Sunday, June 14, 2009

Acer Aspire Revo Nettop

Nettops, the desktop equivalents of low cost, low power netbook computers, are taking longer than I expected to arrive. Acer's Aspire Revo SFF NVIDIA Ion PC looks promising. There are small desktop computers, such as the Dell Studio Hybrid PC, , but these are not particularly cheap, or low power. ASUS's EEE PC there are Lenovo have announced an Intel Atom powered nettop computer, H200 bundled with an LCD monitor for US$399.99.

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Saturday, January 17, 2009

New ASUS Eee PCs

Eee Top ET1602ASUS has launched a range of new and upgraded Eees. The Asus Eee Box B204 and 206 models look most useful, being a hard disk upgrade of the desktop PC. They have a HDMI video interface, hardware assist for video playback and a remote control, making it useful as a low power media centre computer. Eee Box can be attached behind an LCD panel using the VESA mount, as well as making for a neat installation for the home theatre, this could make them popualr for school and office desks.

Likely to be least successful is the Eee Top ET1602, a desktop computer built into a 15 inch LCD screen, which has the fatal flaw of a touch screen. This appears to be designed for the classic non-application of a kitchen computer where you can write a note for someone to buy some milk on the screen. It is a shame ASUS didn't leave out the touch screen and lower the price to produce a useful home and education computer.

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Thursday, October 09, 2008

Virus reported on ASUS Eee Box PC

ASUS Eee Box PCASUS have reported a virus present on the hard disk of their new Eee Box desktop PC. I was only able to find this in Japanese on the ASUS web site ("ASUSミニパソコン新製品「Eee Box」でのウイルス混入に関するお詫び" translated: 'ASUS new mini-computer "Eee Box" on the incorporation of the virus in Apology'). The Register have an explanation in English: "Asus admits Eee Box mini PC shipped with virus", (Tony Smith, 8th October 2008 12:10 GMT). Presumably this virus only applies to units running the Windows XP operating system, not ones using Linux.

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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Desktop Eee PC in Australia

ASUS Eee Box desktop computerAccording to news reports, the Eee Box, low power desktop PC for will be available in Australia in five weeks for $AU429. The unit is a cigar box sized case, and can be piggybacked on an LCD monitor using a VESA mount.

ASUS claims "Green Design" with "earth-friendly materials for reduced CO2 emissions" conforming to the EU's Directive on the Restriction of the Use of Certain Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment 2002/95/EC (RoHS Directive) and Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE Directive). ASUS are claiming a saving of up to 90% in energy consumption for the Eee Box B202., but do not appear to have specified any testing for energy use. The unit has WiFi and IPTV software.

But there are some disappointments: this model ships with Microsoft Windows XP Home edition in place of the Linux of the sub-notebook Eee PC. The CPU is the low power Intel Atom N270 (1.6 GHz) but the box has a fan. There is only 1 GB of RAM and a 80 GB (rather than the flash memory of most of the notebook models). There is a SD/MMC Card Reader and Ethernet, but only two USB sockets.

It is a shame ASUS does not seem to be offering a diskless Linux unit with more USB ports for use as a web terminal. Even so it would be useful for applications such as home users, schools and libraries where the user just wants to do some web surfing, email. The unit would also be useful for Digital Signage, mounted on the back of a large LCD or plasma screen for shops, transport terminals and office foyers. Home theatre users might also find the Eee Box useful plugged into their large LCD or Plasma TVs, for occasional web browsing.

ASUS have created a problem for all sub notebook makers with the Eee PC. The other makers have to bring out low cost sub notebooks to compete with the Eee PC, but then these also compete with the own company's other products. A similar problem is about to occur for desktop and large notebook computer makers with the release of the Eee Box. This will undercut the price of desktop computers. It will also undercut the price of large notebook computers which are being used as desktop computers. Why spend thousands of dollars on a desktop or notebook computer, when you can get one for hundreds?

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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Web Storage for ASUS Eee PC

ASUS is offering 20GB of web storage with its Eee PC 901, 1000, and 1000H models. There are few details of how it will work and if it will come with software for online backup and files synchronization, as the Zonbu did.
With increasing web-based file sharing activities, the new Eee PCs offers 20GB of web storage that will allow users to store and share files, pictures, movies and even business presentations in the virtual space. Not only is it a great tool for sharing, but a backup storage space for important data. ...

From: Eee PC 901, 1000, and 1000H to Hit Shelves in North America, Press Release, ASUS, July 8th, 2008
There are now some books out about the Eee PC:

Using the Asus Eee PCUsing the Asus Eee PC
by William Lawrence

Asus Eee PC For DummiesAsus Eee PC For Dummies
by Joel McNamara

Also from Amazon.Com:

  1. ASUS Eee PC 1000
  2. ASUS Eee PC 900
  3. Eee PC Accessories
  4. Books on EEE PC

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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

ASUS Eee 1000 Low cost PC

ASUS 1000 Eee PCASUS released the Eee 1000 PC on June 3, 2008, with a 10 inch screen, 1.6 GHz Intel Atom CPU, Linux, 2GB RAM and 40GB disk (also Windows XP model available). for about US$625. The unit is much larger than previous Eee PCs (about A4 size).

There is criticism of this unit for its size and speculation that the Eee 900 Series with its 8.9 inch screen will be dropped in favor of a Eee 1000 fitted with a smaller screen. But being about A4 size, I think the Eee 1000 will be the idea size for many applications, having a keyboard big enough to type on, but in a case small enough to fit in a bag with paperwork.

If used for business or study, a PC only has to be small enough to fit in the bag with your paperwork. Making the PC smaller than this provides little advantage (unless you want to carry it in a handbag, when the B5 siz Eees become useful).

One disappointment is that the unit will not be diskless.

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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Desktop EEE PC in June

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Asus Eee PC Handbook

The manual which comes with the ASUS EEE PC is not exactly readable. Due out in August is The Asus Eee PC Handbook by William Lawrence , a 300 page paperback to be published by Que (ISBN-10: 0789738104, ISBN-13: 978-0789738103). Given the popularity of this computer, it is unusual there are not more books about it.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

HP 2133 Mini-Note

HP 2133 Mini-Note ComputerHP have announced the HP 2133 Mini-Note, a low cost, low power sub-notebook computer similar to the ASUS Eee PC. The unit has a 8.9 inch screen and starts at $US499.

I found the Eee PC to have a keyboard too small to type on comfortably. The HP 2133 appears to have a significantly wider keyboard, only about 10mm narrower than the 12 inch screen notebook computer I usually use. This should make the HP usable (but with an external screen and keyboard still desirable for extended desktop use).

HP 2133 has got good reviews. Dell are rumored to have a similar unit coming out, produced by Compal Electronics for $399. My prediction that by the end of 2008, a "normal" computer will be one for under $500 seems to be coming true.

System features
See detailed specs
US QuickSpecs » html ...
Operating system
SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10
Processors available
VIA C7-M ULV processor (1.0 GHz, 128 KB L2 cache, 400 MHz FSB)
512 MB 667 MHz DDR2 SDRAM
Memory slots
Hard drive
4 GB Flash Module
Graphics and Input/Output devices
Display size
8.9-inch diagonal WXGA
VIA Chrome 9
Integrated camera
VGA camera
Audio, Slots, and Ports
ADI1984HD High Definition CODEC; 24-bit DAC; Integrated stereo speakers; Stereo headphone/line out; Stereo microphone in
2 USB 2.0
1 microphone in
1 headphone/line-out
1 external VGA monitor
1 RJ-45
1 AC power

1 Express Card/54
1 secure digital
Communication features
Network interface
10/100/1000 NIC
Broadcom 802.11b/g
Product specifications
2.8 lb (1.27 kg)
Dimensions (w x d x h)
10.04 x 6.5 x 1.05 in (255 x 165 x 27 mm)
What's in the box
3-cell (28 WHr) high capacity Lithium-Ion

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Friday, April 04, 2008

Open Source System Needed for Global Distribution of Curriculum Materials

The New Zealand Agency for International Development (NZAID) have issued a Request for Tender for a National Policy on Procurement, Storage and Distribution of Curriculum Materials for the Solomon Islands. The detailed Request for Tender (RFT) document has a good overview of the issues that a small Pacific country faces with educational materials. However, perhaps an alternative solution to new warehouses and book stock control systems should be considered.

The paper based education system could be replaced with a computer based one, using devices like the OLPC and the ASUS EEE PC. This would remove the need for tonnes of books to have to be looked after. The same equipment could be used for primary, secondary and tertiary education, as well as civil administration functions. This would be initially more complex and more expensive to install, but would have long term benefits. Modular buildings, with the computer equipment pre-installed, already facilities could be used to speed the process.
The New Zealand Agency for International Development, NZAID, is inviting the submission of tenders from consultants interested in undertaking the role of providing Technical Assistance to the Solomon Islands Education Resource Unit for the development of the National Policy on Procurement, Storage and Distribution of Curriculum Materials.

Tenders must demonstrate understanding and experience of the following:

• school curriculum materials distribution, procurement and storage policy and management;
• policy development and practical implementation of policy in the education sector;
• facilitating capacity development, skills transfer and mentoring of staff;
• and experience working cross culturally and in developing country contexts, preferably in the Pacific.

Relates to the following TenderWatch Categories
865 Management consulting services
866 Services related to management consulting
929 Other education services
914 Policy advice and guidance for Government

From: National Policy on Procurement, Storage and Distribution of Curriculum Materials for the Solomon Islands, Request for Tender, New Zealand Agency for International Development, 2008

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Thursday, April 03, 2008

EeePC in Paris sold Like a phone

ASUS EEE PC advertisment in Paris. Photo by Shayne FlintHad a message from Shayne Flint, who was Paris for a project with the Fenner School of Environment and Society, The Australian National University. He says the EeePC is being sold there like a phone, as part of a wifi access contract. He says he saw several of them being used in restaurants, coffee shops etc. during my 12 days in Paris. There was Wifi "everywhere and lots of it is free" (but usually very slow).


Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Desktop EEE PC

Preview Gadgets and other computer news sites have images of what the ASUS E-DT is expected to look like. It is much as I speculated being essentially a desktop version of the EEE PC sub notebook computer, made by omitting the LCD screen, keyboard and battery. If these are available for about $300, they will be very useful.

The plain rectangular box appears to be about the size of the current EEE PC:
225 × 165 ×35 mm. It is shown mounted vertically on a circular stand. Hopefully the box can be laid down flat on the desk and is strong enough to stand an LCD display on. It is about the same size as the stand for a small LCD monitor and would fit neatly underneath.

There would be little point in making the E-DT any smaller, unless it was so small it could be attached to the back of an LCD, as with the ThinLix units. Also making the box smaller may be bad marketing, as the customer might not feel they were getting their money's worth.

Hopefully the E-DT has a security slot for securing it to the desk. This feature was omitted from the Zomb. desktop unit.


Open Source Software Development Kit for ASUS EEE PC

ASUS have released an open source Software Development Kit (SDK) for the ASUS EEE PC . This is on Sourceforge with a GNU General Public License. There are also drivers and the like on the ASUS EEE PC web site:

ASUS ... today announced the release of a comprehensive software developer´s kit (SDK) for the Asus Eee PC. The new SDK enables third-party developers to easily enhance and extend the popular, mobile, open source platform for educational, telecommunications, and many other uses. The Eee PC SDK provides a complete development platform, including an Eee PC-compatible Open Circulation Edition of the Xandros Desktop OS, the Eclipse development environment, a Qt4 toolkit, a developer´s guide, sample applications, and a multilingual VMware testing and debugging environment.

“We have experienced an overwhelming developer response to Eee PC, with thousands of source code downloads since we posted it on our site. Now, thanks to our new SDK, third-party developers and enthusiasts from the open source community will find it easy to develop, easy to port, and easy to release software for the Eee PC,” said David Wu, General Manager of ASUS Global Service Center. ...

From: ASUS Releases Development Platform for Eee PC, Press Release, ASUS, March 31, 2008


Sunday, March 09, 2008

Australian School Buys Eee PCs

According to a news report (Asus sells Eee PC to All Hallows School, Lilia Guan
4 March 2008 02:36PM), a Brisbane private secondary school is purchasing 130 Asus Eee PCs for student use. The screen and keyboard of the Eee PC a bit small and I would think it would better suit younger primary students (the ones the OLPC is designed for), rather than secondary students. For senior students, a 9 inch screen in a case about A4 paper size (210 × 297 mm) would be better. But the school appears very advanced in its use of computers and I guess they know what they are doing:

All Hallows' offers an extensive computer network comprising of a 10 gigabit fibre optic loop backbone supporting 6 laboratory's (31 computers per lab) and 10 flexible Learning areas (15 computers per area). The Potter and McAuley libraries provide students with a highly IT integrated environment. Internet and access to online digital resources is provided from all computers and wireless devices on campus.

Teaching and Learning spaces are enhanced with multimedia (42) and/or Interactive whiteboards (40) that increase the motivation and engagement of students in the learning process.

In 2005 All Hallows' commenced a trial partly funded by the Australian Federal Government under the ASISTM (Australian Schools Innovation in Science, Technology and Mathematics) looking at ways of integrating Pocket PCs in to the curriculum. In 2005, 180 students, in the areas of Business and Mathematics carried Pocket PCs that connect to the extensive wireless network and the All Hallows' Learning Management System (MoodleBlue). During 2006, this trial was extended to 310 students. ...

From: School Report, All Hallows' School, 2007

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

UK Educational Laptop for $200

 Elonex ONE £100 educational laptopUK company Elonex have announced they will launch the Elonex ONE, a £99 laptop (less than $US200) at the UK Education Show 2008 on 28 February 2008. There are few details of the product, apart from it using Linux and having WiFi. Other reports indicate it has 1Gb of Flash memory and a seven-inch screen.

From the photo, the processor board appears to be built in behind the screen, as with the OLPC, rather than under the keyboard, as with the ASUS Eee PC. The screen would appear to be the same type of low cost 7 inch wide screen LCD used for DVD players, as on the Eee PC.

Having only 1 Gb of flash memory will limit the usefulness of the unit, but it is likely that uses will supplement this with a USB flash drive (assuming the unit has a USB socket).

The media release for the unit has a lot of rhetoric about commitment to improving learning for children with one-to-one access to laptops, with quotes from UK government sources. The danger with this is that government authorities, teachers and parents may get the false impression that they need to spend just £99 per student to get all these benefits. Even if the Elonex One is made available for the announced price and works as claimed, infrastructure and training costs for the education system would be at least twice the cost of the laptop per student, not including ongoing support costs and the cost of developing course ware.

Elonex claims to have conducted research and development to produce their laptop. It seems more likely that Elonex have simply selected one of the many sub-notebook PCs made and sold in Asia. These units have been made and sold for decades, but not proved popular in western countries. The success of the Eee PC has seen some of these now being offered more widely. Also the availability of Linux, low cost flash memory, low power processors and low cost LCD screens made for DVD players has made these more feasible. OLPC have tried to incorporate R&D in their computer, but this is proving problematic. It is more likely that generic computers using off the shelf components will be more successful.

The claims for education using computers made by Elonex may well prove true, but they will cost more than £99 per student.

The use of quotes in the Elonex media release is interesting. The one on "Technology has revolutionised the way we work and is now set to transform education. ..." is quoted from a Department for Education and Skills, report in 1997, Connecting the Learning Society. What Elonex don't mention is that the quote is from then UK PM Tony Blair and he went on to talk about the information superhighway and a National Grid for Learning.

The quote on "One-to-one access to a laptop computer promoted independence and had positively influenced other aspects of their work and their learning." is from a teacher, Danny Doyle: Perspectives of One-to-One Laptop Access (2004).
The vision of the ONE project is to help develop computer literacy in children in order to cultivate skills for the 21st century and enable them to make a more valued contribution to the future economy and society. Proficiency at ICT has never been so important, and fluency and familiarity with computers is essential to nurture the future digital generation. The importance of IT in education has been recognized right from the early days of the internet and personal computers:
Technology has revolutionised the way we work and is now set to transform education. Children cannot be effective in tomorrow’s world if they are trained in yesterday’s skills.
(Department for Education and Skills, 1997)

One-to-one access to a laptop computer promoted independence and had positively influenced other aspects of their work and their learning. The children were aware of their expertise and believed their current skills were transferable to new hardware and software, future education and employment.
(National Teacher Research Panel, 2004)
Computer based technology is at the heart of the DCSF's (Department for Children, Schools and Families) commitment to improving learning for all children. One-to-one access to a laptop has been a dream that until now has been cost-prohibitive. The research and development by Elonex that has lead to the ONE has allowed this dream to become a reality.

Government Strategy for Digital Technology

The significance of ICT can be seen in the DCSF e-Strategy, the government’s current strategy towards the use of digital technologies within the Education System:
“Teaching institutions ought to be advancing beyond the traditional formats that are still so prevalent. Independent research has shown that children using ICT effectively in lessons get better results, and Ofsted has confirmed that “Pupils respond very positively to the use of ICT, they engage well with lessons, their behaviour is good and their attitudes to learning are very good”

“With more flexible e-learning resources available online, teachers can adapt the curriculum to their learners’ needs and interests. Technology is the key to personalised learning and we must make sure that everyone has access to this technology. As we continue to embed e-learning across the whole learning process, it will blend more easily with life and work, bridging the boundaries between formal and informal learning.” “It is our goal to work towards ICT as a universal utility, creating more flexible learning opportunities for everyone.”

(Secretary of State for Children Schools and Families)
Prime Minister Gordon Brown has announced the plan to raise spending on IT in education, and to this end Jim Knight MP recently announced on 9 Jan 2008 a £30 million investment to provide the education system with improved ICT equipment and a safe internet connection. Jim Knight commented “we know from the research the difference that Information Technology can make.” “ICT has the power to transform young people's learning — both at school and beyond the school gate.”

Benefits Benefits of the ONE for Children:
  • Improved ICT literacy and fluency
  • Increased empowerment and motivation
  • More engaging way of learning – learning can be fun!
  • More flexible study
  • Access to a wider range of resources
  • Provides a link between learning at home and learning at school
  • Improved contact between the child and their school, family and friends Stimulates creativity and greater scope for problem solving
  • Opens up potential for blogging, podcasting, social networking, online clubs & societies and pupil support groups.
Benefits of the ONE for Teachers:

  • The majority of teachers feel that the use of ICT in the classroom positively impacts on the engagement, motivation and achievement of their learners.
  • Teachers' ICT skills have developed significantly over the years, as well as their acceptance to utilise the technology, leading to better lessons and a reduction in teachers' workloads.
  • Makes available a wider range teaching methods, including assigning web based research, increased interactivity, paperless homework and use of the child’s online personal webspace.
  • Opens the option for digital teaching materials, increased autonomy and improved out of classroom activities.
From: Elone One Press Release, Elonex , 2008

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Monday, February 11, 2008

Eee PC demonstration, Sydney, 29 February 2008

Sydney Linux Users Group (SLUG)I will be giving a demonstration of the Eee PC and talking about what effect other such little low cost computers may have on big business, in Sydney, 29 February 2008:

2008-02-29 18:30
2008-02-29 20:30
Atlassian, 173-185 Sussex Street, Sydney

SLUG's monthly meeting, featuring talks and SLUGlets. Meetings are open to the general public, and are free of charge.

Our meetings take place next to Darling Harbour, near public transport and other amenities.

Our location: Atlassian, 173-185 Sussex Street, Sydney (corner of Sussex and Market Street). Entry is via the rear on Slip Street. There are stairs going down along the outside of building from Sussex St to near the entrance. A map of the area and directions can be found here.

We start at 18:30 but we ask that people arrive 15 minutes early so we can all get into the building and start on time. Please do not arrive before 18:00, as it may hinder business activities for our host!

Appropriate signage and directions will be posted on the building.

This month's sessions are:

General Talk
Tom Worthington: A Watershed for the Networked Organisation

With trends for carbon neutral, thin client, wireless and open source converging to signal a radical change in the use and distribution of the desktop personal computer and the desktop phone, the CIO is being presented with real challenges for transformation.

Low power, diskless and low cost advances are creating alternatives and opportunities for the organisation to simplify their systems. Some of the results from testing those alternatives with carbon neutral thin client computers, handheld Linux systems and diskless sub notebook computers will be included and discussed in this presentation.

If low power and portable networked systems are set to revolutionise the organisation, the CIO needs to be ready.

Tom Worthington will demonstrate, citing devices such as the Zonbu Thin Client Computer and the Asus Eee PC.

In-Depth Talk
Matt Palmer: SNMP: 'e's not dead, 'e's just restin'

What SNMP is, why it's still useful these days, how easy it really is to get SNMP stuff working, and a tour of a simple way to provide custom data through SNMP.

Meeting Schedule

See here for an explanation of the segments.

  • 18:15: Open Doors
  • 18.30: Announcements, News, Introductions
  • 18:45: General Talk
  • 19:30: Intermission
  • 19:45: Split into two groups for:
    • In-Depth Talk
    • SLUGlets
  • 20:30: Dinner

Dinner is at Golden Harbour Restaurant, in Chinatown. We will be having the $24 Banquet. We will be taking numbers during the break to confirm the reservation size. If you have any particular dietary requirements (e.g. vegetarian), or if you would prefer to order separately, let us know beforehand.

We hope to see you there!

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Saturday, February 02, 2008

Desktop and screen mounted EEE PCs

According to news reports ASUS are releasing desktop and LCD screen mounted versions of their Linux low power, low cost Eee PC. The "E-DT" is a desktop version for under $US300 due by May 2008. The "E-Monitor" will be mounted in a 21" LCD TV and be about US$500 (due in September) and the "E-TV" a 42 inch LCD TV some time later.

The E-DT makes a lot of sense, being essentially a "thick" thin client computer, but one which has a marketing head start on the back of the Eee PC. Thin clients have previously been niche products and the E-DT may break that trend. It could be particularly good for the education market, cyber cafes and the like.

The Eee PC makes a good thin thin client: I am typing this on one now, with the internal LCD screen switched off, using an external LCD monitor, keyboard and mouse. This arrangement works fine for web browsing, email and some minor document editing. The generous number of USB ports allow connection of peripherals. As I commented when the Eee PC came out, about all ASUS needs to do is omit the LCD screen, keyboard, touch pad and battery to make a thin client computer for about US$199.

The "E-Monitor" may suffer from falling somewhere between a office computer and a home TV appliance. A 21 inch screen is still large for an office computer screen but small for a TV. It might have a niche market as a second home TV, perhaps on the kitchen bench or in the home office.

The E-TV with a 42 inch screen may never make it to market. Previous attempts to combine a computer and TV have been less than successful. While I have written about Using a Widescreen LCD for TV, operating the computer while on the lounge chair is difficult, even with a cordless mouse and keyboard.

E-DT As a Office Docking Station?

The E-DT would not be considered in many corporate offices, being seen as underpowered and running a non-standard operating system. However, if most applications are accessed via a web browser, and the few Windows ones were accessible via a remote server, then it could be used. It might also be used as a docking station for Microsoft Windows running laptops and smartphones. The E-DT would be connected to an LCD screen, keyboard, mouse, printer and LAN. It would communicate with the user's laptop or smart phone using WiFi, and acting as a wireless docking station, allowing the desktop keyboard and screen to be used.

See also:

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Hacking the Eee PC

To see how to install a USB hub, GPS, Bluetooth, a card reader, flash drive, high speed WiFi, a modem and other add-ons to your ASUS Eee PC see "Eee PC Internal Upgrades". I have not tried any of these. As well as voiding your warranty these could destroy the computer if not done correctly. But many involve just adding USB devices, so are not that hard.

What would make this easier would be an external docking device which would fit under the computer and have USB sockets to hold USB drives. This would stick on under the computer and plug in with one USB cable. It would then supply four recessed, widely spaced USB sockets designed to hold Flash, Bluetooth, WiMax, 3G, WiFi, Ethernet and similar devices.

The one docking unit could be designed to fit the Eee PC and the Apple MacBook Air (which is lacking in sockets and expansion). The unit could optionally hold an extra batter battery to power the devices, recharged via the USB cable.

Of course given the relative costs of Eee PCs and Apple Airs, you could afford to use an Eee PC as a docking device for an Air. ;-)

ps: I suggested building "flash docks" into a low cost education computer. The idea came from some of the early subnotebook computers which had lots of PCMCIA slots and very little else. To add memory, a disk drive or any interface, you added a PCMCIA Card. Now many such expansion options are available with USB, but some way to physically hold the USB device is needed. The ExpressCard is intended as a PC Card replacement and includes USB as an option. But Express Cards are expensive and rare, compared to USB devices.

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Sunday, January 06, 2008

OLPC First Impressions

A few weeks ago I got my first chance to try the OLPC XO-1 (One Laptop per Child Children's Machine or $100 computer), sub-notebook PC. We had a lineup of two different pe-release models of the OLPC and an ASUS Eee PC for comparison. Overall the OLPC looks a solid device, but encumbered by an experimental interface and a paternalistic view of education for developing nations.

My first impression was of how bright and robust the green plastic case looks, like a toy for toddlers. The bright green rubber keyboard is well laid out, but the keys are too small for adult fingers. The very wide touch-pad under the keyboard makes it difficult to find somewhere to rest your palms.

The OLPC uses the new Sugar child friendly graphical user interface, making it unusable to those familiar with the desktop metaphor of Microsoft Windows, Apple Mac or various Linuxes. Sugar may well be a better user interface for children, but will have to be learned by anyone familiar with current computers. The OLPCs used their WiFi mesh network to recognize each other automatically, representing the other machine on the screen graphically, but due to lack of familiarity with the interface I was unable to use the connection.

The screen on the OLPC looks very much larger than the 7 inch wide LCD on the Eee PC. The transflective OLPC screen did not look as bright or clear as the Eee PC indoors. Outdoors on an overcast day, the OLPC screen switched to monochrome mode and was readable, but still not a lot more so than the conventional back lit Eee screen.

Overall the OLPC hardware looks solid and the software usable. However, the unit may be breaking too much new ground to be successful as a product and is hampered by being associated with a flawed model of development.

The users of the computer will have to learn a new user interface different from that predominating. It may well be a better interface, but it took decades for the desktop metaphor to be refined and become established. Xerox's interface was adapted for the Apple Lisa computer and then simplified for the Apple Mac before it became popular (and then adapted, or some would say degraded, for Microsoft Windows). It may take ten years and two more teams of designers before the OLPC interface is ready for widespread use.

If the OLPC was purely a university research project, or a product funded by private venture capital, then it would be worth taking a risk to develop a revolutionary new computer. However, the OLPC is intended to be used for education in developing nations. Therefore the resources spent on the OLPC have to be diverted from other education projects for developing nations. In effect the OLPC will take several hundred dollars away from each child in a developing country and using that money to conduct an educational experiment on those children. Developing nations, and parents, may have other ideas of educational priorities for their children and of how computers could be used to assist development.

It may be useful to decouple the various parts of the OLPC and develop them separately. New hardware can use new or old user interfaces, educational content can be developed to work on new or old hardware. Models for funding education for developing nations can be developed separately of a particular educational products. The customers can then assess how successful each of the products is and which they wish to use.

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Sunday, December 23, 2007

More ASUS Eee PC Models Available

ASUS Eee PC 2G BlueASUS Eee PC 2G PinkThere are now models of the AUSUS Eee PC available with 2, 4 and 8 Gbytes of flash memory via

The lowest cost 2G model (US$299.99) seems to be available with the cover in: Pink, Blue or Green.

ASUS Eee PC 2G GreenASUS Eee PC 4G BlackThe 4G model (US$399) is available in black and white.

ASUS Eee PC 8GThe 8G model (US$499) seems to be only in white. In Australia the distributor, Myers, seems to only have the 4G model in White (AU$499).

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Monday, December 10, 2007

PCI Express Mini Card slot in ASUS Eee PC

The ASUS Eee PC has an PCI Express Mini Card slot . This is a full size slot for a card 30 x 56 mm.This is not easily accessible, being behind a screwed cover on the underside of the unit. One screw is covered with an anti-tamper sticker, to discourage user servicing. According to some reports, later Eee PCs are missing the connector.

Presumably the PCI Express Mini Card slot .could be used to add more flash memory to the system, but most of the cards offered seem to be for WiFi, which is usually built into laptops anyway.

My suggestions to ASUS and other makes of low cost units, would be to provide a standard USB 2 socket in a compartment large enough to hold a flash drive or USB wireless device. This would be cheaper than a PCI slot and a wider range of lower cost devices to plug in are available.


Sunday, December 02, 2007

ASUS Eee PC First Impressions

ASUS Eee PCThe ASUS Eee PC 701 was released in Australia on Saturday 1 December at Myers. I went into the Sydney store to collect one at around 3pm and was told they had sold out. Fortunately I had one reserved for me by the ANU. My impressions after a first few hours with the unit are favourable (the report was typed on the unit and posted from it).

My first impression was the small size of the cardboard box holding the unit, which fitted in a plastic shopping bag and the commodity nature of the purchase. Buying my previous notebook took about 30 minutes and was quite a ceremony. The store set up the operating system for me and registered the Microsoft Windows software. That 12 inch little computer (a Twinhead) came in a big box (which I left behind in the store).

In contrast the Eee PC was in a box you might find with a portable CD player. The sales staff handed the box to the register staff who took my payment and gave me a cash register receipt and the computer in a shopping bag. This took about 30 seconds and was almost an insult to such a momentous event. It shows how computers are becoming commodities.

The ASUS box shows it is offered in a range of pastel colors, as well as silver and black, but only white is being currently offered. The case has a shiny pearl finish which is attractive but does cause some unwanted reflections when used outdoors (I am typing this at an outdoor cafe in trendy inner west Sydney). Unlike the Zombu, the ASUS box has an excess of packing, with components in plastic bags, cardboard spacers and several instruction slips. ASUS should consider reducing the amount and size of the packaging. Particularly when bought in bulk for school or company, the packaging could be reduced.

One unexpected inclusion is a black neoprene slip case for the computer. I had to buy one of these for my Twinhead (actually a case designed for the Apple iBook) and it cost more than $30. These cases allow you to carry a laptop inconspicuously, they protect it from small knocks and are useful when putting in a briefcase. The slip case was in a plastic bag and it is a shame ASUS did not simply use it to protect the Eee PC, eliminating some of the packaging.

Another surprise is the power supply. This is a 9.5 Volt 2.315 Amp plug pack, (white to match the PC). I noticed that the Australian two pin plug seemed to be removable. Pressing a latch, the Australian plug slid off, revealing a hinged US plug underneath. This should prove very handy for travelling and is much more compact and secure than the Zonbu's slip on adaptor (which could slip off and be lost). Perhaps ASUS will make replacement plugs for the UK and Europe available as an optional accessory.

The computer is rated at 22 Watts. I measured the power consumption at 23 Watt while charging the battery and 14 Watts once charged (and also 14 Watt with the battery removed). In standby mode the computer consumed less than one Watt (the limit of my Electricity Usage Monitor).

The Eee PC is wedge shaped, giving the keyboard a comfortable slope. There is a cylinder above the keyboard holding the battery. This also raises the underside of the case above the desktop, providing better ventilation and a hand grip (as per my proposed $50 laptop design).

Opening the unit reveals a very small and cramped keyboard. This is much the same as was on my old Toshiba libretto and other B5 size sub-sub notebook computers. It is too small for my fingers to touch type on, but should be okay for children. There is a small touch pad below the keyboard with what appears to be one button underneath, Apple Mac style. In fact this is actually the left and right mouse buttons depending on which end of the bar you press. The bar is too stiff for my liking and I would have preferred two conventional buttons. However, most of the time you will simply tap the touch pad for a left button click.

There is also a slider bar on the right of the touch pad, but the pad is so small this is difficult to use. There is a power button above the keyboard. The small 7 inch screen is surrounded by a wide black bezel, obviously designed to fill the space which will be taken by the larger 10 inch screen model. The bezel emphasizes the small size of the screen.

The LCD display is clear and despite its low 800 x 480 resolution very easy to read. ASUS have gone to some trouble to make the icons and fonts of the interface large enough to read comfortably. But I found I had to increase the font size in OpenOffice.Org (version 2.0) and Firefox (Version to be able to read the text. The screen is not a daylight readable model, like the OLPC, but worked well at an outdoor cafe under an awning in Sydney's bright daylight.

One disappointing inclusion is a fan, which is audible in a quiet office environment. This also is makes the built in microphone all but unusable, due to noise from the fan.

Above the screen is a camera for video conferencing, This has a green light to tell you the camera is on. The light is a clever feature as you tend to look towards it (and thus the camera).

The unit is running version 1.0.1 of the software (17/10/2007 build) but seems quite stable. There is 512 of RAM, with 1.4 Gbytes of the 4 Gbyte flash memory available for user files.

In place of the usual desktop metaphor, the user interface has a tab card display, with five tabs: Internet, work, learn, play, setting and favourites. Each tab card has three rows of five large icons. There are the usual open source applications, such as: OOO, Firefox and Thunderbird email. Also there are several shortcuts to web based applications, such as Google's Gmail and the Wikipedia.

The unit has three USB 2 sockets and I was able to use this with a flash drive and recharge my mobile phone. There are two USB sockets on one side and one on the other, which is useful. There is an Ethernet port and a phone socket. The Ethernet socket works, but the phone socket is plugged with a rubber bung and according to the diagnostic program, there is no modem installed. The WiFi works and I was able to enter the key for my wireless router and be on the Internet quickly. One problem was that the system forgot the WiFi key when I turned the system off.

A useful companion for the Eee PC would be a USB wireless modem. Mobile carrier "Three" are now offering a wireless USB modem for $199 with 1 Gbyte of data for $29.95 per month (cheaper rates for a long term plan). The Eee PC bundled with a modem and data plan would be an attractive offer. However, Three provide no details of how to use their modem with Linux.

The Eee PC also has a SD card slot. But these are being supplanted by smaller formats. It would be better if there was a bay for installing a USB wireless modem, or a flash drive.

In operation the Eee PC works much like the Zonbu, or other Linux computer. You can have the web browser, word processor and other applications open simultaneously and flip between them using “Alt+Tab”. Because of the small screen size it is difficult to see two applications on screen at once and easier to have each in full screen mode, flipping between them.

Standby mode, which keeps open applications suspended and the computer in a low power mode is activated when you close the lid. As there is no hard disk to worry about, it is quite convenient to slam the lid closed and immediately pick the computer up. The suspend mode takes a second or two to activate, but you do not have to worry about this as there is no disk to damage.

The unit comes with an eight page Quick User Guide, which is all that is really needed. There is also a comprehensive User Guide of about one hundred pages, but I doubt many users will ever open it. There is also a support DVD included, which is unlikely ever to be used.

The ASUS Eee PC manual includes instructions for installing Microsoft Windows XP, in place of Linux. This requires a USB DVD drive and at least 1 Gbyte of extra storage (flash drive or hard disk). That the machine can run XP is impressive, but of little practical value. Most users will not really notice they are running Linux and replacing it with a very limited capacity XP would be frustrating.

The inability to run Windows programs will be seen as a bonus by many corporate system administrators, teachers and parents. The system is thus immune to most computer viruses (but anti-virus software is included). Many of the other Windows vulnerabilities which have to be patched with setting changes and additional software are unnecessary on the Linux system. Many of the Windows applications which the Eee PC does not have can now be provided via the Web, avoiding installation and maintenance problems.

About all that was needed to do to configure the unit for Linux was to accept the licence conditions, enter my name and password and set the local time.

There has been some customisation of the applications by ASUS. As an example, OpenOffice.Org usually saves documents by default in ODF format (the format developed for OOO which is now an international standard). But on the Eee PC, OOO save in Microsoft Word 97 format by default. Standards purists may object to this, but it is a sensible real world choice. Many users of the Eee PC will never realise they are not using Microsoft Office, happily creating and editing Microsoft Word documents.

There are some gimmick applications with the Eee PC, such as “Voice Command”, which allows you to start applications using voice recognition with the inbuilt microphone. This works without the need for training the recognition software, so for example saying “Computer Web”
will be acknowledged with a synthetic voice saying “WEB”, then Firefox is started. This is a clever but pointless trick, as there is no provision for voice operation in Firefox or any of the other applications. You can voice activate Firefox, but then you need to use the keyboard to operate it. Synthetic voice output for the applications for used by blind and vision impaired users would have been a far more useful way to use the Eee's limited application space.

It will take a few days to fully assess the ASUS Eee PC, but the first few hours have been good. The unit feels solid and very high quality. The Eee PC is not suitable as a laptop replacement for adults with big fat fingers and poor eyesight, but may be usable as a computer for children. It would be very useful as an ultra portable computer.

Also the Eee PC has potential as a desktop replacement, when used with an external keyboard and screen. Add a cheap phone handset to use with VoIP and you have a very functional videophone and workstation.

However, I would like the bigger keyboard of my 12 inch Twinhead notebook. Perhaps ASUS (or someone else) will make a unit like the Eee PC, but in a bigger case. This might use the 10 inch screen, with a 12 Inch wide screen option. I would be happy to do without the web camera for the bigger keyboard. Also the Eee PC's 7.4 Volt 5200 mAh Lithium battery, which came with a long list of safety warnings, could be replaced with a less compact, but cheaper and less flammable NiMh unit.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Linux subnotebook computers for humanitarian disaster relief

Sahana running on OLPCChamindra de Silva reports that the award winning Sahana open source disaster relief software is now running on a OLPC subnotebook (One Laptop per Child laptop) . This has a lot of potential as the OLPC is designed to be sufficiently rugged for use in places where there is no mains power and limited telecommunications. The OLPC has support for a mesh WiFi network. Also if it is widely distributed in developing nations for education, units will likely be available where needed.

I have been skeptical of the OLPC, but if it is distributed in large numbers f0or education, it would be good for disaster relief. But the ASUS Eee PC, which is in many ways the business equivalent of the OLPC might also be of use. It has the advantage of more likely to be readily available to individuals (it is being offered already in the UK for purchase by school children.

Another device I am about to take delivery of a test unit of is the Zonbu thin client Linux computer. This might be useful in an office environment, in place of desktop PCs. It uses less power than a desktop PC, is more rugged and should be easier to set up. It might be useful to, for example, have a carry case with a server in it and a set of Zonbu, OLPCs and/or Eee pcs.

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

ASUS Eee PC Now Available

ASUS Eee PCThe ASUS Eee PC diskless Linux subnotebook computer is now being offered for purchase on Initially only the 7 Inch screen 4 GByte flash drive model is available. One disappointment is that this supposed $US199 computer is now $US399. A cheaper model with less memory may be available later (making it effectively a portable Linux thin client machine and indicated by its name as the Eee PC 2G Surf). A more expensive unit with a 10 inch screen is also promised.

The Eee PC is being offered in the UK as the RM Minibook by Research Machines. They are are positioning the miniBook as a student computer with sales via schools.

ps: The ASUS Eee PC appears to have been added to's catalog on or shortly before 3 November 2007, as indicated by the date on the Google cache copy of the web page: 3 Nov 2007 07:25:59 GMT. So far it has not been added to the UK, French, German, Japanese or Canadian Amazon catalogs.


Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Zonbu Thin Client Linux Computer for Consumers

Zonbu miniature PCZonbu , are offering a thin client Linux computer for $US249.00. They include a data storage service and the application software in the price. If you pay for more online storage on a long term plan the cost of the hardware is lower.

The hardware is a small PC (apparently made by MSTI and sold as the "eBox mini Green PC"):
  • 1.2 GHz Via Eden CPU (C7 Esther core)
  • VIA CX700M chipset
  • 512 MB RAM
  • Ethernet 10/100 Mbit/s
  • PS/2 keyboard and mouse ports, VGA display port and 6 USB 2.0 ports
  • 4 GB CompactFlash local storage
  • Graphics up to 2048 x 1536 with 16 million colors – hardware graphics and MPEG2 acceleration
From: Zonbu, Wikipedia, 2007
In effect, the computer is sold in a similar way to a mobile phone plan: the more you pay for the monthly service and the longer you commit to the cheaper the hardware is. The service comes with and other typical Linux desktop software. Of course, the catch is that you need a broadband Internet connection for the unit to be usable. Even so this might be a good option for some home users and micro businesses. The business could simply plug the computer in and use it: if it breaks, then get another one, with the data stored on the remote on the server

ps: A similar online support option for the ASUS Eee PC (RM Minibook) sub-notebook diskless Linux computer could also be attractive. A school or micro business could equip students or staff with a computer which they could carry around, but not store too much vital data in.

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RM Asus miniBook

RM Asus miniBookThe ASUS Eee PC sub-notebook diskless Linux computer will be sold in the UK as the "RM Asus Minibook", by Research Machines. There is a review of the miniBook from UK PcC Advisor Magazine.

RM is a UK company selling IT products to schools and universities and are positioning the miniBook as a student computer:
The RM Asus miniBook provides individual access to Learning Platforms for every learner at an affordable price.

It can be purchased outright or through flexible financing schemes, including warranty and insurance, spreading the cost to suit the available budget. ...

From: 'RM Asus miniBook -The genuine "anywhere, anytime access" pupil device', RM, 2007.
This approach should work well. The MiniBook is a bit quirky as a mainstream business product, but should work well with support from a school or university. The institution could provide wireless access and even recharging to suit the mini book and also web based education resources which could work within its limitations. The machine should work well with Moodle and similar web based education content management system.

DIY Educational Computer

An enterprising notebook seller could produce a similar product from a low cost notebook computer. That would cost more than the miniBook, but might produce a better computer. As an example start with the Twinhead Slimnote 12KF, which a 12 inch screen subnotebook computer with a AMD 1.8Ghz CPU for $AU1,549. I have the more expensive Twinhead 12D with an Intel processor (Twinheads are also sold as Avertech). Omit the internal DVD/RW Drive and replace the hard disk drive with a 8 GB Sd Flash Card, then install Linux in place of Microsoft Windows.

A cheaper computer, which might be even more desirable for students could be produced by starting with a lower cost computer, such as an Acer for under $AU1,000. The Dell Inspiron would be another option; some models are supported with Linux by Dell. and start at under $AU1,000.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

ASUS Eee PC as a Thin Client

There are more Thin Client computers coming out, but they still tend to be a niche product and so more expensive than regular PCs. One way around this would be to adapt laptop/notebook computers as thin clients. These could be second hand units or cut down ones specially made by the manufacturer, leaving out the components not needed for a desktop thin client.

I toyed with the idea of a "Portable learning centre" made up of a airline carry on bag with a couple of dozen ASUS Eee PCs in it. These would essentially be portable thin clients. The Eee PC is a disk less Lunux subnotebook computer for about $US199 to $US400.

The Eee PC has sockets for USB and an external monitor. So if you plugged in a keyboard, mouse and LCD screen it could also be used as a desktop thin client.
The screen, keyboard and battery of the Eee PC are not really needed for a desktop thin client. But they could prove useful for a smart VoIP phone. Having the battery would be useful for a phone as it would provide continued operation during a power failure.

ASUS, and other laptop makers, could make models omitting the LCD screen, keyboard and battery, and stick a label over the latch to make it a desktop thin client. This would save the cost of having to design and manufacture a specialised thin client device. They simply have to tell the people to not install some of the components for a production run. This shoudl reduce the cost of the ASUS unit, for example, to well under $US199.

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Thin Client Notebooks

Neoware m100 mobile thin client notebookOn HP announced 1 October 2007, it had acquired Neoware Inc, maker of thin client computers and software. Neoware's latest product is the Neoware m100 mobile thin client notebook. This might indicate a trend to diskless laptops.

The Neoware m100 is unusual for a diskless notebook due to its size and weight. With a 15-inch screen and weighing 2.5 kg it is much larger and heavier than the subnotebook computers such as the 7 inch screen .89 kg ASUS Eee PC. The M100 is essentially a 15 inch laptop with the disk drive replaced with Flash RAM.

Thin client computers have not been seen as glamorous ICT: they are bought to save money in call centers and the like, but not for executive offices (where perhaps they are needed more). diskless notebooks have also not been see as glamorous, being mostly quirky subnotebooks with cramped keyboards for low cost computers used in education. It will be interesting to see if notebook thin clients make the transition to high status items, being small and sleek, one step up from a smart phone. However, the m100 will not help that trend being a dull looking generic large notebook.

Like other thin client makers, Neoware offer Linux, Windows CE and Windows XPe operating systems. They also offer host software to manage the clients. Windows XP Embedded (XPe), is an embedded version of Windows XP adapted for small computers. Windows CE is an operating system designed for smart phones and PDAs> While it has a Microsoft Windows like user interface, Windows XP applications are not compatible with Windows CE. Higher performance thin clients used for running desktop applications will use the Windows XPe (or Linux) and lower performance ones, used for point of sale and the like, will use Windows CE (or an embedded Linux).

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Friday, August 24, 2007

Portable learning centre

The technology of the flexible learning centre looks usable in Australia and could be built into a transportable classroom. But could this be taken a step further and be made portable? That would allow the equipment to be carried into a room in a number of travel cases and set up in a few minutes. As well as being used for education, this could provide a temporary office.

Carry Cases

Carry On Watertight Hard CaseOne useful definition for what is portable is the size of an airline carry on bag:
Cabin baggage should have maximum length of 22 in (56 cm), width of 18 in (45 cm) and depth of 10 in (25 cm). The sum of these three dimensions should not exceed the 45 in (115 cm). These dimensions include wheels, handles, side pockets, etc.

From: Luggage, Wikipedia, 22:05, 26 July 2007.
A typical Carry On Watertight Hard Case is the Pelican 1510, which is
19.75" x 11.00" x 7.60" (50.1 x 27.9 x 19.3 cm) inside.


Display Screen

A flat panel screen such as an LCD or plasma display will not fit in a travel case. Also the large plastic or glass surface of the screen is subject to damage in transit. An alternative is a projector, DLP Projectors currently offering good brightness at a reasonable price.

Student Screens

ASUS Eee PCLaptop computers are more easily packed than LCD screens. In this case high power computers are not required. An alternative is the
ASUS Eee PC which has no hard disk and a 7" or 10" screen.

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Flexible Learning Modules for Indigenous Education

TempoHousing two bedroom two container homeEducation was an area identified by the Australian Government for more support for remote indegnious communities was. However, more school buildings will be required if more aboriginal children attend school. Also it will be difficult to obtain sufficient trained teachers willing to work in remote areas, nor provide educators in advanced subjects or for adult education. Part of the answer would be to provide networked computer enhanced flexible learning centers in pre-built modules.

Advanced computer based learning systems can be used for elementary education in remote areas and by people with limited literacy. Examples are the
Simputer Indian PDAXO-1,$100 Laptop, OLPC or Children's Machine Simputer, which was designed for Indian villages and the
zoom” interface of the OLPC $100 Children's Machine for education in developing nations. Wireless terrestrial (WiMax/3G) and satellite networks can be used to provide connectivity and accessible web design can enhance the usability.

Prefabricated modules could be mass produced for upgrading the education services in remote indigenous communities. The modules could be built in regional centres using local labor and then transported to the communities and used to upgrade existing schools and community centers.

One of the problems to be addressed by the Australian Government's emergency response to the Protection of Aboriginal Children Report is education. Even if sufficient funding was available to provide teachers for remote indigenous communities, qualified persons would not be available for all the education required. Nor would there be sufficient tradespeople to build schools rapidly enough.

It is therefore suggested that modular classrooms could be built in factories for
modular and prefabricated housing. The modules would be equipped with wireless broadband and computer facilities for education, as well as power, water and lighting. The equipment would be ruggidized to survive transportation to the site and use. The same technology on a smaller scale would be used for housing.

The modules would be the size of a ISO shipping container. Rather than build the components into the smallest possible space, where they would need to then be connected by qualified trades people, it is proposed to install them in a building module, providing the rooms where the services are delivered (classroom, kitchen and bathrooms). In this way the services can be pre-connected to the delivery point. The empty space in the module would be used to transport components which need to be installed outside the building, such as
solar panels or wind generators.

The modules could use one of the many available modular building technologies to construct a unit the size of a standard ISO container for ease of transport. The modules would be fitted out with classrooms, bathrooms and kitchens, with fixtures and fittings included. The fit-out would be customized for different regions. Where reliable reticulated water and power are available, the building would equipped for connection.

For remote areas, solar and/or wind power generation and battery storage would be installed. Water would be provided by in-built pumps and a modular water tank transported in the module. At toilet would be installed for sewage/septic, or in dry areas a waterless composting toilet would be used. A wireless terrestrial (WiMax/3G) or satellite would be fitted.

Rendering of the TEAL classroom at MITThe classrooms would be fitted out as flexible learning centres, complete with wall and desk mounted computer screens. The screens would be built into the building with rugged dust proof and reinforced enclosures to protect them during transport and when in use. The equipment would provide access to global educational resources, from pre-school, trough K-12 to vocational, university and adult classes.

The classrooms would be smaller versions of the MIT TEAL (Technology Enabled Active Learning) technology. This provides a combination of mini lectures and lab sessions in the one nightclub style room.

Photograph of students at work in the MIT TEAL classroomThe MIT TEAL leaning rooms accommodates groups of students at tables sharing a computer. The walls are equipped with conventional white and blackboards as well as
video projection screens.

University of Melbourne uses similar technology in its
Collaborative Learning Spaces. MIT research shows the TEAL approach produces better results than traditional classes. The environment is particularly good for helping the poorer performing students and for retaining groups who may have been disadvantaged by traditional teaching methods, including females and those from indigenous communities.

The classrooms could be used for university level students as well as primary and secondary school. The Australian Computer Society provides online education modules for IT professionals, using the Australian Moodle system, which would be able to be used via such a system.

The system could also be used for training local government staff in how to administer their local community. I used my own installation of the Moodle system for a one day commercial industry course on writing for the web with 24 students from local government.

Tenix-Navantia Landing Helicopter Dock Ship Cross Section DiagramDesign with Australian Research and Defence Help

Australian Defence Force personnel are being used to assist with logistics for aiding indigenous communities. This includes the building of some facilities. The ADF could aid in the design and deployment of modular computerized classrooms.

More advanced versions of the same modules could be used as deployable headquarters facilities for the ADF. Use of such containerized facilities is envisaged
in 2012 on the new amphibious ships HMAS Canberra and HMAS Adelaide.

Australian universities, including the ANU are investigating smaller and lower cost versions of the MIT technology. LCD screens with
VESA Mounts can be used in place of projection screens. WiFi communications to wireless, battery powered devices could be used. Thin client workstations, can be used in place of PCs. Low cost devices, such as the ASUS "Eee PC" and MIT $100One Laptop Per Child.

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Thursday, June 07, 2007

$199 Mobile Internet Device

ASUS Eee PCAsus have announced the $US199 "Eee PC". This is a diskless B5 size subnotebook PC. It is similar to the Palm Foleo mobile companion announced a few days ago. The Eee PC looks a more viable product, but it is not clear there is a market for any of these Mobile Internet Device web terminals.
EeePC 701 Specification

CPU & Chipset: Intel mobile CPU & chipset
OS: Linux/ Microsoft Windows XP compatible
Communication: 10/100 Mbps Ethernet; 56K modem
WLAN: WiFi 802.11b/g
Graphic: Intel UMA
Memory: 512MB, DDR2-400
Storage: 4/ 8/ 16GB Flash
Webcam: 300K pixel video camera
Audio: Hi-Definition Audio CODEC; Built-in stereo speaker; Built-in microphone
Battery Life: 3hrs (4 cells: 5200mAh, 2S2P)
Dimension & Weight: 22.5 x 16.5 x 2.1~3.5cm, 0.89kg

From: ASUS Introduces All-New Eee PC for Complete Mobile Internet Enjoyment, Asus, 2007

Zeos Palmtop PCThe ASUS unit is in price, size and concept very similar to the
Sphere/Zeos Palm Top PC I traveled around Europe with in 1994 and the OLPC computer. But they are twice as large as the educational computers currently in widespread use. If priced low they could make a useful replacement for a desktop PC, laptop or PDA. But they may be too small to replace a laptop and too big to replace a PDA.

For those needing occasional, trouble free web access at home, this might provide a useful alternative to a PC. This could also be used for business travelers who have wireless broadband access and an organization with a web based suite of office applications, such as Google Apps.

The ASUS unit appears to have a case designed for a 9 or 10" wide screen, but with a smaller 3:4 screen installed (presumably to lower the cost).
The TWINHEAD 10D/Averatec AV1020-ED1 Notebook PC has a similar case, but a 10.6" wide screen. The Twinhead system costs about $1,700, or about ten time the projected price of the ASUS, but as well as a larger wide screen, it also has a hard disk drive, DVD drive and (presumably) a faster processor.

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