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Handhelds GUI Open Source Linux

New Handheld Computer Is 100% Open Source 195

Posted by kdawson
from the small-wonder dept.
metasonix writes "While the rest of the industry has been babbling on about the iPad and imitations thereof, Qi Hardware is actually shipping a product that is completely open source and copyleft. Linux News reviews the Ben NanoNote (product page), a handheld computer apparently containing no proprietary technology. It uses a 366 MHz MIPS processor, 32MB RAM, 2 GB flash, a 320x240-pixel color display, and a Qwerty keyboard. No network is built in, though it is said to accept SD-card Wi-Fi or USB Ethernet adapters. Included is a very simple Linux OS based on the OpenWrt distro installed in Linksys routers, with Busybox GUI. It's apparently intended primarily for hardware and software hackers, not as a general-audience handheld. The price is right, though: $99."
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New Handheld Computer Is 100% Open Source

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  • by Pojut (1027544) on Friday June 04, 2010 @09:48AM (#32458318) Homepage

    Emulators, remote desktop control, a nice little side companion for reference while playing Video Games/MMOs, etc...

  • by jgagnon (1663075) on Friday June 04, 2010 @09:49AM (#32458336)

    It would be a LOT more useful for remote desktop if it had built-in networking. /sigh

  • Re:Open Pandora (Score:2, Insightful)

    by FlyingBishop (1293238) on Friday June 04, 2010 @09:53AM (#32458400)

    The Pandora hardware is closed once you get to the level of individual chips, though it's not that big a deal for someone trying to build one.

  • Re:Open Pandora (Score:2, Insightful)

    by kiberovca (524346) on Friday June 04, 2010 @09:58AM (#32458484)
    So is the MIPS. I'd say there is not so much difference between the two. Yes, the Qi has all of the blueprints, but the Pandora can be actually used for a bit more than just as an example of the open design. I applaud the people behind the Qi, but the device has to be usefull too.
  • iPad? Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheOV (1640259) * on Friday June 04, 2010 @09:59AM (#32458506) Homepage
    I don't think this device deserves to be compared to the "iPad and imitations thereof" - A) it's not a tablet; B) it's far less powerful; C) it doesn't even have any built-in network capability, which is what the iPad and its following are intended for; and D) it's horribly ugly. That being said, it looks like an excellent little device to hack on, and a big bonus is that it has USB ports! I may actually pick one up one of these days.
  • Ugh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TyroneShoe (912878) on Friday June 04, 2010 @10:11AM (#32458674)
    "While the rest of the industry has been babbling on about the iPad" the geeks have been babbling about any random piece of vaporware that is remotely flat and meant to be touched as the next "killer"
  • by JThaddeus (531998) on Friday June 04, 2010 @10:19AM (#32458822)
    For what I want, this is the right track. I'm not interested in paying several hundred dollars for something that binds me to Amazon or Barnes & Nobel or Apple or whomever. I learned that lesson from having an iPod. It was a generous Christmas gift and I get a lot of use out of it, but managing it in my Linux-only world is a pain. My idea for an e-book reader is something I call Gutenberg friendly: It has what I need to download and display text, HTML, PDF, and Postscript files that I might download from Project Gutenberg or other open sites as well as software manuals. That and a $100 price tag could win me over to the e-book world.
  • by tepples (727027) <<tepples> <at> <gmail.com>> on Friday June 04, 2010 @10:34AM (#32459062) Homepage Journal

    Yeah, but if you want to run anything on it, you have to get approved by the Free Store. The draconian linux overlords will reject anything that isn't 100% free, open, copyleft, and blindingly geeky.

    You've described the policy of the "main" components of Fedora, Debian, and Ubuntu repositories. (For example, see the descriptions of Ubuntu components [ubuntu.com].) But because the operating system is free, you are free to add additional repositories, such as non-free and contrib (Debian) or restricted and multiverse (Ubuntu). Blocking the user of a consumer product from adding repositories would be tivoization, which GPLv3 prohibits.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday June 04, 2010 @11:22AM (#32459670) Journal
    From having done a fair amount of fiddling with the NSLU2(266MHz ARM, 32MB RAM, 8MB onboard flash, 2 USB 2.0 ports(with the ability to hack another couple on) 1 10/100 ethernet) RAM ended up being the big kicker for a lot of applications.

    With USB, you can trivially add terabytes of mass storage(or in the case of this portable, SD cards up to 32 gigs are cheap), and the onboard 8MB is enough for a kernel and initrd; but if you start swapping into a swapfile located on a USB HDD, your performance will tank.

    With a 233MHz ARM, you can run an entire network's worth of services for a smallish household of users(RADIUS server, file server, VPN endpoint, SFTP, mostly-static web server, etc.) for 2-5 people, no problem; but you'll have a harder time doing that in 32MB of RAM, without serious effort that just isn't justified by the cost of 64 or 128MB. Adding a framebuffer to the equation isn't going to help any.
  • Re:Open Pandora (Score:5, Insightful)

    by horza (87255) on Friday June 04, 2010 @11:35AM (#32459806) Homepage

    You might not like the whole concept of "profit" but without a profit motive and some semblance of even temporary exclusivity, no competent company will ever develop an innovative product.

    That's a bit ironic posting on Slashdot (one of the first public blogs which gave its source away, not initially written for profit), read in a browser (not written for profit), all via the web using HTML over HTTP (again not written for profit). There are plenty of other innovative products not initially written for profit (Napster/Kazaa/BitTorrent spring to mind).

    Hiring real talent requires money and despite what everyone says, most techie people will not produce the same kind of quality on an open source project as they would on a closed source one where they are getting paid a lot of money.

    You are confusing quality with speed of development, and time with money. No matter how good the techie, he still has to put food on the table. If his OS project isn't paying the bills then he has less time he is able to devote to it. You can easily flip the argument around and say an OS project is always going to come up with the best possible product because he has no time limit whereas a commercial product has a deadline to get out of the door. Both arguments are false, as each has its own unique set of constraints.

    One of the major downfalls of all of those "open" initiatives is that, once you go beyond basic things like a web browser with an well established UI paradigm or core services, the design by committee effect drags down not only innovation but quality of the end product.

    I do not believe this to be true. A good leader with a clear vision and realistic project management will lead to a successful end product. Linus Torvalds has managed to create a superior operating system to Microsoft, who employ thousands and pay very well. There are plenty of examples where OS are clear winners and others where proprietary are clear winners (eg Photoshop).

    Ultimately the problem is not about money but rather a herd mentality in open source.

    Oh please, that is nothing to do with open source. Any time there is a successful proprietary product there are always clones. Most of them pretty bad. If you want to look at herd mentality, look at all the proprietary developers flocking to write for the iPhone despite the fact their product may get canned by Apple for absolutely no reason.

    With a closed product, the employees have some incentive to come up with the best possible product because bonuses could hinge on good sales and because any team member could get rewarded even more if they came up with a brilliant innovation which set the product apart from the field.

    I've worked as a programmer most of my life, and I've always had a fixed salary. Share options sometimes, but that's not the same as a bonus. Possibly myself and my colleagues are exceptions, but the biggest motivator for the people we see around us is the risk of getting fired.

    I am not arguing against that money motivates some people, but do not agree with the supposed inherent flaws you see in open source vs closed source.

    Phillip.

  • Re:Open Pandora (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lumpy (12016) on Friday June 04, 2010 @11:44AM (#32459908) Homepage

    Nice MBA degree you have there, too bad it's content is based outside of reality.

    Open Source happes everywhere. Even medical fields.

    Places like the Van Andel Institute are working to cure cancer and they attract the top of the crop doctors and researchers.... Not because they pay them insane amounts of money, but because they are working towards a goal that helps humanity.

    In fact everywhere you will find the best of the best doing things for FREE. The ones that dont are never the Best but people who claim they are or try to act like they are.

    Open source built and is running the internet. You think Microsoft would have been able to pull this off all for profit only? not a chance.

  • by cdrguru (88047) on Friday June 04, 2010 @12:07PM (#32460196) Homepage

    I own a Kindle. It is completely unsuitable for displaying PDF documents that have not been customized for the screen dimensions. As is every other eBook reader out there, because you cannot see a full page and there is no good way to zoom and pan quickly. Unless of course you have an LCD display, which then makes it useless for reading other materals.

    Same goes for Postscript - after all, PDF is a subset of Postscript.

    Some eBook readers display a special eBook version of PDF which is designed specifically for Adobe-enabled readers. The page description is thrown out and the text is reformatted to fit the screen. As far as I am concerned, this isn't a PDF anymore. PDF is a page description language where the pages are intended to be rendered as the author intended.

    HTML has a different problem with the Modern Web - games are played to get the page to display in a particular format with the screen width pretty much hard-coded into the page layout. At least a minimum width. For these documents, again a eBook reader is going to fail.

    For all of these what is needed is something that can display an A4 or USA letter size page in a readable manner. Given display costs and yields today, you could probably have that for $500 or a bit more. Anything less than that is going to have an unreadably tiny display forcing you to (slowly) pan and zoom, zoom and pan.

    I keep seeing posts like this, mostly from people that haven't tried to read an 8 inch wide page on a 4 inch wide display. With an eInk display it responds well to turning pages while reading and infuriatingly slowly attempting to move quickly. It doesn't work. Anything where the page is laid out by the author with a fixed idea of how the page should appear isn't going to come out very well without a display capable of handling at least that width, if not that height. Where eBook readers shine is where the "page" is dynamically formatted from unformatted text to fit the display. Just about anything else is a waste of time.

  • NOT ENOUGH RAM (Score:4, Insightful)

    by serviscope_minor (664417) on Friday June 04, 2010 @02:06PM (#32462052) Journal

    Repeated: NOT ENOUGH RAM. I have a Zauraus 3100. It is actually a rather similar machine. 400MHz ARM, 64MB RAM, 32GB flash disk (aftermarket mod), Wifi in the CF slot. Overall rather similar. Naturally a lot more expensive, predating this machine by 5 years, but similar nonetheless.

    Sadly, 64MB RAM is rather low these days. Once upon a time, it could run firefox acceptably, if a little slowly. These days not so much. Sadly more and more websites, especially ones related to signing up for (even free) wifi services seem to be allergic to <a href= and insist on using pointless javascript. This means your choices in browsers is somewhat limited even if you only intend to access rather static content.

  • by bhtooefr (649901) <bhtooefr&bhtooefr,org> on Saturday June 05, 2010 @05:25AM (#32467828) Homepage Journal

    Because the Linux ones are much less available?

    And the Linux ones that are available tend to have crap hardware configurations?

    I know in the US, the Linux ones pretty much disappeared with the move to hard drives. And, 8.9" Aspire Ones with hard drives used a different bottom chassis than the SSD ones.

  • by hairyfeet (841228) <.bassbeast1968. .at. .gmail.com.> on Saturday June 05, 2010 @08:21AM (#32468290) Journal

    Well if it is THAT much of a PITA, why not simply buy one like this [linuxfordevices.com] that ALREADY runs Linux? That was the first link, but it wasn't like there were a shortage of places selling. One of the nice things about ARM is it isn't completely locked up like x86/64 is for Windows, although I have noticed more and more coming with winCE so that freedom may not last long. But now you can buy one of several flavors of Linux, or Android, or WinCE, it is pretty wide open ATM.

    So it doesn't really change the fact that for $100 the device in TFA is overpriced and underpowered. The ARM netbooks give you a minimum of double the RAM, 2Gb of storage, 2 USB ports, Wifi, and Ethernet. So for the same or pretty close you have a device infinitely more hackable and useful as a mobile device. Building this device without even Wifi and only a single card port pretty much makes it useless in my book, since you can't actually have storage and connectivity at the same time. What good is that?

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