Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Getting things done during a project meeting...with a Windows tablet

I recently had the opportunity to attend a consortium meeting of the OpenMinTeD Horizon 2020 project; I am personally involved in the dissemination and training activities, representing Agroknow. I was expecting that during the meeting I would have to keep notes using a GDoc, revise my slides through PowerPoint, browse the Web, check and respond to emails, update the Agroknow social media accounts and maybe edit some additional documents.

Last time I participated in a project meeting, I used my Acer Aspire One 751h netbook; an under-powered machine, which was recently upgraded to 2GB of RAM but still featured a slow Atom Z520 CPU @1,3GHz and a GMA500 graphics chipset. It runs on Windows 10 Home Edition and it's not that most responsive OS I've used on it, so the night before the meeting I decided to install Lubuntu (a lightweight flavor of Ubuntu), with which I am familiar. I also setup Libre Office and Dropbox, so that I would have access to my files. However, mostly due to the fact that Google Chrome & Chromium were so heavy on resources, using the netbook even for light tasks (e.g. for blogging) was a terribly time-consuming process. This was the time I swore that it would be the last time that I am using the netbook for such purposes. Since then I replaced Chrome with Midori but haven't had the chance to test it.

This time I also went light but with a different workhorse; a 10,1-inch Turbo-X WinTab; a Windows 10 tablet with detachable keyboard that features 2GB of RAM, a Z3735F CPU at 1.3GHz and Intel HD graphics - as well as 32GB of storage. Based on testing I did over the previous months, the tablet is much more powerful than the netbook and can be actually used for work. My setup included the tablet with its keyboard, my external hard disk with Thunderbird Portable and my 22GB inbox, a mouse, a micro-USB charger, USB sticks and cables (micro-HDMI to HDMI, in case a spare monitor was around, micro-USB to USB in case I needed to use the micro-USB port of the tablet with a USB device etc.).

A photo posted by Vassilis (@vprot) on

Things went pretty well: I managed to revise a couple of slides before my presentation using PowerPoint Mobile, kept notes in a Google Doc and worked on two blog posts in our Wordpress-powered blog, updated Agroknow's Twitter and Google+ account etc. Multitasking with 3-4 tabs open in Microsoft Edge, a document open in MS Word and the slides in PowerPoint was managed efficiently by the tablet. In addition, thanks to the WiFi, I was able to download all files that I needed through the Dropbox web interface (I have not installed Dropbox app due to limited storage size and the fact that syncing would take up precious resources). However, I had some hard times during the meeting:
  1. I was lucky to be really close to a power outlet; my micro-USB cables are pretty short and I had an extension power cord with me, just in case. It was a good thing that I did not need that. I am expecting a 2m micro-USB cable from Amazon during the next days.
  2. It was the first time that there was no laptop set up for the presentations, so I had to ask the project partner that presented right before me to use her laptop. My micro-HDMI to VGA adapter is on its way from the UK, also from Amazon.
  3. The keyboard was probably the weakest link; not only keys are smaller than usual making fast typing a challenge, they also make a lot of noise. Or to be more precise, as I am a heavy typist, I think that the whole keyboard made squeaky sounds while it was pressed against the hard wooden desk.
Apart from that, everything was fine; I even had the chance to take the tablet only (no keyboard attached) during a session that took place in a different room. If I had a laptop with me, I wouldn't have bothered. I noticed though that the tablet with keyboard attached was not much lighter compared to my 15,6-inch home laptop, which was pretty strange...or I was just tired!

After testing it under real conditions, I believe that WinTab could also by my work horse in the next project meetings; however, I will make sure that I will have a micro-HDMI to VGA adaptor this time!