Tech Stuff

Samsung’s Galaxy Tab (Updated)

Late last month the boss dropped one of these on my desk for a test drive. If you recall, earlier this year we took a look at the ViewSonic tablet, which we hated. Really I couldn’t wait to get rid of it. This one, I couldn’t take my hands off. Until things went really badly.

It runs the real Android system, whIch as users know, is pretty cool. While the screen is pretty small relatively speaking — using it as virtual sheet music is out of the question — it’s big enough for a lot of tasks.

We took it on the family trek out to Rochester and Niagara Falls last week, and using its GPS and 3G Network capabilities, it was the best navigational system you could hope for.

But a network device is only as good as its network, and this runs on AT&T. So you know what that means — long stretches of highway where it can’t connect to a tower. It also — like the ViewSonic before it — has some kind of problem with its WiFi software. It sometimes just refuses to connect to a network it’s connected to before. In this case, the home network which as you can imagine is a problem.

In fact, it’s a total deal-breaker. I’ve been wrestling with it for the last few hours and I have to conclude it’s a piece of shit. This is the second Android device I’ve had this problem with — it gets stuck on getting an IP address from a router, and won’t go forward. Supposedly you can “root” the thing and clear out the preferences, but in order to do that I have to get on line to download the software. With no WiFi connection, and no AT&T signal here (as, it seems, in most of the country) it’s about as useful as a paperback book. One could hard-set it to the factory settings, but that’s nonsense; especially with two-step Google authentication life is too short.

It’s got a really nice camera attached. Here’s a picture I snapped along the way, of a spillway on the Genesee River in upstate New York. Uploaded from the device itself:

A couple of other things. Watch your battery — turning on GPS, Bluetooth and WiFi will suck you dry. Dragging the status bar down from the top gives you same handy buttons to quickly turn them on and off.

Some things are not easy on these kinds of devices. Uploading the photo above, for example. It’s highly dependent on local network conditions — I had originally hoped to shoot, retouch, and post all from the comfort of the passenger seat somewhere on US 6. But that wasn’t to be. And the virtual keyboard thing just isn’t pragmatic for someone with relatively large fingers. Which is why I’m typing this on my PC.

Nevertheless, this could be a sweet little piece of merchandise, but until they get their act together so that network connections don’t become permanently disabled, it’s worthless.

Tom McGee has been building web sites since 1995, and blogging here since 2006. Currently a senior developer at Seton Hall University, he's also a freelance web programmer and musician. Contact him if you have the need for a blog, web site, redesign or custom programming!

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