Saturday, August 17, 2019

Asus CT100 Chrome OS Tablet

Although Google is indicating that they are getting out of the tablet market and the Pixel Slate is their last tablet, it doesn't mean the ChromeOS tablet is dead.  Company like HP, Acer and ASUS continue to work on using ChromeOS for tablets.  HP's approach is still directed more towards a 2-in-1 laptop/tablet experience while Acer is targeting the education market (but it seems like it falls short on performance).  

Of all of these, ASUS' CT100 tablet has gotten me the most excited!



ASUS is also targeting the CT100 towards education but it is perfectly suited for anyone looking for a quality 10" tablet.  Instead of an premium metal body of the Google Pixel Slate and HP Chromebook x2, the CT100 has a more rugged texture body with rubber borders to offer better protection.  It makes sense since it is targeted towards school and kids, but for those who usually put a case on their tablet for protection (and thus covering up the premium finish) this would actually save you from having to do that.

The weight and balance is good for one hand use and although it feels thicker then the Slate since it doesn't need its own case in the end it might actually be thinner.

The screen is great and is both sharp and bright.  It comes with a stylus including a place to hold it.  It's capable of running web apps (ChromeOS gives you a full fledged Chrome browser), Linux and Android apps (it seems to run Android apps better then my Pixel Slate).

The performance of the tablet is very good both for web browsing and Android apps.

The price is $330 is very good for a tablet of this quality.  Unless you need a 12" screen or 2-in-1, I would say that this is the tablet to get!





Google Pixel Slate - Mobile Workstation

I found myself needed a new tablet when my Pixel C tablet died.  The Pixel C was a very nice Android tablet and I've gotten used to that form factor (10").  I mainly use a tablet at home and primarily for consuming content such as reading and watching videos as well as handling some home automation controls.  For Android, I prefer the stock Android experience which I'm most comfortable with, but with Google having stopped making Android tablets (including the Pixel C) there aren't many options out there so I decided to give the Google Pixel Slate a try.

Image result for pixel slate

Pixel Slate & ChromeOS


Despite sharing the "Pixel" name the Pixel Slate is a ChromeOS device and Google's first (and only?) ChromeOS tablet.  I'm a big fan of ChromeOS but have only used it as a laptop.  Even when I'm using the Pixelbook, which can flip to be used in tablet form, I've only used it as a laptop since I find  it too bulky to use as a tablet.  The Slate doesn't come in a 10" form factor (ASUS has released a 10" ChromeOS tablet that has been excellent) and is only available with a 12" screen.  While the Slate can be viewed as a Pixelbook without a keyboard, that doesn't do it justice since it feels a lot more comfortable when held then a keyboard-less Pixelbook.  Still, I was somewhat hesitant to use a 12" tablet, but there are additional advantages with the Slate that ultimately led me to get it: Android support, Linux support and laptop mode.

When a keyboard is attached, it behaves just like a ChromeOS laptop.  This is essentially a 2-in-1 device which is useful when traveling since I don't need to bring a tablet and a laptop with me.

ChromeOS also don't get re-skinned like the Android launcher by OEMs so the experience is the same across all devices across all manufacturer.

Android Apps


ChromeOS now supports running Android apps so I can still access my Android apps although I prefer to use the web version since I now have a full Chrome browser.  In tablet mode, though, some apps are much more intuitive to use the Android version.  It's pretty clear that many web applications assume the user is using a desktop machine rather then one that uses touch as it's main interaction mode.   These are the times when the Slate will give the impression that ChromeOS is not very polished when compared to Android but in general it seems to be more on the app developer then the OS.

I have noticed that sometimes Android apps tries to start and either takes a while to come up or run into an issue.  I usually restart the tablet in these situation and the issue is fine.

Linux


ChromeOS is now capable of running Linux so I can do all my software engineering work without having to switch to developer mode. 

This a big deal for me as this allows me to just bring the Slate instead of a tablet and a laptop pair.

Accessories


I mainly will use laptop mode when I'm traveling.  While the on-screen keyboard works fine when I'm  using the Slate at home as a tablet, when doing a lot of typing it is still easier to have a physical keyboard.  I bought the Brydge C Bluetooth keyboard.  This keyboard can also be connected directly to the Slate and used in wired mode.

Brydge C-Type

For a mice, I use the Microsoft Surface mouse and I have a Pixel Pen.

At home, I use a hand strap to make holding the tablet with one hand a little more secure and when traveling I use an Incipio Carnaby Google Pixel Slate Folio  case for a little bit of protection, to stand up the Slate and can hold the pen.

Performance


The knock against the Pixel has been (1) performance and (2) sometimes it doesn't feel very "tablet" like.  The latter is primarily because the web apps often are built assuming you're using a mouse+keyboard and android apps often are designed for such a big screen.  I personally found it to be fairly minor but if you use Android apps exclusively then sticking with a Android tablet might be better.

For the former, most of the negative stems from the low end Pixel Slate that were too under powered.  I have the i5 model and the performance has been fine.  The only time where I felt the Slate is slow is when powering on.   It takes a few seconds after hitting the power button before seeing the Google logo appear (this is when the Slate is completely turned off).  Recovering from Sleep is fast and the screen can be unlock with your finger print.

Conclusion


The Pixel Slate is a great dual purpose device.  When used as a tablet it works pretty well but starting Android apps don't feel as fast.  When used as a Chrome laptop, add the keyboard, mouse and folio case and it will be a very serviceable laptop especially for traveling or as a secondary computer (and primary tablet).

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Upgrading Fedora 29 to 30

Did another upgrade from Fedora 29 to 30.  Didn't ran into any issues to report.  Very smooth upgrade process.

Update:  I noticed that Chrome now shows that it's "managed by your organization".  This message shows up if there are any chrome://policy defined.  Turns out Fedora 30 does install some policy.  To remove then:  'sudo dnf remove fedora-chromium-config'.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

eBags Professional Slim Long Term Review

I've been using the eBags Professional Slim as my every day carry (EDC) backpack for about a year and a half.  It is a well thought-out, high-quality and great value backpack that is great for techies and urban professionals.  I've not had any problems with it the 1.5 years that I've been using it for work and I would recommend it to others.  However, I am planning to change to another backpack soon for reasons not related to the backpack itself.



Nomatic Travel Pack Long Term Review

I've now had the chance to use my Nomatic Travel Pack (not to be confused with the Nomatic Travel Bag or Nomatic Backpack) on multiple trips (both domestic and international) so here is my long term review of this backpack.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Dragon Quest XI

For most of last year after playing Shadow of the Colossus there weren't really any games that captured my time as much as Nier:Automata and Persona 5.  I spent a short bit of time here-and-there on sports games such as NBA2K, Madden and NBA2K Playground, but it wasn't until X-mas time that I got Dragon Quest XI.  Now some 90 hours laters, I've reach the post-game portion of DQ.


Dragon Question XI is a very pure JRPG.  It sticks to the JRPG formula almost religiously.  If you like classic JRPGs then DQXI is for you!  If you don't like classic JRPGs then DQXI doesn't try to deviate in anyway to bring in new fans so you will probably still not like it with one exception.  If what turned you off from JRPGs is the XP grind then fortunately DQXI doesn't require it.  Just progressing through the game will generally keep you at the right levels and with just a little bit of time spent away from the main story line will get your characters to a level where the battles will be fairly easy to win.

DQXI is a fun game.  I didn't realize how much time was spent while I was playing.  It wasn't that I was so focused and absorbed but rather that the game moves along at a fairly light and fast pace.  I feel this was very intentional.  It seems very deliberate by the developer to have you enjoy the game and not try to fight the game.  Even the location of items (minus treasure chests) is available on the map so you don't have to search for them.  This is a game that tries very hard not to frustrate players.

The story is good and the characters are fine, but because of the way you interact with the other characters (which feels limited) I didn't feel as much of an attachment to them as I did to characters in Nier or Persona.  The characters were more like chess pieces to be use in different configurations when going into battle.  The graphics are nice and modern (in the sense that it's created for the current generation of consoles).

I wish the main character would express more emotions because he felt kind of like a robot, and the music was not very inspiring (I turned the volume of the music pretty low).  DQXI in Japan did not have any voice acting but they included the English dubs for the US release.  I turned it off and just read the text and experienced the game as it would've been in Japan (Note:  The japan release of DQXI on the Nintendo Switch will include Japanese voice acting.).

These are fairly minor and obviously if I have spent over 90 hours playing it that I felt it is a good game and worth playing especially if you are a fan of classic style JRPGs.

Nomatic Travel Pack and Peak Design Tech Pouch Hack

I've been intrigued by the Peak Design Tech Pouch (Amazon) because of its promise of "enormous spatial efficiency, letting you pack more into a smaller space while keeping your items neatly organized and easy to find."  For cables and small items like flash drives, cable adapters, etc. I've been using the Bagsmart Travel Organizer but for larger bulkier items like the laptop's power adapter, usb wall chargers, etc. I've been using the various organization pockets of my Nomatic Travel Pack backpack.  The main downside is to to get access to the larger items requires always having the backpack with me.  When traveling it becomes a bit cumbersome such when having to access the backpack on the plane.

The Nomatic doesn't have any external loops that is often found on other backpacks for hooking things onto but it does have two loops near the base for attaching its waist straps.  The Tech Pouch has two loops so I decided to attach the pouch to the backpack through these external loops.  This allowed me to not use any space inside the backpack and have easy access to the items.


When setting the backpack down, the pouch moves to the back so the backpack isn't sitting on top of it.


When the backpack is being carried the pouch falls underneath the backpack comfortably.


The pouch is not as wide as the backpack so to allow the carabiners to reach and allow enough slack for the pouch to move, I got a 12" tie down loop straps that I ran through the pouch's loops and attached the carabiners to the strap's loops.

The set up worked out very well.  When I was on the plane, I detached the pouch from the backpack (which I put in the overhead bin) to keep with me.  When I was at the office, I can access everything I needed from the pouch instead of going through the different backpack pockets and having to return everything back to their place in the backpack. 

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Upgrading to Fedora 29

Once again it is time to upgrade Fedora.  Not trouble at all with the upgrade and it went pretty fast.  Simply followed the instruction from Fedora Magazine.