The first substantial blog entry after yet another big absence was meant to be about the excuse this time and all the technical challenges it brought. However, I have been distracted by small shiny things. (Again.)
A week ago I was chatting to James Wallis, who’s looking for a PDA-type-thing with a decent keyboard to replace his Psion 5, which has easily the best keyboard of any PDA. I, too, would love something like this, especially as my beloved Vaio C1 PictureBook has been out of action for the past year due to failure to replace the HD properly.
So the candidates are:
- The new Apple 12″ PowerB… No. Way too big. We’re talking pocket-size.
- The Sony Vaio U3 – even smaller than the PictureBook, with 20GB HD, 933MHz Transmeta, 256MB RAM and a decent keyboard yet small enough to hold in both hands and thumb-type. It’s currently only available outside of Japan through the excellent Dynamism, specialists in bringing Japanese miniaturism to the rest of the world ahead of time. (They also do the bizarre-looking Vaio GT3) However, it’s not the smallest thing running Windows XP…
- The Vulcan Mini-PC, an itsy-bitsy thing that’s a Proper PC running Windows XP Proper Edition, for all those still missing the original Tosh Libretto. Look at it! It’s tiny! It looks like one of those fake laptop fridge magnets that yell “You’ve got mail!” when you press a button and you never wanted it but your flatmate got it for some reason and now he won’t get rid of it and IT DRIVES YOU SLOWLY INSANE. (Ahem. Sorry.) Trouble is, (a) it’s way expensive for a PDA (b) it doesn’t have useful PDA aspects like touch/stylus-driven screen and a keyboard you can get rid of, along with other little things like power-on -> usable in less than 5 seconds (c) the keyboard looks a bit pants (though this is just a prototype – the design is being licensed to multiple manufacturers, so hopefully one of them will get it right) and (d) it won’t appear for a good few months yet.
- The Sharp Zaurus SL-C700. Previous Zaurus models were similar to Palm/Pocket PC vertical-orientation PDAs, with a nice slide-down thumb keyboard that was still too small for proper typing. This, however, has a far more substantial keyboard (which still looks a bit nasty, to be honest), and can be used in both landscape and portrait modes; in fact, it’s quite similar to the new MS Tablet PCs in that way. But this thing is small, it’s meant to be a PDA, it runs Linux & Java and it takes both Secure Digital and Compact Flash cards, meaning that it’s easily equipped with 802.11x and Bluetooth. Plus, it’s the first computer with a Continuous Grain Silicon display, which is brighter, sharper and uses less power than previous colour LCDs. Although Sharp are still a couple of months away from an official English version (price: $500), Dynamism are already selling their own port – if you’re thinking of going for that, you should read this first.
- Oh, and someone on Slashdot mentioned the ancient (but still worthwhile, apparently) Sharp Wizard OZ-770PC. Not quite what I’m looking for, but still…
This is all in the name of a dream that I have, that I can carry something in my pocket that I can not only browse the web with (via pervasive wireless access, so it’s quite a far-off dream at present) but also get a properly-viewable VT100 window that I can type into. My chum Richard has an iPaq with Linux on it and a wireless card, but he has to scribble onto that, and Unix isn’t really made for scribbling. Of course, since I’m completely penniless at the moment anyway, it’ll have to remain a dream for a while longer. But now you know what I’m dribbling over.