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Anyone use a TabletPC ?

Does anyone here use a TabletPC ?  Would it be a decent computer to do development on ?  (Docking station ?)

Any recommendations ?

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

I'd wait a couple generations, to be honest.

To make a PC that's 3lbs or lighter, you give up on a lot. That means smaller, slower hard drives, lower memory. And you're paying a double monetary penalty; it's not like notebooks aren't expensive enough, but tablets are even more so.

I love the idea, but not for development. Yet.

Brad Wilson (
Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Love / hate.

Actually, very little love.  I was issued compaq / HP's tablet one year ago to begin a project developing an extranet app that is deploying on them this month.

I wouldn't write code on it by choice -- the keyboard is tiny (compared to a laptop, which I don't mind).  I'm not aware of a dock for it, but it has two USB and one VGA port, so you could rig up external KVM.  Theoretically that would make it fine for development, but my lack of excitement comes from the fact that even with a good KVM setup, it's not like the tablet form factor actually provides any real advantage  over a laptop for a mostly stationary worker.  In other words, it's not like I spend time in the field walking around with it in portrait mode using it with the pen like a clipboard, so why bother (other than testing for our app)?  Even if I did, one reason I think the honeymoon for tablet sales was short lived is that the damn thing is heavy when you hold it out in front of you for more than a few minutes -- it's hard on the wrist.

The thing I really dislike about it though is total lack of cajones.  Last year this particular model was shipping with a Crusoe that clocked at 1GHz and 256MBRAM.  It's performance feels like a PII400 X 64MB with XP on it.  The last batch we bought came with Celly 700MHz X 256MB (where did they dig up the old cellies?) and they actually feel faster than the Crusoes.  Obviously these performance issues depend on what tablet you choose, but it seems like the form factor poses a challenge in that department.

If I had to pay for it myself, I don't see any circumstances under which I would buy one -- I would spend the money on a proper lappy instead.


Wednesday, April 21, 2004

The tablet PC SDK is pretty cool though, so if you're really interested in developing for tablets you could install it today and ramp up on it while everyone else is suffering through the kinks of early adoption of the form factor itself.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

My Acer TravelMate C300 rocks.  It's got a full 14" screen (though only 1024x768 resolution). The keyboard is full size, and it's plenty fast with lots of RAM. It's only problem is the weight - but since I use it ~70% in the notebook configuration and maybe only ~30% in the tablet configuration, it's a tradeoff I can live with.

The biggest way it's changed my computing habits is for reading (and not so much handwriting, though it is useful to handwrite notes in meetings). Reading pages of online text is much easier with my Tablet than it ever was on my laptop or desktop.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

I bought a HP TC1000 the day they were released. I even went to the MS launch event as I was looking forward to the tablets. I used it for a year, and forced myself to use it for all of my notes during that time.

In the end, I found that I used it for surfing from the couch more than anything and finally realized that I *never* searched through my handwritten notes and that I just really prefer writing in a good old notepad. I'm currently of the opinion that they are great for use in jobs that require standing, but that the pen navigation offers little to other types of general use.

As to your actual question of development on them - the Crusoe based TC1000 I had was ok for using VS.NET, but definitely not fast. You may not be aware, but you can install WinXP Tablet PC Edition on any desktop or laptop and use a digitizer tablet such as a Wacom and you'll have all of the functionality. The only place to get XP TPE is on the MSDN disks, but it is just a superset of XP, so it functions normally, but with the added features. You might be better served by just getting a digitizer and doing that for real development.


Thursday, April 22, 2004

I think what I find laptops lack they lack terribly: whenever you want portability for reading edocs or writing up journals on your Wait Time(TM) in subways, waiting in lines and traffic jams, you want something like the Sony PCG-U101 or the Sony Librie.

When vendors start to build these devices cheap and effect for the situations they were designed for, it frees you up to spend the rest of your computing money on a decent desktop (with say a removable hard drive or portable storage subsystem).

Li-fan Chen
Thursday, April 22, 2004

For development - Don't do it.  The Acer I had borrowed for a bit was just enough to make you think you can live with it - until you start getting into deep debugging and you run out of memory or the slow drivespeed kills you.

For requirements, meetings, design, etc... It's great.  Basically if you want to use a Tablet PC as a developer, you should use it as a second machine.  A heavy lifter desktop for the techie side of your job, and the Tablet PC for the people side.  The combination works incredibly well.

Unfocused Focused
Thursday, April 22, 2004

Thanks for all the great comments guys !

I downloaded the SDK and that will do for now. I will look into a digitizer as well.

I will wait out the initial kinks and probably get one for my second machine for the "wow" factor when talking to people.

Thanks !  :)

Now I can get one mother of a desktop with all the money I'm not spending on a tablet.  :)

Thursday, April 22, 2004

I would have to agree with Unfocused Focused's posting.  I've been using my boss's tablet for about a month now (he hates it), and it's great to take to meetings for notes or to just take down to the lounge for some brainstorming.  I like using it for browsing on the couch at home, and I imagine if we had wireless at work I'd carry it around more. But when it comes to development, I wouldn't even thing about using it.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Is there anything you can do with a tablet that I can't do with my laptop and Pocket PC?

Emperor Norton
Thursday, April 22, 2004

What about for artists?

Pen-based direct inputing of sketch data HAS to be much easier and better than using a tablet (where you're drawing on one thing(the tablet) and the drawing appears on another thing(the monitor)).

Does Flash MX 2004, Fireworks, Photoshop, etc support TabletPC input?

Thursday, April 22, 2004

"Is there anything you can do with a tablet that I can't do with my laptop and Pocket PC? "

I think browsing from the couch would be my main usage scenario, but I can see it in verticals for the walking around/ standing up /larger screen type of apps.

Just me (Sir to you)
Thursday, April 22, 2004

I have some opinions on this, but since it's not a help desk call, not about software development and to my knowledge Joel hasn't talked about tablets, I'll keep them to myself.

No, wait - I lost track. Is JoS *for* help desk calls or not? Well, either way I think opining about the usage of a piece of business hardware is way off base and I'm not taking *any* chances.



Thursday, April 22, 2004

A few odds & ends:

Photoshop & Illustrator support the pen on tablet PCs (hell, 90% of tablet digitizers are made by Wacom) including pressure sensetivity. Being an Adobe bigot, I can only guess that Macromedia apps do too. :-) (Actually I know they'll accept pen input--it's just a mouse replacement--and I'm sure they work with pressure.) Also check out Alias' SketchBook. Nifty little drawing app.

Having used a tablet for inventory, I have to agree that it gets heavy quickly. Carry with one hand, switch to the other for writing. For surfing on the couch, it's better than a laptop for slashdot, worse for email.

My company owns both an original 1 GHz Transmeta Compaq tablet and a new comHPaq 1 GHz Centrino laptop. Being the raging Linus fanboy that I am, it pains me to admit that the Intel unit feels literally twice as fast. I like the HP/compaq more than any other because of its unique detatchable keyboard--the only tablet (AFAIK) that can be a convertible or slate.

Speaking of that model, who says they don't have docks?

As for development, I wouldn't go out of my way to get one, but it does have one redeeming feature. It has a VGA output and, since it's XP, can run two displays in extended-desktop mode. Put it in the (ahem) dock in portrait mode and it's 768 px wide by 1024 px high--perfect to sit next to your 1280w x 1024h CRT or LCD. (Use the bigger one as your primary display, of course.)

One question that nags me--how in the world does MS deal with ClearType's sub-pixel rendering in portrait mode?!?!?

One more random thing--for some reason, iTunes looks *so cool* running on a tablet in full-screen mode. It *really* looks like a device--I mean, the app looks like a device, and without the keyboard, it's just this device-looking app with a 3/4" silver frame around it. I don't know, it just does it for me. Am I weird?

PS: OK, last one, I promise. Playing ripped DVDs, full-screen in landscape mode, is also damn cool. Too bad both speakers are on the bottom, aka the right side, of the unit.

PPS: OK, I lied, but this one will *definitely* be the last. Speech recognition is pretty nifty. Plus, you can play the "telephone" game by yourself: talk to the computer, then when it prints what you said on screen incorrectly, read that new sentence back. This, too, will have errors, which you read to the machine, which it again misinterprets... more fun (and easier!) than cycling through languages with babelfish.

So, did I answer your question about developing? :-)

null fame
Thursday, April 22, 2004

"One question that nags me--how in the world does MS deal with ClearType's sub-pixel rendering in portrait mode?!?!?"

Windows turns it off.


Thursday, April 22, 2004

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