Archive for March, 2007

Organizing Music for Origami Experience

Tuesday, March 20th, 2007

Along with the release of Windows Vista, Microsoft introduced Origami Experience, a new media player and program launcher specifically designed for touch-screen UMPCs. Since upgrading my eo v7110 to Vista Ultimate, I have been using Origami Experience as my primary music player.

As I have mentioned in some of my previous posts, the large hard drive capacity on the v7110 was a big motivator for me when I choose that model. With a 160GB hard drive, I actually carry around my entire, rather extensive music collection on my eo. My music collection (mostly MP3s at 128 or 192 mbps) takes up nearly 85GB on my hard drive and represents around 1,500 different albums.

In this article, I’m going to share tips in a couple key areas for effectively managing a music library to make it work well with Origami Experience.
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Samsung Q1 Ultra and Amtek T770

Friday, March 16th, 2007

The most discussed item in the UMPC community this week has been the announcement of Samsung’s Q1-Ultra UMPC. Although it hasn’t received nearly as much attention, Amtek also announced a new model, the T770, a few weeks ago at CES. Both of these are fairly substantial upgrades to the first two Microsoft Origami UMPCs to become available to consumers, the Samsung Q1 and the Amtek T700 (sold in the US as the TabletKiosk eo v7110).

As these models are fairly significant re-designs of the first two Origami models, these two systems probably have the best claim to a “second generation UMPC” title. While Samsung has released several incremental upgrades to the Q1 before, the Q1-Ultra is really their first substantial re-design, both internally and externally. In fact, some leaked pre-announcement materials on the awkwardly-named Q1-Ultra showed that it was originally planned to be the Q2, which would have probably been a better name.

While Windows Vista compatibility/optimization looks to be a key driver for both devices, each also has a somewhat updated feature set intended to address some of the complaints/criticisms of their predecessors. Both appear to have improved CPUs and graphics processors. Reportedly, the Q1-Ultra has even been shown running Vista with the rather demanding Aero interface active. Less is known about the T770, although it seems to be a pretty safe bet that it almost has to improve on the fairly poor graphics performance of the T700.

As with the earlier models, Samsung continues to offer a lot more bells and whistles than the somewhat minimalist Amtek device. The Q1-Ultra carries over the built-in ethernet and VGA ports that were standard on the Q1 and it substitutes the Q1’s CompactFlash slot for a now more common Secure Digital slot. It also adds a fingerprint scanner, built-in web and snapshot cameras, and cellular networking. Probably the most talked about addition is a split thumb-keyboard across the face of the unit. This was almost certainly added as a response to the many reviews of the Q1 that complained of the lack of a keyboard. The Q1 was easily the most widely-reviewed of the first batch of UMPCs (some mainstream publications made it look like it was the only one on the market), and it isn’t surprising that Samsung would feel the need to address this widely mentioned item.

The upgrades to the T770 are more internal improvements rather than added features, although it does reportedly add an SD card reader and a camera. It is expected to retain the biggest advantage that the T700 had over other UMPCs, which is the use of 2.5″ hard drives, which currently allows a maximum of 160GB of on-board storage with the potential for 200GB or higher drives in the near future.

Coming down to the bottom line, I guess the obvious question that any UMPC early adopter has to consider is whether or not either of these second generation devices might prompt an upgrade. Personally, I’m tempted somewhat, but still definitely in a “wait and see” mode. Some of the bells and whistles of the Q1-Ultra are attractive, but I definitely would have a hard time giving up the 160GB hard drive capacity that I have on my current UMPC. As for the T770, I do get frustrated sometimes by the fairly weak performance of the T700, but I would definitely need to see strong indications of substantial improvement before I would shell out for an upgrade.

That said, I do see it as a positive sign that the first two companies to ship Origami UMPCs are still committed to the concept and are still working to advance it. In a time when all too many mainstream publications are ready to declare the whole UMPC idea a “failure”, it is very reassuring to see two of its main champions clearly acting like they disagree with that assessment.

News and Information Site and Links to other UMPC Sites

Tuesday, March 13th, 2007

I posted the below on the “News and Information” site as an announcement of the retirement of that page. Since the link to that site has been removed from the main page and the list of links to my favorite UMPC sites is worth sharing wider, I am re-posting it here. — JG

I am retiring this “News and Information” site so that I can focus on posting opinions and commentary on the primary blog. I just don’t have the time or a strong inclination for news reporting and there are other sites that do a better job covering the latest UMPC news and information than I ever could. Here are links to a few of my favorites:

UMPCPortal: This is the most comprehensive UMPC news and information site out there. While I think they sometimes define the term “UMPC” a bit too broadly, this site is still exceptionally information-rich and should be a very frequent destination for any UMPC-enthusiast.

jkOnTheRun: This site covers all of mobile computing rather than just UMPCs, but it is constantly updated, frequently insightful, and consistently accurate. This is one of the first sites that I visit every day.

Ultra-Mobile PC Tips: Like my own blog, this is another “one man show” site, but the owner (CTitanic), has a lot of expertise and some exceptional sources that leads him to quite a few scoops.

Origami Project: Microsoft’s official UMPC site has the best and most active discussion boards dedicated to UMPCs. The article page isn’t updated very often, but the ones that are posted there are all written by members of Microsoft’s dedicated UMPC team.

Reviving the Site

Tuesday, March 13th, 2007

It has been quite some time since there has been a meaningful update to this website and there are a couple reasons for that. This site is completely a one-person operation and, quite honestly, my schedule has been overwhelmingly full lately. At my day job, we have been focused on several big projects, all of which have pretty much been in a “crunch” period for the last couple months. In addition, a recent fire at the townhouse complex where I live recently displaced us from our home for several weeks while occupying a lot of time for clean-up and repairs (fortunately, our damage was mostly just smoke damage). Finally, I have a very active 3-year-old at home to whom I dedicate as much time as I can.

Now that my regular job has settled back down to a more reasonable pace and we have largely recovered from the fire, I’d like to start writing about UMPCs once again. On this site, I typically have focused on fairly long, in-depth articles and those do take quite a bit of time to write. I even have a few partially-written articles that I still haven’t found the time to complete. Going forward, I am going to try to focus on shorter, more regular posts. That doesn’t mean that I’m going to completely avoid posting in-depth articles, but I think it could work better if I accomplish that through multi-part series on any given subject rather than holding off posting anything until I have time to write everything I want to write on a subject.

I’ve come to realize that I’m much more interested in posting my opinions and commentary than I am in news reporting, so I’m going to retire the News & Information page. There are several other sites out there that do much better covering UMPC news than I ever could. I will put up one last post there with a few of my favorite links and then will just leave the page up for archival purposes for a while.

I’m going to end this post with a short commentary about how useful my UMPC has been during the recent events in my life. The recent crunch time at work left me pretty much “on call” at all times, but the mix of high-portability and wide functionality of my UMPC made it much easier for me to still go out with my family. If I would get a call indicating an immediate need to do something for work, I could quickly get online with my UMPC and my USB cellular modem (or cell phone) and do what needed to be done. Having a full Windows system means that I can use VPN and Remote Desktop for vast accessibility to work systems.

The flip side of this is the high-portability of personal data. While stuck at work for very late hours or during our displacement from home after the fire, my UMPC helped greatly with keeping my financial and other personal data up-to-date and easily accessible. It also was easy to go online as needed to look up information, even during early visits back to our townhouse when we were without electricity and/or internet service.

Admittedly, I haven’t really described anything here that couldn’t also been done with larger laptop computers, but it certainly wouldn’t have been as easy to keep a larger computer with me at virtually all times and places or to use it wherever I needed it.