I have posted quite a few recountings of out of box experiences (OOBEs) over the last year or so. They have been some of the most popular postings on this blog. I thought I’d go back and let you all know what I think about some of these products after living with them for extended period.
Exchange in the cloud. Rackspace’s Exchange hosting service has been completely reliable. On the few times that I have had to consult with tech support they have been easy to get to, polite, and knowledgeable. There’s only been one problem, and it was a small one. I created a test mailbox to resolve some Droid X synching problems. I no longer need it, but I can’t seem to make it go away. There’s no way to delete a mailbox from the website, and two calls to tech support have produced agreement and a promise to make the mailbox disappear, but I’m still being billed for it every month. On balance, I am extremely happy that I decided to stop running my own Exchange server, and pleased with Rackspace’s performance.
Epson 4900. The output quality is amazing. The printer has been reliable. The driver software has worked flawlessly (this is not usually the case early in the lifecycle of a new Epson printer). The paper handling, while better than the 3880, is not up to the quality of my 9800. In particular, feeding 17 x 22 Hahnemuhle Photo Rag from the rear manual slot produces feed errors about half the time. The same size sheets of Epson Exhibition Fiber cause similar errors, but less often. I was initially quite taken by the printer’s automatic nozzle checking and cleaning as needed, but I noticed that the printer cleans itself nearly every time I turn it on. My 3880 only needed to be cleaned every few weeks. I’m a little concerned about the extra ink consumed by the 4900s obsessive penchant for head cleanliness, and may turn off the automatic nozzle checking and cleaning.
Droid X. Any review of this phone has to use the iPhone as the standard. Measured against that standard, I have mixed feelings about the Droid X. I like the configurability of the phone; it makes me feel somewhat confined when using iPhone. The voice quality is better than the iPhone. I like the bigger screen. However, it just doesn’t feel like as finished a product. Downloading apps is a little clunky, and sometimes beset with connection errors. I have complained about the iPhone e-mail application when used as an Exchange client, but Touchdown, the e-mail app that I’m using on the Droid X, is by comparison uglier, buggier, harder to use, and lacking in features.
I have a little more than a year before the Droid’s contract expires, and I really don’t know what I’ll do when that happens. It will be fun to see the coming changes. Android is making amazing market penetration, and with that penetration – if the fragmentation issues can be resolved – may come dramatically increased application sophistication and reliability. There’s a new kid on the block in Windows 8. Right now it looks like the darkest of dark horses, but a year is a long time in tech.
NEC MultiSync PA301W. It’s a fine monitor, but for my purposes there are hardly any improvements over its predecessor. The 30 bit color capability does not improve my image editing process, and I have turned it off, since it interferes with Windows 7 Aero. I do like the ability to precisely change the brightness of the monitor without losing calibration. There has been one anomaly that seems to be associated with the DisplayPort interface. When the monitor goes to sleep, or I turn it off, the operating system resizes all of the windows to 640×480.
Dell T7500. The computer has run flawlessly. It is quiet, and it is powerful. It consumes a lot of power, but no more than I would expect, given the amount of memory and the processor. I opted for maximum scalar performance with the 3.47 GHz clock rate, and the machine really delivers. I am glad that I did not specify a dual processor machine; I almost never see the CPU utilization needle above 50% as it is. Having 48 GB of RAM means that my complicated composites never slow down Photoshop. The solid-state disk means that programs load really quickly.
The good thing about human nature is that we can get used almost anything; the bad thing about human nature is that we can get used almost anything. The machine doesn’t seem particularly fast to me now, but when I use my old T3400 it seems like molasses in January.
Drobo FS. After the initial sturm und drang, it’s been running like a hound. It’s a purchase I would not make again, if only because of the slow read and write performance, which is only fractionally greater than that obtainable with a USB connection. In the last few years, a great many new alternatives for network attached and iSCSI storage have arisen. Were I to replace the FS, I would look at some of these new vendors.
IPad 1. It’s a breakthrough product, but one that just leaves me wanting more. Initially, I wanted multitasking most. I’ve got that now, thanks to the OS upgrade. Now what I want most is a version of Microsoft Office for the iPad. Then I could have a top-notch Exchange client, easy transferability of PowerPoint presentations, Excel spreadsheets, and Word documents back and forth between desktop and laptop computers and the iPad.
It’s a great device for consuming information. I don’t use Apple’s reader; I use the Kindle reader instead. Except for out-of-doors, it supplies an altogether better experience than the Kindle hardware itself. The Wall Street Journal app is a demonstration of how great a newspaper reading app can be, and is a model which the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the LA Times should emulate.
The next thing I want is more buttons. I think the four buttons on the Android devices is about right. Although I’m not especially enamored of the dedicated search button, I sure miss the “menu” and “back” buttons when I use the iPad. This business of tapping on the screen and hoping the app knows whether you want to bring up the menu, move what’s on the screen, or turn the page, gets real old. I also would like it if the information presenting apps like newspaper and magazine readers were more proactive in downloading and buffering material, rather than making the user wait so much for their just-in-time retrieval of pages.
I initially thought that the iPad would allow me to travel lighter to meetings. Sometimes, it works out that way, but far too often, it actually increases my load when I carry both it and a laptop. Why not just the laptop? It’s not nearly as good a device for reading.