Archive - reviews RSS Feed

An update on the ASUS Transformer in action

I’ve had the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer for a little longer now, and it was time for an update on what I’ve been enjoying as I have had lots of conversations in the wine business with people who have been interested in its potential. I also see that Simon Woods is doing the same.

Vrazon on stage at LIWF with ASUS Transformer

Overall, I’d say I am enjoying using the Eee Pad (calling it the Transformer seems wrong, my daughter is more into Ben 10 anyway). The Android device and apps act like gawky teenagers full of promise; new, fresh, attractive but a little ungainly, awkward, still feeling their way and lacking confidence.

On the other hand, Apple devices are like young geniuses, preciociously jumping straight from obscurity to stardom. They just work, … but I am beginning to feel like we’ve seen what they can do. Their promise is less exciting, especially if Apple continues to limit and control developments.

[Aside: How did Apple go from being the coolest kid on the block to the "establishment" that we all want to knock?]

First, the things that are not so great about the Eee Pad, Android and the Apps:

  • Text input it nowhere near as easy, on the screen, as it is on my iPhone (I have not tried an iPad for very long). Swipe is OK, but fails to recognise MANY words I use for the wine business. It certainly does not come pre-loaded with wine tasting vocabulary!
  • The auto-correct features are again not as intuitive or intelligent as on the Apple, and I’m realising how lazy I have become, with apostrophes, capitals and other input being done for me.
  • Apps do not load particularly quickly. I’m not sure if this is a result of the processing on the Eee Pad, the apps themselves, or that this is Android 3.0 (and 3.1 has not yet arrived, but is due I believe)
  • Many apps, particularly Facebook, are really not designed for the larger tablet interface and either look bad, lack features or simply do not work. This is not ASUS’ issue, but it is hard to make this my main tool if the apps are not keeping pace
  • On that note, I’ve had issues with lots of apps crashing. It looks like a memory issue, but probably related to how compatible these apps are with this version of Android. Hopefully this will improve soon
  • It is surprisingly difficult to manage multiple gmail accounts on this machine. To be fair it is difficult even on a laptop, but this IS GOOGLE. C’mon guys, wake up to the fact that we have multiple addresses and accounts (you force us to in many cases) so Android should be able to handle this. I have a personal gmail account, one each for my businesses using google apps and even some other ‘ancillary’ accounts. I can access them all on my iPhone …..
  • The video quality (as proven lasttime) is not that great to use as a single device. In particular, the audio pick up is awful. A last-resort tool for now. However, I gather that firmware updates are due that will improve these
  • I had a strange bug trying to update mt wordpress blog via the browser. I could see the dashboard, access posts and delete letters/words, but not add or insert any new ones. Makes it VERY difficult to blog, but I have not yet tried the wordpress apps
  • I tried updating the firmware on the keyboard unit (strange to do this separately). On one machine it worked fine, on another it failed and the keyboard died. It is having to be replaced. Shame. I gather I was not alone in this, but this stuff happens – however, I will worry every time I have to repeat the process in future

Now, despite that long list of issues, I had better remind you that I started out saying that I AM enjoying using it.

  • The large screen is very useful. At the recent London Wine Trade Fair I carried it around the fair and the ability to see my Google Calendars (all combined in one view) on the screen at once was wonderful. A bit like carrying around the world’s most useful clipboard.
  • I am enjoying having a full browser that allows me to watch the films on the sites I visit most, such as the BBC News site, and to watch YouTube videos in great detail
  • The combined list of updates that appear in the bottom of the screen, for facebook ,twitter, gmail, etc. is very useful for at-a-glance catch ups
  • the battery life seems pretty decent and have had no issues with it so far, though I have not really put that to the test
  • And when I suffered the issues with the firmware failure (mentioned above) it was great to have all my settings and apps backed up on the cloud on my Google account to quickly restore it.
  • From a work perspective, it is a tool that has been useful at wine tastings, particularly with the help of the Evernote app to capture and store images, tasting notes, recordings, web pages and more. I see this as a very powerful combination of capabilities (see this post on Tio Pepe En Rama for example)

Overall I am still enjoying using the Eee Pad transformer. Many of the issues I’ve listed above are niggles of a new operating system and apps that have yet to be fully adapted to it. I expect (or at least hope) they will be resolved very quickly. In retrospect, trying to test it during the madness of the London Wine Trade Fair was also a bit much. However, now that this is over, I look forward to finding more fun ways to use it (assuming my new keyboard arrives soon).

Enhanced by Zemanta

Two wine apps – a brief review

I don’t spend long enough looking at apps for the iPhone and other smart phones, largely because so many of them are based around storing tasting notes and collecting wine information – and I think that too boring for words.

However, sometimes some off-the-wall stuff comes along that captures my imagination, at least for a bit. Neither of these two apps will necessarily divert you for long, but they are both free … and so are worth every penny!

UK Wine Tax Calculator

Screen capture of UK Wine Tax Calculator app

50.6% Tax - tastes funny

(App by APPetise)

A simple app. No tasting notes, no recommendations, no points.

Plug in the retail price you are paying for your wine, plus the alcohol level, and this handy little app will tell you what (MASSIVE) percentage is going DIRECTLY to the government in both VAT and Duty. Then you can sit back, enjoy your wine, and when you hear politicians say “We are all in this together”, you can toast them with your glass of tax-revenue-in-a-glass. You’ve done your bit!

An interesting development would be to add estimated values for certain other items, such as the packaging and supermarket retail margins, so you can get an idea of what percentage of that final price might actually be the cost of the wine itself! You’d be surprised!

Wine Tonight?

Screen capture of Wine Tonight App

Wine Tonight App - yes dear

(App by Whitespace)

Know anything about biodynamic wines? What about the theory’s application to a wine tasting calendar? No?

I’ve been monitoring the idea that as well as the wines being MADE following certain lunar and natural cycles, the wines taste different on a similar schedule. I bought a little booklet called “When Wine Tastes Best” for 2010 and always thought it should really be an app. And in 2011 they’ve obliged, sort of.

In theory, the days of the year fall into 4 categories; GOOD -Fruit & Flower and BAD – Leaf & Root. Don’t ask me how they decide, but if you look up a date it should tell you whether your wine will be showing itself at its best, or be having the vinous equivalent of a bad hair day.

I had hoped the app would allow you to link up to a calendar, maybe help you plan your wine dinners and tastings in advance. It doesn’t. It only tells you the status of TODAY. Click on “Wine Tomorrow?” and you get an ad for the printed booklet.

They’re REALLY missing a trick here. The physical booklet only costs £3.99 (or less) but there are printing costs, and delivery costs to factor in. SURELY they’d make a lot more money selling it on iTunes for £0.79 and encouraging a lot more immediate, impulse buys?

For the record, the calendar is hit-and-miss. I’ve not wholly bought into the concept, … but there are days where otherwise perfectly good wines just don’t taste right, so …

Have you spotted any other wine apps worth reviewing that are NOT tasting note stores or cellar management tools?

Enhanced by Zemanta