Archive for the ‘Usage scenario’ Category

Site Changes

Wednesday, May 16th, 2007

I have recently made some changes to this site, primarily centered around a switch from Blogger to Wordpress as my publishing tool. Switching to Wordpress gives me a lot more control and flexibility. Unlike Blogger, the publishing tool itself is hosted on my own web space (rather than just the content), thus allowing much more customization as well as access to a large library of plug-ins.

One big advantage is that Wordpress supports the open-standard blogging protocol called Movable Type, which expands my options when selecting blogging tools. I never had much luck getting an effective work process in place with Blogger to allow me to do work on posts via my Treo smartphone. I found tools that would let me write and publish a post entirely from the Treo, but I tend to spend a long time crafting my posts and really need the ability to keep posts in “draft” status and work on them from any of my devices.

There is an open-source Palm OS blogging tool called Plogit that fits my needs rather well. While it was compatible with Blogger at one time, I could not get it to work, probably due to changes made to Blogger by Google since the last Plogit update. With Wordpress, it works fine. Adding the ability to work on posts-in-progress from my Treo in addition to my UMPC and desktop systems will hopefully lead to more frequent updates, although I admit this technology improvement still won’t do much to overcome procrastination…

The other significant change has been to the name of the site. It is now called “Bigbeaks UMPC and Mobile Technology”, indicating an expansion of scope. I still anticipate keeping much of the content compatible with the site’s origin as a UMPC site (thus the retention of “UMPC” in the name), but I decided that I want to add the ability to discuss other mobile technologies without straying too far from the charter. I particularly want to avoid the temptation to stretch the definition of a UMPC beyond reason, such as lumping smartphones, PDAs, or internet appliances under that term.

I started this site fairly soon after Microsoft announced their “Origami” concept for a UMPC and I had purchased one of the first units shipped. Now that the initial wave of excitement has passed, my focus is now more on incorporating the UMPC into my arsenal of computing tools. I was a long time Palm OS user before I got my UMPC and a bit of a shift in my viewpoint came a few months back when I realized that some tasks, particularly quick mobile access to email, calendar, and contacts, were still better suited to a Palm than a UMPC. I ended up buying a Treo 700p. It and my eo v7110 make a pretty potent combination.

I don’t really expect the types of posts that I write to change that dramatically with the new title and slight shift of focus, as I generally expect my current (and any future) UMPC to generally be the centerpiece of my mobile computing experience. Having had a little time to reflect and develop my approach to mobile technology in the nearly a year since I have been a UMPC owner, I simply recognize that writing about my mobile experience is necessarily going to extend beyond UMPCs.

Are UMPCs Safe for Kids and Teens?

Monday, July 17th, 2006

Following the press coverage and discussions of the UMPC, one topic that is brought up pretty frequently is how useful these devices could be for students. The emphasis on these discussions is usually on the note-taking features of the Tablet PC operating system. The portability of the UMPC makes it seem rather optimal for carrying to and from school and from class to class. Microsoft even offers a free education pack for Tablet PCs that provides a number of useful tools for students. This can be downloaded from Microsoft’s website and even comes pre-installed on the TabletKiosk eo.

Anyone who follows the news is likely at least somewhat aware of the many recent stories about the dangers that kids face on the Internet. While the Internet has opened up a whole new world of both learning and socialization for kids, it also has introduced significant dangers ranging from targeted marketing to easy access to inappropriate (even pornographic) content all the way up to the risk of contact with child predators. Social networking sites like MySpace.com have become immensely popular with the younger population, making these sites particularly attractive targets.

Child safety online is a topic that I have taken a lot of interest in, both as the father of a toddler that I realize will grow up with the Internet as a key part of his life and also as a software engineer that has spent a large portion of my career working on online products largely targeted to younger audiences. PC Magazine recently published an excellent article entitled Do you Know Where Your Child Is Clicking? In this article, they outlined how quickly and easily a great deal of personal information about a child can be obtained simply by following up on information in personal web pages and online profiles that may initially seem to be very vague. Even kids and teens that seem to be generally cautious could still be setting themselves up for exploitation, thus requiring a great deal of parental vigilance and oversight of the young person’s online activities.

A primary recommendation in this article, which I have found to be consistent in most articles of this type, is for parents to not to give privacy while their children are using the Internet. Kids and teens should instead only use connected computers that are kept in a common area of the home where the parents or other family members are likely to be present. It also is recommended that the parents maintain primary control over the computers, including full administrative rights. These goals strongly conflict with the personal and portable focus of current UMPCs.

Connectivity is generally considered to be one of the primary functions of a UMPC. Wi-fi, Bluetooth, and/or cellular networking have been standard, built-in features of nearly every UMPC so far. The only significant exception has been the DualCor and its expected lack of built-in connectivity has been its most widely-mentioned criticism, leading DualCor to heavily emphasize the availability of add-on cards. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if a wi-fi and/or Bluetooth add-on card is standard in the box, once these units are released. (more…)

UMPC as Primary PC

Monday, June 26th, 2006

Last weekend, my desktop system developed a major overheating issue. I attempted to correct the problem by replacing the CPU heat-sink and fan, but ended up messing something up and leaving the system unable to boot at all. As a result, it has been at the repair shop for the last week. This means that my UMPC has been serving as my primary PC for the past week, resulting in an interesting test of its overall usability.

My desktop PC is kept in our living room and even since I got my eo, I have mostly still been using the desktop system when I was in that room. Even for tasks like web surfing and email, I have mostly been using the UMPC when on the go or around the house in rooms other than the one where the desktop PC was located, particularly up in the bedroom. With the UMPC as the only PC available this week (unless I want to use my wife’s notebook PC), I have now expanded to using it anywhere in the house. What I have found is that this has helped to introduce me more to the wonders of “couch surfing”, the term that many in the UMPC community have used for web browsing from the couch while parked in front of the TV. While I admit that I almost feel a tad lazy web browsing in that way, I also get the feeling that I could get way too used to it. It is a bit decadent, but also pretty nice…

This week, I do wish that I already had the docking station cradle that has been announced for the eo, but not yet released. This cradle while add VGA and Ethernet ports as well as a couple extra USB connectors. If this were already available, I could have essentially used the eo as a desktop PC some of the time this week by hooking it up to the monitor, keyboard, and mouse that are currently going unused. The USB connectors on the eo itself do allow the use of the keyboard and mouse, if I want, but connecting it to the monitor isn’t really an option. There are a few USB-based video adapters on the market, but they tend to be expensive and also have a reputation for being very slow. I’d rather wait for the cradle. Admittedly, this is one case where the Samsung Q1 would have been advantageous, since it does have a VGA connector directly on the device. For me, though, this would really only have been advantages during this time that the docking station cradle isn’t yet available.

Even with the docking station unavailable, I am actually writing this blog post while sitting at the computer desk in my living room. I am using the extra stylus that was included with the eo as a stand (the plastic stand that TabletKiosk sent me is on my desk at work) and have just moved the full-sized computer monitor out of the way. Since space is pretty limited on my desk with the monitor still there, I am using my smaller Stowaway Bluetooth keyboard and the touchscreen/mouse stick instead of plugging in the full-sized keyboard and mouse. It would be nice to have this hooked to the bigger monitor, but I’m still finding this to work very well.

The biggest disadvantage that I have found to the use of the eo as my primary PC has been the poor battery life. With my desktop box in the shop, I have not yet sent in my eo for the recall service, so I’ve had to keep working around the way-too-short 1:20 battery life. Even once I do get the recall work done, that probably isn’t going to extend to much over 2 hours. That is still pretty short for fairly heavy usage. Of course, it isn’t extremely hard to keep the system on the charger much of the time when using it around the house, although even there it has been something of an inconvenience. I have a 2-year-old child, which means that I really can only use the eo on the charger in places where he can’t easily get at the cord. On weekends, my wife and I also typically spend some of the time taking turns hiding out in the upstairs bedroom while the other watches our son. It also still isn’t unusual to have to get up with the kid in the middle of the night on some days. With no desktop PC downstairs, I have run into a few occasions where the battery ran out and the charger was in the other part of the house. It actually has me considering getting another charger to keep downstairs, although I suspect this problem will be much less significant once the extended life battery is available.

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