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First Impressions
01-06-2014, 07:06 AM
Post: #1
First Impressions
Bought a HP Prime today from Officeworks (Tasmania, Australia).
Bottom shelf, no price tags, other calcs just thrown on top. You really had to know what you were looking for, because these are not being promoted at all.
First impressions are not so good. The display is awful; it looks interlaced to me... I see a sort of shimmering, and everything is blurry. I guess I'm spoiled by sharp iPhone screens, but this really looks low-cost and hard on the eyes to me. Worse still, if I place the machine on the desk for use, I can't read the display. The viewing angle is very small, and I have to cradle in one hand to tilt display towards me before it becomes useable. So, only a 2/5 for me on the display.
The touch-screen part of it, though, is fantastic. Very responsive and accurate. 5/5 for that.
The machine is a bit light and cheap-feeling in the hands -- wish it were more substantial and heavy. It just doesn't feel like the old-style HP quality, and was particularly disappointed with the god-awful bubble type packaging. So these two -- look and feel -- only a 3/5. I realise HP is trying to target cheap educational use and hence the above apply. Overall, first impressions then, 3/5. I remember when I bought my HP41C back in 1983 or so, and I was awestruck by the quality and sophistication of that machine. This one is more or less a "meh".
I have a professional games programming background and I bought this machine as a toy/plaything, really, with a view to doing a bit of graphics fun to see how capable it is in that area. It seems a capable beast in terms of programming and speed, so hopefully I will grow to like it a bit more. Right now, I probably wouldn't spend the $ on it, given another chance.
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01-06-2014, 09:52 AM
Post: #2
RE: First Impressions
What about the software / the usability?
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01-06-2014, 10:02 AM
Post: #3
RE: First Impressions
(01-06-2014 09:52 AM)Michael Wrote:  What about the software / the usability?

I think more than a couple of hours is needed to give a fair review of that!
Right out of the box, it doesn't do anything Smile But that's a user problem.
I like the menuing system; seems to work nicely. I love the touch interface. Most navigation is intuitive. I won't comment much on the graphing because that's not my area of skill and I won't be using it for that, anyway. The programming side of things looks dead easy, but getting to learn the commands' parameters will take a while.
The UI isn't very 'clean'; there are lots of glitching on the screen visible when things are constantly updating... some 'tearing' when scrolling stuff, that sort of thing. It's a calculator, so one should probably make concessions for these things.
I haven't been able to get it connected to my PC yet, as I use Linux and Mac but not Windows. I've tried Windows running in VirtualBox under Linux, but the device doesn't show up in the USB list (whereas other devices do). Alas.
Rather disappointed HP ONLY supports Windows connectivity.
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01-06-2014, 12:35 PM
Post: #4
RE: First Impressions
No problem. Take your time and keep us in the loop.
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01-06-2014, 01:21 PM
Post: #5
RE: First Impressions
... the contrast in lettering on the white keys is terrible. I'm late 40s, eyesight reasonable and use computers every day without issues. The lettering is small, some of the symbols are VERY difficult to see for me. Worst of all, in low-light programming while in bed it is simply impossible for me to see the light orange letters on the white keys. In particular I cannot even see there ARE orange symbols on the number keys, and on the other keys I cannot make out what the symbols are. Obviously I need to use the calculator in better light but I do think the colour choice is abysmal. Even the ble lettering is difficult to read, particularly on the number keys, because the contrast is terrible. Blue lettering on the black keys is a bit better but all key legends for orange/blue are too small, and way too low-contrast. Might be fine for teenage eyes, but as I said my eyes aren't terrible, but there are situations where I simply cannot read them.

I have been entering a program, and one thing I'd *really* love to see added to the UI is this: When entering a program there's a "Cmds" softkey. This is great, because you can simply select the command from a menu, and it's inserted for you. Saves a LOT of typing and hunt-peck. What I'd like to see is a similar "Vars" menu, which uses already definied/used variable names from your program so you can select them from the menu instead of typing them all out again. For example, if I enter a line containing a variable (i.e, "LOCAL xincr;") then that variable is available in a menu from then on. Menu is populated on the fly when entering proggy or when it's loaded.

Possible BUG?... somehow I've managed to have a user-defined program which is overlaoding an inbulit program name. I understand this, no problem. I see this in my program catalog as "Function(App)". It's an empty template. I'm trying to delete it. I delete all the content. I select the "More" menu looking for a "Delete" option but it's not there. So I'm stuck with a "blank" overlaoded program in my Program Catalog. Looks like a bug to me, but maybe I'm misunderstanding.

As to my problems connecting calculator to laptop (running Ubuntu 12.04 hosting VirtualBox running Windows 7), I have solved this. My first problem was that the USB connection to calculator does not work in a USB3.0 port -- I got the error...

XPS kernel: [ 4045.932003] usb 3-1: new high-speed USB device number 6 using xhci_hcd
Jan 7 00:15:26 XPS kernel: [ 4046.193637] usb 3-1: device descriptor read/8, error -71
Jan 7 00:15:26 XPS kernel: [ 4046.314110] usb 3-1: device descriptor read/8, error -71

Connecting to a USB2 port fixed this, and the device mounted (in Ubuntu) correctly. The next problme was that to make USB avaialble to VirtualBox under Ubuntu, one must add your user to the VirtualBox group (you'll have to google the correct group name and method, as I don't recall offhand).

So, now I have connectivity to PC, and happy enough.

One other thing I really like -- the keys are lovely and tactile. Perhaps the directional cursor circle thing is a tad too loud but otherwise keyboard very nice. Perhaps 4/5 or more.
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01-06-2014, 01:39 PM
Post: #6
RE: First Impressions
LOL well I appear to have bricked my calculator. Temporarily, I hope!
I used the connectivity kit and right-clicked on the calculator and noted "Update firmware" in the menu. Good idea to be up to date, I though, so I selected that. Calculator displays "HP Prime recovery mode V13." on a white HP background. Disappears from connectivity kit. CK gives an error in update. I now have a calculator I cannot turn off, and which does not appear when I connect it. In Linux, I see a new USB device (HP Prime Update [0100]) so I tried mounting that USB in VirtualBox. I see simply an empty folder. Same emptyness on Ubuntu.

I see this in the logs...

Jan 7 00:34:05 XPS kernel: [ 5166.308232] usb-storage 2-1.2:1.0: USB Mass Storage device detected
Jan 7 00:34:05 XPS kernel: [ 5166.308504] scsi8 : usb-storage 2-1.2:1.0
Jan 7 00:34:06 XPS kernel: [ 5167.308526] scsi 8:0:0:0: Direct-Access HP Prime update 0100 PQ: 0 ANSI: 0
Jan 7 00:34:06 XPS kernel: [ 5167.309124] sd 8:0:0:0: Attached scsi generic sg2 type 0
Jan 7 00:34:06 XPS kernel: [ 5167.309866] sd 8:0:0:0: [sdb] 521984 512-byte logical blocks: (267 MB/254 MiB)
Jan 7 00:34:06 XPS kernel: [ 5167.310641] sd 8:0:0:0: [sdb] Write Protect is off
Jan 7 00:34:06 XPS kernel: [ 5167.310649] sd 8:0:0:0: [sdb] Mode Sense: 00 06 00 00
Jan 7 00:34:06 XPS kernel: [ 5167.311332] sd 8:0:0:0: [sdb] Asking for cache data failed
Jan 7 00:34:06 XPS kernel: [ 5167.311344] sd 8:0:0:0: [sdb] Assuming drive cache: write through
Jan 7 00:34:06 XPS kernel: [ 5167.315527] sd 8:0:0:0: [sdb] Asking for cache data failed
Jan 7 00:34:06 XPS kernel: [ 5167.315543] sd 8:0:0:0: [sdb] Assuming drive cache: write through
Jan 7 00:34:06 XPS kernel: [ 5167.317198] sdb: sdb1
Jan 7 00:34:06 XPS kernel: [ 5167.319892] sd 8:0:0:0: [sdb] Asking for cache data failed
Jan 7 00:34:06 XPS kernel: [ 5167.319895] sd 8:0:0:0: [sdb] Assuming drive cache: write through
Jan 7 00:34:06 XPS kernel: [ 5167.319897] sd 8:0:0:0: [sdb] Attached SCSI removable disk


Well, that's where I'm at right now. I guess.
A hard reset (paper clip) has restored the calculator to normal, but obviously getting that firmware update working is my next trick. Time for bed.
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01-06-2014, 07:27 PM (This post was last modified: 01-06-2014 07:34 PM by Egan Ford.)
Post: #7
RE: First Impressions
(01-06-2014 07:06 AM)Boo Wrote:  I have a professional games programming background and I bought this machine as a toy/plaything, really, with a view to doing a bit of graphics fun to see how capable it is in that area.

I think you'll be disappointed. If and when we can cross compile C code then it'll be more interesting. IMHO, of course.
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01-06-2014, 07:28 PM (This post was last modified: 01-06-2014 07:34 PM by Egan Ford.)
Post: #8
RE: First Impressions
(01-06-2014 10:02 AM)Boo Wrote:  Rather disappointed HP ONLY supports Windows connectivity.

And the Windows connectivity is problematic. As you've already experienced, you cannot update the firmware.
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01-06-2014, 07:33 PM
Post: #9
RE: First Impressions
(01-06-2014 01:39 PM)Boo Wrote:  A hard reset (paper clip) has restored the calculator to normal, but obviously getting that firmware update working is my next trick. Time for bed.

Google for usbtool.exe and use that. That worked for me with Windows XP+Parallels+OS/X.

For eight years I've observed my kid's classmates in high school and then university. 90% of them all used Mac. Perhaps it's different outside of the US. Or perhaps it is the schools my kid went to.

Dated Aug 2013: http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9...ext_laptop

You'd think HP would create tools for the growth market too.

If you have time checkout libhpcalc to get stuff in and out of your Prime.
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01-06-2014, 10:48 PM (This post was last modified: 01-06-2014 10:55 PM by Tugdual.)
Post: #10
RE: First Impressions
I also have kinda mixed feelings with this Hp Prime. I share your concerns regarding the quality of the screen and more specifically the angle. You can't read it unless you actually bend over the table; this being said, the touch screen will require that you bend over the table anyway. Also you seem to be happy with the touch screen but bear in mind it is supposed to manage two fingers and so far I lack the zoom with two fingers on most applications (though using +/- keys is acceptable but disappointing).
Even the bigger font is too small and difficult to read compared with old school HP 15C (not even talking about lack of big numbers formatting with separators every 3 digits which was definitely a plus on the former models).
Still on the hardware side, like many other users I find the keyboard very good and I'm happy with the case format and light weight. I don't like the keyboard colors; orange and blue cannot be read on white keys! Orange and blue are typical HP color codes but this worked well on dark keys which was the case on the 15C for example. Unfortunately that cannot be changed any longer now (unless we could have replacement kits with dark keys?).
What I expect from a pocket calculator is to make the best possible usage of keys otherwise I use a computer. Initially I found it slower to use the Prime so I decided to compare a bit more formally the number of required keystrokes for various operations in between 15C and Prime and found that I had a wrong perception: the Prime is quite efficient thanks to the graphical view (compare Matrices in between 15C and Prime, it is quite obvious the prime is much faster). This being said I don't like the scolling menus and the abuse of ALPHA keys for everything; again the Prime is a calculator, not a computer and typing instructions is not efficient. Considering the number of functions, I understand we shall need a flexible input systems and using the touch screen is quite a good idea but then I would really prefer to see large buttons on screen with a reduced area to display the ongoing calculations (after all the 15C had only 1 line and true RPN users don't need to see the stack...).
There are many other weaknesses. Like conversions of measurement units or integer format (hex, dec, bin) are super un-efficient and sometime just refuse to work (I struggled with C° to F° conversions and did it manually, much faster!). I was expecting to use that for my work an this is just ridiculous how difficult it is. I may have to do a specific program just for this. Sometime the calculator tells me I cannot do a calculation and I have no idea why. There is little diagnostic ande feedback returned by the firmware and you often feel silly wondering if this is a bug or something you didn't catch. Even if this is something I didn't catch, this shouldn't be a blocker. Also there are many limitations depending if you use RPN, comma or dot for decimal places, may be more and sometime using the calculator is like exploring the jungle.
Still talking about firmware, I regret that there is no easy way to transfer CAS to applications without going for painful substitutions just because for some obscure reasons, CAS uses lower case while the whole rest uses upper case. If I had to chose, I would definitely have everything lower case BTW... First thing I tried was to draw a function and its derivate and that took me quite some time to understand how to do that!

Finally, because of: the lack of efficiency, the confusing internal conflicts totally stoping you and sometime bugs, I kept the calculator for me while it was my intention to give it to my daughter for her studies but I felt like sabotaging her work.

This being said, considering that most of the issues I mentioned are related to the firmware while the hardware is pretty good, I feel like the prime has a very high potential and I would really appreciate if Hp could either improve the firmware or have it open source and let the community somehow help. And also don't take all my comments negatively, the Prime has some very good aspects and if I share my opinion it is really because I expect to see it improving.
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01-06-2014, 11:31 PM (This post was last modified: 01-07-2014 12:35 AM by John Colvin.)
Post: #11
RE: First Impressions
I also had the problem on my HP Prime using the connectivity kit. I don't know
if Virtual Box can do this, but I was able to update the firmware by restarting
my PC in Safe Mode with Networking and use the connectivity kit with know
problems. I am using Windows 7 OS. Also, HP has an ftp site which has a
Recovery Updater folder that has an app called usbtool that will do the job:
http://Tinyurl.com/primerecovery
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01-06-2014, 11:39 PM
Post: #12
RE: First Impressions
(01-06-2014 10:48 PM)Tugdual Wrote:  Unfortunately that cannot be changed any longer now (unless we could have replacement kits with dark keys?).

The replacement vinyl keyboard stickers used on the WP34S work beautifully, and I see no reason why a similar set of vinyl key overlay stickers couldn't be made for this machine, too. We don't really need a replacement kit, just a printed, die cut overlay set. Would only be a few $ cost. As it stands, I find the machine barely usable unless I'm in a brightly lit environment.
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01-06-2014, 11:50 PM
Post: #13
RE: First Impressions
So let us hope the best for the Prime-future!
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01-07-2014, 01:28 AM (This post was last modified: 01-07-2014 01:30 AM by jgreenb2.)
Post: #14
RE: First Impressions
@Boo:

Like conversions of measurement units or integer format (hex, dec, bin) are super un-efficient and sometime just refuse to work (I struggled with C° to F° conversions and did it manually, much faster!).


I too had trouble with this because unit conversion is a mess in RPN entry mode. However, it's very slick in algebraic. No reason it has to be so hard in RPN but until it gets fixed this little bit of code has made the Prime vastly more usable for me:

https://groups.google.com/forum/#!msg/co...KTvrAin7UJ

YMMV but this has made all the difference in usability for me.

Integer format conversions now work nicely in RPN with the latest firmware so if you can get that loaded it will help. I had no problem doing the update via the Connection Kit running under VMware Fusion so you may just have to fiddle with your virtual environment some more to get it to work.
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01-07-2014, 07:23 AM
Post: #15
RE: First Impressions
(01-06-2014 07:27 PM)Egan Ford Wrote:  
(01-06-2014 07:06 AM)Boo Wrote:  I have a professional games programming background and I bought this machine as a toy/plaything, really, with a view to doing a bit of graphics fun to see how capable it is in that area.

I think you'll be disappointed. If and when we can cross compile C code then it'll be more interesting. IMHO, of course.

It depends what language he programs in and what kind of performance he expects from a calculator, though. For example, although HP PPL might not be close to ASM/C performances, just look at how bad TI-BASIC and especially Casio BASIC are.

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01-07-2014, 08:15 AM
Post: #16
RE: First Impressions
(01-07-2014 07:23 AM)Kevin Ouellet Wrote:  It depends what language he programs in and what kind of performance he expects from a calculator, though. For example, although HP PPL might not be close to ASM/C performances, just look at how bad TI-BASIC and especially Casio BASIC are.

Half the fun is making a limited platform do stuff. I enjoy working around limitations such as speed, memory, graphical capability. I don't expect much from the machine, and have been around long enough to know a few tricks. I'm really only interested in 2D retro style games, such as I used to program in the early 1980s. I expect the prime will be capable enough for my needs.
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01-07-2014, 03:58 PM
Post: #17
RE: First Impressions
(01-07-2014 07:23 AM)Kevin Ouellet Wrote:  
(01-06-2014 07:27 PM)Egan Ford Wrote:  I think you'll be disappointed. If and when we can cross compile C code then it'll be more interesting. IMHO, of course.

It depends what language he programs in and what kind of performance he expects from a calculator, though.

True, however my opinion is based OPs background in game programming. I'm not saying it is impossible, I've done it on the Prime myself, it's just not as enjoyable as C/ASM. IMHO.

(01-07-2014 07:23 AM)Kevin Ouellet Wrote:  For example, although HP PPL might not be close to ASM/C performances, just look at how bad TI-BASIC and especially Casio BASIC are.

I'm not familiar with other calculator BASICs. My reference point is the 48GII/49G+/50g where ARM C and ASM were supported. Even the 48SX/GX and 41 permitted ASM programming.

I can live with PPL, but still prefer C.
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01-07-2014, 04:05 PM
Post: #18
RE: First Impressions
(01-07-2014 08:15 AM)Boo Wrote:  Half the fun is making a limited platform do stuff. I enjoy working around limitations such as speed, memory, graphical capability. I don't expect much from the machine, and have been around long enough to know a few tricks. I'm really only interested in 2D retro style games, such as I used to program in the early 1980s. I expect the prime will be capable enough for my needs.

I too enjoy programming on limited platforms where you are only limited by your imagination. E.g. '70s and '80s 8-bit systems. But those systems allow full freedom with assembly. PPL OTOH masks the power of the Prime as a generic platform, and for good reason I'm sure--most of us here are not the target audience for the Prime.

I look forward to your 2D retro games (and others). PPL will probably be fine for most. I esp. look forward to tricks as people publish them. I posted this earlier, but that is one thing I do like about PPL. All code will be open source.
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01-07-2014, 08:10 PM (This post was last modified: 01-07-2014 08:12 PM by Kevin Ouellet.)
Post: #19
RE: First Impressions
(01-07-2014 08:15 AM)Boo Wrote:  
(01-07-2014 07:23 AM)Kevin Ouellet Wrote:  It depends what language he programs in and what kind of performance he expects from a calculator, though. For example, although HP PPL might not be close to ASM/C performances, just look at how bad TI-BASIC and especially Casio BASIC are.

Half the fun is making a limited platform do stuff. I enjoy working around limitations such as speed, memory, graphical capability. I don't expect much from the machine, and have been around long enough to know a few tricks. I'm really only interested in 2D retro style games, such as I used to program in the early 1980s. I expect the prime will be capable enough for my needs.

It is, I think, assuming you mean something like Super Mario. Just as long as your tilemaps is generated with non-scaled sprites (or scaled in one go later) you should be fine. You could even use parallax scrolling if you want to. A Touhou shoot-em-up with 2000 bullets on the screen at once might be pushing things a little too far, though.

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01-08-2014, 12:09 AM
Post: #20
RE: First Impressions
(01-06-2014 10:02 AM)Boo Wrote:  Rather disappointed HP ONLY supports Windows connectivity.

Hear, hear!

I thought about a Prime, but if I can't update the thing ... Sad
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