When I started this blog, there were three things I wanted to blog about. Open source software, gadgets, and the environment. It’s been quite a while since I last posted anything in that last category, but the Proporta Smart new iPad case is the perfect reason to pick that up again. It combines two of my favorite things. It keeps my wife’s brand new iPad safe, and it’s been specifically designed to have a small ecological footprint.
More Wrap your new iPad in recycled leather!
Most of the current generation of computer nerds started out writing small programs in languages like BASIC. If you’re in your 30’s, chances are you started out on a Commodore C64, or one of its competitors, and fiddled around with writing small programs. Since then, computing has changed dramatically. Knowing your way around Microsoft Word makes you a “whiz kid” nowadays, and knowing how to install Windows can get you a job.
More Raspberry Pi, a $25 computer for (future) geeks
In 2009, I posted a review of the Fit-PC2, the smallest desktop computer available at the time. Since then, CompuLab has released an updated “i” version, and recently the Fit-PC3. That new version is based on a faster AMD chipset, but it’s still an evolutionary update to earlier models. Their latest product however, is something entirely new. An ARM-based desktop computer.
More CompuLab’s Trim Slice puts ARM on the desktop
I’ve been using a Logitech Ultra-X keyboard for a couple of years now, and it’s an abolute delight. But with the wear and tear of daily use, it’ll probably need to be replaced soon. Like with mice, I like wired keyboards. I don’t carry them around, and the wire running across my desk doesn’t bother me. Not enough at least to deal with the hassle and pollution of wireless keyboards that use batteries.
That’s why I love Logitech’s new K750. It has the type of flat, laptop-like keys I like, and is solar-powered. The press release says indoor lighting should be sufficient, and if that turns out to be true, this may well be the ideal combination of wireless freedom and battery-free convenience. Very clever stuff.
Now I realize that somewhere inside this thing there’s a battery. So eventually, when my future K750 is in the state my Ultra-X is in now, it’ll be a little harder to recycle. But at $80, and given Logitech’s track record, I’m expecting it to last for a long time. Now all I need is a motion-powered(?) mouse to go with it.
Remember my review of the world’s smallest ‘desktop’ PC, the Fit-PC2? I recommended it for use as a lightweight, energy efficient server, but apparently you can do much more exciting things with it. Matt Bunting, a University of Arizona electrical engineering senior, used it to power a very cool, spider-like robot. And it turns out Intel just bought two of them to show off the Atom’s potential. It uses other stock parts too, including a Logitech webcam.
More Fit-PC2 used to power amazing robot spider
A little over a year ago, I got myself the cheapest media center PC ever, on the form of an old refurbished office machine. It was fast enough to handle most of what I wanted it to do, but it was lightly too big for my AV setup, and decidedly beige. Ugh. But my main issue with it was that it was also making long hours. The Pentium 4 series of processors is notorious for its high power consumption, and I was starting to feel guilty.
I’ve had a couple of Atom based PCs in my home (a netbook and that really small PC I wrote about earlier), but found them to be slow, especially when it came to graphics. Intel’s ancient 945 chipset was a real bottleneck, and the newer US15W had terrible driver issues in Linux. That’s why I wanted to try nVidia’s Ion chipset. I decided that an ASRock Ion 330 would be the perfect little HTPC for me.
More ASRock’s ION nettop really rocks!
I stumbled across MiserWare MicroMiser a couple of days ago. It promises to shave 10 to 30 percent off your PC’s power consumption, without you even noticing. All you have to do is download and install the program. I have to admit this sounded a little too good to be true at first, but considering how I’m really into low power computing, I decided to sign up for the beta program and give it a try.
More Can software really reduce your computer’s power consumption by 30%?
CompuLab just released a new version of their tiny Fit-PC2, called the Fit-PC2i. My guess is the ‘i’ stands for ‘internet’, because the most interesting new feature is a second gigabit ethernet port. This allows the device to be used as a router or firewall, so it’s not a feature that helps desktop users much. In fact, in order to fit (pun intended) the second RJ45 socket they’ve had to eliminate two USB ports from the back of the device, leaving just two full-size USB ports.
But there’s some good news too. According to the press release, the ‘i’ can be ordered with a 2GHz processor (although not currently listed on the website), and a 2GB memory model is also available. This is more important than you might think, because the RAM chips are soldered onto the motherboard and can not be replaced or upgraded. Also new is an RS232 port on the front of the device.
So, if you’re looking for a tiny little computer with an astonishingly low power consumption and two network connectors, look no further. Be advised though that the current state of the GMA500 graphics driver is still ‘a bloody mess‘, and you’ll need a display with a digital (DVI or HDMI) input.
As I wrote earlier, CompuLab was kind enough to send me a Fit-PC2, so I could find out if this tiny little PC is as great as it sounds on paper. The first unit I received failed before I could properly test it, but it was quickly replaced and I’ve been putting the replacement one through its paces all day today.
The Fit-PC2 is the world’s smallest fully functional desktop PC. It’s about 1/4 the volume of a Mac Mini, and it still has all the necessary connections and features to be used as a home or office computer. It’s also the most energy efficient PC I know of, using only six watt when idle and eight when playing full resolution HD video (1080p). Yes, it does that. But more about that later.
More Fit-PC2 review: The world’s smallest desktop PC
This blog has been doing quite well lately, and as a result of having visitor numbers I never imagined I would, people have been offering me stuff to review. I’ve declined most of these offers. I feel bad writing about things I wouldn’t normally get excited about. But when I saw this little machine pop up on Engadget, I couldn’t help myself. I just had to see if they’d send me a review unit. So I contacted Compulab, and sure enough they did.
More Fit-PC2 first impressions