Fujitsu Stylistic Q550: A Tablet for the Enterprise

Every now and again, whilst I’m away from the office, the gadget pixies visit my desk and leave something interesting for me to play with. It’s a bit like Bagpuss, except stuff works when it arrives and I can never get the guys to wake up when I need them too.

The last time this happened there was a tablet sitting on my desk. I like it enough to write about it.

The Stylistic is never going to win a beauty pageant. Which is a shame, because it has all the features that I usually bemoan the lack of in Windows Tablets. Most of them are designed for the consumer. That’s great, but I get involved in lots of projects these days where the end user wants the convenience of a tablet device but the demands of their IT department make them unusable.

For example, I once visited a site where the IT department had imaged the tablet we were to use and applied their standard group policies. They required a smart card for authentication and forced CTRL-ALT-DEL to logon. You can probably see the problem with that.

It wouldn’t phase the Stylistic.

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Stuff I like about it

  • Removable battery. I’ve played with this for a while now, and I can report that battery life is on a par with the other tablets I’ve played with – four to five hours. That’s good, but not a working day. Being able to carry a spare battery if I need it means that I can be away from a power outlet all day and not worry.
  • Smart card reader. Two factor authentication on a tablet – fantastic! It’s just what enterprises need in order to support these kind of devices. As an IT manager I want to be able to apply group policies to these devices. They are extremely portable so I have to be sure that the data on them is secure.
  • TPM Chip. I can bitlocker the drive on this thing properly. Shame the one I have to play with came with Windows 7 Professional on it. Be careful with this, though: I checked the product information and the TPM chip is an option on the device. I think that’s a mistake on Fujitsu’s part – most organisations won’t check and will probably order the wrong variant.
  • Fingerprint Reader. Personally, I don’t like or trust fingerprint readers for authentication, but I like that I have the option.
  • Matte screen. This is great! Virtually every windows tablet I have seen has a glossy screen. That’s great in the shop window and a real pain in the real world as I can’t see the screen for the reflections. The Stylistic has a matte screen and it’s incredibly easy to read and use.
  • Stylus. It’s much easier to write notes using OneNote than type on a software keyboard. The digitiser on the Stylistic is a dual mode one that works with fingers and a stylus and I like it.
  • Multi-touch. The touch digitiser on the Stylistic can handle four points. It may be able to handle more but I haven’t found any detailed information. Four is better than most windows tablets, however, which tend to deal with only two touch points.

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Stuff I don’t like about it

  • Stylus. Don’t get me wrong – the stylus is great. The fact that there is nowhere to put is is very annoying. It’s a nice stylus, but there’s no clip on it so I can’t treat it like a pen and keep it in my pocket, and there’s nowhere on the tablet to stow it away.
  • Styling. From the front the Stylistic doesn’t look too bad. However, flip it over and it’s been hit with the ugly stick. I realise that Enterprise purchasing teams don’t care about looks but users do. Why can’t it be sleeker. Heck, I’d settle for it simply being all one colour!
  • Fiddly buttons. There are lots of buttons down the side of the Stylistic. One brings up a software keyboard, but it’s not the standard Windows 7 one – it’s a nasty one from N-Trig that crashes a lot. One makes the screen rotate which I view as a bit surplus to requirements – why can’t I simply have a lock rotation button like every other tablet. With the stylistic I must fiddle with a tray app to turn auto-rotate on and off, then poke at the little button to rotate the screen if I have disabled the auto-rotate in an outstanding failure of ergonomic design. There’s also an ‘Alt’ button that I admit to not having figured out.
  • Crazy Gestures. Why do all these tablet manufacturers insist on ‘improving’ Windows 7 with complex multi-touch gestures that nobody can remember and really aren’t useful. I don’t want crazy three- and four-finger gestures. Fortunately this is all software and I can turn it off.
  • 32-bit Only. Why would you release a piece of kit these days that isn’t 64-bit capable? I appreciate that the tablet only has 2Gb of memory (which is enough for most people’s needs) but operating systems are moving steadily to 64-bit and I’d rather not be left behind.

Overall: A Win

Most of the things I find annoying are implemented by software and I can turn them off. The fact that it’s a sexy as a house brick is of little importance to the enterprise market at which it is aimed. Overall the Stylistic has a raft of features that enterprise IT demands but doesn’t sacrifice the key elements of tablet design to deliver them. The Stylistic is not too heavy to hold, is a nice size and has good battery life for a Windows machine. As an enterprise tablet I think it’s a solid choice that supports all the security functionality I would want to enable for such a mobile device.

Recommended Reading

Following Richard’s lead, here are a range of books that I have found useful across the broad spectrum of topics I work in.

SharePoint

SharePoint 2007

SharePoint 2010

Access

Web Design

User Experience

Process

Streaming video to XBOX 360 from Windows Home Server 2011

This one threw me for a while and I could find nothing specific on the web. I wanted to use my Xbox 360 to watch video streamed from my Windows Home Server. Streaming is switched on by default, I hear you say. Why, yes it is, but each time I tried to connect the Xbox I received an error.

The solution? Enable the Guest account on the server. Do this with care – revoke it’s access to everything except the folders you want to stream unless you want to allow read access to everything on the server.

Once Guest was enabled and the access rights were applied the whole thing worked like a charm.

Fundaments of planning your beautiful SharePoint web site

This article is all about preparation. It’s about the thinking and planning you need to do if you’re going to successfully build your wonderful, unique and striking website on the SharePoint platform.

I’ve been helping customers implement SharePoint solutions for quite a while. Life gets interesting when those customers want to use SharePoint to host their public website or an intranet of published content. SharePoint is a great platform with a host of powerful features that make it a solid choice for large or complex websites, sites that have to deal with large volumes of traffic or simply sites that need real business processes wrapped around the publishing model. Much of my time in these scenarios is spent helping the customer prepare and plan, and I’d like to share some of my experience.

We’ve planned the site…

site plan

How many times do you visit the customer and they greet you with an enthusiastic ‘We’ve planned the site and documented it for you’? I get twitchy when I hear that, because it usually involves me being handed a piece of paper that looks like the picture above. That would be great if it was a starting point, but many times the customer genuinely believes that’s all they need to tell me and the creative agency, and from that tiny post-it note our creative minds will issue forth the next great site on the web.

SharePoint rewards attention to detail

You can’t treat SharePoint like an old web server and expect to get away with it. Treat a web site as a vague collection of folders with pages in that present content of some kind to the reader and you will quickly find yourself in a pit of despair. There are four areas that demand your attention – attend to these with diligence and the technical solutions will be much easier to determine.

Before you start, read Don’t make me think by Steve Krug and The Elements of Content Strategy by Erin Kissane. Both are quick reads that will help you immeasurably.

Content Strategy

Content Strategy is all about identifying what content you have, describing it, identifying who owns it and what its lifecycle is. It’s about discerning the difference between a product datasheet, press release, case study and staff biography. In SharePoint terms, it’s all about content types. What information do we store and how? What columns constitute a press release, and is it based on an article page or an item?

I find that full-service creative agencies that are used to writing copy, be it for print or the web will understand this already. Creative agencies that are more focused on visual design, be it for the web or otherwise tend to struggle with the concepts of content strategy. Once you’ve got them on board, however, their lives are much easier as well: Now we know that we have those four kinds of content then the creative agency can choose to design unique ways to display them.

Design

Knowing what the different kinds of content are will invariably help the creative guys. Now they know that they have to design ways to present each of the different kinds of content – a product page will look very different from the Chief Exec’s Blog. This will help you to answer SharePoint questions like how many masterpages and page layouts and will start to guide your thinking in terms of site structure.

User Experience

Not only do we want to know what the site looks like, we need to think about how users will interact with it. Do we want to use clever icons for navigation? Do we need to present content based on what we know about the user – age, gender, role, etc? We will almost certainly need to build something bespoke to deliver the user experience which means we need requirements so put plenty of detail into describing how things will be expected to work.

Information Architecture

There are some great books on IA out there. SharePoint places additional constraints on projects though: Perhaps our security needs mean that we must create separate site collections for content. Maybe we want radically different design for certain content which means different masterpages and separate sites. Certainly we should avoid simply pouring all our content into one large pot, but if we need to aggregate items on our homepage what implications does that have on our structure?

Measure twice, cut once

If all the steps above sound like a lot of planning then you’d be correct. However, convincing the customer to pay for a planning phase up front will save everyone time and money later. It’s important to make sure that the creative agency understands that the planning phase is critical to them as well – why rush off and design something beautiful when any of those four elements above may throw the whole design into disarray?

The SharePoint Solution

Each of the four areas influences one another and each in turn influences your SharePoint solution design. Technical and budgetary constraints in this area will undoubtedly cause you to revise your plans, but without the information gathered in those four areas of planning you won’t have enough detail to accurately specify and estimate the project, let alone deliver it successfully. In order to deliver, we as practitioners need to understand those four key areas, especially if our customers don’t.

Useful Reading

Books you may find useful when tackling those four planning areas:

Displaying a SharePoint 2010 library on a page in a different site within the same site collection

One of our customers contacted us the other day with a problem. They wanted to put a view of a document library that was located in the top level site of a site collection onto the landing pages of all the second level sites in that collection. The customer had consulted the internet hive mind and found a blog post with instructions which had been diligently followed and yet whenever a user clicked ‘New’ on the ribbon bar an error occurred.

After a bit of poking and prodding on my local test system I not only replicated the fault but also found the cure. Since none of the other sites on the internet that I found mentioned this, I thought I’d better write it up for the world.

 

The screenshot below shows you our goal. The ‘Main Site Shared Documents’ web part actually points to a document library that is in the site above the one we are in.

Group Site with external document library web part

Step 1: Export the original list web part with SharePoint Designer 2010

In order to place the view we need on our page we need a web part. To get that we have to edit the page of the view of our document library in SharePoint designer.

Navigate to the view of your document library and in the ribbon part choose ‘Modify In SharePoint Designer (Advanced) from the drop down ‘Modify View’ menu.

modify view in designer

 

Once you have the page open in SharePoint Designer, you need to select the XsltListViewWebPart that is showing the contents of the library.

xsltlistviewwebpart

With the web part selected you will be able to switch Designer’s ribbon to the Web Part tab and choose ‘To File’ from the Save Web Part panel. Saving to the Site Gallery won’t work – I tried and SharePoint complained every time I added the web part to a page.

When you save the web part SharePoint Designer will throw up a dialog box:

export web part question

You need to answer ‘Yes’ to this question because we want the web part to always point at our target document library, no matter where we use it.

save web part to file

Step 2: Add the web part to your page

Edit your target page and add a web part to your intended zone. When the web part panel comes up, you will see ‘Upload a Web Part’ in small text beneath the Categories panel and clicking that will expand the control to give you a file browser.

Browse to the web part you saved from SharePoint Designer and then Upload the file. The web part picker will close at this point. Don’t panic!

upload a web part

Go through the steps to add a web part again and this time in the Categories panel you will have a new item at the top called Imported Web Parts. Select that and your web part will appear in the list so you can add it to the page.

add an imported web part

Step 3: Change the toolbar setting on the web part

This is the important bit! When you add the new web part to your page everything appears to work fine. Documents from the document library open fine and clicking the ‘Add a new document’ link will open the upload dialog as they should. However, if you use the ribbon bar then you will notice very quickly that it is not the correct ribbon bar for the library – the items on the New menu will be wrong (if you have custom content types that’s easier to spot!) and trying to use the buttons will cause errors.

The solution to this conundrum turned out to be straightforward – simply change the toolbar setting of the web part. If you choose ‘Full Toolbar’ or ‘Show Toolbar’ you will see the erroneous behaviour; choose ‘Summary Toolbar’ or ‘No Toolbar’ and all will work fine.

broken menu with web part settings

The setting shown above on the web part will give you a broken menu (the other web part on the page is a calendar, so I get appointments!)

working menu with web part settings

The setting shown above works just fine.