Word Puzzle to Sliverlight Phone–Part 3

Last night I dusted off Word Puzzle and decided to try out tombstoning in Window Phone 7 – just to see how much of a pain this is really going to be. The first hurdle I had was to convert the existing solution from the Windows Phone CTP to the Beta release. This turned out to be quite a bit harder than I had expected. On the upside I got a pretty good idea of some of the changes that were made – ditching the resource files, using the manifest to nominate the launch window, assembly consolidation etc.

Once I had eventually gotten it to work with the Beta I decided to create a Settings page so that I could:
1) test the navigation and
2) have a simplified state object to persist to the application cache whilst de-activating.

The settings page looked like this:


It was bound to some of the properties on my pre-existing LetterBoardSetup class, e.g. AllowBackwards, AllowDiagonal, Width, Height.

I added the following code to my App.xaml.cs file and everything worked just fine.

private void Application_Activated(object sender, ActivatedEventArgs e)
var myState = PhoneApplicationService.Current.State;
settings = myState["settings"] as LetterBoardSetup;
private void Application_Deactivated(object sender, DeactivatedEventArgs e)
var myState = PhoneApplicationService.Current.State;
myState["settings"] = settings;

When the application de-activates the state is saved, then restored correctly on re-activation. I decided to move on and save off the actual game state. The easiest (laziest) way to save the game state seemed to be to just save off the entire object graph (after all we are talking about a very trivial game here). Several of my classes had private setters for public properties. No problem I figured – I’ll just use DataContract from System.Runtime.Serialization namespace/assembly. This does all sorts of wonderful things – like allowing private fields to be serialized, creating instances without invoking any constructors and the like. At least I thought that’s how it worked – and on the full .NET framework I would have been right. Through trial and error I determined that the Silverlight version doesn’t have these capabilities – classes are required to have public setters and getters for properties (yuerk!).

So – in the mindset of just “getting it done” I went through and opened up my object model – changing private setters to public, making getters do “on-demand” construction for things like collections etc. to make it more serialization friendly.

Now I have a version of WordPuzzle that runs in the emulator and survives tombstoning with absolutely no data loss. Should I ever want to I also now have a version that could easily allow games to be saved. In fact all that’s really left to do is find a couple of images for the application bar buttons – oh – and actually make the game play itself something slightly more err… exciting.

Should I buy an iPhone?

I don’t own an iPhone – never have. In fact I’ve never purchased any Apple product. I get the distinct impression that they are simple not designed for me. They’re for normal people. Even when I think I should buy one of their products just to see what I’m missing out on I can’t bring myself to do it. It would be too embarrassing. I may as well go and but a T-shirt with “Apple Fanboy” written in large letters (though elegant and with just the right amount of whitespace). I even get embarrassed for other people when I see them using Apple products. I feel like I should take them aside and explain to them politely how they’ve been deluded into buying an overpriced, under-performing an ultimately unsatisfying product.

When I was living down-under Apple products were popular and I occasionally got to work with a developer who was a die-hard Apple fan. It was amusing, the rest of us would snigger at their misguided judgement and their uncanny ability to compare everything with the wonderful nirvana of the Apple Universe.

Now I live in New York. The Big Apple. I work for a tech company that embraces Apple products. Not just the hippy UX crew either. Even the management, strong willed , hard-core professionals, have Mac books and iPhones littered on their desk next to their Apple branded widescreens. I could be wrong but I believe the standard company issued laptop is a Mac book of some description (probably the big screen one with the ridiculous overheating issue?).

I’m currently working with a UX designer who comes to meetings with his iPad. Do I scream at him, telling him his ridiculously oversized iPhone is a 10 year old Slate device that lacks the fidelity that a stylus offered? No. Do I laugh when he starts describing how our new app is going to require a PopOver control – much more that just a PopUp? No. When he rounds every sharp angle and removes the right click? No.

Why not? Because maybe, just maybe the time has come for me to face the music. It’s me. It just must be me.

So what now… where to from here? So its finally come to this… should I just go and buy an iPhone 4?

I’d have some reasonable excuses:

  • My current US “cell” phone is a Blackberry – highly functional but about as exciting and attractive as a brick
  • The iPhone 4 is only $199 dollars – the last two phones I purchased cost around $700 each -  so they’re cheap!
  • There are lots fun accessories (including an iPhone 4 case to protect) that I can buy with the money I saved.

Of course there are also some arguments against:

  • New York seems to have the worst phone coverage of any major city I’ve been to in recent times (OK I don’t get around much and yes I understand tall buildings and ultra high density population doesn’t help). I’ve tried AT&T and T-Mobile networks and both have frequent drop-outs/interference. I believe they are just introducing 4G networks but currently browsing and live video streaming on the existing 3G network is terrible. I believe the iPhones are fixed to AT&T?
  • I can’t write programs for my new iPhone unless I buy an Apple computer. Worse still, I can’t just buy the computer and waste the OS to install Windows 7, I actually have to run OSX. [I’m guessing a bit here]. Now things are getting expensive – and I just don’t think I’m ready for such a big step into this hostile world.

So should I buy an iPhone 4? Comments welcome – maybe even a free phone accessory giveaway for the most amusing comment?


Just for the record, here’s the fine print:

  1. I’ve used many Apple products – some by choice, some mandated.
  2. I haven’t enjoyed any of these experiences.
  3. I realised this is largely based on my own prejudice that I’ve accumulated over the years from those experiences.
  4. I recognize that the vast majority of Apple product owners consider the experience satisfying as voted by their continued purchases.

Random thoughts for this week

View uptown from 86th floor of Empire State BuildingI may have found a viable option for printing panoramic photos that links in nicely with my SmugMug account.



Geekbrief_tv The internet TV options in Windows Media Center works much better in the States that it ever did for me back in Oz. I quite like geekbrief as just one of the many tech gadget shows.


HDR-CX550VDCR-PC100EI finally got around to replacing my trusty video camera – a Sony DCR-PC100E purchased back in 1999. It was one of the early Mini DV cameras, packed full of manual options in what was then an incredibly compact body. In fact the camera I’m replacing it with (HDR-CX550V) is about the same weight and size and has pretty much the same feature set (viewfinder, manual focus, night shot). Of course everything is now HD and records to memory rather than tape which makes all the difference. I guess the main sign of progress though is that the new camera cost me 1/4 of what I paid for the old one.

Having now had the chance to see an play with one first hand, I’m more convinced than ever that the iPad is an awkward form factor that just doesn’t compete well with the existing alternatives. I almost laughed out loud when I saw a guy trying to play a game on one in a busy subway. Kudos to him for being such a die-hard fan!

Rob Relyea sparked an interesting discussions on Sliverlight vs WPF which was fairly relevant to some talks we’ve been having at work recently. I was so impressed by the first commenter’s response – Mike Strobel – that I subscribed to his blog where he also had a very interesting take on the Windows Phone 7 UI. I have to admit I share many of Mike’s misgivings about the new UI.

Preventing a bound TextBox from resetting the caret position

Someone posed a question on our internal mailing list today at work that reminded me of a problem I’d tackled previously whilst working as a developer of fortune.

Here’s the challenge. A TextBox is bound to a data value that is being constantly updated. In my scenario the TextBox was bound to a data feed coming from a serial port connected weigh bridge. Even though the value is being automatically updated the operator has the ability to override the value with their own – at which point it would normally cease being updated by the data service.

Sounds fairly straight-forward. The main problem is that every time the TextBox value is updated via data-binding the selection text and position of the caret is reset. This is particularly annoying if the operator positions the caret about to make their change and a fraction of a second before they press a key the caret moves to the left edge.

I can’t remember exactly how we solved this problem in my earlier engagement (Raaj if you’re listening you could jog my memory) but here was my quick re-attempt.

First I’ll set the scene with a mock environment.

public partial class MainWindow : Window
private ViewModel viewModel;
private DispatcherTimer timer;
public MainWindow()
this.viewModel = new ViewModel();
this.DataContext = viewModel;
this.timer = new DispatcherTimer(
new TimeSpan(0, 0, 1),
this.Dispatcher); } private void UpdateValue(object sender, EventArgs e) { this.viewModel.Value += 0.01; } }

This sets up a simple form whose DataContext refers to a ViewModel with a Value property. The Value property is updated every second by a thread safe timer.

<Window x:Class="TextBoxOverlay.MainWindow"
Title="MainWindow" Height="350" Width="525">
<StackPanel Width="150">
Text="{Binding Value,StringFormat=0.00,UpdateSourceTrigger=PropertyChanged}"/>

The XAML simple binds a TextBox to the Value property. Running this sample and the problem can be immediately realised. Attempting to edit the value in the TextBox using the keyboard is extremely frustrating. The caret won’t go where you want it to.

So – the next step is to create a TextBlock that overlays the TextBox and instead bind this to the Value property. We set the IsHitTestVisible property on this TextBlock to False so that the user can still interact with the TextBox underneath. Then – and this is where things get a little sneaky – we make the TextBox’s text transparent. This allows us the strange freedom to interact with the TextBox’s content by selecting it and moving the caret – and because we can see the same text in the overlaid TextBlock things appear as normal.

<Window x:Class="TextBoxOverlay.MainWindow"
Title="MainWindow" Height="350" Width="525">
<StackPanel Width="150">
Text="{Binding ModifiedValue,StringFormat=0.00,
PreviewTextInput="TextBoxPreviewTextInput" Foreground="Transparent"/> <TextBlock IsHitTestVisible="False" Margin="5,0" Text="{Binding Value,StringFormat=0.00}"/> </Grid> </StackPanel> </Grid> </Window>

You can see from the XAML that the TextBox is bound to a new field on our ViewModel called ModifiedValue. We also hook up to the PreviewTextInput event. We could have used an attached behaviour here rather than resorting to code-behind – but I wanted to keep things simple. So the code behind on the form has:

        private void TextBoxPreviewTextInput(object sender, TextCompositionEventArgs e)
var textBox = sender as TextBox;
var selectionStart = textBox.SelectionStart;
var selectionLength = textBox.SelectionLength;
var caretIndex = textBox.CaretIndex;
this.viewModel.ModifiedValue = this.viewModel.Value;
textBox.CaretIndex = caretIndex; 
textBox.SelectionStart = selectionStart; textBox.SelectionLength = selectionLength; }

Here we save and restore the TextBox’s SelectionStart, SelectionLength and CaretIndex whilst updating the ModifiedValue that is about to be changed to equal the Value that the user can actually see (remember the ModifiedValue is transparent).

The very last trick is within the ModifiedValue’s setter where we update the Value property. This ensures that whatever changes the operator makes to the TextBox are visible in the overlaid TextBlock. Of course the whole point of doing all of this is that the caret position and selection remains completely unchanged whilst the value appears to update.

        public double? ModifiedValue
return this.modifiedValue;
if (this.modifiedValue != value)
this.modifiedValue = value;
if (this.ModifiedValue.HasValue)
Value = ModifiedValue.Value;

Source code here.

So aside from the tacky code-behind to keep the code here to a minimum, I’m wondering if there isn’t a neater solution?

UPDATE: Using an attached behaviour

It was pointed out to me by a colleague that there is a simpler, more versatile solution. Simple encapsulate the text change with selection restore within an attached property. Then we can use multiple bindings to achieve the effect.

        public static string GetNonIntrusiveText(DependencyObject obj)
return (string)obj.GetValue(NonIntrusiveTextProperty);
public static void SetNonIntrusiveText(DependencyObject obj, string value)
obj.SetValue(NonIntrusiveTextProperty, value);
public static readonly DependencyProperty NonIntrusiveTextProperty =
typeof(TextBoxExtensions), new FrameworkPropertyMetadata(
NonIntrusiveTextChanged)); public static void NonIntrusiveTextChanged(
object sender,
DependencyPropertyChangedEventArgs e) { var textBox = sender as TextBox; if (textBox == null) return; var caretIndex = textBox.CaretIndex; var selectionStart = textBox.SelectionStart; var selectionLength = textBox.SelectionLength; textBox.Text = (string) e.NewValue; textBox.CaretIndex = caretIndex; textBox.SelectionStart = selectionStart; textBox.SelectionLength = selectionLength; }

Now the XAML no longer requires the tricky TextBlock overlay, we simple have a TextBox with two bindings.

Text="{Binding Value,StringFormat=0.00,
local:TextBoxExtensions.NonIntrusiveText="{Binding Value,StringFormat=0.00,

Conditional Formatting of a TextBox


I recently came across a scenario where I needed to bind a TextBox to a domain property but also have the value formatted for display. To make things more interesting the format was to be dynamic and the value needed to be editable.

The initial investigation led me to consider a ValueConverter. Ideally the TextBox.Text property could be bound and the Converter could be used to format to/from the required on-screen value. For a dynamic format it would be nice to bind the ConverterParameter to a property that exposed the format. Of course that doesn’t work because ConverterParameter doesn’t support data binding. I found a hack that gets around this – but it isn’t pretty. There are also some examples of using a MultiValueConverter and passing both the value to format and the format string itself as separate individual bindings. This approach has some difficulties too when converting both ways and its just feels like an abuse of the ValueConverter.

This lead me to think about the problem a little more… maybe a different approach is required? Thinking back to the WinForms days and I realised that I had solved this problem before, several times in fact. My approach to this problem for WinForms had been:

  • Subclass TextBox and add a Value property of type object that allows data binding to data types other than just string. Common types that could be used with a TextBox include int, decimal, double, bool, DateTime and enums.
  • The inherited TextBox also has a Format property. On GotFocus the Value property is formatted and used to populate the Text property. On LostFocus the reverse happens, the Text property is parsed back into the Value property. Of course this requires the data type to be known so a DataType property is required as well.

The benefits that this has:

  • TextBox works for data types other than string.
  • The value is formatted as required for display but upon data entry (GotFocus) the formatting is removed. This actually makes it easier to enter/modify the value because you don’t need to parse currency symbols, percentage signs and the like.

So the approach sounds good and its worked well for me in WinForms but its… well… not very WPF’ish. Upon starting any major development the first requirement in WinForms was to subclass all the controls – because they were just so lacking if functionality and even more importantly didn’t expose a common set of interfaces. However, I very rarely subclass controls in WPF – instead we can use attached behaviors to extend the control.

The attached behaviors required are:

  • object TypedValue
  • Type DataType 
  • string StringFormat

In XAML instead of binding to the TextBox.Text property we bind to the TypedValue attached property. The StringFormat can also be bound. The DataType can be inferred by the TypedValue – but for nullable types its best to be set explicitly. With a sample class as follows:

public class ModelItem
public object Value { get; set; }
public string Format { get; set; }

The XAML is then:

<DataGrid ItemsSource="{Binding Items}" AutoGenerateColumns="False">
<DataGridTextColumn Header="Any Type TextBox">
<Style TargetType="{x:Type TextBlock}">
<Setter Property="local:TextBoxExtensions.StringFormat" Value="{Binding Format}"/>
<Setter Property="local:TextBoxExtensions.TypedValue" Value="{Binding Value}"/>
<Style TargetType="{x:Type TextBox}">
<Setter Property="local:TextBoxExtensions.StringFormat" Value="{Binding Format}"/>
<Setter Property="local:TextBoxExtensions.TypedValue" Value="{Binding Value}"/>
<DataGridTextColumn Header="Format" Binding="{Binding Format}" IsReadOnly="True"/>
<DataGridTextColumn Header="Value" Binding="{Binding Value}" IsReadOnly="True"/>

Which generates a DataGrid bound to a collection of ModelItems. Each ModelItem allows a different data type and format to be applied – great for a “user-defined fields” scenario.

Populating the ModelItems collection as follows in our main ViewModel:

    public class Model
public Model()
Primary = new ModelItem() { Format = "{0:#,##0.0}", Value = 12345678.765 };
Items = new ObservableCollection<ModelItem>();
Items.Add(new ModelItem() { Format = "{0:C2}", Value = 123.42 });
Items.Add(new ModelItem() { Format = "{02}", Value= 0.125 });
Items.Add(new ModelItem() { Format = "{0}", Value = "Fred" });
Items.Add(new ModelItem() { Format = null, Value = true });
Items.Add(new ModelItem() { Format = "Uncle {0}", Value = "George" });
Items.Add(new ModelItem() { Format = null, Value = Colors.Black });
Items.Add(new ModelItem() { Format = null, Value = System.DayOfWeek.Monday });
Items.Add(new ModelItem() { Format = "{0:0;minus 0;zip}", Value = -123.4 });
public ModelItem Primary { get; set; }
public ObservableCollection<ModelItem> Items { get; private set; }

Generates the following grid, which allows for editing of the strongly typed values.


Word Puzzle to Silverlight Phone – Part 2

Finally got interaction and feedback happening on the Silverlight port of Word Puzzle. This was so much more difficult than I had imagined – feels like learning WPF from scratch. I am beginning to believe that it would be easier to approach Silverlight with no WPF knowledge whatsoever.

  • I had to cater for not having DataTriggers – and then not being able to get behaviours/triggers/states to work like I wanted. In the end I used a ValueConverter to hack the selection and solved colours – yuk!
  • Had some weird issues with the MouseMove event – had to use CaptureMouse to get position readings outside the original UI element – wasn’t a requirement for WPF.
  • Spent ages working through really minor bugs that just aren’t reported properly in Silverlight. Things as simple as referencing a resource that doesn’t exist (due to misspelling) generates a super generic error message.
  • Had to create a proper custom layout panel for the words to position and rotate the highlight boxes. This was actually an improvement on the original version.

Anyhow – now have a playable version on the emulator. Slow progress, but progress nonetheless.

WordPuzzle_Stage2  WordPuzzle_Stage2_EndGame

Desk Genie

I’ve recently had the opportunity to reduce my material possessions to no more than can be carried in eight suitcases. This was quite a liberating experience. Particularly when you take into account that those eight suitcases were for my entire family – only two contained my stuff.

One of the fun parts of going through this experience is that we get to buy some essentials. Once all the boring stuff (like furniture) is out of the way I got to concentrate on replacing a few tech items. The idea being to create an area at home from which I can work remotely whilst remaining highly productive. First on the list was a more powerful, yet highly portable laptop, and a keyboard and cheap wide screen monitor to go with it.

This gave me the essentials but there were two minor flaws in the setup.

  1. The laptop only had three USB ports (not uncommon for laptops). Obviously this isn’t going to be enough even at this early stage – keyboard, mouse, phone, external hard drive. (Luckily the printer is on the network).
  2. My aging Sony Cybershot DSC-V1 uses the standard sized (old) memory stick format which doesn’t fit in the card reader on the Z-Series laptop. This means yet another device to connect via USB.

Enter the Desk Genie the perfect accessory for my HTC Touch Diamond2. This little gadget is designed to meet three simple objectives.

  1. Act as a multi-format card reader
  2. Act as a USB hub and power charger
  3. Provide a platform on which to mount portable devices so they are easily visible when sat at a desk.

Desk Genie Unboxed  Desk Genie what you get

What’s in the box? Comes with plenty of charger connections – the only two of interest for me were the mini and micro-USB.

I’ve had this item for almost a week now, and I’ve tried it out both at work and at home. Here’s my thoughts.


  • It works well as phone holder. The “sticky” surface does exactly what it says – hold the phone firmly in place without having pesky catches, clips, Velcro etc. The viewing angle worked well for the desk and chair heights that I use both at home and work.
  • Charger worked fine for charging my HTC Touch Diamond, though had trouble with the Blackberry (see below).
  • As a USB hub it works flawlessly (as you’d hope). I’ve had my 1.5 Tb external drives connected through this and copied large volumes of data without any issues.
  • Has a very muted blue “glow” indicator to let you know its connected.


  • An extra USB outlet would have been nice.
  • The memory stick reader isn’t a perfect fit. I had to insert the memory stick on a slight angle – was a bit of a knack getting the hang of it but once you worked it out wasn’t a big deal. I’ve had the same problem with other multi-card readers (like the one in my Zalman HD160 HTPC case).
  • When connecting my Blackberry via the power charger (with the included micro-USB adapter) it didn’t work. Not sure what the problem was – maybe not enough “juice”? Connected via one of the USB ports and everything was fine – connectivity and charging.



My favourite configuration for this device was to provide both charging and connectivity for my phone by using one of the USB ports rather than using the charging cable. Whilst this does mean I lose one of the two USB ports I like having the device connected for ActiveSync and for copying across podcasts.

The number one feature of this gadget for me though is that it holds the phone at a perfect viewing angle whilst connected. I would have loved one of these at my previous work desk where I would continuously have to pick the phone up to look at whether I’d missed a phone call, email or text whilst away from my desk. If that’s what you really care about then

I’m pretty happy with this gadget – it does what it says and for me it happened to come along at a time when I needed the USB and memory card features. Now all I have to do is figure out whether I keep it on the desk at home, or the one at work?

Thanks to Natalie from mobilefun.co.uk who was kind enough to send me a Desk Genie to review.

Porting WPF Word Puzzle to Windows Phone Silverlight – Part 1

To date I’ve avoided doing any serious development in Silverlight. Every time I’ve tried to tackle it I get so frustrated with all the missing pieces. Besides which I’ve never had a good reason to do any Silverlight work – I’ve never been a fan of applications that run in a browser.

With the release of the Windows Phone Series development tools however, I now have a good reason. So I figured I’d pick a relative simple, small scale WPF application that actually makes some sense to run on a mobile device. Rather than starting it from scratch I just wanted to port it from WPF – so I chose the Word Puzzle program that I wrote a couple of years back. I figured it was a good choice because it met the criteria above, plus I’d already stripped it back a little to make sure it could run as an XBAP application.

Inspired by Rob’s posts on porting NProf to Silverlight I thought it may be of some interest to list off the issues that I come up against as I go through the process of porting. This first list represents me starting a new Windows Phone project and copying over classes and XAML files to get something to compile and look recognizable. The following represents about 2 hours work:


However, along the way I came across this list of issues:

  • No Viewbox
  • No MouseDown or MouseUp
  • No UniformGrid
  • No Image.StretchDirection
  • x:Type is not supported
  • No Style.Triggers
  • No DockPanel
  • No RoutedCommand
  • No KeyGesture
  • No DataType on DataTemplate?
  • No ValueConversion
  • No DefiningGeometry on Shape
  • No BooleanToVisibilityConverter
  • No DynamicResource
  • No WrapPanel

I haven’t verified the above list yet – save that they gave me compilation errors. I easily found a replacement UniformGrid, but there are a few items on the list that may pose more of a problem.

The next step is to get some level of interaction working.

My views on Windows Phone 7 Series

I have mixed feelings about Windows Phone 7 Series. Whilst the new user interface is refreshingly different I’m not overly optimistic about its effectiveness. As more information about the new OS was made available I began to get a better idea of the target audience.

My current feeling is that Windows Phone 7 Series will become a solid offering for the mass consumer market. It will throw off the shackles of the Windows Mobile legacy and become a more stable, more consistent and vastly more appealing operating system for mobile devices. The only people that are likely to be disappointed by the new OS are the few die-hards that are currently running Windows Mobile 6.5 and below. The kind of people that wouldn’t be satisfied with an iPad when there are much more powerful and efficient means at hand. Those with such outlandish views that they believe touch interfaces (capacitive or otherwise) offer some amusement but just don’t cut it for serious tasks. People that believe copy/paste and multi-tasking are key operating system features. Alas I am once such person.

I think Windows Phone 7 Series has the potential to be very successful and I certainly hope that it is. For me a lot about having a phone is having a mobile device for which I can write applications. The ability to finally use Silverlight is something that I’m really excited about. So while the operating system itself is not something that I’m all that enthusiastic about the developer experience so far looks great.

New Laptop – Sony Z Series

The last two months have been pretty hectic for me… new job, new residence, new country/continent/hemisphere.

When we moved I packed all my desktop computers (dev box, HTPC, Home Server and son’s PC) into storage. This means for the last two months I’ve been using my Fujitsu tablet PC for all my computing requirements, occasionally also resorting to my HP mini notebook.

The plan was to purchase a desktop PC when we got settled in – something powerful enough to by a good dev box and occasional gaming. However – two things quickly became apparent to me. Firstly – purchasing computer hardware in the US is not as convenient as I first imagined.

  • Online delivery times for most sites (including Dell and Sony) were measured in weeks – I want next day delivery!
  • It’s nowhere near as cheap as I had hoped – especially when you always need to add taxes
  • Laptops are cheaper to buy than desktops once you include screens, keyboards, wireless etc. Of course this point is debatable based on your requirements.

My requirements were:

  • I5 or I7 processor
  • Minimum 4Gb RAM
  • Dedicated mid-range graphics card
  • Dual monitor – with at least one 1920 x 1080 display

Nice to have:

  • 120+ Gb SSD drive
  • Wireless N

The desktops I priced that matched these requirements were priced around $1200. Too expensive! I deliberated for two weeks, trying to find cheaper alternatives – including building a machine from components (which is how I normally buy desktop PCs) and then finally gave up. Figuring I was going to have to spend that kind of money I decided to look at higher end laptops that offered equivalent power. Eventually I settled on the new Sony Z Series together with a cheap 24 inch screen.




  • Light – seriously light – much lighter than my Tablet PC – 3 lbs / 1.3kg
  • I5 processor
  • Dual graphics – dedicated when you need it then drops back automatically to use integrated for lower power use
  • Wireless N / Bluetooth
  • Reasonable battery life – 5 hours
  • SSD drive is awesome
  • Comes with a really nice set of active noise cancelling bud-style headphones
  • Keyboard looks gimmicky – but actually works really well, has a really solid feel, possibly the best laptop keyboard I’ve used. This was really quite a surprise.
  • Ambient light detector used to automatically set screen brightness (and optionally backlights keyboard) – works really well in our dimly lit apartment or when working near a window during the day.
  • HDMI connection to 1920 x 1080 monitor – including sound (though the monitor I bought has ridiculously terrible speakers).


  • Doesn’t read original memory sticks – it has a MagicGate slot – presumable only takes the Duo format?
  • Its expensive when you can get a lot of reasonable laptops for around half the price.