Tiny Laptop

I found this today. I knew I had it, but had completely forgotten how small it was. Like, 24x17x4cm. Which is VERY small.

Shame it only has a 233MHz CPU and no built-in network card.

Stupid design #145: Canon MV930

The Canon MV930 is a cheap MiniDV camcorder. We buy a couple of camcorders at work each year, and they’re normally Canons. So this one arrived last week.

And nice it is too. It’s got all the features we need, and it records onto SD cards and stuff, and is reasonably rugged and simple to use.

However. It has one glaring problem. You see the big white button on the back? That’s the Record button. You press it, and it records. You press it again, and it stops recording. Fine, yes? Well, no.

If you look through the viewfinder with your left eye (as I generally do as I have a weird eye phobia thing which is far too silly to discuss here), your nose presses the button. And the recording stops (or starts). Amazingly, your cheap DV camcorder becomes a working model of the Heisenburg Uncertainty Principle. Excellent!


No, I didn’t sneeze. According to “resident” of #spin (a super top-secret geeky IRC channel, for super top-secret geeks, and me) Tom-Cat:

Galaksija is a Z80 based computer built in ex-Yugoslavia during the best computer years (80’s 😉 ).

I have no idea what it is. At all. Anyway, Mr Cat (I’m not really on first name terms with him) has written a Galaksija emulator. For the Spectrum. As you do. I downloaded it, read the Readme (which didn’t really throw much light on, well, anything really), and fired up SPIN, my Spectrum emulator of choice.

Loading the Galaksija emulator gives you a black screen with a command prompt. Having absolutely no clue as to what to do with it, I did exactly what all kids-of-the-80s would do in John Menzies or Tandy. I did this:

New Laptop PSU Designs

I ordered two generic laptop PSUs from CPC last week. Staff at work have a tendency to misplace their own power supplies, so we keep a stock of multi-purpose ones. It seems that they didn’t have any of the model I ordered in stock, and on the packing sheet said they had replaced it for a direct equivalent. The direct equivalent for a laptop power supply being this:

Erotic Keyboarding

This new mini keyboard with built in trackpad arrived today. I was especially impressed with the “luxurious enjoyment of touching buttons” that it offers.

Resurrecting the Amiga

Having fiddled around with WinUAE (an Amiga emulator for Windows) a little this week, I realised that I probably still had a load of stuff I’d like to have another look at, and maybe archive properly, on my old Amiga 1200. It’s been stuck up in the attic, unused for the last 6 or 7 years, and I wasn’t sure it was even going to work.

The plan was to get the information off the hard drive using either a compact flash card and PCMCIA card reader, or, if that failed, by using a PCMCIA network card, Miami (an Amiga TCP/IP stack), my home network, and and FTP server on my Mac.

Sadly, the Amiga was dead. It powered up first time, but didn’t recognise the hard drive, instead booting to the “insert Workbench disk” screen. I powered it down, and then it wouldn’t even boot that far – I just got a grey screen. The power light was on, but that was it.

So, I dismantled it, cleaned out all the fluff, dust, hair, spiders and seeds (I have no idea) out of the innards, reseated my 030 expansion card, removed and re-fitted my ROM chips, and made sure the HD and FD connections were fine. After putting it back together – success! It booted into Workbench. Hurrah!

I then rummaged through my pile of old floppy disks looking for a 720K PC disk that I could use to transfer the required card reader software. I was actually transferring the files from Aminet using my MacBook, so using a PC disk when no PC was actually there seemed a bit perverse. Anyway, if you want to do the same thing, you’ll need a compact flash card, a 16-bit PCMCIA card reader, fat95 (to be able to read and write the fat16 filesystem), and cdf (to be able to mount it as a drive). I got these installed OK, switched off the Amiga, inserted my card reader (with card in), and… nothing. Grey screen, no booting. Again.

Cleaned everything out again, but nothing worked still. If I removed the card reader, all was fine. Insert it, and it wasn’t. Then I remembered something from many years ago – with some Amiga expansion cards fitted with more than 4MB of RAM, the PCMCIA port is disabled, as it’s mapped into the same address space as the RAM is. So, I took the 4/8MB jumper off the expansion, and all was well (albeit my free fast RAM dropped by half, but that didn’t really matter). I could read and write to my 64MB compact flash cards!

I then spent a merry couple of hours transferring the lot to my cards. My entire hard drive (which cost about £150 when I bought it) fitted onto two 64MB CF cards (costing £1.47 each). Amazing.

After that, I thought I’d spend a bit of time trying to get the network stuff working with my PCMCIA network card and a copy of Miami, but couldn’t get anywhere. I got the card drivers and everything, but I just couldn’t get it on the network. Ah well.

Virtually Indestructible Keyboard

Or so it says. We’ve just bought some small footprint keyboards at work for use where the current small footprint keyboards keep being broken. You know, keys snapped off, that sort of thing.

So this is one of the keyboards we’re trialling. I mean, it even says “Virtually Indestructible” on it, so it must be pretty sturdy, yes? And it bends! Sadly, it’s crap. The rubber holding the “keys” on is about half a micron thick, and you can easily pierce it with a blunt fingernail let alone the myriad of lethal weaponry children carry around with them these days. I’d give it, oooh, an hour in the classroom?