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How Small a PC Is Too Small?

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the elven-fingers dept.

Handhelds 324

Banner~! recommends an article in IBTimes on the search for the ideal size for an ultraportable computer. One device mentioned is Paul Allen's FlipStart, discussed here recently. After watching early users fumble and nearly drop an early version of the FlipStart while trying to perform a three-finger salute, designers ended up including a single key labeled "CtrlAltDel" in the version that will be shipping soon. From the article: "Each device maker... has a different sense of how small an ultra-mobile can get before it becomes impossible to use. For instance, Microsoft thinks the tiniest screen possible measures 7 inches diagonally, but FlipStart Labs settled on 5.6 inches."

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These are not PC issues, but Windows issues. (4, Insightful)

Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) | more than 7 years ago | (#18484509)

While there are many UI design problems with Small Form Factor computers (particularly general purpose input), the issues in the article appear to be with Microsoft products, not Small FF PCs in general. From TFA:

Watching users fumble and nearly drop an early version of the FlipStart compact PC...The culprit was the three-key sequence, Control-Alt-Delete, required to log off or reboot a Windows PC.
Well, that's a windows issue, not a PC issue. The solution? (You can tell FlipStart is a project from one of the founders' of Microsoft):

early adopters might get a kick out of FlipStart's solution: a dedicated key marked "Ctrl Alt Del."
Brilliant. Utterly Brilliant. This is similar to having a problem with your kitchen floor being wet due to a leaking roof & building a floor-mopping robot as a solution.

Re:These are not PC issues, but Windows issues. (4, Funny)

Jartan (219704) | more than 7 years ago | (#18484577)

To those who don't use windows anymore it's only fair to point out that you can't reboot a computer anymore by pressing ctrl-alt-delete. It's only a hotkey to open the task manager.

Of course one could argue though that microsoft finally broke the only known fix for windows when they implemented this "feature".

Re:These are not PC issues, but Windows issues. (4, Informative)

JensenDied (1009293) | more than 7 years ago | (#18484593)

Ctrl - Shift - Esc is a shortcut to open the task manager.

Re:These are not PC issues, but Windows issues. (4, Funny)

Jartan (219704) | more than 7 years ago | (#18484633)

Ctrl - Shift - Esc is a shortcut to open the task manager.


This is windows. They prolly did a study and found that having multiple shortcuts to open task manager increased productivity so you can end task faster.

Re:These are not PC issues, but Windows issues. (5, Informative)

The MAZZTer (911996) | more than 7 years ago | (#18484719)

Ctrl + Alt + Del doesn't open the Task Manager on all versions of Windows, just "Home" versions. "Pro" or "Business/Enterprise/Ultimate" versions instead have a menu which allows you to launch the task manager, log off, switch user, lock the computer, or change your password.

Re:These are not PC issues, but Windows issues. (0)

suv4x4 (956391) | more than 7 years ago | (#18485195)

Ctrl + Alt + Del doesn't open the Task Manager on all versions of Windows, just "Home" versions. "Pro" or "Business/Enterprise/Ultimate" versions instead have a menu which allows you to launch the task manager, log off, switch user, lock the computer, or change your password.

This "menu" is known as the "Task Manager" in XP and above. There's no longer separate screen.

Re:These are not PC issues, but Windows issues. (4, Informative)

Baddas (243852) | more than 7 years ago | (#18485239)

You're wrong. I'd post a screenshot, but I'm lazy. Here's a knowledge base article:
http://support.microsoft.com/kb/281980 [microsoft.com]
This discusses what you're talking about, which is opening task manager. That only happens when you've got it set up to use the 'Welcome' screen. The rest of the time, it pops up a little widget that has

(Lock Computer) (Log Off) (Shut Down)
(Change Password) (Task Manager) (Cancel)

buttons on it.

Re:These are not PC issues, but Windows issues. (3, Informative)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 7 years ago | (#18485223)

You can change that behavior on Pro (I think)
It's under User Settings in the Control Panel.

ctrl-alt-delete:
If the "Welcome Screen" is enabled, then you get the task manager
If it's disabled, you get the menu with all the choices.

Re:These are not PC issues, but Windows issues. (2, Informative)

Weegee_101 (837734) | more than 7 years ago | (#18484727)

If you're running XP Home or XP Business with the Welcome Screen enabled Ctrl-Alt-Del does open the Task Manager, as does Ctrl-Alt-Esc. If you've turned the Welcome Screen off, which is common in a business environment, you get a Windows 2000 style Security Screen where you can Log Off, open Task Manager, change your password, or even shutdown/reset the computer. So thats why XP has "two" methods for opening Task Manager using they keyboard; there's really only one dedicated method, but the other fills the spot when Welcome Screen is enabled.

Re:These are not PC issues, but Windows issues. (0, Redundant)

Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) | more than 7 years ago | (#18484721)

It's only a hotkey to open the task manager.

How do you login without using ctrl-alt-del? How about unlocking a locked XP session? Face it, this abomination of UI silliness is still neccessary all the time if you're unlucky enough to use windows.

Maybe the control-alt-delete issue is fixed in Vista, but frankly it's one of the things that makes Windows not really ready for the desktop.

Re:These are not PC issues, but Windows issues. (3, Insightful)

mh101 (620659) | more than 7 years ago | (#18485059)

It's only a hotkey to open the task manager.

How do you login without using ctrl-alt-del? How about unlocking a locked XP session? Face it, this abomination of UI silliness is still neccessary all the time if you're unlucky enough to use windows.

Maybe the control-alt-delete issue is fixed in Vista, but frankly it's one of the things that makes Windows not really ready for the desktop.
And the funny (or sad?) thing is that this is only "necessary" in Windows because of all the crap that Windows can get infected with. Neither Linux nor OSX needed to implement the ctrl-alt-del scheme.

My understanding of the reason for using crtl-alt-delete to log in, is because that specific keystroke got passed directly to Windows which then could make sure the official login program was running and accepting all input (or something along those lines). I think the deal is that otherwise, there's a chance that what users are seeing is not Windows' real login screen but a fake designed to steal passwords.

Re:These are not PC issues, but Windows issues. (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18485211)

The keys were chosen to be far apart on purpose, and not by Microsoft. Blame IBM. David Bradley specifically.

You idiots are little better than shaved monkeys, the power of speech is wasted on you.

Re:These are not PC issues, but Windows issues. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18485247)

And the funny (or sad?) thing is that this is only "necessary" in Windows because of all the crap that Windows can get infected with. Neither Linux nor OSX needed to implement the ctrl-alt-del scheme.

Technically, it's not "necessary" in Windows either, you can disable it.

My understanding of the reason for using crtl-alt-delete to log in, is because that specific keystroke got passed directly to Windows which then could make sure the official login program was running and accepting all input (or something along those lines). I think the deal is that otherwise, there's a chance that what users are seeing is not Windows' real login screen but a fake designed to steal passwords.

That's also what I've heard. How do Linux and OSX deal with this? By assuming that user mode programs won't be able to make the display look like the official login screen? By requiring administration to only happen via ssh?

Hogwash (2, Informative)

Civil_Disobedient (261825) | more than 7 years ago | (#18485265)

Neither Linux nor OSX needed to implement the ctrl-alt-del scheme.

Linux gets orphaned processes all the time, and you'd be blind without a method to view what's running on your machine. Thus ps , or the more useful top .

Re:These are not PC issues, but Windows issues. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18484949)

If you press CtrlAltDel a second time, the machine reboots... or you can press the power button like the rest of us (most PCs restart and do not shut down)

Re:These are not PC issues, but Windows issues. (1)

Calinous (985536) | more than 7 years ago | (#18485347)

You need Ctrl-Alt-Del to log on.

Re:These are not PC issues, but Windows issues. (1)

pe1chl (90186) | more than 7 years ago | (#18485397)

Unless you turn off that feature, of course.
You can select if you want to show the login screen immediately, or only after pressing ctrl-alt-del (supposedly more secure, for example when someone could install an application on your system that just looks like a login screen and could use it to snoop passwords)

Re:These are not PC issues, but Windows issues. (5, Insightful)

Torvaun (1040898) | more than 7 years ago | (#18484993)

If I remember my computing history, Ctrl-Alt-Del was picked because that was a keystroke combination that would never be accidentally pressed. There was nothing even close to it that did anything. The whole point was to be intentional.

Now they want to put it on a single button, surrounded by other tiny buttons? Someone had a real winner of an idea there...

Re:These are not PC issues, but Windows issues. (3, Informative)

ClosedSource (238333) | more than 7 years ago | (#18485025)

Yes, and it was an IBM design decision anyway and had nothing to do with MS.

Re:These are not PC issues, but Windows issues. (2, Insightful)

Benzido (959767) | more than 7 years ago | (#18485205)

Modern windows doesn't suffer from accidental login problems.

I think the grandparent's point was that it would be much better to deliver a patch so that Flipstart's windows installation allows you to login or bring up the task manager using a DIFFERENT KEYSTROKE.

Given the premium on space in an ultra-micro computer, adding a whole new non-standard button is the worst possible solution, when it would not be that hard to remap the hotkey in the keyboard driver.

Re:These are not PC issues, but Windows issues. (1)

bhima (46039) | more than 7 years ago | (#18485389)

Wasn't there a rash of malware which imitated the Windows login; which MS attempted to controvert by implementing the control-alt-delete thing to get to the login screen?

It's been a while so I could be wrong....

Re:These are not PC issues, but Windows issues. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18485105)

Ctrl Alt Del is used only if Windows is in a domain or a specific security feature is enabled.

Ctrl Alt Del is not hookable by applications (not even by drivers unless they go as far as to patch the kernel..) so you cannot steal a user password simply displaying a logon screen on their desktop (when they press C-a-d and it's not the real logon screen, a different window pops up and a savvy user knows something is wrong.

C-a-d was chosen basically because its behavior is different from any other key combination at the keyboard controller level.

Re:These are not PC issues, but Windows issues. (3, Interesting)

suv4x4 (956391) | more than 7 years ago | (#18485159)

Well, that's a windows issue, not a PC issue. The solution? (You can tell FlipStart is a project from one of the founders' of Microsoft):

How is it a Windows issue? Is Windows the only piece of software out there to use multi-key combos?
Also you can open the task manager without any keyboard keys at all (right-click on the task back, pick Task Manager.. now I suppose they have some way to right-click on this device).

That said the ctrlaltdel button solution seems stupid. I'd rather implement a "combinator" button: a button that accumulates the keys pressed while it's down, and fires the signals at once when release.

Example of usage:

1. Hold the combinator button with the left hand.
2. With the right hand tap in succession, one by one: ctrl, alt, del.
3. Release the combinator button.

ATTN: SWITCHEURS! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18485381)

Still looking for the "maximize" button when your Mac has "zoom" instead? If you can't deal with multiple windows at once, go back to your PC. Macs weren't designed for one-track minds.

Linux? (3, Interesting)

JimXugle (921609) | more than 7 years ago | (#18484513)

Anyone know if the FLipstart can/will be able to run linux?

Re:Linux? (0)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 7 years ago | (#18485315)

Definitely should be able to. It might even run a close to regular distro. The only thing getting in the way would be hardware to prevent easy running.

XP is "fat-ass" and needs as much + more resources as Linux does. If it was WinCE, that would be a different matter. Linux runs on any WinCE device, but needs to be ported and crafted (you won't be running KDE etc).

Re:Linux? (2, Interesting)

pe1chl (90186) | more than 7 years ago | (#18485429)

XP is "fat-ass" and needs as much + more resources as Linux does.

This simply isn't true. A system used to run Linux with X, a desktop and some typical end-user applications (say Firefox, Thunderbird, OpenOffice) requires more resources than an XP system with IE, OutlookExpress, Office.
Linux advocates like to claim the contrary but they base their claims on old information, limited environments (embedded sytems, limited GUI, crippled apps).

Re:Linux? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18485349)

Anyone know if the FLipstart can/will be able to run linux?


Yes, but it suffers from constant unintended reboots.

CtrlAltDel key? (0, Troll)

Spudtrooper (1073512) | more than 7 years ago | (#18484515)

Here's a better idea: design an interface that doesn't crash.

There are other uses for it too, you know... (1)

bluemonq (812827) | more than 7 years ago | (#18484547)

I don't know about you, but I use Ctrl-Alt-Del to access the Task Manager and (on a locked machine) access the login panel...

Re:There are other uses for it too, you know... (1)

Tsagadai (922574) | more than 7 years ago | (#18484933)

If thats the best way they can think of locking the desktop they need a hard kick in the noggin. Anything is better than having to go through more than one menu to unlock a PDA.

Re:CtrlAltDel key? (1)

Perseid (660451) | more than 7 years ago | (#18485237)

Cool. I'll leave that task to you. Let me know when it's done. I assume I get to beta test your new OS?

You know your PCs too small when... (4, Funny)

bluemonq (812827) | more than 7 years ago | (#18484527)

* You need a million-dollar electron microscope to see the screen
* Sneezing anywhere near it wipes out the RAID array
* You confuse it with a prophylactic
* Ants use it to jumpstart their own nuclear weapon program for their holy war against the termites

Re:You know your PCs too small when... (4, Funny)

Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) | more than 7 years ago | (#18484645)

* You confuse it with a prophylactic

Zouch! I feel really sorry for your girlfriend* if you thought small & the first thing that sprang into your mind was a prophylactic.

* Yes, yes. This is slashdot, what am I thinking?

Re:You know your PCs too small when... (1)

Brandybuck (704397) | more than 7 years ago | (#18484991)

A prophylactic in its wrapper is quite small. If you've every used one, you would know...

Re:You know your PCs too small when... (1)

Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) | more than 7 years ago | (#18485201)

A prophylactic in its wrapper is quite small. If you've every used one, you would know...

Righteo - I take it the prophylactics you've used are on the same sort of scale as everything else the GP mentioned. IE: You need a million-dollar electron microscope to see your prophylactics, it's small enough for ants to use, etc.

I feel really sorry for your girlfried/boyfriend.

Re:You know your PCs too small when... (1)

nihaopaul (782885) | more than 7 years ago | (#18484749)

i wish i had mod points to mod you funny

Re:You know your PCs too small when... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18484911)

and I wish he was funny.

Re:You know your PCs too small when... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18484981)

Re:You know your PCs too small when... (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18485143)

I, for one, welcome our new nuclear-armed ant overlords.

In Soviet Russia, the prophylactic confuses YOU!

Imagine a beowulf cluster of those RAID arrays!

I'm a electron microscope you insensitive clod!

Control Alt (4, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 7 years ago | (#18484541)

designers ended up including a single key labeled "CtrlAltDel" in the version that will be shipping soon.

I bet that key will get worn out first ;-)

I've found a similar shortcut; just click the Internet Explorer 7 icon, and the resulting crash reboots for me.
     

The wave of the future. (4, Interesting)

Eq 7-2521 (159354) | more than 7 years ago | (#18484591)

The Fly Pentop Computer! http://www.flypentop.com/ [flypentop.com]

Re:The wave of the future. (1)

cibyr (898667) | more than 7 years ago | (#18485031)

Looks like a useless toy to me. And it requires special paper - WTF?

FlipOff (5, Funny)

dotslashdot (694478) | more than 7 years ago | (#18484603)

Since they reduced the 3 finger salute (ctrl-alt-delete) to a 1 finger salute, they should rename it "FlipOff".

weee (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18485019)

I'm going to push it with my weewee.

All About The Keyboard (3, Insightful)

Jekler (626699) | more than 7 years ago | (#18484607)

For me, the smallest computer is only limited by the size of the keyboard. At a minimum, I need a notebook-sized keyboard, at least until the point computers can take dictation. I even thought notebook keyboards were too small in the past but I was able to adjust, but any smaller and I won't be able to. I've tried to use those thumb-type keyboards and I just can't communicate comfortably with them.

Re:All About The Keyboard (1)

Mathinker (909784) | more than 7 years ago | (#18484731)

> until the point computers can take dictation.

You obviously don't use your computer on a crowded, noisy commute; or for that matter, in the middle of a meeting where everyone is quietly listening to the CEO. Which is why lots of people on Slashdot are interested in things like that EEG-driven interface [slashdot.org] (or at least in following the progress of their development).

Re:All About The Keyboard (1)

Zantetsuken (935350) | more than 7 years ago | (#18484989)

thats what microphones are for - and if you're rich and really wanna go for it, I'm sure you could have something like a Bluetooth mic implanted/drilled into one of your teeth (takes Bluetooth to a whole new level - just paint the tooth blue now)...

Re:All About The Keyboard (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18485021)

> until the point computers can take dictation.

You obviously don't use your computer on a crowded, noisy commute; or for that matter, in the middle of a meeting where everyone is quietly listening to the CEO. Which is why lots of people on Slashdot are interested in things like that EEG-driven interface (or at least in following the progress of their development).
 
You obviously don't use your computer in areas heavily populated with attractive members of the opposite sex. In which case your notes would consist of : "Sex, whoah cleavage, sex, nice ass, sex, sex"

Re:All About The Keyboard (1)

r_jensen11 (598210) | more than 7 years ago | (#18484761)

Exactly. Make the keyboard something that can actually be used. We have an old ultra-ultra portable laptop that's probably 7" wide and is utterly unusable if I had to type something and keep up with the speaker. The only thing we use the damn thing for now is Solitare, and that's because it has a touch screen.

Re:All About The Keyboard (3, Interesting)

jhoger (519683) | more than 7 years ago | (#18484835)

I would concur with that... the keyboard+display is the data entry interface. It must be large enough to type on, and the display must be large enough to see 85 columns of text. Anything without a decent keyboard is not a general purpose computer. That's ok for a phone, calculator, music player, but not a computer.

I think these ultra-portable PCs are off on a wrong track, and they will disappear from the marketplace. Here's what I want:

a) Doesn't radiate signficant heat
b) Lasts at least a day on the battery
c) Built in apps... word processor, spreadsheet
d) Act as an ebook reader
e) GUI organized around keyboard access rather than mouse
f) Laptop style keyboard
g) Flash memory instead of hard disk
h) Battery backed RAM, but off of a battery that is independent of the charge cycle of the main battery. That, or the hibernate code needs to be rock solid and fast. Open the lid, and the system is usable, not 15 seconds later.
i) I don't care if it has a color screen, really. B/W or grayscale would be fine. Even some of the e-ink style displays would be ok for office apps.
j) Obviously, USB, flash drive ports, ethernet would be nice.
k) Doesn't need a pointing device. Just needs a good keyboard. Trackpads and pointers suck, and mice don't work when you're balancing a laptop on your lap on the train or a cramped space.
l) Integrated applications. No Load/Save file paradigm.

The closest thing on the horizon is OLPC. But I'm not convinced they're going to get the battery life, and they're target market means that they are making a smaller keyboard and targeting users who may not be able to read yet. That said, the GUI shows lots of good ideas.

Re:All About The Keyboard (1)

rm999 (775449) | more than 7 years ago | (#18484843)

It all depends on what you want to do with your portable computer. A lot of people have managed to turn their cell phones into functional computers with games, messaging, music/video, web browsing and (of course) voice. All without a keyboard. My optimal portable computer would not have a keyboard at all, but would instead be able to understand me through other means: touch screen for drawing equations/thoughts, voice recognition for writing paragraphs or commands, and mind reading for deciding what music I want to listen to. But seriously, I don't want my portable computer to be constrained by the size of keyboards - if I want a keyboard I will use a modern laptop or my desktop. But what's the fun in that?

Re:All About The Keyboard (1)

value_added (719364) | more than 7 years ago | (#18484849)

> I've tried
to use those
thumb-type
>> keyboards and
I just can't
> communicate
> >comfortably
with them.
>

Don't worry. The feeling is mutual. ;-)

People with thumb-type keyboards (and screens) who try to communicate with the rest of using such devices remind of midgets who pursue careers in professional wrestling. Some of us laugh, others feel bad or are embarassed, while others try and be polite and hope they'll just go away.

Personally, I think you're correct about the keyboard defining the minimum size of a device, though. The awkward bit is that for comfortable reading, the size of the screen should be defined by the size and shape of a book. I expect those two will be reconciled about the same time that regular TV programs are broadcast in widescreen.

Special purpose devices, on the other hand ...

Re:All About The Keyboard (2, Interesting)

Tsagadai (922574) | more than 7 years ago | (#18484971)

You know there are solutions to keyboards, many are however immature but that shouldn't be a reason to halt a design in the small direction. What about voice imput, or slide keyboards, or muscle sensors, or Brain wave readers, or even nerve signal decoders. As soon as you put a limit on anything it limits what solutions could be. Personally I'm waiting for voice recognition software to improve so I could run a headless and inputless wearable PC, speak to it, it speaks back. If you don't think about what is possible you will always be one step behind.

Voice recognition is not the solution (1)

pedestrian crossing (802349) | more than 7 years ago | (#18485277)

Personally I'm waiting for voice recognition software to improve so I could run a headless and inputless wearable PC, speak to it, it speaks back. If you don't think about what is possible you will always be one step behind.

Yes that is going to work great on a bus, train, or airplane.

Flying is bad enough already, imagine a trans-atlantic flight with 10 people talking to their devices non-stop.

Give me the fat guy in the next seat and the kid behind kicking my seat over this any day...

On a more constructive note, how about something like one of these [handykey.com] ?

Psion 7 is about perfect (1)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 7 years ago | (#18485351)

A Psion 7 http://www.newth.net/psion7/index.html [newth.net] is about as small as you'd want to go, but a better screen would be good.

The form factor of the Psion 7 is great (including instant on etc), but a rejig with new hardware would make a really snappy device that would be great to use.

Sticky qualifiers! (2, Interesting)

vjouppi (621333) | more than 7 years ago | (#18484617)

Argh! Even the OQO 01 got that one.. The qualifier keys are all sticky.

Press once, the LED next to the key starts blinking. Now the key is sticky for one keypress..
If you press the qualifier twice before pressing something else, the LED lights continuously, and the key is now stuck down until you press it a third time.

Thus ctrl-alt-del means pressing ctrl alt and fn one at a time and then pressing backspace/del at your leisure. No need for acrobatics or super speed on the user's behalf.

I don't believe that the flipstart guys managed to design a keyboard without sticky qualifiers.. Unless they did and made it so unintuitive that no-one understood that the keys are indeed sticky?

Re:Sticky qualifiers! (5, Funny)

normuser (1079315) | more than 7 years ago | (#18484779)

The keyboard on my pc has a similar feature. When you push a qualifier key once it stays depressed. To release the sticky keys you lift one side of the keyboard three inches above the desk and drop it.

Re:Sticky qualifiers! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18485091)

Try getting a new keyboard and then laying off the porn. You should have keys which are much less sticky then.
 

The Zaurus is a powerful sub-notebook (2, Insightful)

A Wise Guy (1006169) | more than 7 years ago | (#18484631)

The zaurus is now discontinued. I own a C-3200 which uses various rom images such as cacko rom, pdaxrom. It emulates all kinds of environments and runs under linux. You can run aplications or X environments and even run debian on it. Open office is available too! It all fits in my pocket and has a touch screen for easy note taking. Anyway, I been doing this for the past 4-5 years. and these new ultra small pc's can't touch the heal of this small discontinued device.

Re:The Zaurus is a powerful sub-notebook (1)

mocm (141920) | more than 7 years ago | (#18484973)

Since when is the Zaurus discontinued? It`s still on Sharp`s website [ezaurus.com] .
Or was it ever on sale in the USA and you mean they discontinued it there?

I also use the Zaurus for variuos things (mainly a Japanese dictionary), but I have to say, that having an x86 compatible mini PC has advantages.
Even under Linux there are some things that run only/better under x86, such as for example having google earth running on my Sony UX50.

Easy Answer... (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 7 years ago | (#18484639)

A PC is too small when it can't run Windows Vista OR Linux. BTW, DOS doesn't count.

Abort, Retry or Fail? (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 7 years ago | (#18484647)

The designer who decided to make a single 'Control, Alternate, Delete' key, should have selected the 'Retry' option - instead, he ended up with a 'Fail' action. Stupid idiot.

Re:Abort, Retry or Fail? (2, Informative)

CodeBuster (516420) | more than 7 years ago | (#18484953)

Perhaps they had forgotten that the original purpose of Ctrl-Alt-Del [wikipedia.org] was to trigger soft reboots on the IBM PCs and that the combination was selected precisely because it was IMPOSSIBLE to press all three keys with one hand and thereby trigger the reboot accidentally.

"This keyboard combination was designed by David Bradley, a designer of the original IBM PC. Bradley originally designed Control-Alt-Escape to trigger a soft reboot, but he found it was too easy to bump the left side of the keyboard and reboot the computer accidentally. He switched the key combination to Control-Alt-Delete, a combination impossible to press with just one hand (this is not true of later keyboards, such as the 102-key PC/AT keyboard or the Maltron keyboard)."

Isn't it ironic that the designers are celebrating the fact that they have reintroduced the possibility of an error that the designers of old foresaw and attempted to avoid by a three button combination that could not accidentally be triggered with the slip of one hand? Or perhaps it is the fact that Windows these days has more than one function linked to that key combination, forcing the dialog anyway...after which you are forced to "cancel or allow" the action that you selected from the dialog box that was triggered by the keyboard combination. That must be what they mean when they say "Intuitive Interface" or "Easy to use".

Re:Abort, Retry or Fail? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18485307)

Perhaps they had forgotten that the original purpose of Ctrl-Alt-Del was to trigger soft reboots on the IBM PCs and that the combination was selected precisely because it was IMPOSSIBLE to press all three keys with one hand and thereby trigger the reboot accidentally.

For NT 3.1 it was repurposed as the "secure attention sequence [wikipedia.org] ." (which you should already know from the page you linked to [wikipedia.org] ) What's important is not that you can't hit it accidentally, it's that no other application can intercept it. Ctrl-Alt-Del was selected because it was the one sequence that no application needed to intercept. [msdn.com]

Re:Abort, Retry or Fail? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18485383)

Yes, ctrl-alt-del was used to access the 'trusted path' to NT, which meant that you had the guarantee that no app could hijack the login screen. Everything was cleared and you had the login panel alone.

I was already less than convinced by Microsoft marketing at this date, but this looked a good idea. Was much better than what unix/be or apple was doing. No wonders that NT had that C3 cert!

One day I received the very first DirectDraw CD, built and launched a sample (a spinning torus, I think). Pressed ctrl-alt-del. The spinning torus was there, with the login panel.

"Trusted path" my ass.

Middle finger salute (3, Funny)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 7 years ago | (#18484659)

I guess having a single button is more appropriate after all.

That's not too small a computer (4, Insightful)

artifex2004 (766107) | more than 7 years ago | (#18484665)

That's too big an OS. Or at least too big an interface.

This should be obvious. Does it really make sense to load a huge OS like Windows, with all its carryover behaviors for backwards compatibility, for something that really should have its own methodology?

Re:That's not too small a computer (2, Insightful)

Kris_J (10111) | more than 7 years ago | (#18485207)

You really only run Windows for compatibility with your preferred applications. If you don't want to run any Windows apps, don't try and shoe-horn Windows onto a portal computer. That said, Windows itself can cope easily with 640x480 and no mouse. However, most applications need at least 800x600, with many needing at least 1024 pixels across.

Personally, I like to run at 3840x1024 or 3072x768 on a desktop. This is nothing to do with Windows and everything to do with the complexity of what I do with Windows.

this isn't too small. bring the dock if you want. (3, Interesting)

non (130182) | more than 7 years ago | (#18484671)

this [sonystyle.com] is something i would consider buying, except that unless someone else is picking up the tab its somewhat overpriced. nevertheless, if what you want is extreme portablity with all the functionality of a 'real' computer, this is the ticket

Not time yet (1)

javakah (932230) | more than 7 years ago | (#18484687)

I do imagine that before too long we will have these types of ultra portable computers, but I don't think the time has come yet. I have (and am writing this on) a 3 pound computer with a 12 inch screen (1280x800). If the screen were any smaller, I'd start to have a lot of problems seeing things. The resolution could be reduced to adjust for this, but 1280x800 already seems like the minimum resolution that I can stand. I think a lot of other people are in the same boat in feeling that the screens and resolutions should not be reduced beyond this, and judging by the smallest models of laptops that most companies sell (and presumably have found a market for), the market seems to agree. This means that these companies are persuing the wrong problem in trying to find the smallest screen, since most people will only accept a 10-12 inch screen at minimum. The right question is how to fit a 10-12 inch screen into a smaller space for transportation. I imagine that before too long we will have monitors that are able to fold (or perhaps bend) that will solve this problem. The problem with this is that when folded up, you will have several layers of the screen on top of each other, and I think that at present, the current thickness of screens are still too thick to make this practical. Similarly, we will have to use folding keyboards, but I've already seem some, so that element is already in place. So that leaves us with having to develop thin, folding screens.

Re:Not time yet (4, Insightful)

statemachine (840641) | more than 7 years ago | (#18484805)

You're not having a problem with resolution. It has nothing to do with 1200x800 or any other screen resolution. Instead, you're having trouble reading the text because the font size is too small.

Re:Not time yet (3, Insightful)

javakah (932230) | more than 7 years ago | (#18484879)

No, that's not the problem. My point is that the amount of data on the screen with a 10-12 point font at 1200x800 resolution is just about right. Any larger font (or reduced resolution) would result in too little data on the screen (as in lines of text viewable at a single time). The issue then is the smallest screen that this amount of data is still reasonably viewable at.

I'd hate to be their tech support. (2, Funny)

Romicron (1005939) | more than 7 years ago | (#18484733)

Putting the Ctrl+Alt+Del function on a single key? With the average intelligence of today's computer user? I sure as hell wouldn't want to be that tech support guy.

Tech: "What seems to be the problem?"
User: "Every time I hit the Ctrl button, my computer restarts!"
Tech: "*sigh* Is there anything else on the button?"
User: "Yeah, it says CtrlAl-"
Tech: "Look... just... just don't hit that button. There should be another button that says Ctr- hold on I'm getting another call. *switch* This is tech support, what seems to be the problem?"
User2: "Every time I hit the Ctrl button, my computer restarts!"
Tech: *click* *BANG* *dialtone*
User2: "Hello? Hello?"

Hey, on the plus side, maybe we can remap the key to open up the browser and display the comic. One way to make mornings 4 days a week easier.

Too Small How? (3, Insightful)

LuYu (519260) | more than 7 years ago | (#18484783)

Is this talking about the size of the keyboard (which it sounds like), the size of the screen, or the size of the whole device?

It is obvious that keyboards/pads have a minimum size. Fingers limit that. Also, if the keys are too close together, typing is slowed because more than one key is frequently depressed.

The screen is also limited in its smallness by what is comfortable. I use my phone to read books, but I have heard many people claim (who havent tried it, of course) that the screens on phones are too small to read on. In my experience, screen size is not important as the size of the individual letters (or characters) in the text is what is important. Since my current phone allows me to blow the text up to a size that is larger than the typeface on most children's books, I cannot see the problem.

The limitations on the device size probably depend on what it is used for. If it is a phone, it needs to be large enough to be comfortably held for a long phone conversation. Phones that are too small are irritating and easily misplaced. If the device is a PDA, the screen is probably the limiting factor. It should be about the size of a screen and not much thicker. Ideally, this screen should be a size that would fit in your pocket, something that "Pocket"PC's generally do wrong.

If the device were something like a portable computer, with perhaps a bluetooth or WiFi keyboard and screen, there is probably no limit on its smallness. Why not make a USBkey style computer and keep it on your keyring? At 4+GB, such devices can already contain a decent suite of software. Removing hardware links to the device itself would free it from size restrictions. Theoretically, such a device could also be booted from any computer as its hard drive (Knoppix style), so you could take your computer anywhere.

Depends on the Interface (1)

ZachPruckowski (918562) | more than 7 years ago | (#18484785)

If a PC is gonna run a normal OS, there's a serious size limitation. But with custom OSes, possibly even ones that abandon the windows/menus/etc model of UI, you can get pretty small. I mean, if you look at the iPhone, or a Front Row style interface, you can accomplish a lot of the normal PC functions with minimal screen real estate. You could probably do a 4-5 inch screen with near full functionality if you design the OS specifically to handle it. You can keep most of the functionality if you're willing to sacrifice a few minor points and the ability to easily multitask.

How big should a computer be? (2, Funny)

Profane MuthaFucka (574406) | more than 7 years ago | (#18484789)

Small enough to fit into my urethra, large enough for me to feel it.

Ctrl-Alt-Delete is necessary. (2, Informative)

ozphx (1061292) | more than 7 years ago | (#18484793)

Before we gear up all the jokes, the C-A-D key combo is known as the Secure Attention Sequence. By pressing this key combination you can guarantee that the logon box that pops up is from the OS and not from some random crapware.

All the UMPC (UltraMobile PCs) - the MS Origami formfactor provide a button like this for logon. Similarily devices by OQO include on.

Pretty much anyone experienced with making these ultraportables includes this button, because doing it manually on a small keyboard is a pain. Lesson learned.

BTW the 5" OQO Model 02 is now my sex object... powerful enough to run a full OS in the palm of your hand. Noice.

Re:Ctrl-Alt-Delete is necessary. (1)

value_added (719364) | more than 7 years ago | (#18484925)

BTW the 5" OQO Model 02 is now my sex object... powerful enough to run a full OS in the palm of your hand.

I think there should exist a -1 Too Informative moderation for a post that uses the phrase "sex object" and "palm of your hand" in the same sentence.

Re:Ctrl-Alt-Delete is necessary. (1)

octogen (540500) | more than 7 years ago | (#18485379)

No it isn't; a secure attention key can be necessary, but it does not have to be something as stupid as Ctrl-Alt-Del.

We have an z/900 here, which has a B3 Trusted Path Feature, and we're used to pressing the SysReq (System request) key to get to the logon screen, I don't understand why anyone would choose something like Ctrl-Alt-Del. PC keyboards don't have a dedicated SysReq key, but Alt-Print is labeled as "SysReq" - still better than Ctrl-Alt-Del, and it's even labeled correctly on most keyboard.

(and by the way, I have seen some software - mostly computer games - and some other situations where Ctrl-Alt-Del failed to work, so I am not so sure, that this is really a SECURE attention key ;-)

Wrong tree (5, Insightful)

Tom (822) | more than 7 years ago | (#18484811)

The size of the actual computer is of absolutely no importance whatsoever. What matters is the size of the input and output components. These are the interfaces to humans and must exist on a human size scale, i.e. large enough to handle.
So as long as you need a keyboard, the keys must be large enough to press, and the entire keyboard must be large enough to comfortably hold. But if you think virtual keyboards, i.e. one projected into the air, on a HUD, or on a table (the later exists as a Palm Pilot accessory), then the size of the actual hardware again is irrelevant, the size of the virtual "keys" is what matters.

Re:Wrong tree (2, Interesting)

suv4x4 (956391) | more than 7 years ago | (#18485183)

The size of the actual computer is of absolutely no importance whatsoever. What matters is the size of the input and output components. These are the interfaces to humans and must exist on a human size scale, i.e. large enough to handle.

That's one reason to believe portable computers (as in really portable, PDA and down) will never develop to the point where they are used for apps requiring complex input.

But we may see the development of tiny pearl-sized computer you can "anchor" in any host monitor/keyboard and work with your personal data everywhere.

And around year 2080, I suppose, we'll be able to drop it into a hole in the back of our skull and make it work with our brain directly. :P

Re:Wrong tree (3, Insightful)

badboy_tw2002 (524611) | more than 7 years ago | (#18485273)

I agree. I think we're just a decade or so off from the whole "wearable" computer thing being commonplace. Maybe small finger sensors for replicating a virtual keyboard & mouse, and slim formfactor glasses for displaying a virtual screen. I'd say the input tech is here already, and the glasses will probably come around a bit slower. Then the actual CPU can really go pocket sized and smaller. If all you need is the processor (everything else is wireless except maybe a cable for charging), you're only limited by the amount of space the electronics themselves need. And if you think it won't happen because people won't like wearing headsets and the like, just take a look at how fast the borg-like cell headpiece has become a common fashion accessory. Goggles that double as shades or the like aren't that big a stretch.

I'm not entirely sure how... (5, Funny)

TheBlunderbuss (852707) | more than 7 years ago | (#18484841)

...but I think this is related: http://imdb.com/title/tt0374020/ [imdb.com]

Re:I'm not entirely sure how... (1)

icepick72 (834363) | more than 7 years ago | (#18484871)

Hahahahhaha ROTFL ... I wish I had mod points right now. What a crazy find that is.

Re:I'm not entirely sure how... (1)

BluBrick (1924) | more than 7 years ago | (#18485079)

Dude, what the hell were you searching for when you stumbled across that little gem?

On second thoughts, don't tell me - I fear the answer.

11.87" (4, Insightful)

Kris_J (10111) | more than 7 years ago | (#18484881)

Let's do the math. A pixel count of 1024 across and 600 down is about the minimum you need for there to be any point in the computer running a full version of Windows. Above 100dpi and you're going to need to increase the default font sizes (which means its fairly pointless to go any higher). End result: 11.87 inches on the diagonal is about the minimum for anything serious. Below that you're going to need better than average eyesight or you're going to be scrolling sideways all the time.

Why even answer such a question? (3, Interesting)

istartedi (132515) | more than 7 years ago | (#18484889)

Why not just provide standard keyboard and screen interfaces for the thing. Then, the PC can be very small, and users can purchase a case that meets their needs. OK, I guess you do have to answer the question in some sense: The PC is too small when it doesn't have room for the following standard connectors: Video, Network, USB some kind of power.

OK, we might be missing a standard for the laptop-style LCD screens. I know there's LVDS, but AFAIK all the manufactureres have proprietary connectors (but correct me if I'm wrong).

The other day, as I was fiddling with my MP3 player, I realized that many such specialized devices could easily fit in a laptop case. If everything inside there ran over 10gigE, would it perform OK? Do we really need DMA and all that just to push pixels to the screen? If we don't, then the display server can just service clients. The clients can be on this little private network inside the box. All the interconects would just be client-server interactions. Moore's law will make this practical at some point... Imagine a Beowulf cluster--inside your laptop or PDA case.

substitution (1)

icepick72 (834363) | more than 7 years ago | (#18484901)

The small size is so problematic that they actually fit another key on the keyboard; therefore we can determine the more problems they encounter due to the small form factor, the larger the small keyboard will grow. Isn't there something wrong with this logic? Ah there we go [tonyspencer.com] .

Can not be too small. (4, Insightful)

bm_luethke (253362) | more than 7 years ago | (#18484923)

There is no realistic way that a PC can be too small. As long as it so small it is easily lost it is just fine - I would *love* one that could hang on my key chain.

What *can* be too small is the interface. I do not like a tiny screen nor do I like a tiny keyboard (or other input device). I have quite large hands, even the smaller "full size" keyboards are uncomfortable and only useful as a portable device, not my main one.

I have seen keyboard solutions that are OK - some project a keyboard on a flat surface and optically(? I do not think the descriptions said and I have never used one and that seems about the only feasible way) sense where you fingers hit. Other than some RSI problems with my finger hitting a hard surface (and that is fixable for a permanent station) that can be made to be any size or layout.

I also prefer small text, but I prefer that on a larger screen. I am currently using a 15" LCD and that is about as small as I comfortably go. I do not like writing much code in it either, my 21" monitor went kaput and this is all I could currently get. A 17" screen is the smallest "normal" lcd I like and I prefer a 19". I know of no current technology to fix this one, but there is no reason it can not be fixed.

Of course, that is for what I would call everyday use. If your computing power is in a small package there is no reason you can not have a docking station for full size stuff and quite small for carry around. I *can* hit some very small keys with a stylus and use a very small screen (lets face it, many of us currently do - or did - with the palm tops). That is nice for something I pull out of my pocket and use for a few minutes. Add in a few larger keys to mash and I can even game, navigate for MP3's, use a cell phone, add something to a calendar, or other typical small device things with large easy to use buttons. At that point I would consider the size my finger can reliably hit and the number of buttons to be the limit (small could use a stylus, but I do not like that idea for simple frequently used functions).

Its not the size (1)

asifyoucare (302582) | more than 7 years ago | (#18484977)

Its how you use it that counts.

(or so I've been told by girls, but they're usually sniggering at the time)

10.6" screen Sony Vaio (1)

Sad Adam (1036862) | more than 7 years ago | (#18485063)

I bought one of these second hand recently. Comes with all kinds of nice things and goes around 6 hours on a standard battery. It is about as small as you want to go- I'm thinking about getting a roll-up key board. Very nice. Much sexier and still much cheaper than a new D*ll or something similar. Kind of like a second hand late model Mercedes...way overpriced when new, but still fun when slightly tarnished.

here my idea if u care ... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18485093)

first the size:
height: 20 cm
width:13 cm
"fat": 4cm
weight: ~700 grams.

now the novelty: mostly the keyboard is below the screen
and needs to be a useable size.
the problem is that the backside of the device is never used.
okay, imagine picking up a book with approx. size above.
now hold it so as you would give it to somebody with both hands,
like giving a japanese perosn a business card. your finger touch
the backside, while your thumbs are in the front.
now the keyboard is in the back of the "book". this is where
the keybaord is. of course it wouldNT be a 08/15 "ASDF" keyboard,
because the "book" is higher then wide ...
you might ask, but this way you need to flip the "book"
over to see which key u want to press.
here's the clue: once you touch the screen (which is the complete
front side of the "book"), e.g. to enter data. the window become semi
transparent, and you can like "see thru" the "book" to see the
keyboard on the back. of course this is just "simulation", you can't
really make the "book" transparent.
the desktop wallpaper becomes a "keybaord" correspoding to the
real keyboard on the back
catch my drift? :D

by the way my guess is with those size specs, you can fit
and nice harddisk, a flashy CPU -AND- a gamers GPU into it.
scrap the harddisk and you can make it even lighter -or- you can then add
a bigger battery. there should be tons of space for
connectors too (ether,USB,mic,head,fire,etc.)
  =)

Nokia N800: pretty real, and fits in shirt pocket (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18485129)

This thing (N800) is an update to the older Nokia 770. It's a wonderful little gizmo - it runs an ARM port of a Debian variant, so lots of SW is getting ported. It's powerful enough to feel like a "real" computer, although it still has the standard PDA input limitations unless you spring for a bluetooth keyboard.

It has included opera (800 px wide screen so you can actually view most web pages without horizontal scrolling, unlike all the 320x200 PDAs). You can ssh into it and use VNC and run opera and gnumeric and lots of Linux software.

The included mp3 player software sucks, but there are already better alternatives provided by the community. Battery life is quite good compared to my old Ipaq - 8+ hrs of active web browsing on low backlight (maybe 2-3 on high), and ~8 days of standby time without turning it off.

Disclaimer: I have no association with Nokia. I just like the device.

ctrl - alt - del keyboard (1)

shird (566377) | more than 7 years ago | (#18485149)

The first thing I thought of when I read this article is the famous 'ctrl-alt-del' keyboard. [tech.coop] Originally a dig at MS and their OS and needing to restart it etc I guess.

But isn't that because... (1)

Helldesk Hound (981604) | more than 7 years ago | (#18485227)

> "Each device maker... has a different sense of how small an ultra-mobile
> can get before it becomes impossible to use. For instance, Microsoft
> thinks the tiniest screen possible measures 7 inches diagonally, but
> FlipStart Labs settled on 5.6 inches."

Wouldn't that be because Micro$oft's software takes up so much screen real estate that below 7 inches there really isn't much space left for users to work with?

Example of too small.. (1)

Technician (215283) | more than 7 years ago | (#18485249)

How about a PC in a wristwatch.

This is from 2001 so it's a little dated.

http://www.freeos.com/articles/3800/ [freeos.com]

Yes it runs Linux.

You know you are in trouble when... (2, Interesting)

iion_tichy (643234) | more than 7 years ago | (#18485269)

...you have to include an extra key labeled "CtrlAltDel" with your product.

Wasn't there a famous column in the MAD magazine?

Seriously, this is so incredibly, incredibly bad, it is beyond words.

The problem lies... (1)

Perseid (660451) | more than 7 years ago | (#18485271)

...not with Windows but the fact that these people are trying to run a full-blown version of Windows on a device it was not designed to be run on. OSX and Linux would be just as awkward. Windows Mobile was made for a reason.

My Sony UX... (1)

Aphrika (756248) | more than 7 years ago | (#18485411)

I have a Sony UX180 and I must say the thing is absolutely awesome - stupidly feature-packed for a tiny device.

However, it has a flaw that really irks me: it doesn't have a right shift key. This wouldn't be so much a problem on many devices, but for something so small that you're supposed to use with both hands, Shift + 2 for a '@' symbol when using just your thumbs is a total sod. I thought this might be a teething thing and be fixed in future versions, but it hasn't been.

Apart from that, they've done a good job - dedicated nipple and buttons for mouse movement, dedicated zoom buttons (the 1024x600 screen can be a little small at times, so this helps), and an included dock and dongle make for a really professional package.

For a 1.2GHz Core Solo, the thing isn't too slow either. I wish it had a gig of memory, but this has been corrected in the newer versions.

For mobile computing though, it's great - I just wish they'd fix that damn shift key problem.
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