Friday, March 28, 2008

Motion release software updates for LE1700 & C5

Motion Computing has released the following software updates to the Motion Support Driver Download web page.

Products: Motion LE1700 Tablet PC and Motion C5


1) Motion LE1700 BIOS A13 (LE1700 only)

• Improved WWAN card detection.
• Approved WWAN cards are now automatically enabled by default.
• Added PXE Boot (network-based boot) function supporting additional LAN chips.

> Get Motion LE1700 BIOS A13

2) Motion Dashboard Version (LE1700 and C5)

•Dashboard Configuration application allows access to advanced features, which previously required Windows Registry modification.
•Critical Dashboard (Battery Low, etc.) alerts are now centered on the screen and are always on top of any open windows, which replaced the system tray balloons that could be obscured by third party applications.
•Added a manual start button for Battery Conditioning, when the dialog box appears.
•Dock Detection Override is now supported.
•Fixed compatibility issues with multilingual OS.
•Resolved compatibility issues with Cisco VPN clients and Wi-Fi button functions.
•Enhanced the Multi-Display behavior.

> Get Motion Dashboard

For all Motion product software drivers click here.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Voice Recognition: A True Hit or Total Bull&%$@

Well I have had a copy of Dragon naturally speaking preferred version 8 sitting in my office for some time. I decided to load it on my a tablet PC to see how well it would work. I'm having to do a lot of correction by I know that the more I trained the software the better and will recognize my voice. As you can see this dictation is far from perfect. I will continue to use the tool and see how much improvement there will be over one months time.

Many of my customers are using Dragon naturally speaking voice recognition with a lot of success. It's true that the more you use it the better it works for you so I'm going to stick with my commitment.

Do you use voice recognition? If so, let me know how the results have been for you.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Linux, Xournal and Jarnal - on a Tablet?

A customer is wanting to run their software application on an ultramobile or tablet PC. No problem, I say, these devices can run any software that a standard Windows desktop or laptop.

Says they: We want to run Linux!

Says I: Linux? On a Tablet PC?

Says they: And we need notetaking as well.


Actually, I already had some experience with other customers wanting to run Linux on a Tablet PC and I knew that it could be done. TabletKiosk even makes openSUSE Linux an operating system choice for their tablet PCs. But I didn't know of any notetaking software that would provide functionality similar to Windows Journal.

Enter Xournal and Jarnal. These open source software applications have features similar to those provided in Windows Journal but are designed for the Linux operating system. I am exploring the Jarnal program because they say it is better than PDF Annotator - I'll let you know.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Virginia Western professor using tablets to teach mobile programming

Diane Wolff, a professor at Virginia Western, sent me this email:

I got on your list since my husband got a Motion Computing tablet from you for his airplane. Thought I would give you a link to some of the work that I am doing with tablets. I teach college and got a grant from HP for Mobile Programming. With the grant, I got 20 tablets for use in the classroom. I have spent a lot of time creating some tablet tips and tricks also.

Diane and her colleagues have created a list of tablet PC tips and tricks and their website has some other interesting links as well. Check out their site here. Look on the right side for a link to their tablet PC tips.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

An improved Windows Vista experience is on the way

So read an email I received today from Microsoft regarding our reseller software updates. It continued:

'We are pleased to inform you that the March 2008 Windows Vista® with Service Pack 1 (SP1) Special Edition Action Pack will begin shipping next week.'

So what does this mean for you? With the release of SP1, Vista is finally ready for your consideration. I know some of you have already upgraded and many others have been using Vista on a new desktop or laptop. Personally, I've stuck with Windows XP Tablet Edition while waiting for this next release of the software. My attitude is to let all the more adventurous folks work out the bugs and I'll move after the first service pack (essentially all the fixes to the first version) comes out.

So, is it time to upgrade? I'll probably upgrade my tablet, but unless you want the fun of upgrading your operating system, wait until you buy your next tablet. Then order it with Vista and enjoy the added benefits.

So, what are the benefits of Vista for tablet pc users?

One thing that can be said for Vista is that it really incorporates significant improvements for tablet PC owners and truly extends the pen and ink capabilities of the platform. Some, like seeing the screen “dimple” when you tap on it, are subtle but make the daily experience of using a tablet PC even better. Others, like the handwriting recognition tool, take not-so-subtle cues from voice recognition software and provide a way to dramatically improve the likelihood that the Tablet Input Panel (TIP) will recognize your handwriting – the more you use it the better it gets.

Handwriting recognition improvements
Being able to personalize the handwriting recognition in Windows Vista increases the ability of the TIP to successfully translate a person’s writing. Every individual holds the pen differently, prints differently, connect the letters in their script differently and it is amazing that the Windows XP TIP could be able to recognize writing without training. With the addition of personalization, Vista adapts the user’s own style and makes recognition more likely by direct reporting of errors when they occur. Also, custom recognizers can be created for other languages or shapes, giving hope to those who use symbols as part of their everyday work.

Automatic learning
This goes hand in hand with handwriting recognition, but is a “behind the scenes” learning of an individual’s writing style without requiring one’s interaction. Automatic learning simultaneously creates a dictionary that adds new words from your documents and email. There is great benefit for people whose writings are filled with industry jargon, abbreviation and acronyms because these are automatically.

TIP tab
Keeping the Tablet Input Panel out of your way without having to dock it or reposition it has long been a detractor from the tablet PC experience. The TIP tab gives users a new way to open and position the TIP on the screen. When the TIP is closed, the tab appears on the left edge of the screen (default setting – you can change this). When you tap it, the TIP slides out from the edge of the screen and you can use it. When you are done, tap it again and it slides out of the way once more. You can also reposition where the hidden TIP is position on the edge of the screen so that it slides out at the same place when you tap it. This is a seemingly simple feature but one that will make working with the Tablet Input Panel much more convenient.

Improved erasing
Once you’ve gotten used to having an eraser on your tablet pen, you expect to be able to use it anywhere. That wasn’t true in the TIP because the eraser just added ink. The scratch out gesture (moving the pain back and forth horizontally three times to erase) is fine but takes some practice and is a challenge for new users. With the Vista TIP, eraser equipped pens can remove ink directly. Also, the scratch out gesture itself has been improved, allowing people to scratch ink out without having to draw perfectly horizontal lines.

While sometimes using the keyboard version of AutoComplete can be annoying when it unintentionally creates a word you weren’t intending, the majority of the instances it is a big time saver. Now that functionality is built into the Tablet Input Panel. Basically, as you start to write, AutoComplete lists a series of possible matches based on text you’ve entered previously and gives you the opportunity to pick that entry without having to complete writing the word or phrase or URL. Very nice.

Pen Flicks
It’s very possible that pen flicks could have been higher on our list of important improvements to the tablet PC experience. Simply stated, pen flicks are shortcuts for navigation and editing that allow you to move around the screen and documents as well as copy, paste, delete and undo without having to go through multiple steps and pen clicks. Pasting an item doesn’t require you to right lick, select paste, then left click – you can do all that with a simple ‘flick’ of the pen. Another feature is the ability to customize pen flicks for your own shortcuts.

Visual feedback
It can be frustrating for new users to know when they have successfully double clicked on a program they want to open or when they have properly hit the X to close an application. Using the pen on the tablet screen in Vista provides visual cues that lets users know when they have successfully single or double clicked or right clicked. While subtle, this feedback creates a much more comfortable feeling right out of the box.

Touch screen improvements
The relevance of the feature will increase as more tablet PCs come equipped with dual function displays – ones that have both the capabilities of an active digitizer and a touch screen. As go pen flicks, so goes touch flicks on a passive digitizer, enabling you to navigate applications and use shortcuts with a finger or stylus. With a lot of ultra mobile PCs, the small screen size creates challenges in successfully targeting small icons or when attempting to resize a window. The Windows Vista touch pointer floats on the screen just below your finger and has left and right mouse buttons, a drag area and a pointer for overcoming the challenges of tapping small buttons with big fingers.

Snipping Tool
The Snipping Tool, long a great add-in for tablet PC users, allows one to draw around an area of the screen and ‘snip’ it. The object can then be pasted into an email or other document or saved as a file. It is now incorporated directly in the Vista operating system rather than being a separate application.

Voice Recognition
Microsoft is touting a greatly improved voice recognition engine in Vista. While tablet users could use voice recognition previously, it did not have the robust tools for error correction and training that can be found in Dragon Naturally Speaking. For those looking to give voice recognition a try, this may be a significant feature.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Yes, Virgina, we do rent tablet PCs

While you may know about our 48 hour demo program, you may not know that Allegiance Technology also rents Tablet PCs. More and more customers have been asking us for the opportunity to keep a tablet pc for longer periods so they can test software and demonstrate it to others in their company. So for about six months, we’ve been allowing people to extend the tablet pc demo to 2 or 4 weeks.

If you want to rent a tablet PC from us, the rules are the same as the 48 hour demo program. You are responsible for the shipping costs both ways and must sign our lease agreement. We will send you the tablet PC via FedEx 2-day along with a return shipping tag.

As of March 1st, 2008, the cost for a two week tablet pc rental is $160 and a four week tablet pc rental is $320. We have the following tablet PCs available:

  • Sahara i440D by TabletKiosk Pen/Touch Slate Tablet PC

  • Motion LE1700 Slate Tablet PC

  • Motion C5 Medical Tablet PC

  • Fujitsu U810 UltraMobile PC

  • Fujitsu ST5112 Slate Tablet PC

  • Fujitsu T2010 Convertible Tablet PC

  • Fujitsu Convertible Notebook Tablet PC P1610

  • Tablet Kiosk UltraMobile PC eo 7110

  • Amtek T770 UltraMobile PC

  • IBM/Lenovo X61 Tablet PC

  • All the tablet PCs we offer in our rental program have outdoor screens if it is available. For the Motion C5 we also include a docking station. If you need a USB DVD for loading software, please let us know and we can include that. You can load any software onto the tablet PC for testing purposes.

    We can rent you a tablet PC anywhere in the U.S. To get more information about the program, call our office at 877-772-5587 x1. You can find information about our 48 hour demo program here.

    Thursday, March 13, 2008

    How to choose the best Tablet PC (for you)

    Because this is my blog you can correctly assume this is My Humble Opinion. But I do this all day, every day so that is how I based this post. John

    The most frequently asked question on the tablet forums and in calls to our company is: Which Tablet PC should I buy? The answer changes frequently because the technology changes so often. I’ll attempt to answer the question the same way I do for prospective customers.

    First question is always “what do you want to do with your tablet?”. I’m going to answer that based on a couple different scenarios.

    Tablet PC use #1: Field Worker (inspector, appraiser, insurance adjuster, service technician)

    What to buy: A slate tablet PC with outdoor viewable screen and bump case, extra battery, screen protector and car charger. Consider the Motion LE1700 with XGA View Anywhere Display or the Fujitsu ST 5112. If your software is “touch friendly”, the Sahara i440D with Sunlight Viewable Display should be on your short list as well.

    Why a slate: Slate tablet PCs are the most comfortable, lightest weight tablets for walking around a job site, house, building or the outdoors. They are built with ULV (ultra low voltage) processors that require less power and generate less heat. Just because the tablet doesn’t have a keyboard attached doesn’t mean you can’t use it as a desktop – buy a docking station for use at the office.

    How much will I spend: Expect to spend $2,500 - $3,200 depending on the power of the processor, amount of memory and type of accessories purchased. Spending $60 on a screen protector is expensive short term but a great investment over time.

    Tablet PC use #2: Field Sales (executive, real estate agent, outside salesperson)

    What to buy: A convertible tablet PC with high resolution display, docking station or port replicator, executive portfolio, Seize the Day with your Tablet PC book. If you don’t need a DVD all the time for your work, give consideration to the Fujitsu T2010 or Lenovo X61T. If you must have a DVD with you, the Fujitsu T4220 or Toshiba tablets are heavier and bulkier but have this feature.

    Why a convertible: For people who are doing mostly laptop work like writing agreement, working with Microsoft Office documents, taking notes on occasion when in a meeting or with a client a convertible gives you the best of both worlds. This tablet is your laptop when at your desk or working at home but can be flipped around to a notepad when in the boardroom or making notes about a prospective customer.

    How much will I spend: Expect to spend $1,900 - $2,600 for a unit with a powerful processor, 2Gb RAM memory, 100+Gb hard drive and accessories. Get a docking station or port replicator so you can plug in your second monitor, network connection and printer when in the office.

    Tablet PC use #3: Super mobile (travelling executive, doctor, pilot)

    What to buy: Ultra mobile PCs or UMPCs aren’t quite enough for most people yet. Smaller tablet PCs that offer more power and functionality are still the way to go. The Fujitsu P1620 is probably the best all around device combining the best aspects of size, weight, battery life, power and price.

    Why this device: Something is missing in most smaller devices. Either power, screen readability, input choices or quality. The Fujitsu P1620 is the best combination of all these features in a very compact tablet PC.

    How much will I spend: Expect to spend $2,100 - $2,700. Get it with 2Gb and a high capacity battery and you’ll have a very portable, powerful computer to use wherever you need it.

    Tablet PC use #4: Single application use (electronic medical records, service application, manufacturing)

    What to buy: If your use is mobile within a defined space like a medical practice, auto dealership or manufacturing facility and using just one or two applications on the tablet to help your business, a Motion C5 or F5 is your best choice.

    Why a slate with no ports: Keeping the device simple enables it to be a tool rather than a computer. Also, in these kinds of environments where you might want to scan barcoded patient wristbands, medications, automobile vehicle identification numbers or parts, having a built in barcode scanner is better than having to connect a USB or Bluetooth device.

    How much will I spend: Expect to spend $2,200 - $3,200 depending on the configuration. A basic medical tablet (the C5) is at the low end and is perfect if you are running an EMR application that is server based. Those in a dirtier environment where dust particles and splashing can be a problem, like doing inspections of an assembly line or check-in at an auto repair garage, should choose the Motion F5 which is rated for this kind of situation.

    OF COURSE THERE ARE OTHER SCENARIOS and just because I put certain people into a particular category shouldn't stop you from considering another type of device. But when people ask me the question, they expect some guidance so they can make a good decision. I appreciate your comments and feedback and would be happy to include your well reasoned point of view as part of these recommendations.

    Wednesday, March 12, 2008

    One of our partners, Vela Systems, recently completed a Case Study that discussess how one of their clients, William A. Berry & Son, is using their Safety Module and Tablet PCs.

    They are using the Motion Computing LE1700 Core 2 Duo Tablet PC. Here are selections from the writeup:

    “We can see the screen clearly whether we’re outside in full sun or inside a building,” said Michael Willett, project director for the Brigham and Women’s Hospital new cardiovascular center in downtown Boston. “And because we can write directly on the screen with a special pen, it feels a lot like using pencil and paper, which makes it easy to learn.”

    “The field staff loves Vela because it’s so easy to use. We go to the area, take care of the inspection, make notes right on the Tablet and, if we’re interrupted, as frequently happens, we can pull the information right back up."

    If you are in the Commercial Construction industry and want to learn more about Vela Systems software, you can visit the Construction section of our website. You can download the entire Case Study here.

    Here is a short video showing how another Vela customer is using the tablet while converting a jail to a hotel in Boston:

    More from Josh Kanner at Vela Systems:

    Great post, John. You may also want to link to the youtube movies about safety (new), here

    Also, folks can sign up to view the safety webinar. It was recorded and is available online.

    A better, faster M1400 pen...

    OK, so it is not really faster. It is better, though.

    We've had replacement M1400 pens for the Motion tablet on order for months and months - they never come in. So in the meantime, we've found out that the stylus pen for the Fujitsu T4220/4215 fits the pen bay from the M1400 perfectly. Also, since the Fujitsu stylus pen has a tab on it like the Motion pen, it won't get stuck in the bay like a standard Wacom pen.

    The best part is that, unlike the original M1400 pen, the Fujitsu replacement has an eraser! If you find yourself in need of replacement pens for your M-series tablet (they come in 2-packs), you can order them here.

    Keep in mind that ANY tablet PC pen for an active digitizer will work on any other tablet.

    Monday, March 10, 2008

    Tablet PCs and QuickBooks - Perfect Together

    "I am not going to need to pay for 2 seats of Quickbooks any more. You just saved me 200 bucks. I'll be contacting you when I'm ready to get that tablet pc."

    Talking to a prospective customer today made me think of all the people who are small business owners and use QuickBooks for their accounting software. That includes my company - we have a 5 user version of QB which we use internally.

    So what does accounting software have to do with Tablet PCs?

    Many small business people use QB for quotes and work orders in the field. While QB can run on a tablet PC the same way it does on any other computer, there are security issues with having it on a mobile computer as well as backup concerns. To run even a multi-user version on a tablet requires the transferring of a lot of data (the most recent QB file) and this can be very slow over a wireless or even a broadband connection. The solution is LogMeIn, a free software program that lets you log onto another computer remotely and control it as if you were sitting at the keyboard. The major advantage for QB users is that since the data file doesn't have to be sent over the internet and updated with every change, the person can make changes to QB very quickly. The gentleman who gave me the quote was using a 2 user version of QB and waiting for quite some time when using the program from the field. Now, he can access his accounting data, creates quotes and invoices, and know that his data is secured and backed up in the office rather than on a mobile device.

    Thursday, March 06, 2008

    Speaking of rugged Motion tablets...

    While searching for a different accessory, I found that the Motion Protective Case (same as the Fujitsu ST5112 Otterbox but with different rubber fittings so you can't use this one for the Fujitsu) was on sale for $49.99. Big news considering this case is normally $259.99.

    The up side of this case? Nearly waterproof and dustproof plus very hard to break when in the case. Also comes with a nice, comfortable, heavy duty strap. I just wish this one came in bright yellow like the Otterbox - construction guys love yellow!

    Anyway, I've been told by a little birdie that they are clearing out inventory so I'm not sure how long this will last. If you want one, click here.

    Pimp your ride with an F5

    RAM Mounts now offers a vehicle mounting solution for the Motion Computing F5 Tablet PC. It will work with the Motion C5 as well, but who wants to lookup electronic medical records in their car? Although maybe you could use this to mount it on a golf cart!

    OK, hopefully when your on the links you don't have to do so much work. If you want to see the more information about how your business can use this to mount tablets in a work truck, van or car, visit Ram Mounts. They have mounts for a bunch of tablets. You can find more information at their website.

    Tuesday, March 04, 2008

    OneNote Tip: Favorites Powertoy

    If you have certain pages that you reference frequently, you might like to have a Favorites list. This powertoy is designed to give you the Favorites capability you find in Internet Explorer so it is very easy to use.

    Even better, the folks at GottaBeMobile have done a short video on how to use it.

    For more information, visit the OneNote Testing site.

    Monday, March 03, 2008

    Motion ready to get their (clients) hands dirty

    Today, Motion announced the latest edition to their lineup of tablet PCs, the F5. This semi-rugged tablet is designed to meet the needs of workers who are in the field doing true mobile computing. My company has been increasingly focused on designing solutions for folks in the construction, HVAC, plumbing, electrical and related businesses so Ii think that it is a good time for this kind of device. While a tablet PC and related software is still a significant investment, the F5 provides a much better value than a Panasonic Toughbook or Itronix DuoTouch. Those are great tablets, but are bulkier, heavier, more expensive and use older technology.

    So can a business owner justify the cost of a semi-rugged tablet PC, forms software, maintenance and training? Let's see:

    Cost of a F5: $3,400 (includes Sprint broadband, car charger and bump case)

    Sprint service: $40/month

    Active Ink software client: $129

    Forms design/implementation/training: $4,000

    If a business with 5 technicians were to buy 5 tablet bundles ($3,400 x 5 = $17,000) and pay for Sprint broadband ($40/month for 36 months x 5 techs = $7,200) and Active Ink software licenses (5 x $129 = $645) along with the forms, implementation of the solution and on-site training the total investment over three years would be $28,445. Under a lease, the monthly cost per techncian is only $180.

    The question is whether a business can recoup an investment of $180/month. With a solution like this, an owner would get many advantages:

    1. True paperless environment - Using an electronic forms system to complete paperwork saves time and increases accuracy. With the manager or dispatcher filling out the top of a work order and emailing it to the tech, the office could make sure the customer info is accurate and reduce the amount of form filling the tech needs to do.

    2. Mapping - When the tech receives the email with the work order, it is automatically linked to Google maps to guide him to the client's address with no lost time.

    3. Signature capture - By having the client sign the work order, the business has verification that the tech completed the work and that the customer has agreed to pay.

    4. By completing the balance of the paperwork at the customer's site using a form with checkboxes, dropdowns and a space for the client to sign, techs will easily complete the work order and immediately email it back to the office for review.

    5. With the completed form back at the office just minutes after the service is complete, the manager can review the work order for completeness and then automatically create an invoice in their accounting software. There is no manually entry and the invoice can be sent to the client the same day.

    This appears to be quite a fair investment per month considering the savings in time, the increase in accuracy, and the ability to bill the customer immediately after the work is completed. Let me know what you think.