The Tablet Rules

And we’re not talking about the ten commandments either.

Tony Chung over at Tablet PC Blogs dumped his huge laptop in favor or a Toshiba M200 Tablet PC, and talks about how it has improved and organized his life.

He uses it to take notes in class, to read at a coffee shop, to organize his notes and other content, to make sketches- and it even takes dictation!

As I have found with my Thinkpad X41 Tablet PC, a tablet can do anything a regular laptop can do. And it can do it more places because it is lighter, easier to carry and has the ability to easily convert from regular laptop mode to slate mode.

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One More Kudo for the X41

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Michael Gartenberg picks the X41 as his Best Laptop of 2005.

He likes the cake and eat it too advantage that I have talked a lot about:

It’s the first Tablet PC I’ve used where there is no penalty at all for the Tablet OS feature. It just works as a great notebook and when you need it in Tablet mode (like in that middle seat in coach on the way to CES) it’s just there for you.

The more I use the X41 the more convinced I become that it’s simply the best laptop (and the best tablet pc) on the market.

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More Good Reviews of the X41

Rob Bushway has a post today about his experiences with the Thinkpad x41. His conclusions are pretty positive so far, though he promises to cover things he doesn’t like about the X41 in a subsequent post. JKOnTheRun comments on the X41 as well today.

One thing Rob and JK point out is that the power management settings out of the box are set to conserve battery power, which may result in a performance hit. I changed the power settings on my X41 soon after I got it, and I have not noticed any sluggish behavior.

The thing that I like the most about the X41 is that it seems to hit the sweet spot between power and portability. It has everything a laptop needs, with the exception on an internal DVD player/recorder (see my travel workaround here). Plus, it is very light and easy to carry around.

I find the switch between landscape (regular laptop orientation) and portrait (the slate, tablet pc orientation) to be really fast and easy. On a typical flight, I’ll switch back and forth numerous times as I work in Word, watch a Movielink movie, do a crossword puzzle, read a book, etc. And once I’m on the ground, the X41 looks, acts and feels like a traditional laptop.

I really like this computer and cannot imagine traveling with anything else.

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JKOnThe DualCor cPC

dualcorJKOnTheRun has some good scoop on the forthcoming DualCor cPC, a handheld device that will run Windows XP 2005 Tablet Edition for regular computing and Windows Mobile 5.0 when you need a more traditional PDA.

Between the risk of getting sued out of business and my Treo envy, my Blackberry has lost some of its luster. The DualCor cPC will have 3 USB 2.0 ports (2 Type A, 1 Type B), a mini-VGA port, stereo headset port, telephone headset port, and a CF Type II slot. It will have a 40G hard drive and a whopping 1GB of RAM. This sounds about like the Tablet PC I carry around now, and with with the ability to instantly switch to Windows Mobile 5.0 it promises to be a powerful PDA.

The clincher for me will be if the phone part is fully realized. I am determined to carry one device for PDA and phone use- that’s why the newer Blackberry has been in my pocket. This article from C|Net has a little information on the phone features, but I haven’t seen any details about this aspect of the device. If I can use a DualCor cPC with my existing cell phone number and have reliable phone service, I will be very, very tempted to buy one.

Keep an eye on JKOnTheRun for more details about this promising device.

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Tech Tips for Tweeners: Buying a Tablet PC

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One of the primary purposes of Newsome.Org is to introduce and explain computer-related programs and features to other in-betweeners like me- people who are the parents of our children to whom computers and the internet are as integral as the telephone and the children of our parents who will never fully embrace technology.

I’ve posted before about my transition to a Thinkpad X41 Tablet PC and how much I like it. My conclusion is that a convertible Tablet PC will do virtually everything a traditional laptop will do, so why not chose one that does both- like the excellent Thinkpad X41.

JKOnTheRun posted an excellent Tablet PC buying guide the other day. There are various types of Tablet PCs available and his post does a great job of helping you decide which one is right for you.

My Tablet PC selection came down to a couple of decisions:

1) Convertible vs Slate. For me having a keyboard is simply a must. I tried it the other way, and it was just too hard to be really productive on the road. The one without the keyboard is great for checking email by the pool, but was not good for writing or editing documents.

2) Weight vs Extras. This was harder for me, as I am not bothered by a few more pounds if I can get extras like a DVD burner, more ports, etc. I ultimately chose the X41 (lighter with no DVD drive) because a lot of my work on the road is done in airplanes and the X41 is the perfect size and weight for easy airplane use.

I chose a lighter, convertible model, for the reasons stated above. But before you run off and buy one read and consider the issues and tips in JK’s post.

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Tech Tips for Tweeners: Maxtor Network Storage Drive

babycomputer

One of the primary purposes of Newsome.Org is to introduce and explain computer-related programs and features to other in-betweeners like me- people who are the parents of the youngsters to whom computers and the internet are as integral as the telephone and the children of our parents who have no intention of ever using computers.

I have a pretty extensive home network. Most rooms and all bedrooms have wired network access leading to a Linksys 10/100/1000 Router. I also have a secured wireless network with access points upstairs and downstairs. It works fine except for one thing: backup.

The computer in my home office is so loud that putting another computer in there for backups simply isn’t an option. Raina’s office is too small (and chaotic) to accomodate another computer. The kids don’t and won’t have computers (or TVs) in their rooms. With the pending arrival of child number three, we’re down to one guest room that cannot double as my backup server room. Even when I had my backup server in that room, it was not a good solution. Everytime we lost power and often when we didn’t, that computer would be down or inaccessible over the network for some reason- requiring me to trudge upstairs, reboot and hope.

So, I decided to find another solution. After considering and quickly rejecting online backup, I elected to try network storage- specifically Maxtor’s Network Storage drive. Here’s the skinny.

Basically, a network storage device is an external hard drive that has a network connection and can be accessed from other computers on the network. After installation, it appears as a hard drive just like the other hard drive(s) on the computers.

maxtor_shared_storage-769255The Maxtor drive was a breeze to set up and install. You take the drive out of the box, plug it in, attach the included network cable to the drive and then to your network outlet, and turn the unit on. Then you insert the included CD on each computer you want to access the network drive and follow the step by step instructions to set up an access ID and password. It is that simple. Without cracking the instruction manual, I had the drive up and running and accessible by three computers in under 15 minutes.

The drive has a USB port that supposedly allows you to connect additional drives and increase the capacity. I haven’t tried that, but if it works it’s a very nice feature.

My only mild complaint is that the software you install on each computer to allow access to the network drive automatically creates a bunch of folders on the network drive (My Documents, My Music, etc.). I am not a big fan of the “My” naming convention. Fortunately, it was easy to rename or delete the created folders.

So what does this do for me? It gives me the very important backup capability without the necessity of maintaining a second computer. Plus, the network drive is much smaller and easier to place than an entire computer, monitor, keyboard, etc.

This is a great product.

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10 Reasons Why I Rolled My Own

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In the summer of 2004, I decided it was time to retire my old Dell and get a new computer. After looking around and considering a Dell, a Gateway and a few smaller shop products, I decided to build my own. I’m still using it, and it works like a charm.

Here are 6 reasons I rolled my own and why I’m glad I did:

1) I’m the neighborhood computer geek, yet I’d never built a computer from scratch. I sort of felt like a pretender. No more, and it was actually even easier than I thought it would be.

2) I am an Intel guy and all of the small shops tried to brow beat me into using an AMD chip. OK, maybe it’s hipper. Maybe even faster. But I wanted an Intel chip and now I have one.

3) I wanted many hard drives in a RAID array. Now Dell and probably others are offering RAID as an option, but they weren’t back then. Plus, by building one, I was forced to learn how RAID works, which helps a lot when a problem arises that needs to be fixed.

4) I wanted to create my own BIOS splash screen, with the name of my computer (KN-1- not very snazzy) and a picture of my kids on it. I make all of our friends watch my computer boot up when they’re over. One day, someone is going to be really impressed.

5) Upgradability. I can now change out any part of my system with newer parts and keep this computer cutting edge for a long time. I’ve changed the video card and the fans in my never ending search for quietness. When I need to I can switch out the motherboard, chip, etc. It is very hard to do that with a Dell or other commercial box.

6) Size and bays. Because I use my computer for making music and films as well as all the other stuff you use a computer for, I needed a tower- not a mini-tower. I have 6 hard drives (including 2 for music composing that are accessible from the front so I can take them out and carry them around), a card reader, 2 DVD burners, a crappy zip drive (never again) and a floppy drive (that I have used only during installation of the RAID drivers and the BIOS graphics), a Creative Audigy panel, some USB ports and a fan controller. There is no way I could get all of this into a Dell box.

In the past I have used computers from Micron, Dell, Compaq, HP, Fujitsu, IBM and a couple of no-names. Having built one and used it for over a year, I can honestly say I’ll never buy another pre-built desktop computer for my home office. Nothing beats a KN-1.

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Dual Monitors with a Notebook

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I use dual monitors in my home office and have done so for years. It makes creating and editing documents much easier. Basically you have 2 side by side monitors, each having its own program(s) open. For example, I often have Word or my internet browser open on one monitor and another document in Word or my email program open on the other one. If you move the mouse over, it seamlessly moves from one monitor to the other and back.

Almost all desktops have the ability and connections to use two monitors, but notebooks are a different story. Obviously, no one wants to lug around an extra monitor to use on the road, but when you’re in the office it would be great to have dual monitor capability. Yes, you can connect one external monitor to the notebook and use it along with the notebook’s built-in monitor, but size differences and placement issues make this option less than ideal (because ideally you want the monitors to be the same size and to sit directly beside each other). Now there’s a way to use 2 external monitors with a notebook- the Matrix DualHead2Go. The suggested retail price is only $169.

An early review of the unit is pretty positive.

I will probably buy one of these for my downtown office, where I use a laptop, in order to get the dual monitor benefits I currenly enjoy at home

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Thinkpad Tablet: King of the Road

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I took my new Thinkpad X41 Tablet PC on the road for the first time this week. I went to San Francisco to give a speech. Here’s the report.

To begin with, packing and carrying the computer around is a breeze. It is small and light. It fits nicely into my medium size computer case with room left over to safely pack my digital camera. Working on the plane is easy and comfortable. In fact I’m typing this paragraph from a 737 while listening to an album by Gerald Collier.

The typing part is what really sets the Thinkpad apart from my prior traveling computer, the Fuijitsu Stylistic. That was a dandy computer, but the lack of a keyboard really limited my ability to get things done on the road. Of course most planes, including this one (even though I used some miles to upgrade to first class), don’t have internet access yet, so I’m still pretty limited.

The music via my Panasonic headphones is excellent. My battery life says I have 3.5 hours left, which means I’ll get all the way to San Francisco before I have to use the spare battery I brought along.

Unlike my last trip to San Francisco (when I stayed at the Fairmont and was able to connect to the wireless network of the apartment across the street), I was unable to find a reliable free wireless network from the Palace Hotel. There were a ton of networks nearby but they were either secured or too far away to give me a reliable connection. So I bought a day of access from the hotel for $16 (it’s ludicrous that hotels charge for this) and set up my Linksys WTR54GS. Within minutes I had a (somewhat) fast and reliable wireless network.

The Thinkpad was a pleasure to use, both in laptop mode and in tablet mode. My only complaint is the the stupid caps lock buttom is right above the shift key and I kept pressing it unintentionally until I disabled it.

On my return I was surprised to see that there is no free wireless network at trhe San Francisco airport. T-Mobile has the exclusive rights there it seems. Unfortubately T-Mobile’s interface is unfriendly and unusable. Even though I have an account with T-Mobile, I couldn’t access it. Even when I tried to buy a day pass for $10 I couldn’t get pass the credit card screen. I kept getting error messages saying that I had failed to fill in all the blanks, even though I had. I gave up in frustration. Wireless access from the road continues to be too hard and too expensive.

In sum, the Thinkpad rocks. A DVD drive would be nice, but would add to the size and weight. I didn’t try Movielink for a movie to watch on the plane, but I probably will give it a try next time. If that service works decently, it will nullify the main reason I miss a DVD drive- on flight movies.

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Thinkpad Tablet: Arrival and First Thoughts

This is the fifth part of my Thinkpad Tablet PC adventure. Part 1 is here, part 2 is here, part 3 is here and part 4 is here.

After a ball of confusion courtesy of Lonovo’s wildly unreliable order status page, my Thinkpad tablet PC arrived on Tuesday. The second battery arrived the next day.

Here are my initial impressions.

It is very light- which will be a good thing when travelling. It is even lighter than the Fujitsu I was using- and it has a lot more features, most importantly a keyboard.

Set up was simple. I added the security key to my wireless network and the computer connected right away. I updated Windows and Norton Antivirus, installed Office 2003, updated it, and imported my RSS feeds and bookmarks. In less than 2 hours (most of which was download and install time), I was up, completely updated and running.

A very nice touch is that the battery comes charged, so you can get started right away.

The screen is bright and clear, the trackpoint is firm and easy to use (I like it a lot better than a touchpad) and the keyboard is excellent as you would expect from a Thinkpad.

The conversion to and from laptop to tablet is easy and the connection between the computer and the monitor is very firm and sturdy.

It is easy to hold in your lap and use, whether in laptop or tablet mode.

This computer is going to be fun and easy to use when I travel. So far I am completely pleased.

I’ll post at least one more review after I take it on the road, but so far I give it high marks.

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