Sunday, March 25, 2007

and now for something different

Sorry if that was hard to read - I was just trying out 'writing' on my blog.
ps:contrary to what I wrote on the post, I had to use the desktop to upload the text - it sucks that many webpages don't cater for the stripped down web browsers in pdas :(

Sunday, March 18, 2007

yeah, tx1000 still sucks

So last post, I was bitching about how crappy the tx1000 touchscreen was, but I wasn't quite ready to give up on it just yet. So I went to another store (same franchise, Harvey Norman), seeing whether I get a different experience. Unfortunately, it wasn't the case - even the salesman ws telling me that you have to really dig the pen in to write on it...damn.

I think I'll just have to look elsewhere for my touchscreen based computing needs.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

TX1000 - touchscreen? more like strong-sharp-forcescreen!

To anyone that cares, I've recently been shopping around for a new laptop. To be honest, my 2 year old celeron laptop, while bulky and has dismal (1hr) battery life, is doing well in serving all my computing needs (see last post) upgrading is not really essential.

Specifically, I've been indulging the thought of getting into UMPC's and other touchscreen based computers for use as my primary computer - I've been a pda person for a few years now (guess what I'm writing this blog post on?), and thought that having that experience on a full fledged pc would be cool, since I wouldn't have to sit down and prop my computer against a lap/table to use it.

Enter the hp tx1000, a convertible tablet pc, with a decent processor (2Ghz AMD turion x2), and a touchscreen instead of an active digitizer. I fell in love: this could well be my ultimate device. So being the excited geek that I am, started researching reviews. The results were mixed - people complained of weight, performance (speed and battery life), and then there was the touchscreen. I was so suprised when people kept talking about how much harder it was to ink on the touchscreen, and made a big deal about needing to keep the pen on the touchscreen for the whole penstroke...frankly, I was confused - I never thought that was a big deal - I mean, if you write with a pen, you have to keep the pen in contact with the paper for the whole penstroke right? I was starting to think that the reviewers might just have been used to active digitizers.

Anyhoo, I wasn't perturbed - though I was concerned about their comments, and thought I'd wait until I can try one out at a brick and mortar store before I take the plunge.

So imagine my excitement when I went to a store today (Harvey Norman for the Aussies reading this) and there it was. It looked amazing - the curved edges, the recessed trackpad, the small form factor - I think I almost ran to the display! I tested the swivel action, and the screen (some reviewers said it was grainy due to the digitizer that had to be overlayed onto the lcd - it was but not an issue for me) far so good...then my hopes came all crashing down when it came to using the touchscreen. It was easy enough to tap things, though I immediately noticed how much more pressure it required to get a response...then I tried to write using the touch input panel (TIP). Disaster! In order to make my penstrokes register, I was almost scraping my pda stylus against the screen (and it didn't help that the screen itself was not slick, and was catching the stylus tip)... I thought, 'any more of this, and I'll be scratching marks onto the screen!'. So as I left the store, I was annoyed at how such a cool device could be let down by such poor implementation of the touch screen...I even came back a few minutes later to see if there was a way to increase the touchscreen sensitivity, but I didn't find any (anyone know if there is?)....why hp, WHY??? Now I'm starting to worry if this touchscreen 'insensitivity' happens on the UMPC's as well! Anyhoo, the search continues...sigh.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Laptop hunting

Hey all. The last few weeks have seen me scouring all over the net and on foot, searching for a new laptop to replace the one already have. There's nothing wrong with my current laptop - except for maybe the inadequate battery life, and maybe its heft - I just thought that it was time to see what I can replace it with. So off I went to research the current laptop offerings, and got bombarded with "core2duo" this, and "aeroglass" that... In the end, I was paralyzed with indecision - the new Microsoft operating system had also just started shipping with new laptops, but the response have been mixed. Indeed, do I even really need a new computer?

As a scientist, part of my job involves taking pictures of cells under a microscope. Now, I had just started working at a new place, and they use a digtal slr ie. something expensive and unfamiliar. Unfortunately, I'm a point-and-shoot guy at heart, and though I do like to dabble with the settings on my own digital camera, this was for work, and I didn't want to waste any time fiddling with settings. So I snapped away, checking the images briefly (on a teeny tiny 1.5 inch screen - way too small for me), and loaded them up on my laptop. Unfortunately, it seems that the LCD backlight on the camera was cranked way up, coz on my laptop, everything was severely underexposed. Crap! I had two options: take the photos again, but trying different settings (too fiddly), or I could try and boost the brightness using an image editing program (bingo!). Long story short, my 2 year old, celeron 1.5Ghz laptop with 768Mb of RAM and 40Gb HD performed like a star. Multiple layers, filters, having up to 20 or so images open (though just at 0.5Mb each pic) - there was no discernable lag, no crashing, no weird results. Then I also remembered that when I went on a roadtrip with some friends, I used the same laptop to download the video from my camcorder (via firewire), create a roadtrip video (with live preview activated), added a soundtrack, and played it in front of everyone that very night!

In the end, my laptop might look as sexy as a grey paving tile (and look/weigh like one), but as much as I'd like to find fault in it (to justify a replacement), I couldn't deny that it was a solid performer. Hell, even with intel integrated graphics, I can play World of Warcraft and Freedom Force (a very cool game, I encourage everyone to check it out), record, edit and encode HDTV (with my HDTV adapter), and create a dual monitor setup by outputing simulatenously to an external monitor!

So this is my advice to anyone contemplating a laptop/portable computer purchase: Laptops may not be created equal, but unlike what the manufacturers would have you believe, it doesn't necessarily mean that you won't be happy with anything less than the latest and greatest. Its not all about clock speed, especially with laptops. Battery life, portability and flexibility should definitely be considered, as well as the cost of extras, such as accessories, and extended warranties.

Based on those criteria, I reckon that my next laptop won't be a laptop at all, but an ultra mobile pc (UMPC) . In particular, the Asus R2H has caught my eye. At the moment I'm still researching how this device will perform (at $1850AU, I wouldn't want to end up with something I won't use) - I may even wait a little, to see if the price goes down a bit more, and maybe wait till it ships with Vista. Sure, I could upgrade it myself, but I'd rather leave it to the experts and not have to scour the net for device drivers - Kevin Tofel, I am not. Til then, I'll try to make do with my laptop as my primary computer, and use my pdas (hp ipaq h2210 with wifi sdio card and rx1950) for my mobile computing needs.