Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Want to Help Buy a Metric Boatload of Newtons for the DigiBarn Computer History Museum?

So if there's one thing in this world I love it's old computers. TRS-80's, Commodore 64's, VAX 11/785's; I love 'em all. But there's a special place in my heart for Apple's much-maligned Newton family. Though they never got as small as the various Palm devices and the handwriting recognition was problematic sometimes, they did come with very interesting OO tools and showed that you can actually make a mobile device that makes heavy use of "pure object" concepts.

So the Newton Museum is calling it quits. They've put their collection in a big lot and are selling it on eBay. The bid is currently at around $355, but I suspect it will climb a little higher. While I would love to own this collection myself, I just don't have the room to house it or the time to care for it.

But it might be a different story for mi amigo Bruce up at the DigiBarn. He has a great facility for the care and display of ancient machines. Just think how happy these Newtons will be spending their afterlife with devices from the same era. Instead of living in the bottom of someone's drawer or the bottom of a land-fill, they could have a wonderful home in the mountains.

But there is that little problem about money... It's a bit cheeky of me to volunteer Bruce to pay for this collection. If I had the resources, I would buy it myself and donate it to the DigiBarn. But... I fear the price on this thing is going to go a little higher than I can reasonably afford.

So I'm putting out a call to all interested parties: if you would like to see this collection of Newtons have a good home, consider going in with me on a joint purchase. The idea here is we would pool our money, buy these Message Pads and eMates and donate them to the DigiBarn.

Please email me at mhamrick [at] cryptonomicon [dot] net if you would like to join in...

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

NIST Security Resources for Mobophiles

So there's always a bit of a buzz about security and mobile devices. I've blogged about it in my personal blog: Stacking Fault. Thought I've often said "security is not a research project," there are a couple research projects going on that are worth checking out. While security is not a research project, it's a good idea to have read the conclusions of security researchers and see if their findings match your experience with the real world. If they do, then you can use the research results to justify your design and implementation decisions.

One organization that routinely produces high quality information security products is the Computer Security Resource Center of the US' National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). For the last several years there's been a team focusing on how security features should be implemented in mobile devices. More info can be found at their website at While I think their work on mobile agents is still a couple years away from being commercialized, the publications and links sections of the Mobile Devices division contains some really good info for people looking for implementation ideas for mobile devices.

Though intended more for people who deploy PDAs and Laptops in enterprise networks, some of NIST's "Special Publications" should be of interest to people developing secure products.

NIST Special Publication SP 800-72 [pdf] provides guidelines for PDA forensics for people looking for evidence of wrongdoing on mobile devices. It's also a good primer for device manufacturers: the information here can also be used by "bad guys" to pry open the back of your PDA and steal sensitive information off your platform. SP 800-48 [pdf] provides guidelines for security for 802.11, Bluetooth, and handheld devices.

Monday, October 03, 2005

A Few Notes About WML

For the longest time I ignored the silly little WAP browsers that came with my phone. Next to the comparatively full-featured HTML browsers common on PDAs these days, I thought I would never have to deal with WML, WTLS or WAP again. But then I got into the habit of not having a heavy-weight PDA with me, choosing instead to travel with just my Sony-Ericsson T610.

Then it hit me; there were a few little apps I would love to have available via my phone.

The first app I started thinking about was a used book finder. I'm a bit bookish. I like hanging out in bookstores. They're usually quiet, there's now a trend to put coffee shops in them, and it's socially acceptable to retreat into a fantasy world of your own imagining as you hunker down with a good read. But I have a habit of buying books at Barnes & Noble and then finding the same book online, used for way less than I paid for it new.

I recently heard of someone making a quick little app that given an ISBN, queries Amazon.Com to find how many people are selling used versions of this book and how much they cost. Now... I do a fair amount of shopping at as well as Amazon, and I'm a bit of a geek, so I viewed this as the ideal excuse to justify spending a few moments learning WML.

But I was a little disappointed to find a lack of free WML and WMLScript HOWTO's online. Oh well. I found a few that were useful and I figured I would blog them here. So... if you're looking for information about WML, here are a few links I found useful:

OASIS Technology Report on WML If you're new to WML and have to get some perspective quickly, this is a good place to start. It doesn't describe the WML DTD or elements, but it does give a pretty good rundown on who, what and when related to WML.

W3Schools WAP Tutorial I wouldn't call this a "complete" tutorial, but it's a good, quick intro to WML elements and attributes.

Apache in a Wireless World If you want to serve WML decks via Apache, this is a must-read document. It tells you how to modify your Apache httpd.conf to properly serve WML.

WirelessDevNet WMLScript Tutorial Another one from WirelessDevNet; this tutorial describes the basics of WMLScript. Think "javascript" for WAP devices.

Wapsilon WML Emulator. The Wapsilon WML emulator puts a virtual Nokia 7210 in a web browser window so you can see what your newly created WML decks look like.

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