[ubuntu-uk] new arm notebooks

Liam Proven lproven at gmail.com
Tue Feb 24 15:29:09 GMT 2009

2009/2/24 Robert McWilliam <rmcw at allmail.net>:
> On Tue, Feb 24, 2009 at 04:07:26AM +0000, Liam Proven wrote:
>> Perhaps I'm doing the Pandora an injustice, but it looked to me like a
>> pocket console. Small, relatively low-res screen, not much storage,
>> not much expansion, token keyboard, but built-in game controllers: not
>> so much a Gameboy, to be fair, as an improved GamePark GP2X or
>> something. Nice toy, but of no interest to me.
> The people making it are thinking of it as a console primarily but it
> is a general computer that you can do whatever you want with - more
> along the lines of a gaming PC than a console in desktop sized things.
> The screen isn't particularly low res: 225 ppi. I'll give you it being
> quite small but that's kind of a requirement if you want to put it in
> your pocket.
> It's got two SDHC card slots for storage which gives you up to 16GB
> each - and you can carry more if you can live with swapping them
> (though I think that would be a recipe for me losing them).
> It does have USB for adding extra peripherals, stuff sticking out is
> always a bit unwieldy but shouldn't be too bad for using a wireless
> dongle or flash drive. Software can be added fairly easilly - this is
> one advantage of the game target, they've put a bit of effort into
> making packaging and installation really easy (the installation step
> is actually removed, things just run from the package).
> Right, I'll stop trying to sell you one now (I'm not actually on
> commission...).

Ah, OK. On revisiting the specs, I will give you that - much better
screen than I realised and rather more "poke".

I still don't fancy one, though. I have no real interest in computer
games: I play a few hours a year, typically, and the last game to
attract my real interest was Doom in 1993. Guitar Hero was fun for a
week or so then I got bored.

I, like hundreds of millions, don't want a games console. I don't mind
if my computer can play games - that might occasionally be useful -
but I don't want hardware that is optimised for games, because I don't
play games.

But if you surf the web, write emails, need to take notes, whatever,
you need a keyboard and a screen, and ideally, you want them to be as
big as possible.

My point about the Psion stands: there's a minimum size of keyboard
necessary to be able to type properly on it, not painstakingly enter
SMS texts. I need something I can write on for hours on end, quickly,
fluidly & without pain.

The Psion 3 just about coped. The Psion 5 was brilliant. Smaller would
compromise this unacceptably.

What Psion did, and so far everyone else except perhaps Sony have been
*too stupid to realise*, is that the correct design process is this:

[1] Accepting that a keyboard is, thus far, the optimal and
*necessary* input device, design one as small as possible while still
being possible to touch-type upon.
[2] Set the size of this as the basic unit size of your device.
[3] In that footprint, fit as big a screen as you can. (I.e., the same
size as your keyboard, basically.)
[4] Work out how thin you can make it and still include the essential
functions and features.
[5] Now design a hinge, slider or whatever that allows the device to
open and close in a reliable, convenient fashion.

Instead, what the designers of the current rash of ARM prototypes did is:

[1] Miniaturise a notebook PC a bit more, producing a cramped, crappy
keyboard, a tiny mousepad and whatever screen is cheap.
[2] Er, hope people buy it.

If this notional ARM sub-sub-notebook doesn't fit in a pocket, tough.
I don't care. I want it as small as possible and no smaller. There
comes a point when miniaturising a computer further compromises its

There are no end of pocketable gadgets. I've owned multiple examples:
Palm, Sharp Zaurus, HTC Universal, Nokia smartphone, Nokia
Communicator, SonyEricsson P-series smartphone, /et cetera et cetera
ad nauseam/. All are much less use than my poor old Psions were
because they are *too small*. The fact that they fit in a pocket makes
them useless toys when it comes to *work*.

Result: lots of pocket-sized toys that are useless, and miniature
notebooks which are also useless. The pocket things bulge with
functionality, but have screens and keyboards too small to use; the
subnotebooks are too big to pocket, but are crippled, underpowered
notebooks which desktop software won't readily fit on and /still/ have
crappy keyboards.

There is a sweet spot in the middle. It was forgotten 10yr ago. Nobody
has yet re-discovered it.

Liam Proven • Profile: http://www.linkedin.com/in/liamproven
Email: lproven at cix.co.uk • GMail/GoogleTalk/Orkut: lproven at gmail.com
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