Who Designs this Stuff – Microsoft Surface Pro 2 Power Supply & Pen Connector

From the WTH department comes the easiest way in the world to lose a $30 Stylus

I am probably one of the most anal retentive people I know. I keep all of my computing equipment in pristine, mint condition as I never know when I’m going to put it up on eBay or Craig’s List and sell it because something else got introduced. Recycling computer equipment is something that is getting a LOT of press right now. Special nods to the iDevice for its rapid revision cycle and Apple’s high product quality levels.

One of the things that makes this difficult, however is poor design. Case in point – Microsoft Surface RT/2 and Pro/2 devices use a magnetic charger just like most of Apple’s laptops; but there’s a subtle difference – the Surface devices use the same port to dock its stylus when the charger isn’t connected.

surface pen connector

The problem is that the magnet that holds the stylus isn’t strong enough to hold it in place. It’s easily knocked off and you might not notice that it’s fallen off and no longer there for quite a while.

Losing the stylus is a huge problem. The magnet that holds the pen in place isn’t strong enough. The port that holds it also sits against the angled side of the device at a 45 degree angle. The wall isn’t flat. The stylus is difficult to dock and often doesn’t sit right in the magnetic well. The weak bond makes the stylus fall off very easily. If you don’t hear it fall, you won’t notice it’s gone until long after you’ve lost it. Then it costs you $30USD to replace.

As I mentioned earlier, the stylus docks in the same spot as the device’s charger is placed. As the side of the device is at a 45 degree angle, and the charging port is long, stiff and exact fitting, it’s difficult to place into the port due to the size, shape and angle of the side of the device. The charger often doesn’t make full contact with the charging plate, and then… doesn’t charge the device.

It’s the 45 degree angle that prevents the charger from sitting correctly. The charger cord also doesn’t like being twisted enough to face the charging plate.

SurfacePower

What does this all mean – besides the fact that the guy that designed these features should be found and shot? It means that you’re likely going to need to buy a few extra styli or hope someone designs an affordable or reasonably priced, 3rd party keyboard that includes a built in stylus that’s either tethered to it, sits in a silo or both. Unfortunately, Surface 2/Pro uses the same stylus and AC adapter, so no one addressed this design flaw in the new hardware release.

If you’re considering a Surface 2/Pro, you’ll need to be aware of this issue. There has to be a better way of keeping track of these styli without buying a pencil cup full of them for if and when you lose them. There should also be a better way of charging and powering the device. There are other design issues with the AC adapter (charging indicator location) that I also really haven’t touched on that should be resolved. Again… who designed this and/or approved the designs?

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Apple iPad & Samsung Galaxy Note – The Great Stylus Debate

I have seen both sides now, and still somehow, I have stylus illusions, after all.

Steve Jobs was adamant – “This,” he would say holding up his index finger, “is my stylus.”

Steve had seen Microsoft’s TabletPC’s as well as Pocket PC’s, Palm Pilots, etc., and he wasn’t impressed with the styli that he had seen tethered to them. In fact, he hated the dependency that those designs had on such an easily misplacable accessory. Steve vowed that the iPad would never need one.

However, the finger as a writing instrument leaves a bit to be desired. It works…but it isn’t optimal, and people don’t write their best or most legibly with just their index finger. It doesn’t offer the fine point or accuracy that some writing or notations really require.

Microsoft’s TabletPC’s have a truly wonderful pen experience. With the right handwriting recognition software, their Pocket PC’s and later Windows Mobile devices (prior to Windows Phone) also had a truly awesome handwriting experience. I really miss this at times…even today.

I have both an Apple iPad and a Windows 8 TabletPC (netbook). I’ve owned many a PocketPC and have used Phatware’s Calligrapher on nearly all of them. The experience was really very satisfying.

Samsung’s Galaxy Note is a tablet/handheld hybrid that attempts to bridge the gap between the two device types; and while the writing experience may be just as satisfying as my Windows 8 TabletPC or the PocketPC’s of old, it does bring up a huge question:

How do you satisfy end user needs to use their tablet or handheld as a digital notepad?

Further, how do you REALLY give them the ability to take handwritten notes in meetings without having to awkwardly hover your hand over the screen so nothing but a compassative stylus touches the screen?

From Apple’s perspective, the design question remains. How do you do all that without killing the current user experience; and requiring the use of a passive stylus to do all screen touch and navigation?

The answer is in there…somewhere, but the issue has yet to be resolved. I want to take handwritten notes. I want to use digital ink, so I can save a tree, and use my tablet as the digital notepad it was intended to be. However, I want to be able to swap between passive and compassative modes on the fly. There are times when I’d rather touch with my finger than with a stylus. The technology doesn’t exist yet where the iPad oror even the Samsung Galaxy Note, can distinguish between the two. The Galaxy Note comes close, but the stylus free experience isn’t as fluid as the stylus-based experience…and then (Steve’s standard complaint) what happens when you lose the stylus (and at some point, you likely will)?

This is the great debate. This is the enterprise issue that has yet to be resolved. There are many executives who would drop their PC’s in a heartbeat for a tablet if they could do this with their iPad or an Android tablet. I would, at the office at least.

Apple doesn’t want to kill the user experience. The right technology doesn’t currently exist to allow for a combined experience. The right solution has yet to be identified, but its sure to be interesting no matter what it is.

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Samsung Galaxy Note – the link between Smartphone and Tablet

Galaxy Note has been released internationally since autumn, by skipping the US market. Only now at the Consumer Electronics Show 2012, Samsung decided to announce its product for the AT&T carrier in US. It is the third 4G smartphone announced to be available soon in the States after Nokia Lumia 900 and HTC Titan II.

Based on consumer research, Samsung decided to create a brand new type of smartphone that brings diverse mobile utilities while maintaining the smartphone portability. With its 5.3 inches HD AMOLED display (1280 x 800), the Note looks to be a hybrid between a smartphone and a tablet. Many of you will say that this is nothing else but a mini tablet. But this is not necessarily true. The Note comes also with an Stylus-Pen that widens the functionality of this device.

The S Pen is combined with the full touch screen to create a best-in-class mobile input experience. It is the most advanced pen input technology featuring an array of functions including pressure sensitivity, preciseness, speed and more. With the S Pen, you can easily sketch drawings or write notes with increased accuracy and ease. Also, the S Pen functionality is deeply integrated into the GALAXY Note’s native applications to provide a richer interactive experience.

The device runs Android 2.3.6. on a 1.4GHz Dual Core Processor with support for 4G LTE, EDGE/GPRS networks. Its huge 5.3 inch multitouch display is capable of 1080p Full HD video playback, adding support for an Advanced smart pen. The 16GB Internal memory plus microSD slot for up to 32GB makes the Galaxy Note a hyper gadget for the business class and for the ones that have big pockets…to stuff it in.

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Epson Stylus Photo R3000 – 13-Inch Printer for Photographers and Fine Artists

Designed for professional photographers and fine artists, the Epson Stylus Photo R3000 draws from the advanced technology of Epson Stylus Pro-series printers to deliver gallery-quality black-and-white output and vivid color prints. This printer also includes new features such as high-capacity individual ink cartridges, advanced media handling to support a wide range of paper types, and Ethernet and wireless-N connectivity.

Designed to provide unmatched performance, exhibition quality and professional media support, the Epson Stylus Photo R3000 delivers several innovative features, including:

  • Epson UltraChrome K3 with Vivid Magenta Ink: Professional eight-color ink set with Vivid Magenta and Vivid Light Magenta provides more dramatic blues and violets for an expanded color gamut. Built on Epson’s heritage of professional ink technology, this pigment ink set offers instant color stability and exceptional print permanence ratings for color and black-and-white prints.
  • Advanced Media Handling: In addition to a main top-loading, high-capacity tray, this printer features a new front-in, front-out media path designed for fine art media up to 1.3 mm thick, including Epson’s line of Signature Worthy® papers. It also offers broad media support with BorderFree® cut-sheet media handling, roll paper printing up to 44-inches long and CD/DVD printing.
  • AccuPhoto HD2 Image Technology: Created in collaboration with the Rochester Institute of Technology’s Munsell Color Science Laboratory, this complex mathematical architecture and advanced screening technology ensures precision placement of each individual ink droplet for smooth, grain-free images. This technology optimizes ink usage to maximize color gamut and provide smooth transitions and gradations, and reduces the metameric index to achieve consistent color under different lighting conditions.
  • MicroPiezo AMC Print Head: The eight-channel, high-precision print head produces a maximum resolution of 5670 x 1440 optimized dpi and variable-sized droplets as small as 2 picoliters and places them with precision and accuracy. For decreased maintenance and increased reliability, the print head also incorporates an ink repellent coating.
  • Intelligent High-Capacity Ink System: Nine individual 25.9 ml ink cartridges with pressurized ink technology ensures reliable ink delivery at all print speeds.
  • Auto-switching Black Inks: The Epson Stylus Photo R3000 automatically switches between Photo and Matte black inks to produce the deepest blacks and richest color on glossy, matte or fine art media.
  • Unparalleled Connectivity: Built-in Ethernet®, wireless 802.11n and Hi-Speed USB 2.0 provide flexible options for fast connectivity to multiple computers in a home or studio.
  • Advanced Black-and-White Photo Mode: Professionals can choose from one of four pre-set modes – neutral, warm, cool, or sepia for stunning neutral or toned black-and-white prints. This feature provides intuitive and consistent control through custom slider bars and a color tone wheel for advanced tone adjustment. In addition, customized settings can be saved and recalled to achieve consistent prints.

Pricing, Availability and Support

The Epson Stylus Photo R3000 will be available in March 2011 through authorized resellers for $849 (MSRP). The printer is supported by a one-year whole-unit exchange limited warranty plan and specialized technical support staff. For more information on the Epson Stylus Photo R3000, visit www.epson.com/R3000.

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