Sunday, July 29, 2007

UMPC revival

With the impending purchase of what is, technically, my first Ultra Mobile PC (UMPC), I've decided to revive my tech blog.

You may all officially rejoice, now.

Seriously, though. I'm buying a Fujitsu U1010 (alternatively known as the U8240, and possibly even the U800), and this has piqued my interest in the UMPC platform.

I've always been interested in ubiquitous computing. I currently own, in relative order of age:

  • Fujitsu Stylistic 1000 - a 486(!!) Tablet PC
  • Toshiba Libretto 50m - P75 Touchscreen
  • Toshiba Libretto 110ct - P233
  • Panasonic Toughbook C34mkI - Celeron 300a, touchcreen, armoured
  • Sharp Zaurus C-series - Strongarm Clamshell PDA w/VGA, HD, USB, QWERTY keyboard
  • Toshiba Libretto U100 - PIII mobile, full featured micro-laptop
It practically reads like an evolution of the pre-Origami ultra-mobile computing. It will be interesting to compare these devices to the current State-of-the-Art - the Intel Ultra Mobile Platform 2007.

And yes, I'll probably be buying an iPhone, but not for the reasons that you might think.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Death of a Router


Well, I think my D-Link router is finally dying. I've had it for years, and I've always considered it a "golden sample" router - it always did exactly what it was supposed to do without having to reboot it, etc.

This is remarkable because it's an old DI-614(+?) wireless router. It's of the Age of Dlink where if it did what it was supposed to for a couple of hours straight, it was a friggin miracle.

Now, however, I'm getting connection dropouts and intermittent resets. And it's getting worse. I can take out my whole connection by starting a bittorrent download.

So out with the router it is. I think I'm going to give Zeroshell a try. I've got an old single board computer - A Nexcom EBC-563 based on the Via C3-733 processor.

We've used this thing as a router before, as an experiment. Three ethernet ports, 256mb SIMM, downclocked as low as it'll go - 400mhz, and booting off a compact flash card. It was pretty neat stuff at the time.

Now, I'm waiting on Zeroshell to write to a compact flash card as we speak. Maybe now I can put my hoary old D-Link to rest.

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Sunday, January 21, 2007

A Time of Mourning

Well, it's Official. The Zaurus is dead.

We'd actually been expecting this for quite some time. "We" being an Engineer buddy of mine and myself. Way back in the day, we both worked at a research institute at a University that had strong ties to the Japanese electronics market. One day, a VP of R&D from Sharp came to visit, and he bestowed upon us a developer version Zaurus - the 5000d - for evaluation.

Fast forward several years, and my buddy contacts that man, looking to offer his ideas on re-imaging the Zaurus line (now at the 3100). They apparently had a very illuminating conversation, with topics like the VP admitting that they (Sharp) had no idea what the open source community was about, or why anyone would really want the source code in the first place, etc.

Ultimately it turns out that he had moved on to be the head of the Sharp wZero3 project, and he put us in touch with the current head of the Zaurus project. My friend eventually got to talk with one of the assistants for the new head, and he was told in no uncertain terms that Sharp wasn't interested in any further investment in the Zaurus project.

I had hopefully taken that to mean that no investment beyond their existing R&D program, but it wasn't to be. The 3200 came out and that is the end of a very long and glorious ride with the Zaurus.

Now, if only Vulcan would hurry up and sell me a Flipstart, I might be able to get over the loss...

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Vulcan Flipstart Update!

I saw over in the Pocketpenguin forum that Vulcan's Flipstart website had been updated, and I signed up for the "first to know" thing right away. I would buy a flipstart the very instant it becomes available, as I view it as the perfect Zaurus killer:

256mb ram (although I hope they bump this to at least 512 in their release)
30gb HD
1024x600 screen
VGA out

vs the Zaurus
64mb ram
4-6gb HD (very slow)
640x480 touchscreen

vs Kohjinsha
512mb-1gb ram
40-80gb HD
VGA out

The flipstart is half again heavier, only 0.9" wider and 0.6" deeper, same thickness. You gain x86 compatibility, built in wireless, a useful screen resolution, more memory (very, very important) and a much larger and faster HD.

The size might put it over the top for some, but I keep my Z in my coat pocket. The reduced battery life (3-4hrs) is still pretty good, and wouldn't affect my usage. The loss of the touchscreen will be harder to take, though.

It's like they compressed a Kohjinsha down into the size of a Z and left a higher res screen.I just bought a Macbook, which probably means my use of the Libretto will go down. If Vulcan comes out with this little wonder I'd probably sell off all but 1 Z and the Libretto, then carry the Flipstart. (And either an FIC open moko phone or an iPhone )

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Kohjinsha SA1F00A

I've recently recieved a poetically named Kohjinsha SA1F00A that I bought for a friend of mine. As it isn't mine, I won't have it for long, but I did get to apply my other new toy (A Kodak D70s) and took a moneybarrel full of pictures. I've posted these pictures at Flickr (giving my Google Life a bit of a Yahoo scent...)

Monday, December 4, 2006

Back to Book Basics

One of my newest toys happens to be a Sony Librie eBook reader - a dedicated device for reading ebooks with a 6" e-ink or electronic paper display. Fascinating gadget that re-writes the rules for reading electronic texts. Problem is, unlike it's newer North American progeny - the Sony Reader - the Librie only understands one file format. Everything else must be translated to fit in the wee beastie.

Originally, Sony wasn't very forthcoming with the file format so it fell on the community to create tools for translating content. Several good utilities now exist, but they tend to be pretty simple and the output can be rather lacking at times.

There is another solution - there is a commercial product from Canon called Book Creator that seems to be the official implementation of the .LRS/.LRX standard. There is even a fully function trial version that can be used for 1 year.

There are 3 things that suck:
  1. The program is Japanese only
  2. Canon pulled the download early in 2006
  3. It expires this month, and doesn't like to install anymore.
1 and 2 were solved by the Librie group at Yahoo. 3 is a little trickier, but - Virtual machines to the rescue! I wrote up what I went through installing a virtual version of windows that's dedicated to running Book Creator - without disturbing your real Windows distribution - all with free tools. Check it out.

Sunday, December 3, 2006

Nothing to see here, move along.

The star of the Zaurus Clamshell world, Meanie, has created a beta of PDAXrom intended for use on the Zaurus SL-C3000. There are problems putting the regular PDAX on the 3k because it lacks space in flash (It was originally designed to run everything off of the HD, thus it only has 16mb of flash, vs 128mb for all the other SL-Cxx00 models). It's built on the base of the previous 2 betas of PDAX that were made for the 3k, which were based on PDAX beta 1.

Meanie has taken the 3k 2nd beta, combined it with last "stable" PDAX with the 2.4 kernel, beta 3, and made most of it work flawlessly. There are a couple of outstanding bugs, though, so I've set up a page for my notes over at SDI, The Homepage.