Monday, March 21, 2005

The Vermont Slate?

On a less serious note, I wanted to talk about where this blog's name came from and introduce a discussion about why we chose the HP TC1100 as our Tablet PC of choice.

Vermont was known in the past for the amount and quality of the slate mined here. You can still see a large number of older houses with slate roofs around the state. If you want to talk about durable building (especially roofing) materials, slate would be high on the list of topics. Slate was quarried all over the state of Vermont, with different colors of slate mined in different regions, including a light-colored slate from quarries not too far from Vermont Academy.

There is something symbolic in this tie to the history of the state and in the durability of slate. And of course the particular qualities of slate made it suitable for use in schools in lieu of paper. I'd like to say that is why I chose that name for this site. But it isn't.

The reality is that one of our trustees used this term in passing to describe our machines (HP TC1100s) and it just struck my fancy. So much for my creativity, eh?

There remains an ongoing debate about the two main forms of Tablet PCs, convertibles and slates. There is, in fact, a third option which is sometimes termed a hybrid. The TC1100 is one of the latter. If you want to hear all the pros and cons of each model of each kind in detail, head to a Tablet PC discussion site and ask, "What is the best model of Tablet PC?" Just don't tell them that I told you to ask. (Better yet, go to one of those sites and search the forums for existing discussions. There are many and the discussions are actually pretty civil and informative.)

In a nutshell, convertibles are notebook computers on which the permanently attached screen can swivel and lay flat against the keyboard face up or face down. With the screen and writing surface face up, the computer can be used as a Tablet. Slates do not have a keyboard that attaches to the unit, although they can accept USB keyboards, and are designed primarily with tablet use in mind.

Hybrids, as the name implies, bridge the gap between the two. They have keyboards that attach both for use and for carrying but they can be removed. The TC1100 was, to the best of my knowledge, the first of these. Arguably, the Motion M1400 with the hard top keyboard is a hybrid, too, although this keyboard is an optional component.

Each configuration has its strengths. A convertible can generally be expected to have a better keyboard. It often has a CD or DVD player built in. A slate, on the other hand, is likely to be lighter and thinner which is better for holding for long periods of time.

In theory, a hybrid should be able to combine the strengths and minimize the weaknesses of the two other types. In reality, what I've seen so far is that a hybrid gives you the advantage of a keyboard that you don't have to carry separately, but which isn't quite as good as one you would find on a convertible. I have both a Motion M1300 and a TC1100 and this is the case with both of them. Neither has a built-in CD, but for me that is a strength, not a weakness.

For many of you, this will mostly be basic information and old news. Next post, I'll discuss this in more depth, along with the other arguments we considered in making our decision.


  1. Heh... vermontslate....

    I forgot the url to this site (had to ask Mark to resend it to me) early on.

    I tried and was reminded of one of the great things about Vermont (slate, granite, and all of the mica in their asphalt aggregate which makes for "sparkly" late night drives)

  2. Not to mention Libby's Blue Line Diner, eh? We almost got to eat there last weekend when my wife and I were in Burlington, but we ran out of time.

  3. I guess I should explain that I teach geology and that out here we don't have much in the way of metamorphic rocks... lots of igneous and sedimentary rocks though (and more every day).

    Sadly, while we do have a "libby's Like" place here, they don't have real Vermont maple syrup (especially the dark amber *sigh*) for my pancakes. Lunches and dinners are similar, though.

    I also miss the grade school drawings...

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