Sunday, January 22, 2006

Tech Epiphany – Adventures in Ultra-portable Tablet PC

What is technology about? Its about extending and enabling what you can do, taking the exchange of information and personal control to a quantum leap above simple words between two people, and connecting millions.

How can I use technology in a way that will impact and empower my everyday life, both personal and work, home and on the road?

My plan, which involves a major purchase for me, is a Tablet PC in the smallest form factor possible. I am currently looking at the Fujitsu LifeBook P1510D, reviewed here and the DualCor cPc Both are ultra-portable machines utilizing Windows XP tablet edition and in the case of the DualCor cPc PocketPC as well.

Up front concerns are the Fujitsu Lifebook P1510D in its base configuration quickly escalates in price once you increase the hard drive and memory. Major pluses are that Fujitsu has a solid reputation for reliability and after purchase support.

The DualCor cPC has similar specs, more memory, smaller form factor and is also a fully functional Pocketpc giving it instant on functionality but lacks integrated keyboard. The base unit will ship with 1gb of ram, which is an 800 dollar upgrade on a 256 Lifebook P1501D. The downside for is the Via processor, not a well known processor, which is a higher megahertz than the Lifebook P150D, but may not be an indicator of performance. Plus DualCor is an unknown quantity on the support side being the first product of a new company.

I would love to get either of these units to use as test unit, but I will most likely be relegated to reading a ton of reviews, saving as much as possible and then putting hopefully the best system to the actual test.

Why do I want an ultra-portable Tablet PC? I have four plans.

-----1. Media interface with my home pc.

I want to be in my house and use my Tablet PC to via wifi peruse all the media files on my main pc, and hopefully at some point my media server.

I want to be able to access and view any media on my main home system. From video’s, ebooks to .pdf’s, from music to comics in Cdisplay, an amazing program for looking at a series of images in zipped format. To some extent I want the portable unit to function as a front end, a supremely customized, very expensive remote control. Some of the programs I am looking at are J. River Media Center and Meedio for front end features. Key to this will be usable easily with Tablet PC and preferably low memory and processor overhead with ability to work over network.

Other programs are Synergy 2 to let me use a single keyboard and mouse with two computers. Ultramon a utility to use a second computer as an extra monitor screen like the one used here, Maxvista another software package that lets you use a second computer’s screen as a second monitor so I can use the Tablet PC even when I am using my main pc it can function as a second display, and maybe even as an auxiliary display like this

-----2. Carputer. Keeping it mobile.

The Tablet PC to me is the perfect solution to a portable experience in the car. At its simplest, add an FM transmitter to allow it to play through your cars existing stereo and some kind of mounting system instant, and you have an instant carputer.

Add to that one of the above media interfaces noted in the first section and you can quickly select playlists of your favorite music, play slideshows and various other media. With Belkin CableFree USB Hub you can easily interface it with a host of useful peripherals such as external storage, web camera, GPS simply be plugging in the USB wireless adapter. I really like the idea of using external storage, that way you could keep profiles and files specific to where you are using the device.

-----3. PDA Replacement

I currently have an aging Dell Axim X5 that is nearing the end of its life and needs replacing. Its use has been 90% ebooks, a few simple games and some reference tools for work. I want to fully integrate the Tablet PC into my home and work as an organizational tool. With the programs being full versions I will not have to hassle with converting files back and forth.

With instant sync with the DualCor I could utilze the PocketPC side for instant on use and have that information available on the PC side as well. With the Lifebook P1501D in standby mode I could get nearly the same instantaneous use with the advantage of the integrated keyboard.

With the much more powerful Tablet PC interface I hope to finally use my favorite note program Texnotes Pro by which is an incredibly powerful and easy to use program that makes collecting all those snippets of data easy. One of the other things I plan to do is use an organizer program, up to this point it has been nearly impossible to use an organization program as I bounce back between PC, PocketPC and hipster index cards, the organizer I plan to use another program from GemX called do-Organizer.

-----4. Portable Gaming Machine

With emulators, MAME and others, maybe slightly older pc programs focused on game play and small size…shareware and the like, I hope to put a decent number of great games like Tetris, Bejeweled and others on the Tablet PC and with either a keyboard or a micro keyboard, depending on the machine, have the ability to play as well as work. Not sure of a source for these beyond shareware but I am sure that many games, classics of the past twenty or more years, still exist in a format usable on a Tablet PC.

The durability of these classics as well as nostalgia value should provide a wide variety and a lot of fun with hopefully minimal hard drive footprint, as the biggest problem with these devices is limited storage options.

-----Hopes and Dreams

The biggest problem I see with these devices is what makes them great is size and portability, limits expandability and prevents removable storage from being an integrated option.

One of my biggest hopes is that future devices will include mini-DVD readers/burners. These exist in consumer camcorders and seem to have a minimal footprint so I believe they could be included in the ultra-portable form factors. Capacity of 1.4GB should be enough to hold tons of songs; movies compressed a bit, tons of games and hundreds of ebooks or zipped images.

My second biggest hope is something to help the boot or resume process, possibly booting from a large flash drive rather than the hard drive. The operating system and core system files executing from flash memory should be substantially faster than hard drive, as well as possibly being even more power conservative than using the hard drive. As memory prices and flash media continue to drop in price I see this as becoming a more and more viable option. Imagine the operating system and possibly even the swap file running totally on flash memory. Nearly instant operation in comparison to hard drives.


With the small size of these devices, their raw mobility, I hope to incorporate it into my life both personal and professional. Allowing me to become more organized, consistent and hopefully better by integrating all the aspects in my life in a unified whole.

Why should an idea that occurs to me at work, have to be written down on an index card, and then later when I get home enter it into my main PC, when I can simply write it down quickly in Tablet PC interface, on the spot, no waiting and have it in my application of choice then and there.


-Say I am doing my morning To Do list review at work, I fire up my thinking music playlist while I organize my list in do-Organizer.

-See a display at a competitors store, snap a picture (hopefully with an ultra small USB camera), instantly saved to the Tablet PC, later can show it to my associates to point out what is right and wrong with it.

-At lunch, listening to my relax playlist, work on my shopping list for after work.

-On the way to work, listen to voice notes from previous end of day reminder list.

-Traveling out of town, snap the Tablet PC into the car mount, tie in the power, put in the wireless USB connector to the wireless hub connected to my external storage, GPS, on dash web cam. Fire up the media interface and roll. Total time, less than it takes to boot XP, satisfaction level…priceless.


At 7:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ultramon is not suitable to use a second pc as a monitor. this can only be done by maxivista.

ultramon is a dual monitor utility which extends the taskbar across two screens.

by the way, maxivista also includes the kvm features of synergy.

At 6:14 PM, Blogger Tito Maury said...

Great blog. Found your blog while searching for more information at yahoo about this post . Your blog has quite a lot of interesting thoughts. Keep up the good work, Tech Epiphany – Adventures in Ultra-portable Tablet PC


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