Diary of a TouchPad Owner



Thursday, June 30, 2011

10:27am: Just called Walmart and Best Buy to see if they would be selling the TouchPad tomorrow.

The lady in Walmart electronics had no clue what I was talking about. She apologized that they would not have them, and that perhaps later they would and I could call and check again in a week or so.

The guy at Best Buy told me they had one on display already, that they had none in stock and that it would be a few days before they got any. I had a sneaking suspicion he didn’t realize that tomorrow was the official launch day of the TouchPad, so I say to him: “Since tomorrow is the day they officially launch, can you look to see if any Kansas City Best Buys will have them in stock?”

He replies: “Oh. Well if they go on sale tomorrow, then we will have them. It’s just not showing up in our inventory yet because it’s not on sale.”

So that settles it. Tomorrow morning I’ll be heading to Best Buy. Will there be a line?

Friday, July 1, 2011

7:15 am: Should I head over to Best Buy now, or wait until they open at 10:00 am? I cannot imagine that there will be more than a few people there at opening to pick one up. Unless there are other tech writers or nerds in Kansas City. Are there any?

Going early to stand in line for an iPad or iPhone has always been fun. You know there’ll be a group of folks there whom you can talk to, and so getting there plenty early is never an issue. Getting to Best Buy plenty early seems more like a faux pas rather than an event. I think I’ll wait.

9:30 am: Leaving for Best Buy. I decided that even if there is a line, I don’t want to stand in it. Standing outside of Best Buy just seems awkward to me, rather than fun.

9:58 am: I drive in to the Best Buy parking lot, and there is no line. As I am parking I see a manager walk out of the store and wave his arms in the air with a “come on in” motion. About a dozen folks all get out of their cars and begin walking toward the door. I think to myself how amazing it is that all these people are here for the TouchPad. Though once we all got into the store, only two of us were looking for TouchPads.

I am one of the first to walk in the doors, and the first display I see is for iPods. The electronics section of the store is toward the right, so I head that direction. I pass the cell phone counter, a display for iPhones, then the Apple section of Best Buy and a display for iPads and MacBooks. Then I pass the display for a Kindle and a PlayBook. Then, the TouchPad. It’s display looks no fancier or newer than any of the others. It’s just there.

Next to the TouchPad was a plastic, fake display version of the Veer. I looked around the display but did not see any TouchPad boxes available to pick up and purchase. Moreover, the display was in pretty poor condition. It was a 3×5-foot table with a display in the center.

It’s just me and one other guy interested in the TouchPad (I sped-walked for nothing). A customer service guy asks the two of us if we need help. I ask him to get me a 16GB version, and my new friend wants a 32GB. We also ask about covers but apparently they are already on back order. (I think in Best Buy when they don’t have something, the default answer is that it’s on back order because it makes the item sound more popular.)

While we’re waiting for the TouchPads, the other guy and I small talk about the TouchPad versus the iPad. His wife has an iPad and there’s no way she’d give it up. He loves webOS and he’s very excited about the TouchPad; he’s owned an iPhone before and didn’t like it as much as his Pre.

I say nothing about how I’ve owned every iPhone and iPad and that I am only here because I want to see if the TouchPad stacks up.

The Best Buy employee returns with our TouchPads. I go check out and return home.

11:04 AM: I have now set up my own WebOS Account so that I can activate the TouchPad and begin using it.

11:37 am: I’m recording some rapid fire thoughts into a voice memo.

  • Trying to find a Twitter app. The only one I can find is SpazHD for Twitter.
  • Everything is slightly annoying, just a little bit slow.
  • The card view is killer. Love it.
  • The time is right next to the battery icon, but I thought it was the time left in the battery. It is now 11:38, but that means 11:38 in the morning not 11 hours and 38 minutes left on the battery.
  • Typekit does not work on my site. (Note: I found out later from Typekit that they intentionally blocked the TouchPad until they could do proper testing to ensure that their fonts would not cause usability issues on the webOS Browser.)
  • The keyboard has little emoticons.
  • When taking a screenshot you see a giant yellow orb.
  • It appears that instances of a browser are not isolated to the browser app.

11:54 am: Text selection bugs me; Cut/copy/paste is awkward at best.

Something that I love is that I am always just one tap from common settings like turning on/off Wi-Fi, adjusting brightness, etc.

3:01 pm: Attempting to add Instapaper to the bookmarks list. I can’t add it from the Instapaper website, so I try emailing myself the Instapaper javascript URL, pasting that into the address bar and then adding that as a bookmark. But that does not work.

3:04 pm: Go to browser help, and discover there is a place for live help chat. So I jump on, and only have to wait for 1 minute. I start a live chat with “Seth” trying to figure out how to add the Instapaper bookmarklet. (All typos in the transcript are [sic].)

  • Seth: Hello.

    Thank you for contacting HP webOS customer support.How can I help you today?

  • SHAWN: Hi seth. I’m trying to create a bookmark in the browser, from a URL that is not a webpage.
  • Seth: Okay.
  • SHAWN: Is there a way to manualoy add or edit the adreses es of bookmarks?

    The examples are for adding a website’s rss feed to Google reader, and adding a url to Instapaper.

  • Seth: Follow the steps to create a Bookmark.

    Can I have 3 minutes to work on the issue?

  • SHAWN: Of course.
  • Seth: Thank you for staying onhold.

    Open the page you want to bookmark.

    Open the application menu and tap Add Bookmark.

  • SHAWN: The trouble is that these are javascript bookmark lets. They dont open like a standard website does.

    Does that make sense?

  • Seth: Yes, I got it.
  • SHAWN: I tried pasting the address cor the bookmarklet, but the page has to load in order to add it as a bookmark, and the browser treats it as a Google search.
  • Seth: Can I have 2 minutes to work on the issue?
  • SHAWN: Of course.
  • Seth: Thank you for staying on hold.

    We can only add the Bookmark it it is a webpage.

  • SHAWN: That is unfortunate. And there is no way to edit the URL of a bookmark once it has been created?
  • Seth: Yes, we can edit the bookmark once it is created.

    Open the application menu and tap Bookmarks.

    Edit the bookmark name: Tap i to the right of the bookmark name. Enter the new thumbnail, title, or URL and tap Save Bookmark.

  • SHAWN: Okay, can I try that real quick?
  • Seth: Sure.

    I will stay connected.

  • SHAWN: Hmmm. I was able to edit a bookmark once it was created, but it will not take the javascript url as a valid address for the bookmark.
  • Seth: May I know the complete Javascript URL that you are trying to add?
  • SHAWN: javascript:function%20iprl5()%7Bvar %20d=document,z=d.createElement('scr'+'ipt'), b=d.body,l=d.location;try%7Bif(!b)throw(0);d.title='(Saving...) %20'+d.title;z.setAttribute('src',l.protocol+'//www.instapaper.com /j/WnlMKBaHBm1w?u='+encodeURIComponent(l.href)+'&t=' +(new%20Date().getTime()));b.appendChild(z);%7 Dcatch(e)%7Balert('Please%20wait%20until%20the %20page%20has%20loaded.');%7D%7Diprl5();void(0)

    This is for a web app called Instapaper http://www.instapaper.com

  • Seth: Did you try editing this webpage and open from the bookmark?
  • SHAWN: Yes. I was able to get the address stored, but was then given an error: “Cannot open MIME type”
  • Seth: I’m sorry we cannot open the javascript URL from the bookmark.
  • SHAWN: Okay. Can this be filed as a bug?
  • Seth: This is not a Bug. We cannot open the Javascript URL from the bookmarks any webOS devices.

    However, I will put forward your concern to the development team.

  • SHAWN: Okay. Thanks, Seth.
  • Seth: You are welcome!

    Can I be of any further help?

  • SHAWN: Nope. Thanks though.
  • Seth: My pleasure!

    Thank you for contacting HP webOS customer support and feel free to contact us for further assistance.

    Bye!

    Take Care!

3:54 pm: Downloaded Paper Mache. I can at least use it to read my Instapaper queue. Ryan Watkins gets it. This is a classy app that serves Instapaper well.

5:29 pm: Attempting to get music onto the device. You can run it in USB mode and add DRM-free MP3s. Or you can download HP Play and sync music from your iTunes account to the TouchPad, just like you would on iTunes.

6:44 pm: After plugging it in and ejecting it a couple times from the “USB mode” something changed about the OS. The background turned to a grey slate, all my open apps went away, all my downloaded apps that were in the Launcher disappeared, and certain bits of functionality stopped working.

7:02 pm: I can not figure out how to power down the device. I assumed that you simply hold down the lock button, like you do on an iPad, and that it would power down. However, it’s not working for me.

Reading through the instruction manual there are no obvious instructions about powering the device off. Though, I did finally read that I was attempting to power the device off correctly. Alas, my attempts to power it off are not working. There must literally be a bug in the OS that won’t allow me to power the TouchPad off.

Fortunately, Martin Dufort reminded me that perhaps there is a way to force reboot the device. I held down the lock and home buttons and it forced a reboot. Afterwards things came back to normal.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

4:41 PM: Log into Mint to check my site stats. It seems that the browser on the TouchPad is the fastest and most responsive app in the whole device. Though Web pages load a bit funky at times, they do load quickly and are very responsive.

4:59 pm: Friends will be arriving for the BBQ birthday dinner tonight, so I grab the iPad to go hook it up downstairs and stream Pandora. But I remember that I’m committing to use the TouchPad for the next week. So I search the HP App Catalog for a Pandora app.

Lo and behold there is one, but it is not TouchPad optimized. No matter, I download it because it’s free.

I heard that some apps that are not TouchPad optimized may not run on the TouchPad. Since Pandora is free, I figure why not give it a shot. It downloads and runs just fine.

When Pandora is running, you get the typical Pandora controls on the front of the TouchPad’s Lock Screen. However, you can’t control the music with those buttons. How odd.

In fact, this is something that is a bit frustrating. Though the Lock Screen displays notifications (such as new emails, Twitter replies and DMs, new IMs, etc…) you cannot act on those notifications.

10:01 pm: After running Pandora radio for 5 hours the battery only drained 13-percent, from 86 to 73.

10:23 pm: perhaps a better Twitter client has arrived? Check the App Catalog. Nope, Spaz HD is still the only one.

10:32 pm: Hey, what’s that magazine I heard about? The one that showcases apps? It’s not advertised on the Catalog home page, nor is it listed in the featured section of the Catalog.

Ah, I read here in this paragraph of text that the magazine is called Pivot. I guess I have to search for it on my own…

Hmm. Apparently it’s not in the catalog; a search for Pivot brings up no results.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

9:00 PM: In an attempt to test the limits of webOS’s multitasking capabilities, I begin opening as many apps and web pages as I can. I launch 15 cards (5 browser cards, email, the App Catalog, pondNotes, Paper Mache, Memos, Spaz HD, Photos & Videos, Music, Video and Voice calls, and Calendar) and then a blank notification appears in the top-right of the screen along with an accompanying alert sound and slight buzz.

I assume this blank notification has something to do with alerting me that there are a whole lot of apps open and I should do something about it. But it’s blank, so I ignore it.

One thing I do like about this notification is that I can continue to use the TouchPad even while the notification is showing. In iOS things come to a halt when a notification appears. Though, never has iOS notified me that I should be a little more prudent in my app launching endeavors.

I go into the Twitter app, Spaz, and find a link. Tapping on the link normally would have opened a new browser window. However, in this case it slides me all the way to the far-left browser card and brings it up. And then the blank notification pops up again… And that Twitter link never did open.

Monday, July 4, 2011

8:30 am: Marinating some BBQ chicken for grilling later tonight.

9:30 am: With a hot cup of coffee in hand, and a relaxing July 4 holiday ahead of me, I’m ready to do some reading. I’ve searched many times for an RSS reader in the HP App Catalog but there are only a couple, and so far as I can tell none of them sync with Google Reader.

I launch google.com/reader but am greeted with the standard view, which is literally unusable on a touchpad. Is this how it works on the iPad, too? I use Reeder so I actually don’t know, but surely there is a way to read your RSS feeds from a touch screen.

I launch google.com/reader on my iPad and am redirected to the mobile version: google.com/reader/i/. Returning now to the TouchPad I manually type in the mobile URL and am greeted with a usable version. (In some ways, I’m a bit bummed that I won’t be forced to read my RSS feeds on the iPad.)

10:45 am: Since the Kindle app is still unavailable, I am curious about how the TouchPad handles reading. I do a lot of reading on my iPad through Instapaper, Reeder, iBooks, and a few magazine apps like Wired and The New Yorker. I remember there being demos on the HP TouchPad website about their reading apps, so I go there to see if I can find something.

The whole website has changed. Now there is far less information about the TouchPad and instead lots of links to go buy one.

Side note: Those Russell Brand advertisements are horrendous.

The only reading app that I see advertised is Time Magazine. So I pick up my touchPad, launch the App Catalog and search for Time. It’s free to download and you can subscribe to it for $2.99/month which includes both the print and HP TouchPad Edition delivered each week. The first 4 weekly issues are free. If you like, you can just get the digital version for the same price.

Honestly I do not feel like signing up for this. I have a gut feeling that it will be a poorly rendered PDF version of the magazine, and that navigating and reading it on the TouchPad will be more maddening than entertaining. However, for the sake of science, I feel that I must. Maybe later…

10:52 am: I am still wanting to get ahold of their App Catalog app, Pivot. It still does not appear in the search results when trying to find it in the App Catalog. I decide to launch Help and start a live chat with a service rep asking if they know.

The Help screen is taking a while to load; perhaps the TouchPad needs a reboot.

I go out to the card view and begin closing some apps. There are a few websites open that I want bookmarked so I email them to myself. Suddenly, the screen goes blank and I see the glowing HP logo.

10:53 am: I just crashed webOS.

10:57 am: Okay, back to the App Catalog. Well hey, would you look at that! Pivot is now front and center on the App Catalog app. How did they know?

11:04 am: Pivot is a great idea. It’s a magazine all about app discovery, which, since Friday morning, is something I have had a hard time with. In theory it looks like you should be able to buy the apps from within Pivot. However, the purchase links are all stuck to the top-left corner of the screen, and you have no idea which purchase link is for which app.

I thought I was re-downloading the Kindle app (because based on Pivot it seems that the app is ready and available), but I actually ended up downloading Royal Opera House. Whatever that is.

11:07 am: I download HP MovieStore (which is powered by Roxio). This is apparently where you can download movies and TV shows right to your TouchPad. Alas, it seems to have the same development team as Kindle…

Now I’m curious if the Software Manager is supposed to notify me when updates are available or if I have to hunt them down myself. I launch Software Manager and am presented with a list of all the Apps I have installed. About 10 seconds later a green button appears at the bottom of the screen letting me know I have 3 updates available.

11:43 am: Okay, I take back what I said about being able to read feeds on the TouchPad — I can’t. Sure, I can get Google Reader’s mobile version to load, but it doesn’t exactly work like it should. Loading more items pops you back to the top of the list, and marking all the currently viewed items as read does just that but without a refresh of new unread items.

The TouchPad may tout that I get the full web because it’s Webkit-based browser supports HTML5 and Adobe Flash. But it does not appear to ever want to render the full web in a usable fashion.

11:45 am: I found a good use for Flash: Rdio.

11:57 am: A notification appears informing me that Paper Mache, the Instapaper app, is syncing. I don’t even have Paper Mache running. My first thought is, hey, that’s fantastic! My second thought is, wait, how much is this affecting my battery?

3:08 pm: Trying to watch the latest episode of Put This On. The Vimeo flash player isn’t working well. So I bust out the iPad, because it’s about time there was a head-to-head competition between these two. The iPad pulls up the .MOV file splendidly, and plays it in full-screen with no trouble whatsoever. Thank you, iPad.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

10:41 am: The Internet just went out. Delightful.

2:19 pm: With no Internet, I’ve decided to start writing the review itself.

6:45 pm: Wrote a little over 3,000 words today. Maybe the Internet should go out more often.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

8:41 am: Still no Internet.

8:45 am:I transferred over some old Superman cartoons because that’s about the only DRM-free video I have around here. (One day, if I ever own a Mac Mini I suppose I’ll get around to turning all my plastic video media into digital).

The video transferred over just fine, though the low-resolution cartoon looks pretty crummy. But hey, that’s half the fun, right?

12:58 pm: There are still some final bits of research I need to do and I need an Internet connection. So I am heading over to my local coffee shop to work. The second-half of this review may come across as more caffeinated than I originally anticipated.

10:26 pm: Internet’s back!

10:56 pm: Finally published my review. I am a bit surprised by the conclusion I ended up with. I truly did expect the TouchPad to be more than it was. But that’s why I titled the article “The HP TouchPad 1.0”. I think webOS has a bright future. The operating system does seem mostly suited for a tablet device, and I think that with more refinement the TouchPad could be the number two tablet. But, that is not what it is today. It’s buggy and awkward.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

10:18 am: Time to either return or sell this thing.

In the Settings pane there’s a way to do a secure erase. I erase the TouchPad, power it off, and put it completely back in all its original packaging and plastic wrap.

Before posting it to Craigslist I decide to call Best Buy. I let them know I bought it last week, but that I don’t like it. They have no problem whatsoever with me returning it. So I do.