2012 is here, nearly February actually, yet I haven’t posted anything (useful) from December yet.
I best rectify that with a post eh?
Ok here goes:
So in the first week of work after Christmas, an immediate need arose for a tablet PC, or to be more specific the criteria were that it had a) Windows 7 b) Core i5 or higher c) It has a physical keyboard that doesn’t require the use of a dock (so you can carry it around and still type).
Apparently Fujitsu make a decent one they had used before, and it had a very neat feature where you could slide a keyboard out when you need it and then back again if you just need a touch screen.
Anyway that particular model appears to either be rare or not in production anymore. So after some digging across a few computer stores (their websites), I found Scorpion Technology to stock Fujitsu stuff, though they only seemed to have straight out tablets, which are nice, but not what we’re after.
They did however have some interesting, a Gigabyte err.. well, Tablet PC. But its not a tablet…It’s hard to explain so; here..
Its called the Gigabyte T1125P-PRO
Without further adieu here’s the specs:
- Microsoft Windows 7 Professional
- 11.6″ Capacitive Touchscreen
- Intel Core i5-470UM
- 8GB DDR3 RAM
- 500GB HDD
- GT410M 1GB
- 802.11N WLAN
- USB 3.0
- Vertical Docking Bay
So it’s a tablet, but also a laptop. Personally I see it as a laptop with a touch screen, I mean, its running Windows.
My first thought as I unboxed it is: Cool!
Maybe I just like new stuff but this is especially cool considering it’s my first experience with a touchscreen with Windows.
Unfortunately Windows 7 has terrible touch support. Period.
Gigabyte has clearly noticed Windows’ deficiency and has developed software to avoid too many problems, but in my opinion its just not nice to use, and I don’t think it will work until they move to the Metro interface (which I quite liked on Windows Phone 7), most likely in Windows 8.
Touchscreen problems aside, it is a remarkable little machine.
You can use it in a few ways:
First (in the first picture), you can use it as a regular laptop, but with a twist. Literally, a twist; the monitor can twist around from the central pivot (though not disconnect).
You can use it in what I call “Tablet” mode; You can swing the screen around on top of the keyboard and carry it around like that. So you loose the keyboard and touchpad, but you now have a full tablet.
Finally, you can dock it. Yep that’s right, this baby comes with the coolest dock I’ve ever seen. ITS VERTICAL!
You close it up, chuck it in the dock and from there you can plug it into a keyboard, mouse, projector, LAN, audio etc etc, and it even comes with a DVD drive that also slots directly into the dock (and also has USB connection).
Overall, this is a really versatile machine, though I wish it had some sort of locking places for the screen so you can use it with the keyboard and screen on the same plane (it is possible, but not easy to use).
I’m actually thinking this would be a nice machine for Android, when x86 is supported that is (apparently it is actually possible (see this project). Just a thought 😀
Oh yeh, another cool feature of note: It comes preinstalled with both x86 Windows 7 and x64. But how does it work? Well what they’ve done is put 3 partitions: x64, x86, DATA. So to switch you just need to use their tool in Windows (it even comes in the form of a sidebar gadget) and it will change the boot order and reboot. Otherwise, you can also boot into their recovery mode (from the BIOS) and select the one you want, though doing it this way will take you back to the original windows installation I believe.
At any rate, is was extremely useful for my circumstance because I needed 32bit to use a projector driver (an older Toshiba that seems not to be updated too often).
UPDATE: Apparently there’s a pretty major problem with the touch screen; when you stop using the screen for 5 seconds it takes another few seconds for the screen to start responding again. I’m gonna see if there’s a driver that can fix this
A Few Weeks Later:
As we have now had it for a few weeks, we have come across a couple of issues:
1) The screen, when in what I’ve dubbed ‘tablet mode’, is upside down, or rather, it is raised on the wrong side. And it does not come with a G-sensor to automatically rotate the screen. Now of course we can just use the rotate function of Windows, but unfortunately if its hooked up to a projector, which ours is frequently, the output will also be flipped upside down.
I’m guessing there’s an app out there to solve this one, so once things calm down at work ill check it out.
2) The other problem we’ve been having is the touch screen decides to go to go to sleep after a few seconds. Fortunately, this was easily remedied by going to the touch screen’s driver and disabling “Allow Windows to turn off this device to save power”. Still, not something I thought of initially considering I’m used to devices with native touch support (i.e. Android and iOS). Microsoft just don’t think about things like that.
That’s about it for the moment, hopefully its the last problem we have, because I really love this machine.
A Year Later…
Now that we’ve had a proper look at this machine, we’ve all but determined it to be unsuitable for the intended use. We’ve done much with it, fixed a few issues, tried a few workarounds but ultimately it’s downfall is the screen’s size.
We wanted to be able to use it in a classroom environment where it would be used as a presentation device, so an instructor could underline/circle/draw on PowerPoint presentations, Word documents etc. Unfortunately MS Office 2010 offers far too little in the way of touch support for that to be possible on an 11.6″ Screen. Even with a capacitive stylus, there simply isn’t enough room to do anything.
The final chance we gave this little machine is with Windows 8.
Yet again, we were straight away confronted with touch issues, causing so much frustration that we almost gave up on the first try! It seems that the main problem lies with the touch screen recognition zones. Most of the Windows 8 ‘hot-zones’ are in the corner or edges of the screens, however the T1125 appears not to have much edge/corner recognition making it really difficult to bring up the charms bar or the recently used bar on the left. Especially annoying was the only way of closing an app on Windows 8, dragging from the top down to the bottom. It simply does not work on this machine.
It appears we will soon be investing in a new All-in-One machine with touch capability, this was a good (if not expensive) experiment that just didn’t pan out
So I just fired up my laptop today (it really doesn’t get used anywhere near as much as it used to) and during one of my usual passive aggressive ‘update checks’ I discovered Ubuntu 11.04 codenamed: Natty Narwhal (weird right?) is out. So I set off upgrading.
Though I am usually against the practice, I chose to ‘upgrade’ my installation, partially out of curiosity and partially because I simply couldn’t be bothered reinstalling, reconfiguring, etc etc. Now, for some reason the Optus mirror for Linux was being biblically slow (something I’ve come to expect from Optus servers) and because I’ve never tried it before, I opted to download the ‘Alternate’ image using BitTorrent. Speeds were much improved and I achieved a consistent 1.3MB/s, which is about what I would expect from BT anyway (due to my rubbish 512k upload I’d say). So I got the image, dumped it on a USB stick and mounted it on the laptop.
From there all you gotta do is either let the autorun do its thing, or cd to the mount point and ./cdromupgrade in a root shell.
Anyways, the point was, it pretty much went flawlessly. The only issue I had was with what I assume was the Nvidia driver not carrying on which caused my screen to be permanently at 640×480. The solution was to simply open up Synaptic Package Manager and install nvidia-current.
After the reboot, the usual Nvidia screen popped up as it was supposed to, and I was immediately upgraded from the classic gnome experience to the new Ubuntu Unity login.
Not having followed the development of Ubuntu, this was a surprise to me. And from where I’m standing, not a particularly good one.
First thing that really bugs me is the way this thing works.From what I can tell, its like a merge of Windows 7’s task bar, and Mac OSX’s dock. In general, I don’t mind the reusing of ideas but the problem is that it completely replaces the menu bars. I guess the first problem is I didn’t like the ideas they nicked from OSX, such as the application taking the desktop thing.
Note how when Firefox is on top, it appears on the top bar. And when its in full focus, the FF menu appears where the title is (just like in OSX).
Now I’m sorry, but it’s stupid in OSX and it’s stupid in Ubuntu, more so even, and it absolutely does my head in when it flicks between the application’s title, and the menu bar; Damn it’s annoying.
It seems this Unity thing is around just to save screen space, which in my world, isn’t a real issue.
Now the parts ripped off of Windows is another thing; It is pretty much the same as Windows 7 (you use it as both an application menu and a task bar) and in Windows 7, it works. But here, it really could work, but the fact that it can’t be moved to the bottom, irritates me. It’s like they’re saying “How dare you make your Linux machine look like Windows”. Seriously, if you rip off an idea from somewhere, why not make it work like it was originally intended.
I liked the idea in Windows 7, how it saves space, how it merges the quick launch bar with the task bar. It gives you more choices in less space. But with Unity, it seems to be limiting my choices, rather than giving them. Isn’t the whole idea of Linux Freedom of Choice?
Another thing they ripped out of Windows 7 is the shortcut keys (believe it or not) for accessing task bar items. So Win+1 will open the first icon on the task bar (Unity bar -whatever).
Oh and they also ripped off the searching from the start menu thing as well. Just as in Windows, press the Win button and start typing to search the installed applications (not files -there’s another button for that).
To conclude: I shall be continuing my Ubuntu experience with Ubuntu Classic (you can change this on the login screen), thus my upgrade to 11.04 was completely useless and once again Linux has wasted another few hours of my life and nothing good has come from it.
This is EXACTLY why Linux will NEVER be a reasonable choice for the masses. More time is wasted than is saved from not buying it.
So here’s a top tip for computer users: waste your time making the money (which by the way helps the economy and society at large) to purchase Windows (or hell … a Mac).
i.e. In the long run, Linux will cost you more in time than you could make from money by working.