Vye S37 Review – One Month Report

I’ve received a few comments on my earlier review posts about the Vye wondering if I was going to continue to post more.  I know that a long time has passed between posts.  Part of that is my usual bad procrastination as a writer, but also a lot was my chosen subject.  I’ve been working on a discussion of using the Vye as a music player and it has turned into a pretty big task.  The main reason is that I have tried out a few different software packages and have wanted to allow enough time to really feel comfortable with the experiences.  I’m also preparing a number of photos to go with that report.  It is pretty far along and I hope to have it posted before too long.

In the mean time, I figured that it would be good to do another of my "stream of consciousness" posts reporting on some general thoughts and experiences now that I have had the Vye for a little over a month.  As with the one-week report, this will probably not be exceptionally focused, but I hope the info is interesting.

Notetaking

I have actually spent a lot of time in pretty information-rich meetings at work during the last month and have really been very happy with the Vye as a note-taking device.  As I noted previously, the inking experience on the Vye is generally pretty poor.  As a result, I have switched to taking notes using the keyboard instead of trying to hand write them.  Even when writing on the eo (or, for that matter, on paper), my handwriting has always been pretty awful, so the typewritten notes are really turning out to be preferable.  In a couple cases, I’ve even emailed them to the meeting organizer to use in the minutes, which is something I probably wouldn’t have ever done with handwritten notes.

The keyboard on the Vye is extremely quiet, which makes it pretty suited for use in meetings.  As I have become accustomed to its somewhat cramped size, my typing speed on it is now pretty close to my normal speed on a full-sized keyboard.  I’m a pretty fast typist (in the 60 words/minute range), so this makes it pretty easy to keep up while taking notes.  In fact, I have to write pretty slowly if I want my handwriting to be at all legible, which means that typing notes has generally worked a bit better for me.

The inking has continued to be a pretty big weakness, though, and it has been a bit of a hassle when copying down diagrams or otherwise annotating.  Simple line drawings come out ok, but it is really hard to add legible hand-written labels.  I’ve been in 2 meetings so far that included whiteboard drawings that I wanted in the notes.  In one, I did hand-draw the diagram in OneNote, but spent a fair amount of time after the meeting cleaning it up and converting the hand-written labels to typed ones.  In the other meeting, I just snapped a picture of the whiteboard using the camera on my Treo and then popped the SD card into the slot on the Vye and dragged the image into OneNote.  That was definitely the better approach and is one I’m sure I will use again.

Vista

I actually still have not done very much tweaking of Windows Vista, other than fairly routine tasks such as disabling unused security features (I’m not a fan of User Access Control and I use ZoneAlarm instead of the included firewall) and turning off indexing of sections of the hard drive where I don’t really need it.  Otherwise, I’ve pretty much left things alone and performance has continued to be pretty acceptable.

In an earlier post, I had mentioned using VLite to strip the Vista installation down a bit.  That is actually something I have come to regret a bit.  I think the concept is good, but it is just to error prone at this point without the flexibility to correct mistakes.  Later discoveries that something useful was left out can only be addressed by a complete wipe and re-install of the OS.

I was caught by this one last week when I realized that I had left out some of the components needed to manage MTP based music players.  I bought my wife a new MP3 player (a Sansa View)  for her birthday and wanted to pre-load it with some of her favorite music.  Since I have our full music collection stored on the Vye, I figured I could set up the new MP3 player much more discretely from it than I could from our desktop PC.  Unfortunately, I was completely unable to get it to recognize it.  I tried quite a few things, including manually copying the MTP drivers from the original Vista CD, but nothing worked.  I ended up just staying up late after my wife had gone to sleep one evening and loading the music player from our desktop PC.

The other big issue with VLite is that you generally can’t do an update install of the recently released Vista SP1 if it was used.  I would certainly like to get the Vye updated to SP1, so I probably am going to do a full re-install this weekend.  My plan is to back up as many system and software settings as possible to the extra hard drive that came with my Vye.  I’ll then download the full ISO of Vista with SP1 from MSDN subscriber downloads and do a fresh re-install of the OS using that.  With that backup and the way that I partitioned the hard drive (with separate partitions for software installation packages and music/media), I’m hoping that I can get the system back up and running pretty quickly.

Stability under Vista has been something of a mixed bag, although I again suspect VLite as a likely cause.  I have had occasional system crashes, although fortunately they have been very rare.  I’ve even seen the "blue screen of death" a few times.  Those generally have only occurred while connected to my work network with VPN and, unfortunately, Cisco’s VPN client is still known to be pretty flaky under Vista.  Fortunately, the problem doesn’t extremely often and I’ve generally been able to do the work that I need to do under VPN.  For the most part, I mainly just use the VPN to synchronize OneNote and Outlook.

Travel

Last weekend, my family took a trip to Phoenix to visit my wife’s family.  This short trip provided my first opportunity to use my Vye while traveling.  While this wasn’t really the heavy-use test that a business trip would be, it still gave me a taste of how well it works while on the road.

Obviously, the biggest advantage of traveling with the Vye is its small size.  I have taken along full-sized laptops on trips in the past and their bulk can be hugely inconvenient, particularly during air travel.  While we did take along just the eo on a couple trips last year, my wife is not at all comfortable with a slate tablet and generally wasn’t very happy with it being the only computer we had along.  On one trip, she actually ended up just going down to the hotel’s business center to check emails or visit the web.  On a later trip, she was able to get by with the Bluetooth keyboard and wireless mouse on the eo, but she still found it awkward.  In contrast, she seemed much more comfortable with the Vye, since it looks and feels like a smaller version of a conventional laptop.

As my main UMPC carrying case, I have long been using a Case Logic portable DVD player case.  This case is large enough to hold the Vye plus an extra battery in the main compartment.  It also has a side zipper compartment that is large enough to carry along my Sprint USB EVDO modem, a wireless notebook mouse, a USB stick, and a couple miscellaneous cables.  All of this is very small and lightweight and easily fits under the seat on an airplane.  The case came with a shoulder strap that I leave off of it most of the time, but which is very helpful to attach when traveling.

During our trip, we stayed at two different Holiday Inn Express motels.  We got in fairly late on the first night and, thus, stayed at the one right by the airport.  At that motel, I was very easily able to connect to their wifi network and get online.  The signal was pretty strong from our room and, thus, the connectivity was very effective.  I’m always a little leery of public hotel networks like that, but I do have ZoneAlarm’s firewall and anti-virus installed on the Vye and kept it turned up to a fairly high level of security.

For the second and third nights of our trip, we moved to another Holiday Inn Express that is much closer to my in-laws’ house.  This one also offers free wi-fi, but my past experiences there have shown it not to be very reliable and it again lived down to my expectations on this trip.  While I was able to connect to the network itself, I was never able to actually get connected to the Internet with it.  This wasn’t really a big deal, though, as I simply flipped the "wireless" switch to off and then plugged in the Sprint modem.  I was able to get very fast and reliable connectivity that way.

No Responses to “Vye S37 Review – One Month Report”

  1. Martin says:

    Wow that was fast! Thanks a lot for this post – I’m pretty much sold for the Vye. Now the only question is S37B or the soon-to-be-out S41 (with integrated DVD-burner) but I’m still leaning towards the S37B.

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