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Portables Technology

Sub-$100 Laptops Have Finally Arrived 437

Posted by timothy
from the near-enough-at-least dept.
Roman Phalanx writes "OLPC had promised that it would be possible to mass produce a sub-$100 laptop. The folks at OLPC tried to realize that dream by re-imagining what a laptop looks like. How large of screen and keyboard it has. What OS runs on the laptop. Now that OLPC has decided to super size their systems to run Windows XP, the $100 price point has slipped beyond their reach. A Chinese firm has realized that dream. Taking the best from both the OLPC and EeePC. They ditched x86 compatibility and switched to a MIPS architecture to further reduce production costs. HiVision has managed to create a UMPC that sells right now for $120.00. They say they have refined the manufacturing process and have learned from building this laptop how to mass produce a laptop that will sell for $98.00." (More below, including a link to a video of the device.)
"The new HiVision MiniNote is due out in October of 2008. TechVideoBlog has footage of one of these Mini Notes being shown off at a trade show in Germany. They have managed to borrow a unit overnight for a while and have done a quick review on it. Overall it looks pretty good. MIPS based processor, WiFi, 1GB flash storage, it runs Linux, has 3 USB ports, Ethernet, SDHC card reader, audio in and out, multi-tabbed Firefox browser support and Abiword for word processing. Running a custom Chinese Linux distrubution named Xip.

Overall performance seems snappy and no problems connecting to WiFi. Other than the lack of a webcam and the Adobe Flash Player it seems perfect. For $98 it looks like quite a value."
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Sub-$100 Laptops Have Finally Arrived

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  • heh.. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 04, 2008 @07:08PM (#24881473)
    Strange times.
    A pc for under 100$ and a shiny phone for over 400$. both made in china.
  • by JackassJedi (1263412) on Thursday September 04, 2008 @07:09PM (#24881491)
    I think from past experience (Linux 64-bit) that we'll be waiting a long time for Flash on this one... other than that it seems like a great idea to do what they did!
  • by linzeal (197905) on Thursday September 04, 2008 @07:17PM (#24881575) Homepage Journal
    OLPC was a noble idea, but one that was fundamentally flawed; this is because the specs did not originate from the areas of the world that would be using it but were spun out of a pie in the sky engineering lab. The scale of the OLPC was immense and impractical and the fact that they attempted it at all they should be given alot of credit for dealing with the political, economic and technical problems.
  • by TheNarrator (200498) on Thursday September 04, 2008 @07:20PM (#24881597)

    The iphone doesn't run flash and it costs twice as much. No one will ever buy one!

  • by palegray.net (1195047) <philip.paradis@NoSpAm.palegray.net> on Thursday September 04, 2008 @07:26PM (#24881673) Homepage Journal
    Oddly enough, I've been seeing an increase in visitors browsing my site at 800x600 over the last couple of months. It's at 11% now, and probably still climbing.

    Maybe lower-resolution devices really are on the usage upswing.
  • by pipatron (966506) <pipatron@gmail.com> on Thursday September 04, 2008 @07:37PM (#24881793) Homepage
    Funny. I'm running a full linux on a MIPS machine I have here. I can install binary packages of everything I have wanted to install by just doing "ipkg install ". Check out OpenWRT if you're interested.
  • where to get one? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by debatem1 (1087307) on Thursday September 04, 2008 @07:43PM (#24881865)
    Sooo... where are they available? A quick google search yields nothing on either the currently available models or this one.
  • buy it now... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 04, 2008 @08:17PM (#24882169)

    looks like you can get one now from geeks.com http://www.geeks.com/details.asp?invtid=ALPHA-400&cat=NBB [geeks.com]

  • by blair1q (305137) on Thursday September 04, 2008 @08:29PM (#24882283) Journal

    The deranged lunacy turned ranged a long time ago.

    The core instruction set has had multiple sets of custom enhancements over the years, and can now do some pretty amazing stuff "in a single instruction."

    It's the RISC methodology that can no longer keep up except under specific constraints to the problem set. That's why Apple switched to keep up in general-purpose and multimedia computing, and you'll find PowerPC only in embedded and HPC any more.

  • Re:useable? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by zappepcs (820751) on Thursday September 04, 2008 @08:31PM (#24882297) Journal

    I am hoping that some day soon, people that offer free WiFi (and other places) have a couple of tables with a basic pc built into them, kind of like those old table style video games. The trick is that to use it, you have to have a thumb drive (or something like it) that plugs in, providing storage, OS, personal files etc. There are several distros of Linux that could do this, and there would be some performance issues, but it would certainly turn just about everything (with these or similar systems) into Internet cafes... or whatever you like to call them.

    When you are mobile, you plug it into your PDA/phone or other mobile device. When you arrive at home, just plug the thumb drive module into your desktop and you're off.

    Yes, I realize that anyone could poke technical holes in that description. I'm just trying to give the basic idea. As storage physical size shrinks, this will become more possible. I'd like to see it. It would not work for absolutely everything, especially storage intensive applications, but for a lot of things it would work. Who carries their porn collection around with them anyway?

    I'd also be happy with a mobile device/phone that allowed not only this module to plug in, but additional storage USB devices (mp3 etc) so that the modules become common place. usb storage module for your mp3 player can be plugged into your phone also, as well as your mobile computing device.

    you should get the option of phone sized pda, or maybe sidekick style option etc.

    Again, I know there are a lot of reasons that this is a problematic goal, it's just a wish list top 10... for me anyway.

  • by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Thursday September 04, 2008 @09:03PM (#24882537) Homepage Journal

    It's called culture. Just cause you don't like it, doesn't mean you have the right to silence others.

  • by evilviper (135110) on Thursday September 04, 2008 @09:15PM (#24882625) Journal

    I think from past experience (Linux 64-bit) that we'll be waiting a long time for Flash on this one...

    Flash animations, and Flash Video are two very different things, and almost entirely separate.

    FLV is already supported everywhere, thanks to libavcodec. You just need to parse the SWF player and find the actual file to play.

    SWF animations, however, require a full-fledged player, and won't be supported. Still, how big of an issue is that going to be? Are there many websites out there that provide no alternative to their SWF menus?

    For games, and the like, there is a standalone SWF player for MIPS Linux (found on similar portables--see my recent posts), which would trivially allow SWF animations launched by web pages to be played separate from the browser.

    So that's a fairly narrow case of SWF that doesn't work on this sytem, and I suppose that might be worked around as well by somehow sending feedback between the standalone SWF player and the browser.

  • Re:Cell phone (Score:3, Interesting)

    by FunWithKnives (775464) <ParadoxPerfect@t ... t ['ror' in gap]> on Thursday September 04, 2008 @09:24PM (#24882725) Journal
    Or, you could buy a cell phone.

    Yeah. As a college student, let me tell you about all those times I've typed out lecture notes in class on my cell phone. Oh, wait.
  • They *are* shipping. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by RustinHWright (1304191) on Thursday September 04, 2008 @09:45PM (#24882877) Homepage Journal
    Unless they're lying in the video, they've already sold over ten thousand of these puppies, or at least something that's about version 0.93 of it. That doesn't sound like vaporware to me.
  • by Drantin (569921) on Thursday September 04, 2008 @10:21PM (#24883125)

    This [thebackbutton.com] which is linked to from here [adobe.com] seems to say something...

  • by evilviper (135110) on Thursday September 04, 2008 @10:24PM (#24883143) Journal

    Where can I buy one, even at the $120 price point that they are supposedly selling "right now" for?

    If you're willing to pay double that, you can in fact buy practically the exact laptop they have described:

    http://www.compsource.com/pn/3KRZ40074GB/3k_Computers_2340/ [compsource.com]

    Both hardware and software appear to match the description perfectly.

  • by Animats (122034) on Thursday September 04, 2008 @11:33PM (#24883605) Homepage

    MIPS CPUs are very simple to design, if you're willing to accept the limitation of one instruction per clock. I once met the entire design team for a midrange MIPS CPU, and it was six people. When you look at a picture of the silicon, you can barely find the instruction decode and execute logic; it's a tiny fraction of the chip.

    MIPS was overrun by the superscalar architectures, where you get more than one instruction per clock, at the cost of a huge increase in CPU logic complexity. The Pentium Pro design team was around 3000 people. (The Pentium II and III were basically Pentium Pro logic reworked for later fab processes.) It's amazing that x86 superscalar machines are even possible. (Think hard for a moment about what has to happen when you store into code just ahead of execution, which is fully supported by all x86 CPUs.) If you're willing to go superscalar, the simplicity goes away, and so does the advantage of the MIPS architecture.

    But if you're willing to accept one instruction per clock, and a 2X code bloat over x86 (making all the instructions the same length means the register-to-register instructions take more bytes than they need), it's a simple way to build a CPU.

  • Re:Sub-$100 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jo7hs2 (884069) on Friday September 05, 2008 @12:23AM (#24884005) Homepage
    Well, since it is actually more like 75%, shouldn't we be talking about $150 laptops?
  • by Cato (8296) on Friday September 05, 2008 @03:24AM (#24885057)

    Thanks for the link, great interview with Rob Savoye of the Gnash project. For the impatient: anyone who's ever installed the Flash player plugin can't work on Gnash, which is quite a heavy restriction. If Adobe lifted this it would really help Gnash a lot more than releasing specs that Gnash figured out some years ago.

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