional Psion Series 5mx with busted screen cable so that I will have a backup machine. Except I need to learn how to solder properly...

purchasing new

Looked for machines at the usual sources, really hoping for an Ericsson. From expansys, they had 30 to 40 new Psion 5mx in stock for sale for 299. I checked Psion USA and they had machines available for US$449. I really wanted an Ericsson! I'm still not sure why exactly... It's blue?

purchasing used

So I searched on eBay and there were lots (of used ones)! I missed an auction closing by a couple of hours and could have had a machine for very cheap; I did not make that mistake a second time--I bought a used MC 218 for US$82.

So my "backup" machine is sitting in the closet, sleeping...

accessing EPOC data without an EPOC device

When I couldn't see the screen, I immediately thought "I need the emulator!" I have an old version of the Psion EPOC emulator on my Windows 95 machine but I couldn't run it (long story). I had a slightly more recent copy of the emulator on my Windows 98 machine--I transferred critical files (like my calendar, people database, a handful of Word documents) so I could work. I also needed a copy of the emulator at the office, on the laptop. I searched high and low before finding it!

Ha, now I can't find the link... It was either at Symbian or Teklogix...

No matter, I have a copy of the Symbian OS System Development Kit (SDK) v5 if you are having a hard time tracking it down...

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28 Jul 2003 - Renewed

I renewed the computer-ease.com domain name for another 3 years. So you're stuck with me for a while yet...

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10 Jul 2003 - Old 'n Tiny

Need an old browser for testing purposes? The Countess found Microsoft Internet Explorer for Windows back to version 2 at the University of Victoria. Have fun!

http://helpdesk.uvic.ca/how-to/support/win95/msiexpl.html

They also have Mac versions...

Wow. I just found Netscape Navigator there, back to version 1.22!

Funny/sad observation: the oldest browser is less than 2MB; the latest, more than 75MB...

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8 Jul 2003 - Bookmark Anti-Chaos

In the real world (now would that be inside or outside The Matrix...?) I do not have enough bookmarks. On my computers, I have way too many.

I bookmark in Netescape (or add to my favourites in MS Internet Exploder) everything! Probably a bad habit. But if I find something interesting and I think I'll need, if I find something involved that I don't have time to fully explore now, if I find something after a protracted search, then I want it stored for future reference.

The problem now is that I have a ton of web site bookmarks in my Netscape on my Windows 95 box, favourites in IE there too, a ton of favs in IE on my Win98 box, and... well... it's getting messy. Or I can't find them. Or I can't remember which machine it's on.

So today I wandered into TUCOWS and take a peek. And once again, I come to the conclusion that...

I love shareware!

Not only do I find a category called bookmark utilities but I find several highly rated products. I download and install the promising Compass 2.83. I import all my IE favourites (I do detest the MS IE favourite dialog manager mess). And I'm immediately blown away! I can drag-n-drop into and out of it and within it, it's easy to use, the searching is super-smart, it ultimately saves everything as an HTML file, it supports multiple browsers, it supports searchable descriptions (like Netscape), it has auto-saving, etc. These are my discoveries after 5 minutes!

While it doesn't look it will do "shortcuts" or aliases in other folders, the powerful searching should make up for it.

Looks like I'll be buying some more excellent shareware soon...

And keeping track of a few thousand web sites with ease...

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4 Jul 2003 - kartoo

Who?

Was bored. Had some time to kill. Had web access. Thought: I need a new web site. Started to snoop in http://www.webbyawards.com for an interesting new site but tired of that quickly.

Somehow I stumbled across Time magazine's web and their top-50 pick list. There are some very interesting selections there... My favourite?

http://kartoo.com/

It represents a brilliant, powerful, visual way to (meta) search the web...

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10 Jun 2003 - Irony

Tested my web site yesterday in Netscape 7.0 for Windows. Slick looking product. And, when viewing this IT news page, I discovered the "back to top" links don't work. Every other browser I've tested it works fine on... Turns out that I'm missing the "top" named anchor bookmark tag—oops!

It is very interesting that Netscape 7.0 highlights this...

I remember hearing people pan recent Netscape versions, saying it was buggy and their web sites didn't work anymore. True bugs in the software notwithstanding, the reason their sites started acting wobbly was because of bugs IN THEIR SITE! They used bad HTML code that old, "improper," poorly deployed browsers tolerated, misinterpreted, or ignored.

Netscape's browser is getting better and better all the time. (So are the other browsers.) Netscape is clearly trying to make a product that adhere's to the World Wide Web Consortium's standards for web technology.

Isn't it time you ensure that your site uses HTML properly?

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5 Jun 2003 - Ribbon Repair 2

I heard (on PEAT) of someone buying a replacement LCD ribbon cable for their Psion 5mx. If this is true, then it means we can keep our wonderful machines alive for a long time!

I did a search for "Neo" in the PsionWelt site. There's an article (in German) here from mid-May that shows a ribbon cable and describes the repair.

While in PsionWelt, I noticed an ad for Schubert & Roth Service (SRS) GmbH, in Germany. They are a Psion repair centre and they're offering to repair your Psion or sell the cable as a separate item.

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3 Jun 2003 - Expansys has 5mx's

Expansys in the UK has a limited supply of refurbished Psion Series 5mx's (in a value pack) at approx. £ 310. This is a great price. Hurry!

http://www.expansys.com/

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7 May 2003 - Trilly Pro emoticons

I've updated my web site of instant messenger emoticons to include additional static and animated icons for Trillian Pro 1.0.

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11 Apr 2003 - CSS master list found! updated!

I heard from Eric Meyer. He has resurrected his master list of Cascading Style Sheets on Netscape's developer "devedge" site.

http://devedge.netscape.com/library/xref/2003/css-support/

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7 Apr 2003 - DW MX ready updated!

We are now offering training and materials on Dreamweaver MX for Windows and the Macintosh.

And here's our final report of the MX Windows version:

beefs I still have; or new complaints

  • named anchors—still inserts an empty set; now adds ID option to anchor tag! again, O'Reilly reference shows it as non-empty... ironic
  • undo in Site—nope, still not there (be careful deleting, renaming, moving files)
  • editing text is still wobbly in many places...
  • no "auto link" like FrontPage, i.e. type a URL and it becomes a link...
  • image editing—still nothing "basic" built-in (FrontPage still rocks in this respect)
  • autosave of pages—still no feature for this
  • lowest CSS level (in-line styles)—still cannot be done, geez!
  • copying RTF content—still sucks!
  • BASE tag problem—still inserts the HREF="" (empty) option even if you don't "request" it
  • testing external web links—still does not check externals (while FrontPage does)
  • they took away the Ctrl+Tab keyboard shortcut (for switching between Code and Design views); but then, it is now more consistent with the Windows UI, Ctrl+Tab jumps from window/document to window/document; replaced with shortcut Ctrl+` (weird)
  • the Library Items renaming bug remains (don't "accept" Untitled and then immediately rename it)
  • also the Library Items naming issue remains (spaces, length); proper place to rename it is in Files Panel—this correctly updates filename and dependent pages, but the Library Asset panel does NOT update, requires you close and restart DW mx! duh!
  • the little bug of editing in the Properties Panel and clicking somewhere causes the change to not be recorded persists...
  • Oval Hotspot Tool—still misnamed; it's a circle!
  • the shortcut menu (by Right+Clicking) still sucks

strange things

  • the "new" MDI GUI is intense; no overlapping but really busy (this causes one major problem with the focus in certain scenarios)
  • close document button in a weird spot, sorta...
  • the "big" Launcher toolbar is gone—good! but the MiniLauncher is no longer on, by default...
  • rendering quirks in the document window, often occurs with left-aligned graphics in a right-aligned paragraph

accolades

  • save all—it's back! (ha)
  • CSS implementation—the Property Inspector can be flipped to CSS mode vs. FONT, nice
  • oooh, Paragraph style applied to new text entered AFTER a heading...
  • encoding type option on FORM—added
  • inefficiencies in tables, e.g. column width—smarter now!
  • hey! a "standard" toolbar that includes Save, Save All, Cut, Copy, Paste, Undo!
  • standard toolbar buttons are "modal" or context-sensitive (i.e. Save lights when required)
  • right-clicking of Doc Window toolbars permitted
  • you can create your own toolbars—the whole XML behind-the-scenes extensibility thang
  • saving of Site window data and site definition... it looks like it is saved immediately, so crash-proof...
  • it looks like the <!DOCTYPE> tag is in fact now inserted! wow!

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6 Apr 2003 - webreview.com and CSS charts gone!

Last week I attempted to visit http://webreview.com/ to check Eric Meyer's "mother of all" Cascading Style Sheets Master Compatibility List when I found myself at the DDJ's web site. Huh? Domain piracy? DDJ bought webreview? I didn't care—I simply needed Meyer's excellent resource.

I went directly to his web at http://meyerweb.com/ and was happy to see he's still evangelising CSS. He's written a book on it. And he too noted the weirdness at DDJ. I've emailed him to see if the master list is still out there somewhere or he has a different one. I'll keep you posted...

[updated on 11 Apr 2003]

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25 Mar 2003 - recycling rechargeable batteries

While at Radio Shack recently, I noticed a poster about recycling rechargeable batteries. Did you know that cadmium is particularly bad for the environment? After trying hard to use rechargeables, I didn't want to end up doing something improper during their disposal.

I jotted down the telephone number: 1 800 822-8837. And if I remember correctly, the poster went on to say that Radio Shack themselves will take your old Nickel-Cadmium (Ni-Cd) batteries.

Tonight, I phoned the number. Multi-tasking, I searched for the web site. Lo and behold, I found http://rbrc.org/, just as the answering service told me!

I was thrilled to learn that there's an active program in Canada! The web site lets you search for a collection site by city or postal code.

Turns out the program is not just for Ni-Cd batteries. Drop off your old, tired Ni-MH, Li-Ion, and small (less than 1kg) Pb cells too! So that means old rechargeable batteries from your power tools, phones, laptops, digicams, radios, and toys have somewhere safe to go.

And the really good news? It's free!

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19 Mar 2003 - Trillian Pro

I love shareware! Or beerware, or freeware, or donateware. What a concept. I hope it'll continue. I hope authors don't get discouraged... And I hope some of you out there contribute for software that makes your life easier or more fun.

I registered for Trillian Pro. Received my download invite and key. So now I'm a proud owner—oops, licence holder. ;-)

Thank you Cerulean Studios!

I look forward to trying it out. I'll report soon. And update my universal emoticon list!

[updated on 7 May 2003]

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1 Mar 2003 - more CF

I noticed the CompuCentre carries Compact Flash (CF) memory cards. I jotted down the prices of two sizes from the Toronto Eaton Centre location.

  • 64MB = $65
  • 128MB = $90

These prices are in Canadian and do not include any taxes.

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11 Feb 2003 - CF

No, we're not talking "cuteness factor" here; CF = Compact Flash. Memory cards. Some digital cameras and Psion Series 5mx and Ericsson MC 218 palmtops use CF cards.

Sources include:

Popular sizes range from 32MB (approx. US$30) to 128MB (about US$60) to an incredible 1GB (circa US $570)! Whether you can use the larger capacities in your camera or palmtop will depend on the camera or palmtop. Check your documentation. But if I remember correctly, I've heard of people using 256MB in a Psion. I personally have a SanDisk 40MB (which I purchased used).

When purchasing, remember that "controller speed" (I've seen from 1x to 30x) or transfer rates and power consumption are major factors in performance, and thus, price.

times transfer rates
x per sec
1 150KB
4 600KB
12 1.8MB
24 3.6MB

Some premium cards come with "lifetime" warranties...

A quick peek at the Radio Shack (Canada) web site shows they have some CF products. E.g. Lexar 256MB CF for CDN$220.

To learn more about CF technology, be sure to visit the CompactFlash Association or CFA at http://compactflash.org/.

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17 Jan 2003 - Pixels

I clued in that I was using the wrong method for sizing fonts on this web site. Oops! Sheesh, and I teach the stuff too. CSS permits sizing by points, which is appropriate for print media; it also allows pixels. So I have corrected this web site's external Cascading Style Sheet to use pixels for font size.

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4 Jan 2003 - The Search for Psion

Snooped around for Psions (Series 5mx) and Ericssons (MC 218). I'm concerned that when my Ericsson breaks or dies then I will be without a machine.

I checked Clove Technology and Proporta but they do not have these specific machines for sale.

I tried New World Technology. They are now Handango. They have the Nokia 9290 but no Psions or Ericssons.

I revisited Expansys where I bought my current Ericsson unit (at an awesome price). They have archival pages, for reference purposes, for this machine and bundles. But it is noted as discontinued.

Finally, I surfed into Psion USA. It looks like this is the only place in North America where you can buy a Series 5mx (online). They are US$450.

Maybe it's time to buy a "backup" machine...

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3 Jan 2003 - Ribbon Repair

After a long time, talked to my good buddy Gerry. We talked about Psion. He caressed my Ericsson MC 218 in a most inappropriate way! I was surprised to see his "organizer" is presently a little tiny coil notepad and a little tiny pencil...

His is missing his old Psion.

He has three out-of-service palmtop computers. The last unit's screen ribbon cable broke. Again. Damn.

I mentioned to him that I recall hearing about a ribbon cable fix! It might be performed by Shiva of PSS. Yahoo. Gerry and I are researching this. I'll try to report our findings soon...

[updated on 5 Jun 2003]

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