So, GCW Zero is Back on Sale

This thing is not android based, has a TINY resolution,and has no major game studio behind it.

However I am totally jawdropped at this thing. Why? The resolution may be small, but it is the right resolution for the material it plays (old things and things that want to look old.)

It is completely open hardware so if you want to make a game for it, Do It. No secret sauce, no black boxes. The toolchain is free.

It comes with accelerometer, wifi, and a nice amount of buttons.

Unlike the OUYA it isn't trying to go 'We are The Thing.' Instead 'Hey we exist, we're a tinker toy. What you see is what you get.' Also unlike OUYA it didn't go to its kickstarter with just renders and mockups. They had playable working units with full games to play.

It's $150 from Thinkgeek. There are other stores, but frankly if you're in the US Thinkgeek is your best bet.

If I can ever get my money situation sorted I want to get one, because let's face it. I'm a massive 'retro' and open source nerd. This thing offers some nice side functionality like music player, alarm clock, and is open enough if someone wanted to Go Gonzo with it, they can.

Does it have problems? Yes. The guy that did the kickstarter had massive communications problems. The battery is wired into the board (though there's a way to give it a proper connector.) There is no company backing it so you're dependent on emulation, open source, or ports that depend on you providing the data files. The resolution isn't quite enough for some games that would otherwise be great to have. Not sure if the HDMI Out is a thing yet or not.

Yet even so, I still love it. I'm glad it's back in stock.

Get it now at Thinkgeek for $150.

My Thoughts on Windows 10

It's Here and it's surprisingly not terrible.
I've actually been in the Insider Program since early May and have, by and large, enjoyed the new operating system. Granted my hardware is outdated (a 2007 HP Dual Core with integrated graphics) but the upside to that is other than the wifi dongle I've been using everything's worked out of the box just fine.

Gaming has been a bit of a headach but that's purely because integrated graphics tends to be crap. On the other hand my needs have been few, so no media center work, or fancy networking problems, or anything of that sort that might trip windows up. I don't know if this is typical use, but for me the operating system has worked just fine.

For those upgrading I suggest going to the Windows 10 Subreddit. I know opinions of Reddit arevaried especially in the face of recentish problems with their CEO stepping down after one of their mods for the 'ask me anything' sub left but, well, it's a good collection of resources.

For those that don't want to visit Reddit here is a quick list of tips and tricks as gathered from the top post:

Again. I didn't make that list. I'm simply trying to make it visible especially for those that can't Reddit. Granted several of the links go to reddit threads, but better to know a thing exists and so can be asked about than to fear that you are experiencing a totally unique freak problem or have an out of the blue request nobody else wants.

The sort of Portable Gizmo Thing I Want

Sadly not a real thing.
So let me tell you what I want out of a portable gizmo. Not Android. Not iWhatever. I want something simpler because I am the kind of guy that gets easily distracted. However I don't like the Freewrite (formerly known as the Hemingwrite and got a name change because of Ernest Hemingway's estate.) The Alphasmart is close to what I want, but even if it were still being made It isn't quite there.

I want this thing I saw on flickr. Possibly with a piano hinge along the middle so it will fold up. Black and white display, possibly e-ink for the sake of readability anywhere, and the back of the display with fold out legs or some other way of adjusting display angle.

I want it to do the following things:
Word Processing. Plug into the usb on something else either to transfer files out, hit a button so it 'types' out whatever's open into the device it's plugged into (that sees it as a keyboard and storage device,)
Able to read epub docs since 'why not'.
A SD card slot (full sized SD card mind you.)

Optionally include:
A headphone jack so you can listen to music while you work.
Wifi so you can sync to a central server (include Windows, OSX, and Linux solutions) for document syncing not to a 'cloud' but to a local machine that would either be the teacher's personal box, or for those at home a dedicated backup device so you have your copy on device, copy on SD card, and off site copy. I cannot count how often I have lost work and wished a backup existed, or finding backups I'd forgotten about years later.

The other thing is I want it user serviceable. Something I could go in and replace the battery on, pop the screen out if need be, pop keys off to clean the keyboard. I'm tired of sealed black boxes. The problem is sealed black boxes are easier to make, easier to sell people on sex appeal of, and easier to convince people to trade up in two years when the battery that can't be replaced gives out for the new shinier model.

Market it as a cheap durable alternative to Chromebooks. There is literally no software to need updating, or get infected, or the like. If you can make them cost $100 or lower they'll have a market. I'm not sure you can do that, but it'd be nice. Support for MP3/OGG/FLAC would also serve so people can listen to lectures or podcasts, and epub support would be good for distributing texts to students or staff that you want easily read and notes taken on, but not editable on its own.

We can do this. It is doable. It is possible. Also I want proper full travel keys. Not chicklet keys. I don't care if they're membrane or not since right now I'm on a twelve dollar logitech keyboard and it feels a lot nicer than chicklette.

I want this. Failing that I want to know how to build this. Why? As a bit of background I have owned the following portable gizmo things over the years:

Game Gear: Sucked batteries dry. Was kinda fun but the battery thing limited it greatly.

Two Game Boys: I ended up losing one, gave the other to my step brother with a copy of Pokemon Yellow. I like this little handheld in spite of my poor vision. The later revisions that aren't pea soup green and black screens lasted a good long while. There's even a genuinely good chineese knockoff system. Unbelievable, but true. A genuinely good chinese clone system.

First Generation Nook: The screen ended up delamination or something during a move. Was sorta simi useful for awhile but it just kept getting progressively worse. Til that point it was a nice solid little reader.

Nook Touch: I Liked this thing. Very lightweight, easy to grip, Had tactile buttons but also could swipe. Unfortunately a six inch ding and the screen froze.

Nook HD: I genuinely like this thing. Granted I put Cyanogenmod on it because barns and Noble has moved on and the interface is meeeh. However it is a really nice tablet outside of the fact the battery flaked out really hard on me and even though it probably is good hardware wise, it may as well be dead due to no working battery. That is something I am going to harp about. Who designs a device that will not work when plugged into a wall? Barns & Noble did with this thing, because if you unhook the battery it will not work. I did this by basically pry the case apart, unscrewing sixteen screws, carefully prying it apart, and then unhooking a tiny little clip. User serviceable this thing ain't, and never was intended to be serviced by the unwashed masses. Unfortunately even if it's getting power, you can't use it at all. I thought going in when I got it maybe just maybe it would work off of AC when the battery inevitably goes and support has been dropped. Nope. This thing is dead as a doornail and I've gotta search the aftermarket wasteland for new things to plug in that cost as much as a refurbished tablet, which makes me wonder why bother?

So I have experience with handheld gadgetry. I also know me and that I do not do well with focus when trying to get things done, this is why I want something that is task oriented rather than 'can do everything', but not so hyperfocused there is no flex and is completely useless. This is why I want basic ebook and audio support. This is partially why I feel the Alphasmarts failed. In the face of 'sexier' options they couldn't stand up in spite of doing the one thing they were designed for really well.

Is such a device going to happen? Not unless I learn a lot of electronics and make it myself, because there literally is no market for it now. Chromebooks have eaten up the education sector, and there are plenty of secondhand alphasmarts for $20 or so on ebay plus Freeright taking up the 'look at how trendy and awesome I am' market.

Still. I can't be totally alone in wanting something that's somewhere between 'smart typewriter' and 'full blown tablet.'