Big Tablets Are the Next Big Thing

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Pictured above is the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 12.2 in the 32gB flavor. It is swagged out with a Zagg keyboard case and a Samsung bluetooth mouse. The new Pro series of Galaxy tablets come with Retina level displays and this one just pops colors and details. What really wins me over is the speed which when you run single windowed apps, runs very well on the quad core chip this comes with. Several on line reviews snipe about lag when you run four windows simultaneously -this is a Samsung TapWhiz junky trick that is best avoided. With a keyboard and mouse, it turns the 12 inch tablet into a laptop replacement. Easily going over ten hours of battery time, you don’t have to worry about extra power when you travel internationally or go to work with no cable in your bag. It is pricey and won’t win over bargain hunters -the Google Nexus 7 fills this category, and I think that Google hasn’t released a Nexus 10 II or a Nexus 12, because it wants its clients to have a chance in this world. It kills iPad Air in the screen category -the 10 inch screen on the iPad seems listless and dull in comparison, and I am a certified Apple fan having read the Steve Jobs tome and bought every generation of iPad, including two when the first one came out. I fight daily with my 5 year old who is transfixed by the huge TV like screen. Plus, when I try to work on an iPad, I dream of having a mouse. In Android, when you pair a bluetooth mouse, you get a screen cursor. iOS 8 really really needs to support this. Where Android wins for me right now is it has an edge of future now that Apple is losing as it caters to the extremely young and extremely old and the bulge in the middle. Android, because of its near app parity, means for the most part I don’t have to be tethered to the Apple ecosystem. Even iTunes music can be worked around as your library will be sucked up by Google’s music player on your desktop and made available on Android devices and the Chrome browser. Sure, you can’t play your iTunes movie library, but Google is making that less important by offering the same movies, often for cheaper. Also, the Play app is nimble where the Video app on iPad is ponderous and constantly buffering -maybe Google’s pipes are fatter through some payola -who knows. It’s all good.

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Not like -Best Buy features a Samsung Experience store, where the even cooler penbased Galaxy Pro is displayed but available only by ordering and picking up a few days later. Also, the 64gB version of this tablet was unavailable for immediate pickup and walkout. I get that the iPad’s aren’t available in every flavor, but I don’t understand why every iteration of offered Samsung Tablet isn’t available for immediate pickup and walkout at these store within a stores. Being impatient, I went ahead and purchased with the plan to return if I was disappointed (I am not) and ordering the right tablet from Amazon. Worried -Samsung notoriously ditches its hardware after a year or two, offering maybe one long delayed upgrade in OS or a patch to its Samsung apps here or there (which I just don’t use). I have a bricked Samsung Tablet 2 7.0 in a drawer that won’t power up but I’m afraid of throwing out because of the data in its chips -it died after about three years of steady use. Not Like -while premium pricing implies premium materials, I just see a lot of shiny plastic. Aluminum may bring charges of Apple copying, but they could have gone for a real leather option instead of the plastic leather grain molded back with fake stitching.

The large tablet is a real thing and brings work productivity together with media and fun consumption in a way that Microsoft could only dream of. They so badly want this, but can’t seem to get their act together. My Windows 8.1 tablet from Dell lies unused and powered off because it has a crappy screen and has lost its ability to reset to factory condition which I had to do twice after it got junked up with usual Windows crap -detritus of hacky updater files, streamed media and who knows what rapidly filled up the 32gB SSD and made it unstable and unusable. Despite attractive offerings from ASUS and HP and Dell with super sized tablets -basically detachable 18-21 inch all in ones with 4 hour batteries, I ran away. Microsoft has been revealed for what it has long been apparent to me -an enabler of the “Help Desk” in corporate IT who must have problems arise in computers to exist, and a non-thinking agglomeration of hackers who jumble together whatever works -who uses all the features in Word? While I might use Office for Android when it inevitably limps in in 2015, I will still curse it for stupid things like selecting the whole word instead of part of a word without changing an setting.

Actually ASUS did get there: ASUS VIVO TAb Review

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I wrote during the summer that Microsoft didn’t have a tablet that met the criteria of high definition screen, all day battery life, and functional design. I was writing about their Surface line of tablets that I tried out in a forlorn Microsoft Store. I totally missed ASUS’ VIVO Tab which is roughly the size of a letterbox shaped iPad. By itself it has about 8-9 hrs of battery life but the secret sauce is its keyboard base which was an optional accessory. Unlike keyboard options for iPad, you click this into the charging port and you now have a mini laptop with a touchscreen. The connection is strong and trumps most keyboards for iPad and Surface in that the clamshell configuration lets you put it on your lap. Even better, there is a battery in the base giving the keyboard ballast and the whole device an extra 6 hours of usage. When used with the keyboard base, the VIVO Tab is suppose to get up to 16 hours of battery life which is great for a light laptop/tablet hybrid that is airplane tray table friendly.

Some people won’t like the small keys which are Brobdingnagian compared to my Vaio P Series laptop. The screen is bright and nearly Retina -about the same as the current iPad Mini. I really like the price I paid for it -285 for both the tablet at its battery-keyboard base. This was through Woot and almost half off last year’s price.

The thing runs Office and will link to my hospital system via Citrix. The only snag is there really are no apps for Windows RT which drives this Tegra processor. Yes there is Kindle, Evernote, Dropbox, Netflix, and Hulu and a web browser. The XBox game thing appeals less to me than the radio which is okay but I’m invested in iTunes so it’s irrelevant. There are a ton of programming apps and I think that Windows RT will be a curiosity for nerds like Segways, AMC Pacers, and OG Dr. Who. Even so, having a blank Word screen feels so full of possibilities, I can now spend 16 cordless hours at the Starbucks writing the great American novel. If I had the time.

Addendum: The battery life is for real having used intensively at work yesterday between cases and watching Netflix and Hulu last night. There is enough juice today 47% to go another day of light work. The only hassle is that like all regular Windows devices including Windows 7, Wifi is dicey. I am now at my sons’ Korean class at the Korean Cultural Center and the VIVO Tab refuses to search and find the new network. I rebooted but it started a looooong Windows update which occurs weekly. Now I don’t have a computer to use and am quickly reminded why I generally hate Microsoft products.

The other comment is that the keyboard doesn’t always turn off the screens keyboard which should be a norm. Apple would not have let this out the door in this condition (hence the uproar over its pathetic Maps).

Addendum: The intermittent problems that I have had with the keyboard are actually a problem with the touchpad. Like any non-Apple touchpad, the touchpad on the Vivo Tab, is overly sensitive and will interpret a light touch or hover as a tap to redirect the cursor where the mouse is pointing. This is a problem I have had in most Windows laptops and can be somewhat ameliorated by decreasing the sensitivity of the touchpad, but on Windows RT -access to this is impenetrably difficult. There are two ways to get to the controls of the computer -one via a right swipe which gives you a very limited number of functions to tweak. The other is to get to the desktop mode -the one missing the Start button. From there, getting to the control panels is basically impossible and I managed only by bringing up the Windows Defender control panel during an obligatory scan, noticing the folders setting on top and digging to find the Synaptics driver -but no dice. There is no way to set the touchpad as far as I can tell.

The solution? A USB mouse from an old PC which now takes up the only USB port available.

Microsoft OEM’s don’t understand touchpads -plain and simple.

Addendum: October 15, 2013 -Add to the issue that when the tablet goes to sleep, it won’t wake up. I have updated all drivers and returned the sleep settings to factory original conditions. This is obviously a problem with this tablet because I see it on the internet, but every Windows device going back to Vaio’s I owned in the mid 2000’s had a problem with sleep. It’s probably not a Microsoft problem, but a manufacturer problem, but again, my MacBook Pro sleeps and wakes without problem. With a tablet, not turning on when you want it on is criminal.

Hi Resolution Display, All Day Battery Life -Windows Can’t Get There

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I just picked up a Nexus 7 (2013) tablet. I got tired of waiting for the iPad Mini to come out with a Retina display, and I bit when this gem came out. It confirmed for me this fact -iOS is way, way behind when it comes to interface for mobile devices. But as much as it knocks Apple for the time being, at least until iOS 7 comes out and the inevitable iPad Mini with Retina display, this device illustrates the basic problem afflicting Microsoft in their journey through the thickets. 

They don’t get it when it comes to what is now an absolute for me -high resolution displays are now a given and I can’t work on a pixelated “HD” display that Windows laptops come with. I just can’t see straight after working on a non-Retina display, and am working to ditch any non-high resolution display out of my life. 

But the other cardinal sin committed by Microsoft and Intel is the willful disregard for battery life. The Surface Pro comes with 4 hours touted, meaning 2-3 hours in real life. Most Windows laptops feature 6-7 hours at best meaning 3-5 hours in real life. The solution -extended batteries that add bulge and thickness to already thick devices. These aren’t solutions -they are hacks. 

The Nexus 7 shows that you don’t have to be Apple to hit these considerations -high resolution display and >6 hours of battery life with an easy to use interface that requires no instructions or manuals. It shows how to succeed (they are sold out now everywhere) where Microsoft Windows 8 laptops and tablets languish. I don’t like good enough solutions offered by PC makers to IT admins who have never traveled intercontinental flights -carry your adaptor they say only that PC adaptors weight as much as the computer and take up irregular space, and the 6 hour battery life is really only good for 3 and then you are done.

Microsoft is basically done in the consumer space. Done. 

Apple’s Impact on CES

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It seems CES is all about reacting to Apple -Ultrabooks that are indistinguishable from MacBook Airs, smartphones that try to beat iPhone on features, cloud services that plagiarize Steve Jobs presentation slides, TV’s you talk to that try to preempt a Siri hosted Apple TV. The best stuff is when they try to be themselves, like Windows Mobile which is not very Microsoft in that it is stylish and easy to use, again like Apple.

When irony is so obvious, it no longer is ironic. It’s just sad. It’s just a bunch of small fish in a small pond. A tall hobbit contest.

Windows 7 on Macbook Air: Finally A Windows PC that I Like

From Evernote:

Windows 7 on Macbook Air: Finally A Windows PC that I Like

This grainy photo above shows my shiny new Macbook Air running (GASP) Windows 7. While this feature has been available via a utility called Boot Camp, I had always run Windows XP in virtualization, first in Parallels, and currently in the open-source (free) Virtualbox. That said, I wanted a faster option, particularly to see if this set up would run 3D CT analysis software well. My current home workstation, a Dell desktop replacement laptop, slows to a crawl when I run this software, but something told me it may run better with the flashdrive enabled Macbook Air.

Buying a shrinkwrap Windows 7 was not fun -an initial trip to Best (not) Buy revealed that they were happy to sell you an empty box, but after they took your money realized the whole store was empty of actual Windows 7 disks. I therefore went to Amazon and was happy to find Windows 7 Ultimate for 40 dollars off the Microsoft price. It arrived two days later and away I went…

To the Apple Store to buy a Superdrive. I tried various ways of creating a bootable USB flash disk, but after several hours, decided to take the plunge and purchase the MacBook Air Superdrive. The Boot Camp setup was a little annoying -you had to download Boot Camp drivers and burn a CD to load onto your Windows drive. You then had to partition the hard drive -I initially set aside 25 Gb but now find that I am running out of space as I load up with necesary software.

After a few days of fiddling, and running it in Windows, I have to say I am surprisingly pleased. Windows 7 is as beautiful as Windows XP is mofugly. It anticipates your needs and just works -for example, drivers for my network printer were automatically downloaded upon adding it to the printer list. This sort of ease of use used to be associated with Mac OS only, but Microsoft has finally bit the bullet and realized that the “for business” label was just an excuse for keeping things arcane and difficult. Getting XP to recognize a network printer is a Sisyphusian task. Windows 7 does it with elan.

Strangely enough, I am enjoying working on Windows 7. Sure -the fonts aren’t as good looking, but the OS is polished and refined. Frankly, I love it. The 3D CT software runs as well from my home as it does in the office on its server (a Dell Xeon PC which is monstrously huge). I am loading Office on it. During the late ’00’s, Microsoft seems to have gotten the message that their software was preferred by geeks, but generally despised by an increasing number of people. What always kept be away from Windows 7 was the terrible hardware available -I had miserable experience with Sony and Dell, and am dubious of any of the large PC makers. Boot Camp and Macbook Air changes all that.

Oh, the virus thing -Microsoft now offers a free download called Microsoft Security Essentials which does a decent job of policing the computer. Kudos to Microsoft and here’s to hoping much luck and fortune to that other iconic American company.