back to article Dedicated Vi device vies for buyers

The NanoNote is a £90 portable computer, sporting open source hardware and software, but no wireless and little more than a Vi editor in the way of applications. The device comes from Qi-Hardware and features a 3in colour screen, 2GB of Flash storage along with 32MB of Ram, but not much in the way of applications as it will …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Eddie Edwards

    Yeah right

    "Open source hardware has a somewhat patchy success rate - the IT industry is so dominated by patent-holding mega-corporations that any attempt to make a serious competitor can simply be eradicated with a lawyer's letter or two."

    Yes, THIS is the reason open-source hardware fails.

    Not at all because it tends to be a solution looking for a problem, rather than a product per se.

    Not at all because the hardware will do anything in general, but nothing in particular.

    No, it's patent-holding mega-corporations squashing competition. Of course.

    We should all stop buying carefully designed products with actual uses, and start buying barely-functional generic "me too" hardware from people who lack the clout to get good prices on components. How else will we defeat these patent-holding mega-corporations? Innovation?!

    1. Big-nosed Pengie


      And we should all go back to living in caves and eating raw bugs.

      If patent idiocy had been around in the stone age we'd all have to pay a licence fee for using fire.

    2. ElReg!comments!Pierre

      Yo momma is barely-functional!

      "We should all stop buying carefully designed products with actual uses, and start buying barely-functional generic "me too" hardware from people who lack the clout to get good prices on components."

      Yeah sure, this is barely functional rubbish. I suppose your definition of a 2400-pieces puzzle is "dysfunctional poster" then? While a 6-pieces one for kids is a "barely-functional" one. Legos are dysfunctional scale models while crosswords are under-par short stories for people who "lack the clout to get good prices on" ready-made words. My oh my, you must be a riot at parties (parties, you know, these under-satisfying gatherings that loosers attend because they don't have the clout to get good prices on prostitutes or lackeys. Real-life friends? What do you mean? Do you know how many Facebook friends I have?)

      I think you missed the point of this device entirely. And I want one. Not because it's going to be a hugely efficient toll for my day-to-day computing needs, but because it's going to be endless fun (and It's small so I can easily conceal it from my better half, should she think of it as an ugly useless couple-destroying gizmo of death).

      Besides, I'd bet one month salary that I can get more work done on this thing than you could on the "well-designed" iPad with all its neat "components" *. But that's beside the point. This is no mass-maket consumer utility device (yet), this is an adult toy (oops, that came out wrong). This is a geek's wet dream (sorry, sounded better in my head). Not in the put-it-on-vibrate kind of way, but in the "if I touch that, what does it do?" kind of way (oops it sounds all wrong again).

      And nothing beats ASCII porn (ha, this came out as intended. At long last).

      Mine is the one without the pulsating fruit logo on the back, thanks.

      *Yep, I'm _that_ guy. The one who writes his articles on vim (in lout), designs his figures with... vim (in a graphics-oriented programming language), routinely browses the web with Lynx or w3m, likes his adventure and hack'n slash games with a ncurses interface and play his MMORPGs with the sole help of telnet (and sometimes tintin++ when he's feeling lazy).

  2. spencer
    Thumb Up

    site is down.

    if there's an ARM chip in there i reckon you could maybe get a linux distro on that...

    and then after that it's pretty easy to get the apps/functionality you need on there.

    The article doesn't mention (unless i missed) what the chip is / if there's memory management etc...

    1. Oninoshiko
      Paris Hilton

      from the Fine Article

      "The device comes from Qi-Hardware and features a 3in colour screen, 2GB of Flash storage along with 32MB of Ram, but not much in the way of applications as it will boot into a Linux kernel featuring Vi and mutt"

      That would be the second paragraph, first sentence. See near the end? Linux kernel. So, it comes with an embedded linux.

      You could strip down the whole thing to mostly use busybox for the userspace, maybe uclibc instead of glibc. yse the execute-in-place functionality. I think that might help with some of the issues with space limitation on it.

      1. ElReg!comments!Pierre

        Well, to be fair...

        ... the article is quite light on technical details, and you misinterpreted some of those ("embedded" linux -or embedded anything-? On an openista device? C'mon. Maybe you meant "pre-installed"?). But the website is up ugain, oh joy! (update: down again :-(. Maybe the website is running under httpd on a 336 MHz MIPS-compatible machine with 32 Mo flash memory and a 10/100 ethernet connection? Maybe so many geeks and hackers got the hots for the damn thing that the database goes down more often than a Newcastle girl's panties?*). As I understand it it comes with a minimal Linux distro installed but you can put your own lightweight MIPS-compatible OS on the thing. Unless I missed something (again) in which case I apologise...

        * Ah, memories....

        1. Oninoshiko

          Embedded Linux

          By "embedded linux" I was refering to "very small linux distro designed for use in embedded systems." An embedded system being one that the resources availble are less then would generally be present for even a lightweight full-computer (even still, I think alot of these are probibly not truelly embedded, but grandfathered in by using some of the same minimalization techniques and dealing with a lot of the same problems (such as cross compilation). While, I will admit I never undersood the reason for using linux for applications where space was a SERIOUS consern (and therefore grit my teath when calling any linux application embedded), it does appear to be becoming more common in the self-described "embedded community"

          This does not imply the software is embedded or particulary difficult to get out, just tighter constraints on the copibilities of the system. If you want to run somthing else that runs on MIPS and can fit in the constraints, feel free.

          But the site (as unstable as it is) was less then nessicary in establishing that it was fully capible of running kernel of penguins.

          1. ElReg!comments!Pierre

            Yeah my bad

            I was somehow understanding "embedded Linux" as in "software-on-a-chip Linux" Which was at least plausible in this context. Especially as the use of 'embedded linux' when really describing 'a somewhat lighweight Linux distro' is really hard on my teeth, too.

  3. Paul_Murphy


    Well, if a remote console/VNC link could be supported over a USB cable, that would be neat (though the idea of using a remote PC on a 3inch screen is worrying).

    And of course administrators have been using scripts to do all sorts of things that this device could store and run just as well as a full sized machine.

    Unfortunately a simple question such as what browser it uses will put off most people, still, I hope they get enough buyers to keep it going.


  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I already want it more than an iPad

    Even if it does only have Vi and a single USB port, that's two more features than Apple will give you. And for less than a fifth of the price.

    It's a pity their site seems to have fallen over at the time of writing "Error establishing a database connection" or I might buy one now.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Those aren't new

    The same sort of kit, but for less money, more memory, wifi, running windows CE and with a 7" screen have been on ebay for ages. Like this one (1st one listed). Price seems to run in the £60-£100 range, depending upon how lucky you get in the auction:

    1. hplasm

      Obviously it will cost more

      It doesn't have Windows CE on it.

  6. Anonymous Coward


    Looks like a toy device for people who use a toy editor.

    Mines the flameproof suit!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      flameproof suit?

      or better yet strait-jacket

  7. Anton Ivanov

    Runs vi? One for my birthday please...

    That is fine with me :) I used to write code and work on it on a Linux box with 5MB of RAM 40G drive 15 years ago. So 32MB is aplenty as long as there is at least some way of networking it.

    1. prathlev


      You had a 40 _GB_ drive 15 years ago? Some guys have all the luck...

  8. Thorsten


    If it ran Emacs, then it would be actually useful. But Vi? C'mon, they can't be serious...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      But it's only got 32MB of RAM!

    2. Geoff Smith

      @Thorsten, re: Vi???

      If it's got a compiler, EMACS can be built from source. Even if it doesn't have a compiler, there's probably a fairly current build of gcc and the bintools around in binary form.

      Assuming it doesn't have X, EMACS can function as a basic window manager, in addition to being an editor. And I think there are text-based web browsers

      The network connectivity story isn't real clear though, yet it's essential to making the thing into a useful device for those who enjoy being contrary.


    3. ElReg!comments!Pierre


      Hey you're lucky: they sell it as a ten-unit bundle too! So you could get 2 bundles (20 units), hook them up in a beowulf cluster and run Emacs on that. It might still be a bit slow though.

  9. Anonymous Hero

    Open Source

    Yes, this device does look like something designed by the open source community, in particular the Linux crowd. And I don't make this observation in a good way,

  10. James Le Cuirot


    Pfft forget this. Look at the Pandora instead. Admittedly It's more expensive but it's 10x better than this thing. It runs Quake 3 for a start.

  11. Paul_Murphy

    Apecs from


    technical specifications

    * 336 MHz XBurst Jz4720 MIPS-compatible CPU

    * display: 3.0” color TFT

    * resolution: 320 x 240, 16.7M color

    * dimension (mm): 99 x 75 x 17.5 (lid closed)

    * weight: 126 g (incl. battery)

    * DRAM: 32MB Synchronous DRAM

    * headphone jack (3.5 mm)

    * SDHC microSD

    * 850mAh Li-ion battery

    * 2GB NAND flash memory

    * mini-USB: USB 2.0 High-Speed Device

    * speaker and microphone

    * full qwerty keyboard

    本: běn. The Chinese character 本 signifies an origin or the beginning place; It signifies exactly what the first version of the NanoNote is: a beginning.

    The 本 version of NanoNote is an ultra small form factor computing device. The device sports a 336 MHz processor, 2GB of flash memory, microSD slot, head phone jack, USB device and 850mAh Li-ion battery. It boots Linux out of the box and also boots over USB. It’s targeted squarely at developers who see the promise of open hardware and want to roll their own end user experience. It’s the perfect companion for open content; we envision developers turning the device into a music or video player for Ogg or an offline Wikipedia or MIT OpenCourseWare appliance. Or you can simply amaze your friends by creating an ultra small handheld notebook computer. You choose the distribution. The 本 Nanonote is the first in a line of products that will see the addition of other hardware capabilities. Get your NanoNote and start a Nanoproject today. Or join one of the existing projects in our developer community.



  12. ElReg!comments!Pierre

    And my birthday is so far away...

    Title says it all really

  13. ElReg!comments!Pierre

    Prices... again

    So, you saw it at €99 or £90 but I see a $99 price tag... the famous trans-atlantic price distortion effect again?

  14. paul 97


    Break glass , remove machine - fix problem.

    Surely every server room should have one of these on the wall

  15. Nexox Enigma


    I really don't have the pocket space to carry all of these pocket-sized gadgets.

    Screen resolution is a bit low for me, but for $99 I might just have to have one.

  16. DavidK

    I want one!

    But do I wait for the Pandora's release or buy the thing moiety mentions instead? Decisions...

  17. Pirate Dave Silver badge

    the specs aren't too bad

    the memory is a bit light though - 64 megs would be worlds better I'd think.

    And what can one really do with a 3" (non-touch) screen? I've got netbook with a 7" screen and I HATE it for most everything except the command line. Pr0n is all but unusable on such a small screen...

  18. Handle This


    I'm no developer or manufacturer or marketing genius, but when did the playing of "Quake" become a standard of efficiency, suitability or fitness?

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I endorse this product and/or service.

    Simply because it's something new, is open and runs open software. It brings back some of the days of yore, when there was diversity and new ideas and happening. This hasn't been the case for a decade or two. Or at least it feels like it.

  20. Anonymous Coward


    It is funny to see people referring to Quake as if it was a good benchmark for gaming. You guys haven't played first-person shooters for a decade it seems. An Vi? Cmon.....The whole device sucks, and on all levels.

    Now fanbois: you may start clicking the dislike button.

    Thank you

    1. ElReg!comments!Pierre

      Now fanbois: you may start clicking the dislike button.

      Ok I will if you want. Did you have a look at the thing's hardware specs, though?

  21. Snert Lee

    OpeNtindo DS?

    It's a cute little thing, nonetheless.

  22. Joe Zeff

    Fi on vi!

    Why would anybody in the world want to use an obsolete, counter-intuitive line editor with obscure, one or two character commands and no built-in help if they didn't absolutely have to? At least install nano; it's much easier to use and most of the commands are right at the bottom of the screen, including ^G to get a listing of the less common commands. If they want to be taken seriously by anybody except pedantic old pharts, give the damned thing a screen editor!

    1. prathlev


      Vi was always a screen editor. I assume Emacs can also do line editing, but expect to install a 2 GB plugin to make it work. :-)

      And I guess it's really vim, not vi. So you have your help (":help").

      I'm a loser quoting Wikipedia, but anyway: "A 2009 survey of Linux Journal readers found that vi was the most widely used text editor among respondents, beating the second most widely used editor by nearly a factor of two (36% to 19%)[6]."

  23. Goat Jam

    A good start

    But it needs a serial port. Not USB, a good old fashioned honest to god 9 pin RS-232 port.

    I'd buy one tomorrow if it had that.

    1. ac616

      A good start - RS232 might be quite easy

      'But it needs a serial port.'

      Are you aware of FTDI ? (www dot ftdichip dot com) ? (Apologies if you are). They have a range of USB to serial or parallel devices, and several companies manufacture complete adaptors based on these chips.

      Last time I played with Linux (Ubuntu), it had a built-in FTDI USB-serial driver - just plug in the device, and there it is in the device list, none of that Windows panic messages when it detects new hardware, no need to build a custom kernel or anything.

      This does look interesting; at that price I might get one anyway.

      1. Goat Jam

        USB to serial

        Yeah, I've heard of them, nut they tend to be another 50 dollars or so and lots of the antiquated crap software that runs on DOS for programming certain types of equipment refuse to work with them, hence the need for a "real" rs-232 port.

      2. ElReg!comments!Pierre

        "Last time I played with Linux (Ubuntu)"

        You lost!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      You can brew your own:

  24. Wile E. Veteran

    If it can drive a printer.....

    My first Unix box at home was an ATT PC7300 (Unix PC) with a whopping 2MB of memory and the (huge for the time) 67 MB disk. Real Unix Sys V R2/3 on an 8 MHz 68010 with a 1200-baud modem.. CNEWS, Emacs and LaTex kept things running along nicely for email, USENET and my wife's college papers (including both Bachelor's and Master's theses) as well as some games, code development and other things.

    When my oldest daughter got into college, she had to take the mandatory "Intro to Computers" class where they used PC's with Word Perfect. She almost got tossed out for telling the TA what crap WP was and demanding Emacs (or at least Vi) and LaTex! so she could get her in-class work done!

    With an appropriate selection of applications, this little box could be very useful both for general applications and specialist uses such as portable control panels/data loggers for solar arrays, PLC monitors, Model rocketry or aircraft telemetry analysis and dozens of other "vertical" applications. That's the real application space for a little box like this.

    1. ElReg!comments!Pierre

      You are *almost* right

      Though your love of Emacs and la-techi seem strange. Vi is Good (though I tend to like my Vi with and added "m" which makes it nearly as bloated as Emacs). When ressources are really limited, my typesetting system of choice is now Lout* (these damn Aussies managed to do something good finally, even if we Frenchies will whup their collective ass at rugby some day soon -one can dream-). Vi (whithout m) is kinda limited but it's still the best power/disk-usage ratio available (fanbuoy here).

      * None of my Lout installs take more of 8 Mo. That's all included. Yes, it's a lot of disk space for a 32M machine but it draws graphes (any common kind), handles pictures, and the lot. It outputs to (e-) ps, pdf, html and more, too. Show me a LaTeX install that does the same with the same disk usage and I might consider switching back.

      1. Wile E. Veteran
        Thumb Up

        All editors go to heaven

        I've used Vi, emacs, workalikes, microemacs, ed, ex and a bunch of custom editors you've never heard of. Really, I prefer Vi, myself and find the arguments over which is best to be "religious" wars. I'm neutral.

        I'm sure Lout is very fine as well, but it wasn't available in those.days.

        My POINT is that you don't need a super machine to get real work done

        1. ElReg!comments!Pierre

          I agree, I was nitpicking, is all...

          "and a bunch of custom editors you've never heard of"

          Unless you wrote them and never distributed them, I wouldn't bet on that ;-)

  25. Anonymous Coward


    If you prefer emacs use zile (

  26. Anonymous Coward

    looks lovely...

    .. but I hope that scary key with the red "!" right next to the teeny little itsy bitsy space bar does something *really* dumb. Like "sudo rm -rf /"

  27. The Indomitable Gall

    No networking?!?

    Really, this is what I wanted before the eeePC came out, but I wanted it with some kind of network connection. Now I've got an MP3 player with 2" screen, 7" eeePC and 6" Elonex/Hanvon eReader with QWERTY keyboard. If there was a network port, they might just have a sale, but there isn't, so I'll wait for the Openinkpot project to get my Elonex supported (and work out how to use the USB host socket on the top) and I'll use that for my command line needs.

    Command line + ePaper = L337.

    1. The Indomitable Gall

      Hang on, the loonies!

      Surely the real goal here is campfire deathmatch? Network network network! I want to deathmatch!

  28. gimbal

    What they may need is, namely so:

    ....a team like Steve Jobs & John Scully, with enough real ability to make a more adventurous and innovative design work, as a Linux platform, and to make it market-friendly. Buddhism optional, I presume.

    1. ElReg!comments!Pierre
      Thumb Up

      Hey, you`re funny.

      I hope you tried to be.

This topic is closed for new posts.

Other stories you might like