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openSUSE ditches recognizable, beloved logo
Because everything else with their Linux distro is going down the toilet... so why not?
November 27, 2023
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Note: This article is not a joke.  It is not satire.  It is a very real -- and very stupid -- thing that is happening right now.  And, while it may only impact a small portion of the Linux-using world, it is simply too ridiculous to not talk about.

I've talked about the problems with openSUSE a few times before.  It is an historically significant piece of the Linux world... one which I used to sit on the Board of.  I have a deep fondness for openSUSE, despite the many problems, and gross mismanagement, it currently faces.

Yet, despite all of the problems that plague openSUSE -- ranging from deliberate alienation of 50% of their users... to a confusing, ever-changing array of download options --  there has remained one aspect of this Linux distribution that has been rock solid.

The logo.

It may be a small thing... but it's important.

The openSUSE chameleon is one of the most recognizable and beloved logos and mascots in the Linux world (perhaps only second to Tux the Penguin, himself).

The current, longtime openSUSE logo and mascot.

I used to go to Linux conferences with boxes full of hundreds of stuffed openSUSE chameleon plushies... people clammored for them.  I would stand on stage and toss them out to people, often literally jumping up and down for them.  Those boxes would be empty within moments.  That logo / mascot was instantly recognizable, on sight.

And, just as importantly, it made people smile.

So if there's one thing that openSUSE would not possibly think about changing... it's that logo.  Right?

And, yet, that is exactly what openSUSE has decided to do.  To take what is one of the only good pieces of branding they have... and throw it into the garbage.

Right now, the openSUSE membership is voting one which proposed logo to replace it with.  Here's a sampling.

Seriously.  One of these might be the new openSUSE logo.

In all honesty... I can't decide which of those logos I hate the most.  And what, exactly, is that weird aligator on the right doing to the poor... is that an iOS app icon?  You know what.  I don't even want to know.

Which abomination will the openSUSE members choose to replace their existing, recognizable, beloved logo?  It will be interesting to see, when voting finishes.

"Interesting" in the same way that "sneezing out a giant booger onto your computer screen and then trying wipe it up with your sleeve only to realize that you now have a pretty big booger on your sleeve" is... "interesting".

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February 23, 2024
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What was the first PDA?
It wasn't the Palm Pilot. Nor the Newton. Let's keep going back to find the answer...

It’s always fun to look at who was the “first” to do something amazing.

Who made the first computer shell? Who was the first computer programmer? What was the first smartphone?

Today, let’s ask another simple question: What was the first PDA (Personal Digital Assistant)?

What (exactly) is a PDA?

To figure this out, first we need to clearly define what a PDA actually is. While most of us can identify a PDA using the tried and true “I know one when I see one” approach, for historical purposes… we need to be a little more scientific about it.

Here is the official, Lunduke Journal Approved (tm) definition of “PDA”.

PDA - [ pē′dē-ā ]

Short for personal digital assistant. A lightweight, handheld computer, which can fit in a large pocket, generally used for storing information such as addresses or schedules.

Using this definition means we can include many different form factors — including the classic “handheld, touchscreen” style (such as the Palm Pilots), as well as the “palmtops” (such as the HP LX or Jornadas).

They key is that it is “handheld”, “pocket sized”, and a “computer”. And, of course, it must “assist” the user in some way. Storing notes, contacts, or appointments. Running custom software. That sort of thing.

But, and here is a key bit, calculators don’t count. The PDA must be, first and foremost, a computer.

It came before the 1990s

Many people believe that the Palm Pilot was the first PDA. Arriving on the scene in 1996… it was, in fact, far from the first.

Others (including Time Magazine) proclaim the Apple Newton, released in 1992, to be the first PDA.

Also, wrong. The Tandy Zoomer beat the Apple Newton to market by quite a wide margin. Yet that device is also not the first PDA.

Fun Historical Side-Note: Even though the Apple Newton was not the first device of this type (not by a long-shot)… Apple has the distinction of having coined the term “Personal Digital Assistant.” Apple CEO, John Sculley, made the first public usage of the phrase during a January 7, 1992 presentation at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada.

1989’s Atari Portfolio? Surely that would be the first? It was made in the ‘80’s for Pete’s sake!

Nope. It wasn’t that one either.

Was it 1984’s Psion Organizer?

In 1984, the UK software company, Psion, made the jump into hand-held computers with the “Organizer”.

It had a distinctly “Calculator-like” look to it… but was most definitely a full computer.

The Psion Organizer from the November, 1984 issue of BYTE.

Note the full keyboard (with the letters laid out alphabetically instead of QWERTY). Even had a “Space” key.

The Organiser was powered by an HD6301X — an 8-Bit CPU that was a variant of the Motorola 6800 — clocking in at a whopping 0.9 MHz. Yes. Zero-point-9.

2KB of RAM, 4KB of ROM, and a single row (alpha-numeric) LCD.

Psion went so far as to declare the Organiser to be “The world’s first practical pocket computer.”

One extra cool bit: The Organiser had small memory cards — dubbed the “DATAPAKS” — which acted as removable storage.

These “DATAPAKS” were truly fascinating. They came in two versions — 8KB or 16KB — and were “Ultra-Violet-Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory”. These cards were “write-once”. Meaning you could write data to the card… and then that data cannot be easily deleted.

Want to erase your DATAPAK and start it over from a clean slate? That’s where the “Ultra-Violet-Erasable” part comes in. You could take in your used DATAPAKS to a Psion dealers, who were supplied with an “ultra violet eraser”, and they could (effectively) wipe the data off your cards.

The 4KB of ROM on the Organizer did not include much in the way of any real operating system. Simply small applications (a clock, a calculator, and a flat database).

That said, additional software was sold on DATAPAKS — including a programming language known as “POPL”, and various math and finance tools written in the POPL language.

From the Psion Organiser brochure.

Impressive! Fascinating! Weird! And while it lacked some of the features of later PDAs… it definitely counts as one!

But… was it the first? Nope. Definitely not.

How about 1980’s Tandy Pocket Computer?

Let’s go all the way back to July of 1980.

Empire Strikes Back and Caddyshack were dominating the box office and Funkytown ruled the airwaves.

And a little company called Tandy released the TRS-80 Pocket Computer (also known as the “Sharp PC-1211”).

This little, hand-held beauty was powered by two 4-Bit CPUs (the SC43177 and the SC43178) clocking in at 256 kHz. That’s 1/4 of a MHz.

1.5KB of RAM. A 24 character LCD screen. A QWERTY keyboard plus a 10-key number pad. Full BASIC programming language, built-in. Which made it easy to make it do… just about whatever you wanted.

All with a battery life of between 200 and 300 hours. Seriously.

There was, however, no permanent form of memory storage. For that you needed to purchase a cassette interface (which was pretty common among various computers of the time).

Considering this beast came out in 1980, it is surprisingly svelte. Weighing only 6 ounces (roughly the weight of an iPhone) and — while not super tiny — it is small enough to fit in a large coat pocket. (You definitely won’t be putting the Pocket Computer in your jeans, however.)

Despite the limitations… it definitely qualifies as a PDA.

The Conclusion!

After careful consideration, The Lunduke Journal is prepared to declare a winner in our search for the world’s first PDA…

The Radio Shack / Tandy TRS-80 Pocket Computer.

It is, without question, the first computer to meet our definition of a “PDA”. And, besides that, it is simply a really cool little computer.

However…

Because the universe is never quite as cut and dried as we’d like it to be, what follows are a conclusive list of “firsts” within the PDA world.

  • The 1st PDA ever — 1980’s Tandy Pocket Computer

  • The 1st PDA with built-in long-term storage — 1984’s Psion Organiser

  • The 1st PDA that looked and acted like a modern PDA — 1992’s Tandy Zoomer

  • The 1st PDA to actually use the term “PDA” — 1992’s Apple Newton

  • The 1st PDA that was also a cell phone — 1994’s IBM Simon

There you go. Now, if you see someone say something like “the first PDA was the Apple Newton”… you can set them straight. (I’m looking at you, Time Magazine.)

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February 22, 2024
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The Great Tech Industry Demographic Survey of 2024

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The Great Tech Industry Demographic Survey of 2024

This survey is massive -- containing questions on everything from Operating System preferences to religion and politicsProgramming languages and... workplace discrimination.  Seriously.

All over the map!

But, in the end, we'll be able to glean a huge amount of understanding about the current state of the entire Tech Industry (or, at the very least, the people within it).

  • All answers are 100% anonymous (no account is needed).
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  • The questions are all presented in random order.
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Take the survey.  Should take no more than about 10 minutes.

In years past, The Lunduke Journal has conducted similar (but far simpler and smaller) surveys.  For those, we managed to get responses from thousands of computer nerds -- from a huge number of communities.

For this 2024 survey, let's go even bigger.  Spread it far and wide.  To every group of computer nerds on planet Earth -- nerds with every variety of software and programming language preference.  Of every religion and political allignment.

Every computer nerd.  Everywhere.

So.  When you have a few minutes to spare (in between Scrum meetings and 1-on-1's with your Team Lead) take the survey.  Then send it (or this article) to your friends.  Post it to whatever forum or social media you use.

The more nerds who take this survey, the more accurate (and interesting) the results will be.  Some of the results will be goofy and ridiculous (do Gen X'ers prefer Emacs?)... while others will be far more serious (which groups face the most discrimination within the Tech Industry?).

But, for all of it, I can't wait to find out the results!

Read full Article
February 21, 2024
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The Tandy Zoomer -- The x86 PDA before the Palm Pilot
A 1992 handheld, with multitasking, that could access AOL. Wild.

The 1996 release of the first Palm Pilot was, in the minds of many, the first truly successful launch of a PDA (Personal Digital Assistant). But the seeds of the Palm Pilot were planted several years earlier.

In fact the company behind the Palm Pilot, “Palm Computing Inc.”, was founded back in 1992 for the sole purpose of creating software for another just released PDA… the Tandy Zoomer.

The Tandy Zoomer

Also known as the “Tandy Z-PDA”, “Casio Z-7000”, and “AST GRiDpad” (all essentially the same hardware sold by different brands) was a truly groundbreaking — and fascinating — device.

Fun fact: The name “Zoomer” was used as a shortened, slang-y version of “consumer”. Get it? “Conzoomer”? Seriously. That’s the reason behind the name.

The Zoomer (aka “Z-PDA”) with the address book. Note that fields can be ASCII text or doodles.

Let's dive into the hardware, Operating System, and software stack... which directly led to the creation of the Palm Pilot.

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