Sunday, August 17th, 2014
My gopher may be alive, at least for two or three readers somewhere
out there, but my Psion netBook is dead. Or alive. Or both.
netBook is subnotebook sized device made by British company Psion
in 1999. It's equipped with 190MHz StrongARM CPU, 16 MB of RAM,
640x480 touchscreen and Symbian EPOC32 operating system.
It's the last model in two-decade-long line of Psion handheld
computers and what's most important, it was my portable for most
of the college years, because it could operate more than ten hours
on single charge.
Since I have Efika MX SmartBook, I haven't used netBook as much
as before and just about a week ago I discovered, that it doesn't
boot anymore. Unlike all previous Psion computers, all netBook has
in the ROM is just small piece of code that reads OS image from
the CompactFlash card to RAM and then boots it. At first I suspected
displaced pin in the card slot, but after I dismantled the device,
it became clear, that this is not the case.
After a bit of googling I discovered the possibility of booting
via YModem transfer over the serial line. I presume that this is
some kind of development feature because in the daily use,
it's almost unusable: with the speed of 115.2kbps and OS.img
size around 14MB, the boot process lasts almost half an hour.
After the boot process finished, I tried three different cards,
all had been working with the device for years with no problems,
but now the device doesn't see any of them, so it's more and more
clear, that the CompactFlash controller died.
So, now I have a Schroedinger's netBook. It's alive and yet
it's dead, because it works until both main and backup batteries
are charged and after that it has to boot over the serial cable.
I don't like it.