- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 6, 2010

ATLANTA | At dinner June 28, all I did, it seems, was blink, and the Washington Nationals went from 0-0 against the Atlanta Braves to being down 4-0 and losing the game 5-0.

Travel, one might conclude, is not only broadening, but sometimes surprising in an unpleasant way.

Well, I am in Atlanta as part of a lengthy road trip, and I’m finding my own surprises, though not as devastating as the one Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg found after leaving the game in the seventh inning. Unlike Mr. Strasburg, who saw his seven strikeouts go for naught, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by a couple of discoveries.

One is that Microsoft Corp.’s Windows 7 operating system is quite nice. Really, it is. I say that because I’m using a Windows-based computer for several hours a day. The weather in Atlanta has been so hot, and the distances I cover on foot so demanding (the better part of two miles from my hotel room to my convention work site) that schlepping a notebook computer can be daunting.

Instead, I have use of a Hewlett-Packard Co. touch-screen desktop PC, made for business users, with a 24-inch (diagonal) display and Win7, as well as the 2007 version of Microsoft Office. A wireless keyboard and mouse complete the setup.

The HP system, as with other touch-screen PCs from the firm before it, is a delight to use. The display is huge, the colors bright and vivid, and the “touch” part of the touch screen quite responsive, even in terms of selecting and moving windows around on the desktop.

I can’t tell if it’s the wireless keyboard, the working conditions of about a dozen of these things in a relatively small workroom, or something within Windows, but there is one hiccup when typing: press the “Caps Lock” key and there’s enough of a lag that typing seems to back up for a few seconds. Wait those seconds, and you’re fine, but it’s a bit frustrating.

That, however, is my only frustration with this setup. While Windows doesn’t do everything the Macintosh operating system does (there’s no instant preview of file contents onscreen), I’ve found Windows and the standard productivity applications quite useful in getting things done. To be honest, I still prefer the Mac, but I’m quite happy with that I’ve got at the work site.

Another constant, and generally useful companion is my Apple iPhone 3GS, now equipped with the 4.0 version of the iPhone operating system. The upgrade was a bit of a hard slog: it took two tries to install to upgraded operating system, which was somewhat incompatible with a couple of applications, notably my TomTom GPS software. Tom Tom has since released an update that should fix that, but we’ll see what happens.

I like the new e-mail features introduced in the new iPhone system. You get to see e-mails grouped in conversational “threads,” so all the notes about the classic car show this weekend are in one place. Your initial wallpaper display is now the background for all program-selection windows. And Apple’s iBooks e-reader software is now available on the iPhone, as well as the iPad. Carrying, and accessing, an entire library of books is now a very real possibility.

There are some less-welcome aspects: my iPhone isn’t being too friendly to my Pioneer car stereo; this could become an issue since I use a cable connection to the Pioneer to play music and GPS directions through the stereo, while charging the phone at the same time. But this just might reflect a hardware glitch in this year-old phone, which itself is due for replacement with a new, soon-to-be-reviewed, iPhone 4.

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