This week in Mobile News Manor #6: Thoughts from the road

This is a peek into a technology writer’s home office, aka Mobile News Manor, discussing gadgets, apps, best practices using same, and ebooks. This week was spent on the road.
Written by James Kendrick, Contributor

One of the primary benefits of being a technology writer is the ability to work in my home office, aka Mobile News Manor (MNM). It is a bustling place, with evaluation gadgets constantly arriving and going back to the vendors. As part of my daily work I spend a fair bit of time testing these gadgets for review, and also looking at new apps for various platforms to streamline my work methods.

This column is my look back each week to share pertinent experiences that I believe you might find useful. There is no telling what you might find in this column, but you’ll definitely get a feel for what it is like testing gadgets for a living. Welcome to the Manor.

Taking the Manor to the road

I spent most of this week on the West Coast attending a seminar with quite a few bloggers and journalists. It was great seeing some old friends and meeting some new ones in the process. The seminar was followed by the HP webOS event in San Francisco, where I got to see the new Pre 3, Veer and TouchPad up close.

Last week I detailed the mobile kit I was considering taking on this road trip, and it served me well. I ended up bringing the MacBook, as I realized I would need some information on the MacBook that wasn't on the ThinkPad. That was a good decision as the information came in handy during the trip.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab was the most-used gadget on the trip which surprised me. The seminar was a two-day affair and the Tab was the perfect tool to keep online for the duration as I didn't need to write during the sessions. The MacBook was used at night in the hotel room to get serious writing done, but the Tab was used the rest of the time.

I brought my HD video camera along as I expected I would shoot video of the new webOS gear at the HP event, but in the end I left it in the bag and used the Tab for that task. The Galaxy Tab camera is quite good, and I ended up using it for all still camera shots and for shooting 720p video. The recorded video turned out well, and the anti-shake technology Samsung uses is even better than that on my video camera. It was great keeping the Tab in my jacket pocket, ready to pull out and shoot video when needed.

There were quite a few MacBook Airs at this seminar, and all of them were the smaller 11-inch model. Everyone I asked couldn't say enough nice things about the Air, especially how portable it is. I am impressed with the MacBook Air I admit, but I think the 13-inch model would be more to my liking given the longer battery life. I was in the minority in this group, with the smaller model the one of preference with no regrets.

One device being used caught my eye, as it was the most portable computing solution in use on the trip. Ed Hardy of Brighthand fame left his laptop at home and brought his iPad. The iPad wasn't alone, however, as Ed was using it with the Zaggmate keyboard/case. This case turned Ed's iPad into a small, light laptop, and he was using it the entire trip. The keyboard is not quite full-size but according to Ed it's big enough for rapid typing. I believe it as I watched him pound out hundreds (if not thousands) of words using the Zaggmate/iPad combination.

Ed attended the HP event too, and he was able to use this combo sitting in the audience, with it perched on his lap like a notebook. It was impressive seeing this in action, as it is even smaller than the little MacBook Air. Ed had nothing bad to say about the kit, and in fact couldn't say enough good things about the portability and battery life.

Some online blogging activities can't be done on the iPad, complex editing in particular. Ed simply used LogMeIn to access an office computer for such final editing work, and praised the method. I've used LogMeIn on the iPad and can attest to how well it handles this type of work. The Zaggmate is definitely worth giving a hard look if you have an iPad and want to travel as light as possible. Having seen it in action for three days I am convinced how viable this solution can be for those who write for a living.

I was excited to find a 7-inch Android tablet waiting for me upon my return from the trip. The Identity Tab is being sold by Dynamism and the build quality is even better than that of the Galaxy Tab. The brushed aluminum casing is as good as that on the iPad, in fact if Apple built a small iPad it would likely look very much like the Identity Tab. Unfortunately, this unit has a low resolution display (800x480), but a higher resolution model will be available later.

This is a pre-production unit and does not have the software that will be shipping to customers so I will hold off my coverage until I get the final software build. That will include Froyo and the Android Market, which will be on shipping units.

App of the week

Sprint is now rolling out firmware updates for the Samsung Galaxy Tab, and my unit just got the OTA update. This is a minor maintenance update and as it just arrived I can't comment on any changes. There are some minor cosmetic differences that I notice, but nothing else yet. It's good to see Sprint and Samsung get this update out to customers, something that Samsung has been slow to do for other Galaxy S devices.

E-book of the week

This week I've been reading an interesting science fiction novel that takes place in the present. The Second Ship by Richard Phillips is the first novel in a series that deals with two alien space ships that crashed on Earth decades ago. The story revolves around the secret government project studying one of the ships, and the teenagers who find the second one in a cave. It is an interesting read and shows good promise for a series.


It's good to be home, but the trip was a great one spent with lots of smart people. My mobile gear served me well and the exposure to gadgets I haven't used yet was priceless. I'll be back next week with the continuing happenings at Mobile News Manor.

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