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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Tablet wars heating up with introduction of HP's TouchPad

May 30, 2011
by Mark Ollig

Can the soon-to-be released HP TouchPad really become a serious contender to Apple’s number one selling iPad?

Fervent rumors over the blogosphere have been reverberating lately about the statement made by Hewlett-Packard (HP) European chief Eric Cador, during a recent press conference in Cannes, France.

According to The Telegraph (a U.K. website), Cador said, “in the tablet world we’re going to become better than number one.”

Become better than number one?

As Cador well knows, the Apple iPad is currently the number one selling computing tablet on the planet.

Shouts of, “Them’s fightin’ words!” may well be the response from loyal Apple iPad users out there.

A recent video shows Cador telling an audience at a conference how HP currently has revenues over $120 billion world-wide, and employs some 300,000 people.

He also said, “(HP) is the biggest information technology company in the world.”

Suffice it to say when HP talks, people listen.

The HP TouchPad is expected to make its appearance in the US sometime this summer.

A close follower behind Apple’s iPad includes Motorola, with their Motorola Xoom tablet.

This tablet features the NVidia Tegra 1 GHz dual-core processor, and the Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) operating system, (upgradable to Android 3.1).

The Motorola Xoom contains a generous-sized 10.1-inch HD multi-touch display screen, along with a rear-facing 5.0 megapixel and front-facing 2.0 megapixel camera.

Yours truly noted in his Jan. 17 Bits & Bytes column, how the Motorola Xoom had won the 2011 CES “Best in Show” award.

The Motorola Xoom was released to the public this past February, and costs about $800 for the 32 GB 3G Licorice model.

To learn more about the Motorola Xoom, check out their website at

The BlackBerry PlayBook tablet by Research In Motion (RIM) is also a viable challenger compared to the iPad.

This tablet features the Cortex A9 1 GHz dual-core processor, and uses its own proprietary BlackBerry tablet operating system.

The BlackBerry PlayBook also features rear-facing 5 megapixel and front-facing 3 megapixel video cameras.

The BlackBerry PlayBook has a seven-inch liquid crystal display, and is available with 16, 32 or 64 GB of flash storage, and weighs in just under 1 pound.

The 16 GB BlackBerry PlayBook is priced at about $500, with the 32 GB and 64 GB models priced at about $600 and $700.

This tablet comes pre-loaded with several software applications, and became available to the public in April.

Additional information about the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet can be found at its website,

Another tablet called the Samsung Galaxy Tab, has a 7-inch diagonal display screen and operates using a 1 GHz Cortex-A8 Hummingbird processor.

This tablet utilizes the Android 2.2 mobile operating system.

The Galaxy Tab 3G model includes a front-facing 1.3 megapixel and rear-facing 3.0 megapixel camera/video recorder.

The cost of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3G is about $430.

More information about the Samsung Galaxy Tab can be found on their website use:

One of the newest tablets to hit the market this month is called the HTC Flyer.

The HTC Flyer comes with 16 GB of internal memory (expandable to 32 GB), and has a seven-inch multi-touch TFT (Thin Film Transistor) liquid crystal display screen.

It contains a 1.5 GHz single-core central processing unit, and operates using the Android (Gingerbread) operating system.

This tablet includes front-facing 1.3 megapixel autofocus camera, and a 5.0 megapixel HD autofocus video camera.

The 16 GB HTC Flyer tablet costs about $500.

Additional information about the HTC Flyer can be found at its website,

Unlike the iPad, the HP TouchPad (and most other tablets) incorporates the ability to view content in Adobe Flash.

Both the Apple iPad, and the HP TouchPad, have a 9.7-inch multi-touch display screen.

The HP TouchPad uses the HP WebOS 3.0 version of its mobile operating system, and utilizes a Qualcomm Snapdragon dual-core central processing unit running at 1.2 GHz.

The Apple iPad 2 contains a 1 GHz dual-core Apple A5 processor, along with Apple’s iOS 4.3 operating system.

The HP Touchpad tablet weighs in at 1.63 pounds.

The three models of the Apple iPad 2 come in at 1.33, 1.34 and 1.35 pounds., respectively.

The Apple iPad 2 has internal memory available in a 16, 32, or 64 GB model.

The HP TouchPad comes in 16 or 32 GB sized models.

Information about the iPad 2 is available from Apple’s website,

The cost for a 32 GB HP TouchPad is rumored to be about $599, which, coincidentally, is also the average base price of the 32 GB Apple iPad 2 (with Wi-Fi) model currently being sold.

More information about the HP TouchPad can be found on their website at

An informative video about the HP TouchPad can be seen here:

Attention my legion of faithful readers, your Bits & Bytes general columnist is here to notify you to be on guard for HP’s upcoming mass-media advertising bombardment blitz. They will soon be advancing their position in this tablet war, by officially announcing their new, HP TouchPad tablet . . . that is all, dismissed.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Are we now entering into the 'post-PC' era?

May 23, 2011
by Mark Ollig

Along with the new Apple iPad 2 announcement March 2, Steve Jobs revealed Apple Computer was receiving most of its revenues from what he called, “post-PC devices,” which included Apple’s iPods, iPhones, and, of course, the Apple iPads.

When thinking of PCs or personal computers, one used to (or still might) have a vision of a desk designated as the home or work “computer station,” with hardware consisting of one tower computer case connecting a mouse, keyboard, display screen, and a printer.

This traditional stationary computer is used by walking over to its designated location, sitting down in the designated computer chair, turning on the PC, and waiting (for what seems forever) for the operating system to boot up, and then, finally, one begins typing on the keyboard and clicking the mouse.

My, how 20th century.

In this post-PC era, we no longer need to do our computing from a stationary location. We have become mobile when it comes to our computing via smartphones or various-sized tablet computing devices we carry with us.

We no longer need to wait for traditional PCs to go through their lengthy “boot up” or “shutdown” procedure as post-PC era mobile computing devices turn on instantly or are simply always-on.

Today, we take our computers wherever we go. We can keep them with us, unlike the traditional home or work computer still sitting back there on the desk.

Instead of using the PC – connected mouse and keyboard for interaction, we manipulate and enter data by way of touchscreens. We communicate over our computing devices using voice and video cameras, and can even use motion sensors, like what is on the Xbox 360, to interact.

Many of our stationary computers require them to be physically plugged into the network, limiting where they can be located.

In a post-PC era, our computing is mobile, using Wi-Fi and wireless mobile broadband networks, providing continuous connectivity to the Internet, or to our office networks or cloud computing service providers.

As we find ourselves living more of our lives online and engaging in online social networking, shopping, banking, entertainment and work, we will require real-time, always-on, high-speed connectivity to the Internet – from any location.

The computing devices we use need to be able to handle our fast-paced on-the-go personal and working lives, which mean using mobile and portable computing devices.

The term post-PC is not a new phrase – it has been around for more than 10 years.

In 1999, MIT computer scientist, David Clark, gave a presentation entitled “The Post PC Internet.”

Clark’s presentation illustrated how the future would see every electronic device, including toasters, eyeglasses, wristwatches, and televisions . . . connected to the Internet.

He described how “a watch face might temporarily become a tiny screen displaying your appointments for the day, information sent wirelessly to the watch from its storage folder on the Internet.”

Seems Clark was predicting wireless interactions to the Internet’s cloud computing capabilities.

He also said in 1999 that we would need to get used to having a computing future which would be comprised of an assortment of many different parts, or, as Clark called it, “heterogeneous.”

In 1999, the dominant technology standard used on personal computers was the Microsoft Windows operating system; however, Clark foresaw this dominance coming into question in the future.

Clark had a vision about the future of software, too.

He quoted MIT experts as saying, “shrink-wrapped software will go the way of the buggy whip.”

Today, we can obtain software by directly downloading it from websites on the Internet (no shrink-wrapped packaging needed).

David Clark described future computing devices in 1999 as “information appliances,” which today include our mobile handheld devices, like iPods, iPads, iPhones, tablet computers, smartphones, and the new devices to come.

While I was reading this 1999 future computing prognostication, a professor at MIT, Hal Abelson, spoke on what we today call cloud computing.

Abelson predicted how corporations, instead of storing all their internal company and customer computing record data onsite, will instead be having this data handled (stored) by “outside service suppliers.”

“You’ll see the market for [storage] disks being replaced by [remote] storage services,” Abelson said in 1999.

Abelson seems to be describing today’s secure “data storage warehouses” located in the Internet cloud.

Clark summed up his futuristic prediction with “What does the future look like? Well, it’s a network full of services.”

So, where does yours truly think this post-PC era is heading?

Today, our personal computing sees us using computing devices no longer physically tethered by a cable or restricted by a geographic location.

We access our information, software programs, and download our mobile device applications over wireless networks connected to storage data servers and computing servers located in the Internet cloud.

The traditional personal computer used at home and at work will still be around for a while; however, we need not be chained to it.

Our personal computer no longer needs to be a stationary piece of hardware sitting on a desk plugged into a wall anymore.

Welcome to the post-PC era.

Friday, May 13, 2011

'Carry anywhere' portable tablet computer envisioned years ago

May 16, 2011
by Mark Ollig

I recently watched a video of two people seated at an outdoor patio table, enjoying what appeared to be lunch at a downtown café.

The video shows them taking turns reading a newspaper using a flat-screened computing tablet.

Every so often, they clicked on various interactive graphical elements on the display screen with a stylus pen.

The name of the computing device they were reading from was labeled “The Tablet.”

“What is so exciting about that? People are doing this every day with an iPad,” you might be thinking.

Well, for one thing, this particular video was recorded 17 years ago.

In 1994, Roger Fidler, a journalist and newspaper designer, recorded his vision and demonstrated – in great detail – how a person could use a portable computing device to read, interact with, and share the news and information from a newspaper.

While watching the video, it seemed someone had gone back in time to 1994, and placed an Apple iPad in Fidler’s hands.

“It may be difficult to conceptualize the idea of digital paper, but in fact, we believe that’s what’s going to happen,” said Fidler in 1994.

Fidler’s ahead of-its-time (and somewhat startling) 1994 video is called “Tablet Newspaper (1994).”

The 13 minute video where he demonstrates the “electronic newspaper of the future” can be viewed at:

The idea of using a portable electronic device in which to obtain news and information, along with manipulating its content, was, however, envisioned before 1994.

A similar device was seen on a science fiction television series from the late 1960s.

From 1966 to 1969, the television series “Star Trek” would occasionally show a scene with crew members carrying and referring to information on rectangular electronic clipboards with a smooth display screen, which they operated by means of a stylus pen.

Starting in the late 1980s, the television series, “Star Trek: The Next Generation” showed crew members using what was called a PADD, or Personal Access Display Device.

The PADD was a portable handheld device which closely resembled today’s portable wireless communication devices, like an iPhone.

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it,” is a phrase attributed to Alan C. Kay.

One of the first well-thought-out concepts for a practical personal tablet computer was devised during the late 1960s and early 1970s, by Alan C. Kay, a computer scientist.

Kay called this small, portable, electronic computer, the DynaBook.

The DynaBook was designed to be a “carry anywhere” tablet-like personal computer intended for student educational learning and information gathering.

Speaking of the late 1960s,; as a knowledgeable third-grader, yours truly remembers being anxious about correctly answering multiplication questions on flash cards his mother would quiz him on.


So I could watch the next action-packed episode of “Lost in Space” (and pass Mrs. Seymour’s math test).

By August of 1972, Kay completed a description of the DynaBook, (including detailed drawings) in a document called “A Personal Computer for Children of All Ages.” I created a shortened link to this PDF file at:

In this document, Kay presents several scenarios demonstrating how the DynaBook would be used.

He explains the DynaBook’s keyboard as being “as thin as possible . . . it may have no moving parts at all – but be sensitive to pressure.”

Kay even went a step further, by suggesting the DynaBook personal computer may have no keyboard at all, saying “the display panel would cover the full extent of the notebook surface.”

The hand-drawn DynaBook shown in the document was somewhat larger than today’s iPad.

There was a full QWERTY keyboard along the bottom of the DynaBook, and Kay explained how one could operate the “multi-touch” liquid-crystal display screen located at the top of the device.

The DynaBook could play audio files, record voice messages, and more.

Kay envisioned how a DynaBook personal computer would connect wirelessly to centralized information storage units,; allowing the DynaBook to “extract” information from them.

Remember, Kay is writing this back in 1972.

To my surprise, he even talks about “speech recognition” capabilities eventually being added to the DynaBook.

Kay compares the technology of this futuristic portable computer with paper books, but admits “this new medium will not save the world.”

He goes on to correctly state how paper books allowed centuries of human knowledge to be “encapsulated and transmitted to everybody.”

Kay transfers this thought-line by invoking his hopes that this new “active medium” (portable computer) will “convey some of the excitement of thought and creation.”

One of Alan C. Kay’s diagrams in the 1972 document shows the DynaBook as being rectangular, measuring 12-inches-by 9 inches, with a depth of .75 inches.

The Apple iPad 2 comparably measures in at 9.5 inches by 7.31 inches, with a depth of .34 inches.

Today, the iPad has become the most popular “carry anywhere” tablet computer, fulfilling the educational values Kay wrote about in 1972, and the electronic news retrieval abilities Fidler envisioned in 1994.

Kay concluded his description of the futuristic DynaBook portable personal computer in August of 1972 with “Let’s just do it!”

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Taking 21st century technology back to the 1800s via 'Steampunk'

From the Bits & Bytes archives

September 22, 2008
by Mark Ollig

It captured my attention immediately.

I became awestruck staring at the picture of this particular computer – it mysteriously exhibited the appearance of having been manufactured during the Victorian era.

This didn’t make sense to me because as you know, the Victorian era occurred between 1837 and 1901, during the reign of Queen Victoria in the United Kingdom of Great Britain.

The reason this particular computer was very different is because its physical appearance had been “steampunked.”

I can best describe the term “steampunk” as “the process of changing a modern made device (in this case a modern computer) to appear like it was made in the 19th century.”

The “steam” in steampunk refers to a time when steam itself was the power commonly used to operate mechanical devices during the 1800’s.

Steampunk could also be described as an “earlier-history style presentation” of a modern day technological device.

This type of re-creation of modern techno-devices is actually very popular. In fact, the more I researched this, the more I found out about the growing “steampunk society” that exists.

One of these steampunk web sites is located at:

I am discovering steampunk fabrication is incredibly cool and even addictive by those who work in it.

Some of the parts used in steampunk, like older Victorian style wooden frames and shelves, are found at local antique and knick-knack stores.

One of the people I read about who’s ‘steampunking’ a modern desktop computer found many of the Victorian style parts he used at his town’s local waste disposal site.

This person made a video of his “steampunk processing procedure” of a modern computer and uploaded it to YouTube.

These hobbyists are very detailed in their re-building techniques and perform much research in order to use the correct Victorian era “steampunk” styles when retrofitting their modern-made tech devices.

Another YouTube video shows how a steampunk hobbyist used a Victorian style hand-crafted wooden shelf to encase a computer’s LCD screen – he then proceeded to meticulously trim the wooden shelf into frame pieces using a band saw.

He carefully fitted the pieces of cut wood using antiqued brass corner plates.

This hobbyist was able to perfectly border-in the flat LCD monitor screen inside this wooden Victorian style frame, which presented the steampunk look he wanted.

Steampunk craftspersons (also called “steampunks”) need to utilize their research, wood working, mechanical and dexterity skills in creating these amazing pieces of “de-modernized” – yet functioning – displays of steampunk artwork.

I personally consider the detailed work of steampunk as I would any other specialized hobby or craft.

This type of steampunk art is sure to capture anyone’s attention.

Bruce Sterling is an American science fiction author and wrote an essay entitled “The User’s Guide to Steampunk.” In this essay he says, “Steampunks are modern crafts people who are very into spreading the means and methods of working in archaic technologies”

Some of Sterling’s words I found enlightening, as he tries to analogize the term “steampunk” as a coping mechanism for how some of us are handling modern technology.

After reading about Sterling, he seems to imply, in my opinion, that there are people who steampunk because they want to remove the futuristic look of today’s modern devices. These people desire to have modern devices look as if they had been created using materials from ages past, or in this case, the steam powered era.

By steampunking a piece of modern technology, it is in a sense “de-evolving” its outward physical appearance back to an earlier period in history.

In Sterling’s first fictional book he published in 1977 called “Involution Ocean,” he writes about the world called “Nullaqua.” The entire atmosphere of this world is held inside of a deep crater located miles under the surface.

The story involves a sailing ship which is hunting creatures called “dust whales” that live beneath –you guessed it – the “dust ocean” which lies at the bottom of this deep crater.

Sterling’s “Involution Ocean” is written in the artistic genre of “Moby Dick.”

And I thought I had an active imagination.

You can read Sterling’s brief essay about steampunk at:

Sterling is also one of the founders of the “cyberpunk” movement in science fiction writing.

His writings do provide for some thought-provocative reading.

Many of Sterling’s books can be found at and your local book stores.

When you visit this week’s “Web Site of the Week” at: you will discover your humble bits_blogger’s “web pick” is focused on steampunk computers, wrist watches, guitars and more!.

You will see some remarkable steampunk related pictures and information, so when you’re online be sure to check it out.