Saturday, December 30, 2006

Ready to take UMPC plunge

Have been doing a lot of research and surfing lately planning for my purchase late in January. Though I don't really know what devices are likely to surface in the near future, the early winner for me so far is the Asus R2H, which is a recent switch for me as I was leaning towards the Samsung Q1p.

But as early generation devices I feel that there is more bang for the buck that make the R2H a clear winner. Built in GPS, camera, double a manufacturer warranty, clear Vista upgrade path and significantly lower price make it more functional out of the box, the difference in cpu speed and memory size while tough is out weighed by the other options.

Of course if they release a machine with similar features and more memory and speed I would be willing to change my mind. Yet the point now, is to get on board and start incorporating this technology into my everyday life.

Processing power of the Samsung and the built in AVS (pre-boot media software) are extremely nice, but I like the fact that the ASUS machine has a standard AV output jack as one of the features in my mind out weights those features. I am looking forward to is putting movies and music on it and using a nearby TV or stereo to output through. With the GPS it can easily transition to a Carputer without significant alteration or having to add more money to the system.

People keep talking about the price of these machines in comparison to TabletPC's and the like, but to me it is replacing several different devices - dedicated E-book reader, multimedia device (PMP), mp3 player, carputer, GPS device. Sold separately I could easily be paying nearly 2k+ and on top of the above I still have a fully functional PC.
The only thing that I really want to see in an upcoming version...removable media. I would love to see a mini-DVD drive standard, heck they have one in PSP's. Interoperability with a standard DVD drive, would allow me to carry around tons of movies, pictures and mp3's on easily portable disks.
One can only hope.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

UMPC v2.0 Suggestions

I am fascinated by the promise and want to purchase a UMPC, though due to finances will not be able to get one until the second generation some time in the new year. What do I, personally want from the next generation?

Better video performance, in a perfect world that would be some kind of removable, upgradeable card, but I would be happy with a decent chipset and dedicated video memory. Higher native video resolution, 1024x600 as the standard, native resolution minimum. Outdoor viewablity.

Instant on. This is the big one, and the hardest. While it may be possible via hybrid flash drive for instant hibernation and resume, it needs to be done in a way that doesn’t kill reasonable price points.

Dedicated music player audio that has intelligent volume control, example is if the device is put on high volume for the built in speakers, not being at a level to blow out your ear drums out when you hook up headphones.

Intelligent screen rotation, with hardware buttons that coordinate with that rotation.

Palm rejection technology to enhance ink recognition.

Built in camera.

Finger print security.

My big suggestion, my key suggestion, is the incorporation of reasonably priced, removable media. I would like to see mini-DVD which is a common format for Digital Video, which is do able in a portable format as proven by the PSP. I would hope it would be possible to add a burner capability but if not, read only of a universally standard disc format would be wonderful. 1.4 GB, single layer/double layer DVD disk could hold tons of MP3’s, movies etc. and would be great for games as well and help alleviate some of the pressure for larger hard drives which is a major part of the unit price.


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

New title and focus going forward

Changed the title from Tech Visions to UMPC Visions. Why? I have found myself enamored with the true potential of the UMPC. Plus looking at a lot of my previous posts, a lot of them would work well with UMPC, and one was even addressing my need/desire for a UMPC before the device even existed.

So going forward I will be focusing much more on the UMPC. Not specific machines and the like but more involved with actually the kind of uses it can be put to, maybe a little about hardware and specs but more focused on software and technology that when combined with the UMPC will allow the user to do an enormous amount of things that I think most people have not even thought about or only in a limited fashion.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Mega PC Gaming System

In the preliminary stage of building a gaming/multimedia system. Turns out this is a far from original idea. Why it is popular is do to the fact that many people are upgrading or getting new systems and are wanting to get use out of old systems.

By far the biggest part of the community doing this seems to be building Mame cabinets, boxes looking like and running arcade games. Some include mp3 jukebox like features. Some include elaborate cabinets, custom created joysticks and buttons. A very big nostalgia factor drives this as well as simply put alot of older games are still fun to play. Mortal Kombat comes to mind. Check out this site for the best example of Mame cabinets:
and these Wiki for good over view and links

My thoughts on this are similar and at the same time quite diverse. I do not want to spend alot of time and money trying to replicate the arcade experience from my youth. I do want to enjoy the old style joysticks and buttons which made game play simple yet I don't want to limit my game universe any more than I have too (limited by the older hardware I will be using).

So, I will not be building an arcade cabinet per se but rather a dedicated pc gaming machine, designed to use Mame and other emulators as well as simply play a variety of games. To do this I will consider building some kind of enclosure but that is not the be all and end all. I would like to also like to experiment and use dedicated controllers, and unique interface options. I also want it to be able to use it as a mp3 playing setup (would like to have a party mode DJ like option and a robust play list setup).

Hardware needed/planned/recycled:

--Core PC will be leftovers from previous upgrade, 2.6 Athlon, 1gb ram, Geoforce 5500, WinXP (its stable and it works) all game requirements will be that they have to run at least on XP. Not cutting edge by very respectable specs to run emulators and alot of PC games

--Mass storage - couple of options here, small drive (say 20 or 40 in system) and networked mega storage that would also be available to main system say two 320gb WD drives in Netgear storage case. Or simple go big inside the box.

--Interface - key here is ability to launch everything if possible, regular PC games as well from one single interface, currently looking at:
both which have great looks and decent flexibility and more importantly for me, fairly easy setup.

--Controllers - Like the X-Arcade dual controllers for joysticks
and the Griffin Powermate for running the mp3 side
what can I say it just looks neat.

Lots of work and design decisions to make yet. To be blunt the interface options are pretty limited, what one is good at the other is not. Would also like to see alot more automation for working with emulators (configurations files already included). And ease of use for setting up normal PC games.

On the mp3 jukebox/DJ option have not really found a great option that just works and is easy to use. Think it would be great to have one that could create play lists on the fly, add to play lists, cross fade to new song when one is selected (replace one that sucks with a good one), has a touch screen friendly interface, easy multi-select. Was thinking as a basic party feature, have nice tree view grouped by album or artists, and as guests select a song is added to now playing play list and that song is removed from selection options so no one dups. That way they could all select their favorites and then just let it play. If anyone knows of a great mp3 program that includes all or most of this functionality let me know. It has to be dead simple for non-pc users yet robust in its execution.

Don't mind using two different programs as long as I can call one from the other, hopefully the game interface.

Ideas to expand on this is light gun games, using a TV 27in or bigger instead of a monitor, custom built launcher using some kind of multimedia program like Opus or Director, sound considerations plus simply building the whole thing from scratch, ground up.

I want to be able to play old arcade style Mortal Kombat then turn around and play Unreal II, then switch to play list of my favorite tunes all quickly and easily without having to deal with the man behind the curtain.

Any ideas or suggestions let me know as this is still in the design/consideration phase.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Tech Epiphany – Adventures in Ultra-portable Tablet PC

What is technology about? Its about extending and enabling what you can do, taking the exchange of information and personal control to a quantum leap above simple words between two people, and connecting millions.

How can I use technology in a way that will impact and empower my everyday life, both personal and work, home and on the road?

My plan, which involves a major purchase for me, is a Tablet PC in the smallest form factor possible. I am currently looking at the Fujitsu LifeBook P1510D, reviewed here and the DualCor cPc Both are ultra-portable machines utilizing Windows XP tablet edition and in the case of the DualCor cPc PocketPC as well.

Up front concerns are the Fujitsu Lifebook P1510D in its base configuration quickly escalates in price once you increase the hard drive and memory. Major pluses are that Fujitsu has a solid reputation for reliability and after purchase support.

The DualCor cPC has similar specs, more memory, smaller form factor and is also a fully functional Pocketpc giving it instant on functionality but lacks integrated keyboard. The base unit will ship with 1gb of ram, which is an 800 dollar upgrade on a 256 Lifebook P1501D. The downside for is the Via processor, not a well known processor, which is a higher megahertz than the Lifebook P150D, but may not be an indicator of performance. Plus DualCor is an unknown quantity on the support side being the first product of a new company.

I would love to get either of these units to use as test unit, but I will most likely be relegated to reading a ton of reviews, saving as much as possible and then putting hopefully the best system to the actual test.

Why do I want an ultra-portable Tablet PC? I have four plans.

-----1. Media interface with my home pc.

I want to be in my house and use my Tablet PC to via wifi peruse all the media files on my main pc, and hopefully at some point my media server.

I want to be able to access and view any media on my main home system. From video’s, ebooks to .pdf’s, from music to comics in Cdisplay, an amazing program for looking at a series of images in zipped format. To some extent I want the portable unit to function as a front end, a supremely customized, very expensive remote control. Some of the programs I am looking at are J. River Media Center and Meedio for front end features. Key to this will be usable easily with Tablet PC and preferably low memory and processor overhead with ability to work over network.

Other programs are Synergy 2 to let me use a single keyboard and mouse with two computers. Ultramon a utility to use a second computer as an extra monitor screen like the one used here, Maxvista another software package that lets you use a second computer’s screen as a second monitor so I can use the Tablet PC even when I am using my main pc it can function as a second display, and maybe even as an auxiliary display like this

-----2. Carputer. Keeping it mobile.

The Tablet PC to me is the perfect solution to a portable experience in the car. At its simplest, add an FM transmitter to allow it to play through your cars existing stereo and some kind of mounting system instant, and you have an instant carputer.

Add to that one of the above media interfaces noted in the first section and you can quickly select playlists of your favorite music, play slideshows and various other media. With Belkin CableFree USB Hub you can easily interface it with a host of useful peripherals such as external storage, web camera, GPS simply be plugging in the USB wireless adapter. I really like the idea of using external storage, that way you could keep profiles and files specific to where you are using the device.

-----3. PDA Replacement

I currently have an aging Dell Axim X5 that is nearing the end of its life and needs replacing. Its use has been 90% ebooks, a few simple games and some reference tools for work. I want to fully integrate the Tablet PC into my home and work as an organizational tool. With the programs being full versions I will not have to hassle with converting files back and forth.

With instant sync with the DualCor I could utilze the PocketPC side for instant on use and have that information available on the PC side as well. With the Lifebook P1501D in standby mode I could get nearly the same instantaneous use with the advantage of the integrated keyboard.

With the much more powerful Tablet PC interface I hope to finally use my favorite note program Texnotes Pro by which is an incredibly powerful and easy to use program that makes collecting all those snippets of data easy. One of the other things I plan to do is use an organizer program, up to this point it has been nearly impossible to use an organization program as I bounce back between PC, PocketPC and hipster index cards, the organizer I plan to use another program from GemX called do-Organizer.

-----4. Portable Gaming Machine

With emulators, MAME and others, maybe slightly older pc programs focused on game play and small size…shareware and the like, I hope to put a decent number of great games like Tetris, Bejeweled and others on the Tablet PC and with either a keyboard or a micro keyboard, depending on the machine, have the ability to play as well as work. Not sure of a source for these beyond shareware but I am sure that many games, classics of the past twenty or more years, still exist in a format usable on a Tablet PC.

The durability of these classics as well as nostalgia value should provide a wide variety and a lot of fun with hopefully minimal hard drive footprint, as the biggest problem with these devices is limited storage options.

-----Hopes and Dreams

The biggest problem I see with these devices is what makes them great is size and portability, limits expandability and prevents removable storage from being an integrated option.

One of my biggest hopes is that future devices will include mini-DVD readers/burners. These exist in consumer camcorders and seem to have a minimal footprint so I believe they could be included in the ultra-portable form factors. Capacity of 1.4GB should be enough to hold tons of songs; movies compressed a bit, tons of games and hundreds of ebooks or zipped images.

My second biggest hope is something to help the boot or resume process, possibly booting from a large flash drive rather than the hard drive. The operating system and core system files executing from flash memory should be substantially faster than hard drive, as well as possibly being even more power conservative than using the hard drive. As memory prices and flash media continue to drop in price I see this as becoming a more and more viable option. Imagine the operating system and possibly even the swap file running totally on flash memory. Nearly instant operation in comparison to hard drives.


With the small size of these devices, their raw mobility, I hope to incorporate it into my life both personal and professional. Allowing me to become more organized, consistent and hopefully better by integrating all the aspects in my life in a unified whole.

Why should an idea that occurs to me at work, have to be written down on an index card, and then later when I get home enter it into my main PC, when I can simply write it down quickly in Tablet PC interface, on the spot, no waiting and have it in my application of choice then and there.


-Say I am doing my morning To Do list review at work, I fire up my thinking music playlist while I organize my list in do-Organizer.

-See a display at a competitors store, snap a picture (hopefully with an ultra small USB camera), instantly saved to the Tablet PC, later can show it to my associates to point out what is right and wrong with it.

-At lunch, listening to my relax playlist, work on my shopping list for after work.

-On the way to work, listen to voice notes from previous end of day reminder list.

-Traveling out of town, snap the Tablet PC into the car mount, tie in the power, put in the wireless USB connector to the wireless hub connected to my external storage, GPS, on dash web cam. Fire up the media interface and roll. Total time, less than it takes to boot XP, satisfaction level…priceless.

Monday, January 09, 2006

OLED Keyboard - augumented reality

OLED keyboard where every key is a display, changeable to whatever programs you are using needs. You are using Internet Explorer and if programmed keys would change to reflect it options. I am sure many templates will be released for all the common programs and many games. I am also sure that someone will make it into a animated billboard like effect.

Neat idea and ties into augmented reality in that it changes based on what is needed. Think this will lead to a trend. The original product should be available Feb. 1 2006, and I am curious to the final price. Also curious to what uses people will put.

The only thought process I am curious about here is how truly useful. I rarely look at my keyboard, and the keys I tend not to remember are the key combo ones, alt-something and ctrl-something, though once I memorize them they can greatly increase my user experience.

For example the ctrl-enter combo when I type in a website like Google into the address bar, hit ctrl-enter and it adds the http://www. and the .com to the base website name, has truly made surfing the net much easier for me. Add that to the copy (ctrl-C), cut (ctrl-X), paste (ctrl-V) and select all (ctrl-A), you can greatly speed up you computer use.

Continious Computing Environment

Thinking about what makes computing a challenge. The biggest thing is that at some point we all customize and personalize our main pc, it has the layout and look and programs that we like and prefer.

I think at some point our pc will evolve as they are already evolving already, oqo, viao and the like getting smaller and smaller.

I think the PC as we know it will evolve to a small box, a motherbox if you will, that will be persistent storage device with multi-gigabytes of storage (holographic maybe?), high speed universal wireless I/O to attach to internet, keyboard, mouse, monitor.

Imagine walking up to a desk with a keyboard mouse and monitor, the motherbox in your pocket talks to the peripherals, quick biometric log on and you are active with all your stuff, your personal pc experience.

Several hours later at home the experience is repeated.

Riding the train to work the next day collapsible keyboard and mini-screen give ultimate portability.

Things to make the work are induction pad charging. This is existing technology and just needs a great way to implement, imagine your entire desktop as a surface where any electronics placed on it are charged....perfect for keyboards and mouse, as well as the motherbox.

Almost all of this is available now except for small holographic storage, which already exists and I am sure will soon be reduced in size and increased in storage.

Now the sweet stuff. Imagine a personal picture journal...a lapel camera and microphone with a time/date stamp that records...everything, any dispute on something and you could bring up the date and time and review.

All your data with you at all times, and all other data relevant to you. Medical, dental records, financials everything that you could imagine information wise always at your fingertips.

I think that e-ink will evolve to color and motion in the future making displays cheap, bendable, rollable and ultra power conservative. You could have a credit card sized screen in your wallet, that could unfold to many times the size.

Plus what about real time info on multiple screens. Your watch is simply an interface to the motherbox, a virtual screen for the system. A personal window to your information. Time, date of course, appointments, alarms of course, your personal medical biometrics, heart rate, temperature of course. Just this one feature is incredibly powerful. Like the Lid devices coming out for notebooks, a low power window into the PC. But with the possibility of so much more information.

Pattern recognition software, combined with camera system and a set of glasses (contacts) with addition of heads up display technology would give you all types of enhanced reality, called augmented reality. Basic could recognize faces and link to their contact data, you know their name, etc...You look at a theater and it gives you shows and show times. It hears squeal of tires and via location system determines you are in danger and warns you by flashing, and yelling stop in your ears.

Lots of interesting possibilities. With advances in storage, expert systems, knowledge bases this is what computing is evolving too. I really believe that with the pace of technology, the demand for information management this will be the way the future is going to play out.

Monday, December 19, 2005

DVD library external

Have a need for accessing lots of DVD's that have data on them from. PDF’s to palm docs, pictures etc. Just lots of things that I don't want on my hard drive but need access too.

I have seen a carousel that hooks up via USB with a catalog front end, but you then have to pop out the DVD and use it. Not a necessarily horrible solution. But would really like a complete integrated solution.

Ultimate DVD Disk Changer. USB carousel, that uses an integrated drive to catalog and read/burn disks as needed. I know Sony has a DVD movie version that handles 200 disks, but is a read only DVD movie version, need pretty much the same thing but designed for regular PC and designed to read and burn DVD's of any PC readable type. This would give equivalent to nearly a TB of storage, and with a nice database program could catalog and retrieve all your files quickly and easily. Plus with hubs and USB you should be able to daisy change several devices together.