First Linux tablet PC

SAN FRANCISCO (10/27/2003) - The first Linux-based tablet, Desktop Evolution Inc.'s US$1,900 De-Tablet, is a good effort, but its software needs additional refinements before it will please the tablet-toting masses.

The matte-black shipping De-Tablet, better known as the Toshiba Inc.'s Portégé 3500, runs on Lycoris's Linux distribution, Lycoris Desktop/LX Tablet Edition. It comes configured with a 1.33-GHz mobile Pentium III processor, integrated Wi-Fi, ethernet, a V.92 modem, and Secure Digital and CompactFlash memory card slots.

The only three tablet-specific adjustments that Lycoris made to the operating system are the virtual keyboard, the battery meter located in the taskbar, and touch-screen functionality. One warning: The De-Tablet doesn't as yet do some things you'd expect a tablet to do, such as handwriting recognition and portrait mode (those features are expected in the next release).

I found Desktop/LX Tablet Edition relatively easy to configure and use. When I logged in to KDE (K Desktop Environment), a welcome screen offered me the option of starting a video tour or launching the Help Center. For further assistance, audio-visual guides called Viewlets provide animated step-by-step instructions; you can launch these from the main menu's Help and Support section.

After plugging in an ethernet cable and then logging out and back in again, I was able to browse PC World's internal network and the Web. The software at once recognized a thumb-drive storage device and my Konica Minolta Holdings Inc.'s Dimage digital camera. But I noticed a definite lag between entering data on the tablet (via stylus) and getting a response from it.

The De-Tablet is certainly usable, but in my opinion the software needs to be beefed up before this package will be fully on a par with Microsoft Windows-based tablets.

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