Toshiba tablet PC solutions

This will be a technical post including some solutions to problems I have had when using my Toshiba tablet PC/laptops. I will also discuss some of the settings I have chosen to help when I give lectures. I expect that I will continue to update this post or add comments to it with further information.

The background to this is my current style of lecturing. I usually prepare a pdf skeleton of my lecture with gaps to be fill in. I then generate a Windows Journal note from the pdf file, and give my lectures using this note (adding additional pages if necessary) and a data projector. Additionally, I may make audio recordings of my lectures. I then make all of the resulting materials available to students from my module web pages.

This autumn (technology permitting!) I will use Camtasia to make movies (with synchronized sound) of all of my lectures, and I will make these movies available to students.

Up until now I have been using a Toshiba Portege (or Portégé to be more accurate) model M400. However, my School have now bought me a more powerful Toshiba Portégé M750-116 to assist with my Camtasia project. I am still setting the new machine up, and this should lead to further additions to this post. Note, in particular, that this new machine is widescreen.

My initial list of “solutions” below is in reverse chronological order, with the most recent additions at the top. However, I will continue to add further solutions as comments.

September 15 2009

I am disappointed with the quality when I export my pdf files for use in Windows Journal

Note that I use the seminar document class to produce A4 portrait pdf slides for my lectures. (See an earlier post for more about this.)
However, most of the time I view these slides at full page width, so that only half of each slide is visible at any one time on the data projector screen.

On my M400, I found that the pdf “lecture skeleton” files I had produced using pdflatex looked fine on the screen, but when I printed them using the virtual printer Journal Note Writer to produce Window Journal notes the results were disappointing. However, when I used Acrobat Professional/Distiller to “Improve” the pdf file, then the results were much better. To do this, I opened the document in Adobe reader (not Adobe professional), and then I printed using the virtual printer called Adobe PDF. Here are some of the settings I used for this by default, and which helped in my case. (I recommend experimentation, though, to see what happens when you change these options, in case you need different scaling/orientation from me.)

Printer: Adobe PDF
Page Scaling: None
Auto-Rotate and Center: checked
Choose Paper Source by PDF page size: unchecked
Under Properties for the printer
In the Adobe PDF Settings tab:
Adobe PDF Page Size: A4
Default Settings: High Quality
Do not send fonts to “Adobe PDF”: unchecked
This last can be particularly important! (Note the double negative here.) In some cases, if you fail to send fonts at this point then the resulting file comes out as illegible garbage. I found that I could not rely on system fonts, and that I needed to allow the document to supply fonts. [Different versions of Adobe Acrobat use varying terminology here.]

Having obtained a higher quality pdf document, the next stage is to open this new version in Adobe Reader and to print this improved pdf file to the virtual printer Journal Note Writer. Again, the settings may make a difference here. Here are the default settings I used on my M400.

Printer: Journal Note Writer
Auto-Rotate and Center: checked
Choose Paper Source by PDF page size: unchecked

Then, in the printer properties

In the Page tab

Page size: A4
Width: 21 cm
Height: 29.7 cm
Orientation: Portrait

In the Advanced tab
Output Format: Use standard printing

September 7 2009

No matter what I do, I end up with the wrong display orientation on my tablet

There is a  standard control panel Tablet and Pen Settings: in the “Display” tab you can specify your preferred orientation, and also you can choose to change the sequence of orientations the tablet uses if you use a tablet button to change orientation.
BUT this control panel can be overruled by the Toshiba Tablet PC Rotation Utility, which you can find via the Start Menu.
On both the M400 and the M750 I found this under

Start Menu -> All Programs -> Toshiba-> Tablet PC -> Rotation Utility

I prefer to use my tablet in landscape mode at all times.
When using it as a laptop, the orientation Primary Landscape is almost essential.
When using it as a tablet, I have not yet decided between Primary Landscape and Secondary Landscape. (Currently I am experimenting with the latter, but I have not yet resolved some of the issues. The former works fine.)

September 4 2009

Menus keep opening while I am trying to write in Windows Journal.

This and other strange behaviour I observed was due to me accidentally clicking the tablet pen side button while writing. Not everyone has this problem! In my case, I had to disable the tablet pen side button completely.

  • On the M400: There are two relevant control panels, and also some options within Windows Journal.I started with the control panel Tablet and Pen Settings and, in the Pen Options tab, I unchecked “Use pen button to right click”.

    However, I still observed some unusual effects when I pressed the button while writing. Further investigation revealed another control panel, Pen Tablet, which, under the Pen tab, allows you to disable the tablet pen buttons completely. In my case, this control panel appears to be designed for a pen with two side-buttons (in addition to the tip and the eraser). My tablet pen has only one of these side buttons: the one I needed to disable was the side-button shown as nearest to the tip in the control panel.

    Finally, in Windows Journal, under Tools->Options->Other, I unchecked “Enable press and hold while writing” for additional safety. (This still allows you to obtain a right click using “press and hold” under other circumstances.)

  • On the M750: The first difference here is that, on this machine, by default, “touch” is enabled so that you can use your finger instead of the tablet pen for some purposes. This caused me trouble, so I used the Touch Settings control panel, and unchecked the “Enable touch” box. However, I made the mistake of also unchecking “Press-and-Hold to Right-Click” here, and this disabled press-and-hold for the tablet pen too. Be warned!The control panel Tablet and Pen Settings is as above.

    There is no Pen Tablet control panel on this machine, so I do not know for certain whether I have completely deactivated the pen button this time. I have not, however, been able to produce any ill-effects by pressing the button while writing.

    The Windows Journal press-and-hold options are as above.

Joel Feinstein

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15 responses to “Toshiba tablet PC solutions

  1. Permanent eraser bug
    On the M400, in windows Journal, I used to use the back of the tablet pen as an eraser. (I particularly like the “erase stroke” setting for the eraser.) Unfortunately, I hit a bug which meant that the tablet pen became permanently stuck as an eraser (either end of the pen!) and I never found a solution to this other than quitting Windows Journal and then re-opening the document. So eventually I disabled the eraser button, and used the eraser tool instead to do my erasing.
    So far I have not seen this problem on the M750, so hopefully updates to either the software or the hardware (or both) have eliminated this bug.
    Joel Feinstein
    Sept 15 2009

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  2. Problems with widescreen tablets
    The M750 has a widescreen display: it has an aspect ratio of 16:10 instead of 4:3. However, I want to use this tablet to present my classes using data projectors, and these have the old aspect ratio 4:3.
    I have been looking at my options.
    The Display control panel offers a variety of screen resolutions, but almost all of them are 4:3. Clearly using a 4:3 resolution on a 16:10 display means that the display is stretched (horizontally in landscape orientation).
    However, the data projector gives an undistorted image, and the full screen movie recordings I have made using Camtasia also recognize the aspect ratio for what it is (as far as I can tell: early days of experimentation so far!)
    Unfortunately, this means that any circles I draw on my screen come out slightly stretched vertically (or squashed horizontally) on the data projector screen compared to what I see on the tablet.
    Now the M750 does offer a display resolution of 1280 x 800 (this is the only 16:10 ratio available on my machine). This is a bit of a high resolution for my poor eyesight, but at least it removes the distortion. When I output to one of our university data projectors, the projector selects resolution 1280 x 960, and gives a centred letterbox without distortion. However, this does mean that (vertically) some of the available display area is lost.
    It might be preferable to try to get an undistorted 4 x 3 display in the centre of the M750’s screen. I almost managed this! By delving deep into the advanced options of the Display control panel, you can indeed get this display. Unfortunately, the tablet pen then needs callibrating, and it simply won’t accept clicks on the callibration cross-hairs when they are so far out! Has anyone else had this problem? Do you have a solution? For now, I will probably go with the undistorted 1280 x 800 resolution on the tablet, and sacrifice the missing vertical area on the data projector display.
    Joel Feinstein
    September 15 2009

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    • I have not yet found an entirely satisfactory solution to this. However, I have now set up my default notebook page to be squared paper (“7mm” squares). I have then gone for a 4×3 resolution of 1024 x 768 on the M750 tablet (resulting in a slightly distorted display on the 16 x 10 screen), and I am using the squares to help me to compensate for this. The resulting videos produced by Camtasia are then undistorted 4×3 when viewed on a standard display, and this is also what is displayed on our data projectors.
      Joel Feinstein
      September 21 2009

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  3. Windows Journal default page settings
    I am sure that everyone will want to tune their Windows Journal default page settings to fit their own needs. Here is what I have used to fit with my teaching methodology.
    Recall that I currently work with A4 portrait slides, but that these are usually displayed at “page width” view (continuous), so that about half of each slide is visible at a time.
    Under tools->options
    In the View tab I have Insert space in full line increments checked.
    I also started with Prompt when inserting too much space checked, but when prompted I chose “Insert a new page and move items …” and checked “Always use this setting”, so that this becomes an easy way to insert new pages in the middle of a Windows Journal document. (I have put a short video about this, with rather poor sound quality, on YouTube!)
    Still under tools->options, clicking the Default Page Setup button gives several more tabs.
    In the Paper tab, I have A4 Portrait (with usual width and height).
    In the Style tab, I have my own custom style. On the M400 I used thin blue horizontal rules spaced at 7mm, with no vertical rules and no margin rule, as this worked well when used at “page width” view (as described above). I may modify this slightly for the M750.
    In the Background and Title Area tab I have no picture, and have unchecked Show title area on note.

    Joel Feinstein
    September 16 2009

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  4. Regarding print settings:
    You will need to choose different options if you are working with landscape slides. If I manage to work out what these are, I’ll post details here!

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  5. Camtasia screencasts (video and audio)
    This autumn I will attempt to make screencasts (audio and video) of all of my lectures using Camtasia on my new Toshiba M750 laptop, along with a high quality microphone.
    Now that I am displaying the filename extensions, I can see that the Camtasia recorder produces capture files with the extension .camrec
    Double-clicking on one of these capture files on my machine automatically opens a new untitled Camtasia project: you then have to drag the capture file into the timeline at the bottom of the window. At this point Camtasia offers you a variety of preset options for editing/producing the video, many of which are perfectly good. However I have identified some issues:
    – By default, Camtasia guesses that you want to use SmartFocus. This SmartFocus is very clever, as it automatically pans and zooms to the section of the screen where the changes are taking place. However this is not necessarily what you want to do. I plan to deactivate this every time, as I think that when I am writing a proof, the more that remains visible the better.
    – The default Web production preset gives a 640 x 480 mp4 video. I am going to try for something slightly bigger for my screencasts, probably 800 x 600 instead, in order to obtain slightly higher quality. Accordingly I have created what I call my “Joel medium” production preset settings, which produces an 800 x 600 mp4 movie. I have also asked it to generate (extract) a separate mp3 audio file at the same time for possible later use, though I am not sure whether I will use these.
    – I am experimenting with noise removal. (This certainly helps if I use the in-built microphone of the M750 rather than my higher quality external microphone.). Again, as with SmartFocus, it appears that I need to select this option every time I produce a video (though perhaps it is possible to change these defaults). I found automatic noise removal under Edit -> Audio enhancements. (If you click on “Assist Me” you will get more detailed instructions than I could/should provide here!)
    I’ll be reporting on the results in due course!
    Joel Feinstein
    23/9/09

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  6. Screencast of today’s G12MAN Lecture 29/9/09

    The screencast of my first Mathematical Analysis lecture (mostly revision material) is now available from the web page
    http://wirksworthii.nottingham.ac.uk/webcast/maths/G12MAN-09-10/MAN-29-9-09/MAN-29-9-09.html
    Joel 29/9/09

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    • I haven’t yet achieved the audio quality I would like.
      I have now tried both with and without noise-removal, and so far I have a slight preference for the version without noise removal. (See if you can tell which is which of the screencasts I have made available so far!)

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    • OK, I have found a lot of options both in the Camtasia recorder and in the Camtasia production presets.

      What I don’t yet understand is why the production options for audio do not appear to match the recording options!

      For example, the highest quality MP3 mono audio options that I can find in the Camtasia recorder are (sic)
      32 kBit/s, 22,050 Hz, Mono 3kb/sec
      and various other 32 kBit/s options.

      For the WMA (Windows Media Audio v2) options, the best mono is again (sic) 32 kBit/s

      However, when I edit my “Joel Medium” production preset, I note some interesting things. For example, if I choose to produce the video as a WMV file, then the audio element is automatically set to (sic)
      WMA, 48kbps, 44khz mono. Yet it is not possible to record WMA mono at above 32 kBit/s.

      The whole kb vs kBit terminology appears rather confusing to me: I suspect that different conventions may be used in the different menus here?

      I also have the option of creating an MP3 file at the same time. But there is no option for 32 kBit/s, 22,050 Hz, Mono. (24 kBit/s and 48 kBit/s are offered).

      If I aim to produce an MP4 video instead, then the audio format is shown as 56 kbps AAC, about which I know nothing.

      Can anyone out there help?

      Joel 30/9/09

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  7. See “Camtasia Solutions” and “Sennheiser Solutions” for the latest developments in this ongoing saga!

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  8. I have now run some tests with the tablet on mains power and on battery power, and the differences are amazing, at least with my current settings.
    From now on I shall make sure that I am on mains power when I use Camtasia. On mains power (so far!), I don’t get any synchronization problems at all in my screencast recordings, while on battery power the audio and video quickly get out of sync in my recordings.
    Joel
    October 16 2009

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  9. Regarding quality of screen display in Windows Journal
    Although it always helps me to distil via Adobe acrobat before printing to Windows Journal, I still often get very disappointing results from pdf files produced on my PC using MikTeX. For some reason, I am getting much better results from the same source files when I use my linux pdflatex on the same source file. I still have to go via Adobe acrobat to get good results, but the pdf file produced on my linux box appears to distil better.
    I have no idea what the best solution to these problems really is.

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  10. Hey Joel, I’d be happy to help with your PDF printing problems into Windows Journal. There are ways around this. One in particular is that you can use the snapshot tool in Adobe and essentially create a high quality picture of the page. Then insert it into Journal and your problems are solved. That being said, multiple pages will make that process cumbersome for long documents. This is why the solution to your problems is Microsoft ONENOTE! This allows you so much more flexibility you would be amazed. You can print directly to it and no loss of quality. You can take snapshots of anything and they go directly into your documents for you to mark up and lecture. I’d be happy to give you more solutions that I use if you’d like. One more thing I’ve found is that with a projector, many times dark backgrounds with light writiing are preferred. To this end, I use a chalkboard background with white or bright yellow background for spontaneous lecture. This also breaks-up the monotony of the whiteboard. Good Luck.
    Steve

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    • Thanks for that!
      Currently I am using Bluebeam PDF Revu, which seems to be the closest to what I really want so far.
      OneNote doesn’t quite fit with my style, but may work well for others.

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