Free42 port to iPhone looking AMAZING!



#2

I hope that Thomas Okken doesn't think it out of line for me to share my enthusiasm, but since in his modesty he doesn't blow his own horn much I can't resist.

I assume that it is known to many that Thomas and collaborators Byron Foster and Susan McKay have been working on a port of Free42 for iPhone/iPod touch. When I recently enquired about the status of the project, Thomas sent me the work in progress, making me a de facto alpha tester.

The present version does not have program I/O yet, but, as far as I can tell, things look pretty darn functional and the simulator looks and works even better than does my beloved Palm version. The new professionally designed skin makes for excellent touchscreen accuracy, and there seems to be excellent visual and functional integration with the iPhone 2.2 OS. It appears that Thomas et al. are implementing only the BCD-20 decimal version with 25-digit internal precision (Windows, Linux, and Palm versions also have a binary version, but I don't use it much, and I don't think it will be available for iPhone). The simulator runs at the native speed of the processor, which means it is very fast. Indeed, these are features of Free42 I have always enjoyed compared with other simulators and emulators--rapid speed and high internal precision.

I have hand-entered a couple of my shorter favourite HP41/42 programs, and they run as expected. The integrator and solver work very well, as far as I can tell (since bugs were worked out in the other ports I would expect them too), and given that tons of memory is accessible one can allocate huger arrays than one would ever reasonably need in a handheld--i.e., on my iPod touch, allocating a 1000x1000 matrix takes a couple of seconds, but it gets done.

Thomas is hoping to implement some sort of file I/O that does not rely on the HTTP protocol that works so well with i41cx+, but advises that he isn't clear yet how to do that since the iPhone SDK is impervious to so many things easily done on other platforms. As we know from i41cx+, getting RAW format program files OUT of the handheld is not easy. Working with HP42S program text listings with hp41uc is a bit of a challenge when the program contains commands that are not in the HP41 native command set (e.g., in 42S programs I use recall register arithmetic a lot to save steps-RCL+, RCL*, etc.). I still am not comfortable with the txt2raw.pl Perl script, which would solve that problem.

I know that those interested in emulators/simulators are few around here, and that the subset of iPhone emulator/simulator users is smaller still, but I still wanted to express my great excitement. I think Thomas is hoping to see this widely available in the new year. I just wanted to share that the project seems very real and seems pretty close to completion, and for those of us who love the the Windows, Linux, Palm, and PocketPC versions this is shaping up to be even better.

Les


#3

Les,

Thanks for the info. Would you be so kind as too post a screenshot? (Hold the Power button in, then press the Home button. Image is added to "Camera Roll"). If not, I understand.

Besides the free Voyager emulators from Crimson Research, Free42 on iPhone will make a nice Christmas present.


Cheers,

PG


#4

Don't count on the final version for Xmas. I got the impression from Thomas there are a few weeks work to do yet, and he is busy with other things. He DOES however hope to keep the final cost down, but, in order to cover certain costs attached to disseminating apps through Apple, he will need to charge something. This may mean a name change--Cheap42?

Les


#5

That's definitively looking very nice, and your alpha-report is mouth-watering. This will be a (another) good reason for an iPhone if it won't be such an expensive toy, at least in Europe. Anyway I'll recommend the calculator for sure to the iPhone owners I know.


#6

Keep in mind that almost all iPhone apps work with the iPod touch, which is a relatively economical alternative for someone not in need of the telephony or data-everywhere capabilities of the whole phone. I have a 13 month old first generation "touch". The new ones are cheaper and better.


#7

Quote:
Keep in mind that almost all iPhone apps work with the iPod touch, which is a relatively economical alternative for someone not in need of the telephony or data-everywhere capabilities of the whole phone. I have a 13 month old first generation "touch". The new ones are cheaper and better.

I use a second generation iPod touch myself, and I can confirm that the Free42 iPhone port works fine on it. Getting the iPod was a big factor in getting me warmed up to the idea of running Free42 on the iPhone and iPod touch -- it's such a cool gadget that the absence of an HP-42S simulator quickly becomes annoying!

- Thomas

#8

Thank you for the screenshots. Looks great and the larger buttons will be terrific for typing fast.

I hate to look a gift horse in the mouth, but here goes. Is there an options screen yet? I saw the label so I'd like to ask for another screenshot. (Or is it too bare now to waste your time?)

Also, how does one display the Print Output screen?

Finally, I've never seen an Exit button in any iPhone app. I understand "On" is superfluous, so I wonder if that button can't be used for something else.

Name suggestions:

- Fee42

- iPhone42 (Apple may not like.)

- iFortyTwo

- HPF42

Thank you,

PG


#9

Pal,

Quote:
I've never seen an Exit button in any iPhone app. I understand "On" is superfluous, so I wonder if that button can't be used for something else.

FYI, on the 42S EXIT is for exiting menus, not for shutting off.

#10

Thanks for pointing that out. the EXIT key is necessary to maintain authentic 42S functionality. It is used for exiting menus, leaving PRGM mode, etc.

Les

#11

Wow, thanks Walter, I did not realize that. I'm a greenhorn when it comes to HP calcs. I've never SEEN or touched a real 15c or 42s. Which is why I love the HP emulators/simulators.

Funny (or sadly), my collection of HP calcs consists only of those still in production!

#12

One enters the Print Output screen by a finger swipe across the display or, if the option is activated, any print instruction will open it automatically. But I turn that off since it is really distracting.

I don't know what Thomas plans to do about the name. I must admit I like iFortyTwo.

Les


#13

Thank you for the all screenshots!

#14

Hi Les and thanks for sharing that info; One question: does Free42 have the glow effect for key presses as the new version 1.3.1 of i41cx+ ?
Cheers,
Reth


#15

Yes

#16

BTW one thing I noticed might need to be taken care of - the yellow (shifted) labels look very small even on that image and it's twice larger than the original (area-like). I'd even make main numbers key legend (0-9) a fraction bigger.

Cheers,
Reth


added after going through the available Free42 skins:

Ehrling42sm skin for example looks a lot better readable when put next to the images you've posted



Edited: 12 Dec 2008, 11:32 p.m.


#17

Thomas said a professional graphic designer created the skin you see. I expect in the eventual release fonts could be enlarged if that is what user feedback reflects.

I use the Ehrling42sm skin on my Palm version and the text is a bit bigger but the keys are tiny, though this is suitable for stylus use.

Frankly, the biggest issue for me is program I/O, and I am voting for an implementation similar to what Antonio has done with i41cx+ (i.e., import over WiFi or network by HTTP, email text listings of programs, save and send images of printer output, export program files to a file listing within the unit itself, and ways to clean up that list), but I really think Thomas is hoping that there is some way to synchronize actual program files with one's computer, presumably via iTunes. Regrettably, this doesn't seem easily doable. That said, Antonio did mention to me that there is some way of accessing the file structure within backup archives on one's computer with some hacker utility, but this is really a complicated way to get a saved program file off the handheld! The iPhone/iPod touch is a wonderful gizmo, but why it doesn't have straightforward data I/O through flash memory like a Palm, Blackberry, or PocketPC is truly perplexing.

Les


#18

Quote:
The iPhone/iPod touch is a wonderful gizmo, but why it doesn't have straightforward data I/O through flash memory like a Palm, Blackberry, or PocketPC is truly perplexing.

I think it's obvious why... On the other hand that's why most people with iPhone/iPod Touch I know have them jail-broken and problem solved.

Given the fact that originally HP42 was designed to be compatible with the HP41 so should Thomas try to be compatible with Antonio :)

Cheers,

Reth

#19

Quote:
I really think Thomas is hoping that there is some way to synchronize actual program files with one's computer, presumably via iTunes. Regrettably, this doesn't seem easily doable.

Easily is subjective. IMHO, it is easy if you drop the requirement for iTunes to perform the sync. The iPhone has the same socket support that UNIX, Linux, Windows, and OS/X has. Writing your own sync code is always an option. And there are many existing examples of this on the AppStore. E.g. I use SplashID to store all my passwords. SplashID syncs via IP my iPhone and my OS/X SplashID databases (its not just a blind copy either, but a true sync). SplashID will sync with Windows too. Granted it is not as brain dead simple as using the sync cable and the sync button on iTunes, but then again how many 42 users are brain dead?

That all said the ideal solution would be for i41CX+ and iFee42 to have sister applications that run on OS/X and Windows that sync with the iPhone, so that you can easily have the same environment in your pocket and on your desktop. I'd pay an extra $10 for the desktop sync version of the app.

If you must have iTunes sync then piggy back on an existing sync source. E.g. store the data in a JPG (steganography), or create a Free42 contact and exchange the data via contact data (encode as plan text, e.g. mimeencode), or do the same with a calendar entry (that adds the possibility of a time machine like backup capability, i.e. files are also temporal).

Just a bit of out-of-the-box thinking is in order.

Always with you what cannot be done. -- Yoda

Edited: 14 Dec 2008, 2:32 p.m.


#20

Thanks, Egan. Thomas hasn't chimed in on this thread, and if he hasn't yet seen it I will point him to these suggestions.

Les

#21

I'm thinking in terms of a web application for syncing, hosted at SourceForge if their terms of use allow this, and also distributed as a Java WAR file so people can run it on their own PCs. Whichever way the web application is deployed, using it would be a matter of using a web page to copy files between the PC and a private directory owned by the webapp, and the calculator would then sync with the webapp. If the webapp is running on the user's local PC, the webapp could simply be configured to use an arbitrary local directory, and the copying step would be unneccessary.


It wouldn't be quite as easy to install and use use as the PalmOS/Windows Conduit, but it should be easy enough. As Egan suggested, anyone who has trouble with a simple web application probably has little use for a 42S in the first place. :-) Fingers crossed!

- Thomas

#22

Thanks for highlighting this. I’ve installed a copy of thanks to Thomas and it is very impressive. I already have an excellent RPN calculator on my iPhone (the excellent PCalc) but this feels like an HP calculator. I’ve seen the HP-41 application on the app store but my two favourite HP calculators are the 15C and 42C so this one really appeals to me.

#23

I should point out that Byron and Susan have been rather more than collaborators: they have each created usable Free42 ports for the iPhone by themselves, with no help from me; I put the two in touch and Byron integrated some of Susan's code into his port, and this version is the one that's starting to get into beta testers' hands now.


Over the next few weeks, I hope to find some time to implement some missing functionality: program import/export and saving print-outs, some more options in the settings dialog, finding out why R/S sometimes won't stop running programs, and maybe one or two other little things.


Once all the functionality is there, the thing will have to get past Apple's UI Police. Way back when I was a Mac developer in the 1990s, the UI Police was something that was jokingly mentioned among Mac developers, but didn't actually exist, beyond a few publications like the Macintosh Human Interface Guidelines. For the iPhone, there really is a UI Police, and if they don't like your stuff for whatever reason, they won't put in in the App Store... This could be a pain to deal with, but I'll try, the only alternative being to support only jailbroken iPhones, or to not support the platform at all.


I hope to have it in the App Store in late January, but this could easily slip. I'll do my best! :-)

Please don't write to ask for beta test copies; I have my hands full with my day job and other commitments as well. I will put the source code at free42.sourceforge.net soon so that those with access to the iPhone SDK can play with it. Others, please be patient.

- Thomas


#24

Quote:
Please don't write to ask for beta test copies; I have my hands full with my day job and other commitments as well. I will put the source code at free42.sourceforge.net soon so that those with access to the iPhone SDK can play with it. Others, please be patient.

Oh, for heavens' sake, I should've made it very clear that I did NOT solicit Thomas for a preliminary copy of the app--he kindly offered. I would hate to think that my enthusiastic post here would open the floodgates to requests for alpha/beta copies. Please don't harass the man! I do that enough myself ;) A couple of years ago I donated a few measly euros to Thomas' project and have certainly gotten more than my money's worth many times over.

Les


#25

BTW, Les,

I played a bit with the image you posted here and I'm sure the skin can be improved. It'll be good if custom made skins could be used.
Cheers,
Reth

#26

Hi Les,
I'm really intrigued by all the HP Calculator emulations that are available for the iPod touch. My favorite HPs are the 11c, 12c, 15c, 16c, 41cx and 42s.

I'm just curious though - how easy is it to be sure that you have correctly pressed the key that you intended to press. The iPod touch screen looks so small. And are these calcs easy on the eyes - or are so many buttons squeezed into a small space that usability suffers a little.

I'm thinking about getting an iPod Touch - I have almost enough "points" on one my my cards to get one at a deep discount. ;-)

Kevin


#27

Are any skins available for the free42 on the Mac os 10 and if so how does one put it on, thanks, Howard

#28

I'll answer this even not asked :)
iPhone/iPod Touch emulators are great, but NOTHING REPLACES THE REAL THING!.


#29

I only have a 12c and a 41CV - but I agree. On the other hand, the cost to pick up a *real* 11c, 15c, 16c and 42s are just out of reach for me - too expensive to bid for these on eBay.

#30

That said, the one thing I like about the Free42 simulator is that it IS a simulator, not emulator, and as such is a faster and more precise computational device than the real thing. I have a real 42S and I barely use it. Though it is darn near canonized around here, it still has no convenient I/O, computations are slower and subject to rounding error since extended internal precision is lost once a result is returned to the stack, and, at least on mine, the display contrast has always been a bit wimpy. Free42 for Palm was the main reason for me upgrading my Palm device a few years ago, and, indeed, in conjunction with Free42 on the PC has been my main development environment for 41-style RPN programs. Moreover, I paid a small fortune for my 42S (and it is scarcely mint) and would be mortified to loose or damage it, but newer handheld devices are readily replaceable (if not always cheaply).

For me, at least in the case of Free42, the simulator IS a replacement for the real thing and then some! I am eagerly awaiting the release version of this simulator.

Les


#31

I agree 100%, I've said before the Free42 is ALOT better in any respect than the real thing; I just wish I had Free42 in the real body of HP42s with slanted keys as on 41/35s and better display contrast. The other option would be bigger iPhone... Still I'd be missing the 41's key feel...

Cheers,
Reth

#32

Quote:
I'm just curious though - how easy is it to be sure that you have correctly pressed the key that you intended to press.

The iPhone API allows for fairly accurate keystrokes. That said missed keys can happen. To aid the user most emulators have audio and visual (e.g. glowing key) feedback.

I have had great luck with i41CX+. E.g. I entered in the follow program into i41CX+ quickly without issue:

http://www.hpmuseum.org/cgi-sys/cgiwrap/hpmuseum/archv018.cgi?read=142105#142105


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