Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Kogan Android Tablet kPad

iPad patentAustralian electronics importer Kogan have demonstrated a prototype $200 tablet computer with a 7 inch screen running Android and Ubuntu. The company is asking for input on what should be in the final design and, despite the hype around the Apple iPad, if anyone wants such a device. This "crowd sourcing" the design seems to work, I have been using the Kogan Agora Linux netbook for several months and have been impressed by how it has a low price but the features I want.

But will a product with features selected by enthusiasts like me appeal to a wider market? Is there any such market? Ruslan, the founder of the Kogan company seems sceptical and is essentially wanting the customers to convince him. The choice of a 7 inch screen looks a good one, the Apple iPad's 9 inch screen making the device too large and heavy (I have tried a mock-up iPad built by one of my ANU colleagues). This is the size of the original Asus EEE PC, which started the netbook craze. An obvious option, mentioned in the Kogan web site, is a removable keyboard, turning this into essentially a netbook with a removable keyboard. There are laptops with screen which swivel and fold to turn them into tablets.

One very good feature of the Kogan Agora is that it is easily upgraded via a large panel held on by one screw at the back. This lets you get to the expansion slots, disk drive and memory. That would be a good feature for the tablet. Another useful feature would be a USB socket in a recess in the back of the computer, large enough to hold a USB 3G modem. This would be much lower cost and more versitile than building a 3G modem into the computer.

One standards feature I would like to see on the tablet would be a VGA socket. This would allow the tablet to be docked and used with an external keyboard and screen as a desktop computer. The screen and battery could be omitted from one model of the tablet to make a $99 desktop web terminal. Many people just want a desktop computer to surf the web with and not fiddle around with loading complex software.

Writing with stylus and folding wax tablet. painter, Douris, ca 500 BCThe obvious name for a Kogan table is the "kPad". But perhaps it could use of one of the names for an ancient wax tablet, such as deltos. Images of these being used in antiquity look remarkably like modern computer tablets. This seems apt as Kogan's Agora seems to be named after an ancient "place of assembly", where such tablets would be used.

In 1996 I wrote a future history talk "Australia: The Networked Nation" featuring a hypothetical PADD (named after the devices in Star Trek). My device was to be 176 × 250 x 10 mm. The Apple iPad comes close at 190 x 243 x 13 mm and the Kogan would be closer.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Fast netbook with Linux

With Kogan discontinuing its AGORA an alternative low cost performance Linux netbook is the DreamBook Lite M81. DreamBook has the Intel Atom N450 1.66G processor and they offer Ubuntu Linux OS Pre-loaded as a free option. Unfortunately you still pay for a Microsoft Windows licence, even if you don't want it, but at least you can Linux installed. The DreamBook is otherwise a fairly ordinary 10.1 inch screen netbook.

Another interesting "option" for the DreamBook is the DreamVision Portable Pocket Projector (PD-S690). This is a LED video projector. It is only 121 X 99 X 47 mm, but is not cheap and the light output from the Aiptek Pocket Cinema V10 LED projector I tried was disappointing. The new unit uses the OSRAM OSTAR LED Module.

Labels: , ,

Friday, January 29, 2010

Apple iPad in 1996

In 1996 I wrote a future history talk "Australia: The Networked Nation" featuring a hypothetical PADD (named after the devices in Star Trek). My device was to be 176 × 250 x 10 mm. The Apple iPad comes close at 190 x 243 x 13 mm. I had in mind a 3:4 format screen, whereas the iPad has a wider screen.
"Personal Access Display Devices (PADDs) are the ... successor to the primitive Personal Digital Assistants, notebook PCs, radio pagers and mobile phones of 1996. ...

Larger PADDs ... dimensions of a B5 sheet of paper, by 1 cm thick ... touch sensitive screen covering the whole upper surface, which is also a high resolution (2000 x 2000 pixel by 16 million colour) screen. All PADDs have video and audio built in and can operate as what a 1996 person would know as a mobile phone, radio, TV and video cam-corder. ...

The QWERTY keyboard, in its virtual form is still in use for data entry. ..."

From: Australia: The Networked Nation, Tom Worthington, 7 February 1996
However, in retrospect I think a smaller device with a screen about twice the size of an iPhone would be better (the size of smaller PADDs in Star Trek). This is the size of the screen on the smaller Amazon Kindle. It would be about 125 × 88 mm and make a passport (ISO B7) size device which would be easier to hold in one hand. Apple might be reluctant to make a device this small, as it would compete with the iPhone. Kept in a large pocket or handbag, it could be used as a phone via a Bluetooth device (resembling a Star Trek communicator).

My prediction for resolution of the screen was a bit high at 2000 x 2000 pixels and the iPad lacks a camera. The prediction it would run Linux was almost right, with the iPad using a version of Unix (but Linus Torvalds has not got the Nobel prize yet).

I got the bit about online storage right: "Data is stored safely on servers, either owned by the employee's company or a contracted service provider. Data is downloaded as required over the network." My prediction for processing power was a bit low: "equivalent to about four 1996 era Intel Pentium processors", but memory was far too low: "(64 megabytes) to hold the data the user needs immediately".

Apple are a bit late with the iPad as I predicted it would be released in 2005. Some other predictions went better, with Senator Helen Coonan, when Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts commenting on the telecommunications predictions. One prediction which is now coming true, and the current government will be less happy with, is that fibre optic cable to households will prove uneconomic and be overtaken by wireless.

The bit about "Politicians have learnt to be careful about heavy handed attempts at net regulation." is about to come true with the predicted "Internet Party" forming as the Australian branch of The Pirate Party.

Labels: , , , , ,

Friday, January 22, 2010

Kogan Netbook Failure

The AC Adaptor of my Kogan Agora Netbook Pro failed yesterday. I tested it with a multimeter and the power supply reads zero volts. The computer is still working fine.

The adaptor is rated at 20 Volts, 2 amps DC (model: 20K70LF-C201). It happens I have a compatible unit from another computer to tide me over. That unit is a few years old and is twice as large and three times as heavy as the Kogan unit. I suspect it has a large old fashioned, inefficient transformer in it (it gets warm), unlike the electronic modern power sup-plies. But the old transformer still works.

The Kogan was purchased six months ago and so is still under warranty. The adaptors are not repairable so there does not seem much point sending the old one back. So I have written to Kogan asking them to simply send me a new adaptor.

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Apple iSlate the passport to the future of computing

There is speculation that an Apple iSlate tablet computer is to be launched in late January. I am less sceptical of this having spent some time seeing an Apple iPod Touch in use by a family. The smallest reasonable size for the iSlate would be a six inch screen, twice the size of the Touch and and iPhone. This is the same size as the screen on the Amazon Kindle. However, unlike the Kindle, the iSlate is likely to have no physical keyboard and therefore be small enough for a large pocket or handbag.

Visiting a networked family recently, I was struck by how useful their iPod Touch was. The family has a WiFi network, a desktop computer in the study and laptop which tends to sit on the coffee table, next to the controls for the Nintendo Wii. But the gadget that gets used most is an Apple iPod Touch, which tends to be on the kitchen bench or dining table.

The iPod is connected to the home wireless network. The iPod starts instantly, compared to about 20 seconds for the laptop. Also it is much more socially acceptable to use in a group of people, as it looks like a mobile phone. It takes only a few seconds to turn the iPod on, go to the web browser and look something up. The screen is large enough for looking at the bus timetable. This makes prospects for the rumoured Apple iSlate tablet computer very good.

Something like an iPod touch, but with a screen the size of a paperback book would seem to be a winner. Exactly how large a screen such a device should have is an interesting question. The iPod Touch (and iPhone) have a screen which is about size of a credit card, which is one of the standard sizes for international documents (ID-1 format: 85.60 × 53.98 mm).

The next standard size up would be that of a passport: 125 × 88 mm (ID-3 format or ISO B7). This would be about twice the size of the iPod Touch screen and the smallest reasonable size for the Apple iSlate. It would allow for a 6 inch screen, which is the size of the screen on the International Version of Amazon Kindle e-Book reader. A device this size would still fit in many larger pockets and in handbags. This is no coincidence, as passports are the size they are so that they will fit in a pocket or handbag, which is in turn sized to fit a human hand. Making the device this size would also allow it to be held comfortably in one hand. While modern electronics have allowed the size of many devices to shrink, these are still limited by natural units of measure, such as the size of a hand.

Such a small screen will not be suitable for everything. The iSlate will presumably have a USB interface. If plugged into a keyboard and mouse, the iSlate would be usable for entering more text. If interfaced to a large screen, such as a flat screen TV or LCD computer monitor and this would provide enough computing power for a web terminal. Apple may be reluctant to support this as it would undercut sales of their laptop and desktop computers. The iPhone and iPod Touch have a USB interface, but a keyboard is not supported (they also have a low resolution video out).

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

OLPC XO3 Educational Tablet Computer

OLPC XO-3 XO 3.0 Educational Tablet ComputerThe One Laptop Per Child Project have released some details of their planned XO-3 concept design. The educational computer due out in 2012 will be a multi-touch flexible screen tablet computer with an ARM processor. The computer is aimed to cost less than US$100 (as was the original XO-1). It may be that the product has been announced now in anticipation of interest in tablet computer generated by rumours of an Apple tablet device.

It should be noted that tablet computers have not been popular outside limited niche commercial markets, such as for medical staff. The tablet computer would have advantages for education, being able to customise the virtual keyboard four different languages and different topics in software. However, it comes at a cost, with the virtual keyboard taking up one third to one half the screen (depending on its use in landscape or portrait mode). The virtual keyboard will use much more power than a real keyboard and also cost much more.

The screen of a portable computer makes a significant part of the cost. An alternative design would have a screen taking up half the body of the computer and a rubber membrane keyboard (as used on the OLPC XO-1) on the other half of the keyboard. The rubber keyboard would cost less and also use much less power.

The XO-3 assumes the use of a flexible screen and flexible circuit board. These are relatively new technology for computer building and therefore the cost of manufacture will be initially high. An alternative design would use a conventional rigid screen and circuit board. The screen could be protected by a thick plastic sheet and a rubber ridge around the edge. The computer could be made without a conventional chassis, consisting of instead a molded rubber waterproof case (the front of which would be the keyboard) holding the components. This could use existing conventional components from netbook computers and use calculator construction techniques for a very low cost computer.

• XO 3.0 – The XO 3.0 is a totally different approach, to be available in 2012 and at a target price well below $100. It will feature a new design using a single sheet of flexible plastic and will be unbreakable and without holes in it. The XO 3.0 will leapfrog the previously announced (May 2008) XO 2.0, a two-page approach that will not be continued. The inner workings of 3.0 will come from the more modest 1.75. ...


Labels: , , ,

Thursday, November 05, 2009

ASRock Nettop

ASRock ION 330 NettopIn Sydney there is a row of computer and electronic stores behind the Queen Victoria Building which is always worth a visit. Yesterday in Adelong Computers I noticed a small black box with a DVD drive on the front. This turned out to be a ASRock ION 330 Nettop. This is at the upper end of the range of desktop computers derived from Netbook components. It has the Intel Dual Core Atom 330 processor and an NVIDIA ION graphics processor. It is in a metal case, made much like a conventional desktop PC, but only large enough to hold a DVD drive, 3.5 inch hard disk (optional) and some RAM (optional). The unit comes with six USB sockets. The metal case looks very much more robust for a classroom environment than the average flimsy plastic nettop case. One serious omission is a security cable slot (nettops are small and so easy to steal). The ASRock comes with an operating system, which is advantage for low cost installations using Linux.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

One Laptop per Child at Google Sydney

Sugar interface on the OLPCThe monthly talk at the Sydney Linux Users Group (SLUG) this Friday is on the "One Laptop per Child" (OLPC) educational computer for developing nations. The free talk is worth attending even if just to see the venue, which is Google's Sydney office:

General Talk
Mitchell Seaton: The OLPC Battleground

OLPC gears up during the rest of this year with the development of the XO 1.5 laptop, SugarLabs pushes forth with the SoaS (Sugar on a Stick) and Sugar v0.86, and deployments continue around the world. In this talk, Mitchell will discuss the current state of play, future directions and the world-wide support community at the heart of it all. ...

From: SLUG monthly talk August Announcement.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Kogan Agora Netbook now under $500

A few weeks ago purchased a Kogan Agora Netbook Pro, for $569 delivered. The machine has worked well (see my blog posts) and I have adapted to using Linux in place of Windows XP. But perhaps I am one of the few, as Kogan have reduced the price by $100.

About my only complaints with the Agora were:
  1. No printed installation guide and no electronic user manual on the disk (I had to download the manual from the web),
  2. WiFi is difficult to set up and seems slow,
  3. Have not been able to get a USB 3G mobile broadband device to work,
  4. Shiny black top.
What works well:
  1. More than fast enough for email, web browsing and office applications,
  2. Open source office, email and web applications work well,
  3. Updating of software online works better than on Windows XP,
  4. Works well with USB flash devices, printer, DVD drive and external hard disk,
  5. Looks at home at the cyber cafe amongst much more expensive netbooks,
  6. It is is an understated black, not white, or pink.
The Agora works well as my main computer. In the office I plug it into a large screen, keyboard, mouse and Ethernet. The unit fits comfortably on the desk between the external keyboard and LCD screen. When out of the office it is adequate to use with the 10 inch screen and undersize keyboard.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, August 07, 2009

Kogan Agora Netbook Pro Updating Software

There not being FTP software apparent on my new Kogan Agora Pro netbook I started the "add/remove applications" utility to get some. It at this point I started to realise what my Linux using colleagues had been talking about with the ease of Linux maintenance for all these years. I simply selected the gFTP client and it was downloaded and installed in a few seconds.

Emboldened by this, I started the "Synaptic Package Manager" and instructed it to update all of the software installed on the system with any needed updates. This resulted in several hundred files totaling several hundred megabytes being downloaded and installed, taking about 20 minutes. The download and install proceeded with no problems, but afterwards the system did not respond and I had to turn the power off and on, at which point everything seemed to be fine. This was comparable to the process for the Microsoft Windows computer I borrowed recently which had not had any updates installed for about a year.

Labels: , , , ,

Kogan Agora Netbook Pro Video

My Kogan Agora Pro netbook was not playing video: it didn't work and locked the system. But after a few days, without having done anything to fix it, the video is now working. I can use Skype video conferencing (well I could if Virgin Mobile Boradband could supply broadband) and can play Youtube videos. The system now also passes the Ubuntu hardware test utility.

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Kogan Agora Netbook Pro WiFi

With the aid of the manual and a few minutes thinking, I was able to get the wireless Internet access working on the Kogan Agora Pro netbook. For the last few days I have been trying to get it to work from the system administration network utility. After reading the Manual, it turns out that all I had to do was click on the network icon on the top of the screen and select a WiFi network from the list, to connect to. This still took some deductive work, as the manual shows the icon as a radio antenna (pointed), whereas the screen shows it as a computer terminal (a square box). Only after I connected to a wireless network did the square box change to the pointed antenna shape, as shown in the manual.

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Kogan Agora Netbook Pro manual

The Kogan Agora Netbook User Manual gOS Edition is on the web. I came across it while looking on the web for how to connect an external monitor. The manual is a 44 page 1.7 Mbyte PDF file. It is a good manual, but a shame it is not provided on the netbook (at least I couldn't find it on the Netbook). The manual told me what I needed to know: to have an external monitor recognised, I had to first log out and log in again to Linux. With this done my 24" Dell 2405FPW displayed what looked like an enormous desktop, after having looked at the 10 inch screen.

My next problem is to work out how to get the WiFi to work, which the manual has a good section about.

Labels: , , , ,

Kogan Agora Netbook Pro with external DVD Drive

After six days with the unit my impressions of the Kogan Agora Netbook Pro are still mostly good. The unit doesn't include DVD drive, so I purchased a $99 external unit. This comes with two USB plugs: one for data and a second one for addiditional power. I found the Agora supplies enough power thwough the first USB plug not to need the second cable.

When I plugged the DVD drive in, it appeared as a device in the file manager and I could make a data DVD simply by dragging and dropping a file to it and pressing "Burn". There was no need to install any software. The Agora includes Braseo Disk Burning software, but it is not really needed for simple functions. Also I found I could create a Zip archive with a few mouse clicks.

There were some frustrations with the DVD, a faulty old disk caused the drive to continually attempt to read and I could find no way to stop this apart from unplugging the drive and ejecting the disk with a paper-clip.

The problems I have had with the DVD need to be seen in proportion, being no worse than a laptop running Microsoft Windows with a bult in DVD and supplied software.

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Kogan Agora Netbook Pro mostly good

After four days with the unit my first impressions of the Kogan Agora Netbook Pro are borne out: it is mostly good. The unit with 2 Gbytes of memory appears faster than many desktop computers. In terms of styling it stood up to all but the HP and Dell units on display at the Slug meeting at Google Sydney on Friday.

The unit did not come with a carry case and really needs some sort of rubberised slip cover for protection and to make it easier to carry.

The 10 inch screen is very bright and readable and I am able to sit in the library in full sunlight at a window and still read comfortably. With the fonts adjusted to a larger size, the screen is still adequate for typing text into email and blogs. It is not big enough for desktop publishing, but I can comfortably use Moodle for updating student assignment material and mark forum postings from my postgraduate students.

I am not able to yet get the WiFi to work reliably. In the networking utility there is a pulldown menu which should display WiFi units in range but seems to flick up one for a moment and then disappear. As a result I had to use the supplied Windows computer for my SLug presentation at Google Sydney.

The Linux boot sequence is very fast and it is almost as convenient to boot on the Kogan as it was to resume from hibernate on my old Windows XP laptop.

I have adjusted the sensitivity of the tack pad, so it works as expected most of the time. It is still prone to jump the pointer to the left side of the screen occasionally.

An MP3 player plugged into the USB port flawlessly. I am still working on the intricacies of getting the Virgin 3G wireless USB modem to work (but that was always a difficulty with the Windows XP laptop).

The one genuine fault with the Kogan I have found so far is playing video: it doesn't work and locks the system. When I attempted to test Skype video the screen locked up and I have to power off and on. When I tried the Ubuntu hardware test utility, the system locked up on the video test. At some point when I have a high speed Internet connection I will upgrade the operating system and see if that fixes the problem.

Overall the Kogan Agora Netbook Pro is very good (and excellent value for money). Kogan should perhaps consider a desktop version: leaving out the keyboard, touch pad, screen and battery and adding a clamp on VESA mount. Please note that I am aware that some manufacturers make desktop "nettop" computers with similar configurations to net books. But these tend to be over-specified, overpriced and sufficiently different to the netbooks to eliminate potential commonality.

Netbooks and nettops with common hardware and software could make an attractive package for educational institutions: they could issue netbooks to students and support the same hardware and software on desktops. Netbooks with broken screens (a common problem) could even be recycled as nettops.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Kogan Agora Netbook Pro first impressions

My Kogan Agora Netbook Pro ordered at about 12 noon yesterday arrived at 7:30 am today. This is an impressively quick delivery (even if I may have expedited it by saying I would be demonstrating the unit at the Slug meeting at Google Sydney on Friday). First impressions are good.

The unit is surprisingly understated: inside the courier envelope was a plain white cardboard box smaller than a briefcase. Inside the box was one thin sheet of closed cell foam. Impressively the rest of the packing was with recycled paper, not plastic.

The box contained the computer, power supply, battery and a very small bluetooth dongle. There was no printed manual at all. The only difficulty was installing the battery pack. The unit comes with a high capacity six cell battery pack which is an odd double cylinder shape. It took several attempts to work out how this was attached and a photo would have been helpful. When installed the battery pack sticks out of the back of the unit at 45 degrees. This doesn't look very elegant, but makes a handy grip for carrying and also makes the unit very stable on a desk and raises the bottom for ventilation.

The unit is entirely black, which I prefer to white or brightly coloured netbooks: white units show dirt and also are more conspicuous when blogging at odd locations. The screen cover has a very glossy patterned surface (I would have preferred a textured mat finish as for the rest of the unit). The keyboard is average for netbooks and not as good as the Tohsiba and HP ones, but is adequate. Otherwise the unit has the usual 10 inch netbook layout.

One surprise is that the small screen. I am used to a 12 inch narrow screen. The 10 inch Agora screen is much smaller, being the width of a sheet of A4 paper, but slightly less than half the height. The wide format seems to work well for entering text.

There being no manual, I plugged in all the cables, plugged in an Ethernet connection and turn the unit on. There are two buttons on the unit: the smaller has an antenna symbol and I assume has to do with WiFi. Powering up produced the usual Linix boot sequence. I was first asked to a user id and password and there was a delay of less than a minute while the system sorted things out. Of the usual questions I was then asked the only problem was with the location, where I had difficulty selecting "Sydney". I tried clicking on the displayed map but kept ending up in Antarctica, due to the touch pad being too sensitive. But that was about the only problem. A gOS log on screen was then displayed.

Entering my newly nominated user id and password, I was presented with gOS's attractive Apple Mac-ish desktop interface. Some of the desktop icons were perplexing, such as a vase of flowers and a snow dome which seemed to be displaying a weather forecast for Texas.

Most useful is the set of cons across the bottom of the screen. Putting the pointer on an icon enlarges it. By default there is the Firefox browser, Open Office, Skype and a set of Google tools. As with other netbooks, the Google tools are a bit of a cheat, as they just open the browser and take you to the web site of the Google tool.

The Internet access worked flawlessly and Firefox brought up the Yahoo home page for UK by default (perhaps these units were intended for the UK?). Apart from the home page a few other defaults will need to be changed. The default text size is too small and the sensitivity of the tack pad needs to be reduced, but that is about all.

Apart from setting up email, here will be a challenge in finding replacements for the few Microsoft Windows specific applications I use. One of these is accounting software for my business. I noticed that Google accounting is one of the functions on the Kogan, but does it do Australian BAS statements?

ps: One curiosity is the name of the unit: "Agora", which was a town square in ancient Greek cities. Perhaps this suggests the netbook is the place where you now interact with education, government, business and society, as was done in the Agora of the ancient world? I have often walked past the marble block set into the floor of the National Library of Australia, which is from the Library of Pantainos in the Ancient Agora of Athens. The word agoraphobia derives from this. Makers of larger, more expensive and not so functional computers way well suffer from fear of what the Agora may do to their business. ;-)

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Kogan Agora Netbook Pro

I have ordered the Kogan Agora Netbook Pro, 10.2 inch. This is $569 delivered. It is essentially a colne of the MSI Wind (which Aldi also were selling). The Kogan has been configured with a larger 6 cell battery and 2 Gbytes of RAM (the Aldi unit had only a three cell battery and 1 gbyte RAM like most netbooks). The Agora has gOS Linux in place of Ms-Windows XP. This is a bit of a shot in the dark for me: my Twinhead laptop failed and I decided on a replacement in a hurry. Other netbooks I looked at were the Levono Ideapad s10e, Acer Aspire One, MSI Wind U100 and the Benq U101 (all of which are between $640 to $699).

One issue I have is the transition from Windows to Linux. Already I use Firefox and Open Office in place of IE and Microsoft Office. But I had not made the transition of my email from a very old Eudora and my accounting software is still on Windows.

Kogan have a very good e-commerce web site. But I needed telephone sales support (which was also good), because I could not find the button on the web to enter my credit card details. Using Firefox, the button at the bottom of the order form, where you enter your address details, was covered by a "comment" box. I found if I turned off styles, I could then see the button. Kogan need to make a change to the web form to fix this, as this netbook is likely to appeal to open source enthusiasts, who prefer Firefox to Internet Explorer. It would be a shame if the people the netbook appealed to couldn't order it.

ps: One advantage the Kogan Agora has it is only available in black (like a Model T Ford), other units are in a range of colours and often you can be stuck with a garish colour you did not want. My Tiwnhead laptop was white, which drew more attention to it that I wanted. In an extreme case someone in a Greek cafe saw me using it and rushed up to give a monologue about the value of computers in education (thinking the Twinhead was an OLPC).

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Nettops arrive in Australia

Medion E2010D Nettop-PC Akoya from AldiNettops: low cost, low power desktop computers, have started appearing more in Australia. Two examples are the Medion E2010D Nettop-PC Akoya from Aldi for A$699 and the ACER e-Machine EL1600 desktop PC at JB HiFi for A$594 (after a 49 cash back). The ASUS EEE PC nettop has been available for some months, but only from a few stores. The ASUS unit may not have general appeal because it lacks a DVD drive and it was in too small a box: if you are buying a desktop computer you want to see you are getting your money's worth.

The Medion and ACER units have DCD drives and come in a slim tower case. These units also come with a wide-screen LCD monitor, keyboard and mouse. The ACER is the more conventional looking of the two with a larger case, standard keyboard and also external stereo speakers included in the package. Curiously, eMachines has its own Australian web site which does not appear to mention ACER.

The Medion is more interesting: it has a a very slim case (so slim it needs a stand to hold it upright) with WiFi and a compact keyboard. The Medion's speakers are integrated in the wide screen LCD display. While the Medion is the more elegant of the two, the ACER might sell better because it looks more like a "normal" desktop computer. The Medion could be good for cyber cafes and schools, as the slim processor and keybaord would not take up valuable desk space.

Both the Medion and Acer units are more highly specifid than needed for just email and web browsing. The DVD drives and some other components could be omitted to save A$100. But perhaps then no one would buy them.

MEDION® Akoya® E2010D

• Intel® Atom™ 230 processor 1.6 GHz, 512 KB Cache
• Intel® Graphics Media Accelerator 950 on-board
• 160 GB hard disk
• Multiformat Dual Layer DVD/CD-Burner
• 8 Channel audio out
• Gigabit LAN 10/100/1000 MBit/s
• Microsoft® Windows® XP Home Edition
• Wireless LAN 802.11 n-Draft2 with up to 300 MBit/s. 802.11 b/g compatible. For full performance an IEEE 802.11n-Draft router is required (not supplied), 300MBit/s gross, net max. 75MBit/s.
• 4-in-1 card reader SD, MMC, XD and MS/MS-Pro3
• Front connections: 2 x USB 2.0, 1 x Headphone, 1 x Microphone
• Rear connections: 4 x USB 2.0, 1 x LAN (RJ45), 1 x D-Sub VGA, 1 x AC adapter
• Audio: 1 x Microphone, 1 x Line In, 1 x Front Line Out, 1 x Rear Line Out, 1 x Center/Subwoofer Line Out, 1 x Surround Line Out
• Dimensions (without stand , without WLAN antenna): 300 mm (H) x 65 mm (W) x 270 mm (D)

Widescreen LCD TFT Monitor
MEDION® Akoya® E53002D

• Visible screen size: 18.5"
• Format: 16:9
• Maximum resolution: 1366 x 768
• Typical response time: 5 ms
• Typical contrast ratio: 1000:1
• Typical brightness: 250 cd/m2
• Multilingual On Screen Display
• 2 integrated speakers
• Connections: 1 x VGA In, 1 x Audio In, 1 x Power supply
• Dimensions: 344 mm (H) x 450 mm (W) x 195 mm (D)

Software Package:

OEM Versions, preinstalled and/or on CD/DVD or recovery DVD
• Microsoft® Windows® XP Home Edition (incl. Service Pack 3) preinstalled and on recovery DVD
• Microsoft® Works 9.0 ...

2 year warranty ...


Intel® Atom processor
Operating system * Genuine Windows® XP Home Edition
Platform * Intel® Atom™ processor
Chipset * Intel® 945GC Express Chipset
System memory * Up to 1 GB of DDR2 400/533/667 MHz SDRAM (single-channel support on one DIMMs)
Hard drive * Serial ATA hard disk 160 GB
Optical drive * SuperMulti with Labelflash™ technology
Graphics * Intel® Graphics Media Accelerator 950
Audio * Embedded high-definition audio
Networking * LAN: 10/100 Ethernet
I/O ports * Front I/O ports:
o Four USB 2.0 ports
o Multi-in-one card reader
o High-definition headphone and microphone jacks
* Rear I/O ports:
o Four USB 2.0 ports
o PS/2 keyboard and mouse ports
o Three audio jacks
o Ethernet (RJ-45) port
o D-Sub port
o COM port
o Parallel port

I/O expansion
* PCI Express® x1 slot

* eMachines Recovery Center
* Microsoft® Office Home and Student 2007 (Trial)
* Microsoft Works® 9.0 ...

Dimensions * 265 (H) x 315 (D) x 100 (W) mm (without bezel)
Power supply * 220 W ...

Labels: , , ,

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.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

ANU Green ICT Seminar Series 2009

This is to invite nominations for presentations in the ANU Green ICT Seminar Series. A six month program of weekly seminars is to be held on Wednesdays 2 to 3pm at the Australian National University in Canberra, as part of the Masters course "Green ICT Strategies" (COMP7310) . The weekly topics for the seminars have been chosen to match what the students are learning that week. Members of the ICT and related professions are invited to nominate to give a presentation, or simply to attend and discuss the issues with the students. There is no charge for attendance at the seminars, however seating priority will be given to the students enrolled in the course.

22 July: Understanding climate science

Understand environmental, social and business context for sustainability, and overview of background, boundaries.

29 July: The Global ICT Footprint

Estimate the embodied carbon and the footprint from use of telecommunications, data centres and desktop PCs.

5 August: Enabling ICT

Investigate how ICT systems can reduce energy and materials use by improving the efficiency of business systems by replacing the movement of goods with information (dematerialisation), improve the efficiency of machines (smart motor systems), logistics, buildings and grids.

12 August: Energy saving - Data Centres and Client Equipment

Computers and telecommunications equipment contributes about 2% to greenhouse gas emissions. Look at how data centres and client equipment can be made more efficient.

19 August: Materials Use

Energy reduction is only part of making a Green ICT system, there is also the issue of use of materials and hazardous substances.

26 August: Methods and tools

Ensure that appropriate methods and tools for the planning, development, operation, management and maintenance of systems are adopted and used effectively throughout the organisation.

2 September: Business process improvement

Recommend alternative solutions which reduce environmental impact, assesses feasibility, and recommends new approaches. ICT has the potential to provide significant environmental improvements, by replacing energy and materials consuming processes with more efficient ICT ones. How do you analyse business processes to identify alternative solutions which reduce environmental impact, assesses feasibility, and recommends new approaches?

9 September: Improving Data Centre Energy Efficiency

Investigate how to implement and assess data centre efficiency.

16 September: Enterprise Architecture

The business of business is business, so any environmental goals have to fit into the systems capability strategy which meets the strategic requirements of the business. How do you incorporate Green ICT into the models and plans to drive forward the strategy, taking advantage of opportunities to improve business performance, as well as environmental benefits?

23 September: Procurement

Much of the environmental benefits come about by selecting the right products and services. How do you write ICT requirement documents to ensure that your hardware, software and services suppliers provide green products?

14 October: Energy Star Program and Quality Management

Ensure that the processes for producing a product or service sustainability will do so to a consistent standard. Investigate the fit between US EPA's Energy Star Program and those of Quality Management Systems.

21 October: Compliance audit

Assess the conformity of corporate systems to environmental standards, such as ISO 14000 series of environment management standards, Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT), and Energy Star Program.

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, May 18, 2009

Green web servers with netbook components

According to media reports Dell will use the same type of low-power processors used in netbooks for its XS11-VX8 server. This is intended for Web hosting applications which do not need CPU intensive computations. It may spark a new market in low power, low cost servers both in small business and for large capacity green data centres.

The Dell XS11-VX8 server will use Via's U2250 1.3GHz "Nano" process
or. The 2U rack mount case will hold up to 12 server boards. Each board has one Nano processor, up to 3GB of RAM, a 2.5 inch disk (or flash RAM equivalent), a SD card slot for boot software and two Gigabit Ethernet ports.

The conventional thinking on servers has been high density specialisation: pack as much processing capacity as possible onto a processing server and disk capacity into a data server and then try to load share it efficiently. Dell's approach is similar to that used for Google's servers, where each disk gets its own processing.

This approach opens up the server market to companies which make PC motherboards. There is the possibility for further simplification and cost reduction in design. The Dell design still looks over engineered compared to Google's servers. Dell use metal brackets and a front panel on its server modules. Google use Velcro to hold some components on its server and flying leads.

This approach could be applied to server modules, which could consist of bare circuit boards, with the connectors soldered on (no metal cabinet). The disk drives could be held on with Velcro. The modules could be held in a Eurocard type of rack, but with no back plane connectors, just plug in cables on the boards.

Server densities have got a little silly with ultra high density servers requiring so much power and cooling that most data centers cannot accommodate them. Also the amount of air which has to be pumped through the servers increases the power consumption and makes them dangerous to stand near due to the noise.

Instead low cost web servers could be designed to have generous spacing between the components. This would allow cooling with few fans. These low power servers could be placed in racks between the high power servers, in the slots which current have to be left blank, to avoid overloading the cooling and power systems.

For very small scale applications one server board could be held in a snap together plastic clamshell case.

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Intel Low Power Motherboard

Intel have released the D945GSEJT Mini-ITX motherboard. This is one of a range of small low power board which can be used to make very small, low cost desktop computers. Other manufacturers, such as VIA, make similar boards, but Intel, as a well know brand will make these devices more respectable for corporate users. These units use the Atom processor, made popular in netbook computers and require no fan. They use a plug pack power supply and can be placed in a case about the size of an external DVD drive (or an Apple Mac Mini). The problem for Intel is that as this is enough computer for the average office worker or casual home user, who is going to buy their more expensive products?

Labels: , ,

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Linux sneaks onto NSW student netbooks

Lenovo IdeaPad netbookNews reports indicate that Lenovo IdeaPad S10e netbooks with Windows XP have been selected for NSW secondary school students. While it would seem that Linux misses out, the retail IdeaPads also come with "Splashtop", an instant on version of Linux with simplified applications.

The IdeaPad has had mixed reviews, but should stand up to student use more than many portable computers. The first batch will have Windows XP installed. This is supposed to be later upgraded to Windows 7, but that would be a very complex undertaking. If the netbooks also come with Linux, then a better option might be to upgrade that and keep Windows XP, for legacy applications.

While not specifically designed for students, Splashtop's simplified interface has similarities to the OLPC's Sugar child friendly graphical user interface and so may be better for education. Splashtop may also be less demanding of system resources, allowing the limited capacity of the netbook to perform better. It would also be immune to the many Windows security attacks.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Google Android on netbooks

According to PC World ("Report: HP May Offer Android in Netbooks Over Windows" by Agam Shah, IDG News Service, 31 March 2009), HP may be planning to provide Google's "Android" operating system on netbooks. This is not as radical as it sounds, as Android is just Google's version of Linux. Other versions of Linux are already offered on netbooks and some of these come with Google software and services. However, it is significant in that Google is a well known brand. This would give customers the confidence to buy a computer which does not have Microsoft Windows installed.

In practical terms Android would be most useful for low end netbooks with small screens and desktop Internet appliances designed for casual web browsing. Android was designed for smart phones and so has a simple "big button" interface. The line between smart phones and Internet appliances may well blur in the process. It should be possible to dock the new generation of smart phones and use them with an external screen and keyboard as a desktop computer replacement. Android could also be installed in TV sets to provide casual web browsing at low cost.

Labels: , ,

Friday, February 20, 2009

Google Android Phones for Australian MPs

HTC Magic smartphoneYesterday Senator Lundy talked about her experience trying a Blackberry smartphone as part of a trial for members of the Australian Parliament. She commented that this worked better than earlier phones issued but still had limitations. I suggested they look at the new Google Android phones, such as the HTC Magic . Vodafone will be initially selling it in Europe (not yet available in Australia, but I asked HTC for a test unit).

Google Android Running On Eee PC 701The Senator mentioned that with a workable smartphone she has much less need to turn on her laptop. One possibility is to run the same Android software on the laptop and the phone. Apart from the convenience of the user being able to use the same interface and applications, it would allow for very low power, low cost netbook and nettop computers to be used (under $300).

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Custom Dual Core Nettop

Intel D945GCLF2 Essential Series Mini-ITX DDR2 667 Intel Graphics Integrated Atom Processor Desktop BoardWhile there are ready made low power desktop computers becoming available, the article "Build your own Nettop" (Roydon Cerejo, Techtree, Jan 24, 2009 1021 hrs IST), points out that you can custom build your own. Individuals can have their local computer store put one together for them and organisations can specify such systems for bulk purchase. The Intel D945GCLF is a Mini-ITX processor board (about $US73) with the same low power Atom processor commonly used in netbooks and nettop computers. However, there now also the Intel D945GCLF2 with a dual-core Intel Atom processor for a little more (about $US92).

As well as the processor board, what also will be needed is RAM, such as the 2Gb Kingston KVR667D2N5/2G
(about $US25) and a case such as the 4BAY Desktop Blk 250W ATX12V Mitx. Roydon suggests a 80 Gb disk, but compact flash memory, as used in many netbooks, is an alternative to a hard disk. One way to do this is with a Sata Compact Flash Adapter and a 4GB Memory Card. A DVD drive could also be fitted, but most office workers will not need this.

Also, as Petersham TAFE teach their students, it is feasible to retrofit an old PC case with a low power board (and optionally flash memory). But before doing this you should check the
efficiency of the existing power supply in the case, as it is likely to be much larger than needed for the low power board and also less efficient than a new one. To keep the workers happy, and the costs down, it might be worth fitting the components in a new large size PC case. This is likely to have a more efficient power supply than an old one. While most of the case will be empty space, the user will not be able to tell this from the outside and feel they are getting a full size computer, not a little toy one.

Labels: , ,

Monday, January 26, 2009

MSI WindBOX LCD Mounted Nettop

MSI WindBOX Nettop mounted on the back of an LCD ScreenMSI have announced that their WindBOX low power desktop computer (nettop) will be available in the first quarter of 2009. This unit is similar to the ASUS Eee Box. It is a paperback book sized box designed to be clipped to the back of a LCD screen and replace a desktop computer. It is essentially the components of a sub-notebook PC, minus the screen, keyboard and battery.

Just as netbooks have become very popular as low cost replacements for laptop computers, these nettops should become very popular replacing many casual use desktop computers in homes, schools, libraries, cybercafes and offices. If a computer is being used mostly for web browsing and some office applications, then there is no need for a high power desktop computer. The small nettop units will save desk space and reduce security worries. This assumes the units will be priced lower than conventional desktop PCs, just as nettops have been cheaper than laptops. The WindBox is fan-less and while it has provision for a SATA II disk, could operate from solid state flash storage, making a low power and robust unit.


CPU TypeIntel® Atom™ Processor
ProcessorIntel® Atom™ N270 1.6GHz (TDP 2.5W)
ChipsetIntel® 945GSE + ICH7M
‧ Memory1 GB/ 1 x DDR2 SO-DIMM 553/667, up to 1 G
‧ Graphic EngineIntel® GMA 950 3D Graphic Engine
Display Port1 x VGA
USB3 x USB 2.0 Port
LAN1 x Realtek 10/100 LAN
Audio2 jacks Mic In; Head Phone Out
Antenna1 x SMA Connector (Optional)
Card Reader3-in-1 (SD/MMC/Memory Stick)
Storage 1 x SATA II
ApplicationDigital Signage, Thin Client, Low Cost PC
Power Source DC 20V,40W
Form Factor 180 x 255 x 19 mm, 1.08 Kg
Operating Temperature0°C~35°C
Storage Temperature-20°C~80 °C
Regulatory ComplianceUL, CSA (cUL), TUV, TUV-CB, CE-LVD, CE, FCC Class B, BSMI, VCCI, C-Tick, RoHS Compliant

From: Overview, WindBOX, MSI, 2009

Labels: ,

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.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Android Desktop Phone

NIMble Concept Desk PhoneProduct design company Touch Revolution has displayed the "NIMble Concept Desk Phone", a computer with a 7 inch touch screen running Google's Android. Similar to other Internet Appliances, such as the 3Com Ergo Audrey the NIMble is intended to be given away with a monthly phone contract. The unit is shown with no keyboard, relying on its touch screen, which Touch Revolution specialise in. Previous Internet appliances failed in the market, but NIMble might have more of a chance as it uses now well established Linux software and can use the brand recognition of Google's Android. However, the unit has a non-adjustable screen (dictated by the touch interface) and no keyboard and is likely to cost more that the numerous models of netbook computer.

Main Processor Minimum 600MHz StrongARM
Memory 128 MB DDR RAM, 512 MB NAND Flash
Expanded Storage SD Card Slot
OS Included Embedded Linux
Middleware Included Android Application Framework
Screen Type TFT LCD
Screen DIMENSIONS 4.3”, 7”, 10” Diagonal (Other custom sizes supported)
Resolution 480 x 272, 800 x 480 and higher
Touch Sensor Type Multi-Touch Projective Capacitive Glass Surface
Connectivity 802.11 b/g WiFi, Bluetooth, USB 1.0/2.0, Ethernet
Audio Stereo Speakers, Stereo Headset Jack, Directional Microphone,
Bluetooth™ 2.0/2.1 + EDR stereo (A2DP) range of 10 meters
Camera 2MP CMOS Camera, 15fps full resolution video, 30fps 1MP video

From: Platform Sheet, Touch Revolution, 4 January 2009

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Dell Latitude On is a Smartphone in your PC

In "Digital Domain 30 Seconds to Boot Up?" (NY Times, 1 November 2008), Randall Stross writes: "... what I want is a machine that’s ready in about a second, just like my smartphone". But what the readers may not realize is the Dell Latitude On feature mentioned is essentially that: the same type of low power processor as used in a smartphone, installed inside the laptop.

What will be interesting is how many people find they can get along day-to-day with the low power mode. If ASUS "Eee Box" desktop is as market leading as their Netbook was, then low power, low cost desktops may become mainstream. But even smaller and cheaper computers are feasible.

If you, they can replace their expensive desktop computer with a $99 unit, which just has the same sort of processor and memory as a smart phone, in a cigarette packet size case . Such computers have been sold for years as "Thin Clients" but have been hampered by the perception they are not real computers. With "cloud computing" becoming fashionable, these may soon replace most computers .

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Android desktop PC

Assuming the Google sponsored Android software platform becomes popular, it might be feasable to use this for low cost netbook and netPCs. Android is based on the Linux kernel and has a language for developing applications. It is intended for smart phones, such as the T-Mobile_G1. It should therefore run very well on a small notebook or desktop compters. These would be much like a thin client computer and could in theory run other opertating systems and applications. But thin clients and small computers have not sold well, being seen as cut down limited function computers. If instead they are see as high performance versions of smart phones, they may be more popular. If the netPC included a VoIP interface for an analog telephone, it coulod replace the desktop computer in most offices.

Labels: , ,

Monday, October 27, 2008

OLPC Canberra Day

Greeting from the CASE hosted One Laptop per Child Open Day in Canberra 27 October 2008. They have about a dozen OLPC XO one laptop per child computers for people to try out. At 5.00pm Pia Waugh of Waugh Partners will speak about the One Laptop per Child Australia Foundation and her ongoing involvement with the Free and Open Source Software community.

The OLPC is a low power sub-notebook designed for children. It was originally intended to be a $US100 computer, but the current cost is about $350. The OLPC project would claim that the project is not really about creating a laptop, but a children's computer for learning. However, my view is that this is a sub-notebook computer, much like the netbooks by ASUS and others.

The hardware and software on the computer is different to the typical sub-notebook. There is no hard disk, a robust brightly coloured case and long range WiFi. The screen is transflective, being a backlight colour screen indoors and monochrome reflective outdoors. The screen can be folded back to make it an e-book.

The XO runs a version of Fedora Linux with an icon based interface ("Sugar") different to the usual Apple Mac/Microsoft Windows interface. The WiFi is programmed to be part of a mesh network to enable a group of computers to communicate without the need for a backbone network. The computers can also share one Internet connection, such as at a school.

The computers are frustrating to use for adults used to a Microsoft Windows or Apple Mac computer. The tiny rubber keyboard is difficult to type on with big fingers and the icons used are different to the typical Windows ones.

The hardware appears very robust, but the software still has problems. Even is a short test of a few minutes, a text based error screen appeared. The system quickly recovered and restored the graphical interface, but still it was disconcerting and would be even so for someone has never seen a terminal window.

The OLPC is designed to change the face of education in developing nations. However, it is not clear if this USA developed idea of what developed nations need is what they need or want.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Aldi Netbook Computer

Aldi supermarkets in Australia are offering the Medion E1210 (know in Europe as the Medion Akoya Mini) small laptop ("Netbook") computer for $AU599 from 23 October 2008. This has an Intel Atom N270 1.6 Ghz processor, 1 Gb RAM, 160 Gb disk, 10-inch LCD screen, webcam, Wireless LAN, bluetooth (via a dongle), SD card reader, 3xUSB. It runs Microsoft Windows XP, and Corel WordPerfect. Smarthouse have a review of the unit and suggest it is from the same maker as the MSI Wind, which has been well recieved. One problem is that the Aldi unit has only a smaller three cell battery, with less than 90 minutes running time.

Labels: ,

Quicktop instant-on operating systems for green ICT

Splashtop, BlackTop and Windows PE are cut down operating systems being used to provide quick access to a few frequently used applications on desktop and laptop computers. The could be a much more energy efficient computers. The idea is that you can quickly browse the web, play a video or check your email without having to wait for the main operating system to boot. On some laptops, such as Dell's, a separate low power processor is used, which greatly increases battery life. If such applications prove popular, then the main computer and operating system could be left unused most of the time.

It may seem bizarre to have a computer with a powerful processor and hard disk left unused, but is much the same as is done with high performance motor vehicles. The four wheel drive mechanisms of most four wheel drive vehicles are not used, as they drive on sealed roads. However, the drivers still value the availability of the system. Similarly some car makers have introduced systems for shutting down cylinders in car engines, so for example an eight cylinder engine operates as a three cylinder engine. It would make far more financial and environmental sense to simply buy a two wheel drive car, with a small engine (my car has a 1 litre three cylinder engine for example). Buying an off road vehicle with a large engine and then drive it on suburban streets makes not practical sense. However, people still buy these vehicles and use them. So it the manufacturers try to make them as efficient as possible. In the same way it may make sense to provide notebook and desktop computers with instant on operating systems and processors, which are what is used most of the time.

It may be feasible to retrofit desktop computers with low power instant on functionality. This would consist of a small nettop PC which was inserted between the peripherals and the main PC. The screen, keyboard, mouse, printer and other devices would be plugged into the nettop and then than would be plugged into the main computer. Most of the time the user would be interacting with the nettop computer and operating system. On those rare occasions when they wanted to do something it was not capable of, the nettop would start up the main computer. In reality this would hardly ever happen. Also, of course, it would make more sense to use a shared central virtual computer, not have one on every desk. But in many cases it is not possible to convince the user, or their ICT staff to give up the desktop PC.

For offices, one workable arrangement might be to build the nettop computer into a VoIP telephone handset. This would then have perhiperals, inlcuding a screen, keyboard and mouse plugged into it. An optional desktop computer could also be connected.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Digital Education Revolution Goes Linux

In a move that may make the federal government's Digital Education Revolution more economically and environmentally sustainable, Slashdot reports that NSW laptops for schools may be pre-installed with open source software. The original report appears to come from the Australian newspaper: "NSW considers giving students Linux laptops" (Fran Foo, October 14, 2008). The NSW Secondary Principals' Council president, is reported to have suggested packages such as Edubuntu, the education version of Ubuntu. Coincidently, next week Pia Waugh from the One Laptop per Child Australia Foundation will speak in Canberra at CASE AGM, at Volunteering ACT.

Labels: , , ,

One Laptop per Child Open Day in Canberra

Pia Waugh from the One Laptop per Child Australia Foundation will speak in Canberra at CASE AGM, at Volunteering ACT, 27 October 2008:
One Laptop Per Child Open Day 10 September 2008

On 27 October 2008 from 3.00pm to 5.30pm, prior to our AGM, CASE and Volunteering ACT will be hosting Canberra's first One Laptop per Child Open Day.

Everyone is invited to come and see how volunteers and technology have combined to empower students around the world. This is rare opportunity for hands on play with these unique computers and to hear about the new Foundation making them available in Australia.

At 5.00pm Pia Waugh of Waugh Partners will speak about the One Laptop per Child Australia Foundation and her ongoing involvement with the Free and Open Source Software community. This is a unique opportunity to hear about the little laptop creating an education revolution around the world.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Nettops the new desktop PC?

Intel have released a Dual-Core version of its Atom Processor and computer makers have started releasing small low power low cost desktop PCs based on it. Such devices already existed with Via processors, such as the Zonbu. AMD are following with their AMD UVC processors. But Intel's name will do most to popularise such products. Just as there has been a flood of small low cost "Netbook" notebook computers, I expect we will see a flood of small low cost Nettop desktop computers within a few months. These may replace most sales of desktop PCs within a year.

If you have fast Internet connection for access to storage and net applications and are not trying to do anything needing a lot of power (such as video editing or video games), then a Nettop should be more than adequate as a home or office computer. However, users may be less forgiving of a limited function and performance desktop PC, than they are a tiny notebook. When using a notebook you can see the advantage in portability, traded off for performance and storage. But a Nettop is going to look just like any other desktop computer (apart from the tiny little processor box).

Apart from low cost, one of the advantages of the Nettop/Netbook computers is low power use. But the

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Cloud computers for Australia

Suhit Anantula sent me a message to say they write a weblog "World is green" are the co-founder of TechNovus Corp in Adelaide. The company is launching two "cloud computers" in the in Australia in a few months time. These are similar to the Zonbu Linux computer: the unit is a small low power computer with enough memory to run a web browser and desktop applications. The main storage and some (or all) applications are provided remotely via the Internet.

TechNovus are releasing two models: the Nova Navigator uses about 22 Watts, about the same as the Zonbu and the current crop of netbook low power notebook computers, less than a typical desktop computer uses when in standby mode. The Nova NetPC is claimed to use only 5W of energy and appears to be similar to a thin client computer: that is about all it runs is a web browser, with everything else run remotely.

The hardware is from Indian company Novatium Solutions. However, the issue is not so much with the hardware, which is derived from that of notebook computers, but the business model. Zonbu and similar units assume that consumers will be willing to pay an ongoing fee for online storage and applications, much as they pay by the month to use a mobile phone. However, consumers who already have computers are not used to having to keep paying for them. Like cars, PCs give the illusion that once you buy it you can drive for free, forgetting the cost of fuel, registration, tools, insurance and taxes, or in the case of PCs the cost of software upgrades and maintenance.

It will be interesting to see how TechNovus do convincing Australian consumers that low power, low cost network computers make sense here.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Dell Inspiron Mini 9 Netbook

The Dell Inspiron Mini 9 "Netbook" low cost sub-notebook computer is due out in a week in the USA for $US349. This is a similar low cost low power device to the MSI Wind, Acer Aspire One and ASUS Eee PC. Dell offer the lowest cost version of the Mini 9 with Ubuntu Linux installed and Windows XP on the higher optioned units ($15 extra for Windows XP). It will be interesting to see if Dell bring out a desktop version of the Mini 9, as ASUS did with the E-Box.

One option is a white, rather than the standard black case, for $US25 extra. This seems a odd sort of extra cost option. The Eee PC was made available in a range of colours. Notebook makers might be better off making a coloured consumer installable cover available, is is done with some mobile phones. The Wikipedia has a good comparison table of netbooks.

Labels: ,

Monday, August 11, 2008

MSI Wind Low Cost Subnotebook

The MSI Wind, has joined Acer Aspire One as a low cost Linux subnotebook in Australian stores. It appears very similar to the Acer, but with a slightly larger screen (10 inch versus 8.9 inch screen), looking very like a bigger ASUS Eee PC. There are some other additions, such as LED backlighting for the screen and Bluetooth for the Windows version. The Wind is likely to be sold under several different OEM brands, with different specifications.


Thursday, August 07, 2008

Acer Aspire One Low Cost Linux Subnotebook

The Acer Aspire One low cost Linux subnotebook has appeared in Australian stores with little fuss compared to the ASUS Eee PC. A flyer in my letterbox is offering the model with an Intel Atom 1.6GHz processor, 512MB RAM and 8GB flash memory for $AU399 (after a $100 cash back). There is also a Windows XP, 1GB RAM, 120 GB hard disk model offered on pre-order. All the units so far have a 8.9 inch screen, WiFi and web cam. There is a wide bezel around the screen suggesting later models may have a larger screen. The Aspire One got mixed reviews, having a bigger keyboard than the ASUS Eee 901, but shorter battery life.

ASUS have created a problem for all 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. ACER are describing the Aspire One as a "Netbook" and "Internet Centric Device" to distinguish it from their commercial and home notebook ranges.

Processor and Chipset Intel® Atom™ processor N270 (1.60GHz, 533MHz, 512KB L2 Cache) Mobile Intel 945GSE Chipset (DDR2 400/533MHz)
Operating System Linpus™ Linux®, Genuine Microsoft® Windows XP® Home
LCD Type & Size 8.9" WSVGA High-Brightness LED Backlight Widescreen Display, support 1024 x 600 pixel resolution
Memory Up to 1GB DDR2 533MHz SDRAM
Storage 8GB Flash Drive (Linpus™ Linux®) 120GB Hard Drive (Microsoft® Windows XP® Home)
Storage Bay Dedicated SD™ Carder reader for storage expansion
I/O Interfaces 1 x 5-in-1 card reader (SD™, MMC, MS, MS PRO, xD)
3 x USB 2.0 ports
1 x External display (VGA) port
1 x Headphone/speaker/line-out jack
1 x Microphone-in jack
1 x Ethernet (RJ-45) port
1 x DC-in jack for AC adapter
Audio High-definition audio support, two built-in stero speakers, MS-Sound compatible, built-in microphone
System Power Battery Type: 24W 2000 mAh 3-cell Li-ion battery pack
Battery Life:Up to 3 with a 3 Cell Li-ion battery**
AC Adapter:3-pin 30W AC adapter
Weight and Dimensions 249 (W) x 170 (D) x 29 (H) mm 985 g
Compliance C-Tick (AS/NZS 60950)
Standard Warranty Australia - 1 Year Courier Pickup and Return ...
RRP (incl. GST) From $599

From: Product Specification Aspire One, ACER, 2008


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?

Labels: , ,

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

Labels: ,

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.

Labels: ,