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Ben NanoNote - tiny linux device perfect for notetaking (qi-hardware.com)
33 points by urlwolf 1695 days ago | hide | past | web | 33 comments | favorite

Previous nanonote owner here.

The keyboard is just WRONG. Hard to use for any shell activities at all due to the itsy bitsy tiny space button.

Don't plan to type anything on it - notetaking will be a pain. See for yourself : http://en.blog.guylhem.net/post/5587220325/the-original-nano...

The keyboard layout was my main gripe, so I proposed a fix more than 2 years ago: http://en.blog.guylhem.net/post/5587284432/the-idea-nanonote... (I moved my blog from wordpress, hence the 2011 year tag)

On the mailing list where the keyboard issue were discussed, IIRC basically it was said the keyboard had not been optimized at all - just made to work, but that it would soon be remade etc. Still hasn't changed though.

I had a nanonote. Did some OSX stuff for it (including compiling a reflasher), some hardware hacking (including adding a bluetooth module because THERE IS NO WIRELESS OF ANY KIND ON IT) but the keyboard limitation were just too strong.

After waiting for ANY improvement such as making and selling new keyboard layouts, I ended up selling it. Or giving it away, just can't remember what I did with it, except feeling is was a missed opportunity :-(

My advice: don't get one. Looks cool, but you need to hack your own wireless in. Then the keyboard sucks, and you will understand it can't be put to any use. And you'll cry, because it had so much potential.

Meanwhile I got myself a N900 and it's far more interesting to tinker with. There's even a community project for making replacement cases made of aluminum and exposing a new USB port - now that's serious hacking :-)

I own a Ben Nanonote. Note taking isn't one of the things I'd to use it for. Pen and paper will be faster :) This thing comes with GNU Octave/Gnuplot, Emacs, MPlayer plus a host of script languages: python, lua, guile, tcl gforth, here's a (incomplete) list of applications including screenshots: http://en.qi-hardware.com/wiki/Applications

It won't compare too favourably to a modern smartphone, but I keep to think of it more as an open hardware platform/devboard than a consumer product. BTW for hardware hacking you can easily connect 6 I/Os (3.3V TTL) via the UBB (http://en.qi-hardware.com/wiki/UBB).

I seriously considered buying one of these six months ago, but the lack of Wi-Fi ended up being a deal-breaker for me, unfortunately. It is possible to add Wi-Fi using a microSD chip[1], but then I wouldn't be able to expand beyond the 2GB of on board storage.

It still looks like a fantastic product though. I'm really looking forward to seeing a future Nanonote with Wi-Fi built-in.

[1] http://en.qi-hardware.com/wiki/Ben_NanoNote_Wi-Fi

I'm exactly the same - this thing with WiFi in would've been much more successful. Even just an ethernet thing as standard would have helped.

I look forward to a v2, but haven't seen/heard of any developments.

From what I heard the v2 (which would be called Ya NanoNote) lacks funding and is far into the future. Most efforts currently seem to be concentrated on the M1 http://en.qi-hardware.com/wiki/Milkymist_One , which may become the basis for any future NanoNotes. That'd imply the SoC moving to an open-source implementation (FPGA? ASIC?), too.

I'd really like a similar device with a full sized keyboard. This certainly replaces a little pocket notebook, but personally I don't use pocket notebooks. I'd like something to replace a full-sized notebook: easy to type on, basically just good for text, sort of a portable digital typewriter.

Anyone know any good resources for larger screens? I'm curious if you can get 7" + screens with slightly better refresh rates than eInk, but not as power-hungry as a full-color backlit display. The perfect screen would be something like the TI-86, except 8 times as large. Does anyone make 1000-2000 character displays in a 7-14 inch form factor?

I feel like you ought to be able to make something like with 30-40 hours battery life (if not better) for around $200-$300.

Have you taken a look at the ASUS Transformer Prime? It's not quite what you're looking for, but it might do the job. The keyboard dock gives it a total of around 18 hours of battery life.


man that website is... a bit much.

Yeah, it's somewhat notorious. The usual course of action is to mock that suave guy using the keyboard dock like a tablet.

The closest thing I can think of is a kindle with linux on it. You have a great product idea. Sort of like a netbook with an e-ink display.

Sure, but the kindle has the same problem: horrible keyboard.

Agreed. This is certainly a niche that needs to be filled.

It's been mentioned before, but I don't know that it has enough of a market to be commercially viable.

Here's a tweet I wrote a few weeks ago about it:

> I'd really love to see a laptop running a linux command line environment with an e-ink screen. Programming on the beach, anybody?

System76 could offer a Pixel Qi netbook. I would pay a premium for that.

If you want the smallest possible device with a nearly full sized keyboard, you should get a Sony Vaio P. They're no longer made, but they are "real computers", being rather slow netbooks. They'll fit in a jeans pocket barely comfortably, and in other pants' pockets rather comfortably.

Similar devices have existed. This is one that Douglas Adams used https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microwriter

If anyone's interested in this they might also want to look at the ZipIt Z2: http://linux.zipitwireless.com/

(More at http://chainxor.org/openwrt-zipit/ http://mozzwald.com/ http://anarsoul.blogspot.com )


- Has Wifi

- Currently clearing last of their stock. $20 for one, less in bulk.


- No open source hardware/chipset. :(.

- No proper USB port (USB host/client on dock connector.)

Roughly Equivalent:

- Has hacking community (#zipit on irc.freenode.net)

- Fiddly keyboard (haven't used a Nanonote but wouldn't recommend notetaking on a ZipIt.)

We group bought 21 Zipits recently at my local Hackerspace[1]. I just designed a breakout board for the rear connector (GPIOs, SPI, 1 ADC channel & the USB 1.1 client/host port) which will should be available at some point soon I hope.

I'm also one of the maintainers for the OpenWRT for ZipIt port, people have ported all kinds of bits and pieces. Some folks also run Debian and I think there are some bitbake-based distributions as well.


[1] Although so far nearly all of those are sitting on shelves largely unused. Geek impulse buying strikes again! :(

I have both a Zipit Z2 and a Nanonote and thus can compare the keyboards of those devices. I'd say the layout of the Z2 keyboard is better than that of the Nanonote. On the Nanonote many characters are on weird keyboard positions (with multiple modifier keys) and the space button is very small. The Z2 keyboard is very loud (clicky), which I don't like very much, the Nanonote's keyboard is not. Here is a little comparison of the two devices: http://wejp.k.vu/zipit_z2/ben_nanonote_vs_zipit_z2

There is also the OpenPandora ( http://openpandora.org/ ). It's more expensive but more powerful and supports gaming too. "Play, Code, Compile, Surf the Net. Anywhere."

Wow I didn't know this kind of hardware actually exist! Thanks for sharing.

It kind of exists, you'd be hard pressed to get one at the moment

Plus, also, if you go back in time some years and pre-order one which you find yourself still waiting for, it can induce a kind of bitter note. I'm just saying. Sigh.

But they've really come a looong way, those guys are nothing if not persevering. Truly amazed, but a bit sad that the wait turned out to be so fantastically long, of course. Hardware like this doesn't age too well.

How can it be "perfect for notetaking" with a keyboard like that?

There are plenty of crappy similar devices running Android for < $100: http://www.ebay.com/sch/Laptops-Netbooks-/175672/i.html?LH_B...

In any case you're probably better off using a cheap Android phone with Swype or a stylus.

I can't find anywhere on the site where they mention an emphasis on notetaking.

This is about as far as "perfect" for notetaking as I could imagine. The screen is too small, the keyboard is too small. Syncing is a big kludge. The software isn't particularly stable (by the team;s own admission).

Don't get me wrong, it's a neat little computer but the submission title is just plain wrong.

I used to own an Asus EEE PC 901, and while it is still one of my favorite gadgets of all time, I have to admit that small keyboards are absolutely terrible for taking notes.

The keyboard on this device looks to be about half the size of the EEE PC 901, so I don't think it would be very effective without a full size keyboard connected to it.

I used to use Psion Series 3 "palmtops". One of the best thumb-typing experiences I've had and it ran for days on 2 AA cells.


Agreed. The keyboard is about smartphone-size. At which point one has to ask: Why not just use a smartphone?

because this one is free as in freedom :)

Surely not as bad at taking notes as a smartphone?

That looks like a nifty product, but personally I'm waiting for the touch-screen device that can recognize changing input in under 10ms. The current touchscreens really aren't responsive enough (or fine enough in terms of digital ink thickness) to take decent notes.

I find taking notes is best done with a less restricted input system than a keyboard provides. The Thinkpad tablet is great for this. It comes with a stylus and is very accurate and pressure sensitive.

I'm sad I thought this was going to be something similar to the noteslate.

I was looking at this earlier as a little nethack player

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