Posted in Technology

Show Me Some Apps, Tech Trash, Geek Garbage

I watched Steve Jobs (RIP) unveil the first iPad, and found myself thinking “Meh – it’s just an overgrown iPhone.”  I wasn’t terribly impressed with the iPhone either.  I waited to see what the market was going to do.  Being from geekdom I knew that it was just a matter of time before SOME iteration of an iPad-like tablet device was going to be in my possession.

When Toshiba released the Thrive (http://us.toshiba.com/tablets/thrive/10-inch/) they touted it as a tablet that was designed by laptop specialists, whereas all the others seemed to be cell phones on steroids.  I bought the top of the line model from Newegg.com, and was really looking forward to putting it to use.  A couple of weeks later I received it, opened the box, turned it on, admired it, then plugged it in to my PC to charge and registered it with Toshiba.  Downloaded the software and updates needed, and then started looking at the apps loaded into the tablet:  games, e-reader, gps, a number of other generic, nothing special, Honeycomb apps.  What I wanted was something that I could take on the road, and since I work in Customer Support, I wanted to be able to VPN into my office network, and using a Remote Desktop Client, provide support without lugging around a laptop.

Yeah – No…

While I pictured myself using a PADD, ala Star Trek (http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/PADD), in reality, it was not going to get used AT ALL for it’s intended purpose.  In fact, it is so useless that I’ve consigned it to the geek garbage bin that I have accumulated over the years – all that stuff that was so cool until I bought it.  What was wrong with it, and could it ever be put to its intended use?  First part of the question:  although it has VPN, it is not compatible with the Cisco VPN client that we use.  As I understand it, Cisco does provide a “VPN Anywhere” client that may be compatible, if they so chose to support this tablet.  Also, since it is a wi-fi device – no 3G/4G cell connection, I thought I’d use my “Web’N’Walk” UMTS stick provided by T-Mobile, for those times when I’m on the road, and which the Thrive patently ignored.  Then there was a lack of reasonable RDP software.  Whether the LogMeIn app would or wouldn’t work depended on the successful operation of the vpn connection at the minimum.*  Could it be used for its intended purpose?  I think so, but that’s dependent on what people expect AND DEMAND of the companies that provide App support.  Right now it’s mostly eye candy & entertainment.  I had it at work the other day, still trying to figure out a use for it.  I had acquired the recent Giants vs 49ers NFC Championship game.  A colleague came into the office, saw the Thrive and started asking questions about it.  I demo’d some of the features including the video, and he was particularly struck by the clarity and colors of the football game. He may buy it off me. So, now, instead of it being in geek garbage, maybe it’s worth a few bucks to someone.

So, here’s this tablet – can’t use it for much more than a reader (which is not only too heavy to hold, but the battery life sucks for a reader).  I have readers already: 4 of them, to be exact, with a 5th on the way ** (I like readers, and I find them very useful, except for my one color reader, which is really a disguised tablet with the same issues that the Thrive has).  The Thrive has 2 cameras, including video, for social networking, but there’s no video-conferencing app.  Googletalk is voice only.  The video recorder has some cool features, but holding a 10″ tablet to capture video is silly.  Email?  C’mon on – almost every cell phone now has that capability.  So, what good is it?  Geek garbage.

And, just like an idiot, last week while at the PX, I bought a Samsung Galaxy Tab, hoping against hope that it was better.  No – it’s smaller, more portable at 7″, but no improvement.  I generally don’t believe in returning something that works; only if it’s misrepresented somehow, or defective in some fashion.  If I’m stupid enough to buy it, then I don’t believe the retailer should be responsible for my stupidity.  I may sell it, but I’ll likely just hold on to it, hoping that someone will provide that killer app, or a desire to take it off my hands.  I don’t know – maybe I’ll open a museum some day;  Call it “Piper’s Museum of Tech Trash”.

Of the amount of geek garbage that I’ve accumulated over the years:  let’s see, I remember buying an Atari Portfolio, which was a DOS subnotebook from 1989 (what??? – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atari_Portfolio), the Rio Karma (which actually did see some use, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rio_Karma), Creative Zen W (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ZEN_Vision_W), an iMac (used as a Windows machine instead, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imac), and the Kobo reader.  I also have 2 Sony Readers (to be fair the first one broke), a Next2 (http://www.nextbookusa.com/productdetail.php?product_id=2).  I’ve laptops at the house, ranging from 8″ netbooks to a 19″ monster that won’t go anywhere near my lap.  PCs that I’ve built – both cutting/bleeding edge power machines with SSD hard drives, and extra small form factor jobs that could overload by playing Free Cell (ok – so that’s a bit of an exaggeration).  I’ve got cases laying around, some complete, some empty, some in-between.  Hard drives, graphics cards, monitors, RAM, soundcards, mice, keyboards, motherboards, CPUs – I could probably build 5 PCs without buying another thing.

Have you ever tried to SELL a PC that you built at home?  Advertise in the newspaper, Craigslist, ebay…  Invariably, a potential buyer will ask, “who made it,”  or “”What is the brand?” You tell them, “I built it,”  and I guarantee that you’ll never hear from them again.  On the other hand, I HAVE built systems for people that asked for them, custom-made, based on what they intended to do with them.  Outside of a short learning process/adjustment period, I’ve never needed to fix a machine because it broke or failed to do what it was designed to do, even budget PCs that I’ve built for others from spare parts.  I have been called in because someone let their AV protection lapse, or performed some bonehead procedure that wiped all their *.exe files, or filled the harddrive up and then wondered why the computer I built for them was running so slowly.

Got sidetracked there – I had to go back up to look at the title because I forgot why I started this post.  Apps!  Oh yeah.  Basically, they’re mostly crap.  So, I ordered a new tablet, but this one’s Intel i5 based and it uses Windows 7, probably even Windows 8 when it gets released.  Since it is a Windows tablet there should be no issues with the software that I install or the UMTS stick. It’s pen-based instead of touchscreen.  I was never crazy about the touchscreen anyway – too many oily fingerprints to clean.  If you’re wondering what the model is…  I built it.   No, not really, It’s a Samsung Slate (http://www.samsung.com/us/computer/tablet-pcs/XE700T1A-A06US?).  I actually found it for $300 – $500 cheaper, depending on how you view these things, by buying it through the Microsoft Store (http://www.microsoftstore.com/store/msstore/list/parentCategoryID.44066900/categoryID.54536100 – I’ve included the link for all similar tablets with Windows, so you don’t have to feel “beholden’ to Samsung).  Now, Ive never bought ANYTHING from the MS store – I didn’t even know they had a store, but it was a couple of hundred bucks cheaper than Amazon or Newegg, AND they provided a $200 coupon which I can certainly put to use.  I’ll let you all know whether this tablet’s as useful as I hope, or gets added to my geek garbage.

“That’s all I have to say about that”  — Forrest Gump

* A footnote about Logmein – it was a 90 day wonder, a trial version, which I don’t remember seeing advertised, and I don’t know if the clock started on that when I first ran it, or when I registered the Thrive.  It doesn’t work now without a payment, and I won’t pay for it if I can’t sample it first.  Catch-22.

**My newest reader is now here, and I’m hard-pressed to set it down.  This particular one is a Barnes & Noble Nook Simple Touch (http://www.barnesandnoble.com/p/nook-simple-touch-barnes-noble/1102344735).  One word of warning though; after updating the firmware on it, at times, it suffers with response issues where the touchscreen won’t work when turning pages, but the (almost invisible) vertical buttons on the side work just fine, otherwise, it’s snappier than the Kobo (my previous reader), better contrast, and more features.

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Retired Army, living in Washington. Grew up in California.

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