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Scott's Column
Windows 8, Tablet vs. Laptop vs. Both

April 1, 2012
By Scott Lewis

This month I tell you about my experiences with Microsoft's Windows 8 Customer Preview. It will not be a review, but a look at it with the hope of using my Bamboo Pen & Touch tablet to control the Metro interface. Next up I think about whether I would be better off with a laptop and a tablet... or a laptop that converts to a tablet.

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Windows 8 Customer Preview

I downloaded the ISO version of Windows 8. This allows you to burn the install to a DVD disc. I did that from my main computer, so that I could install it on my guinea pig PC.

With a bootable DVD in hand I started up the Guinea Pig.

I went into the BIOS BIOS to set the machine to boot from the hard drive that had Linux installed on it. I figured I could just wipe out Linux. I did not want to mess with the Windows XP or Mac OSX installs. See there are three hard drives in that computer that each boot to the different operating systems.

Or so I thought...

I changed the boot priority to the drive that was different (tow of the drives are identical... and I assumed those has Win XP and OSX on them).

When the machine boot from the DVD and the install began, it offered Upgrade (yikes!) or Custom. Since I was not booting from my Win XP drive the option to upgrade was unsettling. Regardless, I choose Custom Install. When I went to select a drive I saw 4 drives listed... not 3. Huh? I was pretty sure I had three drives in there, one with Windows XP, one with OS X and another with Linux. And the partition information was all over the map. I was confused.

So I opened the case and lo and behold... there was 4th drive. I have 3 SATA drives and 1 IDE drive. None were labeled so I took this time to label the drives in the machine... with a Sharpie. And then I wrote down the BIOS description of each drive and what was loaded on it.

I had to unplug all the drives but one and boot each... one at a time... but I got it all done. In the end... I left all the SATA drives unplugged and booted to the Windows 8 DVD while the 320 GB IDE drive was the only drive plugged it.

The Windows 8 installer super simple. The hardest part being entering the product key. In fact, that is all there was... well that and selecting the drive.

When the computer first boot up it recognized my Bamboo Pen & Touch as a touch pad... but it would not recognize tapping for clicks. I could move the pointer around, but that was it. I still had to use my mouse to click the buttons.

After rebooting the Bamboo would still work the same way... I could move the pointer around but not click (tap, touch, whatever). However, I did discover at this point that 2 of the 4 physical buttons on the Bamboo represented click and right-click.

At this point I went to Wacom's web site and downloaded and installed the drivers for the Pen & Touch (yes... the drivers for Windows 7). Poof... the touch works great... with two huge caveats. 1) It can only recognize up to two fingers, so gestures that require more are out. Two finger scrolling worked beautifully, and pinch to zoom worked equally as well if a bit slow. It took a lot of repeat pinch, pinch, pinch to get a significant amount of zooming. 2) Touch gestures for Windows 8 Metro interface did not work. It saw the Bamboo Pen & Touch for what it is... a mouse pad. Windows 8 was not fooled into thinking I was touching the actual screen.

What about Windows 8 itself. I see a little room for improvement on the Desktop side. It takes way too many clicks or whatever to get to a point to shut down the PC. I assume they will iron this out. Other than that it worked extremely well. In Desktop mode it feels like Windows 7 except maybe a little cleaner and less flashy. This is probably a good thing to aid performance on lighter hardware.

I could still use the Metro interface, but it is not fun when you are not directly manipulating objects on the screen by touching them. You are just using the touch pad like on any old laptop.

I can see the potential. I can see how this will work just from the experience of using my phone with its touch interface. I can see spending 10-15 minutes learning the nuances of Windows 8's Metro interface on a tablet. So what? What difference does it make if you have to spend 10 minutes getting used to something new. It will not be hard... just require you to take that quick 10 minute tour.

Overall I like it. And this is going to make my next purchase really hard.... as we progress to...

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Tablet vs. Laptop vs. Both

When the iPad 2 came out I decided I was going to get one when I could afford it. But then a strange this happened. I started doing a contract programming job in New York. This would require me to travel to New York with a laptop so I could bring my code and development tools with me to do installs, setup servers, migrate data, etc.

I gave up on the idea of an iPad and decided I would get a laptop. If I was going to get a laptop I wanted it to be able to replace the iPad I would be giving up. I cannot afford a laptop and an iPad.

This led me to looking at Ultrabooks. When Intel pushed this spec on the public it was just what I wanted. A super slim PC that used an SSD. It would be as cool as a MacBook Air, but it would run Windows. Long battery life and light weight were the biggies for me. Also the super fast resume from sleep times. If I had a tablet it would sit on the coffee table most of the time. I would pick it up every time I wanted to look something up based on what I was watching on TV. IMDB would be one of the most used app on an iPad for me, so it would need to be super fast and easy to get to on a laptop if I could only have a laptop.

If I bought a laptop it needed to replace the iPad (or any viable tablet). Instant web surfing and IMDB would be 90% of what this laptop would do. If I liked it enough I might... and that is a big MIGHT... use it for email.

Surely I would access my GMail account on it. But would I migrate my desktop email to it. I don't think so because I believe in a thick email client. I use Windows Live Mail... and have all my mail stored locally. I have a saved mail folder that has emails that were worth saving... at the time they were saved. I have over 1700 messages in that folder. Add to that another 1700+ messages in the folder that has emails from this web site and I have around 3500+ emails... plus a couple of other folders holding even more emails.

I am a pack rat this way. If it was worth saving when I saved it... I save it forever. I know that I would not move my main email to a tablet, but I might move it to a laptop. And then my laptop would surely get enough use with web surfing, email and IMDB. Wow... this sounds exactly what a tablet would be used for. Plus I could use it for occasional programming projects when on the go.

I could replace a tablet with a laptop... if it were super light and resumed super fast. That spells Ultrabook. And the search has been on for an Ultrabook. Remember, the reason for the laptop it to put my development tools on it. So I will install Visual Studio 2010 and SQL Server Express on it. These tools use up a lot of desktop real estate. I was hoping for an Ultrabook with a 1600 x 900 screen.

With Windows 8 and its merging of the touch based Metro interface... and the access to a standard computer desktop interface... this could be the ticket for me.

What I really need is a tablet running Windows 8, that has a 128 GB SSD in it. It also needs to dock to a real keyboard and mouse for the 5-10% of the time I will access my development tools.

With the iPad 3 now out... I want one. I want everything. I want a tablet, I want a laptop. I want both.

Lenovo unveiled the IdeaPad Yoga. This is a laptop that has a screen that folds complete back... and then it is a tablet. The screen is a touch screen and the keyboard is deactivated when in this mode.

This really does sound like the perfect solution for me. But at what cost. The rumor is it will be $1,400. But wait... the iPad is $500 and a good Ultrabook is $900-$1,000. So for the price of an Ultrabook and an iPad I could buy the Lenovo Yoga.

Hmmm......

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Conclusion

Next month I will tell you about the new monitor and camera I bought.

See you then.

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