How To Build Your Own Tablet For $US400

If you are not sold on the iPad and are tired of waiting for tablets from other PC makers to show up, try getting your hands dirty with a tablet you can build on your own.

Liquidware, an open source hardware company, is selling a $US400 tablet starter kit. The DIY tablet is mainly targeted at developers who want to create a tablet of their dreams or write specialised software applications.

"The Beagle tablet is a portable modular open source handheld computer," says Justin Huynh, director of product development at Liquidware. "It's all about customisability and embedded development."

The tablet kit contains a 4.3-inch OLED touchscreen that mounts directly on a BeagleBoard. The BeagleBoard is a single board computer from Texas Instruments that comes with a 1 GHz processor. There's also a battery module and a 4GB pre-formatted SD card to boot Angstrom Linux. But users can also run the Android operating system on it, says Huynh.

"Everything is modular and snaps on or mounts directly on a board so you have a very compact tablet-like device," he says.

Since Apple iPad's debut in April, tablets have seen a resurgence in popularity. Apple sold two million iPads in just 60 days of the product's launch. That has left other companies scrambling to introduce tablets of their own. Both Samsung and Research In Motion have tablets in development. In the UK, Dell has already introduced its first tablet called Streak, a 5-inch PlayStation Portable sized device that can also make phone calls.

But those gadgets have little appeal for tinkerers, says Huynh.

"With the iPad, you would have a hard time hacking it to read from a specialised sensor such as a temperature sensor or add your own custom hardware," he says. "The Beagle tablet is all about innovation."

Since the Beagle tablet doesn't have any storage beyond the SD card, it is extremely lightweight, weighing just about 227 grams. Users can increase the size of the SD card or plug in an external hard drive or a solid state disk through the on-board USB port.

The battery life of the Beagle tablet can vary from three hours to six hours depending on the application, says Hyunh.

The Beagle tablet is a lot of work since you would have to load everything from an OS to different applications. But once you get it going, it could be a bigger conversation starter than the iPad.

Photo: Liquidware has been expanding the hive mind with technology, science and geek culture news since 1995.

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