James asked me to introduce myself. I’m Bill Sodeman, the "new guy" at jkontherun, and I teach information systems courses for a university in Honolulu. I use a variety of mobile devices every day while I run my classes and manage the graduate program.
My posts will get more timely and specific over the next week. But James suggested that I start by writing about my interests in mobile computing, which are as much practical as they are academic. I use mobile devices because they help me get work done anywhere and fast.
I’ve been interested in mobile and pervasive computing since I read a 1991 Scientific American article on the Xerox PARC labs and their ubiquitous computing experiments. PARC researchers proposed a computer tied to a large desk-mounted touchscreen display, along with smaller notepad-sized devices and RFID badges that all tied into a LAN. No file cabinets! I don’t like working from paper.
These days I run my own file servers, and my tablet computers sync to each other whenever they get Internet access, so I usually have the most recent version of my files, and automatic backups. I’m as close as I’ve ever been to that 1991 ubiquitous model, but I still want that large, touchscreen monitor under my desk’s glass top. The Wacom Cintiq is close, and Microsoft Research has something even larger.
I have been reading James’ blog for over a year. I started when I was looking for my first real Tablet PC, an Acer TravelMate C110 that I still use at work. The 10-inch screen is the only drawback. Otherwise, I still like that Acer.
Before then, I used a Sony VAIO PCV LX-900 for 2 years. This model was a 2nd generation design – a slim desktop unit married to a Wacom LCD panel, and for the first year, it was a nice ride. The Tablet PC Edition wasn’t available then, but Sony did include some pen-based tools, and I could use Adobr Acrobat Professional to mark student papers in digital ink. But this model suffered from quality control issues, dead pixels, and proprietary cables. The only component that I still use is the stylus, which works fine with many Tablet PCs.
There’s something nice about using the Tablet PC edition on a large screen. At my office, I do a lot of grading and writing at my desk, but that 10-inch Acer screen is just a bit too small. James has blogged about his tiny Sony U-70 PC, which is just too small for me to use comfortably.
On the other hand, I don’t want to carry a 7-pound largescreen Tablet PC.
Earlier this year, I decided to try the desktop tablet approach again. I used my university’s MSDN privileges to get 2 licenses for the Tablet PC edition. I installed each on a different desktop computer. At the office, it’s a Dell OptPlex 260. At home, it’s an HP Pavilion with an AMD Athlon64 CPU. Each box has its own Wacom drawing pad, and I attached the LCD panels to pivoting stands.
Other mobile computers I have used include the original Palm Pilot and various forms of the Pocket PC. My favorite small device is still the REX card, which was slim enough to carry in a wallet. Of course, it wasn’t rugged enough for sitting. No wonder that my main PDAs these days are my cell phone and the Hipster, which is just a stack of index cards and a binder clip!
I’d like to thank James for the writing opportunity. Post some comments and make some suggestions, I’ll read them.