Tuesday, July 04, 2006

ThinkPad X41, ten weeks later

I wanted to follow up on my post on getting an X41 with a few more observations on good and bad things I mentioned then. For the most part, I am very happy with the X41, but since I am a resident of the Upper West Side of Manhattan, it is in my nature to complain. I have kept a list of the complaints and I share them with you now. Some are follow ups to my original post, and some are new observations I've made. So, if you're thinking of getting an X41 and you happen to run across this blog entry rather than one of the many others that have been written, well, hell, dude, read on:

Follow up:

  • I uninstalled the Client Security Software and now just use the fingerprint driver. This solved the problem of having to launch another configuration wizard every time I rebooted which would then error out because it didn't like my password. I have since applied a BIOS password which works well for BIOS, but is not always successful in passing through the authentication all the way to login as it is supposed to. I've also noticed that in certain situations on login, the software will appear to register a successful fingerprint read, but will then revert back to the login screen, making me swipe my finger again.
  • For whatever reason, the cursor problem (wherein the cursor jumps down to the bottom right or, less often, left of the screen and sometimes clicks) has rarely reappeared. Someone on either tabletpcbuzz or the ThinkPad forum mentioned that uninstalling the Virtual CD application (sorry, I can't remember what it's called) was the solution -- I did that and though it didn't fix it at first, it seems that I can't remember the last time the cursor jumped down to the corner. I'm sorry if that isn't very definitive but I suggest trying it and then waiting a week or so for results.
  • The battery life is still great. However, I am finding that its connection to the laptop now feels slightly loose after only a few months of use. Admittedly, the laptop has been to and from St. Louis 7 times since I got it, and has also been to and from Madrid and Las Vegas.
  • The pen holder is poorly engineered in my opinion. It is getting harder and harder to make the pen click in to stay in place properly.
  • I think I press the forward and back keys more by accident, when I mean to press a cursor key, than on purpose. But they are still sometimes useful. I think that overall I might rather not have blank keys there than have the navigation keys. Maybe I would have a different opinion if I was less sloppy of a typist. Or I just need more time -- after all, I did eventually get used to the horrible design of the Fujitsu keyboard, in which PgDn, PgUp, Home, and End were not real keys but rather required you to use function keys.
  • The utilities launched by Fn-key combinations are slow to launch. Compare pressing Windows-L, which immediately locks your computer in most circumstances, to pressing Fn-F2, which when I just tried now, took almost 10 seconds to let me press the big "lock computer" button. I've reverted to the old standby, Ctrl-Alt-Del followed by Enter. This I am told is a requirement to maintain your dignity at my client, as there have been many reports of email and desktop wallpaper pranks perpetrated by mischievous IT staff people when laptops are left unlocked. There is no equivalent to turn on or off the wireless radio, unfortunately, so accessing that utility via Fn-F5 is another 10-second wait.
  • I find I miss very much that my old Fujitsu T3010D left power flowing to its USB port while it was in standby. What this meant to me is that I could charge my Treo through the USB cable while leaving the laptop in standby overnight. Now I either have to bring my Treo charger, remember to charge my Treo during the day or while I'm using the laptop in the hotel room, or leave my ThinkPad on overnight to charge the Treo, which seems wasteful. I wish one of the ports in the ThinkPad still supplied power when the laptop was in standby mode.
  • The function keys, in my opinion, are shifted leftward a bit more than I am used to. The main impact is when I'm using MindManager and mean to press F2 ("edit topic text") and instead press F3 ("collapse everything in the map except the branch you're in"). Also, F2 is "rename" in Explorer whereas F3 is "bring up a giant and mostly useless search panel". Both are annoying. I don't think F3 does anything in the other program with which I use F2, Excel.



Sunday, July 02, 2006

Treo 700p

So I switched from a Treo 650 to a 700p. The main reason I started this blog entry was to note my solitaire stats in case they do not transfer over to the 700p:

Games Played:


Games Won/Lost


Longest Win Streak


Longest Loss Streak


High Score


Average Score


Average Game Time


Longest Game

123:21 (must be a mistake)

Shortest Win


Total Time Spent


6028/60=100.46 hours of solitaire played. So like four 24-hour days of solitaire. Or, over the year or so that I had the Treo 650, 100.46/365=0.27 or 15 minutes a day, every day. That's really pretty impressive. My commute is like 25 minutes each way, about 10 of which are walking to the train or from one train to the other. And of course I have only commuted by subway three days a week for the last 10 months -- I am in St. Louis two days a week and usually stay put on the weekends.

(As an aside, I'm using the awesome new OneNote 2007 "napkin math" feature in which it does simple calculations in-line. Chris Pratley wrote that it was one of those things they created with no "use case" but just because they thought it would be cool, and I find that almost every day that I use OneNote, which is basically every day at work because I go to a lot of meetings, I wish I had it. Can't upgrade to 2007 until all my colleagues do.)

OK, on to the Treo 700p. Things that are great:

  • EVDO is much faster than whatever the shitty sub-modem-speed network the 650 used. Goodlink like blasted down onto it, and flightaware.com is far faster than it used to be.
  • Hiding your password in Blazer (the browser) for sites that require authentication
  • Blazer deals better with putting you right to your site if you switch to something else
  • Most of my apps (except Solitaire) installed right onto the 700p without messing it up
  • The sync cable charges the device now, very nice touch (although I would characterize it as an oversight that the 600 and 650 cables didn’t charge off of USB)
  • I don't know if it's the 700 or Goodlink, but I no longer have to manually change the time zone in Goodlink. The "Use Palm time zone" setting never really worked for me on my 650. As a person who went from EDT to CDT twice this week (STL Tuesday-Wednesday and ORD Saturday-Sunday) this feature is useful.

Things that aren't so great:

  • I lost my stats in Solitaire :(
  • The keys are going to take some getting used to -- Home is where Power/Hangup was, and Power is now where Menu used to be.
  • The Verizon store (42nd & 6th) took like an hour from the time I was able to order to when I was able to walk out of the door. And, before that, I went and waited for half an hour at the 57th & 6th store before being told they didn't have it.
  • The VZAccess Manager software is not letting me onto the internet on my laptop. Strictly speaking I am not sure I have a BroadbandAccess account, but I showed a printout of this page to the sales guy and he said I didn't need it. I assume he is wrong and that's why I can't connect. It's a bit annoying because I'd rather pay (or, in my case, expense to my company) for a service I intend to use than screw around all night to try and kludge it so it works.
    • Update: I instead installed PDANet for the Treo 700p. I have owned this for the 600 and 650 in the past and it was OK with my old tablet, but never really worked well on my ThinkPad X41. So I was really hoping that Verizon's own VZAccess Manager tool would be better, but I'm noticing a day later that it can no longer even find the phone by Bluetooth (which worked last night) or USB (which never worked). Meanwhile, PDANet (or maybe Goodlink?) threw up a bunch of messages that the Dial-Up Networking stack is in use but then ran solidly for like an hour. DSLreports showed 548Kbps which is certainly good enough for me -- in fact that's more than twice as fast as the connection in my hotel room in St. Louis. So, if Verizon's salesman doesn't know how to sell me the BroadbandAccess service and tells me I don't need it to use the Treo 700 for high-speed internet on my laptop, then I assume I am not violating any terms of service.
    • A day or so later, I resumed my laptop from standby and tried again. It quickly disconnected, shades of my prior experience with PDANet, but on the second try I was able to sustain a connection. It wasn't quite as good as the first one, since another DSLreports test showed 240Kbps, but that's what I get in the hotel so it's still definitely usable.
  • If service is dropping in and out, like on a subway, apps will freeze when it's trying to look for service or briefly connects to service. This is pretty annoying and I may just end up turning off wireless before I go on the subway, which is also annoying (plus I enjoy the little email catch-up when the 2/3 stops at 72nd St during my morning commute).

I have to admit that I didn't look for other reviews so if you've read other Treo 700p reviews that mentioned the same stuff, then I apologize for wasting your time. I just have been such a slacker about posting that I figured I would procrastinate this entry forever if I actually wanted to also research it...




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