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Wednesday, 05 February 2014


Computers wanna be more and more user freindly and wind up being turds. Sometimes I have a case of micronostalgia were I would like the 80th back.....simple command lines with deltree and shutdown - h NOW as a great possibility, but then I remember Linux on my Raspberry Pi and look SO pleased.

Ah, today I tried to connect an Apple TV to a beamer (4 years old) and needed 50 euro worth of cable (HDMI female to DVI male in two easy pieces) only to discover that a 2011 MacBook Pro could not communicate with the utterly useless piece of crap, ah, and thinking a 35 euro Pi could have saved the day, but the owner of the place loved the Apple no matter what. But hey at least my house remains Apple free (unless it's green, tastes sour sweet and is not bitten in to begin with).

Greeting, Ed.

Ctein, I'll bet Apple's already got the name picked out for the tablet you described... iPad Pro :-)


Nice alternatives to any tablet are the small and light Toshiba full-function notebooks (about 2.5 pounds with strong metal shell), 13.3" screen, lots of RAM, very fast 256GB SSD (solid state hard disk), 5-6 hour battery life, and multi-core i5 CPUs.

These are available in the $800 to $1000 range and easily run full versions of Win 7 Pro and Win 8 Pro, along with quick Lightroom 5 performance.

Devices like these are nearly as portable, similarly priced, but far more versatile than trendy tablet devices.

I agree with the cell phone confusion. However there is one company that isn't as confusing and usually a lot cheaper - Ting. They use the sprint network, have easily understood fees and are a lot cheaper. We pay $40 for 3 phones, and only pay for data when we actually have to use it. Their customer service is great. Unfortunately you have to pay full price for the phone, and you can't use the iPhone 5. But then I'm too cheap to pay for it, I got a used android phone.

I don't think there's hope for Windows devices for at least a couple of years.

In the 1960s - 1970s Nikon and Canon built their brands on the Franken-camera business. You could reconfigure the F2 with 20 or so focusing screens , at least 7 finders, 3 motor drives, 3 backs, and a lot of remote control, underwater, microscopy, close-up , and medical configurations.

Now you are pretty much stuck with whatever the manufacturers think will cover 90 percent of the use cases. And if the feature you want the most is missing, there isn't much you can do about it.

The mirrorless cameras could fill a similar niche if only the makers would just get less hung up on the whole smallness thing, and build on the concept of being reconfigurable

Re Surface Pro 2, I agree this device is misunderstood. Its the only machine on the market that would potentially work as a desktop, laptop and tablet.

A friend of mine bought one a week ago and let me play with it for a few hours. It breezed through D800 RAW edits in CS6 without a hitch, not noticeably slower than my i7 Ivy Bridge workstation.

Attached to his new docking station it was driving a 27" 2560X1440 display, but I could also use the stylus on the Surface instead of a Wacom tablet, which was kind of cool and a lot easier.

Pull it off the dock and clip on a type cover and you have a very light ultrabook which is quite usable for moderate typing loads.

Pull off the cover and its a slightly porky tablet with it's own kickstand. Probably better for movies than games though and quite heavy to walk around with as a slate. But I have a large phone which does most of the stuff I would use a tablet for.

So I could have just one machine that did everything, right? Not quite....

  • I have 75,000 photos on 4X 3TB drives (2 inside my desktop and 2 external backups). I would need to put all four drives into a USB3 enclosure which would mean I was accessing all my photographic data over USB3 and not SATA.
  • Right now, my i7 workstation is under the desk (on the floor) with the external drives resting on top. It still has 2 spare USB3 ports and another 4 USB2 ones. With the Surface I would need more desk space for the Surface AND the disk enclosure.
  • I would also need a port replicator because there is only one USB3 port on the dock (dumb!). Rapidly creating a desk full of cables and devices....
  • I have upgraded and run repairs on my workstation several times. The SP however requires shipping to MS and is returned reformatted. Only 1 year limited warranty and extending it to a business service plan is incredibly expensive.
  • If I only have one machine I have no backup in the event of theft or failure. For the last 5 years I have had a workstation AND laptop, which means I am never without a working machine in an emergency. Moreover I seldom have anything on my laptop that I would worry about if it went missing, which as it travels a lot is far more likely.
In terms of service and support it seems Apple have a much better infrastructure via the Apple Store where you can just drop off your machine. If Microsoft were serious about this as a business machine they would offer something similar along with biometric security.

So for me, it actually only works as a laptop for travel, in which case it's too expensive, the screen is too small and the keyboard is inadequate.

If anything the Surface 2 is looking quite attractive. It's half the price and half the weight and even if it only runs Office apps in laptop mode (not Photoshop) it makes a much handier tablet.

One of my problems with the Surface Pro 2 is that it's difficult to use as a laptop sitting on my lap. From what I can tell, if you want to use the keyboard, you really need a stable flat surface to set it on. I suspect that using it as a laptop in an airplane seat using the meal tray could be exciting.

I haven't even looked at the Surface Pro 2 because I have a Surface Pro 1 and it does everything I need. It's kind of the 5Dii of portable computers - it fulfills so many of my needs that I have no need to obsess over gear anymore.

I have no idea why they haven't done better, except the way MS blew the brand with the pointless Surface RT.

You asked about the Surface Pro 2. I have the first generation Surface Pro which is nominally very similar. I bought it specifically to have a smaller, more portable Lightroom & Photoshop device than my huge 17", full power laptop. The Surface's screen is a tad small for prolonged use of those applications, but the device is quite capable and has fulfilled my primary needs for it.

Perhaps the biggest issue with it is that both Photoshop and Lightroom are "Desktop" style apps and are not designed for a touch device. However, the desktop UI scaling feature of Windows 8/8.1 as well as the Surface Pro's Wacom based stylus help to offset that issue to a degree.

Ultimately, I have been quite happy with the Surface Pro. There have been occasions when having full Photoshop in such a small, but powerful package was truly a life-saver. If I were in the market for a replacement, I would not hesitate to get the Surface Pro 2. They really are the computers I have been waiting 15 to 20 year to own.

Dear Hugh,

And therein lie the rubs! The 1975 Nikon F2S with f/1.4 lens was pricey even for its day. In current dollars (real inflation, not CPI), it would cost between $5,000 and $6,000. You willing to pay that for a camera? Most people aren't. And weren't. And, the Nikon systems kept physically getting bigger and bigger and bigger; add on any modest number of accessories and you were into medium format weights.

The thing is, what made professional-grade cameras affordable were the innovations in modularization and mass production that Canon and Minolta developed in the late 1970s. They revolutionized camera manufacture and drove the prices onto a deflationary curve. Were it not for that, we'd still be accustomed to mid four-figure prices for good cameras.

De-modularization and reconfigurability cost money. Lots of money. They make the camera less comfortable to use, as the trade-off for versatility.

This isn't some immutable law of nature; perhaps someday someone will figure out how to do this without the disadvantages of price and comfort. So far, no one has, and I am doubtful anyone will.

pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

When the original iPad came out I finally rejected it; it was too heavy for me. At 1kg, the MS tablet is heavier and the same weight as my previous laptop. Could I hold it one-handed for a couple of minutes? Sure. Could I do it for half an hour standing on the train? No way.

But there's a larger issue. I now have a Tablet Z, and as a lot of my work happens through a remote connection, I have the needed software and a Microsoft Bluetooth keyboard as well. But in practice I almost never use the tablet for work. There is something indefinably different between working on a laptop and on a tablet, even when I've set them up so they should work the same.

I do different things with the different machines, so I don't need them, or want them, to duplicate their abilities. I want my laptop to be the best possible laptop. I want my tablet to be as thin, light and tablety as human ingenuity can make it. An in-between mix is of no interest to me.

Sorry but I think your premise that most screens are not touch screens is a bit anachronistic. A whole new generation is growing up using nothing but touchscreens. And the percent of PCs sold with touchscreens is ever increasing. This includes laptops, tabets, all-in-ones, and even external screens. I think Microsoft is ahead of the curve on getting the UI right, though some tweaks are needed. As for the Surface Pro, it is not the only device of its kind, and the competition is increasing. Sony, Dell, Lenovo, ASUS, Acer and others all now offer similar products. But I wouldn't expect an Apple aficionado to necessarily notice that :-)

"Do-everything devices usually don't do well in the marketplace"

Yes, but sometimes they blow up the marketplace. e.g. smart phones. The ultimate in integration and a commercial bonanza. The previous most supremely integrated product is the programmable computer.

re: phone plans - check out the T-Mobile $30/month unlimited data plan. It's strangely not promoted, almost kept a secret, and not for those that actually talk a lot on the phones, but great for data driven phone users.

I'm still not convinced by my Surface Pro 2, although I've been working on it since Christmas. But, it's incorrect to think of it primarily as a tablet -- it's primarily a laptop with good tablet functions, but if you want a really good tablet, you probably ought to get an iPad. I have to say, though, that I've read a book on the S2, and the weight (very close to 2 pounds exactly, or a bit more than 900g) didn't bother me -- in fact, it's very close to the weight of the new Stephen King novel, Dr. Sleep. My biggest problem is that I'm simply not used to the touch screen, and as a very long-time mouse user, who is very fussy about his mice, I don't find touch screens that much more useful than a good mouse. Then again, at 2 pounds, it's lighter than my Mac Air, which can't function as a tablet. (And the Mac Air's quite heavy power supply is notably heavier than the S2's) So it's very good for travel...I think there is something in these things, though, and I suspect in ten years, everything will be touch-screen...One really weird thing about the Surface 2. The stylus, which is very effective and eminently loseable, has a magnetic clip on it, that clips it onto a magnetic holder on one edge -- the same magnetic clip used for the charger. So if you want to sit and read for a long time while leaving the S2 plugged in, you have to take off the stylus, which you will then lose. It drives me crazy.

The surface pro 2 could conceivably replace my tablet and laptop - if it was half the weight, and ran macos (not iOS).i have too many apple devices (iPhone, iPad mini, MacBook Pro and big tower hackintosh), but each plays a role. I have thought of ditching the laptop, because the iPad is a very good email device/ web reader, but I then think about writing something really long on the tablet, or trying to edit raw photos on it. I bought the iPad when I already owned the rest of the fleet, because I wanted something I could stick in my camera bag that was more useful than a phone for web browsing and email. Even an ipad air wouldn't fit, but the mini fits just fine. No super sized phone will do for this, because the mini's onscreen keyboard is (barely) big enough to touch type on when it is turned on its side - something with a screen an inch smaller wouldn't be (and something the size of the mini would be an incredibly unwieldy phone - although that may not stop Samsung from trying it). An iPad air would be big enough to touch type on in either orientation, but it is substantially larger and heavier than the mini, and doesn't do anything else better (it isn't better for long documents, nor is it a capable raw file editor). If something the size of an iPad air was actually a capable Mac (not a PC - I will stick to the devil I've known for 30 years since my first Mac 128k) , I might replace both the mini and the MacBook Pro... Better yet, what if it were the size of an iPad air, and then featured a keyboard dock that made it the size of a MacBook Air when attached, but had extra storage. It would have to run real Lightroom ( not necessarily photoshop) and a true word processor with a file system, and be capable of running several applications in different windows, at least when docked. The Surface Pro 2 is getting there, but it is twice the weight of an iPad air, and it runs windows...

I don't know why by I'm perfectly fine using Windows 8.1 on a PC and the latest OS on my iMac. Both run the same programs well, both browse the web. I'm totally used to using the tiles on a non touchscreen computer. I have a much harder time switching between camera bodies.

In a way the internet has forced convergence on the manufacturers, making their functional differences increasingly trivial.

This happens to me all the time; a quick check on Amazon finds Toshiba KIRABook laptops (which seem to be the ones that match the description "13.3" screen, lots of RAM, very fast 256GB SSD (solid state hard disk), 5-6 hour battery life, and multi-core i5 CPUs") costing $1400 and up, not $800-1000.

(In general, I frequently find people posting a description I think I recognize and claiming a price significantly lower than any I can find.)

Maybe I'm just a bad shopper.

One important thing to understand is when convergence isn't the right approach. Microsoft historically seems to have a lot of trouble understanding this. In the past they assumed that users were used to Windows and would want the familiarity and usefulness of Windows in any new device class. This led to a string of devices (tablet PCs, Windows CE/mobile phones) that attempted to impose the user interface of a desktop computer on very different type of device, and those devices ultimately failed to gain traction in the marketplace.

Having been pretty much shut out of the burgeoning tablet and smart phone market, Microsoft then developed an OS designed around a touchscreen interface. Unfortunately, they then attempted to force the touch-centric OS onto desktops and laptops. That didn't work so well (with some analysts claiming that Windows 8 is partially responsible for the world-wide slump in PC sales) and they were forced to release an update that brought back a lot of the desktop-centric user interface features.

At the root of the problem seems to be an inability to understand that different types of devices and user interfaces are good for different things. Converge the parts that make sense (for instance, most of the behind-the-scenes stuff like the underlying hardware and low-level software) but realize that the parts the user interacts with should be optimized towards the strengths of the type of device. So far that's looking like touch-screen interfaces with moderate input precision for "consumption devices" (tablets and phones used for reading, listening, and watching) and keyboard-and-mouse with high input precision for "content creation devices" (computers used for large amounts of input, programming, graphic design, etc). Either type of device can "pinch hit" in the opposite capacity to some extent, but really isn't good at it on a regular basis.

BTW, this isn't meant to be a Microsoft bashing post. They're really very good at some things. Figuring out what's going to work and be accepted by users for new classes of devices, however, usually hasn't been one of them.

Re: Surface Pro 2.
I have the 128 version. And I wish I hadn't. Anyone contemplating buying this device should instead buy a decent notebook plus an inexpensive tablet. It'll cost about the same. The Surface is no substitute for a notebook or a tablet (much too heavy for the latter).

After the disaster of the "RT" release version (which is being dumped at huge loss) you'd hope that MS could get the "2" right. They haven't. Check the MS forums for this device. It's a complete mess where firmware, battery life and updates are concerned with near silence from Microsoft about the lockups, looping updates, broken "updater repair tools" and appalling battery life.

Speaking of which, MS, emulating the dread Apple in so many ways, are now selling a device which cannot have its battery replaced when the performance has declined beyond the point of usability. So, after about two years (an extremely optimistic estimate on currently available information) you need to throw away a nearly £1000 device or confine it to mains power.

There are many, many, other problems with the combination of the SP2 and Win 8.1. I overshot the 21 day return period whilst waiting optimistically for the firmware fixes. I really wanted to like this device.

My advice is to buy something else.


I love the Surface Pro2, but it's as expensive as a full-blown laptop, and in general I don't use tablets for work, just media consumption. So I haven't got one yet.

Windows 8 touch-screen laptops are awesome though. Completely usable by anyone from age 4 upwards. And W8 is perfectly good with mouse and keyboard too. By far the most usable, fast and intuitive OS I've ever used - and in my IT department the geeks just love it.

Many of the users are baffled by it, but they are baffled by iPhones too. So there you go.

I hate touchpads, always have, and frankly find Mac OSX to be something of an abomination. I have to use quite a lot and find it constantly annoying.

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