Safety measures for storing Li-Ion batteries

Almost every handheld computer produced since early 2000s runs on a Li-ion battery. When you become serious about collecting handheld computers, you end up storing quite a large amount of batteries in your home. In this case you should consider taking safety measures for storing batteries, because a Li-ion battery is a potential fire hazard.

Here are the very basic principles of storing Li-ion batteries:

  • Batteries should be stored in fireproof containers.
  • Do not expose the batteries to high temperatures (e.g. direct sunlight).
  • Prevent external short circuits (store batteries in separate insulating bags).
  • Prevent internal short circuits (prevent mechanical damage).
  • Batteries should not be stored with other products that could accelerate a fire.

And, of course, keeping a fire extinguisher in the vicinity of the storage area is also a good idea.

Here is a set of useful articles on this topic:

Soviet handheld computer in video game

I noticed a vintage handheld computer in ATOM RPG.

ATOM RPG is a post-apocalyptic indie game, inspired by classic CRPGs: Fallout, Wasteland, System Shock, Deus Ex, Baldur’s Gate and many others.
In 1986 both the Soviet Union and the Western Bloc were destroyed in mutual nuclear bombings. You are one of the survivors of the nuclear Holocaust.

The device looks like Elektronika MK-90:

It must be a prototype. According to wikipedia, in 1986 there was only a prototype of this device.

You can find more information about Elektronika MK-90 here: Vintage programmable calculators.

Using handheld computer as a main workstation

In this post I would like to share with you some detail about using GPD MicroPC as a main workstation.

Using MicroPC as a portable workstation

Monitor – Lenovo ThinkVision M14
Keyboard – ThinkPad Wired USB Keyboard with TrackPoint

The keyboard is OK. It’s quite light (398 grams) The build quality of the keyboard is decent. The layout is obviously much worse than the layout of the famous 7-row ThinkPad keyboard (AKA UltraNav). But these USB keyboards are no longer produced. The chinese copies of these keyboard available today are awful (read the user reviews on Amazon).

The monitor is very light for 14 inch screen (624 grams) and durable. The build quality is fine. I was quite surprised that 14 inch screen can be powered by such small device as GPD MicroPC. The only issue I have with this display is that sometimes it spontaneously turns off for a second or two. It does not bother me too much, because it happens 1-2 times per hour. But evetually I would like to resolve this issue somehow.

Using MicroPC as a home workstation

Monitor – Dell U2713HM

In general, MicroPC does the job pretty well. However, there are two notes I would like to mention.

  1. This monitor does not support the native resolution (2560×1440) via HDMI port. In order to connect MicroPC to this monitor I had to use StarTech HDMI to DisplayPort Adapter. This’s an active digital video converter, which requires external power (via USB port). All passive HDMI to DisplayPort cables do not support resolution higner that 1920×1080.

  2. It’s not very convenient to attach 5 cables in order to "dock" the MicroPC. I would really to have a dedicated docking port on MicroPC (like the docking port on ThinkPad laptops).

UPDATE from 2019 Sep 30: The second issue was fixed according to the anonymoushindeiru‘s suggestion. The USB Type-C Hub does the job pretty well. I’m using Satechi ST-TCMAM. See the last photo in the gallery.

Happy Hacking

I have recently attended a talk by Richard Stallman and used the opportunity to sign my Ben Nanonote. It’s a clamshell handheld with free hardware designs. It runs free software (OpenWrt operating system).

More information on Ben NanoNote and free hardware designs

Upgrading SSD in GPD MicroPC

SSD in GPD MicroPC is replaceable. So MicroPC owners can replace the default SSD (Biwin G6327) with a higher capacity SSD or with something more reliable. I decided to upgrade to Transcend 400S.

The upgrade is quite easy to perform: remove 5 screws from the back of the device, unclip the bottom panel and you are ready to replace the SSD.
Here is a detailed instruction in case you need it.

Transcend 400S is a bit faster than the default SSD, you can see the benchmark screenshots below. The temperature of Transcend 400S is usually around 40 °C when the fan is enabled and 45 °C when the fan is disabled.

If you would decide to use the official Windows 10 recovery firmware from GPD (GPD Micro PC WINDOWS 10 Pro Factory 20190320.rar), please note, that there is an error in this archive. MicroPC won’t boot from this image. In order to make it bootable, you need to rename /WINPE/EFI/Microsoft/Boot/BCD(1) to /WINPE/EFI/Microsoft/Boot/BCD.

Awakening the beauty

What you can see on this photo is the very first startup of the most advanced OQO computer ever.

OQO model 02 is a very interesting high-tech device and a valuable item for handheld collectors. According to the spec sheet, there were three modifications of OQO model 02: good, better and best.

Any modification of the device is quite rare. It’s hard to find one in good working condition, with full package content. And the high-end model with 1.6Ghz CPU, 64Gb SSD and Sunlight Optimized display is especially rare. Not just because of the insane original price of $3000, but also because the 1.6Ghz models are prone to failure due to the well-known CPU overheating problem.

I was recently very lucky to acquire a new old stock version of the "best" modification (also known as OQO model e2) with full set of accessories. According to the item description, this device has never been booted to Windows. And it does look brand new. I was dared to make a power-on test. Now it’s one of the most valuable items in my collection.

GPD MicroPC arrived

Overall impression

MicroPC looks very robust. The build quality is quite impressive. Chinese companies definitely improve their skills. The keyboard is one of the most comfortable handheld keyboards I’ve ever used. The size of the device is significantly smaller than size of similar devices from UMPC era (see comparison photos below).

In general I really like the device. I can’t mention any disadvantages so far.

I did’t like the original GPD case, because it’s designed to fit much larger devices (GPD Pocket, probably). So I ended up using the FlipStart bag instead, because I have an extra one and the MicroPC fits perfectly.

Benchmarks

The performance of MicroPC is significantly higher than the performance of Microsoft Surface 3.

DOOM 3 benchmark (1280×720, graphic quality set to high, timedemo demo1)

Device FPS (1st run) FPS (2nd run) FPS (3rd run) Average FSB
GPD MicroPC 10W 39.5 44.6 47.0 43,7
Microsoft Surface 3 30.5 31.7 34.1 32,1

It’s also worth mentioning that Surface 3 is unable to sustain this perofrmance during long period of time. Without active cooling Surface 3 starts throttling and the performance decreases to 23-24 FPS.