Wednesday, June 03, 2009

GNUstep to go... on MIPS

GNUstep is addictive, so one has to have it always handy... laptops, virtual machines, Windows port are means, but netbooks? The current trend?

The smallest one I found around is the Letux 400. This small nifty thing is light (670g, about 2/3 of the typical Atom netbook) and really small, as an A5 piece of paper. Small enough that the thumbs can reach the touchpad. The display is small, but extremely bright and very crisp. It is perfectly viewable even outside with sunlight, really amazing. Both WiFi as standard LAN networking are present. The nice touch is the MIPS CPU instead of an x86, which, as a seasoned SGI machine user, stirred up my interest. The CPU, of embedded fame, is just passively cooled (which, since the 2GB flash constitutes the solid-state drive, makes it absolutely silent) and consumes little power, I reached more than the stated 4h of operation, getting almost 5h sometimes.

The picture compares the Letux 400 atop of my Compaq EVO notebook. You can also barely see GWorkspace and Vespucci running on it...

The machine comes with a 2.4 series kernel and a custom distribution, which I won't discuss here. Golden Delicious computer, the distributor, sets up a second partition where Debian comes preinstalled and with a script (easy to customize) it is possible to work with chroot in Debian. This is a good setup for the current phases of development, convenient as it uses the standard mipsel distribution.

With the current version of GNUstep, it is possible to install easily the core system and, thanks to the GNUstep Application Project, one can get a small and functional GNUstep environment. The Workspace Manager GWorkspace runs fine as well as Terminal.

Of course I also tried SimpleWebKit and Vespucci on the Letux and, as expected, they work fine and run! It is the foray to a small, portable browser.

The future is bright! Apart from standard GNUstep development, a better kernel (2.6, which is in the work) able to solve some of the glitches present in the SkyTone supplied one, as well as a more optimized Linux distribution instead of the chrooted Debian could provide a really interesting ultra-mobile solution for GNUstep.

1 comment:

Andrew J. Brehm said...

I had a look at the Letux 400 and ordered one immediately.

I live in a .NET world and doubt that Mono will work on the Letux, but my C is very rusty and my Objective-C hasn't been employed in a year or so. I will see if I can get GNUstep to work too!