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Mini laptop has open-source case

May 27, 2008 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 4 views

Via Technologies has unveiled a Linux-compatible miniature notebook reference design boasting an 8.9-inch screen, interchangeable local and wide area networking modules, and a “dual-headed” video camera. The Via “OpenBook” also features an open source case design that users can download in CAD (computer-aided design) file format.

(Click here for a larger view of Via's OpenBook)

Via's 2007 NanoBook design
(Click image for further information)

Disclosed at the company's annual Via Technology Forum in Taipei, Taiwan, the OpenBook reference design is a successor to last year's NanoBook, pictured at right. The earlier design weighed less than two pounds, had a seven-inch display, and was eventually adapted by Packard Bell as the EasyNote XS, and by Everex as the Linux-oriented Cloudbook, which was covered here in a review that dubbed it “quirky and appealing.”

The OpenBook is not a dramatic departure, but refines the formula by providing a larger, higher-resolution display, room for more RAM, and a larger drive. Via has also upped the C7-M ULV processor from 1.5GHz in the NanoBook, to 1.6GHz in the OpenBook, and teamed it with the VX800 chipset announced in April. The VX800 combines northbridge and southbridge functions in a 33 x 33mm package; it includes Via's Chrome9 2D/3D graphics engine, with DirectX 9 compatibility, hardware rotation capability, and the potential for a frame buffer as large as 256MB. For more on the VX800, see the block diagram, here.

When it ships, the OpenBook will run Linux, Windows XP, and Vista
(Click to enlarge)

According to Via, manufacturers adopting the OpenBook design will be able to implement wireless connectivity using a pair of wireless modules. The first of these, fitted by default, includes Bluetooth and Broadcom-based 802.11b/g transceivers, and allows for an AGPS (assisted GPS) option. The second includes a WiMAX radio supplied by GCT Semiconductor, or a cellular radio that comes in EVDO or HSPDA versions. Wired networking options comprise gigabit Ethernet, via a standard RJ45 connector. The OpenBook also includes a card reader that accepts memory stick, SD, SM (SmartMedia), and MMC (MultiMediaCard) formats. In addition, the device has three USB 2.0 ports, a VGA port, a microphone input jack, and headphone output.

The OpenBook also boasts a “dual headed” camera claimed capable of capturing images on either side of the LCD bezel that it's mounted in. It is not clear whether the two-megapixel “rotary CCD” (charge coupled device) sensor actually rotates, though, or is merely dual-sided.

Via has publicly released CAD files for the OpenBook's case

Finally, in what might be dismissed as a gimmick — wouldn't the company have released the data to its customers anyway? — Via is touting its release of CAD files (above) for the OpenBook's external case design under the Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 license. Freely downloadable from the Via website, these “give customers the flexibility to bring their own innovative style and brand value propositions to the mini-note market segment,” the company says.

In an interview, Via's marketing director, Richard Brown, explained, “This is mainly focused on system integrators and OEMs for now, but as manufacturing technology becomes more flexible, perhaps someday end users will be able to have a system made to order.”

Features and specifications provided by Via for its OpenBook include:

  • Processor — Via C7-M ULV clocked at 1.6GHz
  • Memory — up to 2GB of DDR2 RAM
  • Storage — hard disk, “80GB or above”
  • Display — 8.9-inch screen with 1024 x 600 resolution
  • Camera — 2.1 megapixel, with rotary CCD
  • Wireless interfaces:
    • WLAN — 802.11b/g
    • Bluetooth 2.0
    • WiMAX (optional)
    • AGPS (optional)
    • EVDO (optional)
    • HSPDA (optional)

  • Networking — 1 x gigabit Ethernet
  • Other I/O:
    • 3 x USB 2.0
    • 1 x VGA
    • mic in, headphone out

  • Expansion — 4-in-1 (SD, MMC, memory stick, SM) card reader
  • Battery — 4-cell, 2600mAH
  • Dimensions — 9.5 x 6.9 x 1.4 inches
  • Weight — under 2.2 pounds (1kg)

According to Via, the OpenBook will run Linux, Windows XP, and Windows Vista. The company did not say when it expects vendors to ship products based on the design, or what they might cost.

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