Category Archives: Tablet PC

Review of One Week with the Travelmate C200

My tablet arrived last Friday, and ever since then my computing life has not been the same. Out of the box the experience was good. For you true geeks, the specific model I chose is the C203etci. The C200 is a convertible tablet, the screen slides up to discover a nice sized keyboard underneath. It’s the sliding hinge that makes this model unique. Acer provides a cover for the screen that flips around to act as a heat shield for your lap. The weight is competitive with other tablets, about 5.5 pounds with the battery and CD/DVD drive installed, less if you don’t need to bring the drive with you. The screen is 12.1”, which is just fine for my purposes. Since I commute a lot in tight spaces it made sense to go small and functional. If you’re working in landscape mode with the tablet the conversion to keyboard is quick and slick. When working in portrait mode I’ve noticed some small arm fatigue over time, but I’ve also managed to balance it against my chest to reduce that slight drawback.

Acer Travelmate C200 - Acer USA

The first thing it did was install some Acer software, which I was surprised to discover wasn’t preloaded. I then backed up the install using the built-in CD burner, which took some time to burn five CDs. I also had trouble initially in tablet mode, the machine kept going into sleep mode with the screen down. However, it worked just fine with the screen up, which was puzzling. I eventually was able to determine that the power saving software (installed among the other pieces when I first started the machine) was designed for normal laptops, thinking that when the screen is down *should* go to sleep. On the C200, having the screen down means you want to use the pen. After then trying in vain to connect to the wireless network I’d set up the night before, I started then to install some additional software and quit only after my youngest woke up. Further exploration of the tablet would have to wait.

The next day was a planned trip to Madison, WI with family. Once there, at my Aunt’s house I discovered one of her neighbors was running a completely open Wifi port, which I have previously written about here. The next day involved more events with family and friends, returning home that Sunday night. I spent some time that night finishing up some software installations, but still was unable to connect to the WiFi. I knew it wasn’t the tablet’s fault since I could see the network, it just wouldn’t let me log in. Something was wrong with the router’s setup, not the tablet.

Monday was my first using the tablet as an adjunct to my main work computer. I had installed the 30-day demo of Franklin Covey’s Plan Plus 4.0, and was thrilled. Two years earlier I’d saved a page from a Covey sales brochure showing what was then called TabletPlanner. The planner uses a good mix of ink and text input, allowing me to use whichever input method is best at the time. I don’t like its formatting of contacts, so I will likely continue using Palm Desktop for that purpose. (I still will carry around my small and old [but functional] Treo 90 for the sole purpose of having a portable rolodex when I don’t want to start up the tablet just to search for a phone number.)

I wonder if the reason I’ve taken to the tablet is my long use of different Palm organizer models. My first was the original Pilot [before a trademark dispute with Pilot Pen forced the company to change its name to Palm Pilot, and then just Palm]. The Treo 90 I use has a keyboard and pen input, just not quite the same as this machine, though. 🙂 This is way more powerful.

That Monday night I finally deciphered the mysteries of the wireless router. In order to get the WPA encryption up and running I ended up having to upgrade the firmware on the router, after which it has worked like a charm. Many thanks to Leo Laporte and Steve Gibson for their Security Now podcasts, be sure to check out Episodes 10 & 11 and 13 for their series on wireless security.

For attending Blawgthink in November I received some excellent software packages, including MindManager, One Note, and NoteMap. The first two really take great advantage of the tablet, I’ve enjoyed learning how to use them best. On Thursday I attended a local Bar association lunch seminar, and the speaker let me try out the tablet’s built in microphone while taking notes with OneNote. The sound isn’t the best due to room conditions, but I really like its ability to take me to the time index of the recording from when I made each note. I’ve heard that a lot of attorneys use OneNote to record depositions while taking notes, it really is great on the tablet. I’ve also got good use out of MindManager, I’m starting to get the hang of its pen shortcuts. ActiveWords has also been another great package. I’m sure enjoying learning it, and will write more about that package soon.

Overall, I have been very happy with my choice of the C200. It’s easy to type out longer essays with the keyboard, and yet for most purposes the pen is a great input device. The conversion between the two modes is rapid enough to keep the flow of my work, unlike other tablets that make you stop and twist the screen around to convert it to tablet mode. I’ll write more about the tablet in the future if it’s relevant to the blog.

Out of the Box with Wireless

I’m writing this now on OpenOffice 2.01 with my new Acer Travelmate C200.

Opening the box was cool, I was up and running within minutes. The only big hiccup came with the built-in power management software misinterpreting tablet mode as being the standard “Lid’s closed, let’s power down” mode. Luckily I was able to diagnose that without having to call tech support. I still haven’t worked out the bugs in my wireless access at home, but hope to do more soon with it when I have more time. I can see my network, it just won’t let me access it. 🙁 The wired access works (for now) just fine.

Over the weekend I visited family and brought the new tablet with me, hoping to set it up further after the kids went to bed. My computer detected a wireless access point that was completely wide open allowing anyone to log on and use that person’s Internet access point. Since I wasn’t doing anything secure, just downloading and installing software, I went ahead and took advantage of the opportunity to get online. While fun for me, such open points are potentially troubling for whoever’s account I was using. Some will advocate setting up a totally free access point by rationalizing like “I’m only being charged a flat rate anyways”, and that the founders of the Internet supported a free access rationale. However, this person could be liable if an anonymous user would do something like download the latest Hollywood blockbuster using a peer to peer package while connected to this network. It’s that home user’s IP address that would be visible to the RIAA and MPAA. It’s that home user that would be the named defendant in the lawsuit. And, it would be up to that home user to try to prove that he didn’t download the software at question.

I’m guessing the WAP I was using was from a new user since the access point name was the default straight out of the box “Linksys,” but it’s a shame these things don’t default to secure access and make the user affirmatively choose to run in the clear.