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On The Road and Mobile Again: Going Solo with the Asus R2H



OntheroadWhat an absolutely insane week this has been. I’ve been away on a casting trip, and returned to the final week of rehearsals for The Buddy Holly Story. My posting has been down here because of that, but in the next few days, I’ll be rolling out a series of posts about how I used the Asus R2H as my only computer during that time.

Prior to leaving for that audition trip, I stated that I was going solo with the Asus R2H Ultra-Mobile PC as I hit the road. I did and before I get to the bottom line, let me state this trip didn’t allow me much time for mobile computing. But what I did need to do, I was more than able to perform with ease using the Asus R2H and the mobile kit I packed. Let me also say that this (and subsequent) reports could also just as easily be a review of the Battery Geek Portable Power Station as it could be about the R2H. That portable power solution proved invaluable on the trip and during the ensuing week.

The week began with a delayed start. I planned to leave on Sunday night to stay with friends the night before the auditions. Snow and freezing rain put off my departure to the morning of the auditions. This little bit of extra time gave me a chance to plan my route to the audition location with the Asus R2H using Microsoft Office Streets and Trips 2007 and the built in GPS. The software combined with the Asus R2H performed well, (but not ideally) and got me to my destination. That said, I don’t have a car mounting solution, so I was only relying on the voice responses from the software and not using the screen for navigation. I’ll have more on this later.

Auditions are a weird and tense environment. Everyone is friendly, but also very apprehensive of sitting through several days of watching actors. It is a miserable way to look for employment or employees. Consequently, the room full of auditors is usually very dour. (There’s no American Idol like atmosphere in the real world here.) Everyone is sitting in reasonably close quarters in a darkened theatre and you certainly don’t do anything to call attention to yourself. Conversation is kept to a minimum. That said, I found a location in the back of the theatre that allowed me to pull out the R2H, connect it to my PPC 6700 for EVDO coverage, and monitor my email throughout the day. It was a simple step to ink a quick reply on a break when that became necessary. I could have used just the PPC 6700 for this and did occassionally, so the R2H was not essential for this task.

As for note taking in the process, I never intended to use it in that fashion. It is still easier to ink directly on the actor’s resume when you are in that kind of environment. (Auditions move quickly-about every 3 minutes or so.) Had I been conducting callback interviews that would have been a different situation, as you can see from this post from last year.

But, auditions also give me time to think as I tune out during a really bad audition, or on the occasion (there are many) where I know I won’t be seriously looking at the auditionee for one reason or the other. In those instances I would pick up the R2H, scribble my thoughts into OneNote 2007 and move on. It is actually good brainstorming time. I occassionally use MindManger for this, but usually stick to OneNote during auditions.

One complete disappointment I have with the R2H has to do with screen rotation. Yes, it will rotate using either the built in command, which is not easy to get to quickly, or the URotate utility. But at times, and this is completely random, the bottom third of the screen becomes unusable in portrait mode. I much prefer portrait mode for note taking, and this is just not a good solution at the moment. Maybe when I install Vista I’ll see some improvement here, but I’m not holding my breath. UMPCs with this size of screen should have flawless screen rotation.

Now, I mentioned using the Battery Geek earlier. I can run the R2H all day plugged into “the Geek.” In fact, I plugged it into “the Geek” for the drive to the auditions. I would occasionally unplug when I would pick up the R2H for note taking, but the combo of these two units let me go all day. One minor niggle about the Portable Power Station. I wish it was easier to turn the thing on and off. The push button interface works fine, but occasionally I’ll be holding the button in thinking I’ve made the right contact and I haven’t. Again, a minor niggle.

On concluding the auditions, I prepared to head home to a rehearsal in what was to be a two hour slog through rush hour traffic. I set up the GPS and also opened up iTunes. After setting up a quick playlist I used the Belkin Tune Cast II to broadcast to the car radio. I was able to catch up on some podcasts and listen to the GPS directions through the radio. (The GPS voice interrupting a recent MobileTech Roundup podcast, reminded me of the CES episode where the guys were interrupted by a young lady heading to the restroom.) This worked like a charm and plugged into “the Geek” I of course had power for the duration.

The Streets and Trips software solution is a decent one, but not a great one. It performs the designated functions well. Interesting note here: many have reported that it takes awhile to get satellite signals when starting it up. That’s true and it is a minor annonyance. But I find it recognizes satellites more quickly in my rural location than it does in urban locations-the auditions were in Washington DC.

Streets & Trips is not really a good one person solution while on the road. With a co-pilot, I could see it being a better solution. The lack of an outdoor viewable screen also figures in here. Unless I’ve overlooked something, there is no automatic route recalculation if you get off route. The interface to do a recalculation is easy enough if you are sitting with it in your hand, but not while driving. The touch screen of the R2H requires a good touch with a fingernail (or stylus) to accept input and this isn’t easy to do while driving. I’ll be looking for another software solution for this soon.

Again, not a demanding trip as far as computing needs, but everything I needed to do, I was able to do with the R2H even though I miss the processing power of the X60 Tablet PC. But given what I need to do in these circumstances, the R2H does the job very well when called upon. The next casting trip is a bit more extensive, and does include a callback interview process, so I’m anxious to see how that works out, given that the demands are more intensive then.

On returning to the theatre, the big experiment on using the Ultra-Mobile PC began. Did the Asus R2H meet my primary need for a note taking and communication tool in rehearsals? Stay tuned for another report on that in a day or two.

Other posts in this series:


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