Thoughts on Tablets & Toyz

Preface:

I play with a lot of stuff: my main electronic interest lately is tablets that can be used by themselves, in cars, and as a desktop. To do this they must be multipurpose and able to do anything from play a movie on a big screen TV, display a rear view camera and read engine diagnostics in my car, become a dual 24” monitor workstation with real keyboard and mouse & peripherals, or to be able to find a good restaurant when walking in a strange city and show me the way there after making a reservation. And fit in my pocket.

Have been seeking this since the last millennia and in late 2013 feel we are very close though still need more than one device. Have determined that the only operating system that can accomplish all of this is Windows though have looked at many others. The edible fruit seems designed not to be expandable but many apparently do not care. I do.

Along the way I have tried many peripherals usually by purchasing then seeing if the support system works. So far am just glad I have had very few failures. Many were bought through Amazon (plug). My Windows tablets (8” and 10”) have mini-USB and micro-HDMI outputs so many of these gadgets have one of those. If not I have toolboxes full of adapters/cables/wall warts. One great problem in the Windows Tab market is the failure to have a common docking socket. This means that it takes four different connectors to the docking station for everything to work. The day of just being able to slip into a dock in my car or on my desk is yet a ways off. A minor annoyance is having to put up with USB 2.0 but that that least should soon be fixed.

Have a travelling kit that includes a lot of things, LAN adapter, miniUSB adapter, microHDMI adapter, hub, GPS receiver, CD/DVD and such. Could not find a computer case small enough for the 8” tab so bought a purse.

Notebook case on top, Netbook on left, Tablet on right

Table of Contents

Powered hub:
Docking Station:
HDMI-VGA Adapter:
Fast USB 2.0 Ethernet RJ45 adapter:
External Wireless N:
GPS:
Stylus:
Bluetooth Keyboard:
Smart Card Reader:
CD/DVD:
BlueRay Reader/Burner
Solid State Drive
ChromeCast
Startech
Keyboard Case
Charger Doctor



Powered Hub:

My windows tabs do not have a lot of USB power so have a couple of Gearhead UH7250MAC (I like white) 7 port powered hubs. 2A wall wart included



Docking Station:

A real workstation needs a powered dock with USB 3.0, Gigabit Ethernet (RJ45), HDMI and DVDI (with adapter for VGA) & dual monitor capability. Until the manufacturers get their acts together and agree on a common docking connector I am using a Targus ACP70USZ universal dock. The only downside is use of a special power connector and an unusual computer>dock connector at the dock end means it needs special cables for those two. Bought a “refurbished” unit for under a buck that did not come with CD or Instructions. Both were downloadable from Targus and necessary because everything except the USB connectors requires DisplayLink drivers. Monitors are 24” 1920x1080 & driven by an Acer W3 8” tablet.

ps recently I was able to examine a Toshiba DynaDock U3.0 & was surprised to find the same oddball computer>dock connector. Specs are also nearly identical. Badge Engineering ? At least the Targus can double as a tablet tilter.




HDMI-VGA Adapter:

MicroHDMI to VGA active adapter with audio out. Cable Matters BMA0035. 1920x1080 NP.



USB 2.0 Ethernet RJ45 adapter.

Are less expensive ones if all you need is about 12 Mb/s but a 10/100 like this can handle a 45 Mb/s pipe. Plugable USB2-E100. LEDs are in the end.



USB Long Range Wireless:

Internal wireless is fine but a small case often means a limited range. The enGenius EUB9603H has the power to pull in the whole neighborhood (needs a powered hub - SSIDs redacted).



GPS:

The BU-353 is a mainstay GPS receiver but for Windows 8 you need a BU-353-S4 or later. I like the suction cup and magnetic base for automotive use.



Stylus:

For an 8” tab running windows you really need a stylus. 9 in a pack for a Jefferson and change is good and the size is nice. From SODIAL p/n CC4U_1940


Bluetooth Keyboard:

Quite a few around but I just like this one. Fits in an eyeglass case, charges via USB. Has WIN key, includes a mini trackpadand laser pointer. Carries a slave USB BT adapter if needed and buttons on side are for page up/page down/and pointer in easy location when giving a PowerPoint presentation (PP included in many new small tabs). iPazzPort ProMini KP-810-10BTT


Smart Card Reader:

I have some uncommon needs more commonly found in enterprise/agency/.mil/.gov arenas. One of these is being able to read an ISO 7816 smart card. Handiest reader I have found is a foldable SCM3500.

Ps: that is an Acer W3 on top of an iPad on top of a MacBook. The Acer is connected to the dock.


CD/DVD:

 

I have a couple of USB DVD players/burners that are inexpensive. For tablet use I prefer ones that can be both USB powered and accept a wall wart like the Velocity VMDrive #101. This is needed since many tabs do not have enough USB power to drive. I look for dual power in any 5v system I have. If not you need a powered hub.



BlueRay

Currently 3x to 4x the price of a plain CD/DVD is a USB 3.0 BluRay burner/player like the LG BD-40. The downside to this one is that it has no provision for external power so requires a true USB 3.0 (900ma) connection or a powered hub/dock. It should be noted that a Clover Trail device does not seem to support the graphics required for BluRay movies. Bay Trail is supposed to but until I have one to test I do not know.

There are less expensive players available with separate power cords today but not when I bought the LG. I tend to be an “early adopter”.


Solid State Drive

Often a tablet will not have enough onboard storage even with an SD card . Also for enterprise/agency use it is needful to operate from an entirely different context. Using a dual boot mechanism like Windows to To (in Windows 8 and later Enterprise edition) as Bitlocker encryption it is possible to use a tablet both for corporate or government work & for personal use and have each context not only completely seperate from each other but provably non-contaminated.

To do this or even just to have a platform for a High Definition or BluRay collection. This requires an external drive. Fortunately USB 3.0 provides for the first time USB speeds that are the same or faster than a SATA drive.

While for a permanent installation say for a workstation, a multiterabyte rotating drive is inexpensive (about U$50/terabyte in 2013), SSD drives are better suited for portable use.

One that I have found very useful and small (just too big for an eyeglass case) is the Oyen Digital U32 Shadow drive. 120GB was enough for my purpose but larger ones are available.

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ChromeCast

Something neat I have found is the Google ChromeCast device. Essentially a wireless device that can be used to display websites form any device able to run Chrome web browser and has wireless capability.

What is not publicised is that if you select the ChromeCast device option button from inside Chrome and then the arrow on the right a new menu opens that includes "Display Desktop".

Selecting that allows the browser to be minimised and whatever is on the desktop is displayed on the HDMI device. Wirelessly.


Y Cable

My Bay Trail tablet has lost an individual charging port. While this may not bother some, I like to use a Windows tablet in a Docking station (see the Tragus above). To make things worse, the manufacturers in their infinite wisdom decided not to allow the single port to be used for both charging and data transfer so charge or use dock but not both. Kinda defeats the idea of a desktop replacement.

Having seen some odd charging states in my tab, one struck me as odd: "plugged in, not charging". This let me to the thought that if I could run the docked tab off of mains power, I did not really care if it charged or not so started looking into a number of Y cables. OTG cables did not work at all but then I found the Startech USB2HAUBMY3. It has three USB connectors. Connecting the red to a usb power connection, the back to the dock input, and the micro to the Tablet resulted in full connectivity and "plugged in, not charging". If the tab began at 92% charged, at the end of an 8 hour day it was still at 92%. Good enough for me.


Keyboard Case

Many seem enamoured by blue tooth for everything and have issues with repeated keys and stuttering. I prefer hardwiring even though it is a bit more cumbersome since it is reliable. I do have a pocket BT keyboard/touchpad/pointer (see above) for special needs but genrally I use a USB keyboard since can lay on a surface and use both hands.

Now a tab needs a case IMNSHO mainly to protect the screen. Since a case with a USB keyboard is currently under U$15, why not ? I've been using for years and just had one that needed a support reglued.

Are lots out there only thing is to make sure it is compatible with Windows (Windows key may have ZZZ or something on it but make sure it serves the purpose, having the three lights is an indicator). I do find that a white keyboard is easier to see in reduced light than a black one.

Note: the one pictured has a USB Male A connector and an adapter (black) to convert to microUSB for the Tab connection. That way it plugs directly into the powered hub. Also the case shown was advertised for a 7" tab. One advertised for an 8" tab seems considerably larger than needed for mine.


Charger Doctor

This little gadget has proven more useful than I thought, basically a volt/amp meter that can be inserted in a USB line and determine whether a device is charging and how much. Very handy for determining what is happening particularly in Bay Trail tabs that have no charge indicator.

So far am seeing 200-400 ma when "plugged in not charging" and 1.5-2A when charging fully.



More to come as I get a round tuit.


Text and some graphics contents copyright 2013-14 by Padgett all rights reserved
A few of the images are from manufacturer’s web sites or other locations on the Internet. Others were taken by the author.
All opinions are mine and derived from personally owned devices.

Notary sojak y’all.