Four months of 2013: Technology

And so marks the start of the holidays, and the end of my fourth year in NUS (no, I’ve not graduated yet due to the requirements of my course). It has definitely been a tiring semester (due to the crazy things I did, as blogged previously), and I hope the three months break serves well for me to settle down a little and recover from the burnout I’ve been experiencing.

More onto that next time, but for now I wanna write down some interesting technology-related things I did this semester that aided in my studies and revision. I’ve used an iPad two years ago the entire semester and I was pretty pleased with how it helped me in terms of lecture notes etc, so I wanted to try that again especially since I got myself many school-empowering gadgets recently.

Motorola Atrix + Lapdock

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Image credits: Amazon

Man, this thing is gorgeous. I bought this phone-lapdock combo together with the Xoom tablet (to be reviewed later) together for a reasonable price of S$465 as I was really interested in the lapdock usage, and I wanted to get a cheap tablet for my brother to use.

But… Despite the gorgeous build, the lapdock was severely crippled by the software running on it. Webtop 1.0 was excruciatingly slow; even with me hacking the software to install a more customizable Linux build and running it off a Class 10 SD card, Linux apps still took ages to run (particularly Firefox – but wasn’t that the whole point of the Webtop?). I’ve felt the same issue when I was using my Atom-powered netbook. Furthermore, due to Motorola’s incompetency to providing a working version of Android 4.0+ on the Atrix, it basically meant that I had to stay with Android 2.3 if I wanted to use the Webtop.

I spent the most of my school time running the Atrix + Lapdock combo on a semi-working version of Android 4.1 (thanks to epinter @ XDA), as it employs HDMI mirroring to replicate the phone screen on the lapdock screen, and that was sufficient for me. I used Repligo Reader to read and type notes on my PDF files, and the extra power from the lapdock basically meant that my Atrix seldom ran out of battery in my daily use. However, being a Mathematics major, I ran into major problems with writing mathematical formulas – I had to resort to using my netbook to type out the equations in Microsoft Word.

Capture

How I ended up typing binomial coefficients (annotation in red).

One good thing about the Lapdock, though, is its fantastic battery life. You can probably use it all day without needing to recharge it.

Thanks to the fantastic community over at XDA, the Atrix is on its way to a perfectly working kernel for Android 4.0+, meaning that the issues with 4.0+ on the Atrix (such as poor video recording and lack of graphics acceleration) will soon be resolved. I am patiently waiting. 🙂

Motorola Xoom

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My Xoom running on CM10.1 (Android 4.2.1).

Since my brother started his practicum in Northland Secondary School, he hasn’t been using the Xoom, so I “stole” it from him together with the Adonit Jot Pro precision stylus that I bought for his birthday. As compared to the lapdock, the Xoom felt like both a leap forward and a step back. While it excelled in drawing diagrams (and my math equations), it lacked a physical keyboard, which beats the onscreen keyboard on the Xoom anytime. (In fact, I am typing this post on the Xoom, and correcting my spelling every 5 words or so.) I borrowed a Logitech Bluetooth keyboard from my friend, but it didn’t seem to register certain keys as I type them, and the keys that lose functionality seems to randomize on every connection attempt I make between the Xoom and the keyboard. Shame on you Logitech.

After numerous hours of research for a good writing/notes app, I settled down at Freenote, a lightweight and free notes app that automatically resizes your handwriting to become small notes, has a variety of drawing tools, and most importantly, allows exporting of my notes into PDF and images, which I do use very often. Very useful. Sadly, it doesn’t allow importing of PDFs, and for that I use Adobe Reader for basic annotation on PDF files. (Another app you might want to try is LectureNotes, but it pretty much slows to a crawl on my Xoom.)

Screenshot_2013-05-13-21-51-20

Freenote in action. (The word ‘simplifying’ will be resized to fit like the words in the background.)

As for the Adonit Jot Pro… Mixed feelings I have. While it is definitely the most accurate stylus I’ve ever used (due to its design), I find myself rewriting most of the time as the Xoom always fails to register its strokes if I did not put in enough strength into writing. I guess it’s an issue with the touchscreen sensitivity of the Xoom, but I expected better from a Stylus that cost me S$39.90. Heck, even a $5 normal ball tip stylus performed better in registering its strokes on the Xoom. And there are evident scratches on the capacitive plate of the stylus which might probably affect its sensitivity.

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The Adonit Jot Pro – image credits: Techradar

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I brought my netbook around with my tablet to school, and I have to repeat, a physical keyboard really beats an onscreen one, especially when you have to type fast. I thought the iPad onscreen keyboard was slightly better. My experience with Android notes taking hasn’t been the best, but I’ve seen my friends with the Galaxy Note 10.1 having a really good time, so I guess you really gotta get a tablet with a dedicated non-capacitive stylus to make the best out of productivity on Android.

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One thought on “Four months of 2013: Technology

  1. Pingback: My 2013 | xianyou

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