Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tablets in the Classroom Part 5–Fujitsu’s T580


Note: this is the fifth in a series of articles I will be writing for TabletPCBuzz.com, reposted here with permission.

The Fujitsu T580 presents an intriguing option for the classroom. It is similar in size and weight to the Intel Classmate convertibles with a chucky, rugged feeling design. It’s also more powerful and packs a dual pen and touch digitizer. Sadly, it also packs a few rather annoying flaws.
Let’s take a look at the good stuff first.

Size and Weight

The T580 is built like a chunky netbook. That’s likely good news for kids who are already used to carrying machines of that size. It feels comfortable to carry around and I even feel okay holding it in one hand, unlike the 12” convertibles that need to be held in the crook of the arm.


The size may say netbook, but this machine is packing a Core i5 processor, and can support up to 4GB of RAM, even though the demo unit only has 2GB.


While not designed to mil spec ruggedness, the T580 has a spill proof keyboard, a shock sensor for the hard drive, and offers several SSD options as well.

Dual Pen and Touch

A good capacitive touch experience is essential for a generation of kids who have grown up being handed their parent’s iPhone as a pacifier. It’s also the reason touch interfaces can be intuitive – when you touch it, something happens. Nothing is more frustrating than touching, then tapping, then tapping harder to try to get things to happen. And the T580 delivers.
While the n-trig pen experience is not quite as smooth and easy as Wacom, it’s still a step up from writing on a resistive screen and about a million times better than trying to mess with a capacitive stylus on a Windows tablet.

Using OneNote with a dual pen and touch screen Is a dream. The pen inks, while fingers call up the panning hand to move the page around, which makes the experience very much like working with paper.

Now for the bad.

N-trig pen

As awesome as working with a dual pen and touch screen is, it’s not all rainbows and unicorns with n-trig. All the negative things you’ve heard about the n-trig digital pencil apply here too. It takes the machine a second or two to recognize that the pen has come into range, and sometimes doesn’t switch until you’ve actually put the pen to the screen to try to write, leading to unintended things being activated by your hand. There is also a similar lag going back to finger touch.

Also, the pen is heavy. It may be the same size as the pen for my HP 2730p, but it weighs more than the super chucky TC1100 stylus. It also takes more pressure than I would like to push the tip in to activate the ink flow. Those things combine to make for a tiring writing experience. I don’t think I could write like that all day in school.


The pen tip is pretty noisy as it gets pushed in. It’s kind of like a clacky mouse button. A classroom full of clacky pens is only minimally better than a room full of students pounding away on keyboards. Also, the fan in this thing runs All The Time. It’s not particularly loud, but it is pretty constant. I guess that’s the price you pay for a core i5 processor, but a classroom full of them could get loud.


I’m getting just under 2 hours with wifi on and brightness just two clicks up on power saver with the 3 cell battery. Yeah, under 2 hours. I don’t know why they even bothered with a 3 cell option. But even with the 6 cell being twice the capacity of the 3, that’s only around 4 hours. I’m also finding that it takes forever to recharge the battery. After the machine slipped into hibernation (after less than 2 hours), I left it hibernating and plugged it in. It took 4 hours for the charge light to turn green. Trying to charge the battery while the machine is running doesn’t seem to really go anywhere.


For me, it feels small, and I’ve been through a lot of netbooks. I’m currently back to typing on mostly full sized keyboards though, and I find I make more mistakes on the T580. Especially annoying is the smaller period key, which I miss frequently. My hands also get tired faster on this keyboard. For kids with smaller hands, this may not be an issue though. It is comparable to other 10” netbook keyboards.

Thickness for Desk Writing

While the chunkiness of the machine doesn’t bother me for general use, it is a bit annoying when trying to use the machine in tablet mode on a desk.


The Fujitsu T580 is a powerful machine in a little package. The touch experience is great, and the active pen works well enough once you get used to it. But the battery life is disappointing and would be a deal breaker for a student who needed it to run through a full day of school. It’s also pricey for a school trying to outfit a classroom or for a parent sending it off to school with a kid. Despite the drawbacks, the size and weight are very nice, and this little powerhouse is growing on me. I could see it working well in the classroom if only the batter life were better.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

String Basics Volume 2

Because my review of the first volume wasn’t enough to scare them away, you can imagine my surprise when volume 2 also just showed up out of the blue. 


It’s a pretty standard classroom method book 2.  But what’s that in the upper corner?  It looks like…maybe…let’s get a closer look. 



It’s a SmartMusic logo!  SmartMusic is always adding new repertoire and with 2011 set to launch before the next school year starts, now is the time to get the new methods in.  Wise choice String Basics, wise choice.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The UK’s MPA tries to take down IMSLP

A post at the IMSLP journal talks about the recent attempt by the UK’s MPA (Music Publisher’s Association) to take down their site.  More information on the forums here and here.

Basically, it went something like this:

MPA complained to godaddy that imslp is hosting copyrighted music, and providing one specific example.  Godaddy shuts down the DNS link to imslp, effectively taking the entire site off the internet, rather than investigating said specific example.  Also, this was done without notifying the folks at imslp.  When confronted with the ridiculousness of the claim, the MPA backed down but wanted the posted take-down notice taken down. 

IMSLP’s response is brilliant:

“I've written permission to publish it. Others are publishing it all over the internet. Again, they each have written permission. Here's the sourced written permission:

The following is the e-mail that GoDaddy received from the MPA. IMSLP / Project Petrucci LLC grants everyone permission to reproduce it in part or in its entirety. I also grant everyone permission to reproduce the above post in part or in its entirety. Please feel free to make this incident as widely known as possible.

Seriously, you can't expect to take down a major website, with a bogus DMCA takedown notice, and then try and hide the evidence. Can you see that? It makes you look ridiculous.”

So now, I’m doing my part to make this incident as widely known as possible.  The UK is trying to enforce their questionable claims of copyright on a work written by a Russian, published in Germany, and hosted on a website in Canada.  All of these places have shorter terms before a work enters the public domain.  That means the initial claim was false.

Then, in response to that claim, GoDaddy takes down the whole site, without notification, without investigation. 

Luckily, they didn’t stay down long.  Slashdot got wind of this recently too, and as always, there are some really interesting and informative things being discussed.  One neat alternative resource someone pointed to is the Mutopia Project, a site where people are re-typsetting public domain sheet music in LilyPond.  You can download the music as PDF or as LilyPond source files to create your own edition.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Tablets in the Classroom part 4 - Kid Tested, Parent Approved

Note: this is the fourth in a series of articles I will be writing for TabletPCBuzz.com, reposted here with permission.

So far I've outlined some of my ideals for tablets in the classroom, and looked at what Intel has already done with their classmate PCs. Now it's time for some real world testing with some real world kids and some real world tablets. Luckily, I have access to a great crop of kids who are already used to seeing me writing on the tablet every lesson and were very eager to get to try it for themselves. Of course, I didn't want to take away from their lessons just to try my experiments, so only a few of them got the chance to try when there was some free time after their lesson. I also have a friend who is homeschooling her two kids and they were game for trying some things on the tablet too.

The Homeschoolers

(picture posted with mom's approval)

We were over there for dinner, but I had taken the tablet in the hopes that there might be some time to play with the kids. Their mom didn't think they'd be up for trying to do math problems after dinner, but was willing to let them try. Of course, when presented with the idea of trying something on my computer, they were thrilled and couldn't wait to try. We had to drag them off it to go to bed. I had to promise they could try it again sometime. Best of all, they were just doing math worksheets on it. And they couldn't get enough. In all fairness though, Mary Judah loves math and will do it all day long.

This family also has an iPad, so that's what the kids were most used to when confronted with a "tablet". It took some coaching to get them used to putting some weight on the pen and about how it was okay to touch the screen. When told to "treat it like paper" they figured it out pretty quickly. Here's how it went….

Mary Judah (almost 8) did a math worksheet in Windows Journal on an HP 2730p in tablet mode. The worksheet was downloaded from a website that offers free worksheets in PDF form, opened in Foxit, then printed over to Journal with the Journal Note Printer. She said it was a little harder to write than on paper, but that she could get used to it. Her mom said her handwriting looked about the same on the computer as it would have on paper. She made good use of the eraser end. Her final verdict was that it was more fun that doing the worksheet on paper.

Killian (4 and a half) did a math coloring activity page in Paint. The initial intention was to also have him do a worksheet in Journal, but as it was a coloring activity, I decided the colors available in Paint would make it more fun. The worksheet came from the same website, but this time I just took a screen capture of it open in Foxit then opened that in Paint. The main difference in doing it this was that the lines became just as erasable as the colors he put down. He figured this out and put it to good use. The assignment was a page of letters and numbers, and he was to color in the numbers. Once he finished that, he started erasing the letters. It took him a few tries to get the right press to change colors, but once he figured that out, he set to work using all of them. He also had no trouble switching between the paint tool and the eraser tool (the eraser end doesn't work in paint) after watching me do it just once. We also found a worksheet for him that he could do in Journal and he completed that one just fine too. His final verdict was that it was more fun than paper.

Mom was satisfied that the work was comparable to how they would have done it on paper. She prints out a lot of worksheets for them throughout the year. Her favorite feature of Journal was that after the kids had done the worksheet, she could easily switch to the red pen to grade them. She's a very tactile person and likes the feel of paper, but recognizes that a lot of it is waste and could stay digital without taking away from the experience. She keeps large binders for each subject and creates daily planning sheets for each kid. She could definitely imagine parts of the binders being digitized, especially with the organizational tools in OneNote, although she would prefer to keep some of the reference material on paper. The main benefit for her would be keeping the daily planning sheets on the computer. She creates daily schedules in Word, and then prints them so she can check off when they've completed an assignment. She liked the idea that with a tablet, the charts could be inked on directly in Word.

Busy mother of 4

Two of the 4 kids (Kimiye and Emmy) take lessons with me, and they were at my place for the lessons due to some rescheduling. Mom took the other two to a nearby park during the lessons for the other two. Since we had some extra time with all my toys, I decided to have them try the TC1100. Tyra also got to try it when they came back from playing at the park. The main difference from the 2730p that the others tried is that the stylus does not have an eraser end, so they had to switch from pen tools to erasers and back.

Emmy (5) asked for a coloring sheet. I found an elephant for her to color and transferred it to Paint. I showed her the color choices and how to switch between colors and erasing. She asked if it had to be grey, and I told her it could be any color she wanted. Rainbow Elephant! She made sure to use every singe color, and had said it was a lot of fun.

Tyra and Kimiye (7 and 9) both did math worksheets in Windows Journal. They both had no trouble using the computer to write out the answers and enjoyed doing it that way.

Mom said most of the worksheets the kids bring home from school go straight in the recycling and they very rarely need to refer back to old work. She would have no problem with most of their worksheets being done on the computer. The thing she was most interested in would be a program that grades it for them also. They also have an iPad, and she only lets them use it to play educational games. With a toddler to chase after also, independent learning apps for the older kids would be very helpful.

Working parents with kids in lots of activities and an MBA program on the side

This family has been with me for a while, and shown lots of interest in the various gadgets I use in the studio. Both kids take lessons, in addition to other activities, and both parents work. In addition to full time jobs, their dad is building an educational website, and mom is working on an MBA on the side.

Isha (9) did a math worksheet in Journal. It turned out to be a bit above her level, but she worked on the problems she knew how to do. Her handwriting turned out a bit bigger on the computer than normal, but her dad said it was just as clear and legible. She said writing on the tablet was easy.

Akshay (12) did a math worksheet in Journal. I couldn't find one at his grade level, but he didn’t mind doing an easier one. This one required a lot of extra work around the problem (multiplying large numbers). He managed to squeeze his work in, but I should have shown him how to zoom in so he would have had more room to work. That's one of the advantages to a digital worksheet - you can zoom in to get more room to work, or to make the problems clearer.

Dad loved the whole idea. He's working on a website to provide educational resources online, and the idea of being able to complete and grade worksheets without having to print and scan fits in with their work. He also really liked the organization of OneNote and how it can mix documents, text, and ink. I showed him how I had combined some text notes with some ink notes, and he asked how I entered text on the machine (it had been in tablet mode the whole time). When I opened it up to notebook mode, both he and Akshay were sufficiently blown away. He found the conversion of handwritten ink to text to be equally impressive. He's now trying to convince his wife to get a tablet to work on her MBA, since her course lectures come in Power Point, and she could write directly on the slides, or print them into OneNote and take notes all around them.


The tablet was universally liked as a tool to write on. I'm not sure how long the novelty would last before the fun of the tablet would be overshadowed by the fact that the kids are still doing homework on it, but they all had fun for the short time I was able to test with them. It would also be good to note that limits on screen time are still recommended for younger kids, and it would be good to mix tablet time with get up and do stuff time. Then again, it's good to mix sit down at a desk time with get up and do stuff time in general.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

An iPad 2 in the studio

No, it’s not mine, but I was not letting it get away without a photo op.  Luckily, I had my own iPad in that day to compare it to. 


It’s much thinner, but I didn’t really notice the weight difference that much.


The student didn’t have Garage Band on it, so I couldn’t really test the difference in speed for that app.  It’s a little slow for my taste on my first gen iPad, and I’m curious how much better it might run on the new one. 


One thing that surprised me is how much smaller it looks from the back.


They had a cute green smart cover for it.  The smart cover is neat, but I would fear for the back getting scratched.  It was really nice that it didn’t add bulk and automatically wakes it up when you open it. 



The angles are good too.  Rolling it up is a lot easier than cramming the the cover of the original apple case into the slot. 

Monday, April 18, 2011

Tablets in the Classroom part 3–Intel’s Classmate Convertibles

Note: this is the third in a series of articles I will be writing for TabletPCBuzz.com, reposted here with permission.  It will go live over there whenever image hosting is fixed.

In parts one and two of this series, I put forth my ideals for the use of tablet PCs in the classroom. I'm certainly not the first person to think this way though, and Intel has already done a lot of great work with their Classmate PC series. The more I researched for my initial articles, the more I saw that Intel has really done most of what I had hoped for. From the website: "The Intel Learning Series is a complete education solution designed for 1:1 eLearning in classrooms around the world. It includes infrastructure, hardware, software, content, training, and support delivered by local vendors to meet local needs. "

The reference design hardware includes two clamshells and two convertible tablets. There are also some really great software solutions. It's also nice that they've created the full support ecosystem of training and infrastructure to help schools easily get a complete set up. The training is really vital to ensure that the teachers know the full capabilities of the set up. Support is really vital when you're asking a teacher to alter or add new stuff to a method of teaching that's been working just fine for years.

First, the software:

Easybits software overlay
From the website: "Easybits offering the Magic Desktop based on the Intel-powered convertible classmate PC. The Magic Desktop is a simplified Windows based interface, creating an open and safe online environment for children."

It's a little more cluttered and catroony than what I imagine, but it's the right idea. It simplifies the windows interface so the kids are presented with just the programs that are relevant to the current educational tasks.

The really great part is the classroom management software. It allows the teacher to see each screen, send one screen to a projector, group students into projecting and sharing setups, and all sorts of other useful things. This is exactly what I had imagined and I'm really excited to see it brought to life so well.
"Sanako Study 700 provides a language laboratory solution for the Intel-powered convertible classmate PC that puts the teacher in control."
"Teachers can monitor individual students' progress with the SMART Classroom Suite, which is part of the Intel Education software stack included in the Intel-powered convertible classmate PC."

The hardware is very close to what I would imagine for the elementary set, with a few exceptions.

1. There is no active digitizer. The compromise they made to make the pen work with decent palm rejection was to use a resistive screen with relatively low responsiveness. That prevents it from reacting to a light palm touch, but also makes for a frustrating touch experience. I'm afraid that for a generation that has grown up being pacified by their parent's iPhones, nothing less that a good capacitive screen will do. But then, there are no good capacitive stylus options, you have to add in an active digitizer. That gets closer to a natural writing experience anyway.
"The new design for the Intel-powered convertible classmate PC features palm-rejection technology so children can rest their hands on the tablet and maintain proper writing form."

Having used several machines with active digitizers, and several with resistive screens myself, I really believe that an active digitizer is essential for kids to maintain natural writing form on the computer. Even their picture explaining palm rejection looks more like the student has their hand propped up on the bezel rather than resting anything on the screen.

2. They are convertibles rather than slates. I think that at the elementary stage, the keyboard really isn't as important as kids perfecting their handwriting. Sure, the keyboard is convenient, but adds bulk. I would love to see a slate version of the Classmate PC.

The good news is that they are well ruggedized, mobile with good battery life and a carrying handle, and while I would prefer the slate form factor, the convertible form is very useful in many situations.
"The new design for the Intel-powered convertible classmate PC features a water resistant keyboard, touchscreen and screen."
"The new design for the Intel-powered convertible classmate PC is specifically designed for “micro-mobility” – small scale mobility within a classroom or the home such as moving from the desk to the floor to the sofa."
"The new design for the Intel-powered convertible classmate PC is compact and ruggedized, tough enough to withstand a backpack."
"The new design for the Intel-powered convertible classmate PC features a touch-optimized user interface for eReader applications."

I do think these convertibles would be good for elementary students, but I wonder if middle school students would view the hardware as too "little kid" and would want something that looks more like conventional consumer hardware. I have had the chance to play with the first generation convertible for a few minutes. I remember it being comfortable to hold and a neat design for kids. However, the touchscreen was way off calibration, so I couldn't really say much about the quality of the touch experience. Intel has done a lot of research and development in this area, and I can only hope they keep going.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

An HP Slate walks into an Apple store


Ironic that the first HP slate I see in the wild is actually at an Apple store being compared to the iPad.  I did get a short opportunity to talk to the owner while the blue shirt went off to get the business specialist.  He said they were still evaluating options for the company, but that he really liked the fact that the slate was running Windows.  That made it really easy to use as it was already a familiar interface and all the necessary programs ran with no problem.  Yes, he used “really easy” to describe a tablet running windows 7.  I asked him how much he was using the pen and he said “all the time”.  I’m pretty sure I heard “Citrix” mentioned in the conversation with the specialist before I got bored poking at the iPads and wandered off to play with the airs.  I think windows tablets may have more traction that people give them credit for. 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Archos meets his little brother


At a recent Ubuntu hour in Mountain View, my Archos 9 running JoliOS got to hang with it’s little brother, the Android running 5.  The styling is really similar between them, and with both running an icon launcher style interface, they look even more alike.  The 5 is super lightweight.  My 5” Dell Streak felt massive by comparison.  Then again, the Streak is a phone too. 

Enjoy a few more family photos:



Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Tablets in the Classroom Part 2–Middle school and High school

Note: this is the second in a series of articles I will be writing for TabletPCBuzz.com, reposted here with permission.

In the first article, I outlined ideas for using tablets in elementary classrooms to replace some of the current mass of paper clutter. I recommended slates, but left out one of my primary reasons for that recommendation. It's about more than just making sure the kids are developing their fine motor skills with the pen, it's also about classroom management. Imagine it from the teacher's point of view - which is easier to monitor, a room full of slates laying flat on desks, or a room full of kids hiding behind notebooks?

With that in mind, in my ideal world, middle school kids would stay on slates. These would be larger and more powerful than their elementary slates. They would still be school owned, but I could see each student carrying the same slate for the full 3 years. Still, the main purpose of this machine is to digitize textbooks and notebooks. Have you see the books they are piling on middle school students now? Middle school students definitely also need a planner of some sort to track their schedule and homework. These machines should be lightweight, have all day battery life, a dual capacitive and active digitizer, and enough horsepower for managing large textbooks and notebooks.

Remembering back to my middle school days, I think nothing less than OneNote would be needed to track all of the notes and homeworks for all of the subjects. Or at least a program with similar organizational layers, tagging, linking, mixed media (audio notes, images, text blocks pasted in, all inkable), searchable handwriting, and cloud syncable notebooks. It's probably easier to just let them run Windows and OneNote than trying to write new software for a proprietary set up. And active digitizers! With the mountain of notes middle school kids write, they will need the accuracy of an active digitizer. Note taking should still feel like pen and paper. If the slates are going to run Windows, the school's inter/intranet and infrastructure would have to be very well maintained (and perhaps well locked down).

In my ideal school, the kids are carrying their own slates with them from class to class. When they get to English class and need to write essays or longer papers, they could grab a classroom keyboard dock and type away. My middle school math classes had a classroom set of calculators we could get when the teacher told us to, and I would see the classroom keyboards being similar. Students would outline and draft by pen, then when the teacher approves the outline, they would go grab a keyboard dock and start typing the final draft.

By high school, the students have probably figured out what tools and methods work best for them and should be allowed to bring their own computer. The school provided option should be a convertible at this point. The biggest thing at this stage is that all the textbooks should be digital. Kids today have to haul around so many heavy books. Carrying all those books and a computer is just silly, and not realistic. A tablet with annotations options for the textbooks would still be better than just being able to read them on a laptop. By this point, students should be so used to digital notes, that those can stay digital also. Imagine students needing to carry only the computer, and that's really the only way this should work. There should be no carrying the stuff they already have to carry and a computer. Tablets or computers of any kind in the classroom will not stick unless they replace all (or at least most of) the stuff kids are carrying now.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Tablets in the Classroom Part 1–Background and Foundation

Note: this is the first in a series of articles I will be writing for TabletPCBuzz.com, reposted here with permission.

Tablet PCs are generally considered niche devices, relegated to specific industries. You will mostly see advertising targeted at health care, construction, warehouse, and other "clipboard" jobs where the tablet is basically used as a digital clipboard. The new crop of "entertainment" style slate media tablets are generally presented in scenarios where the user is lounging on a couch or chair and the tablet is in their lap.


But what about that other major industry where you can frequently observe many workers, pen in hand, scribbling away? You know, school.


Sunday, April 10, 2011

JoliOS vs ChromeOS


The things that is most apparent when you see these two OSes running side by side are the similarities.  You get a clock and other indicators in the top right, a search box in the top middle (which also happens to be a url bar in ChromeOS), and a screen full of icons, many of which are the same.  Each OS is founded around the idea of turning the internet into the primary experience, as most of the program launchers you see on each of those screens just take you to web pages.  Each system boots and resumes from sleep significantly faster than a fuller OS like Windows on similar hardware. 

The main advantage of JoliOS is that it can also run local apps.  JoliOS is built on an Ubuntu base and gives you access to all the programs available in the Ubuntu repositories.  This includes the wine windows emulation layer which allows for the running of some windows programs.  You also get clear access to the file system and local file storage.  JoliOS is also available to run on any machine with driver support.  It’s targeted primarily at netbook hardware and works best on those machines.  JoliOS’s desktop environment, which now carries the Jolicloud name, can be run in the browser on many full desktop OSes, so you can have a similar desktop experience across many machines. 

Right now, the ChromeOS is only available on google’s Cr-48 pilot hardware.  This is a big advantage allowing for instant on, built in 3G (which is vital as the crhome book is close to worthless without internet access), and really long battery life.  There is a related project called ChromiumOS that can be run on any hardware with driver support.  ChromeOS is also linux based, but much more stripped down, with a fastboot system and very minimal userspace.  ChromeOS is basically the Chrome browser full screen.  This gives a similar continuity to the Jolicloud experience, as the app shortcuts and bookmarks sync across chrome browsers and with the OS.  The OS really is just like running chrome full screen, the internet is all you get.  There is access to a shell and some basic file system access for media playback.  But for the most part, all you get is the net.  It’s nice to have the interface get so completely out of the way, as long as the internet is all you need. 

Both systems make for fun secondary machines when all you need is a quick access to the internet.  It will be interesting to see what happens when netbooks with ChromeOS start hitting the market.  There is a netbook available with Jolicloud preinstalled, but it didn’t really take off.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Dusting off the TC1100


My TC1100 had been sitting and collecting dust for a few months.  I was thinking of selling it, so I put the old hard drive back in.  Then it sat for a bit while I didn’t get around to listing it.  A little while later, I realized I wanted to use it, so I put the SSD back in, and - nothing.  It was not recognized by the computer - not from the BIOS, not from the Windows install CD, not from a Linux USB stick, nothing.  Luckily, it came with a 2 year warranty, so I was able to RMA it.  A week later, a brand new one showed up in the mail.  I was still considering selling, and now I had a brand new sealed SSD that I could sell separately.  But there was my TC1100 looking at me, begging to be used, so after a few more weeks on indecisiveness, I installed the SSD and set about reinstalling Windows. 

I followed the mobilewiki guide to install Windows 7 again (although it’s running Ultimate now, thanks to some friends who work for Microsoft).  Getting proper Wacom drivers that worked well with ArtRage was a bit of an adventure, and I’m still not sure which ones I actually ended up with. 

I don’t really draw, but ever since I first encountered ArtRage on the Asus EP121 at CES, I’ve been intrigued.  I may not be an artist, but I did enjoy drawing and coloring as a kid, and my high school notes are quite doodle-full.  I enjoy messing around with ArtRage, and I find that for my simple uses, it runs reasonably well on the TC1100. 

The size is just such a good compromise of big enough to be useful and small enough to be comfortable.  I love it for writing and drawing on the couch.  Handwriting stuff just feels natural and easy.  It’s sadly a little big to haul out to church for note-taking during sermons, but it will live on as a couch writer and occasional music reader.  And with the extra battery, it’s still ideal for media booth notes.  For now, I’m more likely to use the 2730p for music reading just because I’m already carrying it for teaching.  But at home, the TC1100 wins out for best portable wacom pad.

Monday, April 4, 2011

A new Cr-48

I just got a new Chrome book about a week ago! I sent my old one back due to problems with the screen flickering for minutes when waking up under 70 degrees. It was taking longer for the screen to warm up than for a Windows laptop to boot, so I wasn't using it. Google was willing to RMA me a new one, but couldn't guarantee when I might get a replacement. Shortly after I sent it back, the tweet came out saying all the pilot machines where given out, so I figured I would not get a replacement. But about a week ago, I got a knock on the door and Mr UPS had an unexpected package of just the right size and weight.

My new one has a stuck red pixel, but that's workable. It's not even visible on the white of most webpages, only on the black background of the setup screen. And it's way better than the screen on my old one. So I'm okay with it. Now that I have a good Cr-48 in hand, I realize how bad my first one was. The first one had something rattling, and had a bulge on the lid. I guess there was more wrong with it than I thought, but without a good one to compare to, I didn't realize just how messed up that first one was. I'm quite happy with the new one and will definitely be using it regularly. The battery life is great, and while it's not as small and light as I would like, having the bigger screen is nice for browsing.

I've already managed to contribute a few bug reports related to how Windows OneNote WebApp is working. I'm still trying to figure out the best solution for maintaining all my notes between various machines. OneNote is great for organization and syncing with local access available, but won't show ink in the web version. Evernote will display ink notes from the web version, but you can't mix ink and text. Google Docs is easy to use and keep in sync (especially with the recent addition of Google Docs integration in JoliOS) but no ink and there is no more offline access.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

JoliOS panel customization and power savings

There are a few things you can add to aid in better battery management on JoliOS, but first, you have to have some free space on the panel to play with. These changes are best made with a mouse plugged in, as precision right clicking will be required.

The Window Picker expands to fill the available space, so let’s add a separator to contain it, leaving some free space between it and the system tray. 

remove window switcherRight click anywhere in the window picker (the blank space in the middle where the title of the active window will appear) and choose to remove it from the panel.

add to panelRight click somewhere off to the left of the system tray and right click again. You should now have an option to “Add to Panel”. Click that and choose a Separator from the list. With the default color scheme, you won’t be able to see it as it’s the same color as the panel. 

add separator

Time to put the Window Picker back. Right click just to the right of the Jolicloud icon and choose “Add to Panel”. Choose the Window Picker from the list. 

window picker

Now, when you open a window, you can tell where the separator ended up based on where the close x now ends up. You can right click on the separator and move it if you’d like. 

end of window picker

Now that we have some free space to add things, we can add the CPU Frequency Monitor to switch the CPU frequency. 

cpu monitor

With the default color scheme, the text is the same color as the panel, so I set mine to “Graphic only” in the preferences (accessible by right clicking it). 

cpu optionsIf you (left) click on it, you’ll see options to set the CPU to a specific frequency, or choose between Conservative, Ondemand, Performance, or Powersave.  I find that Powersave can get a bit sluggish, and Ondemand is a good balance between preserving performance and extending the battery life.

There is also a brightness applet, but it doesn’t work at all with the touchscreen and it’s sluggish and freezy used with a mouse. The best way to dim the screen for extra battery life is to click on the battery icon and select preferences. Setting the display brightness in the AC tab will also effect the brightness on battery. 

Screenshot-Power Management Preferences

With my processor set to Ondemand, and the brightness at 50%, the estimated battery life goes up by about an hour. I haven’t had the chance to run it all the way down on battery to see if it will really give me the full estimate, but seeing the longer estimate is promising. 

Friday, April 1, 2011

Acer Iconia–neat concept, almost

Acer has recently announced US pricing ($1199) for their Iconia dual 14" touchscreen monster, and the reviews are coming out. I had a chance to play with it CES, and it's a very intriguing concept. I can just imagine it sideways on a music stand with each screen displaying a page of music. It's exactly what I was hoping for, almost.
  1. No active digitizer. This will make mark up more difficult. I tested my capacitive stylus on it at CES, and it was not very responsive. I've run into several capacitive screens that respond acceptably to the stylus, but this was not one of them. Imagine how awesome it would be to have the accuracy of an active pen for marking up music. Or how great it would be for students to have a text book and a webpage open side by side on the top screen, and OneNote on the bottom.
  1. Battery life is terrible. I understand that it's trying to drive mainstream components and two 14" displays, but under 3 hours is less than a full rehearsal. But these are the current gen i-5s. An upgrade to Sandy Bridge should improve battery life.
  1. Weight. 6lbs is a lot. The Kno managed to do dual 14" screens in much less than that, although with smartphone guts rather than mainstream laptop specs. And it's not like Kno have actually managed to ship their product, despite it being on sale for some time now, you need an invitation to get one and they are "prioritizing students who commit to sharing their experiences."
Despite these shortcomings, I will admit to being strongly tempted to pick one up. I love the idea of the flexibility of the bottom panel being a keyboard if you need it, or anything else when you don't. I can type on the iPad reasonably well, and while it's no substitute for a physical keyboard, I think the software keyboard would be okay for most things. You can always pair a BT keyboard for longer things. Imagine it propped up sideways and paired with a keyboard and mouse - it's like dual monitors.

There's so much potential in this form factor, but it needs an active digitizer and Sandy Bridge processors for better battery life.