From the beginning, Linux has been something of a hermit crab operating
system because it tends to inhabit boxes designed first for other operating
systems. This has been especially true for clients. While
special purpose servers have been built around Linux for years, clients
have mostly been Windows boxes with Linux flowers instead of the
more familiar sort.
have been especially vexing to Linux hardware manufacturers. All
your familiar laptops are packed with arcane drivers and embedded characteristics
that make running Linux somewhat of an iffy proposition.
any more. Now we are seeing
a new generation of portables designed from the ground up to run Linux.
One of the first out of the gate appears to be a remarkable new
machine from Boxx. Described as the first portable/slim desktop hybrid
computer designed from the ground up for Linux compatible multi-platform
computing, its a veritable arsenal for the road warrior.
Despite its extreme variety of physical features, its best talent
may be its dual-boot capabilities.
The user can install and run two x86-compatible operating systems,
one off the primary hard drive and the other off the swappable device
bay, key selecting between the two
its like having two computers
are a few more features of Boxx computers:
from notebook to slim desktop, presentation easel, and pen tablet
wireless (IR) keyboard and wireless entertainment remote control 14.1
or 13.3 inch TFT VGA LCD Screen with resisive touch sensitive panel
laser pointer pen stylus.
device bay allowing a second HDD, CDRW, DVD ROM, CD ROM, LS 120, FDD,
stereo sound with built in active diaphragm subwoofer
system with 3 batteries for up to 12 hours of running time.
in Summer 2000
got designs on you
now everyone has heard about the so-called "proliferation of devices"
-- the billion or so digital "thingies" that'll be beeping,
downloading and streaming in our pockets in the future.
But the clunky gray box is also mutating into
York-based Boxx (www.boxx.net) has a laptop slated for release this
fall that can contort like Kerri Strug doing her floor exercise.
Conportable aims to solve an age-old (well, 10-year-old) problem faced
by any road warrior who has to give a demonstration to a potential client:
How to show off the screen without having five people all bending over
and bumping their heads?
Conportable's screen swivels up on an arm, rotating 360 degrees, so
the operator doesn't get in the way. The keyboard also detaches and
operates wirelessly so four or five people can keep their noses to the
Powerpoint presentation in comfort.
screen also doubles as a tablet, flipping so it lies flat on the body
of the machine. A stylus allows you to draw directly onto it and handwriting
recognition software makes sure you don't end up with nothing but doodles
when you get back to the office.
nice thing about this machine - which contains a Pentium 3 Processor
and has all the horsepower you'd expect in the year 2000 -- is that
it's rugged. Very rugged.
You can throw it down a flight of stairs and it will still
work. The designers say they've made it tough because they know all
that recycled airplane air and bad coffee makes road warriors into a
of tablets -- and people have, ever since the Be operating system was
supposed to change the world in the 1980s -- there's life in them yet.
they were waiting for was more powerful processors, better screens,
and better software.
Stylistic 3400 has the power of a good laptop: Pentium III processor,
400MHz, 6GB shock-mounted hard drive.
to the traditional outdoor reflective displays, the new display works
just as well indoors as in full sunlight.
supports Windows Pen Services as well as CIC PenX for handwriting recognition.
real market for these tablets is mobile professionals -- not road warriors,
but people who traditionally use a clipboard: doctors, warehouse workers,
tablet docks into a frame to become a desktop again, and a full-size
wireless keyboard attaches.
with all tablets, what counts is being durable because workers are bound
to drop them. Fujitsu also
guarantees it can be docked 100,000 times before the contacts give out.
unit is only 1.1 inches thick and weighs only 3.2 pounds. The price,
however, is a hefty $4115 so get it cleared by your boss before you
check it out on www.fujitsupc.com.
have been more creative in their attempts to break up the boring formulation
of the PC -- box, keyboard, monitor.
NEC launched its Flat Panel "Microdesktop" in February of
last year, they hailed it as the "form factor of the future."
history nor the NEC marketing department records how many of these were
sold, but despite the full page ads in all the major papers, I've never
seen one in real life. A
variation on the pack-the-guts-into-the-monitor idea
is the Zerofootprint PC, which packs it all into the keyboard.
is a real PC, running up to a 533MHz Celeron and 512 MB hard drive with
plenty of ports and a passable graphics card.
may be ugly, but at least it's cheap, ranging from $650 to $915.
the keyboard is as beige and chunky as ever -- no radical overhaul there
-- but the disk drives are out of the way.
floppy disk goes in the right hand side, under the number pad, while
the CD-ROM pops out from the top left side of the keyboard, near the
don't keep your cup of coffee too near it, or you could find yourself
mopping up all that spare desktop space you recovered.