Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Is that a...?

Why yes, that is 13.3" of e-ink. (And an unfortunately blurry image, I'm using a spare phone for reasons.)

It's the Good e-Reader 13.3, from the Indiegogo campaign (well, actually from craigslist from a person who actually backed the campaign some time ago).

It's......interesting. I'll be working on the set up, but for now, here are some quick impressions:

Pros: amazingly thin and light, active digitizer and capacitive touch, runs android, super clear giant e-ink display

Meh: build quality is so-so, built in PDF reader (ezPDF Reader) is okay but not great, specs are just barely enough to run things

Cons: Android version is old (4.0.4, really old), previous owner reset it which wiped the google play store, goodereader recently took down the support forums so I have no way to restore, goodereader app store is down so I have no other way to load things, sideloading has failed so far, there are some questionable business practices going on and it looks like support may be non-existent for this device

So, it looks like I'll be spending quite a bit of time trying to get this thing up and running again. I can get by with the built in PDF reader for now, but I'd rather try others. I'd really like to get the google play store back, or at least get the built in app store running again. I'm making progress on the Google Play Store, but the current version I have loaded crashes as soon as I attempt to install anything.

But I knew most of this going in. I knew at the very worst, I'd get a giant e-ink screen with a built in PDF reader and stylus. And I got that. It works. I put my entire music library on an SD card and it all loads just fine. And I can write on it. So, maybe I'll just use the built in stuff for a while and see how it goes.

Side note: this will never be a performance solution for me, this is purely for fun and practicing at home. There is no bluetooth, and no USB OTG support, so there is no way to connect a foot pedal.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Why I traded my Surface Book for a Surface Pro and other happenings

Postings have been sparse this year. It's not that nothing has been happening, it's just that the main happening was the addition of our third child. That means I've spent the majority of the year in survival mode - pregnant, sick, tired, then newborning. The newest addition is 2 months old now and things are starting to settle down again. That means I can finally catch up on all the fun stuff I got to do over the summer.

Once my classroom teaching job ended for the summer and I no longer needed the insane all-day battery of the Surface Book, I started to reconsider my options. It was a wonderful machine, well suited to my needs at the time, but there were always some drawbacks and it never quite lived up to my hopes as a performance machine. 

On the pro side, I could bring it to school, drive the projector to display SmartMusic and Youtube videos of performances to go along with my history lessons, and manage all of the background administrative stuff that comes with a classroom job on the side (which is part of why I don't last long in classroom jobs, but that could be a whole post of its own. There are many great classroom music teachers in the world and I admire them very much, but I am a studio teacher.)

But the cons are why the Surface Book eventually lost out to a great opportunity on a Surface Pro. The main problem was with the separation of the base and "clipboard". I actually did separate them often to work with just the clipboard portion. The problem with that is that you then leave behind the majority of the battery, all the ports, and the SD card. 

My Surface Book was the entry level model with just 128GB built in. I'm a digital hoarder. I thought I would be fine leaving the bulk of my stuff on the SD card and just installing applications on the main hard drive. Nope. I kept running into situations where I wanted all my stuff, but only wanted to deal with the clipboard. Also, the experience of using it for sheet music in performance left a lot to be desired. 

So, when a top end Pro 4 with the i7, 512GB hard drive, and 16GB RAM showed up for a good price on craiglist, how could I say no? The Surface Book went the way of ebay and I now have some breathing room on my hard drive again. 

The Surface Pro went with me to the Suzuki Institute in Santa Rosa for my book 6 training this summer and was a dream to use for managing my music, managing handouts, managing handwritten notes and observations, and standing up on the desk thanks to the fantastic built in kick stand. Oh how I missed the kickstand. It could stand up tall when I needed to read music, and lay down at a much lower angle for writing by simply pushing it back. No picking up and flipping required. But more about that soon. I actually used the Chromebook half the time and the Surface Pro the rest of the time and have a good comparison coming up.

But the real fun is coming tonight. Because craigslist in the Bay Area is full of some amazing gems, I found my next toy and will be picking it up tonight. This one is really exciting. And because I've started lessons again with a handful of students, I can kind of justify it.