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    #1 RMansfield

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    Posted 19 March 2013 - 08:37 PM

    Hello all! For the past 15 or so years, I've been a pretty hardcore Apple guy. That doesn't mean that I've disliked Windows; I just have chosen to primarily use Apple products.

     

    For whatever reason, I've wanted a Surface RT since they were first released last year. Over the weekend, I got an email from Staples with a $100 coupon for any Windows 8 tablet or laptop, so I finally got the Surface RT I'd been wanting.

     

    With it I also got the type cover and the VGA adapter (I teach university classes and at a local church, so I usually need to connect to a projector).

     

    So far, so good. I already had Windows 8 in VMware on my MacBook Pro, but it's really only started to make sense now that I have Windows on a tablet. I've learned more about using Windows 8 in the last two days than I had learned in two months in VMware.

     

    I've also been listening to the SurfaceGeeks podcast. I've listened to four or five episodes so far. I started with the newest, but then I went back to the beginning to start from there since there aren't that many yet.

     

    Anyway, I thought I'd say hello, and I look forward to getting to know more about the Surface RT and the folks here in this forum.


    • Mochahead likes this

    Rick Mansfield

    Simpsonville, Kentucky


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    #2 schoondog

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    Posted 20 March 2013 - 12:00 AM

    Welcome aboard!

    I am a big Surface RT fan.

    Let us know if you have any questions.

    Hang on to the box and packing for the VGA adapter. I am testing a couple of adapters that are cheaper and I think may work better.

    Will post here when I have more results.



    #3 RMansfield

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    Posted 20 March 2013 - 08:27 AM

    Will do. Thanks for the heads up.


    Rick Mansfield

    Simpsonville, Kentucky


    #4 FinsUpDNC

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    Posted 21 March 2013 - 09:09 AM

    Welcome! Would be great to hear some of your use cases once you get up and running for a bit. 


    follow me on twitter @FinsUpDNC

    #5 Ikon

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    Posted 21 March 2013 - 09:13 AM

    If you have an iPad, how do you find the difference in weight. do you find it significant?



    #6 ImTheTypeOfGuy

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    Posted 21 March 2013 - 11:20 AM

    Wow, an apple guy that is smart enough to get a RT. ;)

    Welcome.

    #7 RMansfield

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    Posted 21 March 2013 - 11:44 AM

    Thanks everyone for the welcome. Let me respond to the above two posts in reverse order. 

     

    Yes, I have an iPad--in fact, I have two: an iPad 2 and an iPad mini. Ignoring the iPad mini for issue of weight, yes, I can say I that the Surface feels heavier than the iPad, but not really in a significant way. If anything, with the 16:10 dimension of the Surface, it has to be balanced differently in the hand. But both of these are mobile devices and aren't going to strain anyone with average strength. 

     

    I remember when the iPad first came out, some of its detractors complained about its weight while reading from it in bed. I felt these folks needed to hit the gym (of course, I now primarily use my iPad mini for reading in bed or otherwise, for what it's worth). 

     

    I realize that lightweight devices are highly valued for portability, but really once you get under a couple of pounds, to me the issue becomes really negligible.

     

    In regard to use case, let me give my initial impressions after having the Surface for about five days. As I mentioned above, I am heavily vested in Apple's ecosystem (I use a retina MacBook Pro, an iPhone 5, and two iPads), but I don't really care to get into the debates of Apple vs. Microsoft or iOS vs. Android, etc. I understand that people choose sides by investing money in these devices, and a "team" mentality comes with that. I've bought into that in the past, but in recent years, I've been much more apt to encourage people to use what's going to work best for them. 

     

    And I should probably also mention that in the last couple of years, I have owned three E-Ink Kindles, a Kindle Fire, a Nook, the first Nook Tablet, a Samsung Galaxy Tab, and two HP Touchpads. Of those, I only still have the E-Ink Kindle and Nook. I eventually sold the others after spending a few months with them because I ended up not using them enough to justify keeping them.

     

    Will I do that with the Surface RT? Not necessarily. To me the Surface seems significantly different from my other devices. Moreover, I'm very interested to see how Windows 8 (especially the RT version) develops over the next year or two. Assuming that Microsoft keeps the RT platform alive (I really think they will--Microsoft tends to play a long-game strategy with these kinds of things), I would assume that the current Surface RT will be viable for at least two or three years for updates to the OS. 

     

    I think because this is already long, I'll break this post into two parts for sake of everyone's patience. 

     

    More to come...


    Rick Mansfield

    Simpsonville, Kentucky


    #8 RMansfield

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    Posted 21 March 2013 - 01:29 PM

    Hmmm...when I started my earlier post, I referred to "the above two posts"--I was specifically referring to those by Ikon and FinsUpDNC. Because I was so longwinded, ImTheTypeOfGuy added a comment, too. I wasn't responding to him in the earlier post, but I will say, "Thanks for the compliment...I think..." :-)

     

    In regard to FinsUpDNC's request for use case, here is a summary of my initial experience after five days with the Surface RT.

     

    Since it's almost five months since the Surface RT was released, I'm glad I waited and let the rest of you suffer through the early rough spots after listening to some of the early SurfaceGeeks podcasts. I'm a big Evernote user, and if I can have Evernote on a device, I can get a lot done. From the sound of things, the early Evernote release was not quite up to par. Of course, I assume I could have used it on the web.

     

    Although it's not a strictly apples to apples comparison (no pun strictly intended, but there it is), I can best compare the Surface RT to my iPad experience. 

     

    What the Surface RT allows me to do that I cannot do on the iPad. I teach university classes which entails a lot of paper grading. Students upload assignments to Blackboard, and I download them and grade them on my MacBook. I can't do this on my iPad for a number of reasons. Obviously, there's not a native version of MS Word for the iPad (yet). I use Word's internal commenting system to comment or correct aspects of a student's paper. None of this is really feasible with any of the applications on the iPad that will read Word documents. But even if it were possible, all of the iPad applications that will read Word documents change the format of the document when it is imported and change it again when it is exported. This often can affect a document's layout in regard to headers or margins, and it would not be fair to do this to my students' work. 

     

    Moreover, I've yet to find a browser on the iPad that lets me navigate the Blackboard website correctly. Students' grades are laid out on a spreadsheet-type interface that simply cannot be moved from the left to the right for some reason in any browser I've tried in iOS. Yes, there is a Blackboard Mobile Learn app, but this does not allow me to do any kind of administrative work such as grades. I can interact in discussion forums with my students or create announcements, but that's about it. 

     

    However, the Surface RT lets me do all these things. Saturday afternoon, I sat down in a coffee shop with only my brand new Surface, and I was thrilled to know that I could access all aspects of the Blackboard website. I was able to download a student's paper, save it to the Surface in a nested folder, and edit it in a real copy of Microsoft Word. I could have just as easily uploaded the graded paper back to Blackboard, but I wanted to wait and view it on my laptop to make certain everything came out all right. And when I did this later, it was fine. 

     

    So, I'm very pleased that I can do this. It may seem like a very simple task, but this is something that takes up a good percentage of my week. I believe it will be nice to sometime leave my 15" MacBook Pro at home and go sit in a coffee shop and grade papers for a few hours on the Surface RT--something I cannot currently do on an iPad.

     

    The only downside to this, however, is that I can do it much faster on my laptop. This is primarily due to the fact that Word on the Surface RT has very small touch points. This makes using Word for RT a bit more difficult and certainly slower than using a laptop. If I were behind in my grading, which is often the case, I would not be able to use the Surface. Yes, I got the TypeCover, so I have a trackpad, but I'm not overly impressed with it. A lot of that comes from having a large glass touchpad on my MacBook that is incredibly responsive. The tiny touchpad on the TypeCover is not as responsive, and even with tracking turned all the way up, it doesn't move as quickly or as accurately as I'd like it to. Perhaps this will improve with use, but I've noticed that sometimes the mouse pointer on the Surface RT simply disappears, and I have to restart the machine or go into mouse settings to get it back.

     

    On a side note, occasionally my students will want to compose a paper entirely on an iPad and submit it to Blackboard. However, no Word-compatible app on the iPad that I've seen allow for a different header on the cover page than the headers on the pages that follow. A student would, however, be able to use the Surface RT for both composition and submission of a paper that meets the style guide specifications because of having a "real" version of MS Word.

     

    I also like the expandability of the Surface RT with its SD card slot and USB. Both of my iPads are 64 GB and both of them are completely filled up. My next iPad purchase will be one of the 128 GB models, but I like how expandable the Surface RT is right out of the box. I bought the 32 GB model, but if I were going to use this as a main device, I'm sure I would want to get the 64 GB Surface RT and then add a 64 GB flash card to it. Currently, I have 10 GB of space left on the Surface. If I get down to about 5, I'll invest in an SD card. 

     

    I often teach straight from my iPad, plugged into a projector, at the university where I teach or at church. I mainly use iWork Keynote for this, and I make heavy use of presenter notes that I can see on my screen while a class looks only at my slide from the projector. Although I still find Keynote to be a more elegant presentation tool in general over PowerPoint from an audience's perspective, I can say I was very impressed with PowerPoint's presenter screen on the Surface RT. It is much more robust than Keynote's presenter screen (on the iPad, not my Mac) with more options and the ability to see my notes much better.

     

    What the iPad allows me to do that I cannot (yet) do on the Surface RT. I've included the word yet here because a lot of what lies below has to do with app availability or comparability, and I assume that most of this can and will improve over time. 

     

    If you're wondering what fills up my two 64 GB iPads, it's not so much from apps, video, music or pictures, but rather from the somewhere over 6,000 books, journals, magazines, and articles that I carry with me at all times. One of the aspects I've really enjoyed about having a tablet, since my first iPad in 2010, is the ability to carry an entire library with me at any time. Most of these are academic titles and it's been great to have such a wealth of information at my fingertips.

     

    I often digitize my own books (when I know a title is not already available in some kind of ebook form) by scanning them, adding an OCR layer over the original page, and saving them as PDFs.  I use GoodReader on the iPad for PDFs. Although its interface is a bit wonky, it has great annotation features and can handle very large files (I have some PDFs that are hundreds of pages long). On the Surface RT, I've not yet seen a PDF reader that allows for the kind of heavy annotating I often do to my documents (although I'm open to suggestions).

     

    The Kindle app (where I have about 1,000 titles) seems comparable to the one on iOS for my purposes. But I use a program on my iPad called Accordance, which is for academic study of the Bible and related subjects, especially original language work. I doubt Accordance will be on Windows RT anytime soon. There are similar programs, such as an app from Logos Bible software, and I was pleased to see that Greek and Hebrew texts display correctly on the Surface, but the app itself is downright anemic compared to the iPad version. The WinRT version doesn't allow me to highlight text, make annotations, copy and paste text and a number of other features that I'm used to. Obviously, this is not the fault of the abilities of the Surface RT tablet, but it is indicative of a number of apps that are available on both platforms. And as I heard said on one of the SurfaceGeeks podcasts, it's a real chicken or the egg issue because these developers aren't going to invest heavily into apps for RT unless there are users; but users won't come in large numbers if there are not apps. To me, this is where Microsoft is going to have to be patient with the platform (unlike HP's actions with the TouchPad, which I thought was a very good platform, too, but needed more time). 

     

    And it seems like a simple thing, and this is related to apps, too, but there was another thing I couldn't do on the Surface that I have been able to do since day one with the iPad since I got it in April, 2010. On Sundays, I teach an adult Bible study at our church to an average of about 40 people. Typically, I use Keynote on my iPad and am plugged into a projector. As people arrive, I play a photo slideshow of about 2,100 photos taken of our group at various events over the past seven years. So that it won't start with the earliest pictures, I set the slideshow to shuffle the images. And I run this from the basic Photos app that comes on every iPad.

     

    So, Saturday night, because I wanted to teach from my Surface on Sunday morning, I had converted my Keynote file to PowerPoint, and after a little adjusting, it was ready to go on the Surface. I copied the 2100 pictures from Aperture on my MacBook Pro to a USB thumbdrive and then copied these over to the Surface. I tried to do a test run and was surprised to learn there was no shuffle mode in the Surface's photo app. I really didn't want to start with pictures from seven years ago and run them in chronological order. So, even though it was time-change Saturday night, I stayed up way too late looking in the Windows store on my Surface for a photo app that would shuffle photos. I couldn't find one. Knowing that I could run a slideshow straight from the folder holding my pictures on the desktop, I tried that, too, but again no shuffle feature. This obviously, isn't the biggest issue in the world, but if anyone here knows of an app that will do this, I'd appreciate your letting me know.

     

    And the rest... Overall, my impressions of the Surface RT are favorable. I don't expect it or need it to be a full Windows computer (which is why I didn't want the Surface Pro). I was just intrigued by RT and wanted to experience it for myself. Like others have already said, I like the build of the machine. It seems very sturdy and put together in a manner that speaks to quality. 

     

    I bought the TypeCover because it looked nicer than the TouchCover, but after reading others' impressions and listening to the podcast, I imagine the TouchCover would have been fine for me. I'm actually a very fast typist on the iPad's virtual keyboard. Although I have had a couple of keyboards for the iPad, I hardly ever use them. It sounds to me that if someone is used to a virtual keyboard (that also doesn't have any actual tactile feedback from a moving key), the TouchCover keyboard would work just fine. 

     

    And related to that, I've tried out the Surface's virtual keyboard and have found it to be just as capable as the iPad's. I think I could use it  just as well as I use the virtual keyboard on the iPad. It may be that the TypeCover keyboard is only going to be necessary for me when I'm using the desktop Office apps.

     

    I've also found the responsiveness of the Surface screen to be on par with my iPad. When I had my Galaxy Tab last year, I noticed that sometimes, I had to seemingly wake the device up because it wouldn't always respond the first time I touched it--even when it was on, and I had just been using it. I've had no such problem on the Surface. It seems just as responsive and fluid as the iPad so far. As I mentioned, the only aspect in this regard I'm not impressed with is the touchpad, especially when using Office apps. I realize that I could use a mouse, but I have no desire to lug around a mouse to use with a tablet. Having to do that seems counterintuitive for why I would want to use a tablet in the first place.

     

    So those are my thoughts right now. I'll continue to report back and ask any questions I might have as I go. 


    Rick Mansfield

    Simpsonville, Kentucky


    #9 Ikon

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    Posted 21 March 2013 - 04:57 PM

    I want to express my thanks for your even-handed reporting, especially for avoiding the fan-boi flames. I completely agree that the best approach is to use the best tool for the job.

     

    I do have to admit that I do not use Apple products any more. I have in the past, and they were fine. I only chose to stay in the Windows world because I no longer wanted to deal with the intricacies of 2 operating systems. For the same reason I don't use Linux or Unix.



    #10 RMansfield

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    Posted 04 April 2013 - 11:21 PM

    For anyone interested, I added to my above comments about my experience with the Surface RT and turned them into a post on my mostly-neglected blog.

     

    For what it's worth, after three weeks, I'm still really keen on the Surface RT. I am continuing to find places to integrate it among mostly Apple devices in my regular weekly workflow.

     

    If you're interested in my blog post that repeats some of what I wrote a couple of weeks ago and adds a bit to it, you can read it here:

     

    http://thislamp.com/...d-likes-it.html


    Rick Mansfield

    Simpsonville, Kentucky





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