Tag Archives: Mobile computers

Bye Bye, Laptop?

image

The day seems to be getting closer when we can do something that would seem to be pretty obvious: access our pocket-sized smartphone via a bigger screen, keyboard and a mouse. Celio Corp says it’s close.

Celio Corp have two products: their Mobile Companion (pictured above), a laptop like thing that includes an 8″ display, a full function keyboard, and a touchpad mouse. At 1 x 6 x 9 inches and weighing 2 lbs, the Mobile Companion promises over 8 hours of battery life and boots instantly. After loading a driver on your smartphone you can then access it via a USB cable or Bluetooth. (You can also charge the smartphone via the same USB connection.)

Uses? Well, you can say goodbye to coach cramp, where you’re unable to use a normal laptop. You can input data more easily than you might if you just had your smartphone with you. And, of course, you don’t need to bring your laptop.

The second product might be even better. The Smartphone Interface System is, from what I can work out, a small Bluetooth device that connects your smartphone, not to the Mobile Companion, but to a desktop computer, public display or a conference room projector  — these devices connect via a cable to the Interface, like this:

image

The important bit about both products is that the Redfly software renders the smartphone data so it fits on the new display (this will be quite tricky, and, because it will carried via Bluetooth, would need quite a bit of compression. The maximum size of the output display is VGA, i.e. 800 x 480, so don’t expect stunning visuals, but it’ll be better than having all your colleagues crowding around your smartphone.)

The bad news? Redfly isn’t launched yet, and will for the time being be available only for Windows Mobile Devices. Oh, and according to UberGizmo, it will cost $500. The other thing is that you shouldn’t confuse “full function keyboard” with “full size keyboard”: this vidcap from PodTech.net gives you an idea of the actual size of the thing:

image

this is the keyboard size relative to Celio CEO Kirt Bailey’s digits:

image

Until I try the thing out and feel sure that the keyboard doesn’t make the same compromises as the Eee PC, I’d rather use my Stowaway keyboard.

For those of you looking for software to view your mobile device on your desktop computer, you might want to check out My Mobiler. It’s free software that purports to do exactly that for Windows Mobile users.

Hit the Road, Hack

Interesting project from Reuters, who have teamed up with Nokia to create a mobile journalism toolkit: 

So what is in the Mobile Journalism Toolkit? First of all the phone. This is a Nokia N95 which now comes in three different versions. The original European version that we used for most of the trial (image on left). Then there is a the US edition which adds more memory and support for US carrier frequencies. Finally there is the news 8GB version which can store much more music and videos, and for our journalists more raw materials.

With due respect, I’d ditch the Nokia keyboard for a more rugged, and better designed one from Mobility Electronics: the iGo Stowaway is a good one. I’m also not convinced the N95 is up to this kind of thing — as Nic Fulton says, the 8GB provides more storage, but I would be looking for something I could compose on, in which case I’d probably opt for the N800 Internet Tablet or its successor, the N810, which has GPS (yes, you need a phone to transmit if you’re not in WiFi range, but that’s what the N95 is for.)

I like the idea of recording direct to the N95 with an external microphone; hopefully Nokia will put the attachment they cooked up for this project on the market. It’s silly phones don’t have input ports.

Anyway, good stuff from Reuters and I look forward to hearing more about it. Yesterday I got myself in a terrible tangle trying to capture some video in an interview on my N95 while trying to record audio on my Olympus DS-20 and typing up the transcript on a Mac. It wasn’t pretty. In the meantime, regular readers will remember my humbling encounter with The Bangkok Post’s Don Sambandaraksa, whose keyboard dexterity put us all in the shade.

(Thanks, Mark)

The Mobile Journalism Toolkit contents – Reuters Mobile Journalism

Is The Tablet Coming Back Down The Mountain?

This space is getting interesting: The sort-of-tablet-handheld. Nokia unveils Linux based 770 Internet Tablet:

The main attraction of the device is its widescreen, 65K colour TFT touch screen with a diagonal size of 4″ and resolution of 800 x 480 pixels. This, along with a navigational array flanking the screen on its left side, provides an interface to the Nokia Internet Tablet 2005 software which powers the device, developed atop Linux by the handset maker to power this new category of devices.

Offering up 64 MB of RAM and approximately 64 MB of non-volatile storage for users, the 770 Internet Tablet also harbours an RS-MMS card expansion slot for the purpose of memory expansion. Whether this will be necessary, however, is another question entirely as the functionality of the 770 appears to revolve mainly around the streaming capabilities as provided by its Wi-Fi 802.11b/g connectivity.

Not content with Wi-Fi, Nokia also integrated Bluetooth 1.2 into the unit, allowing for among other things the ability to connect to the Internet via a compatible handset. Several profiles are supported, including Dial-Up Networking, File Transfer, SIM Access and Serial Port, with the 770 also offering USB as a wired alternative for PC connectivity.

Does this compete with the revived Tablet PC? Or the LifeDrive? What I would love to see is these devices coupled with the wonderful Stowaway XT Portable Keyboard for USB from ThinkOutside, which I’ve never seen in the shops, but which has the same great action and design as its Palm and PocketPC forebears. Maybe they just didn’t sell, which would be a shame. The keyboard coupled with one of these devices would be all you’d need.

Logitech’s Bluetooth pen

Logitech are about to bring out their io2 pen for Bluetooth:

This summer, Logitech will launch a Bluetooth-enabled version of the io2 Digital Pen, designed to address the current data entry shortcomings of mobile data capture devices. Logitech’s Bluetooth digital pen, when used in combination with a Bluetooth wireless handheld device, will help an organization’s mobile workforce more efficiently gather, transmit and share important data.

A press release gives a bit more detail: Using the Logitech io2 Digital Pen with Bluetooth technology, a mobile worker will be able to capture information by using a customized version of a standard paper form, such as for an insurance appraisal or a work order. The pen automatically creates a digital record that is transmitted to a complementary Bluetooth wireless technology enabled handheld communication device, such as a smart mobile phone, PDA or Blackberry. That data can be stored and processed on the handheld device or immediately sent into an organization’s central database for processing. For the mobile worker, it’s an automated process that starts with filling out a familiar form and ends with a confirmation on his or her wireless handheld communication device that the information has been sent and received.

Sounds interesting, although I’m not quite clear about how this differs from the Nokia SU-1B pen, which originates from the same Anoto source. And why aim only at business users with this?

My Kind Of Keyboard

This week in the Asian Wall Street Journal/WSJ.com (sub only) I write about keyboards. One little gadget I’ve taken a shine to in this area is the Bluetooth Smart Keyboard, made by an apparently anonymous company somewhere in China:

As I mentioned in the column, it’s not great, but it’s surprising what they’ve managed to do in such a basic device. As you can see from the picture, the design is straightforward, although what it doesn’t show is a simple stand that slides out of the base.

Here are the devices it works with for now:

  • Nokia 6600, 6670, 7610, 3650, 7650, 6260, N-Gage, N-GageQD
  • Sendo X
  • Siemens SX1
  • SonyEricsson P800, P900, P910i
  • O2 X Phone, O2xda, O2xda II, O2xda IIi, O2xda IIs
  • Dopod 565
  • Orange SPV C500, SPV E200
  • HP iPAQ 1940, 5550, 2210, 2215, rx3417, rx 3715, hx4700 series
  • Acer n30 series
  • Palm Zire72, Tungsten T, Tungsten T2, Tungsten T3, Tungsten T5
  • Pocket Loox 720, 420
  • Clie UX50
  • Motorola A1000
  • Dell Axim X50, X50v
  • Asus MyPal A730

Using Bluetooth means your device doesn’t need to be in the cradle — it can be on the other side of the room, if you like, or charging. The software is simple enough, but offers some shortcut keys to basic functions, as well as key combinations that you can assign to specific tasks, such as opening contacts or whatever. Using it with a Nokia 7650, I was able to tap out SMS messages and send them without having to touch the phone. It’s not a leap of technology, but it sure makes preparing long text messages — or even emails, using the Nokia’s GPRS function — easier.

The Moleskine Report, Part V

Further to my postings and column on the Moleskine notebook, here’s one final emai linterview with Patrick Ng, Hong Kong-based host of the upcoming Moleskine Art competition. I reproduce it in its entirely because Patrick has a very fresh and direct way of articulating the problem, and the solution:

There is currently no substitute for pen and paper: Unless the electronics industry goes drastically into certain new direction or comes up with new new inventions, the situation won’t change for me coz I’ve been there.

It all goes back to the “pleasure of writing”. I won’t mention the age before my Sharp IQ-800 but I was a Newton MP user and the webmaster of Hong Kong Newton User Group, Newton drew me because of the stylus and the proximity of true writing and the promise of merging traditional scribbling with digital connectivity. When Newton went dead, most switched to Palm including me. Palm didn’t give me the same “true writing” feeling. Believing that the future is digital, I switched to Psion, Treo and now Blackberry. And all of a sudden, I found that there are too many variables in the playground:

ever changing models -> upgrade or lost data in predictable 6 months because new features are there, old features won’t be supported, I feel very uneasy.
– switching to new gadget -> all the hassle to export/import data -> decide which contact you want to delete due to limited storage or different format -> fax number became mobile phone number etc. In addition, if you use a Mac, sometimes you have to buy more software so that you can export/import or sync properly. Hassle. – PC card, flash or hard disk now have longer life span, but your device stores them in particular format, putting them into other devices won’t save your data unless you do export/import. Isn’t it extremely volatile?
– Run on built-in battery -> carry charger all the time

Simply said, it is too much to put everything into a PDA and rely on one device for everything, we are far from there yet, as I said, unless there is a drastic change or new new invention. You simply think you needed to store all those information, because it is so powerful, but by doing so you increased a lot of the hassle forgetting that PDA is to help you tackle the tasks on hand, right here right now. People compare their PDA by how much new tricks they can do, ask them “do you take notes or to-do list on it?” I bet most would say “it can”.

For me, “pleasure of writing”, scribble freely and under my control, show the notes under sunlight to 3-4 people at the same time, fax, copy, scan, print…. everything is so readily available to support me and my little notebook.

Notebook: Click your pen, write.
PDA: Switch on PDA, pull out the stylus, go to program, File-new, scribble, File-save (maybe auto now). Hassle. Further, I remember where to look for my previous notes by visual memory and flipping. On a PDA you need to rely on the search function, you simply cannot search for scribbles. Now, what if I want to print out that scribble? Do I use connection cable to sync first, or find a printer that support infra-red printing, or connect through bluetooh or wireless network…. Do I need that many options to simple duplicate something I wrote? Most things I needed to jot are short and to the point and temporary, there really is no need to use an electronic device to do that.

All I need to attend day to day mobile tasks are really simple: take notes and followup. I do carry my very useful Blackberry and send/receive email anywhere I feel comfortable including dozens of business trips around the world. That fulfilled my immediate purpose also. The rest of my digital life is Mac.

My Mobile Suit Schedule: Moleskine weekly diary 2005 Notes taking: Moleskine pocket size blank notebook Email/Phone#: Blackberry Word/Excel/Presentation/OfficeNetwork: Powerbook 12″

On top of the above, I love to put things down on paper artistically, especially my thoughts and feelings and dreams. The texture of paper, the way ink or paint behave differently on paper, the millions of possible ways to use one page…. these aspects seems irreplaceable by digital. So after over 10 years of struggle with digital devices, I came back to pen and paper for certain tasks and personal enjoyment, and digital for the inevitable.

Finally, I thought of using CrossPad (IO Pen’s previous incarnation?) but that too added hassle more than practical. So: 1. PDA industry is completely wrong in trying to put everything into one device, people need cup to drink, camera to shoot, movie to go…. not one monster. 2. Merging of paper and digital. I heard that a new class of display in the form of thin film should be out very soon, but the “pleasure of writing” element is still really not there. Besides, nobody steal notebook and I can lose it and replace it pretty easily. 3. Magazine digital. I subscribe to Zinio for MacWorld, PCMagazine and Harvard Business review. It is good that I can archive all issues digitally in perfect condition, but I do sometimes buy hardcopy of Harvard Business Review for my business trip airplane, toilet, hotel reading pleasure.

Thanks, Patrick. And for those of you interested, there’s still a couple of weeks to submit your entry for his art competion.

Bluetooth Jackets For The Hip – And The Hip-Replaced

Thanks to Martin Herfurt for this: A jacket that, via Bluetooth, doubles as an entertainment centre, complete with (1) hands-free set with microphone in the collar and voice recognition, (2) integrated headphone connection, (3) flexible keyboard embodied into the material and (4) docking station for an MP3 player with a Bluetooth headset:

The HUB-Jacket comes with 128 Megabyte memory offers enough storage capacity for two hours of music. The MP3 files are loaded into the module from a PC via a USB cable. The fabric keyboard woven into the jacket’s left-hand sleeve “can be comfortably operated even when wearing gloves”. All the electronic connections “are sewn directly into the textile material. They are thus out of sight, robust and enable total freedom of movement”. If this is not enough for you, a “helmet with integrated headphones is also available as an option”. The Bluetooth module in the player allows the user to operate a mobile phone. And, in case you’re wondering, the electronic hardware “is tough enough to withstand repeated falls and washing sessions”. The HUB is part of O’Neill’s Winter Collection and costs 500 euros.

Actually, the HUB-Jacket ain’t alone. There’s the Memswear prototype from my Singaporean neighbours up the road which senses when the owner — presumably an elderly person — has taken a fall and puts in an emergency phone call via Bluetooth. (Here’s the original CNN story). And Nike has developed a Comm-Jacket which, according to DPA, “fitted with an integrated microphone and earplugs and a plug for a walkie-talkie”.

Another Incentive To Leave The Office

I’m a big fan of AlphaSmart’s range of portable writing devices, which are aimed at students but are good for anyone with itchy feet who does a lot of typing and needs a device with a good keyboard, screen and battery life.

After the Dana, the Dana Wireless and the AlphaSmart 3000, the company has just launched another model which takes the thing a step or two further: the Neo, which has the same full-size keyboard but tackles a shortcoming or two in it predecessors — screen size and memory.

The Neo now has a much larger screen than its predecessors and twice as much memory (512 KB, which doesn’t sound much, but is enough for “hundreds of pages of single-spaced text”. The Neo can communicate with both Macs and Windows and costs $250. Pricey, I guess, for something that’s just a word processor, but these devices have their place, and I’d argue that’s not just the classroom. You can take them on weekend trips for when the muse strikes, on flights when you can’t be bothered firing up a laptop, or even to company meetings to take notes when a PDA+keyboard is too fiddly and the laptop too intrusive.

Bluetooth And The Art Of Safe Sex

I’ve been researching Islam and technology for a story due out later this week. There’s been some interesting gadgets enter the market place recently aimed at Muslims but what also interested me are the attitudes of Muslims towards technology: Was there any life left in the non-Muslim perception that Islam does somehow not approve of technology? Short answer: No.

Anyway, long introduction to what I hope is just a mere misunderstanding in a piece by Ali Al-Baghli, Kuwait’s former oil minister, in the Arab Times last week (thanks to blueserker), who writes an interesting article on the relationship between Muslims and technology. While I think I follow his tack, towards the end I share the confusion of blueserker who says “I’m really hoping there is a translation issue here”.

Al-Baghli’s main point is that technology can be used for good and bad. While ‘fundamentalists’ and ‘extremists’ have long opposed the use of technology, from satellite dishes to mobile phones, it is the extremists, he says, who have also benefitted from this such tools such as the mobile phone “because it can be used to carry out terrorist acts”. True: Jemaah Islamiyah relied on the mobile phone to plan and execute the Bali bombing in 2002. (It also led to their capture.)

But I lose him in his last paragraph on Bluetooth: “This device is being used by thousands of people and is most beneficial to engineers and medical staff because of the voice and view facility.” Can’t disagree so far. However he goes on:

This new device has sent shock waves in Kuwait because some young boys and girls make wrong use of it and the Ministry of Justice was prompt in forming a committee – comprising legal and legislative experts in addition to attorneys – to regulate its use. If what we have heard is right, the reaction is shameful. The Bluetooth is like a knife – you can use it in the kitchen while cooking or to kill someone. It is also like a ‘safe sex’ tool mostly used by whores to prevent pregnancies. Can we prevent people from using knives and ‘safe sex’ tools… just because some are making wrong use of it?

I can only assume the former minister is referring to the emergence of Bluetoothing — the art of picking up partners in public via Bluetooth — which, according to a comment added to this posting to Geek.com back in April, has been going on for quite a while in Kuwait. I have to confess, however, I’m not sure where the knives come in, and how, exactly, Bluetooth is used in safe sex. Can anyone explain?

The Mobile Doctor

Back in the late 1980s there was this very eccentric English doctor in a Southeast Asian capital I used to visit who clearly based most of his diagnoses and treatment on whatever he had read in The Lancet that week. There were piles of old copies lying around his surgery, many lying open at certain pages, or with the corners folded over, or bookmarked with old prescriptions.

The city being what it was, he was probably an expert on sexually transmitted diseases but not much else; I was fortunate enough not to have to visit him with any such complaint, but when I had a knee problem he thumbed through a Lancet on his desk and seemed keen to try out something he’d read about that week. I forget what the treatment was but I think it involved trapping my leg in a filing cabinet. Chicken that I am, I fled.

Anyway, said doctor will be delighted — if he’s still around — to know that the august Lancet is now available in a mobile edition. “You can now download selected content from the latest issue of The Lancet to read at your leisure on your mobile device – PDA, wireless PDA or smartphone,” the blurb today reads. I can just imagine expatriate doctors all over the world armed with a PDA in one hand, a scalpel in another, just dying to get started.