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.
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?
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.