Sep 13

GalaxyTab

Apple have been amazing innovators during the last decade – the iPod, iPhone and now the iPad… and the competition have struggled to keep up. Only now do we have excellent alternatives to the iPhone. So how long will it take the tablet manufacturers to catch the iPad? Already, I’ve heard of journalists, politicians and councillors being equipped with this 1st generation game changing device. Have they jumped in too soon? What have the competition got in store?

Well, here’s a quick round-up of the tablet devices which are with us now or should hit the shelves in the coming months. It’s not a comprehensive list as some of the major players haven’t announced details yet. And if you’re reading this post a year or two down the line, have a giggle at our 1st generation devices and marvel at how quickly technology moves on!

10-inch+ screen

Kno: two 14.1 inch touchscreens connected by a hinge (digital textbook); shipping for the holiday season 2010; Price: TBA

Pioneer DreamBook ePad L11: 11.6 inch; Windows and Android OS; 2GB RAM; Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity; 1.3MP camera; 6GB, 32GB and 64GB hard drives; to be released September 2010; $640

MSI WindPad 100: 10-inch; Windows 7 OS; 2GB RAM; 32GB storage; Wi-Fi, 3G and Bluetooth connectivity; webcam; available late 2010; $499

MSI WindPad 110: 10-inch; Android 2.1 OS; 2GB RAM; 32GB storage; Wi-Fi, 3G and Bluetooth connectivity; webcam; available late 2010; $399

Mouse LuvPad AD100: 10-inch; Android 2.2; 512MB RAM; 8GB flash memory; Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi+3G configurations; $470-530

Archos 101: 10.1 inch; Android 2.2; 8GB ($300) and 16GB ($350) versions; expected late-September 2010

Archos 9: 8.9 inch; Windows 7 Starter OS; 1GB RAM; 60GB storage; Wi-Fi and Bluetooth; 1.3MP web camera; $400; available now

Hannspree: 10.1 inch; Android 2.2; 512MB RAM; 16GB; to be released in November 2010; probably around $500

Viewsonic ViewPad 100: 10 inch; Windows 7 and Android 1.6 OS; 1GB memory; 16GB storage; 1.3MP camera; Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity; to be released about October 2010; expected to be about £549

Toshiba Folio 100: 10.1 inch; Android 2.2 OS; 16GB storage; 1.3MP webchat camera; Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity; about £330; to be released in Europe in next couple of months; no plans as yet for a US release

7-inch screen

Samsung Galaxy Tab: 7-inch; Android 2.2 OS; 512MB RAM; 16GB and 32GB versions; full phone capability; dual cameras (3MP and 1.3MP); connectivity: 3G, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth; Available in Europe from mid-September 2010; $500-$1000? Price point may be $200-$300 with US carriers

Archos 70: 7 inch; Android OS; 8GB ($300) and 16GB ($350) versions; expected about mid-October 2010; $275

Elocity A7: 7 inch; Android 2.2 OS; 512MB RAM; 4GB flash memory; 1.3MP camera; Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity; shipping possibly beginning of November 2010; $370

RAmos W9: 7 inch; Android OS; no word on pricing or availability yet

Viewsonic ViewPad 7: 7 inch; Android 2.2 OS; 512MB memory?; Wi-Fi, 3G and Bluetooth connectivity; full phone capability; dual cameras; released about October 2010; expected to be about £350

Huawei S7: 7 inch; Android 2.1; 256MB RAM; Wi-Fi and 3G connectivity; 2MP camera; available now; £299

The much hyped $35 Indian tablet should arrive in January 2011. Dimensions 8.9×7-inch; Android OS; 2GB RAM; Connectivity: USB and Wi-Fi. However it’s recently been revealed that this is just the subsidized Chinese Hivision SpeedPad

5-inch (and less) screen

Dell Streak: 5 inch; Android 1.6 OS; 16GB memory; 5MP camera; Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and 3G connectivity; Price: TBA; but is it a big smart phone rather than a small tablet?

Archos 32: 3.2 inch; Android 2.1; 8GB storage; Wi-Fi, Bluetooth connectivity; camera; now shipping for $150

Why are tablets the new ‘must have’ gadget?

Well for some, there’s the cool factor. But from the functionality point of view, of course the screen is bigger than on a smartphone and this has benefits not least making the device easier to view making it a good e-reader and ideal for content consumption. A tablet is easier to pass round among friends and share stuff, say photos, compared with a netbook. But a 10 inch tablet is not as good as a smartphone on a crowded commute when you don’t have a seat. It’s obviously more portable than a laptop but I suspect that data entry, touch typing, screen size and storage capacity will keep laptops around for some time to come.

As you can see, many of the planned new devices will be running the Android OS. However, a recent post on Techcrunch foresees a major shakedown in the five or more upcoming tablet platforms as they compete for market share. And Google has said recently that Android Froyo isn’t optimized for tablets and that the next versions will be optimized for the form factor. So perhaps we’re better off waiting until next year before we take the plunge.

I predict that the coming wave of tablets will put an end to the netbook market, so we’ll soon be choosing from smartphones, tablets and laptops for our mobile companions. I’ve got a feeling it’ll also hit the iPod Touch market to some extent. I for one was on the verge of buying my first Apple product – the new iPod Touch 4, but now I wonder if I should just wait a while and take a look at the 5-inch or 7-inch tablet offerings. The larger screen size would be nice but of course the larger form factor is not quite so ‘pocket’ friendly. Any thoughts?

This is my first post on tablets. I’ll probably post regularly on this topic when more are released.

Latest tablet news

For the latest in tablet news, have a look at:

Best tablet Review

Touch Tablet PC

Android and Me

Google Docs: Android Tablets – Holiday 2010: Great round-up of the latest Android tablets, constantly updated

Sign up with Lazyfeed and follow the topic ‘tablets’.

Further reading

To iPad or Not to iPad: That is the Tech Question – PC World

A Big Tablet Can Never Beat a Smaller Smartphone

Samsung Galaxy Tab vs Apple iPad: tablet showdown


Sep 7

tags1

I’m sure many of you use photo management packages to browse through thumbnails of your photos downloaded from your camera to your PC. Popular photo management packages are Picasa, Windows Live Photo Gallery and of course the viewers in paid packages like Adobe Photoshop Elements. But how many of you actually tag your photos with keywords to help searching through your photo folders for the photos you want? I tried keyword tagging for a short while some years ago but gave it up once I discovered that in some management packages the tags you’ve painstakingly added to your photos don’t transfer to a different software package, i.e. they are held in a proprietary database in the software package and not within the photo itself. So I gave up then and just stuck with FastStone Image Viewer, a nice photo viewer and editor but without the facility to tag photos with keywords.

Some five or six years on, and a little wiser hopefully, I thought I’d revisit the subject of photo tagging and see how the current crop of photo management packages deal with it. I’ve specifically stuck with free apps or software that have free versions with more limited features to see if I could find what I wanted for free. That’s not to say of course that in future some of these apps will move to a paid or freemium model.

So I’ve gone back through my Delicious bookmarks over the last couple of years and looked at all the apps I’ve tagged ‘photo-tagging’. I haven’t looked at online photo management apps or tagging a la Facebook, just apps to manage your photo collection on your desktop. I’ve used the following four criteria to select apps which will tag photos the way I want.

1. Keywords in file rather than proprietary database

Tagging in photo management packages can basically be divided into two types. Apps that store the keywords within the photo file itself, as say IPTC tags, and apps that store the tags in a separate proprietary database. Clearly in the first type, the keywords move with the files and can be accessed in different management packages that use this format for storing keywords. In the second type, if you move to a different photo management app in the future, all your keywords will probably be left behind in the old software database. If you’re not sure if your photo management package is saving tags as IPTC keywords, install Irfanview and open your photo in it, click the Image Information button at the top, then click the IPTC info button at the bottom left corner. Then click the Keywords tab and see what’s there – your IPTC keywords should show here.

Because we’re all fickle and like to move around and try different packages and because some apps cease development or are likely to change to a freemium model, I believe it’s important to choose a package where the keyword tags are held in a standard format within the photo, so will move with the photo file and can be accessed in other photo organizers.

2. Folder versus album

If you’ve messed around with different photo organizers, you’ll know that there are basically two ways to browse the photos on your disk. Folder based organizers which just access and display the photo folders on your hard drive, and album based organizers which import your photos into a catalogue or album, possibly from a number of folders on your hard drive. I personally prefer the folder based organizer as that’s the way my folders are organized on my PC and I’ve become familiar with that over the years. As I’ve mentioned, the album based approach has the disadvantage of locking up information in a proprietary format. If you change software for whatever reason, you’re probably going to have to recreate your albums.

3. Group tag photos

Being able to select a group of photos and assign a keyword tag or tags to them all at once is obviously a massive timesaver compared with tagging them individually.

4. Search for and display only photos with specific tag(s)

I want to be able to pull out and display only those photos which have specific keyword tag(s); seems like a reasonable request. Incidentally, one other advantage I’ve discovered with IPTC style keyword tags is that Windows search (click Start button and enter search term in box) will pull up photos with your tag. Very useful, particularly when the photo file name is some cryptic camera derived label.

The winners

Of the packages I looked at, only two fulfilled all four criteria I’ve just listed: Zoner Photo Studio, and Windows Live Photo Gallery, while Picasa came close.

Zoner Photo Management

Zoner Photo Studio: My personal favourite. The user interface looks nice, and has all the tagging features I want: folder display, IPTC keywords, group tagging, and searching for tag combinations. In addition, a query I had was quickly answered on their forums.

Windows Live Photo Gallery: Couldn’t fault this also, just preferred the display in Zoner Photo Studio. Windows Photo Gallery has a plainer display, not so much info is displayed with each thumbnail. Keywords are called Descriptive Tags, and you can also draw boxes round faces and assign what are called People Tags to the faces in each photo. But no face recognition… as yet.

Picasa: Many people’s choice as a photo organizer but I personally don’t like the way it organizes photos into its own directory system. Assigning keywords was straightforward and there were no problems group tagging photos but I couldn’t work out how to select and display a combination of two keyword tags. It’ll probably do it, but I didn’t find it intuitive like the two I’ve just mentioned. On the plus side, it does have automatic facial recognition so you can assign People tags here too.

I must mention Irfanview in passing, again a popular free editing choice. It’s possible to enter keyword data in Irfanview (as I’ve mentioned above) which will be used in the above three packages. But of course Irfanview doesn’t permit thumbnail viewing of a complete photo directory or selecting photos by keyword. Updated (21-1-11): Irfanview does allow thumbnail viewing and batch adding of IPTC data. See comments below.

The rest

I’ll list the apps I looked at which for one reason or another, didn’t meet my criteria, generally because they stored keyword tags in a proprietary fashion if at all or had limited features in the free versions. I’ll just list the app names without links: Pictomio, Snapact Photo Manager, My Photo Index, Shotwell, Studioline Photo Basic 3, Album Burger, Inzomia Viewer 3, JetPhoto Studio 4.8, Pica Jet, iTag, Stoik Imagic 5, PhotoMeister, XnView and Fotobounce. Of these, iTag came closest but would only save up to 3 tags in a photo in the free version. I only had a quick look at all these so if you think they might be useful for keyword tagging drop a comment below.

Conclusion

So for me, Zoner Photo Studio stands out for tagging and photo management and my thanks to Raju at Technically Personal for blogging about it and drawing it to my attention although I’ve found that the Free edition is superior to the Xpress edition, particularly for keyword tagging. I’ve switched to Zoner from Faststone Image Viewer and am happily tagging all my photos there.

If I’ve misrepresented any photo management app or missed any and you think they might be suitable for photo tagging, please let me know in the comments. Do you tag your photos? How?

Update (27-10-10): Thanks to Steve in the comments who corrected me on two points. Picasa will do a tree view of folders and Irfanview does allow thumbnail viewing of directories. Nice to know.

Update (21-1-11): And Henk adds that IrfanView can also (batch) add IPTC tags to images selected in the thumbnail viewer. Check his comment below.


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