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# Sunday, 18 November 2012

Here are some tips for using Window 8 with a touchscreen that you might not know about.

Moving Tiles On The Start Screen

It's easy to move tiles around using the mouse, just click and drag the icons from where they are on the start screen. But when you try to do it using a touch screen, you might find it a bit harder, sometimes you end up scrolling the screen instead of dragging the tile.

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What's happening is because if you try to drag a tile directly off it's spot as indicated by the RED arrows, Windows will interpret that as an intent to scroll the screen and you end up scrolling instead of moving the tile. If you want to move the tile via touch, what you need to do is to drag the tile DOWNWARDS first as indicated by the BLUE arrow, once you draw a tile down far enough it'll tear off it's spot in the screen and you can start moving it.

Showing The Keyboard Whenever You Want

The touch keyboard automatically shows up when there's a need for it, do not fret if you need to access the keyboard when there doesn't seem to be anyway for you to do so. Just bring up the Charms Bar, hit Settings then in the lower right corner you'll see a Keyboard icon.

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Hitting the Keyboard icon, brings up the input selection list and at the bottom of the list is the option Touch keyboard and handwriting panel tapping on this option will immediately bring up the touch keyboard.

Getting access to other keys on the keyboard

The default touch keyboard is a nice finger friendly keyboard consisting of the most commonly used keys.

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This is enough for most of your typing duties, but for legacy desktop apps this might not be sufficient, for example you don't have access to the ALT key and also the function keys.

You can enable a fuller keyboard by bringing up the Charms Bar -> Settings -> Change PC Settings (it's at the bottom) Then in the PC settings screen, hit General on the left, then scroll down to the Touch Keyboard section on the right and find the setting Make The Standard Keyboard Available and turn it on.

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Once you turned that setting on you'll now find a new keyboard icon in the change keyboard type button on the touch keyboard (it's the little keyboard icon beside the right arrow key)

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This will bring up the fuller more cramped touch keyboard.

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You can toggle between numbers and function keys by hitting the Fn button in the lower left. One thing to note is that if you encounter any instance where the program doesn't seem to respond to the default keyboard, you might want to try it with the fuller keyboard.

Accessing The Even FULLER Keyboard

You'll notice that on the standard touch keyboard, some keys are still missing. Such as the Print Screen key, you still have one more option, bring up the Start Screen and type On Screen Keyboard.

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This will bring up the legacy on screen keyboard meant for accessibility use.

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This should solve all your legacy keyboard needs.


Sunday, 18 November 2012 13:30:45 (Malay Peninsula Standard Time, UTC+08:00)  #    Comments [0]  | 
# Saturday, 03 September 2011

This post collects all the important Windows 7 Tablet PC posts I have posted on my blog for easy referencing.

The Windows 7 Tablet PC Optimization Guide
If you have a Windows 7 Tablet PC and you want to know how to use it more effectively, this is where you want to go.

A Touch Optimized Windows 7 Theme
Have no time to go through the guide above, just download this theme and make your Windows 7 Tablet PC more touch friendly in a snap. Still not an excuse to skip the guide above!

Why Doesn't Windows Show Me What Keys I Pressed During Password Entry
A solution to a quirk/feature of how the Windows Virtual Keyboard behaves when you're entering passwords.

Browsing Effectively With IE9 via Touch
Some tricks you should know when browsing the net with IE9 using only your fingers.

The Windows 7 Tablet PC Experience
Don't have a Windows 7 Tablet PC yet, and wondering how the experience is? Check out this post for videos on both the good AND bad experiences of a Windows 7 Tablet PC

Why A Windows 7 Tablet PC Will Never Be 'Better' Than An Apple iPad
A post discussing the topic above.

Why Desktop Browsers Don't Smooth Zoom Like Mobile/Tablet Browsers
Points out why a desktop browser running on Windows DOES NOT smooth zoom like on things like an Apple iPad, why this is the case and why smooth zoom in a browser is not a performance measurement.


Saturday, 03 September 2011 01:20:51 (Malay Peninsula Standard Time, UTC+08:00)  #    Comments [0]  | 
# Sunday, 07 August 2011

And so... another year, another attempt to get the ultimate meeting Tablet PC. The Asus T101MT generally worked well but with palm rejection mode on, writing on the screen had some irritating problems every now and then, but since I had no other choice at the time I lived with it. And of course, now I've find a replacement. The Fujitsu T580

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Once again I've gone with the convertible form factor.

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The Fujitsu T580 again falls under the portable notebook category with it's 10" screen, for general tech specs you can refer to the Fujitsu Product information site. So what made me decide to get the T580?

Hybrid Digtizer

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The NUMBER ONE reason is that the T580 has a hybrid digitizer, so not only does it have a 4 point capacitive multi touch screen, it has a honest to god DIGITIZER, which means writing on the screen with the digitizer pen is FANTASTIC.... Except for 2 problems.

The first problem is that I can't figure out how the digitizer works, wheter it's magnetic reasonance (inference.. or whatever) like a Wacom pen or ultra sound like this pen I once had. Why am I even interested in how it works? Because sometimes the pen goes crazy (once so far) and acts like I never lifted it up from the screen, and this was exactly how crazy the old ultrasound pen would get when it had too much interference. Some people attribute it to N-Trig's (the OEM provider for the pen) QA problems with manufacturing the pens but I'm not too sure about that.

The second problem is that the pen is powered, while don't mind having a powered pen. The problem is that the power source that the pen uses is a AAAA battery, no I didn't spell it wrongly, I DID say A A A A. Here's how it looks sitting next to a AAA.

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Yes, I also didn't know AAAA batteries existed till when the Tablet PC was first launched and the Compaq models used them. It seems like they decided to go with AAAA because of it's slimmer profile in order to be able to make it small enough to fit inside the pen silo

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Having the pen kept inside the device is always a good thing no matter what Steve Jobs said. That said, I do have one worry about the T580's pen silo, it seems to hold the pen via friction instead of any lock mechanism so I do wonder how long would it last.

So where do you BUY AAAA batteries? Well, I've found ONE shop in Malaysia that actually stocks them... I should go buy a pack for emergencies even though they mentioned one battery last a year.

The other method of getting AAAA like batteries is to butcher a 9V battery.

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A 9V battery consists of 6 1.5V cells that are slightly shorter than a AAAA battery, the polarity points are usually reversed, not ALL of them salvaged this way can be used in the pen but at least I have a way to get some in a pinch.

Power in a tiny package

Even though it has the tiny footprint of a 10" notebook, the T580 comes equipped with a Intel Core i5 1.3Ghz, which can turbo boost to 2.0Ghz under load. That's enough to do pretty much any work I have for it! While the powerful processor might turn out to be a power hog and shorten battery life, I created a special power profile which I use during meetings which puts the maximum processor performance at 45% and STILL it runs OneNote pretty well and have about 3.5 hours of battery life.

One interesting added advantage about all that power is that the integrated Intel HD graphics GPU is DirectX 10 compliant (compliant, doesn't mean it has great performance) And therefore the system is more than capable of running the Windows Phone 7 emulator, that coupled with the availability of a multitouch capable touchscreen means the T580 is an ideal Windows Phone 7 development machine, because with a multitouch device you can debug multitouch code on the Windows Phone 7 emulator itself without the need for an actual device!

The Extras

The T580 comes with a built in 3G modem, evident by the presence of a flat little antennae on the top of the screen.

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Which means I could just turn off the normal Wi-Fi radios to save power.

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At least I could IF turning of the wireless switch didn't turn off WiFi, Bluetooth AND the 3G modem as well. Luckily through the use of Fujitsu's own Power Saving Utility applet I am able to selectively turn off WiFi and Bluetooth radios only.

Another added surprise is that the T580's SATA hard disk slot is easily accesible.

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I immediately splurged on a 64GB SSD to replace the 500GB Hard Disk that it came with so that I don't have to worry about any problems that moving around a spinning hard disk might cause.

Summary

The Fujitsu T580 was not my first choice as a replacement for my Asus T101MT, I was initially looking at the sleek Fujitsu Q550 Slate Tablet PC, but all the enterprise features which Fujitsu put in it pushed the price up to a level which I was not comfortable to get something just to work as my notepad, since that is what the Q550's main responsibility would have been cause its powered by an Intel Atom CPU. Where as with the Fujitsu T580, I have a complete ultra portable development machine to work with.

My usage of Tablet PCs are always compared to the iPad, and people have always mocked the weight and thickness of my convertibles. But it's ok, my Tablet PCs allow me to get actual work done so I don't care too much about that any more.


Sunday, 07 August 2011 00:17:07 (Malay Peninsula Standard Time, UTC+08:00)  #    Comments [0]  | 
# Wednesday, 03 August 2011

One thing which I just realized I missed out in my Windows Tablet PC optimization article is the little quirk of a feature which the Windows Tablet PC Soft Keyboard has, is that when you’re trying to enter a password in a text entry field that PROPERLY identifies itself as a password field to Windows, the soft keyboard WILL NOT show you what key you’ve pressed. This is obviously a security feature to stop people from trying to steal a peek at your passwords when you’re entering them.

It’s also one of those annoying security features more so with a touch screen because there’s literally ZERO FEEDBACK from the keyboard indicating you pressed a key.

Luckily its easy enough to fix. Just head on over to the Options menu on the Input Panel.

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Then in the Options dialog which opens, select the Advanced tab, then drag the slider to the MEDIUM setting. (By default this should be at medium high)

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This will make the keys on the keyboard flash when you touch them, but still keep the mouse cursor hidden so there’s still some protection from prying eyes. Experiment with the various other settings on the slider to see if there’s any other setting you prefer.

Update : seems like this doesn’t work with the Windows lock screen’s keyboard. Pity..


Wednesday, 03 August 2011 22:17:37 (Malay Peninsula Standard Time, UTC+08:00)  #    Comments [0]  | 
# Saturday, 02 April 2011

After looking at the Acer Iconia Tab today and again shaking my head in disgust that Acer didn't optimize their Windows enviroment for touch use. It suddenly hit me that I could just create a Windows 7 Theme file for the touch optimized settings which I talk about in my Windows 7 Touch Optimization article so people could just apply it and immediately be on step closer to a better touch experience.

So here it is.

Windows 7 Touch Optimized Theme.

Note that I always believe that these touch optimizations should be tailored to a person's personal usage so do remember to check out the touch optimization article even after you apply the theme!


Saturday, 02 April 2011 23:17:28 (Malay Peninsula Standard Time, UTC+08:00)  #    Comments [0]  | 
# Wednesday, 16 February 2011
A common misconception is that you can interact with a touch enabled Windows 7 PC in exactly the same way as you do with a mouse and keyboard. Well, you CAN'T. If you keep thinking about how to interact with your Windows 7 PC via touch in exactly the same way as through traditional methods you'll run into a few problems which are likely caused by the fact that you are unable to do what you want to do via touch, and you're unfamiliar with the touch alternative to what you want to do. So here's a little guide about how to browse effectively with Internet Explorer via touch ONLY.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011 00:56:47 (Malay Peninsula Standard Time, UTC+08:00)  #    Comments [8]  | 
# Thursday, 30 September 2010

After installing the latest Internet Explorer 9 Beta on my Tablet PC I noticed a very worrying problem. The IE9 UI degraded my Tablet PC surfing experience compared to IE8. Ok, let’s me show you the problem.

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The picture above is the top of a maximized IE9 window displayed on my Asus T101MT when it’s in Portrait mode, therefore it has a width of only 600pixels in this configuration. There are > 3 tabs opened in the browser. So at first glance the problems are:-

  • Address bar has limited space making it hard to read or enter an address
  • Tab display area has limited space, making it hard to navigate between tabs.

Let’s see how it used to look in IE8.

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So obviously more VERTICAL screen space is used up, at first glance you can see these UI problems

  • Address bar has limited space, after being squished by the search bar which was given the ability to extend way more than it should.
  • Tab display area is VERY cramped, only able to display the current opened tab.

So, how is IE8 better than IE9 in this UI aspect? Because of a little known thing called the tab list!

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Clicking on the drop down to the left of the tab row shows a list of your currently opened tabs which can then be easily used to navigate between tabs. But instead of just a plain list, you could also click the left most button and bring up the quick tabs view which looks like this.

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And you have a nice visual way of navigating between tabs. Honestly I didn’t use this feature AT ALL before I started using the Asus in slate mode, AFTER I did though this was a GREAT way of moving between tabs. It’s basically how mobile browsers work when they let users navigate between tabs as well.

Fixing this UI problem is actually VERY easy, since everyone says that Microsoft stole the whole simplistic UI from Google Chrome, let’s bring up Chrome then.

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This is Google Chrome maximized on the screen. With only 600 pixels to display tabs with, it probably can’t fit too many as well, BUT… look at the address bar, since the address bar is on it’s own line it has plenty of space to actually be USEFUL.

So the best thing that the IE team can do now is to stop fighting over who has the most compact title bar chrome and split off the tabs and address bar into 2 rows, bring back the Quick Tabs button and the user experience for Tablet PCs can be brought back to functional instead of annoying. Smile with tongue out


Thursday, 30 September 2010 23:55:28 (Malay Peninsula Standard Time, UTC+08:00)  #    Comments [0]  | 
# Sunday, 26 September 2010

Whenever people compare performance between an iPad and a Windows Tablet, they always like to fire up the browser, try to pan the page around by dragging. Then finding not much difference between the two, they’ll then proceed to pinch zoom. At which point they’ll promptly point out that the Windows Tablet is slower because the browser will stutter during zoom instead of smoothly zooming around the page.

To see the effect which they’re seeing on your Windows browser (I don’t know wheter it’ll be the same on others), hold down CTRL and slide your mouse wheel up and down, this will zoom your browser in and out a few times, and you’ll see that it’s not a smooth zoom but rather in steps.

What the people are comparing with is a smooooooooooth zoom experience on the iPads, or rather most mobile browsers. Which looks something like this. (Below is a webpage hosted as an image by zoom.it, if you don’t have Silverlight installed the Javascript viewer will be used and it might not be buttery smooth). Just go ahead and fiddle around image by dragging it around, scrolling in and out with your mousewheel.

OK, so now you’ve seen the 2 types of zooming and panning which people like to compare tablet performance with. If you tried out both zooming methods you would also have noticed that the mobile browsers have a nice fluid zoom movement, whereas your desktop browser didn’t have that. Does this mean your desktop browser sucks?

Not really, because the 2 browsers don’t really zoom the same way.

A mobile browser renders the page into something akin to a very large and long image, zooming is then achieved by panning and moving around the image. Hence the use of zoom.it to simulate the mobile browser navigation experience.

A desktop browser renders the page based on how big the browser window is, dimensions defined in the document, etc. etc. For every page you view in your browser it has to perform a layout pass to determine where exactly to place that 250 pixels wide center aligned paragraph of 12pt text in the window. What does this have to do with zooming? When desktop browsers zoom, they are basically (I’m doing a very general explanation of it, I realize that it could be much more complicated than this) bumping up the defined sizes in the webpage, therefore at 150% zoom the 12pt text now becomes 12 * 1.5 = 18pt.

Because the size of the elements have changed the browser would have to perform a new layout pass whenever the zoom level is changed. This is not so much of a problem on a normal desktop where a user would explicitly select a zoom level from a drop down menu and immediately choose the zoom level they want. When operating with touch gestures the user is basically cycling through zoom increments at a rapid pace which desktop browsers weren’t designed for.

You might ask why don’t desktop browsers just implement a rendering method similar to how mobile browsers work, while that would just solve the problem of the desktop browser’s poor performance I’m sure some other deeply engrained legacy issue would crop up since that’s basically how IE, Firefox and Chrome work right now and there’s must be some reason why all 3 of them work essentially the same way.


Sunday, 26 September 2010 23:19:53 (Malay Peninsula Standard Time, UTC+08:00)  #    Comments [0]  | 
# Saturday, 25 September 2010

I’ve been using a Windows Tablet PC for as many years as they’ve been out. I’ve already compiled my own list of Tablet PC optimization tips and since everyone’s going slate crazy now, I’ve been going keyboardless too. Through out my use of a Windows 7 Tablet PC, I’ve always felt that while it’s not perfect (mostly due to apps that don’t work well with only the mouse) it’s really not the hopeless scenario which most of the tech sites paint it out to be.

I guess the best thing I could do then would be to make videos of my Windows Tablet PC Experience, starting off with a general introduction to the Windows Touch Experience.

Then we get to the all important question of "What makes a Windows Tablet PC so special?"

And finally the stumbling blocks when using a Windows 7 Tablet PC


Saturday, 25 September 2010 21:12:50 (Malay Peninsula Standard Time, UTC+08:00)  #    Comments [0]  | 
# Monday, 13 September 2010

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As I mentioned previously, I would attempt to FULLY use my Asus T101MT in slate (that means without keyboard access for those unfamiliar with the term) mode and now here are the findings from my little adventure.

Know The Shortcuts And Gestures For Using Windows Without A Keyboard :- Everyone who uses an iOS device is familiar with the various gestures such as swiping, pinch to zoom, rotate, etc. etc. As I mentioned in my Windows 7 Touch Optimization article, do read the help about what kind of gesture are available for Windows 7 Touch. It's also important to note any useful shortcuts that might help you when you're using your apps, for example :- Most Windows web browsers don't have a way to easily clear the address bar and get it ready for a fresh URL like Safari on the iPhone, instead of having to try to select the whole address bar by using your fingers you can also just hit the ESC key on the virtual keyboard when the address bar has focus, that usually selects the full address which you can then easily clear and replace.

There's An App For That! :- That's one of the primary tag lines which the iOS crowd likes to use. To which I can just ask "Is there an app to watch a 720P Soft Subbed MKV video file LOCALLY on your device without the need of any form of encoding?" Or I guess I can just ask the simpler "Does it play RMVBs then?" On a REAL PC, be it Windows, Linux or Mac, there IS definetly an app for that! But...

The Apps Aren't Touch Friendly :- Most apps on the PC were not made to be touch friendly, they were meant to be operated via keyboard and mouse. While the Windows 7 Touch features can make interacting with these apps possible it's less than ideal in some cases, and downright impossible in others. This is a classic Chicken and Egg problem, there aren't that many Windows 7 SLATES out there to call it a viable market, and thus developers don't really concentrate on this niche category of applications for now. One of the worst/best examples of apps that just expect a keyboard and mouse to be around is Adobe Reader, once in full screen mode, left click goes to the next page, right click goes to the previous page. To exit full screen mode, press the ESC key. If it wasn't for the fact the Tablet Input Panel bar is always floating around at the side of the screen my little keyboardless experiment would have ended right then. Smile with tongue out This of course means most fullscreen games are totally unplayable unless they can work without the use touching the keyboard at all.

Windows Resume From Stand By Works :- One of the primary arguments about Windows 7 as a UMPC is that it takes too long to boot up, when I ask those people why don't they just standby or hibernate they tell me the system crashes on resume. Well... go complain to your hardware manufacturer and ask them to make drivers that sleep and wakeup properly! My Asus Tablet PC wakes up from standby in less than 10 seconds, just like the old UH900, just like the old U1010. Proper drivers ensure proper sleep operation. How long does it take to go from waking up from standby to normal operation? Well... that depends on what password you use to lock your system then. Winking smile

Microsoft OneNote ROCKS! :- I've known this since the first time I booted up OneNote, I don't know which was the first note I created, but the oldest note I have in my OneNote notebook is dated July 2003. If you haven't yet experienced Microsoft OneNote, you should give it a whirl. My executive summary of what Microsoft OneNote is would have to be, You know that notebook/legal pad/scrap book you carry around to meetings? The one where you put down your ideas, circle off problem points and other tasks? THAT's what OneNote is, a flexible notetaking application. It indexes your text for easy searching, and it indexes the best guess of your HANDWRITING for easy searching too!

I'm still using the Asus in slate form most of the time, I'm growing more and more comfortable to being keyboardless and Windows 7's touch features do make it very much possible to use it that way. As I've said before, a Windows 7 Tablet PC will never be better than an iPad. You can't even compare them as Apples to Apples since they can't be categorized as the same thing as much as Steve Jobs would want to. (in the sense that an iPad can be used as a NetBook) But taken on it's own merits, can Windows 7 be used purely driven by touch? Yes, there might be some bumps here pertaining to some usability issues with some apps, but yes it is possible.


Monday, 13 September 2010 00:38:51 (Malay Peninsula Standard Time, UTC+08:00)  #    Comments [0]  | 
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