Monday, January 30, 2006

Why the DocuPen 800 would impact my digital lifestyle

Rob Rushway is asking us “How would a pen based scanner like the RC800 impact your digital lifestyle?”: Win your own DocuPen RC800

I couldn’t resist writing an answer, since this really is a tool that could help me. Here is why:

“I'm a single father (yes, we do exist) having the responsibility for my three childrens well-being every second week. I've got twin girls in fourth grade, and a five-year old boy in kindergarten.

Having a full-time job as a software developer makes it really important for me to quickly be able to catch up with messages from the school and kindergarten. Each day I need to keep track of four different people's needs and schedules, and this can often be a problem when plans are changing or when they recieve papers from school with important messages I need to take into account when sorting out ours plans.

My twin girls have different activities almost everyday, including football, band rehearsals, violin rehearsal, chess and dance lessons. This means that I need to keep track of what they are going to do each day and what type of clothes/equipment they need to cary out their activites.

A lot of the information is given me through small notes that they drop on the kitchen table or that I find at the bottom of their bags. It would have been a tremendeous help for me to be able to scan these and add them to my outlook schedule or save them in OneNote.”

MyScript Notes. A small test

Having read that MyScript Notes was supposed to support inking in Swedish, I decided to give it a try. After downloading the international version (96 megs!) I installed the product on my Toshiba Tecra M4. The product loads fast and looks as good as we’ve become used to for software products.

 Next up was testing the international ink support. Since Sweden is very close to Norway and our languages are very similar, I expected it to be easy to use it for Norwegian text recognition. But no.

First of all, the program had a very “manual” way of performing it’s text recognition. After writing in ink, you have to press a menu or a shortcut to start the recognition process. The recognition itself was hillarious, translating my ink to a very funny swedish sentence (hard to reproduce here, especially for english readers). 

Using the program to make a foreign-language Tablet PC user’s life easier is not recommended. Adding Norwegian words to the built-in english dictionary in the OS itself works much better.

jkOnTheRun: What would you change on your Tablet PC?

Here are my 50 cents on this one:

jkOnTheRun: What would you change on your Tablet PC?

You've probably guessed what I’d like to change, especially if you’ve read my earlier posts here and here. Here’s what I’d like to see changed:

I like my Tablet PC to let me write text and have the computer recognize it in my native language. I’ve installed a lot of Norwegian words in my english dictionary (which helps a lot), but the lack of support for Norwegian characters in the TIP makes this a bit cumbersome (in addition to the fact that every time I’m using the TIP I have to change the input language to english.)


Friday, January 27, 2006

Updates on using my Tablet PC when rehearsing

As someone might have noticed, I've been using my Tablet PC when rehearsing with my band. I did, however, complain about some strange digital-sounding noise coming through my amplifier when the computer was connected with my effects rig throgh USB.

I spent some time searching for a solution, and found someone that suggested that I should unplug the power from my computer.

Yesterday I tried this, and yes, it worked!! No hiss, no noise, no nothing! And I was able to program a new patch for the new song we were working when the other band members where having a break.

To make life a bit more easy, I also created a new power-scheme in the Toshiba Power Management applet with the lowest brightness and CPU settings but without the "turn-off-the-computer-after-15-minutes" setting. This way I was able to keep the computer on during the rehearsal without having to tap the screen every 5 minutes to keep it on!

A day in the life of a Norwegian Tablet PC user

OK, I know that I've blogged about this before, but I'd like to do it again anyway.

Instead of complaining and ranting about missing pieces in my Tablet PC, I've decided to write about how I use my Tablet PC and how the missing Norwegian text recognition impacts my day-to-day life.

(Disclaimer: Since I've been overwhelmingly positive about my Tablet PC earlier, I'd like to point out that this is not a complaint about what I miss, but rather a description of an issue that I think needs to be fixed so that other foreigners could take advantage of the Tablet PC!)

Each morning when I get to work, I carry with me my Toshiba Tecra M4. I put it up on my desk, turn it on and read my email just as an ordinary laptop-user. I check my blogroll on bloglines (remember that I tried NewsGator but returned to Bloglines?).

Since I work as a software developer, there are always a few meetings that I have to attend to. Design meetings, meetings where we discuss new ideas, meetings where we lay out the tasks to be done for the upcomming week etc. Meetings are one area where I use the Tablet PC functionality.

I unplug my computer and rotate my screen while I walk into the meeting room. Seeing that I've got around 2 hours and 45 minutes left of my battery makes me relaxed and calm (my old Dell used to have around ten minutes of battery time..) Firmly seated I fire up OneNote and open a new page. While the others sit down around the table, I spend a minute checking that the new page has been created with a stationary that has been configured to use English as the default language. Whenever I create a new category, I need to remember to change the default stationary in the new category so that it's in english. Because there are no text recognizers for the Norwegian language. Then I start to take notes in English. Good thing that I work in an international business..

After the meetings are done, new code has been checked in and I've spend some time discussing different issues with my colleagues, I pick up my Toshiba and go home.

After eating dinner I try to catch up with my blogroll. This is usually done lying on the sofa with the computer in Tablet PC modus. I double-click on Internet Explorer and point the pen to the address field. After I've clicked on the TIP icon so that the TIP is showing, I can change the language from Norwegian to English to be able to enter text (When using a Tablet PC configured with an input language with no text recognition, you have to change the language and wait for the UI to update. No instant click-and-type). Then I write down the address to Bloglines and press enter. From here on I have no more issues, since it's all about clicking some links and using the scrollbar.

As you might see, I don't spend a lot of time having problems missing the Norwegian text recognition. But from my experiences it's the small things that makes the difference, and for new users to the Tablet PC, the workarounds that I've found might not be as accessible as they were for me (I mean - I'm a professional software developer, I should write my own recognizer!). So please Microsoft and Microsoft Vista developers; put some concern into the issue of foreign Tablet PC users... They might need it!

Monday, January 23, 2006

Band Rehearsal and OneNote

As you might know, I play in a band. Since I’m running on a tight schedule (who isn’t?), I don’t have too much time to rehearse. This means that when I rehearse with the band, I need to be able to quickly remember a lot of songs and text to both play and sing backup-vocal. On yesterday’s rehearsal, I decided to try to use OneNote to help me jot down chords and text.

This was an instant success! In addition to writing down chords, I was also able to record small parts that I play (and tend to forget between rehearsals). Using the built-in sound recording tool in OneNote really impressed the other members in the band. They kept on coming over to have a look at my Tablet and what I was doing.

To top it all up, I connected the Tablet PC via USB to my guitar effects processor, the Line 6 POD XT Live. Using their editor, I could program the effects needed in the new songs we were rehearsing directly on the screen. This made the task of setting up new patches, copying the base sounds that I could start to tweak etc. very easy. The only problem was that connecting the USB created a lot of interference sounds in my amplifier. I had to disconnect the USB cable when not editing, something that made this part of the success a bit tiresome. I’ll take a look at this problem soon and see what I can do.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Fingerprintreader Giveaway

Rob Rushway is asking his readers what they struggle with most as mobile professionals: Billionton Fingerprint Reader giveaway - What do you struggle with most as a mobile professional?

First of all, I have to admit that I don't do a lot of travelling at the moment, so calling myself a mobile professional is an overstatement. And it also means that batteries wont be a big issue for me. (Even though my Tecra M4's batteries only lasts for approx. 2.5 hours)

The reason for writing is not that I want the fingerprint reader, it's because I've always had a strong interest for mobility, and have always used PDAs, laptops, smartphones etc. in my daily work. To be honest, I don't struggle too much at the moment. I carry my computer with me all the time, using almost standard software like Office, OneNote, Visual Studio etc. I'm satisfied doing all my .Net/Flash/Web development on my Tablet PC.

The Tablet PC is in fact the first computer I've had that doesn't irritate or frustrate me in any way. It's small enough, fast enough, bright enough - to make my mobile experience good enough!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

I've made a bet

A couple of months ago I made a bet. The bet is about mobile phones, iPods and music. I’m betting that people will start listening to music on their mobile phones instead of their iPods. The only problem is that I said that this will happen during 2006. Actually, within October 2006. So to speed things up a bit, I thought that I could blog about it and try to find others that are blogging about similar issues.

The first one that caught my eye was this one from » Blog Archive » The Apple Mobile Phone.

Esentially, what he says is that he’s going to quit using his iPod and his digital camera when these technologies are implemented in a good-enough (as opposed to not-good-enough today) way.

I think I’ve blogged about it before?

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Scobleizer >> View any site on a cell phone

I just read Robert’s posting on the MSN Mobile Search:

Scobleizer - Microsoft Geek Blogger » View any site on a cell phone.

Haven’t this been available as a service from Google for a very long time? When browsing the Web with my Qtek 8080, I always used the Google site. I usually start of by searching, but I see others have been blogging about it, posting links to the Google Mobile Gateway as well. 

Anything special with the MSN service? I always loved how Google Mobile let you remove pictures. Couldn’t see any simliar functionality in the MSN service?

An issue with Tablet PCs

There’s a lot of blogging about Tablet PCs now with special focus on what’s happening at the CES. Toshiba hit hard with its Dual Core Tecra M400 and a prototype of a Tablet PC with a detachable display. Tablet PC users gathered together and held a user meeting which was very interesting for those getting the chance to attend. (Read more and see some pictures) over at JkOnTheRun.

Lets face it. Tablet PCs are here to stay. The technology is working great, just look at the built-in text recognition and the new batteries that are coming that will last for a long time. Tablet PC integration in software is almost there and there are lots of small utilities you can use to fix stuff that isn’t as streamlined as you’d like it to be (read Paul Thurrot’s review about the new Google Pack to get a hint of what we’d come accustomed to expect from our software)

What I miss the most, is localized text recognition. This is of course not an issue for people living in the UK/US, but for me it is. And I think its important for Tablet PC users in other small countries as well. So please, Tablet PC team, include some kind of support for recognizing text in other languages than English, German, Italian etc.

When I show off my Tablet PC to Norwegians, they get really impressed with the possibilities of recognized text and the obvious advantages of the pen interface in certain situations. It’s always tough to have to tell them that the only small disadvantage of the system is that it doesn’t recognize Norwegian handwriting…

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Toshiba Tecra M400!

There are some information about a new Toshiba Tecra M400 comming out next month. 5+ hours of battery time sounds like heaven to me: Dr.Jerry in the Tablet PC - Forum.

More Predictions for 2006

Don Dogde is writing about the next big thing in 2006. Allthough his not writing directly about the convergence of devices like I did, he’s suggesting that mobile search is going to be big. He is also writing about VoIP, which I think will be a big hit when the inclusion of WiFi in cell phones goes mainstream.

I’m really looking forward to the new line of phones comming out this spring with WiFi, 3G, GPS, FM-Radio etc. etc. It’s going to be fun to get my hands on one.

Bloglines vs. Newsgator

After one week using Newsgator I have finally decided to switch back to Bloglines. The main reasons are:

  • Speed – Newsgator isn’t using frames, so loading each page also reloads the structure of my feeds. Bloglines uses framesets and doesn’t need a whole lot of refreshing to work.
  • Missing functionality – Newsgator’s clippings doesn’t work in the UK version (where I’m registered), and although I found a posting about this in one of the forums, nothing has been done to fix the problem. Clipping IS working in Bloglines.
  • Text size – Newsgator has a default text size that is unchangable. This makes reading my blogs tiring for my eyes. Bloglines lets me use my browser to change the text size.


Mobility, Mobility and Mobility

The CES has just started. New technology has been launched and important keynotes has been held. This is a picture from The Engadget showing Bill Gates in front of something he thinks is important this year:

I agree with him. But you probably knew that already.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Predictions for 2006

Ok, after I blogged about my predictions for 2006, everybody else started doing the same. This is what Engadget thinks:

We'll spare you our best guesses as to what the future holds for the world of consumer electronics, though we do have some burning questions: will HD DVD or Blu-ray win the war? Which next-gen console will come out on top?

2006 - The Year of Mobility

A new year has begun, and it'll hopefully bring us lots of new experiences and happy moments. My predictions for the new year is that it will become the year of mobility and convergence.

Take a look at how people are using their cell phones now compared to only a couple of years ago. Taking pictures, sending MMS messages, adding entries to calendars, updaring todo-lists and listening to music are all activities that are becomming more and more common as these functions get more and more accessible.

Lets start with digital pictures. A cheap digital camera like the Kodak Easyshare C300 costs $99 and gives you a quality of 3.2 MP which should be sufficient to make acceptable prints. Paying $99 for a cell phone gives you a phone with a 1.5 MP camera (which will probably increase to around 3 MP during 2006), full PDA functionality (PIM), and an mp3–player.

Listening to music is easy, buying a cell phone with a big memory card is becoming more and more usual, and buying extended memory is cheap (I just bought a new MMC mobile card with 1 GB for around $80), giving you enough space to carry with you a subset of your music collection. Uploading mp3 files to your phone is also becoming more and more easy using Bluetooth or a USB cable.

So why will we stop using our iPods or digital cameras? They still provide superior quality over a cell phone, and is a specialized device created to solve a single and specific task.

First and foremost I think its a single-device issue. We don’t want to carry with us (nor remember to bring with us) three different devices. Next, when quality reaches an acceptable level (which is just around the corner for digital pictures on cell phones, and today for lsitening to music), early adopters will see the benefits of only having to carry with them one device.

A gadget like the cell phone is also a very strong bearer of identity, and buying a new phone once a year is not uncommon. So when you’re in the market for a new phone you will also look for models that signals something about you as a person. Being a music lover will probably make you buy a new model that is capable of playing your music. Just as owning an iPod was signaling both passion for music and giving you a credibility, I think owning a new hybrid phone capable of replacing your ipod and even take accetable pictures will probably become very interesting.

I’d like to point out that 2 MP digital cameras on cell phones are available today. The term Walkmanphone is already used extensivly by cell phone manufacterers when advertising new models. New innovations in world of mobile memory coupled with cheap mp3–player-embedded chips will drive the development of new models that will be capable of replacing our existing devices.

To sumarize: for how long do we think that owning an iPod or Nano will be cool…? I know that some of you will disagree to this, but these are my predictions for the new year.