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Linux on a Wrist Watch? 276

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the so-how-about-some-details,-huh? dept.
OnlyNou writes "IBM Develops Prototype of Wrist Watch Running Linux only a prototype, but it shows big blue has a lot of time on it's hands." The article is pretty vapourous: Its just a press release saying that they've done it. No pictures of linkage, so if anyone finds something informative, please post it. Update by HUNQ: Here is the picture of the watch, and it's DAMN CUTE! (credits goes to Linux Weekly News)
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Linux on a Wrist Watch?

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  • Reminds me of an old SNL commercial in the 70s where they had an LED wristwatch. It took 4 buttons to be simultaneously pressed to see the time. It took 2 people to press all the buttons together.
  • Linux, which was developed by Finnish programmer Linus Torvalds, is used for many basic functions of Web sites, but is not yet considered mature enough for heavier business tasks.

    Who'd they get this quote from? Some kid in HS telling them how Linux is a 1337 hax0r OS?

    Cute article, mostly fluff. There are about 4 hard facts in it.

    1)Linux is an Operating System. Kinda like Windows, (GEE!)

    2)IBM put Linux on a wristwatch.

    3)Linux Torvalds has something to do with all of this.

    4)IBM isn't going to sell the watch, boo hoo.

    No offense to the author of the article, but WHERE DID YOU GET THAT QUOTE?

    How many supercomputers do you know run by NT? Which webserver has the highest marketshare? Is it IIS? Noo... Where do you come up with this stuff? Most computers are developed with some form of Unix, it might not be Linux, but certainly more people trust a Unix than trust NT. No offense, but I trust Linux WAYYY more than NT based on REAL WORLD EXPERIENCE.

  • Can you imagine a Beowulf cluster of these on your arm?

    Seriously, though - this reminds me of research at getting a network running through skin connectivity. Combine that with really small wearable processors, and you get to transmit files to your friends by shaking hands with them. The original implementation I remember was that you'd have a shoe that traded business cards with other people's shoes, by shaking hands. Crazy.

  • Because maybe if you had the money you'd want to get a watch that'll present yourself in a somewhat half-assed way.
    I do have the money, and I don't want a watch to "present me". In fact, when I wear a watch (which is rare enough), I wear it in my pocket. Anyway, my point is that there's a large range of "personal presentation" options that involve neither dirty "C DOS RUN" t-shirts, nor PHB-style personal paraphernalia. One of the things that piss me off the most about these kinds of debates is that people tend to see these things in a linear scale, from "dorky" to "glamorous", and are all excited either about defending either direction, or on finding the oh-so-difficult middle point. I say bullshit. There's many more options than that; there's not just an up and a down, but a front and back, left and right, and it's perfectly possible to have a personal style that looks like you give more than a crap about yourself, without buying into the name-brand clothes and goldwatch crap.

    as for my work, I actually work for an internet company that has already realized that Linux and Free Software are good things, and where management actually cares more about what you have to say than about what your watch is made of. if yours doesn't, hey, we're hiring [iagora.com] =)

    Just don't be angry when I'm your boss in a week. =)
    as long as I get to do cool stuff, I won't =)
  • Seriously, though - this reminds me of research at getting a network running through skin connectivity. Combine that with really small wearable processors, and you get to transmit files to your friends by shaking hands with them. The original implementation I remember was that you'd have a shoe that traded business cards with other people's shoes, by shaking hands. Crazy.

    Eek. Imagine the kinda viruses that this could cause.

    DON'T TOUCH ANYONE! Your computers will get infected!

    -- Dr. Eldarion --
  • That's nice, but pure research is only useful when the results are released. If IBM had to do interesting things to the kernel to get it to scale down to this extent (and I'll bet they did), they should release the changes if this research is to be anything but a waste of time.

    --


  • ...will it have an integrated MP3 player?

  • Remember the big protest because they were going to put up a satellite transmitting on OSCAR (or was it AMSAT?) frequencies? It sort of died after that (good riddance).
  • Doesn't the average human have space enough for three or more watches? Why limit ourselves to watches that only do useful things like tell time? Accessorize!
  • by mr (88570)
    >The Data Link is Windows only, and in the two years I have been using NT4 and W2K, my rig has been rock stable

    You have not read the licence. The watch is only licenced for use with Win 3.1, WfW, and Windows 95.

  • the best watch I've ever had w/ 5 alarms

    I thought the 5 alarms was a small bonus compared to the 150 phone numbers!!! Not to mention the appointment beeper, the to-do list and birthday reminder. It's personally saved my a$$ numerous times. I really don't care that it's made by Mircosoft, 'cause it's actually a *GOOD* product! I guess I also enjoy the bragging rights at geek parties that I've got the heavier wristwatch. :)

  • by Jonathan (5011) on Monday August 07, 2000 @08:18AM (#873218) Homepage
    I have not worn a watch since about 1989, and I have never been in a situation where I wished I had one. The need for a timepiece on your wrist is a complete illusion.

    I can only assume you never ride public buses.
  • Anyone remember the Timex Data-Link watch?

    I not only remember it, I'm wearing one right now! It's useful, really! Sure, I've lost the software to actually program it and I've never really used it for anything even when I had the software, but there's nothing quite like holding your watch up to your computer screen to program it with a bunch of flashing lines. Try it. It will change your life.

  • Wasn't this watch in Knight Rider?
  • Or are you going to sit and admire it, and then go out and get a real watch, a gold watch that actually conveys status and meaning to the rest of society?

    Well, I thought a watch was for you to know what time it was. Apparently I was mistaken. So, given that I have now been educated that the purpose of a watch is to convey status and meaning to the rest of society, the point of this watch is even clearer. It's just as much a status symbol as a cell phone, PDA, laptop, etc. "My watch runs Linux, what does yours run?"

    Now, if we for some reason want to want to think of a watch as a functional device, as opposed to a status symbol, the advantages of putting linux on a watch are obvious. The code that runs watches previous to this was designed to...run a watch. Whereas linux running on a watch is a general-purpose OS adapted to run on a watch. Which means it can easily be extended to create all sorts of futuristic wrist-devices, i.e. phones, remote-controls, etc.
  • They should open source the design of the watch (and the kernel as well, which would already be required under the GPL) so people can hack together their own linux watches.

    NightHawk

    Tyranny =Gov. choosing how much power to give the People.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Shouldn't it be "IBM has too much time on it's wrist"?
  • I, personally love the watch, it would go well on my exgf and match her cute glasses, but I would picture the production model with either a chrome or gold finish, or removable plates. Perhaps iMac colors, which are strangely fashionable (nobody conservative would have thought in the 80s, now they would all wear one).

  • by craw (6958) on Monday August 07, 2000 @07:07AM (#873226) Homepage
    Well this will cause a problem when I travel. But this device would be a great retirement gift.

    Please turn off all electronic devices until 10 minutes after takeoff.

  • by Golias (176380) on Monday August 07, 2000 @07:08AM (#873227)
    Admittedly it's not hard to tell the time on an analog watch, but those few milliseconds more it takes, multiplied by the thousands of times you look at your watch, is a significant productivity hit.

    Some of us have realized that it is even more productive to not wear a watch at all. Why carry a clock with you everywhere you go when there are clocks everywhere, and you are surrounded by people who wear them as fashion statements.

    By not wearing a watch, I actually manage my time better, and I have no temptation to glipse at the time over and over when I am anxious.

    I have not worn a watch since about 1989, and I have never been in a situation where I wished I had one. The need for a timepiece on your wrist is a complete illusion.

    Watches are shackles, dude. Loose it and you will be happier.

  • by freebe (174010)
    My question is: What is the point? If you think about it, Linux is just a piece of computer code (esp. on a device like this). What functionality is the computer code adding to this wristwatch? Nothing over a RTOS, that's what I can tell you. It's just a hunk of computer code that does absolutely nothing without something to run in it - and what are you going to run? MPG123 on a watch? Are you going to practice Bash shell scripting while you're out? Or are you going to sit and admire it, and then go out and get a real watch, a gold watch that actually conveys status and meaning to the rest of society?
  • Obviously you missed the point. Kurzwiel is a respected futurist, and the work wasn't sci-fi - it was a futurist's predictions for the future. And Kurzwiel is one amazing fellow - he hasn't been wrong yet. I trust his vision here.
  • by Xerithane (13482) <xerithane&nerdfarm,org> on Monday August 07, 2000 @05:40AM (#873230) Homepage Journal
    Casual Passerby: "Do you know what time it is?"
    Person wearing Linux Watch: "Absolutely not, but I run linux on it."

    nerdfarm.org [nerdfarm.org]
  • It might be a trick of the lighting, but the damn thing looks like it's an inch thick. It shouldn't be a watch, it should be a belt buckle!
  • by Foogle (35117) on Monday August 07, 2000 @05:41AM (#873232) Homepage
    Super, Great, Fantastic. Now my wrist-watch won't crash anymore. Oh, wait -- My wrist-watch doesn't crash anyway because, like the majority of watch-wearing people on this planet, I don't wear a digital watch.

    Digital watches have never been fashionable -- I don't think wrist-computers are going to take-off any time in the near (or not-so-near) future.

    -----------

    "You can't shake the Devil's hand and say you're only kidding."

  • This is true, but they were right with the bullet "Everything you do will be more fun!"

    Now I even enjoy scooping the cat litter.

    Thanks again, Windows.
  • Well, I've got a watch with a minute hand, millenium hand and an eon hand.

    And when they meet, it's a happy land.

    Powerful man....


  • Personally, I'm surprised that no one has mentioned this. [alnitak.org]

    Of course, you could then move to your other arm, your legs, pocketwatches, your penis...whatever. Imagine your computing power.

  • Get a Beowulf cluster of these and we can be as cool as Ricky Schroeder with his arm full of swatches.
    -----
  • by SatelliteBoy (134412) <panterrNO@SPAMmailandews.com> on Monday August 07, 2000 @08:35AM (#873242)
    Ah, but can you find true North with a digital watch?

    Seriously, all analog watches can be used as sun compasses. It's a couple of steps, but an interesting trick:

    First, hold the watch horizontal. Then, hold something thin over the center of the watch, making a sundial-like shadow. Line this shadow up with 12:00. Now, true North is half way between the hour hand and the shadow. You do need, however, to correct for daylight savings and have the correct time.

    Of course, there's always the GPS watch...

  • by Rev. DeFiLEZ (203323) on Monday August 07, 2000 @07:18AM (#873244) Homepage
    What's wrong with research without a practical application?

    This is EXACTLY the point.
    Too many companies only do projects to have a product at the end. And then they complain that they are behind or dont have the training to do some other practical project.

    Historically the most used inventions were made by mistake. How does anyone expect to create something REALLY good when the outcome is already set in stone.

  • ...does it run xntpd?

    --

  • I've actually had the privilege to work in IBM research in Yorktown NY. It's the greatest place to work in the world. All because they have Lego Mindstorm! Certainly the largest collection of geniuses west of MIT and east of Palo Alto. (All geniuses love Legos.)

  • Is this a hoax? If not, I want my flying-car-in-a-briefcase.
  • >Journaling Filesystem: If my watch goes down, I won't lose my other timezone settings.

    That implies that IBM is going to finish the port of JFS to linux so that they can put it on their watch... yeah, that makes sense.

    Devil Ducky
  • According to All Linux Devices, the interface is a combination of a touch-sensitive screen and the rolling wheel. It apparently runs Linux 2.2 as the kernel (although the sheet says "OS"), along with some form of X server (X11 R6). Apparently they hope to up the resolution of the device, allowing it to be used to surf the internet. It has 8 MB of flash memory, and 8 MB ram. This is actually fairly impressive for a watch.

    Although I think that using "a combination of the rolling wheel and touch sensitive screen" to interface with the watch is just a little too annoying. Can you imaging writing anything with that? It's already annoying enough to set normal watchs, can you imaging rotating in the new date after the battery dies?

  • by FreeUser (11483) on Monday August 07, 2000 @08:47AM (#873268)
    In 1960s the french actually tried decimal time :)

    It was a good idea, unfortunately it never caught on (of course, here in the US the entire metric system 'never caught on' despite being our official standard for decades now).

    I wrote an amusing java applet which is viewable on my homepage [jean.nu], which impliments a kind of "metric time."

    10 hours / day, 100 minutes /hour, 100 seconds /minute, e.g. 5:00:00 is 12:00 noon

    Actually, it would make more sense in terms of nomenclature to have 1000 seconds / minute, such
    that one has hours (decirotations), minutes (millirotations), and seconds (microrotations), e.g. 7:50:000 would be 6:00 PM.
  • Speaking of vendor-propriatary time, check out Swatch Beat Time [swatch.com]. (I must confess that I own and use one of these watches.)

    -Waldo
    -------------------
  • I was once working on a project with some guys from Israel, Denmark, and other places and we kept trying to meet but we were having some... "communication difficulties" determining what time we were meeting. So we decided to go with .beats, Internet time, whatever you want to call it. At least then we had one source of an absolute time. We only did that a couple times, but for the first time at a mall I noticed the swatch store (something I would usually edit out of my vision (ignore)) and thought it might be cool to have a watch that could display time in .beats.
  • by dublin (31215)
    Funny how snobbish "geeks" can be against things purely because of their preconceived notions about them.

    I love a nice quality mechanical watch (and the good ones generally come in gold cases, which are not the expensive part of the watch!). That's not because I'm trying to impress anyone (I'm not), but because I'm a mech hacker, too, and I appreciate the elegance of a really nice mechanical hack like that required to do a nice watch.

    Have a look at the Jeager-LeCoultre Reversos with hands on both sides (keeping in mind that the hands on the opposite side must run "backwards") and tell me that's not a neat hack - remember, there are a *lot* of great hacks going on outside computers - some of which are at least 2000 years old. (Look up "Antikythera Mechanism" on your favorite search engine for the oldest documented hack of this kind.)

    That said, I don't wear a gold Swiss watch every day, in fact, at the moment, I have on a nigh indestructible Timex Indiglo analog watch, which takes with aplomb the daily thrashing I give it without undue concern for scratches, water, and the like. (I do have to say that I despise digital watches with a passion: analog is better, and mech analog better still: after all, seconds aren't atomic, so watches *should* have true sweep-second hands rather than the ridiculous goose-stepping horrors the Japanese have foisted on us...)
  • by cr0sh (43134)
    Steve Mann did this a couple of years ago:

    http://www2.linuxjournal.com/lj-issues/issue75/3 993.html
    http://www2.linuxjournal.com/l j-issues/issue75/cover75.jpg

    Called the WearComp, another evolution of the idea of wearables.

    From the article:

    A GNU/Linux Wristwatch Videophone

    This fully functioning prototype, designed and built by Steve Mann in 1998, was demonstrated in 1999 and later used to deliver a videoconference at ISSCC 2000.

    by Steve Mann

    Take a read - well worth it!
  • I can handle a PDA running Linux. I can even handle a calculator running Linux. But a watch? What's next, a Linux powered hearing aid?
  • by cr0sh (43134)
    Forgot to mention - yes, it runs Linux - plus it has a camera and runs X as well!
  • by aengblom (123492) on Monday August 07, 2000 @08:56AM (#873294) Homepage
    Anyone else thinking that IBM just invented the "Really Big Pen"??

    ;-)
  • how many of you got a goofy grin when you got to this part of the story:

    ``With Linux rapidly becoming an industry standard, it's important that developers be able to create new applications across all platforms, including pervasive devices, and the intent of IBM's research is to further that work,'' IBM said.

    i mean... :) linux rapidly becoming an industry standard... i can't wait.
  • by mfterman (2719) on Monday August 07, 2000 @08:57AM (#873297)
    The Palm succeeded because it has an interface more suited for a PDA. A wristwatch is going to need something even more stripped down than that. Strangely enough, a GUI is not what is needed for a watch like this. Pure alphanumeric with a few graphical characters is probably what is needed here. Something for the user interface researchers to work on here. As cute as it is to see the command line on a watch, its not very practical.

    To be blunt, a watch is a data display device only. Merging the watch with the pager makes perfect sense and putting your address and appointment book in it. Not sure I'd want to try reading some of my email with it. Maybe just a summary of what is in my PDA through wireless. That is what I really want. A wireless interface between my PDA and my watch to keep the data between them in sync and so I can use my PDA as the data entry device for my watch.

    This falls into the Convergence thread we had elsewhere, about ergonomics and why you don't want a device for doing everything. A watch is good for displaying small amounts of text instantly and with minimal controls for wading through it. It also has a convenience factor to it that is unmatched by any other consumer device. You don't want to load too much gadgetry into it and try to make it do too much. You really just want it to be a specialist device among many. Its not there to replace a PDA any more than a PDA replaces a laptop or a laptop replaces a workstation.
  • To use a decimal time coordinate system we'd also need to develop a decimal earth coordinate.

    Actually, that would fit rather nicely with the metric units of distance already in use. I believe the meter was arbitrarilly designed to be one millionth of the circumference of the earth (I don't recall if it was at the eqautor, or at some longitude passing through Paris).

    Given that, use 1000 metric degrees per circle, and you have (at the equator) almost exactly one kilometer per degree longitude, and at all lattitudes one kilometer per metric degree latitude.

    Although for navigation (in aviation at least) it wouldn't be any more difficult to use metric minutes and hours with existing units of degrees or distance (nautical miles per metric hour might be silly, but km/mh wouldn't be).[1] For shipping, using sextants to measure off distances, it would make less sense.

    It would definitely be a tradeoff: converting units in physics, and navigation for cars and planes would be as easier, or at worst as easy (no more divide/multiply by 3600), but boat skippers would have a tougher time.

    Of course, since shipping (and aviation for that matter) uses different units for distance, they could continue using the depricated, archaic 24 hour system while the rest of us switch to the more elegant metric approach. :-)

    [1] For reasons of safety (and existing instrumentation) it is unlikely aviation will ever switch from using feet for altitude, nautical miles for distance, or degrees for direction. Switching from inches Hg to millibars, and from 24-hour time to metric time, would be pretty trivial though. Ironically, aviators do use celsius for most temperature measurements -- that conversion was easy to make with no safety implications to speak of (but even so, it isn't 100% complete. A feSomew weather stations still report temperature/dew point spreads in faranheit).
  • Nifty! But you know, the real reason we still use seconds and minutes etc is because of the compatibility with our earth coordinate system (latitude and longitude, based on 360 degree circle, 60 minutes to a degree, 60 seconds to a minute). Makes navigation easier.

    To use a decimal time coordinate system we'd also need to develop a decimal earth coordinate. Which would also be nifty, but it would be niftier to develop one based on radians to make it easier to do the math. I can see it now : "What time is it?" "Pi. Break for lunch!"

    WWJD -- What Would Jimi Do?

  • People are quick to poke fun at logging into your watch, the fact that you'd have to lug around a keyboard to interact with it, etc., but consider that you can build your own interface, make your "watch" do whatever it is you wanted to do. Start up the scripts while it's plugged into your base station, and use its 4 buttons (or whatever) to interact with your software.

    The advantage to putting Linux on this is that you can suddenly use any of your existing development tools and languages to build the wristwatch of your dreams. You want multiple time-zone support? Piece of cake. A count-down timer that has a 13-minute starting point instead of just 10 or 15? 50 different alarms? A custom alarm tune? Hack it in!

    Sure, it's only a watch, but with something like this on your wrist, it's a watch you can do whatever you want with.
  • IBM is two years behind [linuxjournal.com] on this one, playing catchup to the Open/Free Source community again.

    --
  • To have the time continuously updated, simply type this in any shell:

    watch date
  • by Booker (6173) on Monday August 07, 2000 @05:44AM (#873319) Homepage
    I think I saw this (or something similar) in a copy of Linux Journal a while back... it even had a camera embedded in it! Check it out here [linuxjournal.com].

    ---

  • Things seem pretty foggy, but I would guess that this is pretty much a proof of concept kind of thing. Rather like writing the letters IBM with a scanning-tunneling electromicroscope (since they started moving atoms with the beast, do they still call it a microscope?). IBM's done several impressive "proof of concept" pieces that were rather useless practically. Consider it an etude.
  • by Greyfox (87712) on Monday August 07, 2000 @12:49PM (#873334) Homepage Journal
    Add this to the IBM tech to communicate data over your body's electric field and you could have something interesting...

    1) Keep your business card on your watch. When you shake hands with someone else wearing a similar watch, it trades business cards.

    2) Let your watch talk to your PDA through your body's electric field.

    3) Let your watch and your PDA talk to your MP3 player through your body's electric field.

    4) Automatically synch your watch, your PDA and your MP3 player when you sit down at your computer (Though I think the protocol was too slow to download MP3s last time I read about it.)

    Down sides:

    1) Your body, PDA, Watch and MP3 player would have to run Lotus Notes.

    2) If you want to run the latest thing from Lotus, you'd have to be running Windows.

    3) Who knows what your watch, PDA and MP3 player are REALLY talking about? They could be conspiring to kill you!

    4) They'll recruit your computer in their evil plot when you sit down at your computer. They might even have a chat with your car on the topic.

  • Before everyone starts saying things like "I wonder if I can make a Beowulf cluster" or "Why the hell would someone want to run linux on a watch," let me just say that this makes some sense.

    They want a watch that will sync with a computer, like the Timex DataFlash or whatever the hell they call it. They are being lazy, so they want a pre-packaged OS. And it's a lot easier to shrink down linux than it is to shrink down WinCE. I write embedded code for DSP's, and I wish we didn't have to write every single little serial transfer line in ASM, but we are restricted to using this processor for various reasons. If IBM can make a watch, put in a processor that can run Linux, and easily code a little transfer mechanism for it, so be it.

    Lots of little computerized devices run various OS's, like Linux - so it's not a big deal!

    -nosilA, who is moderately annoyed that there are two "we run linux on this cute little thing" stories in a row.

  • by codemonkey_uk (105775) on Monday August 07, 2000 @05:46AM (#873339) Homepage
    Casual Passerby: "Do you know what time it is?"
    Person wearing Linux Watch: "Yeah, just a sec, I need to log on ... um, yeah, hang on, its ... sixty six minutes past six ... oh ... arse, I've been 0wN3d..."

    I'll use it to time hot long it takes me to tot up my phone bill on my HP Linux calculator!

    Thad

  • by FascDot Killed My Pr (24021) on Monday August 07, 2000 @05:46AM (#873343)
    Multi-tasking: "Look honey! I'm telling the hours AND the minutes simultaneously!"
    Journaling Filesystem: If my watch goes down, I won't lose my other timezone settings.
    Scriptability: No more trying to figure out what watch band hole to use. Just setup a cron job to periodically ioctl(IOTIGHTEN, "/dev/band").
    Multi-user: My friend can tell the time while I'm busy using the stopwatch.

    --
  • by Booker (6173) on Monday August 07, 2000 @05:47AM (#873347) Homepage
    You're assuming that the embedded Linux only tells time. That would be silly, I'll grant you that. But surely it does more than that - it opens up possibilities...

    What's next, a Linux powered hearing aid?

    Sure - only it's one with voice recognition, speach synthesis, and a wireless link to babelfish...! You laugh... give it 20 years, max.

    ---

  • You mean that's what those numbers on sign at the bus stop are for? I always thought they were tracking numbers or something

    Devil Ducky
  • by kieran (20691) on Monday August 07, 2000 @05:47AM (#873352)
    Don't think for a second that this is merely a pointless gimmick - it's a necessary component for truly Free Time.

    No longer will we need to be tied down by vendor-proprietrary time: the ability to hack time to our own open source, GPL'd, and entirely bizarre standards.

    "You're five minutes late."
    "Not by my watch, you whore of Casio! I'm 37 chimpanzees early, for insert-deity-here's sake!"
    "Foiled again! Damn you and your Free Time!"
  • Back when I was a kid, "clockwise" didn't just mean "The numbers get bigger" :-)

    Seriously, though, people who learned to tell time on analog time tend to interpret it differently than people who do digital time. The shape of the hands gives you a feel for how much of the day has gone by, and how long it is until some event (e.g. the next hour or half-hour), and if you're using a digital clock you have to burn milliseconds of brain-CPU figuring out those things, which are more often what you really wanted to know than "tell me the numbers you see on your clock". Also, analog folks are more likely to say things like "quarter past three" than "3:14:47pm" - usually rounding to the nearest 5 minutes is just fine.

    I personally prefer digital wristwatches (my current one also has GPS:-), and my computer tells me time in nice clear digital instead of adding yet another cluttery low-resolution Microsoft icon. But when I'm in the train station wanting to know how much I need to rush to get to the train, or whether I've missed it and should go for the next train, I want to just *see* the clock, not calculate minutes.


    Grateful Dead lyrics, from W alk In The Sunshine [eff.org] by Barlow&Weir:


    You got to deep-six your wristwatch
    You got to try and understand
    The time it seems to capture
    Is just the movement of its hands.

  • by Accipiter (8228) on Monday August 07, 2000 @05:48AM (#873359)
    International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE:IBM - news) said on Monday that researchers are running the Linux operating system on a prototype wristwatch device, in a research test designed to show that Linux can be used as the basic software on the smallest devices.

    We already knew this, but hey! This can easily refute the people who say that Linux isn't downward scaleable. "Hey, see my watch? It runs Linux! How's THAT for downward scaling?"

    However, IBM does not have plans to commercialize the Linux watch itself, a spokeswoman said.

    That's a very smart move. Anyone remember the Timex Data-Link watch? I'm not sure I totally buy this as research, though - because if you back up a bit:

    ``Designed to communicate wirelessly with PCs, cell phones and other wireless-enabled devices, the 'smart watch' will have the ability to view condensed email messages and directly receive pager-like messages,'' IBM said in a statement.

    Erm, all of this for "research"? Sounds like a marketable product to me....but again: "IBM, REMEMBER THE DATA-LINK?"

    Linux, which was developed by Finnish programmer Linus Torvalds, is used for many basic functions of Web sites, but is not yet considered mature enough for heavier business tasks.

    It's not? Well jeez, I guess the millions of businesses that run Linux exclusively aren't considered 'Heavy.' Those Corporate Internet Solutions Providers are going to be disturbed to hear they aren't considered a "Heavy Business Task", and that their Linux infrastructure is only handling the "basic functions" of their operation.

    -- Give him Head? Be a Beacon?

  • by JordoCrouse (178999) on Monday August 07, 2000 @05:48AM (#873362) Homepage Journal
    I think a lot of people are jealous of the engineers at IBM (I know I am), because they get to sit around and get paid huge amounts of money just to screw around and try new stuff. If only the rest of us could be as lucky...

    I can just imagine the staff meetings:
    Engineer 1: Did you taste the coffee this morning? It was horrible...
    Engineer 2: Yeah, maybe we should throw Linux on the coffee maker and see if that helps
    Manager: Sounds good to me. Do it. And if you get it to make a mocha, I'll give you a bonus.

  • by laetus (45131) on Monday August 07, 2000 @05:48AM (#873364)
    "No problem, hold a a sec" (types in the following):

    [root@localhost]$ date

    [root@localhost]$ Mon Aug 7 10:44:49 EDT 2000


    "It's 10:44"

    "Thanks"


    ---------------------------------
  • Floating Point: "Not just a calculator watch, but one that crunches SETI@Home cycles in its free time!"
  • You know, text entry on a watch, while painfully slow and inaccurate, *can* be done. Anyone remember the old Casio Data Bank watches? Sure, they we *really expensive* -- like $50-75. Yes, they only held a few hundred reminders or phone numbers. They were also designed in the late eighties, which leads me to believe that we might be able to improve on the design just a bit.

    It seems to me that there are a number of potential uses for something that small, secure, and cheap, even without extensive user I/O. How about a few MB of storage space, so you can use it like a handful of floppies? (I've often wished that my 8MB Palm was willing to cough up even 1-2MB so I could take some new downloads, umm, I mean, Word documents, home from work.) Or, add a low-power RF tranciever, and use the thing as a local pager -- get up and walk around while your code compiles, or get pinged when email arrives, etc. (Hell, then the damn things *could* exchange business cards, etc.)

    If it's running Linux, on a standard (if stripped down) kernel, all these and more are possible from the software side; as with many such barely-marketable ideas, however, getting the hardware build seems like it would be a significantly larger challenge. I wonder if those IBM boys are gonna need that prototype after the press have snapped a few pictures...
  • by mach-5 (73873)
    So how is input entered? Is there tiny keyboard to go with it, and a special dialing wand? OR, does it have something to do with that little wheel on the right?
  • That is fine as long as there are clocks around. There are time when you want to know if you can spend some more time in the bookstore before heading over to the movie theater (or whatever) and there just aren't any damn clocks around. You can go without a watch as long as there are clocks around and your life is predictable and controlled. And you can live without a wallet by just putting the things you will need for a particular excursion into the world until you get home next. That doesn't mean your somehow more enlightened and in control.

    (still like your sig. :)
  • Check out http://www.anoto.com/ They have a new bluetooth based pen which would be an ideal companion to this watch. The pen is strong on input, but weak on output. The watch is the other way around. I saw this demoed a couple of weeks ago. It was pretty damn cool.
  • We have the fact sheet [alllinuxdevices.com] on AllLinuxDevices.

    Some of the features:

    • 2.2 kernel
    • 8 MB Flash, 8 MB DRAM
    • 1.5 oz.
    • IrDA


    ---
    Michael Hall

  • Yeah, but they already have a voice-recognition cell phone watch ... so you just need to wear two watches and let the skin current provide the data transfer circuit.

  • >I can handle a PDA running Linux. I can even handle a calculator running Linux. But a watch? What's next, a Linux powered hearing aid?

    Personally, I'm waiting for a Linux powered toothbrush, just set cron to make it work at night, and I won't have to bother brushing my own teeth anymore, it will all happen while I sleep.

    After that I will be waiting for the Linux powered dentures (for those of us who like to eat but chewing is too much work) and the Linux powered Coffee Maker (I'm truly surprised that doesn't exist yet, combining cafeine with Linux seems obvious), the Linux-enabled phone (instead of getting annoying busy signals you would get annoying kernel panics), the Linux powered winmodem (just seems funny), the linux powered webserver (oh wait, nevermind that), the linux powered keyboard, the linux powered walkman, and last and probably least the linux powered lightbulb.

    Just call me with any other suggestions, so my linux powered answering machine can automatically ignore them.

    Devil Ducky
  • by OctaneZ (73357) <ben-slashdot2&uma,litech,org> on Monday August 07, 2000 @05:56AM (#873390) Journal
    Linux Journal had an article about GNU/Linux on a wristwatch with videoconferencing last month, here is a link to the appropriate month with a picture of the watch on the cover even!
    http://www2.linuxjournal. com/lj-issues/issue75/index.html [linuxjournal.com]
  • Unfortunately, there isn't enough RAM to hold any time conversion routines so it just spits out seconds since the Epoch.

    What time is it?
    965660410

    IS
  • Unless you spend your entire life at bus-stops, it doesn't make a difference. When you leave the house (or classroom, or cafe or workplace or whatever), you have lot's of clocks to visually prompt you to leave. Once your underway, having a watch doesn't change a thing. If you're late for the bus, you'll still be late even with a diamond-studded Rolex.
  • The Time Lords of Earth have free access to their data via the U.S. Naval Observatory (and elsewhere, this one is in the States). http://tycho.usno.navy.mil/time.html [navy.mil]

    And, to join the system (become a junior Time Lord), read up on NTP [navy.mil]!!

    Don't settle for anything less than UTC for your timekeeping needs.

    WWJD -- What Would Jimi Do?

  • by AstynaxX (217139) on Monday August 07, 2000 @05:57AM (#873395) Homepage
    Linux in a box,
    Linux under rocks,
    Linux in a watch,
    Linux in your cr*tch,
    Linux in your hair,
    Linux everywhere.
    Everywhere, we don't care,
    We'll shove Linux everywhere.

    [Disclaimer: I truly support what Linux, GNU, the Open Source community, et. al. are trying to do, but gimicks are not the way. Please, think before you stick something into a random hole]

    -={(Astynax)}=-
  • Another link with info is All Linux Devices [alllinuxdevices.com].

    Chris
  • by Tet (2721)
    Digital watches have never been fashionable

    True, but then neither have I. Perhaps that's why I've worn a digital watch since 1978 or so. But seriously, what has fashion got to do with anything? While I can't really see the day when I start coding (or even playing) Quake 7 on my wristwatch, I can forsee a time when it plays me music, schedules appointments etc.

  • I'm in the process of refurbishing some mac pluses to do fun things with them- basically fixing them up and painting them black. They boot off floppies (800K only) and have no drives or fans anywhere in them, so they're dead silent. Given a small modem they can happily dial into a shell account- I was reading Slashdot last night on one via lynx- and of course there's text editing using TeachText (very small program), and I am planning to test out whether I can use them and boot into vi- not a joke- the Mac port of Vim is what I'll be testing, to see if the 68K version will cope with a Plus- set it up as a Finder replacement, and presto, a tiny 60W black vi box :)

    That's not scary? Correct, the scary bit is this- I doubt I can make a plus boot Linux, because IBM's watch has EIGHT TIMES the ram of these little computers o_O not to mention 8M 'disk' to boot off as opposed to the 800K floppy...

    Still, it looks very likely that I can at least get vi onto one of these little buggers eventually. I'll call them linux training boxes, a sort of art project :)

  • by wishus (174405) on Monday August 07, 2000 @06:03AM (#873411) Journal
    ...because i need a multi-user operating system on my wrist.

    wish
    ---
  • by British (51765) <british1500@gmail.com> on Monday August 07, 2000 @06:06AM (#873416) Homepage Journal
    Yeah, but for some reason it won't listen to constructive criticism about Linux. :)
  • Now, if they just had a graffiti interface, I'm sure this...
    • is possible
    • would be a hit
    Now, how do we write ^]:wq in graffiti ???
    --
  • The "Linux on a Watch" from the LJ article doesn't actually run Linux. The thing on your wrist is really just an X display (and webcam) with a watch band. The processor and OS are hooked to your belt (or in another room, IIRC). The time is told using a modified version of oclock.
    --
  • by grahamsz (150076) on Monday August 07, 2000 @06:13AM (#873427) Homepage Journal
    Redmond, WA - Microsoft today announced the release of Microsoft Time 2000. This updated version of their popular package incorporates 6 all new hours into the day.

    The US DoJ slammed microsofts innovation claiming it was an attempt to force their competitors 24 hour system out of use. MS would not speak to us directly but did issue the following statement:

    We are not trying to force anyone out of business but are merely trying to cater for customer demand. Our users wanted more time in the day to surf the internet and drink beer so understandably we have built this into our product.

    Industry Analysts fear customers will be taken in by the microsoft hype and are warning that unless you clock is sufficiently powerful then you will find that time runs too slowly to be useful.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    http://alllinuxdevices.com/news_story.php3?ltsn=20 00-08-07-005-03-PS-WL-WB
  • by bob_jordan (39836) on Monday August 07, 2000 @06:36AM (#873435)
    press any key to clear the tiny seti-at-hand screen saver.

    Bob.
  • "a watch is a data display device only"
    And a small one at that. If I want to know the time, the mobile phone in my pocket will tell me. So will my TRGpro (PalmOS) which I carry around almost as often.

    I got sick of scratching my watch on things as I reached behind stuff. Now I'm against things you can't take off and put aside easily. Even my Palm belt-pouch thing has a quick-release catch.

    I've been thinking about the Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy (the novel, not the guide someone's putting together) with the comment about how under evolved we are because we think digital wristwatches are a good idea, and how true that's becoming...

  • Or are you going to sit and admire it, and then go out and get a real watch, a gold watch that actually conveys status and meaning to the rest of society?

    are you kidding? why would I want to spend my $$ on a GOLD WATCH of all things? of all the things I could do with my attention, time and money, choosing a watch that "conveys status and meaning to the rest of society" ranks pretty damn near the bottom.

    $5 casio (or no brand) watches are the best. you can buy a whole box of them, and take the next one when yours goes in the washing machine or falls behind the bed or whatever.

  • by CrayDrygu (56003) on Monday August 07, 2000 @06:18AM (#873442)
    Seeing all the comments like this one [slashdot.org] and this one [slashdot.org] and this one [slashdot.org] make me wonder...

    How many of you people actually read these articles? Because it's obvious you're not getting the full story. Let me enlighten you:

    However, IBM does not have plans to commercialize the Linux watch itself, a spokeswoman said.

    ``This is just research prototype,'' said Takako Yamakura. ''Some say Linux cannot be scaled down. This is just to show Linux is capable of doing this.''

    In other words...get over it, guys. Sorry, no linux watch for you. Not from IBM, anyway.

    And as for Mr. "No good will come of this" (my third link) -- Judging from Takako's comment, I'd say this will help a lot more than it can harm. After all, if Linux can be scaled down to fit on a wristwatch, it can obviously be used for [insert name of portable device here].

    --

  • Well, you can already get some pretty sophisticated watches, but the only real benefits I can see is in programming/configuring it for peripherals, such as:

    Propeller Beanie anonometer

    Pacemaker biofeedback

    Insulin monitor

    Blood alcohol monitor

    Caffiene monitor

    Dick Tracy Two-way wrist computer(tm)

    Secret Decoder

    Pressure sensor

    Depth guage

    Dive monitor

    Slashdot reading while being shaked down for your lunch money

    Photo-editting (with Gimp) of images scanned in via your Borg-Cam

    Electronic Thumb
    and then it may result in a lot of unemployed Babel fish... Need bait?

  • by Anonymous Coward
    This is funny, but IBM's research labs really are full of people just exploring the possiblities. There are whole groups of people experimenting with form factors like, say a computer in an earring. I kid you not, there is a guy I met with, among other things, a perfectly ordinary pair of earrings on his desk. His boss promised him that he'd wear them around all day if he could make it so it would whisoer his email to him.
  • Open your mind/eyes and you will see..
    This is a step in a forward direction.

    For over five years I have been thinking and dreaming about the watchphone becoming reality. I even had the idea of registering watchphone.com, but unfortunately when I first got pulled myself together years after, it was taken, and have been nothing but a dummy page ever since. I kick myself in the butt today for my lack of activity at the right time.

    Anyways, with running a unix system on the wrist watch, you are heading in the right direction (and concidering IBM now plan to make huge mobile investments with divisions in Europe counting 5000employees in this sector alone, they obviously are going for keeps). Having the unix system on the 'watchphone' as I call it, you have compatibility and scalability of the future. You have a terminal, which will be empowered by highspeed wireless connectivity solutions(hence IBM's future plans) from which you can control your security camera at home, watch the kiddies while being in the other room, watch your home, and activate automatic functions when away so when you return home, your bed has been prepared, your coffee is ready, dinner is ready, etc.. You can also do video/phone conferences, multimedia sessions, communicate with the entire world from that thing on your wrist.. 'I've got the whole world, in my hands.. - would partly become true' its called convergence of technology, its the future, and IBM knows it!

    Combine it with some of Seiko/Epson's new display techology or whatever comes next, this is quite enchanting..

    Having speculated in this area, made drawings, designed user interfaces, etc.. for years just for the fun of it, have been exciting.. seing it come true will be awesome.. now I come to think of it.. the device was also described in one of William Gibson's books too..

    Should IBM, Nokia or alike be interested, then I would happily participate in the R&D of this.. contact me at caspera@sophistic.com :)
  • ..or is there's no time displayed on the watch [lwn.net]?

    So instead of glancing at my watch to tell the time do I have to somehow call date on the command line?
    FOOD FOR THOUGHT
  • This watch should only be good until 2038... :)
  • "Excuse me, do you have the time?

    "Yeah, sure. It's..."
    [root@localhost]# time
    0.0u 0.0s 0:00 5% 0+388k 0+0io 0pf+0w


    "Oh $#!&@!"

    [root@localhost]# date
    Mon Aug 7 17:50:22 UDT 2000
    "Uh, it's 17:50... which I think is 3:50 PM, oh shit... then you need to subtract the difference between Pacific Time and Universal Mean Time, which is.... wait. Is it Daylight savings? Oh, ok... then you subtract 8 hours from Universal time, which means it's 7:50 AM... yes. It's 7:50 AM, ma'am!"

    "Uh, thanks..." (slowly backs away)

  • Let us gather together and rise up against the evil thick techno-watch monopoly, Casio! Damn you and your 80's synth watch complete with Samba _and_ samba2!!

    Today on the rid: Napster in the Crapster [ridiculopathy.com]

    ridiculopathy.com [ridiculopathy.com]
  • The newest site on themes.org.

    Watch.themes.org

    hehehe :-)

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