Tag Archive | "productivity"

Samsung Pushes 12-inch ‘Pro’ Tablet, Running Android

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Multi windowing, collaboration, ‘full size’ virtual keyboard, digitizer, and performance with a 12-inch screen. Sounds like an Windows Tablet right? No, Samsung have launched the Samsung Galaxy Note Pro, a 12-inch tablet running Android.

Samsung Galaxy Note Pro

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ThinkPad Tablet Series: Part IV, Productivity Apps and Digital Inking [video]

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Heads up: this article spends some time talking through the use of tablets as productivity devices in general, and then some time discussing the features and functions of the ink apps that I use on a daily basis at work. For demos of the apps and discussion of how the Lenovo Thinkpad Tablet actually handles the apps, hit the videos at the end. Thanks.

This is my personal crusade. I take extreme umbrage to most of the media’s commentary that tablet’s are media consumption devices only and cannot be used effectively for productivity. Balderdash. This is commentary being championed by a community whose typical workflow does not mirror the vast majority of the rest of corporate America. As a tech journalist, yes, I agree, I cannot effectively use a tablet for the finishing work required to post an article. It is difficult for me to manage images and video and effectively upload those to the various content management systems (CMS) that I have to work in. Of course, that’s not to say it can’t be done; Chippy has figured a lot of that out and is somehow able to get a lot of his work on Carrypad and UMPCPortal done from his Galaxy Tab.

However, while images and video represent perhaps the most compelling components of our content, the fact remains that most of our content, and arguably the most valuable part, is the written word that we post. And for that, a tablet is certainly capable of handling that workload. In fact, I am starting this article on my ThinkPad Tablet, hooked up to a CP Technologies 4-port USB 2.0 hub, and a small form-factor keyboard and Gigaware USB mouse.

In my day job as an IT Project Manager and Systems Engineering Manager (doing double duty these days), I am able to do a great deal of my work on a tablet. Despite all of my opening bluster, I will admit that most of this is work that I do in Office applications. Drafting Software Development CONOPS, employee performance evaluations and notes, and just keeping track of my tasklists are some of the work objects that I easily juggle on a tablet.

As a PM, a lot of what I need to do is track everything that is going on on my projects, keep records of every design decision that I make with the various teams, and maintain technical journals of the progress of a given program’s design. I am also able to draft the initial versions of my Integrated Master Schedules using MS Project-like apps. In the technical realm, I am able to draft versions of initial software and systems architectures using mindmapping software that I use to replicate the intended SysML/UML structures and Functional Architectures that I design for the various systems and software applications. Pseduocode in text is also possible for framing my desires in initial design frameworks to hand-off to the programmers to then write the actual executable code.

There are a couple of things that doing this work offline on a tablet does that I count as big productivity advantages for me. One, it allows me to work off of my work-issued laptop and stay away from the distraction of emails coming in every minute. I realize that I could just close Outlook, which I do a lot when I am working on my work PC, but I will admit that my combination OCD/ADD keeps me from being as disciplined as I would like. Working offline on a separate machine just works better for me. Secondly, it allows me to work within my own personal information architecture, organizing specific topics, projects, and data types in specific applications.

One thing I hate about working on a pen-and-ink notebook is that when I flip open a notebook, the specific information I am looking for does not immediately jump out at me. I need color, tabs, folder structures, and so forth, that allow me to look at a page and immediately tab to what I need or want. Is working on a tablet a necessity? Not necessarily, although I will contend that in order for me to perform at my best, I must be on either a Windows TabletPC or a mobile OS tablet after ten years of working within this paradigm. Is my work tablet a toy? Absolutely not. I am not handing my ThinkPad Tablet (or any tablet other than may be my lowest-end, soon to be replaced tablet) over to my kid for anything. My ThinkPad Tablet is, at this point, an essential companion that is the focal point of my workflow. I do not go to a meeting without it, and if anyone walks into my office to start discussing something, I immediately reach for it to take notes.

My productivity apps break down into a set of keyboard apps and digital-ink apps. I will go over some of the keyboard apps in a later post where I will cover all areas of my productivity activities in both Android and iOS. Today’s focus is on the ink apps that I use on the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet. As you likely know already if you have kept up with the first three entries in this series, the ThinkPad Tablet is one of just a few existing mobile OS tablets that sport an active digitizer. This allows digital ink input from the ThinkPad stylus, which can be purchased separately or as a bundled with all three models of the ThinkPad Tablet.

While some ink apps available from the Android Market specifically feature palm-rejection, it seems like this is an innate ability built into the ThinkPad Tablet. Whenever I use any app capable of ink, the only input that is picked up is the input from the stylus, for the most part. This feature does not function 100% perfectly all of the time; in the fraction of a second that my pen lifts from the screen, in some apps, my palm might get picked up. At its most benign, this results in a dot of ink that winds up somewhere I do not want it. In these cases, I typically just write over the dot when I get to that area of the page. Not an issue. In one app, the result is an angled line that chops across the page in the vicinity of my palm. These marks erase easily, and do not have a big enough impact that I am really slowed down to any significant degree. Again, it’s not perfect, but it is so much better than anything that I have seen on tablets while using a capacitive stylus that it is an acceptable trade-off.

Let me make one other mention. In Android in general, if you are going to use a tablet for business use, you have to be very selective about which apps you use and where you are going to entrust recording data. Apps will definitely flake-out and become unstable. This is even more prevalent in digital ink entry. Instead of starting off covering the apps that work well, let me highlight the apps you want to skip for digital ink.

First is the app I am writing in now using keyboard entry, Note Everything. While Note Everything has the capacity for supporting Paint Notes, and initial ink entry works well, storing and recalling the artifact is a roll of the dice. I was happy with the results, but when I went back to recall the notes, the middle of the ink page was justified all the way to the left, cutting off any ink that was written to the left of that point. Rotating the screen to landscape yielded the same results. Note Everything also does particularly poorly if you rotate in the middle of taking a Paint Note. Obviously you can understand why I would not want to entrust notes from an hour-long meeting to this app. The same is true in terms of reliability when using Extensive Notes. Ink notes will frequently be recalled as completely black images with no ink visible.

In addition to these two apps, there are several apps that render ink too thickly with little to no options to reduce the thickness of the ink line. A lot of them only allow you to write within a very constrained window where you can fit one or two words before the app wants to append those words to a separate image of the notes that it renders in a window above the writing area. Furthermore, there are several ink apps that are rendered for small-screen devices, so when the ink is displayed it is too small to be useful when you want to read the note.

Now on to the goodies:

AntiPaper Notes HD

AntiPaper Notes HD: this app is the closest thing I have found to Penultimate, which is the best, and arguably the only, effective app I have been able to find for digital inking on iOS. You can create specific notebooks, and append titles and descriptions to the notebooks. They are displayed in a gallery from which you can select which one to work in. The app only renders in portrait view, which is a little annoying when I am working on a keyboard in landscape mode and just want to read my notes. Due to the overall performance of the app, I have accepted this trade-off as I typically ink in portrait anyway. There is a Pro version of the app supposedly under development, so there is a minimum of feature variety offered in the current version.

With AntiPaper Notes HD, you can ink in either red or black ink, and you can white out sections or erase them. You can create multiple pages in a notebook. There are four different paper options including Plain, Lined, Graph Paper, and Note, the latter of which provides 5 lines, then blank space, then 5 lines, and so on down the page, like a music style sheet. If I was still composing, I could see using this app to twiddle draft measures before I sat down on a keyboard. The notes can then be exported via the email function to a Bluetooth recipient, Google Docs, Dropbox, attached to an email as a JPEG, Evernote, Gmail, Note Everything, Picasa, PrinterShare, Springpad, or Twitter. Most of these options just allow you to send the page as an image. However, Evernote apparently has a plug-in called Skitch that appears to allow you to pick up inking within Evernote; I have not had a chance to experiment with this functionality. I am also not sure if this is a capability provided by Evernote or something special that Lenovo coordinated with Evernote. Sending the ink note to Note Everything gives you the option of embedding the image as a note, or appending a link to a page in a note. AntiPaper Notes HD tends to be my go-to app for taking notes in regularly scheduled meetings. I also scribble notes into a running tasklist notebook from emails, and, when I only have time to ink my daily schedule (I usually enter my daily meeting schedule into Jorte), I place it in a dedicated notebook in this app.

Notes Mobile: I should have mentioned at the outset a reminder that digital inkers tend to break down into two groups – those who must have handwriting recognition and those for whom it is a nicety. In the latter group, there is another sect for whom handwriting recognition does not mean a thing. Perhaps unfortunately for some readers, I am in this last group. I never use handwriting recognition, mainly because my penmanship is so poor. So for me, Notes Mobile is a completely serviceable app. It is a little sluggish opening notebooks, but other than that, it performs well.

Hopefully, this is something Lenovo can address in a software update as this is one of the pre-installed apps they provide with ThinkPad, sourced from a developer that only releases it to OEMs. If you need handwriting recognition, your mileage may vary. I have seen some other reviewers indicate that it works well. For me it works poorly, but then, my chicken scratch is barely recognizable to me, much less a computer. A lot of disinformation has gotten out on this app because most early reviewers did not understand that you can go into a mode that just lets you write or draw, without the app trying to convert your ink to text. This is the mode I always work in.

You can set up discrete notebooks, and you can just write the notebook name on the cover, or have your writing converted to text on the cover as well. The notebook covers can be set to different colors. The app has its own Palm Rejection setting, which zeroes out the few palm pick-ups that I experience in other apps. The Palm Rejection can even be set for those who are left-handed. It has a few options for font settings for converted text, and a few for setting the ink thickness. A little more variety is offered for ink color, where there are 9 options. This is another app that I sometimes use for meeting notes, but less than I use Antipaper Notes HD. I also enter my notes on personnel matters into this app for my employees. Notes Mobile is another tool that only renders in portrait orientation.

RepliGo Reader

RepliGo Reader: This is an app that I have spent very little time with, so I cannot comment on it much. It is a PDF annotation app that allows you to write digital ink, append stickies, and other comments and notes to PDF documents. I frequently export web pages and Microsoft OneNote pages to PDF docs, dump them to my SD card that I use in the ThinkPad Tablet, and then open them up in RepliGo Reader to mark them up with notes in digital ink. I have not used it much because I just came up with this solution for marking up design notes that I originally create in MS OneNote and then need in meetings for discussion. As my teams work through a given problem, I mark up my OneNote artifacts in RepliGo. If I need to, I transfer them back to OneNote on my PC for further work back at my desk. Most of the time, leaving them in RepliGo is good enough. The small amount of experience I have had with the apps gives me a good deal of confidence in it as a long-term solution. RepliGo renders in both portrait and landscape orientation.

TabNotes: I love TabNotes. I tried it out on my Acer Iconia Tab A500 when I was using it for work and it did not engender itself to me using capacitive ink entry. But the app shines on the ThinkPad Tablet. It is very esoteric, and so figuring it out is a lot of trial and error. For the longest time I thought it was one of those apps that only allowed you to ink in an entry box, but it does allow you write freehand directly on the page, once you figure out which button across the top enables that mode. One of the big advantages is that you can both view and ink in the app in both portrait and landscape orientation. It is a bit slow to open and exit notebooks, more so than Notes Mobile.

You can create new notebooks with eleven different notebook covers. The cover and pages are rendered in a deck of cards that slightly overlap each other. You cannot swipe between pages; if you want to go to another previously created page, you have to go back to the notebook view, and then enter the other page — a small annoyance. Once on the page, you can resize it using two fingers. There are 8 different pen colors, 6 different ink thicknesses, and eighteen different paper styles. Enough variety to keep my random mind from being bored. It only has hooks to export the pages to either a PDF document or a JPEG. It also has a line straightener if you are drawing shapes so that you can draw a line, hit the straightener, and it converts your line or multiple lines into a straight-edged shape. You can only freehand draw in this app; there are no options for entering text. I keep a lot of my time management notes in this app, as far as what tasks I want or need to spend time on in a given day or night.

Whiteboard Pro

Whiteboard Pro: This is another one of my favorites because you can append multiple whiteboards as widgets to your homescreens. I keep a homepage that has four Whiteboard Notes in each quadrant of the screen. This app will do both portrait and landscape, but you have to pick one or the other at any given time; you are then locked in that orientation unless you enter the Configure dialog and change it. It has several pre-defined colors for markers, as well as colors for the individual boards. You can also select the color and thickness of the board borders.

Stability is a mixed bag. If you jump out of a new note that you have started, you might lose the first few lines. This app works best if you open up a marker note and ink in it for a while before you try task-switching to another app. It also has a bug where you may not see your ink note rendered when you get out and go back to the home screen initially. I frequently go back to a blank widget, with the ink rendering on the widget a few seconds later or after I swipe to another homescreen and back again. Still, its utility is in surfacing notes directly on your homescreen without having to go into the app. It takes a little time to get accustomed to the understanding that it is not a persistent app like some of the notebook-oriented apps. Each instance of a Whiteboard is its own object that runs independently, so when you enter a Whiteboard space, you only have access to that Whiteboard until you exit and then select another Whiteboard widget.

 

WritePad Stylus

WritePad Stylus: Another close favorite. This is the app I reach for when people walk in and start an unannounced pop quiz. Individual note pads are available on the main screen, and each notepad has its own pages. I tend not to use this as a subject oriented app as it does not feel intuitively like a notebook app to me. I tend to scribble instance, no-notice topics in here that I expect to be short lived. You can title each notepad individually from the home page, which resembles a cork board. There are 3 ink colors, 3 ink thicknesses, and four types of paper. You can turn a note into a read-only note. You can import images for markup, as well as web pages. You can share the page with the same apps as you can with Antipaper Notes HD, or export the entire notepad, although I did experience a lockup after trying this a few times. As far as I could tell before experiencing the lockup, the options for exporting the whole notebook are fewer than just exporting the page itself. There is a separate option for exporting the page as a PDF.

My time with the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet has been a joy, and I expect it be my work companion device for a long time to come. Unfortunately, it is not as stable as the Acer Iconia Tab A500. I keep the Manage Applications widget on my homescreen so that I can kill nasty apps that get stubborn, and digital inking seems to raise the frequency of these events. It helps that the recent apps menu in the lower left-corner of the Honeycomb screen also allows you to kill apps directly from there. I have seen other reviews where the ThinkPad Tablet has benched better than the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, but real-world perception counts for more than any benchmark, and I feel like the ThinkPad Tablet is not as fast as the Motorola Xoom or the Acer Iconia Tab A500. But I also do far more on my ThinkPad Tablet than on either of those devices. And the speed of digital inking over keyboard entry is a strong pillar of my personal workflow.

I know I spent a lot of time on the functions and features of my personal app set of ink apps. For some insight into how the apps perform, please take a look at the videos below. They are long, but I wanted to ensure that I spent enough time demonstrating the apps so you could get a feel for how they work.

Note: the original video I shot had the tablet off-camera, so I recorded this shorter version. The longer version of the video is being uploaded now and will be available later today. It highlights some additional points that I did not have time to cover in the shorter version.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2UUOnpzrUTs

Acer Iconia Tab A500 And Honeycomb 3.1 in Productivity Test

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I’ve had Honeycomb 3.1 on the Acer Iconia Tab A500 for a week now and as I did with the Compaq Airlife and Toshiba AC100 last year, looking for signs that a smartbook is finally happening. The signs are there, yes, but there’s still a long way to go.

Check out a similar A500 productivity test by Jerry at Carrypad

I predicted that 2011 would be the year we would finally see ARM/Android devices move into productivity scenarios and it looks like the ASUS Transformer has achieved that with many recommending it as one of the best Honeycomb tablets out there. With its weight and price though it loses two features that the Toshiba AC100 had going for it but we’re moving in the right direction with the core operating system and that’s more important than weight and price right now.

Let me talk about a few of those core features in relation to my testing on the A500.

Keyboard / mouse support

Not only does the full-size USB port on the A500 support a keyboard but it supports USB hubs, hard drives, USB sticks and mouse pointers. With the core operating system being keyboard and mouse ‘aware’, there’s a surprisingly smooth transition from desktop OS. Double-click to select a word works although there are clear limitations when it comes to drag and drop, especially between windows. It’s something I do a lot with text and images as a blogger. Importantly it seems to be stable and relaible too. Keyboard and mouse continues to be an important input and control mechanism for nearly everyone so let’s hope this gets improved.

Browser

That keyboard and mouse support extends to the browser too. The tab button switches to the next input field for example and you can scroll within a box without the whole screen scrolling with it but there are still critical issues. Input fields are hit-and-miss and my personal test of using the WordPress back-end, a complex web application, fails misserably. That’s an ExoPC in the image above with the A500 off to the side! Mouse-over functions aren’t working 100%, input fields are an issue and drop-down menus appear randomly in the WordPress back-end. Stability seems reasonable but you’re looking at a content consumption browser, not a full web experience. Firefox doesn’t do any better. Mouse-over still doesn’t seem to work and using the WordPress back-end I couldn’t even enter text or resize the Ajax input field.  I’m seeing similar brick walls in other complex web applications too.

The performance when browsing web-app pages is also noticeably slower than on a netbook, to the point where it becomes annoying.  Netbooks aren’t fast but in most cases, they’re acceptable. The wordpress back-end takes seconds longer on the A500 and tests patience. Sunspider is 150% as fast on a N450 single-core netbook than on the dual-core A500! (13ooms on ExoPC vs 2300ms on A500.) Genera processor power is still an issue on ARM devices. A 1.5Ghz dual-core or a 1Ghz quad core solution should be high on your list if you want to test productivity on devices like the A500 in the next round.

For those of you needing the full web experience, I can tell you now that you don’t need to read any further. Honeycomb is a fail in that respect.

Acer Iconia A500 information page. Includes links to reviews, gallery, articles, alternatives.

On the bright side, progress is being made and yes, many people don’t need web apps. Here are some of the improvements I’ve noticed,

  • Rotating homescreen works in portrait mode. Small but welcome change.
  • Re-sizeable widgets really help improve information flow on home screens. A major advantage and in my opinion, a real lock-in feature.
  • Stability improvements help but I’m still seeing more app crashes on the A500 than I do on the Galaxy Tab 7. Windows 7 on a netbook is way, way better in comparison.
  • English language support. A problem with the German version of the A500 I bought – it now has English language support. Not many people will have noticed this issue!
  • USB support for hard drives, hubs, keyboard, mouse, USB drives works well.
  • Browser now supports desktop user-agent for viewing full versions of websites.
  • UI speed and smoothness improvements.
  • Additional apps – Kobo reader, LumiRead, Zinio Reader, Movie Studio.
  • In general, battery life on the A500 has always been very good along with the screen quality.

So we’re at a place where the experience is better than Toshiba AC100 but still a way away from productivity use. The browser and stability need to be improved along with a general improvement in speed and in applications which doesn’t seem to have happened in the last months. Honeycomb isn’t getting enough growth to spur developers to write Honeycomb applications yet and that’s a major worry because it is falling further behind the iPad and if it remains that way, there’s little incentive to write apps for it until Android 2.x and 3.x versions are merged in Ice Cream Sandwich.

One other thing – there’s that Movie Studio application. I’ll try and write a little more detail about it in another post because I’ve just edited a 720p video made on the Nokia N8 with it. It wasn’t a nice experience!

How long until it works?

For some, it works well enough today, for others, Android will never have the feature-set required because Honeycomb doesn’t aim to cover all niche scenarios. It’s a consumer, mass-market operating system designed to help Google make money through advertising in its applications. We musn’t forget that the core OS is actually free although there’s clearly quite an expense involved in getting it suited and booted for the consumer.

For many, Android is getting close. We are seeing adoption in productivity scenarios already and the more apps that appear, the less the browser is required and the less of an issue that browser becomes.

For me, Android is probably a year away from being production ready. I look to the iPad to see how the video software and hardware works well together, how stability is less of an issue and how quality, stable applications solve more and more requirements.  I’ll be looking to test Android on a smartbook or large format tablet in the next round which we should expect to be readily available in early 2012.

Now, does anyone want to buy my A500?

Google Docs for Android – Productivity Test

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As I was researching new ways to manage documents on my Galaxy Tab yesterday I stumbled across a Google Docs application which I hadn’t seen before. It turns out it was released yesterday!

As someone who uses Google applications heavily, both on the desktop and on my mobile devices, I was of course interested to see how far it extends into the realms of true productivity. It turns out that it is no match for the real deal in a real browser with a real mouse and keyboard but it does offer a couple of very useful features.

The Google Docs application shouldn’t be considered anything more than a text and number editing application. The lack of ability to edit spreadsheet equations or presentation documents had me reaching for Thinkfree this morning when I attempted to update my family cashflow  spreadsheet on the Galaxy Tab. What it does do is provide an efficient way to access documents in Google Docs (when you have an internet connection) and to create a new document or upload documents from your device via the Android sharing subsystem.

You can print via Google Cloud Print too which is a nice feature although it’s annoying that you can’t download a copy of a document through the application. Sharing and renaming is possible but it’s not possible to delete files. The application supports multiple Google accounts.

Pinch to zoom worked smoothly on the Galaxy Tab and I was able to input notes easily. What a shame you can’t publish to a blog from the application. Some tie-in with Blogger would have been useful for some.

I tried uploading an mp3 file but it wasn’t permitted. PDF files work and I was able to upload an 8MB file so file sizes are generous. Displaying that 8MB PDF was a basic experience. With no ‘go-to’ page feature and a slow page change time its impossible to view sections of a large PDF.

Finally, there’s a potentially useful OCR feature in the ability to take a picture of a document and upload it for word recognition.

Uploading a jpg file from the gallery resulted in automatic conversion to a document. There appears to be a setting that allows this conversion process to be turned off but on my Google account this option was greyed out. This feature can be useful for preparing an image for OCR before sending by using cropping and contrast settings. A magazine article I took an image of was not recognised properly due to it having two columns. By cropping the article around the columns I was able to get a readable version of the image in seconds after the file was uploaded. Good light levels and a steady hand will help!

image

In effect, Google Docs for Android is a one-way file upload, edit and viewing channel that requires an internet connection at all times. That’s not too flexible in my opinion, but better than nothing. The OCR function is going to be very useful to some people.

Core Tablet Issues

Trying to edit a document on a touchscreen highlights a major shortfall with tablets – roll-over detection. On Windows, there’s the concept of hover. Its either implemented through the mouse stopping over an element or via a digistiser that detects a pen physically hovering above, but not touching, an element. It’s something we’re all so used to seeing and using to activate help text or menus that when it is not there, it becomes a real issue. Designing applications that don’t use mouse-over is one way round the problem but when you consider right-click, lassooing sections of text, drag and drop and other features that are used in document creation, it becomes difficult to see how any tablet without hover or mouse-over detection could become truly productive, especially when you consider the amount of online, web-based applications that use mouse-over to trigger menus. That includes Googles own online applications.

One of the most efficient handheld tablets I ever had for creation was the Wibrain b1. I still have it. Not only does it run a full OS with a full browser, it has a huge mouse pad under one thumb and mouse buttons under the other. It also implements a split physical keyboard. It’s close to being the ugliest mobile device ever but it works like a charm.

My point is that if tablets want to be serious all-round become productive devices they need to consider more input methods. In fact, they need to become clamshells or sliders again. It is possible to make a 5 or 7″ slider with a keyboard, mouse control and full operating system but fashion and price is getting in the way. Just give me a little optical mouse with virtual mouse buttons. That would be a good start.

For the time being, document editing, true document editing including spreadsheets and presentations, on-the-go is really only something you can do efficiently with a UMPC. Windows, mouse, keyboard. Tablets just don’t cut it, unless all you’re doing is entering alphanumerics. . .

Posted from WordPress for Android with the Galaxy Tab

Quickoffice Pro HD available for Android Honeycomb

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iWorks for the iPad has been around for abit a year now and in that time I haven’t really seen anything on Android that has really approached a professional office package.

Although I have doubts that Quickoffice Pro HD is half as rich and feature-packed as options available for Windows and full Linux operating systems, it’s important. It’s important because it indicates that investment is being made.

It will take two more things to push Android into the productivity space. Time, and proven sales figures – which could take even more time!

The X-Over is something we’re watching very carefully on UMPCPortal.

Via. http://www.mobiletechreview.com/ubbthreads/showflat.php?Board=news&Number=40309

image

Posted from WordPress for Android with the Galaxy Tab

Chippy on the Freelance Advisor Podcast–Talking Mobile Productivity

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freeland advisor

A few weeks ago I was invited to talk on the Freelance Advisor Podcast. The topic was mobile computing and productivity – my favorite subject!

I answer questions from host  Andy White about the ‘cloud’ , Google Docs, Android, collaboration, iOS, MiFi and limitations.

Check it out here. (Scroll down past the transcript for the embedded player and download link.)

Samsung Apps on the Samsung Galaxy Tab (Demo Video)

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IMG_5456

There are ‘value add’ features all over the Galaxy Tab experience. Audio, video, docking and one very important one – apps.

Samsung have obviously spent a lot of time and money developing a suite of apps for the Galaxy Tab and, like the video experience, it lifts the device above most Android experiences.

In this video I go over all of Samsungs Tab-specific apps. One feature you’ll see a lot is multiple windows panes within applications when they are used in landscape mode. As screens get bigger you’ll see a lot more of this and it’s a feature that Microsoft will have to take note of if they ever want to compete in the consumer tablet space.

In summary, the Samsung apps add a lot to the device but there’s a few areas that need improvement. The Contacts and Calendar app definitely need a bit of spice in my opinion.

Enjoy the video and let me know what you think in the comments below and check out the rest of our Galaxy Tab coverage here.

Owner Post: Archos 5 Vs iPad in Productivity Scenarios.

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Despite the Archos 5 and the iPad being very different in terms of size, software and even elements of the hardware, there’s still a connecting factor. These two devices are both devices that focus on home use but are very tempting to use as part of an-ultra mobile productivity solution. It’s great to see people testing out devices in this way and Hector, the author of the guest post below has gone much further than most will with their iPad. Thanks Hector for taking the time to explain how you use both devices and where each device fits into your routine.

The iPad and Archos 5 IT

1

I was one of the ones that pre-ordered my iPad to pick up at my local Apple store on April 3. I had originally thought that I might just change my mind and not get it. As time got closer I decided to go ahead and get my iPad. I also had put another iPad on pre-order for my wife, (she didn’t know it until we were at the store and one of the Apple employee’s was coming up the line and asking for name and then he said, oh you have 2 iPad’s on pre-order. That’s when she found out, priceless.)

I will start off, by saying that neither of these two devices are laptop replacements, but you really can do what you need to do on the road without bringing along your laptop. At least for me it is possible with all third party software to make this happen. Since I am doing this comparison between both I will be writing this on my iPad using Notes App and Think Outside Bluetooth keyboard.

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The screen on the iPad is great to work for longer periods and I have used it all day. With the A5 having a smaller screen does a good job for using on short sessions. Battery life is great on both devices but the iPad really has the best so far. I haven’t had to worry about running out of battery on the iPad, and even though I can get a whole day of use on the A5 as well the iPad still gives me more. I set up my iPad and all my devices to sync with Google calendar, contacts, etc… so when I enter appointments on my iPad calendar they sync right over to my BlackBerry Storm wireless and don’t have to worry about having to sync to my Macbook, or my Netbook that I also use. I recently purchased the Verizon MiFi and going to cancel my tethering option from my BlackBerry.

The iPad is screen is visible outside in the day and really doesn’t affect the way I do my work when I am outdoors. If the sun is bright and I can still keep the brightness at about 75% and I can still view the screen. On the Archos 5, I have to set the brightness all the way to 100% and it’s not as viewable as the iPad. Not that you can see the screen on the A5, it’s just that once you get use to the iPad screen it is a little harder to get back to the A5 screen. Here you can see the screen of the iPad outdoors and you can view the screen without any problems. You can see reflection on the screen, but when you are viewing the screen you don’t really see it as much as in the picture.

3 Most people are trying to compare the iPad to a Netbook, Notebook, or a computer, and it is not. You have to remember that it can’t be compared to a PC, even though you can do most of your work with applications that are available from the App Store. Yes you do have to purchase these to make more use of the iPad, but to me it is worth the portability of the iPad when I just want to be able to do some work without bringing my Laptop. With the Archos 5 it is possible to do work, but only if I will be doing very limited work on it.

Lately I have been taking the iPad more with me than my Archos 5, because I am able to Log back into my computer at home and also to the office using LogMeIn and Desktop connect and work really good. These are great apps for the iPad and run any application from the remote computers. On the A5, I haven’t found an RDP app to use to connect to my office so again the iPad will see more use. I still haven’t installed any Word app for the iPad, but GoodReader for the iPad is a excellent app that lets me actually drop files straight into the iPad or download any files that I have in my DropBox or Google account to my iPad, and upload any file back to either accounts. This works great because when I want to travel light I can grab my Archos 5 and hit the road and still be able to access the same files as I would on my computer or iPad. With both the iPad and A5 I can compose or answer email on the road but it is more comfortable to do this on the iPad, again because of the capacitive screen. For those long emails, or documents the BT keyboard comes into use for either device. The screen on the A5 is not as easy to use as the iPad. You have to use a stylus on the A5 for better experience. Now that I have been using the iPad the screen on the A5 is not as easy as I thought it was to click on things and get around. I find myself clicking a few times to open up apps on the A5. I do have the market place on the A5, but the iPad has more apps from the App Store. This gives you more options and usually be able to find something that will work for you and make more use out of the iPad. Since the A5 doesnt have the official Android ‘Google apps’ , you don’t get full access to the Marketplace but I have been able to get what I need on my A5 installed to make use of it on the road and be productive. It is great to have the A5 in your back pocket and get a email from the office and get the info for a certain job without having to carry anything bigger. Yes my BlackBerry Storm can do the same but some of the files I get are PDF and contain several pages so it is easier to read on the A5, when I don’t need anything bigger than the A5t. Also if I just need a file I can get it by using DropBox and download the document or whatever file I need to my A5. Another plus for the A5, is that I use it as a GPS when I carry it with me; iPad has AGPS [I believe Hector means Wifi-based location services – Ed.] which works great too, but it’s not as accurate as the A5. I have NDrive and CoPilot Live on my A5.

4

I like the CoPilot features and I can check traffic and weather at the location that I will be arriving. The scrolling is great on the iPad when you want to scroll pages or when in a browser. Reading books is much better on the iPad than the A5, but if I was standing in a line the A5 would be much better to use then the iPad. Zino magazine app is another great one on the iPad to view your magazines. No more worrying about bringing all your subscriptions with you when your out in the road, because with the Zino app you have all in your iPad along with your books if you have the iBooks, Kindle, and B & N app installed. The music player is much better on the iPad and having the iTunes on it is a plus compare to the A5. By using iTunes you don’t necessary have to buy the music from iTunes, just to sync it to your iPad, which is what I do. I will be pairing up the iPad with the Bluetooth to my car to be able to play music, music videos to play right over to the car stereo. I already do this with my iPod Touch and works great. Besides been able to do all my work stuff on the iPad and most on the A5, I get more done with the iPad because of the other apps that are available on it.

5 Another great app is NetFlix. You can watch movies if you have a NetFlix subscription and can add new movies to your Que or watch what you have and if you pause the movie, you can resume from where you left off next time you play the movie. The iPad pretty much doesn’t get hot at all. The only spot I can feel some heat; I should say warmness is at the top corner where the power off switch is on the front part of the glass. The Archos 5 actually feels warmer in the back, but again nothing like you would feel on a computer.

The browser is much better on the iPad then the A5 in my opinion not that the A5 browser is bad just much faster and fluid on the iPad. I do have the Dolphin Browser on the A5 which works fairly good on it and lets you browse with taps very easily. Here is the Dolphin Browser in action. Even though you can’t play or view flash websites on either devices, I haven’t run into problems where I would need it for anything using both of the devices.

Even if I put the A5 on standby, the iPad seems to be faster [to start-up? – Ed.]  than the A5. This isn’t much but when you’re on the run, this makes a difference. Since I have the Incase case, I just push the power button off and close the flap and grab the iPad and out I go from the office with the ability to be able to either control computer or be productive on the road and get my work done.

6 Both devices are geared towards a portable media device and the iPad does a better job at this. You can sync your favorite movies, TV shows, or video PodCast along with your favorite music. You can always download ABC app to watch some shows on the road as well. The Archos 5 does have more options to watch video formats which is much better but, the way you can open up iTunes and look for your favorite Podcast makes it so easy on the iPad. I know you can download Air Video from App Store to play other video formats on the iPad but from what I see is it won’t work for video files in the iPad. The sound is much better on the iPad vs Archos 5, even if the room is pretty noisy you can still pretty much hear the iPad. On the Archos 5 sounds loud but kind of sounds a little distorted.

Using PadNotes for filling out PDF files that I might need to fill out on the road and this is a great app. On the A5 I am only able to review the PDF file and not fill it out as with the iPad.

30 iPad Productivity Problems.

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Let me start like every other blogger that can’t be bothered to deal with Apple fanatics in comments. I like the iPad and it has a place in the world. It’s making people think about different usage scenarios in ways that Origami/UMPCs never had the chance too. With over 500,000 devices out there, some great discussion and experimentation is taking place.

This article is aimed squarely at people that want to be connected and productive while mobile. Through years of testing mobile computing (and consumer internet) devices we’ve picked up plenty of knowledge on the subject and in this article, I list the significant items that are important when considering the iPad. The list doesn’t just apply to the iPad of course and it’s not exhaustive but seeing as many are looking to use the iPad as a productive device (and I’m honestly very happy that people are trying) it makes sense to put this information out there.

Your comments are, as always, encouraged and anything relevant will be folded back into the list for the benefit of everyone.

So lets start by me explaining how I’m writing this article. I’m using the tiny but powerful Fujitsu U820 (variant) which is running Windows XP. Connected to the device are a wireless mouse and keyboard, a 160GB USB drive, my Nokia phone (it’s charging via USB) my HiFi and  a 1440×900 21” monitor. I’ve been using this ‘grab and go’ solution as my desktop for over a month.

U820dock2

The iPad can do some of that, for sure, but let’s take a deeper look into the limitations because what you see there is just the start of it. Not all issues will apply to you and some issues may become obsolete after iPad OS upgrades but as it stands today, here they are.

Multitasking. With Livewriter, 5 Firefox tabs, Gtalk and Last.FM running I’m obviously taking advantage of Multitasking. I could Close everything but livewriter but I’ve been side-by-siding a similar article I’ve written to make sure I’ve covered everything. That simple operation just wouldn’t be possible on the iPad. Single-tasking DOES preserve user experience but most users also know how to preserve it themselves.

Eleksen Fabric Keyboard

Keyboard. If you want to be truly mobile and productive, you need to be looking at a thumb keyboard either in two-handed mode or single handed mode. There’s no substitution and if someone tells you ‘I can reach 55 WPM’ just consider some of the stress levels involved in using a keyboard with no tactile feedback. Also think about multi-key shortcuts, preserving screen space and programmable keys. The iPad can give you all the characters you want but it will be slow, heavy and a stressful.

Tablet Form factor. During the ultra mobile PC years many of us shouted loud about the need for keyboards in slider and clamshell designs. Tablets work in some scenarios but they never really satisfied anyone. Even if you marry the right software with the right touch hardware, you’re still left with a form factor that has limitations. Nothing can really fix that and the popularity of netbooks should be testament to that. Input of any kind on a tablet PC can be stressful and unproductive in many scenarios.

Processing power. Apple have done an awesome job with the ARM Cortex-based CPU but it’s still slow in comparison to CPU’s on PC’s. Looking at some of the thin and light CULV devices (the Acer Aspire Timeline 1820PTZ often comes up in discussions) you’re paying a similar price for many many times the processing power. Even looking at basic things like web page processing, you’ll see a big difference that could save many minutes a day.

Memory. If you get into any sort of professional work from creating documents, coding and editing photo’s, memory is a must. You need memory and you need lots of it if you want to get productive.

Adobe Flash. Regardless of whether you like it or not, it’s there. Not only for advertising and video but for many other uses from graphs to product comparisons. The same is true of Java, AIR, Silverlight and others come into the mix too.

Weight. 680gm is nothing for a computer but when you’re mobile, it can turn out to be too much. One-handed use is a particular problem with a tablet when you don’t have a surface to rest it on. Try holding the edge in landscape mode and pressing a few keys. The leverage on the wrist is huge. For document reading, this isn’t the best solution.

No 3G. Tethering and 3G routers are a great solution but take it from someone that has used all the solutions; there’s nothing like built in 3G. Ease-of use. Antenna strength. Battery life. Reduced points of failure. Accounting. If you want to go mobile, get the best built-in antenna possible and a quality 3G chipset. I still haven’t found anything that beats the reception on my Gigabyte Touchnote and when I’m sitting in a conference watching people trying to hook-up to the Internet, I’m happy I invested in it.

Capacitive touchscreen – Capacitive touchscreens are good for some things (Glass solution. Light finger touch) but bad for others. The accuracy of a capacitive touchscreen becomes a major issue for annotations (marking up docs, signing) handwriting recognition and any type of graphical operation. Accurately cropping a photo can be a problem on a capacitive touchscreen.

Nokia and Microsoft shake hands on Mobile Productivity.

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We’ve watched the crossover of hardware happen in the last 12 months, agreements to share core operating system elements between phone and PC manufacturers and today, with an agreement between Nokia and Microsoft, we’re seeing the user-level software seal the deal.

NEW YORK — Aug. 12, 2009 — The worldwide leader in software and the world’s largest smartphone manufacturer have entered into an alliance that is set to deliver a groundbreaking, enterprise-grade solution for mobile productivity. Today, Microsoft Business Division President Stephen Elop and Nokia’s Executive Vice President for Devices Kai Öistämö announced the agreement, outlining a shared vision for the future of mobile productivity. This is the first time that either company has embarked on an alliance of this scope and nature.

Under the terms of the agreement, the two companies will begin collaborating immediately on the design, development and marketing of productivity solutions for the mobile professional, bringing Microsoft Office Mobile and Microsoft business communications, collaboration and device management software to Nokia’s Symbian devices. These solutions will be available for a broad range of Nokia smartphones starting with the company’s business-optimized range, Nokia Eseries. The two companies will also market these solutions to businesses, carriers and individuals.

…

This announcement builds on the existing work Nokia is doing by optimizing access to e-mail and other personal information with Exchange ActiveSync. Next year, Nokia intends to start shipping Microsoft Office Communicator Mobile on its smartphones, followed by other Office applications and related software and services in the future. These will include:

• The ability to view, edit, create and share Office documents on more devices in more places with mobile-optimized versions of Microsoft Word, Microsoft PowerPoint, Microsoft Excel and Microsoft OneNote

• Enterprise instant messaging and presence, and optimized conferencing and collaboration experience with Microsoft Office Communicator Mobile

• Mobile access to intranet and extranet portals built on Microsoft SharePoint Server

• Enterprise device management with Microsoft System Center

“Having these two major players cooperating at this level will help us continue to meet our customers’ needs and reinforces our future business mobility strategy,” said Diane Sanchez, head of Telefonica USA.

[Source]

There are many many journalists out there that are better positioned and experienced than I so, for commentary, I point you to the huge related linklist at Techmeme.

The only question I want to ask here is, are you excited about this? I personally don’t use Microsoft productivity products as all my work processes use cloud-based services so I’ll be really honest and say that I find this all rather boring! E-series Symbian-based devices and Microsoft Sync couldn’t be further down my wishlist!

Use Windows Live Mesh to setup and customize your MID

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As much fun as a small device is on the road once it is setup, you need to get it to that point. With or without keyboard may not matter once you are on the go, but you need to get your device to that point.

Using the example of the OQO + Windows Live Mesh we will use the slightly hidden but very useful Live Mesh Remote Desktop to achieve our goal. (This procedure of course can be used for other devices running Windows as well using any remote desktop application which works for you.)

Why use a remote Desktop?

Syncing files is just one part of the equation and even if your MID has a nice keyboard, it is no comparison to your big keyboard, mouse and monitor when you want to setup all your tools and applications. And before that, you want to familiarize yourself with all the bells and whistles the little device might have. This is much easier achieved when you are not distracted by a different input device.

You can make a regular routine out of how to use the device in combination with your main computer. Usually when I travel, I have a special folder containing all the files I need and also save all files I need back on a special folder on my mobile device. This way I am crystal clear what needs to be synced or not. Using it with Live Mesh has the additional benefit that you should be able to sync files against the cloud and just switch on your MID before you go onto tour.

Step 1: Take care of your battery

One of the more expensive and fragile parts of your MID is the battery. Call me superstitious, but I like like to remove the battery so I do not have to worry about any kind of strain on the battery. Plus you do not need to worry about running out of battery if you leave the device on for some hours during syncing / installing.

Unplug the battery, connect to power and boot the OQO (Additional settings should be done once you are connected with the big computer).

Step 2: Install Windows Live Mesh on all machines

In order to use the device syncing and remote desktop capability of Live Mesh you need a Windows Live ID and the software. Head over to mesh.com and take a look at the feature list or more detailed information. While the main purpose is to have a ‘place in the cloud’ for your data or access your home computer through the web, we will use it ‘just’ for setting up our tools.

  • get a Windows Live ID if you don’t have one yet
  • download the Live Mesh Software
  • install it on both machines, your main computer and the MID device
  • start the software on each and add your device to the mesh

livemesh-oqo-3

A more detailed instruction with pictures can be found here.

You can now try and sync folders and more, but we will work with the Remote Desktop. If you already have folders in your mesh, it will add these to the desktop without syncing them – but with a remote desktop it is easy to clean up.

Step 3: Connecting the devices

As soon as both devices are online and are connected through a Wifi (make sure it is not a connection through your Sim card unless you have a flat rate) you will be able to see the ‘Connect to this device’ in your main computer. In the picture below you can see that I have several computers in my cloud – Noir is my big computer, Cutie my laptop (currently offline) and Live Desktop is your desktop in the cloud. By default you get 5 GB of storage on that Live Desktop, more than enough for most.

livemesh-oqo

After clicking "Connect to device" it may take some time until your MID shows a popup window asking you to accept the remote access. Once you have agreed, you now have access to your little device through your big computer!

This is how the screen looks like (click on it for a larger image):

livemesh-oqo-4

Step 4: Switch on the power

Now that your devices are connected and you are on normal power, you should change the power plan (right click on the power symbol, Power options).

livemesh-oqo-5

I switched to "high performance" but remember to switch back.

Step 5: Setup and Install

You can now work with the device to run

  • anything requiring installation / download because it is much easier to configure this through the remote desktop on the device
  • anything needing login / passwords – you can fill your browser / apps with all the relevant ones, like for example twitter / Flickr / Friendfeed
  • setup complicated bookmarks like for twitter search or others which would be hard to type on the keyboard
  • setup tools like Google Gears for Gmail and sync them while connected to real power and possible strong Wifi

 

Step 6: Disconnecting

Disconnecting the systems is very easy, you just click CTRL-ALT-Delete or press the according menu point on the Live Mesh Screen. If you are done for the day with installing and setting everything up, remember to switch the battery settings back and shut down the little device from the big desktop. Voila.

 

Problems I ran into

  • Size of the desktop: As Live Mesh insists to have a special side bar, I was not able to have a screen in full resolution without scrolling or a slightly ugly font. Also the bar "You are now connected to OQO" was located at a least useful place on the screen, if I would run Firefox in full screen mode it would be exactly on the tab bar.
  • you need to remember to switch back the power plan once you are back on normal battery. In my opinion it should automatically switch to high performance when it detects the power cord connection.
  • the keyboard layout still is in English while I am typing on a German keyboard. This is relevant more for the special characters like :.?@ etc which are on a different keyboard than I am used to, but rather than switching over to a German setting, if I had something I was not able to type right away, I used copy and paste which works seamlessly between the desktops
  • Usually, everything is synced through the cloud. But according to the Live Mesh team you can setup some fold
    ers to only be directly connected without the cloud which would be helpful for files which are large or should not go into the cloud. Problem I found was that this does not work, at least not on my side. But in theory it should.

 

Overall it is an easy and simple way to connect the two devices out of the box with one another and setup everything I need and want to use.