Despite being Sunday, I had to go to work today, because there was a kind of open day for the parents of the schoolchildren. Still, it’s not too bad, because I only had to work for a short time this morning, and I got away before midday. In return, I get a day off tomorrow. So I’m quite happy with the arrangement!
On Friday, I got paid at last. It’s the first full month’s pay I’ve received since I’ve been in Japan, so I’m feeling quite relieved. I can actually buy stuff!
In celebration of my pay cheque, I went into Denden Town in Osaka on Saturday to peruse the numerous computer and electrical shops there. Working out how to spend my money, perhaps... As it happened, I did find something interesting. Sofmap were selling boxed, brand ’new’ Casio Cassiopeia E-65 handheld computers for JPY 5,000 (cheap!) in front of the store. They are a couple of years old, have a greyscale screen, and run the unlovely Windows CE 2.11. However, an idea hatched in my head. If, like most of the handheld computers, they had a Compact Flash slot, I could use my wireless internet card and use the internet on the train, toilet, or wherever. After verifying that they were, in fact, compatible, I exchanged some of my recently-acquired money for one of these devices.
Geting straight to the point, it works. I can dial up and get online easily at 64kbps. The only trouble is that the browsers (I have a couple) are too clever for their own good. With such a small screen, it is irritating to have to scroll in two directions. What they ought to do is to reinterpret the data for the limitations of the display device. Something more like Lynx, I suppose. To get around this, I wrote a proxy server in Perl that runs on a web server and strips out images, unnecessary formatting, and flattens the text of a website to a single column. No tables. No sideways scrolling required. All fonts at a sensible, readable size. If I could do that in an hour or two, surely the developers of a browser could have provided such functionality...
The bad point of the arrangement is that the battery life is not too good. In fact, when using the wireless modem, it’s dreadful. It only gets an hour or so of operation from its two AAA batteries before complaining. Still, you can change the batteries, and it will work with NiMH rechargeables, so it looks like that’s what I’ll be getting.
One thing that I noticed after using the Cassiopeia, particularly compared with my Handspring Visor Edge, is how plain awful Windows CE is. I mean, it has some great features. It is fully Unicode. It is apparently written cleanly enough that it can be ported to different architectures. But by trying to imitate desktop Windows, it falls on its face. Considering that the Cassiopeia has twice as much memory, twice as fast a processor and a significantly higher resolution screen compared to the Visor, it is a dog to use. It is too difficult to do the everyday tasks, and too slow because of the huge overheads of the operating system. But I’m happy with it, because it fulfils a particular requirement. I’m still going to be using the Visor for most things. It has a better balance of features and usability, a clearer screen, longer battery life, and it is smaller and lighter.