Browsed by
Category: Hardware

Netbook to Microsoft Surface Pro?

Netbook to Microsoft Surface Pro?

I have been in the market for a tablet-like netbook replacement for about one year now. I love my netbook but it has limited memory and I want to play with developing for a multi-point touch screen. So off I go looking for a tablet or tablet-like device with a keyboard and mouse/touchpad running industry standard software (currently Linux Mint). It needs to be portable and have all the things that come with that (small, battery life, usable while on my lap, ect). So… I was just looking at the specs of the Microsoft Surface Pro again which is due out in ~two weeks.

Microsoft thinks…

  1. … I am going to give them $899 to $999? Plus tax? No.
  2. … I will pay extra for a cover/keyboard? No, that should be included. I do not care if Apple did not do it, either. If I cared what Apple did I would be an Apple user, not a PC fanboy.
  3. … four to five hours of battery life coming in at much less than my netbook at nearly a third of the price is alright? No. Battery life is something I will often sacrifice for other things but this? These are the advertised numbers, not the real-world numbers.
  4. … locked down hardware I own but can not use is appealing to me? No. Unless I get the blessing of the most out-of-touch company I know of in the entire industry do I really “own” it (yes, this is why I am not an Apple fanboy)? I know they want to support their other business– namely Windows– but they just choose to make $0 instead of more than $0 by spitting on the power users. Hell, I am not sure I even know anyone but myself who does not dual-boot if they run another OS on PC.

I was seriously considering the switch until they announced the awful, awful details. Seriously, for all my distrust and bad experiences with their products I was very, very much looking forward to (even excited over) a great-looking, Slate-like device. I thought, “this can be what the Slate never was for me.” Nope, not at that price point. Not ever for those specs.

Perhaps I will pick one up cheap on eBay when Microsoft backs out without a lot of thought like they have done so many times recent memory. I feel like I am watching Lost all over again. I feel like, at the start, I am thinking “these guys are masters of suspense” and “I can not wait to see where they take this given the little tidbits I know now.” Then I realize two or three seasons in that no one has any idea what they are doing, where they want the show to go, nor how to build something sustainable. It is all shock and awe, but the glitter washes away and all you are left with is the Surface Pro.

Are… are they… who… IS MICROSOFT FUCKING BATSHIT INSANE?!?!?!? I do not normally curse on this blog but who saw all this, said “I like it, roll it out” (or even “we spent too much money, we have to go forward, our reputation can take the hit”) and gave it the green light?!?

You want to put your boot on the back of my neck you better expect me to come out swinging. You can only mismanage so many things so many times before you have no credibility left to spend. You used to be the big dog?

Used to be.

Update 2012.02.22
Sssooo… I bought a Surface Pro 128GB. Not sure why I did but I regret every moment since and want my money and the five minutes I spent at checkout back.

Thus far I am having great difficulty getting it to boot reliably from external media (even the Microsoft support staff at the brick and mortar stores are baffled). The WiFi just drops out, even with Microsoft’s released fix. The keyboard is designed to shut itself off while folded back so you do not accidentally hit keys but some times it does not turn itself back on (even if you unplug and reattach it). The fix is to reboot… you know, like you have to do with Windows every 15 minutes. It gets very hot even if you have not logged in. The Microsoft-documented on-boot key combination to select a boot device does not work (it brings up the UEFI boot configuration settings which is useless all but once). The screen is not adjustable while the stand is out. If you want a tablet replacement, fine. If you want a netbook replacement while in front of a flat surface, fine. If you want a netbook replacement on the go (the whole point of something so small, mind you), you are screwed.

The hardware looks solid on paper. Is plenty light. The Type keyboard feels nice. It even performs well… if you are happy with Windows 8. Except when you lose WiFi. Also except when it gets too hot to hold… while it is not even doing anything.

Raspberry Pi Uses?

Raspberry Pi Uses?

When the Raspberry Pi was announced I went and bought a pile of them. Now they sit in my apartment, unused. A long while back I got the hard floats working but now you can get that standard. I got it running videos pretty good but now there is an XMBC installation.

What to do, what to do? There is a pretty decent looking 3D-printed case with “LEGO feet” I really like the look of. Plus, the latest LEGO Mindstorm bricks are mostly unlocked– with USB and Bluetooth support– so those are potential resources for a project…

A while back I did make an automated paintball turret. It used a pretty dinky netbook as its brain so I am not too worried about the Raspberry Pi and its 700MHz ARM CPU. I am more familiar with the x86 mobobs so optimization may be a (fun) hassle. Also, since it generates so little heat, it will be a lot easier to build a case to protect it from enemy fire. Hell, if raw processing power does become an issue I can always throw in a tiny network switch and combine a few of the little guys (I was thinking USB-to-USB but, after thinking about it, USB 2.0 only does client/server so efficient polling may be an issue… I do not know).

Well, I have to decide. Perhaps it would be a good project to do with The Womantm

LEGO feet!

Update 2012.09.12
A team of people (including a 6-year-old) have clustered 64 of these bad boys. They were cool enough to include a really nice how-to so maybe I will take a crack at it over a weekend.

Update 2012.09.25
The Pi can now be clocked up to 1GHz plus it is officially supported. You can go higher but, according to the organization, you risk your hardware.

Update 2012.11.12
Been playing with some robotic and media center software a lot as of late which gave me a few ideas:

  1. The Raspbery Pi as a robotics platform/controller. Nothing new there but if I combine it with motion/depth detection (see OpenCV with stereo web cams) I could make an automated paintball sentry… or worse!
  2. A portable media center powered by the ‘Pi. With a decent battery (say, this happy ‘lil fellow), USB-powered HDMI projector, and some cheap speakers (if the projector does not provide them) I think you could have a decent setup. Well, decent enough for what it is to make me happy, any way.
  3. Control the LEGO Mindstorm from the thing. All the Mindstorms come with excellent hardware for their intended audiences/purposes. With that said, CPU and memory are limited. There are many ways to control your Mindstorm Brick via Bluetooth and/or USB. Since the ‘Pi is so light I see no issue with just sticking it on top of the whole assembly, with a battery, and using that to control the Brick, which controls everything else. Blam-O, instant my-first-programming and robotics project!
  4. Minority Report-style interface. Holographic technology– and price– are not there just yet but with a different display (say, projector with a large screen) this is very doable. There are even a lot of tutorial for similar projects out there already using OpenCV or the Microsoft Kinect.