Tablet PCs – half a laptop, or actually a viable tool for #spoonies?

OK – let me be upfront about it, I think the whole tablet concept is pretty naff. Firstly, because you can buy a pretty good laptop for the price of an iPad or a high-end Android device (or less), and secondly, because what many (most?), people do is go straight out and buy a case to protect the vulnerable screen, and a USB keyboard, often combined in one unit, so why not buy a laptop or, if size really matters, a Netbook, in the first place? No touch screen? So what? 2GB memory and a 160GB hard drive, coupled to a real keyboard and a very good screen that doesn’t get covered in fingermarks is a much better option in my view.

So why do people buy them? The answer, in large part, is that tablets, and especially iPads, are bling, pure and simple. They have pose value whereas laptops are now just passé. It’s certainly not for serious work, because at that, they suck, and that’s not just my view** – the idea of writing a several thousand word blog post on one fills me with horror – that’s really not what virtual keyboards are for. And only yesterday I saw someone, archiving loads of video clips using an iPad app, reduced to incoherent fury when the thing crashed, taking all her precious vids into oblivion. Doubtless a full-size machine, with adequate memory and vast hard drive would have coped without breaking sweat. By the way, when using tablets, with their limited memory, to do memory-hungry tasks, save your work often. That way when the crash comes, you shouldn’t lose everything. Hell, even on my desktop, with 6GB memory, everything that can be configured this way is set to save my work every minute – something I learned to do very early on.

**There’s always some bugger who’ll try and prove otherwise, but on the whole real work needs a full-size computer, whether it be a laptop or desktop model.

And by the way, Apple didn’t invent the word “app” much though they’d like to lay claim to it. An app(lication), in computer terms, has always referred to software as, indeed, it still does, even in a mobile context.

Do I really need a tablet? Well, I have a laptop, which is my backup if my desktop machine goes belly up, so it has a similar spec and the software is replicated, and data backed up to an external HDD. I also have a 10-inch Netbook but, to be honest it’s too big to be used as my slumped-on-the-couch device in the evenings (the main problem is I have trouble typing on the small keyboard while on the couch – it really needs a table, when it would be fine, but defeats the slobbed-out object).

However, looked at from a disabled, spoonie, perspective, I think tablets might play a genuinely useful role as a support device, not as a main machine.

I spend roughly 16-18 hours a day online, on my desktop machine, though I’m not present all the time I’m rarely far away, but in the evening I retreat to the couch and slob out, watching TV/listening to Radio Caroline and/or reading, while keeping one eye on Twitter and my email – a rather nifty Windows 7 feature allows me to overlay my Twitter app with a small window just big enough that I can see email if it arrives in Mailwasher; plus it beeps at me, but that’s easily missed during a loud TV show or music track, so a visual check is very useful (not its original use, but that – so you can see what the app is – is so naff it beggars belief. If you can’t remember what the icons mean, perhaps computers aren’t really your thing? This is one reason why I’ve referred to Win7 as Windows for people who don’t like computers – I still believe that.

Anyhow, the end result is that I’m getting up and down so bloody often, to check my mail or reply to it, and Twitter, that I get little rest during the course of the evening, and way too much additional pain (call me old-fashioned but I feel very strongly that it’s just basic courtesy to reply to email and, these days, tweets, promptly).

I’ve tried using my smart phone, which is just about tolerable for short responses to Twitter (and it’s OK for tweeting in the pub), but hopeless for email as, for reasons that elude me, it deletes mail from the server as it downloads (even though it’s configured not to, as is the server), which stops it being delivered to my main computer as well, and, in consequence, too often has me forwarding mail to myself.

The end result is that I find myself increasingly – despite still feeling they’re a bit toytown – looking at tablets as a viable spoonie tool, allowing me to stay sat on the couch, but carry on as normal. And cost dictates that it’s an Android device.

Even if I could afford it, I wouldn’t pay Apple’s absurdly inflated prices, nice though their toys are – I read an article in the Guardian last year saying that the factory-gate cost of an iPhone was £3.95. In addition, I spent much of my working life in shipping, where exporters and importers had to declare the actual value of goods, which were a universe away from retail prices, and I have no difficulty believing that iPhone price. iPad retail prices will be similarly inflated.

Anyway, I digress, and Misco have this tablet, running  the bizarrely-named Android Ice Cream Sandwich OS (Android 4 in fact; very odd people, geeks, when it comes to naming things), for £99.98 plus delivery**, and I’m seriously tempted, not least because similar machines in the price range I can afford (and even prices way beyond that), run very much earlier versions of Android. I don’t understand the logic – it’s a bit like offering a new desktop machine running Windows 98, in competition with machines running Windows 7.

**Including a slipcase and next-day delivery, Amazon, despite a higher unit price, are cheaper so, hell, I’ve ordered one. Amazon also has a very positive review – just the one, but better than Misco, which has nothing. This is a 7” device; I’d have liked a 10”, but that takes the price way out of reach, and for what I want it for, 7” is OK.

So I think I shall have one and, in addition to the above use, with the appropriate app, I can read my Kindle books on it, making it a colour, touch-screen, reader. I rather like that idea. And while it doesn’t have 3G (it has wi-fi), I can connect it via my smart phone, which will expand its usefulness.

I don’t, though, I have to confess, like touch screens. Yes, OK, they’re convenient in some ways, but I spend half my life polishing the crap off my smart phone screen – thermal fleece is the ideal material for this – how much worse will a tablet be? Suppose there’s only one way to find out.

Watch this space…

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7 thoughts on “Tablet PCs – half a laptop, or actually a viable tool for #spoonies?

  1. I am confined to a reclining chair 24/7 and I have to say II wouldn’t be without my tablets (iPad and Sony S). Combined they do just about everything I want to do. The alternative? Peer across at the PC screen which is set up across from me.

    I don’t have the problems you had described with email. Both Gmail and POP emails stay where they should. Actually I never view email on the PC, tablet much more convenient. As is Twitter, browsing and money admin. I do all my blogging on my tablet without a problem.

    I resisted getting a tablet because of the cost for ages, but once you get one it’s difficult to see how you managed without. They sit next to me, and are used constantly throughout the day. So easy to pick up and do something instantly. I would advise any #spoonie to get one. Makes life so much easier and simple.

    • Well, mine will make my life easier from tonight. I can sit, and stay sat, until it’s time to shut down my PC for the night, and for that I can even forgive virtual keyboards and fingermarks on a screen where I really don’t want them!

      Ron.

  2. I rarely disagree with you Ron but on this one I must, I use my iPad all the time, with fingers that don’t work at all well now the touch screen is fantastic for me, being unable to sit comfortably for long or handle anything heavier than a feather means the iPad can rest against the arm of the sofa and my knee and be in the perfect position for me to use it.
    I do understand what you are saying but for someone with my problems it has been my saviour, I do everything on it that I would have done on my laptop previously. Yes fingerprints are a problem but I have a special cloth that cleans it nicely when it gets to the stage where it’s like reading through fog. Lol

    • Well, Penny, each to their own, and I’m glad yours works for you, but we’ll have to agree to differ about the usefulness of virtual keyboards, I think. I like my new tablet too, it’s excellent in many ways, but I haven’t changed my mind about that.

      Where’s your blog gone, by the way? There’s nothing on that link (there’s a blog page, but no content).

      Ron.

  3. Like Jane I am another spoonie and for the most part confined to my bed. Two years ago I was very ill and couldn’t even sit up. I was denied the company I had found on the Internet as I just couldn’t sit up to work a computer. I saw an advert for the new apple iPad and immediately knew that this would make my life better. Yes it was a lot of money but I justified this by the fact I didn’t go out and spend it. It took me a year to save up and I bought the ipad2. As I predicted it transformed my life. I can snuggle down with this on my side and read it due to the swivel screen. I can pinch in and out to read the words normally too small for my ageing eyes. It is incredibly light. (I am very frail) I don’t have a clunky Case just the minimal cover that wakes it when I roll it back. With this It elevates it at a good angle so that I can type on the virtual screen just as fast as I used to on my laptop (I am a trained touch typist) and the keyboard has lots more helpful keys than any normal keyboard + if I am even too sick to type I can dictate and it will do it for me.

    To be honest I agree that most folk have got it for the bling appeal and for that reason they have never really explored just how versatile the iPad is. Far more so than any of the others IMHO.

    On any given day I will check my email (I have it set to alert me every 5 mins one comes in) umpteen times. From the email link it will open a web page. From the web page I can respond to messages on social sites , send the link to folk read them in “Reader” (it’s how I read yours) Print it wirelessly and even it even has a built in twitter client. Every app and contact moves seamlessly within and I always know exactly where I am. It’s quick too? Everything zips along and on the new iPad the visual is a real treat. I read free books on the amazon kindle app, I play games, draw, paint, scrapbook, listen to the radio, listen to audio books, listen to podcasts, watch tv, watch catch up tv watch sky movies and sport, Skype and FaceTime with family and friends take photos on the excellent camera and edit them. Take videos and edit them.shop from various designated apps like Ocado or Amazon, banking. Record my health journal that also reminds me throughout the day when to take my meds and when I need to order replacements. I use the WordPress app to blog on here with and it’s a breeze. I could go on and on. I hope you enjoy your new tablet as much as I do mine. FYI I find the “Minky” cloths the best ones for polishing the screen. They seem to have the “edge”. http://www.minky.co.uk/index.php?page=product_details&cat_id=1&subcat_id=1&product_id=81

    Regarding saving your work. The iPad has iCloud which saves all your work so that you never lose it. Plus there are apps like Dropbox which do a similar thing. I recently bought the new iPad and gave my old one to the rest of my family (so I could interact with them) and as soon as I signed on with my username and password there was all my stuff. Every app and everything I had ever written in those apps. I was very impressed. I am not an apple fan boy. This was the first time I have ever owned an apple product. I bought it purely on merit as there is nothing yet to equal it. When that happens I will be adjusting my purchases accordingly.

    NOTE: THIS IS THE ONLY iPad ENCOMIUM OR I’D BE BREAKING MY OWN RULES.

    And yes, I do mean it.
    Ron.

    • Actually, you’ve hi-lighted a major problem. Data – yours, mine, anybody’s – should be stored on your own machine, backed up to an external HDD (in my case 2 external HDDs – they do fail occasionally), for maximum security. OK, not feasible on a tablet – any tablet, due to the small HDD size – but the external option is still there Sending it off into the Cloud – iCloud, anybody else’s cloud, it doesn’t matter – to lurk in a server on the other side of the world, and over which you can exert no control in terms of security, privacy, or anything else, is a bad move. It’s a very popular move, but I still think it’s a seriously bad one, especially for busineses.

      I work hard at what I do, and want total control over it. Paranoid? Nope, sensible. I have about a terrabyte and a half of data going back some 8 years over 4 machines, at my fingertips, secure and safe from prying eyes. And the way the web is likely to go in the next few years, especially in the US, not to mention here, I’m even more happy about that.

      Do beware of claiming an iPad – or anything for that matter – is without equal. It’s reckless and can’t be proved. Not even if you’ve used everything else, and no matter what lab tests might say, using computers, tablets or any other, is such an intensely subjective experience that absolutes can’t really be established. There are some absolutes – more memory is better than less, bigger hard drives are better than small, for example – after that personal preference and human nature kick in big-time, and you really can’t legislate for that.

      Thanks for the link, though.

      Ron.

      • Hi Ron,

        I’m in 100% agreement with you regarding the “cloud” and anyone using it to backup their data lives in “cloud-cuckoo-land.”

        The very first thing that anyone should do when they start using a computer is to backup all of their data, and do it religiously. And backup the backups because as you have stated, any hard drive can fail at any time.

        My iMac does hourly backups to my ReadyNAS via Time Machine. I also have a large capacity external hard drive connected to my NAS that does weekly backups from that. Though Time Machine is an excellent addition to the Mac OS X software, it will not allow its user to “boot” from it, so I installed specialist cloning software, similar to Norton’s Ghost that clones my Mac OS X to an external disk drive from which I can boot my iMac should ever develop a booting error.

        Furthermore, from my days as a PC user, experiencing many Windows 95, 98 and XP crashes, I quickly got into the habit of using CD-R & DVD-R once they (and the required ‘burners’) became cheap enough to use as a viable backup media. Now there are Blu-ray burners and high capacity Blu-ray disks though these are still quite expensive. However, the excellent USB Flash Memory drives have a good capacity and are available quite cheap to buy.

        Regardless of what a person chooses to use, it can potentially fail, so I believe that it’s best to buy from well known manufacturers. For example, try and buy certified CD & DVD disks. A good friend of mine bought 5 tubs of 100 cheapish CD-Rs from a very well known, national high street retailer of computer equipment about eight years ago only to find out about five years later that these disks are now totally unreadable.

        A word of warning!

        Too many well known major brand names have their fare share of unlawful, pirated copies. Some of which can be indistinguishable from the genuine article. So it’s best to buy from websites that honour their returns policies without question…

        BoB

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