Solipsism Gradient

Rainer Brockerhoff’s blog

Browsing Posts in Hardware

And another dual-screen device, the Entourage eDge:

(also check my previous post on the subject.)

This one’s different in that the screens aren’t identical; there’s an e-paper display on the left, and a LCD on the right. Both are touch-enabled.

Looks like Toshiba has released a device called the Libretto W100:

Compare with this image from the tablet proposal by Mario Amaya and myself (posted August 10th, 2009):

Fun! But I like our hinge better… 🙂

Re: iPad time

No comments

Posted by richardl:

Rainer Brockerhoff wrote:

Via John Gruber, I just saw an interesting post by Steve Cheney:

It?s pretty evident that Apple isn?t wed to individual suppliers. Not only are they back to creating their own chips, but they are also one of the only ‘compute’ companies to have used each of the top 3 processor architectures over time – ARM, x86, and Power PC.

…This week Apple confined developers to a specific set of tools (XCode [sic]).

…By telling developers to move to XCode tools, Apple is setting the stage to potentially switch architectures.

…In 2003, Apple advised developers to switch to XCode tools. …2 years later Apple moved to Intel across its entire Mac line.

…perhaps the A4 is NOT an ARM architecture. In fact, it?s highly possible that the A4 is a dual core Power Architecture…

The last sentence is of course false, as Gruber says; the A4 does run ARM code.

While I don’t think that forcing developers to switch to Xcode (which is the correct spelling_ means that Apple will soon be switching architectures on their iPad/iPhone line, or on their desktop/laptop line for that matter, Xcode does offer developers a future-proof environment that hasn’t been commented on by other observers: the Clang/LLV project. Briefly, Clang is a compiler frontend for C-based languages, backed by LLVM – which stands for “Low Level Virtual Machine”. Both projects are heavily backed and staffed by Apple.

Clang has been increasingly supported by Xcode as a substitute for the gcc compiler toolchain. The details are quite esoteric, but one interesting capability is that C-based languages – C, Objective-C and C++ – are compiled to the LLVM bytecode, which is then translated into native machine language by a back-end. The last phase could even happen in a just-in-time fashion, allowing apps to be distributed in LLVM code (therefore running on all current and future Apple machines). Some groups are even working on chips that execute LLVM bytecode directly.

In other words, it’s no coincidence that Apple is now instructing developers to switch to Clang-supported languages and their Clang-wrapping IDE (Xcode). There may not be an architecture switch coming soon, but Apple will have much more freedom in doing their own CPUs for iPad/iPhone, and more ammunition in negotations with Intel and other top-end chip companies.

Rainer, it is interesting to note that Adobe built their ActionScript/Flash compiler for iPhone on top of LLVM.

http://cs.illinois.edu/news/2009/Oct8-2

http://www.adobe.com/devnet/logged_in/abansod_iphone.html

Re: iPad time

1 comment

Via John Gruber, I just saw an interesting post by Steve Cheney:

It?s pretty evident that Apple isn?t wed to individual suppliers. Not only are they back to creating their own chips, but they are also one of the only ‘compute’ companies to have used each of the top 3 processor architectures over time – ARM, x86, and Power PC.

…This week Apple confined developers to a specific set of tools (XCode [sic]).

…By telling developers to move to XCode tools, Apple is setting the stage to potentially switch architectures.

…In 2003, Apple advised developers to switch to XCode tools. …2 years later Apple moved to Intel across its entire Mac line.

…perhaps the A4 is NOT an ARM architecture. In fact, it?s highly possible that the A4 is a dual core Power Architecture…

The last sentence is of course false, as Gruber says; the A4 does run ARM code.

While I don’t think that forcing developers to switch to Xcode (which is the correct spelling) means that Apple will soon be switching architectures on their iPad/iPhone line, or on their desktop/laptop line for that matter, Xcode does offer developers a future-proof environment that hasn’t been commented on by other observers: the Clang/LLVM project. Briefly, Clang is a compiler frontend for C-based languages, backed by LLVM – which stands for “Low Level Virtual Machine”. Both projects are heavily backed and staffed by Apple.

Clang has been increasingly supported by Xcode as a substitute for the gcc compiler toolchain. The details are quite esoteric, but one interesting capability is that C-based languages – C, Objective-C and C++ – are compiled to the LLVM bytecode, which is then translated into native machine language by a back-end. The last phase could even happen in a just-in-time fashion, allowing apps to be distributed in LLVM code (therefore running on all current and future Apple machines). Some groups are even working on chips that execute LLVM bytecode directly.

In other words, it’s no coincidence that Apple is now instructing developers to switch to Clang-supported languages and their Clang-wrapping IDE (Xcode). There may not be an architecture switch coming soon, but Apple will have much more freedom in doing their own CPUs for iPad/iPhone, and more ammunition in negotations with Intel and other top-end chip companies.

Magic Whatever

No comments

Tomorrow, Apple will present their new product. It’s all but certain that it will be a tablet-like device, but all else is speculation.

I’ve been rereading my August 5 post here, detailing what I at the time thought reasonable guesses. A follow-up post had some lovely mock-up images (courtesy of Mario Amaya), which I still consider some of the best so far – pity they got relatively little linkage from elsewhere. Here’s a sample:

where you can see that my hunch at the time was of a folding dual-screen device, each screen having about 7″ diagonal and 1280×720 at 200ppi, 1024×576 at 160 dpi, or even 800×450 at 120 ppi resolution – this depending on the technology used and the price point the device aims at.

I also thought that allowing the screens to fold back-to-back would give us a nice videogame mode, and using it vertically would allow it to be used as my favorite reading device – a mass market paperback. (It would also have the exact dimensions of one of those.)

My main ideas here still stand: the device would be aimed at the ebook, portable videogame, and portable film-viewing markets, with a secondary use of web browsing, email and the usual stuff done on a netbook.

Of the thousands of speculations published elsewhere – I regret not having had the time to bookmark more than a few – a quite well-reasoned one is one by Channeling Design. The conclusions are mostly quite different from my own, though; well worth a read.

In the months since I wrote about this, some interesting new screen technologies and devices have been talked about: AMOLEDs, Mirasol, Skiff, Pixel Qi, and so forth. For an ideal tablet, we should have 200 ppi, color- and video-capable, readable in direct sunlight but with low-power backlighting, touch sensitivity, video camera built in between the screen pixels, and a surface that is both hardened (like Gorilla Glass) and smudge-rejecting. Of course, it should also be extremely thin.

The puzzle is, essentially, which combinations of these properties have been deemed necessary and economical for a generation-1 device. I don’t doubt that Apple (meaning, Steve Jobs) has both the cash and the persuasion ability to buy the entire output of one of those manufacturers for a year or so; perhaps even to convince them to hide the fact that their display has progressed beyond the prototype stage.

Regarding the rest, I have mostly negative reasoning to offer. I don’t think the device will be an iSomething; there’s already too many of those, and none of the proffered names seemed convincing (except iBook, which has been used in the past). A Magic Something would, perhaps, pick up the trend of the Magic Mouse, and signal a departure from the iPod/iPhone/iBook era.

I also don’t think it will be a cellphone – meaning, a device sold and partially subsidized by cellphone companies – the iPhone already fills that niche quite well. It will have a few wireless connections of course, but not all of them, and that won’t be its primary function. I also expect Apple to pitch the device for functions that can be done by iPods, iPhones or MacBook laptops, but it will be at its best doing things that aren’t done well by any of those; reading ebooks is the obvious one here. (As an analogy, consider that when the iPod came out, you already could play music on Mac laptops and desktops with iTunes – it just wasn’t their primary function, nor was it convenient to do so in the context the iPod was aimed at.)

The device will run “OS X” in some new incarnation, but it won’t be the iPhone OS X nor the Mac OS X – though it may, perhaps, run apps for the iPhone in emulation mode.

That’s as far as I care to speculate before the announcement… after all, part of the thrill is actually seeing the magician pull the rabbit out of the hat. icon_wink.gif

Re: Developments

No comments

The new iMac (27″, i5, 8GB) has arrived and is awesome. Most everything is now transferred to it and working; I had to merge my Home folder from the Time Machine backup I did of the old iMac I sold in September, before our Asia trip, with things I did in the 4 months on the MacBook Air that has been my only machine since then.

Small glitches:

– connecting an external monitor over MiniDP works, but (for me) it flickers distractingly every 5 minutes or so. The dreaded main display flicker is absent, though.

– the enclosed Magic Mouse is great; I loved the scroll-by-touch feature. Alas, after 1 day of click-intensive work, my hand started to hurt, so I’ve gone back to my el cheapo Pleomax mouse. Maybe I’ll try again later; my guess is holding the thing between thumb and little finger is straining some never-used muscle. It also has surprisingly sharp edges at those points.

I’ve also gotten my old Core Solo Mac Mini back and am setting it up. It still runs 10.5.8, so I’ll finally be able to debug running stuff on Leopard again.

Re: Developments

No comments

If any of you still read this after nearly 50 days without posting, I’ve been tempted to do this:

Click on the comic to see the original at http://www.makeuseof.com/tech-fun/internet-cant-ignoere-grammar/ (via http://www.halfapixelshort.com/).

In other news, my trusty but overloaded MacBook Air proved unable to cope with serious developing (or even the usual mixture of stuff I do when procrastinating working on other things). Less than half an hour (often much less) after I connect to the Internet over either USB/Ethernet or WiFi, connect an external USB drive, an external monitor, or whatnot – much less all of these at once – the fan turns to full blast and soon thereafter the dreaded “kerneltask” begins to use 99% of both CPU cores, slowing typing and even mousing to a crawl.

Closing the Air for 10 to 20 minutes usually but not always allows resuming work for another short time, but sometimes a reboot is necessary. Must be global warming icon_cry.gif

Anyway, my new iMac 27″ quad-core i5 with 8GB of RAM (squeee!!!) is due to arrive tonight and all should be back to normal Real Soon Now?.

Re: iThingamajig

No comments

My reasoning about the possibly forthcoming iProduct was adopted by the nice folks at Mac+ (in Portuguese). For that piece, my friend, master illustrator Mario Amaya, made a few mockups which came out quite well.

Here is the closed device. I do disagree about shiny black – I think the aluminum Unibody design is more likely – but it does look good:

Regarding the name, by the way, “iBook” might be a good name to re-use if Apple really has the intention of doing to the ebook reader market what they did to the smartphone market. (It would also have the advantage that Apple already has all the registrations and trademarks.)

Here’s the opened device in horizontal browser mode:

This shows the foreground application on the top screen, and the virtual keyboard on the bottom screen. Note the URL and some other controls on the bottom, too. If there were other apps or widgets running in the background, either icons (Dock-like) or very reduced windows (Exposé-like) for each could be shown in a row above the keyboard.

The same mode would also be used for movie watching:

and of course the movie player controls would substitute the keyboard. Notice how power consumption would be reduced by keeping most of the pixels on the bottom screen turned off – one advantage of OLED screens.

For gameplay the bottom screen would be folded completely behind the device:

The game would be controlled by the thumbs in front and by the other 8 fingers on the back screen (whose pixels would be completely turned off).

Finally, here’s one way of implementing the ebook mode:

While I would like this to be feasible, in a first-generation device it would mean that both screens have to be the same resolution; two HD-capable screens (1280×720 at 200ppi) will probably set the device’s price too high, or they’d have to go down to 1024×576 at 160 dpi, or even 800×450 at 120 ppi.

It’s more likely that the top screen will have full-HD resolution, and that the bottom screen would have just enough to show the virtual keyboard. 800 or 640 pixels wide might be enough. In this case, the ebook mode would look just like the game mode – second screen folded to the back – but in a vertical position.

The thickness of the device is, as I mentioned, about 20 mm in the closed position. For balance reasons, the battery has to be in the bottom part. If the ebook function uses a double screen, the two halves should have 10 mm each; otherwise, the top part could be very thin, maybe just 2 or 3 mm.

In fact, the battery will take up 1/2 to 2/3 of the device thickness – current battery energy densities are still far from optimal. No doubt in 10 or 15 years, we’ll have a very thin slate device, probably foldable in the middle, mostly made from graphene with an integrated supercapacitor. Such a device could be made as thin as 0.5 mm; no doubt they’ll then have to fluff it up with aerogel to a thickness of 5 mm or more, or else we won’t be allowed to take it on an airplane! icon_smile.gif

Also notice the iPhone-like Home button at the bottom, and the camera pinhole at the top. As I said, Apple has a patent for incorporating a camera into a screen, but this is unlikely to become reality anytime soon. For augmented reality a second camera in the bottom/back half would also be nice to have.

The mockups don’t show any external connector. It will either have a small folding door like in the MacBook Air, or an iPhone-like dock connector, I think.

Photos licensed by Creative Commons license. Unless otherwise noted, content © 2002-2022 by Rainer Brockerhoff. Iravan child theme by Rainer Brockerhoff, based on Arjuna-X, a WordPress Theme by SRS Solutions. jQuery UI based on Aristo.