Steve and Jen bring you this daily review of the news
Premium Advertiser

News Blog Sponsors

News Links

BBC World Service
The Guardian
Washington Post
Iraq Order of Battle
NY Times
LA Times
ABC News

Blogs We Like

Daily Kos
Digby's Blog
Operation Yellow Elephant
Iraq Casualty Count
Media Matters
Talking Points
Defense Tech
Intel Dump
Soldiers for the Truth
Margaret Cho
Juan Cole
Just a Bump in the Beltway
Baghdad Burning
Howard Stern
Michael Moore
James Wolcott
Cooking for Engineers
There is No Crisis
Whiskey Bar
Rude Pundit
Crooks and Liars
Amazin' Avenue
DC Media Girl
The Server Logs

Blogger Credits

Powered by Blogger

Archives by
Publication Date
August 2003
September 2003
October 2003
November 2003
December 2003
January 2004
February 2004
March 2004
April 2004
May 2004
June 2004
July 2004
August 2004
September 2004
October 2004
November 2004
December 2004
January 2005
February 2005
March 2005
April 2005
May 2005
June 2005
July 2005
August 2005
September 2005
October 2005
November 2005
December 2005
January 2006
February 2006
March 2006
April 2006
May 2006
June 2006
July 2006
August 2006
September 2006
October 2006
November 2006
December 2006
January 2007
February 2007
Comments Credits
Comments by YACCS
Sunday, October 26, 2003

The Stealth Computer

Published: October 23, 2003

MIKE CHIN'S eureka moment came in an Ikea store, on a spring day in 2002.

Mr. Chin, a technology writer in Vancouver, British Columbia, had just gotten a tiny motherboard from a Taiwanese chip maker, and he had been growling that he could not find a similarly small case so that he could build the computer he had promised to a friend's daughter.

Then his eyes fell on a blue plastic Ikea breadbox - the "perfect marriage of cheap modern art, chintziness and utility," he said.

The fully functional breadbox PC that he then built and described on the Web was among the first to spring from an idea that has become a raging obsession in a far-flung community of electronic do-it-yourselfers: the stealth computer.

Across Europe, the United States and the Far East, hobbyists have been stuffing the works of personal computers into toasters, humidors, biscuit tins, lampshades, even a plush E. T. doll.

"It's tiny, it's wonderful, it's all integrated, it's extremely low power, and it fits almost anywhere," said Mr. Chin of the mini-ITX motherboard at the heart of his breadbox computer, which measures about 10 inches by 14 inches by 6 inches.

But the mini-ITX is not just an object of obsession. The stealth builders are the extreme flank of an assault against the status quo by the originator of the mini-ITX boards, Via Technologies. Via, which is based in Taiwan, wants to make the little computer the next big thing.

"We were surprised it was the enthusiasts who were interested," Richard Brown, the vice president for marketing at Via, said when the company introduced the tiny motherboard idea in early 2002. Today, the concept has already spread beyond hobbyists; a few stylish new PC's using Via's tiny boards have reached the consumer market.

The mini-ITX, which often includes the central processing unit, or C.P.U., as well as audio and graphics circuitry and other built-in components, measures less than seven inches on each side, about half the size of a typical board. The Via boards include relatively slow C.P.U.'s, which in terms of raw computing power are "a long way behind the Pentium 4 and top-of-the-line Athlon," Mr. Brown said.

But with sales of personal computers lagging, Via and others in the industry have been pushing the idea of the "second PC" - an inexpensive, quiet device that can take the pressure off the family computer, perhaps even breaking out of the home office and moving into the living room.

This is a perfect mothferboard for low end laptops. They can run Windows or Linux, add in a screen and chassis and you could have a cheap, viable laptop like the old Apple eBook, but running hundreds less. These stunt machines are cute, but they have a business use without the compromises Transmeta had. Talk about a disappointing company. They had so much hype, and some nice machines, but kind of stalled out. VIA could make the same kind of machines with these mobos and charge $4-500 for them. Sure, Battlefield 1942 might be out of reach, but for the surfing/writing most people do on the road, these machines would be perfect. People still use Powerbook 1400's, so a faster, smaller box which was mobile would definitely fill a niche.

If anyone has seen the kinds of machines Transmeta sold in Japan, they would understand what I'm talking about, small machines fast enough to play DVD's, not draw too much power, but have more capabitlites than a PDA and cheaper than a tablet PC.

What people don't get about computers is that there is still a market for people who want to go online but still can't afford it. This caught my eye because there's a lot of potential here.

posted by Steve @ 7:18:00 PM

7:18:00 PM

The News Blog home page


Editorial Staff

Add to My AOL

Support The News Blog

Amazon Honor System Click Here to Pay Learn More
News Blog Food Blog
Visit the News Blog Food Blog
The News Blog Shops
Operation Yellow Elephant
Enlist, Young Republicans