Why Tablets will Never Replace Laptops

Tablets PCs are all the rage nowadays. I mean, lets face it – the personal computer is no longer the king of technology. It’s been around for decades and it’s high time that we Tablets on a Shelftalk about something fresh and new. Smartphones are of course still hip, but the release of Apple’s original iPad in April of 2010 has shaken up the market with a completely new viable form factor for the media to go crazy over.

The entire market has also been presented with a device which is genuinely more portable, generally offers better battery life than laptops and is far more intuitive with multi-touch capabilities. The experience is simply far more interactive. Tablets certainly have their place, but still have their pundits. Some are still left asking themselves why they need yet another device for browsing the web, viewing pictures or writing emails.

There is far more to it than that, however. Here are the top 5 reasons why tablets will never be able to completely replace laptops:

  1. Nobody would ever want to write this article on a tablet. I mean, seriously guys, think about this one. By the time somebody typing the 1,000 or so words (hopefully less!) it will take to get my thoughts across in this article, a writer equipped with a laptop could easily write 2 or 3 full articles. Then there is email, programming, Excel, databases… I think you get the idea: the keyboard is simply the ultimate input method for writing… anything. Period.
  2. Just because you can make it smaller, doesn’t mean you should. This point goes hand in hand with the above point. We all like small and portable things. But the smartphone revolution has made this point abundantly clear as well. When we found out how powerful that ultra-portable technology like smartphones could be, we also began to recognize that a bigger screen could also be a huge asset which would allow us to work with more data at once. The keyboard and mouse have a similar relationship with the tablet as the tablet does with the smartphone. After all, we are human and we will always need devices that are large enough to interact with. If our eyes could resolve the hairs on an ant we could certainly live with much smaller screens. If our hands were smaller, we could certainly live with smaller keyboards. There is a finite limit to how small something can possibly depending on how we choose to interact with it.
  3. Higher-end content productivity is simply better served with a full-fledged system. I’m talking photo editing, video editing, CAD drawings and the likes. Not to mention that full-fledged laptops are more powerful (though in 10 years this may not even matter anymore). But the venerable mouse and keyboard with various other input devices attached have certainly proven themselves. In fact these are environments where all the input devices required almost favor having a fixed workstation. Let us also not forget more advanced multi-display setups as well. These are largely fixed and take advantage of features which tablets have no place offering.
  4. Not everybody is always on the go. Really, I promise! Everybody is increasingly mobile nowadays? Tech support representatives are more mobile? Accountants are more mobile? Not everybody is more mobile, and that’s fine. But somebody has to call out this fallacy that absolutely everybody wants to or even can work while driving or flying to some other destination. And besides, wasn’t technology supposed to help people stay put and avoid having to fly out to meet your client in the first place? What happened to green initiatives focusing on reducing how much you travel? When did fuel get cheap again? I must have missed those memos.
  5. Tablets are better suited to content consumption than creation. That really seems to be the recurring theme here. This is not derogatory. This does not mean that tablets can only be used to view YouTube videos of people getting kicked in the groin and pictures of lolcats. The CEO of a company is more likely to be a consumer of content than a creator. The engineers, marketers, accountants and lawyers create the content, among other groups of skilled workers. Managers will then look at all that information and make better decisions based on it. But at the core of everything, there is always a huge need for creation of new information and content. Tablets, mainly due to the different interface, are better suited to organizing and displaying the information once it’s been created.

So given all this, what can we deduce? First, tablets are complementary to laptops in the same way that smartphones are complementary to them. This often seems to get lost in a lot of the media coverage surrounding them.

Further, to those who do not understand what purpose a tablet serves in an office environment, I’d be willing to bet that you don’t spend much time reviewing lots of information while on the run, you don’t work with information often, or you are the one creating it.

So no, I can’t predict the death of the laptop even within the next 10 years anymore than I can predict the death of the full-size keyboard in that time frame, and nor should you. It’s absurd to even think about it when you put it that way and it always will be as long as humans have 10 fingers and two hands.

DIY Wheel Alignment

Have you ever wanted to perform an alignment of your car at home for free? As a general rule, I never let a garage touch any of my cars unless it’s somebody that I know and I’m giving them a very specific task.  With car maintenance I often find that if you want it done right then you have to do it yourself. How many stories have you heard of people going in to get an alignment and driving out with a car that doesn’t travel straight? Far too often.

When I replaced the inner and outer tie-rods on my E36 BMW 325is, it was important to get a proper alignment done to ensure that the tires would last as long as possible and to provide the coveted BMW “ultimate driving experience”. What’s more, I wanted to make sure it was done right for the right price. BMW wanted around $350 to do a 4 wheel alignment. Absolutely insane!

I’d to preface this method by telling any skeptics out there that this is the method we use to align our Formula 1600 open-wheel race car. In fact, it’s the established method. I also watched the Ferrari of San Diego racing team use this technique on a 458 Italia during the Montreal Grand Prix. I guarantee you that if this is good enough for the track, this is good enough for any street car. Finally, with that out of the way, here’s what you’ll need:

Required Tools

  • A thin piece of string longer than the car (dental floss works well)
  • A couple of stands to hold the string taught from front to back at wheel hub level
  • A level
  • A caliper or very accurate ruler (1mm accuracy or better)
  • Whatever renches you’ll need to adjust the tie-rods

Alignment Spreadsheet & Calculator

I’ve created a nifty Excel spreadsheet that will automatically convert your measurements into a toe angle and camber angle.

Download: Alignment Spreadsheet & Calculator

Level the Car

This shouldn’t be too hard to do. Find a flat, level surface where you can work on the car and park it there. Alternatively, I stopped at at the foot of the driveway half on the road such in neutral and rocked it forward and back by hand until it found its level. I then double-checked with the level.

Straighten the Steering Wheel

This part is quite important. If you want your car to drive in a straight line when the wheel is straight then you must keep the wheel straight through this entire process. It is possible to have equally valid alignment settings when the wheel is not set straight, but we definitely don’t want that. It’s annoying. Straighten your wheel and check often to make sure it stays that way. If your wheel gets turned once mid alignment you will absolutely have to start over.

Square your String to the Chassis

Easier than it sounds. All you need to do is run the string from the front of the car to the back at wheel hub level. Make sure to keep the string taught with your stands. These can be as simple as a piece of wood with a nail in it for all intents and purposes.

The goal is to then get the string to be of equal distance from the front wheel hub as it is from the rear wheel hub. The actual distance doesn’t matter so much, just that both distances be the same. This step assumes that the offset of each wheel is the same. For most stock cars this is the case. Once this is done, your string will be perfectly square with the car’s chassis.

Measure Your Toe Angle

This measurement is taken by lining up your caliper or ruler at string level and measuring to the outer edge of the wheel on the left and right. Measure the left side of the wheel first and write down your distance. Then measure the right side and write that down too. Repeat this for the rear wheels. Note that you should never measure to any point on the tires because they are rubber and will always have small deviations. We want the highest possible accuracy.

If your toe angle is 0 degrees then both your measurements will come out the same. Zero toe is what most street cars run on the front end, but you should Google the proper alignment settings for your car to be sure.

Make Adjustments

Now you should pull out your wrenches and adjust the tie-rods either in or out depending on your car and what you found your toe angle to be. For tie-rods connected to the front of the hub, lengthening the tie-rod will toe the car out. For tie-rods connected to the rear of the hub, lengthening the tie-rod will toe the car out. The converse is true in both cases for toeing it in.

Your goal will be make adjustments and re-measure the distance from the left and right of the wheel until it is perfectly straight when the wheel is straight.

Rinse and Repeat

Once you have gotten the alignment of one wheel correct, repeat it for the next on the side of the car you are working on. Once that’s done and you are happy with your measurements, you can switch your string to the other side of the car and repeat the same steps. Bear in mind that you have to make sure your steering wheel is still perfectly straight. If it isn’t or moves from one side to the other, your toe angle will be off.

Using this Method for Camber

A slight variation of this method also works for setting your camber angle if it is even adjustable on your vehicle. The only difference is that we have to hold a string with a weight on the bottom to droop down at the same outward distance as the string until it crosses it and forms a + at the wheel hub level. Usually you’ll want a buddy to help you hold it off the top of the tire for this part. You then measure to the top of the wheel and the bottom of the wheel and make your adjustments based on your measurements.

Typically you’ll want to Google the correct camber settings for your car as they all vary and likely won’t be 0 degrees as is often the case with toe angle.

Apple Loses Another Unreleased iPhone… Or Not

Hot Girl Holding iPhone
Hint: she doesn't have it.

As you  probably remember  last year, an Apple employee who was testing the iPhone 4 prototype in the wild lost the prototype in a bar. The man who found the phone quickly realized what it was and contacted well-known tech blog Gizmodo and sold it to them for $5,000. Apple was apparently far from pleased with the incident as they started a police investigation and tried to sue the pants off Gizmodo, which subsequently settled. In a thoroughly altruistic mood, Apple also ended up firing the employee that lost the phone despite a large public outcry not to, which included Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak.

Fast forward a year, and we have found that CNET is reporting in an apparently “exclusive” that the latest iPhone 5 prototype has also suffered the same fate… in yet another bar. When I heard that a couple of days ago, I thought it sounded a little fishy and promptly moved on. Well it turns out that an editor at SF Weekly called the San Francisco police. Turns out they had no record of any such investigation – exactly what they told CNET.

Apple has not responded to this incident publicly, yet.

The Truth?

In this case, something doesn’t add up and clearly somebody is lying. Consider all the possibilities:

1. Apple intentionally lost this phone to steer attention away from the recent departure of CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs.

2. A prototype was accidentally lost, but the police don’t know about it or are lying about it for some reason.

3. CNET fabricated this whole story to get all the press coverage. They get an exclusive high-profile story without having to shell out 5 grand as Gizmodo did.

I’ll let you decide, but personally I have a sneaking suspicion that this is a CNET fabrication, and a poor one at that. I can’t possibly imagine Apple employees are so careless that they would be running around with iPhone prototypes and losing them in bars. Especially just a year later. What’s more, Apple really didn’t seem to be too pleased with the loss of their phone last year – and they certainly weren’t shy about making that crystal clear.

Then we come to CNET, they have the most to gain from this by far. This story is just too perfect and they have too much to gain.

Seemingly Magical Seamless Computing from nsquared

nsquared Seamless Computing Microsoft SurfaceIt seems that technology is breaking down the boundaries of what is science-fiction and what is real yet again. A company called nsquared Solutions has put together a series of Microsoft technologies that put some Star Trek tech to shame.

Largely, this seamless computing consists of completely wireless communication between devices such as a Windows 7 mobile phone, the Microsoft Surface, a Windows 7 tablet and Kinect. The large breakthrough is how these devices seamlessly interact with each other and complement each other. Gone are the days of the antiquated progress bar.

[youtube_video id=”oALIuVb0NJ4″]

In the following demonstration, Dr. Neil Roodyn receives an email on his phone and then reads the data from the Surface. He then pulls up architectural plans, overlays a different view on the tablet and then navigates the 3D model of the house using a TV powered by Kinect. The computer, called “Bill” in this video responds to voice commands and helps him along in his architectural madness while he scans in 2D pictures he just took into 3D objects that get thrown into the mode.

This technology all comes together almost magically. Now if only things technology was this seamless to use everyday!