ViewSonic gTablet, eBooks, Kindle, etc

I’ve been tempted by the iPad, but can’t justify the high price for a device that I did not expect to use that much.  I am not that “mobile”, so portability (as much as that is possible for a device that does not fit in your pocket) was not an issue.  I’m also not a fan of Apple’s control-freak attitude towards the iPad apps. I’m curious about reading eBooks, and considered buying a Kindle, but the physical UI (buttons) struck me as problematic the two times I’ve handled it, and I wanted decent visual response times, and color.

I saw some reviews of the ViewSonic gTablet.  Most of the reviews were fairly negative, but one claimed that the problems had been fixed this spring, and I figured it might be fun to hack the thing, since there were lots of articles about that process on the web.  At $300, it was a $200 savings from the cheapest iPad. All of my friends who have ‘Droid phones are pleased with them, and the gTablet uses the Android OS.  The Internet is always there, and in a moment of weakness, I ordered a gTablet, knowing it would be larger and heavier than the iPad. I bought from Buy.Com (but it was being sold by Tiger Direct); I could have bought from Amazon (but sold by someone else).  Nothing is as it seems.

If you had been sitting with me during the first 30 minutes after I received the tablet, you would have seen me laughing out loud as every application (and I mean every application, including the web browser) crashed.  I was about to return it when I turned it off and on; I could have done a factory reset, too, but didn’t have to.

After the power cycle, it behave properly.  First of all, it asked me the series of questions that it should have asked when I first turned it on (accept EULA, select time zone, etc), so it must have powered up strangely the first time.  Secondly, there were fewer apps visible, as if it had discarded some of the original settings.  But it started to run without crashing.  At this point, I have no desire or plans to load new firmware into the ROMs.

I’ve spent a few hours learning about the Android OS (it is pretty difficult to do some things elegantly when you don’t have a real mouse), learning how to find and install apps, and learning how to acquire eBooks, and convert PDFs to eBooks.  I installed a few free games, but they were either fairly lame/boring, or crashed immediately.

First off, there is no hope of reading a PDF on the tablet.  Adobe’s PDF reader is stunningly brain dead, for a device that is so small.  While you can zoom in, this forces you to manually pan across and down each page, which is tiring and unnecessary.  Score zero for the folks at Adobe, who should have known better.

I also installed a few free eBook reader apps, but they also uniformly were unable to handle the scaling and zooming issues.  Amazing and ridiculous.

In the end, I installed the Kindle reader app (which is fine) and purchased a book from Amazon for $2.50 to get started.  That worked quickly and easily, and reading the book is a pleasure.   Finally, someone who knows how to do something right.

Getting PDFs onto the gTable/Kindle took some more work.  I had to install MobiPocket Creator to convert the PDFs into eBook format, and then move the PRC files over to the Kindle folder on the gTablet, but that was relatively painless.  I now have a series of PDFs available to read, including a free eBook I found in PDF format, and some notes about the impending technical singularity, which I will bring to a discussion this afternoon.  So, it may end up that the tablet is useful after all.  I can also use it to look up info using WiFi during the discussion.

I’m quite pleased with the gTablet, but so far am only using it as an eBook reader and to look stuff up on the web.  Perhaps I will end up using it for other purposes, but the awkward data entry UI makes that seem unlikely.  I’m sure that the iPad is better in a dozen ways, but this was a reasonable way for me to get started with this technology.

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2 Responses to “ViewSonic gTablet, eBooks, Kindle, etc”

  1. ViewSonic gTablet, eBooks, Kindle, etc | Cheap Kindle Books Says:

    […] Original post by jonbondy […]

  2. ViewSonic gTablet, eBooks, Kindle, etc « Jon Bondy's Musings | Cheap Kindle Books Says:

    […] Original post by jonbondy […]

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