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.comment: I Want One!
Time for the Greed Fest
December 19, 2001
As we grow older, holidays change in one or more of several ways. They get lost in the shuffle of daily life, or they're lived vicariously through children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews; they may give rise to wistful nostalgia of bygone days that weren't, usually, as delightful as we now remember them having been; perhaps they become nothing more than another troubling reminder of the passage of time, the way Hayley Mills turned into an old woman when you weren't looking.
A good cure, albeit temporary, is brief indulgence in acquisitive fantasy, the creation of a Christmas list of things that won't be under the tree December 25 but that are fun to think about anyway.
Last year I desperately wanted and did not get a Sony Picturebook, the nifty little Crusoe-powered portable with the built-in camera. Sure, it had its shortcomings -- a weird video mode, a built-in winmodem, some difficulty in getting Linux happily installed on it.
But the Picturebook is old news. Now I want a Casio Fiva MPC-206VL.
It is a notebook machine scaled down by about a third, maybe half. It weighs under two pounds; just over two pounds with the high-powered battery that is supposed to provide six to nine hours' use. (The first thing one learns about notebook computers is that battery life claims are all lies, but a six-hour claim probably means four hours, and that's pretty good.) The Fiva MPC-206VL's boiler room is a 600MHz Crusoe with 128 megs of memory standard and a maximum of 256 megs. It comes with a 30-gig hard drive and its 8.4-inch TFT screen offers 800x600 resolution. It's about nine by eight inches and less than an inch thick. What's more, it has built-in ethernet, a modem (no idea if it's a winmodem, though), firewire and USB, plus the usual PCMCIA stuff and VGA out.
I do worry about the video chip, which is a SMI LynxcEm+sm712 that I kind of suspect is not supported by XFree86, and the keyboard, which with 16mm key pitch is little better than the miserable one on the old Toshiba Librettos (which were otherwise very cool and about which more in a few weeks), but which might be good enough if it has decent feel, which it probably doesn't. The machine has an eraser-head, Trackpoint-style pointing device right smack dab in the middle of the keyboard, which is good.
It offers sound as well, which I suppose would make the MP3 crowd happy, though again, Linux support is questionable at the moment.
It would be great to pop on down to the computer store and check one of these out, only -- you can't, unless you're in Japan or very lucky. That's because the Fiva MPC-206VL is not officially imported into the U.S.
You can get one, from dynamism.com (a place where you can find all sorts of stuff that isn't marketed here), but documentation is likely to be in Japanese or at best assembly-language English, and trying to get support for, say, Linux is likely to be a bigger headache than usual. And at $2,000, it's not something that one would be likely to embrace sight-unseen.
But I want one anyway.