Tag Archives: laptop

Acer’s R7 the most twisty Windows 8 tablet/laptop yet

What is the name for a laptop that is also a tablet? A tabtop? Or perhaps a tabletop, which is a good way to describe Acer’s R7. The hinge (called “Ezel”) swings up to become a stalk supporting the tablet, raising it above the table.

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What is the value of this configuration? Maybe you can think of something?

The thinking here (if I have it right) is that you can get the screen closer to your eyes than would be possible with a normal laptop. In other words, the flat table-top is not the normal use, but rather a tilt towards you but raised above the keyboard, if you see what I mean.

Alternatively, there is a backwards configuration which, I was told, is for presentations. The keyboard is your side, while the screen points into the room.

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Of course, you won’t actually be able to see the screen yourself but that is a small detail versus the great view afforded to your audience. I am being a little unfair – the idea I think is that you sit screen-side too, and control it by touch.

You can also fold the screen flat to make a standard fat tablet configuration.

Failing that, there is a keyboard-only mode – note, no trackpad on view.

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This is to avoid hitting the trackpad by mistake, apparently. Or if you really want a trackpad, you can have it, but note that it is behind the keyboard:

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A bit odd? Let’s just say, different.

Close the lid, and looks like just another laptop.

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For more information on the R7 see here.

The incredible moving cursor: why your cursor jumps around when typing on your Windows 7 laptop

Here is the problem: you are typing on your laptop and suddenly the input cursor jumps to a different place and you are typing somewhere in a previous paragraph.

It is infuriating and there are long threads on the subject on Microsoft Answers here and here, for example.

I have just been speaking to a user with exactly this problem. The clue: he had recently created a new profile, which resets your Windows user settings to the default.

The answer was simple. Laptops have touchpads or trackpads which have a feature called tapping. Just tap with the finger and it registers a mouse click. Double tap and it registers a double-click.

Nice idea, but it is a vile feature for some – possibly most – users since it is so easy to trigger accidentally. Anything might happen: emails sent by mistake, documents closed, buttons clicked, and so on. It is as if your computer is being remote controlled by a malevolent third party, especially if you have a slight tremor for any reason.

Fortunately you can disable the setting, but it is among the most buried in Windows. The instructions on my Toshiba are as follows:

Go to Control Panel, Mouse, Change Mouse Settings, Advanced tab, click Advanced Feature Settings, then click Settings under Detailed Settings for Touch Pad operations, then uncheck Enable Tapping.

The path may be different for you, particularly if you have a different brand of touchpad. The above is for a Synaptics; Alps has different dialogs, for example. Poke around in mouse settings until you find it.

The setting “Disable tapping while typing” is not sufficient for some reason.

Why does this make your cursor jump, even if you do not use your touchpad? It is the vibration from your typing that is enough to trigger a tap on some machines, registering a “click” wherever the pointer happens to be (and the pointer is usually hidden when typing, making this appear even more mysterious).

The question which puzzles me is why this annoying feature is enabled by default, when it should be disabled, and second, why it is so hard to find the setting, when it is something that many people need?

I imagine this single feature has driven some users to the Mac. Most users never discover the fix, but just have the impression that Windows is buggy.

If the laptop had been invented after the tablet …

I attended a press briefing for a new kind of portable computing device which its inventors are calling a “laptop” and have been trying out a review sample.

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Unlike today’s one-piece slate form factor, the laptop has a hinged top which when open forms the screen. The lower piece, called the keyboard, has physical buttons representing the letters of the alphabet, numbers, and other useful inputs, more or less matching the on-screen input panel we are used to.

The makers claim that a keyboard is faster to use than an input panel, but I am not convinced. One of the problems is that you are either looking at the screen, or the keyboard, and it takes a lot of practice to type without looking at the keyboard and missing what is appearing on the screen.

The real benefit is that without an input panel, there is more space on the screen for the application. Still, bearing in mind that the input panel disappears when not in use, this is not really such a big deal.

The downside of the laptop is that the two-piece design makes it bulkier and potentially more delicate than a conventional tablet. I also found that while it works fine on a desk, in a constrained space such as in an aeroplane seat the hinge design is awkward to use, and on several occasions I gave in to the frustration and used my normal tablet instead.

If you are standing up, the laptop is horrible to use, whereas a tablet works fine: you can hold it in one hand and control it with the other.

Laptops will be more expensive than tablets because of the more complex design, though we were shown a cheaper variant that has a passive screen which does not respond to touch.

This is odd to use; at first you find yourself constantly stabbing at the screen by mistake, but eventually you can train yourself to do everything with the keyboard. Just make sure you do not ever switch back to a tablet, otherwise when you come back to the laptop you will find yourself stabbing the screen again!

In order to mitigate the lack of touch control on these low-end devices, the designers have added an on-screen pointer which you can think of as a virtual finger. A small area in the centre of the keyboard is touch-sensitive, and moving your finger there moves the on-screen “finger”. You can then tap or click a button to simulate a finger tap.

It is a clever idea, though operating at one remove from the screen itself takes some getting used to. In the end though, it feels like a step backwards and for most users the extra cost of the normal touch screen is well worth it.

My view: for certain specialist tasks the laptop may catch on, but I cannot see it succeeding in the mass market.

Inspired by Ten failings that will check the tablet’s rise

Fixing a laptop screen

When a friend showed me their two-year old Toshiba laptop that had suddenly developed a fault, I was not optimistic. The screen was showing a blur of horizontal lines and you could not even make out the image Windows was trying to show. Likely a faulty screen, but is it an economical repair?

I verified that it was only the screen that was faulty by connecting to an external display, which worked fine. Then I took a closer look at the faulty screen. I noticed that if I pressed the upper left screen trim, it started working. Release the pressure, and the lines reappeared. That seemed to me a good sign.

The last time I tangled with a laptop screen was a few years back. At that time, with the models I looked at, you had to remove the keyboard and numerous other parts to get at the screen; but it seems that it is simpler now. I removed the battery and power, and then unscrewed four screws in the screen trim, following which I could pop off the screen trim by gently prising it away. This enabled me to look at the back of the screen, where the model number was shown. It was a Samsung LCD screen. I figured it would probably be cheaper to search for the Samsung part, rather than finding out what Toshiba would charge for a replacement.

It turns out that a new screen is available for around £75-£85 from sites like this one. Probably worth it for a decent laptop just a couple of years old. The following video, from the same site, shows what is typically involved – though be warned, your particular laptop may be different.

Still, I was wondering if it needed a new screen at all. It might just be a loose connection, since I could fix it with finger pressure. I removed the screen completely by unscrewing it from its bracket, so I could easily get at the VGA connection. I lifted a small piece of tape and removed the connector. Then I reinserted it, pressing it home firmly. Reassembled the screen, replaced the battery and turned on.

Since then, no fault. Who knows, it may recur, but for nothing more than a short time with a screwdriver I am glad to have extended the life of this particular laptop.

PS If you try the above, you do so at your own risk. It is easy to do further damage, so if in doubt consult a specialist.