Monday, October 31, 2005

So you want to get a Tablet PC

James Kendrik and Marc Orchant are two of my favorite bloggers and podcasters.  They helped me a lot in actually chosing my own Lenovo X41 Tablet.  While neither of them owns one, they’ve talked about a lot of characteristics that they look for in a tablet and the gestalt of that was, for me, the X41.  This week the guys rolled out their first podcast under their new brand and are reprinting a guide on how to choose the right tablet.  If you’re interested in what all the buzz is about (or for detractors, why there isn’t a buzz) you’ll want to look over the article.

Marc Orchant, Warner Crocker and I had a discussion on the current OnTheRun with Tablet PCs podcast that touched on how to choose the right type of Tablet PC for you. The expanding number and types of Tablet PCs available today makes the task of finding the right one even more daunting than ever. I published this article months ago and the discussion today has me thinking it would be a good idea to post it again for those new prospective Tablet PC customers to give it a read. It is republished here in its entirety.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Organize your open windows with Deskloops

I ran across this in either Endgadget or Download Squad yesterday.  I’ve bee looking for a better task switcher for my X41 Tablet PC when I’m in tablet mode.  I’ve been Alt-Tab’ing my through open apps for as long as I can remember, but for obvious reasons, you can’t do that when your keyboard is folded up under your screen.  I’ve experimented with another very simple app call TaskModule.  It works very well, has a very small footprint and doesn’t take any screen real-estate to speak of.  Deskloops does the same thing (helps switch between tasks, but does it with a lot of bling.



Deskloops does this by arranging windows along a virtual horizontal loop. At any one time, you'll see window open on screen as usual, but in fact any number of other windows, set on that loop, can be rotated in from left or right. A strip of thumbnails on top of the screen maps the loop's full content.


Deskloops is kind of hard to visualize, but check out the flash demo and see what you think.  I’ve got a few problems with the scroll bars on the right, however.  Sometimes when I want to scroll down a web-page, for example, I end up with my windows spinning around in circles.  I’m sure it’s a user problem though.  We’ll give it a try for seven days or so and decide to whether to keep it or not.  It’s visually pretty cool and it’s free (but still in beta).  Give it a try.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

FW: Google School: Currency Conversion

This is too sweet.  The folks at Google just keep rolling out the interesting stuff.  Here’s a currency converter you might find interesting.  It’s especially if you work in multiple currencies or need a quite reference.  Great stuff for the time-crunched missionary.

Disclaimer: Google cannot guarantee the accuracy of the exchange rates used by the calculator. You should confirm current rates before making any transactions that could be affected by changes in the exchange rates. Foreign currency rates provided by Citibank N.A. and displayed under license. Rates are for information purposes only and are subject to change without notice. Rates for actual transactions may vary, and Citibank is not offering to enter into any transaction at any rate displayed.


Google makes it easy to calculate money conversions from one form of currency to another. For example, you can google for $5 in yen to discover that five dollars is worth about 600 yen.

If you're not sure of the name of a currency, use nationality instead. You can google for 25 Australian money in Italian money. It sounds awkward but it does the job.

You can even convert units in this fashion. Googling for $2.85 per gallon in British money per liter (which turns out to be about 42 pence per liter) provides an international basis for discussing gas prices at the pump.

Download of The Day: Skype For Windows Fixes

Skype keeps rolling out these updates.  Here’s another incremental update.




The latest version of Skype for Windows, released Tuesday, contains some critical security fixes and is a suggested download for anyone using Skype.

It's free and for Windows users only.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

The bullet-proof Levis denim jacket

Courtesy of endgadget, the perfect accessory to your missionary wardrobe.  Now whether you’re four-wheeling in Western Kosova or trekking through the jungles of West African you’re set.


We don’t think this is really what Levis had in mind when they said their denim was bullet-proof, but for as little as $880 you to can get a stock-looking Patrick Swayze Road House jacket with a level IIIA-rated bullet-proof lining, which will apparently even stop a shot from a .44 magnum. Which is good, because wearing a jacket like this is liable to get you shot.

[Via TRFJ]

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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Ed Bott: Tip of the day: Troubleshoot slow startups. Part 1

Ed Bott is a major guru of windows-dom.  We all face the gradual malaise that seems to overcome our Windows machines.  Here is part on of a two-part post on how to troubleshoot slowly booting Win machines.  In part 2 he goes over using msconfig to dig a little deeper into the innards.


What should you do if your system is taking longer than it should to start up? Don’t start randomly tweaking system settings. Instead, go through basic troubleshooting to see if you can narrow down the problem. This week, I’ll list five separate steps you can take to quickly narrow down the source of the problem.

One cause of slow startups is a program (or programs) trying unsuccessfully to load or make a network connection when you log on to your user account. To identify this sort of problem, create a new user account and log on using that account. If the new account starts up normally, you can start looking more closely at what’s happening in your user profile.

To create a new account, follow these steps:

  1. Open Control Panel and double-click the User Accounts icon.
  2. Click Create a new account.
  3. Type a name for the new account and click Next.
  4. In the Pick an account type dialog box, leave Computer administrator selected and click Create Account.

Log off (Start, Log Off, Log Off) and then log on using the new account. The first time you log on, you’ll experience a delay as Windows creates the files for your profile. After completing this step, shut down your computer and restart. When you reach the Welcome screen, choose the new account you created.

If you experience a slow logon, you can rule out any problem with your profile and focus on hardware-related issues or overall system settings.

Tracy's Reflection on the Past 36 Days

Even though I’m not a student anymore, and even though I only recently moved to a Tablet PC, I’ve been following Tracy & Trever over at The Student Tablet PC blog.  A few weeks ago (maybe more than a month now), Tracy’s Toshiba tablet fell out of her backpack…and it broke.  She’s been messing around with Toshiba customer service ever since.  For the time being she’s using a loner tablet, though not without problems.


At any rate, she’s just posted some really great comments on life as a tablet-using student without the benefit of her tablet.  She wrote a lot more, but here’s a taste.  Now that I’ve been using my own tablet for about a week, I can definitely see where she’s coming from.  Tracy scans most/all of her textbooks into her tablet where she can take notes, hyperlink, etc.


Because of the annoying jumping cursor, I've been using regular pen and paper more than usual...definitely more than I like.  A few things I've noticed:

  • I can't stand writing on loose-leaf paper anymore. The loose part of it drives me crazy.
  • I also can't stand the wire rings on binders I have to deal with as a lefty, leaving me with just notepads and the ones with the spiral on top.
  • The is no pen in existence--I've checked--that writes as smooth and as saturated as my tablet pen. Period.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

FW: Crashless Aspirations Debuts As Another Tablet PC Podcaster

I first “met” Vince Anido (Crashless Aspirations) in the forums.  He’s an x41 user (like myself) who’s written a great post on how he uses Onenote.  I’m a big fan of Onenote and plan on writing a post on my own setup at some point.  Onenote is a seriously under-marketed, under utilized program that works great on desktops, laptops and tablets.  Check out his post on Onenote called Ditching The Legal Pad .

Friday, October 07, 2005

Office 12's MinBar

Office 12 is undergoing a major face-lift in it’s next release.  Due out next year, Office 12 will look a lot different from the Office you’re used to.  Word, for example, has over 1200 user commands available.  But the limits of the “traditional” menubar/dropdown limits user commands to about 120.  Microsoft is trying to deliver more power with less effort, few key strokes and less mouse travel. In this post below, one of my favorite bloggers, Marc Orchant, points this out.

Office 12 MiniBarJensen Harris posts today about the Office 12 MiniBar - an in context formatting toolbar in the new version of Office. This looks like a terrific innovation in user interface and should svae miles of mouse travel to make a quick format change to a selection. Jensen writes:

“When you select text in Office 12, the MiniBar appears “ghosted” above the text you selected.  If you move closer to the MiniBar, it fades in and becomes a miniature toolbar you can use to apply Bold, Italic, Font Size, Color, etc.  As you move the pointer away from the edge of the MiniBar, it fades away to nothing.  So, if you don’t want to use the MiniBar on selection, just move your cursor a few pixels away and it dismisses.”

There’s a small (under 1 MB) movie linked from Jensen’s post that shows the MiniBar in action.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

More news on Onenote 12

The guys at MS are doing a great job building anticipation for the new version of Office 12 in general and Onenote 12 in particular. Owen Braun just posted more news on the linking behavior in the new version. Probably one of the most requested features for Onenote is the ability to link between pages, sections and notebooks. While you can do this in the current version, it’s not at all pretty. I use Onenote extensively for my Getting Things Done methodology. I use one folder for notebooks and have links between summary pages and the various projects. But the links look like this:

<file://C:\Documents and Settings\username\My Documents\My Notebook\GTD\Projects\Grant>

You can click on this, and it works but it’s ugly and you have to click through a warning box first. “In OneNote 12, when you right-click on a page tab, there's a new menu command called "Copy Hyperlink to this Page…”

I can’t wait for this new version!

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Native PDF support in Office 12

News on Office “12”, the successor to Office 2003, has been slowly being announced over the last couple of weeks. Today it was announced that Office 12 will support publishing to PDF files natively. Office 12 is headed for public beta this fall and for release sometime in the middle of next year (theoretically).

Our mission, like many organizations, distribute a lot of information via PDF because it's ubiquitous--everyone has Adobe Reader. The only problem is that you in order to create rich content (with URLs, etc) you have to use a fairly expensive product from Adobe.

Chris Pratley posted this yesterday. He manages all or parts of various Office products including Publisher, Word and my favorite, OneNote. He writes:

PDF output is another request we get fairly often for OneNote on the newsgroups and other community forums. Our customers want to easily share their notes with other people who may not own OneNote yet. PDF provides a 100% WYSIWYG representation of their notes including ink annotations and the 2-D layout that OneNote has (since it is static like paper, unlike a Word doc or HTML), and Adobe has done a good job of getting a reader for PDF on lots of platforms out there.

While a number of PDF “printer drivers” already exist for Windows apps, native support will be richer and cleaner. For more information take a look at Brian Jone's blog
His actual post isn't that helpful in understanding the real world value of this. But check out the comment by Craig Ringer for the different this will make for many users.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Memory Stick Micro M2, yet another memory format

If you have the same love-hate relationship that I do with Sony, you’ll be thrilled to hear about yet another flash memory format coming to a proprietary device near you.  Sony is in/famous for only supporting the memory stick format…which only Sony uses.  Now we may have another format that won’t work in anything else.  Don’t get me wrong, I have a 1GB memory stick in my Sony CLIE TH55 and it does what it’s supposed to.  But we already pay a premium for using normal memory sticks.  What are we going to pay for this joker?


Oh god yes, finally, what consumers have been demanding for nigh on years now — another friggin’ memory friggin’ format. Sony and SanDisk were showing off the new Memory Stick Micro M2, measuring 15 x 12.5 x 1.2mm (about 1/4 the size of the Memory Stick Duo), designed to compete with MiniSD cards as well as to be increasingly easier to lose. Yes! Apparently the format has a theoretical maximum of a whopping 32GB of storage capacity which, if true, might make us momentarily pause from our normal “but whyyyyyy another goldarn format already?” routine and take notice — but somehow we have a feeling these won’t just be popping out during the first days of product rollout, which should be sometime in the first half of 2006. No word on which sizes will be rolling out, neither, so we safely return you to your regularly scheduled bitchfest.

[Via I4U]