Merry New Year!

Well, another even-numbered year draws to a close. Hope everyone has a happy and safe new year. It’s an odd-numbered year coming up, so it’s obviously going to be fantastic (as are multiple-of-5 years).

See y’all in 07! 🙂

Windows Vista FTW: Cleartype over RDP

One of the little things I love about Windows Vista is that I’m able to use the RDP client without The Jaggies.

I use Consolas in Visual Studio and elsewhere, and as Jeff pointed out a while back, it’s just not built for non-Cleartype environments.

I mostly use RDP on my home WLAN, but even across the Internet, I find the benefits of font smoothing compelling enough to spend the extra bytes on it, even on my dodgy cable connection.

So: Vista Remote Desktop Client for the win!

(as far as I know, it works only to Windows Vista-level RDP servers).

My First Tablet-ish PC

Back in 1998, I bought a Cassiopea Windows CE 2.0 Handheld PC.

It was just under half the size of my current infatuation (the P1610) used a fold-out form factor with a 640×200 screen (CGA hi-res!) had a small and fiddly QWERTY calculator-key-style keyboard, used an awkward serial port connection, was as monochrome as a gameboy, and had a touch screen built in.

It was amazing. At the time, I remember raving about the touch screen to my friends. I just assumed that In The Future, all laptops would have touch screens. It was inconceivable that they wouldn’t. It was convenient, speedy, generally pretty good to use. The Cassiopea has long been left uncharged in a drawer (I ran across it yesterday, prompting this post), but I remember gradually becoming disillusioned with it when it became obvious it would never quite be that ultraportable windows PC I really wanted.

Flash forward eight years, and I now own an ultraportable Windows laptop with a touch screen, all in a pleasantly small form factor.

But I’ve never seriously considered owning a laptop before this one. One of the reasons was that since using the Cassie, I wanted a touch screen – to be able to jab menu commands and icons directly with my finger, and not have to use a scratchpad or mouse. (Ideally I’d like to be able to move the cursor with eye tracking, but that’s more in the future.) The other major reason was that they were just too big.

So why did touch screens take so long to “take off”? (a follower of the “laptops aren’t real computers” religion actually buying a laptop would seem to be a sign of the end times, and is cited as my evidence of “taking off”)

Did having a separate TabletPC edition to this point somehow redirect demand for touch screens in all laptops towards the high end? Did TabletPC have a stigma attached to it?

Is it just the swivel that puts people off? I’d buy a non-convertible laptop with touch before one without.

Active digitizers (only) tend to annoy me by requiring me to pick up the (special) pen before being able to point – it’s the same problem I have with a mouse, which is that I have to engage another intermediate device to interact with something on the screen, with no option. Lenovo look like they’re taking a step in the right direction with the Lenovo X60 – it squeezes in both an active digitizer and touch capability, if I’m reading that right.

If Windows XP Pro supported touch screens without any hullabaloo, would more laptops sold today have them?

Guess I’ll have a chance to find out now that Windows Vista supports the tablet stuff in all the non-Basic SKUs. It also looks to have a bunch of new touch-specific features I’m eager to try out.

If you’re someone that bought a non-Tablet laptop – why? Did you consider a Tablet? If a passive (aka resistive) touch screen had been an option on your non-convertible, would you have gone for it?

Windows Vista Performance on P1610

How does a half-size PC perform, you ask? Let’s find out what Windows Vista thinks of the setup:

Original score: 2.0 {2.7,2.9,2.0,2.4,3.7}

Re-test today: 2.4 {2.7,2.9,3.8,2.4,3.7}

I wonder what was behind the jump in perf between Setup and now… perhaps it was just busy, or there’s been a driver update?

P1610 First Impressions

I got my Fujitsu P1610 Lifebook care of Hugo on Wednesday, and I have a rather long post on it coming (I know, I could do a bunch of shorter posts, but that’d wreck my quality-is-not-quantity posting metrics for the month!).

For now, I’d just like to say that it’s the best laptop I’ve ever used for what I want to use it for – a small and highly mobile note-taking notebook, with good battery life and enough power to use for Real Things. Not a desktop replacement, a desktop adjunct. A replacement for pen and paper.

It’s light enough to use on the couch, and to carry around in the office – the battery life is such that I don’t constantly need to be near a charger or suffer an anxiety attack.

The touch screen needs just a little more pressure than I was expecting, but I’m adapting, and as JK pointed out, no vectoring issues.

I jammed Windows Vista straight onto it, and the experience hasn’t been flawless (missing software and drivers – sure it’ll be rectified in short order), but it’s certainly on the “good” side of usable, and I’m not needing to boot back to XP. Basic functionality is all there, and it’ll only get better (pen flicks and “proper” Vista touch support are what I’m most interested in).

So, at least after three days: very happy with my purchase. Needs more RAM, but it’s exorbitantly overpriced locally at present (1GB micro SO-DIMM: $US850, but $AU1999 !? Might have to get some when I’m stateside next…)

Fujitsu Lifebook P1610 – The First Day (and a bit)

On Wednesday, my care package from Tegatech arrived – a brand new P1610!

I thought there must have been some sort of mistake when the Mail Guy handed me the package, as it was obviously far too light to be a laptop and included bumf. Plus, it was just one box, and it wasn’t big enough!

black box on a chair, but you can see Hugo's business card next to the box.

Well blow me into a tissue and call me catarrh, yes, it was! It was just a very small, well put-together box. None of this cardboard brown no-frills stuff, it was a glossy printed black box with a glossy red accessories box dominating the top half of the interior, a healthy padding of styrofoam and a tiny little Tablet PC making up the difference.

red box inside! but the business card is gone, and you can still see the chair. it's the back of the computer, but you can still see the chair... oh, I didn't expect a Spanish Inquisition Nobody expects the spanish inquisition! Or a laptop to be this small.

Size Isn’t Everything

When I said “tiny”, I really meant tiny – comparing it to my normal-sized keyboard, its entire width reaches from the left edge of the keys to the outside of the right-hand Windows key – it doesn’t reach the left side of the Enter key.

helpful size comparison to XP OEM package Helpful size comparison to notebook mouse

The keyboard is miniaturized, and might be problematic to the Big Fingered, but I find that after a day of pecking at it here and there that I’m adapting to it quickly. My fingers are small-to-medium for a man. Finding that out was a useful exercise in “how not to approach another man about the size of his fingers”. My delicate little fingies can be seen in the shots above.

The other small-yet-major item of interest in the package was the power adapter – small and very light, works internationally (untested, natch) with a figure-8 power cord.

I named it “Tiny”. But it’s still an “it” for now.

First Boot

Switching on, the first thing to happen was a Windows XP Tablet Edition 2005 OOBE.


It looked like a couple of things might have gone wrong towards the very end (lots of DllInit failures when preparing for the first reboot, as if apps were trying to start while Windows shut itself down). If I hadn’t noticed the dialogs, I might not have worried – it seemed that everything was pretty well there, and stuff generally Just Worked.

It’s probably worth mentioning that I needed to run the Fujitsu screen calibration utility to get touch to track correctly – running the Windows calibration utility alone didn’t focus it quite right, but the Fuj utility uses 9 points of calibration rather than 4, and seems to work well when used in conjunction with the Windows one. Without it, the calibration would be noticeably out by different amounts in different quadrants.

The screen packs a whopping 1280×768 into 8.9 widescreen diagonal inches. If you leave it at regular DPI settings, be prepared to sit close to it! It’s bright, though if you’re looking closely at angles, it has tiny transparent dots in a grid just visible through it – the touch screen digitizer thingy, I’m betting. Two days on, and I don’t notice it at all.

First Touch

Touch sensitivity seems low at first, but you adapt quickly to using a fingernail – I’m just going to have to grow one or two a little longer than “bitten right off to the quick, and some of the quick might be missing too” so I can peck at the screen reliably without using the stylus or a thimble.

While I think of it – the smell of the fresh machine burning itself in was intoxicating. Top marks for “nose”.

But TabletPC 2005 was a bit “been there, done that”, after my experiment running it on my desktop for a while last year. I wanted the new hotness. I wanted Teh Vistar. I knew there might be a few bumps. Didn’t care.

Windows Vista uh huh uh huh

Fuj had thoughtfully partitioned the 80GB hard drive into two partitions, so I simply ran setup across the network and Custom Installed a copy of Windows Vista onto the D drive, keeping the C drive copy of Tablet PC as a fallback.


It’s mostly great. If I had one wish, it’d be more RAM. If I had two wishes: more RAM, hybrid hard drive. And extended battery!

Networking worked out of the box, and Windows Update found a bunch of Fujitsu drivers for various devices, such as the touch panel.

Yes, for those peering closely, that is the full Aero Glass experience (just with transparency turned off and a custom shade of boring grey). The Intel 945 video card rates a 2.0, but it’s enough to get it working if you want. It’s not enabled by default, but if you open the display properties window, you can pick it, and it works! In my last unscientific test with a few apps open and high dpi enabled, DWM was chewing 40MB RAM over non-Aero, bringing the total in use to 400MB, so it’s off until I can get some more RAM… More on the RAM situation later.

Good time to address it: Not all of the software included with the OEM copy of XP worked under Vista. And a bunch of Vista features either aren’t implemented or don’t work yet. That said, seeing as the device is “Vista Capable” logoed I’m hopeful of updates in the near future, I’d guess sometime around the Jan 30 general availability date. ( Unless some nice Fujitsu mole wants to send me beta drivers to test, hint hint? 🙂 )

If you were thinking of making the jump early, here’s my short list of problems / issues / niggles / drawbacks under Vista:

  • FJRotate auto-screen-rotation utility seems to have particular trouble (eg, crashes every time it’s invoked), but I’ve defined the Tablet buttons to toggle between the two primary states I use, and that’s fine with me for now.
  • Vista doesn’t enable the Touch features that the Help describes, which probably means that the input device isn’t considered a touch screen, just a digitizer. Hoping for a Touch-enabled update soon.
  • Pen flicks don’t seem to work either, possibly for the same reason (in reverse).
  • While talking about input, I’m finding that there’s just a little input jitter – sometimes my letters look like they were written by polygraph, and scroll bars jump up and down about two pixels in the same way while dragging. I’ll be re-calibrating and re-inking some stuff next time I remember. Update: did that, seems better now, much less jinking, though it seems to come back when the screen is re-oriented.
  • Can’t get SD slot to do ReadyBoost, but can use the same SD card in USB mode (it’s one of those Sandisk flippy ones with USB built in).
  • Microphone didn’t work until I reinstalled the XP audio driver, though output worked fine. Mic now works brilliantly.

Anyway, I’m surviving. Well, not just surviving, I’m finding it really good. Vista might cost more in RAM terms, but it makes it back in overall responsiveness on this little puppy, I’ve found so far. I mainly use OneNote and IE, and it’s more than capable at those.

On The Road

Tiny aboard Jason's aircraft-carrier-sized Alienware desktop replacementThe acid test was today (er, Thursday, it’s Sunday as I fix this up for posting), a scant 24 hours after receiving it. I’d got Office, Acrobat Reader, Netmon 3 and Ethereal installed, and headed off to a customer site, for what was intended to be a short meeting at 4pm with another colleague.

At 8pm we were leaving the site, and the battery reached the “you should please turn off sometime quite soon” level while scribbling notes on the way back to the office in the taxi – I’d been using it quite a bit while there to review traces and take notes.

Here’s why it was fantastic: I was able to do everything I needed to on it without taking the charger with me, and that’s on the standard “3 hour” battery. It was light and small enough to be almost as unobtrusive as a paper notebook, but had all the store-and-search capabilities of a real Windows PC.

I’m not using half the Tablet capabilities to their fullest extent yet (with time (and drivers), I promise to do better!), but when I get it together and work out what’s what, I expect this will work out to be the most useful and most-used laptop I’ve had.

Back on that RAM

512MB. The Fuj US site provides a lot of customizable options, but at the moment in Australia, the 512MB model was all I could get my hands on.

I asked Hugo if I could upgrade to a gig, but sticker shock at the $1999 (yes folks, $AUD2000, $USD1,577.90) price tag of a 1GB micro SO-DIMM put me off.

I’m hoping the market prevails and I’ll be able to pick up a cheaper set in the future. I figure it has to be getting more common now, at the dawn of the UMPC…

Sunday Verdict

So, it’s Sunday as I’m editing the photos into the article, and the answer to the unspoken key question is: yes, I’d buy it again. Very happy with it so far, and I expect my happiness to increase 🙂

Now, I just need 2 more chargers and an extended battery…

Expression this, WPF that…

 The Expression series of designers have been refreshed, with free trials available for all.

Now available in Expression Blend (formerly Expression Interactive Designer), Expression Design (nee Expression Graphic Designer) and Web (FrontPage), flavours and introducing the new Expression Media.

Also on the design front, the brand-new WPF/E CTP shipped today (ish)! Grab the download and check it out. The demos are impressive, I can’t wait to see what else can be done with it!

More items of possible interest are over on Channel 9.

IE7 crashing on secure sites…

A colleague’s copy of IE7 on Windows XP was playing up today.

When browsing secure sites (that’s https or ssl for the search engine crowd), IE would crash with a polite message offering to create a dump file. Otherwise, it was fine, but this was kinda annoying for banking purposes. This had been happening for a while, they said…

The file that was created when “Yes” was clicked was called “coredmp”, so I opened it up to have a bit of a play around in WinDBG. The stack was inconclusive, but I got looking at what was loaded in the IE process…

Long story short, bmnet came up as one of the modules, and following the instructions in the KB article 910435 seems to have fixed the problem (just an uninstall of one of the programs was needed, no mucking around with LSPs this time).