Answers by Jessica Scott, Toby Scott & Michael Shalkey
February 2012 Social Media SIG
This month's SIG concentrated on the use of a tablet, which Toby Scott bought from Staples after January's presentation by three of the store's technicians.
Although it's possible to type on the onscreen keyboard by swiping -- running your finger the characters you want on the screen, she uses a stylus to keep the screen clean. No matter how careful people are, they always have some oil on their hands, she pointed out, and the dirtier a screen gets, the more likely the tablet is to deliver strange results.
Android apps available for the tablet, a Toshiba Thrive, include games, social media, email and many others. Users can take notes with Google Docs, writing by hand or connecting a keyboard and mouse to the tablet. The tablet allows Internet connections. The tablet depends on Wi-Fi connections because it can't be plugged into a router to use wired Internet, she said, because it has no Ethernet jack.
"The screen is awesome," she said, and the tablet has HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) and USB connections and two cameras, which can be used with Skype, among other programs. The HDMI connections lets users display the computer's screen on a TV screen and its sound on the TV sound system.
Ninety-five percent of the Android apps are free, Jessica said, and most of the paid apps cost $2.99 or less. The tablet came with a few apps installed. The others can be downloaded from the Android store (android.com).
Toby Scott said he bought the tablet from Staples because the three presenters appeared at the club and provided the information that let him decide what tablet he wanted. It was only fair that he buy the tablet from the store, he said.
Some Android apps are available only for the phones that use the system, Jessica said.
In answer to a question, Toby said that some tablets, including some by Samsung, have 3G, and a member of the audience said iPads have both 3G and Wi-Fi.
Jessica demonstrated Google Maps, which provides a street-level view of the area on the map. Using compass mode on the tablet shows what a person standing on the street and turning 360 degrees would see. "I travel the world all the time on my couch" because of that feature, Jessica said.
Jessica told a questioner that she is searching for an app that will create an Excel file with better results than Google Docs.
Another questioner asked about speech to text apps, and Jessica said none of the Android apps she has seen are as good as Apple's Siri. Toby said Windows 8 will have better speech recognition than Siri.
And Michael Shalkey added that Android developers are working with Majel Barrett- Roddenberry, widow of "Star Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry, so that the Android speech recognition program will sound like the show's computers. In addition to playing Nurse Christine Chapel on the original "Star Trek," Barrett-Roddenberry was the voice of the shows' computers.
Jessica said she needs speech-recognition software that is more than "pretty good," because she doesn't have time when working to go back and correct lots of errors.
People considering a tablet should not get "a cheap tablet because you get what you pay for," she said. Jessica said she knows someone who bought an HP tablet that was inexpensive and who ended up not liking it. Toby noted that the HP tablet was being sold at a low price because the company had abandoned after it didn't sell well at the original higher price. He suggested getting a Kindle, not the Kindle Fire, if you're looking for a less expensive tablet.
A questioner said that the tablet and a refurbished Apple iPod both cost about $400 and asked Jessica to compare the two. Jessica said she has never used the iPod so can't compare them. Toby said the iPod speech-recognition will be better and the apps will be more expensive.
A questioner said he has a Kindle Fire that goes crazy when he puts his finger on the screen. He said the screen is clean and that software update that was supposed to fix the problem did not. Jessica and Toby said he should take the Fire back to where he bought it while it's still under warranty. At least, Toby said, start a trouble ticket quickly to cover yourself.
Toby also noted that the tablet has an SD card, which the iPod does not. A member of the audience said that a USB device can be attached to the iPod to use an SD card, but, Toby said, that will be much slower than the tablet's SD card.
Asked why he chose the Thrive over the other tablets, Toby said he was impressed by the gorilla glass and the full-sized USB and HDMI connections. Other tablets require tiny connectors, which makes connecting peripherals far more difficult.
Both Jessica and Toby praised the battery life. Jessica said she has used the tablets for eight hours without recharging, and Toby said the battery is rated for 11 hours. The recharging took about half an hour, Jessica said.
The camera is good, Toby said, and Jessica showed a video made with the tablet of her playing Scirabin's Nocturne for Left Hand.
The tablet's cameras also work with Skype, they said.