This is my first blog post from my new Tablet PC. We are doing some tablet-related work at Ardent so the time was finally right for me to buy one. I've wanted one for over a year but have never really had a good reason other than I'm interested in the alternate ways of working (I started doing human-computer interaction research in grad school before dropping out). But I was never sure if I would actually find the tablet features useful. But I absolutely do: working in slate mode is great.
I've been researching tablets in earnest the past two months or so. I think everyone at my office was getting sick of hearing about tablets all the time -- which is why this Tablet PC coaster seems so funny to me. At least one person has threatened to actually buy one for me! In doing my research I found that some of the most helpful information out there on tablets is at http://www.tabletpcbuzz.com/forum/. I was very glad to find that little corner of the Web!
So, what did I buy? A Toshiba M200 (1.6GHz / 512MB RAM / 60GB 7200rpm HDD / 802.11b). It came with one 512MB stick and an empty slot that I will be throwing an extra 256MB stick into. It is the Banias chip (1MB L2 cache). I would have loved to get a Dothan chip with 2MB L2 cache and slightly faster clock speeds (and 802.11g), but the price on this model was fantastic and tablets are surprisingly hard to get in eastern Canada. In the entire city of Moncton there were two tablets in stock anywhere: one LG and one Averatec. But I wanted a Toshiba. They were sold out at Toshiba Canada but I found a brand new one on eBay.ca. Yup, that's right, on eBay. (sidebar confession: I'm hooked on eBay. I've ordered lots of little things on there like Mac OS X for a Mac testing box, DAT backup tapes, a Christmas present, etc. I'm on there probably 4 nights a week for at least 10 minutes.)
So far so good using this tablet -- I love using it. I bought a Toshiba laptop last year and returned it because Toshiba has a stupid keyboard layout. But I'm coping with this tablet. Heck, I didn't buy it for the keyboard! I did remap the right Alt key to a right Ctrl key and swapped the left Alt with the `/~ key so that Alt is right beside the space bar as God intended, but now the one-touch Ctrl-Alt-Del button on the laptop (for slate mode) doesn't work. I will have to play around with that some more.
I have a 3.0GHz HT / 2GB RAM / 120GB SATA HDD desktop with dual SXGA+ LCD monitors on my desk but actually missed using this tablet. The form factor is just fantastic. I love the options for input. If you spend much time on your couch, in an easy chair, on airplanes, or in meetings doing work that doesn't require too much text (reading, answering email, IM, writing sample code, etc.), working with a pen is extremely convenient. And it's extremely light. My previous HP 17" (3GHz HT / 1GB RAM) laptop weighed in at about 9.5lbs. My M200 is about 4.4lbs. It's so easier to tote around the house or office. And the battery life is about triple that of my HP monster. I still want my powerful desktop at the office for doing builds or running Virtual PC, but for basic productivity tasks and even writing small bits of code, this tablet is amazing.
The M200 came with an OEM version of the original Windows XP Tablet Edition installed, which I was impressed with. But when I installed SP2 and got the updated version of Tablet Edition, I was blown away. The handwriting recognition is fantastic. I was even able to write a bit of C# code with my stylus. Much goodness! I have a wishlist of features growing in my head but I'm sure most of what I can imagine is already in the works. Tablet Enhancements for Outlook is on my "to-try" list for the very near future.
One thing I was surprised by was the number of processes that run on this thing when it comes from the factory (somewhere around 50). I'm not the only one shocked either: http://blogs.msdn.com/jonathanh/archive/2004/03/13/89220.aspx. It certainly seems to be more than any laptop I've bought to date (five this year). Toshiba seems to be using a different program to handle each M200-specific feature. I would prefer one Windows service that controls all the features and a control panel applet that lets me enable/disable the features as desired.
In summary: I got a tablet PC and I love it.
I don't necessarily check my Gmail account everyday so I was happy to discover that I can pull an Atom feed into Sauce Reader using this URL: https://gmail.google.com/gmail/feed/atom. Gmail also provides POP access these days and a new Gmail notifier tray app but both options are too heavy, IMO, for a secondary email account.
Google is giving back to the academic world from which it emerged which Google Scholar:
Google Scholar enables you to search specifically for scholarly literature, including peer-reviewed papers, theses, books, preprints, abstracts and technical reports from all broad areas of research. Use Google Scholar to find articles from a wide variety of academic publishers, professional societies, preprint repositories and universities, as well as scholarly articles available across the web.
I would have loved that when I tried my hand at graduate school...
I'm speaking at a combined Toronto user group event on Tuesday 16 November. Topic is "Building Smart Client Applications using Visual Studio Tools for Office". If you haven't seen VSTO before, there is some great stuff you can do.
If you are in the Toronto area, come check it out. Details here and here.
I will have a few spare hours in TO before the presentation. If anyone is interested in joining me for a geek dinner beforehand at my favorite pad thai spot (693 Yonge Street), let me know and I'll make reservations (4:15 or 4:30ish so I can be at the Manulife Center by 5:30).