SHDC#9!

SHDC#9 gave us a suprising amount of activity, in contrast to the general procrastination of #8. So, lets get started…

Jonny brought along an impressive collection of Psion 5’s (and an Oscilloscope he managed to aquire! Great work!). It seems they come to him to die. Apparently most die because the flex cable between the screen and base breaks.

Psion, Anyone?

We all spent a lot of time admiring the design; the Psion 5 keyboard and mechanism is just awesome. So why didn’t Psion do that well? The story appears to be that the products were too good, so no one upgraded!

The keyboard got pulled apart, again revealing some nice design. His plan is to reverse engingeer it to the point of being able to make it in to a USB or Bluetooth keyboard. I can see why; it really is one of the nicest small form factor keyboards i’ve ever tried.

I got to work trying to fix the remaining problems left over from my previous attempts to Bring Back the Big Trak. The main thing was that only half the keyboard was working, which was due to one of the traces on the flex connector having been corroded away. These things seem to be the casue of lots of problems!

Big Trak keyboard connector fix

The fix I used was to draw a new trace using a Conductive Pen. Not the most easy thing to use (you end up dabbing a lot rather than drawing), but it does the trick. Behold, the Big Trak is Back!

Leif brought along his new toy, a Beagleboard, which he was setting up to be accessibly over a serial terminal as there was no appropriate monitor around.

Beagleboard

I then got interested in ways of providing remote access to it, so started looking around at VNC implementations. The thing I wanted to find out was whether there were any Java based VNC clients to allow it to be done as an applet from the clients perspective. Turns out there are! I tried RealVNC first, but couldn’t get it working straight away, so tried TightVNC. This gave much better results. The laptop on the right is running the server, and the left is the Java client:

Sweet. Now we just need to get TightVNC up on the Beagleboard!

Somehow during general tools talk and other fix-the-world discussions, ENSO and Quicksilver came up. These are basically applications designed to help invoke stuff from the keyboard quickly. ENSO was the one I tested out; one key feature is it’s ability to calculate the result of an expression that is highlighted, and replace it with the answer. Interestingly, it takes over and is invoked by holding down CAPSLOCK. Makes you realise how you never use that key, and it usually only features as an annoyance when you hit it by mistake!

It is an interesting thing to play with, and it certainly shows how easy it can be made to get to what you want. Emilio even wrote an ENSO Python Extension Wrapper for it. I’ll be trying out Quicksilver on the Mac too.

In another random discussion about something, Jonny mentioned the concept of “Bookmarklets”. These are bookmarks in your browser that are actually Javascript that is run. That means go to any page, click the link and the Javascript is invoked on that page. Now it is obvious these have been around a while with things like digg/blog this etc, but i’d never really come across them or thought about them. A really good example of it in use is Shared Copy. I can see these Bookmarklets have some great potential applications, and i’m sure there are some that haven’t been thought of yet.

The downside is the bookmark field itself naturally limits the amount of Javascript. As an experiment I did a little “Hello World!” Bookmarklet, but made it such that it just dynamically loads a script from a remote URL (script loading has no problems with cross-site urls). This means you can write the bookmarklet just as a .js file on the web, with no size limitations. I put it up at Hello World! Bookmarklet Example; go have a look!

Henry brought his new Bluetooth modules along that he had got from Round Solutions (ordered by fax!). The modules were BlueNiceCom IV based on the National LMX9830.

The main task appeared to be breaking it out to make it useable (bluetack it upside-down to something and solder on wires), then deciphering the datasheet to understand how to make it play. Getting the conections and config are easy when you know how, but they certainly appeared to make it hard to know how. But once it was responding, we had it pairing and talking to a mobile phone in no time. Even sending a text message. Check it out!

And by 2am, we were all wrapped up; not bad for a days work! I think the cake helped.

See you all at the next SHDC!

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