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ApexSketch v7 is Available Now!

ApexSketch v7 has been released and thousands of users are already taking advantage of everything it has to offer. With over 30 years of Sketching Software Development experience under our belt, we have a rule about not introducing any changes or additional features unless they benefit our users. With this in mind, ApexSketch v7 offers many new improvements. And even though we encourage our users to adapt a new Modern Drawing paradigm, we haven’t forgotten about the 10s of thousands of clients who are familiar with our Legacy Drawing methods we’ve offered for over 30 years! Apex Software has always been known for its wide range of options that allow you to configure our products to best suit your preferences and workflow. ApexSketch v7 is no exception! To learn more, click from one of the following (below):

ApexSketch v7 – Standard

ApexSketch v7 – Pro

-Apex Software Team

Tablet’s for Word & Excel

An appraiser recently inquired asking:

I am looking into a tablet that can run Word and Excel (full versions) instead of tablet version. Seems the Surface Pro 3 might be best? Prefer cheaper and smaller (8 inch versus 11). Any other recommendations?

As it is, I’m still a bit confused (happens a lot lately, LOL) so I have to ask what you are really looking for, why, etc. Almost any recent Windows Tablet will run full versions of Word & Excel just fine – just be aware that the lower the RAM, the less multitasking (or number of tabs open in, say, Explorer) is practical. When a device like this runs out of RAM, it basically “goes to disk” to use it as a sort of temporary virtual RAM. Even the speediest SSDs are many times slower than RAM so you’ll notice some lag if all your RAM is taken up by stuff running in the background, and the type of storage used on the lower end tablets (i.e. eMMC) is slower than regular SSDs. Still, of the programs you mentioned, your Appraisal software is by far the most demanding, so I do not recommend anything with less than 4 GB of RAM in any Tablet you may consider. In the thinnest/lightest models, the available units like are the “business class” devices I favor that generally start at 10.1″ and around $500 and up, depending on other features. On average, you’re probably going to end up near $750 or so – pretty close to the street price for the lower end SP3 with Core i3 (which also sports a speedier SSD vs. eMMC for storage) as well as the 12″ screen. I’m afraid that you probably would not like running your Appraisal software on an 8″ screen anyway as it is not designed for something like that, so my overall feeling is that the SP3 is the better choice for getting real work done.

If what you are looking for is more like a lighter, more portable desktop type thing, I might suggest something like an UltraBook with a “Yoga” style keyboard that flipos around to the back. You might try going to a local Best Buy (or similar) to look at a lower cost Lenovo Yoga or other brand/model which “borrows” (ha!) this type of design. Lenovo makes ‘Yoga” devices in lower spec and much higher spec (i.e. ThinkPad) models. Since you won’t be able to load up your software on a demo unit, you might take a screen shot of a typical work screen and save it to a USB drive, SD card or upload it to s site where you can view it while on the sales floor so you can see how it might look on a smaller screen. It would be “fuzzier” than the real thing due to the compressions, etc., but you’re looking at size first, sharpness second.

Hope this helps! If I missed something, let me know and I’ll try to rethink and try again. Also you should be aware that CES is this week, so right now might not be the BEST time to jump since new machines are being announced. The new devices coming to market will offer some advantages, but perhaps the most important factor is that when the new ones are starting to be available to pre-order, the manufacturers tend to “blow out” the old stick, so you may find a deal on something you liked but felt was just outside of your budget. Another thing to consider is contacting your Appraisal software company and getting their advice since their software is surely the item which is dictating certain specs which drive cost and availability. Hopefully, they can give you some advice on the smallest, cheapest solution. This thread is chock full of my advice on base specs and I’m afraid none of it is favorable toward low end 8″ devices if one of your main uses is to run that type software (any “forms” stuff) on what I think you’re describing.

-Randall Garrett-
+Apex Software+

HP Introducing another 8″ Tablet

Relative to the previous post, I should mention that HP has another 8″ tablet coming to market soon. I believe this is already public but I’ve not actually seen it anywhere (yet) – I expect that to change this next week as we approach CES and announcements abound, hyping everyone’s new “must have” thing… Anyway, HP is readying a new 8″ tablet which is geared more toward Enterprise or even regular business types (which may partially explain why we’re not seeing much press on it in the consumer space.) Essentially, it is similar in appearance to the HP Stream 8, just built better, has more RAM (2GB), an Active Pen, 3G option, TPM, true GPS and A-GPS, rear camera w/LED flash and most of the other things that Enterprise/Business folks geek out over 😉 Once I see an official announcement, I’ll detail it further but I won’t likely “cover” it since it is really designed for folks running the bulk of their mobile business by running properly designed and optimized mobile software. I am happy to go into more detail IF you are truly interested in this device, so just let me know… I will, of course, be getting one as a routine matter when evaluating & supporting such devices for our customers who fit the profile that this device is designed for.

Happy new year to all!

-Randall Garrett-
+Apex Software+

Handy Tips & Tricks for Win 8.1+ Tablet Use

This short article’s title suggests that these simple tips are for Surface Pro 3 users, but most of them are for any Tablet PC running Windows 8.1+. A few items are for Tablets with active pens, too.

http://www.winbeta.org/news/surface-pro-3-top-tips-and-tricks-your-new-microsoft-device

Hope this helps!

-Randall Garrett-
+Apex Software+

(PS – the link comes courtesy of an old friend’s site, where he occasionally posts some interesting tidbits. Frank is Spanish but most of his posts are in English… There are a few items there which may be interesting to some, so you might want to check it out. I found one there this past October that was news to me (shame on me! LOL) and has turned out to be quite useful in some scenarios – the ability to do OCR by way of OneDrive, which was (very) quietly added back in 2013…

Link to Frank Garcia’s site:
http://ultramobilepc-tips.blogspot.com/

DISTO D5 vs E7500i

There have been a few folks ask me about the new DISTO – “Should I get the new one or the D5, or the D8?” – or some variation of this question. You old timers know all about my involvement with the development, design and deployment of the original DISTO Plus back in 2003/2004 and that I stay involved with Leica Geosystems on this stuff. Some of you were even involved when we field trial new devices and get a chance to give feedback. But for “newbies”, I’ve been to the home office in Switzerland several times, been through the manufacturing and testing facilities a few times, taken a team with me on more than one occasion and the DISTO folks have been to our offices a few times – we know each other. I get a chance to have input on new devices from time-to-time and I value that experience highly. Because the DISTO is meant for a market segment considerably wider than the US Fee Appraiser market, sometimes the things I think are important simply don’t float to the top or make the final cut, but sometimes they do.

You all know that I consider the view-ability of the screen to be a very important factor in using a mobile device. I sometimes say “Kind of hard to use a device if you can’t see the screen.” Folks that use devices like regular cell phones, tablets and a DISTO out in sunny conditions know what I mean. Those of you who haven’t (yet) should really consider the value of a good screen!

disto7500istanding

I believe that the “Digital Viewfinder” (most might say “camera & screen”) on the new E7500i is much superior to the previous models and for that reason alone, it’s worth the small price increase over the D5. It also has a much newer implementation of Bluetooth. To get Bluetooth in the previous series, you’d pay somewhere close to $250 – $300 more than D5 and step up to the D8. The D8 had other advantages, but that was what most appraiser types saw as the main difference, and since most of the sketching software out there did not really take full advantage of the extra features, most appraisers settled in on the D5 as the better choice.

To recap a previous thread example, this past weekend, I measured a 4,000+ SF one-story with a host of measurement challenges. (Yes, I still remember how to measure and sketch a house, LOL) I used a D8 and my prototype E7500i (marked with the European “D510” badging. Summarily, I was significantly faster with the E7500i than I was with the D8, even though I gave the D8 the advantage by doing my initial measurement with the E7500i (second time around is always faster.) I believe the reasons were related to the much improved screen – I could simply see my long distance targets better – those that needed the Digital Viewfinder. I could tell no difference to my naked eye in the “dot” but I found that I used the Digital Viewfinder on the E7500i on about 80% of the shots and struggled with the D8 on the approximate 45% of the shots where it was necessary using the D8. I measured in “old school” form – grid paper, pencil and DISTO with a fiberglass tape at my side “just in case.” In other words, my time savings (and cursing) was not considering any other “electronics” – I did not even use any of my own released or beta sketch programs. Someone else followed after my rounds doing their own test with a D5 and a D8 to test the time saving of using BT with properly written sketch and data collection software. FWIW, they beat my times handily, but we’re not here to talk about SOFTWARE today.

Today, when I got home, out here in Hooterville, I took my prototype D5 and my prototype D510 (E7500i) and put them on the same deck railing where I’ve shot many of my outdoor tablet screen shots. I shot from our main house over to the Guest house – a distance of about 136′ and took some pictures with an old Panasonic DMC-TS3 (a semi-rugged “sports camera I’ve recommended in the past) and have posted a composite shot below so that you can see the difference in the screen when subjected to full South Texas sun. As always, the shots are unaltered in any way except for cropping and reduction in pixel count.  What you see is not as clear as what I see in my original photographs due to the fact the images uploaded here are further “blanched” but I think you’ll be able to see the difference quite clearly between the two screens.

e7500i-vs-d5-d5-vs-e7500i-135-ft-side-by-side

d5-vs-e7500i-2x-zoom-135ft

In the first shot, I switched the two devices between shots due to the angle of the sun and how it can affect LCD screens. In the second shot, I cropped in to show the difference in the difference between the “magnification” – that is, at 1x zoom, the view is “closer” and I simply used the 2X zoom for this shot since the other shots were at 1x. You’ll note that the distances read differently, but that is NOT because the DISTOs are inaccurate. Look at the images any you’ll see that I was simply being hasty and the actual target locations are slightly different. Our Guest House, BTW, is at a slight angle in relation to the Main House railing, so it is appropriate that the distances are different.

Anyway, to my way of looking at this, the E7500i is the preferable device over the D5. Sure, it costs about $100 more than the D5, but for ME (and I suspect most of you) it is well worth it, even if you don’t use the Bluetooth! On the flip side, that makes it  $100 LESS than the D8.  Also new to the E7500i is the Bluetooth 4.x which allo ws it to be used with an iPhone or iPad – the previous models used a Bluetooth protocol which was specifically blocked by Apple. One of the things most can appreciate about the way Leica Geosystems deployed BT4 is the considerable battery savings – this BT Smart is MUCH more efficient than the previous versions, so much so that the recommended mode is simply to leave BT on all the time (unless you never use it anyway.) The potential “downside” (for some) is that not all older tablets or phones support BT4. All of the new Tablets coming to market, including the new 10-hour $600 – $700 Windows 8 tablets I’ve covered DO support BT4 So, if BT is important to you, just make sure your device lists Bluetooth 4 in the specifications.

Hope this helps! I’ll be doing a few more test shots to cover some other questions in the next week or so.

 

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