v6.2.3 - moving along, a point increase at a time

New Mac Pro...giant price tag!

One of my favorite things to do when I was in college (and following an Apple event) was to head to the apple store online and spec out the most recent announcement with everything spec'ed out to the max.  I used to do this with any tower model, starting back in 1997 when I first started looking at the latest and greatest (and my Performa 615CD, with a 68040 processor was rapidly aging).

Back then the most expensive model would set you back around $10,000 (if I remember correctly).  A lot for a college student, but not necessarily out of the realm of possibility for a professional who needed the extra umph.  This year's Mac Pro model, fully maxed, will run you around $53,000.  Jeez...  I really love it, but even the base model is $6,000 (so out of my league...)

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Review: Star Trek: Gold Key Archives Volume 2

Star Trek: Gold Key Archives Volume 2 Star Trek: Gold Key Archives Volume 2 by Len Wein
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

OK, this is a product of its time. It's more like Flash Gordon with a Star Trek gloss. Some of the odd things in this volume: space voodoo. Space hippies (to be fair, this was also true in TOS), punchcards and tapes and computer storage, a "brain drain" device (along with Spock's Brain, before Spock's Brain!). And who can forget the 45th president of the US: Anton York!

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Review: Star Trek: Discovery: The Enterprise War

Star Trek: Discovery: The Enterprise War Star Trek: Discovery: The Enterprise War by John Jackson Miller
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I rather enjoyed a glimpse into what happened to the Enterprise during the year that they missed in the Klingon War. They were involved in another war, albeit, without really wanting to be in it. There were quite a few moments where I said: "oh man, I wish I could see this on-screen!" This novel also fills in what happened to Spock and why he's institutionalized himself when we first see him in Discovery.

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Vintage Tech - HTC Blue Angel, Universal, HD Mini, and Moto Mpx

Windows Mobile. So much promise...So much frustration ;-)

After a hiatus from Windows Mobile (after mu iPaq), I had decided to try windows mobile again.  At the time HTC seemed to be the golden child of the industry when it came to windows phones.  They made reference designs that other companies could use or rebrand.  One such design, which caught my eye, was the HTC Blue Angel which was rebranded as the Qtek 9090, SPV M2000, Dopod 700, Qtek 9090, T-Mobile MDA III, i-Mate PDA2k, XDA II and so on.  The model came to Cingular at the time as the Siemens SX66.  I really loved the O2 version (XDAIIs), which retained the camera (which Siemens removed because corporate clients didn't want cameras...due to security...blerg...)

  • Dimensions: 125 x 72 x 19 (L x W x T mm)
  • Weight: Approx. 205 g
  • Operating systems:
  • Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition. 
  • Processor: Intel(R) XScale PXA263 400 MHz CPU (possible overclock to 600 MHz)
  • Memory: Flash ROM:96 MB, RAM:128 MB SDRAM
  • Memory expansion: SDIO/MMC card slot
  • Camera: VGA camera (except on the Siemens version, which lacks a camera)
  • Standard battery capacity: 1490mAh
  • Display: QVGA Transflective 65k Colour LCD, 3.5 inch, 240 x 320 pixels
  • Wireless connectivity: GSM/GPRS and Wi-Fi 802.11b, plus IrDA and Bluetooth on both models
Out of the box it came with Windows Mobile 2003, but unofficial "cooked" ROMs for Windows Mobile 5, 6 and 6.1 became available on different forums like xda-developers.  Windows Mobile 2003 was still annoying.  Near the end of the device's life, I got annoyed and it met a wall forcibly ;-).  I tried to give it some extra life by loading cooked Windows Mobile 5 and Windows Mobile 6 on it, but it was too little too late.   I really loved the form factor, but the chicklet keyboard left A LOT to be desired.  I had used a Blackberry phone before this and I actually liked the feel of the keyboard a lot.  I was hoping the same would be true for the Blue Angel, but I was sorely disappointed.  The keyboard actually went mostly unused, and eventually, I switched to a Nokia S60 phone.

Other HTC Phones

There were other phones that HTC made that I loved the design of (but I never got).  Two of these were the HTC Universal, which was a convertible phone. The keyboard was larger, and you were able to use it almost like other messenger phones (like the sidekick) which worked best on the landscape orientation.  By comparison, the Blue Angel felt top-heavy.

HTC Universal Specs (2005):
  • Screen Size: 3.7 in (9.4 cm) Transflective LCD
  • Screen Resolution: 640x480 VGA at 216 ppi
  • Input: 62-key QWERTY keyboard and touchscreen with stylus (included; stylus also available separately for 19 EUR as of October 2008)
  • Cameras: 2
  • 1.3 MP CMOS Camera with LED "flash" mounted on the reverse of the keyboard section
  • QVGA (320x240) CMOS Camera for 3G video calling, mounted beside the screen, close to the hinge
  • Processor: Intel Bulverde (PXA270) 520 MHz CPU
  • Memory: Flash ROM: 128 MB, RAM: 128 MB/64 MB SDRAM
  • Memory expansion: SDIO/MMC card slot (officially without SDHC, with maximum capacity supported being 4GB, but there is unofficial SDHC support from xda-developers - SDHC cards are accepted with Windows Mobile 6.1 or higher and there is another unofficial update to Windows Mobile 5 that allows use of SDXC cards up to 64GB.)
  • Network Standard: Tri-Band GSM/GPRS (900/1800/1900) + WCDMA (UMTS) (2100 MHz)
  • Connection interface: Client only Mini-USB connector, USB charging, USB 2.0 protocol
  • Wireless connectivity: Infrared IrDA FIR, Bluetooth 1.2 Class 2 compliant, WiFi 802.11b IEEE 802.11b compliant, Internal Antenna, 11, 5.5, 2 and 1 Mbit/s per channel, 64-, 128- bit WEP & WPA standard data encryption
  • Standard battery capacity: 1620 mAh (included; the battery is removable)
  • Charging: Mini USB (also used for data transfer)
Touch Pro 

HTC Touch Pro 2 Specs (2009):
  • 3.6" 480 x 800 pixels
  • Qualcomm MSM7200A, Single core, 528 MHz
  • 3.2 MP camera
  • 512MB ROM
  • 300MB RAM
  • SDHC
  • Windows Mobile 6.1
  • 1500 mAmp battery
  • Quadband GSM, 900/2100 UMTS
  • Bluetooth & Wifi
One of the things that HTC started doing (when Windows Mobile as an interface wouldn't really cut it) was to create an overlay UI called HTC Sense. This put a more usable face on top of Windows Mobile's (aging) interface.  I do believe that HTC sense has also been moved to their android line of phones now, making it one of their distinguishing characteristics.

The Motorola MPx

Finally, one phone that I was really looking forward to, but never came out officially, was the Motorola MPx. The MPx may have come out for developers, but it never really saw the consumer market.  This phone was a convertible flip phone.  You could use it in landscape mode with a full keyboard (which doesn't look all that comfortable), or you can use it as a flip phone.    I thought that the forward-facing media keys were innovative for the time, and the dual-hinge meant that you could use it as a 'regular' phone most times, but flip into smartphone mode when needed.  I think it ran Smarphone OS, which was Windows CE-based, like Windows Mobile, but it was different, so I am not sure what the app compatibility looked like

Motorola MPx Specs (2004ish?):
  • Triband GSM 900/1800/1900 support.
  • GPRS Class 8 (4+1 slots), 32–40 kbit/s speed, browser supports WAP 1.2.1 and HTML (PocketIE).
  • Weight: 118 g.
  • Dimensions: 89 × 48 × 27 mm.
  • Main: 2.2-inch (35 × 44 mm) 176 × 220 pixels TFT, 65,536 colors (16-bit), 9 lines.
  • Secondary: 80 x 48 pixels monochrome TFT.
  • Smartphone 2002. Can be upgraded via unofficial firmware, up to Windows Mobile 6.5.
  • Supports 32 presets, polyphonic (24-channel) and WAV for ring-tones (WMA and MP3 support are added with OS upgrades), silent alert: vibration.
  • 132 MHz Texas Instruments OMAP 710 processor.
  • 32 MB of RAM.
  • 16 MB internal memory (8 MB available to user).
  • Expansion slots: SD MMC/SD Card slot (1 GB max).
  • Camera:
    • none, optional Viewtake CM35D SD slot camera available separately.
    • Image sensor type: 0.3 megapixels CMOS.
    • Image preview: 160×120 JPEG 10 frames/second.
    • Photo shot format: 160×120, 320×240, or 640×480 24-bit color JPEG.
    • Video file format: 160×120 24-bit color AVI, 8 frames/second.
    • Lens: 180¢X rotation
    • View angle: 60¢X
    • Fixed focus: f/2.8, 4.1 mm focal length
    • Focus range: On-screen 16-bit color 20 cm to infinity
    • Shutter speed: f/2.8, 4.9 mm focal length 1/7.5 ¡V 1/500
  • Software: IA camera 2.0 (includes driver).
  • Connectivity:
    • IrDA.
    • miniUSB port with USB 1.1 support.
  • Dimensions: 26.7 mm × 33.6 mm × 12 mm (without SD card)

Windows Mobile 6.5

Finally, it's worth looking a bit at Windows Mobile 6.5  Microsoft's last-ditch effort to "save" a current product and evolve it, before they went with Windows Mobile 7, which was totally new underneath the hood (I think), with a new user interface (Metro), which meant a complete re-launch of Microsoft's mobile phone line - which...SPOILER ALERT...they managed to bungle as well...

From what I remember Microsoft wasn't fully invested in Windows Mobile 6.5, but it is worth noting that they changed the interface of the OS from something that resembled Windows on the desktop, to something closer to the Zune interface (their failed attempt at a media player).  It wasn't a bad effort, but I think it was too little too late by this time. By this time (2009) iOS was in its third iteration and the iPhone 3GS was close to being out the door (this is my first iPhone since I wasn't all that impressed with the original and the 3G). One of the innovations here is that microsoft now had a store that people could buy apps from them and install without sideloading.  I remember back in my iPaq and HTC days, the only real way to install applications on your Windows Mobile, or Palm device for that matter, was through sideloading.  You needed to buy the software separately, either on CD or via an online store.  Run the hot-synch function while tethered to a computer, and run the executable installer on your PC.  The Apple AppStore really did revolutionize this, and it's amazing that no one else had done this before...

It's too bad really.  Microsoft had a commanding lead, in my opinion, both in the enterprise and in the consumer market (thanks to HTC), but they really squandered it.

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Guacamelee | Done

Here's to another completed game :-)  After the odyssey that was Assassin's Creed Odyssey this one felt like a light breeze!  This game was another GamePass game that I decided to try out, and I rather liked it.    I wasn't sure if I was going to like the Metroidvania-style gameplay (sometimes I love it, sometimes I absolutely hate it), but this hybrid brawler-Metroidvania game was really good.  I loved the color palette, the references to other games, the humor in the dialog. 

The plot (from Wikipedia):
In a small village in Mexico, Juan Aguacate is a humble agave farmer. On the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) he’s going to meet with his childhood friend and love interest, El Presidente's Daughter, Lupita. An evil charro skeleton named Carlos Calaca attacks the village and kidnaps her. Juan is no match and is killed by Carlos. He is sent to the land of the dead, a parallel world where the dead reside. There, Juan finds a mysterious luchadora named Tostada. She gives Juan a mystical mask that transforms him into a powerful luchador and brings him back to the world of the living. The game then follows Juan's battle to rescue his beloved and to stop Calaca's plan to sacrifice her in a ritual that would unite the worlds of living and dead under his rule.

While he confronts X'tabay, the first of Calaca's lieutenants, he ends up transformed into a rooster and brought back to human form by another rooster with mysterious powers. After defeating X'tabay, she reforms, revealing that Calaca was once a great rodeo man who broke his arm just before an important competition, and sold his soul to the Devil to have it healed time enough for the competition, but just after winning, the Devil enacts his payment and drags him to hell, but with X'tabay's help he deceived the Devil by having him transformed into the same rooster who helped Juan, having helped him against Calaca in order to restore his power.

Juan gains power to confront and defeat the rest of Calaca's forces. Juan pursues Calaca to the altar where the ceremony is being held and defeats him, but does not arrive in time to save Lupita. In the normal ending, Juan returns to his village and lives his life in peace until reuniting with Lupita in the afterlife and the mask disappears. In the true ending, attained if the player clears all the hidden trials, Lupita is revived by the power of Juan's mask which breaks apart, and the two return together to the village where they get married.

I ended up getting the unhappy ending where Juan and Lupita end up finding each other in the afterlife.  I have a few qualms about calling this the "bad" ending.  I think it was rather interesting, and it follows the fairytale-like plot.

I ended up playing some of the Infierno challenges, but I don't think I'll be going back (anytime soon) to complete the challenges.  There are 6 more orbs to find to get the "good" ending (the "they lived happily ever after" ending), but that's time taken away from other games (and the semester begins today, so...nope)

Gamerscore: 365/1200
Achievements 15
Total playtime: 10 hours
Silver earned: 75

Overall I'd give this game a 10/10.  Very entertaining, nice environmental puzzles, and if you don't spam the buttons on your controller - the story is funny too!

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Vintage Tech - iPaq

Back when I started my graduate studies, I decided to leave the Apple Newton behind (I know, sacrilege, eh?) and get a more "modern" PDA.  While my Newton did support unicode (probably the first platform to do so natively, I think), the unicode was not implemented, so typing in Greek was a pain. I had to either use Greeklish, or use the Symbol font to display contacts (which made my non-Greek contacts look odd).  I didn't particularly like PalmOS (it seemed like a step backward), but PocketPC seemed like a good contender.  Thus, I went to the Compaq website and ordered myself an iPaq PocketPC.  I bought myself an iPaq 3870 which had a few expansion options and came with Bluetooth.  My goal was to pair it with my Bluetooth enabled Ericsson T68 to surf the internet from time to time.

Hardware & Software out of the box

The 3870 looks like the 4th iPaq on this list of devices.  The unit was compatible with Compaq's sleeve system where the iPaq could be slid into the sleeve to either provide device protection or to expand the device by adding a Compact Flash slot, PCMCIA slots, WiFi, an analog TV and Radio Tuner, a camera, a barcode scanner, and my favorite: a sleeve which added GSM/GPRS so you could make phone calls, send texts, and browse the internet from your iPaq.  I think that Compaq was really ahead of its time with these sleeves, and we've only (relatively) recently seen Motorola use this approach with their Moto Z line of phones that use MotoMods.

My device and I think all devices, came with the default screen protector sleeve, which you can see on the second device.  The specs on my device were:

  • Processor: Intel SA-1110 @206Mhz
  • RAM: 64MB
  • ROM: 32MB
  • Bluetooth & infrared
  • SD Card slot for up to 1GB of space
  • Built-in speaker
  • Built-in microphone (there is a button on the left side of the device that allows you to use it as a dictaphone!)
  • 3.5mm audio port
  • RS232 connection (where the cradle connects, and also where the sleeve interface port it)
  • 240x320 touch-screen

This machine was obviously built for business (and heck, as an MBA student it seems like it was a good fit! for a while anyway...).  The software that came with it was pretty business-focused (no surprise) and included things like:

ActiveSync 3.5, Asset Viewer, AudibleManager, AudiblePlayer, AvantGo, Calculator, Calendar, Contacts, Data Encryption Package, File Explorer, IBM ViaVoice Mobile Device Edition, Ilium eWallet, Inbox, Infrared Beaming,  Jeode Java Virtual Machine, ListPro, MSN Messenger, Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0, Microsoft Money for Pocket PC, Microsoft Outlook 2002, Microsoft Pocket Excel, Microsoft Pocket Internet Explorer, Microsoft Pocket Streets, Microsoft Pocket Word, Microsoft Reader for ebooks and audio books, Microsoft Transcriber, Notes, Picture Viewer, Pocket Asset Manager, Terminal Services Client, VPN Client, Vegas Game Pack, Virtual Tour, Voice Recorder, Windows Media Player 8.0 for Pocket PC, Wordlogic Predictive Keyboard, Xcellenet Device Management Agent, iPAQ Task Manager, iPresenter PowerPoint Converter.

AvantGo is an idea that is still with us today in the form of  Pocket.  The idea was that you followed certain websites that were AvantGo compatible (CNN, MSNBC, etc.).  Even if a website wasn't compatible, AvantGo on your PC would work its magic.  Then, AvantGo would create offline versions of the site and load them onto your AvantGo viewer via synching.  This way you'd have your commuting newspaper to read while you were not connected.  One of the things I did end up getting for my iPaq was a GPS puck.  It was a GPS receiver, with Bluetooth, that connected to my iPaq.  This, along with Garmin maps (I think they were garmin) made for my first GPS unit for my car.

Later models of the iPaq included things like built-in wifi, cameras, and fingerprint scanners. I think the last model of the line was the iPaq Glisten, which was a direct competitor to Blackberry (it had a built-in keyboard).

Windows PocketPC 2003

The unit I had actually came with PocketPC 2002 OS, but Compaq provided a free upgrade with PPC2003 came out. Both of these screenshots are indicative of what PPC2003 looked like.  The homescreen graphics were modifiable, so I had Palm, Newton, Apple, and other OS images showing on my iPaq.  When I had an HTC Blue Angel (maybe this is info for another post) I also had other mobile operator logos on my phone.

The user interface was pretty much of its time.  There was a dashboard, which was customizable, which showed the user's information at a glance. By default, you could see your to-do list, your mail (synched via HotSync when you were at a computer), and your calendar appointments.  Applications that you installed had the option to include a homescreen widget, so things like AvantGo also showed up here.  Games that were similar to tomagotchi also had a homescreen presence I think.  The windows menu was how you accessed all of your applications.

There was no Greek (or any other non-latin-based alphabet) by default, but there were plugins (which cost additional money) that enabled this on your phone.  They worked OK.  I never really was 100% satisfied with how Windows PocketPC handled internationalization.  The unit would also slow down from time to time which necessitated an erase-and-reinstall process.  I don't know if this was really helping, or it was all psychological on my part.  I remember friends with windows machines (prior to Vista) that did this periodically to their PCs.


When I got sick of Windows PocketPC, I attempted to breathe new life into the iPaq I had, and someone over at QNX (a real-time OS of the time) had ported QNX onto the hardware as a trial.  I liked the BeOS-style visuals so I experimented a bit with it (probably for about a week), but since it was an experiment or proof-of-concept, it never really had any third-party software, so I flashed PPC2003 back into the device.  I wish this had caught on :-)

Linux OS (OPIE and GPE)

PPC2003 wasn't really doing it for me.  It was OK, there were enough games on the device to make it entertaining, but I had issues connecting to the network over Bluetooth, the device got painfully slow at times, and I kept feeling like I needed to reset it.  I discovered that there was a Linux port (Familiar Linux) for the device, with two different UIs.  One looked like Aqua on MacOS (OPIE) and another one was based on GNOME (GPE).  I loaded this on my iPaq and played with it for about a month.

It was a fun excursion into the Linux world, but I came across the same issue as with QNX.  Granted, more people had ported more apps over to Familiar, so the device was more useful because of it, but it still didn't really scratch the itch for seamlessness.  I did enjoy playing around with mobile linux at the time, and I am surprised that people have yet to crack that nut; I know Android is technically Linux, but I am thinking of other companies like Canonical.

In the end, I ended up flashing PPC2003 back on my device and gifting it to a friend who wanted to mess around with it.  I also ended up replacing both my iPaq and my T68 for a SonyEricsson P800 (a story for another blog post)

Windows PocketPC was killed off by Microsoft when they changed direct with Windows Mobile 7, and their Metro interface.  There had been a plan for a Windows Mobile 6 (PocketPC renamed to Mobile with the 5th edition), but as far as I know that never made it to market.

Do you have any memories of PocketPC?

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10 years of Star Trek Online!

Well, it's no small feat for an MMO to make it 10 years!  So cheers to you, STO!  I didn't start playing until it became Free-to-Play (so I've only been playing for 8 years), but it's still an amazing game.  As is customary for the STO team, they released an anniversary infographic.

I only wish I had started a Klingon and Romulan Delta Recruit back in the day so I could claim those account-wide goodies...

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My Friend Pedro | Done

Hey!  I finished my first Game Pass game!  yay!  And, it's already paid off given that I got GamePass for a year for $1 with that lifehack back in September ;-)

Anyway, this game as a  platforming shooter, which apparently is based on a Flash game. The graphics in this version are far superior to the flash-based game, and so are the controls.  You wake up as the protagonist (no name) with a talking banana as your imaginary friend.  The banana (Pedro) tells you that people are out to get you, and you'd better get them before they get you!  I don't know if this were real life I'd seek professional help, but since it's a game...I just did what the banana said. The game provides both subtle social commentary, as well as pokes fun at society broadly. But, you can miss all that if you're just doing the gunplay.

I like the explanation of what might be the case with this oddball story that's presented in this video:

Overall this was a fun game.  The Matrix-style bullet-time, the destructible environments, and the oddball story made for enjoyable interactions in gameplay. Even the story's WTF moments kept you on the edge of your seat.

Gamerscore: 385/1000
Achievements: 15

A lot of the achievements are the "flip x-many tables" or "dodge so many bullets" variety.  I am sure I could mechanically do this and earn some more points, but that doesn't seem like a good way to spend time.  Maybe when there are no other games in gamepass to play ;-)

I give this game an "A for Awesome" (9/10)

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Review: Star Trek/Planet of the Apes: The Primate Directive

Star Trek/Planet of the Apes: The Primate Directive Star Trek/Planet of the Apes: The Primate Directive by Scott Tipton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An interesting cross-over between Rodderberry-TOS Kirk (and crew) and the Planet of the Apes. The Klingons find a way to get into an alternate universe (where the Planet of the Apes takes place) as a means of getting around the Organian treaty and start colonizing that universe. Kirk and crew find them and stop them. In the process, they influence the development of that society which blows itself up (I actually think that it was the George Taylor who did it intentionally because he couldn't deal with how things turned out, but there is no confirmation about that). But wait! in the closing shot there are apes in space, in Taylor's shuttle looking to do a slingshot around the sun, to go back in time and change things....hmmmm... what could happen next?

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Review: Star Trek: Waypoint Special 2019

Star Trek: Waypoint Special 2019 Star Trek: Waypoint Special 2019 by Matt Sheean
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A good collection of short stories set in the Trek universe. The first season or two of TNG gets some attention in this waypoint collection. I think this would have made good "short treks"

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