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  1. #1
    It's got electrolytes! chucky's Avatar
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    complete PC that uses <8W max

    http://www.fit-pc.com/

    It's a complete computer fast enough to even play HD video and it only consumes 6-8W (1W in standby)...and even less if you use a solid state hard drive.

    It's marketed as reducing electricity costs for businesses and companies that need many computers (internet hosting, etc), but it seems to me like one could easily power one with a bike dynamo.

  2. #2
    Senior Member dougmc's Avatar
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    Of course, that doesn't include a screen.

    What do you want this computer to do? Will you have batteries, charged while you go, draining while you stop?

    It seems to me that if power consumption and size are primary issues, you should get away from x86 entirely -- a PDA of some sort (or media player, like Zune or iPod Touch) might be all you'd need on the road, and they use a tiny fraction of the power that even this uses.

  3. #3
    It's got electrolytes! chucky's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dougmc View Post
    Of course, that doesn't include a screen.

    What do you want this computer to do? Will you have batteries, charged while you go, draining while you stop?

    It seems to me that if power consumption and size are primary issues, you should get away from x86 entirely -- a PDA of some sort (or media player, like Zune or iPod Touch) might be all you'd need on the road, and they use a tiny fraction of the power that even this uses.
    You won't save as much power as you think with a PDA, plus you'll obviously be much more limited in what you can do with it. The fit-pc2 gives by far the most bang for your watt and saves you thousands if not millions of manhours programming. I mean, in principle there's probably no reason why you couldn't replace the computer you're using right now with a PDA, but why would you?

    Personally what interests me about the fit-pc2 isn't so much that you could power it while moving, but that you could easily power it 24/7 with a stationary generator bike eliminating the need for batteries entirely. Seems like if you weld a cog directly to your dynohub then even after a long day of touring you could jack the dynowheel off the ground, connect the chain to drive it directly, and surf the net all night without exhausting yourself; No batteries needed. You could also power it with a solar panel, but that would still require a battery if you want to use the computer at night.

    Also, I guess it's in the interest of environmentalism/self-sufficiency to be able to eliminate batteries and solar panels which both need regular replacement despite being toxic in both manufacture and disposal. Since so many people work from home nowadays it's interesting to note that with a computer like this you could probably hold down an upper class full time job while living as a completely human powered nomad. Now, for the first time in history, you can be both a balls-out 100% homeless dirty hippy and a productive member of society. The social ramifications are huge.

    There are many options for low power displays.
    Last edited by chucky; 11-21-09 at 04:58 PM.

  4. #4
    Seņior Member ItsJustMe's Avatar
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    Those have been around for a few years. They're great for what they work for, but they won't replace my desktop. I doubt it can handle authoring blu-ray discs from HD camcorder output, and I'm sure it'd suck at gaming (though I don't game personally)
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  5. #5
    Senior Member dougmc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chucky View Post
    You won't save as much power as you think with a PDA, plus you'll obviously be much more limited in what you can do with it.
    As for the power, you will save a lot of power.

    For example, the iPod touch has a 1100 mAh 3.7v battery as far as I know. That's about 4 watt-hours -- and it'll run about 5 hours of video on that. So that's less than one watt at full power consumption. And a 15" LCD monitor uses, what, 20-30 watts? (Bigger ones use more, smaller ones use somewhat less but are hard to find.) But sure, if you don't mind pedalling pretty hard while you work (hub generators are, what, 50% efficient?), 30 watts total is certainly doable and reasonably portable.

    But you haven't mentioned what you want to use it for. Is it a general purpose computer for web browsing and such when you stop? Is it collecting data (war riding?) while you ride? (if so, it might not even need a monitor.) Do you intend to be using it while you ride, or only at stops? What you need it for makes a huge difference ... obviously you know what you want it for, but I don't.

    it's interesting to note that with a computer like this you could probably hold down an upper class full time job while living as a completely human powered nomad.
    A netbook of some sort would probably work even better -- it has a battery built in so it won't immediately die if you have to go pee, it's smaller than your computer+monitor+keyboard, it's cheaper, it only needs one power input (not two, with different voltage requirements) etc. And power consumption is comparable -- around 20 watts in low power mode -- and that includes the screen. Put a small hub generator on your bike, let it work while you're touring (of course, I don't know if you're talking about touring), and you've got a hour or maybe more of computer time each evening. Or get a beefier generator, and pedal away while stopped.

    But it all depends on what you want to do.

    In any event, tiny computers like this have been around for a decade -- this is not something new. And while netbook popularity is a recent thing, the I-Opener is likely to be workable -- and it came out 10 years ago.
    Last edited by dougmc; 11-21-09 at 06:38 PM.

  6. #6
    It's got electrolytes! chucky's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ItsJustMe View Post
    Those have been around for a few years. They're great for what they work for, but they won't replace my desktop. I doubt it can handle authoring blu-ray discs from HD camcorder output, and I'm sure it'd suck at gaming (though I don't game personally)
    Although they've been around, they've also been getting more powerful with less power consumption. IMO a 1ghz processor w/ 1gb of ram that uses less than 10W crosses a major threshold because:
    1. Power consumption is low enough to run in real time off a $100 solar panel or by human power with an almost unnoticeable amount of extra effort (it's probably less tiring to sit and pedal power one of these than stand and power nothing). This means that if you use it appropriately you never have to turn it off or connect to the grid or use a fuel powered generated. It is independently sustainable.
    2. It's no slower than my current primary computer (5 year old laptop w/ 1ghz processor and 1gb ram) which I have no interest in upgrading to a faster unit. In fact, it's probably faster due to the dedicated H264, MPEG2, VC1, and WMV9 hardware processing (I bet a properly written blue-ray encoder would be faster than you think).

    The fit-pc2 is only about 1 year old and it's a major upgrade to it's predecessor (according to compulab 5x faster with only 2 extra watts of power consumption) and it blows everything from their competitors out of the water. Look around, you won't find anything as powerful that uses nearly as little power.

  7. #7
    Senior Member late's Avatar
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  8. #8
    It's got electrolytes! chucky's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dougmc View Post
    As for the power, you will save a lot of power.

    For example, the iPod touch has a 1100 mAh 3.7v battery as far as I know. That's about 4 watt-hours -- and it'll run about 5 hours of video on that. So that's less than one watt at full power consumption. And a 15" LCD monitor uses, what, 20-30 watts? (Bigger ones use more, smaller ones use somewhat less but are hard to find.) But sure, if you don't mind pedalling pretty hard while you work (hub generators are, what, 50% efficient?), 30 watts total is certainly doable and reasonably portable.

    But you haven't mentioned what you want to use it for. Is it a general purpose computer for web browsing and such when you stop? Is it collecting data (war riding?) while you ride? (if so, it might not even need a monitor.) Do you intend to be using it while you ride, or only at stops? What you need it for makes a huge difference ... obviously you know what you want it for, but I don't.

    A netbook of some sort would probably work even better -- it has a battery built in so it won't immediately die if you have to go pee, it's smaller than your computer+monitor+keyboard, it's cheaper, it only needs one power input (not two, with different voltage requirements) etc. And power consumption is comparable -- around 20 watts in low power mode -- and that includes the screen. Put a small hub generator on your bike, let it work while you're touring (of course, I don't know if you're talking about touring), and you've got a hour or maybe more of computer time each evening. Or get a beefier generator, and pedal away while stopped.

    But it all depends on what you want to do.

    In any event, tiny computers like this have been around for a decade -- this is not something new. And while netbook popularity is a recent thing, the I-Opener is likely to be workable -- and it came out 10 years ago.
    Except it's not. The only advantage a netbook has is that it's cheaper. With a headless computer like the fit-pc2 there are lower power options for display out there such as this:
    http://www.vuzix.com/iwear/products_vr920.html
    which is powered by usb (so can't possibly use more than 2.5W...for a total of ~10W maximum; half as much as a netbook in low power mode). Moreover, a netbook is an ergonomic nightmare: extremely uncomfortable to use on a desk and even worse on your lap or anywhere else where the ultrasmall size might come in handy. Once again, there are better solutions than the microsized qwerty keyboard you get locked into with a netbook.

    Finally, while tiny computers have been around for a decade "tiny computers like this" have most certainly not. The I-Opener had a 150mhz cpu. It's not comparable. The unique thing here is that for the first time in history the tiny computers are consummate with the amount of processing power most people need and use. People playing HD games and processing video are a only a small minority of computer users. Plus with todays cell phone networks, except for gamers, anyone that needs more processing power can easily purchase it anywhere in the world for a reasonable price (nowadays even Amazon sells cpu cycles).

    To be clear my intended purpose is a full general purpose computer to be used off the bike while touring self-supported. Batteries are disposable items which are bad for the environment and are thus to be avoided and for the first time they can be. Hacking specialized units like the iPod is completely out of the question; After all, how will you fix your hack on the road without a general purpose PC?

  9. #9
    put our Heads Together cerewa's Avatar
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    Bet you could attach a screen similar to the EEE-pc screen to this Fit-PC thing.

    The EEEpc computers are powered by ~10 watts max. With screen included.

    Whether you go with an EEEpc or a FitPC it's possible to attach any USB keyboard you happen to have.

    Both are capable of running all of the Windows (or Linux) software you want unless you're in that small minority (mentioned above) using serious 3D games or editing professional video.
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  10. #10
    mosquito rancher adamrice's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chucky View Post
    with a computer like this you could probably hold down an upper class full time job while living as a completely human powered nomad.[/b] Now, for the first time in history, you can be both a balls-out 100% homeless dirty hippy and a productive member of society.
    Steve Roberts might beg to differ.

    Quote Originally Posted by chucky View Post
    The social ramifications are huge.
    Not sure how many people would take that option, but the ramifications are certainly interesting.

    If you'll permit me going off on a tangent, I always find it eye-opening to take a look at what Steve Roberts was doing 20 years ago: both in the sense that he managed to lash together something that worked, and in the sense that a large fraction of what he was doing with technology has been squeezed into an iPhone today.
    Last edited by adamrice; 11-22-09 at 08:45 AM. Reason: addendum

  11. #11
    Velocommuter Commando Sirrus Rider's Avatar
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    If I had to guess it's probably very slow.. It's probably okay for surfing the web or writing documents in a a light weight word processor, but that's about it. Defiantly don't expect to play WOW on it. Also as others have pointed out you would still need a screen which coming back to the context of cycling makes this setup impractical. The better bet would be a net book/EEPC.
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  12. #12
    Senior Member dougmc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chucky View Post
    Finally, while tiny computers have been around for a decade "tiny computers like this" have most certainly not. The I-Opener had a 150mhz cpu. It's not comparable.
    My point in bringing up the I-Opener is that 1) it was out 10 years ago and 2) it was cheap/small/used little power and 3) could be easily hacked into what you need.

    And yes, tiny computers like the FitPC were around 10 years ago too. Sure, they were slower -- but all computers were. But the power consumption was similar, as was the size.

    The unique thing here is that for the first time in history the tiny computers are consummate with the amount of processing power most people need and use.
    Except that 10 years ago, people needed less -- and computers were available that were tiny, used little power and did what they needed.

    If all you need to do is run a web browser, use a word processor and perhaps ssh somewhere, 150 MHz worked ten years ago -- and it would work today, though you can easily get 1500 MHz today.

    To be clear my intended purpose is a full general purpose computer to be used off the bike while touring self-supported. Batteries are disposable items which are bad for the environment and are thus to be avoided and for the first time they can be.
    Even `general purpose computer' is too vague. But if all you need is a web browser, word processor and command line -- that's been available, with the form factor and power consumption you need -- for over a decade. This is not a new thing.
    Hacking specialized units like the iPod is completely out of the question; After all, how will you fix your hack on the road without a general purpose PC?
    How will you fix your FitPC on the road if it won't boot? Needless to say, whatever you use, you'll have to make sure it works, because your tools to fix it on the road will be limited.

    And you won't really need a hacked iPhone/iPod touch -- it should accept an external (bluetooth?) keyboard, and there should be a workable word processor application available. If it breaks, ride to the nearest Apple store. It would be very nice to recharge it with a standard generator hub (most make, what, 3 watts? That won't power your FitPC without beefing up their output a lot) while you ride, then you can relax as you do your stuff.

    As for batteries, rechargeables aren't so bad, and they can be recycled once they wear out -- which isn't so bad for the environment. And you will want some, whatever your computer is, because you don't want your computer dying the moment you stop pedalling.

    Solar panels are a good plan. You're not human powered any more, but you're still off the grid. A small solar panel could charge your batteries while you ride, a larger one could run the computer as you use it. But it would be unfortunate if you couldn't use your computer tonight just because it was cloudy today -- so you'd need a generator anyways.

    Your VR920 looks neat. 640x480 is limiting, but workable. It would work with an EEEpc (though you wouldn't need it, as the EEEpc has a better screen built in), as would an external USB keyboard (your little computer has no keyboard, so holding the EEEpc keyboard against it seems unfair.)

  13. #13
    It's got electrolytes! chucky's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cerewa View Post
    Bet you could attach a screen similar to the EEE-pc screen to this Fit-PC thing.

    The EEEpc computers are powered by ~10 watts max. With screen included.

    Whether you go with an EEEpc or a FitPC it's possible to attach any USB keyboard you happen to have.

    Both are capable of running all of the Windows (or Linux) software you want unless you're in that small minority (mentioned above) using serious 3D games or editing professional video.
    Not according to the measurements I've seen. They seem to consume around ~10W under minimal load with the screen off. Plus trying to charge the lithium battery from a choppy human power source is an accident waiting to happen.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sirrus Rider View Post
    If I had to guess it's probably very slow.. It's probably okay for surfing the web or writing documents in a a light weight word processor, but that's about it. Defiantly don't expect to play WOW on it. Also as others have pointed out you would still need a screen which coming back to the context of cycling makes this setup impractical. The better bet would be a net book/EEPC.
    Users seem to think otherwise (not that it can play WOW, just that it's surprisingly fast heads and shoulders above anything else with similar power consumption). A netbook uses too much power and is an ergonomic nightmare. My current laptop has a 10" screen and let me tell you after 5 years I'm sick of the tiny keyboard and screen, yet I'm also sick of how big it is. The only way to upgrade without sacrificing is to replace the conventional screen and keyboard with superior alternatives, which can't be done with a netbook.

    Quote Originally Posted by dougmc View Post
    Except that 10 years ago, people needed less -- and computers were available that were tiny, used little power and did what they needed.

    If all you need to do is run a web browser, use a word processor and perhaps ssh somewhere, 150 MHz worked ten years ago -- and it would work today, though you can easily get 1500 MHz today.
    The thing is this just isn't true. 10 years ago 150mhz was not enough for web browsing and word processing (15 years ago sure, but you couldn't get a computer like the I-opener then). Yes, there have always been computers available of similar size and power consumption and yes, although they were slower, typical computing needs were less. However, the devil is in the details. Relative computing power compared to power consumption and size has never been like this before.

    Why do you think netbooks are suddenly popular? Never before has such a balance been struck between computing power, power consumption, and user needs.

    Quote Originally Posted by dougmc View Post
    Even `general purpose computer' is too vague. But if all you need is a web browser, word processor and command line -- that's been available, with the form factor and power consumption you need -- for over a decade. This is not a new thing.
    How will you fix your FitPC on the road if it won't boot? Needless to say, whatever you use, you'll have to make sure it works, because your tools to fix it on the road will be limited.

    And you won't really need a hacked iPhone/iPod touch -- it should accept an external (bluetooth?) keyboard, and there should be a workable word processor application available. If it breaks, ride to the nearest Apple store. It would be very nice to recharge it with a standard generator hub (most make, what, 3 watts? That won't power your FitPC without beefing up their output a lot) while you ride, then you can relax as you do your stuff.
    It's not vague at all. A general purpose computer does whatever you tell it to do. You can program it to do what you want or you can easily use programs that other people have created. Just having a word processor or web browser does not fit the bill. Accessibility to software in general does.

    You see? You don't have to fix hacks on a FitPC because it's a general purpose computer that runs the same operating systems, programs, etc as every other computer. That's the difference. With an iPod you have to spend a year of your life writing your own code in order to even attempt to run generally available programs and then work out the bugs on the road whereas the FitPC just works like any other general purpose computer. Limiting yourself to what Apple will fix for you at the Apple store is not general.

    Quote Originally Posted by dougmc View Post
    As for batteries, rechargeables aren't so bad, and they can be recycled once they wear out -- which isn't so bad for the environment. And you will want some, whatever your computer is, because you don't want your computer dying the moment you stop pedalling.
    I think there should be more than enough momentum in the wheel to hibernate to a solid state drive when you stop pedaling. Just connect a bike computer and initiate shut down when the RPM gets below a certain speed. With the wheel off the ground it should be easy to produce 10W with minimal effort. (the 3W in a "3W generator" is a meaningless specification).

    Quote Originally Posted by dougmc View Post
    Solar panels are a good plan. You're not human powered any more, but you're still off the grid. A small solar panel could charge your batteries while you ride, a larger one could run the computer as you use it. But it would be unfortunate if you couldn't use your computer tonight just because it was cloudy today -- so you'd need a generator anyways.
    Solar panels not so good because, as you noted, then you need a solar panel AND a battery, both of which will eventually need to be replaced. Solar energy is a dumb idea. Nothing is as reliable as human power because you're guaranteed access to it for as long as you live.

    Quote Originally Posted by dougmc View Post
    Your VR920 looks neat. 640x480 is limiting, but workable. It would work with an EEEpc (though you wouldn't need it, as the EEEpc has a better screen built in), as would an external USB keyboard (your little computer has no keyboard, so holding the EEEpc keyboard against it seems unfair.)
    How is the EEEpc screen better? It takes up more space, it consumes more power, and it probably weighs more, which makes it worse. That's the problem with netbooks, the user gets stuck with the poor choices of screen and the keyboard. The Fit-PC2 is exactly the same thing as a netbook except it's much easier to select a better power source, a better screen, and a better keyboard.
    Better+Better+Better=Mo' Better
    Last edited by chucky; 11-22-09 at 04:11 PM.

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    There is a small company called minibox that made a small low power system around 2001 using a via mini it'd board. They have made several new models since then all low power and geared toward automotive use.
    If I wanted a full computer on by bike I'd now buy the bike mount for the Druid phone I'm replying to this message on.

  15. #15
    It's got electrolytes! chucky's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by enine View Post
    There is a small company called minibox that made a small low power system around 2001 using a via mini it'd board. They have made several new models since then all low power and geared toward automotive use.
    If I wanted a full computer on by bike I'd now buy the bike mount for the Druid phone I'm replying to this message on.
    Thanks for posting this. They don't give power ratings, but based on the specs I bet those Mini-box units use 2x-3x the power of the Fit-PCs. However, it appears that mini-box sells a lot of nice circuits for managing power (converting voltages, etc) which might come in handy for what I want to do.

    Something like the Druid phone is out of the question for me for several reasons:
    1. The data plan costs too much. I have an EVDO RevA capable dumb phone which is hacked to tether to my laptop and I get more bandwidth on the road than the average US broadband connection...all unlimited for $30/month (including voice and text). I don't think it's possible to use the Druid with my carrier (or at least I don't know how to do it).
    2. There are too many different issues to sort out for running software on a nonstandard architecture. The biggest obstacle is that it's not powerful enough to recompile it's own software in a timely fashion. So although in principle one could run any available linux program, practically speaking you can't without a more powerful system being available. Being locked in to manufacturer approved software, drivers, etc is too limiting (they will squeeze you for all you're worth if they even bother to service you at all).
    3. The screen is too small to use standard graphical programs. So you're stuck with programs designed to accommodate small screens which is, once again, limiting.

    All this adds up to the fact that, while trying to use something like a Druid phone might make a nice hobby, it will take many years of development, hacking, etc before it turns from a time-waster/money-pit to a time-saver/money-maker. In order to be useful I need something that has as much of the development work already done for me as possible and the only thing that will give me that is an x86 platform with as many standard buses/interfaces/intputs/outputs/etc as possible.

    However, my current thinking is that if I really want to run battery-less then maybe I should go with something that stays closer to 6W in total power consumption in order to closer meet the specs of available bike dynamos (and thus minimize my headaches in trying to extract dc power). I'm thinking of going with the old model "Fit-PC Slim" for now and upgrading to more computing power as it becomes available at this level of power consumption (see the advantage of going standard? if I tried to use a proprietary platform like the druid I would have to start from scratch every time I want to upgrade).
    Last edited by chucky; 11-24-09 at 10:32 AM.

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    Exclamation

    That was supposed to be Droid phone, auto correct got me. The original minibox was based on the 500MHz via board, I have the same one and run it from a 12v @1A power supply s its topping at 12w and is close to 10 years old now. There are newer systems which are lower powered and faster. One could use a smart phone as the input and display. Let ne find an SSH client for my phone and try it.

  17. #17
    It's got electrolytes! chucky's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by enine View Post
    That was supposed to be Droid phone, auto correct got me. The original minibox was based on the 500MHz via board, I have the same one and run it from a 12v @1A power supply s its topping at 12w and is close to 10 years old now. There are newer systems which are lower powered and faster. One could use a smart phone as the input and display. Let ne find an SSH client for my phone and try it.
    Looking more into the Droid...looks like a nice system, but it's way too locked down. The whole reason I have a computer is so I can process data how I want, where I want, when I want. I don't need a computer to have corporate propaganda beamed directly into my brain.

    Maybe I'm just a dummy, but the only way I know how to preserve my freedom when computing is to get the simplest device possible from the powers that be and connect it to a general purpose device which I can control 100%. While something like the Droid is tempting, the fact that it can't be used on the data carrier of my choice with the plan of my choice is a showstopper. Plus I'm not sold on the whole touch screen thing for input/output. It's good for things like beaming corporate propaganda, but I just don't think it's a good way for me to command my computer to do my bidding.

    Let me put it simply, a computer that can't be programmed to satisfy the terms of my contract with the cellular company might as well not be able to do anything at all no matter how much potential it has in theory (or at the command of the corporate behemoth which sold it to me).

  18. #18
    It's got electrolytes! chucky's Avatar
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    See the following recent article for a good explanation for why something like the Droid and every other smartphone doesn't even come close to the capability of a complete PC:
    http://arstechnica.com/open-source/n...it-be-done.ars

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    Quote Originally Posted by chucky View Post
    Looking more into the Droid...looks like a nice system, but it's way too locked down. The whole reason I have a computer is so I can process data how I want, where I want, when I want. I don't need a computer to have corporate propaganda beamed directly into my brain.

    Maybe I'm just a dummy, but the only way I know how to preserve my freedom when computing is to get the simplest device possible from the powers that be and connect it to a general purpose device which I can control 100%. While something like the Droid is tempting, the fact that it can't be used on the data carrier of my choice with the plan of my choice is a showstopper. Plus I'm not sold on the whole touch screen thing for input/output. It's good for things like beaming corporate propaganda, but I just don't think it's a good way for me to command my computer to do my bidding.

    Let me put it simply, a computer that can't be programmed to satisfy the terms of my contract with the cellular company might as well not be able to do anything at all no matter how much potential it has in theory (or at the command of the corporate behemoth which sold it to me).
    Actually its not locked down like you think, its completely open source so you can use it however you want. The contract with my cellular company (verizon) just got it to me for 1/3 the price. I already had service with verizon, have since the mid 90's and am on a pretty inexpensive loyalty plan and we (wife and I) had talked about getting a data plan anyway. There are a few people that have bought droids and wither signed up for no plan and paid full price or switched back to their old phone and just use it on wifi. One of the reasons I got this phone is because its the most open available to me.
    The only reason it can't replace my netbook now is storage, I just can't fit everything on a 16G microsd.

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    Senior Member dougmc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chucky View Post
    See the following recent article for a good explanation for why something like the Droid and every other smartphone doesn't even come close to the capability of a complete PC:
    http://arstechnica.com/open-source/n...it-be-done.ars
    Really, that article talks about how Droid isn't as open as people like to claim it is. That's not quite the same thing as saying it doesn't come close to the capability of a PC. (But of course, it doesn't.)

    As for how open it is, isn't the Droid approximately as open as a Windows PC? You can write your own code and run it on the phone, but you can't alter the OS? (Of course, in Windows you can alter the OS in certain ways.) On the Windows PC, you can replace the OS entirely, of course, but most people don't do that. (And before you jump to conclusions, I'm typing this into a Linux box right now. This computer has never run Windows.)

    The FitPC isn't revolutionary -- it's evolutionary. (Do you work for the company that makes them? ) Similar things have existed for over a decade, with similar sizes, similar power consumption and similar capabilities, though like all computers they have gotten faster over the years. As for what gives you an acceptable amount of power, that depends on what you're using it for. (And `General Purpose PC' doesn't even come close to nailing that down. Both a 150 MHz Ppro and a 3 GHz quad core box will run modern OSs and software -- but only one will do WoW properly, which is indeed what many people want a general purpose PC for. )

    But obviously you're not a typical user if one of your requirements is to be able to recompile your OS on the road. In that case, you're pretty much stuck with an x86 system of some sort (some PPC systems migh work too, but I see little benefit to trying to go down that road (though it was neat that the Mac P4 cube only needed 30 watts.) And the FitPC will likely fit the bill if you're happy with your VR glasses and their 640x480 screens.

    (Most people are likely to not need to recompile their OS on the road, in which case a PDA with an external keyboard and WiFi (use public ones) might be just what they need. Power consumption goes down by an order of magnitude (which makes the power situation MUCH easier), and size goes down somewhat. They can browse the web, send/check email, play games, write papers with standard software -- if they need more, then that might change things.)

    In your case, you're going to need to reconsider your available power. Let's assume you need 12 watts total. I think you'll really want a battery of some sort. Let's suppose a wheel weighs 5 lbs, and all the weight is close to the rim. If the wheel is spinning at 15 mph, that gives you 51 joules of energy stored in the wheel. If your generator is 50% efficient, and your computer uses 12 watts, that gives you 2.1 seconds after you stop pedaling before your wheel is out of energy. Is that time to suspend to disk? (And this assumes that it starts suspending the instant you stop pedaling.)

    (You did mention the momentum stored in your wheel as keeping the computer going. Perhaps some ultracapacitators would work better.)

    Also, to produce 12 watts of power with a 50% efficient generator, that will require 24 watts of power from you. You can probably easily do 100 watts for a long time, but slowing down to 24 watts for hours at a time might be very annoying. Putting out 50 or 100 watts for 1/2 to 1/4th the time and charging a battery might be easier on you.

    Most hub generators are rated at 3 watts. I realize that the rating doesn't mean much, but getting 12 watts out of them is likely to be difficult. They're also designed to go on the front wheel rather than the rear -- but as you said, you could add a cog and put them on the rear when you stopped, as long as you had a kick stand that will keep the rear wheel off the ground while you pedaled. But it would be nice if it charged your battery at 3 (or more) watts while you rode, which would reduce the amount of time you'd have to spend pedaling when you're stopped.

    To get more than 3 watts, you might want to consider a motor hub from an electric bicycle. After all -- a motor and a generator are basically the same thing. You'd have to put some thought into circuits to efficiently convert the AC (three phase? Though you could ignore two of them if you didn't mind reduced power) to smooth DC of the right voltage, but that's not difficult.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dougmc View Post
    As for how open it is, isn't the Droid approximately as open as a Windows PC? You can write your own code and run it on the phone, but you can't alter the OS? (Of course, in Windows you can alter the OS in certain ways.) On the Windows PC, you can replace the OS entirely, of course, but most people don't do that. (And before you jump to conclusions, I'm typing this into a Linux box right now. This computer has never run Windows.)
    Andriod is an open source OS as well so its more open than a Windows PC. Its the closest thing to a linux phone I could get.

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    mosquito rancher adamrice's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by enine View Post
    Its the closest thing to a linux phone I could get.
    Except for OpenMoco, which apparently was a disaster. I've got a friend who's a hardcore Linux advocate. He bought one, sight unseen. Found it unusable both in terms of hardware and software.

    There's also Maemo, which is built on Linux and powers the Nokia N900 (as well as some PDA-like predecessors).

    Android definitely has the hot hand in terms of open phone OSs though.

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    Quote Originally Posted by chucky View Post
    The thing is this just isn't true. 10 years ago 150mhz was not enough for web browsing and word processing (15 years ago sure, but you couldn't get a computer like the I-opener then).
    Wrongo. 15 years ago the max you could buy for reasonable personal consumption was the 120 MHz Pentium. 150 was still plenty of machine in '99 for normal stuff.
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    Quote Originally Posted by adamrice View Post
    Except for OpenMoco, which apparently was a disaster. I've got a friend who's a hardcore Linux advocate. He bought one, sight unseen. Found it unusable both in terms of hardware and software.

    There's also Maemo, which is built on Linux and powers the Nokia N900 (as well as some PDA-like predecessors).

    Android definitely has the hot hand in terms of open phone OSs though.
    Key was closest that I could get. I don't know how or have time to replace gsm with cdma hardware so getting either of the other would have meant carrying a separate phone to make calls on. I drive between OH and WV often and GSM has pretty much zero coverage once you get outside the outerbelt of columbus.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dougmc View Post
    Really, that article talks about how Droid isn't as open as people like to claim it is. That's not quite the same thing as saying it doesn't come close to the capability of a PC. (But of course, it doesn't.)

    As for how open it is, isn't the Droid approximately as open as a Windows PC? You can write your own code and run it on the phone, but you can't alter the OS? (Of course, in Windows you can alter the OS in certain ways.) On the Windows PC, you can replace the OS entirely, of course, but most people don't do that. (And before you jump to conclusions, I'm typing this into a Linux box right now. This computer has never run Windows.)

    The FitPC isn't revolutionary -- it's evolutionary. (Do you work for the company that makes them? ) Similar things have existed for over a decade, with similar sizes, similar power consumption and similar capabilities, though like all computers they have gotten faster over the years. As for what gives you an acceptable amount of power, that depends on what you're using it for. (And `General Purpose PC' doesn't even come close to nailing that down. Both a 150 MHz Ppro and a 3 GHz quad core box will run modern OSs and software -- but only one will do WoW properly, which is indeed what many people want a general purpose PC for. )

    But obviously you're not a typical user if one of your requirements is to be able to recompile your OS on the road. In that case, you're pretty much stuck with an x86 system of some sort (some PPC systems migh work too, but I see little benefit to trying to go down that road (though it was neat that the Mac P4 cube only needed 30 watts.) And the FitPC will likely fit the bill if you're happy with your VR glasses and their 640x480 screens.

    (Most people are likely to not need to recompile their OS on the road, in which case a PDA with an external keyboard and WiFi (use public ones) might be just what they need. Power consumption goes down by an order of magnitude (which makes the power situation MUCH easier), and size goes down somewhat. They can browse the web, send/check email, play games, write papers with standard software -- if they need more, then that might change things.)

    In your case, you're going to need to reconsider your available power. Let's assume you need 12 watts total. I think you'll really want a battery of some sort. Let's suppose a wheel weighs 5 lbs, and all the weight is close to the rim. If the wheel is spinning at 15 mph, that gives you 51 joules of energy stored in the wheel. If your generator is 50% efficient, and your computer uses 12 watts, that gives you 2.1 seconds after you stop pedaling before your wheel is out of energy. Is that time to suspend to disk? (And this assumes that it starts suspending the instant you stop pedaling.)

    (You did mention the momentum stored in your wheel as keeping the computer going. Perhaps some ultracapacitators would work better.)

    Also, to produce 12 watts of power with a 50% efficient generator, that will require 24 watts of power from you. You can probably easily do 100 watts for a long time, but slowing down to 24 watts for hours at a time might be very annoying. Putting out 50 or 100 watts for 1/2 to 1/4th the time and charging a battery might be easier on you.

    Most hub generators are rated at 3 watts. I realize that the rating doesn't mean much, but getting 12 watts out of them is likely to be difficult. They're also designed to go on the front wheel rather than the rear -- but as you said, you could add a cog and put them on the rear when you stopped, as long as you had a kick stand that will keep the rear wheel off the ground while you pedaled. But it would be nice if it charged your battery at 3 (or more) watts while you rode, which would reduce the amount of time you'd have to spend pedaling when you're stopped.

    To get more than 3 watts, you might want to consider a motor hub from an electric bicycle. After all -- a motor and a generator are basically the same thing. You'd have to put some thought into circuits to efficiently convert the AC (three phase? Though you could ignore two of them if you didn't mind reduced power) to smooth DC of the right voltage, but that's not difficult.
    I think the point of contention between myself and those of you claiming "this is nothing new" is that I think that while computers have gotten faster over the years, user needs have not in recent years. IMO low power processing has finally caught up with user needs, which is why the market has suddenly become responsive to products like netbooks.

    Droid is not as open as a PC because you can't control the hardware. On windows you can write a driver to manipulate your networking card as you need it, but you can't on these smartphones. They're locked down so that you can't even activate them without permission from your carrier (no thanks).

    In any case, I do not want to recompile my OS on the road. That's also why these smartphones are a no-go because I would have to recompile my OS in order to get basic unix functionality, drivers for interfacing with my chosen input/output devices, etc. No matter how efficient the specialized processors are, running binaries will save a lot more power in the long run than spending months of CPU time to recompile everything. Moreover, for the same reason, I contest that a PDA even has basic web browsing functionality. Sure you can view some webpages, but what if you're browser isn't compatible with some pages, what if certain plugins aren't available? Can you use a switch browsers? Can you write scripts to extract what you need? Probably not. One reason why I prefer the fit-PC over a faster, more power efficient, Beagleboard is because there's currently no good flashplayer for ARM and writing my own defeats the purpose (a computer is supposed to make my life easier, not make more work for me).

    Finally, I don't think generating lowish power like 24 watts will be annoying. Just drop to a lower gear so that your natural cadence limits your power output. As far as the momentum of the wheel, you have to remember that there will also be a lag in the capacitance of the AC/DC converter (even my laptop stays powered for 2.1 seconds if I unplug it at the wall and, yes, 2.1 seconds is enough time to suspend to disk with a solid state drive) which can always be tweaked to store more energy (use more capacitance and use a higher gear so your natural cadence produces the extra power to charge it up...the fact that the voltage scales with the frequency in a bike dynamo is a great advantage here).

    Not trying to be argumentative (I appreciate your input), but that's just the way I see things.
    Last edited by chucky; 11-26-09 at 08:00 AM.

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