14 Days with Galaxy Tab 10.1

On July 30, 2011, in Gadgets, Review, by jafo

Compelling Features

  • Like an Android phone, but with 10 hours of battery life.
  • All the same apps, much bigger screen.
  • Honeycomb is dramatically improved for a tablet.
  • Mostly familiar, coming from an Android phone.
  • Very nice form-factor.

Drawbacks

  • No Google Voice for you (because you can’t make calls, you also
    can’t do text messages).

  • It’s not at all a multi-user device, and $500 feels expensive if
    we can’t really share it.

  • Proprietary USB cable.
  • No SD card slot leads to no ability to use USB to copy things onto
    it.

  • Time has to be manually set.
  • I don’t knwo what to do with it other than show it off.

Overall Impression

I got one of these bad boys 2 weeks ago, and have been playing with
it. It’s a very pretty tablet, where other Android tablets are chunky or
clunky feeling, this is quite svelt. However, I’m still trying to figure
out what good it is.

Note that this is running a (very) slightly older version of
Honeycomb. It was very hard to buy this when the one sitting right next to
it asked us when we walked up to it if we wanted to update to a newer
version (3.2 versus 3.1, IIRC). It’s not a huge difference in
functionality, but from reading the net it sounds like it may be months
before I get that revision.

As a tablet experience, it works out extremely well. Getting used to
the home and back keys in the lower left has taken some time. Mostly it’s
very comfortable.

A word about Google Voice though. I use it a fair bit to text with
people, and I was very excited to try it out on the bigger soft keyboard.
It’s not available in the market for the tablets though. Google Voice
requires your device to have a cellular connection to make phone calls, and
because the Galaxy Tab doesn’t have this you are prevented from using it
for testing. Google says they will be coming out with a “tablet optimized”
version later, but at the moment you are on your own to find an “.apk” file
to install manually. Once you do that, it works just fine for texting,
BTW.

Unlike a laptop, I can’t plug in my Cricket USB modem and get 3G via
it. IMHO, the tablet is fairly worthless without connectivity, something I
didn’t really think about coming from a phone which almost always just has
connectivity. It almost makes the $60/month that most data plans cost feel
worth it (though I think $60/month is a bit much for just data, I’d be more
willing at $30/month I think).

I thought WiFi was all over, but now that I really need it to use
the tablet I’ve felt like WiFi is nowhere.

I was also very surprised to have to manually set the time…
Sure, I don’t have a 3G connection to get the time from, but this
does have both GPS (which delivers first-rate time/date information)
and the network. While there are third-party applications for setting the
time from both these sources, they require “rooting” the device to use.

Primary Uses

This I’m still trying to figure out…

One excuse for buying it is that we’ve been talking about getting
another Kindle for, get this, the bathroom. :-) Great, the Galaxy Tab can
do Kindle books, but it can also do web browsing, the grocery list, so much
more.

But unlike a Kindle, it’s fairly expensive and so it’s kind of hard to
just leaving it in the bathroom. Which means it’s never in the bathroom
when I’d like some light reading…

I also justified it as being satisfying my temptations to get a Sony
Vaio P 1 pound laptop. For when I need a laptop handy, but don’t want to
carry all 15 pounds of my normal kit.

Again, it kind of falls down here since usually when I need my laptop
I need it so I can connect to remote servers and web-pages for work, and
hoping I can find WiFi isn’t going to cut it. I need to either be able to
use my 3G USB card, tether to my phone, or wait for a 3G model to come out
and decide to spend $60/month for 2 years on a contract.

Also, I probably need OpenVPN to make use of this device for work,
which requires rooting it… And I also need to be sure that none of this
causes my access credentials to become exposed if I lose the device.

In short, I have yet to find a compelling reason for the tablet.

Alternative OS

I’ve toyed with putting Ubuntu on it. But then I’d want a cryptofs on
it, and I’d have to come up with a way to enter the crypto password in the
minimal boot environment where it’s asking for it… Then I could probably
use my 3G card and OpenVPN though…

I’ve also thought about ChromeOS, which does have a first-class system
for sharing the device among multiple users. However, it does not
have much in the way of applications other than a browser, IMHO. When I’ve
used ChromeOS, it’s always felt more like a toy than something I could use,
except as a browser.

Other Tablets?

The ASUS Transformer sounds like a pretty compelling alternative. The
biggest thing is that you can clip it into a keyboard, and it turns into a
laptop form-factor. The big benefit here is that the keyboard has a second
battery giving 16 hours of battery life. However, the transformer
with keyboard and second battery is getting up to 3 pounds, so I might as
well carry my $300 netbook with 8 hours of battery life and a real Linux
distro on it…

The Motorola Xoom has an SD slot and a regular USB port (not for
charging though), and a newer OS… But it’s also chunkier. I really
don’t find it to be a compelling alternative. Though if it had come out at
$500 rather than $700 or $800 I probably would have gotten one then. When
it came out at that price point, I just laughed at it.

Conclusions

My phone basically is useless for running apps. It feels like if I
use any apps on it, I probably will run out of charge before I go to
bed (I charge it every night on the nightstand). The Galaxy Tab has around
10 hours of battery life, so I can use and keep on using it…

It’s 2 been two weeks and my primary use of it over the last week has
been showing it off… I’ll admit that I’m probably not the typical user,
but I’m really struggling to find a use for it.

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We have a cat that sometimes has problems keeping his lunch down…  Then we heard about this great thing called a Spot Bot, and we were sold!  That was the original version they came out with, at least 5 and possibly coming up on 10 years ago now…

As the name implies, it’s really only good for doing a spot — something smaller than the diameter of it’s hood — say around 6 inches across.  And for that, it works extremely well.  It’s really one of the best purchases we’ve made, but we have quite a bit of carpet in our house.

If your carpet is clean, it works great.

The first thing we noticed was that it left these little “clean” circles in our carpet, which we hadn’t cleaned for probably at least a year or maybe two before getting it.  So, it made it obvious that we really just needed to clean the whole thing.  We now rent a big machine and do a full cleaning about once every 6 to 9 months and use the spot bot for the spots, particularly the pet spots, in between.

It also works very poorly on big dirty spots.  The cleaning area is surrounded by a hood, and dirty water ends up collecting on this hood and so a large dirty area that you try to “divide and conquer” using the Spot Bot tends to just leave a bunch of clean areas with dirty rings around the inner edge of the hood.  You can use it to clean up pet spots that are maybe 12 inches by 4 or 6 inches, but cleaning a foot by foot dirty section I’ve never been happy with the results, even after 8 or more application.

The other thing I found was that the cleaned areas it kind of “perked up” the carpet in, so we had these circles where the carpet was standing up — even if it was clean the circles were noticeable.  Then I started vacuuming the area after the Spot Bot worked them…  That’s the key!  Vacuum after the spot bot, and the area doesn’t stand up so much.

They market the Spot Bot as “put it down and walk away”, which is true but is only part of the truth.  You can’t just leave the house.  Since it’s got a hood covering the area that it’s cleaned, it won’t dry properly if you just leave it there.  So when it’s done, it will keep beeping, reminding you to move it.  I really wish it had a fan in it so you could set it up, run it, and then leave it and it would run the fan on the area after the cleaning was done.  Or it had a little track or arm or something that would move it slightly out of the way.  Then it would truly be a robot!  :-)

The other minor complaint I have about it is that it doesn’t hold that much fluid.  It will do around 4 cleanings, and then it needs to be emptied and refilled.  However, it looks like they have a new model that has twice the capacity, that might be nice.  But, on the other hand, I wonder if that would be too big, the current unit is nice and compact, so it may be one of those “be careful what you wish for” situations.  I will, probably, end up buying one of those new units.

Obviously, it’s built really well.  We’ve had it for quite a long time with absolutely no problems.

Over all, I’d highly recommend the Spot Bot.

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Dyson DC25 Animal Vacuum Review

On January 30, 2011, in Cleaning, Household, Review, by jafo

We put off buying one of these for quite a while, partly because we had a so-so experience with an expensive vacuum in the past.  As I recall, it cost almost double what the Dyson did, but it really was nothing special.

If I knew then, what I know now, I’d have gotten the Dyson much sooner.  For the last several years, we’ve had a cheapo vacuum that at least was bag-less.  Bags are a pain in the butt, and I’m glad they’re gone.  This vacuum was good, but it did have some quirks that annoyed me.  Mostly related to maintenance and the size of what serves in the place of the bag.  I’d have to empty it 3 times while doing the main level of our house, and if you don’t empty it soon enough, the cat hair would get sucked up into this screen, that you couldn’t easily see (to check if it was gunked up) or clean.

The Dyson is, pretty much, the perfect vacuum.

The “ball” I wasn’t sure about initially, but it does provide quite a lot of maneuverability.  However, the “kick stand” that holds it up when you aren’t using it took some getting used to, I initially could never get it to release when I wanted it to.

It’s also surprisingly quiet.  Sure, it still freaks out the one cat, but he’s scared of everything.  It’s not so quiet that I’d vacuum with someone sleeping, but it is something both Evelyn and I noticed.

The big thing is the maintenance.  The beater bar is direct drive instead of belt drive.  I’m very much looking forward to not burning up any more belts and having the house smell like burnt rubber.  But, time will tell whether it just burns the motor out…  However, the cover over the beater bar is clear, so you can see if it’s running or not…  And to clean the beater bar, you twist off a cover and slide it out — very easy.  Sadly, to unlock the twist-off, you have to use a coin, it’s not finger-operated.  And time will tell if that gets stripped up using a coin.

However, you don’t have to do this maintenance on the floor…  The whole power head comes off the vacuum, so you can unhook it and bring it over to a counter or table to work on.

The cover over the 2 filters seems similarly easy to get to, and they only require cleaning every 3 months, which is probably about what our previous vacuum required.  You just wash them in the sink and let them dry.

The button to activate “bare floor” cleaning is easy to access (on our old one it was a dial on the head that we never used).  We’ve been using it all the time for vacuuming the kitchen vinyl flooring.

The bin is much larger than our old vacuum and can go the whole level without emptying even when we haven’t vacuumed recently.  Better: you press a button and the whole, contained bin comes off.  You take it to the trash or put it in a trash bag, and push a button and the bottom opens and the cruft falls out.  This is clear so you can see when it’s empty and shake it to get the last out.  This includes the equivalent to the screen in our old one, if it gets over-full — just shake it and it comes clean.  The old vacuum had an open cup and if it was full often the cup would spill when emptied and required vacuuming a bit around where you emptied it.

My primary complaint about the setup we  have is that it included this extra “powered head” for the extension wand, but there’s nowhere on the vacuum to store it.  Our old vacuum had a similar “power paw”, but it had a nice place that it snapped into for storage.  I have no idea where the power head now is.  On the other hand, the power head is larger than on the old one, and does work much better.  We have these curtains that the cats walk by that it works great on.

Another complaint I had but I think I just figured out today was the cord clip.  It’s kind of like the springy black paper clips, it’s wedge-shaped.  If you put the cord fully into this, the plug just slips down the cord.  I realized today that if you put one loop of the cord fully into this clip, and then clip it onto a second, it works perfectly.  I wish they could get a spring-loaded cord retractor in it, that’s the one thing that expensive vacuum we got 20 years ago had that I absolutely loved.  But, that was a cannister vacuum, and the retractors are rare on the uprights.

So, while there are some things that could be improved, I will say that it is a huge improvement and I really wish I had gotten one sooner.  It’s expensive, but a good value.  We got it for 20% off during a sale before the holidays, which helped a bit.  It’s, admittedly, probably not 4 times better than our previous vacuum, despite being 4 times as expensive, but it’s definitely worth it to me.

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