Devices and desires redux

Two hours before I left for two weeks in France, I acquired a new Android tablet.  Unbeknownst to me, my husband had purchased his first iPod the day before and decided to take neither his old Android nor his laptop with him.  So it wasn’t until we got to the airport that we each learned that the other was traveling with an entirely new device, and I didn’t realize until we got to Paris that he didn’t have his familiar Android with him. Of course, the reason I didn’t take mine was because I had trouble downloading new books the morning we left, couldn’t update the very old device, and went out and bought the cheapest and most appealing thing I found at the nearest office supply store, which luckily for me was the Google Nexus, which I like a lot.

But there we were, in another country with completely unfamiliar devices.  Not only that, but Google got too smart for us, sensed our location, and connected us to, which wouldn’t  let either of us into our existing Yahoo email accounts for 3 days.  It also decided that the apartment we rented in Paris was my home address and the one we rented in Nice was my work address – though I didn’t find this out until I got home and opened my traffic-monitoring app.

Oh what fun, to be sitting on the terrace of the Pompidou Center staring at a screen instead of the view.  I was trying to appreciate the view, but I was drawn to the screen again and again, deeply anxious, unable to let folks know we had arrived (something I never worried about before ubiquitous connectivity – they  just had to assume I had), cut off from news from home, such as confirmation from the catsitter that she could operate the locks, find the food, that Scarlatti hadn’t escaped, etc. (humans can take care of themselves, the cats have become dependent) . . . . Neither of us could make our device, or Google, see reason.

For some reason, Google relented two days later, for both of us on different devices almost simultaneously, and neither of us had done anything to which we can attribute the change.  We can’t even draw a lesson from this.  Was it the new devices?  Was it the all-powerful, leave-it-to-us Google?  (I won’t go into the rest of the awful Google story, and for the record, I am still excited, in a good way, about the Google sensor-driven car.)

I love the Google Nexus tablet, if I don’t love Google’s mysterious machinations.  It’s light, slim, elegant, a good size to read from (still hard to type on, though much better than a phone).  It survived two weeks without even a screen protector, much less a case.  One of the essential books I downloaded was a detailed guide to the history of the buildings and streets of Paris (Thirza Vallois, Around and About Paris, v.1) so that I could stumble on the streets better even as I learned who had fought over Marguerite de Valois (no relations to Thirza that I know of) in which house.

Of course I had saved restaurant suggestions in Evernote, which is also where I put my own daily notes and photos.  Having Evernote on the phone is great, because after I take a picture, the “share” function on the camera offers two suggestions: email and Evernote. The tablet is a much better workplace for annotating photos in Evernote before I forget what they are, though I did that in the evening, not on the street.  I can type well enough on the phone to add a few clumsy notes in Evernote.

That was a vacation use, but it suggests that the same use of Evernote could be made in photo-based research.  I find that these days, I resent carrying even a laptop, with the extra weight of battery and case, which probably amounts to 10 lbs all told.  The difference between the 3 lbs. total (absolute maximum) of the Google Nexus and the 10 lbs. of the laptop is just astonishing. ( I am astonished at my querulousness, considering that the first machine I ever carried into the field weighed around 40 lbs.  – this was in the late 1980s, when I worked for the World Bank and dragged this monster to several West African countries – but I am nearly 25 years older now.)  Of course, the difference in bulk is a big consideration these days as well – a laptop counts as a whole piece of carry on luggage, while the phone and tablet go in my purse, and the cords go in the carry-on.

I didn’t mean to invest in another Android at this point; I was going to wait and get a Windows 8 tablet and a Windows 8 laptop, since I need a new laptop desperately.  But I am glad I did.  The Nexus allows me to do a certain amount of work-related reading and writing.  I think that the developers of some of the programs I use for PKM will produce Android versions in the not-too-distant future.  I have hopes for Webspiration, for example, which I have just signed up for.  Various kinds of information mapping are key PKM functions for me, and I have high hopes for Webspiration, the corporate and higher-ed version of Inspiration, which has long been around in the education market.  I’ll report on my adventures with this program shortly.

Oh, and I have added a protective cover to the Nexus, which takes away a bit of the fun but none of the function.

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