Tablet computing

Writing about RSI reminded me that I had never gotten around to talking about the ThinkPad X61 tablet I purchased at the beginning of August. It is a pretty solid when used as a laptop.

As far as being a tablet goes, it works reasonably well in that domain too, with some exceptions. Firstly, for now if you want to use the tablet capabilities to their fullest, you need to run Windows Vista. The tablet is supposed to be supported under Linux, but there is really only one program that supports handwriting recognition program available, Cellwriter. It looks promising, particularly because it can be trained to generate any Unicode glyph – with Vista you are limited to the system's configured language. However, I do not think it would be difficult for Gnome or KDE to catch up in this area if they put a little effort into it.

My initial solution to this was that I would just run Linux under VMWare. Except I soon found that while I can use the tablet as a mouse, VMWare will not accept the input events the handwriting recognition subsystem generates. When I filed this as a bug they did not seem to think this was a problem.

While working with standard Windows applications, anything with a input field can accept handwriting recognition input. I almost wrote my entire defense presentation this way, but near the end I gave in and used the keyboard to do most of the last minute tweaking.

Of course, there is the question of whether writing by hand is any easier on my wrists than typing. It is difficult to say, for one, it becomes basically impossible to use emacs, unless you can do everything from pull-down menus, because of the chording necessary to activate some functionality. And it is definitely slower than typing, even with practice I expect. However, part of the problem could perhaps be resolved by rethinking various applications with tablets in mind.

Leave a Comment