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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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  • Open Pandora (Score:5, Interesting)

    by kiberovca (524346) on Friday June 04, 2010 @10:51AM (#32458368)
    What about []? It's a much better device than this one, has all of the stuff mentioned, and more.
  • by Annirak (181684) on Friday June 04, 2010 @10:52AM (#32458382)

    MIPS is not open source. MIPS is a proprietary, licensed technology.

    There are a few OSS processors out there, but they're pretty rare. One example is the xr16 [].

  • Lemote Yeelong (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 04, 2010 @10:57AM (#32458468)

    The Lemote Yeelong is also all open-source

    and it has better specs than the Ben NanoNote.

  • SD card? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Sockatume (732728) on Friday June 04, 2010 @10:58AM (#32458472)

    The SD Card Association says:

    If your company is planning to manufacture or have manufactured SD host products (eg. cell phones, cameras or computers) or SD ancillary products (eg. adapters or SD I/O cards), your company is required to:

          1. Join the SD Card Association and
          2. Enter into a Host/Ancillary Product License Agreement (HALA)** with the SD Card Association and the SD-3C, LLC. Latest Revision: December 12, 2009

    I suspect that interface standards are probably the biggest barrier to doing a totally copyleft product. You can't lose them if you want a practical product, and can't keep them if you want complete IP release.

  • by tepples (727027) <tepples AT gmail DOT com> on Friday June 04, 2010 @11:15AM (#32458758) Homepage Journal

    So is the MIPS.

    The MIPS architecture has a Free implementation called Plasma []. The trouble is that the PowerVR GPU is also a trade secret. That said, I do plan on buying a Pandora PDA once they get a couple more batches out; it'll surely be better than Apple's "iDon't touch".

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

    by aristotle-dude (626586) on Friday June 04, 2010 @11:18AM (#32458808)

    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.

    Since when did you or anyone here own a chip foundry? You statement is pure fluff. You are getting sucked in by the word "open". 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. 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.

    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. Core services tend to work out better because they are usually licensed to be compatible with wide participation from everyone including corporations and are focused on implementing an open standard.

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

  • by aristotle-dude (626586) on Friday June 04, 2010 @11:23AM (#32458896)

    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.

    Agreed. Although I had mod points, I decided to post in agreement instead. This product bares more resemblance to the Atari Profile than it does the iPad. Ok, to be fair, it bares some resemblance to the Toshiba Libretto but the Libretto is probably much more powerful and functional despite being a very old product.

    This product will not sell well. I would be surprised if it even sells 4000 units. I remember everyone hyping up the JooJoo tablet but it only sold 4000 units initially and many of those were returned.

  • by tepples (727027) <tepples AT gmail DOT com> on Friday June 04, 2010 @11:27AM (#32458940) Homepage Journal

    MIPS is a proprietary, licensed technology.

    A microprocessor can be covered by three different proprietary rights: trademark, mask work, and copyright. Trademark is easy: "The XXX CPU is compatible with a useful subset of MIPS-I user-mode instructions." Mask work is similar to copyright and is worked around in the same way: design your own CPU based on the ISA description rather than copying from a microscopic photo of the existing CPU. As for patents, someone went down the claims in the patents for the MIPS-I architecture and found prior art for 99 percent of them. Hence Plasma [].

  • Re:Open Pandora (Score:4, Interesting)

    by spazdor (902907) on Friday June 04, 2010 @11:36AM (#32459084)

    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.

    Dan Pink says it doesn't work that way: []

  • Another dumb P.O.S. (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 04, 2010 @11:42AM (#32459154)

    Just another stupid me-too handheld. Why doesn't somebody start putting BeagleBoards into a case with a []480x640 touchscreen LCD []??? That, I would buy.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 04, 2010 @12:41PM (#32459866)

    This could be very useful if someone were to put speakup on the thing and make it accessible. There are handheld computing devices for blind people, but they cost upwards of $1k and have crappy specs.

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

    by Tacvek (948259) on Friday June 04, 2010 @12:51PM (#32460004) Journal

    The idea of the Qi project is to have 100% open hardware, but I agree that not everything is open.
    If it were 100% open hardware the following would need to be met:

    • the Verilog or VHDL for any chips, would be included
    • as would the exact masks used to manufacture the chips, including the memory chips
    • Full specifications sufficient to fabricate the plastic shell, lcd, and any other component used would be included. They must be detailed enough that anybody familiar with fabricating that type of component could theoretically produce an indistinguishable product
    • The PCB files would be included
    • I would permit them to omit including instructions for simple well known components like widely available resistors, capacitors, and even LEDs, as long as the requirements for those parts are sufficiently specified, such as value, tolerance, mounting standard, wattage (for resistor), and information about required shape, and and the specific maximum current, and voltage drop for the LED. (There are for example multiple kinds of green LEDs, which have different voltage drops and current requirements, so they are not all inter-compatible).

    While I'm sure they have included at least some of that, I doubt they have included all of it. Particularly, I find it very hard to believe that instructions sufficient to recreate the LCD were included. I also tend to doubt that semiconductor masks for all used chips were included, even if they included the VHDL/verilog.

  • by khellendros1984 (792761) on Friday June 04, 2010 @01:45PM (#32460728) Journal
    The iPad is designed as a mass consumer device. The summary says that they're branding this thing as a kind of hacker/developer toy. For that market, sacrificing some features may be worth it for the openness of the platform...I guess their sales numbers will tell us if that's true or not.
  • by BitZtream (692029) on Friday June 04, 2010 @01:50PM (#32460824)

    Did I miss that part?

    You can go ahead and mark me as a troll, I am. I never expect any 100% OSS or 100% closed/proprietary device. I care far more about getting a device that does what I want than putting retarded artificial constraints on something in order to stick it to the man or promote an agenda.

    Well, I'll do anything to screw with people who don't make rational decisions.

  • by X86Daddy (446356) on Friday June 04, 2010 @03:03PM (#32462016) Journal

    The Zipit Z2 [] is easy to flash with Linux, has a MiniSD slot for additional storage, built in Wifi, Querty backlit keyboard, 320x240 screen, 312MHz ARM chip.

    People making custom distros for it have already managed to cover all aspects of the machine's hardware... lid switch, backlight adjustments, etc... I bought mine on clearance at Target in October, and it's an adequate pocket Linux box for me while I wait for my Pandora []. Here's a sampling of what people are doing with it: [] [] [] [] [] []

"The value of marriage is not that adults produce children, but that children produce adults." -- Peter De Vries