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Portables Technology

Sub-$100 Laptops Have Finally Arrived 437

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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  • by Connie_Lingus ( 317691 ) on Thursday September 04, 2008 @07:08PM (#24881469) Homepage

    looks like 800x480 is becoming the new 1280×1024.

  • by Random BedHead Ed ( 602081 ) on Thursday September 04, 2008 @07:11PM (#24881511) Homepage Journal

    If it doesn't run the Flash plugin, it's out of the Interweb game for most people. I'm sure someone will port GNU Gnash to it, but that's hardly a substitute. If the buyer only cares about some specific function like word processing, this might not matter. But the usual idea of netbooks is that they are more or less fully web-enabled.

  • by quantumplacet ( 1195335 ) on Thursday September 04, 2008 @07:15PM (#24881541)

    it only has a 1GB HD. I think the idea is it's an appliance, not intended for you to really add apps to it. Theoretically it comes with what you need for what it's intended to do. It may or may not find a mass market, but only a subset of geeks will try to see what else they can run on it...

  • by emj ( 15659 ) on Thursday September 04, 2008 @07:15PM (#24881547) Journal

    And 128MB ram is the new 2GB.. Actually it seems like it has either 128MB or 64MB, so guess what the cheap model will have...

  • by tfrayner ( 186362 ) on Thursday September 04, 2008 @07:16PM (#24881553) Homepage

    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

    So... "Sub-$100 Laptops Have Finally Arrived". And yet... they haven't. It'd be nice (although, apparently, unrealistic) to think that we've learnt by now not to give credence to vaporware. Color me unimpressed.

  • by JackassJedi ( 1263412 ) on Thursday September 04, 2008 @07:20PM (#24881599)
    If they really start selling it for $98 I expect a *lot* of geeks to adopt it, and in that case I think we can be sure someone will start a distro(-fork) for MIPS for this device.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 04, 2008 @07:24PM (#24881659)

    Is that a sure thing? If you make a lot of cheap useful mini-computers and include good developer tools, why won't the users make their own? Don't think of it like a PC, think of like an open PDA or phone. Done right they could have a very healthy community app selection quickly.

    Just don't be surprised if most of the apps are in Chinese first.

    (We can call it the Little Red Notebook!)

  • by oldhack ( 1037484 ) on Thursday September 04, 2008 @07:33PM (#24881747)
    It's about time we ditch the deranged lunacy that is x86 instruction set, especially when even Intel is going on multiple-core strategy. I'd love to see ARM- or MIPS-based multi-core chips take over.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 04, 2008 @07:43PM (#24881857)

    There's no doubt it's possibly vaporware.

    But, there are 2 things to consider. 1. The model they displayed is 120--not too far off from 100, really. 2. The 98 model is due out in october, which is one month away. It might be that it is perpetually 1 month away, but I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt until november.

    The real question for me is the usefulness of it. That thing looks like it's slightly larger than a Nintendo DS, which is pretty small. I'm wondering just how easy this thing will be to use, or if I'll have to resort to hunt and peck, or thumbing the keyboard to type in what I want.

  • by Caspian ( 99221 ) on Thursday September 04, 2008 @07:52PM (#24881957)

    ...when there's a link to BUY ONE. Now. Right now. I have my credit card at the ready. Where can I buy one, even at the $120 price point that they are supposedly selling "right now" for?

    Well? Link or it didn't happen. Otherwise, this is just another fucking slashvertisement.

  • by evilviper ( 135110 ) on Thursday September 04, 2008 @07:56PM (#24882001) Journal

    Just because Aptitude works doesn't mean there's any MIPS packages to download.

    No, of course not.

    It's the fact that:

    it's trivially to compile for MIPS once you've got it compiled for every other major architecture.

    the likes of Debian and other non-commercial distros have policies to ensure that all possible architectures are fully supported.

    MIPS is an extremely popular architecture (Embedded, PDAs, SGI systems, etc.) ...that means there's tons of MIPS binary packages available for download.

  • No precompiled apps to download, since no one has download links for MIPS and no proprietary company would bother with such a tiny market.

    Are you kidding? What are you planning to do with this, have it as your main desktop?

    At $98, I'll buy 2 or 3 of them to throw around the house for quick browsing. If they can get Flash, it'll be full-blown awesome.

  • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Thursday September 04, 2008 @08:21PM (#24882197) Journal
    See, it's comments like this that make me ignore anyone with a /. UID over a million. MIPS is one of the oldest RISC architectures (actually predating the term RISC, which came from another competing project from the same era) and is one of the most popular instruction sets in the world (I think ARM overtook it at some point in the last decade, but it's still well ahead of x86 in terms of installed-base).

    To the grandparent, I think you'll find lots of precombiled binaries to download for MIPS [].

  • by jbn-o ( 555068 ) <> on Thursday September 04, 2008 @08:35PM (#24882345) Homepage

    Editorializing from the headline, Roman Phalanx wrote

    Now that OLPC has decided to super size their systems to run Windows XP...

    There's nothing "super" about losing one's software freedom. The XO was originally an educational project where even the computer the kids learn on could be part of the lessons. Switching to proprietary software means placing barriers on that education by telling the user that there are some things you weren't meant to know and shall be forbidden from learning, sharing, or changing to suit your needs. There's nothing good about that for the user, whose concerns outrank any proprietor. It is not society's job to placate software proprietors. The free software movement welcomes businesses that treat us as partners, not as a market to exploit. The free software community certainly gives businesses lots to work with and make money from.

  • by QuantumG ( 50515 ) * <> on Thursday September 04, 2008 @08:59PM (#24882493) Homepage Journal

    At $350 per unit, It's not cost effective as a Sony PSP or Nintendo DS, but competitive to a mix between a QWERTY PDA with usable RAM/TV-out/redundant-expansion. In other words, it's a trade-off of a better Motorola A12000 CellPhone without the lock-in, more battery life, and better than the bulk of a laptop.

    Did you miss the entire freakin' point of the story or what?

  • by quantaman ( 517394 ) on Thursday September 04, 2008 @09:02PM (#24882517)

    looks like 800x480 is becoming the new 1280×1024.


    It's $98 and runs Linux.

    I'm willing to forgive them for a lower than average screen resolution.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 04, 2008 @09:13PM (#24882607)
    He didn't say that using XP is super, he said it was super sized (they increased the specs) so it could run XP. Saying it was super sized to run XP doesn't imply that it's a good thing.
  • Re:heh.. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by rs79 ( 71822 ) <> on Thursday September 04, 2008 @09:42PM (#24882859) Homepage

    I took a good long look at everything they make on their website and was pretty excited until the realization of the mips processor hit home. You see, I used to have an Amiga...

    Can a computer REALLY be called "on the internet" if it can't look at youtube videos? You and I may know and understand and if it's exchanging packets it's on the net, but grandma or the kids run firefox and try to watch something on youtube and it doesn't and won't work then their reaction is gonna be "uh, do you have a computer that works with the internet?". No flash is, sad to say, a non-starter.

    But damn they're close. Real close. They've done some great work with these machines.

    What they need now is an OLED display at 1280 pixels across and a touch screen. Oh and a cam. And I hate to say it because I've been rabidly raging against these things for literally decades now, but, yeah, an x86 cpu.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 04, 2008 @09:48PM (#24882899)

    "standard metric"


  • by Free the Cowards ( 1280296 ) on Thursday September 04, 2008 @10:07PM (#24883037)

    He's not silencing you (as evidenced by the fact that your post did not, in fact, disappear), just rightfully calling it crap.

    The deliberate confusion of "censor" and "criticize" is the first resort of the thin-skinned idiot.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 04, 2008 @10:39PM (#24883233)

    You mean that I miss out on all those great flash based ads?

    I realise that I am in the minority in not having flash on any of my desktop PCs (3). When buying online, businesses with sites requiring flash don't get my money. There is little in the way of downside in not having flash installed.

  • by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968 AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday September 04, 2008 @10:45PM (#24883289) Journal
    Where can someone in the US order some of these from? At $120 i could make a nice chunk of change selling them right now. I have some amateur astronomers that would love this thing,just hook up their USB webcams and Hello,instant feedback! Plus there is a college less than 12 blocks from my house,so no problems moving laptops at that price. So anybody know where we can actually get our hands on one,or is this another one of those "coming soon" that never seems to come out deals? But as always this is my 02c,YMMV
  • by tftp ( 111690 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @12:41AM (#24884143) Homepage

    I don't see why a RISC chip would be inherently harder to build than a CISC chip.

    That's not the problem because RISC CPUs *are* easier to build. The problem is in *using* RISC CPUs. Each instruction is simple, so you need many instructions to do the same thing that one instruction does on CISC. So the code size grows. Also instead of fetching one MOVSx and chewing on it until you transfer the whole block your RISC CPU may need to sit in a tight loop and load/store word by word, and fetch the instructions also - hopefully from a local cache but it's still work.

    Basically RISC and CISC are ways to optimize the distribution of work between different pieces of a computing system. If your memory is fast and cheap go RISC. If your memory is not very fast then you get a major hit in performance. But a RISC CPU is simpler. I can understand that when CPU of IBM/370 took a large room it was a valid point. But today IC designers literally don't know what to do with the silicon real estate that they have on each die. So it makes sense to throw FETs at the problem and save the precious memory bandwidth for things that truly must be in RAM - your data, or your efficiently packed machine instructions. RISC has advantages only when your CPU must be simple and run cold, and when RAM is faster than your CPU - and that is the case in many embedded systems.

  • Re:heh.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pegdhcp ( 1158827 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @01:46AM (#24884535)
    The dilemma is that, for me flash is the best indicator for a web site that has a suckage factor close to 1, it is unfortunate that for the bigger (like 90%+) portion of Internet users, flash means classy (flashy?) web site. This device and relatives, while being very very good for people doing field services, away from office jobs, who need a 9600,8,N,1 interface anywhere they go etc. is not very good for people who "just surf the Internet" -after 13, 14 year I still hate the verb "surfing"-.
    And, for those of you people who do not need to care about economics in their jobs, if you cannot sell to Internet crowd, you can forget IT crowd as well, as your company will sink before you know what hit you.
  • by DeathCarrot ( 1133225 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @01:57AM (#24884585)
    We're talking about a sub-$100 laptop here, I don't think the end user's primary concern is going to be gaming.
  • by Bert64 ( 520050 ) <bert AT slashdot DOT firenzee DOT com> on Friday September 05, 2008 @02:17AM (#24884683) Homepage

    Luckily not, what with the popularity of all these small laptops and mobile phones, i think the days of browsing with a small window will soon get better. What i do hate tho are fixed width sites, sometimes i want to browse using a small window, sometimes i want to browse using a wide screen...

  • by Handlarn ( 911194 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @05:21AM (#24885653)

    What old laptop you buy from a friend for $50 wouldn't be capable of running Linux and have a higher screen resolution?

  • by renoX ( 11677 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @05:28AM (#24885667)

    >If you're willing to go superscalar, the simplicity goes away, and so does the advantage of the MIPS architecture.

    And so does *a part* of the advantage of the MIPS architecture: I bet than a superscalar MIPS is still much simpler than a superscalar x86..

    As for the second part, there is now a MIPS16 variant, so it's possible to have MIPS with 16/32 bit instructions, of course the decoder becomes more complex, but x86 instructions are still far more complicated (I can't remember what's the maximum size of an x86 instructions, but it's huge!).

Don't tell me how hard you work. Tell me how much you get done. -- James J. Ling