Friday, December 24, 2004

The Endless 8x10 Digital Photo Album

While filling out and signing forms may be te killer app for the Tablet PC in the workplace (or the jobsite), I just discovered what I believe to be the killer app for the Tablet PC during the holidays: The Endless 8x10 Digital Photo Album!

Being the gadget guy and proud new father I am, I have a few hundred digital photos of the twins. Our extended family will be in town this weekend for Christmas, and knowing they'll all want to see pictures, I'm faced with the question of how best to share them all. I could have 4x6 prints made ( does them for $0.18, and offers one-hour, in-store pickup). I could burn a DVD. I could downsample them and put them on my iPaq. In fact, because I am a geek, I did all these things. But I also loaded all of my photos onto my tablet and installed Picasa, the excellent, free iPhoto-alike available from Google.

Now when the family wants to see photos, I can set Picasa to slideshow mode and pass around the tablet. People immediately understand how to navigate to the next picture using the directional keys, and the slate form factor is much more living room friendly than a laptop. The images are beautiful and roughly the size of an 8x10 print.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Taking the Paper Out of Paperwork

With the recent additions to our family, I find myself filling out lots of forms. Along the way, I've found what may be for me the killer app for the Tablet PC.

I've been a fan of the "paperless office" idea since, well, since it was popular. Email and the web have replaced a lot of formerly paper-bound processes, but forms are another story. Even though all of the various forms from my insurance company are available as PDF's, you've still had to print them out, fill them out, sign them, and fax them somewhere. But with a TabletPC, you can skip the paper step altogether. This is convenient when you're in the office, but absolutely necessary when you're somewhere without a printer or a fax machine, like a hospital waiting room.

When the twins were born, I sent an email to the HR person at my company requesting the appropriate insurance forms. She replied, attaching them as PDF files. I opened them in Acrobat, printed them to a Journal file, and filled them out and signed them using the tablet's Ink function. At that point I could have created PDF versions of the signed forms and emailed them back, but since my company has a VPN that lets me connect to the office network from anywhere, I logged in and sent the signed versions to the printer in the HR department. No paper, no faxing, done in five minutes, and all wirelessly. Nice!

Of course I don't fill out enough forms every day to justify the cost of a Tablet PC, but my wife sure does. She's an architect and a builder. When she's working on-site on a project, she exchanges faxes with suppliers, subcontratcors, government agencies, and clients every day. Many of these documents require signatures, so she's been stuck in the fax-sign-fax routine, requiring her to run a temporary phone line to the job site just for faxes. With a tablet, she'll be able to radically simplify the process, sponging off of a neighbor's open wireless network (trust me, there's at least one on every street) and saving time and money. I predict that the Tablet PC will join the white pickup and the 7-11 Super Big Gulp as standard issue gear for builders.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Posting to be Light

Posting will be pretty light for the next little while. Here's why:

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Another "inkerneter" joins the blogosphere

Another "inkerneter" joins the blogosphere: "Warner is a theatre director (artistic director) of Wayside Theatre in Middletown, VA, USA. He's also an avid TabletPC enthusiast and an MSN Spaces blogger. Nice to see another Tablet PC revolutionary blogging.

See, how do you start a revolution? One link at a time! Er, I guess that should be 'one 'ink' at a time!' :-)"—Robert Scoble

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Google Suggest a Boon for Tablet Users

Latest Google Experiment Suggests Popular Queries: "Google Inc. introduced an experimental search service Friday that automatically suggests queries as a user types search terms. Called Google Suggest, the service is similar to a feature in Google's main Web search that suggests alternative spellings after a user enters a query. Google Suggest instead works in real time, listing possible search terms in a drop-down menu below the query box."—eWeek

This new feature works great with, and can save a considerable amount of hunting-and-pecking when using, the keyboard TIP—at least when using MSIE.

Friday, December 10, 2004

An Apple iTablet home-built

Reader Joseph DeRuvo Jr. sent me a pointer to his home-built "Apple iTablet":

I'm really just trying to fan the flames under the feet of Mr. Jobs. It's about time that Apple came to bat with a Tablet. But until then I took matters into my own hands. Really I do believe it would benefit the entire Tablet community if there was some competition.
I'd love to see a tablet from Apple—they have all of the technology pieces in place—but I'm not holding my breath. Thanks, Joseph!

Monday, December 06, 2004

OneNote 2003 Free + $45 Profit is selling OneNote 2003 for $54.99, which combined with a $100 mail-in rebate gets you OneNote for free plus a $45 profit. —via FatWallet

There has been some confusion over rebate requirements, but here's the skinny from a FatWallet forum member:

I just got off the phone wih the MS rebate customer service department. I talked to Mark and he said that the rebate form should be supplied by Amazon with the product. He said that if the rebate form is not included with the product, to call them back 1-800-622-4445, and they will email out a rebate form for this product. He went over the requirements for this rebate. He stated:
  1. The product must be one listed in the rebate (the SKU of S26-01031 is listed), and
  2. Must submit the box top from the MS One Note 2003 software box, and
  3. Must send in a copy of the sales invoice where purchased (I told him and he said no problem), and
  4. The rebate form. Again, he stated if the rebate form is not sent by Amazon with the product, then to just call the number (listed above) and the rebate form would be emailed.
I confirmed that these were the only requirements for the rebate. No proof of prior purchase of any MS products is necessary. He said to please allow 8 to 10 weeks for processing the rebate.
Heckuva deal.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Turning Meetings into Poetry

I spend too much time in meetings, especially status meetings that could be completely obviated by the use of internal corporate weblogs. But that's another story. Anyway, yesterday I was in such a meeting and decided to play around with my tablet's speech recognition. I started Word, fired up Speech Recognition, and let it try to understand the various overlapping conversations that were going on. It tried valiantly, and came up with something which, after only a few deletions and some added punctuation, reads to me like poetry:

A memorial, weather permitting
a little while and whether the air.

You are right- now I know
if the real... if really... if all of them were...
no way you're right.

An hour and a half and a handful of my heart
was initially not a lot at all.

the era of the car nears the area of overlap
the Italian and yet another man were in danger.
Much more beautiful than the discussion of launch plans, online demos, and alpha releases that I heard, don't you think? It seems my tablet is a romantic.

HP Bluetooth GPS

As I may have mentioned, I'm a little bit of a GPS geek, and as such have been eagerly awaiting the chance to try out my HP Bluetooth GPS Receiver with my tablet. I've had great success using it in conjunction with my iPaq 4155, and wanted to see if it would work as well with my Motion M1300.

Pairing the GPS receiver to the tablet was extremely simple. I turned on the receiver, opened up My Bluetooth Places on the tablet, searched for devices in range, selected the receiver, paired it using the hard-coded PIN, discovered available services, and selected Properties of the Bluetooth Serial Port to determine that my machine would see the GPS receiver on COM8. Now that I type it, it sounds like a lot of steps, but it only took about 20 seconds.

Then I launched Microsoft Streets & Trips 2003, which is admittedly not the most recent version, but it's the one I have. I selected Tools>GPS>Configure GPS receiver and told it to look for GPS data coming from COM8. It worked flawlessly the first time.

With the GPS receiver on my dashboard and my tablet riding shotgun, I drove to work, periodically checking my position via the Track Position function. Everything worked as designed, but therein lies the problem. Streets & Trips is not designed to be an in-car navigation system. From the help file:

With a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver connected to your computer or Pocket PC, you can see your current location on the Streets & Trips or Pocket Streets map. When you have a GPS receiver installed, Streets & Trips and Pocket Streets checks for your location every 15 seconds and displays it on the map. You can choose to have the map always centered on your current location. Using the GPS Sensor, you can also view the latitude and longitude coordinates of your current location.
This is a far cry from the dynamic routing, turn-by-turn directions, voiec prompts, and once-a-second position updates you get from a program like Mapopolis. The comparison is unfair- the two pieces of software are designed to do different things. But what I want is an in-car navigation system for my tablet.

I'll probably find a use for Streets & Trips, but this isn't it. It's nice to know though that whatever software I find, my Bluetooth GPS receiver works perfectly with my tablet. I bought the HP model when it came out because it came with software for my iPaq. You can find much cheaper (and presumably just as good) models, like the Belkin model that periodically goes on sale for $149.

jkOn... Various Input Techniques

Excellent review of ink systems and on-screen keyboards: "James Kendrick has just published a sweeping review of alternative ink technologies, handwriting recognition systems, onscreen keyboard alternatives, and voice recognition systems. If you’re frustrated with the Tablet PC’s built-in Tablet Input Panel (TIP) and are looking for a faster alternative, this article will be a great resource."—The Tablet PCs Weblog

Later this morning, I'll be posting the first piece of a new art form I created yesterday: in-meeting speech recognizer poetry. It's quite good.