Via to open source its drivers – finally

April 13, 2008

Via Technologies LogoHello everyone,

It’s been a while. I have been extremely busy designing, building and launching a full IPTV service. Now that the service has launched I can take a bit of a breather and perhaps post a few updates here. Lots has happened in the world of Zonbu in the past four months.

The most significant development by far is that Via has announced that they intend to embrace the open source community and finally start releasing driver source and details so the drivers for their embedded platforms can be improved.

The following details are excerpted from this article at LinuxDevices.com: http://www.linuxdevices.com/news/NS9457876583.html

Via Technologies, although very popular with Linux ultramobile PC vendors, has never been very open about its own hardware. Until April 8, when, at the Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit in Austin, Texas, the company announced that it will start opening up its chipsets to the open source community.

During the We’re Shipping Linux on PCs — Now What? panel, held at the University of Texas Super Computing Center, Timothy Chen of Via Technologies, said, “Via hadn’t been doing much [in opening up] — it’s been hard for the company to embrace open source, but at the end of the month you’ll see us opening up.”

This announcement drew a round of applause from the audience of Linux executives, leaders and core developers. Driver support for Linux distributions, a nagging problem, can be greatly eased by chip and component vendors opening up their hardware specifications and information.

In concrete terms, Via will kick things off by launching its Via Linux Web site by the end of month. On this site, users will find drivers, technical documentation, source code and information for the Via CN700, CX700/M, CN896 and the new Via VX800 chipsets. As time goes by, Via will add forums and support for more of its chipsets.

Hopefully this will help unlock the potential of the existing Zonbu hardware platform.

-Mr. Zonbu


gOS Cloudbook and other Everex CES announcements

January 9, 2008

Over at CNET’s CES Coverage area they have a bief update on the Everex Cloudboox running gOS. Take a look here:

http://ces.cnet.com/8301-13855_1-9846075-67.html?tag=head

On the hardware side, the $199 gPC is getting updated with new plastics. It will be joined by a slick mini PC at $499 and a $399 notebook with a 15.4″ screen, the gBook. All of the gOS machines are powered by Via chips, except the mini, which gets a dual-core Pentium (not Core 2 Duo).

The real news, though, is the Everex CloudBook, a 2-pound ultra-small laptop with a 7″ screen, 30GB hard drive, a Webcam, and good connectivity (WiFi, 3 USB ports, 4-in-1 card reader). It “out-specs” the Asus ePC, according to Everex, and will sell for $399 when it shows up at WalMart on January 20th.

-Mr. Zonbu


Rhapsody – Get your head around the model

January 8, 2008

Sansa RhapsodyI was reading Esquire the other day, great magazine by the way. Occasionally a bit pretentious but really excellent non-fiction and fiction articles every month. Its the kind of magazine that makes you think.

What jumped out at me was that their resident gadget author, film director Barry Sonnenfeld, had some very kind words for the Rhapsody subscription service I’ve been singing the praises of (and saying should be bundled with the Zonbu). I’ll let you read for yourself:

Rhapsody Sansa e280R

Lyle Lovett and Toots and the Maytals recently released new albums, and Sweetie and I downloaded them from the Rhapsody Internet-music-subscription service (rhapsody.com). Since I liked them both, I transferred them to the incredibly small Sansa e280R MP3 player ($150). So long as I keep up my $15-a-month subscription, I can download any of the four million songs on Rhapsody without ever buying one. I thought it would be stupid to rent songs instead of owning them, but in reality, I’m listening to all sorts of great stuff that I never would have purchased from iTunes.

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EEE Officially Skype 2.0 with webcam support, works great

January 7, 2008

Video Conf ImageThis weekend I decided to do a package update on my EEE PC. I’ve resisted adding non-official repositories and generally doing geeky things to it as I wanted to compare the typical end user experience with that of the Zonbu.

To date, I’ve been a bit underwhelmed with the lack of updates. Firefox is still 2.0.0.7 and various other apps are older as well. The update function in the “basic” interface is a bit confusing and didn’t seem to be working consistently for me, but I soldiered on.

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Philips launches embedded Rhapsody radios

January 7, 2008
Philips Streamium

The Rhapsody “all you can eat” subscription music service keeps going from strength to strength.

At CES this week Real Networks announced a partnership with Philips that will see the service emebedded in a number of new Internet enabled radio systems.

This is a bold move and it means you no longer need a PC active on your network in order to access your Rhapsody account. I’m seriously thinking about buying one, as I hate having to power my PC to enjoy my music via Rhapsody on my Roku Soundbridge. Dollar for dollar this may be the best option.

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Beauty: ZonbuOS not meeting basic photo management needs

January 4, 2008

The beauty is not happy tonight.  Which means Mr. Zonbu isn’t happy.Canon SD800

After putting the baby to bed, the Beauty sat down to deal with some of the dozens of recent photos on our digital camera.

She plugged in her SD card reader to the USB slot and waited.

She heard a brief sound but no wizard popped up. She waited a minute or two then said to me that it wasn’t working.

I asked her why she thought that and she said she didn’t get any wizard to help her import the photos…

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The Beauty doesn’t like the sound controls

December 31, 2007

Zonbu Volume AppletI sent the beauty a web based flash video clip last night.

It played no problem (smoothly etc.), but without audio (she had it muted).

The beauty wanted to replay the clip with audio and found it a bit confusing to un-mute things and turn the volume up.

She was able to use the Fn key to unmute the volume (as she would have on her Acer laptop) but the lack of on-screen feedback was irritating to her (Acers have a nice lime green OSD that shows mute/unmute and volume level). When she unmuted it, or thought she had (she indeed had) she couldn’t understand why she couldn’t hear anything (the audio level was about 10%).

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40+ Plug-ins for the Gimp

December 27, 2007

I recently came across an excellent list of plug-ins for the Gimp Photo Editor which is included with the Zonbu.

While not all of these make sense for the Zonbu, and some may not even run well on the lightweight hardware, others, like Red Eye correction are perfect for the target audience. Anything that puts the features at hand that a typical home user would be interested, should fit the Zonbu philosophy.

In that vein, I really miss the ability to right-click-and-resize-to-email feature I had in my Windows XP power toys. Should be an easy one I add I expect…

Hopefully some of these will make it in to the next Zonbu update: http://www.techzilo.com/gimp-plugins/

-Mr. Zonbu


Some more Beauty feedback on the Zonbu laptop…

December 27, 2007

Beauty & the Geek LogoA few more small items that the Beauty and Grandma have had to say about using the Zonbu laptop:

-The lack of thumbnails when viewing a directory of photos is problematic and needs to be enabled somehow

-When returning from hibernation often the wireless doesn’t seem to come back to life. The wizard says it is connected, as does the signal strength meter, but it is necessary to re-run the connection wizard to get back online.

-The printer offering to install every time it is powered on is also still a problem, and equally annoying…

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Consumers watching more and more video online

December 27, 2007

I get various industry news clippings in my work mailbox every day. This one particularly caught my eye as it directly supports the hypothesis that video playback is becoming more and more important for Internet access devices like the Zonbu:

According to the recent release of The ChoiceStream 2007 Survey of Viewer Trends in TV and Online Video, 55% of connected consumers who watch TV watch some type of video on devices other than their TV sets, including their computers, mobile phones and digital media players (e.g., iPod). Not surprisingly, video-watching on these alternative devices is more popular among younger consumers (66%) than older ones (36%).

You can read the full article here: http://publications.mediapost.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=Articles.showArticleHomePage&art_aid=73291

-Mr. Zonbu