8086 PC emulator written entirely in QuickBASIC!

I’ve been meaning to post about this for a while. A few weeks ago, this post popped up on Pete’s QB Site:

This was an absolutely terrible (in a good way) idea. I wrote an 8086 CPU emulator entirely in QuickBASIC, then added enough PC hardware support to allow it to boot DOS and run programs. It’s called QB8086. I just wanted to see how well it could work. :)

I haven’t tried it yet, but just the thought that it could  be done amazes me.

Read more: http://petesqbsite.com/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?t=3826
Download: http://rubbermallet.org/qb8086/qb8086-


Thinkpad Buying Guide

In case you couldn’t tell from my tablet articles, I’m a Thinkpad fanboy. Not the brand new Thinkpads which are expensive, but old ones that are cheap and easy to find parts for. So let me start by breaking down the different Thinkpad naming. First is a letter, then a number. Read more…

$50 Tablet Update

Well after using the $50 tablet for a week, I have one major complaint. If I attempt to play music using the built in music application or Pandora, and then open the web browser, the audio application will stop running. My guess is that it runs out of RAM, if I just use the music program then it works fine. This is a major annoyance, but for $60 you can find tablets with double the ram (1GB), however that’s into used Core 2 Duo Thinkpad territory, I’ve bought 2 different Thinkpads for that much, however neither came with an AC Adapter, so that would make them a little more expensive.

Overall, I think if I was going to buy a tablet, I’d be looking for a cheap android one that has 1GB memory. But, if when looking to access the internet for less than $100, a used Thinkpad with Linux installed is MUCH more versatile.

$50 Android Tablets

If you visit eBay and look for the cheapest new tablet that you can buy, you will find a bunch of sellers selling tablets that all are re-branded versions of the same tablet. They have 4GB storage, 512MB RAM, and an A23 1.5GHz Dual Core processor.
Over the past few years I’ve had an ASUS TF101 Transformer, a Nexus 7, a Thinkpad Twist, and an iPhone 4s. I also have used the iPad 1 and 2 quite a bit at my summer job. I have to say that this $50 tablet is the best tablet that I’ve used. The problem that I have with expensive tablets is that you can get a used laptop and then install an SSD and have a much more functional machine. Obviously a laptop is less portable, but if that is your concern the the 12 inch Thinkpad laptops like the X200,X201,X220,Twist laptops can be found at iPad prices refurbished, and run full OSes.
Personally I have never liked Android, Assuming that you have hundreds of dollars to spend, If you want a tablet because you want a really light machine then the iPad is much more stable, and if you want a machine for “hacking” the Thinkpads mentioned above are a much better fit.
However, at $50, the story is completely different. Apple has no products in that price, and hold their values good enough that you won’t even find a working used device at that price. If you look hard enough, you can probably find a used laptop for that much, but it’s going to be slow, probably have a dead battery, and it’s going to be heavy.
For $50, I have a 7 inch device with Android 4.2 and the Play Store, so I can get pretty much any Android application that I want. It also has wifi (of course) and a nice touch screen. I’m not finding Android any better, it is still slow and freezey (compared to a laptop with Crunchbang and SSD), but this tablet works just as well as any other Android tablet that I’ve ever used. Then factoring in what you can realistically do on a tablet and the cost of an iPad, it’s easily beats them (IMHO). Now, if you read that right, you’ll find that I just said that a $50 tablet is that best one that I’ve ever used. But note, there are a couple of flaws with these tablets. First, the LCD has very bad viewing angles when held in portrait orientation. Second, as soon as I plugged in the AC adapter it made a popping sound and then smelled horrible and no longer works. The solution to this is to charge using the included USB cable.
In the next weeks I hope to post some pictures/answers to any questions.

I’m curious as to what you guys think of the mobile OSes/what portables have/do you use(d)?

A Good GUI Site

It doesn’t look like it’s been updated in a long time, but Toasty Tech was one of my favorite sites to get GUI ideas and inspiration from. Toasty Tech

Aspects of a GUI: Applications

Once you have speed, stability, and objects, you need to do something with them. The text editor and file manager will use them, but most GUIs also include other applications. This is a good place to set your GUI apart from other GUIs of similar technical design. If you have lots of useful applications, weaknesses in other areas can be overlooked.
One example of taking this to the extreme is Blue, it’s packed full of applications and that really sets it apart.

Where is the Blog going?

A few weeks ago, I visited Pete’s QB Site and realized that the last post was over 5 years ago. I remember when it was posted, and it doesn’t feel that long ago. The QBASIC community has been pretty inactive for the last five years. Now that I’ve been programming in my college classes it feels more like work than fun and I haven’t worked on a GUI in a number of months. All the GUI programmers I’ve ever known naturally come to this point, and as time goes on they appear less and less in the community. I have been trying to post once a week with something, but in forcing myself to post, I’ve taken the fun out of that, too.
Sadly, I fear the Blog will go the way of Pete’s site, at least as far as my posts are concerned. I don’t see much benefit in forcing myself to write weekly posts, so from now on, I’ll post as things come to me. For the most part, this probably means that posts will be less GUI related as I’m doing less GUI stuff. However, there still are a couple of people crazy enough to be working on GUIs, and I’m very happy to be able to have the GUI Blog as a place to show off their creations.

Aspects of a GUI: Size

For a long time, I was a dial-up user. I didn’t run Blue (it’s 8MB) for years, and it took me something like 40 minutes to download. So now when I’m comparing GUIs, I keep an eye on the download size. I generally break things into three general tiers, a couple hundred KB, will just fit on a Floppy Disk, and bigger than a Floppy. More and more it’s easy to ignore this as floppies are rarely used, but in a DOS GUI it’s still an important size metric.

Aspects of a GUI: Text Editor

Honestly, this is the part of my ballot that ends up with the lowest scores every time, and has the most potential for a GUI to set itself apart. I give points for even a text viewer, and if there is a file selector dialog that also gives major points because I hate having to memorize a file location just to view it. Ideally, you’d make a text editor more or less like Microsoft notepad. There are a few things that for me at least make this tricky, the text file could be very large, the lines are wrapped a certain way in the original file, how do you change the file, while keeping the formatting?
Honestly speaking, any user that wants to edit text on a DOS machine probably already has a text editor, so a nice text viewer that’s integrated at least allows them to view their files without having to exit.

Aspects of a GUI: Objects

This is probably the most obvious of the things that I rate on. More, better objects get a bigger score. So things like buttons, text-boxes, check-boxes, and windows all contribute. Now it could be argued that this section should be weighed higher, after all making the GUI elements is the whole point. But I chose to weight my own personal ballot towards fake-OSes. So keep in mind when writing a GUI, that the GUI elements are a key component, and don’t forget to make them work well.

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