Thursday, February 27, 2014

If this flops, at least I know who to blame.

My friend Marko and I are very bad influences on each other when it comes to firearms and consumer electronics purchases.

Last couple times I've visited Castle Frostbite I've returned with some purchase from Best Buy that I bought because... well, I can't really remember why. "Should I buy this?" is just not a question we ask each other because we know the answer will be somewhere on the spectrum from "Sure, if you feel like it..." to "Oh, dude, yes! That's awesome! Of course you should buy it; I'll get one, too!"

I'm happy with my smart phone. I'm good with my old and mediocre cameras. My desktop machine should be good for several years yet... But ever since I shelved my key lime G3 iBook, I haven't had an easy time with finding a good mobile device to do everything I wanted. I've tried a few solutions:
  • Eee 900: Too small for extended writing. Eebuntu requires more involvement than I'm willing to give. My computer nerding days are more than a decade in the past; I just want to do stuff on them, not futz around with them.

  • 17" HP laptop: Good for a desktop replacement while actually on vacation, too big for the seatback trays in coach while getting there. Look like a douche busting out that suitcase-size screen in Twenty Tap. Don't need a portable productivity machine that has World of Warcraft loaded on it, thankyouverymuch.

  • Kindle Fire: Good for reading books you'd normally read in paperback and watching Archer episodes. Too small for reading illustrated books you'd buy in coffee table format, and writing on it is a pain.

  • iPad 2: Best all 'round solution thus far. Good for reading and watching video. Big enough to surf the web without having to use Tapatalk and other mobile browser shortcuts. Office for iPad is vaporware so far and, if history is anything to go by, will be buggier than Maine in June and priced like imported sin when it gets here. Best keyboard is Apple Bluetooth piece that's a separate item to lug. No expandability; no ports; you will conform to the vision of the Masters, hipster.

Still wanted something that would run Office, and have a decent yet portable keyboard as an option... So in a conversation the other day, I mentioned to Marko on Facebook that I'd seen some awfully low prices on refurb'ed Microsoft Surface RTs and... should I buy one?

Captain Enabler replied "At that price it's like you're buying Microsoft Office and getting a free tablet!"

Powerless in the face of such logic, I did. I'm willing to give it a shot.



33 comments:

og said...

A couple of the geeks at work have them. Serious apple fanbois too, and they like 'em.

Anonymous said...

I am interested in the surface tablet too. Please let us know how it goes?

Ry Jones said...

I have an original Surface Pro. It's good for what it is. The RT is gonna come with the software it has and that's that, nobody is making stuff for it.

Scott J said...

Interested to see how it goes. My current phone is a Lumia 900 running Windows Phone 7 (I keep putting off the upgrade).

I love it but I've been a Windows CE user since the original Compaq iPAQ. I find i don't really need apps as 90% of online stuff plays very well with the browser.

I intend to upgrade to the 1020 (it's a point and shoot camera with a phone in it) when I'm eligible at the end of April.

I want a Surface but I fear I'd want the pro if I got the RT (always buy the most horsepower :) ) and I have other things occupying my mind such as a 1911 upgrade.

West, By God said...

I am biased, given the Redmond location of my employer, but I love my surface rt. Also love my dell venue 8 pro.

West, By God said...

Scott j,
My 1020 is sweet... Highly recommend one. There are a lot of other companies making very good win8 tablets. The dell I mentioned is my travel companion... Lasts days on a charge and runs full blown win8.

James Sullivan said...

Heard pretty good things about that particular Surface from a couple of people I trust. I've also heard that the newer version with Windows 8 is a stinker and to avoid at all costs.

I haven't tried the Windows 8 yet but by the reports of some I trust, it's a half-assed attempt at a Windows/Android hybrid.

Richard Blaine said...

Ah well, we all make mistakes:)

Seriously, it's a nice device, but you get IE for your browser. I suppose it's possible Microsoft may change their stance on the API that would let Firefox port to the RT but...

Since I don't use Word for writing much anymore (although that might change) just hall around the MacBook Pro and the iPad and the Kindle (cause you just never know when you might need all three)

The RT might be as close to the ideal lightweight writing tool as we'll see for a few years. But for me, at least, it's worth hauling the laptop.

James Sullivan said...

Heard pretty good things about that particular Surface from a couple of people I trust. I've also heard that the newer version with Windows 8 is a stinker and to avoid at all costs.

I haven't tried the Windows 8 yet but by the reports of some I trust, it's a half-assed attempt at a Windows/Android hybrid.

staghounds said...

My 15 inch macbook and the clever telephone do it for me. I don't mind carrying it, it's no bigger than two books.

joethefatman said...

I have the Surface with Windows 8. I hate it. Not dislike, not loathe, HATE. All I've got to say while sitting here typing on a 6 year old Dell while the Surface is on and shelf gathering dust.

The Freeholder said...

You'll like it. I have one; it's the bomb. It's also the only way I'll deal with Windows 8.

jetfxr69 said...

I bought two, at a lower price, for my boys at Christmas. They love them. I've not had any issues with the tablets and they do all theuve been asked for.

Tam said...

Richard Blaine,

"Seriously, it's a nice device, but you get IE for your browser. I suppose it's possible Microsoft may change their stance on the API that would let Firefox port to the RT but..."

True, but I stumble along with the iPad's short bus version of Safari okay, so this should be easy by comparison. ;)

Jeff the Baptist said...

I went with the asus t100A, which is essentially a transformer tablet that runs windows 8.1 instead of android. They're like $380 for the 64gb version at Walmart including the docking station. And they come with Office.

Fuzzy Curmudgeon said...

My only objection would be Windows Hate, er, 8.

Anonymous said...

I've got a Nokia 2520. Very nice.

Kevin said...

I bought one just before Christmas off of eBay - factory refurb, 32GB - $250. At that price I COULDN'T pass it up, and my eeePC was on its last legs.

I have since purchased a USB extender cable, a 4-port hub, 16GB micro SD memory chip, a wireless keyboard (full size) and mouse, and an SD/USB adapter so I can plug my camera memory into the tablet. I also got a micro-USB/HD cable adapter so I can plug the tablet into a flatscreen TV.

Everything fits easily into a backpack, and it weighs approximately NOTHING. (At least compared to my 16lb. work laptop.)

Windows 8 is not a bad operating system for a tablet. I think it'd drive me a bit nuts on a desktop.

Overall, I'm very pleased with the thing. I predict you will be too.

Buzz said...

RT is crippleware, both hardware and software.
Get a tablet that runs full Windows 8. (Yep, I immediately installed a "start button" program, since "Metro" is horrible.)
My Samsung convertible tablet was the perfect update to my aged laptop. It was a MUST to get something that could run full version of MSOffice.
I bought a bluetooth mouse for extended laptop use, finding all touchpads annoying. For tablet use, no mouse, just screen. Battery lasts for freaking ever. Super thin and light, even with keyboard attached. Screen looks great. Full-sized USB ports allow me to use portable hard drives and memory sticks. (even a portable DVD drive, if I wish)

I've been pretty happy with it, for both work and personal use.
Its one big annoyance is the keyboard has an occasional habit of losing connection after sleeping. The problem was much improved on the previous driver. I release and reseat, keyboard fires right up. No problem on a fresh boot.

Sebastian said...

I'm still struggling along with my iPad 1 out of spite, because Apple EOL'd the fucker 2 years into it's lifetime. It pissed me off enough to try an Android, but I just can't abide by it. Windows I will not return to, even though Microsoft seems like a rather benevolent evil by comparison these days.

I'm still using a MacBook5,1 2009 year model, and it's getting long in the tooth. But I can probably put the company on the hook to replace it if I really can't stand the snail anymore.

The problem with Apple Hardware is that everything is very well done. It's a great user experience. But they charge an arm and a leg for it, so I treat them like cars and run them into the ground until replacing them makes more sense than putting up with the obsolesce. But I suffer hardware I'd never suffer when I ran Linux.

Mark ALger said...

I lurve me some Lumia 2520 -- the Nokia version?fake-take? of the Surface. But, like I said on FB, I seriously don't get the point of deliberately making the Winphone and Wintab OSsim mutually incompatible.

M

West, By God said...

I don't understand the hatred of Win8 ... well, I kinda do. I mean, everyone hated Windows 9x too ("I want to double-click the left corner to close, not single-click the right corner, dammit!"), except a gazillion people bought it, and it became the standard desktop OS on the whole damn entire planet.

Windows 8 is closer to Windows 7 than Win95 was to Win3.1. In fact, if you use keystrokes more than mouse-clicks, you won't even notice a difference.
The biggest difference, of course, is the "Modern" UI and start screen. If you prefer "Click Start->Programs->Folder->Subfolder->Shortcut" to "Oh, there's my app" then you are nuts! On a desktop machine, I mean... not just a tablet. Most users have 10 or 15 applications they use a lot, and a crap-ton they rarely or never use. Having a "big pretty button" interface makes more sense than a nested-subfolder thing. For power users and 1337 h4x0rZ who can't stand the Fisher Price look... well, use the dang keystrokes. Those haven't changed since Vista.
--
Likewise, I don't really understand people who say, "ERMERGERD I LERV APPLE ERVERYTHERNGS" then complain that Windows desktop and phone apps are incompatible. The Windows ecosystem is far more developer-friendly than anything else out there, if you want to build apps for different devices (apps can be built for all 3 platform types with only minor branch differences.)

Jake (formerly Riposte3) said...

"The biggest difference, of course, is the "Modern" UI and start screen. If you prefer "Click Start->Programs->Folder->Subfolder->Shortcut" to "Oh, there's my app" then you are nuts! On a desktop machine, I mean... not just a tablet. Most users have 10 or 15 applications they use a lot, and a crap-ton they rarely or never use. Having a "big pretty button" interface makes more sense than a nested-subfolder thing."

Ever since XP there's been a "Favorites" section in the start menu, so that those most frequently used applications were immediately available just by clicking the start button. Win7 let you "pin" those applications to the taskbar, making it even easier.

Where the "Click Start->Programs->Folder->Subfolder->Shortcut" paradigm is superior is when you don't know the exact name (or spelling) of the program you are looking for - after all, you at least know generally what you're looking for, and the hierarchical menu made it easy to find. While Win8/Metro has a version of this, it is poorly done and harder to search through visually.

Anonymous said...

I returned mine after a day and a half. Best of luck.

- Drifter

West, By God said...

Jake - I agree that some users find the old way better. But I'm talking about the majority of users. If you really have 100 different apps you use regularly, a hierarchy makes that easier. Of course, since vista, most power users I know just press the windows key and start typing until they see what they want. That still works in Win8. Alternatively, if you REALLY MUST keep it looking like Win7, there are a ton of 3rd party apps that do that. Most people don't have a need for the old start menu though.

Matt G said...

My techies are swooning over the Surface RT Pro.
Also, the Office Ap is perpetually updated, and that's a big plus. I'm looking hard at 'em.

Jay Dee said...

Still, Linux Mint is very easy for M$ fans to pick up. Win 98 recently went unrecoverable on my Dell Mini 9. (Don't laugh. It was free.) Linux Mint installed no problem from a flash drive. It required briefly plugging into a network to get the wireless drivers then it was off to the races. If you're a long time Office user as I am, LibreOffice is easy to pick up.

Anonymous said...

We have in the house iPad1, iPad 2 and a recent Samsung Tablet 10". Of them I prefer the Samsung tab. Office capabilities is pretty good and it works with the same bluetooth keyboards you have. It takes 64 GB cards and I can drag/drop files between it via USB or the card. It also supports multi0user (multiple personal accounts). Downside is it doesn't "launch" airplay to my MythTV or work with Amazon Prime Video. Oh well.

I take it with me and can do some kinds of "real work" on it. It's not a desktop and doesn't pretend to be. But it does a heck of a lot more than email; and also more than the iPad.

One of my employees tried going all-Tablet for a week or so, with the exception of coding. He said it "could work", but the hoops to jump are too great. That said, he feels that taking it on a few-day vacation as an exclusive machine would be just fine.

My kids love the iPads. I just could not get them to work for me for office stuff.

Maybe try one of the new Andriod tabs that take dongles and the like. Add keyboard and see how it treats you.

Robb Allen said...

I love my RT. It's not a laptop, it's a tablet, and people thinking they're getting a full on PC for that price is why I think it gets some bad rap.

But for the times I need a full PC, I just remotely control my desktop.

I have no hate for Win8. For the Surface, it shines. It's *really* a good interface for touch. On the PC, I don't like Metro apps. The start menu doesn't bother me in the least, but the Metro style apps annoy the hell out of me.

So I don't use them.

That was kind of super easy.

But to each their own. Microsoft can do no good by many people's standards, and it seems that if I personally don't mind something they do or don't have issues with Windows 8, then suddenly those people feel the need to go on some sort of Apple / Android jihad on me for OS apostasy or something.

Hope you like it. If not, I'll probably still like mine which may cause others consternation.

Tam said...

Robb,

EHRMAGERD! h8r! You're holding it wrong!

Sigivald said...

MacBook Air.

(But screw Office, unless you literally really need some feature of it that iWork can't manage.

And I doubt you do, from what little I know of your work requirements.)

(I've used Win8 on a non-RT Asus tablet at work. I find it pretty much intolerable. YMMV.)

Tam said...

For you new readers of the blog warning me about the horrors of Win8, I've been running Windows 8 on the desktop for nearly a year now. I don't get what all the kvetching is about.

(Also, liking the Surface thus far.)

Wayne said...

Tam
I was in a similar dilemma last year. Needed Office for personal and scouting stuff.
The kindle fire was being used just for reading, and the 17" gaming laptop for, well, gaming. One didn't have what I needed and the other was just too Damn big to haul around.
I got the Surface RT and haven't looked back. Does what I want in a smaller form factor.
Gave the Fire to one of my sons and my 17" to another (with the reminder that when I need it he has to give it up.)
The Surface goes pretty much everywhere I do. The only thing it doesn't do well is sitting in bed reading a book. Got the Paperwhite to solve that problem.