Compacting Windows

Following up on my mobile thin client post, I decided to let off some steam, grab the Windows CE 5.0 Platform Builder evaluation, and take advantage of the years I spent doing Windows development to investigate just how feasible the concept is, software-wise.

As it turns out, the builder can generate a full Windows CE 5.0 image that can run on a standard PC (all it needs is a DOS boot disk and HIMEM.SYS), so half an hour after installing the software I had a bootable CD-ROM image complete with IE 6.0, a Remote Desktop client, Office and PDF viewers, the works - all working, all fitting in less than 32MB.

Sadly, the Platform Builder evaluation comes with a very limited set of drivers for the CEPC platform, so I had no working network support - and although there are NE2000 and Cisco Aironet 340/350 drivers, the network configuration UI wasn't all there, either.

But I had VESA graphics, and there was even a choice between an Explorer-like shell and a simplified "Windows Thin Client" shell, so I was tantalizingly close to what I envisioned - and without writing a line of custom code, or messing about with configuration files. An OEM would have zero trouble building a "mobile thin client" with Wi-Fi support, and most of the real work would entail setting defaults and building missing UI features.

Even UMTS support would be simple, once they had USB serial support going.

One of these days (assuming I ever find the time) I'm going to grab myself something like a Toshiba R100, set up a Windows CE development environment and have a serious stab at this - either that or try to shrink XP to run off a flash drive.


Still on the same topic, Intel has finally revealed Eduwise, their education-oriented low-cost laptop in the spirit of the OLPC.

It's a bit, er... ugly, but, again, trading built-in storage and the bloated hardware requirements required for running XP for a bigger screen and an ARM CPU (or even a low-end x86) would make it a whole lot more interesting.

Interesting times.