Crowdfunding Spotlight: IBOX

Crowdfunding Spotlight: IBOX

Mar 12, 2014

Given their rather simple construction and it is still a developing market, single board computers are a popular item on crowdfunding websites these days. Single board computers are devices such as the Apple TV, Raspberry Pi, or, technically, even the Chromecast. Unfortunately, many of these projects are simply underpowered, cheap money grab attempts, and there are very few innovative ideas; which is partly responsible for the small number of established names in this field.

This week’s Crowdfunding Spotlight shines on an established idea with a creative twist. Enter the IBOX, a single board computer that is powerful, stylish, and comes with a 32-pin multi-function expansion interface. That last item might not seem like a big deal, but for the more tech savvy this is something that is incredibly useful. With the help of a breadboard and some minor soldering now this tiny micro-PC can display all sorts of laboratory instruments or other technology accessories.

The IBOX is comparable with many Arduino cores which add to it’s versatility, and the possibilities of it’s use are endless. It is also a legitimate desktop entertainment box with the included HDMI out and the IndieGoGo webpage has links to different operating systems depending on it’s use. There are two kinds of Android listed as well as a lightweight version of Linux. On the front of the box is an IR sensor which will make the box compatible with remotes, and the SD expansion slot ensures that the movies will never stop coming.

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In terms of being a straight up computer, the specs may seem slight, but the dual-core processor and 1GB RAM will be enough to power the lightweight Linux through single-application processes. This is especially useful for possibly an educational setting where just a few small apps are being used, and for the basement tinkerer the IBOX has the possibility of becoming a vital, cheap tool.

Speaking of the cost the IBOX was debuting with products shipped at donations as low as $50, but that has climbed up to $70 with what I would guess as a final retail price somewhere below $100. This puts it more expensive than it’s closest rival, the Raspberry Pi, but it is close enough where it’s aesthetic and performance advantages could be enough to persuade potential buyers.

KickStarter Spotlight: MiiPC

KickStarter Spotlight: MiiPC

Apr 3, 2013

Introducing children to computers is a very delicate process, and one that I do not look forward to when I am finally thrust into parenthood. On the one hand, any parent wants their children to be proficient with technology as well as use all the available resources to expand their imagination and knowledge of the world. But along with that comes the unbridled mature, or immature, corners of the internet where no parent wants their young child entering. Parental controls on modern machines are clumsy and fairly easy to circumvent for especially apt kids, and they generally get in the way of everyday functions when the children are not on the computer. Seeing as the PC market is dominated by Apple and Microsoft with no viable third option catering to parents it was only time before the borderless possibilities of Android came in and lent a hand.

This week’s KickStarter Spotlight focuses on an ambitious, and impressively polished product that is squarely aimed at parents who are concerned about their child’s computer usage called MiiPC. It is not so much the content as the amount of time wasted that most parents worry about, and it is a fact that technology can be a major distraction for young people with homework. I can attest that even in the course of writing this post, I have looked away to a USA Today update and watched a few YouTube videos that were sent to me by a few Facebook friends. What MiiPC aims to deliver is a computer that, in all honesty, is not much more than a converted, overpowered tablet in a box. The main feature is the complete control parents have over the device. From setting time restrictions on apps or websites, to monitoring exactly what activity a user is doing at any time; MiiPC allows a parent to have total peace of mind while still ensuring their children get an appropriate introduction to the vast wonder of the internet.

The machine runs on Android Jelly Bean 4.2 and essentially functions as a Mac Mini, coming with no keyboard, mouse, or screen of any kind. There is not access to the entire app market, just a few that are more suited to mouse and keyboard interaction, but a basic suite of apps, for web browsing, word processing, and media management are all included. One of the biggest feature is an included mobile app that acts as a command center for the device, allowing for the user to monitor and allow or restrict their child’s actions on the MiiPC. Custom settings can be changed for each user’s profile, and there is practically nothing that escapes a parent’s control. This is why I have no reason to believe that MiiPC will not find a niche somewhere in the market immediately, and maybe a few years from now their unique strategy of marketing to young families will make MiiPC a household name.

OnLive Desktop Makes the Jump to Android

OnLive Desktop Makes the Jump to Android

Mar 2, 2012

OnLive has brought their previously-iPad-only remote desktop service OnLive Desktop to Android. Similar to the iPad version, this lets Android tablets connect to a Windows-powered desktop replete with Microsoft Office application like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint available. As well, there’s the option to subscribe to OnLive Desktop Plus to gain access to a Flash-powered web browser. This works basically identical to the iPad version, with the difference being that it supports a 1280×720 widescreen resolution. Otherwise, it works similarly, with the same access to files when logged in from any other platform.

While having access to a Flash-based browser is less of a concern on Android where mobile Flash is still available, there are two potential applications. One, the browser streaming is fast enough watching Flash video – including free Hulu. They still haven’t caught on to OnLive Desktop. It also appears to be based in LA, based on the KABC logo that appears on Hulu videos. MLB.TV subscriber who’s not a fan of a team in the LA blackout area? Here’s a solution! Second, with mobile Flash development ended, this may be a superior long-term option for those users.

The widescreen resolution does help to make the keyboard a little bit more usable, but it’s still a lot better with an external keyboard. This may be better as a remote dekstop solution than the iPad, because of one great thing: mouse support. While hovering over items and right-clicking doesn’t entirely work perfectly just because of the fact that it is emulating touch, not operating as an actual mouse, but it still helps out greatly when trying to operate a desktop computer on a tablet. Grab a USB host cable, a travel-size mouse, and an external keyboard, and here’s a potential laptop replacement.

Otherwise, my 148Apps review covers all the ups and downs about the Plus service. Buying the service can still only be done via the website, and the Pro service that allows for user apps to be installed is still yet unavailable, and subscriptions must be signed up for through the website, not anywhere in the app at all. OnLive Desktop is now available from the Android Market.