Friday, March 03, 2006

What I miss about my tablet

It’s been interesting to be forced to work on a non-tablet PC again as my primary computer.  My Lenovo X41 tablet is still in the shop where, the techs tell me, the parts are on order and perhaps will arrive next week.  I didn’t realize something until I read Eric Mack’s post on Toshiba service this morning.  When I called down to Skopje yesterday, I actually talked to the actual guy who was working on my tablet.  He could tell me in detail what the problem was and assured me it would be taken care of shortly.  Of course, he’s not responsible for the vagaries of the Macedonia postal system and customs service, so we’ll see what happens.  I haven’t seen many Toshiba customers able to claim this.  Of course, I don’t know what the customer service experience in the US is like for IBM/Lenovo customers either.

Anyway, over the last few days I’ve been mentally comparing my recent tablet/non-tablet experiences.  I’ve tried to mentally factor out a lot of issues.  First, my wife’s laptop is a nearly five-year-old Pentium III Thinkpad.  So I’ve tried for factor out performance issues in my comparison.  Second, I’ve tried to factor out all the little personalizations my Tablet got.  My can’t-live-without applications like ActiveWords, various firefox extensions, tweaked Office applications give me tremendous increases in productivity that I’m lacking on this older laptop.  But yesterday I had two different experiences where my “lack of tablet” functionality was painfully obvious. 

One: At 8:30 yesterday morning I had a meeting with some German, Albanian and American colleagues.  Together we are helping to put together a series of seven evangelistic events in June in cooperation with Luis Palau Evangelistic Association.  We met at the café in our community center around a small table. 

(A) First, I felt really dumb trying to prop this big cludgy laptop onto of a small café table. A typical laptop creates a huge visual/interpersonal barrier when put on top of a table.  So instead of putting it on the table, I set it on a couch next to me.  That created the awkward experience of not being able to listen and watch people because I was always looking sideways at my laptop screen.  With my tablet in my lap it is much easier to remain engaged in the conversation with no non-verbal barriers.

(B) We had been sent some dummy schedules, which I had printed into OneNote.  This normally allows me to write with my pen on top of that “printout.”  Part of the meeting agenda was to refine the focus for each of the seven events, how many we expected to come, times, dates, etc.  OneNote is the perfect application for this kind of brainstorming and tweaking.  We even had to go on the web to consult the World Cup soccer schedule and plan around it, something I never would have thought about except for my German friends.  So we began to tweak; first we decided to slot our Police event into this place and move our professor’s event over here.  Then we decided to dial back the number of civic leaders we would invite to their event and so forth.  All I can say is that was a very awkward process to do with a keyboard.  It just wasn’t natural.

Two:  Yesterday afternoon we had our weekly team meeting in my home.  Each week we get together for prayer requests, updates on various projects, etc.  At one point in the discussion we were talking about ways to transfer more ownership of the church plant we are working on over to our national co-workers.  We had a number of options at play in the discussion.  Again, I was taking notes in OneNote which is my habit.  During that discussion I immediately felt the need to start drawing circles, arrows, and process doodles to help me map the conversation.  OneNote is perfect for that!  Normally I would expand the “paper” a little bit to the right of that agenda item and doodle away with my pen.  Then later I can refer back to those doodles in my notes, which is a great aid in helping remember why I was thinking what I was thinking.  But it was the oddest sensation to look down at my hands and realize I was trapped by the keyboard.  I could only type.  This probably sounds odd, but a pen in your hand triggers all kinds of mental processes that a keyboard does not.  In fact, I believe a keyboard actually keeps you from being as creative as you might otherwise be.

            So that’s my tablet-less update for today.  I’ve got some more things to write on the upside of having restricted computer usage, but that’ll have to wait for another day.




Jim said...

Interesting! I was really just introduced to the tablet concept, well - yesterday. And I must say I'm intruiged. I can certainly see a lot of benefits in the concept. It's interesting to hear about some real life experiences. :-)

Jeff said...

Jim, thanks for stopping by. If you are interested in learning more stop by, probably the best overall tablet site out there. Specifically, you might want to visit:
where there are some "stickys" on the basics.
Today's tablets give you all the power you would expect from a laptop with the additional tablet functionality.
In my post, "Great Tablet PC Demonstration" I link to one of the aces in the community who demos a number of great programs.