Open hardware handheld computing platform for custom applications

Ben NanoNote

click for specs

I haven’t blogged on technology in quite awhile, so this is past due. My friend and regular WUWT and Climate Audit commenter Steve Mosher has started out on an open-source/open hardware project that is pretty impressive. I thought it would be worth noting here since so many WUWT readers are also techies. So many of the PDA gadgets like Palm and iPod are closed platforms, that for those that want to develop competing hardware products with niche applications, the challenge is huge. Mosher has started a company call Qi Hardware, which offers an alternate way of developing handheld device applications both at the hardware and software level. Qi Hardware builds copyleft hardware running  a stable Linux kernel and free software. Their first product is the NanoNote™ a small multifunction device, seen at left. It folds like a micro-sized laptop or net-book.

The mission:  provide free software developers with stable, mass market quality hardware that they can develop compelling end user applications on.

The initial product ships in fall 2009.  If there are any readers that can envision applications for this, now is the time to check it out.  I can envision several industrial and scientific uses for this platform. I’ve included Mosh’s description and vision of the product below. – Anthony


qi_logoQi Hardware, founded on the belief in open hardware, produces mass market quality hardware applying free software principles to consumer electronics. The three fundamental elements in our development are copyleft hardware, upstream kernels and community driven software. Each of these form a vital part of our Qi or “energy flow”. Only if developers truly know how the device functions can they exploit its maximum potential, only if we maintain and move the kernel upstream can applications make use of the newest technology, and only if we listen to the community and work together with our customers can we redefine freedom. For a short overview on Qi check the FAQ.

The first time the NanoNote was put into my hands it was “simply” an electronic dictionary. But when I heard the music, watched the video, and played around with a few of the applications it became clear to me that I was holding an ultra small notebook computer, or an ultra small netbook. I saw beyond what I held in my hands. But the only way to make that vision a reality, in my mind, was to open the device. Open it for the software development required and open it for the hardware enhancements we would need to make. As it stands, the device is a great beginning. We call the first version “ben” signified by the Chinese character 本 which loosely means “origin” or the beginning place.

Above all else the size of the device offers a compelling promise. In today’s market we see a variety of devices all competing for that valuable space in your pocket, purse or backpack. We see capability being pushed into phones. We see notebooks shrinking to netbooks. For us the NanoNote has a unique form factor in this dynamic marketplace. It’s small enough to be a “phone” and capable enough with its color screen and keyboard to work as a netbook or ultra small notebook.

The technical specifications are relatively straightforward. It is powered by an Ingenics XBurst processor, which is a MIPS compatible core, clocked at 366 MHz. The roadmap for this processor family is strong with follow-on versions. Strategically, we think that Chinese processor suppliers have competitive MIPS compatible CPUs and developers who are keen to work on a processor that can compete with ARM/Intel offerings will find that the NanoNote presents an interesting and cost effective development platform. That CPU also has the ability to boot from USB. This makes the device instantly “unbrickable”. Nobody foresees a situation where they will “brick” their development platform, but Murphy’s law rules and “unbrickability” is a key design criteria at Qi hardware.

In addition to having a unique processor, the NanoNote comes with a color display. That immediately makes the device a candidate for development aimed at image content. We were pleased to see that the device could support playback of video files and that the display of pictures. With the right software you have a small form factor video player, or small photo album device. And if you add in the fact that it can record and playback audio, then you open up other possibilities. We’d love to see a device dedicated to displaying Creative Commons content.

Finally, the last thing that appealed to us was the storage. Currently the flash in the device stands at 2 GB, but going forward we can increase that to 8 GB. And the device has a microSD slot and supports SDIO. With microSD cards supporting up to 32 GB of storage, it’s clear that the device has the ability to store and use a good amount of data. We can see users storing music on the microSD, or OpenStreetMap data, or an offline version of Wikipedia, or OpenCourseWare, or photos, or movies, or caches of the web. You name it. But the microSD slot gives us more than that. Through SDIO we belive that we can support SDIO peripherals such as Wi-Fi over microSD, GPS over microSD. There is even a camera that can be attached via the microSD slot.

Advertisements

80 thoughts on “Open hardware handheld computing platform for custom applications

  1. And this has to do with climate science?… I guess too much publicity has corrupted you.
    REPLY: Heh, some say I’m corrupted because I do too much climate science. Look at the masthead. That “technology” has been there since day one. – Anthony

  2. Sounds great… except for that “redefine freedom” part. WUWT? Totalitarians redefine freedom, libertarians encourage it — which is what this projects seems to be all about. A return to the creative hobbyist days but with a lot more stability and support. Mosh, let’s just get carried away even a little bit with the PR.

  3. Looks like a way to go. The chip shouldn’t be too power hungry, and if there are simplified kernel options for custom builds battery life with the 3″ screen at that res should be pretty good.
    Built in bluetooth for internet via a mobile phone would be nice. This would use a little bit of radio power, but would save the chip from having to run the modem. A saving on cpu cycles and battery overall, freeing up the chip for online user apps, Opera mobile has become quite heavy.
    For my on the go mapping needs 320×200 just won’t cut it though. My HTC touch diamond phone has 640×480 and a built in GPS, and weighs less. The downside is Windows Mobile, but nothing else handles the O/S maps I have unfortunately. If someone writes an emulator which will run memory map’s pda client, I’ll buy one!
    All the best with this venture Mosh, you are a brave man.

  4. the_butcher (10:57:48) : You wrote: And this has to do with climate science?… I guess too much publicity has corrupted you.
    About once every two weeks someone “finds” something posted they think should not be, or something not posted they think should be, or questions why there is a blip in the ice extent curve in June, or forgets that Earth and Sun have a varying intervening distance, or that by international agreement climate organizations report ‘normals’ for 30-year periods with the last year ending in ‘0’, or a random add selected by Google is funny, sad, or inappropriate, or . . .
    Lighten up.

  5. Not to rain on anybody’s parade or anything… but… well, it’d be nice to see Android developer support thrown into this. Just sayin’.
    “Proud” HTC Dream owner here. 🙂

  6. Hey I like a little non climate blogging once in a while, it’s like an sorbet, a little something to cleanse the palate.
    This NanoNote™ looks like a none starter, an acer netbook can do everything this can do and I’m guessing it could not be much cheaper, and no built in wifi and bluetooth? I must add the obligatory WTF? Put a phone in it and MAYBE we’ll talk.
    Coming from the owner of an openmoko, FOSS and open hardware has started to become a clarion call for Chinese businesses to dump less than lusterless gadgets on the market, let out the schematics and drop on a linux kernel, and get FOSS heads to buy.
    We keep this up and they’ll start calling us Mac Users. 🙂

  7. This would be great as a code reader/puller for automotive apps. Combined with the appropriate adaptors and software, this would market well in the auto repair industry. I have been using a laptop, but find it too big most times. Looks like a blackberry on heavy steroids! I’d be willing to beta this puppy! 😎
    Kewl!

  8. The company I’m working for has been looking for a portable device to replace the few dozen Newtons they used to use, all of which are currently non-functional and sitting gathering dust in a box at the back.
    Apparently Apple has a new device coming that would work for us, it’s like a horizontally stretched version of the iPhone, but it would be preferable to find something less proprietary.
    Thanks for the heads-up!

  9. If it supports the inclusion of the MONO framework, I can see a lot of developers abandoning Win CE development in favor of something more stable and unbrickable. Cellular 3GPP data and Bluetooth support would push this innovative device into main stream overnight.

  10. Off topic but…
    I’m sure I remember a Japanese satellite being launched within the past 9 months that was going to measure earth temperatures in thousands of locations. Was I dreaming, did it work, have i got it wrong or is it working?

  11. Where if anywhere does this fit in with the openphone project?
    I recall seeing that a few years back but never followed it up as I have never wanted a PDA or anything other than just a phone to communicate with real people.
    DaveE.

  12. Camera ability, GPS ability, keyboard. OK, it can be used as a weather surface station auditing tool.

  13. Sorry, but making things smaller does NOT help when you are passed 50! Now where did I put my cheater glasses?

  14. Hank Hancock said:

    If it supports the inclusion of the MONO framework, I can see a lot of developers abandoning Win CE development in favor of something more stable and unbrickable. Cellular 3GPP data and Bluetooth support would push this innovative device into main stream overnight.

    Reply: I fixed your link ~ ctm
    Having looked at these open source hardware/software projects before, I think you are being unrealistic. None of them seem to have managed to ship any significant number of units, perhaps because they lack a profit motive and a clear vision for how their product is better than what else is out there.
    None of them have achieved the sort of total units shipped numbers that Drobo has, which is a product I have worked on, for example.

  15. VG:
    Good call, but I’d put it in the tips and notes section rather than on the newest mainline post if I were you. Anthony may ignore tips which ignore his tip section IYSWIM.

  16. That Chinese character at the top of the article is the one that means ‘energy’ or ‘spirit’, I think. We could use some of that energy, and products with that energy. Best of luck with the development and launch. If it isn’t out there being used, not many people can figure out how to make it even better.
    As for whether the posting is on-topic or not, whose blog is this anyway?

  17. Boy, I wish I could be more enthusiastic but these specs are just lackluster. No WiFi or BT, low screen res, slow CPU…
    Not sure what if any advantage there is to “open” hardware. If it is an IT device in need of software the hardware guys bend over backwards to give you the detailed specs. Developers rarely have to fight for info from hardware.
    This is perhaps the toughest market in the world right now. Giant and giant-er consumer electronics makers are deep in this field with huge R&D budgets. To try to compete against these heavy weights seems a bit optimistic. But we wish you luck anyway. Human beans love gadgets.

  18. @Pamela Gray (13:35:31) :
    “Sorry, but making things smaller does NOT help when you are passed 50! Now where did I put my cheater glasses?”
    Same problem here, Pamela. Now, when someone comes up with a device that small that projects 600mm wide holographics, by gum, I think they’d have something every boomer would want.
    I carry a B&L 10X magnifier on my keychain to suplement my glasses. I’m waaaay past cheater glasses. (Maybe a pocket scanning electron microscope would be better yet!)

  19. Risking being called a Luddite here.
    Better than 300 DPI isn’t that bad for a screen.
    Sort of reminds me of the arguments for HDTV, you can’t really SEE the difference!
    DaveE.

  20. For one dreadful moment I thought you had named it QI for those with a backward IQ. As for future preferences, my main PC time is still spent in data transcription so I’d see voice capability as important.

  21. I’m not much of a gadget user… I don’t even own a mobile phone now that it isn’t necessary for me to have one. So I’m a philistine when it comes to using gadgetry. As far as I am concerned nothing beats a spirax notepad and a good medium point papermate biro….. I still call radio, wireless. Though I do notice that the term wireless is coming into vogue again;-)
    That said, I am all for competition and diversity. So Good luck Mr Mosher.

  22. Indy (16:43:48) :
    > Not sure what if any advantage there is to “open” hardware. If it is an IT device in need of software the hardware guys bend over backwards to give you the detailed specs. Developers rarely have to fight for info from hardware.
    This is not true in general. BIOSes in most computers, even ones running free software from the kernel up, are still proprietary precisely because the hardware specifications are kept under wraps.

  23. Gary (11:01:46). Agreed, we are encouraging the hardware geeks to join the free movement. Instrumental in that is our decision to use KiCAD for the EE and our decision to post the design files under a copyleft license. As you can well imagine the “discussions” over what to build become pretty heated and usually it’s decided by the guys with the access to the design files and the access to design tools. Consider this an experiment in opening up that process.

  24. tallbloke (11:23:31)
    The Battery life is fairly good since the original design served as a electronic dictionary. with another .5mm, I’ll squeeze in a higher capacity Li-on. WRT the various RFs, those will get added first through peripherals ( SDIO and USB) and then integrated. Long road ahead.

  25. IConrad01 (11:32:44) :
    Android, We put Android on my last project. The initial ports go quickly. basically since we are an open device you can put anything you want on it. Provided you have the programming chops. With Android and the current device you might hit memory limits ( prolly will) basically I’m distribution agnostic.

  26. Jim B in Canada (12:03:49)
    Thanks Jim. The first version is limited. By choice. Over time we will add RFs. First by peripherals ( USB OTG and SDIO) and then integrated. The first device is really targeted at developers, hardware and software and $99.00 is probably where it will be priced. I really don’t get into comparisons with other products, since other products don’t give me the freedom that I value.

  27. DaveE (12:53:20) :
    The openphone project. That would be my former company. The project
    has three forks.
    1. A fork that is taking the existing design and putting it into kiCAD.
    2. A fork (FSO) that is doing anti vendor ports.
    3. A fork ( qi hardware) that is starting with a simple HW platform and moving toward a phone.
    We all work together, three different approaches on the same everest.

  28. Jason (12:40:20) :
    Jason. google steven mosher openmoko. hehe. who do you think named it the FreeRunner?
    That said, FreeRunner was a fun project. On our blog you can read the lessons I think I learned while doing that. I liked QT. That’s why we put it on the phone.

    • I happen to know Moshpit (and Anthony) personally and have offered a tiny bit of help when asked on his new project.
      Something that does not show up in the specs:
      Every hot chick (including several strippers), who has the slightest knowledge of computers, that we have shown the prototype wants one.
      Really, really, wants one.
      They don’t suggest a change in specs. They just want it in pink.

  29. Neat, but not for us ten-fingered typists. Nor are any of these gadgets with tiny keyboards. Wish someone would make a pocket-puter with an expandable keyboard. Maybe this will be it:

    CodeTech (12:17:05) : Apparently Apple has a new device coming that would work for us, it’s like a horizontally stretched version of the iPhone, but it would be preferable to find something less proprietary.

    Proprietary is OK with me. I’ve been a die-hard Mac user since 1987.
    /Mr Lynn

  30. I haven’t read through all the postings, so sorry if I repeat something. One application for a small handheld that I suspect would sell extremely well would be one that combines gps with the ability to draw on a map, particularly if it uses mapping software that allows for importing of all the standard map formats (shapefiles, geotiff, sid, etc).
    With current handhelds, there are several problems preventing or limiting this use:
    1. The screen is washed out in bright sun.
    2. With Palm and Windows CE or mobile, software is limited, particularly when it comes to open source. There are good software offerings on both windows and linux, but in my opinion (and unfortunately) the best is windows and is not open source.
    3. Battery life is short.
    So one question I have would be, will this computer allow field mapping?

  31. I will have to look into this. A friend and I are working on a project that this might be perfect for. We are developing a component analyzer that an average person could afford. I am developing the hardware, and my friend the software. He wants to develop it for a Linux platform, and I just want a good interface with effective communications with the ability to control the hardware.
    Our first pass will be a single port analyzer with a frequency sweep from 10Hz to 10MHz. This could make the device very portable and affordable.
    Thanks for the tip Anthony, I appreciate it.
    Richard.

  32. Anthony,
    I have returned to this post from http://chicagoboyz.net/archives/8591.html where there is a comment on Microsoft’s new marketing slogan:
    Windows: Life Without Walls
    The writer’s son quipped “If you don’t have any walls, why do you need windows?”
    Open hardware and open software — I can see the slogan now:
    Life Without Walls: You Don’t Need Windows

  33. Sounds like a neat device and I’ll probably be getting one as soon as they come out. I used to do a lot of digital design in my younger days but just don’t have the time now that I do medicine full time. This type of platform sounds ideal for physiologic data acquisition. I’ve got a number of microprocessor development systems that I’ve developed code for but they are very primitive doing just one task well and requiring more time to code the applications I want than I have right now.
    One of the things I’ve been wanting to do is an ambulatory physiologic monitoring system and it sounds like this device should be able to sample 4 limb accelerometers and EKG in real time. There certainly is enough flash RAM storeage capacity available. 366 MHz is very fast for this type of application and more than adequate from what I need (I used to program data acquisition applications on a PDP-11/23 which seems positively sluggish in comparison to new machines).
    The most frustrating thing I’ve run into with current computers is that real time operation is impossible. Under windoze the best one can do is +/- 20 msec and M$ provides absolutely no published means of tweaking the process time-slice quantum to be 1 msec. A finger tapping timing application I use that requires 1 msec accuracy runs fine on my Commodore 64 or a 680×0 SBC but don’t expect to get this type of accuracy from a 3 GHz PC running windoze. The nice thing about open source hardware and software is that one can just tweak a bit of code to get the functionality that I want; in windoze all I would need would be a means to hook into the keyboard IRQ and timestamp the keystroke using the TSC but this is not something M$ wants users to do. Incidentally, the C64 had open hardware and it was nice that my machine came with complete schematics to facilitate interfacing which I started doing right after I bought it in 1983.
    If the cost of the unit is $99 then this is something I’d feel comfortable attaching to a patient and sending them home with it. I was considering developing my application on the Palm, but at ~$400 each they are expensive items to replace (and they no longer seem to be available). I’ve bookmarked the Qi site and will look forward to more details on the hardware and software.

  34. Richard Sharpe (13:35:45) :
    The last two wireless Win CE devices I suffered through were absolutely frustrating. Trying to run mission critical applications, they locked up at least four or five times a day and always at the worst possible time. I finally resolved that Win CE is not reliable enough (still isn’t) for industrial use.
    Is the Qi a handheld platform that delivers MONO, 3GPP, and BT? At its current level of development, no. But Linux on a small extensible handheld device is appealing to say the least. I plan to keep an eye on the ongoing development of the Qi.

  35. Phil M (15:08:44) :
    Our design choices are driven by the willingness of suppliers to be open WRT
    datasheets etc.
    WRT ARM. Excellent choice and we’ve used it many times on many projects.
    On the horizon with some recent licensing agreements we’ve seen, you can
    expect the processor battle’s between Intel/ARM and MIPS to intensify.
    WRT Ti OMAP. Again an excellent choice which I’ve used in past lives.
    I think the most interesting thing is this: by opening the hardware spec and design files we want to move the world from a place where people suggest a better chip to one where they can actually go build the thing the suggest.
    Basically, I tell people to put there volunteer effort where their mouth is.

  36. Let me do one thank you for all the people who wish us luck. The germ of this idea, the idea of opening up the process to people outside the company came from one example I had seen of volunteer effort. From witnessing an army of davids who did something that was quite amazing in my eyes.
    Can anyone guess what that volunteer effort was?

  37. I can’t get my head around what its competitive advantage is Steve. Will it do all that my iPhone does or is an entirely different product?

  38. Richard P (20:56:33) :
    Sounds interesting. Head over the http://www.qi-hardware.com and join the developer list. You get what most people miss. Large CE companies will rarely address niche markets. By being open with the design we allow developers to roll there own special device.

  39. Boris Gimbarzevsky (21:47:25) :
    Yup. you get it. In my former company Openmoko we did an openphone with wifi and gps and touch screen and accelerometers and etc etc etc. And my inbox filled with mail from people like you who wanted to do something different than WE imagined. I said this repeatedly. The creativity outside the company dwarfed that inside the company ( and this from a guy who shipped the first HD mp3 player) On my view what was missing was this: giving those with different visions a way to make the device they wanted. Copyleft software freed software developers. my hope is that Copyleft hardware will do the same for HW geeks.

  40. I want one!
    BTW, the MIPS chip has selectable “endian”ness, so the “bigendian” data problem with getting STEP4_5 to of GIStemp to run is not a problem on the MIPS chip. (Hadley makes a SST dataset that feeds into GIStemp, but it is in “bigendian” format and that’s a bit of an issue for FORTRAN data files on a little endian PC platform…)
    Bottom line: If it can have a compiler installed on it (like g95) for FORTRAN and has C and Python, I’ll happily port GIStemp to it for free (just give me one 😎
    Being a Linux open source base and with switchable endianness it ought to be a one weekend job to do. Just think of the fun of having your own personal hand held copy of the data series creation and anomaly mapping product!

  41. steven mosher (22:11:50) : You get what most people miss. Large CE companies will rarely address niche markets. By being open with the design we allow developers to roll there own special device.
    Steven, you are in the “enabling business”. There are 6 billion folks on the planet and a few million of them have a Big Idea that they would like to create. That the iPod or iPhone or {whatever} does some “cool thing” does NOT let them do THEIR cool thing.
    I was once involved with a paralyzed guy who was VERY interested in custom voice activated gadgets. You think a closed hardware closed OS CE phone is going to do it for him? No way… no matter how much BT, WiFi, whatever you pack into it.
    The custom hardware gadget business is a tough one, but you nailed it when you pointed out the zillion and one folks with a Big Idea who just need access to figure out how to make their cool thing happen.

  42. steven mosher (19:39:53) :
    The Battery life is fairly good since the original design served as a electronic dictionary. with another .5mm, I’ll squeeze in a higher capacity Li-on. WRT the various RFs, those will get added first through peripherals ( SDIO and USB) and then integrated. Long road ahead.

    If it does USB host I can live with a cable to the phone. I came across a bit of linux software which handles the Win-mobile internet sharing protocol, and a fatter battery in the pda would help keep the phone up longer too. I’d like to see a power port for charging the thing from a solar panel while internet connected. Or a charging dock for a spare battery?
    I go backpacking. To get around the screen size/res/power problem for mapping work, a way of passing real time map data to an ebook reader with a vizplex screen via BT would be cool. You’d only have to update the position cursor and then shift the maptiles when the cursor got near the edge.
    In fact, for a device aimed at text browsing/editing, a vizplex screen and epson graphics engine would be the way to go IMO.
    jeez (20:03:23) :
    Something that does not show up in the specs:
    Every hot chick (including several strippers), who has the slightest knowledge of computers, that we have shown the prototype wants one.

    I do hope they make an appearance in the screensavers directory. 😉
    Reply: Some of them just might ~ charles the moderator aka jeez

  43. Sounds like it wll be a useful device, but in its current spec will need a USP to make it a big enough sucess to have a decent sized development base, I feel. Perhaps if you can find a ‘killer app’ this will give you enough sales to fund future development.
    Good luck with the project – I too think ‘open’ is the way to go.

  44. H.R. (17:21:34) :

    (Maybe a pocket scanning electron microscope would be better yet!)

    Just don’t be scanning MY pockets 😉
    DaveE.

  45. Interesting (and thanks, Anthony for thinking out of the box!). I have a whole lot of latent ideas that could make use of something like this…
    1) Datalogging/data analysis/graphing/custom domain-specific calculations – think WoodForTrees generalised, offline, and in your pocket… Actually, WFT in your pocket at all might keep some folks here amused, I think. Beats playing golf on your phone for those long train journeys 🙂
    2) Interactive services for computer-phobics / digitally excluded. I’ve worked a lot on this in the past with a focus on TV, but a *cheap* handheld device (i.e, not an iPhone) would work in some markets, too.
    So, some tech questions:
    – WiFi / Bluetooth / GPRS / 3G expansion: Is it possible to do this essentially within the envelope of the device – i.e., no fiddly and breakable dongles hanging out?
    – Graphics acceleration / video: Any H/W support? If not, what bitrate/resolution is feasible for (e.g.) H.264 or MPEG-2? or any other codec…
    – Audio output?
    Best of luck with this, anyway!

  46. woodfortrees (Paul Clark) (03:41:50) :
    WoodForTrees generalised, offline, and in your pocket… Actually, WFT in your pocket at all might keep some folks here amused, I think. Beats playing golf on your phone for those long train journeys 🙂

    Ooooh yeah!
    Is there an ‘API’ for adding new series Paul?

  47. Steven,
    any chance of two micro SD slots so one can be used for peripheral hardware via SDIO while the other is available for extra storage/software?

  48. I hope we see more of this type of device. A phone is sometimes too small, but a 4-5″ screen is often enough. I like having a keyboard and touch-screen. The choice is good.

  49. It is a common misunderstanding that the iPhone and iPod Touch are closed devices and the “average” person cannot develop an app for them. On the contrary, the complete development system for Mac OS X is included with every Mac. It is not installed by default, but it is on a disk in the package. If you have a Mac, you can develop apps.
    Mac OS X is a pretty GUI built on top of BSD Unix. It includes many open-source UNIX applications, it is not too big of a deal to find a good app and then use Cocoa (Apple’s application framework) to make a nice interface for it. Or you can just use it as-is in the Terminal application.

  50. Another open software device is the Pandora handheld.
    See http://www.openpandora.org/index.php
    While the hardware is closed, it was designed collaboratively, and the entire OS is an open platform.
    It was designed specifically for gaming emulation, but its graphics and keyboard make it a powerful Linux handheld.
    It is nearing completion, and the forums for this device are abuzz about that fact.
    It is about a year overdue, but appears to be on track for a November delivery.
    Long time Pandora faithful are frustrated by delays, which may be at an end.
    Unofficial Blog (with links to more info):
    http://openpandora.wordpress.com/

  51. JP (18:47:54) :
    This is not true in general. BIOSes in most computers, even ones running free software from the kernel up, are still proprietary precisely because the hardware specifications are kept under wraps.
    Point taken. On second thought unwrapping a BIOS would certainly make creative apps and hacks more accessible. Reversing those things is a bear. And according to Steve, he wants to open paths for innovators outside the co. As we’ve seen with successful gadgets (iPhone) third party apps and accessories abound.
    So how ’bout forget the LCD and use a direct retinal stereo projector? Better than a heads up display, in virtual 3D, and great for us dim-eyed boomers!

  52. Scott Gibson (20:44:10) :
    It might be worth your while to head over to http://www.qi-hareware and join the developer list. WRT to field mapping. With the current device you would have to use a peripheral GPS ( SDIO version) The are available and we will be looking at getting one that has GPL drivers. Down the road of course the GPS would be integrated, either as a discrete or as part of a GSM module. Opensource software projects off the top of my head, navit, tangogps, openstreetmap.

  53. james allison (22:05:26) :
    It’s not at all comparable to an iPhone. The best way for me to illustrate that is to tell a little story about some guys I visited the other day. They had a great idea for some hardware that they wanted to add to the iPhone and the iPod. They signed the agreement with Apple to get the interface information. They explained the idea to Apple. Apple said great. They spent their money building prototypes. They showed it to Apple. And Apple said no. Why? Because Apple wanted to do it. In another case Apple didnt want any liability. Is that Apple’s right? of course. Did a little guy get the shaft? of course. What can I do to free people with great ideas? Open hardware.

  54. tallbloke (02:01:03) :
    All good ideas. The blog over at qi-hardware has comment sections where people can weigh in and make their suggestions. This project will be community driven. We start with a very simple seed and open that design for people with a better idea or their own idea. Since it has USB you can obviously power it from an external source and since the schematics are open most guys who are handy can DIY their own external pack if they want. And even sell it. Here is a dirty little truth about cell phone chargers, lets take USB chargers for example. The Cost of goods for a typical charger are around 5 bucks. And you might pay 30 or 40 bucks for this. Some people also put in resistors for doing an ID on the charger. The other day a friend with a blackberry asked to use my USB charger. Standard right? Nope. the phone screamed that I had not put in a standard charger ( read charger with the “right” ID resistor in it) Same goes for batteries. A cell phone battery costs about 5 dollars. Since proprietary companies want to make huge profits off accessories they will “customize” these batteries.

  55. j.pickens (07:54:59) :
    Yup. Pandora is a community driven project. I would characterize the differences thusly. If somebody wants to fork our project and create their own device, they don’t need to get everyone to agree. They just need the tools ( freely available) and the ability.

  56. tallbloke (04:12:36) and other posts.
    Just head over to qi-hardware. sign up for the lists. I’m putting together a “projects” list. WRT two SDIO. Ya that’s on my wish list. Like most gadget freaks I want lots of ins and outs, mechanical willing.

  57. WFT
    “Interesting (and thanks, Anthony for thinking out of the box!). I have a whole lot of latent ideas that could make use of something like this…”
    Yup. When I held it in my hands light bulbs went off all over the place.
    Since I can’t fund them all I asked myself “how do I enable others to do
    stuff that they want to do? Answer. copyleft.”
    “1) Datalogging/data analysis/graphing/custom domain-specific calculations – think WoodForTrees generalised, offline, and in your pocket… Actually, WFT in your pocket at all might keep some folks here amused, I think. Beats playing golf on your phone for those long train journeys :-)”
    Yes. the OpenZim guys will be doing an offline wikipedia project. There will be an audio project, wikidictionary and hopefully some Creative Commons projects. One thing I’ve learned is this. there are always two movements in markets. A movement toward a swiss army knife and a movement toward content specific devices. the existence of a swiss army knife does not kill the markets for spoons or knives or screwdrivers.
    Further, if you want to brand a content expereince the best way to do that is with a dedicated device.
    “2) Interactive services for computer-phobics / digitally excluded. I’ve worked a lot on this in the past with a focus on TV, but a *cheap* handheld device (i.e, not an iPhone) would work in some markets, too.”
    Yes. There are some developing parts of the world that demand ( by law) open devices. markets big enough for me.
    “So, some tech questions:
    – WiFi / Bluetooth / GPRS / 3G expansion: Is it possible to do this essentially within the envelope of the device – i.e., no fiddly and breakable dongles hanging out?”
    The device is the first of 4 devices. Its the seed. We are already posting design files for the addition of other components. The mechanical will have to grow for the addition of some of these. The biggest issues are:
    1. finding open components ( datasheets with no NDA)
    2. Stacking ( where EE meets mechanical)
    3. RF design ( black effin magic)
    “- Graphics acceleration / video: Any H/W support? If not, what bitrate/resolution is feasible for (e.g.) H.264 or MPEG-2? or any other codec…”
    Despite the existence of OpenGl-es the chip makers are notorious ( I used to be one) about exposing specs. WRT video. I’ve seen mpeg 4 ( proprietary code) running on the device. So, the horse power is there.
    “- Audio output?”
    Yes. There is a audio jack out and I’ve got some proprietary MP3 players on it. This software will be removed and we will sponser a project to put open codecs on the device. I’ve also invited an audio engineer to have a look at the schematics ( they are posted) and start discussions about improving the audio, the current S/N is acceptable. Also there is a microphone, so If you are so inclined you can buy the device turn it into a handheld opensource audio device. And if you like you can buy them as a VAR add your software and resell it.

  58. steven mosher (10:21:34) :
    Yes, the projects are different.
    The Pandora has a proprietary hardware build.
    However, for anyone doing software and external hardware control, there is no limit to what you can do with the Pandora, as all the software is GPL, and the hardware interfaces are well documented.
    The Pandora’s advantage is that it has a more powerful CPU, and the graphics are 800 by 480 pixels.
    That said, I understand the desire to be totally open, both hardware and software.

  59. steven mosher (10:41:55) :
    Yes. the OpenZim guys will be doing an offline wikipedia project. There will be an audio project, wikidictionary and hopefully some Creative Commons projects.

    It might be worth dropping in at http://www.openinkpot.org and their forum at
    http://www.mobileread.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=169
    Thy have an offline wikipedia done in German already for their open linux distro built using a modified version of SLINE running on several of the visplex screened e-reader devices on the market. It might be worth a look at their methods for decoding ebooks too. Seems there could be a nice hookup to open content there.

  60. steven mosher (09:45:59)
    Thanks,
    WRT using SDIO gps, since I currently use a bluetooth gps I could probably stay with that. Plug a usb bluetooth transceiver in and put a large battery in the backpack to power the whole thing (I suspect the bluetooth dongle would reduce the regular battery life drastically).
    I don’t know of a couple of the opensource projects you mention, so I’ll check them out. Quantum GIS and mapwindow are a couple more useful open source mapping projects. Unfortunately, they are not quite up to the quality of some of the commercial software (yet!), but they run readily on almost any platform.

  61. steven mosher Good luck, sounds like a fun project. I still have an HP71B handheld, ~10″ X 6″, single line LCD. Not the same, but it was a great data recorder and electronics controller with a little programming.

  62. The device is a similar size and weight to my 10 year old Psion 5. But even that has a 640 pixel wide screen.
    Admittedly only 240 high and grayscale, but you get the drift. 😉
    Well rendered graphics need real estate. But 800×480 screens in the latest MID’s come with a price tag it’s true. Mind you, expansys are knocking out Nokia N810’s for £130 at the moment….
    “Free the fonts!”

  63. Let’s not forget that while consumer electronics generates billions for its shareholders, it is just these profits that create new jobs, and pay salaries, and taxes for our military and law enforcement. Proprietary, IP is a perfectly valid concept in my world. Just as “open” sourced alternatives. They can co-exist reasonably.

Comments are closed.