This is how this monstrosity was born.
It's the smallest non-Atom, non-eMMC laptop. It's basically a 2018 Macbook Air folded in half both directions.
Who knows? I hated them. Never bought one.
It had a (for the time) a large 250GB hard drive, ran Windows 7 and pretty much everything you could think of available for Windows at the time (at least everything needed for a grad program). I ran Cygwin, putty, all of MS-Office, yED, did some Python stuff on it, some Protégé modeling, lots of research and websurfing. On downtime I watched movies, and played some light games on it.
720p screen, some USB ports, a usable keyboard, SD-card slot, VGA out, hard-line networking and wifi and decent battery life. It cost ~$350 and went around the world with me at least a dozen times as a photographer's computer -- still works just fine except the battery is fried. Dump the SD card from the camera into it and preview photos, do some minor editing and color correcting. It's not fast, but better than the camera and kept my entire kit down to a small sling bag so I could shoot on the go and keep my entire "studio" on me at all times.
My only complaint was I wish it had a bit more RAM and CPU power. But for something the size of a large paperback book it absolutely rocked.
Fun story, my wife launched her startup right after grad school and it was in a kind of testing phase. Things looked kind of settled for a while and we had a vacation overseas planned so we went. When we arrived she received an automated notice that her VMs were maxing out, which made no sense as nobody was really using the service. We brought that netbook with us to a coffee shop in Rome that had free wi-fi, downloaded the Google App Engine dev tools (including Eclipse!) and she was able to save her company right when it was picked up by some news agencies and was getting slammed with users, but needed more VMs allocated to scale out.
It's a pity the small (10 and 11 inch) Macbooks seem to have gone.
I think it sparked my love of tiny computers, which I have far too many of today.
* Perhaps this is similar to a potlatch or a peacock's tail: primarily a demonstration of social or genetic superiority. "If I can publicly waste resources on this sort of scale, imagine the sheer amount of pure nerd dominance I can summon!"
* A related use: Like clothing with an excessive number of pockets and ordinary household tools inexplicably machined from heavy steel and painted black, this is intended to convey the bearer's sheer tacticalness. In certain communities (those likely to append "-ops" to everything they do) this sort of thing can be extremely effective in establishing group membership and even invite grooming behaviour from strangers.
* "Hey, we all need to do our part to support global warming ... wait ... what do you mean we're against that?"
However, I do not believe it is completely useless. I just think that the uses are primarily in the categories I propose above: conspicuous consumption, in-group signalling, or pure nihilism. And which of us has never made an extravagant purchase in support of those? Certainly not I.
But I'd cringe a bit folding out all those displays in public, and wouldn't want the attention it would draw, if people thought I tried to be a 'cool' member of the aforementioned groups.
At home, I could just have my seven regular displays.
A large box with suitcase-like handles, mainboard and batteries at the bottom, a detachable keyboard in frontand foldout screens (larger than 17.3 inches!) on top would be more ergonomic and more difficult to tip over, and it would make using desktop/server parts easier.
hn_expanscape, what is the actual use-case for this device? You mention day-traders, but what about tiny screens sliding out from behind larger screens swiveling out from behind yet larger screens is helpful? Why is this better than one, much larger screen (i.e. a laptop with a 24" monitor or larger)? Why is there a screen embedded next to the keyboard? Was it just another place to squeeze a screen in, or is there an actual use-case for that? And is that a tiny little screen in the upper left portion of the bezel around what I would normally call the "main" screen? What's that for?
Are there digital nomad day-traders who are even interested in using a laptop in the first place? Where are they that they don't mind carrying this very heavy device around, where they have access to a power outlet to use it?
What is the purpose of the battery, actually? It doesn't sound like it's meant for practical use, since it seems it would last for less than an hour in ideal circumstances. Is it sort of a mobile UPS?
Thanks for your questions:
- The use case of this is a portable multi monitor desktop with desktop class performance.
- I designed this to specifically facilitate my use case (DevOps, SecOps, SIEM, SOC/NOC stuff). I got frustrated and fedup waiting on the G Screen Spacebook and Project Valerie so one day I decided to just get on with making it myself. I am expected to respond to alerts for the many customer systems I manage so I usually have monitoring panels from Cisco, PRTG, Rapid7, Okta, Solarwinds, Vectra AI, open at the same time all day. Suffice to say this gets really stupid on a laptop with one screen especially when you sometimes have to spend whole days at customer sites or in the data center.
- Due to immense interest from people in the finance and content creation industries I decided to build these to specification.
- One crucial objective was that all the screens should slide out of the main chassis as this facilitates easy setup and folding down when leaving a customer site.
- The screen in the keyboard allows me test touch screen apps I'm writing for linux for another project that will be revealed shortly. The palmrest screen was originally designed to also support a WACOM pen but I'm still working on that.
- The tiny screen on the bezel is not connected to the GPU. It is connected to an Arduino micro controller and provides additional stats on battery life and system resource usage.
- YES to my surprise there are many digital nomad types, film studios, CEOs and other execs who are very interested in our prototypes.
- The battery in the Aurora 7 can be considered a mobile UPS however we are still working on that aspect. One of the big problems we have is Airplane regulations regarding the max Watt Hours for Lithium batteries...
There have been a few prototypes before this one and our latest that will be revealed shortly features various improvements.
NGL I kinda want one to have a whole command station that fits in one box. This has nothing to do with my habit of having 3-400 open browser tabs at any given time.
Why not 6? Or 8?
They said that they wanted to design a mobile Security Operations Center - do people doing this work normally need exactly 7 screens worth of information? I've seen pictures of "Operation Centers" which have tons of screens so it's plausible that someone would need "a lot" of screens, but I can't tell if this would actually achieve the goal of being a mobile SOC.
(My gut feeling is that they were trying to see how many screens they could put onto a single laptop, moreso than that small screen next to the touchpad actually being genuinely, uniquely useful, but I'd love to know for sure if each screen actually has a specific purpose)
Because 8 is too many and 6 is clearly not enough. This is what separates the Steve Jobs' of this world from the rest of us.
Hitchhiker: Think about it. You walk into a video store, you see 8-Minute Abs sittin’ there, there’s 7-Minute Abs right beside it. Which one are you gonna pick, man?
Ted: I would go for the 7.
Hitchhiker: Bingo, man, bingo. 7-Minute Abs. And we guarantee just as good a workout as the 8-minute folk.
Ted: That’s right. That’s – that’s good. That’s good. Unless, of course, somebody comes up with 6-Minute Abs. Then you’re in trouble, huh?
Hitchhiker: No! No, no, not 6! I said 7. Nobody’s comin’ up with 6. Who works out in 6 minutes? You won’t even get your heart goin, not even a mouse on a wheel.
Ted: That – good point.
Hitchhiker: 7’s the key number here. Think about it. 7-Elevens. 7 dwarves. 7, man, that’s the number. 7 little chipmunks twirlin’ on a branch, eatin’ lots of sunflowers on my uncle’s ranch. You know that old children’s tale from the sea.
So, I think that clears up why they went with 7 screens.
You mentioned elsewhere that you have a four-monitor variant... any public page for that? And what's pricing on these like? (the smaller) $20k? 30?
This right here is what Hacker News is really about. Somebody wanted a specialized computer, hacked one together, and is now looking at running a nice boutique device business. Best of luck and looking forward to seeing more of your designs!
PS: Typo -- 'third "interation"' at https://expanscape.com/the-aurora-7-prototype/a7-m3-prototyp...
It really seems like these are variations of The Homer.  I don't see a use case in mind for them, and the designers seem mostly really excited about the designs. So it looks like these are pet projects that got taken a little too seriously.
I mean the size, weight, awkwardness and small trackpad all seem like compromises to me. I'd suspect the battery life too. And some of the screens aren't placed in the most practical of locations.
That said it's a pretty impressive prototype.
It was made by Canon under the name Notejet . It did not come with a built-in desk though.
And it's not allowed on airplanes..
For a long time I've wanted something with all the properties of a desktop PC, but the ability to move it to another room while booted and without having to do multiple journeys.
A serious enough setup I could use it for work every day, yet still with the ability to take it to the living room to do stuff while supervising the kids...
This seems like a pretty achievable project if you have access to a workshop.
Also, that 'ups' allows one to move the device around - it is called out as a mobile SOC.
I had to pay like 80 bucks to check a random bag with those batteries.
I expect it's not a big deal for actual usage, with my controls engineering workstation I typically only use my batteries to transfer from the dock in my office to the dock in the shop and vice versa, and to hold the laptop in suspend when I go to and from work.
Is the battery limit just for carry-on or for checked too? Could you just check this in?
This is due to fire safety.
You can't have 7 screens, long battery life, and have it be light weight. That would be zero compromises.
It's basically the old adage: Fast, cheap, good - pick two.
They've sacrificed any kind of portability for more screens.
If that's portable, then so is any number of small PCs that could fit in a backpack.
You might be thinking ultra-portable.
Yes, it does. If I don't get all of what I want, then, ipso facto, the product involves some compromise.
Now, if you mean “Zero compromise is almost always a marketing lie”, that's definitely true.
I'm not sure if those of us who write such software are making governance any more efficient, but at least we are no longer printing massive binders of info every time someone has a board meeting.
BTW, most government is not feds in black SUVs - it is small local school boards, city councils, and special districts. There are tens of thousands of such government entities in the USA alone. Most of their boards are not in it for shaking hands and all that. Some are, but most are just local folk doing their jobs.
I think it would be really neat if all the screens were mounted with some form of a clever "multimonitor mount arm" kind of setup - it could have a really flat version of that in the back, such that when the laptop is opened, the screens' individual position could be adjusted along multiple axes.
One thing that I do notice about this design, however, is that the screens are all different sizes and are assembled a little bit haphazardly - I wonder if the screens were more uniform in size, and the aesthetic design more clean-looking, the unit would be less visually distracting and allow the user to focus more on the screen content, similar to the look of a homogenous array of monitors.
As a lone tinkerer who highly values utility and unconventionality, I think this thing is beautiful, in a horrifying way. Nice work.
In Soviet Russia you become the task scheduler!
Back laptops are older Elitebooks, front ones ZBooks. Since I can't seem to sell my old laptops, I found a use for them. I had a better multi monitor setup, but unfortunately it would've been impossible to pack and move.
Works really well tbh, either as a multi-monitor setup for one machine or as separate machines for different tasks.
But what I really want is to shove some new hardware into an old Elitebook 8530w chassis, I love that design!
Everyone's talking about mechanical keyboards, but I like the laptop-like keys and the small footprint. There's a newer model with worse keys (mushier, less springy).
The e6080 is newer, with no numpad, but they use different switches, the keys are mushier/softer and have slightly less travel. Plus the spacing between the keys is bigger. Just doesn't feel the same.
Although they all look like 24". I would have expected you to gradually buy better models
> Designed for for professionals
Pricing will reflect the costs and development involved and the fact that we are in the very early stages of our prototype's development.
That's 22 lbs. About the same weight as a stack of 20+ thick books!
And unless my eyes are fooling me, when folded, the laptop's seven -- seven! --screens are held together with... velcro? See here: https://expanscape.com/the-aurora-7-prototype/screen-transit...
Is this thing for real?
Could anyone with experience confirm?
See https://www.reddit.com/r/HMDprogramming/ for more examples of people trying to write code in VR.
Was thinking, dual screen laptop, "dual screen" smartphone (just 2 smartphones in a special case, kind of like what LG has done), smartphone built into the palmrest, and other stuff.
We investigated the 3 landscape screen orientation but decided that 2x 17.3 4K Panels in portrait orientation is excellent for coding when paired with 2x 17.3 4K landscape.
It also takes up less horizontal space.
There are several other benefits when viewing large spreadsheets etc.
The heaviest components are actually placed as far as possible from the hinge. The base is also quite weighty so there is exactly zero chance of this tipping over.
Doesn't look as k-rad if it was more practical. Of all the "no compromise" design goals I don't think sane or practical was among them.
The goal weight is 60% of the way there. Rounding to 50% for convenience, that means the prototype is around 20 kg or basically the weight of a large barbell plate. Imagine typing with that on your lap!
Can I get a demo unit? (Ill return it to you, but I want to to do a noob-unboxing-to-functional-use in a documented session... Can we arrange this? (its a good use of my pandameic time))
Shots fired Apple. Your move. :)
What's the target market / clients usage ?
> you would rightly deserve every glare and smirk received for presenting this thing
I think there's some valid criticism in your comment, and I don't think this design is very practical. That said, can we avoid this type of comment on HN? All kinds of geeks out there find things outside the norm interesting and I'm sure some community is interested in this type of hardware.
Shaming and insulting people who are interested in things you find impractical doesn't really fit with the spirit of HN, IMO.
EDIT to refer to guidelines:
"Be kind. Don't be snarky. Have curious conversation; don't cross-examine. Please don't fulminate. Please don't sneer, including at the rest of the community."
Similarly, the second comment regarding what I believe many would agree are obvious social implications arising from a device like this could also have been better phrased. Isn't it also a rule on HN to treat all comments as being made in good faith where multiple interpretations exist? In any case I apologise for the phrasing, it was rather blunt and certainly somewhat off the point, but I also believe it captured important sentiments that would have been difficult to conjure with alternative phrasing.
Not to worry - no offense taken.
That's the thing though...
Not one person who has seen and used this in person responded in ways you've mentioned.
We've also had very positive feedback and suggestions from around the globe.
However we welcome any constructive criticism as it provides an opportunity to improve.
Quite obviously you can't see a use case - however from your perspective as an engineer your feedback is still very important to us.
Could you elaborate further on what you mean by "social implications arising from a device like this".
Also your feedback from an engineering perspective would be useful too.
For clarity - this is our design philosophy in a nutshell: (https://expanscape.com/about-us/the-3-us/)
- to the informed, a device like this should not be necessary. It did not exist because it was never required, and where a desire for mobile screenspace is required, better solutions have existed for a long time. I define "better" as "less hinges", "more optional", "cheaper", and ideas along this dimension. A skilled engineer carrying this without an extraordinary reason would automatically strike me as a deeply impractical person, thus limiting the trust I would be willing to place in them. I appreciate trying to push boundaries, but the instant interpretation is that it could only be intended as something like a souped up Mini Cooper covered in blinking LEDs and under-the-hood neon lighting.
- to the uninformed, a laptop like this basically scares normal people away. One of the greatest accomplishments of the technology industry in the past 10 years is that regular people now carry laptops. There is no longer any reason to stand out, so it is even more noteworthy than ever before when one explicitly chooses to stand out (we lost our "special case" rights no later than 2010). You can pack an 8-core workstation with 16TB of NVMe in a perfectly useful and unobtrusive device the average person might only suspect were slightly outdated. The tone set by this device would be the same as wheeling a minicomputer into a coffee shop in the mid 1980s -- outlandish, curious, unaware of social norms. It would be as if you'd willingly dress in a neon pink 80s shell suit out of a desire to avoid being hit by passing cars, when the alternative is simply to stay on the sidewalk.
Social norms matter. They open doors just as easily as they slam doors shut. And this laptop most certainly would have people saying "no" more often in relative terms than they might say "yes" to you, much as turning up to a business meeting wearing that neon shell suit rather than a formal jacket would in most scenarios.
I hope this helps
We respectfully have to vehemently disagree I'm afraid.
I feel that some of your analogies are somewhat odious and don't really make sense in the grand scheme of things - to me - but we can agree to disagree.
I also feel you put too much stock in what others think about you and what you might be doing rather than putting stock in what may help you to harmlessly achieve a goal regardless of these alluded to "social norms". - Please correct me if I'm wrong here.
Your envisioned "Social norms" also appear to demonstrate a potential reason for the complete lack of innovation in screen real estate in the laptop industry for the last decade.
With the exception of Asus no other mainstream laptop OEM/ODM has really pushed the envelope when it comes to additional screens when demand has clearly been out there for at least the last 10 years.
8 core/16 Thread laptops with 64GB RAM and Multi TB NVMe have only become available in the mainstream in the last 3 years. There are many, myself included who required this in portable form for many years previous to that. (My use case was GNS3 and EVE-NG labs when I'm out and about and internet was patchy)
I reached out to G Screen in 2010 with funds ready to purchase their dual screen laptop prototype and unfortunately wasn't able to.
I made my first quite basic prototype a little while afterwards.
When Project Valerie was announced I thought at last I can now buy the dream - alas it wasn't available - so I just doubled down on my prototypes.
I have personally and professionally had a need for more portable screen real estate since at least 2005.
Also you are definitely mistaken - No one cares what the engineers toolbox looks like as long as the engineer GETS THE JOB DONE in a timely effective manor. Those are literally the only metrics that matter.
Some people are more effective with a 1 screen laptop. Some prefer n screens. Bottom line is I am more effective and can react to anomalies faster if I can view multiple infrastructure monitoring tools without the constant tedious minimising and maximising especially when at customer sites or at the data center.
Some people don't mind balancing a laptop in one hand while tapping on the keyboard when resolving issues in a comms cabinet - I prefer using my TeenySERV Duo.
My "tools" are also personally fine tuned to my other particular use cases. (Granted my professional workload is a little extreme)
Note that we also have other prototypes with less screens for individuals with different use cases.
Imagine my surprise using my prototypes and being told by multiple people that they want it "yesterday" for their professional and personal use cases.
Our company inbox is literally overflowing with people trying to acquire the 7 Screen prototype in stark contrast with your world view.
The demand and diversity of these individuals, digital nomads, CEOs/Executives, lay people, finance specialists, content creators, developers, film studios did initially surprise me but it does make clear that they aren't concerned with your envisaged "social implications"
With the greatest of respect I think that your envisioned "social norms" don't quite resonate with the general direction or actual norms for laptops in 2020 or going forward in this particular instance.
I predict the trend will steer towards Multi screen laptops, laptops with rollable/foldable displays and finally augmented reality headsets capable of projecting very high resolution content directly into the viewers eyes simulating a multi monitor setup. (Some of these are already available and being actively developed in 2020 already...)