A step away from YABHTU

Saturday, July 23rd, 2005
Patrick Mayfield Skyped me yesterday to introduce himself and to ask me if I was YABHTU yet. I told him that I was getting much closer, but that there were still a few issues to work out before I would make that claim.

After our chat, I thought about it and I decided that I should break down the scope of what it means to be YABHTU between the hardware and software of the Tablet PC Platform. Today, I'll discuss briefly the hardware side of the equation. I've now had the Toshiba Tecra M4 for just over two months. In that time, I've shared my experiences working with and adapting to this new Tablet PC. When I met with David Allen this week, I told him that I see tremendous promise for the Tablet PC platform and his next computer is likely to be a Tablet PC; however, based on my experience to date, I'm not yet ready to advocate that he or my other clients rush out and switch today. Still, I'm working with the Tablet PC. I want to find out what it takes to make me YABHTU so that I can serve and advise my clients on this technology in the future.

Back to the hardware. Yesterday, I prototyped a custom stand for my M4 which has made all the difference when I work at my desk. The stand itself is not terribly pretty, but what it has done for me is amazing. Instead of leaving my M4 in laptop mode while at my desk, I'm now using it mostly in tablet mode. This of course, has increased the number of hours I spend working with it in tablet mode; it has also improved my perception of the unit as a whole. I've found that, running in high-power mode, most of the problems (which I suspect to be Tablet OS & Driver related) do not affect me.

20050723EricsTabletPCStand.jpg

Battery life remains an issue, but not a big one. I understand that I have the mother of all Tablet PCs in terms of screen and computing power and that takes a lot of energy to operate. While I wish the battery life were better for me, I'm pleased with the results. Remember: I believe that I have a hardware TPC OS Driver issue that is affecting my ability to run in speed-step reduced-power mode reliably. Once/if this ever gets fixed, I expect that I can run in low-power mode the majority of the time, in which case I would definitely be thrilled about the battery life. (Until I learn new information otherwise, I shall assume that this is indeed a software problem only. (Again, I'll cover software in a future post.)

I've also grown accustomed to the various design features of the M4 - and many of them have grown on me. I've gotten used to the keyboard, placement of lights, switches, etc.. In fact, now that I've used the M4 for a few months, I can now see the wisdom of the design placement for all of these,

So, what remains for me to become YABHTU as far as the Tecra M4 Tablet PC hardware is concerned?


Not much.

My only current hardware issue with the M4 is the issue of the DVD drive. I enjoy the drive and all of its features - including the ability to read and burn DL DVD-R media. What I do not like - and what I consider to be a serious design omission - is that the drive pops out whenever I brush against the eject button. I'm constantly concerned that my drive will suddenly eject and snap off.

This is not a difficult problem for a brilliant Tablet PC developer to solve.


In fact, I've already mapped out what I want...

Eric's challenge to all Tablet PC developers:

I want a system-tray utility that will keep power to the DVD drive off at all times (even after a reboot). This will prevent the DVD drive from accidentally ejecting when I do not want it to. Further, it will reduce power consumption. This system tray utility should only turn on the power when I click on it; and then, when I click to enable power, it should pop-up a list of durations to choose from (10 min, 20 min, 1 hour, 2 hours, 3 hours, indefinitely). This way, when the duration has been reached, or the tablet is rebooted, the DVD drive will once again be powered off. I will save battery life, and more important, I won't have the problem of the drive suddenly popping out when I least expect it.

[Update: After thinking about this further, I would like to see a "power-off" after xx minutes of inactivity. This would probably be the most useful and flexible option. Of course, as long as I'm dreaming, I might as well ask that any drive access originated by the system be allowed to power up the drive, too.]

I know that Toshiba presently provides a DVD power utility in the system tray. The problem is that the default mode of this utility is for DVD power to be ON at all times. If you reboot the tablet, the DVD drive returns to power on mode.

Toshiba engineers came close but missed the point and value of DVD power saving. While I'm at it, they missed the opportunity to simply create a "DVD Power" setting within the Toshiba Tablet PC Power Management utility, too. The ideal would be to be able to manage DVD power both with the power management utility and at the system tray.

Hopefully, someone will take me up on this challenge. If they do, it will bring me one step closer to becoming YABHTU, at least as far as the hardware is concerned.

Discussion/Comments (16):

A step away from YABHTU

I think I know something that may help you.

If you don't use your DVD drive often, you could get a secondary battery for your M4. It would replace the DVD drive but they say you can get 6 hours of usage.

{ Link }

Also, to be safe,I would call toshiba before getting it to make sure that it is complatable with the M4

Posted at 7/23/2005 12:06:16 PM by Michael


A step away from YABHTU

Sorry for the double post.

I spent looking up on the toshiba werbsite and found the secondary battery for the M4

{ Link }

Posted at 7/23/2005 12:13:21 PM by Michael


Secondary Battery for M4

Thanks for the feedback, Michael.

Before I invest in an internal battery - one with less power than the standard battery pack - I want to resolve my Tablet PC issues so that I can use MindManager and other Tablet PC apps with decent performance. When I can do this, I will certainly consider giving up the DVD drive for battery life.

I also want to determine just how much I will use the internal CD/DVD drive. My concern is that if I remove it, I'll be less likely to use it, which reduces the overall value of the system to me.

Posted at 7/23/2005 12:16:41 PM by Eric Mack


What is YABHTU?

OK. I am a bit behind...

What is YABHTU?

Posted at 7/23/2005 9:34:45 PM by Jason Echols


YABHTU Defined

YABHTU = yet another blissfully happy tablet user

Posted at 7/24/2005 9:08:13 AM by Walter


Fujitsu has such a utility

There's a utility on the Fujitsu for that. It just locks up the drive. Maybe You can find such an utility.

Posted at 7/24/2005 11:08:24 AM by Thomas BRESSE


A step away from YABHTU

Thanks, Walter.

Posted at 7/24/2005 7:14:29 PM by Jason Echols


M4 second battery

I have the second battery for the M4, and I keep it in all the time unless I'm installing something or have the tablet on my desk for an extended time. If I bring the tablet with me outside the home (and around campus), I keep it in a bag while not in use, and thus I'll put the DVD drive in there once I find a hard case to store it in. As an FYI, my battery indicator reads about 5 hours on full power with both batteries, but I haven't fully discharged it ever to see how long it actually takes to drain battery.

As far as a tablet utility that you describe is concerned, there is probably an API somewhere that could do what you suggest. If all else fails, one could create a software utility that would "piggyback" on top of Toshiba's DVD software utility that provides the features you describe.

Posted at 7/24/2005 8:55:57 PM by Marcus C.


A step away from YABHTU

Ya know Eric, I was thinking as I read your post. I think part of what it takes to become really productive with a Tablet is knowing exactly when to use it in Tablet mode and when to use it in Laptop mode. I was fiddling with doing something on my M205 the other day with ink and finally just flipped it around to use the keyboard. That, plus your post about what it takes to recommend the Tablet to your clients made me think that one ought probably decide pretty quickly up front which tasks are better with ink and which ones are better with the keyboard. I know I have spent a lot of time using ink when I should have just used the keyboard as I have gotten going on my Tablet. Part of it was just the "fun factor" of using ink - it was "cool" to just be able to ink. But there are definitely many tasks that are still best done with the keyboard and knowing specifically when to use it is key (I think) to making the Tablet a productive platform. Your posts always make me think. :)

Posted at 7/26/2005 8:42:34 AM by Walter


When to use tablet mode

I agree Walter. I'm not at a point where I can say with certainty that if someone wants to do task X use the tablet but for task Y use the keyboard. Take MindManager, for example; it is strong in both modes. I have been forcing myself to use it more in tablet mode at this time. In this mode I myself am less efficient; however, I'm learning new ways of using it and that gradually improves my productivity. Only when I've mastered both modes, will I be in a position to say to do task X use the tablet but for task Y use the keyboard. I'm a long way off. I think the Tablet PC platform is a great platform. I'm learning it's limits and applications. I have a lot to learn, and, for the most part, I'm having fun doing so.

Posted at 7/26/2005 9:09:54 AM by Eric Mack


You prototyped a custom stand?

Okay... You prototyped a custom stand? I've been using Targus laptop/tablet stands since they day I got my M4. Targus has three stands available in the US (I found mine at OfficeMax or OfficeDepot) and another in Australia. Between these four stands I would think one would meet your needs -- I have two stands, which meet different needs for different locations/situations. Why not use one of them, versus "prototyping" your own?

Posted at 7/26/2005 11:12:15 AM by bluejay


Why a custom stand for the M4?

Why did I prototype my own stand for the M4?

Good question. 3 reasons: 1) I want to experiment with viewing angles to find the best match for viewing and writing in a room filled with florescent lights. 2) There are other features/technology that I plan to build into the stand in the near future, and 3) Once I determine what stand features work for me, I plan to machine a small and portable unit to take with me.

Of course, right now, I'm still in testing mode, so a basic prototype works well. So far, I've dramatically increased my use of tablet mode when I'm at my desk.

Posted at 7/27/2005 9:46:02 AM by Eric Mack


A step away from YABHTU

Eric,

i have found some stuff you might find interesting... I can't seem to get the utility working, but I am still working on it.

{ Link }

Posted at 8/1/2005 8:31:53 PM by Matt


Prototype stand spec

I'm interested in a rough spec - or at least more pics from different angles - of your prototype stand. Does it have an adjustable angle setting or is it basically a wedge at a height you like?

Posted at 9/16/2005 10:58:42 AM by Aaron


re: Prototype stand spec

Aaron, I experimented with a variety of viewing/use angles. I found that raising the back edge of the tablet 5" from the desk worked well for me.

Posted at 9/17/2005 5:45:12 PM by Eric Mack


A step away from YABHTU

<the drive pops out whenever I brush against the eject button. I'm constantly concerned that my drive will suddenly eject and snap off.>

Just make a protector for the eject button. It needs to surround the button and be slightly higher than the button. Card board, plastic etc and doubles stick tape.

Posted at 1/2/2006 6:40:12 AM by mike h



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