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Cleanup, Defrag, Reformat

The title represents things that all Windows users should do periodically but it is about some lingering items that I haven’t written about. The title sounds a like more interesting than “Spring Cleaning.”

First the news – with a nod to Jude Biersdorfer of Tech Talk.

I spent several hours at Apple stores on April 3rd checking out the iPad. See my pre-release article. I had not been one of the fortunate few to have received a review copy in advance of the release date. I visited the Soho store mid-afternoon when things had settled down from the early morning frenzy. The store was busy but not so much that you couldn’t walk in and roam around without feeling claustrophobic. The iPad folks were divided into two groups, the payers and the players. The pay line was significantly longer that the play line.

There were about a dozen iPad’s for people to try before buying. It was a really orderly and diverse group. I met a couple from Finland, two guys from Japan and a very nice woman of undetermined origin because I didn’t recognize her accent and she didn’t seem to speak any English. The informal protocol was to spend about 10 minutes and then step aside to let the next person have a crack. I wasn’t the only one who returned to the end of the line more than once.

All told, I spend about an hour using the iPad. It’s an amazing device, well worth the hype. But was I ready to get into the pay line? The more I used it, the better I liked it. But I found myself trying to justify spending the money. What happened when I’m out of WiFi range? When I first starting writing this article, the Wifi problems hadn’t been reported yet. I could see myself spending hours looking at new apps and reading books and listening to music. Bottom line for me became whether I could do any real work on it? If I’m going to lug around another device, is this one or should I opt for one of the new eBook readers coming on the market? It’s deciding whether I want an iPad or do I need and iPad? I sure want one.

eSlick Reader

I can however, make a much better case for me needing an eBook reader. Of the new batch, I’ve been using Foxit’s eSlick. The one feature that made it standout was its ability to manipulate PDF files. My eye sight isn’t what it used to be and I’ve found that I actually can read faster on an e-reader using a larger font.  While I have no scientific data to back this up but I’m able to process faster the three or four paragraphs on the screen rather than an entire page in a book. I’m a fast reader but I seem go twice as fast electronically.

Unfortunately, with the other e-readers, increasing the font on PDF files makes the type bigger but the text doesn’t reflow. You have to scroll right or left to view the entire page. The eSlick is the only one I’ve seen so far that reformats PDF files so no scrolling is necessary. And because it has an SD card slot, unlike the iPad, I can load hundreds of documents on the card. Right now, I need utility over flash. Oh, I forgot, the iPad doesn’t do Flash.

One of the items I’ve kept meaning to write about is the MotorMouse from Motormouse USA. It’s no secret that I love wacky twists on computer accessories. My friends know of my collection of USB drives in every shape, size and color. Not so well-known is that I have mice in various sizes, colors, with blinking lights and weird sounds. So driving my cursor around with a classic red sports car was appealing to the dormant gear head in me. I’ve seen other mice in the shape of cars, but this is the first one that I think that I’d spend 50 bucks for. It’s small enough to be used as a traveling mouse but large enough not to feel like you’re using a kid’s version. The wireless USB adapter is one of those scaled down ones that fits almost flush with the laptop so you could leave it plugged in with minimal chance of losing it. The mouse itself has a slot in the trunk to store the adapter as well as doubling as the battery compartment. The mouse buttons are the sides of the front fenders and the scroll wheel is where an old school turbo charger would rise from the hood. It’s only available on the website at this point.

Keeping with the travel vein, I colossally like to take a full or at least fuller sized keyboard on the road. I’ve sort of got over it but I still have flashbacks of how good it felt to type on the keyboard of the IBM Selectric. For those too young to know, look it up. While nothing will really ever measure up, keyboard designers all seemed to have studied the Selectric and tried to recreate those elements that made it so beloved.

It’s easier to get a full-sized keyboard feeling and even sounding like the Selectric keyboard. Tactile feedback is necessary. If you can’t feel the key descend and the pop back it doesn’t feel like anything happened. That is why touch screen keyboards feel so unsatisfying. Even cell phones have tactile feedback.  And that clickety-clack sound, while unnecessary to the real working of the keys, gives another physical cue that something happened.

Trying to recreate that on a keyboard small enough to travel with is no mean feat. The Microsoft Bluetooth mobile 6000 comes really close. It makes some of the same compromises that laptop keyboards have to make, such as losing the numeric keypad and the extended wrist rest at the bottom; it does it in such a way that it doesn’t offend my Selectric sensibilities. Maybe I’m just getting used to curved keyboards. While it’s super-thin, you really feel the keys travel. It’s not that loud, you definitely hear the keys click. For the number crunchers, there is a separate keypad. I found it pleasant to get my laptop off my lap and replace it with a nearly weightless keyboard. Despite its virtues, it’s on the pricey side at nearly $90 retail. But if your job entails a lot of traveling and a lot of typing, it is probably worth it. The only real negative for me is my laptop didn’t have Bluetooth and I had to buy a $30 adapter. But that investment let me connect to some other Bluetooth devices that I had not been able to before.

Update: Several people have asked me how the cup cakes tasted at the Lenovo Edge announcementt. Sad to say, I didn’t eat any, even the ones the bakery made special with ThinkPad written on top in chocolate. It really did smell good inside the truck though.

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