Friday, April 24, 2009

An Open Source Hardware Project - UlluTek

I recently launched UlluTek, an open source hardware project, with a few engineer friends. Over the years, we discovered that there are many simple and useful hardware products that are not built because companies deem that they are - well - too simple and the ROI did not justify it. ROI strikes again!!!

Since we are bootstrapping the project (no venture capital firms in their right minds would invest in an open source company nowadays), we have to figure out the cheapest way to get the website up and running. To my surprise, there are so many options to choose from. I settled on a few tools to start:

  • Web creation and hosting: Weebly - I was able to setup the site in less than half an hour. I registered the domain with Weebly and got 50-user Google Apps Standard Edition. I got 6 users up and running in less than 15 minutes.
  • Instant Messaging: even though Google Apps comes with Chat application, we chose Skype since it gives us a better conferencing capability. Besides, I am already using Skype to call my family in Vietnam and loving the service.
  • Wiki/Forum: I have not picked an application yet but WetPaint looks very interesting. Ning is in the running as well.
  • Code revision: I am going to use LaunchPad for code depository and revision.
  • Drawing: I am using Inkscape for homemade logos and other drawing needs. Inkscape has tons of tutorials on the web so it was very helpful learning the tool.
  • 3D Drawing: Google Sketchup fills this need although Inkscape has some basic 3D capability as well. Sketchup is a lot more fun and my 8-yr old son loves to play with the program.
So for now, I have enough tools to get the project up and running. My engineering friends are still looking for a low cost CAD tool. Any recommendation out there?

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Kitchen PC - Take Two

So what would an ideal kitchen PC look like? First, it should not look like a PC. Secondly, it should be stylish. Last but not least, it has to be cheap.

HP TouchSmart PC come very close. It's stylish and doesn't scream "I am a PC". However, it has an anti-recession price. The starting price is $1299 but you can't watch TV yet. If you want to watch TV and wall mountable, you are looking at almost $2000. Ouch...

I feel that PC makers are approaching this "final frontier" upside down. They want people to buy a PC and turn it into something else. In my last post, I talked about PC as a "lonely" experience. TV in a kitchen is a social experience. Imagine this, NCAA basketball championship game is on. Mr. and Mrs. Partyfun are throwing a bash. As usual, the guys and maybe some gals gather around the 50" plasma in the living room or family room enjoying the HDTV and surround sound experience. The rest are hanging out in the kitchen with the game on in the TV - talking and once in a while checking the score. Do you think they care if this is a $2000 PC or a $300 appliance?

I would propose building a TV that happens to have a PC brain. With the introduction of Atom processor, an OEM can offer an appliance that gives people the social experience first - TV - and other convinences later - ondemand content streaming, sticky notes, grocey lists, etc. And by the way, please don't charge us an arm and a leg. The netbook is less than $400... Hmm... May be I'll buy one of those netbooks and mount it upside down under my kitchen cabinet???