Galaxy Note 10.1, 2014 edition: First impressions

Galaxy note 10.1, 2014 edition

My black Note 10.1 2014, showing multi-window abilities. In the background there is a full-screen S Note page where I have handwritten something. In the foreground are three smaller windows: YouTube to the left, above it and nearer the top Google Hangouts, and in the foreground to the right an Internet window. Thanks to the sharp screen and the pen, you can actually use those small windows, but you will probably need to keep the tablet a bit closer than what is natural.


Like the Galaxy Note 3, with which it has a lot in common, the Note 10.1 of this year is an evolution rather than a revolution. It is similar to last year’s version, but with better specifications in most ways. And much like its smaller but powerful sibling, the sum of improvements add up to a very impressive total. This time Samsung means business.

This impression is not least because Samsung has improved the Note series where it is most visible: The screen itself, which now sports a resolution of 2560×1600 display on the 10.1. As a result, there is no longer any “pixellation” at any natural viewing distance – we have reached a stage where the human eye can no longer notice that the screen consists of pixels rather than continuous lines drawn on glossy paper. In fact, even uncomfortably close the letters and images are clean and crisp. Samsung has clearly gone for the kill here, if not overkill: It is hard to imagine anyone improving on this screen, as there is little or nothing to win. As usual from Samsung, the screen is also luminous and with strong colors. (A number of different color settings can be chosen in the settings menu for those who find the default too intense.)

When I say “Samsung means business”, there is a double meaning. Not only have they gotten serious about making the best tablet on the market today, but it is clearly a device you are expected to bring to the office. The new Note 10.1 comes preloaded with business-oriented news widgets along with the usual entertainment, and the stylus is as useful for quick notes as it is for artwork. Those who have the 4G version can make calls directly from handwritten numbers, whereas helpful software will fix your handmade charts to make them look fit for presentation. In portrait mode, the size and aspect ratio is similar to a sheet of paper, giving instant familiarity. The white version of the tablet will easily blend with a stack of papers, whether it is displaying a document or lying upside down. The faux leather backside gives a good grip and the black version looks rather natural and more exclusive than it is. (It is still a type of plastic, actually.)

The Note 10.1 has basically the same software as the Note 3, and the stylus is even more useful with the wide open space of the bigger device. The new ability to draw multiple boxes on the screen and use them to run apps was more like a proof of concept on the Note 3 – despite being very large for a smartphone, it simply does not have the screen estate for running multiple tasks on-screen. The full-sized tablet, on the other hand, lends itself quite well to this. There is room for four of these windows at the minimum size, although they can be resized upward, and you can also tile them if you want even more.

It is unfortunate that only half a dozen applications can be run in this windowed mode, and even worse, you cannot have multiple instances of the same application this way. This is just insane: Having multiple browser windows or chat windows open simultaneously is the first thing that comes to mind when seeing this gimmick. Alas, it is little more than a gimmick as long as this limitation prevails. You still have the split-screen functionality from last year, and this has been extended to more programs. So at least you can have two browser windows open side by side, but I was disappointed to see that you cannot add a third (and fourth, and fifth…) with the Pen Window function. Not sure whether I would ever use that, to be honest, but it would sure impress people. Take “note”, Samsung!

The new S-pen is more comfortable and even more precise than the old model, although it is still too small for a grown man, and the function key on the stylus is a little hard to find until you get used to it. Handwriting recognition is excellent, I would say the Note reads my handwriting better than my coworkers do. With a larger surface than the Note 3, the 10.1 invites to handwriting as you can write long flowing strings of words much the same way you would on a sheet of paper. The tablet even ignores your palm if you rest it on the glass surface while writing, something I tend to do.

One thing it does not ignore, alas, is inadvertent touches of the Menu and Back keys when in portrait mode. The keys, on either side of the physical home/wakeup key, are hardwired and stay in the same place even when you turn the device and the picture changes automatically. I find myself reaching for the back key at the bottom of the device in portrait mode, which is what I am used to from the Note 3, but it is not there. Conversely, if I hold the tablet in portrait mode, it is all too easy to hit these keys with my fingers when I simply want to hold the tablet with both hands. Despite being a marvel of lightweight engineering, you don’t really want to hold something this big by just one hand in the long run. And the keys are treacherously close to where one would naturally hold. I am sure this becomes second nature pretty quickly, and I suppose it is the price for having a physical home/wake key, but perhaps some smart engineer comes up with a better solution before the next turning of the wheel.

Battery time is impressive for a device as thin and light as this. Strangely, the device recharges via the usual micro USB rather than an extended USB 3 port as the Note 3 had. I don’t really miss the USB 3 myself, although it supposedly gives higher speed on transfers against a PC or other USB devices. The micro USB is industry standard now and I am OK with that. It also means I can mix and match chargers without having to bring extra cables. Some earlier Samsung tablets used a wider separate charger port, eerily similar to what Apple used. I am not sorry to see that go. The default charger comes with an output of 5.3 volt, 2.0 ampere. In contrast, most PC USB ports deliver 0.5 ampere, which will not go far toward charging any of the Samsung tablets, I’m afraid.

The new Galaxy Note 10.1 is the best a man can get (at least until the 12.2 comes next spring) and it is priced accordingly. Samsung has never really been into the whole “pricing aggressively to get market share”. They seem to do well enough, but I can’t help wondering how the world would have looked today if Samsung had priced their initial Galaxy Tab lower than the first iPad, which came out the same year. (Samsung actually was available first in several countries, including my native Norway.) But with the current generation of tablets, I find myself wondering instead how much more the Note 10.1 would have cost if it came with an Apple logo.

Even so, the 2014 edition of Galaxy Note 10.1 is a pricey beast. If you don’t have an office job or don’t particularly miss handwriting, drawing or multi-window multitasking, or compatibility with the Galaxy Gear “smartwatch”, there is money to save in opting for something cheaper. But if you love living in the future and want to enter your next meeting with a lightweight tablet more powerful than a fairly new PC, the new Note 10.1 is there for you.

My first NAS: Mybook Live Duo

Network-Attached Storage at home: WD MyBook Live Duo

6 terabytes. I love living in the future. I remember when that black box would have filled a room and heated the whole house in midwinter.

There are already various professional reviews out there on the Net, so I thought I would write something a little more personal (but not embarrassingly so, I hope!).

NAS? What’s NAS?  I did not know either as late as last year. It means “Network-Attached Storage.” Basically it is a tiny computer with a big hard disk (or two big disks, in the case of the Duo). You plug it into your home network (or small business, although this is clearly meant for the home). If you don’t have a network, that’s OK too. When you connect it to your Windows, Linux or Mac computer using the enclosed cable, a network should automatically arise.

I actually don’t use a router, just a switch that connects the computers to each other and the NAS, and it works just fine whether there is one or more. The three computers I have tested it with run Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Ubuntu Linux. The enclosed CD maps the NAS disk up as a network drive in Windows. In Linux, you just find it in Places – Network and start using it. A good thing, since my tiny netbook does not have a CD drive!

Out of the box: The NAS is so lightweight, a man can hold it easily in one hand. I remember back when 6 terabytes (million megabytes) would have filled a room and heated the whole house in midwinter. The future is amazing, isn’t it? It has finally arrived!

The first thing I did was connect it to the mains. It came with a tree-prong head, but I soon figured out how to pop that off and replace it with the enclosed two-prong. It does not even need to be grounded, and it figures out on its own what voltage it is connected to and adjusts automatically.

While the machine was spinning up, I attached the network cable and plugged the other end into the network switch. If you have a router, you should plug it in there. If the router also broadcasts WiFi, you can access the NAS from your laptops, slates and phones wirelessly.

After a couple minutes, the NAS was running. Even before I ran the CD, I could find the NAS under Network, and clicking on the picture of it brought up a menu with help for setting it up. You don’t need to do that, it works fine right out of the box. If you are the only person who will use it, or if you have nothing to hide, you can login as admin without a password and just use the public shares.

Users, shares and devices: I set up a separate user for myself and one for Tuva the Imaginary Woman. I gave each of us a private share in addition to the public ones. What is a share? Basically it is a top-level folder on the hard disk of the NAS. You can have many of these, and they can be public or private. The system comes with some public shares set up already, for things like photos, music and video. But if you have deep dark secrets that you don’t want to share with others, you can have private shares as well. It took me only a little fiddling to hide my private share from my Imaginary Other, and the other way around. You can also have shares that are owned jointly by parents but not children, or other arbitrary groups of users. If you are using the NAS in a business, this suddenly gets more serious, but it is still quite simple.

So shares are only loosely tied to users. You can have many of each, and they don’t need to be one on one. A user can have many shares, a share can have many users. Or not. It is up to the Admin, the first account that meets you the first time you log on the Duo.

Devices is a bit different. As long as you are in your home (or small business) network, you can log on any user from any machine. Remote logon is slightly more complicated. You have to explicitly create a web access account for an existing user if you want them to log in over the Internet. The procedure requires their email address, which will get a mail with the instructions to create a new password. This comes in addition to the password they would have used if they were physically at the home network. (The two passwords can be the same, if they are strong enough to be accepted.) Once the user has created this password, they can log in from any computer on the Internet. (Whether they should is another matter. The solution as it stands today is based on Java, which is as full of security holes as a Swiss cheese, or so the experts say.)

Adding a mobile device is a separate action. It also requires an existing user. You can have web access but not mobile access, or the other way around. Mobile access also requires an app; in the case of Android it is named WD2go (Western Digital to go, OK?) and is free on Google Play. It is simple and straightforward to use, but you first have to register it using a 12-digit code that must be generated on the NAS. This means that even though I downloaded the app at work, I could not register it until I came home and could connect directly to the Duo on the home network. The app allows not only streaming of music but also of video. You should have a pretty new and powerful device to do that, though. And even then it will wait some seconds before it starts playing a song, and even more before playing video.

So each user can have multiple mobile devices but they must be registered separately, whereas on a PC you can log on your account from any computer once you have been set up with web access.

Extreme expansion: The third hole in the back of the Duo was for a USB cable, but contrary to my first imagination you can not use this to connect it to the PC like I did with my long row of external disks (half of which died horribly before the warranty expired, sometimes in mere months). Over time the external hard disks became gradually more robust, and my 1.5 TB Samsung has proved quite a reliable companion. But now that I have the NAS, which is built for heavy duty, it is time for the Samsung USB disk to retire. I gave it one final chance to shine though: Plugging its USB cable into the back of the Mybook Live Duo, it suddenly showed up on all my PCs simultaneously as a share within the NAS, without me having to do anything extra. You can even use a USB hub and connect all your old external disks and memory sticks, and make them all available to the whole family (or office), as well as friends and family all over the world on the Internet.

There are probably limits to how much extra storage you can add this way, but I am not sure what the limit is. I added 1.5 TB, but there are 2 TB disks available at affordable prices, and the documentation explicitly states that you can use a USB hub to connect multiple devices.

In theory I could just let things stay that way and continue to use the Samsung. I mean, it is Samsung, so it probably won’t keel over dead easily. But just in case, I am currently copying the contents to the NAS. That way I can just keep the old disk as a backup. A NAS is made for heavy duty, or so I am led to believe. It is not a backup solution, but more like the servers of a corporate network, where you want the data to lie on the server and not on each PC.

Speed, or lack thereof: Copying takes its sweet time though. I blame the USB 2.0, the system told me it would take 19 hours to copy 1 TB from the old disk to the new. That’s a lot of time, but then it is a lot of data. A letter page with typewriter text is about 4000 characters. 1 TB is a million million characters, or a thousand billions.  There are just over 7 billion humans in the world today. So I could write a short description of each of them to make a terabyte. We’re not quite on the same order of magnitude as the US national debt, though. Perhaps with the next generation of NAS!

Copying from my laptop over the network cable was actually quite a bit faster than copying from the USB disk, but still took some time for large folders. Like the MP3 files I ripped from my hundreds and hundreds of CDs before throwing them away. 12.6 gigabytes of data I have legally bought and paid for. Unfortunately so, in many cases, since most non-Irish CDs have only 1-2 good songs and the rest filler. The least I can do is share them with family and friends. (In Norway this is actually legal, although the definition is pretty strict.) And with my new NAS, I can do that without publishing it to the whole Internet. Another question is whether my family and friends want to hear my music, given that even I only do so sporadically.

One final thought before I close. Even when I am not copying anything to and from or between the WD NAS and the Samsung, they are both blinking frenetically, as if they were busy moving stuff around. What’s up with that? Back when the Samsung was attached to the laptop, it would go to sleep after a few minutes of inactivity. So I assume it is the small computer in the NAS which is doing something, but I don’t know what. Indexing? Quality checking? Defragmenting? Pointless running in circles? I will probably never know.

[Edit to add: Two days later I woke up in the morning and both of the disks had quieted down. I noticed that copying from the Samsung to the WD now seemed to go a little faster. So probably it had done something useful, like indexing or defragmenting.]

But even with that, I am impressed. Not quite indistinguishable from magic, but close enough. I love living in the future, and that future is now well within reach of the working classes here in Norway.

More shiny?

Screenshot anime Little Busters (safe for work and school)

It is just a small thing, but since it makes me happy it is amazing!

The last fluorescent bulb in my home flickered and died, although happily it did not shatter like one did a few years ago. It was time to replace it with a LED bulb, the way I had done with about a dozen incandescent bulbs last year. I was also looking for a smaller bulb for the last spot in the living room 5-bulb main lamp. In addition, I ended up buying a set of three LED downlights for the kitchen. “Make your Home a Palace of Neverending Light!” Well, at least 20 years, according to the packaging. I don’t see why they would stop working then if they’ve lasted that long, but those who live shall see!

I also bought a new charger for my Galaxy Tab 7.7, as I had accidentally swept it off the table where it was charging. The tablet took no damage, but the connector at the end of the cable from the charger broke beyond repair. (I did repair it, but it worked only fitfully at best.) Stupidly it was made in one piece, so I had to replace it all. The replacement has a USB cable that connects the charger and the tablet, so if one part breaks, you need not replace them both.

My trip also brought me past a display of the new Galaxy Note 10.1, the big brother of my Galaxy Note 2 phablet (big mobile phone). The Note 10.1 was very nearly as Shiny as its little brother.  By “Shiny” in this context I mean the mysterious ability to radiate a small but noticeable amount of joy and satisfaction, giving the user a feeling similar to an orthodox worshiper watching an icon (according to studies of Apple fans; I believe Samsung has somehow managed to copy this memetic tech from Apple, by means unknown.)

For those who don’t use Note or iPhone or religious icons, it is similar to the feeling you get when watching a picture of someone you like a lot. Otaku (fans of Japanese entertainment) get this feeling, only more strongly I believe, when watching merchandise relating to their favorite series, such as small dolls of the main characters, or pillows decorated with pictures of them. I have not gone quite that far down the slippery road of the otaku, but it is big business (and parodied in some anime!)

Since I already have the Note 2, I was not seriously tempted to buy the Note 10.1 for its shiny. Hopefully there will be a Note 7 eventually, by the time I am ready to retire the Tab 7.7. But that may be a year or two off if things stay their course, and that is an ocean of time to me. Who knows who will be alive and who will be dead two years from now? We must do all the things that must be done, before they are lost forever. Buying yet another tablet is not near the top of that list right now.  But if you are looking for your first, this one is shiny. And it has a pen so you can draw on it and handwrite.

I consider “shiny” a good thing in and of itself. If objects you use can give you some measure of joy beyond their more prosaic function, so more the better. Increase the amount of joy on earth without harming anyone? Sure. Of course, one may get attached to it, as one may get to other joys: Art, music, architecture etc. (I use “joy” here as distinct from “pleasure” which in my use applies to the senses and fulfillment of instincts, but there is an overlap. Eating when you are hungry – even just a little bit hungry – is a pleasure, but food that is deliciously prepared and presented adds joy of the mind atop the pleasure of the flesh, as it were. There is also a considerable overlap in romantic relationships, but let’s not go there today.)

I would not mind if all of us could live our lives surrounded by objects that broadcast joy, so to speak. But I may be too optimistic about our ability to detach from such feelings. If we cannot die peacefully because we don’t want to part from all the shiny things, then clearly we have gone too far. But overall I think we should not wish for more suffering in the world, but more pleasure, joy and happiness in so far as it hurts no one and goes along with a virtuous life. (Not that I’m going to hold myself up as an example of the latter, but I mean in principle.) So, shiny, but not at any cost.

Samsung Galaxy Note 2

I bought this a few days ago. To be honest, it was a case of gadget lust rather than necessity. If you want to judge me for spending my money unwisely or unjustly, I will not hold it against you. My previous smartphone is still under warranty for a long while yet, and would have been sufficient. If I have an excuse, it is my principle of trying to buy the kind of inventions I hope to see more of in the future.

And this invention, gentle reader, is about as futuristic as you can get on a Norwegian working class budget. It looks and acts like something out of a recent science fiction movie. One could imagine Tony Stark carrying around one of these. Okay, that might be an exaggeration, but it gives a hint about how I feel about it. In other words, I am impressed. I am very impressed.

After a couple days, I started writing a lengthy review, listing many impressive features. But it just kept getting longer and longer, and at the same time I realized that there were already many great reviews on it, including several on YouTube where you can actually see it in action.

(I sometimes read positive reviews or watch YouTube presentations of products I already own, so I can feel the happy glow of owning them. Ideally, at the end of the review, I should feel ready to run and buy the product… Except that I already own it. I mean, I have already wasted the money, so why shouldn’t I milk it for all it’s worth? ^_^)

So rather than compete with the expert reviewers, I will just list a few things that impressed me in particular.


Handwriting and “Han writing”: The handwriting recognition impressed me so much that I found myself handwriting instead of using the on-screen keyboard, which is incidentally the best smartphone software keyboard I have ever seen, with the possible exception of Swiftkey 3. And I generally dislike handwriting.

I mean, handwriting was a great invention back in ancient Egypt or wherever they first tried it. And it is very versatile, you can bring a pencil and a scrap of paper pretty much anywhere except the shower. But I have preferred typing for as long as I can remember, at least from the age of six. (Well, with the exception of the few times when I had acquired a new fountain pen or some such.) From shortly after the first IBM PC, I have written by hand mostly in “emergencies”, to jot down a name or phone number or some such. Well, this is like having my first fountain pen again, except it is magic.

The handwriting area is a black slate at the bottom of the screen where the keyboard usually is when you’re writing. Writing with the built in S-pen makes the letters appear in thin white lines. I write a few words without stopping but with spaces between the words. When I stop, the phone pretty much instantly converts the text into typed text in the field where I am supposed to write – a comment field on Google+, for instance, or an email. At this point the slate goes black again so I can start writing from the upper left corner again. Even though my handwriting is ugly – especially after decades of disuse – the only recurring problem is that it occasionally capitalizes the first letter in a word if the letter looks the same when small or large. So for instance it might write Can Spell, but not Take Flight, because I write these letters differently when capitalized. With a quarter hour of practice I have mostly gotten rid of the extra capitals though. I am not sure whether the slate has learned from me or I have learned to write better.

I have failed to enable recognition of Hanzi / Kanji characters (Chinese / Japanese logograms). It was selectable in the phone’s setup, but for some reason it reverted to Scandinavian (my location) handwriting recognition, which incidentally works too. Perhaps you need to go all Chinese / Japanese to get it to work, although I doubt you need to physically be there. The Hanzi keyboard input worked though: You type the English letters which the word begins with, and immediately a long list of relevant signs show up. Chinese writing is far more compact than alphabetic languages, and expanded to 3 lines you get dozens of alternatives. It must be a bit of a nightmare learning all those characters, but man, Orientals must be able to read and write at a crazy speed with this thing.

The English word suggestions can also be expanded to three lines, but with only three words to a line, that is merely 9 suggestions. They are good suggestions though. As I’ve said, I think Swiftkey 3 may be better once it has learned from your writing, but I don’t know yet how well Samsung Keyboard learns from experience, so “the jury is still out” on this one.


Split screen: As the biggest smartphone on the market today, it makes some sense to use that space to run two windows at once. Only certain applications support this, I am sorry to say. You start them from a separate docking are to the left. To bring this up in the first place, hold the back button on the phone a couple seconds, and a small marker will pop up to show you that the pop-up dock is available. Pull on the tab to get to the dock, launch the first program, then hold the next program icon and pull it to either the top or bottom half of the screen. This will tell the Note 2 to run both of them at once. You can do this with movies without slowing down (unless you are streaming on a bad line, obviously). More likely you will want to open a Google search window while writing an email so you can copy some information…

Mouseover: You are probably used to being able to hover your mouse cursor over various fields without clicking and getting a tool tip, a preview or an expansion of a link. With the S-pen, I can do this on my Note 2. I can’t do it with my fingers, alas. Perhaps at some later time? It looks like pure magic: The pen does not even touch the glass (the distance is about the radius of a pinky finger) when the small mark appears in the picture, and if I do this over a feature that supports it (typically Samsung programs, at least at first) the mouseover effect will turn on. This is what Arthur C. Clarke must have meant when he said “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”.

Face recognition: Not a Note 2 or even Samsung feature, but part of the more recent Android versions (Note 2 has 4.1, but I think face unlock came with 4.0). Still, it is the first time I have tried it, and it is indistinguishable from magic. When I turn it on, there is a lock screen, but when I see my face in the screen, it unlocks. It will only work with people who look like me, or at least that is the theory. On the down side, it reminds me daily of how ugly my face now looks up close… Well, I am not sure that reminder is a bad thing. If you are young and pretty, you may want to use that sharp front camera for video conferencing instead. ^_^

Power: The battery has very high capacity for a smartphone. You can use the device actively from dawn till dusk and still have some juice left. I mean, like continually watching video or something. For everyday use, it could easily last two days. That is how things should be, of course, but very few competitors come even close to it. And that’s with the big, high-resolution display and a four-core processor that runs everything I can throw at it at full speed. The machine responds immediately and in crisp detail, and it just keeps running. Extremely habit-forming. Don’t borrow one if you can’t keep it.

And here is the review I would have written, except it is not written, it is shown on YouTube. If you have the time, the awesomeness just goes on and on. I did not watch it until after I had bought it though. ^_^


Comics on tablets?

An old acquaintance recently wrote about his experience with reading comics on the Nexus 7, the new 7″ tablet from Google and Asus. There was some discussion of the topic, and I bought a number of cheap comics to read on my own Galaxy Tab 7.7, which has the same screen resolution and only marginally larger screen.

The result is quite readable as long as I read a single page at a time. It has a problem with double pages – I have to zoom in and drag the picture to see all in a readable size. This is easy to do, but it does break the flow a little.

I kind of wish this technology had existed back in the time when I bought several times my own weight in comic books, back in the original Chaos Node. While I was never one of the true obsessed collectors – I just enjoyed reading the comics – there were many, many bags of comics that I carted off to the used-book store when I moved from there. And still there were several crates left. And when I moved again, I got rid of some more. And again. Now I have one cardboard crate worth of physical comics left, and if I live to move another time, there will probably be only a dozen books or so left.

If I had this technology, I could balance all those hundreds and hundreds of comics on two fingers. It would not have impacted moving at all, would not have taken up valuable space in my apartment. But on the other hand, I would not have been able to give them away and hope that some curious kid could enjoy them after me. So I guess all things have their price.

Speaking of price, even though I did not buy the newest comics (which are more expensive) and even bought some on sale, I just don’t find comic books worth paying for anymore. Well, obviously I did pay for them, but I bought them under doubt. I have more entertainment than I need. I don’t have unlimited time. To pay money to waste my time … well, I don’t feel like I need another way to do that right now. That part of my life is fading, like other parts have done before. I don’t really expect it to come back.

But there are worse things young people can do than read comics.  And there are worse ways to read them than on a 7″ tablet.

I bought mine from Comixology, which has an app that let me both buy them and display them. I can read them on several different devices at no extra cost. There are surely other ways as well, but I am not really going to study it any further than this, I think.


Samsung mobile MTP device

This post is for other people who, like me, can’t connect their Samsung Galaxy Tab or phone to the Samsung KIES. It may also affect other programs that try to transfer files between the phone and the Windows computer.

When the tablet was plugged in, a process began on Windows to install 3 different drivers at the same time. The middle of these, called MTP, failed after a fairly long time (3 minutes?). The same happened when I used the KIES option for solving connection problems. It tried to reinstall, but again the MTP failed.

What solved it for me was to (turn off the Galaxy), remove the SIM card, start the Galaxy and connect the cables again. This time there appeared a window with 4 installs, all of them successful. I could then connect to KIES as well.

Ironically, the only reason I did all this in the first place was to check for software update to the unit (Galaxy Tab 7.7) which was supposed to be upgraded to Android 4.0 (“Ice Cream Sandwich”) by now. But there was no update.

In contrast to this, I upgraded my Galaxy Note over 3G network when it got Ice Cream Sandwich a few weeks ago. But I read today that this won’t work with the 7.7. I wonder if that is true. It seems that different things work for different people.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7

It is rather bigger than a mobile phone.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 with its AMOLED screen is much clearer and more vivid than ordinary screens, although this picture taken with flash does not really show either of them at their best.

Yesterday during the lunch break I went to buy the Galaxy Tab 7.7, in my humble opinion the best tablet / datapad available at this time. On my way, however, I thought of the poor starving children in Africa, and turned aside. I was almost back at the office when I realized that Samsung almost certainly does a lot more for Africa than I ever would even if I tried. Which I don’t, at least in an economic sense.

Today I actually bought this thing. It is sleek and lightweight, even though it has a back plate of light metal instead of the plastic that Samsung normally uses. Samsung has taken some flak for the “cheap feeling” of their plastic chassis, even though it certainly withstands more falls than even the Gorilla glass used in the front. I honestly don’t see their or most gadgets surviving any treatment that would break the usual lightweight and durable plastic. But this is their showcase product, it seems, so they threw in the metal plate. Luckily it is thin enough to add very little to the weight. Compared to the original 7″ Galaxy Tab, the 7.7 is noticeably lighter and very comfortable to hold for reading.

The crowning piece however is the display, using the AMOLED technology which delivers unparalleled vivid colors and the blackest blackness available in any screen today. It also seems to be gentle on the battery. The resolution is 1280×800, which may seem like a modest upgrade from the 1024×600 used in all their 7″ tablets, yet is the same as their 10.1″ Galaxy 2 and with a better display. The new iPad (3) has it beat on screen resolution, but is (at least for now) not available in one-handed size.

The Galaxy Tab 7.7 is definitely one-handed most of the time for reading. It is not too heavy to hold in one hand, although you will need another hand to actually use it for anything more than reading books. It is incidentally a beautiful e-book reader, the black of the letters very black and the sepia of the pages very sepia. Well, that is how I like them. Your pages may vary.

I generally use the tablet in portrait mode, although if you use it to watch movies or look at pictures you will probably hold it in both hands in landscape mode. Because of this preference, I use SwiftKey 3 instead of SwiftKey Tablet 3 as my keyboard. It is not free, but very affordable. (Actually I use the 3 Beta today, but by the time you read this the final version is on sale. If you read this the first week, it is at half price, but it is well worth the price of a couple hamburgers anyway.) SwiftKey Tablet is made for typing with two hands, and has the keyboard split with half on the left side and half on the right. This is an abomination in my sight and looks just unnatural. Then again I have used QWERTY keyboards since I was 6 or so, so it is almost up there with potty training when it comes to ingrained attitudes.

The tablet comes with Samsung’s own TouchWiz shell on top of Android “Honeycomb”. To be honest, I don’t see this as much of an improvement. Android 4 “Ice Cream Sandwich” is better than any of the two, and if I feel extremely energetic one day I may root the tablet and install unadorned ICS on it. For the most part, however, I don’t spend a lot of time in the operating system, but mostly use it to start the apps I use regularly.

The apps I use regularly are not the ones that come pre-installed from Samsung, although I do use the ones that come from Google. The “improvements” from Samsung are as usual nothing of the sort, in my opinion. I would rather they did not waste any of the tablet’s 16 GB on this, but I am not all humans in the world. Still, I think we can agree that Samsung comes at this market from the hardware side. Their software does not have the power to rouse men’s heart that Apple’s has.

Be that as it may, I soon downloaded my usual apps and got “productive”. If this is your first time using a tablet after you are familiar with smartphones, you may be looking for the menu key, either in hardware or on the screen. There does not really exist such a thing in Android 3, but clicking on the status display bar in the lower right will reveal the setup choice for the phone as such, while individual programs usually have a visible menu symbol in a corner, typically the upper right (although Spotify uses the upper left). Legacy apps from smartphones may have a menu symbol in the lower left row along with the back, home and task manager soft keys. And some few legacy apps may not work properly if at all, but this is rare.

One thing that did not work properly was connecting to an old SparkLAN WX-6615 wireless router at work. At a distance of two fairly thin walls, it was easily good enough for the Galaxy Note and an older, cheaper LG phone, not to mention two laptops I have tested it with. But the 7.7 timed out loading even fairly simple web pages, and had to try multiple times to get new email. So that was a bit of a letdown.  It really made me wonder whether I have got another “Monday machine” – remember, generally it is the customer who does quality control beyond turning the machine on to see that it boots up – or whether the Galaxy Tab 7.7 generally has worse Wi-Fi receptivity than anything that has been made the last five years. That seems unlikely for a high-end product designed to show off Samsung as the new hi-tech leader of the world.

I switched to 3G from my phone provider (the model comes with room for a SIM card) and it worked beautifully. But when I switched back to Wi-Fi, the problems returned. Next I enabled ad-hoc wireless hotspot on the LG and placed it mere inches from the tablet. This time it had no problem connecting and loading. And then when I turned off the hotspot on the LG, the tablet automatically remembered the wireless router and reconnected to it, without stopping by 3G. And now it loaded web pages quickly, even playing YouTube with only a short buffering. Clearly the problem is not with the Wi-Fi hardware, then. I don’t know whether this problem will happen with another Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7, or even with another SparkLAN WX-6615, not to mention other Wi-Fi sources. But it is definitely worth mentioning, in case someone searches for a similar problem in the future.

Because I totally write this to inform and entertain, not to show off my living in the zeroth world or anything. That’s not something I am proud of. It is accidental, not essential, as the ancients would say. Of course, the ancients did not have as many gadgets as we have. That may be why some of them became wise eventually.

My Galaxy Note and I

Pajamas, bed hair (if at all), Galaxy Note. The usual. Oh, and there is the Galaxy Tab recharging in the corner.

Today I tested a new url specifically for tablets at, a Norwegian website. It did not work too well with either my Samsung Galaxy Tab (original) or my Samsung Galaxy Note (the world’s smallest Android tablet – all smaller tablets are to be swallowed).

I have had a problem with the Note since I bought it right before Christmas. (Is it really only a quarter of a year ago?? It feels so much longer.) On my way home, I could not use the browser. I could use it with a wireless network, but not when on 3G. Opera Mini worked fine, but the built-in browser did not, and not Opera Mobile. (Opera Mini is different in that it receives the web pages as pure graphics in compressed form rather than decode the pages on the fly.) Since I had not seen anything about this in the reviews, I assumed it was a Monday machine, as we call them here in Norway. One that had slipped through quality control.

I went back to the shop asking to get another – it was only one day later. But they did not have any more in stock. I would have to send it for repair and wait for it to return. Since Opera Mini does the job in 99.9% of cases, I decided to just keep it.

Today I switched to wireless again to test the tablet website. But something else happened: It told me that there was a firmware upgrade. So I let it download that while I tested, and later install. (It stood a really long time without making visible progress so don’t restart yours if it happen to you.) It did not lose any of my installed apps or any of my settings, and it looks just the same. But the browsers now work on 3G. So that is good.

I had half hoped, when I saw there was a download waiting, that it might be the promised Ice Cream Sandwich – version 4 of Android, which is supposed to run equally well on tablets and phones. Since the Note is both, that seems like a good thing. But the truth is, it works quite excellently as is, and I am not really sure what could be better. The only problem I have with it is that it is small, and that is why I have it in the first place. It goes in my shirt pocket like a big but flat mobile phone, yet it has a screen resolution equal to the desktop PC where I play Sims 2.  Oh, and I have to charge it every day, more or less, but that may have to do with using it a lot.


Samsung’s Galaxy Note got mixed reviews when it first came to Norway (for some reason months ahead of the USA). Reviewers raved about the specs, whined about the price, and worried that its awkward size (5.3″) would make it embarrassingly big for a phone and too small for a tablet. All this was true, but it has become a cult hit among Norwegian geeks, who want to have a tablet on their person at all times except in the shower. And except when making love, I assume, if they do that. I don’t. But then the Galaxy Note doesn’t really have a body that invites to it. ^_^

Divine intervention, it seems

Who on earth am I?

Who on Earth am I? I seem to be the guy who, instead of a normal conscience like most people, have a Guardian Angel or something mess up my electronics until I stop making excuses for my greed.

See yesterday’s entry for context. Today I took my 1 day old Galaxy Note back to the shop where I bought it. They fiddled with it for half an hour or so, trying various settings, then trying the SIM card in another phone, then the other card in the Note. Conclusion: This particular Galaxy Note was faulty and had to be sent for repair. Be sure to bring everything that came in the box.

Now, me having bought this at that same shop 1 day ago, I reasonably proposed they simply replace it with another. I even reset it to factory settings, erasing everything I had downloaded or written to it. Unfortunately, they could not do that. They claimed to not have any left, although I wonder if that would have been the case if I were there to buy one instead. Possibly – the overwhelming majority of Norwegians have more money than I, and it is close to Christmas, and the model is brand new.

With the Galaxy Tab, it took weeks to even be allowed to buy it, and even to the day I got it there were mysterious delays. So I don’t hold it unlikely that it will disappear for weeks, or months, or forever (I better get some kind of written statement as to having handed it in).  Or I suppose I could just keep the defective unit and use Opera Mini, which for some obscure reason worked when I tried it this afternoon.

It is a pretty tiny tribulation compared to poor Batsheba and King David, who lost their first son even though David (at least) regretted his sin, fasted and slept on the floor. Of course, my lust was not anywhere near King David level, and I didn’t have anyone killed to get my hands on their Galaxy Note. Although it does seem that I, unintentionally, have deprived some poor guy of his Christmas present (if they really did sell out).

Oh, and for those who wonder why God would punish an innocent baby for his parents’ adultery, the answer is probably that God didn’t. The baby has not yet formed attachments to this world. When its spirit returns to Heaven, angels receive it and welcomes it home. That is what I believe. If you have any doubt that babies come from Heaven and belong there, just look into their eyes.

But for a parent, the loss of a child is more or less like the loss of one’s own life, except it goes on for a long time. Poor Batsheba. But that’s another long story which is not mine to tell. Probably. I should probably not preach about religion, but lie low for a while and lick my wounded pride, if any.

On the other hand, the instruction booklet reminds me to not bite or suck on the Note’s battery. It also warned me to not destroy my nails when taking off the back case. I wonder if I really am the target group for this one… And evidently, Heaven is not convinced either. But then Heaven rarely is when I do impulse shopping of electronics. I should be used to that by now.

Galaxy Note: Cute when it works

Samsung Galaxy Note, lock screen

I don’t think the quill picture was meant to imply primitive. And generally it isn’t – apart from the browser. And it is just mine, or so say the rest of the world.

I bought a Samsung Galaxy Note datapad (large mobile phone / small tablet).  After all, it is the kind of invention I wish the future to have. I am known to happily lose money to support something that fits in my vision of the future, such as e-books (before they became popular),  speech recognition (before it became good) and neural activator control (which never became popular, I’m afraid). Oh, and SSD-only netbook. Android smartphone. And now this, a thing that is half smartphone and half pad/tablet.

I don’t have extreme qualms over losing money on it, in that perspective. But I’d like something in that price range to work. Or if not, I’d like to know why. I am not that fortunate. But as with so many things in my life, it just might be a message from the Author. That’s what happens when you’re a … well, not exactly Main Character I hope, but a viewpoint character at least.  Like the weird clockwise dying light bulbs I recently wrote about. Not quite a miracle, but kind of suspicious. And of course there were the long, long string of strange coincidences when I bought the original Galaxy Tab. In comparison, this is very simple.

The browser does not work on 3G. It works like a charm on Wi-Fi, even if the Wi-Fi is actually another tablet running in hotspot mode. Conversely, when I use the Note as a hotspot, it happily provides my desktop with all the bandwidth it needs to power two simultaneous browsers working simultaneously. But it cannot keep its own browser from timing out. That is a bit absurd.

In all fairness, once in a while I get a page up, but it can take half an hour. And it is not specific to the internal browser (which gets high praise by reviewers, who evidently don’t have the same problem). I tried with Opera and it was, hard as it is to imagine, even worse. Once again, it was very happy to work on Wi-Fi.

Other Internet-based applications work well enough: Google+, Twitter, Facebook, even YouTube in high quality. There may be a slight delay in startup, but no denial of service. Only the browsers are left broken and bloodied. And only on wireless broadband. (It uses 2G, 3G etc seamlessly.)

I have seen no mention of this in any review. It may be particular to my machine, although that seems strange, given that other applications work fine. It may be a problem with the ISP (NetCom, a Nordic Telecoms company). Or it may be divine intervention, given that I am evidently now a Very Important Person. At least as far as electric things go. Let’s hope this doesn’t spread to the rest of my computers.

Oh, and I have not lost a tooth this time. Just a filling. Dentist appointment tomorrow at 10:30.