As the AquaPad doesn't use any spiffy
sounding software like Microsoft's Digital Ink, you might be rightly wondering how exactly someone types in a URL?
The first method is simply
to plug in a USB keyboard and type directly as you might with a
notebook. That isn't a very portable solution, and the stylus doesn't allow you to write to the screen
with any degree of speed or
accuracy (Penpower just doesn't work well enough), so what do you do when you are mobile?
Condensed, Expandable On screen Keyboard
On the menu bar of the screen is a little keyboard icon, and tapping on that with the stylus
brings up a full sized software keyboard on the screen. In the image below
you can see the keyboard as it first appears (the icon is the 6th one in
from the start button). To enlarge the keyboard, users have the option to click on
a small magnifying glass in the lower left corner that will enlarge the keys
in three steps.
As I've seen this particular software keyboard used on
a number of Crusoe-based mobile devices in the past, I'm still wondering why
the programers decided to use a full-size keyboard instead of a representation of
a notebook's keyboard. Given the small amount of screen space mobile users have
to work with, a notebook-type keyboard would seem to be a better use of space, and
one that should be equally familiar with users.
In any event, the keyboard is easy to use, simply
tap the stylus on the letter you want to hit and it shows up in the URL address
bar, or email for example. For capitol letters, the software keyboard works in
the same way, hit the shift key once and it highlights allowing you to type the
next character in upper case.
How easy it is to type
large messages with this keyboard? Well realistically, you wouldn't want to be
typing in long messages, or letters, but for URL's and short emails it is possible
to type pretty fast once you get used to the process. On thing we noticed
when typing was that it is really important that the stylus be
correctly calibrated. If it wasn't, where the stylus touched the screen wasn't exactly where
the cursor would be.
Incidently, the keyboard goes away by tapping on the big
"X" on the upper right hand side.
The stylus calibration program can be accessed from the menu bar and
is located adjacent to the keyboard button. The calibration
application places a target on the screen that you have to tap directly three or
The closer you get to the center of the four arrows the better aligned the
cursor will be to where the stylus actually makes contact with the touch
I ran through the calibration pretty fast, and as a
result the cursor was always one or two millimeters off to the side of where I
was actually touching the screen.
FIC have an optional Charging Cradle
which the AquaPad can be place in, and aside from offering recharging facilities,
holds the unit in an upright position so a USB keyboard and mouse could be connected, and used easily.
In that event, the AquaPad would essentially operate like a slimmed down
notebook (ie not much storage, and no installed programs as such) and the stylus
could be left alone entirely.
Desktop Navigation & Menus
Other little applications that come bundled with the AquaPad are the
Mozilla browser, a calculator, file manager (for CF cards), Address book, Calendar,
Notepad, To Do List, and a System window. Bear in mind
that little picture of the system window was taken before we upgraded
the AquaPad to Midori Linux Build 1211.
Most of the menus shown here from the start button are
also accessible from the menu bar, so things are easy to get at. One of the
down sides to a mobile OS which resides in a flash card, is that there is no way
to store things like bookmarks or your calendar of events unless you
have some sort of storage card installed.
Mozilla takes about 20 seconds when initially loading up,
and if the AquaPad runs out of memory the browser will simply close. Despite all
that we did to the AquaPad we were unable to get it to lock up, even once. Up
next, we take the AquaPad and its Mozilla browser for a spin around the internet
and see what it can, and can't handle...