putting an asus through some paces

This is probably the most difficult Tech@Work column I have ever written. Fear not, reader, the difficulty is not likely to disturb your Friday end-of-work-week lassitude; it is a difficulty pertaining only to me.

This is probably the most difficult Tech@Work column I have ever written.

Fear not, reader, the difficulty is not likely to disturb your Friday end-of-work-week lassitude; it is a difficulty pertaining only to me, and entirely self-imposed: I am thumb-typing it on a Bluetooth mini keyboard onto an Asus tablet computer.

Not because I have to, but because it can be done, though not very easily.

W.B. Yeats in 1916 wrote one of his most witty sonnets, The Fascination of What’s Difficult, in which he laments his propensity to inflict frustrating work on himself – and does it while half-rhyming tortuously on the non-rhyming word “difficult” (he comes up with “colt,” “jolt,” “dolt,” and “bolt”).

Computer nerds, like poets, thrive on technical challenges, and are never so happy as when they are pulling off some ingenious techno-stunt, however needless or pointless it may be – and this column is unabashedly one of those pointless, nerdy stunts.

The fact I am working on an Asus tablet, however, has nothing to do with stunting; I am addressing a gap in my nerdy knowledge, and reporting back to you on my findings.

The Asus Transformer tablet I have in hand is a professional investment that, first of all, allows me to do something about my shameful innocence of the Android operating system.

Android is a Linux-based operating system for mobile devices, like smart phones and computer tablets.

The Google corporation bought the original development company half a dozen years ago, but allows the operating system to be used by pretty much all comers who agree to adhere to the open-source licensing agreement.

Though Apple’s iPad and iPhone get all the gloss and glory in the press, Android – precisely because it is available to be used by a whole host of competitive companies – has quietly been establishing a dominant position in the mobile computer and smart phone market.

Since I make my living in the technology business, it behooves me to be at least moderately conversant with a technology development of this magnitude.

That I chose to learn about it in terms of a computer tablet was also more than just a nerdy whim.

Pretty much all computer and phone manufacturers are looking to get a horse into the sweepstakes of the mobile tablet market Apple ingeniously created with the release of the iPad a little over a year ago.

For all the reservations I have expressed about the value of the iPad – that it is really just a big, expensive iPod with lots of pretty interface features but very limited real-world functionality – there is no arguing with the fact that Apple, as always, innovated its way to another huge market success that has left the less imaginative competition running in the dust to catch up to.

People like computer tablets, and, for better or for worse, they are going to redefine the computer market of the future.

That is why it is so important that the technology develops in a healthy, competitive environment, not one dominated by a company like Apple – a company which, for all its technical competence and marketing brilliance, suffers from a control-freak mindset that ultimately stifles innovation.

About a year ago, I purchased a used iPod for the Yukon Technology Innovation Centre, where I have my day job, so that I could get a handle on the possibilities and limitations our local software developers might face in that new computer environment. (Actually, I bought it from my techno-compeer who also appears in these pages, Andrew Robulack.)

I recently purchased the Asus for the same reason, and I have to say that I regard that decision as the better one.

The Asus, though it lacks the design sophistication of the iPad, has functionality the iPad does not.

First and foremost, it is much more freely interoperable with other computer devices, as my test in the creation of this column is now demonstrating.

An iPad, when you connect it to a computer that is not running Apple’s iTunes software, appears as a camera device, and you cannot access any of the files on it, even though it is really just a dressed-up USB stick. Apple doesn’t want you using the thing for any purposes, or with any software, over which it does not have control.

The Asus, on the other hand, humbly appears on your desktop as just another USB device, and you can readily open and manipulate the files it has on board.

Furthermore, the Asus version of Android comes with a very handy, free implementation of OpenOffice, which allows you to create documents, spreadsheets and presentation – the very software I have been using to create this column, which is now ready to be dispatched to my editor.

So there you have it, techno-stunt accomplished and advisement given: If you are thinking about buying a tablet in the near future, make sure you don’t just spring for the iPad (though it, too, has its virtues); for your own benefit, and for the benefit of this new technology itself, shop your options and check out devices like the Asus Transformer.

Rick Steele is a technology junkie who lives in Whitehorse.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Diane McLeod-McKay, Yukon’s Ombudsman and information and privacy commissioner, filed a petition on Dec. 11 after her office was barred from accessing documents related to a child and family services case. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon government rejects Ombudsman requests for documentation filed to Supreme Court

Diane McLeod-McKay filed a petition on Dec. 11 after requests for documents were barred

Buffalo Sabres center Dylan Cozens, left, celebrates his first NHL goal with defenceman Rasmus Ristolainen during the second period of a game against the Washington Capitals on Jan. 22 in Washington. (Nick Wass/AP)
Cozens notches first NHL goal in loss to Capitals

The Yukoner potted his first tally at 10:43 of the second period on Jan. 22

Rodney and Ekaterina Baker in an undated photo from social media. The couple has been ticketed and charged under the Yukon’s <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> for breaking isolation requirements in order to sneak into a vaccine clinic and receive Moderna vaccine doses in Beaver Creek. (Facebook/Submitted)
Former CEO of Great Canadian Gaming, actress charged after flying to Beaver Creek for COVID-19 vaccine

Rod Baker and Ekaterina Baker were charged with two CEMA violations each

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Are they coming?

One of COVID-19’s big economic questions is whether it will prompt a… Continue reading

Yukon MP Larry Bagnell, along with Yukon health and education delegates, announce a new medical research initiative via a Zoom conference on Jan. 21. (Screen shot)
New medical research unit at Yukon University launched

The SPOR SUPPORT Unit will implement patient-first research practices

The bus stop at the corner of Industrial and Jasper Road in Whitehorse on Jan. 25. The stop will be moved approximately 80 metres closer to Quartz Road. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
UPDATED: Industrial Road bus stop to be relocated

The city has postponed the move indefinitely

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police detachment in Faro photgraphed in 2016. Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old building currently accommodating officers. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Faro RCMP tagged for new detachment

Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old… Continue reading

In a Jan. 18 announcement, the Yukon government said the shingles vaccine is now being publicly funded for Yukoners between age 65 and 70, while the HPV vaccine program has been expanded to all Yukoners up to and including age 26. (1213rf.com)
Changes made to shingles, HPV vaccine programs

Pharmacists in the Yukon can now provide the shingles vaccine and the… Continue reading

Parking attendant Const. Ouellet puts a parking ticket on the windshield of a vehicle in downtown Whitehorse on Dec. 6, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is hoping to write of nearly $300,000 in outstanding fees, bylaw fines and court fees, $20,225 of which is attributed to parking fines issued to non-Yukon license plates. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City of Whitehorse could write off nearly $300,000

The City of Whitehorse could write off $294,345 in outstanding fees, bylaw… Continue reading

Grants available to address gender-based violence

Organizations could receive up to $200,000

In this illustration, artist-journalist Charles Fripp reveals the human side of tragedy on the Stikine trail to the Klondike in 1898. A man chases his partner around the tent with an axe, while a third man follows, attempting to intervene. (The Daily Graphic/July 27, 1898)
History Hunter: Charles Fripp — gold rush artist

The Alaskan coastal town of Wrangell was ill-equipped for the tide of… Continue reading

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. While Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis is now setting his sights on the upcoming territorial election, other members of council are still pondering their election plans for the coming year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Councillors undecided on election plans

Municipal vote set for Oct. 21

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decicions made by Whitehorse city council this week.

Most Read