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Still waiting for the perfect ebook (No, the kindle isn't it either)

And that's sad, be­cause I don't ask for much!

I have read ev­ery­thing for the last three years in some sort of Sony Clie. First a SJ30, and af­ter its sad demise in a coke ac­ci­den­t, a SJ20 and am very very hap­py with them.

Now, as usu­al I may be a bit ec­cen­tric in that my favourite for­mat for ebooks is TXT files. They are easy to man­age, you can read them on any­thing, and they are gor­geous to look at if you use Palm Fic­tion, the best etext read­er by far for any plat­form I've seen.

Now, what do I wan­t?

  • e-ink dis­­­play

  • A dis­­­play that does­n't take a sec­ond to re­fresh

  • One week of bat­tery life

  • A way to put a bazil­lion texts in it us­ing some sort of card (I have about 3500 books in zTXT for­­mat in a mem­o­ry stick right now)

  • Light (be­low 300 gram­s)

That's al­l. OK, I al­so want it to be cheap and at least open-ish, since I would pre­fer to be able to write apps for it, but that's sec­ondary (I nev­er wrote a Palm app any­way).

And sad­ly, the Kin­dle fails in:

  • Not cheap enough ($400????) Plus a sub­­scrip­­tion for most use­­ful stuff??

  • Not fast enough re­fresh­ing the screen, ac­­cord­ing to the de­­mo video. And even if you can live with the slow­­ness (I prob­a­bly could) it flash­es in an in­­­cred­i­bly an­noy­ing way.

  • Not open enough (they charge you to up­­load files to it by email?)

  • It's in­­­cred­i­bly ug­­ly. It looks like a gad­get from Star Trek: TOS. That's se­ri­ous­­ly not good. I know that was not a re­quire­­men­t, but ba­­by je­bus cried a lit­­tle when he saw it.

Of course the e-Ink dis­play looks great as usu­al, and the bat­tery life is ex­ce­len­t, and we are get­ting clos­er to a de­cent pro­duc­t, but not there yet :-(

The future is not what it used to be

To­day I found Pa­leo Fu­ture via red­dit.

  1. Some­thing like Wern­her von Braun's Shut­­tle im­ages look a ton bet­ter than the CG used to­­day

  2. The fu­­ture is, of course, al­ways go­ing to be dif­fer­­ent from what we think now

  3. I still re­al­­ly want a fly­­ing car

  4. The nice things we have, noone guessed (like cel­l­­phones which work as phones al­ways did in­­stead of as ra­­dios)

  5. This blog is very read­­able! Wel­­come to my RSS feed col­lec­­tion :-)

Reddit and Digg sure work differently

Con­sid­er this:

I ex­pect­ed both sites to have more or less the same au­di­ence, and if any­thing, digg to be larg­er, thus give more votes.

Any­one has even a wild guess at the di­ver­gence?

What I want for christmas (The cool new trend on preloaded Linux)

Dear fictional character that oppreses the workers of
the North Pole:

This christmas, I want an Asus eee PC, an Everex gPC,
and some bare white box with a nice Phoenix PC 3.0 BIOS.

Why am I ask­ing the red men­ace from the north for these item­s?

Well, they do have one thing in com­mon: Lin­ux. An­oth­er is that they are con­sumer box­es, not server­s.

For many years, one of the huge ad­van­tages win­dows had was that it came pre­loaded with most PC­s. This en­abled peo­ple to turn a blind eye to win­dows in­stal­la­tion and con­fig­u­ra­tion since it was done by Some­one Else (T­M).

Since get­ting Lin­ux has be­come much eas­i­er in the last 10 years [1] this has been very frus­trat­ing. Imag­ine you had some­thing you gave away for free, but peo­ple kept us­ing some­thing more ex­pen­sive be­cause they had to pay for it any­way!

That itch­es. If Lin­ux was not cho­sen be­cause it was in­fe­ri­or for the task at hand, that's one thing, but not even be­ing able to be test­ed be­cause the oth­er prod­uct was bun­dled and paid for? An­noy­ing.

Of course on servers this worked dif­fer­ent­ly. The OS was not the ex­pen­sive part, and was pre­loaded less of­ten. Cor­po­ra­tions have pre­ar­ranged li­cens­ing terms, and adding things to the mix is sim­pler.

But for con­sumer­s, preload­ing has been a huge prob­lem [2]

So, if the jol­ly tres­pass­er brings me what I or­dered, I will find the fol­low­ing:

  • Asus eee: A cheap sub­­note­­book with Lin­ux and KDE pre­load­ed.

  • Ev­erex gPC: A cheap Desk­­top with Lin­ux and En­­light­en­­men­t(!?) pre­load­ed.

  • Phoenix PC 3.0 BIOS: an em­bed­d­ed hy­per­vi­­sor and Lin­ux OS.

The eee is prob­a­bly the most ap­peal­ing. It's ide­al for many us­es:

  • Sales­­men who are now us­ing some un­­god­­ly Black­­ber­ry app (or worse)

  • Sys­tem and net­­work ad­min­s. Re­al­­ly. I would love to have a cheap note­­book I won't hes­­i­­tate bring­ing to a roof, a bar, the beach, what­ev­er. It would live in my bag. My cur­rent note­­book? Be­­sides weight­ing 8 pound­s, it's ex­pen­­sive and large. All I need are we­b­­pages email and SSH ses­­sion­s!

  • Kids and stu­­dents (it's cheap! You can buy a re­­place­­ment if he drops coffe on it!)

  • Ba­sic users and old peo­­ple. Re­al­­ly, an of­­fice-­­like thing and a web browser? And I can use it wher­ev­er there's wifi? Neat.

And it is go­ing to get a lot cheap­er, and it's go­ing to get a lot bet­ter. I ex­pect there will be a 32G­B, 10" mod­el by the end of next year for $350, and the cur­rent mod­el avail­able for $250 (after al­l, half the com­po­nents are cheap as dirt al­ready, on­ly flash is ex­pen­sive, and that's a fluke)

And so on and so forth. If Asus cre­ates a de­cent dock [3] and a nice rdif­f-back­up-based back­up so­lu­tion (it should be at least as nice as Ap­ple's Time Ma­chine), this box turns in­to my main com­put­er when­ev­er I am at home, and is a use­ful tool on the road. I re­al­ly can live with those spec­s.

The gPC is a bit hard­er to grasp.

First, it's even cheap­er. $200 is cheap. The CPU is slow­ish, but there are a whole range of tasks that are not CPU bound. I re­al­ly want one of those as a home serv­er. This is the first time I can see one of these ITX box­es as ac­tu­al­ly cheap not just small (in fact this one is not small at al­l).

  • I have a TV cap­­ture card, I could make a PVR out of it us­ing Lin­uxM­CE? It does have enough CPU for that (s­ince I am do­ing it with a slow­er box al­ready)

  • A file server? More than good enough for that.

  • A house­­guest com­put­er?

  • A MPD server?

  • All of the above?

And do all this while be­ing qui­et and pow­er-­ef­fi­cien­t? Neat!

And the Phoenix PC 3.0 BIOS sim­ply would be cool be­cause I can vir­tu­al­ize with­out jump­ing through any hoop­s. This one is still fuzzy for me, but I on­ly found out about it to­day. I need time for things to grow.

Why do I think these box­es mark a trend? Be­cause they are def­i­nite­ly low-end prod­uct­s. These are meant to be made by thou­sands and hun­dreds of thou­sand­s, and make small mon­ey on each.

The mak­ers are be­ing smart about pro­vid­ing as lit­tle func­tion­al­i­ty as they can and mak­ing them sim­ple, niche, con­sumer prod­ucts in­stead of mon­stru­osly pow­er­ful Lin­ux mon­sters (sor­ry for how ug­ly that sound­s).

An­oth­er fac­tor is the huge growth of web apps that work well on non-IE browsers. This is mak­ing the OS ir­rel­e­vant just like Net­scape hoped in 1996. If the OS is in­vis­i­ble, Lin­ux won.

So, Santa, for this christmas I ask for all these toys,
and if it has to be only one, please make it the Asus eee.

                                            Roberto Alsina

PS: and if you don't do your part, the raindeer's a goner!

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