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Cheap Linux Tablets, And (Maybe) An Apple Tablet 351

penguinrenegade writes "Element Computer has come out with the first sub-$1000 Tablet, and it doesn't come with Windows. It's not running a stripped OS like Windows CE, but a full-fledged copy of Lycoris Desktop/LX. This company seems to really have it in for Microsoft, with a 'No Windows' policy. Good to see someone finally standing up against paying the Microsoft tax. Maybe now we'll start seeing Linux only OEMs and resellers." Also on the tablet computer front, SeanAhern points out Cringely's latest Robert X. Cringely column, in which Cringley makes the case that Apple is readying a tablet computer for market, and "suggests that 'until next year, the parts won't have been there to make tablet PCs successful. What's missing has been the killer app, and what kept a killer app from appearing was a lack of hardware support, which I believe will be over soon,'" writing "He's got some interesting ideas about where Jobs might go with his Digital Hub idea." (This is an Antaur-based machine, not the Toshiba tablet mentioned in October.)
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Cheap Linux Tablets, And (Maybe) An Apple Tablet

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  • Built in TV tuner! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by i_am_syco ( 694486 ) on Monday December 01, 2003 @09:24PM (#7605054)
    Apple's bound to make a tablet eventually. If the market demands it, it'll definitely happen, and the current tablets on the market suck. Apple's got the Newton tech for handwriting recog, as well as Inkwell, the most underused feature in OS, all you have to add is a touch sensitive screen and BINGO.
  • Linux tablet (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 01, 2003 @09:26PM (#7605072)
    I don't see how a Linux tablet would even work... mainly because the lack of Linux handwriting recognition. Sure, you could do it, but would someone be as productive with one as with a windows one?

    But... an apple tablet... my mouth is drooling now...

    --1-888-633-3446 -> call me.
  • by Radi-0-head ( 261712 ) on Monday December 01, 2003 @09:27PM (#7605073)
    Man that was fast... and this error makes me wonder:

    1226 - User 'elementc_ms2' has exceeded the 'max_questions' resource (current value: 10000)

    Does that mean there are in excess of 10,000 people trying to hit this site at once? Wow.
  • Robert X. Cringely (Score:5, Interesting)

    by minus_273 ( 174041 ) <> on Monday December 01, 2003 @09:27PM (#7605077) Journal
    If i remember correctly, Robert X. Cringely was the same guy who wrote that Win XP ran DOS underneath becasue "cmd" works and that windows should be based on linux instead because linux is better than DOS.
    For all the stupid things i have seen on /. , what i dont understand is why this guy is so important?
  • by ActionPlant ( 721843 ) on Monday December 01, 2003 @09:32PM (#7605117) Homepage
    "Maybe now we'll start seeing Linux only OEMs and resellers."

    Wishful thinking, and I'm wishing it too. The problem is a base. Tablet PCs haven't been doing so hot (at least not in my neighborhood). The only major interest that I've seen on a large scale has been that of FedEx looking to implement them with their current DADS system, in addition to maintaining open communications with cellular towers. I'm a FedEx dispatcher myself, so I'm kept abreast of what technologies we're planning on moving to in the future. Tablet PCs in the field will help keep us even more accurately up-to-date. Currently, our drivers can only transmit when in range of our larger towers (which are only in the cities), meaning that customers wanting updated tracking information on a package routed to a rural area just have to sit and wait until the driver is in range to transmit data confirming that he/she has indeed delivered that package. With properly equipped tablets, we're hoping to eliminate this problem with true real-time status updates.

    What's curious is that, though I may have my head in the clouds, I've really not heard of any other major market for these things beyond novelty. The exception being the Apple rumor. Had apple had access to the technology in a financially feasable market (say 1994) I can absolutely see how ClarisWorks 4 could have dominated the word processing market of that day, and we'd have tablet PCs everywhere. As it stands now, I get the impression that people aren't quite sure what to do with these crazy things.

  • by Teflik ( 4823 ) on Monday December 01, 2003 @09:37PM (#7605156)
    The way I see it, Cringely is a very good historian. He's good at sifting throught the facts of what has already happened, and putting things together accurately.

    As far I I'm concerned, he's a totally worthless and annoying analyst. He rarely knows what the hell he's talking about.

    I don't know what slashdot sees in him either most of the time.
  • by somethinghollow ( 530478 ) on Monday December 01, 2003 @09:41PM (#7605195) Homepage Journal
    So, what? He made ONE blatantly stupid mistake (though I'm sure people will jump to their guns and show me all the other mistakes he has ever made, too). I still read his column every week, and I still enjoy it. I even enjoyed reading the one in question, even if it wasn't accurate.

    It's just a tech column. Nothing to get one's panties in a wad over. There are other people saying worse things in other places, like once upon a time on tech tv [].
  • a Mac tablet would be refining a current idea that few people want.
    Not really. Lots of people want tablet PCs, they just don't want the ones that have been released so far. What most people want is what Apple would most likely deliver - thin, light, easy to use, with built-in networking. Basically, a very large PDA with the power of a laptop.

    So far most tablet PCs have included a keyboard, which is nuts if you've ever used a Pocket PC's handwriting recognition -- the technology is there, just give it to us in a larger form factor (with a 2 GHz processor, 512Meg Ram, a hard drive, and a real OS, not Windows CE). They're also way too expensive, a feature I'm afraid Apple would likely copy.

  • by gl4ss ( 559668 ) on Monday December 01, 2003 @09:49PM (#7605242) Homepage Journal
    well it's circular thinking..

    **What's missing has been the killer app, and what kept a killer app from appearing was a lack of hardware support, which I believe will be over soon**

    killer app hasn't come because there hasn't been hardware deployed widely(i take 'hardware support' as this, lack of market), but wouldn't a killer app be the thing that would enable that hardware to sell.. so that there would be enough of them deployed for somebody to make that killer app..

    well personally i'd have the 'killer app' for myself, but that would need it to be water proof.

    what's that you ask, what would be my killer app? reading while in bath(or while showering, but that would waste water and that would be bad karma right? or maybe while in a rain). really, the places where you couldn't use a laptop are pretty much the places where you can't have the fragility(and being afraid of water) of a laptop. if it was STURDY, and liquidproof there would be lots of uses for it.

    well, of course if you were of disgusting mind(such as myself) you could imagine using it for pron while at there..
  • by i_am_syco ( 694486 ) on Monday December 01, 2003 @09:53PM (#7605265)
    There have most likely been refinements to the engine. I mean, Newton was far from perfect in terms of handwriting recognition. It was great, but like everything, it wasn't perfect. Apple could've easily pumped a hundred thousand dollars into it and make it kick ass. Not to mention that if they DO come out with a tablet, it's going to have the hand recog improved as much as possible.
  • by somethinghollow ( 530478 ) on Monday December 01, 2003 @09:54PM (#7605268) Homepage Journal
    Apparently Largo, FL, saw fit to install them in police cars instead of laptops. Their justification was that it's not the entire laptops that get destroyed, just the keyboards, which are too expensive/tedious to replace. So, they decided to go with tablets and keyboards that plug into the tablets via USB or PS/2 or whatever.

    Don't forget that Largo is the All Linux city, either. Everything runs as a slim-client to a central server.

    Problem is that the police wouldn't be toting them around in a backpack. I assume, though, that there HAS to be some sort of protection for them, even if it is just a nice carrying case.
  • by Kleedrac2 ( 257408 ) <[kleedrac] [at] []> on Monday December 01, 2003 @09:59PM (#7605292) Homepage
    I'm sorry if I sound like a dumbass, and I hope this isn't offtopic, but I've been wondering for a while now. What is Lycoris? They're registered as a distribution on and yet there is no download and as far as I've read in their own support they don't mention what liscense it's released under. Does this OS use the linux kernel, if so what liscense does it use? If it's LGPLed why is there no downloadable source/version? Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions or start a flame war on my behalf.

  • by Fnkmaster ( 89084 ) * on Monday December 01, 2003 @09:59PM (#7605296)
    I have to stand up for Cringely somewhat on this one. The cmd comment is dumb, admittedly, and from an economic and business standpoint, clearly MS would never want to do something like this. Nonetheless, the Win32 API could be ported to run on top of Linux/X. What exactly do you think WINE is, if not 80% of such a beast. And if Microsoft made it themselves, it would actually work well, rather than just working sometimes like WINE.

    Another way of looking at it is that he's saying that somebody could create a lot of value on top of the existing Linux platform by making a decent GUI/Windowing System, the same way that Apple did with OS X, and still have a viable commercial product out of it, one which would be better than Windows in many ways, which I agree with as well. Again, clearly makes no sense from a business perspective, but the idea isn't as totally without merit as you make it seem.

  • As an Architect, who has had the chance to play with a Wacom flatscreen tablet at trade shows (the tech that most tablets use), I can attest to the fact that it's not that people don't want tablets. However I disagree with the 'big PDA' reasoning.

    I would love one, and most people I know in the construction/design industry would too. And I don't care about handwritting recon, for I'd just jot down notes in the feild, then retype them anyways later. The *real* issue is that the bright minds in Redmond decided that tablet PC's shouldn't even have the power of a simular-sized & weighted laptop, but instead should be a very expensive electronic legal pad/sketchbook based on a modded version of WinCE & sub-par processors. Every time I see the specs for a tablet PC, my heart sinks, for if it only had a decent processor and decent memory (i.e. the same as any damn modern laptop) so that it could run Windows 2K/Linux and CAD software (or was made by apple and had at least a G4 in it) I know I would have bit a long time ago...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 01, 2003 @10:16PM (#7605411)
    In the article he even mentioned the quote from Jobs that I agree with 100% - computers need keyboards

    Sure, but what if you bundle that tablet with one of Apple's bluetooth keyboards? Then you get the best of both worlds. Use it as a laptop with the keyboard, or use it as a tablet without it.
  • by EverDense ( 575518 ) on Monday December 01, 2003 @11:03PM (#7605736) Homepage
    A laptop works decently for some classes where the majority of the notes are non-symbolic, but trying to take notes in a math or physics class is simply impossible, with the subscipts and sketches.

    Yes, but a small hi-res camera attached to your notebook/tablet PC,
    and you don't even have to bother sketching.
  • FUD (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 01, 2003 @11:07PM (#7605762)
    Handwriting recognition on Linux has been pushed by all the hackers working on the PDAs of the world (Zarus, etc.). It's been done, and there's a few projects out there.

    Simple things like palm's grafitti? Relatively easy, and... DONE.

    I imgaine that it would not be a far stretch to get real handwriting recognition to work on a more powerful machine.

  • by pyrrho ( 167252 ) on Monday December 01, 2003 @11:26PM (#7605892) Journal
    I remember back around 85 Apple had a contest for students to come up with a spec for the ideal machine of the future (2000! iirc), and the winner was basically a tablet computer.
  • by Fear the Clam ( 230933 ) on Monday December 01, 2003 @11:59PM (#7606132)
    I see it as a combination of monitor, keyboard, and mouse. This way you can have a headless Mac running in the background with a cool-running, thin, relatively cheap portable. If you want to upgrade, you upgrade the box under the desk, not the tablet. This way, cheap people can use it with a G3/G4 as a cheap upgrade, and power users can use it with a G5. If the wireless range is good enough, you could use it to stream DVDs and Web stuff anywhere you wanted to use it.

    The problems are (a) it would suck power like a mofo, so you'd have to plug it in, (b) the wireless range limits just how useful it could be before you'd have to start adding expensive, power-sucking, stuff like a hard drive to it, and (c) it you're doing a lot of keyboard entry, you'd want to hook up a keyboard, and probably sit down with this thing propped up like a conventional monitor.
  • by TwistedGreen ( 80055 ) <twistedgreen@ g m a i l . c om> on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @12:11AM (#7606231)
    ISOs of the binary install and source code CDs for Lycoris 3 download edition (their latest release) are both available [], just check out their FTP site []. But you should probably use a mirror [].
  • Eehh, Inkwell (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Aqua OS X ( 458522 ) on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @12:53AM (#7606493)
    I've really really tried to use Ink. And I'm sorry, but it sucks. It's caused me the same problems it caused me when it was on the Newton.

    Even if I write like an angel, it screws up my words and sentence spacing.

    Moreover, I can honestly type a hell of a lot faster (50+ wpm) then I can handwrite or shorthand.

  • by mdarksbane ( 587589 ) on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @01:45AM (#7606727)

    Would be one of the Lamp iMacs with a detacheable pressure-sensitive screen.

    The first thought that went through my head when Steve introduced those things was that he was going to pop the screen off. Think about it; the biggest problem with tablets are managing to fit the processing power, hard drive, battery, ram, etc. into a thin enough shell that it feels like nothing more than a thin notebook you write on. I love my Tibook, but as light as it feels for a laptop, it's too generally unwieldy to be a comfortable writing tablet. I don't see you how could make anything more than a very underpowered, annoying laptop trying to fit everything into the screen and ignore all attempts at a keyboard. The point of a useful tablet is not to replace the functionality of a laptop; I can type twice as fast as I can write, and the form allows for a hard drive of useful size, a good video processor, etc. Where a tablet pc comes in handy is a replacement for a sketch pad, or for a system where you're only needing to point and click, like web browsing. These activities don't need good processors and large hard drives, and so current tablets lack both. The problem is that you must justify spending another thousand dollars, the cost of a separate computer, for just these little conveniences. A laptop and a wacom tablet are a much easier investment.

    The solution? Leave the hard drive, the main processor, and the video memory where they belong; in the base of that little lamp. And when you want a full computer, leave the monitor in and you got it. But for those moments when you really feel like sitting on the couch and browsing the web (without, I may add, a Titanium oven burning through your pants), you just pop off the display and go sit down. Run everything over 802.11g and a custom version of x11; it's perfectly fast enough over a direct LAN connection for browsing the web. And suddenly, the tablet is not a neat-looking expensive extra, but a very, very cool extra feature of your main system. Tablets with current technology are too "niche" to be really useful or marketable. So don't separate them into their own niche; make the niche a part of an existing system. It's the only situation in which *I'd* ever consider one worth having, at least.

  • Time to wake up... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @01:46AM (#7606731)
    Wake me up when they're twice as good as pen and paper and cost less than three times as much.

    Well, I think we would both agree they're already more than twice as good as pen and paper. So we've got that covered.

    Now for cost...

    100dpi would be more than enough resolution for printing out a replica of handwritten notes or a hand-sketched picture. So we're talking 800x1100 resolution. If we're talking 800x1100x24bit bitmap, it will take something around 2.5MiB to store. However, compressed into PNG it could drop down to somewhere around 1MiB. And compressed to 85% quality JPG it could drop to ~125KiB.

    Say you can buy a tablet for $1000 and it comes with 40GiB of storage. That's enough to store 320,000 pieces of electronic paper. With $333, assuming 1 penny per sheet, you would only be able to get 33,300 sheets of paper. With $1000 you could only buy 100,000 pieces of paper, so at this point pen and paper is actually 3x as expensive!

    If JPG quality isn't good enough for you, you could afford to go up to PNG quality before you come close to 3x the price.
    This is also assuming you don't want to back it up to CDR or DVD. In those cases it's not even fair comparing the prices. :)

    And yes, I do have way too much time on my hands.
  • by Galvatron ( 115029 ) * on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @03:03AM (#7607032)
    Quick note: I don't think you properly appreciate the speed and size difference between a palm and a tablet. If a medical professional has to look at (or even worse, edit) a patient's records, a tablet is going to provide a much larger, easier to read display, and is going to be much faster to write on. I know plenty of people who can't use PDAs without their reading glasses, large fonts on tablet PCs make that unnecessary. Palms make you write 1 letter at a time, wait while it interprets the writing, and then correct mistakes. Tablets let you write cursive, so long as you're writing dictionary words (note that the dictionary can be edited with a PowerTool, so medical folks can create a customized dictionary with whatever words they actually use), and when you correct mistakes you can correct the entire word using one of the suggested alternatives. Moreover if you're in a rush you can simply leave your writing as cursive until you actually have time to convert it to plain text, perhaps back at the docking station.

    Now obviously there's also a substantial cost differential. I'm not a hospital administrator, so I won't even pretend that I can hold an intelligent conversation on whether the benefits are worth it. I will say, however, that there absolutely are benefits to anyone who, like a doctor, has to take notes while standing and/or walking around indoors. There are also a couple models with reflective screens, useful for those who have to do their notetaking outdoors (folks in the construction/landscaping/etc. industries).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @09:06AM (#7607988)
    that the story's submitter, "penguinrenegade", was at one time known as "RenegadePenguin" on the Lyocris forums and is now a Sales and Marketing employee of the company. Nice bit of astro-turfing.
  • by JClark-IdleME ( 695349 ) on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @10:11AM (#7608325) Homepage

    What I'm wondering is why no one has thought to market tablet PCs to artists yet. Alias [] makes some fantastic tablet art software, but none of the hardware manufacturers seem to get it. Whose needs are better fulfilled by a tablet PC than an artist? As an artist myself, I'd love to be able to draw directly into my computer rather than having to scan and clean up my drawings. Yes, I have a Wacom tablet, but I really need to be able to see what I'm drawing as I'm drawing it. Gabe, from Penny Arcade [] got one for exactly this reason.

    What I'm hoping is that Apple realises this, they have a long history with artists and designers, and designs a tablet from the ground up with artists in mind (I'm thinking a convertable design, built like an iBook for durability, contoured so it's easy to hold). I also think the OS X gui is damn near perfect for touch screen navigation, or better than XP in any case.

    Oh well, just one of the many things that has been on my "I hope someone makes this some day" list for some time.

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