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Noah's Blog

Noah W.'s blog is full of technological exploration, findings, programming, and the life of a young developer.


Windows Phone: It's not me, it's you

It's been quite a road for Microsoft's mobile operating system. From Windows Mobile to Windows 10, a lot has changed. Most notably, its market share.

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I started my smartphone life with Android. Actually, the first android phone, the HTC G1. Google's initial smartphone offering was quite immature to the Android ecosystem that exists today. Lack of stability, lack of updates to existing phones, and poor design decisions plagued many Android phones for the first four or five years of its life. Perhaps that was one of the reasons I ended giving Windows Phone 7 a chance when it came out with the Nokia Lumia 710. The phone really was a breath of fresh air. It was extremely fast and responsive, and beautifully designed, especially the operating system, with its sharp lines, bold colors, and unique tile-based user interface.

Lumia 710 running Windows Phone 7

I started an on-and-off affair with Windows phone for a while and ended up staying on Windows Phone when the Lumia 925 came out. I bought that phone and used it until I bought the Lumia 950XL the day it came out.

That all changes today:

I'm breaking up with Windows Phone.

It isn't a decision I made overnight, although it certinaly seems that way. Having less than one year ago spending about $500 on the Lumia 950XL, I'm already giving up. While I really like the idea of Windows 10 and the UWP platform, I's getting harder to take the platform seriously. More and more app-makers are giving up on the platform, things I used to use everyday. Apps like Mint, Amazon, MyFitnessPal, PayPal, and the HERE suite of apps. This is on top of things that, in my opinion, should have been there from the start, the Nook app (which Microsoft tried to make happen), the ability to make panoramas, mobile payments, the list can go on.

Even things that Microsoft makes, often perform better on other platforms, such as the Health app used for the Microsoft Band (which I have), the Outlook mail client, and any/all of the Microsoft garage apps. It's almost as if Microsoft is encouraging its customers to go to iOS or Android. So that's what I've done.

I recently pre-ordered the Samsung Galaxy Note 7, and just got it yesterday. I will (probably) post my thoughts on it here in a week or so after I have had the chance to truly get to know the device. I really wanted to love Windows Mobile 10, but Microsoft has been making it harder and harder to do so over the last year. And the numbers don't lie. According to Android headlines (vis-à-vis Gartner), Windows Mobile's OS share dropped from 2.5% to 0.6% in the second quarter of 2016.

Maybe things will change for Microsoft's mobile operating system. It's unlikely, given past performance and Microsoft's own propensity to invest its time and money elsewhere, but if things change, I'll be waiting in the wings.

Published: 8/21/2016 1:09 PM

Article by: Noah Wood

Apple PowerBook 2400c

This is the second installment of my "Adventures in old Tech" theme of posts. I hope you enjoy reading about one of my favorite laptops ever created.

Design

Side Profile

The PowerBook 2400c has an interesting design history compared to other PowerBooks of the era. According to an article from MacWeek in 1999, the 2400c was co-designed by Apple and IBM Japan to fit this new "subnotebook" class of machines that Japanese consumers had started to gain an appeal for.

Top Profile

The 2400c was the smallest portable computer apple had made since the original PowerBook 100. It was so small in fact, that it only had room for an internal battery, it came with an external floppy disk drive (using a proprietary connector) and offered no external CD-ROM support other than the Mini-SCSI port.

PowerBook 2400c Keyboard

The keyboard and trackpad on this machine are pretty much garbage. The keyboard is almost too tiny to get anything done (remember the netbook craze of the mid-2000s?) ditto with the trackpad. Other than that, the design of this thing is quite nice. The translucent button to open the lid doubles as a green sleep LED indicator, and the generally curvy profile of the PowerBook is an interesting approach that we really wouldn't see again until the first wave of iBooks.

Technical Details

External Floppy Drive

My particular 2400c was originally a PowerBook 2400c/180, meaning it came with a 180MHz 603e PowerPC processor. I say originally, because I took advantage of upgrading this using VImage's PowerPC G3 upgrade kit. It included the processor and a driver that allows you to turn on and off the backside cache to save battery life. This brought my 2400c to 320MHz, which is more than a slight bump in performance.

Apple System Profiler

The other thing you'll notice about my 2400c is that it is running MacOS 8.6. The 2400c can support up to MacOS 9.1, which I have run on this machine, but I have found it to run with much better stability on 8.6 instead. 8.6 is a bit leaner and, quite honestly, in 2016 the differences in software and features between OS 8.6 and OS 9 are negligible at best.

Ports

From left to right, the ports on this machine are:

  • ADB
  • Power
  • Apple Serial
  • Floppy Connectory
  • VGA
  • Mini-SCSI
  • IrDA
  • 2 PCMCIA slots

An interesting note about the PCMCIA slots are that they can be compatible with the CardBus standard. The slots can technically fit CardBus cards, but by default the 2400c will simply reject them. By clipping and bypassing 2 resistors on the motherboard, you can activate using CardBus cards in the machine. I've tested this with a MacAlly USB card which provides 2 USB ports. I have used this to successfully transfer data back and forth on the machine using a flash drive.

One final hardware modification I performed was converting the loud and slow HDD for a quiet (and equally slow) compact flash card using a product such as this, it's actually quite easy to do. Once I put in the adapter and rebooted from the OS 8.6 CD, the installer saw the CF card as a regular HDD.

Software

Mac OS 8.6 Boot Screen

Like I said above, the machine is running Mac OS 8.6. Most classic mac software that is compatible with OS 9 can run on 8.6. Here is a list of some of the applications I have installed on the machine:

iCab viewing the 2400c Profile on LowEndMac

Using the internet with this machine today is all but impossible. Almost any website that uses HTTPS fails to load in both iCab and Clasilla. Moreover in both browsers JavaScript needs to be disabled to prevent the system from having a meltdown.

One of the interesting things I was able to do is load a modern MP3 file onto the machine and play it back with iTunes. It worked quite well, actually and the little PowerBook even did a decent job rendering the visualizer, all things considered.

Another thing to note is the appearance of Mac OS 8.5. When Apple was moving from System 7 to Mac OS 8 (code named "Copland") they introduced a new appearence to the operating system that would stick until the death of OS 9, called Apple Platinum. There was always the tease for new themes and when OS 8.5 was being demoed there were three Apple-made themes that Steve Jobs did a demo on before its release. These themes never made it into the shipping version of OS 8.5, however. I was able to find a couple of these themes online, and my favorite of the bunch is called Drawing Board which can be seen in the picture below:

Drawing Board Theme for OS 8.5+

Hello to /r/RetroBattlestations

Published: 4/17/2016 4:59 PM

Article by: Noah Wood

Old Tech Adventures: Part I

The year was 1991. Personal computing was just becoming popular and 5.25" floppy disks were all the rage. Enter the CD-ROM. There was so much more storage potential, the possibilities seemed endless. When Sony released one of their first CD-ROM drives, they packaged it with a compliation of 6 discs called the "Laser Library." I suppose if you're going to drop $1,200 on a new technology, you might as well get some stuff to play with.

One of these discs included the Microsoft's Bookshelf software. It was a DOS application that included a simple encyclopedia, a dictionary, thesaurus, quote-book, etc. I installed it on a FreeDOS virtual machine. First thing I did was try to define the word "internet." I guess it wasn't popular enough to have its own definition in 1991.

Microsoft Bookshelf 1991 Edition

Stay tuned for more old technology posts as I dig through my library of treasures.

Published: 3/14/2016 10:00 PM

Article by: Noah Wood

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