ULP Review of Asus Slate EP121 (TabletPC)

Ill try to get a better picture uploaded soon

While I am fully entrenched in the iPhone bandwagon, I have not purchased an iPad (or a TabletPC)…or really anything else other than a standard laptop since I tried a LG Phenom, and a ZX81 (Timex Sinclair 1000) prior to that.  However, I recently took the plunge and picked up an Asus Slate EP121.

It is important to qualify my review by stating my intended purpose for the Asus Slate is as a laptop replacement with tablet functionality, *not* primarily as a tablet.  This unit is to be a work computer.  As such, it has to be powerful enough to run a full Windows 7, the complete Microsoft Office suite, etc.  I anticipate about a 70/30 mix of ‘laptop’/tablet usage in my everday work activities.  This, of course, subject to change during periods of travel like conferences and the like.

Specs as purchased ($1099, free shipping, free Microsoft Signature install)
Windows 7 Home Premium, Intel i5 Dual Core, Intel HD graphics, 12.1″ Gorilla Glass screen, 4GB Dual DDR3 RAM, 64GB SSD,  weight of 2.5 lbs, two (2) USB ports, mini-HDMI output, SD Card reader, 2MP (videoconferencing) camera.

Also came with:
Folio case (doubles as a stand as depicted above)
MS Mobile Bluetooth Keyboard 6000
Wacom Pen/Digitizer w/Eraser
Power supply with extra embedded USB charging port

Pros
*It is faster than my current (old) laptop Dell XPS M1530 in every measurable way, so its a clear upgrade for me
*I am already trying ways to incorporate the added Tablet & Stylus functionality into teaching, taking notes in meetings, etc. I really like the seamless integration of MS Office/PDFs/OneNote with the enhancements of the Wacom pen and the sprawling screen size to write comments, notes, etc. in an unobtrusive way (vs trying similar with touch laptop where it is a little less natural and you get the occasional arched eyebrow).  We will also be using tablets in some of our studies for consenting patients, getting baseline data & scores, etc.  and I anticipate fewer issues with data conversion and related issues since both systems are Windows-based.
*I haven’t had any problems with its touch interface so far…then again, my only real long-term comparator is the iPhone4
*Boot time is much faster than anticipated (<30 sec from pressing button to surfing the net) and hibernate mode works really well as it consumes almost no battery and launches in about 3 seconds
*I can’t imagine having any handheld device without a webcam for videoconferencing (e.g., meetings and teaching classes), as well as USB ports, and a video out…fortunately, this is not an issue with the Slate
*Turns out 2.5 lbs is lighter than I thought
*I can’t believe I am excited about a keyboard, but the one that came with it is *really* good; similar sentiment for the folio
*Embedded USB in power cord is nice touch, can plug in and simultaneously charge iPhone with just one plug at airport…minor issue, but appreciated
*The ArtRage software & stylus should allow for creation of some nice infographics

Cons
*The battery life is terrible. I mean, I knew it was low based on reviews and that in order to run 7 and to power the gi-normous bright screen that it would take juice, but…I tried a couple of different tests and read about similar online. Streaming Netflix over Wifi only yields about 2.5 hours.  Performing low demand work tasks, I can get about 4 hours out of it.  This is normally ok as I am using it as a work computer on my desk, but for travelling, etc. it would have been nice to have been able to get in two movies.
*64GB is nice and Asus offers free ‘unlimited’ cloud storage with it (and there is always SkyDrive, etc.); plus it has USB and SD, but I have 10GB on my laptop just in licensed stock photos – so no way the Slate will comfortably holding all my files.
*Had to get a Bluetooth mouse to fully replicate workstation
*If you are expecting instant-on, power-up you will be disappointed
*HDMI is nice, but will have to navigate the plentiful VGA machines

Verdict
It’s early days, but so far I am very happy with the Asus Slate.  I suspect people looking for a serious work machine with 7, Office, etc. plus the benefits of Tablet functionality will be happy with the Slate too.  Others simply looking for an alternative to the iPad to surf, read, and play Angry Birds on probably will not be.

Other People’s Opinions
The Aussie ZDNet/cnet site has a pretty good video review of the Asus Slate.  I think it was overly harsh on some aspects and I have no idea why they encountered any difficulty with connecting the Bluetooth keyboard – but they give a fair appraisal overall and had some glowing words about it, summed up by “this thing’s pretty damn good”.

Click to launch to video review

Elsewhere, one ‘enthusiast’ created the most comprehensive audio/video review I have ever seen for ANY product, luckily it is for the Asus Slate.  He has also been trying to answer questions about it, even prior to release in Canada.  My review will give you an indicator, but his site and Product Tour is a must visit if you are seriously considering purchasing an Asus Slate EP121.  Actually, even if you are not that serious, you should check out the thoroughness of this guy’s review.   Amazing.

Hope this helps. Obviously, I would be very interested to hear if you get an Asus Slate and/or about your experiences with one.

@kevinclauson

Disclosure: I did not receive any consideration for this review.  I did receive free overnight shipping that was available to anyone who goes to: http://www.facebook.com/windows and gets the code.  However, when I tried to use the Facebook code at the Microsoft store online, it  did not work.  So, then I clicked on the proffered Live Chat to ask about the code.  Chat told me I had to *call* customer service to ask them about it.  So, then I sent a tweet at “Matt at the Windows Social Media Team” about it and never heard back. Lost opportunity. Ironic.

Red Bull and Slow Cow – A Tale of Two Beverages

We just published an article titled “Effects of commercial energy drink consumption on athletic performance and body composition” in the April issue of The Physician and Sportsmedicine (@PhysSportsMed).  I collaborated with two other faculty members at my university on this review of energy drink literature.  We focused primarily on the effects of energy drinks (e.g. Red Bull, Monster, Rock Star, etc.) on weight loss and athletic performance enhancement.  However, we also provided a look ahead to the antithesis of the energy drink – the aptly titled anti-energy drink.  There are a number of products in this emerging market as well (e.g., Slow Cow, Drank, Malava Novocaine).  Slow Cow, in particular, seems to play off of the name of energy drink leader Red Bull – but its creator maintained he was otherwise inspired for the name. 

 It was an interesting review to work on and represents a natural progression from a previous safety-focused article on this topic.

@kevinclauson

“The Internet Makes Us Sick”: A Classic Revisited

I recently gave a lecture on meta-analyses as part of a Drug Literature Evaluation course.  One example I typically use to illustrate the importance of critically evaluating literature combined with the potential impact of the media is, “Is Cybermedicine Killing You” – The Story of a Cochrane Disaster.  It is an editorial published back in 2005 in response to a fatally flawed Cochrane paper that was ostensibly published as a review of, “interactive health communication applications” (IHCAs).  The review’s plain language summary described it as “computer-based programmes for people with chronic disease”.

In my mind, there are four key observations about that situation:

1. The nature of the research being reviewed was mischaracterized from the beginning.
As pointed out by Eysenbach and Kummervold, the studies included in the meta-analysis were all interventional in nature (i.e., in addition to an informational piece, there was an accompanying, structured aspect of decision support/behavioral change).  However, most of the media headlines generated from that Cochrane review omitted the interventional aspect and presented it in terms of consumers passively looking at health-related information on the Internet.

2. The authors of the Cochrane review arrived at a flawed conclusion and admitted it.
The authors of the JMIR editorial pointed out several “stunning” mistakes in the review including: data extraction errors, and that conclusions about positive outcomes from the eHealth interventions were misinterpreted as harmful.  The editorial re-examined the work and actually found that only 2 of the 11 study interpretations were correct.  Some of them were startlingly basic errors such as classifying a reduction in hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) in the intervention group and an increase in HbA1c in the control group as a bad outcome.

3. The retraction acknowledging the erroneous findings barely caused a ripple.
After the flurry of media stories about the supposed dangers associated with looking online for health information, very few news outlets publicized the retraction.  This is despite the retraction being issued in only 13 days.  Further, the revised conclusion archived in the Cochrane Library stated the opposite findings from the original that, “IHCAs appear to have largely positive effects on users, in that users tend to become more knowledgeable, feel better socially supported, and may have improved behavioural and clinical outcomes compared to non-users.”  Nothing nefarious here; it is pretty common to see sparse coverage allotted for retractions versus the “if it bleeds, it leads” initial coverage.  But it is still regrettable.

4. What could have been an early blow to eHealth and empowered patients was avoided.
Given the authority of Cochrane reviews, the unease of many clinicians with patients seeking health information (even more pronounced five years ago), and the relatively early stage of consumer health informatics – this inaccurate condemnation could have proved detrimental to the advancement of the specialty and efforts by what are currently referred to as e-patients.  Fortunately, a few researchers, authors, and advocates discovered the situation and acted swiftly to correct it.

It always surprises me that this story is not related more often, especially among those involved with its related fields or movements.  There are not a lot of situations that can serve so aptly as both a cautionary tale and one of promise and encouragement.

@kevinclauson

 

References

Links for all relevant, full-text publication are embedded in the text.  Here are the written citations just in case.

Eysenbach G, Kummervold PE. “Is Cybermedicine Killing You?”–The story of a Cochrane disaster. J Med Internet Res 2005;7(2):e21.

Murray E, Burns J, See Tai S, Lai R, Nazareth I. Interactive Health Communication Applications for people with chronic disease. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2005; (4):CD004274. 

Pharmacy Informatics – The Pharmacist, Librarian, and Pharmaceutical Scientist

Pharmacy Informatics by Philip O. Anderson: Book Cover

I was first alerted to the release of the new book Pharmacy Informatics via a blog post by @poikonen.  I took advantage of Amazon’s ‘Look Inside’ to check out the chapter titles and introduction.  That was enough for me, so I ordered it. I am really, really glad I did.

This textbook was created by three faculty members at the University of California, San Diego School of Pharmacy (along with area contributors) to accompany their forward-thinking pharmacy informatics course.  The authors bring a lot of credibility to the text as Phil Anderson is a very well known pharmacist in drug information and informatics circles, Susan McGuiness is a pharmacy librarian who is quite active in AACP, and Phil Bourne is the pharmaceutical scientist who is one of the more clever and creative fellows I have come across. 

The book basically delivers enough structure to create your own pharmacy informatics course.  It begins with a concise overview and the authors’ take on the meaning of pharmacy informatics (see Figure 1.1. above).  Then it sets the stage for why this specialty has developed and where it is going, touching on areas such as telepharmacy and personalized medicine.  The next major section “Prerequisites” helps provide a crash course in the basics surrounding computing and controlled vocabularies then finishes with a really well-done chapter on literature and the web.

From there the book moves onto ‘Information Systems’, breaking them down into hospital and pharmacy along with highlighting the role of informatics in avoiding medication errors.  This is also where a lot of the usual suspects make their first appearances – EHRs, bar coding, CPOE, smart pumps, etc.  I did think that this section missed a couple of opportunities.  Like many other references (and pharmacy education in general – of which I am a guilty party), it really only gave cursory attention to the community setting…despite the vast majority of pharmacists still going to that setting.  Even when it did include outpatient-specific aspects, like automated drug-dispensing machines and automated kiosks, I felt it did a bit of a disservice by not exploring the potential surrounding or psychosocial impact of these types of services.  This section also includes a couple of practically useful chapters on tertiary information sources and PDAs.  Perhaps the most interesting chapter of this section was “Pharmacy Informatics as a Career”.  While it may have been shoehorned in there, it serves as a really nice introduction to the specialty from what type of training is necessary to a pretty in-depth look at the evolution of a pharmacist with experience in different practice settings to a project leader and manager.  I also liked their 25-item informatics specialist job description.

Next was a very robust section on “Decision Support”.  It had a nice hat-tip to evidence based medicine as well as good coverage of classic clinical decision support and pharmacokinetics.  Unfortunately, I found the chapter on data mining (which I was most looking forward to in this section) was a little lacking.  The information there was superior, but I really would have liked to see additional depth, as this is such an exciting area for growth within pharmacy informatics.  The book ends with some forecasting and a peek into the near future (some of which is here now).  It provides a scenario that highlights possibilities for several Web 2.0 tools and approaches for information management and decision support.  It also hits two of my other favorite topics in social networking and open access (more on that in a moment).  The concluding chapter is a pragmatic look at where we can go and how to navigate the obstacles to get there.

Ok, back to the really cool stuff.  If you aren’t familiar with Bourne’s work and experiments with open access, peer review 2.0, and alternate/enhanced venues to disseminate scholarly work – you are missing out.  Don’t feel bad.  I stumbled across them in a variety of ways including seeing a live presentation by JOVE co-creator Moshe Pritsker at Medicine 2.0 a couple years ago, assigning my students and residents to watch some of the PLoS 10 Simple Rules collection (e.g. getting grants, getting published, making good poster and oral presentations, etc.), and reading blog posts about interactive visual posters (i.e., postercasts, pubcasts, etc.) that are housed at www.SciVee.tv.  Seriously, skip the clip of the ice skating monkey on YouTube and use those 5 minutes to go visit the 10 Simple Rules collection and SciVee!

Overall, Pharmacy Informatics is not flawless, but I found it to be as advertised or better.  It is especially timely as we are in the midst of examining education, credentialing, board certification, etc. in the ASHP SAG for pharmacy informatics education.  This book would serve as an excellent text for a course on pharmacy informatics and/or a great resource for a college of pharmacy looking to incorporate informatics into its curriculum.

@kevinclauson

Confessions of a Public Speaker (review)

I confess.  I am not a trained reviewer.  I have reviewed a few texts for biomedical journals, but that hardly qualifies.  However, I am going to share my thoughts on Confessions of a Public Speaker by Scott Berkun (@berkun).  I hope writing this review forces me to think holistically about the value of the resource.  And, since there is a constant stream of books being published, perhaps the review will even help someone else with their decision making process. 

Most of what I blog about is informatics-centric, but I am a faculty member and thus responsible for the holy trinity of teaching, research, and service.  So the questions: what makes a good teacher AND what makes a good lecturer, are both worth posing.  To that end I have made a more concerted effort to explore aspects of educational theory, visual design, etc. over the last 18 months.  I began with a couple primers (e.g. Presentation Zen, slide:ology) and recently picked up some other ‘classics’ and a few hot off the press. 

Confessions is the first book in my latest batch and its author sets the tone pretty early on.  He appears to be a happy renegade of sorts and uses fierce injections of humor to keep the reader engaged and interested.  It is at the opposite end of the spectrum from a traditional ‘how to’ book as it is narrative in nature and pulls considerably from Berkun’s own experiences.  Maybe because I have a traditionalist streak, the opening almost seemed like he was trying a bit too hard to be a from-the-hip maverick.  I briefly found myself wondering when the snappy stories would end and it would yield some value.  Well, I had a classic ‘good things come to those who wait’ moment, and did not have to wait very long at all.  Once I opened my eyes a bit, I realized that his very attitude towards speaking was of as much value as the instructional pieces.  Some of the advice, like how to approach dealing with mistakes you make during presentations or the requisite amount of practicing, seem pretty intuitive.  However, as Berkun himself points out, seeing something you already know in print or hearing it from an external expert can lend enough weight to prompt you to finally process and implement.

The book is definitely not limited to reinforcing previous lessons (un)learned.  It presents pragmatic pieces such as a solid four step method of preparation to avoid eating the microphone.  Berkun also focuses on crafting a proper title moreso than I have seen from many other experts in the field.  One thing I particularly like about Confessions is that it touches on seemingly mundane items that can make a big difference in the presentation and the presenter’s confidence.  There are clear, practical examples and recommendations for the ideal way to position a lavalier microphone, manage audience distribution in a lecture hall, and use confidence monitors and teleprompters.  There are also some nice cameos by science in discussing the power of silence to combat the dreaded ‘ums’, the impact of interference on retention, on-stage fight or flight, and the Dr Fox study.

Review Summary

The most compelling thing I can say is that I am completely certain that I got my $16.49 worth of knowledge, new approaches, and which existing ideas merit revisiting for public speaking.  Confessions of a Public Speaker reads in a very animated style making it accessible without sacrificing quality content or value.  I believe there is at least one pearl in the book for any novice to intermediate speaker (or teacher/professor).  The outwardly lighthearted approach does not detract in the least from its value.  Instead, it reinforces the sincerity of the author who believes communication skills are vital…and admits that while the lecture arena is not the ideal way to teach – gives plenty of tips on how to improve there.

@kevinclauson

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