Important Notice: I am not interested in what Cory Doctorow has termed "helpiness" (in analogy with Stephen Colbert's "truthiness") namely comments that have the general syntactical form of useful advice, without the content of useful advice. I don't want to hear about how I really should've bought a Mac, or ought to be running Linux, or whatever. This is commentary on the specific Tablet PC that I purchased recently, and nothing more.
As noted here a few times, I recently acquired a Lenovo ThinkPad X61 Tablet PC, which does, in fact, have the touch screen option, though I didn't think it did. I've been using it fairly regularly for a couple of weeks now, and I thought I'd post a few impressions, on the off chance that they might be useful to anybody thinking about buying one.
I had previously used an older Toshiba tablet that I borrowed from ITS at work, and this is a definite step up from that. It's lighter, the screen is sharper, and it's generally more responsive. I wish the screen were bigger, as at the maximum resolution, I can't fit as much onto the screen as I would like, but it looks good, and doesn't usually require me to tap the pen nine times to get it to register. I can actually key in passwords with the pen, and have some confidence that they'll work.
In the laptop configuration, the keyboard is smaller than I would like, but there isn't a laptop made that has a keyboard I find comfortable to use. It's got a "Fn" key where "Ctrl" ought to be in the lower left, which is somewhat maddening, but again, inescapable with laptops. The pointer control is one of those ungainly little stick things in the middle of the keyboard, which doesn't work terribly well, but at least it's not a touch pad. Anyway, it doesn't really matter, because I can just use the tablet pen to click where I want to be.
In tablet mode, I've been very impressed with the improvement in the handwriting recognition. I still haven't figured out how to get it to consistently recognize a lowercase "L," but it's way better than on the older machine. The extra button controls are also well placed and useful-- I like the fact that the button to change the screen orientation just toggles through the four possible orientations, unlike the Toshiba, which used some sort of flaky sensor to try to guess how you had it tilted. I would prefer to be able to set the default configuration for the different modes to sensible values (for whatever reason, when it goes into tablet mode, they have the screen upside down from what I think it the correct arrangement), but at least it's easy to fix.
Battery life so far has been very good-- 3-4 hours of continuous operation. I haven't timed it exactly, but it's basically good for an entire NFL football game, which is about as long as I'm likely to sit in one place using it around here.
Of course, there are glitches, and it's hard to tell which of them are hardware and which are software. It's running Vista, so I'm inclined to put a lot of my troubles at Microsoft's feet.
The biggest problem by far that I've had is that it doesn't always come out of sleep mode correctly. There have been occasions where nothing I did seemed to wake it back up, and others where it has come partway back up, and hung up on some Windows splash screen or another (usually "Locking Your Computer," which you would think it would've done before going to sleep, but whatever). I've had to do a hard power off several times, roughly every three days. This is sub-optimal, and I'm not sure whether to blame Lenovo or Microsoft for that.
Other glitches are more obviously the fault of Vista. I downloaded and installed the Corel Grafigo demo, but when I try to run it, it tells me that I don't have sufficient privileges to be able to run it, and should open it from a system administrator account. Which is funny, because I am an administrator for the machine... I'm almost positive that this will turn out to be a matter of the software not being updated to work with Vista, when I get around to contacting Corel.
There's also the charming way that Windows emulates that "You are coming to a sad realization" Mac commercial. Essentially any non-Microsoft product you attempt to run triggers a "A program is attempting to do something, will you allow it?" dialog box. It doesn't seem to learn, either-- I've gotten the same dialog about some Lenovo application that runs at start-up the last five or six times I've started the machine. When I fire it up this afternoon, I'll be looking into how to turn that off.
And, of course, there's the charming way that Windows handles updates. I was playing around with it the other day, testing out a drawing program demo, and when the battery started to run down, I switched it back to the laptop configuration, but it didn't change the aspect ratio of the screen, so I couldn't see the Start menu to shut it down. It eventually popped up a dialog box informing me that it couldn't switch to the landscape display mode while the WAN was active, which seemed a little improbable. Hitting Ctrl-Alt-Del to bring up the Task Manager just cause the whole machine to freeze up.
Hard power off, re-start. It comes up, and immediately announces that Windows has downloaded critical updates, which it would like to install. Install those, re-start, and it's worked fine since. This is a consistent feature of Windows in my experience-- when it finishes downloading new updates, it just starts breaking stuff at random until you re-start, and then it installs the updates. It drives me up the wall.
Other than that, and the flawed design paradigm of the new Office, I'm very happy with it. I'll be spending the afternoon using it to mark up the latest draft of Chapter 7 while watching football, and occasionally surfing the web.
I used to have a think Pad but it is not ADA friendly for the visually impaired. Either the HP line or the Dell line are ADA friendly. Also sites that are ADA friendly that will help students with College textbooks 20% to 60% off the college Bookstore price are at www.yourbookpros.com
Dr Robin Rushlo (PhD)
I too have this tablet, and like it overall. I have had the same issues with waking it up. If you are able to figure it out, I would be grateful to hear the solution.
As for helping it recognize your lowercase l: You can train it to your own handwriting. Go to the Control Panel, Mobile PC, Tablet PC settings, Enable or disable handwriting personalization. There it will ask you to input various letters that look like l, and try to sort it out. I had to do that with lower case j, and it worked like a charm. Now, if it can only tell the difference between handwritten o, O, and 0.
On another note, I tried xThink's calculator, which has a free demo. MathJournal does not, as far as I can tell. Not that impressed. It's handwriting recognition is poor, making simple calculations a real PITA. Not going to spend the money on MathJournal given this experience.
Start -> Control Panel -> User Accounts -> Turn User Account Control on or off
The first thing I do on a Vista machine after I install everything (some software that HAS been updated to support Vista won't install if this isn't on, and fuck those fucking fuckers for that fucking shit. I'm looking you, you Adobe fucks), is turn this giant annoyance off.
To Joanna above... not sure how these things work, but I wonder if you could train it (and yourself) to make an "O" clockwise and a ZERO counterclockwise.
(Dr. Dave, who is sitting on his Mac-related comments, as requested.)
I've been in the market for a tablet for a while now, but unfortunately, Linux doesn't have good handwriting recognition software yet, so I couldn't decide if subjecting myself to Vista is worth it.
I was almost going to say yes, but I don't think so anymore.
It's got a "Fn" key where "Ctrl" ought to be in the lower left, which is somewhat maddening, but again, inescapable with laptops.
Not true. IBM does that, Toshiba does that, ASUS does that. Fujistu does not (they put function beside Windows, with the CTRL on the outside) as does Acer and, I believe, Dell and HP.
Regarding it not waking up: This was a problem with XP tablets, too. There are a pair of "beta" system patches to help tablet PCs wake up better from sleep mode, available from MS's website for XP Tablet, but not, so far as I know, for Vista.
Jamie's already covered how to disable UAC, which is good.
I couldn't decide if subjecting myself to Vista is worth it.
So don't get a Vista tablet. Fujitsu and ASUS still make XP Tablet Edition tablets. Hell, IBM makes XP Tablet tablets. Just not the X61.
You know, I forgot the actual *useful* advice I had, about it not waking up:
Disable Hibernation. Make it sleep when you close the lid, but disable Hibernation, and this stops 98% of the "won't wake up" problems I've ever dealt with. Setting the machine to never go to sleep when it's attached to AC power fixes another 1%, and the last 1% are tablet PCs that need the XP hotfixes.
The disadvantage to disabling Hibernation is that, well, it won't hibernate any more, and the battery will continually and very slowly drain while you've got the machine asleep, if you don't actually shut it down and turn it off fully. This is not, for most people, a problem.
For the sleep thing, blaming vista seems safe. When usb was new I remember great difficulty with getting it to pick the usb devices back up when when the computer came out of sleep/hibernate. So much I completely abandoned using modes other than on/off. My naive guess having not looked at any real information would be it is fighting with the touch screen drivers.
Have you tried the larger think pads? I have a T60 and the A-' distance on both it and my desktop keyboard are identical.
I concur with Aaron. (As that is like a meta comment, it doesn't violates the posting rule)
I have an X60 Tablet with WinXP-Tablet so I don't know how much of my help will translate, but to fix your preferred tablet orientation, go to Control Panels -> Tablet and Pen Settings -> Display and mess around with "primary/secondary" portrait orientation.
I have had to do a hard power cycle after freezing on coming out of sleep, as well. This makes me think the problem is Lenovo's more than MS's.
Is the free Inkscape comparable to Grafigo?
I have some troubles with small-L's as well, but it mostly goes away when I draw them like \ell looks. My biggest problem is that big-C's are recognized as open parens "(".
@Joanna I put a slash through my zero, and it is _always_ recognized as a zero.
Which is funny, because I am an administrator for the machine...
But you're not actually running as Administrator (you wouldn't be getting this problem if you were). And it wouldn't be a good idea to do so, or to turn off User Account Control. It would be the equivalent to using root as your default login on a linux box - a massive security hole.
To solve the problem you should be able to right click on the exe and choose "Run as administrator".
You could also install start++ which includes a sudo command so that you could use sudo appname.exe to run the program with elevated privileges.
I'm almost positive that this will turn out to be a matter of the software not being updated to work with Vista, when I get around to contacting Corel.
You'll almost certainly right.
It's got a "Fn" key where "Ctrl" ought to be in the lower left
There are many utilities that will let you change that back to a CTRL if you're so inclined. Remapping your keyboard is the search term you're looking for.
"The pointer control is one of those ungainly little stick things in the middle of the keyboard, which doesn't work terribly well, but at least it's not a touch pad."
I have been using ThinkPads for years. Once I got used to it, I came to appreciate the TrackPoint as much better than a Touchpad.
For outstanding troubleshooting help, try the ThinkPad forums:
So, how is the Linux installation going on that baby? (Oh, you didn't want to hear that ... sorry, my Linux computer does not have a backspace key ... sorry)
If you've ever used Graffiti on a Palm device, you might want to try their lowercase L -- what looks like the Christian fish symbol stood on its tail, much like a lowercase cursive L. Of course, if you've tried this already, disregard.
1. Resolution-wise, I agree with you. I have the higher-resolution screen (1440x1050), and I find it very usable; the lower resolution would be frustrating.
2. What Bowden said about disabling UAC. UAC is an investment in the future, but there's litle benefit for you using it today.
3. Mine doesn't come back from a sleep every now and then -- maybe once a week? But considering that it usually sleeps about three times a day, and that sleep never, ever worked on my Dell XP laptop, I figure that's basically okay.
4. Despite what someone above says, you can't remap Fn as Ctrl. It's completely impossible, and if anyone disagrees they need to give the steps needed to do it, because they're wrong. What you can do, though, is remap CAPS LOCK to Ctrl, because nobody needs CAPS LOCK anyway. It works really well to have Ctrl there, really.
5. The tablet orientation makes perfect sense to me. It puts the buttons by your right hand, it keeps the pen and the fan slots exposed on top, and it gives you the convenient battery handle by your right hand, too. That said, I'm about 90% certain that you can change it. Control Panel -> Mobile PC -> Change Screen Orientation lets you set what you want it to be; I'm not sure if it persists, because I don't want to mess with mine right now. At any rate, you can for sure change the rotation sequence there, to make it quicker to do a 180 flip.
6. Also, you may want to look at power settings. Mine came out of the box set so that it would never go above 50% CPU power on battery, which made it frustratingly slow.
7. I have the complete opposite experience with updates from what you have. I'll typically install them, get the "Reboot Now" prompt and postpone it for a week or more. (This is highly irritating with WinXP, where it comes up every 10 minutes no matter what, every 10 minutes, for a week; Vista lets you push it off four hours at a time, which is far more convenient.)
Devin: The thing is, when you're writing on a tablet, you're actually writing with your normal writing motion, so unless you normally write an l that way, you're probably better off just letting it get it wrong, and then correcting it by clicking on the mis-read word (although honestly, if it's in the middle of a word, it should almost always recognize it properly, because it tries to do word-lookup stuff).
Here's an example of what the Text Input Panel looks like; you can see that it's very continuous-writing, and not a letter-by-letter thing.
This thread on the ThinkPad forum states that you can get a free downgrade CD from Lenovo to install Windows XP on your X61t in lieu of Vista. If I were you, I'd do it. I don't have a tablet, but Windows XP runs beautifully on my X60s.
I love this tablet
PhysioProf: Skipping over the detail that Vista is better than XP on just about any system with at least 2GB of RAM, it's particularly better than XP on tablets, as the tablet stuff is significantly enhanced and more integrated into the OS (as evidenced by the fact that it's no longer "Tablet Edition" but just regular Home Premium or whatever).
Kayhan Gultekin: Is the free Inkscape comparable to Grafigo?
I have no idea, not having heard of it before just now. I'll look into it, though.
jordan: But you're not actually running as Administrator (you wouldn't be getting this problem if you were).
It said "Administrator" when I set up the user settings initially, but apparently, there's a difference between that and the "Administrator" in the "Run as Administrator" option. Charming.
Anyway, "Run as Administrator" fixed it, for now.
And it wouldn't be a good idea to do so, or to turn off User Account Control.
It wouldn't be a good idea to not turn off User Account Control, as I'd eventually end up throwing the tablet at a wall if I leave the stupid thing on.
I'm the only one who uses the machine, and I'm going to run about six programs on it. I'm not worried about the security issues.
5. The tablet orientation makes perfect sense to me. It puts the buttons by your right hand, it keeps the pen and the fan slots exposed on top, and it gives you the convenient battery handle by your right hand, too.
I know something you do not: I am not left-handed.
I don't want the battery handle or buttons in my right hand, I want the pen in my right hand, so I can write with it. The buttons and handle should be on the left, because that hand isn't used for anything else.
7. I have the complete opposite experience with updates from what you have. I'll typically install them, get the "Reboot Now" prompt and postpone it for a week or more.
I'm a big believer in technological karma-- there are some people who will have good experiences with Microsoft products, and others who will have a miserable time with them. Some people will have endless hassles with Apple products, where they work without a hitch for others.
You are a total Microsoft tool-- I mean, a person with good Windows karma. I am not.
"5. The tablet orientation makes perfect sense to me. It puts the buttons by your right hand, it keeps the pen and the fan slots exposed on top, and it gives you the convenient battery handle by your right hand, too.
I know something you do not: I am not left-handed.
I don't want the battery handle or buttons in my right hand, I want the pen in my right hand, so I can write with it. The buttons and handle should be on the left, because that hand isn't used for anything else."
Stand up and walk around with your Tablet - it is designed for Right Handed people in a Verticle market. If you are walking around writing on your Tablet PC, the orientation and handle make perfrct sense. While you are writing with your Right hand, cradeling the Tablet PC in your leaft arm, using the battery to hold on to it - Then, the buttons are easily able to be presses with the pen because of the 'dimples' in the buttons that are made to be used with the pen.
Sleep mode black screen of death is talked about a lot on our site... I see it to...
The new Office makes me cry myself to sleep.
I have a Thinkpad T61p, and it has the same sleep problem with XP, so it may be Lenovo's fault. It seems to work perfectly if I don't close the lid until it's done going to sleep, though.
I'm using the X60 with Vista (ordered it about 2 weeks before they released the X61...and regret not having the core 2 duo architecture...oh well)
Same issues with wake-from-sleep-mode for me, although lately its been doing OK. Its definitely a software issue and there are those who say that the upcoming Vista SP1 may do something to address the issue.
What I find a bit annoying is the need to run updates for Windows and IBM/Lenovo updates separately. I only do the critical and a select few of the recommended updates for Windows, but try to keep on top of the Lenovo updates, since they tend to be more hardware-centric.
+1 on being impressed with the handwriting recognition - for all of its faults...I'd say you have to hand it to Microsoft for doing a good job with writing recog. in Vista. Same goes for voice recognition...have you tried it out? Kind of weird talking to the computer...but I was really amazed at how well I could dictate something directly into word and it was probably 80-90% accurate.
What are your thoughts on some of the installed software? - I'm still not convinced that Diskeeper is that great. I have the feeling that its a real resource hog and am tempted to uninstall it.
Same goes for some of the IBM ThinkVantage programs - not all, of course since they are more or less essential for operating in tablet-mode, but sometimes the Password Manager gets annoying --especially interface with websites & Firefox .
I am confused how sleep not working well under XP is evidence that is it lenovo's fault. At best it is evidence that MS handles drivers badly in both cases.
Mike: Although I don't have a Tablet PC, several of my coworkers do. I'm just passing on their advice -- although yes, I do in fact form my lowercase Ls that way, partly because of using a Palm for a couple of years.
I think the era of tablet PC is starting now. I'm expecting a new Asus Tablet PC, with them i can watch my favorite tv shows on my way to work.
I, too, have a new X61 (core 2 duo "new"), but I cannot get
the touch feature working. I suspect some config detail that I've yet to discover, and wonder if you have any hints.
I find/found the Lenovo e-documents bordering on not helpful: some useful content; not worth keeping on the HDD. It took a while, but I love the print-to-journal-note feature a wonderful tool. As an online student, it is marvelous [and fun to show off] when I print the web page of some online class discussion, add pen markup, print the journal to PDF and return to my classmate. I use something similar when I do back-room work during youth sports tournaments. I wish that more apps were tablet aware.
~~~ Dan 0;-D