Notebook computing; Olivetti M-10, Text Power 100, Remote Control, and two applications. (evaluation) John J. Anderson.
Jingle bells, jingle bells . . . oh, hello there. It is once again my pleasure to be your host in the wonderful world of creative but portable computing! Delete all those spurious files taking up precious RAM in you notebook machine and make room for some good stuff to follow.
Dashing through the snow . . . Olivetti M-10
You may or may not know by this time that I am positively fanatical about my Model 100. I've had the opportunity to carry around lots of portables, and the Model 100 has always been the machine of choice. It is light, truly portable, able to telecommunicate without muss or fuss, and is perfect for tapping out first drafts (like this one). and Olivetti M-10 are all manufactured by Kyocera, and are all quite similar under the skin. On the M-10, all the same software as the Model 100 is there in ROM, as is the internal modem, and every other major feature of the Model 100. I was impressed. Finally the bothersome problem of positioning the machine for optimum viewing had been surmounted.
Upon turning the pretty baby on, I was again pleasantly surprised. The display font has been slightly improved and is easier to read. The plastic bezel is also removable, so in the unthinkable event that it is scratched, it can simply be replaced. More good thinking.
Keyboard feel is also improved, and all traces of wobble have been eliminated. In the numeric mode, only the numeric keypad is enabled--no alphabetic characters can register. Neat.
Turn it over, and an extra hatch is visible. It opens directly over the RAM board, where a couple of CMOS sockets are placed. This means you can upgrade to 32K without losing your machine to service people. I dropped in a chip and went from 24K to 32K in a matter of seconds. Terrific. I always felt memory upgrade was a rather unnecessary hassle on the Model 100.
So much for loyalty. In a matter of minutes I was ready to lend out my Model 100 to Editor Linzmayer and consummate my love affair with the Olivetti M-10 by moving all needed programs and text files over to it. Trial by usage, as they say.
Imagine my surprise when problems set in. Machine languag files would load, but they wouldn't operate properly. Basic programs with recourse to POKE commands (such as the one presented up ahead) were also flaked out. I couldn't believe it. How could two machines that seemed identical turn out to be highly incompatible?
Since the bulk of my portable work consists of text editing, I was more or less willing to slough the problems off. With a business trip in the offing, I packed the M-10 into my shoulder bag and headed for the airport.
At 35,000 feet, I finally started typing on the M-10. It certainly cut a rakish profile on my tray table, evoking oohs and ahs from those around me. After about five seconds of tapping, however, I had to take a hard look at the keyboard.
Horrors! The M-10 keyboard is not set up Selectric-style. That means that quotation marks are SHIFT-2, an apostrophe necessitates a SHIFT-7, and other sundry aberrations. The CONTROL key is poorly placed as well.
After a bit of on-the-spot operant conditioning, I was able to grow somewhat comfortable with the situation--after all, I was weaned on Atari- Apple II, and Commodore keyboard. But as soon as I got home, it was back to the tried and true Model 100, where an apostrophe is right where it belongs: at the immediate disposal of your right pinky.
The M-10 is a very nice machine, though I fear for it. Keyboard and compatibility problems with the consanguine Model 100 and NEC 8201 will hurt it in the U.S. marketplace. It is also considerably more expensive than its two brothers, though that may change soon. If Docutel were simply to redesign the keyboard, I could recommend it wholeheartedly to those who use a portable simply for text editing.
I hear the unit is selling very well in Europe, and I can believe it. On the basis of the screen alone, it is worth a look. One thing that has always bothered me about the Model 100 is how tight the black border around the screen butts the top line of the display. No such problem exists on the Olivetti version, and once the screen is tilted into position it is much more easier to view than the Model 100, even when the 100 is propped on a book or on a set of pencil tops. And in case you are wondering, the 26-3805 acoustic cups available for the 100 (for use in hotels and other spots where modular phone jacks are not available) works just fine with the M-10. Text Power 100
For more than a month now, I have been promising Bob Covington I would look at the program Text Power 100. Truth is I haven't had much need for a text formatting program for the Model 100, since I always upload draft copy to another machine for revision (used to go to an Apple II, now the Mac). When I did need a formatter, Dave Ahl's from the September 1983 issue did the trick, though since it is in Basic, it is rather slow. I tend to be rather fanatical about conserving RAM, anyhow; I'd rather have even the extra 4K a formatter might take up for text files. The commercial formatters I've seen take up too much space and offer too little utility.
Bob promised me that his was different and told me he would buy me beer for the rest of my life if I disagreed. What a motivator this guy is. I finally located a cassette recorder cable and loaded up Text Power 100.
Fortunately for the size of my every-expanding gut, Bob was right. Text Power 100 is the best formatter I have seen for the Model 100. As an all-machine language program, it takes up just 2507 bytes and packs an amazing amount of power into that small space. Written by Argentine programmer Hugo Ferreyra, it is a model of elegance and utility.
The function keys are reprogrammed to handle all major functions with a single keystroke and without recourse to cryptic command codes. Control of the program is logical and consistent. You order it preconfigured to operate with one or more printers.
Here is a list of some of the b est features of Text Power 100:
* Vertical centering: allows you to center your letter vertically on the page without guesswork. Default top and bottom margins are restored after printing.
* Merge: allows you to mix text from different files to create form letters, print mailing labels, and append text files.
* Edit: allows you to exit directly to the specified text file to continue editing. You then return to Text Power on the f8 key. This gives you the feeling that TEXT and Text Power are working together rather than separately.
* Page Plot: allows you to view a graphic representation of each page of a document before it is printed, with a line count displayed for each page.
Text Power 100 also has page numbering, page preview, headers, footers, horizontal centering, right justification, and settable page breaks. It will work with as few as 256 bytes of overhead. Control codes offer full control over a specified printer, including bold-face, italics, super-and subscripts, underline, and other functions. Control codes are not displayed during preview, nor do they affect word-wrap or right margin justification.
Wondering about its speed? Text Power 100 formats in excess of 5000 characters per second. That's about 1000 times faster than the Basic formatter I had been using.
When displaying a file formatted wider than 40 characters, the program uses inverse characters below the original line to denote the over-40-character portion of the line. Of course, the left margin is ignored during display to maximize display size.
I was impressed enough by Text Power 100 to leave it in my Model 100 permanently, and redrafting on the Model 100 now seems much less formidable. And though it won't work on an Olivetti M-10, I'm told it works just fine on the NEC 8201. The program is from The Covington Group and lists for $49.95 (DVI users can order a disk version for $59.95). Remember to specify your printer(s) when ording. Kensington Remote Control
Of course there is no real substitute for interfacing your portable to a desktop machine on which you can revise text files using a legible 80-column display. Using the RS-232 port, I can dump files from the Model 100 to just about every other machine in the lab.
Kensington Microware has taken the serial interface approach quite a bit further and with the introduction of Remote Control has integrated the software environments of the IBM PC and Model 100 or 8201.
When you load Remote Control on your IBM PC, you have an integrated text editing and communications environment. You no longer have to switch between word processing and telecommunications programs. The software is modeled after TEXT and TELCOM as they appear in the Model 100. Using the supplied null modem cable, you can move files at high speed between a portable and a PC.
But the most useful feature of Remote Control is the host mode: it allows you to communicate with and control your PC using your portable, from any location near a phone line. You can move files, execute DOS commands, even run stand-alone programs from your remote site as if you were sitting in front of the PC. Remote Control answers the phone and hands over the reins. You can scan your disk drives for messages, upload messages to the host, even send files to the host printer.
The package lists for $180. Password Protection
Have you ever had your portable molested while you weren't around? Ever come back from lunch only to find that mysterious damage occurred while you were on your second martini? Well sad to say, shenanigans of that sort have been known to go on at the lab, and I have been upset about it on more than one occasion.
Listing 1 is a Basic program that password protects your Model 100 from prying guys. Upon power-up, the unit prompts for a password. You have exactly three tries to get it right and proceed to the menu. Otherwise, the unit displays a curt admonishment to the unauthorized user and powers itself off. And that is that.
I used a variation on this theme for some time, but it had a fatal flaw--the break key was not properly disabled. That meant that a calculated or lucky keypress of SHIFT-BREAK at the right time would subvert all the planned security and drop you right into unprotected Basic. Then, with some thanks due to an upload from Mark Kushinsky on the Model 100 SIG of Compuserve, I was able to find a workable starting point.
Listing 1 is the result of my efforts. Line 10 disables the BREAK key and displays the power-up line. The POWEROFF command at that position creates a solid loop, as we shall soon see, to make sure security remains tight.
Lines 20 through 50 allow for entry of a password. The reason we can't use an INPUT$ or LINE INPUT to gather in the password is because neither command will accept a BREAK key as input--rather they treat it as a true break. As a result, we have to set up a bit of a kludge using the command INKEY$. We set up a dummy string and gather the individual key inputs into it.
At line 60, we compare user input to the actual password. If we get a match, we re-enable the BREAK key and move to the menu. If things don't match, we move ahead.
Line 70 counts the number of times the user had tried to log-on. He gets three tries, looping back to line 30. On the fourth try, we move ahead yet again.
Line 80 is the bye-bye. The user has run out of chances to get the password right. He gets the "access denied" message, and the Model 100 turns itself off. The FOR/NEXT loop gives the user time enough to read the message and clears the keyboard buffer in the process. We don't want to store any superfluous keystrokes prior to powering down.
At the end of line 80, we loop back to 10, where we encounter the POWER-OFF, RESUME command. It is this placement that smoothly reruns the program if the user chooses to power-up again. By setting up the this way, we can create a secure environment without recourse to an IPL command.
So you can power back on, if you're smart enough, but you get only one try on each power up after the initial round. Nasty beeps plague failure, encouraging unauthorized users to give up.
Save the program as PW.BA. If you want to install the password program permanently, you can do so by typing IPL "PW.BA" from Basic. Then every time you power up, the machine will default to that program.
Note, howerver, that no IPL call of any kind is necessary for the program to do its job. For my needs, the password program need only be invoked once in a while. It would be an annoyance to default to it every time. As it stands, all you need to do is run PW.BA, and it will operate securely.
To change the password, alter the leading equation in line 60. You can change the length of the password, too. Make sure you size B$ in line 30 to the correct length and change the value of A in the IF/THEN that appears at the tail of line 50. It should, of course, equal the length of the new password. Because "password" is eight letters long, we say IF A < 8 as it stands.
Remember that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. If you disable the BREAK key and have not established another exit from a BREAK-disabled loop, only a cold start will break you out. So be careful. I always encourage experimentation, but caution as well. Mailbag
Here is a very nice letter from Susan Stevens, of Snyder, NY:
"I have been a regular reader of your column on notebook computing since its inception last November. You convinced me that I had made the right decision in purchasing the Model 100. Your coverage of uses for the machine is excellent. As a thank you, I offer a specific application for users of the 100 who have irregular and demanding schedules (don't we all)."
"I have found that the SCHEDULE program in ROM is largely neglected by most users. The program offers a powerful application that you can make work for you--time management.
"In a NOTE.DO file, enter every appointment you are obligated to keep. Identify each with a date and time. The SCHEDULE program uses NOTE.DO data to find specific appointments.
"Next, create a new file called WEEK.DO. This will serve as a reference for the current week. Divide this file into days, each separated with a visual marker, such as a row of stars.
"Each Friday, transfer your commitments for the next week to the WEEK.DO file, using the copy/paste functions to enter all commitments on the appropriate days. Add an area at the end of the WEEK.DO file which identifies short-term projects which you expect to complete that week. Add an area following to list lont-term projects you will work on that week. Having a visual record of your commitments, you can now assign time to both short-term and long-term projects. Identify time-slots for each project and add a brief comment concerning your goals for that time slot.
"You will end up with a concrete shape for the upcoming week. There are appointments to keep, projects to complete, and projects that can be delayed. Of course your objective is to complete all self-assigned tasks during the current week, but the priority system allows for flexibility. You can use the SCHEDULE program when making appointments (what morning do I have free during the next two weeks?), discover blocks of time to be put to good use, and ensure that you'll meet all high priority commitments.
"I have used this procedure while setting up a new business, with all the essential detail such an enterprise requires. I have not missed an appointment yet--and most important, I feel in control of my time.
"Thank you again for the guidance and direction your column has provided."
Next month, a preliminary report on Data General's entry into the personal computer fray--with a portable, of course. Til then, on Dancer! On Prancer!
Products: Olivetti M-10 (computer)
Text Power 100 (computer program)
Remote Control (computer program)