The History of HPC:Factor

It's not a myth. It's a...
HPC:Factor is a Windows CE community website providing support for the Microsoft Windows CE based Handheld PC and Tablet PC. The site and community it has created is the brain child of its founders Chris Tilley, Clinton Fitch, John Rubier, Sean Fernstrum and Jeff Townsley.

HPC:Factor Logo's

History: It's not a myth, but it almost wasn't

HPC:Factor is the culmination of and subsequent evolution of seven years of work in the Windows CE community by its founders.

The not for profit organisation was founded on 3rd March 2003 after the signing of a collaboration agreement between two constituent groups from the Windows CE Handheld PC community, the non-executive staff of SimplyHPC (consisting of Sean Fernstrum, Clinton Fitch, John Ruber and Jeff Townsley) and the entirety of the legacy H/PC support site ce320.

SimplyHPC LogoSimplyHPC, originally Simply720 was setup in 1999 to provide support for the fledgling Hewlett Packard Jornada 720 community by William Beehner, John Rubier and Jeff Townsley. By 2001 the site had changed names to SimplyHPC, expanding its scope of support to a far broader range of Windows CE class devices, and adding an off-shoot division to cover the virgining Tablet PC market place which was largely dominated by embedded platforms at the time. Clinton Fitch had also joined the team as a writer, offering the 'Fitch Perspective' for the first time to the Jornada 720 community.
SimplyHPC also began to expanded its interests into commercial territories with what became over-hyped and under-delivered ranges of Internet Service products and software development under the name SimplyMAD (Simply Mobile Application Development).

ce320 LogoOn the 11th September 2000, Chris Tilley founded the site ce320 to provide support and resources for the already undermined Windows CE 1.0 community, which after 4 years had all but vanished. Within nine months the site had expanded to include support for Windows CE 2.0 based Handheld PC devices, both areas of the Handheld PC that were not being actively covered anywhere else on-line.

In Q3 2002, sensing the need to provide more community centric support, and having been unable to appeal to the legacy community SimplyHPC approached ce320 to begin merger talks which would see both site sharing hosting to minimise cost while a gradual merger of content from ce320 into SimplyHPC took place over an extended period. All domains and trade mark assets from ce320 were transferred into SimplyHPC's control as part of the merger.

The merger operation continued, with work to build upon the SimplyHPC user community increasing as more services were brought on-line. The project continued until the week of the 17th February 2003 when unexpectedly both SimplyHPC and ce320 vanished from the Internet along with every other site and hosted through the S|HPC Internet Services division.

Neither site would ever return to users screens again.

It transpired in the next few weeks that SimplyHPC as an organisation stood with severe financial deficits and a string of creditors in arrears. Senior editor and owner of the Simply Network William Beehner chose not to follow through on his commitments to the site or staff group and abandoned his responsibilities during the final days of the organisations up-time. His absence during the events which transpired in the following weeks led to the complete loss of both sites and trade-names from operational use, and the permanent loss of the masters for the SimplyHPC site.

 

A Conversation (The founding of HPC:Factor)

On the 27th of February 2003 the primary, non-executive staff from the SimplyHPC team met together as a group for the very first time. At this meeting the truth of the state of the organisation became common knowledge as the situation was discussed and the events that had transpired surrounding the groups finance revealed.

At the end of the meeting it was agreed that a new site would be created, under a new team and a completely different modus operandi to that of SimplyHPC.

 

Behind a Name

Seeking a similarly catchy identity to the marketability of SimplyHPC and its various iterations (S|HPC, Simply720, S|720, S|MAD etc), HPC:Factor was christened on the 3rd March 2003 by the unanimous approval of all five members of the staff.

HPC:Factor, is a play on 'H/PC' the shorthand representation for the Microsoft 'Handheld PC' trademark, with Factor being a nod towards the site being a constituent part of a large community of Windows CE and Windows CE related Internet resources, not just being an island amongst them - a key aspect of the new sites mantra.

HPC:Factor's Original Logo

The name HPC:Factor was suggested not by chance by Chris Tilley, who had planned to use the name, be it in its uncondensed form as "Handheld Factor" in a separate project in association with MobileCubed Software's owner Julio Ortiz. The project never went ahead, leaving the name and preliminary groundwork on test logo designs (which had already been completed) available for the new site.


HPC:Factor v1.0

The initial version of HPC:Factor went live to the public on the 10th March 2003 and the process of salvaging works from SimplyHPC under the rights of the author began. Fortunately large parts of ce320 were readily available to introduce onto the site after a period of extensive reworking, meaning that for the most part, all existing content from ce320 was reintroduced onto HPC:Factor, conversely, only around 5% of content from SimplyHPC could be salvaged for use on the new site.

As a result of the disparity between the authors of the site content, as the dominant contributor, Chris Tilley - with the largest contribution - assumed the role of the sites senior editor.

HPC:Factor version 1 adopted an evolutionary approach to the site's development. The interface and presentation changes that were introduced slowly over the course of v1's life were largely due to the formation of operational policies that were formed, largely due to Clinton Fitch's adoption of a print-publication editorial stance.

In an informal capacity, v1 went through 4 design adjustments v1.0, v1.2, 1.3 and 1.4. Each added a small set of interface changes, and cleaned up the presentation. v1.2 being the most significant as it properly introduced a higher level of coding standard onto the site, and perhaps most significantly was the first version to introduce the HPC:Factor Delta, that has remained a synonymous part of the site (be it in a very subtle way under v2) ever since.

HPC:Factor v1.0
HPC:Factor v1.4
HPC:Factor 1.0 (Taken: 5th October 2003)
HPC:Factor 1.4 (Taken: 16th January 2006)

 

HPC:Factor v2.0

HPC:Factor v2.0 LogoHPC:Factor v2.0 was the first full redesign of HPC:Factor since its launch.

As with v1.0, all systems at work on the site were written in-house as a closed source web application with the exception of the kernel for the forum/BBS system. v2.0 introduced a new design, upgraded site services, updated forum system and new back-end servers.

The v2 site engine is written using a modular schema, with central service management for the site being dynamically generated completely ad-hoc by the web servers. Part of the requirements specification for v2 was that the 'site' as the user would see it and the 'site' as the content author sees it were separated. The content, navigation and the user interface of the site are completely unrelated to each other. Even the often contentious decision over what content is displayed using constrained widths, and what content is displayed using 100% of the browser window's available width is performed operationally when the page is loaded (compare this page to the HCL or the Community Forums).

For better or for worse the v2.0 project took 9 months from planning to programming, implementation and eventual completion.
After closed group testing for just under two months the new v2.0 site went live to the public on the 14th February 2006 to much acclaim from the user community and outsiders alike.

HPC:Factor v2.0
HPC:Factor 2.0 (Taken: 2nd October 2006)

v2.0 even has its own themes engine, although it has not yet been used on the live-site and there are no current plans to offer the themes system as a public service. A teaser is shown below.

HPC:Factor v2.0 'Maroon'
HPC:Factor 2.0 Live! in Maroon (Taken: 10th November 2006)

In mid 2009 work began on updating the site engine to v2.5, at release on 10th October the changes to the site were predominantly behind the interface with a completely rewritten kernel, new theme and template engine and a new set of APIs. Modifications were also made to the sites main vs-v2.5-green theme to improve bandwidth efficiency, transaction time and load time on PDA devices.

It was decided not to redesign the main UI completely at this time given that the dynamics of the community couldn't justify the time commitment, so the 2.5 update was one of efficiency in terms of the user experience and cost. the success of the change was almost immediate with significant reductions in page load times due to the cumulative effects of better optimised browser code and images, a heavier use on XHTML and CSS and the full (rather than partial) introduction of GZip/Deflate for all page connections due to the change to IIS 6.0.

HPC:Factor v2.5 'Green'
HPC:Factor 2.5 (Taken: 5th June 2010)

 

Servers

HPC:Factor's primary server was brought online 20th March 2010 after our first (and to-date only) fundraising exercise, it replaced the UK development server which was hastily converted into the main server after the transfer back to the UK in January of that year.

The server runs on the latest Intel 45nm Lynnfield HT enabled 'Nehalem' processors and has 8GB of DDR3. The server runs a full 64-bit architecture although as of writing the primary httpd server is running in 32-bit isolation due to compatibility and the downtime requirement to perform a conversion that at this time isn't mission critical.

Our database server runs fully 64-bit Microsoft SQL Server 2008 on Windows Server 2008 while our Linux e-mail server remains hosted in Florida.

 

Key Dates

11th September 2000

c e 3 2 0 is brought on-line, of which is the origin of the CESD

7th June 2001

The Hardware Compatibility List (HCL) Beta (v1.0) is made public for the first time for CE 1.0 and 2.0 users

7th March 2003

HPC:Factor is founded by the c e 3 2 0 / SimplyHPC editorial team

30th September 2003

Hardware Compatibility List (HCL) 2.0 is brought on-line, adding H/PC Pro and HPC2000 compatibility support

28th June 2004

Hardware Compatibility List (HCL) 3.0 is brought on-line. HCL 3.0 was HPC:Factor's first fully automated, first in house data system

20th September 2004

The HPC:Factor Handheld PC Community Forums come on-line

14th February 2006

With love on Valentines Day ~ HPC:Factor v2.0 - the best kept secret in Windows CE. After 9 months of development the next generation of HPC:Factor was switched on over-night

22nd January 2007

'HPC:Factor Central' is brought on-line; the project centralised the sites main databases, changing the sites mantra into a data driven one and paving the way for the new service enhancements times with its release, and more into the future

11th February 2007

The great crash of February 2007 which, through a cascade of events caused over 2.5 months of data loss

14th July 2007

H/PC:Update 1.0 is brought on-line, offering Windows Update style facilities for the Windows CE and Handheld PC Community, and opening access to our updates archive for the first time in 6 years.

6th June 2010

HPC:Factor Download Centre 1.0 is launched, opening up our entire Windows CE archive to the public for the first time in our history. It took nearly 4 months to make everything available in HPC:Factor Central once the engine had been designed.

10th October 2009

The staged introduction of HPC:Factor v2.5 is completed.

22nd January 2010

After 7 years hosted in Florida, HPC:Factor moves back to the UK for the first time since 2002 after the data centre building owner was forced to make cuts and changes due to the turbulent financial climate.

1st January 2013 Better late than never; HPC:Factor launches the definitive H/PC Software Compatiblity List (SCL) with integration into the sites download centre and device and specifications system, making the SCL the clostest thing Windows CE can expect to having its own App store. Supporting downloads, comments, reviews and ratings as well as app information and photo's the SCL was a major project for the site that should have come a lot sooner rather than in its twilight years.

 

HPC:Factor Staff

Although Chris holds the title Editor-in-Chief and operationally manages HPC:Factor, the sites ownership and strategic decision making are made on a mutual level between the owners group and not at the editorial level.

SilhouetteChris Tilley remains the Editor-in-Chief of the site, undertaking the largest role in the nurturing and development of the organisation. Along with day-to-day management of the organisation, Chris is responsible for both the user experience having designed and developed both the cosmetic aspect of the v1.0 and v2.0 HPC:Factor sites, as well as the programming for HPC:Factor's back-end and application services (for example the Hardware Compatibility List).

Clinton Fitch assumed the editorial role as Chief Reviews Editor, and has subsequently, through his efforts on HPC:Factor and across the Windows CE world become a widely known and trusted face in the Microsoft Embedded devices community. Clinton is a leading voice in both the Handheld PC and Pocket PC communities, having established Clinton Fitch (dot) Com! in 2003 to cover his activities in the Pocket PC and Smartphone community.

John Rubier remains the force behind HPC:Factor. As a self-hosted entity, John is responsible for the management of the site's servers and services. In no uncertain terms, without John Rubier, HPC:Factor not only wouldn't exist, but couldn't exist as the site would not be a viable non-commercial entity. His talents also extend into programming as the most experienced developer on the team in both high and low level languages.

Sean Fernstrum and Jeff Townsley are no longer actively involved in the running and management of HPC:Factor, although both still maintain links with the site and carry a lot of respect in the Handheld PC community.

 

H P C : F a c t o r
It's not a myth, it's 16 years, 6 months, 14 days, 23 hours, 21 minuntes and 36 seconds old
[ 14 years, 0 months, 17 days, 14 hours, 15 minuntes and 36 seconds old as HPC:Factor! ]