Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Alternatives to the iPad

Published by Sunbelt Software FORUMS | RSS | MY PROFILE | PRIVACY  

Vol. 2, # 6 - Feb 11, 2010 - Issue # 22 
 Alternatives to the iPad

  1. Editor's Corner
    • Alternatives to the iPad
    • Survey of the Week
    • Follow-up: Windows 7 on a notebook with modest specs
    • Quotes of the Week
  2. Cool Tools
  3. News, Hints, Tips and Tricks
    • Run Windows 7 on the iPad?
    • Want even more desktop coolness? Get the Glass Gadgets Pack
    • How's this for irony? Stability update makes PCs unstable?
    • How to fine tune Windows 7 on your netbook
  4. How to: Using the New Windows 7 Features
    • How to add Computer (or any other folder) to the Windows 7 taskbar
  5. Windows 7 and Vista Security
    • Create a "sandbox" by booting Win7 from a VHD
  6. Question Corner
    • Windows 7 takes forever to start - what did I do?
  7. Windows 7 Configuration and Troubleshooting
    • WMP 12 hangs when you resume from sleep and try to play a DVD
    • How to include or remove folders in a Windows 7 library
  8. Fav Links
    • This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff
  9. Product of the Week
    • Registry Reviver: Registry Reviver Cleans, Repairs and Optimizes Your PC.

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Editor's Corner

Alternatives to the iPad

If you keep up with the tech news world, you undoubtedly already know that late last month, Apple introduced their "magical, incredible, awesome, extraordinary" slate-style computer to much fanfare. At least, those were the words that Steve Jobs used to describe the device in his keynote at the January 27th Apple event in San Francisco.

Come on, dude - we know it's your job to hype it up, but it's just a tablet. Tablet PCs have been around for a decade. Microsoft brought out Windows XP Tablet Edition in 2001. A Linux-based tablet device called the ProGear WebPad was around even before that.

There was a plethora of Windows based Tablet PCs shown at this year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in early January. At that show, Steve Ballmer unveiled HP's slate device, which runs Windows 7 and is expected to be available sometime this year.

The JooJoo (formerly known as the Crunchpad) is a tablet device that runs a proprietary OS and the Archos 7 is an Android-based tablet, whereas the Archos 9 is a Windows 7 tablet that's already available now. Dell's Mini 5 and Notion Ink's Adam are also Android-based tablets. In fact, you can see a chart detailing the features of some of the new and upcoming tablets here:

If you take a moment to look over those comparison specs, you might be wondering exactly what's supposed to be so special about the iPad. Many of its competitors run full fledged Windows or Linux operating systems with which you can do anything you would do on a Windows or Linux notebook computer, whereas the iPad runs the iPhone OS - a very stripped down version of OS X. In fact, you might say the iPad isn't really a tablet computer at all; it's a very large iPod Touch. And I'm not the other one who thinks so:

The Windows, Linux and Android tablets support multi-tasking (something that anyone who wants to use a computer seriously needs to be able to do). The iPad and JooJoo don't. All of the other tablets have a built-in camera. The iPad doesn't. Several of the competing tablets have SD slots so you can expand the storage capacity. The iPad requires that you use an awkward dongle to get that capability.

Based on my own first impressions of the iPad, I wrote a blog post called iPad? iDon'tThinkSo and then TechRepublic published my article 10 Reasons I'll Be Passing on the iPad, which you can read at h

I know some will accuse me of always being an Apple nay-sayer, but I actually wanted to like this device because I've been wishing for the "perfect" tablet ever since I bought my first one back in the early 2000s. It was a convertible model from Toshiba and I really liked it for taking notes and drawing. But it was heavy and thick, and its specs were very low compared to regular notebooks that cost the same.

Ever since I bought my first little Sony T series notebook, I've longed for the same thing in convertible tablet format. So I was excited when I read, a few days ago, that Sony representatives have said the company is "very interested" in entering the tablet market.

Sony's laptops have the same sort of "cool" factor as Apple's products. My new Sony X, which I wrote about in last week's editorial, would make a wonderful tablet device. Of course, Sony hasn't yet revealed much about their tablet plans. For one thing, they don't say whether it would run Windows 7, as their notebook computers do, or a proprietary operating system, like their Dash - a touchscreen device they introduced at CES that accesses web content and proprietary apps over wi-fi:

Apparently Google is interested in the tablet market, too. They recently unveiled photos and video of what they envision a Chrome-based tablet would look like. In fact, they got a jump on Apple by showing their "concept tablet" two days before the Big Reveal by Jobs. Since the Chrome OS is a cloud-based operating system centered on the web, such a tablet would probably suffer from the same lack of full computing functionality as the iPad - but it might very well be less costly and more "open" (in terms of availability of apps from different sources) than Apple's tablet.

Meanwhile, there's a brand new controversy brewing over who was responsible for the relatively lack of success Microsoft had with its tablet PCs. Dick Brass, a former Microsoft Vice President, pointed fingers in many directions (both internal and external) in a recent opinion piece for the New York Times:

On the other hand, when it comes to the tablet, maybe there just aren't enough people out there who love the idea as much as I (and a few other hardcore fans) do. After all, even Apple's magic touch wasn't able to generate "a whole lotta love" for a slate, no matter how sleek and sexy it is. In fact, the reaction from both the tech press and consumer polls was less than encouraging. Despite all the hype that had tech types drooling prior to the launch event, once people had a chance to see what it was (and wasn't), interest flagged almost immediately. According to a Retrevo poll, the percentage of survey respondents who said they were not interested in buying one rose from 26% before the event to 52% afterward. Ouch. That had to hurt.

And here's more bad news for Apple: a Chinese company called Shenzhen Great Loong Brother Industrial is threatening to sue over the iPad's design, which strongly resembles that of a tablet they've been selling since last year. And Fujitsu claims they own the name "iPad," which they marketed as a Windows CE- powered handheld computer in 2002, and yet another company, Mag-Tek, also made a device by that name in 2003.

If the device hasn't gone into mass production yet, Apple might not fight too hard to hang onto the name. It has been the butt of hundreds of jokes since the unveiling (prior to which most tech pundits were speculating that it would be called the iSlate). It seems the first thing many people think of when they hear the name is, well, a feminine hygiene product.

Meanwhile, I'm still waiting for the perfect tablet computer. Will Sony make my dream come true? Will HP or Dell finally get it right? Will it be some little company we haven't even heard of yet? I don't know, but I think I'll know it when I see it.

What about you? Are you interested in the tablet concept at all, or will you stick with a regular notebook or netbook for your portable computing needs? Does the iPad look to fill a gap in the market that doesn't really exist (between the smart phone and the notebook computer)? Which tablet form factor do you prefer: the slate or the convertible? What's the right price point for a tablet device? Is the iPad (at $499 to $849) too expensive? Which of the iPad's missing features (if any) are deal breakers for you - SD slot, removable battery, HDMI output, camera, USB ports? What about the size? Is it too big, too small or just right? What company do you think will finally make the "perfect tablet?" We invite you to discuss this topic in our forum at

Survey of the Week

What do you think about mail-in rebates? Are they worth it? This will take you about 10 seconds to answer! Click here:

Follow-up: Windows 7 on a notebook with modest specs

In last week's editorial, I wrote about my new Sony X notebook and how well Windows 7 runs on it, even though the tech specs are fairly modest.

I was especially happy to hear that many of you are getting better battery life with Windows 7 than you had with Vista on the same machines. That directly counters some recent articles in the tech press claiming that Windows 7 was reducing battery life on notebooks.

One reader brought up a situation in which you can certainly find yourself if you like to upgrade your laptop every couple of years: the old laptops can start piling up. You hate to just dispose of them since they still work, so what do you do? There's little to no resale value, as you can often find brand new machines for a fraction of the price you paid for the old one. If you have kids or other family members who can use them, you could pass them along down the line. There are non-profit organizations that are still using ten year old computers and might be happy to take them off your hands. Some folks who like to fiddle with hardware might take them for their parts.

If you resort to throwing them away, be aware that electronics devices shouldn't be put in with your regular trash and sent to the landfill. Some cities have designated pickups of electronic waste or can point you to a place where you can dispose of them. Some companies will take old computers when you buy a new one from them.

Whether you give them away or throw them away, be sure to first remove any personal data that was stored on their disks. It's usually best to wipe the drive completely (use an overwriting program if the data was work related or you had financial information or other highly confidential data stored) and reformat and reinstall the OS. Not only does that protect you, it also makes for a nice, clean system for whomever gets the computer next.

I loved Tim G.'s comment regarding the rate at which hardware is getting better and cheaper: "What was yesterday's gaming rig is today's calculator."

Thanks to all of you who participated in this discussion.

'Til next week,
Deb Shinder, Editor

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Quotes of the Week

"Glory is fleeting, but obscurity is forever." - Napoleon Bonaparte (1768 - 1821)

"Old age is like flying a plane through a storm. Once you're aboard, there's nothing you can do." - Golda Meir (1898 - 1978)

"Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken." - Warren Buffet (1930 - )

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Cool Tools


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News, Hints, Tips and Tricks

Run Windows 7 on the iPad?

I came close to buying a Macbook Air, wiping out OS X and installing Windows 7 on it, because I liked the look of the hardware. Do you like the iPad hardware but wish it would run Windows 7? Well, now you might be able to have your Apple pie and eat it too - with your favorite Microsoft OS. A Vice President of Citrix, a long-time maker of terminal services and virtualization solutions, has said that you should be able to use the XenDesktop or XenApp platforms to remotely connect to a Windows 7 machine and run its desktop on the iPad. This would give you all of the functionality of Windows 7 (including multi-tasking, which is something the iPad itself won't do).

Want even more desktop coolness? Get the Glass Gadgets Pack

I love gadgets. I have a whole line of them on my Windows 7 desktop. And I love the Windows 7/Vista Aero transparent look. So a pack of transparent gadgets sounded like it would be right up my alley. I actually only found one that I love, but since the pack is free, it's well worth the trouble. My favorite is the little Radio gadget (although, oddly, that one isn't transparent). You can select your favorite Sky FM radio station and then play it or stop it with a single, always-available click. The transparent calendar looks cool but I have a much more functional one (zCalendar) and the email gadget is a good idea but it only supports POP mail, not Exchange. In any event, check it out on the deviantART web site and see if there's anything there for you:

How's this for irony? Stability update makes PCs unstable?

Well, that's what some Windows 7 users are reporting. A January 25 update that was labeled a stability and reliability fix is being blamed by some for system freeze-ups and blue screens of death. It is by no means a universal phenomenon; most people who are installing the update aren't having these problems, and Microsoft says it hasn't been a major issue in their customer support channels. But if you're one of the unlucky ones, note that the update in question is KB977074 and some say that they have solved the problem by uninstalling that update. You can read more about it here:

How to fine tune Windows 7 on your netbook

Windows 7 works well on most netbooks - much better than Vista - but with a little tweaking, you might be able to speed things up and have it running even better. This is especially true if your netbook is running the Starter edition of Win7. This article tells you how to tune the visual settings, remove unwanted startup programs, and disable unneeded services to increase performance. It also includes tips on upgrading RAM, turning off Aero Snap, getting apps, calibrating the screen and extending your battery life. Take a look at it here:

How to: Using the New Windows 7 Features

How to add Computer (or any other folder) to the Windows 7 taskbar

Icons on the desktop often get covered up by windows, so I like having the items I open often right there on the taskbar so that they're always easily accessible. That includes the Computer folder (formerly known as My Computer), which gives a quick glance at all drives. (Sure, you can easily show the desktop in Win7, but that's an extra click).

There are several ways to put Computer, or any other folder, on your taskbar - you can pin it to the taskbar, but it takes up a lot of taskbar space that way. You can revive the Quick Launch bar, as we've described in a previous newsletter, and add Computer to that. Or you can create a new toolbar for the Computer folder. Drag it so that only the toolbar title shows. Then when you click the double down arrows, the contents of the folder will display in a fly- out. Here's how you create the new toolbar:
  1. Right click the taskbar
  2. Click Toolbars
  3. Click New Toolbar
  4. Browse to the folder you want to add
  5. Click Select Folder

Windows 7 and Vista Security

Create a "sandbox" by booting Win7 from a VHD

If you do a lot of experimenting, testing new software and tasks that could be potentially dangerous, you might want to consider creating a "sandboxed" instance of Windows 7 to boot from a virtual hard disk. You can do your testing there without fear of affecting your primary OS. This differs from using a VM in Virtual PC for the same purpose in that it doesn't have to share the system resources with your primary OS. It gives you the best of both the virtualization and dual boot worlds. To find out more about VHDs in Win7 and how to set them up, see this article:

Question Corner

Windows 7 takes forever to start - what did I do?

I've been running Windows 7 on my computer since it came out. At first it started up very quickly and I was really pleased with that. I got a new high def monitor and since I've connected the new monitor (which looks great by the way), now it takes a very long time for the computer to boot up every time. I really don't want to go back to my old monitor. Any ideas? - Bill D.

There is a known issue with slow startup on a Windows 7 or Server 2008 R2 computer that has the DPI (dots per inch) set to something other than 96 on a high resolution monitor. Check those settings (Control Panel | Display | Set custom text size (DPI). If that appears to be the problem, you can still have your custom setting, but you'll need to apply a hotfix that Microsoft has available. Find out how to get it here:

Windows 7 Configuration and Troubleshooting

WMP 12 hangs when you resume from sleep and try to play a DVD

Windows Media Player 12 comes with Windows 7. If you play a DVD in WMP 12, then put the computer to sleep, and then click Play DVD after you resume from sleep, you might get an error message that says "Windows Media Player is not responding." This happens because of a problem with the DVD bookmarking feature. This is expected to be corrected with the first service pack, but if you're having this problem now, Microsoft has a hotfix available to address it. Find out how to get it via KB article 977609 at

How to include or remove folders in a Windows 7 library

The libraries feature in Windows 7 can make it much easier for you to find your files, regardless of where they are stored on your computer or on the network. Adding or removing folders is easy; you can watch this video to show you how it's done:

Fav Links

This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff

Disclaimer: VistaNews does not assume and cannot be responsible for any liability related to you clicking any of these linked Web sites.

Product of the Week

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