Friday, June 23, 2023

O Brother GeoBook, Let's Get Thou back on the Internet?

Last weekend was sad, so let's do something fun. I've mentioned I collect non-x86 laptops and portables (and not just PowerBooks: see my previous entries on the "MIPS ThinkPad" IBM WorkPad z50, the PA-RISC SAIC Galaxy 1100 and these Sun Ray laptops, among others) because they're always — and sometimes wildly — different than your average Best Buy special.

Every rule's got an exception, though:

I will try to pick up x86-based systems with "personality" (as I see fit). The PCjr, for example, had personality: love it or loathe it, it was definitely different. And the Brother GeoBook series of laptops were certainly different too, late 1990s appliance-style laptops sold at low-end prices intended for basic home tasks. Besides their chunky form factor, flash memory instead of a hard disk and an entire operating system in ROM, that operating system they ran was also different: PC/GEOS, the bigger spiritual sequel to the GEOS operating system for the Apple II and Commodore 64/128. Out of the box and built-in, you got a capable word processor, spreadsheet, drawing program, file manager, and basic personal information management, plus pervasive fax support for the included fax/modem. If you wanted, you could even install a basic web browser and E-mail client included on floppy disk.

And by golly, I do mean basic. But it was notable that a browser option existed at all, so we should make it live again. Let's take a tour around the unit's built-in applications and explore its guts, then get its PPP connection working again over null modem, hack the browser to understand what an HTTPS URL is and forward it to a Crypto Ancienne proxy, and get the GeoBook back on the Web and accessing current sites. Slowly — but it works! No Betteridge's law around here! (Teaser: see it load Hacker News and at the end.)

But first, how on earth did GEOS get into the ROM of a chonktastic plastic laptop?

Sunday, June 18, 2023

RIP, Bob Applegate

It's hard to do two memorial posts in one weekend. If you use a KIM-1 or related 6502 single-board computers, Bob Applegate's hardware (sold as Corsham Tech, though I remember when it was was the best, including his virtually essential I/O card. I had made an order from him about a month ago. By then he told me the leukemia was bad and he was no longer assembling items, just selling what he already had in stock, so I bought a couple remaining boards from him to assemble myself. His family posted word this weekend that he died in his sleep on June 13 at the age of 60. It's another loss for the vintage tech community, especially for those of us who loved the great stuff he was doing with those venerable machines. His family has posted a memorial. Godspeed and rest well.

Saturday, June 17, 2023

Goodbye, computer cat

I had Iris from when she was four months old — that's a grab from a video on my Palm Zire 72 from January 2006 — to yesterday, when she died peacefully resting in her box on her window ledge, two months shy of her 18th birthday. It was hard to take that on Father's Day weekend after Dad passed away from COVID in October 2021. I'll have something brighter to post here in a few days, but not today.

She always loved computers. They were warm.

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

New RAM card, prototype Mac Portable, demo System 7

I guess this is a review of sorts, so here's the review part: you should buy Tech by Androda's new 7MB Macintosh Portable RAM card. On my DVT prototype O.G. (non-backlit) Macintosh Portable, I get a total of 8MB of RAM as expected from 1MB on board and 7MB on the card, and System 6 works great. The card is compatible with both backlit and non-backlit machines, though on the backlit system you'll only get 5MB total without tapping one of the PDS slot addressing lines. When they're back in stock, get one, because finding RAM cards of any size (let alone maxxed out) for the Portable is difficult, and the older MacEffects 8MB upgrade — pricier but giving you up to 9MB — is no longer being made due to a lack of chip supply.
Wait, you say you want pictures of this prototype Macintosh Portable? Including its beta OS version and System 7 pre-release presentation? Oh, well, then! No, you can't escape! Sit down and watch my slide show!