CAN A RETURN TO 1980s-STYLE WEDGE DESIGN WORK IN 2009?
Putting an entire computer into a keyboard works well because the machine becomes a cross between a laptop and an ordinary PC. It has the advantage over the laptop that it is more ergonomic and easy to use and in most cases will be more powerful. Over the PC it has the advantage of portability and convenience. It can be thrown into a backpack and brought to a friend’s house or hotel very easily, so long as there is a monitor to plug into or an HDTV to wirelessly link with once you get there.
The idea is a resurgence of the so-called “wedge” computers of the 1980s and 1990s. Back during the Atari vs Commodore era both companies released multiple computers which were essentially PCs in keyboard cases very similar to the Eee Keyboard. That the idea is not new should have prompted Asus to do its research correctly. Those who used these machines for years realized the disadvantages over time: difficult to expand or upgrade; fixing is problematic due to custom parts; and over-heating can be an issue.
The Eee Keyboard has not yet been released so it is hard to say whether it will suffer from the same problems, but given its specifications users should not be needing to worry about upgrading for a few years at least. The machine has some excellent features, such as built-in WIFI, Bluetooth, microphone, speakers and a 5-inch touchscreen color display with a resolution of 800x480 pixels (the display sits in the space the number pad occupies in an ordinary keyboard). Couple this with 16 gigabytes to 32 gigabytes of storage on a internal solid-state drive (SSD), a 1.6-gigahertz Atom CPU, 1 gigabyte of RAM and a unique ability to be able to stream content direct to your HD television — and the Eee Keyboard is clearly an exciting revamp of an aging idea.
The resolution of the on-board display is quite exciting since it is high enough to use for browsing the Web, checking e-mails and writing documents. While the display is still small and low-resolution compared to a desktop monitor, it is higher-resolution than the iPhone’s screen, which has been embraced by millions. The potential is for the touchscreen to act as two things: a back-up screen when no monitor or TV is available, and an ever-changing virtual interface. When Asus ditched the number pad to make room for the display, it didn’t really ditch it at all — now you can have a touchscreen number pad, as well as a touchscreen calculator, gaming pad, Internet browser, currency converter, etc. The screenshots from Asus indicate that it has managed to do all of this and more, meaning the addition of a touchscreen could stand out as a truly innovative step.
Another great feature is that the Eee Keyboard can wirelessly stream content to your HDTV, allowing it to become a monitor for the computer. This means you can sit on your sofa without worrying about wires (aside from an external power supply — the computer’s 1880mAh battery provides an estimated one hour and forty minutes of run time) and use it as you would an ordinary PC, while playing all of your movies and MP3s through your home entertainment system. (Asus will also market a less expensive, non-wireless Eee Keyboard with an HDMI port.)
Although Asus has not yet announced a price for the Eee Keyboard, it will hopefully be similar to that of the Eee PC. Early indicators of this are the specifications of the hardware (which are quite low compared to desktop systems) and the operating system. The device runs Windows XP with no mention of Windows Vista or Windows 7 on Asus’s press releases. Given its size and specifications, the Eee Keyboard makes an ideal living room PC, as well as a more ergonomic alternative to the slew of netbooks available. If the price is in line with this market then it has the potential to become a big seller.
— GARETH MURFIN, CONTRIBUTING REPORTER
A NONVIOLENT, ADAPTABLE WAY
TO BLOW THINGS UP
If you want a big video picture and you don’t have the bucks for a large screen, BenQ hopes you’ll consider its Joybee GP1 mini projector. The US$500, 635g hand-held projector uses a 20,000-hour LED lamp for illumination and includes a USB port. Put your media on a thumb drive and you can leave your laptop at home.
You can connect a camcorder, DVD player, TV, video game console or — using a dock that costs extra — iPod to the Joybee. But if you want to watch videos, you must convert your files into the AVI format, using the included Mac and Windows software.
The company claims that the projector can create an image up to 80 inches in diameter, but even in a dimly lighted room, the weak light output meant that I had to put the unit quite close to the wall to see a bright-enough image.
You probably won’t want to rely on this projector for your PowerPoint presentations, but as a low-cost way to get a big picture in a dark room, it could do the trick.
—ERIC A. TAUB, NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE
You don’t have to buy a waterproof camera to go deep. Instead, you can get a watertight casing for many brands of point-and-shoot models.
I tested a Marine Pack MPK-WE made for the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W290 (the Marine Pack is also compatible with other Cyber-shot DSC models). If you don’t have a Sony, similar casings are available for other brands of cameras.
The Marine Pack was engineered for divers and allows the Cyber-shot to be used at depths as low as 40m. You can also use the casing at the pool or beach, but it’s a pretty bulky package compared with waterproof cameras.
The Cyber-shot clamps into the casing with a reassuring snap. The housing has large buttons that correspond exactly to the buttons on the back of the Cyber-shot. The shutter release button on top is so large you can’t miss it.
Listed at US$200, the Marine Pack isn’t cheap. But it’s a great help if you are a diver who wants to capture coral reefs, barracuda, angel fish and whatever other critters may be down there.
—RIK FAIRLIE, NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE
A PRACTICAL WEBCAM THAT SHARPENS THE PICTURE FOR YOU
The webcam is an accessory that tends to get lost in a computer’s great scheme of things. Because of dicey video quality or complex “quick setup” guides, not all PC owners take advantage of it.
Logitech’s new offering, though, offers an enticement few other webcams have: high-quality images.
The Logitech Webcam Pro 9000, which at US$100 sits at the top of a new collection of seven webcams, employs Carl Zeiss optics. These are the same kind used in most of Sony’s Cyber-shot digital cameras, ones that sharpen the picture even in close-ups (and what’s a webcam about if not close-ups?).
Another component of the Pro 9000 that makes it a standout is a 2-megapixel sensor, which Logitech says translates into 720p high-definition video.
This combination takes the webcam out of the hook-me-up-for-US$9.95 realm of a neat toy and makes it a usable PC (or Mac) peripheral.
It’s designed for desktop monitors, but will clip onto portable screens as well.
— STEPHEN WILLIAMS, NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE
Scott Saulters wasn’t sure if his film had just taken one of the two top prizes at a recent film competition. Although Saulters has been in Taiwan for 15 years and is proficient in Mandarin, the award ceremony for the inaugural “Bi Tian Iann” (眯電影) short film contest was conducted entirely in Hoklo (also known as Taiwanese), a language he can’t speak. “I thought I heard it, but I didn’t want to look too excited,” he says. Despite his limited command of the tongue, Saulter’s entry, Wu Yu Tzu (烏魚子, mullet roe), took first place in the amateur category of the
The Taiwan of yesteryear was dominated in whole or in part by the Dutch, Spanish, Qing Empire and Japanese. But is the Taiwanese name for a popular edible fish derived from the Portuguese language? Cheng Wei-chung (鄭維中), an associate research fellow at Academia Sinica’s Institute of Taiwan History, says yes. The fish in question is the narrow-barred Spanish mackerel, which was listed in early 18th century Qing local gazetteers as Taiwanese specialities alongside milk fish and mullet, according to Cheng’s paper, “Mullet, narrow-barred Spanish mackerel and milkfish: Multiple contextual developments of three certified seafood specilaities in Taiwan, from the
I didn’t expect to spend more than three minutes out of my car, yet the sun was so brutal I put on my hat before approaching the seawall. Beimen (北門) is the flattest and most sun-baked part of Tainan. It lacks trees and people. In wintertime, the weather is often delightful. It wasn’t yet mid-morning in the hot season, however, and I felt like a leaf shriveling in the desert. Atop the seawall but facing inland, I could see dozens of the rectangular ponds which account for a significant percentage of Beimen’s “land” area. Some, no doubt, were dug to produce
Aug. 10 to Aug. 16 They called him the “No Problem Doctor” (沒關係醫生) because that’s what he always told his patients when they couldn’t pay up. Operating the only clinic in Changhua County’s Pusin Township (埔心) during the 1950s, Hsu Tsai-chih (許再枝) knew that life was difficult in his remote hometown. “They barely had enough to survive, so it was pointless to chase after them for the money,” an 81-year-old Hsu told the United Daily News in 2002. “I just went with the flow, some offered to pay me back years later but I had already forgotten