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Ultra portable PC

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by Nigel Ward, 10th Mar, 2006.

  1. Nigel Ward

    Nigel Ward Team InvestEd

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    I'm on the horns of a dilemma (ouch! :D )

    Do I wait for http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/umpc/default.mspx

    Or go with the here and now www.oqo.com

    when what i really want is www.flipstart.com (but it seems to be vapour-ware :rolleyes: )

    I need full XP (or I suppose the new windows vista thingy) in my pocket but mostly I'm a text worker...so lack of keyboard is a problem.

    Anyone go any inside goss on how long it will take for Origami to make it to market?

    N.
     
  2. Simon Hampel

    Simon Hampel Co-founder Staff Member

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    Why not go for something more practical rather than compromise too much. For example ...

    ThinkPad X41 Tablet

    • 12.1" screen
    • Onscreen handwriting and note taking
    • 180 degree rotating screen
    • Functions either as a regular laptop, or as a tablet PC
    • Built in WiFi
    • Up to 6.3 hours battery life
    • From 1.6kg

    You can do real work on this machine.
     
  3. Nigel Ward

    Nigel Ward Team InvestEd

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    Too big. :rolleyes:

    My current fujitsu p5010 is fine for when I'm lugging a laptop. (Altho the fujitsu p1510 with 8.6" touchscreen looks nice)

    Okay so maybe I'm obsessed with form factor, but I want something really portable without compromising operating system and applications...
     
  4. jscott

    jscott Well-Known Member

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    why do you need "full xp"? you can get plug in keyboards for some of the handheld pda's. The WindowsMobile ones all have Word, Excel, etc on them (even a phone). all depends on how much typing you need to do I guess...
     
  5. Simon Hampel

    Simon Hampel Co-founder Staff Member

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    And why do you need something really portable ? What are your "use-cases" for an ultraportable versus a lightweight tablet ?
     
  6. Nigel Ward

    Nigel Ward Team InvestEd

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    It's the suit coat pocket test. I need something that I can always have with me. Clever thoughts (the occasional ones I have :rolleyes: ) come at odd hours. I want to be able to immediately move those to finished form...

    Can't I just say "I wants it...the precious..." :p
     
  7. Simon Hampel

    Simon Hampel Co-founder Staff Member

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    But are you really going to be able to carry an "ultraportable" everywhere ? Not exactly compact.

    I would have thought a PDA would be a more likely candidate. The ones with the little thumb-board built in (similar to the Blackberry) work surprisingly well for data-entry, and take up a lot less room.

    Personally - I find anything larger than a phone to be too cumbersome to carry with me always, and anything smaller than a laptop to be too difficult to actually use for serious applications or data entry.

    I'm still looking for the perfect portable carry-everywhere device ... if they can get the Palm Treo to be about 0.5cm thick, then that will just about do it for me. Right now I find most PDAs to be too large and cumbersome. Until they get thin enough, I stick to my phone-only-not-even-a-camera Nokia 6610. My ThinkPad then gets used for anything else.

    Of course this is all very subjective - you need to go with what you are comfortable with. You really need to think about how you will be using it though. Or is it just another geek-brag-tool to one-up your colleagues with :p
     
  8. Nigel Ward

    Nigel Ward Team InvestEd

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    You say that like there's something wrong with that :D
     
  9. Simon Hampel

    Simon Hampel Co-founder Staff Member

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    Well as someone who has a home office comprising of 3 PCs, 4 laptops, 2 LCD monitors, 1 colour laser printer, 2 B&W laser printers, 3 desk phones (including 1 dedicated VoIP phone and 1 hybrid VoIP/POTS device), 2 mobile phones, 3 scanners, 2 ADSL/WiFi routers, 2 Gigabit switches, and approaching 2TB of storage space ... I actually only travel with a mobile phone and a laptop (sometimes 2 laptops if I'm doing a demo).

    ... but that's most likely because I am never likely to out-geek many of the people who work at IBM and collect gadgets as a hobby (unlike me, who collects investments ... and websites :rolleyes: ).
     
  10. MichaelWhyte

    MichaelWhyte Well-Known Member

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    Sim,

    Wow! Now that is an impressive setup...

    So how do you find the VoIP? I've just bought an ATA and connected to VoIP through my ADSL provider. I'll be setting it up this weekend and giving it a go. At 10c a call anywhere in Australia, there's some money to be saved here.

    Cheers,
    Michael.
     
  11. Simon Hampel

    Simon Hampel Co-founder Staff Member

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    My VoIP works fine - we use it for all our calls, and never have a problem.

    HOWEVER.

    Caution should be observed - there are a few things that need to be done to ensure that you never have a problem with VoIP.

    1. choose your ISP wisely. VoIP conversations are quite vulnerable to packet delays and various prioritisation problems associated with data networks - especially congested networks. Make sure your ISP has prioritisation for VoIP packets on their network.

    2. choose your hardware wisely. To fully ensure your data network doesn't interfere with your voice network (eg. downloading/uploading files while talking on the phone), you need to ensure your broadband router can prioritise traffic to give QoS (Quality of Service) to the VoIP packets.

    3. When things all work, VoIP is pretty much the same no matter what the hardware or the provider, but when things go bad (which they can and will do - through a multitude of variables beyond human control), this is when you see who has done their VoIP networks right and who has done them cheaply.

    It all comes down to how important the phone calls are to you and how much tolerance you have for bad quality calls.

    I work from home - I need to do business on my VoIP service, and I need to ensure that it works and works reliably ALL the time. I'm not talking enterprise quality, but it does need to be reliable and quality. This is why I use Internode's NodePhone service.

    Remember this about VoIP and QoS... sender controls packet priority ... this means that when someone speaks to you (the data is sent from them to you), it is the ISP's network that determines the QoS of the packets. When you speak (data sent from you to the other end), it is YOUR network that determines the QoS of the packets.

    What happens when you are on the phone (using VoIP) and someone else in your house sends an email with a large attachment ? Without QoS, your voice will get garbled as it is sent - the other person will have trouble hearing you. This DOES happen (without the correct setup).

    Cheap VoIP is all well and good - but unreliable VoIP is not worth a cent.

    I tried to have a conversation (interview!!) with a guy from Canada via Skype a couple of months back - no matter what we tried, we couldn't get a reliable voice connection going (I suspect the problem was at his end - I'd tested mine carefully just before the call and it was working fine). In the end I told him to forget it, and I called him directly using my NodePhone VoIP - perfect quality and not a single problem. We spoke for an hour for about $3 cost to me.
     
  12. MichaelWhyte

    MichaelWhyte Well-Known Member

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    Sim,

    Set it up over the weekend, and I've got to say its pretty jolly good!

    My ADSL service provider is Exetel, and I have a 512/256 plan. My hardware is a Netcomm NB5Plus4 broadband modem and the Netcomm V3000 ATA. The ATA has QoS capability and I've told it my upload link speed and it seems to come out with a pretty good transmission.

    My wife called me at work on it this morning and it was a little bit fuzzy, but that's probably because Exetel don't employ QoS on their packets at their end as you suggested in your post above. If it bugs me too much then I might look around for another service provider with a dedicated VoIP service, or otherwise just grin and bear it. I can always ## and dial via good old Telstra direct (ITSP?) if the signal is too crap, but to date I've noticed no real degradation in quality.

    My VoIP costs me $15.00 pm with Exetel, and that includes $15.00 worth of calls at 10c each anywhere in Australia. So, I'd need to make more than 150 calls before my bill would go up, which is a bit more than I tend to make from home monthly anyway. I have to keep my telstra full service connection as I'm ADSL, but the budget line is only about $18.00 pm. So, all up it costs me about $33.00 pm, whereas my last Telstra bill was about $80.00. Won't take to long and the marginal savings will pay the $160.00 I put up for the ATA!

    Great stuff,
    Michael.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: 13th Mar, 2006
  13. Simon Hampel

    Simon Hampel Co-founder Staff Member

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    My sister just spent 12 months in the UK - with calls at 5c per minute, there was no reason not to call and speak for as long as we wanted ... worked a treat.

    My parents thanked me too (they were using Agile's post-paid calling service, which uses the same VoIP backbone as NodePhone, and the same prices), and they reckon they saved literally hundreds of dollars in call costs over the last 12 months.

    It's nice being able to call anywhere in Australia for a flat fee - no more timed phone calls.
     
  14. TryHard

    TryHard Well-Known Member

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    Small stuff

    Hey guys

    My $0.02 is in fact to do with an "O2" - like an idiot I bought the 02 XDA mini 'cos it had the odd good review, and was a combined phone / PDA that actually didn't look ridiculous if you HAVE to hold it up to your ear. Absolutely nothing like a workable replacement for a notebook (has Windows Mobile 2003 with word and excel), and completely useless for virtually everything, except I now use it as an MP3 player, and to check the odd contact - its does sync easily with Outlook, the other essential tool I love to hate. As a phone it sucks big time. If the office apps weren't a necessity, it could be used for notetaking and syncing with the notebook/desktop later, but what a chore :-(

    So instead I lug a Dell Inspiron 9300 around on work trips, and I can't say I love the 3kg of multimedia beastiness - some of the new lightweight full featured machines like the smaller Dell's, Sony Vaio and Fuji Litebook look ok - but they ain't gonna fit in Nigel's suit pocket (not without a seamstress anyway :))

    That ThinkPad looks cool too - I'm waiting for something with decent features to weigh below 1kg then I reckon I'll get one. They all still seem to tip the scales closer to the 2kg mark.

    My home office is now VoIP'ed using Engin (but doing the "Bring Your Own Box" option so not tied to their settings) using the Sipura SP3000 ATA purchased separately for $150-ish because it has some nice features and is pretty much the defacto standard (& I gather is the same as the hardware used for Engin Voicebox 2). Engin has a $9.95 per month (no calls included) or a $29.95 per month ($25 calls included) We use the world's best ISP WestNet on a 1.5/256 ADSL connection (their service never fails to amaze me, given what I was previously used to with the 'big' providers), and the voice quality is very good. Lost one mobile call after 5 mins, and one landline call like the other end suddenly went snorkelling, but they're the only 2 hiccups in about 50 calls so far. Get my voicemessages emailed to me an an attachment, which is handy. As Michael mentioned, 10 cents per call untimed anywhere in Australia, gotta be worth a try ;-). And just another reason not to buy Telstra shares !

    A mate of mine builds and installs Asterisk VoIP-based PBX's - which are awesomely powerful and run on a stock standard PC - some of the stuff coming out now is way too much fun for nerds (and semi-nerds like me)

    :)
     
  15. MichaelWhyte

    MichaelWhyte Well-Known Member

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    And its easy to setup too for anyone reading this that thinks its all a bit too techie! ;)

    For anyone with broadband internet with a connection speed of 512/256 or better I'd highly recommend you give it a go. You buy the bit of hardware (called an ATA), and basically just follow the instructions that come with it. It enables you to use your existing phone and dial and receive calls as you are doing currently.

    Basically, get it out of the box, plug it in as they show you to. Then type in the IP address of the ATA in your web browser and it goes to the configuration page for it. Click SIP and type in your details (phone number, network addresses and passwords etc. all supplied by your service provider in an email). Then click save and reboot the ATA and its done.

    From that point onwards its 10c phone calls and dirt cheap international calls!

    I love it when technology actually works well and solves a real problem. This is definately the future for telephony. TryHard is right, don't buy Telstra... :D

    Cheers,
    Michael.
     
  16. TryHard

    TryHard Well-Known Member

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    Telstra and VoIP

    We prob should also point out that you do need to keep some form of Telstra (or other) line as you still pay your phone provider for your ADSL enabled line to plug all this gear into. But you can drop it back to the bare minimum monthly rental. Its just the infrastructure for the ITSP (Internet Telephony Service Provider - such as Engin, Exetel etc). to send calls to and fro.

    Depending on the ATA (black box) you purchase, you can plug in your desk phone and in the other end of the box have your internet connection and your normal phone line. So you use one phone, which will usually just send the call out on your internet connection via your ITSP. If the network is down, it has the smarts to know to use the plain old phone line.

    So then you have 2 phone numbers - your old one, and a number provided by your ITSP. You can receive calls on the phone connected to the black box, coming in to either of these numbers. But the ITSP number will likely have some extra features (time of day routing, voice messages by email etc).

    I'm a wannabe nerd but all thumbs. Even I managed to get a "Do It Yourself" version of this running within a half hour or so.

    Cheers
    Carl
     
  17. jscott

    jscott Well-Known Member

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    Just wondering whats the benefits of VOIP solutions over and above something like iChat, MSN Messenger, etc. is it just that you get to use a telephone handset instead of speaking into a Mic? Or is it quality?
    The reason I ask is that I use iChat on my Mac for voice and video chats and the quality is ecellent.
     
  18. Simon Hampel

    Simon Hampel Co-founder Staff Member

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    The difference between "voice over the internet" (aka iChat, Skype, etc) and VoIP, is that VoIP is a standardised technology used by telecommunications companies - it has the reliability and robustness to provide enterprise level quality and reliability.

    Internode (along with sister company, Agile) have built a telecommunications infrastructure to deliver their VoIP services ... this goes way beyond an "Internet" tool.

    When things work well for Skype, etc - everything is fine. When things go bad, you get very little control and very bad performance. A carrier-grade VoIP solution should be something you are able to rely on practically 100% of the time - with enterprise reliability.

    For home use where you aren't that fussed about the occasional drop-out ... something like Skype might do the job.

    My set up (similar to TryHard's, except I use the worlds best ISP - Internode ... Westnet is a close second :p ) ... my Sipra SPA-3000 ATA sits between my Panasonic cordless phone and my broadband connection. It also has a connection to my Telstra phone line.

    When I pick up the phone and dial, by default it goes out over VoIP, and I can't tell the difference to what I might have done on a normal Telstra line - it is completely seamless. The great thing about the SPA3000 is that it has PSTN fallback support, which means that if something goes wrong with the connection, or the ATA stops working, it automatically uses the normal Telstra phone line for making the call.

    The ATA is also programmed to send emergency calls (000) out via the Telstra line automatically, since the VoIP service can't do 000 ... yet! (coming soon apparently).

    Essentially, it is seamless, and I've been using this setup for quite a few months now (hundreds of calls - I work from home!) ... and I've never had a problem.

    To test out the quality of your VoIP solution - have a phone conversation with someone, and then start a large file download from a mirror server provided by your ISP (so you get maximum bandwidth usage). Then try sending an email to yourself with a large attachment. If either of these actions cause the quality of the call to degrade (for either you OR the person at the other end) - then you don't have a carrier-grade VoIP connection (or you've not got your router's QoS configured incorrectly).

    I have a second SPA-3000 arriving tomorrow so I can use it for my second phone line too (work).

    Another test for your VoIP provider/hardware is to try multiple VoIP conversations at once :D

    If you want to do VoIP, 1) get a good ISP (Internode / Westnet), 2) get a good ATA (Sipura SPA-3000 is pretty much the standard by which everything else is measured).

    PS. you can use NodePhone with an ISP other than Internode, but you'll pay $10 per month (free for Internode customers), and they don't guarantee the quality (means it is no worse than anyone else though!).

    Another good reason to use Internode/NodePhone is that if you purchase from them, they will configure all the hardware for you - optimised for best performance.
     
  19. TryHard

    TryHard Well-Known Member

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    VoIP

    Sorry to further hijack Nigel's thread, but re. your query jscott -

    I use MSN Messenger and GoogleTalk to chat with our staff in other countries. They are usually 80% good quality, but it gets a bit inconvenient having to plug in a headset to a PC each time I need to discuss a 1 min question.

    The properly set-up ATA have a Quality Of Service setting that prioritises voice traffic over all your other stuff, whereas the software based stuff like MSN Messenger will usually just grind to a halt if you start downloading a big file.

    The VoIP solutions using the ATA (Telephone Adaptor) mainly give me the convenience of just picking up the phone and using it like we've all become accustomed to :) Plus I don't need to have the other person using the same software / provider. My mother rings our landline using SkypeOut (the thing where you pay a bit extra to Skype to ring normal phones) all the time - it sounds as if she is talking with her head in a bucket, and experiences pretty bad delay.

    Hope that makes sense
    Cheers
    Carl

    PS Sim and I will have to agree to disagree on the world's best ISP ;-)
    PPS also go with whichever ITSP provider gives you the best deal and you're comfortable with - as most places selling the Sipura SPA3000 will configure it for you if you pass on the settings at the time of purchase - and a good ITSP will let you supply your own hardware, which makes your set up more future proof (as you might have end up with more than one VoIP provider one day)
     
  20. Simon Hampel

    Simon Hampel Co-founder Staff Member

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    I would clarify the "best deal" part of it ... not all ISPs are equal - you really want to go with someone who has A) a great network, B) great service, and C) good value for money (this does not necessarily mean "cheap").

    Two such ISPs that I can personally recommend (based on either personal experience, or on the experiences of people whose technical opinions I trust) - are Internode and Westnet. That's not to say others aren't any good ... but there are a lot of ISPs out there who simply don't measure up.