Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Using an Android tablet as a desktop workstation - the diary of a day

I'm considering to replace my 10" work netbook with a tablet, to increase portability and decrease weight. Normally I'm using my netbook with a 21" TFT, keyboard and mouse, with wired networking.

After ordering all the necessary gadgets for my 7" Nextbook tablet, today I tested a full day with it:

The tab has a mini-HDMI output, in the office we only have DVI monitors. The ordered miniHDMI-HDMI and HDMI-DVI cables didn't work with my usual Dell monitor, but did with a Samsung I borrowed. USB OTG connectivity to a USB-PS2 adapter to my keyboard/mouse works perfect. Happy so far, let's start the day. Output is actually 720p, and not perfectly full screen on the Samsung. Displays are cloned, so I pretty much waste the 7" extra realestate there, but that's okay for now.

The stock Android email client could be better, I might install K9 on the tablet too. Still, an issue: not sure if I can move emails between my 3 accounts. As I receive ebay/paypal stuff for company purchases in my Gmail, this is a problem for me, but we'll see.

Chrome and Firefox work as expected, OTRS and the UniFi controller interface are just fine, with the exception of Flash parts. LinkedIn doesn't want to present me the desktop site, even if I request it.

Linux commandline: I'm spoiled with options. Connectbot works okay, I still prefer the Android terminal emulator. SSH would work okay, but it lags on the public wifi, so I set up a temporary wifi for it. Few character issues with a remote MC session, but nothing I can't live with. Trying to SCP a file locally is a problem: SCP segfaults and dies with permission issues. No root on the tab, no fixing that for now. Workaround with some SSH tricks, but this could be a problem.

Remote desktop: official Microsoft RDP client, connects to 2003 and 2008 fine, but can't set the resolution. I get some 1400x1200 desktop, zoomed down so I can barely make out the fonts. Took me 5 mins to find the zoom button, which blows it up to 200%, so the scrolling game begins. This'll need some work, possibly another client.

Just as I was trying to size up the internal storage (5GB free, okay for now), the next package from China arrives: the powered USB hub. This would be for connectivity with pendrives and HDDs. Plug, plug, no joy: nothing's working through the hub. Tested the hub with a Linux PC, works perfect. Tested 2 unpowered hubs with the tablet, same thing: no support at all.

Next up: I'll need to print an Excel sheet. Let's not even go there, 15 minutes with the netbook as a break...

Editing an XLS from Dropbox with Quickoffice has some issues, it can't save transparently back to Dropbox, I'll need to download-edit-upload. It would be seemless with Google Drive. Copy-pasting from a Word dock in Quickoffice into Google Drive fails bad: copy-paste doesn't work and I can't go back to the docx, I'll have to open it again every time.

Wrapping up the day with emails and light browsing works fine, no issues.

Verdict: I won't be taking the laptop to holiday in the future, but Android is not desktop ready just yet. Emails are kinda okay, the hub is a problem, rooting might make things better, printing might be a brave adventure, window switching can be painful. I might actually try a Win8 tablet if I have a chance.

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