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Handhelds Hardware

How Small a PC Is Too Small? 324

Posted by kdawson
from the elven-fingers dept.
Banner~! recommends an article in IBTimes on the search for the ideal size for an ultraportable computer. One device mentioned is Paul Allen's FlipStart, discussed here recently. After watching early users fumble and nearly drop an early version of the FlipStart while trying to perform a three-finger salute, designers ended up including a single key labeled "CtrlAltDel" in the version that will be shipping soon. From the article: "Each device maker... has a different sense of how small an ultra-mobile can get before it becomes impossible to use. For instance, Microsoft thinks the tiniest screen possible measures 7 inches diagonally, but FlipStart Labs settled on 5.6 inches."
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How Small a PC Is Too Small?

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  • by JensenDied (1009293) on Monday March 26, 2007 @01:30AM (#18484593)
    Ctrl - Shift - Esc is a shortcut to open the task manager.
  • Ctrl + Alt + Del doesn't open the Task Manager on all versions of Windows, just "Home" versions. "Pro" or "Business/Enterprise/Ultimate" versions instead have a menu which allows you to launch the task manager, log off, switch user, lock the computer, or change your password.
  • by Weegee_101 (837734) on Monday March 26, 2007 @01:53AM (#18484727) Homepage
    If you're running XP Home or XP Business with the Welcome Screen enabled Ctrl-Alt-Del does open the Task Manager, as does Ctrl-Alt-Esc. If you've turned the Welcome Screen off, which is common in a business environment, you get a Windows 2000 style Security Screen where you can Log Off, open Task Manager, change your password, or even shutdown/reset the computer. So thats why XP has "two" methods for opening Task Manager using they keyboard; there's really only one dedicated method, but the other fills the spot when Welcome Screen is enabled.
  • by ozphx (1061292) on Monday March 26, 2007 @02:08AM (#18484793) Homepage
    Before we gear up all the jokes, the C-A-D key combo is known as the Secure Attention Sequence. By pressing this key combination you can guarantee that the logon box that pops up is from the OS and not from some random crapware.

    All the UMPC (UltraMobile PCs) - the MS Origami formfactor provide a button like this for logon. Similarily devices by OQO include on.

    Pretty much anyone experienced with making these ultraportables includes this button, because doing it manually on a small keyboard is a pain. Lesson learned.

    BTW the 5" OQO Model 02 is now my sex object... powerful enough to run a full OS in the palm of your hand. Noice.
  • by CodeBuster (516420) on Monday March 26, 2007 @02:34AM (#18484953)
    Perhaps they had forgotten that the original purpose of Ctrl-Alt-Del [wikipedia.org] was to trigger soft reboots on the IBM PCs and that the combination was selected precisely because it was IMPOSSIBLE to press all three keys with one hand and thereby trigger the reboot accidentally.

    "This keyboard combination was designed by David Bradley, a designer of the original IBM PC. Bradley originally designed Control-Alt-Escape to trigger a soft reboot, but he found it was too easy to bump the left side of the keyboard and reboot the computer accidentally. He switched the key combination to Control-Alt-Delete, a combination impossible to press with just one hand (this is not true of later keyboards, such as the 102-key PC/AT keyboard or the Maltron keyboard)."

    Isn't it ironic that the designers are celebrating the fact that they have reintroduced the possibility of an error that the designers of old foresaw and attempted to avoid by a three button combination that could not accidentally be triggered with the slip of one hand? Or perhaps it is the fact that Windows these days has more than one function linked to that key combination, forcing the dialog anyway...after which you are forced to "cancel or allow" the action that you selected from the dialog box that was triggered by the keyboard combination. That must be what they mean when they say "Intuitive Interface" or "Easy to use".
  • by ClosedSource (238333) on Monday March 26, 2007 @02:52AM (#18485025)
    Yes, and it was an IBM design decision anyway and had nothing to do with MS.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 26, 2007 @03:40AM (#18485211)
    The keys were chosen to be far apart on purpose, and not by Microsoft. Blame IBM. David Bradley specifically.

    You idiots are little better than shaved monkeys, the power of speech is wasted on you.
  • by TubeSteak (669689) on Monday March 26, 2007 @03:43AM (#18485223) Journal
    You can change that behavior on Pro (I think)
    It's under User Settings in the Control Panel.

    ctrl-alt-delete:
    If the "Welcome Screen" is enabled, then you get the task manager
    If it's disabled, you get the menu with all the choices.
  • by Baddas (243852) on Monday March 26, 2007 @03:47AM (#18485239) Homepage
    You're wrong. I'd post a screenshot, but I'm lazy. Here's a knowledge base article:
    http://support.microsoft.com/kb/281980 [microsoft.com]
    This discusses what you're talking about, which is opening task manager. That only happens when you've got it set up to use the 'Welcome' screen. The rest of the time, it pops up a little widget that has

    (Lock Computer) (Log Off) (Shut Down)
    (Change Password) (Task Manager) (Cancel)

    buttons on it.
  • Hogwash (Score:3, Informative)

    by Civil_Disobedient (261825) on Monday March 26, 2007 @03:53AM (#18485265)
    Neither Linux nor OSX needed to implement the ctrl-alt-del scheme.

    Linux gets orphaned processes all the time, and you'd be blind without a method to view what's running on your machine. Thus ps , or the more useful top .
  • by biglig2 (89374) on Monday March 26, 2007 @04:46AM (#18485523) Homepage Journal
    You're surely thinking of the Windows Security dialog, although if you're not participating in a domain windows XP does behave differently so you might be seeing somethign different.

    But the thing with buttons for lock/log off/shutdown/change password/task manager, that's the windows security dialog.
  • by sessamoid (165542) on Monday March 26, 2007 @04:56AM (#18485561)
    And the funny (or sad?) thing is that this is only "necessary" in Windows because of all the crap that Windows can get infected with. Neither Linux nor OSX needed to implement the ctrl-alt-del scheme.
    OS X uses Command-Option-Escape, which can be activated easily with a thumb and middle finger of the same hand. I don't have to use it often, but things to hang in any OS. Force Quit issues a kill command to the offending application.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 26, 2007 @05:05AM (#18485613)
    Except for XP Pro x64, which is Pro but opens the task manager.
  • by suv4x4 (956391) on Monday March 26, 2007 @05:25AM (#18485697)
    You're surely thinking of the Windows Security dialog, although if you're not participating in a domain windows XP does behave differently so you might be seeing somethign different.

    Yea, I was mislead by the original post (I have XP Pro and it shows the Task Manager/Welcome screen by default.. but.. when you turn it off, then you see the old-school dialog).
  • Sorry, no. (Score:5, Informative)

    by DrYak (748999) on Monday March 26, 2007 @05:26AM (#18485699) Homepage

    This simply isn't true. A system used to run Linux with X, a desktop and some typical end-user applications (say Firefox, Thunderbird, OpenOffice) requires more resources than an XP system with IE, OutlookExpress, Office.


    Sorry, what are you sources ?

    First, or course, if you go for the memory hogs like OOo or FireFox (whose caching function is both a blessing for quick history rewind and a curse in terms of ressource), the whole stack GNOME + FireFox + ThunderBird + OOo. Can eat some memory.
    Incidently that's what I'm running (minus GNOME. I prefere KDE). Also with additionnal software like Gaim and several daemons, including BOINC. Without troubles. On a 8 years old 440BX-based machine (which only beefed up memory and processor since then).

    To be fair, if you go for that route, then your XP system should also have included an Anti-Virus (with on access scanning, not ClamWin), an Anti-Spyware, a decent FireWall (zonealarm or such) some popup/ads filtering tool (Or should use FireFox+Adblock too). These are required for any typical Windows installation and are memory hogs too. (I could be cynical and add that the typical Windows installation also has at least a couple of trojans pumping spam).

    And in my personnal experience, the Windows setup tends to be less responsive.

    Studies done by others [kde.org] show that a machine with 128MB would be happy with most Linux situations, and with a swap and some sensible choice (I'm not speaking about using WMaker and browsing with lynx. I'm saying using KDE and K-applications for the rest to re-use dynamique libraries) even less memory could still be usable.
    Actually this situation I use under Linux is one of the worst possible permutation (Simultaneously run KDE, GTK, XUL, and OOo's stacks) and somehow it mnage to do well enough.
  • by TeknoHog (164938) on Monday March 26, 2007 @05:43AM (#18485771) Homepage Journal
    It was there in the BIOS of DOS machines, hardwired to soft reboot, before Windows even existed. Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] seems to confirm my memories.
  • Re:Hogwash (Score:4, Informative)

    by jrockway (229604) <jon-nospam@jrock.us> on Monday March 26, 2007 @06:18AM (#18485921) Homepage Journal
    > Linux gets orphaned processes all the time, and you'd be blind without a method to view what's running on your machine.

    No it doesn't.

    But that's not what he's talking about. To log into Windows, you have to press Ctrl-Alt-Delete before Windows will show you a login screen. Linux just boots up to a "username: " prompt.
  • Not new (Score:2, Informative)

    by blowdart (31458) on Monday March 26, 2007 @06:19AM (#18485933) Homepage

    Now they want to put it on a single button, surrounded by other tiny buttons?

    This isn't a new idea; tablet PCs have had a dedicated Ctrl-Alt-Del button since the beginning, because you can't assume the user actually has a physical keyboard and you need some way to enter the login screen.

  • Re:Sorry, no. (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 26, 2007 @08:16AM (#18486487)
    I use a PC with 196 meg RAM and Ubuntu - it crawls. Debian Stable + xfce on the same machine is very snappy. Win 2k somewhere in between.

    Linux certainly can handle low-RAM situations but don't advocate the heavier desktop environments. It's not what they're designed for.
  • by Alioth (221270) <no@spam> on Monday March 26, 2007 @09:02AM (#18486797) Journal
    It's irrelevant, because the use of Ctrl-Alt-Del is no longer to reboot the machine, it's merely to send the Secure Attention Sequence to Windows. Therefore, it doesn't really matter if you hit it accidentally, because you just use Escape to go back. I doubt these devices will be sold with DOS, where it would matter.
  • Re:Hogwash (Score:3, Informative)

    by Civil_Disobedient (261825) on Monday March 26, 2007 @11:06AM (#18488043)
    No it doesn't.

    For a Windows user, a zombied process is no different than an orphaned one, in that you still have to manually kill it. If you've never had to kill a process before, I'd be surprised.

    To log into Windows, you have to press Ctrl-Alt-Delete before Windows will show you a login screen.

    Which is completely different than a console login (CTRL-ALT-F1).
  • Yes. But it still creates a signal that can ONLY be sent from the local machine, rather than from a remote machine trying to log in. Which is why they use it.
  • Re:Hogwash (Score:2, Informative)

    by triso (67491) on Monday March 26, 2007 @08:16PM (#18495437) Homepage

    Linux gets orphaned processes all the time, and you'd be blind without a method to view what's running on your machine. Thus ps , or the more useful top .
    Top is a little long in the tooth. Htop is where it's at.

  • by gazita123 (589586) on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @12:18AM (#18497423)
    I've got one of these, and it is great for specific people (like me).

    It is very usable on trains, ferries, anywhere that you might sit or stand and have people milling around. I just carry the mini dock with me, so I can hook it up to any spare monitor wherever I go, and I carry a folding bluetooth keyboard for when I'm working in a stationary place.

    At home, I can just slip it into the dock and it is immediately connected with my 19" LCD and full size keyboard and mouse.

    When needed, I've got a very slim USB powered DVD/CD writer that I can take with me, and a similar backup HD that I can also store all music a video on, separate to the internal drive where I keep work files.

    The screen is small, but very usable. The main difference is that you do hold it closer to your face to use it, but with the design, it is made to hold in two hands, not to be used in a lap or similar type of situation. I do have the fonts at 120dpi, so they are readable.

    At 500g and with a very small (1/4 the size and weight of normal) power brick, I can carry this thing around with me anywhere and not be grumbling at the end of a long day about how it is weighing my bag down.

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