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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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  • While there are many UI design problems with Small Form Factor computers (particularly general purpose input), the issues in the article appear to be with Microsoft products, not Small FF PCs in general. From TFA:

    Watching users fumble and nearly drop an early version of the FlipStart compact PC...The culprit was the three-key sequence, Control-Alt-Delete, required to log off or reboot a Windows PC.
    Well, that's a windows issue, not a PC issue. The solution? (You can tell FlipStart is a project from one of the founders' of Microsoft):

    early adopters might get a kick out of FlipStart's solution: a dedicated key marked "Ctrl Alt Del."
    Brilliant. Utterly Brilliant. This is similar to having a problem with your kitchen floor being wet due to a leaking roof & building a floor-mopping robot as a solution.
    • by Jartan (219704) on Monday March 26, 2007 @12:27AM (#18484577)
      To those who don't use windows anymore it's only fair to point out that you can't reboot a computer anymore by pressing ctrl-alt-delete. It's only a hotkey to open the task manager.

      Of course one could argue though that microsoft finally broke the only known fix for windows when they implemented this "feature".
      • by JensenDied (1009293) on Monday March 26, 2007 @12:30AM (#18484593)
        Ctrl - Shift - Esc is a shortcut to open the task manager.
      • by Calinous (985536)
        You need Ctrl-Alt-Del to log on.
        • by pe1chl (90186)
          Unless you turn off that feature, of course.
          You can select if you want to show the login screen immediately, or only after pressing ctrl-alt-del (supposedly more secure, for example when someone could install an application on your system that just looks like a login screen and could use it to snoop passwords)
    • by Torvaun (1040898) on Monday March 26, 2007 @01:42AM (#18484993)
      If I remember my computing history, Ctrl-Alt-Del was picked because that was a keystroke combination that would never be accidentally pressed. There was nothing even close to it that did anything. The whole point was to be intentional.

      Now they want to put it on a single button, surrounded by other tiny buttons? Someone had a real winner of an idea there...
    • by suv4x4 (956391) on Monday March 26, 2007 @02:26AM (#18485159)
      Well, that's a windows issue, not a PC issue. The solution? (You can tell FlipStart is a project from one of the founders' of Microsoft):

      How is it a Windows issue? Is Windows the only piece of software out there to use multi-key combos?
      Also you can open the task manager without any keyboard keys at all (right-click on the task back, pick Task Manager.. now I suppose they have some way to right-click on this device).

      That said the ctrlaltdel button solution seems stupid. I'd rather implement a "combinator" button: a button that accumulates the keys pressed while it's down, and fires the signals at once when release.

      Example of usage:

      1. Hold the combinator button with the left hand.
      2. With the right hand tap in succession, one by one: ctrl, alt, del.
      3. Release the combinator button.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by iminplaya (723125)
      ...a dedicated key marked "Ctrl Alt Del

      It also has a dedicated "any" key.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by hey! (33014)
      CTL-ALT-DELETE is a Windows issue, but it is symptomatic of a bigger issue: interfaces need to change with the form factor.

      When I started writing PDA interfaces, I simply shrunk down what I'd been doing on desktops, with a few tweaks. Most PDA apps appear to be designed this way.

      After a few years, I realized that while you could create a workable interface this way, it wasn't natural. On a desktop, text entry is easy (you have a keyboard) and navigation is hard (you have to take your hands off the keyboard
  • Linux? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by JimXugle (921609) <{Jim} {at} {xugle.com}> on Monday March 26, 2007 @12:18AM (#18484513)
    Anyone know if the FLipstart can/will be able to run linux?
  • by bluemonq (812827) * on Monday March 26, 2007 @12:20AM (#18484527)
    * You need a million-dollar electron microscope to see the screen
    * Sneezing anywhere near it wipes out the RAID array
    * You confuse it with a prophylactic
    * Ants use it to jumpstart their own nuclear weapon program for their holy war against the termites
  • Control Alt (Score:4, Funny)

    by Tablizer (95088) on Monday March 26, 2007 @12:21AM (#18484541) Journal
    designers ended up including a single key labeled "CtrlAltDel" in the version that will be shipping soon.

    I bet that key will get worn out first ;-)

    I've found a similar shortcut; just click the Internet Explorer 7 icon, and the resulting crash reboots for me.
         
  • by Eq 7-2521 (159354) on Monday March 26, 2007 @12:30AM (#18484591)
    The Fly Pentop Computer! http://www.flypentop.com/ [flypentop.com]
  • FlipOff (Score:5, Funny)

    by dotslashdot (694478) on Monday March 26, 2007 @12:31AM (#18484603)
    Since they reduced the 3 finger salute (ctrl-alt-delete) to a 1 finger salute, they should rename it "FlipOff".
  • by Jekler (626699) on Monday March 26, 2007 @12:32AM (#18484607)
    For me, the smallest computer is only limited by the size of the keyboard. At a minimum, I need a notebook-sized keyboard, at least until the point computers can take dictation. I even thought notebook keyboards were too small in the past but I was able to adjust, but any smaller and I won't be able to. I've tried to use those thumb-type keyboards and I just can't communicate comfortably with them.
    • Exactly. Make the keyboard something that can actually be used. We have an old ultra-ultra portable laptop that's probably 7" wide and is utterly unusable if I had to type something and keep up with the speaker. The only thing we use the damn thing for now is Solitare, and that's because it has a touch screen.
    • by jhoger (519683) on Monday March 26, 2007 @01:15AM (#18484835) Homepage
      I would concur with that... the keyboard+display is the data entry interface. It must be large enough to type on, and the display must be large enough to see 85 columns of text. Anything without a decent keyboard is not a general purpose computer. That's ok for a phone, calculator, music player, but not a computer.

      I think these ultra-portable PCs are off on a wrong track, and they will disappear from the marketplace. Here's what I want:

      a) Doesn't radiate signficant heat
      b) Lasts at least a day on the battery
      c) Built in apps... word processor, spreadsheet
      d) Act as an ebook reader
      e) GUI organized around keyboard access rather than mouse
      f) Laptop style keyboard
      g) Flash memory instead of hard disk
      h) Battery backed RAM, but off of a battery that is independent of the charge cycle of the main battery. That, or the hibernate code needs to be rock solid and fast. Open the lid, and the system is usable, not 15 seconds later.
      i) I don't care if it has a color screen, really. B/W or grayscale would be fine. Even some of the e-ink style displays would be ok for office apps.
      j) Obviously, USB, flash drive ports, ethernet would be nice.
      k) Doesn't need a pointing device. Just needs a good keyboard. Trackpads and pointers suck, and mice don't work when you're balancing a laptop on your lap on the train or a cramped space.
      l) Integrated applications. No Load/Save file paradigm.

      The closest thing on the horizon is OLPC. But I'm not convinced they're going to get the battery life, and they're target market means that they are making a smaller keyboard and targeting users who may not be able to read yet. That said, the GUI shows lots of good ideas.
      • It's called a PDA (Score:4, Insightful)

        by DrYak (748999) on Monday March 26, 2007 @04:44AM (#18485773) Homepage

        The closest thing on the horizon is OLPC.


        No what you are asking for is a PDA.

        A good Palm paired with one of the good foldable keyboards (to bad that they did'nt produce non-wireless keyboard for newer Athena Connector) - the good ones (Stowaway keyboard for older Palm Universal Connector) have the same area as a regular desktop keyboard.
        has flash / bluetooth / optionnal WiFi.
        some software are sold together with (Browser, Mail client, Documents-to-Go, etc), other can be installed for free (beer/speech) like SSH clients, VNC clients, tons of ebook readers.
        instant on/off (no suspend to disk) with either battery ram (older models) or flash (newer).
        uses database paradigm instead of file load/save (the Palm ones). When it seldom crashes, you just reset and return to the app with the document in the state with which you left it (WinCE crashes more often).
        you just instantly jump around from app to app (Palm tend to be more snappy than WinCE)
        no mouse. use stylus or fingers.
        lower power consumption : battery last enough for the day and can easily be charged from USB (either in craddle or using 220v-to-5vUSB wall socket plugs or 12vCar-to-5vUSB cigarette lighter plugs)

        has many other useful functionnality (GPS hardware and software can be installed. Great console emulators.)

        Have no personnal experience with Linux based PDA, but I except them to be good too.
      • Sounds like you want a psion - maybe a netbook, or a series 5 if you have tiny fingers.
    • by rm999 (775449)
      It all depends on what you want to do with your portable computer. A lot of people have managed to turn their cell phones into functional computers with games, messaging, music/video, web browsing and (of course) voice. All without a keyboard. My optimal portable computer would not have a keyboard at all, but would instead be able to understand me through other means: touch screen for drawing equations/thoughts, voice recognition for writing paragraphs or commands, and mind reading for deciding what music I
    • > I've tried
      to use those
      thumb-type
      >> keyboards and
      I just can't
      > communicate
      > >comfortably
      with them.
      >

      Don't worry. The feeling is mutual. ;-)

      People with thumb-type keyboards (and screens) who try to communicate with the rest of using such devices remind of midgets who pursue careers in professional wrestling. Some of us laugh, others feel bad or are embarassed, while others try and be polite and hope they'll just go away.

      Personally, I think you're correct about the keyboard defining the
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Tsagadai (922574)
      You know there are solutions to keyboards, many are however immature but that shouldn't be a reason to halt a design in the small direction. What about voice imput, or slide keyboards, or muscle sensors, or Brain wave readers, or even nerve signal decoders. As soon as you put a limit on anything it limits what solutions could be. Personally I'm waiting for voice recognition software to improve so I could run a headless and inputless wearable PC, speak to it, it speaks back. If you don't think about what is
      • Personally I'm waiting for voice recognition software to improve so I could run a headless and inputless wearable PC, speak to it, it speaks back. If you don't think about what is possible you will always be one step behind.

        Yes that is going to work great on a bus, train, or airplane.

        Flying is bad enough already, imagine a trans-atlantic flight with 10 people talking to their devices non-stop.

        Give me the fat guy in the next seat and the kid behind kicking my seat over this any day...

        On a more constructi

    • A Psion 7 http://www.newth.net/psion7/index.html [newth.net] is about as small as you'd want to go, but a better screen would be good.

      The form factor of the Psion 7 is great (including instant on etc), but a rejig with new hardware would make a really snappy device that would be great to use.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by iangoldby (552781)

      the smallest computer is only limited by the size of the keyboard

      I agree (although it's nice to have a decent-sized screen too).

      But I would have thought that this might finally provide the impetus for alternative keyboards. I can imagine a handheld PC with sculpted handgrips containing switches for a chord keyboard. After the initial effort of learning a new type of keyboard, data entry could be nearly as fast with a full-sized qwerty keyboard. And there would be no danger of dropping the PC while reaching

  • Sticky qualifiers! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by vjouppi (621333)
    Argh! Even the OQO 01 got that one.. The qualifier keys are all sticky.

    Press once, the LED next to the key starts blinking. Now the key is sticky for one keypress..
    If you press the qualifier twice before pressing something else, the LED lights continuously, and the key is now stuck down until you press it a third time.

    Thus ctrl-alt-del means pressing ctrl alt and fn one at a time and then pressing backspace/del at your leisure. No need for acrobatics or super speed on the user's behalf.

    I don't believe that
  • The zaurus is now discontinued. I own a C-3200 which uses various rom images such as cacko rom, pdaxrom. It emulates all kinds of environments and runs under linux. You can run aplications or X environments and even run debian on it. Open office is available too! It all fits in my pocket and has a touch screen for easy note taking. Anyway, I been doing this for the past 4-5 years. and these new ultra small pc's can't touch the heal of this small discontinued device.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by IANAAC (692242)
      I had and loved a Zaurus C3000 until it was recently stolen. I used it for all sorts of things it was never inteded to do, thanks to the rather large developer community that sprang up around the device.

      I decided against purchasing another though. Instead, I went with a Nokia N800 and bluetooth keyboard. I'm just as happy as I was with the Zaurus, and in some cases happier. The screen is much larger, built-in bluetooth and WiFi, two SD slots that can now handle 4gig each out of the box, and truthfully

  • The designer who decided to make a single 'Control, Alternate, Delete' key, should have selected the 'Retry' option - instead, he ended up with a 'Fail' action. Stupid idiot.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by CodeBuster (516420)
      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 rebo
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Alioth (221270)
        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.
  • by flyingfsck (986395) on Monday March 26, 2007 @12:43AM (#18484659)
    I guess having a single button is more appropriate after all.
  • by artifex2004 (766107) on Monday March 26, 2007 @12:44AM (#18484665) Journal
    That's too big an OS. Or at least too big an interface.

    This should be obvious. Does it really make sense to load a huge OS like Windows, with all its carryover behaviors for backwards compatibility, for something that really should have its own methodology?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Kris_J (10111) *
      You really only run Windows for compatibility with your preferred applications. If you don't want to run any Windows apps, don't try and shoe-horn Windows onto a portal computer. That said, Windows itself can cope easily with 640x480 and no mouse. However, most applications need at least 800x600, with many needing at least 1024 pixels across.

      Personally, I like to run at 3840x1024 or 3072x768 on a desktop. This is nothing to do with Windows and everything to do with the complexity of what I do with Wind
  • by non (130182) on Monday March 26, 2007 @12:44AM (#18484671) Homepage Journal
    this [sonystyle.com] is something i would consider buying, except that unless someone else is picking up the tab its somewhat overpriced. nevertheless, if what you want is extreme portablity with all the functionality of a 'real' computer, this is the ticket
  • Putting the Ctrl+Alt+Del function on a single key? With the average intelligence of today's computer user? I sure as hell wouldn't want to be that tech support guy.

    Tech: "What seems to be the problem?"
    User: "Every time I hit the Ctrl button, my computer restarts!"
    Tech: "*sigh* Is there anything else on the button?"
    User: "Yeah, it says CtrlAl-"
    Tech: "Look... just... just don't hit that button. There should be another button that says Ctr- hold on I'm getting another call. *switch* This is tech support,

  • Too Small How? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by LuYu (519260) on Monday March 26, 2007 @01:04AM (#18484783) Homepage Journal

    Is this talking about the size of the keyboard (which it sounds like), the size of the screen, or the size of the whole device?

    It is obvious that keyboards/pads have a minimum size. Fingers limit that. Also, if the keys are too close together, typing is slowed because more than one key is frequently depressed.

    The screen is also limited in its smallness by what is comfortable. I use my phone to read books, but I have heard many people claim (who havent tried it, of course) that the screens on phones are too small to read on. In my experience, screen size is not important as the size of the individual letters (or characters) in the text is what is important. Since my current phone allows me to blow the text up to a size that is larger than the typeface on most children's books, I cannot see the problem.

    The limitations on the device size probably depend on what it is used for. If it is a phone, it needs to be large enough to be comfortably held for a long phone conversation. Phones that are too small are irritating and easily misplaced. If the device is a PDA, the screen is probably the limiting factor. It should be about the size of a screen and not much thicker. Ideally, this screen should be a size that would fit in your pocket, something that "Pocket"PC's generally do wrong.

    If the device were something like a portable computer, with perhaps a bluetooth or WiFi keyboard and screen, there is probably no limit on its smallness. Why not make a USBkey style computer and keep it on your keyring? At 4+GB, such devices can already contain a decent suite of software. Removing hardware links to the device itself would free it from size restrictions. Theoretically, such a device could also be booted from any computer as its hard drive (Knoppix style), so you could take your computer anywhere.

  • If a PC is gonna run a normal OS, there's a serious size limitation. But with custom OSes, possibly even ones that abandon the windows/menus/etc model of UI, you can get pretty small. I mean, if you look at the iPhone, or a Front Row style interface, you can accomplish a lot of the normal PC functions with minimal screen real estate. You could probably do a 4-5 inch screen with near full functionality if you design the OS specifically to handle it. You can keep most of the functionality if you're willin
  • Small enough to fit into my urethra, large enough for me to feel it.
  • 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
    • BTW the 5" OQO Model 02 is now my sex object... powerful enough to run a full OS in the palm of your hand.

      I think there should exist a -1 Too Informative moderation for a post that uses the phrase "sex object" and "palm of your hand" in the same sentence.
    • by octogen (540500)
      No it isn't; a secure attention key can be necessary, but it does not have to be something as stupid as Ctrl-Alt-Del.

      We have an z/900 here, which has a B3 Trusted Path Feature, and we're used to pressing the SysReq (System request) key to get to the logon screen, I don't understand why anyone would choose something like Ctrl-Alt-Del. PC keyboards don't have a dedicated SysReq key, but Alt-Print is labeled as "SysReq" - still better than Ctrl-Alt-Del, and it's even labeled correctly on most keyboard.

      (and by
      • by drsmithy (35869)

        [...] I don't understand why anyone would choose something like Ctrl-Alt-Del.

        Because way back when NT was being designed, they needed to choose a key combination that was both a) on every keyboard and b) not used by anything else. Ctrl+Alt+Del was the only candidate.

  • Wrong tree (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tom (822) on Monday March 26, 2007 @01:11AM (#18484811) Homepage Journal
    The size of the actual computer is of absolutely no importance whatsoever. What matters is the size of the input and output components. These are the interfaces to humans and must exist on a human size scale, i.e. large enough to handle.
    So as long as you need a keyboard, the keys must be large enough to press, and the entire keyboard must be large enough to comfortably hold. But if you think virtual keyboards, i.e. one projected into the air, on a HUD, or on a table (the later exists as a Palm Pilot accessory), then the size of the actual hardware again is irrelevant, the size of the virtual "keys" is what matters.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by suv4x4 (956391)
      The size of the actual computer is of absolutely no importance whatsoever. What matters is the size of the input and output components. These are the interfaces to humans and must exist on a human size scale, i.e. large enough to handle.

      That's one reason to believe portable computers (as in really portable, PDA and down) will never develop to the point where they are used for apps requiring complex input.

      But we may see the development of tiny pearl-sized computer you can "anchor" in any host monitor/keyboar
    • Re:Wrong tree (Score:4, Insightful)

      by badboy_tw2002 (524611) on Monday March 26, 2007 @02:54AM (#18485273)
      I agree. I think we're just a decade or so off from the whole "wearable" computer thing being commonplace. Maybe small finger sensors for replicating a virtual keyboard & mouse, and slim formfactor glasses for displaying a virtual screen. I'd say the input tech is here already, and the glasses will probably come around a bit slower. Then the actual CPU can really go pocket sized and smaller. If all you need is the processor (everything else is wireless except maybe a cable for charging), you're only limited by the amount of space the electronics themselves need. And if you think it won't happen because people won't like wearing headsets and the like, just take a look at how fast the borg-like cell headpiece has become a common fashion accessory. Goggles that double as shades or the like aren't that big a stretch.
      • by Tom (822)
        Those goggles already exist. Unfortunately, those with acceptable resolution are still very expensive. But you can buy 800x600 ones for about a thousand bucks.
  • by TheBlunderbuss (852707) on Monday March 26, 2007 @01:16AM (#18484841)
    ...but I think this is related: http://imdb.com/title/tt0374020/ [imdb.com]
    • by icepick72 (834363)
      Hahahahhaha ROTFL ... I wish I had mod points right now. What a crazy find that is.
    • by BluBrick (1924)
      Dude, what the hell were you searching for when you stumbled across that little gem?

      On second thoughts, don't tell me - I fear the answer.

  • 11.87" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kris_J (10111) * on Monday March 26, 2007 @01:23AM (#18484881) Journal
    Let's do the math. A pixel count of 1024 across and 600 down is about the minimum you need for there to be any point in the computer running a full version of Windows. Above 100dpi and you're going to need to increase the default font sizes (which means its fairly pointless to go any higher). End result: 11.87 inches on the diagonal is about the minimum for anything serious. Below that you're going to need better than average eyesight or you're going to be scrolling sideways all the time.
  • by istartedi (132515) on Monday March 26, 2007 @01:25AM (#18484889) Journal

    Why not just provide standard keyboard and screen interfaces for the thing. Then, the PC can be very small, and users can purchase a case that meets their needs. OK, I guess you do have to answer the question in some sense: The PC is too small when it doesn't have room for the following standard connectors: Video, Network, USB some kind of power.

    OK, we might be missing a standard for the laptop-style LCD screens. I know there's LVDS, but AFAIK all the manufactureres have proprietary connectors (but correct me if I'm wrong).

    The other day, as I was fiddling with my MP3 player, I realized that many such specialized devices could easily fit in a laptop case. If everything inside there ran over 10gigE, would it perform OK? Do we really need DMA and all that just to push pixels to the screen? If we don't, then the display server can just service clients. The clients can be on this little private network inside the box. All the interconects would just be client-server interactions. Moore's law will make this practical at some point... Imagine a Beowulf cluster--inside your laptop or PDA case.

  • The small size is so problematic that they actually fit another key on the keyboard; therefore we can determine the more problems they encounter due to the small form factor, the larger the small keyboard will grow. Isn't there something wrong with this logic? Ah there we go [tonyspencer.com].
  • by bm_luethke (253362) <luethkeb@cREDHATomcast.net minus distro> on Monday March 26, 2007 @01:31AM (#18484923)
    There is no realistic way that a PC can be too small. As long as it so small it is easily lost it is just fine - I would *love* one that could hang on my key chain.

    What *can* be too small is the interface. I do not like a tiny screen nor do I like a tiny keyboard (or other input device). I have quite large hands, even the smaller "full size" keyboards are uncomfortable and only useful as a portable device, not my main one.

    I have seen keyboard solutions that are OK - some project a keyboard on a flat surface and optically(? I do not think the descriptions said and I have never used one and that seems about the only feasible way) sense where you fingers hit. Other than some RSI problems with my finger hitting a hard surface (and that is fixable for a permanent station) that can be made to be any size or layout.

    I also prefer small text, but I prefer that on a larger screen. I am currently using a 15" LCD and that is about as small as I comfortably go. I do not like writing much code in it either, my 21" monitor went kaput and this is all I could currently get. A 17" screen is the smallest "normal" lcd I like and I prefer a 19". I know of no current technology to fix this one, but there is no reason it can not be fixed.

    Of course, that is for what I would call everyday use. If your computing power is in a small package there is no reason you can not have a docking station for full size stuff and quite small for carry around. I *can* hit some very small keys with a stylus and use a very small screen (lets face it, many of us currently do - or did - with the palm tops). That is nice for something I pull out of my pocket and use for a few minutes. Add in a few larger keys to mash and I can even game, navigate for MP3's, use a cell phone, add something to a calendar, or other typical small device things with large easy to use buttons. At that point I would consider the size my finger can reliably hit and the number of buttons to be the limit (small could use a stylus, but I do not like that idea for simple frequently used functions).
  • Its how you use it that counts.

    (or so I've been told by girls, but they're usually sniggering at the time)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 26, 2007 @02:18AM (#18485129)
    This thing (N800) is an update to the older Nokia 770. It's a wonderful little gizmo - it runs an ARM port of a Debian variant, so lots of SW is getting ported. It's powerful enough to feel like a "real" computer, although it still has the standard PDA input limitations unless you spring for a bluetooth keyboard.

    It has included opera (800 px wide screen so you can actually view most web pages without horizontal scrolling, unlike all the 320x200 PDAs). You can ssh into it and use VNC and run opera and gnumeric and lots of Linux software.

    The included mp3 player software sucks, but there are already better alternatives provided by the community. Battery life is quite good compared to my old Ipaq - 8+ hrs of active web browsing on low backlight (maybe 2-3 on high), and ~8 days of standby time without turning it off.

    Disclaimer: I have no association with Nokia. I just like the device.
    • by Sleepy (4551) on Monday March 26, 2007 @12:15PM (#18489771) Homepage
      I second this opinion.

      Almost 3 years ago I opted for a "converged" phone, a Samsung SCH-i700 PDA phone from Verizon. It was pretty nice, but DAILY use exposed the shortcomings of using a handheld as a phone. Yet there were times that the device was pretty damn convenient, when I needed to Remote Desktop, VNC, or get a "more featured" browser.

      Nokia realized that putting a phone in a PDA is dumb, and they have avoided this mistake in their N series tablets. Until wireless data is universal and cheap, there's no point building the expense of a PHONE into your PDA. There's even less point in using a PDA as a phone.

      Things are better today -- you can get a "normal" phone with data, and bluetooth modem support. Your PDA becomes "agnostic" about who provides the data layer - 802.11, bluetooth, or the US cell phone cartels. It doesn't matter anymore. Now you have real choices.

      The Nokia N800 is the closest thing now to a perfect portable Internet tablet. You don't need to know Linux. It just "works". Developers are finding the device is a DREAM to develop on, combining Linux + GTK to make an open platform for anyone to use and develop on. Desktop Linux apps are being polished and ported over. And applications like 'Maemo Mapper (GPS)' are awesomely free.

      You don't get a lot of free apps with Windows CE platforms... and many of the free apps there suffer from developer disinterest. WinCE software dies when the author becomes too busy with life/etc, while Linux and GPL software has a life all its own.

      Some will complain about the N800's lack of CDMA/G3 data support, but this is GOOD -- really that is what your phone is for. Same thing with the keyboard... buy your OWN bluetooth keyboard if you want one. This was these 2 features do not bulk up the dimensions of the device.

      If you want a "bigger" tablet, the Pepper Pad 3 seems interesting. If you want something that is truly portable, the Nokia N800 is the platform to beat now.

      PS - the media player isn't horrible, but it suffers from limitations like any closed source media player. The media player has GOOD format support... many formats except no OGG support. The free 'Canola' media player offers a MythTV-like interface, touchscreen, and it plays just about anything you throw at it. Video performance on this is VERY good for a handheld.

      Oh yeah, there's a webcamera built in and meeting software. Now we have to wait for Skype and GnomeMeeting so we can ditch the Nokia meeting app... :-)

  • The first thing I thought of when I read this article is the famous 'ctrl-alt-del' keyboard. [tech.coop] Originally a dig at MS and their OS and needing to restart it etc I guess.
  • How about a PC in a wristwatch.

    This is from 2001 so it's a little dated.

    http://www.freeos.com/articles/3800/ [freeos.com]

    Yes it runs Linux.
  • ...you have to include an extra key labeled "CtrlAltDel" with your product.

    Wasn't there a famous column in the MAD magazine?

    Seriously, this is so incredibly, incredibly bad, it is beyond words.
  • ...not with Windows but the fact that these people are trying to run a full-blown version of Windows on a device it was not designed to be run on. OSX and Linux would be just as awkward. Windows Mobile was made for a reason.
  • I have a Sony UX180 and I must say the thing is absolutely awesome - stupidly feature-packed for a tiny device.

    However, it has a flaw that really irks me: it doesn't have a right shift key. This wouldn't be so much a problem on many devices, but for something so small that you're supposed to use with both hands, Shift + 2 for a '@' symbol when using just your thumbs is a total sod. I thought this might be a teething thing and be fixed in future versions, but it hasn't been.

    Apart from that, they've done a
  • by grumbel (592662) <grumbel@gmx.de> on Monday March 26, 2007 @03:37AM (#18485479) Homepage
    For me the biggest issue is the price, not the size. A Flipstart costs $2000, a UMPC would cost me around $1000 and a Sony VAIO is in the $1000-$2000 range, tablet PCs are also around $2000, while a normal full size PC is just something around $500. Those prices are just plain wrong. A handheld should cost less then a full size PC not two or four times as much.

    OLPC seems to get it right, the small laptop costs $150, make that $250 if it ever hits retail and its still a good price, I can also get PSP for $200, not exactly a full featured PC, not at all in fact, but a powerfull handheld at a good price, an for some uses like eBook reading actually quite good.

    I don't need a handheld that can outperform my desktop computer, I don't even need one that gets close, just make it fast enough so that it can run ssh, VNC and friends. If I ever need a full PC, I just log into it remotely, no need to carry all that useless power around with me.

    Handhelds need to be affordable, everything else is really secondary in the end, since at $2000 those things will never sell to the masses, no matter how pretty and small you make them, get them under $500 or under $300 if you really care and you might have something worth to buy.
  • It's purely a personal thing, but I like my computer BIG. I have an extended ATX tower, so many monitors I cook a chicken if I place it correctly amongst them, and peripheral devices stretching beyond the horizon in every direction. Every time I try to operate a notebook's mouse replacement pad thing I very quickly feel like a 'tard.
  • I recall an SF short story - I think it may have been by Asimov - recounting how the miniaturization of electronics leads to the Library of the Universe being progressively shrunk until it is about the size of a sugar cube. And then someone mislays it...

    Pretty farsighted for the 1960s, when even Heinlein was writing stories about the distant future in which computers were still mainframe-sized.
  • Will they also be including an 'any' key to stop clueless users wondering where the any key is when asked to press any key to continue?

If builders built buildings the way programmers wrote programs, then the first woodpecker to come along would destroy civilization.

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