Thin Pushback

Riding in on Om's link love (odd that he didn't see the Comments link...), I got quite a bit of feedback regarding my post on mobile thin clients which I think ought to be expanded upon:

  • Joe Ferrill pointed me to the Sun Rays (now folded into the Sun Desktop Infrastructure), and more specifically to the Tadpole Comet, which is also available in a nice 12" model. Now, I still remember when the first Tadpole came out (I think it was back when I subscribed to SunWorld Magazine - or whatever it was called), and you'll probably remember that I like the Sun Rays very much indeed, but it just can't be cheap enough - they don't shift enough volume.
  • Quentin Stafford-Fraser left a comment saying that he'll be posting some reasons why USB-VGA adapters are useful for Ndiyo - I'm very curious indeed, and look forward to reading them on the Ndiyo blog.
  • A few people commented (and e-mailed) me their concerns regarding web-based applications, security, and whatnot. I intend to take a look at those sometime in the near future, since I've been thinking about writing a short (and, hopefully, sweet) piece on "budget road warriors", wherein I'll throw in some short and sweet recipes for small companies to go mobile with a minimum of hassle and a reasonable level of security.
  • Several people asked me more details about what I'd like to see in such a device.

Well, I'd love to see an ARM-based laptop with a decent (localizable) keyboard, and no electronics besides a Wi-Fi chipset and an hi-res (1024x768 or above) display controller. It should be capable of running Citrix, Remote Desktop or VNC, and cost well under US$400 (come on, you know it's doable, and I'm only setting the threshold this high because I'd like a decent backlit LCD).

Configuration and VPN/IPSec/authentication tokens would be read from a USB pen drive (maybe even the whole OS, considering it wouldn't need to do much), and a second USB port (or Bluetooth) would allow for hooking up to a phone for UMTS connectivity.

I would personally do without PCMCIA (too much of a mess, and on the way out), wired networking, a VGA port and audio (too many years of both real and emulated terminal bells), but I guess feature creep would be inevitable.

  • Quite a few people asked be about whether or not the OLPC would do what I want. Well, it's likely, but besides it having an entirely different focus (remember, it is supposed to have resident applications, and has to work disconnected from a network...), I'd probably sacrifice multimedia and local storage for the sake of a better screen.
  • Interestingly, only three people mentioned they were still using their PDAs to remotely access their desktops - PDAs are dying out, indeed, although I'm not too keen on using smartphones to access my stuff...

Oh, in the meantime, I forgot to say that the Citrix client has also been added to my USB key fob, which is usually something of interest to the more, er... connection-oriented folk.