mark-eichin-blogspot-com: Thu Dec 23 20:24:00 2010

Thu Dec 23 20:24:00 2010

Pre-XMAS toys - Sony Liveview, Google CR48

Picked up a Sony Liveview from (will figure out how to link it later.) Would be very cool if it worked reliably, but it seems to have sufficiently low-power bluetooth that a couple of laptops worth of WiFi oppress it thoroughly (and it doesn't even work as a watch face if it hasn't got an initial pairing.) Nice concept, though: OLED screen with few enough pixels that you can plausibly squirt UI "frames" over bluetooth, not at animation speeds, but certainly at basic interaction speeds. The "google maps where-am-I" widget is a simple example of this - the idea of looking at a wristwatch for "where" instead of "when" is a very sci-fi-worthy concept...

Filled out a little survey at google, along with (presumably) a few million other tech geeks, after seeing it mentioned on twitter... much to my surprise, one (of the reported 60,000) CR48 "google chrome laptop" showed up. It's an interesting exercise in reduction and simplicity; I'm still working out how to code from it (this will probably involve Mozilla SKywriter and a lot of glue, but they seem to have abandoned the mercurial backend, and I want SVN and/or Git instead anyway, just based on what I want it to be compatible with) but for everyday surfing, blogging, social network interaction, bill paying, shopping, news, speculative writing, it works just fine... and I can see people for whom it would be a great tool. In fact, I'd love to have it as my work laptop - as long as everybody got one and they killed off any infrastructure that didn't work with it (there are still a couple of IE-only tools, though I don't personally have to use any of them, and everyone who does use them wishes that they would die.) I think that'll actually be a pretty good model at some point - after all, that's what we were going for back in 1985 with Project Athena :-)

As far as gadgets go, it's not really that interesting to talk about the cr48 itself; you apparently can't go buy one, and other than the battery it's just a pretty stripped down machine (without feeling like a netbook.) The two startlingly distinct things about it are the time to wake up -- as a linux user, having the system come back, with working wireless, in seconds is novel, and has made me willing to spontaneously close it to give more attention to people around me, in ways I don't with my normal laptop -- having no persistent connections helps with that too, but it does feel a little strange. The other bit is the Search key. Instead of caps lock, which is sufficiently pointless that one can reasonably argue that computers should never have had one, the same button just opens a new browser tab. That seems simple, even trivial - after all, you can just hit ^T and get the exact same effect - but getting into the habit of smoothly hitting search and typing a sentence or idea and flowing smoothly into a set of results feels very powerful. I don't know how powerful, yet, but it's the first browser-specific thing that's ever given me a hint and the kind of power I get from emacs :-)

I'll write more about Chrome on a Laptop as I spend more time with it. There are certainly things it doesn't solve right now (it's almost useless for a digital photographer, and it's not going to run ROS/Kinect any time soon - if nothing else, there's not enough storage, ROS is huge) but thinking about the set of things it does solve well may lead to insights on what might be better approaches for the things outside of that box...