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This Week in Mobile Tech Manor #87: Software Week

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Once again it is time to look back on the week in Mobile Tech Manor and share with you the things I learned. This week was a lot of fun; it almost makes me feel guilty that I can have so much fun doing my work. I played with different software the whole week, and got more time with a couple of gadgets. Pull up a chair and I’ll tell you all about it.

Small laptop, Fast Phone

I knew when the HP EliteBook 2740p showed up for evaluation that it would bring back days of old. While HP (s hpq) has updated the processor and other internals on the convertible notebook, the outside is pretty much the same as my old friend the 2710p. I must have put 100,000 miles on the 2710p in my past life as a consulting geophysicist. The 2710p was my daily companion, and I brought it everywhere for months.

I used the 2710p mostly as a Tablet PC for taking searchable ink notes using OneNote. A typical work day could find me attending 5 meetings at different venues, and the 2710p was with me all the way. I would arrive at a meeting, pull the 2710p out of my bag, and start taking ink notes. In all my years as a consultant, the 2710p was the best Tablet/notebook I used. There are probably more words written about this laptop than any other on jkOnTheRun.

Now you understand why the 2740p that HP sent over gets me nostalgic. It is much the same as my old friend, yet much better. The Core i5 processor in this jewel is a nice performance booster, and the addition of the touchscreen a great new feature. I’ve said before that a touchscreen on a slate device is a great tool, and this notebook proves it once again.

HP hasn’t sent the slice battery for me to try yet, but hopefully it will arrive next week. This is a thin battery the size of the whole notebook that more than doubles battery life while adding just a little weight and bulk. It is the best method for dealing with a second battery in my experience. I used one on my 2710p, and I would use the tablet with just the internal battery each day until it got low, and then simply snap on the slice battery. I could easily go a long day with such an arrangement, and at the end of the day the internal battery would be charged from the slice battery.

The tablet wasn’t the only thing I played with this week, I was still having a go at the Droid Incredible that Verizon (s vz) sent over last week. I am impressed by how fast everything happens on this phone. The Snapdragon processor and smooth hardware is a joy to use. HTC has continued to improve its Android phones with each iteration, and this one proves that. The battery life is not bad but I do have to watch it at the end of the day. It’s a heavy duty web computer and that hits the battery of any phone hard. If I owned one of these I’d likely get a second battery to make sure I could make it through those heavy days.

I am also using the heck out of the Sprint (s s) Overdrive I got recently. It has a permanent home in my gear bag, and it is great to tap into the 4G network as needed. I still don’t have 4G coverage in the Manor, although I can go mere blocks in any direction and find coverage. It’s as if there is a 4G blocking bubble over my street, a fact confirmed by the Sprint 4G coverage map. It’s not a big deal as there is Sprint 3G coverage here and just about everywhere. I can get speeds comparable to (or better) than my old MiFi, so it’s been a trade up for the same monthly fee.

I am getting asked if it’s worth picking up an Overdrive in areas that don’t have Sprint 4G coverage yet. My answer is if you’re slated to get coverage this year, and you are in a Sprint 3G area now, then you may want to consider it. The Sprint 3G network is EVDO and just as good as Verizon’s, so what you have now with the Overdrive is as good as anything out there plus you get the 4G speed boost when it gets lit up in your area. I would have switched in this scenario.

Fast browser, slow processor

I ran into a snag running SugarSync on my MacBook, as I detailed in last week’s column. It got resolved but in the troubleshooting process I ran across a couple of things I need to pass on. I noticed when SugarSync got successfully reinstalled on the MacBook that the system was slowing down noticeably at times. I fired up the OS X Activity Monitor and quickly determined that the SugarSync File Manager application running in the background was causing my problem.

The program would sporadically shoot up to 100% CPU usage, and the system would understandably slow down. According to the support information at SugarSync this happens during the initial sync to the cloud, but it shouldn’t happen at other times. Unfortunately, I am seeing this at other times too, and it’s become an issue for me. My only recourse when it gets so bad is to force quit the app and not leave it running all the time.

That works, but it defeats the purpose of having my files synced in the background all the time. I ran across something worth sharing, even though the online help information doesn’t acknowledge that the app can grab the processor like this, it is apparently a known issue to the program’s developers. I got information about a new mobile version of SugarSync, and in that information was buried that a new desktop client was getting close to release that deals with this issue. It’s good to know they are fixing the problem, but they’d better get the new desktop clients (Mac and Windows) released quickly. I’m paying for the service, and I want to use it as intended.

When I was first troubleshooting my issue mentioned last week, I was comparing the SugarSync apps on the Mac with the one on Windows 7.  If you recall that problem was that the Mac version of the app just quit working, while the Windows version kept working fine. While investigating this, I removed the Windows app and reinstalled it. During that process I noticed that there were no Windows system restore points to let me roll back the system should I need to.

That’s strange, as Windows system restore has always been a good way to restore the system to a previous point should trouble arise. Not only did I not have a valid restore point, there were not any at all. The indication was that Windows was not creating restore points as it should, even though I have seen it indicating it is doing so when system updates were applied.

This bothered me understandably, so I set off investigating online if this was happening to others. Lo and behold it not only is a known issue, I found out information from Microsoft Answers. Kudos to Microsoft (s msft) for having this venue for dealing with problems. I haven’t followed up on applying either of the two solutions MS provided at the site linked above. One of them involves manually editing the registry to potentially fix the problem. It seems the more things change, the more they stay the same. I’ll be looking at this down the road when I have a little time to deal with things potentially going wrong, as registry editing can do. I strongly recommend that Windows 7 users check to see if your system restore points are there as expected. It seems those afflicted are having them deleted mistakenly by the system. When you need to restore the system is not a good time to discover there are none.

My inability to be faithful to one web browser is legendary, and this week I flipped again. I used Google (s goog) Chrome a while back, but had problems with certain web sites I use a lot so I switched back to Firefox. The latest beta for Chrome was recently released and folks were raving about it so I gave it a try and have switched over full time. This new version of Chrome is fast, fast, fast, and I have not encountered any problems so far. Google is continuing to improve Chrome, and as one who works on the web all the time I am impressed with the browser. Until I switch again, I’m sure.

e-Books of the week

I read a lot of e-books on the iPad this week. The iPad has already become my reader of choice, and I have flipped between the Kindle app and iBooks. I finished all of the short novels in the LaNague Federation series by F. Paul Wilson, and enjoyed each one of them. What Wilson has done is use this loose series to tell vastly different stories that cover a lot of different ground. I highly recommend them for fast entertainment.

I also picked up Stephen King’s new novella, Blockade Billy. It is awfully short but a decent story about baseball with the typical King twist. If I’m not mistaken it’s only available in digital form at Amazon.


That’s my week at Mobile Tech Manor — I hope you enjoyed sharing it with me. Happy Mother’s Day this Sunday to all of you Moms, and don’t forget to call or visit your own Mom. I’ll be seeing mine, as that’s what a good son should do. Peace.

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10 Responses to “This Week in Mobile Tech Manor #87: Software Week”

    • It does, but I haven’t tried it for storage. I have a printer plugged in which is accessible from any computer in the house. A great easy method to have a network printer, using any USB printer.

      • I would look into that if I were you – and save yourself that monthly/annual fee. I’ve been toying around with a Netgear DGND3300 modem router these last few weeks, it’s USB port allows a USB hub to be connected and chained to multiple hard drives. Great way to stream media remotely for one, alongside near unlimited storage and no hit on bandwidth. I’ve only plugged in one 640GB hard drive so far, but a couple of 2TB drives opens up quite a few ideas.

    • I’ve had a 320 GB external USB drive plugged into the back of my AirPort Extreme since I bought it and it works well — it’s the centralized storage for the entire family’s music collection, for example. We share tunes that way, but the reason I still maintain cloud storage accounts is for easier sharing of files and data with folks outside of my family. It doesn’t have to be an either/or situation – both methods have their advantages.

      • Yeah, that makes sense if you need to share just a file or two with your peeps, especially if you can snag one of those free accounts. I wouldn’t be too happy if others were poking around on my hard drive… ;)

        Since you chimed in Kevin, can I ask what’s the status of your WHS build?

  1. netwiz

    Software week it is, I’m switching to Ubuntu for the summer. I sold my books yesterday and bought a 500 GB hard drive. After that I put it in my gateway, downloaded ubuntu 10.04 on my brothers laptop, burnt the iso, and got working right away. Not once have I had to open the terminal to fix/install something yet. I plan on upgrading to windows 7 the after the summer is up, but we’ll see.

    One thing Ill say, Wine seems to be working wonders at running some of my windows applications. :)

      • netwiz

        Lol… on a more serious note, I got World of Warcraft (don’t judge me!!!) running in Wine. No sound though. at least its a start at becoming a linux gamer. :)

        Oh and btw Ive been fiddling with google, the terminal and the Wine app database from morning till now, just to get that thing to work. I guess the sound will have to wait till tomorrow. =/

  2. Scotty

    The other nifty Overdrive feature: you can charge it while you use it or tether it to your computer and still have wifi coverage.

    One iPad Kindle app feature I haven’t seen mentioned much: you can set it to white text on a black screen. I find I prefer this as it helps make the screen easier for my eyes and seems to help keep me from having trouble falling asleep while reading.