ActiveSteve Gets a New Toy!

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Welcome back to another addition of “Just what the hell has Steve gone out an bought now?”. My co-workers are always commenting that I obviously don’t have any children, as coming back from a weekend, I’m always sharing stories of long days training, or hard nights drinking, or even on occasion of new toys purchased selfishly for myself. This post will be about just such a thing I suppose. True, having no children likely does afford me a certain amount of leeway in my purchases that others don’t have, but I’m okay with that 🙂 From a very young age, I was raised with the understanding that if I wanted something, I had to buy if for myself. I never got fancy gifts as a child, but was always encouraged to find ways to get the things I wanted. That’s never really left me, and here’s a little post about my latest acquisition that I’ve been lusting after for some time. Read on about my new UMPC!

Yes, I’m frugal. Given the option to super-size, I decline. Cab or bus? Bus please. Regular or premium? Regular, sir. However, give me the opportunity to drop big coin on a big ticket item, and I’m there. Kayaks? Sure. Bikes? Why not have four? Recording studio? Sounded like a great idea to me. However, the trend here is that I get most things either used or as demo models that are marked down. I save on a lot of little things in order to treat myself to the big things. It’s a lifestyle that’s worked well for me. You gotta have fun, right? 4 months in NZ on a bike? Yup, got the tickets already. With that as my rambling introduction, I can now talk to you about my latest gear acquisition, which was purchased in part for work-related reasons, partly for travel-related reasons, and largely for fun and practicality around the house too. So just what is this wonderous device?

A computer. Yup, basically, just a computer. But a small one. In fact, it’s called an Ultra Mobile Personal Computer, or UMPC. Think of it as a tablet PC. However, it only has a 7” wide-screen display, and no keyboard, or optical drive. However, what it does have are the following: a fingerprint reader for security, a card reader for SD cards, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 60G hard drive, a web camera, a touch screen, and even a full-scale onboard GPS system! All in a package that’s about two pounds, and takes much less space than a laptop. The specific unit that I have is the ASUS R2H, which was introduced last November. The one I bought was found on Ebay, and picked up locally in Toronto while I was there on business lasat week. The guy included two high-capacity batteries as well as a really cool Bluetooth keyboard, which I’m using right now to type this post. It works like a dream!

So why did I need to get this cutting-edge computer, which has no real track record to speak of? Well, that goes right back to my 4-month cycle tour of NZ coming up. I wanted something I could take to keep my website up to date. I also wanted some way to store the pictures I’ll take, and upload GPS data from my daily bike routes. I also wanted some way to get in touch with home easily (Skype, anyone?), surf the web and do emails. I also thought it would be great if all this could come in one package, and that it could connect wirelessly whenever I’m on the road. Laptop was the obvious answer, but to get the really small and light ones would have cost a lot of money. Internet to the rescue. That, and the fact that I’m a super researcher….

In doing some searches on small computers, I came across articles talking about this new class of computer known as the UMPCs, which promised to be really small, but pack the full punch of a PC (sorry guys, that means I’m still not in the Mac fan-boy club). These were relatively new, but were being heavily circulated in the ideas communities of one Bill Gates. The idea was latched on by both Intel and AMD as well, who set about creating reference designs. By mid-2006, several models were announced and launched, with mine among them. Samsung was the other large maker promoting a UMPC. The price sadly, remains higher than entry-level laptops, meaning a lot of people see no reason to get one.

The ASUS machine, debuting at the lowest price point of the UMPCs also sported the best mix of included features. I was hooked on the concept. It was even certified as a vista-ready machine, and can run that OS as well. Neat, isn’t it? Well, after having this little machine for only a week, I’m totally sold on the concept. If this is the first generation, the future looks bright for UMPCs. Once I got the system dialed in by removing a lot of un-necessary processes, it runs reasonably fast and smooth. I’ve also loaded up a ton of mapping software and base maps. In fact, I have a highly detailed set of maps for all of NZ already loaded on, just waiting to be tried out when I get there.

I looked into all sorts of laptops, and had almost convinced myself to just get a regular laptop for the trip, but in the end, I made an ebay find. I’ve been putting bids on all sorts of computers for the last couple months, trying to get a good deal. It’s amazing how much people will spend on used goods like computers. I guess I’m only looking at certain ones, that are highly desirable though. I decided that if I found a decent UMPC package and the price was right, I’d make the plunge. So here I am before you, playing on this cute little machine. The fact that I got the keyboard and extra battery totally sealed the deal. Well, that and the fact that I have a full warranty for another two years on it.

If you’re by the house anytime in the next little while, feel free to ask me about it and to check it out. I’ll still be figuring out all the ins and outs over the next little while, but once I get it totally dialed in, it sure is going to be one sweet little computer I think. If you’re interested in learning more about UMPCs, a simple search should yield a wealth of information, but just to help you out to get started, I recommend that you head over to my favourite website for these machines. That site is UMPC Portal. On this site, they have tons of reviews, pictures, links, news and articles specifically about UMPCs, and where they’re heading. Sadly, it means I’ve learned that my machine is already pretty much obsolete, as the newer ones are already smaller, lighter and faster.

Well, that’s it for now on my UMPC. I’m back in Ottawa, after having written up three complete blog posts, I’m a little tuckered. Also, it’s my Birthday today, so once I get home, I hope I’ll have something more interesting to do than just sit around typing on a computer :-). See ya later alligators, and just remember, the world is out there for all of us to enjoy, so get out there and see some of it!

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