With universities shut down for the winter break, I asked a college instructor friend if he would be willing to swap 2-in-1 portables for a couple of days.My machine is a Microsoft Surface Book. with the optional NVidia graphics processors, his is a brand new Lenovo Yoga 900. I’ve been anxious to test the yoga 900 since they became widely available through retail late last month. I like the Lenovo’s yoga 900 $1,199 basic configuration: An 2.5 GHz Intel Core i5 processor a 256GB SSD, 13.3- inch screen, 8GB of RAM in a rugged 2.8 pound package.
Yoga may have the best port expansion of any Windows 1, 2-in-1 portable.it has two USB Type A sockets, One USB Type C for video out, one USB 2.0 DC Power socket plus a card reader and audio combo jack I believe that,along with battery life, screen resolution is critical to the usability of any 2-in-1 hybrid notebook. the yoga’s QHD 3.200 by 1,800 pixel screen delivers bright colorful displays that can be viewed easily from different angles. I honestly prefer the Microsoft Surface Book’s 3,200 by 2,000 pixel screen which is a better fit for me when I use topographic or aerial maps as I trek through historic sites in CA’s Gold Country, or the gold fields in the Angeles National Forest here in Southern California. Battery life is very good,I routinely used the yogga 900 for about 8.5 hours between charges. Yoga’s battery life is one of its biggest selling points. In tablet mode,I had more than enough battery life to watch extended feature length movies, compared to about 3 hours of battery life for my Surface book in tablet mode. The yoga 900’s fit and finish is top shelf. to use Yoda in it tablet mode, you fold the screen over the system case. I have no concerns about the hinge used on this device, it’s very sturdy and smoothly transitions the screen from notebook to tablet mode. The compact case of this portable is very rugged.
i’ve always like Lenovo’s keyboards and was a first hand witness around 1995 through 2001 into how much research and usability testing this company puts into keyboard design.Yoga 900’s keyboard is slightly different than ones used on the company’s ThinkPad and other lines. It’s keys have a layer on their tops. Although I made numerous typos on this notebook, i’m handicapped and blame myself for the errors, not the Yoga’s keyboard. With pricing of $1,199, Yoga 900 costs half as much as a comparably configured Microsoft Surface book. The newest member of Lenovo’s Yoga family is built like a tank, has exceptional performance and is versatile enough to rise to any of the challenges 2-in-1 portables face in corporate deployment, academia or specialized uses away from office settings.--Jim Forbes on 1/25/2015
Over the last several months a couple of friends have had strokes. Mine was more than 10 years ago, but I still remember what losing my mobility and dexterity on my affected left side felt like. I couldn’t wait to get home and was fortunate to have a home health care worker with whom I played cards and walked around the lagoons for many months near my home in San Mateo, CA.
I wanted badly to resume my career and thought I could do so until my stroke specialist doctor made me understand that dream just wasn’t possible. I really didn’t want to become a shut-in glued to daytime shows on the Hitler Channel, or glued to a telescope counting birds in nearby trees or on the lagoon.
My best friend is a retired doc who rebooted his life in retirement. It was Dr. Andy who lit a fire under my butt suggesting I enroll in an adaptive PE class at the college of San Mateo. I resisted the idea at first, but my doc said “Do it” and had a social worker show me how I could get to and from my home for the classes.
Although My driver’s license hadn’t been suspended (a common practice for stroke patients who suffer cognitive damage)I didn’t feel I was safe to drive.
One of the first things my buddy Dr. Andy suggested was to sign up for the local transit district’s handicap shuttle service. TO my surprise there were already several resident s of my condo complex who used the handicap shuttle to get to and from the adaptive PE class and to go shopping in San Mateo.
Which bring me, unceremoniously, to the point of this post.
What kind of gifts re of great use to stroke patients.
Gifts for Stroke Patients.
Handicapped transit passes. Because such services are often underwritten by federal agencies they are affordable. And most importantly it’s liberating to get the hell out of the house and actively reengage life. I’m not the least bit ashamed to say I rode the short bus. It helped me get to doctors’ appointments, my adaptive PE program, and post exercise social activities.
Enrollment fees associated with joining a student body association and an adaptive PE program, designed for handicapped people.
Movie Passes. I’ve lost track o how many first run movies I saw on Friday afternoons, but I used the short but to get mw to the theater a lot, And it rekindled my longstanding love of the cinema and the art of movie making. Besides, the experience reinforced my dream of being a snarky a critic as the robot Tom Servo on Mystery Science Theater.
Any activity that helps or forces a stroke patient use the hands and digits on their affected side. One of the activities I’ve consistently recommended to friends since I had my stroke, are shopping trips to buy three or four Big Chief Indian lined writing pads. Part of this experience should also include stopping at an be to go to an office Supplies or Stationers to try and buy a pen that’s comfortable enough to be used to practice printing and writing for extended periods. Pens with large sculpted barrels can help stroke patients get back their ability to writing or printing. You should see the pen pot on the left side sof my desk. But damn it the damage to my left hand was bad enough that I’ll never be able to legibly long hand a story, ever again.
Library cards. After powering through everything my library system had on California, the “on” switch in my stroke addled brain got turned on suddenly and I remembered that in every library system there’s at least one kind research librarian. Although I knew about the university of California’ historical collection at the Bancroft library, it was a research librarian in San Mateo who showed me how to prize open the UC library system enough to gain access to electronic copies of those documents. Speaking of books there is one I believe is a must-read for stroke patients or their loved ones: D. Jill Bolt Taylor’s personal odyssey through a stroke, “My Stroke of Insight.”
Like most stroke patients, I’m very reliant on computers to write, read news or occasionally binge watch episodic television shows. As a result of my stroke, my vision changed and I find a large screen high resolution display is easier to use for extended periods. A large screen display for desktop PCs and a notebook with great screen resolution really help. In recovery I’m highly mobile and never go anywhere without a portable computer. My new favorite is Microsoft’s Surface Book ( a 2-in-1 notebook that lets you disconnect the screen and lets use it as a tablet .If Surface book’s hefty price tag makes you blink or you don’t require a Windows table, look at ultrabook portables. I carried an Acer S7 ultrabook for about 18 months and recommend this sub $650 rugged portable to my friends and family.
Driving lessons. Stroke patients needed to remember all divers are asked or must attest to) not being mentally impaired as part of the license renewal process. Well I wasn’t howling at the moon daft, but the stroke did damage my cognitive skills and I prepared for the question by arranging a simple road-test by a driving school instructor. I passed, he gave me an “A-OK to drive” letter and I was back on the road within one year of my stroke.
Friendship—So I really need to At how important this is to recovering patients of all types?
I am no longer ashamed of my stroke disabilities. Years later, I’m willing to hop in my Kia hamster van and zip up I-5 from San Diego to catch a limit of rainbow trout at Fuller Lake, or to go be a young man and listen to a little live Tower of Power at the state or a local county fair with a friend who shares my eclectic taste in music.
A stoke changed my life forever, I lost my ability to write legibly with my ultra-dominant left hand, but I sure as hell didn’t lose my sense of fun.—Jim Forbes on 7 December 2015.
Over the last six months I steadily reached the conclusion that most of the tablet computers. I had acquired or reviewed didn’t pass muster.
Screen size and brightness is an issue for me. I often tried and failed to use a tabltet in dimly lit lecture halls and conference rooms.
I'm an aging boomer so the ability to see information displayed on tablets with 10-inch or smaller screens became a factor in my growing impatience with the form factor.
But the experience hasn’t really changed my belief that tablets computing could become an important part of the IT and personal computing landscape.
Based on industry reports, I decided I would buy a new portable iby December. I begYan my search by looking at hybrids from Asus,Hewlett Packard Microsoft and Lenovo. my minimum requirements were 12 inch screen, current generation Intel processors, plus 8 GB of memory on the system board and the ability to upgrade SSD storage to 512 GB.T
My particular usage model requires battery life with minimal power conservation of eight hours. My passions are California and it’s gold rush history, and when I’m out camping I take my notebook, and use it to store digital photographs and digital content.At night, I’ve been known to watch a movie I’ve stored on my portable.
Any 2-in-1 portable I buy has to be rugged enough to survive being carried deep into the Sierra and San Gabriel mountains, so fit and finish plus durable construction were factors I used to winnow my purchase decision.
I have to fundamentally believe that the mechanicalS on any hybrid I buy will work as well next month as they do the day I unboxed the notebook.
There were a couple of platforms i thought could work. Microsoft’s Surface family was high on my list, as was a Lenovo Yoga family members. I’ve carried Lenovo computers longer than any other label and in nearly 20 years, I’ve never had one fail. plus I’ve successfully resuscitated various Thinkpads using the blue “heal thyself” button several times over the years (including once on a butt numbing flight from Tokyo to Dublin).
In the end I wrote a check to Microsoft for a shiny new Surface Book.Even though Lenovo’s Yoga 900 is less expensive and Microsoft is a relative newcomer, it was Surface Book’s construction and great performance that clinched the sale.--Jim Forbes on 16 November, 2015.
Microsoft’s new two-in-one hybrid SurfaceBook portable notebook could become a new reference design that sets a high standard for this category of portables.
right off its sleek top there are numerous features that make Surface Book the platform to watch.
It’s 13,5-inch, detachable tablet screen is bright enough and has enough screen real estate and deep resolution to make the new Microsoft portable a great platform for any graphics intensive application. Surface Book overcomes my objection with many of the large screen tablets--including Apple’s -- and most of the hybrids I’ve reviewed with its high resolution 3000x2000 pixel display.
The demonstration I saw of the $1,499 entry- level Surface highlighted its graphics and processing power.
The basic configuration of the new two-in-one hybrid includes a 128GB SSD, 8GB of system memory and a Intel i5 processor. Compared to hybrids with smaller screens, Surface Book appears to be equipped to handle any task.
The design of Microsoft’s first-ever labeled computer, is first rate.It’s light, weighing just under 3.5 pounds and it has a remarkable fit and finish. without any protruding edges that could get snagged on a book bag or other carrying case. The case of the SurfaceBook is made of magnesium, which will help hold up to rough service
Any hybrid portable user who has to live with their machines extended periods will appreciate mechanical features like its hinge, screen tablet release mechanism and keyboard.
The keyboard is easy to use for extended periods and, unlike those used on most other two-in-one notebooks (except Lenovo’s Yoga) feels crisp. a stylus ships standard with the Surface Book.
Worried about battery life on a long haul flights? Don’t give it a second thought. Microsoft claims Surface Book's battery life is 12 hours even when running battery vampire applications such as playing videos.
It’s more likely someone would tire using this computer before its battery drained.
Microsoft SurfaceBook is a great demonstration of this pioneering company’s to marshal all of its assets (applications, design usability, plus research and development) behind a single project.
One of the effects of this cooperation is that Surface Book comes standard with a trial to MicrosoftOffice subscription and Microsoft's video editing application
The net effect here is a product that excels as a big screen tablet and notebook computer.
Priced at $1,499, SurfaceBook is more expensive than other two-in-ones, but it may be the standard that becomes a reference design for this form factor in the years ahead.
As for me,I know two things:1, I want to spend a couple of days testing this platform to make sure it’s ship shape and squared away and 2, I'm pretty sure I’ve dropped enough hints to the Powers That Be to make sure they know what I want for my upcoming birthday and Christmas.
I’m anxiously awaiting an opportunity this week at a conference to be able to play with a Surface Book for several hours.My hopes are up--Jim Forbes on November 1, 2015.
Top tier portable computer makers are responding to an uptick in the sales of hybrid,2 in one, notebooks by increasing the depth and breadth of their offerings in this category.
Lenovo, which has four hybrid computer and more than 10 models is an example. lenovo’s Yoga 2-in-one hybrid . Since its introduction,Lenovo has bolstered this line by adding new models with more powerful processors, larger screens as well as more system and storage memory.
Lenovo is one of two companies aiming hybrid two-in one portables to corporate users. the second company is Hewlett Packard which currently offers three models of convertibles with pricing ranging from about $580 for an entry=level system to almost $1,500 for a portable designed for corporate deployment.
Asus is another portable maker that’s surging into the convertible PC race, with its Transformer line.
Lenovo Dell and HP all offer consumer facing two-in one portables. Recently Lenovo announced a new version of it yoga that appears to fit into its consume oriented IdeaPad family.
Two in One portables come in two configurations; those with a screen that, after opening ,can be twisted and folded over the system case, allowing access to a touch screen that can be used as a tablet computer; and those that have screens that can be physically detached from a system case or keyboard but which communicate with the keyboard wirelessly.
Analysts who track sales of hybrid two-in one portables note that detachable keyboard portables are more popular than hybrids with screens that fold over the system case. Appearance,weight and battery life all could be factors behind the popularity of portables with detachable keyboards. some analysts note.
In a few weeks, Microsoft is posed to begin briefing reviewers, editors and other professionals on a new
member of its Surface two-in one platform, reportedly to be called the Microsoft Surface Four.
In less than 18 months, the hybrid portable computer has gone from a technological demonstration platform to a news class of tools deployed by corporation to field sales and service professionals as well as emergency responders--Jim Forbes on September 21, 2015.
the Fugo Tough is rugged, easy to use, has extraordinary battery life and tonal quality.
The audio experience of my portable computers and more recently my cell phone have always been important parts of my user experience.
Until recently however, if I wanted to listen to music while I yank weeds or buried seedlings in my garden or putted around town on my three wheel Piaggio MP3 scooter, I had to use earbuds, which, for me, is a less than satisfactory experience.I’ve gone through countless sets of earbuds in the last 18 months, So I jumped at the chance to review Fugoo’s Tough bluetooth speaker.
TO set the stage: I've used four sets of Bluetooth speakers but come away feeling that their manufacturers spent too much time and effort focusing on bass notes and not enough time and effort on delivering mid tone audio, battery life.or the second most common use of an external Bluetooth speaker; a desktop or home teleconferencing tool.
At one point last month I was so annoyed with a Bluetooth speaker that I turned it into a looping fastball headed down my the road up my mountain.
I've been amazed by everything about this new six- speaker audio appliance. beginning with its stellar audio quality and happily becoming the beneficiary of its amazing battery life.
And that’s just for starters. I've used and discarded several Bluetooth speakers because they were hard to use or had an anemic battery life.but most commonly I've discarded those speakers because the manufacturers confuse boom box bass with or more more important audio fidelity .
There’s no shortage of mass market bluetooth external speakers but the Fugoo Tough is way different. Although it lives up to its Tough name, it has a heart of gold, can roar like a lion but has a user interface that’s tame as a kitten.
The Fugo Tough isn't a featherweight audio appliance. it’s a hefty trapezoid that stays put, no matter how loud you pump up the volume. Most of this systems weight comes from its multiple omni directional speakers. Rather than use off the shelf foreign circuits, Fugoo speakers use high efficiency custom circuits and this speakers’ power comes from a single 16550 Lithium ion battery, which is about the same size as a conventional AAA battery.
After charging overnight. Setup was a snap, i turned it on and it quickly sought out and paired with my ZMax ZTX phablet which runs Android 4.4. I've had some difficulty pairing and maintaining connectivity on other Bluetooth external speakers with previous smartphones running earlier versions of Android. But what I really like about the Fugoo Tough is how easy it was to pair it and begin playing my 1.5 GB of music, while I worked in my just watered garden or while I was zipping around town on my somewhat whimsical three-wheel Piaggio 500cc motor scooter.
I do have one very small criticism with this Fugoo speaker:, the power switch is recessed in the top left side corner of the speaker case, and I have large hands ( I wear a size 16 ring) so it took me a couple of seconds to make tactile contact with power switch. SinceI seem to have incorporated music into my gardening hobby, the waterproof Fugoo Tough goes out to the garden with me.
And what about using the Fugo Tough for hands free phone calls? the audio is crisp and clean, there’s enough volume to fill small conference room or home office and its microphone is sensitive enough to make my shouting unneeded.
What about its battery life? So far, it’s been playing for 21-plus hours without needing to be recharged.
Supplied to me for this review by its manufacturer the Fugoo Tough costs $229, the which is higher than most Bluetooth speakers. but if you want a portable speaker than can stand up to the sun,surf, sand, or water, the Fugoo Tough is the Bluetooth speaker you should rush out and buy.
I’d say more, but the road and my music are in harmony now, so I’m going to fire up my scooter and head out to the coast, listenin’ to John Stewart, Allman and Doobie Brothers and smilin’--Jim Forbes on March 28, 2015
I recently switched cell service providers. celebrating the occasion by treating myself to my first large screen Android smart phone-- aka, my first “phablet.”
I am glad I waited to get a phablet. When I first started pricing the devics and comparing service contracts and features I quickly realized that a phablet would cost about $100 a month. for service.
Wow, was I ever wrong.
Some of the reasons I left my previous carrier included my desire to lower my monthly comm bills and because they really didn’t offer a true” phablet.” in my price range
Which is why I found myself at a local T-Mobile store looking at an approximate $225 (out the door)ZTE Zmax house brand Android smartphone with a six-inch (measured diagonally) screen.
My phablet has changed how I use a smartphone. First, I send a lot more text messages than I ever did on previous phones.Second: I’m much more likely to use my phone to connect to the Internet.
A big reason why I didn’t use my previous phone’s Internet capabilities is simple: Displayed information on itsf ive-inch-inch screen taxed my middle-age eyesight.
With a bigger screen, I immediately found myself installing and using more applications. but I still don’t like using my phone for email, except for cursory glances.
I have a simple rule for my family and close friends, ‘if you need to reach me, text me.”
I can always call them later and most often I can answer their questions by texting.
I loved the increased memory of phablets;My Zmax has 11. 64GB of storage versus 8GB on my previous phone.More system memory means I can install and use more applications.
Some of the applications I use are pretty obscure. I love a fishing app that uses my phone’s GPs reporting capability to provide me with tide and solumnar (moon and sun phases) data.I don’t consider myself a “technical fisherman”“ but i’m approaching that rubicon because of my smart phone.
Agrivi is nother go-to app that makes managing my fsll things agricultural more enjoyable and productive.i I was first heard of Agrivi while visiting Cal Poly Pomona ( an ag and engineering college here in Southern California.)
Agrivi lets its users tap into “best agricultural practices” this app lets me track my plants and trees crops on the go.I really like a feature in Agrivi that works with three and seven day weather forecasts and multi-year weather records.
Weather and field monitoring are critical to growing avocados and peaches here in San Diego County and until I encountered this app i’d never seen or used a smartphone program that has Agrivis capabilities.
Most of the other applications on my phablet are pedestrian customer loyalty or shopping apps. the most important of these is the What’s App messaging platform
User messaging apps could force smartphone makers -- or Google-- to offer larger screen data input keyboards. Their absence as a native feature in Android Kit Kat is a serious shortcoming.
Mandatory disclosure: I have large hands, wear a size 16 man’s’ ring. and am handicapped because of a stroke that wiped out the fine motor control on my left side-- I am “deeply embedded” left handed so I can not switch my dominant handedness.
I do have a major criticism of today’s smartphones that carries over specifically to phablets, Despite better battery life and oversized cases the “VIbrate on ring” feature is too anemic. Manufacturers,I believe absolutely have to make this feature more powerful, and thus more useful.
Until this feature is improved,I’m resorting to a wearable $30 bluetooth wearable dongle called “Ditto” that vibrates when my phone rings, or when I get out of range of my phone’s bluetooth transceiver.
Although my ZTE Zmax is built like a Panzer, , I opted for the $10 a month replacement insurance.
I have been very surprised by the battery life of this phablet. I’m able to go three days without recharging, despite more internet use than “I've ever experienced on a a smartphone. the battery life of the ZTX phablet is, much longer than other smart phones I’ve owned by a long shot and Adroid Kit Kat’s power management software is a big reason why I no longer worry about battery life, or carry a fully charged power pack in my book bag..
The Phablet form factor has changed how I use and rely on a cell phone, which I’ll circle back on in a future post. For now, I’m a true believer in phablet computing, a dream I thought I wouldn’t live to become mainstream in my life. More on phun phablet computing in subsequent posts. Jim Forbes on 02/23/2015
the first big improvements in portable computing were better keyboards. large VGA screens, then integrated WiFi, USB and HDMI connectors and relentless drive to adopt faster processors and provide longer battery life.
the next big thing is one of the most visible aspects of portable computing, brighter screen displays and increased increased resolution.the one time owner of the graphics processing socket, Intel Corp, could be on the way to being dethroned as portable and tablet computer makers respond to the growing use of touchscreens and other technologies that require more graphics horsepower than Intel’s current 4400 graphics chip may be able to supply.
Initially, Acer and Lenovo have tried to boost graphics performance and capabilities by adding graphics processors to a few units in their product line, notably portables with 14-inch screens.
I’ve tested portables from those vendors that use NVidia graphics chips that have been designed to improve graphics capabilities, they can and do make a tremendous difference in making a portable easier to use for extended periods, as long as they don't radically alter battery life.
There is one PC maker that has always understood the difference display technology can make in product adoption and technology leadership. that company is Apple and its Retina display technology and its A8X graphics processor which isUsed on Apple's highend iPAD. Retina has the horsepower for delievering stunning video displays.
All forms of tablet computing--including hybrid laptops, could becom battlegrounds for companies that want to set products apart through the use of display technologies.
To date my favorite tablets and hybrids based on screen technolohgiesinclude Samsung’s Galaxy Note Prob with a 12.2 inch screen, the new Lenovo Yoga Pro3, and Apple’s iPad Air 2 which uses tghe A8X chip
Keep your eyes peeled for new display technologies coming to your favorite portables soon.--Jim Forbes on 11/16/2014
As a result of doing the unthinkable: slashing my technological overhead and going without my cell phone or a wireless internet connection on a recent four-day vacation. But I always have a notebook stashed away when I travel but for the first time in five years I couldn’t use it when I felt the urge to write.
Which brings me to the point of this short post: There is an immediate need and major opportunity for a small footprint stand-alone word processor that works on Wintel hardware.
Although i’[ve used Microsoft Word going back to the dark ages before Windows, that application has become too bloated for me.
So tooling down I-5 from the Sierra, my mind drifted back to previous word processing programs and why I liked them.Lets look back:
Wordstar-- whether you hated it or loved it (or dreamed of Control K commands in your sleep) this dinosaur blitzed along on computers equipped with only 64K of memory.
XyWrite-- another of my all time favs because it closely resembled the ATEX text composition software used in many newsrooms. and it ran very nicely from loppy disks on Dos omputers with 512K of memory.
Microsoft Write-- an inexpensive Mac word processor that was a gateway to Word.it ran very nicely on 128K Macintoshes. A Windows version of this program, was also available through the introduction of Windows NT
Microsoft WordPad-- included with Windows and incredibly versatile. Like Microsoft NotePad, WordPad can be used to open and edit many types of documents.
T/Maker’s Write Now-- an incredibly fast word processor that initially ran on 128K Macs but which in its basic version offered indexing and a feature that remembered where you were in a specific document and booted up to that place.I still mourn WriteNow. It had everything I needed and could save files as pure Ascii text.
So there I was, my ultrabook on a picnic table, battery powered lantern by its side, forgetting for a moment that I was technologically untethered.I wanted to writeup my notes about golf prospectors i had interviewed earlier that day but had no Internet of connecting to the Google mothership because I couldn’t tether my cell phone
My solution was right there in Windows, Wordpad
So, why would I buy and install a commercially developed small footprint word processor and how much would I be willing to pay for it?
I’d buy one if generated files that could be cut and pasted seamlessly into my blogging application, Typepad and if it didn’t require that I install a larger SSD on my ultrabook. And come to think about it,I would be willing to pay somewhere north of $75 to have a good word processor on my “every trip” notebook.
But to put a point on it, Apple had this figured out along time ago when it began bundling applications on its macintosh portables, all in one desktops and its Macbook Air.
So if you're in the Sierra this weekend and you see some dude banging on a portable by lanternlight, have no fear, I don’t bite, but I do laugh at myself.--Jim Forbes on 07/15/2014