Daily Archives: May 25, 2012

Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 Notes

You’ll recall that when I lost my Mac and bought the emergency netbook, I also picked up a Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 inch tablet, on the rationale that, damn it, I was grumpy and I wanted a toy. This is not an excellent reason to buy a piece of electronic equipment, I am the first to note. That said, I’d had my eye on this particular tablet for a bit, so it wasn’t entirely impulsive. I’ve lived with it now for a week and I’m ready to mention what I like and don’t like about it.

First, a general note: I like it. We have an iPad here in the Scalzi household (it’s primarily Krissy’s) and while it’s surely a nice piece of equipment, I’m not in love with its size. A ten-inch tablet is too large for my tastes; unless you’re Shaquille O’Neal, it’s not something you can carry around or use in a single hand, and in other respects it’s also unwieldy. I understand the boffins at Apple have decreed that the iPad is the perfect size for a tablet and that if we have a problem with that there’s something wrong with us, not them. But screw them, they’re just wrong. In my case, a 7-inch tablet is just about perfectly sized: Large enough to give you enough space to see a lot of things, but small enough to operate with one hand. It’s paperback book-sized, basically, and there’s a reason paperbacks are the size they are: Because they make ergonomic sense for humans.

I am using my tablet primarily as a reading appliance, and to that respect it’s been pretty great. Both the Kindle and Nook apps look good and perform well on it, and the screen is a high enough resolution (1024×600) that I can read books without eyestrain (and, because its an LCD screen, I can read it without a nightlight). I’m also trying the Next Issue app, which works like a Netflix for magazines, and it’s for me at least a nice way to cruise through various magazines without them cluttering up my house.

Web browsing is fine — text is small in portrait mode (one needs to pinch zoom) and perfectly readable in landscape. One thing I do like that is that things don’t automatically default to mobile versions of Web sites. I also like that I can access my own site’s backend via the browser, so I can go in and moderate comments more completely than I can do on my phone. The Android 4.0 system means all the Google toys work in a fairly optimized manner, which is especially useful with GMail, which I use. The keyboard in portrait mode is easy to operate with two thumbs.

Although I don’t use it much for video, it handles video just fine; I ran a bit of Serenity on it via Netflix and didn’t have any problems. Haven’t played any games on it so far, but that’s not why I got it, so even if it were to choke on that I wouldn’t care much. The camera is definitely meh, but it’s another function that I did not buy the tablet for, so that’s fine.

Things not to like: It only comes with 8GB of resident memory and half of that’s devoted to apps that I didn’t pick and probably won’t use but come with the thing anyway. This is mitigated by the MicroSD slot and the fact that I just got a 32GB card in that format for $20 (and that it comes with a deal with Dropbox for something like 50GB of space for a year, which does not suck). The power button and the volume rocker button are close enough to each other that I’m always pressing the wrong button. This is annoying. The screen is occasionally less than perfect with touch response (particularly with small type websites), and gets smeary real fast. It’s slightly weird to think the 4.5-inch screen on my phone has a higher resolution than this 7-inch screen.

However, to be blunt, these criticisms for me are blunted by the fact that a) I paid $240 bucks for the thing, which is not a lot, all things considered, b) the tablets closest to it in capability/design — the Nook Tablet and the Kindle Fire — have similar or lesser specs and are crimped by design in order to keep you in their respective ecosystems. With regards to a), I was not expecting genuinely top-flight specs for what I paid, and what I got for the price is more than satisfactory. With regards to b), why pay for crimped tools when you can get them uncrimped for essentially the same price?

So, for the price and for what I use the thing for, the Galaxy Tab 2 pretty much hits my needs dead on. If you’re looking for a solid, basic tablet in a smaller form factor and for not a whole lot of cash (relatively speaking), it’s worth giving a look.

The Computers of Scalziland

Since the disappearance (and eventual reappearance) of the MacBook Air, and the emergency purchase of the most recent Acer netbook, there has been some curiosity in among Whateverians about the current state of electronics at the Scalzi Compound. While I choose not to go into complete detail on the grounds that I would hate to give thieves a shopping list, I will note that as far as laptops go we have six functional ones at the moment, one for each human and each of the cats (the dog prefers not to go online). In chronological order, they are:

1. A 15-inch Toshiba (the one in the back on this picture), which I bought in 2007 when I was on my “Last Colony” book tour to replace the 12-inch tablet computer I had at the time, which died when I was in Ann Arbor. This computer wheezes and clicks and we bought a replacement for it because we were sure it was going to die, but like a silicon version of that old guy in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, it is Not Dead Yet. This is my wife’s primary computer.

2. A 17-inch Asus (not pictured) which I inherited as President of SFWA; the previous president bought it for business purposes and then shipped it to me when I ascended. It’s a desktop replacement, and as I had a desktop, I sent it into my daughter’s room (after removing anything confidential to SFWA, of course). Its keyboard is partially broken (the computer works fine when you plug in an outboard keyboard), so at the end of my tenure rather than passing it on I’ll probably purchase it from SFWA at current value; giving my replacement an only-partially operating piece of equipment is laden with too much metaphor, I would say.

3. A 12-inch CR-48, the prototype Chromebook I was sent by Google two Decembers ago (it’s to the left in the picture), which I wrote about half of Redshirts on. I’ve written about this one a bit; I liked the form factor of it but the trackpad was (and still is) awful, and at the time I was trying to use it, it had bugs integrating with Google Docs, which is what I needed it for. I still use it from time to time for Web browsing.

4. The MacBook Air (facing you in the picture). Lovely computer, for which I would note I paid more for than all the other computers on this list (a fact mitigated by inheriting one computer and being sent another by Google). From a practical point of view I’m not at all convinced that the premium I paid for the thing is justified; on the other hand when I use a non-Apple laptop I want to scream at its trackpad. I’ll be curious to see if Windows 8 mitigates the UI advantage Apple has to any serious effect. This is my primary computer at the moment.

5. A 15-inch (widescreen) Hewlett Packard (to the right of the picture). This is the replacement for the Toshiba, which hasn’t died yet, although probably will at some point in the reasonably near future, so we’re prepared, as it were. The HP is at the moment the “family computer” in that it sits at a built-in desk in the living room area, which makes it easily accessible when we’re all downstairs. You’ll often find Athena here, checking in on Facebook, or Krissy looking up something. I used it yesterday to make a video for a thing I’m doing after iMovie on my Mac made it clear to me that it didn’t want to be used.

6. An 11.6-inch Acer: Bought a week ago and the emergency replacement for the Mac, since I needed an actual computer while I was traveling. Right now it lives in my office and stays on the desk; the Mac tends to wander around the house with me.

I’m the first to admit that six laptops in one house is ridiculous, but I like to think the number is mitigated by the following facts: a) I was gifted one by Google, b) inherited another, c) bought a third to replace a computer that’s in the process of dying, d) bought a fourth to replace on I had every reason to suspect was lost forever. Nevertheless: SuperNerd, Thou Art I.

From a practical point of view I will say it’s easier now to have a bunch of laptops in the house than it used to be, because almost everything I write/do on a computer these days is stored online in some way. I do a lot of writing on Google Docs at the moment, store documents in Google Drive and/or Dropbox, and otherwise store material redundantly. When I lost the MacBook Air, I didn’t lose any work, because I could access it by signing in with another computer. It’s nice basically to pick up what you’re doing no matter where you are or what computer you’re using, and I definitely use that to my advantage these days. I don’t even have to save things to a USB drive anymore. Mind you, if Google goes down, I’m doomed, but then, if Google goes down, we may all be doomed.

(Before anyone makes the objection: I still DO save things locally, because, you know what? Google might go down one day. Also, there’s some stuff I don’t want to put online. Like my collection of badger porn! Wait, forget I wrote that last sentence. Anyway: Redundant data storage is your friend.)

So there you have it: A Scalzi computer census.