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Linux Based Webpad 63

nordicfrost pointed us to a Web site that has announced a Linux based Webpad. It's got lots of nifty features (although I really want an 802.11 wireless ethernet as an option) including changable color plates, cable TV Viewer and other stuff. I still want to see one of these things that isn't vapor.
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Linux Based Webpad

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  • Yep, S3 has a webpad running linux on Transmeta. I've worked with one (a prototype), and these things are sweet.

    They (S3) say battery life is probably going to be between 6 and 8 hours between recharges. The pads will come in a few flavors, one with a 4G drive, one with 64M flash. All have 802.11b wireless. They can also display in either portrait or landscape mode, which I found to be a nice feature.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    If you want something a little newer, how about an IBM 730T. It is lighter than the Grids I have held. It has a 25 MHz 486 and a Mono VGA screen. They are pretty regularly available on Ebay. See: an example auction [ebay.com] for an example. I am not a seller and I am not saying that is the best auction. It is just the first one I found with a decent picture. I think they look interesting and they seem to sell for under a hundred dollars.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    We don't need a wireless Linux box, just a wireless X Server. Run the whole darn thing outta ROMs. Cheap! Useful!

    Any sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from technology.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Opera as the browser looks pretty good, but with battery life listed as only 1.5-4.5 hours I wonder how it will stack up to some of the 8-14 hour devices with Transmeta chips. It looks like this one used the Cyrix GX chip.

    I'd also like to wait an see what devices running BeIA will be like compared to Linux-based devices. In short, it's always nice to see new gadgets, but I'll wait until webpads have flooded the market so that I'll have plenty of choices.

    -Revoke
  • The DECTDMAP is a european wireless ISDN, since the specs I saw supported dual-channel it should get 128kbit. In theory the pad can be a speakerphone with one channel as a phone and the other working data. It uses the wireless link to communicate with a base station. According to the email I received from the company the base station will have modem, ethernet, ISDN, and cable-modem modules. It should link in quite well with most geek networks.

  • See http://slashdot.org/articles/99/11/10/1235226.shtm l

    Or has there any significant development?
    I didn't notice anything new at the website.

  • That's exactly what I was thinking right now. Basically only a remote graphical dumb terminal. Besides the advantages cited, software updates would also be trivial, since you wouldn't have to change the WebPad itself, only the host computer.

    Uwe Wolfgang Radu
  • Finnish, I believe.

    Uwe Wolfgang Radu
  • I'd really prefer something like a super-sized Palm Pilot, maybe A4 sized or a bit smaller. Mainly because of the thinner case possible and the longer battery life. Grey scale screen is fine for an awful lot of browsing, as long as contrast is good (like on the new Palms and Visors). Add a beefy lithium battery which should more than offset the extra screen size, and we should have very decent battery life--well over 10 hours of continuous use.

    Uwe Wolfgang Radu
  • Something all-out like this should also have good stereo speakers on it and 802.11 networking. It would make a great portable MP3 player around the house, pulling music off a server elsewhere in the house. Take this baby on the back porch, kick back and relax...

    Uwe Wolfgang Radu
  • I agree that 1.5-4.5 hours isn't that much (what's up with that range, anyway? quite a difference between 1.5 hours and 4.5 hours). But--and this also addresses your travelling concern--this device is really home-bound by its very nature. It depends on some kind of base station, be it a modem that dials out, or an 802.11 access point. So they could devise some kind of charging cradle that it could rest in when not in use--kind of like cordless phones, which also don't have terribly long continuous talking times, probably just 2-3 hours. Still, if it had a battery life over 10 hours, it would make it that much less fatal if you forgot to place it back in the cradle after an hour's use.

    Uwe Wolfgang Radu
  • Hey, I've already done that with a regular old laptop with wireless Ethernet. Sure, it burns my thighs, and sure it weighs a ton, and it most definitely will go to pieces when shifting position and dropping it, but hey! How many people can say they've read Slashdot from the can?

    Uwe Wolfgang Radu
  • by uradu ( 10768 )
    This thing is tethered to the perimeter of the DECT reach. Outside of that it's just a silly computer without local storage (I assume), not terribly much horsepower, no keyboard, and it weighs a ton to boot. Who wants THAT? The Palm is for mobile organization, this thing is for browsing at home. Very distinct markets.

    Uwe Wolfgang Radu
  • You're mixing your arguments here. Full-featured IE I believe only exists for desktop Windows. The IE on WinCE is seriously stripped down and probably doesn't even come close to Netscape's features. I buy your argument for IE5/Win9x on the WebPad, but not WinCE.

    Uwe Wolfgang Radu
  • > My favorite browser is IE, which is of course
    > not available on linux or any other open source
    > unix, though I'm hoping it will be someday.

    Same here. In that spirit, I do hope that they break up Microsoft into OS and Apps. That way we might actually have a chance of seeing it on Linux. It would be an excellent way for Apps to demonstrate that they're not secretly still cooperating with OS.

    Uwe Wolfgang Radu
  • The point is, as has been reiterated numerous times on Slashdot, that the CPU isn't the most power-hogging component in a PC. Even in this WebPad, if they graphed the power usage statistics of all the components, far far at the top of the list would be the LCD backlight and the TFT electronics, then the wireless radio, then only maybe the CPU. Going to a reflective LCD would increase battery life MUCH more than going to Transmeta.

    Uwe Wolfgang Radu
  • There is a club over on Excite called Webpad Fanatics [slashdot.org] (free, but annoying registration required). They have a bunch of photos, and links and gossip about these things.

    I would buy one - it seems they've been talking about them forever. I bet the market is going to be Christmas season 2000. At least that is what Qubit is promising. We'll see. Now, if they could only build in a packet-radio modem we'd be set!

  • Sorry - here's the working URL:

    http://clubs.excite.com/webpadfans [excite.com]

    I know, I know... I'm an idiot. What can you do?

  • Because you can use it without making a deal with the devil.

    The computer industry is littered with the corpses of companies that had a special relationship with Microsoft.
  • So have I. I even did it with my Palm Pilot & a wireless phone jack extender thingy.

    Years ago a child could tell that his dad was heading for the can when he grabbed the sports page and walked out of the room. "Honeeeyy!, where did you put the sports page?"

    Nowdays it's "Hoonneeeyy, have you seen the laptop?"

    Next year it will be "Honeey, do you know where the webpad is?"
  • Yeah but, I'm about as geeky and nerdy as your average nerd, but there are things about Microsoft that I like and admire. Granted, some of these things are due to their monopoly status (drivers, etc).

    Also, since Microsoft is so prevalent, ignoring them is dangerous, Windows and Explorer are going to be competition for Linux for the near future.

    I don't like the way anything remotely positive about MS generate a troll response. That's a little myopic, IMHO.

    George
  • More importantly, do you have to login with a username and password to use it? Does it run Xfree? Do you really have the option of recompiling the PDA's kernel?

    I don't know. I think a linux-based PDA is as overkill as the zealots claim Windows CE(a desktop OS jammed in a PDA) is.
  • Using a Cyrix processor over a Transmeta processor shouldn't mean that much of a difference in battery time. There has to be other more important factors. I mean, how much CPU usage will a webpad use anyway?
  • Surely for a webpad, which you can't update or change, you'd want to use Internet Explorer instead?

    There are two problems with this.

    1. Licensing Fees
      You can't make a cheap product when you have to license a Microsoft OS.

    2. Increase in needed hardware
      A webpad running a Microsoft OS will seem much slower than one running Linux, *BSD, or BeIA.

  • You're mixing your arguments here. Full-featured IE I believe only exists for desktop Windows. The IE on WinCE is seriously stripped down and probably doesn't even come close to Netscape's features.


    Nah, stripped down, but more features than netscape (esp netscape for unix/linux). XML, DHTML, CSS1 and partial CSS2, Flashplugin etc.
  • Looks really cool but where are the specifics on the applications? Like - how do I type in a URL in the browser?
  • As far as remote displays go, the 'Sun Ray [sun.com]' terminal is one of the few such products that is not vapor- I've played with two of them.

    The product has some drawbacks, but it does embody many of the most important criteria of a remote display- zero administration, zero noise (no local fan, no local disk), small footprint, and plays MP3s out of the box.

    The Sun implementation is very bandwidth-intensive, and thus would probably not translate well to a wireless interface. While it only requires one central computer, that computer needs to be running Solaris on an Ultra-2 or better.

  • Check out Qubit [qubit.net]. They're still a little more vaporish than I'd like - they keep pushing the release date back and back, for one thing - but at least they provide some real specs instead of just buzzwords.
  • Already slashdotted (there's a shocker).

    Could someone mirror or post the text or sumthin'?
  • This is SOOO vapor! Even the vapor is vapor. You know, I'd also like a FLYING CAR, which i could easily make "screenshots" of with 3d Studio Max, but it's not going to happen, is it?

    To paraphrase the Daily Show:
    "Ok John, this is a picture of Pikachu. THIS is a picture of Mars. OH NO, JOHN! This is a picture of Pikachu ON Mars! I've got two words for you: PHOTO SHOP!".

    Don't get your hope up, boyos.
    Ham on rye, hold the mayo please.

  • OK, I am interested, of course I haven't heard of the gridpad, who is the manufacturer, what processor(s), etc... I am going to search for this, but please e-mail me about specifics...
    (bcarlson@idiotusers.com)

    Thanks MUCH!!
  • Vapourware is right... although that's a very nicely rendered image. An actual picture might make me a bit more excited...

    Too true.

    I think Palm has nothing to worry about. Why? The Palm VII fits in your hand. As does the RIM Blackberry. THIS monstrosity is freaking HUGE! It's not a webpad - it's more like a beach blanket!

    You know, I don't use the web as much as I might, because a computer is just not the best tool for casual reading -- and network access, even in a wired building, is often a pain to set up. My Palm (non-wireless) always has a bunch of Avantgo and Public Domain reading material on it -- but that tiny screen leaves something to be desired for enjoying literature. We really need something with the form-factor and usability of a hardback book. This is close. Its main failing is the battery life. Two hours? Gimme a break!

    Once you get into a device that size, why bother to make it wireless? Just so you have have the pleasure of lugging it around in its own suitcase so you can browse for gaspacho recipes from the park?

    No, so you can take it to a meeting, or schlep it out to the hammock for some quality time.

    I'd be more inclined to just leave it at home, in which case a short-range wireless connection to my home Internet port would be much better. A lot cheaper, too, I'm betting - I didn't find any mention of a service price on the site.

    I think that short-range connection to an existing LAN or ISP setup is exactly what they're thinking of. Notice this quote:

    DECT DMAP connects to literally any external network, like ISDN, POTS, CATV or ethernet LAN. Expect ADSL compliance medio 2000
  • Fortunately, anyone can take the linux kernel and strip it down as far as they want; tailor it to the system. Hardware is fixed, and the range of functions a PDA is expected to perform is rather small.

    Are there any parts of the kernel the PDA doesn't need that can't be removed?
    ---
    Where can the word be found, where can the word resound? Not here, there is not enough silence.
  • Okay, forget that I even made reference to the CPU. How will a wedpad with a max battery life of 4.5 hours stack up against one with a max of 14?

    My original point was not that the processor mattered, but that it seemed that other forthcoming wedpads are advertising longer battery life. Battery life is an important factor for some of us heavy travelers. So, if Device A is released with a battery life of 4.5 hours and Device B has 14 and both devices cost the same and have the same OS and feature set.... which one do you think I'm going to pick.

    What chance does a device with such low battery life have? That's all I was asking. Sorry for the confusion.

    -Revoke (aka "clueless!")
  • Anyone know why E-ink is still selling only Point-of-sale type displays? www.eink.com [eink.com] They were claiming paper replacements in 95 but I still haven't seen em yet.

    Must admit, this is the best looking webpad yet. The cylinder on top gives it balance and orientation and still makes a roomy place to stuff more electronics/antenna/battery without affecting a particular handedness.

    ---
  • Well then, all hail the country of Norweig! (See, I AM an educated American, ahyuk)

  • I can't think of anything stupider in the entire world than to accept a product simply because its got red white and blue painted on the side of it, or would even hint at the concept.

    I figured the intention of mentioning where a product was from was to show pride in a product, but in the case of my fellow Americans, the Star Spangled Banner might as well be the skull and crossbones.

    Where's my eyepatch...

  • If you read the article it's based on a Cyrix CPU, which WinCE probably doesn't support. I imagine they chose that CPU due to price. In a consumer product like this it makes sense to spend money up front on software (e.g. porting Linux) in order to save $$$ on hardware. Snotnose
  • I agree. The $2200 price tag makes this pointless. I can buy a nice laptop for that. Why would I buy what is essentially a crappy laptop with no keyboard for that kind of money.

    Its almost as if the whole industry has missed the point. These have to be CHEAP if they are gonna sell. Just because it's an "appliance" doesn't mean it should cost as much as a commercial freezer.

  • Just to be clear, this was not a troll. This is offtopic. Get it straight, mods.
    */
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Surely for a webpad, which you can't update or change, you'd want to use Internet Explorer instead? Since it's currently the best and most standards-complient web browser around at the moment it'd make a lot more sense to use that...

  • Well, my friends and I at college were talking about building one of these things around 5 months ago. We never executed on it. Now, you've got this thing, Diamond's making one, and Transmeta is showcasing them..

    Oh well. I was also talking about this with a friend of mine at work. He was worried that these things would go the way of the minicomputer. Laptops would become cheaper and more powerful, while PDAs would get a little bit larger and more powerful (probably cost a bit more too), and the product would be squeezed out of the market. While these devices probably have selling potential now, they most likely won't in 2 years' time. It's not something to create a successful startup around (at least that's not my opinion anymore).

    There's a company that already has one of these things called ePods [epods.com]. Theirs is $200 plus a 36 month dialup Internet plan. They don't seem to be doing *too* well... But hey, we'll see..
  • You'll get haemorrhoids doing that.

    Consciousness is not what it thinks it is
    Thought exists only as an abstraction
  • I really want an 802.11 wireless ethernet as an option

    Rob, according to the "Wireless" section on their site the DECT DMAP protocol supports connection to Ethernet LAN so it seems to me that you should be able to surf via your home gateway/firewall. No idea about the bandwidth though. What does DECT support?

    Consciousness is not what it thinks it is
    Thought exists only as an abstraction

  • Actually, not just web browsing, but writing, coding, etc. from the Throne is great. I mean, shit (pardon the pun), where else can you get such inspirational moments?
  • And for those of us who like to modify our own computing hardware, regardless of someone elses intended use, it certainly matters a great deal.

    If it's linux based, I can hack the crap out of it.
  • Palm's original customer base may have been nerds, but no longer. It's gone mainstream in a big way - to the point that you're uncool if you don't have one. Besides that, webpads and PDAs compete in somewhat different spaces. It's not an either/or situation. I see webpads as somewhere between a laptop and a PDA. I know I carry my Visor around with me everywhere, but I don't think I'd want to have a webpad with me at all times. Having said that, web browsing from 'The Throne' is the BOMB! :)
  • Surely this spells trouble for Palm. Not just from the increased competition, but the Nerd factor is definitely in favor of Linux now.

    Part of the Palm's success was its appeal to nerds; and when one nerd brought his to a LUG, suddenly everyone else had to have one too.


    I doubt that this means trouble for Palm, the web page doesn't look nearly as portable as a Palm.

    I have a Palm III, 486 subnotebook, and a Pentium laptop from work. Unless I have a very specific need for a laptop, I bring my Palm. I like having something I can hang off my belt and forget about, if I wanted to schlep a pad sized thing around all day, I'd become a Sherpa.

    Different market niches, different uses, different levels of convenience.

    George
  • Open Blender, crate a plane... e-key, e-key, e-key

    Create textures (including screenshot of C|Net), lighting (spot), marble surface

    Open emacs, type HTML tags, upload site

    Submit story to slashdot.

    -pos

    The truth is more important than the facts.
  • ...it's designed to run Win98, but I don't see any reason why it can't run Linux...

    http://www.casio.com/mobileinformation/index.cfm?a ct=0&Parent=11&PID=1977 [casio.com]

    Some Specs:
    200MHz Geode CPU
    800 x 600 dots high resolution in a 6.7" diagonal display
    6 gig hard drive
    PCMCIA and USB built in
    1.88lbs in a small 8.2" x 5.1" x 1.3" package
  • Amusingly, I have an old-school GRiDPad 1910. It's an XT-class system with a 640x400 monochrome CGA (How you call something that barely resembles CGA CGA, I don't know) display and a tethered pen. I installed GEOS and Graffiti (From the Tandy/Casio Z-PDA 7000 Zoomer) on it, and it's pretty functional. Now I just need to get my hands on another Zoomer (mine died) and transfer the 4mb of apps like the translator to my GRiD.

    Those who are wishing to duplicate this experiment can see my notes on the subject here [frenzy.com].

  • Just out of curiosity, how is using Opera a positive point? Note, this is not a troll: I've used Opera, IE, and Netscape, not in that order. My favorite browser is IE, which is of course not available on linux or any other open source unix, though I'm hoping it will be someday. Of course, Mozilla is getting much better...

    I'm kind of hoping they have some method for running mozilla on this thing, because as it gets more stable it will become my second choice behind Aieeeee, and my first choice on non-M$ platforms. Right now, however, my first choice on non-M$ platforms is netscape (Even though it's crashy as can be) and I really admire IE's speed (even though its network performance trails badly behind mozilla in my experience.)

  • It doesn't much matter how much CPU usage there is if the CPU doesn't have speedstep or transmeta's power-saving features, and the CPU is run at some fairly high clock rate, requiring more power.

    If you don't have speed-adaptive power consumption, then in order to get quick response time, you need the CPU running at a higher speed, and thus a higher power consumption, all the time.

  • Ok I found some info... this does look cool... GRiD Pad [xwing.net], Medical uses [mobileplanet.com], and an interview [wwg.com] with some folks who worked on GRiD Pad.
  • by mindstrm ( 20013 ) on Friday July 21, 2000 @03:42AM (#916212)
    Please. I hate MS as much as the next guy.. however...

    1) WinCE licensing fees are *nothing* compared to the cost of the hardware. Really. In software development, often, licencing fees are *FAR* from the biggest cost in the product.

    2) One cannot compare the percieved speed of WinCE over 98, ME, or NT, or 2k. THey are *all* different, *especially* wince. Now, I'm no wince fan... but have you used some window managers lately? They actually feel much SLOWER than windows, (though to a seasoned user, the machine is obviously faster in the end)
  • by Shotgun ( 30919 ) on Friday July 21, 2000 @04:15AM (#916213)
    YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES

    It shouldn't cost a fortune to make a remote display. Kill the local disk (along with overkill power hungry processors) and battery life skyrockets.

    This is the 'KILLER-APP' that Linux needs to rule the SOHO market. The OS is already multi-user, but that is only a minor advantage to most people in a home with only one computer. (I find it a major advantage, in that I can give my 6yr old his own account and not worry about him deleting system.dll or config.sys)

    A cheap remote display will make the multi-user features of Linux a must-have. Now you only have to buy and maintain one PC in the house. That PC can be hidden in a closet. And for only a small price, everyone can access and use the computer at the same time.

    Just run NIS/NFS on the server and the remote display should be trivial. But I don't seeing it happening anytime soon. The rest of the world is locked on MS mindset (1 user==1 computer). The advantage of having 5 people logged on with remote pads will take some advertising, a paradigm shift, if you will.

  • by Junks Jerzey ( 54586 ) on Friday July 21, 2000 @04:04AM (#916214)
    If it's linux based, I can hack the crap out of it.

    That's completely wrong. Linux is a kernel. The Palm could be running Linux, for all most people know (it isn't, but bear with me). All we see is the supplied interface.

    When many Slashdotters hear "Linux," they immediately think about distributions and command line access and hacking up configuration files. In the case of a webpad, game console, or other similar application, Linux exists simply to provide services for the software sitting on top of it. A webpad running Linux is not some sort of portable hacker toy with Perl and gcc right there in front of you, unless the designers specifically decide to create that kind of access.
  • by Junks Jerzey ( 54586 ) on Friday July 21, 2000 @03:26AM (#916215)
    Who really cares what's under the hood? "Operating System" is an irrelevant concept for web pads, PDAs, etc. When you're administering systems, doing software development, etc., then you care. But you just don't care otherwise.

    Stability? It's not like a Palm crashes all the time...
  • At PC Expo [pcexpo.com] this past June, Transmeta [transmeta.com] had web pads running Linux. And they used 802.11 for wireless networking. No cords. They expected something like 8 to 10 hours of running time (with a color LCD screen, no less).

    However, the case had a industrial prototype feel to it - no logo or insignia of any sort visible anywhere. I asked the Transmeta booth-babe (who talked quite knowledgably about the pad and what was in it - she sounded like a real geek employee, not your typical "Hi I want to be an actress!" show floor model) about it, and she explained that the product hadn't been announced yet, but that the expectation was that pricing would be very low, because it would come with a ISP or service contract of some sort.

  • by Nonesuch ( 90847 ) on Friday July 21, 2000 @03:08AM (#916217) Homepage Journal
    Aside from the obvious 'vapor' qualities of this product, it's quite apparent that they have not chosen to use Linux because of any technical merits, but primarily because it is a hot topic right now, always good for lining up investors.

    One positive point- they plan to use the Opera browser engine.

  • by mr.ska ( 208224 ) on Friday July 21, 2000 @03:11AM (#916218) Homepage Journal
    Vapourware is right... although that's a very nicely rendered image. An actual picture might make me a bit more excited...

    I think Palm has nothing to worry about. Why? The Palm VII fits in your hand. As does the RIM Blackberry. THIS monstrosity is freaking HUGE! It's not a webpad - it's more like a beach blanket!

    Once you get into a device that size, why bother to make it wireless? Just so you have have the pleasure of lugging it around in its own suitcase so you can browse for gaspacho recipes from the park? I don't think so. I'd be more inclined to just leave it at home, in which case a short-range wireless connection to my home Internet port would be much better. A lot cheaper, too, I'm betting - I didn't find any mention of a service price on the site.

  • by martin ( 1336 ) <maxsec@nOspAm.gmail.com> on Friday July 21, 2000 @03:05AM (#916219) Journal
    original post at

    http://slashdot.org/articles/99/11/10/1235226.sh tml
  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Friday July 21, 2000 @03:05AM (#916220) Homepage
    Go and get a gridpad pen based computer, Install Linux on it. Tweak and Fix the mouse driver to support the touch screen (if it isnt already) and Voila! you have a pen based Linux pad! (Wireless? add a wireless modem into the pcmcia slot)

    This is simple, I have a linux pad made from a Gridpad (386, B&W screen 640/480) that I paid $100.00 for at the Dayton hamfest.. I just wish that gridpads that are pentuim class are easier to get ahold of (Or that the Dauphin Orasis didnt cost $4000.00)

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