A PERFECT DAY

Daily Prompt: Nothin’ But A Good Time

It would take a tiny bit more than eliminating responsibilities to give me that perfect day. I’d also need some decent weather … cool but clear. Think New England, early half of October bright with autumn leaves and just the tiniest bite in the air.

Autumn Cape Cod October

Add a couple of cameras (no problem, I’ll just grab that bag over there, thanks) and one smiling husband. Just for the day, let’s rent a convertible. I’ll tie my hair back and let the wind try to get the clips out. I want to feel that breeze in my face.

Photo: Debbie Stone
Photo: Debbie Stone

We can go anywhere, right? Stop for ice cream along the way. Discover someplace new, a waterfall we’ve never seen, a brook where heron’s fish or swans are nesting. We’ll capture it and each other in pictures, then on the way home, stop to eat. We’ll gorge on Japanese food and complaining about how much we overate, drive slowly home.

As we relax on the love seat, I’ll fire up my laptop and we can look at our day’s work. Tell each other how wonderful we are and mean every word of it.

It sounds kind of ordinary I guess. Maybe so, but the best days are ones we spend with people we love in the places we want to be. If you are feeling good, that makes it perfect.

BISHOP THE BOLD

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Bishop, our Australian Shepherd is possibly the most beautiful Aussie I’ve ever seen. From nose to rump (he has no tail) he’s magnificent. Okay, he isn’t necessarily the smartest of his breed but he may be the sweetest. He’s loving. Passionate even.

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If you look him in the eyes, all sixty pounds of gigantically furry pooch will be in your lap and licking you to death before you can say “No, Bishop, you’re too BIG!”

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REVIEW: THE DELL VENUE PRO 8 TABLET

After the Kindle HDX washed out, I had a hole where a small, portable web-capable device should be. With hospitalization soon, I wanted to be able to do small footprint basic computing. My laptop is great, but too big and heavy for a hospital bed.

I’ve been using the Dell Venue Pro 8 every day for the past few weeks. I no longer find myself shouting at it — big improvement. The real problems were solved when Dell installed new drivers. The rest of the issues have gone away as I’ve gotten to know the hardware and operating system.

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I remain underwhelmed by Windows 8. It offers no advantage over Windows 7, at least to customers. My son pointed out it offers value to Microsoft by making everything proprietary. It blocks you from using applications not made specifically for Windows 8. Considering the whole advantage to Windows has always been its universality, this is a strange, self-destructive direction for Microsoft. They have a new CEO. Let’s see if he gets the company back on a sensible course. Otherwise, this will likely be my last Windows device. Sad, after such a long relationship.

Technically, you can run standard Windows applications on any Windows 8 machine, tablet or otherwise. Practically speaking, it’s not true. Some things run. Most don’t. The Venue 8 only lets you install by download, which eliminates a lot of my software by default. Most of the other applications I use on Windows 7 don’t run on 8 — or run so poorly it isn’t worth the effort. It’s ironic. Just as Apple is opening up their platform to all kinds of applications, Microsoft has gone the other way.

The tablet’s native software runs well. The email app is fine. IE runs smoothly. You better like IE because you won’t be using Firefox or Chrome — neither runs on the tablet. I’m not a big gamer, so the lack of games doesn’t bother me as much as it aggravates others, but still. Aside from Solitaire, there are no games. You can’t even get a download of Scrabble. That’s rough.

Photography apps? None worth the effort. I won’t be taking a lot of pictures using the onboard camera (which works pretty well), or uploading photographs to the tablet — even for viewing. There’s no USB port, no slot for an SD card other than one micro card which is an extension slot for memory.

If you want to play games, read books, watch movies, listen to music? The Kindle Fire HD (the old version, not the HDX), is just $139 from Amazon. It’s a far better choice for entertainment. Not as good for email and other Internet activities … but for entertainment, it’s a winner.

The Dell Venue Pro 8 is solidly built. It feels great in hand. It seamlessly connected to Netflix. Watching movies is easy. You can listen to music on Amazon’s Cloud Player, but it’s not straightforward. Microsoft really wants you to use its own software … but I find it confusing, complicated and lacking documentation or instructions, ultimately incomprehensible. It’s inexcusable to provide so little support.

The (free) copy of MS Office installed without a hitch. I don’t know if I’ll get out much use from it. That’s not what I bought the tablet for. I found a bunch of other useful small applications. Solitaire, a clock, calendar, alarm and stopwatch and installed them without incident. I uninstalled a few things too. Installation and uninstallation is really easy. And fast. If only there were more apps!

The speakers are great, though not terribly loud. Which is fine. I can use earphones if I need it louder. For such a little tablet, the graphics are fantastic. I watched “Jack Reacher” on Netflix and enjoyed it. My website looks great.

The cameras (1 front, 1 back) work but the lack of editing software limits their usefulness. It would be okay for Skyping — probably — but I don’t Skype, so it’s moot. The video camera seems fine as does the voice recorder, though I have little use for either.

It’s got a lot of bells and whistles, some of which I might use yet it’s missing important basic tools. Not being able to edit its own photos is bad, but not being able to upload my photos at all? Worse. All for the want of a USB port.

It’s good for reading (Kindle and maybe other reader apps), watching a movie on Netflix. I don’t know about other services but you can’t watch Amazon Prime. Or I can’t figure out how.

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It’s good for quick emails. I’m disinclined to write much on a virtual keyboard. I can  do small amounts of web editing but wouldn’t want to do more. But not because the tablet won’t. It loads this website fast and switches to editing mode with no problem.

The Venue Pro 8 is too small for web editing. It’s too small for a lot of things. My son has a 10″ device and he can do a lot more. The “OK” boxes and other targets on-screen are tiny. Even using a stylus, I miss as often as I hit. Fine editing is out of the question. That is not the fault of the tablet. I chose this size. I knew it would have limitations. I was right.

There are no after market accessories — yet. Well,  there’s one, but it doesn’t work. I bought a secondary market keyboard — blue tooth — and returned it. It wasn’t broken, but you had to enter a generated key code. You couldn’t see the code because the virtual keyboard popped up and blocked it. By the time you got the keyboard out of the way, the code was gone. The codes are good for only 30 seconds. I don’t understand why they designed it like that. Just provide a printed code. Why make me jump through hoops to sync a keyboard?

Dell sells a keyboard that apparently works, but it’s $99. Too expensive. I’ll do without. I don’t know how well any blue tooth accessory will install. If it includes a “time out” code, it won’t. It’s a tactical rather than technical problem, but it stopped me.

If anyone wants to point out how I could use my iPhone, may I remind you I find an 8″ tablet too small. Do you think the iPhone would be better? Think before commenting.

Summary

What I like:

  • Great graphics
  • Excellent sound
  • Good camera and video (but no editing tools)
  • Free Microsoft Office, email and other workaday stuff
  • Fine build
  • No problem loading websites
  • Fast boot time; almost instant
  • Long battery life and short recharging cycle
  • Comes with a charger.

What I don’t like:

  • No USB port
  • No SD card slot
  • The cord is too short. Really, would it have broken the bank to add a foot and make it reach my desk from the electrical outlet? Serious inconvenience
  • No documentation. The PDF is just generated data. Useless
  • Windows 8.1 sucks
  • The graphical Interface feels like a bunch of pieces stuck together without a cohesive concept.

Related articles:

DELL VENUE PRO 8 TABLET – UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL | Serendipity

GUARD DOGS!

As the tractor dug the layer of ice off the asphalt of our crumbling driveway, Bishop, who had been lolling about the living room trolling for treats realized he was neglecting his duties as watchdog.

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Bishop has never entirely grasped the whole “guarding” concept, but he has gotten very adept at the “keep barking until they go away” piece of the puzzle. Given even the slightest motivation, he will bark continuously. Motivation is loosely defined as someone or something in the driveway, on the property or nearby in the woods or on neighboring properties.

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If no reason presents itself, he will nonetheless bark continuously — for no apparent reason. Perhaps it is a preventative measure lest some unwanted human or critter be considering invading the territory.

Bonnie is more than happy to help with the barking. The two of them together, sometimes assisted by one or more of the other two dogs, can bark for hours if no one stops them — usually by suggesting it’s biscuit time.

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Today they had a reason to bark and bark they did. Mostly, it was Bishop’s day. That big green machine must have looked pretty threatening! And barking must have been the right thing to do because it went away. See? Bark and it makes everything alright.