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First Prototype of Open Source TechCrunch Tablet 64

holy_calamity writes "Big mouth tech blogger Mike Arrington decided earlier this year to 'teach gadget-makers a lesson' and make his own portable, touch screen web tablet. The first, very rough, prototype is complete. Despite the claims it would be fully open source — even the hardware — there's no sign of a project site or any other openness yet."
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First Prototype of Open Source TechCrunch Tablet

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  • Opinion in the OP (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kid Zero ( 4866 ) on Monday September 01, 2008 @02:01PM (#24832941) Homepage Journal

    I know this is hardly a journalism site. And let's face it the MSM does the same thing the Author of this piece does. Crap like "Big mouth tech blogger Mike Arrington" isn't proper journalism, it's insulting. The opinion of the writer should never go in the story.

    Yeah, I've given up on the networks already.

  • even though the writing seems to be hastily done, it is still a pretty neat article... and actually looks pretty cool!
  • Hey its a prototype, id give them a chance before you pounce on them.

    • by Warll ( 1211492 )
      What on earth does id have to do with this? Is it going to ship with Doom or someting?
  • Come on....dude posts a pic of a prototype (pre-alpha), and you're already slagging him in the summary? No idea who he is, but seems a bit premature to rip him, at least to someone not following his concept. I don't expect a full schematic from other open source hardware projects this soon in the pipeline.
  • If you haven't got one yet, then they have no obligation to give you the source.

    • Re:Stop whinging (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Creepy Crawler ( 680178 ) on Monday September 01, 2008 @02:24PM (#24833191)

      And after reading the comments on here, no wonder why people think that Linux people are freeloaders and whiny asses who want everything for FREEEE.

      Im up for capitalization on his product if he can make it mass market. All the better is if he offered schematics of the PCB, firmware, and software source used. It's just like the old tvs, radios, and other electronic devices that had the whole PCB on a paper attached on the inside of the box.

      • I couldn't agree more. I'm seeing nothing bad here and, frankly, my first though on reading the piece linked to was "where can I send a check to contribute?" I would be happier if he was posting more details. I would be happier if I knew that more people were working on the project. But I'll take what I can get and since I've been hungry for such a device like this since at least 1978, I'm not going to complain about details if he gets this puppy advanced enough to release specs.
        And remember, the folks at
    • 1. That's a clause of the GPL you're referring to, not an inherent attribute of open source licenses.

      2. Regardless of the license involved, the creator of a program is not bound by it, hence the whole "dual licensed" arrangement for things like Qt.

      • by PhilHibbs ( 4537 )

        Are there any licences that require you to give away the source at your own expense (bandwidth) to anyone who wants to download it?

        • Are there any licences that require you to give away the source at your own expense (bandwidth) to anyone who wants to download it?

          The Affero GPL [] is one, with its requirement that all derivative works of a quine also be a quine, but I can't think of any others.

          • by PhilHibbs ( 4537 )

            A program that downloads source isn't a quine, but otherwise yes that's a licence that seems to require that bandwidth be provided at the expense of the distributor. So if I download a copy, and give a copy to my brother, I then have to run a web site for the rest of my life. That's nice.

            • by tepples ( 727027 )

              So if I download a copy, and give a copy to my brother, I then have to run a web site for the rest of my life.

              Not exactly. As I understand the AGPL, you have to make the source code available for download through the software only if you're already using the software to run a web site. Once you take the software down from public performance, you can take down the download.

              • by argent ( 18001 )

                No requirement that you keep the source available for X years, like the GPL?

                • by tepples ( 727027 )

                  No requirement that you keep the source available for X years, like the GPL?

                  Not that I can see. I'll quote the relevant paragraph from AGPLv3 []:

                  Notwithstanding any other provision of this License, if you modify the Program, your modified version must prominently offer all users interacting with it remotely through a computer network (if your version supports such interaction) an opportunity to receive the Corresponding Source of your version by providing access to the Corresponding Source from a network server at no charge, through some standard or customary means of facilitating cop

                  • by argent ( 18001 )

                    That seems to incorporate the requirements of the GPL3 by reference.

                    • by tepples ( 727027 )
                      The obligation under the GPLv3 to provide source code at no charge over a network lasts only as long as the licensee distributes the software over a network. The licensee may pull the source if he also pulls the binaries. But the obligation under the AGPLv3 applies even to those who do not distribute a modified version.
                    • by argent ( 18001 )

                      I see. That means that if a service is withdrawn without notice the corresponding source for the service as of that point may not be available anywhere. This should not normally be a big deal, but if you're dependent on a service operating under this license I would recommend taking advantage of this and mirroring their source, rather than depending on the fact that the source is out there.

        • by argent ( 18001 )

          Well, the GPL does if you don't include the source with the binaries.

          • by PhilHibbs ( 4537 )

            You only need to make it available to the people that you gave or sold the software to. It doesn't have to be on a public web site, you could password protect it for instance. My main point stands, you don't have to provide it to every Tom Dick and Neal on Slashdot.

  • Best tablet... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by serviscope_minor ( 664417 ) on Monday September 01, 2008 @02:19PM (#24833143) Journal

    My favourite tablet PC, and possibly my favourite laptop overall is/was the HP-Compaq tablet. Wonderful machine. Small, light, detachable keyboard, Wacom stylus, and everything worked perfectly under Linux. Also, the keyboard hinged from the middle, so it was the most usable machine I've experienced on aeroplane tray tables. Also, the hard glass screen was pretty much indestructable.

    Shame they seemed to stop updating them. Anyway, I'd buy a machine with a comparable formfactor.

    • by Tweenk ( 1274968 )

      I still have one now as a laptop, it's the TC1100 model to be precise. The detachable keyboard is genius. Every device on this one works under Linux [] except the SD card reader, but that's due to Texas Instruments being evil and providing this function via encrypted firmware, and probably the winmodem but I doubt it would be of any use today. The only thing that's missing on the software side is the cursive handwriting recognition, but even on Windows it wasn't available in my language. There are still new Ch

  • Wow, very cool! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Creepy Crawler ( 680178 ) on Monday September 01, 2008 @02:19PM (#24833145)

    Well hell, Compiz already has the basic handwriting tools: Annotate.

    It'd be cool to hook up a handwriting detection engine (theres already one for kanji in Linux) so that one could annotate ANYTHING on any screen. There could even be layers to show different annotations on what date.

    Beautiful, for pre-alpha hardware. Too bad theres no pics of it being used. Probably cause the software needs to be re-written for proper usage.

    As for the slamming and openness: Im up for him making profit on it. After all, thats what the patent and copyright clause is for in the Constitution. He's furthering the arts and sciences. We need more people like him.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Jorophose ( 1062218 )

      There's CellWriter []. (it depends on gnome though, and I have no idea how up-to-date it is...)

    • Re:Wow, very cool! (Score:4, Informative)

      by Tweenk ( 1274968 ) on Monday September 01, 2008 @04:31PM (#24834375)

      Well hell, Compiz already has the basic handwriting tools: Annotate.

      There are better tablet tools:
      - Cellwriter does cell-based character recognition. It can be trained to recognize any Unicode character - in this aspect it destroys the Windows offering.
      - Xournal is a great note taking application, and has PDF annotation support - handy when reading e-books. No pressure recognition like Windows Journal though, but GIMP and Inkscape have it.
      - There's also an array of onscreen keyboards. I found Ubuntu's Onboard to work best, and it can be run at the gdm prompt to enable keyboardless login. There's also Matchbox Keyboard which you can embed into Gnome screensaver password prompt.
      - xbindkeys is great for handling hotkey commands.
      - GIMP and Inkscape are also fun with tablets - a TC1100 can be a very cheap alternative to Wacom Cintiq ;). The stylus calibration code in the Wacom driver sucks big time though - 2-point calibration instead of 4-point, so there can be precision issues.
      - Firefox Grab and Drag extension is great when you browse web pages with a stylus.
      - KDE has a gestures application, though it's not maintained too well.
      - Compiz is a bit annoying with a stylus, but the problems can be configured away.
      - USB Wacom tablets do not work beacuse the driver sucks as mentioned above.

      Overall Linux works surprisingly well with tablets unless you have an USB-based digitizer (most are serial-based). The only big things missing are cursive handwriting recognition and a decent gestures application.

  • by pieterh ( 196118 ) on Monday September 01, 2008 @02:33PM (#24833263) Homepage

    ... will inevitably evolve WiFi functionality and touch screens (now that the patents on touch screens are expired) and in 12 months or so, we'll see devices exactly like Mike Arrington is thinking of, for $200 and then for $100.

    We're only at the start of the "let's see what we can cram into a tiny box and run under Linux" phase of the Chinese computing industry. It's going to be huge IMO.

    No way anyone can compete making something by hand but as an experiment, it's very cool.

    • by Tweenk ( 1274968 )

      Those picture frames (at least those I have seen) have notoriously crappy LCDs. They are barely legible on a sunny day, even indoors. I think this kind of defeats their purpose, except when you hang them in the basement.

    • Actually, I've already seen touch-screen and WiFi picture frames in the stores. They're pricey, but I'm sure that will drop soon.

      They were smart with the touch-screens, I think. Only a small portion of the frame is touch enabled, which not only lowers costs but keeps messy fingerprints off your $200 display.

      The WiFi-enabled ones will pull data off an internet site, which you upload your photos to. Some even let you subscribe to Flickr slideshows or something like that.

    • No way anyone can compete making something by hand but as an experiment, it's very cool.

      Actually it seems that China seems to compete ok as they have millions of workers making things with their hands, like the iphone girl []

    • by zobier ( 585066 )

      Who said anything about competing by making by hand. These guys are designing an open-spec device that could be mass-manufactured cheaply by our friends in China for everyone.

      Are you saying that community hardware design can not be as good as "industry" design?

  • I believe the main reason you open source something is to get more eyes on the problems and more brains on the solutions. Sure, there's the whole free thing that comes along with it, but without the combined efforts of people across the globe, progress is slow. Also ideas other people have aren't even thought of, due to the unknowns of the project.
  • but it will be a stretch for them to pull it off. It is one thing to sit in Mom's basement blogging about websites and gossiping around SV people, and another to pull of a working, hardware & os & software that actually works, not to mention in a usable way, between blog posts.
  • If someone is looking for a real, usable tablet, perhaps one of the slate-style ones from Motion Computing would be the way to go. I picked mine up for under four hundred dollars on eBay, complete with a good battery and a docking station.

    This isn't really an innovative, exciting, new product.


    • This isn't really an innovative, exciting, new product.

      You have seen the picture, right? It's not a product at all. It's a bunch of salvaged parts on some guys very messy kitchen table.

      • I'm operating under the assumption that, from that impacted shitheap of a table, some sort of product matching the initial description manages to blossom. You know, like a tulip growing from a garbage dump.


        • I'm operating under the assumption that, from that impacted shitheap of a table, some sort of product matching the initial description manages to blossom. You know, like a tulip growing from a garbage dump.

          Hasn't worked for me yet. My workbench has looked like that for years.

    • The nokia tablets work well enough for minor stuff. I borrow my lab's sometimes and it's not that much more annoying than my thinkpad tablet (which really, I like for reading on, more than anything else.) For portability, there are also iphones (which are dropping in price all the time) and some other toys.

      There's also hacking a chumby: wifi + touchscreen, but a little too small to be fully functional.

  • by Fantastic Lad ( 198284 ) on Monday September 01, 2008 @05:50PM (#24835143)

    Totally different industry, and we didn't follow through because we were teen-agers with half-assed ideas but, the research turned up some amazing knowledge which cleared the way to many awesome skills for navigating the world. We went on and did something completely different, but we used a lot of what we learned during this first process.

    --One of the first places we visited was a spring manufacturer. We told the plant manager what we were trying to do. Turns out it would have cost a hundred bucks or so to get a machine cranking out little springs to our specifications, and after that you bought the springs by weight; pennies per pound. --Same with all the other parts. We discovered that you can make pretty much whatever you want out of metal and plastic; any shape imaginable and. . , well, this is basic engineering/business 101 and I imagine not terribly surprising to anybody who reads this, but it was a real education for a couple of teenagers at the time.

    The world opened up! We realized, "Hey, we can make any darned thing we want. Industry is set up precisely to make this possible. It's just a matter of coming up with a good design and then making some phone calls and working out a sales route, assembling the thing, packaging and shipping. Heck, if you can get advanced orders from enough retail chains you can pretty much know before you start how much money you need and what your profit margins will be, and with that information you can put a plan together for a bank and get a loan to start cranking products out. If you plan carefully, it's like printing money! Ah. . . So THIS is where millionaires come from. Dang! This isn't hard at all. It just takes smarts and effort. Wow! We can do ANYTHING!"

    Or something like that. It feels good to know that goods don't just magically appear on shop shelves, but that you can put them there yourself; you can shape the world. You barely even need seed capital before the business loan, unless you need to hire engineers and programmers and such for the prototype, and even that can be worked into a more advanced business plan to take to a bank. You can start the whole thing with bus fare and a clean shirt and slacks!

    One bank manager took an interest and gave me a half-hour lecture and several pieces of really awesome advice which I still use today. One of which was that banks don't care much for small loans, but that thinking REALLY big is more likely to procure a willing investment. (I don't know if that is still true today in the current economic climate, but back then it was apparently so). And second, I met a couple of professionals, (one of whom was a lawyer who did a few hundred dollars worth of paper work for me for free), who lived by that rule from the movie, "Pay it Forward" --but a decade and a half before that movie was even a twinkle in some script-writer's eye. "I'm going to do this for you for free, but one day when you are successful, a young, bright-eyed kid is going to come to you for help. You must promise to help that kid the way I'm helping you now. Will you do this?"

    My god, yes! I almost hugged the man. --And that came from a lawyer, no less. Dang! People can be SO awesome.

    So I think this tablet project is totally boss. If nobody is making what you want and you want it enough, then darn straight, go make one yourself! Chances are there are a bunch of somebodies out there also trying to wish the thing into existence, and that's your market right there. So why not do it? --It will fill your life with a purpose you created within yourself, it will give you a fascinating obstacle course of scalable challenges to work through and that sort of thing brings real joy. And at the end of it, if your aims are right and you put in the work and you don't allow yourself to fall into wishful thinking, then you'll succeed and have made the world a better place in the process. So these guys completely rock, and Open Source is definitely a cool way to go! I can see their business plan evolving thusly.

  • Their goal is a device "as thin as a Macbook Air". What they have is a laptop screen in a large aluminum box. It's like a kid drawing a screen on a cardboard box and proclaiming it "my first computer".

"We don't care. We don't have to. We're the Phone Company."