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    Engineerlingly Small

    March 30th, 2009

    One of the nice things about my job and working on the MoLeNET programme is the fact that I can try out new pieces of equipment and wonder about their impact on our learners and learning.

    I have written (and spoken) about the new breed of micro-laptops that surfaced last year starting wirth the Asus EeePC. Since then the number and type of micro-laptops have blossomed. So much so that the original 7″ Asus EeePC is now no longer available. Asus have improved upon their original concept and others have copied them. The Asus 901 for example has the same form factor as the first model, but now has a 8.9″ screen which does make a difference in how usable it is.

    One micro-laptop which I did like was the HP 2133 which came with the bigger 8.9″ screen and importantly a 90% size keyboard. Though I liked the Asus EeePC the keybvoard was rather too small for me and I know others found it difficult to type large amounts of text on it. The HP 2133 was well suited to those who found the smaller micro-laptops too much of a microscopic size. However no point in recommending the HP 2133 as HP have decided to withdraw that model. Their replacement, the HP 2140 has a similar form factor to the 2133, included the nice keyboard, but now has a10.1″ screen. You have to ask is it a micro-laptop or is really no longer that form factor and more a subnotebook now?

    One factor common to both of these was the linux operating system used instead of Windows. The Xandros on the Asus is very easy and simple to use, whilst the Suse Desktop OS used on the HP 2133 allowed more flexibiloity in installing software, not impossible on the Asus, just easier.

    More recently I have been using a totallt different type of micro-laptop, the Sony VAIO P Series. In many ways this couldn’t be more different. It runs WIndows Vista. It has an 8″ (20.3cm) widescreen screen with a 1600×768 screen resolution. One aspect I do like about it is that it has a Apple’esque nearly full size keyboard which works for typiing for me. This blog entry for example was written on it.

    Engineerlingly Small

    As well as wireless and Bluetooth it also supports HDSPA. remove the battery insert your 3G SIM card and using a simple application, adjust the setrtings use the VAIO with a 3G connection without having to worry about plugging in a dongle or tethering to a phone as a modem.

    It also looks like Sony have been listening to their customers and as well as a Memory Stick slot the VAIO also has a SD card slot. Considering how much use I now make of SD cards with cameras, mp3 recorders and sharing files, the SD card slot is very welcome.

    The one thing which everyone comments on is the size and weight, it weighs very little and is only 24.5 by 12 cm.

    Such a small device has to make compromises and the screen resolution and size means that some people may have difficulty with the Vista interface.

    Battery life is pretty good and you can purchase an extended battery which will last twice as long. I am currently getting about 2 hours out of the standard battery.

    So why wouldn’t everyone get one?

    Well the price of course!

    The VAIO UX1XN UMPC which came out in 2007 cost nerly £2000. The TX series of micro-laptops from Sony cost about £1400.

    The P series is about £850 though you can spend more and get the model with the SSD drive. So for the price of one P series you could get three Auss EeePCs.


    It’s not black and white, it’s grey

    September 12th, 2008

    I recall in a forum once, someone thought we should not allow recorded lectures to be available as podcasts because this would be unfair to deaf students.

    So the spoken lecture is fine, but the podcast is not….

    Hmmm

    I think part of the problem is that people think in black and white terms, either/or and forget that we can have both or grey areas.

    I was showing some staff an UMPC once, the Q1 Ultra, which I am thinking of using in our library, and first comment was that the 7″ screen would be too small for some students.

    This is a fair comment, but I am not going to replace all the computers in the library with UMPCs, there would still be big computers with big screens for those that wanted them. The UMPCs would be in addition not a replacement. Some users will be fine with the UMPC, others will want what they see as a “normal” computer.

    It’s not black and white, it’s grey

    I would say it is similar with web services, just because a service is not accessible to everyone, doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be used, but consideration needs to be given how you would support the users for whom it *may* be inaccessible.

    In my lecture/podcast example, I would say that if a signer was provided for the lecture, then a signer could be provided for the podcast.

    If “services must be accessible to all or they shouldn’t be deployed” then non-web services should be subject to the same constraints, in which case nothing would happen in an educational institution!

    It’s not black and white, it’s grey.


    Toshiba reveals plans for mini-book

    July 29th, 2008

    It would appear Toshiba (the originator of the classic Libretto small form factor laptop) is looking at the mini-book market.

    From PC Authority:

    The notebook giant is planning an ultra low-cost portable to join the ranks of the Eee PC and MSI Wind (though not necessarily a direct competitor, they say).

    Officials won’t reveal details, yet, but they are showing a prototype of a device they’ve created to spur development ideas. The tiny handheld (shown in the main pic below) reminded us more of a UMPC than a notebook, with the keyboard ditched in favour of a touchscreen keyboard.

    Toshiba reveals plans for mini-book

    Looks interesting, more like the Nokia N810 rather than a true UMPC.

    For me Windows Vista is not really the best operating system for these internet devices, a bit too much power and as a result poor battery life and lots of heat!


    Intel Classmate now available in the UK

    July 17th, 2008

    Intel’s cheap and cheerful (and in my opinion quite ugly) low end cheap laptop is now available in the UK.

    Intel Classmate now available in the UK

    The Register reports on the £239 computer.

    Dubbed the JumPC, the Small, Cheap Computer is based on a 900MHz Intel Celeron Mobile processor and the chip giant’s 915GMS chipset. It has 512MB of DDR 2 memory on board and 2GB of Flash storage – though you can select a 30GB HDD instead.

    The unit has an Eee PC-style 7in, 800 x 480 display; two USB ports; 10/100Mb/s Ethernet and 802.11b/g Wi-Fi. There’s a webcam too.

    Oh it comes with a handle too!

    It comes with Windows XP and is another entrant in the micro-laptop UMPC market which is having an impact on the UK educational IT scene.


    Dell enters the fray

    May 29th, 2008

    From BBC News

    Dell is joining the burgeoning ranks of companies offering cut-down laptops, called netbooks, aimed at the developing world and general consumers.

    The laptop was shown by Michael Dell to the editor of website Gizmodo at the All Things Digital Conference.

    Read more.

    Dell enters the fray...

    Dell is the biggest PC maker in the world and the fact that they have entered the market shows how big and how serious this market is to PC makers.

    For a lot of consumers this is their second computer, their main computer is a desktop machine which sits at home. The micro-laptop (umpc) format allows them to have a second computer which is very portable. Though similar or slightly more expensive “proper” sized laptops are available, it is the extreme portability of these laptops that are one of the main attractions. The fact it has a proper keyboard is another feature which other UMPCs and portable devices lack and it would seem people like a proper keyboard – even if it is on the small side.

    From an e-learning perspective this is a device (format) which I know learners like (from our MoLeNET experiences) and I would suspect that a lot of learners in FE will start buying (or will be bought) these computers. At a price point not much more than a gaming console (or even less) it might be seriously considered as a present for someone attending an FE College.

    Also with the growth of student wireless networks in FE, this will allow internet connectivity which turns it from a “dumb” computer to a connected internet device. Even in those institutions without the bandwidth for a student wireless network, those learners may consider getting a 3G USB dongle.

    Already I have “caught” a learner in our Library, using an Asus EeePC with a Three 3G USB dongle for learning!

    Thanks Gary.