Tablet Modality

I've been using my new computer a fair piece yesterday and today, and I've even gotten my dad using the computer recently (long story) and it's going really well, and the speed that I've been able to get it setup and adjusted has been really amazing. (Is there anyone else in St. Louis MO, USA who wants to switch to linux and needs a little bit of encouragement?)

I'm also remarkably close to getting all the way switched to linux. I still haven't messed with my RSS feeds (still mac only on that, but that's a user-issue as much as a technological one) and I need to bite the bullet and get XAMPP set up on my desktop, and get something set up to be able to share files on the network.

But I digress, this post is really about the whole "tablet computer" thing, which was supposedly going to be "the next new thing" five or so years ago. Clearly this was not the case. First of all tablets (especially convertible tablets) are hard to get right from an engineering perspective: more stress points and screens with digitizers don't often look right. Secondly, there's not a lot that tablets are better for than conventional laptops.

We're still better at typing than we are at writing long hand, and applications and user interfaces aren't really designed around a tablet-like interaction metaphor. It took apple designing a phone in 2007 for people to realize that we might need an interaction paradigm where you would have more than one pointer at a time (so called "multi-touch").

I backed into this tablet thing. I realized that ThinkPad hardware was probably the best laptop hardware for linuxification, and I knew they had a 12 inch tablet. Since I'd been jonesing for a 12 inch laptop, more or less since I gave up my 12 inch ibook 5 years ago, the x41/x61 tablet seemed like the coolest thing around. When I found a great deal on one of the x41t's, the rest is history.

What's most surprising is how much I like it.

I got the digitizer working in pretty short order and xournal not long after that. I'm struck by a few things. First, the "writing" experience is quite good. I'm sort of prissy about writing long hand, and have been using fountain pens and moleskines for years, so this is no small endorsement. Secondly, for somethings like reading PDFs and some note taking, this could in time totally replace my use of paper notebooks. Aside from the whole "needing power" issue.

Would I get another tablet? Probably, though I wouldn't be inclined to pay a great "tax" for this feature, and the fact that this is a tablet is really nice, but not in the top few reasons why I like this computer (size, and lightness, the lack of a touch pad, and it's linux-compatibility.) So go figure.

It's nifty, but I don't expect things to rush towards tablets quite yet.

Onward and Upward!

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