Nanonote End of life

Werner Almesberger werner at almesberger.net
Tue Feb 11 12:14:09 EST 2014


Christoph Pulster wrote:
> I have 3 units left in stock, after this the Nanonote is past.

This is sad news. I tried a number of times to find out about
the 1000+ Bens that should at some point of time still have
existed in the warehouse of a fulfillment center in Hong Kong,
but my enquiries were ignored.

Rakshat Hooja mentioned that www.idasystems.net still had some
70 units. It may not be very convenient for individual buyers
to get things from India, especially considering that payment
is only via SWIFT, but maybe you could consider getting some of
these to make them more accessible.


In general, I believe the concept of the NanoNote is still
viable and a properly placed new product with similar
characteristics could be commercially successful.

However, the parts of the Ben that are not Free would still
have to be addressed. That's the keyboard and producing cases
at a low price point.

For cases, we have DIY-friendly prototyping processes and would
"only" have to solve mass production. For keyboard we have
neither.

So if anyone wanted to make a Ben successor, there would be
mainly the following eight issues:

- design core system (CPU, memories, basic peripherals).
  Should probably be ARM-based.

- source a suitable display. That should be relatively easy
  nowadays with many such things now being sold on Alibaba and
  friends. Should probably be WQVGA or similar.

- select and implement a suitable wireless solution. That's
  always a bit tricky when it comes to openness, but again,
  things have improved in this area. Should probably be WLAN
  although BTLE may be a viable plan B.

  Synergy potential with Neo900 (WLAN) and Anelok (BTLE).

- design a sufficiently tidy case. Should probably be a
  clamshell as well.

- define a prototyping and production process for a keyboard.
  That would be a custom layout with some improvements over
  what the Ben has. (Only one Fn layer, illumination, higher
  contrast keycap coloring scheme.)

- define and implement the software environment. The "bare
  bones distribution" approach of the Ben looks like good basis
  to me but a) it would need updating and b) there should be a
  bit more beginner-friendly items. There should also be a
  package of the cross-development tools at least for Debian.

- find people to do all this. Probably needs ~2 people who can
  work on it full-time.

- find money to feed at least those who have to commit full-time
  and also to buy materials and external services (PCBs, etc.)

On a logarithmic difficulty scale where 1 is "make breakfast"
(with a breakfast compatible with a liquids-only diet being
acceptable) and 9 is "manned return flight to a habitable planet
outside the solar system" (with the provision that the flight
should still be manned on return), I'd say it's around 3 or 4,
so it should be quite doable for someone with enough
determination.

Any takers ? :-)

- Werner



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