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    Speaking of clickbait, if you want to build one of these things, It’ll cost you about ten grand. The first one costs ten grand, the ten thousandth one costs fifteen bucks.

    I kinda want to take this and just swap the membrane keyboard for a mechanical one and replace the injection-molded plastic with laser-cut acrylic. AFAICT those are the bits that have the high startup costs. Honestly the only thing that I’m hesitant about is the 320x240 display, and even there I have to praise the excellent choice of aspect ratio.

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      I think a split atreus version of this would be awesome.

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        I’ve done a bit of noodling on this but never at such low power levels: https://atreus.technomancy.us/markv

        Using higher-power devices really limits you because of the battery. The Pine64 was the only thing I could find with an onboard charging circuit, but dropping it to AA levels is brilliant if you just focus on SSH and terminal stuff.

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          thanks for the link - the Atreus deck is an interesting project.

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        My first thought is that laser cut acrylic will tend to have lots of sharp edges, which doesn’t sound terribly comfortable to hold. If you only want one, you could probably 3D print or CNC a fairly nice smooth case for a few bucks.

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          It’s not hard to sand down sharp edges, but you have less flexibility in design than 3D printing; you can only stack 2D layers. You do end up with a lot more sturdiness tho.

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            Good point, I was thinking of a conventional 6-sided-box type thing. Doing stacked layers with a finishing step gets you a lot more potential shapes.

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        I’m tickled that it uses AA NiMH batteries.

        I’ve read about the old Tandy Model 100 from the early 1980s, which ran on AA batteries. Apparently they were somewhat popular with journalists, because one could write and either save to a cassette or hook up to a modem and upload to the office. They could run for a day or so on a fully charged set of batteries. That concept always fascinated me.

        I doubt you could get anywhere near that sort of battery life with a modern Linux device, because of all the stuff that it does in the background.

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          My M1 MacBook Air lasts all day, especially under light-ish usage, and having a computer with that kind of battery life has definitely been a game changer! I usually don’t even bring a charger with me when I leave the house any more.

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            I had several PalmOS devices – a PalmPilot Pro, a III, a Handspring Visor – and they all ran on 3 AAA batteries for about a month of use. Then I got a Treo, which had a rechargeable battery pack and a cell voice/data modem.

            As I recall, the upgraded III was basically on par with a Macintosh SE/30: 32 bit Motorola 68K series CPU, 2 MB RAM – which was static, used for both working memory and storage – greyscale screen of just a little less resolution as the Mac’s monochrome screen, and a serial port and an IrDA port.

            There’s not much that a Linux box has to be doing all the time. 8 to 10 processes, mostly idle, is what you get at boot time. Write software with an eye towards power efficiency and you can do lots of useful stuff in constrained hardware.

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              Actually the (pre-Lithium) Palms all took two AAA batteries. And yeah, they would run for weeks. And that was with keeping the DRAM alive 24/7 so that your data wouldn’t be lost.

              Palm III series had between 2 and 8 MB of RAM depending on which model, a 16MHz 68k, and 160x160 LCD. Later models on the same architecture went as far as 33MHz CPUs and 16MB of RAM, and some devices had color and/or higher-res screens, although that became more common once they went ARM.

              A semi-forgotten Palm device is the AlphaSmart Dana, which takes a 2001-era Palm (33MHz DragonBall, 16MB of RAM) and puts it in a laptop-ish form-factor with a real keyboard, and widens the screen to 560x160 (though apps not written specifically for it run in the center 160x160). One model even had WiFi.

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              I owned an Amstrad NC100 for a while. Never put it to any serious use, but it was great - acceptable keyboard, all-day battery life from AAs, and PCMCIA card support.


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                The Psion 5 series (and its descendants) of the late nineties could also get a day out of a set of AAs, and could be made to run Linux. They had great keyboards, too.

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                  I had a Series 3, which got 2-4 weeks of moderate use out of a pair of AAs. The crappy battery life in comparison was the thing that put me off ever getting a Series 5. The Series 3 had quite similar specs to the original IBM PC. It used a RAM disk for most persistent storage (it also had a little Lithium battery that would protect the RAM if the AAs ran out and while you were changing them).

                  It was a fantastic machine. I wrote a load of essays for school on it and also learned a lot about how to write terrible code (it had a built-in compiler for a BASIC-like language called OPL). I probably used it more than my desktop. In some respects, computers are like cameras: the best one is the one you have access to. The Psion fitted in my jacket pocket and so was with me all of the time.

                  I had an RS-232 adaptor for mine that let me copy files to a big computer easily, so I could write things in the simple word processor (which wasn’t WYSIWYG, though could do some styling and, I think, export to RTF) and then spell check and format them on a desktop (the word processor used around 10 KiB of RAM, most of which was the open document - it couldn’t fit a spell checking dictionary in the size. I think the version for the larger 3a or 3c might have had one).

                  There’s a DOS emulator for the Series 3a, which runs well in DOSBox. If you tweak the ini file, you can get it to use a full 640x480 screen. I still use it periodically because I prefer the 3a’s spreadsheet to anything produced subsequently for simple tasks.

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                    In retrospect, all of these are pleasant devices to use, that have stood the test of time very well. The use of AA batteries also gives them a kind of longevity that I doubt modern devices will have.

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                      I think I got mine in 1993. The mother of a rich friend had upgraded to the 3a and sold hers quite cheaply (I think it was £120? They were £250 at launch). It came with the spreadsheet on a ROM disk and I also bought a flash SSD (I can’t remember if it was 128 KiB or 256 KiB). The flash disk was a single cell, so you could store files there but you couldn’t reclaim space until you did a complete erase. I mostly used it to store text adventures from the Lost Treasures of Infocom (which I think I still have somewhere, on 5.25” floppies. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen any off-the-shelf 5.25” USB floppies. At some point, I’ll have to find an early Pentium that still has the right controller).

                      I don’t remember when I stopped using it. I was definitely using it on a daily basis in 1998. It might have died around then. I don’t remember using it at university when I went in 2000. For the amount of use and abuse (it was carried around in the pocket of a teenage boy for 5 years) it got, the purchase price was incredibly low. I don’t think I’ve owned a pocket-sized device that’s been as useful since then.

                      I did manage to get on the Nokia 770 open source developers programme a few years later. Nokia gave a 2/3 discount on these machines to a load of people who were doing open source work. Unfortunately, a machine running Linux and X11 in 64MiB of RAM with no swap was… not a great experience. It was fine running vim in a full-screen xterm, anything else and the OOM killer would come along. The OOM killer’s policy was to kill the largest application, which usually meant the app with the most unsaved data. Or, if you were really unlucky, the X server. I used it with a ThinkOutside folding keyboard (which I still have and which still works well) to write a load of articles and a few book chapters. It wasn’t nearly as versatile as the Psion though.

                      My phone is now something on the order of three orders of magnitude more powerful than the Psion but I don’t find I use it as much as I used the Psion. I wouldn’t write a 3,000 word doc on my phone with the on-screen keyboard but I did that several times on the Psion with its built-in keyboard without any problems.

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                        These days the ‘test of time’, is probably considered a bug.

                        • electronic devices come with non-replaceable batteries
                        • android phone manufactures pride themselves with ‘two year OS upgrades’ as the ‘limit’. While companies like Slack rapidly discontinue 4+ year old OS supports, so that ‘business users’ keep buying new devices every 2-3 years.
                        • This practice of ‘2-3 year’ usage seem to propagate almost every sector of manufacturing. Economic growth is linked to sale of ‘new things’ not maintenance/upgradeability of the old. The ‘quality of architecture or design’ is measured not by how long those decisions last, but how easy they can be changed.
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                          iOS devices seem to have a much longer update lifetime. The iPhone 6 (released 2014) seems to still get OS security updates and the 6S (2015) can run the latest OS. LineageOS now does OTA updates, so (after the initial, quite painful, install which requires unlocking bootloaders and doing things that can potentially brick the device) it’s quite easy to get third-party OS support for a lot of devices. I’m using a OnePlus 5T (2017) and it happily runs Android 11 via LineageOS (presumably it will support 12 at some point, it usually takes a few months for a new AOSP release to make it into LineageOS).

                          The EU is currently in the process of rolling out labelling requirements that will mandate device manufacturers commit up-front to how long they’ll provide security updates and the maximum interval between vulnerability disclosure and patch for Internet-connected devices. This should help the incentives a bit.

                          Software for the Psion Series 3 was mostly delivered on ROM, a few things were provided on floppy disks and required you to own the serial adaptor so that you could copy them into the (scarce) RAM or external flash disks. There was a (quite small) print catalogue of all of the available software. I never had a software update for any of the software that I ran on my Series 3.

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                            My recent experience with Android:

                            • Bought a flagship LG phone at the end of 2016 with Android 6
                            • 2017 Received Android 7 update
                            • 2021 LG exited Mobile business. As part of the exit, they stopped providing the free bootloader unlocking service (discontinued Dec 2021) and OS upgrades.
                            • 2022 I desperately need to install Slack on my phone. Slack stopped supporting Android 7 August 2021, now it is only on android 8 and up (and they disable ability to use the app from a mobile browser too!)
                            • Now I cannot unlock LG bootloader, therefore cannot even try to upgrade the phone, therefore cannot install Slack. Therefore, need a new device.

                            On a separate occasion, recently had to throw away expensive bluetooth headset devices – because battery can no longer hold a charge. Last year had to do the same with HP tablets, non-replaceable batteries no longer hold charge.

                            I am not even talking about appliances where doors break, etc.

                            There seems to be some type in the global manufacturing stance, financial incentives, environmental non-concerns – that allow and actively promote this constant ‘replace-the-whole-item’ mentality. At least that’s how it feels to me.

                            I am now looking for an 8-9 inch windows tablet that I can carry around, and have slack on that – instead of android, but most major manufactures stopped doing tablets with Windows (because at least up to windows 10 the UI interface for tablets and CPU/battery life rations are subpar).

                            What you mentioned about labeling in EU makes good sense, but probably not anywhere near enough.

                            I hope that in general longevity of devices, appliances and other consumables receive significant attention from policy makers across the world. It seems that leaving it to manufactures and financial systems – did not produce reasonable outcomes…

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                              I’m in a similar situation. I accidentally bought a Prime “exclusive” Moto G6 back in 2018. Well, my GF bought it for me with my money and didn’t read the fine print. You can’t unlock the bootloader on this particular phone through Motorola, because it was sold as an Amazon Prime “exclusive”. It hasn’t gotten an update since April of 2020.

                              I’d love to install a custom ROM on this. I greatly extended the life of a previous Android device by installing Cyanogen Mod on it several years back. But I can’t, because I don’t control what I supposedly own. The whole situation is utterly ludicrous.

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                                To add irony to insult and injury, I chose the Moto G6 primarily to avoid yet another user-hostile anti-feature popularized by Apple: the lack of a 3.5 mm headset jack.

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                                I had an Asus Transformer Prime TF700, ran the stock firmware, and then some corruption in the flash caused it to get stuck in a boot loop. I never unlocked the bootloader and apparently I can’t do that without the device in a bootable state, so it became a paperweight. From that experience, I learned that the first thing that I do with an Android device is unlock the bootloader and replace the firmware with LineageOS.

                                The problem in the Android ecosystem is the way that the incentives are aligned. If you buy an iPhone, Apple makes money in two ways:

                                • The iPhone has a reasonably large markup.
                                • They take a 30% cut of every app you install.

                                This means that they have an incentive to keep devices supported because if you can’t run new apps then you won’t buy more apps. A lot of people also sell their iPhones every 1-2 years to buy the new flagship ones and the people who buy the second-hand ones often couldn’t afford a new one. Apple still gets revenue from the second-hand sales.

                                With the Android ecosystem, the first of these goes to the device manufacturer, the second to Google. This means that, once a device has shipped, there’s no incentive for the manufacturer to do anything and the sooner the device stops working the sooner they’ll buy another one. I proposed a simple fix for this to the Android security team about 8 years ago when they were complaining about hardware vendors nor deploying security updates: divert 5-10% of app sale and ad revenue to the device vendor for every app that’s purchased on a device with the latest OS and all security patches installed. If your handset is fully up to date, the manufacturer gets 5-10% of the revenue (Google gets 20-25%), if it isn’t then Google gets the full 30%.

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                          I bought the Planet Gemini phone which is in Psion form factor. It’s a great little computer, but a rather expensive phone.

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                            Thanks for mentioning this. Astro slide 5g interests me (although I would prefer an 8 inch device).

                            How good are they will long terms support (eg updates of OS, unlocking, battery replacement, etc)?

                            I like my devices to last 1 year for every 100$ spent (or much better than that). So 800 $ means to me at least 8 years.

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                              The Gemini had a couple of updates, but it is currently on Android 8.1.0. The boot loader allows you to use your own OS, and you could boot multiple ROMs. I think if you wanted to get 8 years out of it you might need an something like Sailfish OS…I keep planning on playing with PostMarket OS on it.

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                        My Newton 2000 MessagePad run quite well on 4 AA batteries. Not as long as a Palm Pilot device, but long enough.

                        The father of a very close friend of mine was a journalist using one of those Tandy models. He would save the articles to little cassette tapes and express mail them to the newsroom from the field.

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                        I’ve seen something similar to this on /r/cyberdeck, and IIRC the main lesson was “typing with thumbs gets really tiring quickly”, and if you can use e.g. chording with a button for each of your 8 fingers on the back of the device, then you’ll have a whole lot more typing-stamina.

                        It also frees up room on the front of the device, for a much wider screen.

                        BTW, for anyone who wants a “ minimum viable computer” with a thumb-keyboard similarish to OP, take a look at https://shop.pocketchip.co

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                          I had a Pocket CHIP it was an interesting form factor, and small Linux machine, for me the keyboard was problematic :~) I gave it to a friend who was running a code club at a local school.