Virtually Emulating First Loves

In an effort to re-ignite my first love whilst on my leave of absence – I’ve been looking for a good TRS-80 emulator to rekindle the flames of technical desire. Also over the last 4 weeks I’ve also had a small “side project” watching the goings on in the desktop virtualization space, especially on the Mac. Parallels has been an excellent investment to get Windows XP running on the MacBook Pro; just waiting for the ACPI/Direct3D (or VMWare for the Mac) version so I can run a build of Windows Vista.

Admission #1: the first computer my dad purchased for me was a TRS-80 Model I. Not the prettiest, nor the most powerful of machines – 1.77Mhz with 16Mb Kilobytes (I even accidently put Mb!) of RAM. Welcome to 1981. That’s right, 1981. 25 years/ a quarter of a century ago.

The best emulator for the TRS-80 is written by Matthew Reed. Found thanks to
Ira Goldklang’s TRS-80 web site. So, I have TRS32 running inside Windows XP in Parallels on MacOS X. Shells within Shells.

Quest for the Key of Night Shade

Admission #2: the TRS-80 we owned stored data onto a cassette, not a floppy disk. Way-back when I was one of those computer-store kids. Thanks to the sales guys at Tandy Electronics/Radio Shack, we’d spend all day sitting on the computers typing in programs and occasionally demonstrating to prospective buyers. As floppy disks were expensive, we didn’t get access to storage – so TRSDOS was not an environment I was ever exposed to. Getting the emulator working involved remembering how to get BASIC working, and learning yet another OS.

Admission #3: I’ve watched zero minutes of Lord of the Rings. Even from DVD. Ever since the school librarian suggested I borrow The Hobbit, attempting to read a single page, and quickly returning the mush – I’ve actively avoided the fantasy genre. World of Warcraft drives me nuts. Sorry Neil and Mark!

Before this dispassion arose, I did get into one fantasy-style game on the TRS-80: “Quest for the Key of Nightshade”. It is strange how you remember names such as these for many years. Last week I found a version of the BASIC program, originally typed all the lines from a computer magazine into Basic and saved to cassette, on Ira’s website. From memory, this was written by a Canadian programmer and won “TRS-80 game of the year 1981” in some US magazine and was reprinted in 1982 by Australian Personal Computer.

The screen dump above is from this game. Ahh, the fond memories of our first loves.

Laptops on a Plane

The world is a dangerous place, with a whole bunch of eejits. Sadly, the impact of no laptops on planes will have a serious impact on business travel. It shouldn’t, but it will.

Many senior executives use this “down time” to catch up on emails and sort out their presentations/spreadsheets/reports. For many, this time is the only time execs have to be offline. In the office, or at their destination the time is spent with staff, meetings and customers. Not hunched over a QWERTY keyboard.

I think the impact on technology may be different.

Imagine Business Class with a personal in-seat laptop, with web browser and live internet connection. As their the business traveller has their normal laptop securely locked up in baggage, hopefully on the same plane going to the same destination, this in-seat laptop is their only means of working.

Web access to email has been around for some time. Desktop applications on the web is emerging. Using such tools as forthcoming in Windows Live and Zoho may just find another niche. The challenge for these vendors and IT is to securely connect applications to sensitive data.

Now we just need some forward thinking carriers to implement both high-speed internet and the browser hardware.

Stuff to read:

CNet Ajax Spurs Web rebirth for desktop apps

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Our Descendants will be the Pets of a Future Singularity

Man-Machine Merger Arriving Sooner Than You Think on the Singularity. Mind expanding stuff. Vernor Vinge and Cory Doctorow. Originally posted on BoingBoing Vernor Vinge and Cory on the Singularity on NPR

This stuff gets my mind going in different directions. Augmented humans, instant access to information. Our children’s lives will be shaped by how to access, not having to burden themselves with having to immediately know.

When in society has this been different anyway? The young ones always know more than the oldies. My adage is simple: There is always someone younger and smarter than you. However, youth is no match for experience

Largest Public Flex App: Australia: 1 vs. World: 0

Adobe Flex 2.0 was announced in June 2006, and it’s on my list of “things” to spend some quality time with over the next few months. Building something more interesting that flat web pages; with AJAX, Flex and WPF is a key “learning point” whilst offline.

RocketBoots, a strong supporter of Adobe and its technology have posted some information on the AFR Access project AFR Access. Based on Flex 1.5, it shows what is possible — and that stands out over dull HTML. Go take a squiz.

For those in Australia, you can now purchase Adobe Flex Builder from online stores such as Harris Technology. For those on MacOS, go have a look at this blog entry for the corporate line

A Half-Day with Microsoft WPF and a Rainbow

As the bus travelled over the Sydney Harbour Bridge, we trundled through a rainbow to the pot-of-gold called Sydney Financial District: The CBD. Still looking for the leprechauns.

Microsoft WPF (Windows Presentation Foundation), a key part of Microsoft .Net 3.0 presents a mechanism for building interfaces in XAML, and code against this in a CLR language. In Joseph’s and Deepak’s course, we had a choice of language. Having never used C# before, I decided to deep end myself with C#. So much like Java; takes me back to 1998.

Thanks to Joseph and Deepak for their time. Positioning WPF, or in normal-speak: what problem does WPF solve need to be clearly articulated. Especially when you compare Win32 Forms vs. Managed vs. WPF vs. XHTML via ASP.NET – WPF has yet to hit its sweet spot. The separation of Design to Development is interesting; writing the specs/contracts to get the wiring correct is going to be critical.
There was some homework, and I have a project in mind for Uncle Mike built with WPF. However, Mike is a renegade Mac user. Oops, no Firefox or Mac until WPF/E comes around. Might have to go Flex.

The rich user experiences, connected to the internet are starting to appear in all sorts of places.

How do you build them? How complex is the developer experience: setup, debugging, maintenance and deployment?

Time to start that “Do Something“. Maybe that’s what the rainbow was telling me.