First day with a tablet PC

tablet computing, technology

I just bought a used tablet PC (TPC) via eBay, and I’m not quite sure why. Guess it’s just the insatiably curious geek in me. I could have likely gotten a free laptop to use via work, but no, I had to try a tablet :-P.

It’s a Toshiba M205, and here are a few of my initial thoughts after playing with it for an hour or two.

This pen feels cheap, like a thicker version of the pens I used to use on those $1 write-on-peel-off “tablet” thingies my folks’d buy me from Sav-On when I was little.

This screen is ugly with the protective cover thingy. Little bubbles, wrinkles, oh well. Doesn’t really hurt readability though.

And speaking of readability, I was really worried that my old tired eyes wouldn’t be able to make out fonts on a 12 inch screen at ~1400×1000, but it’s not bad at all. Text looks decently sharp.

Okay, now for the pen try-it demo thing. This damn thing doesn’t want to doubleclick! Ack. What’s the trick to this?!

The Tablet Input Panel (TIP) just doesn’t seem very intuitive at all. It disappears if I float my pen a little too far away from the screen, which is way too easy to do. And there appear to be clickable shortcuts to www and .com, but they disappear as soon as I pen a letter?!

Hmm… this thing (sort of) recognizes both printing and cursive. Kinda cool.

Damn, not much battery life on this thing! 2-3 hours, tops? I guess I knew that, but gee, that’s a bummer. Good thing I got a spare battery.

Okay, let’s play with OneNote. I already know this app from playing with it on my desktop. What the heck?! A measly 30 day trial? I thought this tablet came with a free license. That’s cheap.

Anyway, let’s see how it is with a pen. Grrrr… not very good! First time, it seemed to get ‘stuck’ on a particular selection point. No matter what I did, it’d select text before and after a particular point. Had to close and restart the program. Other frustrations:

– Bulleting with a pen is impossible. I’ve tried dashes. Little dots. Nothing gets interpreted as unordered lists. How dumb IS this thing?!

– Why does it keep automatically switching back to pen? I want to stay in select mode!

– I like how it suggests auto-correct-type words. Surprisingly good most of the time.

– Why does it insist on creating separate blocks when I’m trying to just create a couple of paragraphs with a line space in between as one block?

Grrr… so far, not off to a great start. And the paper docs are useless, too. Ridiculously general (don’t use the TPC in the bathtub kinda stuff). Maybe the manual-on-CD will give me a better jumpstart into the world of TPC’ing? I know I really should have thought about this before plunking down more than a grand, but why the heck did I buy a TPC anyway? I’m not an artist, nor do I want to be one. And maybe it’s just a steep learning curve, but so far it seems that I could take notes on a paper portfolio, then type them up manually on my desktop faster than I could clean up a handwritten OneNote page via my TPC.

Or maybe I’m just too impatient.

Hmm… okay, tomorrow I think I’ll try Evernote. It seems like a nifty program on my desktop and it has a very enthusiastic following with good support. And I guess I should install Office on this thing, along with the special Office Tablet extensions thingy.

Ack, and then so much general-PC stuff to set up… Firefox+extensions, trillian, logmein, desktop search, some sort of synchronizing program and/or backup program, yahoo music engine, MyLifeOrganized, and lots more.

Forgive me for being rather cranky tonight, but sometimes I can’t help but wonder whether owning a laptop will end up creating more work and headaches for me in the long run. Yeah, I’m a geek, but all this system prepping, learning, and maintenance stuff is just seeming daunting at the moment.

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UPDATE:
Some of the problems I complained about in this entry have been solved, largely by installing the OneNote SP1 update. See this more recent post for details.

4 comments… add one
  • John Aug 26, 2005

    Give it some time.  It is a convertible so you can convert it and use it as a laptop any time if you get frustrated with text input.  When I first got my r15 I was a little frustrated but after a week I can’t do without it.

  • Warner Crocker Aug 26, 2005

    Using the pen does take some getting used to. If you’re looking for similar experiences, tips, commiseration, etc… here are a couple of good sources that can lead you to many more.

    http://www.tabletpcbuzz.com

    http://wickedstageact2.typepad.com/

  • Rob Stevens Aug 26, 2005

    Sounds to me like you got a bum Tablet.  You always have to be careful when you buy something like this from eBay.  I’m truly surprised that you didn’t put two and two together when you were having so much trouble.

    As for the stylus feeling cheap … well, it’s OEM equipment, and they probably assume you’ll lose it at some point (many do), and you’ll be glad that it’s so cheap when that happens.  🙂  If you want a more sturdy feeling stylus, the Cross Penabled is a good way to go.

    Also, it sounds like your previous owner put a thrid-party screen protector on, and did a lousy job of it.  The stock protector shouldn’t have bubbles or wrinkles of any kind.

  • Chris_Pratley (MS) Aug 26, 2005

    Adam, sorry you’re having trouble with OneNote. First thing to do is make sure you have the current release (use Help/Check for Updates and install Sp1 if it says you don’t have it). I’m surprised you don’t have a full version of OneNote – Toshiba ships a full version on all their machines. Maybe this is something to do with a second hand machine.

    I make bulleted lists with a pen fairly often. Is there some special behavior you are expecting?

    If you find the cursor switches back to pen too often, you can turn this off in Tools/Options. You may find installing Sp1 fixes this since there was a problem with it on Toshibas in the original release.

    Your double-spacing issue makes me think you don’t have Sp1. If that’s not it, further investigation is needed.

    For office, if you have office2003 there is no special Office extension. Tablet support is built-in.

    Check out my blog (linked) for tips on OneNote. Also great how-to videos on the OneNote web site e.g. http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/assistance/HA011423061033.aspx

What do you think?