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University of Toronto

December 20 1999

The Itsy (Version 2) Pocket Computer

and the

Importance of Energy Conservation

Keith Farkas
Compaq Computer Corporation, Western Research Laboratory

About the talk:

Ubiquitous computing assumes that computers will become sufficiently prevalent that they will become invisible by their constant presence. Although this future has not yet arrived, the emergence of pocket computers has introduced systems designers to some of the new challenges that this future is likely to pose. In particular, in addition to traditional metrics of performance, system designs must also be evaluated with regard to new metrics, with energy usage and user interfaces foremost among these.

In this talk, through my discussion of two on-going projects at WRL, I hope to convince you that design decisions appropriate for desktop computers must be re-examined in the context of pocket computers.

I will begin by describing the system and software architecture of the Itsy Pocket Computer, a state-of-the-art pocket computer. The Itsy Pocket Computer is a small, handheld computer based on the fast, low-powered, StrongARM SA-1100 microprocessor. It is designed to be an flexible platform for research projects ranging from OS power management to novel gesture and speech-based user interfaces. The current prototype runs at 200MHz on a Li-ion battery, and sports a tiny, high-resolution LCD with touchscreen, an audio codec, and up to 128MB of flash and 128 MB of DRAM. It runs Linux and offers several development environments including Java.

I will then discuss how the power usage of this pocket computer differs from that of laptop computers, and how decisions made in the design of flexible software environments, such as Java, affect the power consumed. Understanding such decisions is a necessary first step in designing software environments for pocket computers, and strategies to manage their resources.


The Itsy Project is a joint project of the Western Research Lab and the Systems Research Center, with contributions from Compaq's Software Engineering Australia group, and various summer interns and visiting researchers. The work on quantifying the energy consumption of the Itsy Pocket Computer was done in collaboration with Jennifer Anderson, Godmar Back, Jason Flinn, and Dirk Grunwald.


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Contact information:

Keith Farkas
Compaq Computer Corporation
Western Research Laboratory
250 University Avenue, Palo Alto, CA 94301

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