100 years ago today

Exactly 100 years ago today, on December 20, 1919 my uncle Karl-Heinz Groeling was born in Subowitz, in what was then Germany. Today the town, located just south of Gdansk (Danzig in German), belongs to Poland and is called Sobowidz. His parents were Robert Groeling (1890-1984) and Elsa Groeling (nee Hecke, 1893-1978). Karl-Heinz had three younger sisters: my mom Marie-Luise (1926-1987), Anneliese (1928-1946) and finally Katja (born 1932).

Karl-Heinz, Marie-Luise, Anneliese and Katja in 1934

Karl-Heinz and Robert Groeling

Following Germany’s defeat in World War I, the Versailles Treat forbid Germany from having an Air Force. After Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933, Germany started training pilots in secret. In addition, a program started to prepare young men for future pilot training, by using gliders and sail planes.
My uncle started flying in 1936 or 1937, probably through the German Air Sports Association (Deutscher Luftsportverband, or DLV e. V.), an organization set up by the Nazi Party in March 1933 to establish training of military pilots. I was told he once flew over the market in the center of Lauenburg, where the family now was living, with a sail plane, which caused some complaints from the city and an earful from his mother. He was probably lucky that his father was already in the Wehrmacht (Army) at this time, and not at home.

Elsa Groeling surrounded by (left to right) Marie-Luise, Katja and Anneliese

In addition to enjoying flying, Karl-Heinz was also a gifted musician. He played violin, piano, organ and trombone. He was, however, not allowed to practice the trombone at home, due to complaints from the neighbors. When I was a child my mother spoke about the time when he played as a member of a band on a cruise ship. The Nazi dignitaries on this cruise were served the best food, and the band was allowed to eat the same food. According to my mother, her brother hollowed out the breakfast rolls (“Brötchen” in German) and feed the innards to the seagulls. Then he filled the cavity in the bread with butter and enjoyed his self-made delicacy. To him the butter was the luxury and he took full advantage.

In September 1939 Karl-Heinz had just passed his entrance exams for the university (“abitur”) when WW2 broke out. He volunteered for the Luftwaffe (Air Force), however, he was rejected at first for being “too tall”. A month later the decision was reversed and he received order to join the Luftwaffe.

In front of a Ju-52

Karl-Heinz flew Fieseler Fi-156 “Storch”, a light forward observation and medical evacuation aircraft, as well as Junkers Ju-52 transporters. Using the Ju-52, he took part in the Battle of Stalingrad, attempting to supply the German 6th Army with food and other supplies after it was cut off and surrounded, as well as evacuation of wounded soldiers out of the city.

He served as Unteroffizier, an NCO (Non-commissioned Officer) rank that is most similar to Sergeant (OR-5). He was acting as a squadron leader (“Staffelkapitän“), a position which normally is held by a major. Incidentally his father, who was a lieutenant by the end of WW1, ended up with the rank of major during WW2.

Towards the end of the war, Germany was lacking both aircrafts and fuel for them. Karl-Heinz was assigned to an anti-aircraft artillery regiment, in German called Flak (from Flugabwehrkanone).  In Germany during WW2 both anti-aircraft artillery and airborne troops belonged to the Air Force, not the Army as in most other countries.

My uncle served in the 6th battery, Flak Regiment Hermann Göring (a.k.a Fallschirm-Flakregiment Hermann Göring) , which was part of Fallschirm-Panzerkorps Hermann Göring. I have been able to find a chart showing the organization of the unit at the beginning of 1945, and according to it my uncle would have been in the 1st battalion (the triangular flag with a 1 next to it).

Fallschirm-Panzerkorps Hermann Göring in January 1945

I am not an expert on German WW2 organizational charts. Normally the numbering is from right to left. I was once told that the 6th battery is most probably the symbol all the way to the right, which indicates a towed battery equipped with the German 8.8cm anti-aircraft gun. It was probably towed by a half-track, e.g. Sd.Kfz. 7, or possibly a truck. (video)

However, if you count the batteries from right to left, he would been in the left-most battery under 1st battalion, which is a Flakvierling, four 2cm auto-cannons combined into one unit. (video)

In the beginning of 1945 Karl-Heinz was in East Prussia fighting the advancing Red Army. The 88mm anti-aircraft gun was not only used against aircrafts, it had been found to be efficient against armored vehicles and tanks as well, so he was serving in an anti-tank role.

German units were encircled in the Heiligenbeil Pocket or Heiligenbeil Cauldron (German: Heiligenbeiler Kessel), after they were denied their requests to retreat. Zinten (now known as Kornewo, Kaliningrad Oblast) was the scene of bloody battles. Both sides paid a heavy price in terms of casualties. Karl-Heinz Groeling was one of those casualties. He was wounded on February 23, 1945, shot through the left lung. He was moved to a field hospital, then a hospital ship and finally to a hospital in German-occupied Denmark, where he arrived on March 10.

Medical Records from hospital

In the early hours of March 16, 1945, at 3.10am, Karl-Heinz Groeling passed away, just 25 years old. He is buried at the beautiful Vestre Kirkegård in Copenhagen.

Final resting place.

My parents named me after my uncle, something I consider an honor.



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Thirty Years – What A Ride!

Thirty years. It can feel like an eternity, or like just yesterday. That is how long I have been working in the IT industry, as of 2 weeks ago.

When I graduated the Swedish equivalent of High School in the spring of 1988, I did not know what lay ahead. If anyone would have told me where I would be 30 years later, I am not sure I would have believed them.

Computers, and especially programming, was my big interest. I had spent every available hour in the computer room in school. I went there during breaks between classes (if only 15-20 minutes) as well as during lunch break (usually 1 hour long. I learned to eat really fast, to maximize my time in front of the computer… Then after school I often spent 4-5 hours learning to program, either from books, magazines, or from other students.

After I graduated, I was not really motivated to go to college. But I found an intensive one-year college level education in systems programming and computer science. It would be classes 8am to 5pm, 5 days a week. Today you would probably call it boot-camp…

Unfortunately the class did not make, it needed a couple more students. So in the beginning OS September 1988,after about 2 weeks of classes, we were told to come back in January. We were encouraged to find a job or internship in the mean time. So I started to call around to different companies I found in the yellow pages.

After a few days I got a hit, a company was looking for a first line support technician. I sent in my application (I did not even have a formal resume) and a copy of my high school grades. A week later (on a Friday) I had an interview, and the following Monday I started working there. This company was Microsoft.

Needless to say, I learned a lot at Microsoft. I return to the class during the spring semester, worked at Microsoft during the summer break and then again after I graduated at Christmas.

After a year in the Air Force for the (then) mandatory military service, I intended to go back to Microsoft, but I was offered a job as a programmer at another company, and I jumped at that option. From there it just continued, via 5 years as an IT journalist and then over 20 years working mainly with Lotus (later IBM) Notes and Domino.

There are times when it feels it was just like yesterday I was writing Pascal code for a computer running CP/M-86 as operating system. Or when my coworker and I, who lived in the same apartment building (but on different floors and in different ends of the building) decided to run RG58 coax cable between out apartments, so we could network our computers. Or when I went scuba diving in Egypt and brought an IBM ThinkPad 701C (the model with the expanding keyboard) and a digital camera with me, so I could write a diary to publish on my personal website. Yes, it was pretty much a blog, way back in 1995…

But when I look at how technology has changed, it feel like the middle ages.

Our network at school (yes, we actually has one!) had a hard disk the size of a small shoebox, and with a capacity of 30 MB, to be shared between students and teachers. Yes, it’s not a typo. 30 Megabyte! Today most hard drives have at least twice that amount of memory just for cache…

Compare that with my mobile phone, on which I am writing this post while riding a bus from Dallas to Houston. It has 2185 times that memory (64 GB) built in. I have an additional 200 GB in the form of a micro SD card. This amount of storage would have been unfathomable 30 years ago.

Today we have internet access everywhere. I can sit in my car, in a restaurant or on a bus in the middle of nowhere and still have access to all the knowledge (not to mention cat videos) in the world. In fractions of a second I can perform a search that would have been virtually impossible 30 years ago.

I can turn on and off the lights at home, no matter where in the world I am. I can check the temperature in the different rooms and change the AC settings, if needed. I get an automatic alert if there is smoke I the house, or water where it is not supposed to be. And I can check the status of my laundry remotely.

I can talk to the computer, phone and other devices and have them turn lights on or off, tell me what the weather will be later that day or the next few days, or play any music I ask it to play. This is just like in Star Trek or 2001, except it is for real.

I can buy anything I need from the comfort of my home, or from anywhere in the world, and get it delivered within a day or two, sometimes even the same day.

At the same time I do miss the days back when I started with computers. It was like a new frontier, an unknown area where you had no idea what could happen next.

I still remember the excitement when I managed to create something new and cool, and I got it to work after spending countless hours working on it and troubleshooting the code. It is rare that I feel that excitement today, in the same way. But it still happens. .

I am very fortunate to be able to work with what I love, and have been able to do it for this long. I am looking forward to the next 30 years with great excitement.

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Looking for a HP calculator? Look no further!

It is probably well-known that I am a little bit of an enthusiast when it comes to HP calculators. I have written about this in the past here on my blog.

The other day I received a packet from Switzerland. Inside I found two calculators from SwissMicros. This is a company who created and sell clones of the famous HP Voyager series (HP-11C, HP-12C, HP-15C and HP-16C) as well as a version to emulate HP-41.

I received one full-size DM-15L (which was introduced just last year) as well as the original credit card sized DM-15. I picked this model as I still have my original HP-15C that I got in 1983 so I could compare them side-by-side.

SwissMicros have made an amazing job. I have just started playing with them, but they work just like the original.

HP-15C (top left), DM-15L (top right) and DM-15 (front)
HP-15C (top left, missing the label), DM-15L (top right) and DM-15 (front)

The attention to detail is pretty amazing. On the back of the larger DM-15L there is even the same set of formulas, functions and error messages as on the original. There are of course some differences. The case is not plastic but titanium, and held together by four screws. The keys are flatter that on the classic HP keyboard, but the feel of the keyboard is almost identical, something that really impressed me. On the credit card sized DM-15 the keys are almost totally flat, but still easy to use despite the small size.

There is also a USB port to allow users to connect to the computer to update the firmware or even access the content, something that did not exist back when the orignal calculators were introduced in the early 1980’s. SwissMicros also claim to have fixed some of the bugs found in the original calculators. There is also more memory available by using a special firmware. The fact that you can upgrade the firmware is very nice. These days we are used to that, but back in the 80’s that was unheard of.

Another neat feature is that there are 3 different fonts to choose from. The original of course only had one font. The letters on the display are a little bit larger than the original, making them easy to read. The calculators also run at a much higher speed than the original at 48 MHz, but the speed can be slowed down to 12 MHz with a special key kombination. The batteries used are CR2032 instead of three button cells of the original. The 2011 HP-15C Limited Edition used two CR2032 batteries. You have to open the case (remove the four screws) of the SwissMicros calculators to replace the battery, instead of just popping of a small plastic door. I think it’s a good improvement as that little door was prone to get lost.

Thanks to the metal case the DM-15L is slightly heavier than my old HP-15C, but not by much. It weights 130 gram (4.5 oz) vs 118 gram (4.1 oz), with the credit card sized DM-15 coming in at 57 g (2 oz).

The price is a bargain if you compare with eBay, where the originals often ar sold for $300-400 or even more. The full-size L-models are all 119 CHF (Swiss Francs) and the credit card sized models are 89 CHF. The DM-41 models are each 10 CHF more. This translates to almost exactly the same price in US dollar as I write this.

So what is my verdict? I am pleasantly surprised. Both models are very nice and the quality of engineering is what one would expect from Switzerland.  The case of both model feels really nice, and thanks to the titanium they seem almost indestructable. I would not be worried keeping any of them in my pocket for daily use.

The full size models come with a black case very similar to the original one. For the credit card models there are cases available for ordering separately.

Is it worth $90 or $120 to own them? Absolutely. I still use my HP-15C almost daily, and not having to worry about losing it or having it damaged is worth a lot. Or perhaps you got rid or lost your original calculator and feel nostalgic and want to once more experience what many call the best calculator ever made. Yes, it is not the original HP, but it is pretty close and to an acceptable cost. And the credit card sized models are pretty amazing, showing how far we have come in 30 years.

Disclaimer: I got the calculators for review from SwissMicro after they contacted me and offered to send me two samples. If I would have known about them earlier I would probably have purchased at least one.

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IBM Notes, Domino and the future

As some may already know I was recently laid off after 14 years as a Notes and Domino developer at my workplace. I suspected for a while that some staff reduction would be coming soon, but I was a bit surprised that I was included since I am the only Notes developer in the company.

I had for a while considered to do consulting and freelance development. My wife as well as several friends have been encouraging me for years. So this was just the push I needed.

Demand Better Solutions Logo

I am starting my own company, Demand Better Solutions, where I will focus on Notes and Domino Development, application modernization and migration as well as building brand new web applications and websites.

I realize that me being laid off is just a business decision. It is not personal. Several of the business critical applications at my former employer are developed using IBM Notes, but the executives have for years been talking about moving away from the platform. Of course they don’t realize the huge amount of work needed to do this, but never the less this was/is their ultimate goal.

The reason is that they feel (based on what they hear from other executives) that Notes is old technology. The fact that IBM has been slow in modernizing the interface, and that many of the templates still look like back in 1999 when version 5.0 was released does not help this perception.

Last fall all our email at my old job was moved to Outlook, and ever since I have heard users complaining about missing Notes and certain functionality they were used to. A lot of integration between Notes applications and Notes mail were also lost, and I had to re-create it in different ways. You often hear stories about people complaining about the Notes client, but most of our users wanted nothing but to get it back…

My old employer also uses Visual FoxPro, a product where the last version was released in 2004. It has officially been discontinued by Microsoft, but we use it for several important applications. So I don’t think that even a product being discontinued is driving a huge number of migrations. It is the perception of how modern the product is that matters. And that perception is almost 100% the way the product looks.

To a user the interface is the product.

Create a modern looking application and nobody will question (or care) what tool was used to build it.

The last 3-4 years I have been learning new web technologies, like jQuery, Bootstrap, Ajax, JSON. I have been able to use much of that at work, as well as in several side projects. I also started learning C# and .net. After the layoff I sat down and started looking at (among others) php and mySQL as well as researched frameworks like AngularJS.

As a developer I have to keep up with new technologies, or I will be left behind. But it is hard when you work full-time, have side work and then have a family and house to take care of. Having some free time the last few weeks enabled me to focus on learning some new things.

I don’t think the Notes client will be developed much more, almost everything is moving towards web applications these days anyway. But IBM Domino is something totally different. It is an very capable and powerful development platform. With some skills in web technologies and a good understanding of the Domino platform one can build some amazing applications.

IBM recently released FixPack 7 and announced that the current version of Notes and Domino will be supported for at least five more years, until September 30, 2021. New functionality will be provided through Feature Packs, not version upgrades.

But Domino is just one tool of many. I am looking at LDC Via as another data store, as it very closely resembles Domino with a MongoDB-based NoSQL backend. Salesforce also has many similarities with Domino. The transition would therefore be fairly easy. AngularJS is another popular technology, with version 2.0 soon to be released. And we of course have IBM’s BlueMix offering, where MongoDB is just one of many technologies offered.

As a developer we need to learn new things constantly, the language or tools we use does really not matter. We should pick the proper tool, whatever fits the project.

Do you want to modernize your Notes and Domino applications?
Let me and Demand Better Solutions help you!


IBM Insight 2015 coming up

I won’t be able to attend IBM Insight in Las Vegas later this month, but I know several of my fellow ESS (formerly known as ICS, formerly known as Lotus) Champion will be there, as well as champions from some of the other divisions of IBM.

IBM_Insight2015This will be a massive conference, with over 1,600 sessions, technical training and labs. It will cover data management, cloud, analytics, content management, Watson and much more.  I really wish I could go, but I hope some of the session will be streamed.


We are living in the future


The last few years I have revisited the stories of some of my childhood favorite sci-fi authors, and in particular Robert A Heinlein. It is fascinating to read stories written in the 50’s and 60’s and compare them to what actually happened.

Last week I finished The Door into Summer (1956) which takes place in 1970 and in 2000. It is amusing to read about the household (and other) robots and how they are programmed using a kind of electronic tubes. My robotic vacuum at home is the size of a pizza box, not the human sized robots described in the book. Voice recognition is mentioned, but according to the book it is too complicated and bulky, except for a very limited vocabulary. Today we have voice recognition in every mobile phone, and programs like DragonDictate (later Dragon NaturallySpeaking) have been around since the late 90’s.

In The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (1966) one of the main “characters” is the computer Mike, who takes up a large building and control all of the Luna colony. This echos the quote attributed to IBM’s Thomas J. Watson: “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers”. The philosophy back then was that centralized computer power was the way to go, not the distributed systems we have today. And they were still using telephones with wires in the future. Today we use smart phones with more computing power than Heinlein could ever imagine, and probably more computing power than the computer in the book.

And in Starman Jones (1953) the crew calculate their position largely manually, with the help of a computer that requires all the input data entered with binary switches, and returns the data in binary code using lights. The positions of the stars (used for the calculations) are recorded using “plates” which have to be developed, in other words traditional photography. Digital photography have today pretty much killed off traditional “chemical” photography using film.

There are of course many examples of where authors been right and describe technical equipment which have actually been developed, like the water bed (Heinlein in aforementioned The Door into Summer) and tablet computers (Orson Scott Card in Ender’s Game from 1985).

So in many ways we already live in the future, and in an even more amazing and technologically developed world than even the greatest sci-fi writers could imagine. I don’t think anyone envisioned Internet and it’s importance, even if Orson Scott Card does write about a world wide computer network used for information and discussion in Ender’s Game. But by that time Internet already existed (just not the world wide web) and the electronic bulletin board systems (BBS) were becoming popular in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Personally I started connecting to BBSes in 1986 (possibly 1987) and in 1990 I connected to my favorite BBS almost daily.

Sure, we don’t have the flying cars everyone expected, or even the hoverboards from Back to the Future II (1989). But I believe that the rise of Internet is perhaps the single most important event in recent history. It has revolutionized shopping, you can now connect to a site on the other side of town or the opposite side of the planet and talk to people or purchase products. We have sites like Wikipedia and Stack Exhange where we can learn things and ask questions, not to mention online learning.

We have home automation that rival what is described in sci-fi books and movies. At home we are renovating (or rather rebuilding from scratch) our bathroom. We are going to install a Moen digital shower system as well as a pretty high-tech toilet. We already have a number of Insteon lights all over the house, controlled though a hub and a smart phone app (some lights are even turned on and off on a schedule based on sunset and sunrise), as well as a robotic vacuum. The latter is cleaning the house twice a day by itself, which is keeping the pet hairs under control and improving the air quality substantially. There is so much more you can do to your home these days, including changing the temperature remotely and even monitoring and controlling your hot tub.

My car has a radar to automatically break if someone walks out in front of the car, and this feature has been improved even more in the latest models. When the car is not braking by itself, the radar assisted cruise control let you drive safely behind other cars while you stream live radio from the other side of the globe through the Internet to your phone and then over bluetooth to the car stereo.

I love living in the future.


Windows 10 will be a free upgrade

Owners of Windows 7 and 8 will be able to upgrade to Windows 10 for free when it is released later this year, Microsoft announced at their big Windows 190 even today. A consumer preview release will be available for free shortly, but a date for the finished version has not been announced yet.

Among the other news is that Internet Explorer will be retired as of Windows 10 and be replaced by a new modern browser (code name Spartan) created from the ground up. The start menu is back, and Cortana (Microaoft answer to Apple’s Siri, and already available on Windows phones) will be available for the desktop as well. Talking about desktop, Windows 10 will support multiple desktops, similar to what Linux users have been able to enjoy for years.

At the event Microsoft also demonstrated a holographic headset. A new API allows developers to create augmented reality applications that can interact with the new headset/goggles.


Google abandons Google Glass – what is next?

google-glassGoogle today announced that they are discontinuing Google Glass, the somewhat controversial eyeglasses connected to your smartphone. The product may be dead, but the project is not officially abandoned. Google will continue to invest in their enterprise offering Glass at Work, and they say they plan to release a new model of the device “when it’s ready”.

This add Google Glass to a long line of other products and services Google have abandoned. Who does not remember Google Wave, an attempt to reinvent email? What about Google Answers? Google Video, an attempt to compete with Youtube, before they ended up buying that company instead? What about Dodgeball, the mobile social networking site purchased by Google whose founder left and went on to start FourSquare? There are many other products also shut down by Google, or companies bought up and later killed.

So with this kind of track record, I am not sure I would trust Google Apps with my enterprise data or business critical applications. Yes, Google Apps is not a free service for businesses like Gmail, but neither was Google Glass at a cost of $1,500 each. So being a paid product does not seem to stop Google from killing products.



Verizon and AT&T are tracking all your online activity

As you may have read lately, Verizon have implemented a system that adds an HTTP header item in all web communication that originates from mobile phones on their network. Each phone/user get their own unique ID, which is transmitted to every website being visited (except if SSL is used), no matter if you have privacy/anonymous surfing turned on in the browser. The id stays with the phone, no matter if you connect in a different city or if you get a different IP address.

This series of about 50 characters is called Unique Identifying Header (UIDH) and is a key part of Verizon’s internet advertising program. And even if you as a user would opt-out of the targeted ad on Verizon’s website, any web server or ad network out there can build their own database of users based on the UIDH.

What has not been as widely mentioned is that AT&T is doing exactly the same. They add a header item called X-ACR (which is 350 characters long) to all outgoing communication. And this one you can not opt-out of, as AT&T have not even confirmed that they perform the tracking. According to this article, T-Mobile is also testing something similar.

You can test it yourself at http://lessonslearned.org/sniff. Make sure you are not connected using wifi, then simply open that link from your smart phone and you will see what headers you are transmitting. I tested it myself, using my AT&T phone, and verified that the X-ACR header is there.


Nokia is dead

Microsoft is taking a page out of IBM’s playbook and is killing off the Nokia brand. Future models of the smart phones in the Lumia series will be named Microsoft Lumia. Last month the Nokia Lumia 735 and 830 were launched, and they will probably be the last phones branded as Nokia.

The mobile division of Nokia will also be renamed to Microsoft Mobile.

More at The Verge.


#ThrowbackThursday – My old HP calculators


I have previously here on my blog mentioned my preference for HP calculators. Our first calculator at home was the HP-21, with a red LED display, which we got in late 1975 (if I remember correctly), soon after it was released. My parents used it for all different kinds of calculations, especially taxes (back then the Swedish tax system was much more complicated than it is today). My cousin who worked at HP (and got us the calculator) explained RPN (Reverse Polish Notation) to me, and it made sense to me to use that system for calculations.



Fast forward to 1983. I was now in 8th grade and we were allowed to use calculators in school. In 7th grade I had learned to use a slide rule (it was already outdated at this time) just to irritate my math teacher, but now I got my very own calculator, the HP-15C. This scientific calculator, often called the best calculator ever made, was programmable with 448 program steps. I wrote all kinds of programs for it, and used it heavily in math and physics classes in school.



In 1987, HP released the graphing calculator HP-28C, with 2kB of memory, a display that could show not only graphs but all four levels of the stack, and a flip-open or “clamshell” case, with two separate keyboard sections. I got one as soon as it came out, as well as an infrared thermo printer (HP82240A). My dad took over my HP-15C, and he kept it until his death in 2001.



A year later HP-28S was released, with 32kB memory and support for directories and custom menus, as well as a few new fucntions like symbolic expressions. So I sold the HP-28C and purchased the newer model, even if I was almost done with high school at this point.


My HP-48SX calculator and 82240A printer
My HP-48SX calculator and 82240A printer

In 1990 HP released the great HP-48SX, with a large graphics display, two expansion ports for memory cards of up to 128kB, a two-way infrared port, a serial port with support for the Kermit file transfer protocol and 32kB build-in user memory. The processor had a clock frequency of 2 MHz and the display had a resolution of 131 x 64 pixel. I got this calculator in April 1990, while I served in the Swedish Air Force. I really had no use for the calculator right then, but I knew that I wanted the latest and greatest in HP handheld calculators. I don’t remember what I did with my HP-28S, I think I may have sold it to an old classmate. I kept the printer, despite the fact that a newer model (HP82240B) had been released. The few changes did not motivate me to spend that extra money.

I have kept my old trusty HP-48SX ever since, for 24 years now. It still works, and in the last 20 years I probably only had to replace the batteries a couple of times.


A few weeks ago I happened to search for HP-28S on eBay, and found that there were several of them for sale there. There were also several HP-28C and HP-48SX, as well as it’s successor HP-48GX (which I never owned). I managed to buy an HP-28S, manuals for it and a leather case just like the one I had. I also picked up a HP82240B printer for $30, I could not resist it at that price…

So now I have all the HP calculators I once owned, except the HP-28C. I also plan to purchase another HP-48SX, as my original calculator have a problem. In order to turn it on or off, I have to press lightly in a specic spot on the case. This well known and common issue is due to a shrunken/dried contact pad between the display and the main curcuit board.

I also purchased a non-working HP-48SX just a few days ago for $22, just so I can open it and see what it looks like inside, before I attempt to repair my own original calculator. Of course I hope that the eBay seller never tried the trick to press in that particular spot, so it may just have the same issue as my calculator. We will see when I get it.

Below is my little collection of HP calculators and printers. In the top row you can see the HP82240B printer to the left and the HP82240A in it’s leather case in the center. To the far right is the leather case for HP-28S.

My collection of HP calculators and printers.
My collection of HP calculators and printers.


Is the break-through for smart watches almost here?

In a few days, Motorola will present their highly anticipated Moto 360 smart watch, and at the IFA trade show in Berlin next week LG will show off their latest entry in the battle for the hearts (and wrists) of geeks everywhere, the G Watch R. Both watches are round, as opposed to previous entries (including LG’s previous model, the original G Watch) and the Samsung Gear series of smart watches.



There are some differences between Moto360 (left) and G Watch R (right). LG is going with a more traditional watch look, with a bezel around the edge to hide the small blank section at the bottom of the screen that is more visible on the slightly larger (1.5 inch vs 1.3 inch) screen on Moto360. That blank section is where some of the screen components are located, and this “flaw” has been critized by many, even before the watch has been released.

Both watches are protected against water (so you can wear it in the shower), features a heart rate monitor, a touch screen and running Android Gear. Moto36 will use a wireless charging station and also contains a pedometer, and s expected to cost $249 when it is realeased in the near future. No price have yet been announed for the G Watch R, which is expected to be available later this year.

Samsung is also rumored to present something at IFA, probably a round smart watch as well, but no details about it is known. They are also expected to present a new square model in the Samsung Gear family.

I think we are now getting close to the break-trough for smart watches. They look more like regular watches, with a round shape instead of the boxy square look of the first generations of smart watches. Personally I think that G Watch R is more attractive than Moto360, and to me the slightly smaller size is a plus. I think we have an interesting fall ahead of us, especially with the Apple event coming up on September 9, where their smart watch is expected to be announced. The Android Gear watches from LG, Motorola and Samsung only work with Android phones, not with iPhones.

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ConnectED 2015 – Smaller and shorter but more technical


If you read the official IBM announcment for ConnectED 2015 posted by Mat Newman, you will notice a few interesting details.

First of all, the event is shorter than previous years. It starts on Sunday and ends on Wednesday instead of Thursday. On Sunday IBM has scheduled the Leadership Alliance meeting, which previously been held in the late fall in Boston. This is of course much more cost efficient for business partners, esxpecially international ones, who only have to pay one airfare and one hotel cost. But it also means that business partners who are invited to LA have to choose between presenting at the Sunday JumpStart sessions and attend the Leadership Appliance meetings. In the past, Sunday has also been the day for the Business Partner Day, hopefully IBM is not putting that on the same day as well.

Second, the conference will be held only at Walt Disney World Swan, not at both Swan and Dolphin as in previous years. This indicates a somewhat smaller conference. The Swan ballrooms combined can seat about 2700 people, with the other meeting rooms seating an additional almost 1000. So a qualified guess is that the number of participants will be limited to around 3000 or just above, assuming the keynote/OGS will still take place in the Dolphin. However this is not that much less than Lotusphere/Connect in the last few years. The labs and the sessions we all come to love (“Ask the Developers”, “Ask the Product Managers”, “Gurupaloza”) will be back, and I would be very surprised if there will not be a product showcase of some kind. There are also more interactive elements planned, like roundtables.

Third: ConnectED will be more of a technical conference, similar to the developer conferences IBM had back in the 1990’s. It will be bigger than a LUG (Lotus User Group) conference, but have a much more technical agenda than Lotusphere and Connect in the last few years. In my mind, this is a good thing. Perhaps less catering to press/analysts, “suits” (CEO/CFO type managers), project managers and similar non-technical crowds and more to the hard-core developers and admins who actually use the products.

Personally I think this is a good move by IBM. Separate out the non-technical attendees and focus on the technical side, instead of mixing technical and strategic sessions in a big messy conference. I am excited about ConnectED 2015, even if I am suspecting it will be the last conference in Orlando. Some years ago (2006? 2007?) IBM announced that they had renewed the contract for the conference (back then still called Lotusphere) until 2015.

With so many other IBM conferences merging together and taking place in Las Vegas, I would not be surprised if Lotusphere/ConnectED will suffer the same fate in 2016. I hope not, as Dolphin/Swan is a more intimate setting, where people can meet and socialize in the evening (as well as a day or two before the conference). With IBM pretty much taking over “Swolpin” (Swan and Dolphin) during that last week of January, there are very few non-conference people around. That would not be the case in Las Vegas.

No matter what, I will try to again be able to go to Orlando this coming January and see all my friends and learn more about Notes, Domino, Connections and the other products in the ICS stack.  Hope to see you there!


IBM Connect becomes IBM ConnectED in 2015

IBM has announced the new name for the yearly conference in Orlando, the one most of us know (and still call) Lotusphere. For the last two years it was named Connect, and for 2015 IBM again changes the name, this time to ConnectED. The conference will be more technical than the last few years, according to IBM:

In 2015, IBM Connect will transform into an even more in-depth technical event,
“IBM ConnectED” that provides the deep “nuts and bolts” technical experience that is so important to our long-standing technical community.

Specifically designed for technologists of all levels, including CIOs, IT managers and practitioners, this new event will offer deep-dive technical sessions, demos, labs and roundtables, access to IBM technical experts, and more.

The IBM ConnectED 2015 website.
The IBM ConnectED 2015 website.

I also want to share what John Head wrote about his thoughts from the IBM Digital Experience conference.

About 700 people here, and 85% of the sessions are technical. (…) The best conference keynote I have seen in years. I hope that IBM reviews the feedback for the session and applies it to future ones. I know, the Connect OGS’s have had to speak to the press and analysts that are there – and there is no press or analysts here. But what a stark difference. And in the best of ways.

I hope IBM take a good look at the ConnectED Opening General Session and make some changes, now when the conference will cater more to the technical crowd. And if the ConnectED planners read this, please have the party at the new Harry Potter Diagon Alley park this year. 🙂




World Wide Web turning 25 years this week

In some articles it is claimed that Internet turns 25 years old this week, which of course is not true. But the World Wide Web is. It was on March 12, 1989 that Tim Berners-Lee wrote a proposal for a hypertext system that would become what we call “the web”. In 1991 the first webpage was created and published at CERN.

Since then the web has exploded. I first got in touch with web pages and HTML in 1994, and in 1995 I had my own little server running on my work computer. I don’t think I could imagine what the web and other internet technologies would lead to back then.

Back then pages were static, and Javascript was not invented until later (in the end of 1995). Everything was done server-side, so the pages needed to be reloaded to display new or updated information.

Today we have dynamically loading pages, with client side scripts that perform Ajax calls and update elements on the page without reloading the page.  Sure, specialized software like Lotus Notes had similar functionality way back, but required special clients and servers. Now we also have Javascript libraries like jQuery to help in development. It’s like night and day compared with how it was back in the mid-1990’s.

But it is not only the technology that has changed. What the web (as well as the rest of the Internet) is used for has also changed. From being more of an encyclopedia, where you were looking up information, today the web is used for commerce in a way I don’t think many expected back in the mid-90’s.

Today you can use a computer or smart phone anywhere in the world, and buy anything from toilet paper to a new car. We have auction sites like Ebay, big commercial juggernauts like Amazon as well as classified sites like Craigslist. Almost any retailer offers online purchases today.

Here is just a sample of what I bought online in the last week or so: Swedish Björn Borg underwear, a Kensington Proximo tag to use with an iPad at a trade show and a charger and two spare batteries for my GoPro camera. Just a few years ago, I had to wait for my sister to come visit or me going over to Sweden to be able to buy those particular underwear, for example.

The other day I was at JC Penney to buy a couple of Levi’s jeans for my sister’s boyfriend. In Sweden, a pair of $40 jeans can cost over $150… I had the model and the size, but since they had several different shades of blue, I simply took a couple of pictures of the different ones and mailed then to my sister on the other side of the globe. Within a few minutes I had a response and knew which ones to get. I know this was technically not using World Wide Web being used, but this is still a huge development from 25 years ago, when Internet mail was just plain text.

We truly are living in the future, and it is a future that no sci-fi writers envisioned. There are some 1980’s writers that envisioned a world-wide network, with discussion forums and email (e.g. Orson Scott Card in Ender’s Game from 1985). When I recently re-read Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot, as well as Robert A. Heinleins The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, I noticed how they for example still used land-lines for telephony, and that most of the computer technology felt very antiquated. Nothing of what we take for granted today was mentioned, like email, instant messaging, Google search engines or Wikipedia-style reference sites with all it’s collected knowledge.

Some things from the sci-fi stories have come true, like communicating with a computer using your voice. Today that computer is (in most cases) our smart phones, having more computing power than even the most powerful computer back in the 90’s…

What will the next 25 years give us? Who knows. Faster, smaller and more powerful computers and higher connection speeds are obvious. The 5G wireless networks are already in the development stage. But what will the next big leap be? Artificial intelligence? I guess we will see. What do you think will be the next big step in technology?


Brazil picks Swedish JAS-39 Fighter over US F/A-18 and French Rafale – NSA to thank?

Sweden’s Saab edged out French and US rivals to win a multi-billion-dollar contract to supply Brazil’s air force with 36 new fighter jets, Defense Minister Celso Amorim said Wednesday.

Saab’s Gripen NG [Next Generation] was in competition with the Rafale made by France’s Dassault company and US aviation giant Boeing’s F/A-18 fighter for the long-deferred FX-2 air force replacement program.

Full article here.

The Brazil Air Force wanted the Swedish fighter, as it was less expensive both in purchase and to use, something that would give the pilots more flight/training time. The Brazil politicians were leaning towards the F/A-18 Super Hornet from Boeing, in an attempt to stay friendly with the US. However, after the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed that NSA had been intercepting calls and messages on the cell phone of the Brazilian president, sentiments in the government shifted. Many blame the NSA surveillance for the lost order:

Is Boeing the First American Company to Lose Business Thanks to the NSA Scandal? (slate.com)
‘NSA ruined it!’ Brazil ditches Boeing jets, grants $4.5 bln contract to Saab (rt.com)

This is the second time that SAAB and it’s JAS 39 Gripen beat out the French Dassault Rafale fighter. In 2011 Switzerland picked JAS 39 NG over Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon.

JAS39 Brazil


Apart from the article in Slate, US media has been fairly silent on this. As I write this, neither CNN, MSNBC or Fox News has reported on it yet. The current top news on all those sites is that a bearded duck hunter from the Lousiana swamps featured in a show on a cable channel don’t like homosexuals, and thus have been suspended from the show, and that an Indian diplomat had been arrested for visa fraud and strip searched. Ironically, India is another country who are considering JAS 39 for a modernisation of their air force, competing (again) with Rafale, Typhoon and F/A-18 Super Hornet for an order of 126 fighters, worth over 16 billion dollar.


Half an operating system: The triumph and tragedy of OS/2

The other day I found an interesting article at arstechnica about the history of OS/2, the IBM operating system that was supposed to replace MS-DOS. “Half an operating system: The triumph and tragedy of OS/2” brings back a lot of memories for me.

OS/2 Extended Edition

I worked at Microsoft in 1988/89, when the first couple of versions of OS/2 had just arrived on the market. IBM was just down the road, and one day my boss gave me a stack of floppy disks containing the Microsoft-developed OS/2 version 1.1 and told me to drive over to IBM and install it on a computer in their training room. If I remember it correctly, it was supposed to be used for a demo or conference.

I also remember the “RAM crisis” in 1988-90, when memory prices suddenly increased dramatically. I bought my first computer right after the prices dropped to a more manageable level. The high memory requirements for OS/2 was one of the reasons the new operating system did not take off. Microsoft had just released Windows 2.0 in 1987, and in 1990 the much more polished Windows 3.0 was released. Both versions had much lower memory requirements than OS/2.

OS/2 2.0 Desktop
OS/2 2.0 Desktop

I was never a fan of Workplace Shell, the object oriented desktop in later versions OS/2. It always felt clunky and sluggish, compared with the much slicker Windows 3.0/3.1 look. Starting in OS/2 version 2.0, a DOS virtual machine let you run any DOS program (including games) and even Windows programs in OS/2. I once attended a press meeting with Jim Allchin, I think it was when NT 3.51 was released. I asked him about the NT command line interface, and asked if there were any plans to add some true emulation or virtual operating system functionality, like in OS/2. He dismissed it as “circus acts by a dying operating system”. Of course he was partially right, as OS/2 was dying at that time, but anyone in the IT business today know about the benefits of virtualization…

So go and read the article, especially if you were around in the late 80’s and early to mid 90’s. I will leave you with a couple of interesting quotes from the article.


The PS/2 launch, for example, was accompanied by an advertising push that featured the aging and somewhat befuddled cast of the 1970s TV series M*A*S*H. This tone-deaf approach to marketing continued with OS/2. Exactly what was it, and how did it make your computer better? Was it enough to justify the extra cost of the OS and the RAM to run it well? Superior multitasking was one answer, but it was hard to understand the benefits by watching a long and boring shot of a man playing snooker.


OS/2 version 3.0 would also come with a new name, and unlike codenames in the past, IBM decided to put it right on the box. It was to be called OS/2 Warp. Warp stood for “warp speed,” and this was meant to evoke power and velocity. Unfortunately, IBM’s famous lawyers were asleep on the job and forgot to run this by Paramount, owners of the Star Trek license. It turns out that IBM would need permission to simulate even a generic “jump to warp speed” on advertising for a consumer product, and Paramount wouldn’t give it. IBM was in a quandary. The name was already public, and the company couldn’t use Warp in any sense related to spaceships. IBM had to settle for the more classic meaning of Warp—something bent or twisted. This, needless to say, isn’t exactly the impression you want to give for a new product.


Unfortunately, IBM was being pulled in two directions. The company’s legacy mainframe division didn’t want any PCs that were too powerful, lest they take away the market for big iron. The PC division just wanted to sell lots of personal computers and didn’t care what it had to do in order to meet that goal. This fighting went back and forth, resulting in agonizing situations such as IBM’s own low-end Aptivas being unable to run OS/2 properly and the PC division promoting Windows instead.





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Bose takes on Sonos with new SoundTouch series

Bose, well known for their noise-cancelling headsets and bluetooth/iPhone speakers in the SoundLink/SoundDock series, today presented a new series of multi-room audio products, which they intend to compete with Sonos Multi-Room Music System.

Today three products were released in time for the holiday season, with more products in the works for next year. I was able to play around with them for a little while, and I have to admit, they sound really good.

SoundTouch 30, Soundtouch 20 and SoundTouch Portable.
SoundTouch 30, Soundtouch 20 and SoundTouch Portable.

SoundTouch 30

This is the biggest of the three devices, a powered unit with a built-in subwoofer, giving it very nice bass. It connects to the home network and Internet through either wired ethernet or wifi. The price is $699.

SoundTouch 20

This is a smaller version of the SoundTouch 30, identical except for removal of the subwoofer. The bass is surprisingly good, but naturally not as powerful as in its larger sibling. The benefits are the smaller size and a lower price at $399.

SoundTouch Portable

The baby in the family. As the name indicates, it is portable and the battery lasts for 5 hours, according to Bose. It also lacks wired ethernet. The size is slightly larger than the Bluetooth-equipped Bose SoundLink, to a price of $399.

All units have the same basic design, with six preset buttons on the top, which can be designated to different music sources, and an OLED display on the front showing status and listening mode, as well as artist and name of the song currently played.


Initially SoundTouch support Pandora, Internet radio and music stored on your network or computers, using iTunes or Windows Media Player. On iOS devices, AirPlay can be used to stream music to the speakers as well. Support for Spotify, iHeartRadio and XM/Sirius is coming soon, according to Bose, with more music sources arriving in 2014. Each unit comes with a remote control, and also has an aux in port on the back, together with two USB ports (one micro-USB and one standard USB) used for the initial setup. There are apps for iOS and Android, as well as for OS X and Windows. The apps let the user control the different devices, and play either different songs on different speakers (for example in different rooms), or the same song on all units.

SoundTouch 30 inputs

One of the upcoming products for next year is the $99 SoundTouch Controller, a circular controller with a central OLED display that displays the same information as the display on the SoundTouch units, as well as six preset buttons arranged around the display. Among the other products in the SoundTouch series coming in 2014 is a $499 outdoor amplifier bundled with the SoundTouch Remote, and a $1,199 subwoofer and two speaker packages. This also includes the SoundTouch Remote.

After comparing the three units side-by-side, my personal favourite is the SoundTouch 20. It hits the Goldilocks zone, with great sound to a substantially lower price that it’s larger sibling. The SoundTouch Portable is nice if portability is important, but the sound is thinner and not nearly as good. Since none of the SoundTouch models support Bluetooth, they do not really compete with the SoundLink or the recently released SoundLink Mini, both which are less expensive but lack most of the advanced functionality in the SoundTouch series.



25 years in the IT industry

Today it is exactly 25 years since I started my first real job in the IT industry. On September 19, 1988 I started working at Microsoft in Sweden as employee #42, right out of 12th grade of school. So how did I end up working at Microsoft at age 19? Well, I had a bit of bad luck, which turned into good luck. Let me explain. 🙂

I started programming in 7th grade. In the late fall of 1982, a computer club was founded in my school. When we came back to school after Christmas break, in January 1983, some older students taught some classes in BASIC in the evenings. Attending those classes were a requisite for getting the magnetic card that gave us access to the computer room (as long as there were no regular classes taking place there). In preparation of the classes starting, I went to the library and picked up a book on programming the ABC 80 computers we had in school. I started learning programming by writing code by hand in a notebook, to understand the concept. I spent the Christmas break learning BASIC, so when the classes started in January, I had a pretty good understanding of the concept of programming. A couple of years later we got another type of computer in school, and I switched to Pascal as the programming language of choice. I spent on average 3 or 4 hours in the computer room each day (during lunch breaks and after school) for the next 5 1/2 years… I even managed to convince the school to let me borrow one of the computers and take it home during one Christmas break, as I was working on a big project.

Hersby skola on Lidingö, where I spent the years 1982-1988 learning programming.
Hersby skola on Lidingö, where I spent the years 1982-1988 learning programming.

My schedule in the last year of High School (1987-88). Computer Science is coded “Da”, and we had it Tuesday and Friday.

After finishing what’s in Sweden is called gymnasium (equivalent of High School in the US), I was not motivated to spend additional 4 years or more going to university. However, I found a one-year specialty course in Systems Programming and Computer Science, where they crammed 2+ years into one year, with 8-hour days five days/week. I applied and was accepted. However,after a couple of weeks, the assistant principal (who was also one of our main teachers) came in and told us that the class had to be cancelled. The class was simply too small, and they had not been able to get any more students to apply. The class was postponed and would start over in January 1989.

In the mean time we were encouraged to find an internship or entry-level job in the IT industry. I picked up the yellow pages section of the phone book and looked up computer companies. Being a person thinking outside the box, I started going through the companies in reverse order. I figured that anyone else in the class would start from the beginning. I started cold-calling some companies, and after a few calls, I got a hit. This company called Microsoft was interested, they needed someone in tech support, to answer calls from customers and solve their problems.

I had not really heard much about Microsoft at this time. We used CP/M-86 as the operating system in school, and I had only seen Windows 1.0 once or twice, and never really used it. I knew about PCs, but I mostly associated them with IBM. I sent the then-manager of the support department, Arne Josefsberg, my grades from school (I did not have a resume yet). Later I found out he actually never even looked at my grades…
I called Arne back the following week to verify that he got the letter, and he asked me to come in for an interview the next day, Friday September 16. I took the subway to the Microsoft office and met with Arne, who performed a short interview and a little test of my problem solving skills. He had me perform some actions in Word for DOS, a for me then totally unknown program, to see how quickly I could solve some problems. A few minutes later I walked out the door with a job waiting for me the following Monday and the user’s manual to Windows 2.03 under my arm with orders to read it over the weekend… So on September 19, 1988 I started working at Microsoft, my first real job in the computer industry, or IT business as it is called these days.

I have to say that I did learn an enormous amount of things at Microsoft. There was no formal training, you were expected to learn things on your own. But my coworkers went out of their way to teach me things. Thanks Anna, Micael, Magnus, Rolf and everyone else that helped me and taught me about the Microsoft products. After working at Microsoft during the fall I went back to school and finished the education, while working at Microsoft during school holidays and the summer, as well as for a few months after graduation.

I then served in the Swedish Air Force for 11 months, as the country still had mandatory military service at this time. I actually intended to go back to Microsoft after the Air Force, but I was offered a job as a programmer right before I left the service, and I started my career as a programmer/developer in early 1991. It was now I started playing with Visual Basic 1.0, released in the summer of 1991. I learned programming using traditional BASIC back in 1982-83, before switching to Pascal some time around 1985, and then to C in 1989. I quickly realized that Visual Basic was a great product. It removed much of the complexity of creating Windows programs, and the developer could focus on the actual functionality and business logic instead of having to write pages of code to handle windows and events.

After the company I worked for went bankrupt in the end of 1992, I got a job at IDG Sweden as a journalist at the weekly publication Computer Sweden. It was during my time  there I learned about (among other things) HTML and Lotus Notes, knowledge I still use to this day. I worked at Computer Sweden for five years, covering the PC marketplace (both hardware and software), before moving to Boston and taking a position as Notes developer with IDG in the US.

After a little over four years in Boston, my then-wife wanted to move closer to her family in Texas, so we moved to Arlington, TX and I got a job with Deep South, a Dallas-based insurance company where I still work 11 years later, as a Notes/Domino developer. I am also taking on some administration tasks, after out previous network admin and operations manager left the company last year.

I count myself very lucky to have a job I love. How many people can say that they been working 25 years with something they like? I also had the luck to work almost exclusively at good companies, and having good managers/bosses. I have for example been able to go to Lotusphere every year since 1997 (as well as a technical conference in 1996 that were a pre-cursor to Lotusphere Europe).

Finally I once more want to thank everyone who over the years helped or supported me, and who made it possible for me to be where I am today.


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