Data Evolution has reintroduced AMD’s low-cost ‘Personal Internet Communicator’, aimed at developing regions of the world. The ‘decTOP’ runs Windows CE 5.0, includes a suite of basic software, has built-in dial-up and broadband networking and a 10GB hard drive, and uses an external keyboard and monitor.
AMD’s Windows CE PIC Reincarnates
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2007-02-27 11:25 pmAlmafeta
It’s probably going to have drivers for all its hardware.
I’ve always admired Windows CE… one of the nicest ‘little OSs’ around. It does so much of what the ‘big’ Windows does, but with much less memory and on different architectures. I’ve always wondered if it could be used as a standalone desktop OS, not just a PDA/console gaming OS; this would go to prove it.
Additionally, is it horrible that I look at the DECTop in comparison to the keyboard and think “Why, that could almost fit into an Amiga case!” ?
2007-02-27 11:58 pmknightrider
I feel the same way…I don’t understand why Microsoft doesn’t use Windows CE as a desktop OS. That small footprint would “fly” on todays hardware.
2007-02-28 12:39 amAlmafeta
I don’t understand why Microsoft doesn’t use Windows CE as a desktop OS.
I wouldn’t be surprised if technologies used in CE’s kernel later played a part in the main-line Windows kernels.
As to why they don’t sell direct as a desktop OS, I think it’s because it’d be rather cheaper: just $1000 for the devkit, and either $3 or $16 per unit as a license (these are before bulk and non-profit discounts). Besides, once you start using it for widely varying desktops, rather than for a limited list of known software and known defined hardware configurations, then the number of issues you get skyrockets.
(Source: http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/embedded/aa714410.aspx )
2007-02-28 9:21 pmrayiner
Actually, it’d probably be pretty glacial. System performance is about a whole lot more than just footprint. An OS for a big machine has to manage big resources efficiently. How well is an OS designed for a 32-64MB PDA going to handle multi-gigabyte main memories? How will it handle programs with lots of threads, lots of file I/O? What’s its SMP scalability like? Since WinCE wasn’t designed for such configurations, I doubt its performance would be that great.
2007-02-28 12:15 amDave_K
I find it mind boggling that anyone could admire Windows CE. It may be smaller and faster than desktop Windows, but it’s pretty dire compared with other miniature operating systems. I remember that even Microsoft fans who raved about desktop Windows typically had little good to say about CE.
I switched from an 18Mhz, 4Mb RAM Psion 5 running EPOC, to 200Mhz 32Mb RAM HP Jornada running Windows CE. Mainly because I wanted a colour screen and the ability to run certain apps that weren’t available on the Psion.
Despite having a much faster CPU and more RAM, the Windows CE system was sluggish and unresponsive in comparison to the older Psion. Hardly the sign of a particularly fast and efficient operating system.
I found the Windows CE UI very unpleasant to use, it just wasn’t as well designed for a small screen as other PDA operating systems. Using it with a touch screen could be cumbersome, especially accessing the menus, while keyboard navigation could be inconsistent and annoying. I suppose it would be better when used as a desktop GUI, but still not something I’d want to touch.
The less said about the pathetically crippled application software included with CE the better. The suite of apps included with EPOC were in a totally different league. They provided more advanced features like OLE embedding of objects between apps, while Pocket Word even managed to mess up basic document formatting. Hopefully the apps included with the decTOP will be a little more competent.
Worst of all I had a series of crashes that could only be fixed with a hard reset, something I never experienced in several years of using EPOC. In my experience CE wasn’t any more stable than Windows 9x. If you used it heavily, especially running 3rd party apps, you could expect the OS to crash several times a day.
After that the idea of Windows CE on a desktop system doesn’t appeal at all. There are much better light-weight operating systems around, a minimalist Linux distribution for example (nice to see that’s an option with the decTOP).
2007-02-28 2:56 pmThanhLy
Regarding the sluggishness of WinCE PDAs, in the early days there were 3 CPUs which PDA makers could choose from: MIPs, Intel StrongARM, Super Hitachi. The StrongARM varieties of PDAs ran faster even at 206 MHz. I guess Microsoft had a hard time optimizing CE for all 3 CPUs. Software developers would also have to build/test/optimize/distribute for all 3 CPUs – having written and deployed PPC software myself I can say that this sucked because I saw bugs that only occur on MIPs PDAs but not StrongARMs.
Then MS made a smart move and said “from here on out, ARM is the official architecture for PocketPCs.” Too bad they still haven’t fully optimized the OS for the new XScale ARM compatibles. It wasn’t until about the time PocketPC 2003 (the OS) came out that it ran smoother.
As far as the UI being unpleasent to use, absolutely. From a programming point of view, the embedded Windows OS carried with it a lot of similar APIs and libraries that were available on desktop Windows. If you know how to write Windows programs in C with Win32 API, you can start making WinCE programs without learning anything new. Same goes for MFC, ATL, and COM. The only big differences was learning what features were not available and of course adjusting to the screen dimensions and input methods.
So for all intents and purposes, writing WinCE programs was like writing desktop Windows programs. Unfortunately, if you do go and take a desktop Windows programmer and make them write WinCE programs, they might end up designing a UI that behaves too much like a desktop UI where keyboard/mouse are present.
What I enjoyed the most about writing Windows software is that I could do anything with the UI. I could subclass controls and make them behave differently to fit my needs. That’s the main problem right there, it allowed me to make foolish UI designs as well.
I’ve also written Palm programs and the experience is completely different. There’s less freedom of UI design but that also means most Palm programs look and behave similarly which is good for the sake of consistency.
So in a nutshell, WinCE probably could be outfitted to be a full-blown desktop OS. However, that’s probably the reason that makes it suck as a PDA OS.
had a look at the data evolution site. they seem to make a clio nxt too. i have 2 of the original clios. they aren’t bad netbsd systems. put a 4gb microdrive and a wireless card in one. not the fastest sysetm in the world, but it works.
Cable And Wireless Jamaica uses these things as portable net devices…
A small Geode-Box has many uses, e. g. GNU/Linux terminal, and unlike the OLPC this is available for public consumption. The question now is: how much will they ask for this piece? AMD sold the unit for about 200$ and yet failed to make a profit from it. This is cheap for a rugged outdoor computer, but still too expensive for a headless PDA.
modem? I have some cool ideas on this.