Tag Archives: ux1xn

Engineerlingly Small

One of the nice things about my job and working on the MoLeNET programme is the fact that I can try out new pieces of equipment and wonder about their impact on our learners and learning.

I have written (and spoken) about the new breed of micro-laptops that surfaced last year starting wirth the Asus EeePC. Since then the number and type of micro-laptops have blossomed. So much so that the original 7″ Asus EeePC is now no longer available. Asus have improved upon their original concept and others have copied them. The Asus 901 for example has the same form factor as the first model, but now has a 8.9″ screen which does make a difference in how usable it is.

One micro-laptop which I did like was the HP 2133 which came with the bigger 8.9″ screen and importantly a 90% size keyboard. Though I liked the Asus EeePC the keybvoard was rather too small for me and I know others found it difficult to type large amounts of text on it. The HP 2133 was well suited to those who found the smaller micro-laptops too much of a microscopic size. However no point in recommending the HP 2133 as HP have decided to withdraw that model. Their replacement, the HP 2140 has a similar form factor to the 2133, included the nice keyboard, but now has a10.1″ screen. You have to ask is it a micro-laptop or is really no longer that form factor and more a subnotebook now?

One factor common to both of these was the linux operating system used instead of Windows. The Xandros on the Asus is very easy and simple to use, whilst the Suse Desktop OS used on the HP 2133 allowed more flexibiloity in installing software, not impossible on the Asus, just easier.

More recently I have been using a totallt different type of micro-laptop, the Sony VAIO P Series. In many ways this couldn’t be more different. It runs WIndows Vista. It has an 8″ (20.3cm) widescreen screen with a 1600×768 screen resolution. One aspect I do like about it is that it has a Apple’esque nearly full size keyboard which works for typiing for me. This blog entry for example was written on it.

Engineerlingly Small

As well as wireless and Bluetooth it also supports HDSPA. remove the battery insert your 3G SIM card and using a simple application, adjust the setrtings use the VAIO with a 3G connection without having to worry about plugging in a dongle or tethering to a phone as a modem.

It also looks like Sony have been listening to their customers and as well as a Memory Stick slot the VAIO also has a SD card slot. Considering how much use I now make of SD cards with cameras, mp3 recorders and sharing files, the SD card slot is very welcome.

The one thing which everyone comments on is the size and weight, it weighs very little and is only 24.5 by 12 cm.

Such a small device has to make compromises and the screen resolution and size means that some people may have difficulty with the Vista interface.

Battery life is pretty good and you can purchase an extended battery which will last twice as long. I am currently getting about 2 hours out of the standard battery.

So why wouldn’t everyone get one?

Well the price of course!

The VAIO UX1XN UMPC which came out in 2007 cost nerly £2000. The TX series of micro-laptops from Sony cost about £1400.

The P series is about £850 though you can spend more and get the model with the SSD drive. So for the price of one P series you could get three Auss EeePCs.

Off to Handheld Learning 2008…

The dust has not even settled from mLearn 2008 and I haven’t even managed to gather my thoughts for the final blog post from the mobile learning conference before I am off to another conference.

Handheld Learning 2008 starts tomorrow in London at The Brewery – I wonder how many times we hear that joke from speakers – and I am presenting in the MoLeNET strand on the Tuesday. Hoping to also present in the Pecha Kucha too.

Lots of friends going to the conference, David Sugden and Lilian will be there, as will Kath and Jon from Glasgow. Steve is taking the bus from Plymouth, whilst Lisa V will be down for one day only – she’s found a gap in her diary. Andy Black will be there also. Lots of people from mLearn will be there too including Mark Kramer, Adele Botha, John Traxler and loads of others whom I only met last week. Well I have met John before lots of times!

One of the challenges for me is that though I know them all, I am not sure if they know each other, must remember to introduce people to each other.

If you are going, do come and say hello.

I shall be using the technologies as per usual, lots of photos on Flickr, video here and there, tweets and jaikus as well.

Key question for me though is do I use my trusty Mac laptop, or pretend that I am a handheld learning guru and use the UX1XN…. Hmmm, decisions, decisions.

Off to Handheld Learning 2008...

Sony VAIO UX1XN as a conference tool

I have always liked the Sony VAIO UX1XN.

I have always been disappointed with the battery life. My original intention was to use the UX1XN as my main conference computer, my first attempt was at the JISC digitisation conference in Cardiff back in 2007.

Here Brian Kelly is presenting…

Sony VAIO UX1XN as a conference tool

It’s small enough to be unintrusive, unlike a laptop which can be a bit of a barrier, it has two cameras which enable me to send images to Flickr or take short video clips, and the keyboard is usable unlike the fiddly mobile phone type split keyboard of the Q1 Ultra. You can also use it without needing to put it on the table or on your lap which makes it ideal in the conference hall or break-out room environment.

However as I said at the beginning the battery life is the downer, I only really get about an hour and half from it, and this means that it won’t last the day at a conference.

So recently I ordered the extended battery for it, which should make it usable and hopefully last the day at a meeting or a conference.

I have therefore been practicing using the keyboard, which is quite thumbs orientated, and have managed to get a reasonable speed using it.

I wouldn’t want to write a long blog entry (like this one) on it, but for entering URLs or posting tweets or jaiku postings, I think it will work just fine.

Now of course what works well in the conference means that it would work equally well in the classroom or lecture theatre or workshop as a communication tool for learners.

Alas Sony no longer produce the UX1XN in the UK and though available from some suppliers still, generally you would need to get another UMPC if you were going to provide them to learners.

Is the UMPC the future?

The BBC reporting from CES in Las Vegas after talking to the likes of Intel says

The desktop PC’s days of dominance could be numbered as laptops and ultra-mobile PCs begin to reap the benefit of ever greater, and more efficient, computing power.

Are we going to see the end of the desktop PC?

Given a choice I much prefer a desktop over an ultra mobile PC (umpc) for what I would call working (you know writing blog entries, abstracts, reports, long e-mails, etc…)

However when it comes to browsing, video, audio, I am quite happy with a mobile device.

Is the UMPC the future?

I do like the Sony VAIO UX1XN as it comes (as standard) with a docking station which allows you to use it both as an umpc on the move, then when back in the office, slide it into the docking station and connected to a keyboard, mouse and (large) monitor I have my desktop.

So is the UMPC (and laptops) the future of computing, from the consumers’ perspective (and thus our learners) I think it certainly is.

Keyboard or no keyboard or "call that a keyboard"?

One of the key issues with any mobile device is text entry, even if all you are entering is a URL.

People seem to be able to use a mobile phone keypad for SMS messages, but more often then not we are talking about phone numbers (easy) and text speech (u no wot i mn). Using any kind of mobile phone keypad for entering an e-mail address or an internet address (URL) can be fraught with difficulty and complexity.

Using a variety of mobile devices recently I have encountered a variety of interesting solutions to the problem of entering text.

I (and the Guardian) weren’t too enamored with the keypad of the Sony VAIO UX1XN but compared to some it’s lovely and really easy to use.

Keyboard or no keyboard or “call that a keyboard”?

The split keyboard of the Q1 Ultra is in my opinion almost unuseable in comparison, though the tablet entry is much better than the UX1XN – could that be down to the bigger 7″ screen I wonder? The buttons are very small and it’s easy to hit the wrong key.

Q1 Ultra

One of the problems I have with a lot of UMPC devices is when using Tablet PC text entry and handwriting recognition. Whereas most (full size) tablets use a tablet pen and a screen, the UMPC devices use a stylus touch entry.

What this does mean is that if you touch any other part of the screen as you write with a stylus, then that touch counts as a click and your handwriting goes all over the place. With a tablet pen, the screen only responds to the pen, which is nice until you lose the pen (they can be expensive to replace).

After much usage, I have to say I much prefer to use a tablet pen over a stylus.

Text entry on the PSP is to be brutally honest only something you want to do only on the rare occasion. I find the mobile phone type entry somewhat comple, more so if you need to enter numbers at all.

Using the keyboard on the iPod touch (and I guess the iPhone as well) is an interesting experience. It certainly works much better than the dialkeys available on some UMPCs, but again it is all to easy to hit the wrong key as you type something in.

Overall entering text on any mobile device is fraught with difficulty and complexity and the more you use a device the more familar you get with it, the easier it gets and quicker you become.

However if you are using mobile devices with a group who only use the device rarely, then you should consider alternatives to text entry directly onto the mobile device otherwise you may find that your learners start to hate the device rather than use the device for learning.

Use the device where it has strengths such as audio and video, and use other tools such as pen and paper or a computer with a full size keyboard when you want the learner to create a lot of text.

This means that learning scenarios need to be designed to avoid excessive text entry onto a mobile device, and often that means that traditional learning scenarios will not translate easily and simply to a PSP for example.

Think about replacing text entry with an audio or a video recording – the UX1XN and Q1 Ultra both have cameras and microphones which can be used for that, you can also get a camera and microphone for the PSP as well.

It is not essential or necessary for the learner to complete a learning scenario solely on a mobile device, let them use other tools to complete the learning activity, the mobile device should be just the one component that helps build the activity.