[linux-elitists] The desktop in your pocket

Jim Richardson warlock@eskimo.com
Mon Jan 26 09:25:41 PST 2004


On Mon, Jan 26, 2004 at 02:18:28AM -0800, Karsten M. Self wrote:
>on Sun, Jan 25, 2004 at 04:34:46PM -0800, Jim Richardson (warlock@eskimo.com) wrote:
>> On Sun, Jan 25, 2004 at 07:08:02AM -0800, Karsten M. Self wrote:
>> >One of the points I made in recent desktop discussions was that computer
>> >platforms in the near future may emphasize portability over performance
>> >-- my ideal platform would fit in my pocket, yet support a display and
>> >keyboard when at a workstation.
>> >
>> >Behold:
>> >
>> >   Turn a Handheld into a Desktop with Blue Dock
>> >   By Ed Hardy | Editor-in-Chief
>> >   Jan 22, 2004
>> >   http://brighthand.com/article/Synosphere_Developing_Blue_Dock
>> >
>> >   Synosphere is currently developing the Blue Dock, a docking station
>> >   to allow a handheld to function as a desktop computer.
>> >
>> >   Blue Dock Once a handheld has been placed in the Blue Dock, the user
>> >   will be able to create, modify, and edit data on a full sized
>> >   monitor using a full size keyboard and mouse. Users will have access
>> >   to email, the Web, and network resources -- including file servers,
>> >   printers, and other shared workstations.
>> >
>> >
>> >Current model iPaqs pack more punch than the system currently serving as
>> >a footrest (and nameserver) under my desk.
>> >
>> 
>> 
>> For $250 I can buy a cheap off the rack whitetbox computer. With 10-20GB
>> of storage to boot. 
>
>Which is well and good.  But doesn't do much when you're 20 miles, or
>2,000 miles, from the box in question.
>

Agreed, however, this doodad is bulky enough, that I wouldn't pack it
with me on any trip where space was a problem, I'd grab the laptop
instead. For a small amount more than $250, I could buy a compact
computer, with far more power, that still needed a kbd and monitor, and
took up about the same amount of room, (although drew more power) 

>> I'd rather use the handheld with some sort of ubiquitous wireless
>> networking, bluetooth, irda, or 802.11 (or all of the above) and the
>> ability to transfer data back and forth seamlessly. 
>
>My "personal computing environment", when you boil it down, amounts to:
>
>  - Some state data (configuration files).
>  - Some identifying data (GPG keys).
>  - Some current content (mail, browser bookmarks).
>  - Access to primary storage.  Whether it's local or a remotely
>    accessed link.


Pretty much. I've taken to carrying a USB keydrive, (128MB) with 64MB of
it for storage of data, and 64MB for a Flonix install, and "Damn Small
Linux" CD which fits in my wallet. The keydrive of course, goes on the
keychain. SSH keys, (with passphrases I have memorised) and info go on
the Keydrive. Since I have never had a situation where I had access to a
keyboard and monitor, but not to a computer, this has worked quite well. 

>
>> A small 20-240GB HD, with bluetooth/802.11 and a battery or wallwart,
>> would be nice. 
>
>As Apple's demonstrated very convincingly, it's trivial to drop 20+ GiB
>into a shirt pocket.  And as I demonstrated at the Palo Alto store, even
>after a couple of 5' drops to hardwood floor, the damned thing still
>works.

yep, my wife has an iPod I gave her, she loves it. :)

>
>The next question is:  where do you put the processor?  You can put it
>onboard, and treat the unit as autonomous, or you can use an offboard
>processor, and treat the unit as mobile storage (hybrid middle grounds
>are also possible).  Modulo speed, either achieves the goal of mobile
>computing, though self-sufficiency calls for onboard capabilities.

I favour the hybrid, one unit that does most of the processing, with
smart periferals to take the drudgery away, doing the storage, securing,
and retrieval. 

>
>As an itenerant techie / programmer, the ability to drop into a given
>locale, supply power, net, keyboard, and display, and resume working on
>whatever it was that I had been doing, is powerfully attractive.


Agreed, see Keydrive/CD combo. Knoppix rocks if you have room for the
8cm CD, DSL is fine for most things if you don't, Flonix works well from
the keydrive for those machines which can boot from USB, although that
is few of them. 

>
>Decidedly moreso than being straightjacketed into a "standard"
>cookie-cutter desktop by those with less of a vision for ubiquitous
>portability.
>

Agreed. I just don't think this device fits the niche well enough. It's
just expensive enough, just bulky enough and tied to an expensive piece
of hardware, plus, like I said, I haven't been anywhere a kbd and
monitor were available, that didn't also have a full computer. 


Personally, my travelling tools are as follows. 


Zaurus SL5500:
    Good screen, usable kbd, decent hw recog, poor battery life, but I
have a doodad that will power it from AA/AAA batts for a while (about
the size of a pack of cards, with the batteries inside of course) 
Cost today, about $250, more for the newer versions. 

128MB Keydrive:
    Plenty of storage, partitioned for 64MB storage, 64MB Flonix (a
young distro, but useable, and improving all the time) Cost, $40 from
RadioShack or elsewhere. 

BBC CD, Damn small Linux:
    Minimal Knoppix derivative, not quite as good in the HW detection,
but works on 99% of the machines that Knoppix works on IME. 
Cost about $1 for the blank. 

Knoppix 8cm CD:
    Needs little introduction I think 
Cost, basically free. 

Areas I would like to improve. 

Newer Zaurus, the poor battery life of this one, (3hrs if I am careful
with backlight levels) and limited connection ability (USB networking is
problematic, 10/100baseT CF card adds to power draw, although if you are
connecting to a wired network, you probably have access to power) 
The CL760 (IIRC) looks very nice, with either the laptop look, or the
pda look. Both usable. But want it with bluetooth and 802.11b built in. 

iPod like storage device, size more important than capacity as long as
capacity exceeds 1GB, battery life is important too. Prefer wireless
network ability, but would settle for 10/100baseT. 

Finish putting together CD with suite of needful tools, for Mac and
Wintel environment. 

Gvim, ssh (client and dæmons) python, a couple of specific elec/RF
related programmes, probably other things I am forgetting. 

All the above *with* the chargers and accessories, should fit in a
standard mid-large fannypack. Or in the pockets of a multi-pocket vest,
without making me fear for the pieces everytime someone bumps into me.  


-- 
Jim Richardson     http://www.eskimo.com/~warlock
If the government doesn't trust us with our guns, 
why should we trust them with theirs?
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