Technology Updates

I’m still getting questions about how I’m doing with the netbook and with the Blackberry Storm, so for those of you who are interested, a quick update on my thoughts on both:

The netbook, which in my case is an Acer Apire One: I’m still continuing to use it and still like it very much, although time does reveal its limitations, most as a matter of form factor. At home, I use it primarily for browsing and e-mail and instant messaging; if I need to write anything of substance, however, I go either to my desktop or the Toshiba laptop (which has a fullsize keyboard and a 15″ screen). I do also continue to be aware that the size of the netbook makes it uncomfortable to do some things with; for example, while browsing with it while I’m lying down is easy, typing from a lying position is difficult because the keyboard naturally sits too low on my lap. This is probably not a horrible thing overall — the netbook if nothing else makes me very aware of my personal ergonomics while using the computer — but it’s still something to be aware of. It’s still aces for travel because it’s so damn light and I very rarely do heavy-duty writing when I travel anyway.

The only real complaint I have about it is that its wifi performance is substantially better when it’s plugged in than when it’s not; I suspect the power cord acts as an antenna. But this is a relative small complaint in the larger context of things. Overall it does well for the things I want it for, i.e., a light and small computer for travel and net access. I don’t think a netbook is a replacement for a more capable computer, unless you have tiny hands and only browse the Internet and answer e-mail. But for something to use in a hotel room or an airport, it’s gold.

The Blackberry Storm: I’m also still liking this fine, although I do have specific complaints. First, as I think I’ve noted before, I paradoxically find the “SureType” keyboard on the Storm (which puts two letters on each key and has the Storm figure out what you’re typing) much easier to use than the QWERTY layout keyboard: The qwerty board’s buttons are just too damn small and you can’t see the button when your finger’s on it, which means that you (or I, anyway) end up making far more errors and have to type more slowly. I think there’s something generally weird when the less precise keyboard ends up being the most useful. Second, the while the Storm takes reasonably good pictures (see above, of the front room Christmas tree), the camera software well and truly sucks, starting with the fact that it takes about five seconds from when you press a button to snap a picture, to when the Storm actually decides to get around to taking the picture. Really, that’s just ridiculous.

Aside from these, it’s a good phone/internet appliance, and it does what I want it to do, and I think at least some of the backlash against the Storm is probably unwarranted, and since the latest software upgrade, fixed in any event. I’ve found it particularly useful for keeping track of e-mail, which I suppose makes sense coming from Blackberry. I know some people are annoyed with it for not being an iPhone, but you know, I’m not one of them, and in any event since Apple decided that only AT&T gets to have the iPhone and I’m on Verizon (along with everyone else in my family calling plan), even if I were lusting for an iPhone, this is what I would have ended up getting anyway. I want them to fix the qwerty keyboard and the camera software; aside from that, I’m happy.

26 thoughts on “Technology Updates

  1. I suspect the power cord acts as an antenna

    More likely is that they reduce power to the chip when in battery mode, and increase it when it’s got AC.

  2. More likely is that they reduce power to the chip when in battery mode, and increase it when it’s got AC.

    That’s what I was going to say.

  3. Being a total technology slut, I had to go out and get a Netbook as well, but I’ve had the opposite experience with the writing ergonomics. I got a little Samsung NC10, and the keyboard is simply stellar. I was churning out stuff without having to “learn” the keyboard.

    It still doesn’t come close to the Alphasmart (the little green Etch-A-Sketch I repeatedly dropped on the floor to show off its durability back at VP), but it’s a very capable little travel rig, and I wouldn’t feel too handicapped if I had to switch to the Samsung for writing for a while.

    How are you adjusting to the left/right buttons on the side of the trackpad? That was one of my few issues with the Acer AO when I was doing my hands-on comparison shopping,

  4. O Predictable Scalzi, how predictable you are.

    Do you know what simple and easy step you could have taken to elevate this worthless post to something priceless?

    No, you probably don’t. But the Executive Committee of The Official Ghlaghghee Fan Club is eager to help you out.

    Instead of taking a picture of a ridiculous tree, could you not have taken a picture of Her Most Glorious Perfect Shimmering Radiance?

    It’s not too late to rectify your foolish mistake. Hurry, get your finest DSLR camera, and take 20 or 30 images of Her. Post them all (without inane commentary, please) and you will be redeemed.

    The Official Ghlaghghee Fan Club

  5. “I think there’s something generally weird when the less precise keyboard ends up being the most useful.”

    This suggests alternative keyboard layouts driven not by letter frequency but letter entropy, i.e. placement near other letters that are unlikely to produce a real word if substituted.

  6. Oh, John. I used to respect you. I used to care what you thought.

    But you’ve blown it, bubba. Now, you’re just a hack when it comes to tech.

    A full keyboard – a full keyboard – has a numeric keypad. You cannot fit that into 15 inches unless your elfin little mitts can touch-type on a Blackberry. If this is the case, and your Tic-Tac size keys are so widdy that you can flit the ivories with your tendrils of typing, so slender and wormy, then fair play. I retract my statement.

    But otherwise, if your notion of “Full Keyboard” is A-Z, the numbers ranked mundanely atop, and some trivial punctuation marks that most folk brutalise anyway… then you’re dead to me, Scalzi. Dead inside. You may not know it – and I pity you all the more for the pseudo-animation you schlep around in, cheese dripping from your double-double seeking maw – but you’re a hollow shell of real man.

    If there’s anything left of you in there, John… come back. Please. It’s not too late.

    But it’s up to you now, man.

  7. …browsing with it while I’m lying down is easy…
    Lol my friends all think I’m crazy for doing my schoolwork lying down… glad to see I’m not the only one!

  8. “I know some people are annoyed with it for not being an iPhone”

    Actually, most of the really negative reviews I’ve seen of the Blackberry Storm seem to be criticizing it for not being a Blackberry.

    If it works for you, great, though.

  9. Your comments on the Acer kind of reinforce my thoughts of ‘meh’ on the category. My Macbook weighs 5lbs which is perfectly fine for me when I’m traveling. I can see the attraction when you’re on the road a LOT or if your laptop is significantly bigger/heavier than mine (and it’s not a Mac thing, there are PCs in the same class).

  10. For the record, it seems that all BlackBerrys with cameras suffer the same delay in picture taking. That annoyance aside, I think BlackBerry cameras are fairly comparable to those in other phones. Which is impressive given how long RIM resisted adding such features to their phones.

    Costco has the Acer Aspire One for $350, so I picked one up for my mom for Christmas. I have it out playing with it (because, why wouldn’t I?) and it’s pretty nifty. I don’t really like the touchpad buttons — you can click and double-click on the pad itself, so that’s not so bad, but right-clicking is horrible. Nothing an external mouse can’t fix, though…

  11. I have an Acer and it’s been a bit of a pain, although it’s great if there are no other options (for traveling). It has a keyboard issue. I’ll be typing along and the cursor jumps, so that I’m constantly having to stop typing, backspace, mouse back to where I want to be, etc. I tried changing the keyboard typing speed because I’m a fast typist and thought that was the problem, but it didn’t do the trick.

  12. Nancy, it sounds like you’re accidentally brushing the touchpad as you type. There should (probably) be a setting where you can set the touchpad to be disabled whilst you’re typing.

  13. That tree, my friend – clearly artificial. Surely a CLOT.
    Perhaps the climate of Ohio is hostile to conifers (methinks not). Perhaps US festive arboriculture has withered in the recessional blast – no federal bailout? Perhaps there is a family stricture against the felling of juvenile trees for purely decorative use. Perhaps the Scalzi vacuum cleaner has failed and, electrical gadgetry having used up the disposal dollar, cannot be replaced in time to clear up the needly detritus. Perhaps (we may be getting near the truth) the Scalzis have no sense of smell and do not miss the resiny pleasure of ‘that Christmas tree smell’. We may never know. We can only hope that, this being the ‘front room’ tree, our host is concealing from us the true majesty of the real Christmas tree hidden elsewhere on the property.

    (Curious Lapse of Taste)

  14. I’m also stuck on Verizon, and upgrading to a touchscreen smartphone. But after the negative reviews the BB Storm has gotten, I’m probably going with the Samsung Omnia. I’m test driving both today.

  15. @zakur: I think if you’ve never used a previous BlackBerry you will probably like the Storm. As PNH pointed out earlier, most of the criticism is coming from BlackBerry users who find it not quite up to their expectations…

  16. the Scalzis have no sense of smell and do not miss the resiny pleasure of ‘that Christmas tree smell’

    Or y’know… they could be allergic. A cut down tree is busily decaying inside your house, which means it fosters a lot of mold and fungus growth. For those as are sensitive, breathing is a higher priority than the smell of a dead tree.

    A potted tree can work better, but they often can’t handle the shock involved in the temperature changes. And a living conifer doesn’t have a strong scent. That whole dying thing tends to send a lot of biological processes into overdrive…

    Sometimes, technology is the best solution.

  17. I had to set up a new Storm for a user on Friday. RIM continue to build devices that are on the threshold of black hole in their suckage quotient. I hate them all, but the touch screen on the Storm is a thing to inspire hatred and vitriol on whole new levels.

  18. Redcoat: Just because someone has an artificial tree doesn’t make them with out taste. For instance, I’m allergic to pine (I don’t use pine scented cleaners for this reason). I’d prefer not to be allergy miserable in my own home but I’d like to have a decorated tree in my house. Artificial trees make this possible.

  19. John

    Respect to tree preservation. Although, Christmas trees are pretty much a crop – I don’t worry about the other plants I consume, in several different ways, so I don’t see it as relatively more ‘needless’ to kill a plantation spruce than to kill an agricultural lettuce. All should rightly honour the majesty, beauty and longevity of trees, not to mention the ecological indespensibilty of woodland – a Christmas tree taken from the wild would be an outrage. But I don’t worry about the moral implications of, say, cut flowers and prefer not to engage in moral relativism based on size.

    Perhaps there is a legitimate concern regarding the environmental impact of the plantations however. Conifer monocultures tend not to support diverse ecosystems and could certainly be irresponsibly sited and badly managed, to the general detriment. Equally, one might argue that the land should be used more productively to produce edible crops or lumber, or simply be returned to wilderness. But then is not an artificial tree substantially a petro-chemical product, albeit a re-usable one? Implications on either hand I think.

    So I do admittedly have a dead, decaying tree (actually a fir) in my house, and have had one every year for 43 years – perhaps I will review this habit (it will be chipped and used as mulch when it’s festive duties are over – not entirely wasted). Now I’m wondering if that goose has to die, although I doubt that a non-biologial alternative would do the job on the day. And the wine . . . . .think of all the little grapes suffering in the press . . . . .

    But I doubt you are being very much more serious than I was to begin with. Your tree looks charming, by the way – I impune the Scalzi taste only in jest.

    Adelheid:

    No beef with you on the allergy front. I have dangerous allergy that I need to be mindful of in certain circumstances – I wear an alert tag to inform others. In fact you may have the worst of it though, since I love the forest and would hate to have to avoid walking among the trees.

    Merry Christmas to all.

  20. Redcoat, the lingering sting of my spelling-bee loss in the fourth grade requires me to inform you that the word is “impugn.”

    I’ve only used the word once in context in my entire life, but I’ve never forgotten how to spell it.

  21. AA1 wireless radio:

    Atheros driver package 7.6.0.224. Wireless connection slows to dialup like speed on battery power.

    Two fixes:
    1. Update from 7.6.0.224 to 7.6.1.160.

    or
    2. Chang power save mode: dev mgr/expand network adapters/properties of Atheros/advanced/power save mode/off.

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