Thursday, October 28, 2010

The ctl 2goPad

I’ve had it since Monday and will be getting the full review out over the weekend.  I’ve done an unboxing here.  Ever since trading away my Viliv S5, I’ve missed having a small Windows based tablet.  I like the idea of having a small Windows tablet as a digital writing pad that I can keep on me all the time. 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

What’s wrong with Windows on tablets?

I have Windows 7 on my TC1100 slate tablet, and it’s working out quite nicely.  Yet, whenever anyone reviews one of these “new” Windows slates, they complain about how Windows was not designed for touch.  While technically true, Windows was designed for use with a mouse and keyboard, I don’t seem to have a problem using it on slates. 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

My handwriting is getting better


As a follow up to my previous post, I noticed my own handwriting has been improving.  I take sermon notes in a paper journal (I know, paper, how old school) at church.  I had been getting sloppier, but I had not noticed how much so until I went through some old school notebooks in a bookshelf move.  I hadn’t handwritten anything of length for years until I started keeping a journal for church again about two years ago.  Sure, I write lesson notes for students, but that consists of a few words at a time on a chart, not long form writing of complete sentences.  I had also been taking sermon notes on my little Viliv S5 for a while.  I do like having my notes in Evernote (which reminds me, I have some transcribing to do), and that little device was unobtrusive enough to be used without distracting those around me.  However, the resistive touchscreen and Evernote’s less that stellar inking didn’t do anything to improve my writing. 

Now that I have some experience with tablets with active Wacom digitizers and I’m using them to write more (I hardly ever attached the keyboard to the tc1100, I did a lot of note-taking at institutes this summer, and all my reviews have been done in ink in OneNote first), I think my handwriting is getting better.  Now this could be a product of seeing what my handwriting used to look like and paying more attention, but I think it’s also due to practice.  I can mean to write more clearly all I want, but without the opportunity to actually do it, nothing would change.  I think the recent experience with the increased accuracy of the Lenovo x201t and now an HP 2730p, I’m paying even more attention and getting even better.  While the TC1100 is significantly more accurate and smooth than the resistive screens I used to use, the HP 2730p is another level up from that. 

I’m considering an attempt at a full on ink-blog style post ala Sumocat or Stevieblue.  I find it much more interesting to write by hand than to type out at the keyboard.  It’s good to feel the pen and form the letters.  And how much opportunity do we get to write things by hand anymore in this world of computers? 

Friday, October 15, 2010

Why all students need a real tablet

By real, I mean one with an active digitizer, and a pen.  One that prioritizes handwriting over multitouch party tricks.  Not that pinching to zoom isn’t useful, but these new tablets are all about the flashy side of touch and consuming media, rather than harnessing the power of the pen for content creation.

A recent Wall Street Journal article that was covered by several blogs in my google feed, confirms what we all really already knew.  Handwriting trumps typing for memory and cognition.  Duh.  Taking the time to form the letters by hand will cause what you write to stick in your head way better than just pushing buttons on a keyboard.  As a kinesthetic learner, this makes a big difference to me.  My method of preparing for a mid-term or final in college was to sort through my daily notes from lectures and re-write them by topic.  Just re-reading my notes didn’t get me anywhere, it was re-writing them that did it.  Of course, not everyone is a kinesthetic learner, so not everyone will get the same benefit, but everyone can benefit from the physical action of forming letters. 

So why don’t schools give out tablets?  What good are netbooks and macbooks?  Or even iPads and slates with capacitive screens.  Sure the reviewers all love them for their responsiveness.  They open a web browser and zoom with two fingers, or spin and resize photos, and then ooh and ah over how slick and responsive it is.  But how does that help anyone learn?  Intel came close with the convertible classmate tablet, but still no active digitizer.  Okay, maybe they’re more expensive to build in, and you have to deal with kids losing pens, but resistive and capacitive screens even with styluses don’t even come close to a normal writing experience.  If you can’t lay your hand down and just write, without worrying about selecting things, or generating extra ink, or having the computer think you really want to zoom, it’s no good.  Inking on a tablet with an active digitizer is, for me at least, no different than writing on paper. 

Except for the fact that it’s way better than paper.  You have an infinite writing surface in Evernote or OneNote; the page just keeps getting longer as you get near the bottom.  OneNote will let you insert blank space in the middle of your handwriting too.  It will also let you search your handwriting, and link from page to page.  Today’s lecture expanding on a concept that was introduced last week?  Link to it.  Insert audio so you can listen to the lecture if you’ve got one of those teachers who can talk faster than you can write.  Insert PDFs and write over them, without having mess up the originals. 

I used my tc1100 with OneNote to take notes at the training institutes I attended over the summer, and was very pleased with the experience.  I was able to write as much as I wanted for each page without running out of space.  Some of my collegues couldn’t take notes through a whole observation because they were using single page observation templates and filled them half way through.  I had scanned in all the music, so I was able to mark it up while still keeping my books clean.  I could ink in music notes if I wanted, and I did want to, a lot.  There was another trainee taking notes on a netbook and I have to wonder how she managed to type music.  If I had to do school over again, or any more academic work, I know I’d be living off my tablet and OneNote. 

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Practicing with the iPad

The St Peter's Chamber orchestra is performing this weekend, and I'm principal violist. It's a small orchestra still in the "start up" phase, so there is no librarian. That means the responsibility of music distribution falls to the principals. I like to just email PDFs to my section and then bring the originals to the first rehearsal. Two of the three pieces were available from IMSLP and the other was a quick scan. I figured since I had the PDF versions, I would give the iPad a chance. After two days of trying to view the music that way, I gave up. It's just too small.

I have the PDFs in UnrealBook (on recommendation of choirguy at the TechInMusicEd blog, it’s his current favorite).  They display nicely in portrait, just small.  In landscape, the music becomes more readable, but the program doesn’t really handle scrolling well.  Sure, you can grab the music and drag it up to see the bottom half of the page, but a tap is all it takes to turn to the next page.  Half the time, the app thought my attempts at sliding to move the music were really taps and I ended up going forwards or backwards pages when all I wanted was to see the music on the bottom half of the page.  This just reinforces my desire to find a bigger screened tablet.  The problem is, 12” widescreen is the new norm, and I’ve already seen that it doesn’t add anything to the overall size of a full sheet of music. 

Oh for a 13” 4:3 tablet.  With 10 hours of battery.  And a core i5 processor, with 4GB of RAM.  Less than an inch thick.  Under 3 pounds.  That would be nice.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

My x201t review is up


Here it is, the full review of the Lenovo Thinkpad x201t.  I also have a first impressions post.  It was a great machine, but I think I’ll stick with my tc1100.  I had been watching craigslist and seen some good deals on this machine, the x200t, and the x61t, but none of them really fill my tablet needs better than the tc1100.  Turns out, all I really need is an electronic writing pad that can run SmartMusic.  Sure, I’d love to have more battery life and more power, but in the end, smaller wins. 


I’m getting closer to an iPad set up that might work.  I found a decent PDF annotator that could work for practice charts – Noterize.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite import the PDF right.  It comes out not centered so a bit of the right and bottom get cut off.  Also, despite finding a good stylus, it’s just not nearly as accurate as the wacom digitizer on the tc1100.  Oh, and there’s no SmartMusic on the iPad.  That’s kind of a deal breaker right now. 


All I want is a 12”-14” 4:3 (1400x1050) slate with a wacom digitizer and touch (that can be turned off if I don’t want to mess with it that day) with 8 hours of battery life, under 3 lbs.  Oh and it should have a core i5 processor, 4GB RAM, and 2.5” SATA SSD of 64GB or higher.  For $500.  Or less.  And a pony.  Definitely a pony.