Thinking about becoming a programmer?

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

As a recovering programmer who cut his teeth on mark sense cards and punched tape, I'm amused by this rap young programmers - complete the jabs at diskettes and modems. As a young programmer, we didn't have YouTube to share our joy of programming, but we had plenty of paper tape, punched cards, and modem connected BBS networks. For kicks, we used to see how many computer operators we could fit inside the mainframe chassis or drop a scarifical stack of punched cards from a stressed out student. Those were the days.

Via Lisa Duke
Where is the first place a burglar checks for a key when he's  about to enter someone's home? That's right - under the mat or stone by the front door.

Where's the first place a cyber criminal looks for username and password when he wants to get access to a computer? That's right - on a Post-it Note or label on the computer keyboard or monitor. (If the movies are true, second place is probably in a slide-out return or drawer.)

But what if multiple people share a workstation? Easy. Check for the neatly typed spreadsheet that lists everyone's login credentials; choose someone you want to impersonate, and login. Presto!
Why bother with passwords at all? (Click for a larger image)

Why bother with passwords at all?

This is a real picture and sadly, I see this kind of behavior all too often.  I even wrote about this problem and proposed a solution four years ago in a post entitled, "Lower your standards; lower your stress".

Seriously folks, most network admins I know work very hard to secure the information assets of their organization. Yet, their efforts to protect these assets are undermined when people do stuff like this.

Network and computer security requires more than a digital audit. Training and on-site inspections are mandatory to prevent stuff like this from happening. Obviously, in this organization, it isn't happening.

As far as this photo, in the interest of security, I won't name the company where I took this picture. I will, however, send them a link to this blog post.
Have you ever experienced Wrap Rage? I have. It's frustrating and a real time-waster.  (Wrap Rage describes the frustration we humans feel when trying to free a product from impenetrable packaging.)


You can imagine, then, my pleasure when I logged in to Amazon today and saw that they are promoting Wrap Rage-free products.

Here's a productivity tip that will save you a lot of time (and Wrap Rage):

Finally! Products packaged so that you do not need a chainsaw to open them!
No more clamshell cases and steel wire ties.

And, perhaps best of all (if you like to plat with pirate toys) the first product is the Fisher-Price Imaginext Adventures Pirate Ship.

Ahoy! Ye be more productive with Wrap Rage free products!
Read about it here

The downard spiral of deproductivity

Friday, July 11th, 2008
This says it all...


Source:  Via: re:Domino
Michael, this one's for you. Sorry, I couldn't resist. Mimics my own experience - especially the part about trying to move things on screen.

Warning. This guy is really upset and, toward the end,  uses a few curse words to express that. (Sorry, I guess he's really upset with Apple.)

Have a great day. I'm off to reload my Vista PC; it keeps bluescreening.

Via: GTD Times

Bill Gates Retirement Video

Friday, January 11th, 2008
I've been head-down, working hard with the eProductivity deployment team, so no blogging for 2008 yet.

This video it too good not to share. From CES this week...
(via: James Kendrick)

The Leopard Roars, Michael’s Mac Dies

Saturday, October 27th, 2007
I'm a Mack and someone's about to switch to a PC. This just showed up in my RSS reader from my colleague, and eProductivity co-presenter/conference organizer Michael Sampson:
I'm not happy!!! Just installed Leopard on an 11 month old MacBook Pro, and now it won't start up. It goes past the white screen with the Apple logo, and then hangs on a blue screen. Oh the irony.

I can see it now: Eric's going to start the Sampson Get a PC Campaign .... Aaarrrggghhh
Since Michael's the conference organizer for the upcoming eProductivity conference in Manila, I have to be nice to him, however, I can't help but wonder if we'll both be organizing the conference on a PC. (Thankfully, all of the conference planning is in a Lotus Notes database, so we can replicate a fresh copy over to Michael's PC.)

Michael, I feel your pain (too often on my PC, it seems) and I do wish you a speedy recovery. Just in case you solve your problem and remove the post from your blog, I've filed it, in the category below...

Nice try Michael!

Tuesday, October 9th, 2007
Looks like Michael Sampson's up to his buy-a-Mac, Mack tricks again...

No sooner do I praise Michael for his outstanding conference planning skills, when I discover that, included in the printed list of topics from the conference organizer, are two suspicious titles. I quickly fire off an urgent email to the marketing director:
Thank you, Vanj, for typing up this list of session titles.

Please note that my colleague, Michael Sampson, while very intelligent and helpful is also a clown and he loves to amuse me.

Continue Reading "Nice try Michael!" »
I'm preparing for an upcoming speech and I would like to collect some real stories of how bad or overactive management policy kills (or harms)  collaboration and knowledge worker productivity in organizations.

To get this discussion started, I've shared a tragic example along with my thoughts over on my Notes on Productivity blog.

Would you help me out by sharing a story of your experience? I understand the sensitive nature of this request, so anonymous posts are fine.

If you can, please spread the word. I'm sure I'll receive some very interesting examples. In a future post, I'd like to propose alternative responses that management could take to prevent a collaboration disaster.


My colleague, Robert Peake, is on holiday in England. He blogged about his mishap playing with the in-flight entertainment system on an Air New Zealand Boeing 747.

He describes beating the computer at chess a few times and then...
After I selected the default option, the entire operating system crashed hard into a black screen and began rebooting. Not surprisingly, the boot screen proudly proclaimed Windows CE circa 2004, then began loading up files using the ancient Xmodem serial protocol. Finally, it booted itself back into friendly pictures of New Zealand coastline. I spent the rest of the flight hoping Microsoft hadn't won the bid on the flight controls.

Only slightly funnier was, Paul's response:
Attention all passengers... This is Capt. Harris from the Flight Deck. Will the passenger in seat 24B stop messing around with our navigation system. It's now put us on course to Iceland, which is not good... Thank you.

Full post: Robert Peake
Here's a request I receive frequently from my readers. It usually goes something like this:
Dear Mr. Mack,
I have been following your website, EricMackOnline for about a year.  I still check in regularly and enjoy immensely for almost every topics from robot to home school :)  Particularly, I enjoy your work ethics that was also mentioned in your opening of your first tablet PC.  I'm writing this email in regards to your recent use of your tablet PC.  Since November (almost 6 months ago), I have not heard anything related to your Tablet PC adventure.  I think many of your loyal followers still would like to know how you apply this fascinating technology to your works.  Your opinions mean a lot to your sincere readers.

Chun Shun Lau
(posted with permission)
Well, there's a subtle answer to this.

Continue Reading "Why haven't I blogged about Tablet PC's in six months?" »

New blog category: DeProductivity

Wednesday, April 4th, 2007
While many of my posts focus on the productive use of technology, there are those unfortunate times when the result is anything but productive.

Take today, for example. An IBM exec invited me to a SameTime meeting on the IBM SameTime Conference site. Simple enough. I logged in and I clicked on the "test meeting" option. I then noticed that the certificates had expired. I could have clicked away, but I thought to myself,  "self, if you can't trust IBM, who can you trust?" so I clicked OK and allowed the SameTime meeting room setup to begin prompting me to update [destroy] my machine [thank you very ,much IBM] by taking my perfectly working ThinkPad T60p replacing all of my working VM and SameTime code with old versions. [Note to IBM: It's time to eat your own dog food and run current versions of your product on all of your public servers - just like you encourage your clients to do! Another note to IBM: Please write a tech note on how victims of your web sites can recover from their visit. I would be happy to test this document.]

Continue Reading "New blog category: DeProductivity" »
OK, this is both a rant and a request for help. If you are not up to reading either click away....

Last week, after my webinar on how I use Lotus Notes and MindManager, an IBM executive contacted me to point out that I was still using the Notes workspace and that it was "so last century." (My thoughts on that in another post)

I wrote to this executive and explained why I had found the workspace most productive for my work style. I invited him to show me his Notes setup with the bookmark bar and the new features in Notes 8. He graciously agreed and promptly setup a web meeting on the IBM corporate SameTime server. The plan was that we would both use SameTime to share our desktops and learn from one another. (Isn't that what collaboration and web tools are supposed to help us do?) SameTime 7.5 works great; it's a wonderful tool and I've rarely had any problems with it. Unless you are trying to use IBM's own corporate SameTime server. I use SameTime 7.5 web conferencing frequently, both at ICA and at The David Allen Company.

To make a long and frustrating story short, I logged into the IBM SameTime server, (which I now realize must have been either SameTime 3.1 or possibly a 6.x version), and acknowledged the certificate errors and allow it to install the plugins and VM stuff on my machine - even though I knew I was current on everything because I had just used it with my SameTime 7.5 server earlier.

I was prompted to reboot. Irritating, but OK.

5 minutes later, I log back into the IBM SameTime server to do a test meeting.


Continue Reading "IBM/Microsoft/Sun: Why can't we all just get along?" »
Last night, Amy and Wendy came into my office frantic that they had lost many pages of a script they were writing when they attempted to cut and paste the text from OneNote 2003 to Word 2003.

Amy and Wendy had worked all day on a OneNote document, carefully pressing CTRL+S as they went along. They then cut a text selection from OneNote to paste into Word.

For whatever reason, the clipboard did not transfer to Word. They tried to paste it back into OneNote. Nothing.

Panicked at losing pages of work, they called me.  

Edit Undo would not help them. They assured me that they had been pressing CTRL+S all afternoon.

Only now, did we discover that CTRL+S in OneNote does nothing! It's not even an option!

Continue Reading "Be careful with OneNote and saving your work" »

No waste of clock cycles in MindJet’s response

Tuesday, September 12th, 2006
Richard Barber, MindJet's VP of engineering, wrote to me today, in response to yesterday's blog post about moving MindManager to my deproductivity list. I offered to post his response on my blog and he agreed:
Thanks for your post about this CPU issue. It was a pleasure to work with you on the Lotus Notes linking [doclinks] and I hope and trust we can get to a happy ending with this issue as well.

After pondering how best to address this, what I would like to do is to go into this issue in more depth on the MindJet blog ( I very much want to get to the bottom of this and hope that those who have faced this issue will work with us to get us the information we need. I ask you to ask your readers to read my post on the Mindjet blog, see how we suggest attacking this issue, and work with us to fix it. Please note that when I say “work with us,” that includes giving us input not just on the CPU issue but on how we propose going about addressing it.

The bottom line is that now, thanks to you – and thanks to people who have persistently raised this issue in the user groups – we now “get” that this is something we need to take a serious look at.
Continue Reading "No waste of clock cycles in MindJet's response" »

MindManager, my latest deproductivity tool

Monday, September 11th, 2006
I've just moved MindManager onto my list of deproductivity tools. I hope it won't stay there long - MindManager is one of my favorite productivity tools for getting things done and I've blogged extensively about how I use MindManager. For the past several months, however, several of my clients and I have been dealing with a problem that has become a big headache: excessive CPU utilization by MindManager. It's not uncommon for me to find that my CPU slows to a crawl. Opening Task Manager reveals that MindManager is hogging my CPU, effectively rendering my system useless. The problem appears to be worse in some maps than others, but it has been challenging to pin down. What I know for certain is that one of my favorite programs is losing its productive advantage. Apparently, I'm not alone...


I wonder how many MindManager users simply accept this?

I've decided to blog about the problem, not as a threat or to divide the MindManager community, but in the hopes that the MindManager community might pool its resources to encourage (and help) MindJet improve the product we use and care about. If this blog has any clout at all, I want to use it to raise awareness inside and out of MindJet about how to help make MindManager, one of my favorite productivity tools, even better.

Continue Reading "MindManager, my latest deproductivity tool" »

How to gently tell a friend to buy a Mac

Thursday, August 24th, 2006
One way is to tease him publicly, like this.

20060823 - Four weeks without my Tablet PC.jpg

Michael knows that I'll have my Tablet PC back from repair tomorrow, but he's not going to miss any opportunity to leave a hint.

I guess Michael's not yet seen these Mac & Tablet PC commercials?

Seriously, a Mac is on my computing horizon. What I'd really like is a high resolution Apple tablet. I wonder if we'll see one this year?

Toshiba earns an F for customer service

Saturday, July 1st, 2006
I wonder how Heather Hillewaert and Toshiba America Information Systems, Inc. feel about receiving an "F" score from the Better Business Bureau - the lowest possible ranking a company can earn. Ouch!

20060701 - Toshiba earns F rating from BBB.jpg

Many readers of my blog continue to send me links and problem reports about Toshiba service. I wish I could do something to help them, but I'm just  a small-time YABHTU and corporate influencer. Oh, and I'm a blogger.
Continue Reading "Toshiba earns an F for customer service" »
Do you have specs of dust under the screen of your Tablet PC? Blog reader, Marcus, posted these steps on my blog, today. Note that I do not recommend or condone these steps as they will surely violate your warranty. Still, I think it is a shame that a Tablet PC experience should be marred by a few specs of dust under the screen. Hopefully, Tablet PC vendors will find ways to ensure that no dust can enter the gap between the screen protector and the screen. (What about a gasket?)

In any case, here are the steps that Marcus submitted:

Continue Reading "How to remove dust from M4 Tablet PC Screen" »
For those of you following my Tecra M4 repair saga, UPS picked up my M4 on Friday and returned it today. That's a 3 working day turn-around. Impressive!

Interestingly, it did not go to a Toshiba Repair Depot. According to  a reader of my blog, Sean, and the UPS tag, it went to a UPS repair depot. I was very concerned to hear this, but my M4 is back and I'm thankful for that. Before I brag too much about the repair service, though, all is not dust free in tablet-land.

Continue Reading "Toshiba grants 4 out of 5 wishes in only 3 days" »
As promised, Toshiba delivered a prepaid Tablet PC shipping box to me, today. I quickly put my Tecra M4 into the box, along with my cover letter, sealed it shut, and handed it to the UPS driver. (How's that for a 4 1/2 minute turn-around.) The box is now on its way to the Toshiba repair center in Lousiville Kentucky and will arrive Monday. Then, I expect that the real repair adventure will begin. I truly hope that this will be the non-event of my blog and that next week I'll be YABHTU again.

Tecra M4 Repair Adventure Begins - Day One

Wednesday, June 21st, 2006
I would normally not blog about this, but I continue to receive emails and blog inquiries, asking about the status of my Tecra M4 repair and my experience with Toshiba Technical support. You may recall that I recently became an unhappy Tablet PC user. The truth is that, up until today, I've done nothing about it, other than to copy my mission critical data to a Thinkpad so I can continue working. For me, the idea of calling overseas support ranks right up there with a root canal. To me, calling for my own computer repair is even worse, because it means unproductive and unbillable time. Most of my blog readers will probably want to skip over this post. For those, who are passionate about Tablet PC's or Toshiba (or both), you can follow my support call ...
Continue Reading "Tecra M4 Repair Adventure Begins - Day One" »

Oh No! Now I’m an Unhappy Tablet User!

Saturday, May 20th, 2006
I can't believe it. Just 3 days after my YABHTU announcement, my Tablet PC is really dying. This disappointing news does not change my position on Tablet PCs - I still think it's an ideal computing platform. And, optimistically, I still think that the Tecra M4 is the ideal Tablet PC for my needs. (At least until I can get my hands on one of these.)

My next challenge: Getting Toshiba to repair my M4. Quickly.

20060520 - Toshiba Tecra M4 Dead Screen.jpg

I'm not as concerned that my Tablet PC is showing its last pixels as I am concerned with how difficult it could be to get it repaired. As you may recall, my last call to Toshiba tech support was not a happy one.
The outcome of this experience will influence whether or not I purchase another Toshiba product and whether I allow my clients to do the same. I hope that Toshiba comes through for me and for my clients.
The fact that many dissatisfied Toshiba customers have been sending me their Tecra M4/Toshiba support problems, is not encouraging. James Stewart, of Otaku software, even blogged about his Toshiba Repair experience, stating that he will never buy Toshiba again.

I'm not ready to go that far. I like the M4 and I think it is an excellent tablet. I love the large screen, built-in multi-drive, and the overall design.

Continue Reading "Oh No! Now I'm an Unhappy Tablet User!" »

72 Minutes to productivity on a Mac

Monday, May 8th, 2006
Did the title of this get your attention? It got mine. I'm always on the lookout for productivity tools and the Mac continues to show up on my radar. Meanwhile, Michael continues to taunt me; he's just blogged about 72 minutes to productivity with his Mac.

But wait! I thought this never happens on a Mac?

20060508 - MAC BSOD.jpg

Not that it would prevent me from trying a new Mac. Michael certainly hints often enough. It just tarnishes the image of a computer that is supposed to never crash.
Remember the commercial where all you see is the upper floor of an office building; then suddenly the mirrored glass shatters and a CRT monitor flies through the window and smashes into the parking lot a few stories below?

I've been away from the blog for a while to visit with my family, work on a few client projects, and study.This topic, however, brought me back to the blog. It even made me think of a new challenge.

Continue Reading "This site's a magnet for Toshiba Support Complaints" »

Toshiba Tecra M4 Fan Noise Problems continue

Sunday, February 19th, 2006
I can't stand it. My Tecra M4 Tablet PC is so loud that it is unusable in a conference room or classroom. And, it's getting progressively worse. I don't dare turn it on in public places.  My only option is to set the CPU to the lowest setting so that the fan will come on less frequently. Unfortunately, when the fan does come on, everyone in the room knows.

For the record, here are links to two recordings to document show just how loud my Tecra M4 Tablet is:

December 22, 2005 - Tecra M4 Fan Noise Demonstration

February 19, 2006 - Tecra M4 Fan Noise Demonstration

As I've stated before, I like the M4 for its wide-screen and computing power. There are just a few problems that prevent me from loving it: (Fan Noise, Dust under screen, High pitch squeal, and a problem with my SD Card reader.) Again, I'm sure that these could all be fixed in just a few days, however, given the reports from other Toshiba Tablet PC users who've sent their units in for repair, it could be a very long and frustrating time before I see my tablet again. For that reason, I will try to wait a while longer.  

I know, from experience, that if this were an IBM ThinkPad, I could get the problem resolved in 72 hours or less. I would call IBM, they would ship a box and pick up the unit the next day, two days later I would have a working laptop back. Apparently, according to my colleagues, this is not the way it works with Toshiba.

As you know, I like to blog about my "challenges," but this is not a challenge I'm up to.

Just how loud is the Tecra M4 Tablet PC fan?

Wednesday, December 28th, 2005
I get asked this question often, both in email and in the comments on this blog.

I've noticed that my fan noise levels have been increasing lately, probably due to a bad fan. I thought I would document the noise levels and answer the questions of many who have asked at the same time.

Listen to this 2.5 minute podcast and hear for yourself.

Toshiba wants to know what I think

Friday, October 28th, 2005
Ti Le, Market Research Manager, Toshiba America Information Systems, sent me an email (perhaps you received one too?) with a generic reply-to address asking me to complete an on-line survey to find out what I think about my recent Tecra M4 purchase. I guess Ti Le does not read my blog. :-(  

From the wording of the survey questions, it appears that they were more interested in looking for additional sales opportunities than they were in knowing what I thought of my recent purchase.  I decided to tell them anyway, in the tiny comment field provided at the end of the survey form:

Continue Reading "Toshiba wants to know what I think" »

My call to Toshiba Tech Support

Friday, August 26th, 2005
[Warning: This blog post is on the boring side and will probably interest only those with Toshiba Tablet PCs. Many non-tablet readers of my blog will want to skip over this rant, unless they are interested in examples of  TCFDTLAIDBWFS *]

I'm taking the time to post this, not to whine, but to raise the awareness level of how vendors, in this case, Toshiba, could take simple steps to create satisfied customers. (Of course that supposes that vendors read blogs to find out what their customers and people who recommend their products have to say.) Perhaps Lora, Warner, JK, Rob, or Marc will make some noise about this and kick this into the mainstream. [Hint.] If Toshiba (or any vendor wants to talk with me, I would be happy  to receive your call. You know where to find me.)

Continue Reading "My call to Toshiba Tech Support" »

Hidden message inside

Friday, August 26th, 2005
Never one to miss an opportunity to inspire me, my friend and brother in the Lord, Michael Sampson, just posted yet another message of inspiration, this time about my current selection of productivty tools

I know I can always depend on Michael to inspire me to think about greater things - even when I'm busy dealing with my own Tablet PC [mis]adventures. (Michael has the same M4 I do, so I know he relies on me and my blog to tell him what not to do.)


Michael's now dubbed me the deproductivity specialist. Ouch. I may have to drag out some archived podcasts that have never been aired ...

The photo abiove does not tell the real story. You'll have to read his post and follow the links to decipher the message. Even then, you may have to watch the movie.

Michael, you've been a great encouragement to me during these difficult times as I deal with my family health issues (and with my computer health issues). I appreciate your calls from NZ to check in on me, your prayers, and your friendship. I have just one question: in the picture above, you have an interesting smile; were you preparing to use Excalibur knight me or ...

One step closer to paper

Wednesday, August 24th, 2005
I'm testing my ability to work on a completely paper-based system. That's right. Paper. (Michael's probably smiling right now, perhaps even drafting his next comment about analog productivity. That's OK, I'm quite happy to provide amusement to my friends.)

My sudden move to paper wasn't a planned one. Somewhere between the hotel and David Allen's office, my Tecra M4 OS decided to crash. It wants me to reboot with the original Windows install disk. Guess what? Nevermind. I'll have to wait until I get home tomorrow to see if my product recovery disks can be used instead. Otherwise, I'll test to see if I can recover all of my system, along with the "free" bonus software, which Toshiba so generously provided. You can probably sense my excitement.

Fortunately, I use Lotus Notes, so almost all of my files have been replicated elsewhere. (If I can repair my OS, then I can grab the current versions, otherwise, I'll use the replicas.)

Though the timing could not be worse, I have considered how I might change things on my tablet, if I ever had a reason or an opportunity to reload.  Well, I now have such an "opportunity."

As I wrote recently, I'm pleased with the M4 hardware. Other than the DVD power issue (which I hope to find a solution for) and an occasionally loud fan, I'm very pleased with the Tecra M4 hardware. Now my focus will be on the software side of the equation. Once I get everything tuned the way that I want it, I'll make a declaration as to whether or not I consider myself YABHTU.

Here's how you can help:

If you've recently loaded/reloaded your Tecra M4 Tablet PC from scratch, or if you're aware of a blog detailing the process for an M4 or an M200, I'd like to hear from you. I've documented everything I've done to date; however, I certainly want to take advantage of any new knowledge gained. (I believe that Warner and Marc recently documented their experiences; links welcome guys.)


I'll be back soon.

Toshiba, stop the spamware, please!

Wednesday, July 13th, 2005
I seem to have become a magnet for feedback about the Toshiba Tecra M4. I wish that I had the time to respond individually to all of the email I receive each day either asking questions or sharing feedback on the productive benefits of Tablet PCs an d the Toshiba M4 in particular. I am grateful for the comments and suggestions from those who have sent tips and offered to help me with my issues.

Many people have blogged about their growing disappointment with the additional unsolicited software, gratuitously supplied with the US version of the Tecra M4.  I think this is a big issue and I believe it is to blame for at least some of my problems. For what I paid for my shiny new M4, I should not have to deal with this. Apparently, I'm not alone in this regard.

Note that it is not the M4 that people are complaining about so much as the preinstallation of unsolicited software. - I call it spamware (Listen to the Tablet PC podcast #16 for a good perspective from Marc Orchant and James Kendrick. At the least, be sure to read: this and this.)

A reader by the name of Gustavo posted this comment to my blog today:
I'm very very disappointed with how Toshiba US is handling this issue. My M4 is full of Spam and crap I never wanted. They even preloaded a full version of Office trial even thought when I so that on my email order confirmation I wrote therm and said I did not wanted that. I bought this laptop because of a technology advantage of having a full laptop system with tablet capabilities. By the time I need to upgrade other manufactures will have better tablets. Then I'll be happy to never buy a Toshiba product again.  This is also because their sales and support experience has been the poorest I've ever had.

Perhaps the folks at Toshiba don't read blogs or at least they choose not to comment. I hope that they are at least considering what people are saying. It would be great if someone from Toshiba would get back to Gustavo (or me) and offer to help solve the problems.

I know that I will need to reload my M4 from scratch. I hope that when I do, my experience will be better than it has been so far. Unfortunately, I don't have the time to reload any time soon. When I do, I'll go back and review Marc and Warner's narratives on their experience reloading their Tablet PCs.

Overall. I'm still enjoying my M4, though my move to the Tablet PC has not been as easy as I hoped it would be.

In fact, from a total productivity perspective, I'm still very much in the negative zone.  I believe in the potential of the Tablet PC as a productivity tool; however, I'm not there yet.

Meanwhile, I'll continue to press on, in the hope that I will someday become YABHTU
[Sorry, I thought I had posted this last week ...]
I know that many people are reading this blog to learn of my experience with the M4. I'm making progress adjusting to the M4. I'm enjoying it; in fact, this is my first blog entry from the M4. (Sorry, not in ink, yet.) I plan to keep the M4, but I've decided to return the ToshibaTecra M4  Portfolio case. It's a beautiful case, made from glove leather. It's a very clever 3-in-one design for use in three modes; however, it does not work. I'm short on time to write this up in detail, so instead, I'll share my recent correspondence with ToshibaDirect:
Dear Nicole,

Just a quick FYI:  I'm enjoying my new Tecra M4. Thank you for your help in getting it to me so quickly!

I just contacted Toshiba Customer Service got an RMA for the Toshiba M4 Portfolio case.

I want you to know that the reason I'm returning the case is that it is defective and poorly designed. The elastic straps block the vents, which cause the  Tablet PC to overheat. The "Made in China" label is in the worst possible place; it gets caught in the DVD every time I close it. I'm afraid that to continue to use the Toshiba Portfolio case with my M4 would damage the unit.  [Additional observation, post-email: the zipper extends high enough to interfere with laptop use.]

What really hurts is that I paid FedEx to have this case shipped to me. It arrived with these problems, and now I have to pay -- my dime - to return it and hope that I will get credit. I should not have to pay twice (or at all) for an unacceptable product that I am returning to you. It does not seem fair.

I do hope that you will forward this summary of my product experience to management.  I will certainly share it with a few people that I know.

Thank you,
Eric Mack

I received this response

I'm glad you are enjoying the notebook.  I emailed you an on line fed ex label to use to return the portfolio that way there will be no charge to you.  Thank you.

To which I responded ...
Thank you for the FedEx tag. Too bad I have to pay the other way. It's a matter of principle with me. It's not about the $15 in rush shipping. I purchased the Portfolio in good faith. The product does not work The inconvenience is bad enough. But having to pay to find that out hurts. Ouch! Live and learn I guess. I suppose that's the best I'll get from ToshibaDirect.

Meanwhile, I need another AC adapter for the M4.  (I don't need AC/DC)  Please let me know price and availability of such an item.


There you have it.

UFO on my M4 Tablet PC

Wednesday, June 1st, 2005
Ever seen an ant farm? Remember how you could watch the ants moving around? Well, I have the same capability on my Tablet PC. What I thought was a stray comma, turns out to be a piece of dust trapped inside my new Tecra M4 Tablet PC. I've only had the unit open for less than 2 weeks and now this excitement. Like the ants in the ant farm of my childhood, the spec moves.

Right now, it's in the middle of my screen.

I'm speechless. [sort of]

I can't find the link at the moment, but I recall a recent discussion on TabletPCBuzz about this problem.

I remember thinking to myself: that won't happen to me ...

Tecra M4 Observations for May 28, 2005

Saturday, May 28th, 2005
For the past two days, I've used the Tecra M4 as my only computing device. In all, the machine worked well. I should point out that other than a brief impromptu Tablet PC demo to David and Jason, I worked almost exclusively in laptop mode.

Some quick [unscientific] observations:

The M4's fast; consumes lots of power; the screen rocks more than a traditional laptop screen; the fan is much louder than the ThinkPad T42 (I was plugged in which causes the M4 to default to high-power); and I am not yet comfortable with the keyboard.

Keyboard observations: I've owned almost a dozen ThinkPads over the past decade, and I've been spoiled by the wonderful ThinkPad keyboard. The M4 keyboard is not bad mind you, but I'm not adjusting to it very quickly. Here are a few differences that I've encountered today: When using the Accupoint (TrackPoint, for you IBMers) the left and right mouse buttons are now top and bottom mouse buttons. Now Idea why Toshiba did that. I'm constantly clicking on the wrong button. In addition, the Accupoint seems very stiff to move around, even after adjusting the settings. The ThinkPad Keyboard has CRTL & ALT keys on each side of the space-bar. The Tecra's layout is very different. My productivity has dropped, largely because I have 10 years of ThinkPad keyboard experience to undo. Again, this is not a bad thing, but it will take some getting used to. Of course, I'll soon be doing everything in ink, right?

Screen observations: I 'm beginning to understand why wide angle viewing is such a big deal for a Tablet PC. When I look at the M4 straight on or use it in laptop mode, the screen is fine. If I'm even a few degrees off center, however, the screen readability drops. This would not be a problem with a laptop but a tablet, as I'm finding, is used very differently. For example, I tried to show Kathy a video clip. She was sitting next to me on the couch and could not see it. If I want to sit in a chair and lay the tablet on the table in front of me, it's difficult to see. If I prop it up a little, it's fine. If I want to write with the tablet in my lap I have to make sure that I'm looking at the M4 straight on to get the clarity that I would expect. Unfortunately, I have no way to compare this screen to another tablet, such as the Fujitsu, so I don't know if this is state-of-the-art or if I'm justified in expecting more.

As I type this, my fan has kicked into high gear. It does that from time to time. For the most part, I've been able to manage the power settings, but there's a high pitched whine - probably like my blog. I'll see what I can do to mitigate that and share what I've learned. On the topic of sharing, I have a list of questions people have asked me on or off the blog. I'll collect these and respond soon. Thanks for your patience.

I realize that not everything I've shared about my quest to become YABHTU is positive. I don't like to complain, but I'm not going to sugar-coat something that I think could be better either. As for the comments that I have made (or will make) about the Tecra M4, you should know the standard of comparison that I'm using. It's the IBM ThinkPad T42p. I've been fortunate to have this laptop for almost a year, and it's a delight. For the most part, I've been spoiled by IBM, the ThinkPad and the service and support. Oops; That's not entirely true. There was the one time I tried to give IBM $50,000 and they would not take it. But that's another story.

I guess this is all a part of the learning curve. I work with many new systems each year, and I retain few. Of those, still fewer do I recommend to clients. I'm still a long way away from any definitive conclusion on the tablet platform. I want to give it a fair chance.

All in all, my Tablet PC experiment continues well, though I'm not sure I did the Tablet PC justice in my impromptu demonstrations to David and Jason. My demonstration of OneNote and MindManager were not as smooth as I would have liked. Still, I think I was able to make a compelling argument for why I think the Tablet PC is a platform to watch. David's comment was that he's glad that he "pays me to evaluate hardware and software to figure out what works and what does not." There's still much that I want to learn about the Tablet PC as a paradigm for getting things done.

As I learn more I'll share it here. Over the next few days, I'll try to switch and do the bulk of my work in Tablet mode and see what kind of an impact that makes on my productivity.

Enough rambling. It's late.

As always, a special thanks to those of you who have taken the time to post comments with advice and recommendations.