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CHIP Kickstarter makes full-fledged computer available for $9
June 4, 2015 | 2:24 pm

chip_gearWe’ve seen our share of rock-bottom-priced computers in the last few years—the Arduino, the Raspberry Pi, Rhombus Tech. But a Kickstarter project due to end in just under two days may have them all beat. Touting itself as “the world’s first $9 computer,” the CHIP system-on-a-chip packs a fully-powered 1 GHz, 512 megabyte RAM, 4 gigabyte storage computer into a card the size of a movie ticket. It includes Bluetooth for hooking up to controllers and peripherals, comes with Linux pre-installed, and has uses including web browsing, using LibreOffice, playing games, playing music, or even learning to code. Apparently people like...

Ubuntu Phone sadly delayed yet again
December 23, 2014 | 4:25 pm

I've been a loyal and - mostly - contented user of Ubuntu, the free open-source Linux-based OS produced by Canonical that's one of the most popular Linux distributions available. And I have not been a casualty of the controversy and factional faceoff over its new Unity GUI - which I personally find both seamless and far more convenient to use than either Windows 7 or Windows 8. So it pains me to have to report that the Ubuntu Phone, planned to be both Canonical's major foray into the mobile OS market and a big step forward for Linux on mobile devices,...

Steam Machines: Pretty-looking boilers, but just full of hot air?
January 7, 2014 | 12:21 pm

FalconNorthwest_Tiki_03-980x1313Last night at CES, Gabe Newell of Valve spoke for about seven minutes about the new SteamOS/Steam Machine initiative. 13 different Steam machines were shown at the conference. The controllers would be sold separately by Valve, and other companies could make their own controllers too. Newell said that beta testers say the Steam box is "the best thing since the beginning of time," and that Valve would be pushing them harder to say what was actually wrong with it so they could improve it further. Valve currently has 250 games compatible with SteamOS so far,...

Cheap LCD tablets approaching reality
November 9, 2012 | 9:15 pm

zeepadIt can be risky looking for a cheap tablet—as a woman found out when she paid $200 at a gas station for what she thought was an $830 iPad but turned out to be a rewrapped mirror. (Hint: if someone offers to sell you a 75%-off iPad at a gas station, there’s probably something suspicious going on.) But not all cheap tablets are necessarily bogus. Today a coworker told me that she paid $70 each on eBay for two brand new 7” 4-gig capacitive-touchscreen Android 4.0 tablets called ZeePads and was very happy with them. Curious, I went looking...

Divided we stand, Unity-ed we fall? Why Microsoft should pay attention to the history of Linux
October 28, 2012 | 8:16 am

Here it is at last, folks—a brand new operating system for the iGeneration! Straight from the market’s leading software manufacturer, specifically designed for tablets and smartphones, it’s free from all that tiresome text and crammed with brightly-colored blobs! Move them around, tap them, press them, fondle them! It’s a whole new way of interacting with your phone, your PC, your fridge, your spouse! Yes, it’s here, it’s now, it’s the revolutionary innovation of 2011—it’s Unity! Wait ... what? You thought I was talking about Windows 8? Sorry, folks, but for those of us who embrace the Linux way of life, all...

Raspberry Pi available for order in US with 10-12 week shipping delay
July 1, 2012 | 2:23 pm

Are you ready for your slice of Raspberry Pi? TechCrunch reports that electronics distributor Allied Electronics is now taking orders for the $35 computer appliance, with the caveat that it will be at least 10-12 weeks before it is actually able to ship them. And you can order more than just the device itself; Allied’s order page has a list of available accessories including enclosures, SD cards, keyboards, mice, and an AC adapter. I’m probably going to hold off on ordering it until the ship time is a little less (and I have a little more money)...

CNet tries a slice of Raspberry Pi
June 21, 2012 | 8:59 pm

Raspberry_Pi_35332544_05_1CNet Rich Brown has a hands-on preview of the Raspberry Pi $35 computer. Powered by a system-on-a-chip that gives it the same computing power as an iPhone 3G, the device boots from a distribution of Linux downloaded onto an SD card, and uses USB or network-connected drives as storage. Part of the fun of Pi ownership so far seems to be discovering what others have done with the system, and then trying it out for yourself. In addition to the discussion board linked above, the Raspberry Pi Foundation has its own forum with hundreds of...

Raspberry Pi $35 Linux computer to be available by end of month
February 7, 2012 | 1:18 pm

Raspberry Pi has announced that its first batch of $35 computers will be finished manufacturing as of February 20th, and they will be airfreighted to the UK immediately after that; they should be available for purchase by the end of the month. It has also gotten Broadcom to make available a datasheet about the ARM peripherals in the Pi’s CPU chip—useful for those who want to port other operating systems to the device, or are just interested in the tech specs. As I’ve said before, this device could be quite useful in education and for Internet access in places...

OLPC 3.0 tablet revealed; will be shown at CES
January 8, 2012 | 12:15 pm

olpc3_11Over the last few days, reports and pictures have surfaced showcasing the new OLPC XO-3 tablet that will be debuting at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week. The 8-inch tablet will cost under $100 for its target market. In terms of what’s under the hood, The Verge reports: In terms of raw specs, the XO 3.0 has an 8-inch, 1024 x 768-resolution PixelQi display, which can be read indoors and out, a Marvell Armada PXA618 processor, 512MB of RAM, and will be configurable with either Android or Sugar operating systems. Sugar...

Raspberry Pi $25 computer runs Quake 3 quite well
August 30, 2011 | 9:15 am

Remember the Raspberry Pi, the $25 computer intended to promote first- and third-world education one game developer is launching? The Raspberry Pi foundation has posted a video of a standard alpha board Raspberry Pi unit playing Quake 3 at 1920x1080 resolution. Though the computer isn’t intended as a gaming platform, it is a great way to demonstrate just how capable the little ARM-powered Linux gadget is with a decently-demanding graphical game. “I remember spending 250, 300 pounds on a graphics card that couldn’t render it this fast,” founder and designer Eben Upton says during the clip. If...

$25 USB stick computer could bring computer science back to schools
May 6, 2011 | 1:24 am

pcbOLPC, Sugar on a Stick, eat your hearts out. Game developer David Braben has come up with a $25 ARM-based full-fledged computer in a USB stick form factor. The device has a USB port in one  end and an HDMI port in the other; if you plug a monitor into the HDMI and a keyboard or USB hub + keyboard and mouse into the USB, you have a full-fledged working computer that will run Linux, or it could be combined with a touchscreen to make a cheap tablet. It will probably ship with Ubuntu. Braben plans to use this...

Self-publishing Ubuntu Linux guide was an adventure, author says
March 21, 2011 | 7:15 am

ubuntuguideAuthor Keir Thomas has posted an account of how he came to write and self-publish an Ubuntu Linux reference book, after being spurned by a number of other publishers including O’Reilly who felt the profit margin was too low on inexpensive books at the moment. So Thomas decided to write and publish the book himself through Amazon’s print-on-demand subsidiary CreateSpace. And to drum up interest in the printed book, which he priced at $12.99, he gave the e-book away as a free PDF. Thomas estimates that the book had to be downloaded about 446 times for every...

Paper flash drive concept could usher in new age of digital tzotzkes
March 20, 2011 | 1:36 pm

flashkus-backThe Art. Lebedev Studio, the same folks behind the hyper-expensive Optimus Maximus keyboard (in which every key is a miniature, reconfigurable LCD screen), have come up with a design concept for a disposable paper USB flash drive. It’s just a design concept, and I’m not sure whether it’s even technologically feasible yet (the design’s use of the future tense, “Soon the flash drive will evolve into a disposable form…”, makes me suspect not).  But it’s a very interesting idea. Essentially, the drives come in a perforated sheet of several, and when you want to use one you just tear...

John Scalzi reviews the Cr-48 and ChromeOS
March 1, 2011 | 7:15 am

Cr-48_fullIn contrast to my review of Jolicloud from the other day, John Scalzi has posted a review of the other popular cloud-based operating system. Google sent him a Cr-48 with ChromeOS to try out, and he has set down his thoughts. Scalzi found a number of things to like about the hardware, and liked how ChromeOS was implemented largely to stay out of the user’s way. But he also zeroed in on a couple of the big problems with a cloud-based operating system. First, many of Google’s on-line applications simply aren’t “there” yet for heavy use. When he...

In valuing work, social relationships can be more motivating than money
February 26, 2011 | 5:16 pm

predictably irrationalIn reference to my post a few days ago about free on-line writing possibly devaluing paid prose, an interesting post came my way from Mary Hamilton at her Metamedia blog in which she talks about unpaid work versus paid from a standpoint of social relationships. Hamilton cites a chapter from a book called Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions, on the effect of market forces on social relationships. The chapter talks about an experiment studying how hard students would work on mindless tasks if paid nothing, fifty cents, or five dollars for their work. It turns...

How to turn the Nook Color into a fully-functional Android tablet
February 23, 2011 | 11:44 am

I’ve mentioned a couple of times that it is possible to root a Nook Color and turn it into a fully-functional Android tablet. Now Ars Technica steps up to the plate with a full-length guide on the process, explaining in detail how and why to do it. Essentially, even though it’s a bit lower powered, the Nook Color provides most of the capabilities of the $500 WiFi Galaxy Tab at half the price. The article looks at the various different methods of extending the Nook’s environment, then concentrates on explaining in detail the most useful method for day-to-day use....

OS review: Jolicloud
February 22, 2011 | 11:16 pm

jolicloud-launcherReadWriteWeb has a report on Jolicloud, a cloud-based spinoff of Ubuntu with a user interface based on Chromium (the development version of the Google Chrome browser) and HTML5. This zippy little Linux OS is mainly meant for running on Intel-based netbooks and tablets, but today dropped an update that will make it usable on computers as much as ten years old. While this may not be directly related to e-books, anything that makes older hardware more usable means it could be more easily used for educational purposes by the needy—purposes such as reading e-books. I’ve been playing with Jolicloud...

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