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Wearable Linux: Notes from the Field - page 2

Business Now Embracing Wearable Linux

  • May 22, 2000
  • By Michael Hall

The exhibit area of the conference was an interesting enough place for anyone with a yen for exotic toys. Some of the hardware on exhibit was "wearable" to the extent that you're wearing a Palm Pilot when you tuck it in your pocket. Others, though, seemed more in the spirit of the thing: little computers you could clip or strap on, along with assorted accoutrement for data entry (keyboards strapped to the forearm) and flipdown video devices (like looking at a 50-inch monitor from two feet away!) that made my eyes throb.

Xybernaut itself was out in full force, too. In addition to the tables full of gear, the floor itself was full of polo-clad, uh, Xybernauts, walking around with slick-looking wearable rigs they used frequently to look things up, and communicate amongst each other like a hive of cybernetically enhanced spokesmodels. If the wearable enthusiast of five years ago was a walking fright to behold, all tangled in wire and tape, bristling with antennae, the Xybernaut floor models/conference assistants were a study in the state of the art, all molded plastic, white teeth, and blue eyes.

While the warehouse worker taking inventory or the nurse looking up a patient chart with a wearable rig might earn a few giggles the first few days on the job, there's no denying that Xybernaut (and most of the exhibitors there) produce slick hardware that lets you walk around with a real, working PC in a package the size of a smallish fanny pack. I wanted one, and for a brief, shaming moment, I didn't care what it was running...the more of us with these things in our hands, the sooner there'd be a hack to fix whatever unfortunate wedding to other OSes these things may have had.

The Linux angle was a little harder to come by than the cool toys. At an event like this, there are several communities present. Suits occupy their own strata, for instance, and they're predictably optimistic about Linux in the way I'm predictably optimistic about the summer blockbuster season at the movies: it's gonna be big, there are going to be some letdowns, and we'll all just have to see how it pans out. No one who's interested will deny their interest, no one who's not interested will waste more than a second saying "NoitrunsWindowsbut..." before commencing to help the reporter (helpfully encumbered with 10-pound press binder for easy identification as no one with "purchase authority" for 1000 units of wireless ethernet-connected "hiptop" computing goodness) forget he ever had a question about anything besides the hardware itself.

Things were starting to look dismal when a communications director, helpfully stationed in the press area, pointed me to the press conference, which had just ended.

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