Windows & .NET Magazine UPDATE--This Year, Tablet PC Improves in Leaps and Bounds; Laptop of the Month: Acer TravelMate C300 Convertible Tablet PC--April 27, 2004

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1. Commentary: This Year, Tablet PC Improves in Leaps and Bounds; Laptop of the Month: Acer TravelMate C300 Convertible Tablet PC

2. Hot Off the Press
- MSN Messenger Update Adds Games, MSN Toolbar

3. Keeping Up with Win2K and NT
- Windows Server 2003 Terminal Services Problems; More Windows 2000 Hotfixes

4. New and Improved
- Create Zip Backup Copies
- Manage Your Registry
- Tell Us About a Hot Product and Get a T-Shirt!

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==== 1. Commentary: This Year, Tablet PC Improves in Leaps and Bounds; Laptop of the Month: Acer TravelMate C300 Convertible Tablet PC ====
by Paul Thurrott, News Editor, [email protected]

I have a reputation at Windows & .NET Magazine for being the guy that doesn't like Tablet PCs. But this reputation is undeserved: Although the first-generation Tablet PC machines were based on underpowered Pentium III M chips that offered lackluster battery life, I could see promise in the platform, and Microsoft Windows XP Tablet PC Edition was a surprisingly solid 1.0 release.

With the release of a machine based on Intel's Centrino mobile platform in 2003, however, the Tablet PC's fortunes changed dramatically for the better. The Centrino--which consists of the powerful but battery-friendly Pentium M processor, an efficient supporting chipset, and a compatible wireless antenna (curiously limited to 11Mbps 802.11b technology in its initial iteration) is everything the Pentium III is not. Processing power is on a par with high-end Pentium 4 chips. And the battery life is phenomenal.

PC makers responded. Some, such as HP, with its Compaq Tablet PC, and Acer, with its TravelMate C100 series, kept their well-designed first-generation Tablet PC designs, but equipped them with Centrino innards, making them dramatically more usable. Other PC makers--notably Toshiba, which already made the market-leading Tablet PC design--created innovative new devices that take better advantage of the unique capabilities of the Tablet PC platform. As a result, second-generation Tablet PCs were less niche product and more mainstream notebook.

Second-generation Tablet PCs still ship in one of two form factors: traditional slate-style tablets, which don't include integrated keyboards, and convertible laptops, which you can use as regular laptops, but feature unique hinged lids that can swivel to create a slate-style tablet. For the typical business traveler, convertible laptops make more sense than slates, although I can see the latter gaining traction in certain vertical markets. But whereas first-generation Tablet PCs were all ultralight designs, second-generation devices come in a variety of form factors, making them appeal to a wide range of buyers. For example, you can now buy Tablet PCs with 14-inch screens, and some offer resolutions above the XGA standard that predominated in the first generation.

Microsoft hasn't sat still either. The company's next-generation Tablet PC OS--code-named Lonestar, but recently renamed to Windows XP Tablet PC Edition 2005--will ship in late June and offer several enhancements over the initial release, making Tablet PC devices more viable. Best of all, XP Tablet PC Edition 2005 will be available free of charge to all Tablet PC owners. Microsoft is delivering XP Tablet PC Edition 2005 as part of XP Service Pack 2 (SP2); if you install this release on a Tablet PC device, you get the Tablet PC updates as well.

So what do Tablet PC users get with SP2 and the XP Tablet PC Edition 2005 updates? The most obvious change is a dramatically enhanced Tablet Input Panel (TIP), which makes entering digital ink more natural. Here's how it works: In the initial XP Tablet PC Edition release, the TIP would appear docked to the bottom of the screen any time you tapped the stylus in an onscreen UI element, such as an edit box. Now, the TIP appears in-place, so you don't have to keep moving the stylus up and down the screen to reach it. That is, the TIP is now a floating window that appears only when needed; it's more convenient and it doesn't take up valuable screen real estate.

The TIP is also more intelligent than its predecessor. In addition to the standard Writing Pad (handwriting) and onscreen keyboard input types, the TIP now includes a Character Pad mode that previews the system's recognition of each character as you type, letting you make corrections before the handwriting is entered into the form you're using. This makes your handwriting-based input more accurate.

Laptop of the Month: Acer TravelMate C300 Convertible Tablet PC

A solid second-generation Tablet PC, the Acer TravelMate C300 is a convertible laptop design with a 14-inch XGA screen. Unlike first-generation tablets, this device could be your only PC, and as a traditional laptop, it offers all the amenities you'd expect--a powerful 1.5GHz Pentium M processor; integrated wireless, USB 2.0, and FireWire ports; and an integrated DVD/CD-RW drive (still a rarity with Tablet PCs) as well as the unique features you can get only from a full-featured Tablet PC, including a pressure-sensitive pen-enabled screen.

I've been using the C300 as a standard laptop for the most part, but I swivel the screen around when needed to do handwriting or sketching. Compared to first-generation tablets, the C300 is a bit heavy at 6.5 pounds, probably too heavy for many people, but I found the device's size and weight to be acceptable.

Battery life is fantastic, even with the single battery my system contains. I was able to obtain 4 to 5 hours of battery life per charge, depending on the wireless and screen settings, and Acer says an optional second battery--which would fill the modular bay that the optical drive currently uses--would extend battery life to 8.5 hours. And like Acer's smaller C100 tablet, the C300 features a gently curved, ergonomic keyboard, something I'd like to see on more laptops. The keyboard is nicely laid out, and I adapted to it quickly.

Acer throws in a few interesting features as well. Bluetooth is optional, but I'll reserve judgment on that technology for a while yet. And Acer provides a nice 4-in-1 media card reader that plugs into the PC card bay for compatibility with Memory Stick, MultiMediaCard (MMC), Secure Digital (SD), and SmartMedia cards, a nice touch for PDA and digital camera users.

I do have a few quibbles. Unlike Acer's smaller tablet, the C300 doesn't feature screen latches, and the screen seems to want to swivel on its own while in laptop mode (it locks down when used as a slate). In slate mode, the microphone and PC card slot are on the bottom of the device, which can be problematic: The microphone is useless in this position, and if you need to use a PC card, it sticks out awkwardly. Both of these options should be moved to the far side of the screen, at the top, where they would be more usable. You can optionally set up the Tablet PC's screen orientation such that the microphone and PC card slot would be at the top; but you shouldn't have to do this manually.

Overall, however, the C300 is a great laptop, which I couldn't say about first-generation Tablet PC devices. If this machine represents the future of the Tablet PC, and I think it does, this platform has a great future. Kudos to Acer for getting it right: Combined with the right options and the XP Tablet PC Edition 2005 update, the C300 has it all.


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==== 2. Hot Off the Press ====
by Paul Thurrott, [email protected]

MSN Messenger Update Adds Games, MSN Toolbar
This week, Microsoft will finally release MSN Messenger 6.2, the company's most recent Instant Messaging (IM) client, which adds online gaming interoperability and an optional installation of the MSN Toolbar for Internet Explorer. MSN Messenger currently has more than 120 million users, according to Microsoft. For the complete story, visit the following URL:

==== 3. Keeping Up with Win2K and NT ====
by Paula Sharick, [email protected]

Windows Server 2003 Terminal Services Problems; More Windows 2000 Hotfixes If you're configuring Windows 2003 Terminal Services, be aware that Microsoft has released 22 hotfixes for known problems that occur on servers and clients. Last month, I described a bug that causes a terminal server to reset Terminal Services license mode from per-user mode to per-device mode when you add or remove Windows components, as the Microsoft article "Terminal Services Licensing mode changes from Per User to Per Device after you add or remove a Windows component" ( ) documents. This month, I discuss four additional problems you should address in your standard Windows 2003 Terminal Services images before you deploy them in a production environment. To learn more about these Terminal Services problems as well as the most recent Windows 2000 hotfixes, visit the following URL:

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==== Instant Poll ====

Results of Previous Poll: IT Resources
The voting has closed in Windows & .NET Magazine's nonscientific Instant Poll for the question, "Which of the following resources are you most likely to turn to when you have IT questions?" Here are the results from the 325 votes:
- 15% Manuals and documentation
- 8% Colleagues
- 3% Periodicals such as Windows and .NET Magazine
- 70% The Internet
- 4% Discussion forums

New Instant Poll:
The next Instant Poll question is, "What is the most important feature of a Tablet PC?" Go to the Windows & .NET Magazine home page and submit your vote for a) Portability, b) Battery life, c) Performance, or d) Other

==== Resources ====

Tip: How can I create a default DNS entry?
by John Savill,

If you want DNS to return a particular IP address when no host record exists for a queried address, create a host record with a name of "*" (an asterisk) and assign to the host record the IP address you want DNS to return as the default. One common use for a default DNS entry is when you have many different Web servers and you want a Web server to display a default page when a user incorrectly enters a server name.

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==== 4. New and Improved ====
by Carolyn Mader, [email protected]

Create Zip Backup Copies
ASCOMP Software announced BackUp Maker 3.2, a data-protection suite that lets you create Zip backup copies of single files or file folders of any size. You can restore backups with BackUp Maker, WinZip, WinRAR, and any other software supporting Zip compression format. You can execute the backup process manually or automatically. After you've set the backup execution time or interval, the program controls the execution of backup jobs without your interference. The program runs on Windows XP/2000/Me/98 and costs $24.45 for a single-user license.

Manage Your Registry
RegWSoft released RegWorks 1.2, a registry-management solution that includes registry viewer, editor, access monitor, and tweaker features. The tool can quickly change computer configuration or local user settings, transfer registry settings from one OS to another, and process registries of both active and inactive systems. RegWorks can also compare registry keys, display names of applications and processes that access registry keys, and log all relevant data. Pricing is $30 for a single copy.

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