Tablet computers

A few weeks back I ran a simple poll to see which tablets were the most popular. After 102 responses the results were what I expected, Android led Apple iOS by 2:1 with a few people using Windows 8 or Windows 10 tablets.

In my case, I have a Nexus 7 Gen1 which I’ve been using for 2 years. It’s used when I don’t have a full laptop with me to surf the Web, access the various servers running SOTA facilities (ssh, VNC) and to serve up books and magazines such QST, which I re-render as DRM free PDF files. It’s used to display both OS maps and free OpenStreetMap maps integrating with the inbuilt GPS.

A couple of things got me looking at new devices. For a start my Nexus had become sluggish at times, taking 45 secs to start up a browser. Comparing it with a few Nexus Gen 2 device my work colleagues have, I realised how very slow it had become. Secondly, Google decided to stop producing software updates for the Gen 1 model. I have a tablet in immaculate condition which still has excellent battery life but no security updates. You may be able to live without security updates, but to me, no updates means not viable. I have the same problem with my phone, so I don’t use it for anything like banking etc.

I looked at new Android devices, rejected for the same short support lifetime. I looked at Apple devices. Far too expensive and Apple have evaded far too much tax in my country. I’m not supporting them till they behave properly. I looked at replacing my tablet and laptop with a high end Windows 2-in-1 convertible. These come with removable keyboards so you can have a tablet or a laptop. They’re available with a range of CPU/RAM & disk options. I’d be able to pension of my laptop and tablet and an HP Spectre X2 was high on the list even though it was £800.

In the end I’ve bought a cheap but nicely built Windows 10 tablet + keyboard. For £140 I’ve got a Linx 1010B quad core Atom based machine with 2GB RAM & 32GB storage that is much faster than my old tablet, a 10in touch screen, a keyboard with good feel (strange key placement!), real USB ports, Wifi, Bluetooth etc. I’m not sure on battery life yet, probably a little shorter than the Nexus. Out of the box, there was 21.2GB usable out of 32GB storage, that includes Windows and a Windows recovery partition. You can delete the recovery parttion if you want but I bought a 64GB SD card and have about 84GB to play with. As I had 9GB left on a 32GB Android tab after 2 years, I’m not worried. And at £140, it’s not a huge amount of money.

Linx 1010B = keyboard next to my old Nexus 7 with its Bluetooth keyboard.

Comparing them in tablet mode, Linx 1010B at the top, Nexus 7 underneath. UK £2 coin for scale.

The keyboards, Linx 1010B at the top. The Bluetooth keyboard was about £10 from eBay and physically clips over the front of the Nexus 7 to act as a case. The Linx hinge uses magnets to hold the tablet in place and the keyboard folds flat to protect the screen.

Windows tablets have come a long way since last year, this one feels beautiful in use and is usable.

The “windows” key looks so wrong for an Android device :wink:


KitKat basically bricked the early Nexus7 and Google have not been interested.
Best thing is to root it and install Cyanogenmod (other Roms may be available).
It will run better than ever.


I fully agree Pete. Cyanogen ROM does fix it and makes it better. But… it’s not stock anymore and I omitted to say that being a stock item is important. Now I have a portable browing/book reading machine I can play with the Nexus when I have time. ( Ha! ).

It’s funny, before I started supporting the SOTA database I had reduced my reliance on Windows to one program (Anquet). If I could have found a Linux version of that I wouldn’t need Windows. Now I maintain a Windows based database (and damn good is MS-SQL and ASP.NET and Azure) so I need a Windows machine to run that software and Anquet. The need for Windows has got bigger. TBH, I don’t care which OS but just one would be nice. Now I find I have become very dependent on Orux maps running on Android. The display is a bit small on my phone but was belting on the Nexus. I have yet to find an offline OpenStreetMap viewer for Windows so I can’t give up Android!

This PC is a high spec machine booting Win7 Pro 64 and runs Debian in VM. I have a laptop (a hand-me-down from my son) that dual boots Linux Mint and Win 7 Pro 64. I’ve got a Win 10 convertible another dual core Atom Debian based machine that faces the internet and does VPN stuff. No matter how hard I try I cannot get down to one OS. Arrrgggg!

Hi Andy

Suggest you consider opening a (free) my.Viewranger account to look at OSM Cycle Map etc which shows contours and various other maps can also be viewed. You can also use your free account to plan routes (also free) in OSM or other bought premium maps which would cost.

PS Although I have to say this is not available off line, but free OSM mapping for your device is, howver you probably already have that with Orux as well.

73 Phil

Vectorialmap from (no surprise) renders Mapsforge maps on Windows. I’ve played with the demo version and it runs OK and loads the maps I’ve used with Orux. You have to get the paid-for version to change the layer to show contours etc, 7Eu doesn’t sound too extreme either.

Please do not give up on RSS is the fastest, best and standard.
I,am using RSS because I working QRP I have to be ahead of others.
/and consumes the least kB and battery /
vy 73 de Mariusz

Been running Android for a while but got a Surface Pro 3 for work and LOVE it! Tons of battery life, a REAL USB port and can run anything as it is windows. I am going to look for a Win 10 tablet soon to take the place of the Android tablet. Heck I bet I could dual boot it into Android on it if needed. Apple is just too expensive and battery life leaves a lot to be desired. I have an iPad but never use it. Just too incompatible in so many instances. Just wish SOTAGoat went to Android.

There has got to be a way to do mapping and summit information off line other than SOTAGoat.

The Surface Pro 4 is even better that the Pro 3, especially if you can get someone else to buy you one!

I am very pleasantly surprised by how well made and thoroughly usable this cheap system is. I’ve just copied 24GB of hidef UK raster mapping onto the SD card and the map scroll is surprisingly fast and smooth considering it’s only a Bay Trail Atom and the data is coming from an SD card. The data is 4x bigger than the data I had on the Nexus and data path is narrower yet the overall response is quicker. And all for the US equivalent of $210!

For your Android tablet, install Orux maps (from the Google store) then go to and get some US maps. Install the maps to the tablet and you can use it offline. The UI is “quirky” but you get used to it. It may be the offline map tool you need. The California map is 460MB and has 20m contours. When I’ve used it, I’ve only been targeting a few summits so I typed their positions by hand. You should be able to write a macro to export the summits data in a format Orux uses from summitslist.csv which you get from the database. It may not be as detailed as other mapping you have, but being able to take a whole state of maps with you must be of some use!

I pinged the people to see if the paid version will add the missing detail from the Android maps I have. In which case Orux is the Android solution and vectorial is the Windows solution.

Nice to see the SOTA reflector going the same way as most amateur radio rallies :wink:

Indeed. Some people in positions of power tend to forget we are not all systems analysts.

Walt (G3NYY)

I’ve been using this wee machine for about a month now and I am quite surprised at little I have to loathe about W10. No I don’t like the forced updates and that fact you have to jump through hoops to disable a lot of the telemetry. But the machine is capable of doing what I want (browsing, email, connection and control of the servers I manage, map viewing, QST PDF viewing).

I have my UK map software + OS maps working fine but was stuck looking for something that did what Orux maps can do on Android. I found that Orux + the assorted OpenStreetMaps maps files was more than suitable for planning SOTA activations in Luxembbourg, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Lanazrote, Ireland. The mapping is not as detailed as OS maps but it’s free and more than good enough.

I had another session on Sunday looking for something that would work. Viewranger is recommended but only available for Android or iOS and Orux is Android only. I tried Merkaator but despite its claims it would not load any OSM maps. I returned to Vectorial Map to see if it could do what I wanted or if I would have to buy the 7EU version. I must have uninstalled it when trying various solutions. I clicked on the .map file and was offered the “would you like to search for something that can open this file” dialog and an option was the Windows Store. Why not I thought. The store offered me a Windows App version of Vectorial for free or a full version that did more for some money. Now the version I tried previously was Windows program (classic Windows style, not a touch enabled tablet type app), this time it offered a real tablet app.

Having installed it with little pain it happily loaded my Orux map downloads but without walking info such as footpaths and contours. Hmm, not much use. But unlike before, this App version allows you to use standard OSM styles. 5mins hacking about with a USB cable and I had copied my Orux map style info from my phone and I could select a view style that showed all I needed for SOTA planning. A few more minutes and I had the maps themselves installed on the SD card. Performance on a 1.3GHz quad core Atom from an SD card is on a par with Orux on a 1.2GHz quad core ARM A9.

There was much rejoicing from myself. Or as Brother Maynard did read from the Book of Armaments: “And the Lord did grin, and the people did feast upon the lambs, and sloths, and carp, and anchovies and orangutans, and breakfast cereals, and fruit bats, and large…” :slight_smile:

In fact playing with the app it seems to be looking very similar to Orux maps in both layout and icons etc. I haven’t found out what it doesn’t do if you don’t buy it or pay for add ons. I don’t have a GPS in this W10 tablet, how well that works with a GPS connected via Bluetooth or USB I don’t know. But I now have programs for my phone and laptop that allow SOTA activation navigation and activation planning that are a) free and b) working well.

If you need something to render maps for SOTA work then Vectorial Maps does enough for nothing to be well worth investing in a copy.

If you don’t have a W10 or Android device then this is of less interest.

I’m a bit puzzled here. I tried downloading “Vectorial Map Viewer” from the Windows store. Is that the one you’re referring to? I don’t actually have a tablet but it should be the same app, right?

Whatever, it doesn’t seem to do a lot for me. It will view built-in online maps but not much more. I see no dialogues for opening external maps or changing styles. It does register itself as an app to open .map files, but having done so, it merely pops up a box saying that offline map import is only in the full version. It doesn’t even offer a trial.

Several reviewers have complained that the free app does nothing useful. Words like “scam”, “useless” and “deceiving” appear in what few reviews there are. The paid-for version gets no reviews, though it actually looks quite good on the face of it.

Don’t get me wrong - I don’t have an aversion to paying (though I do have an aversion to paying before I can see whether it works). But your post implied that all of this functionality was available in the free version, and I just don’t see it. Are we looking at the same thing?

Martyn M1MAJ

Well I was puzzled to. I can’t get a version number from the program. I’ve just loaded W10 Store (how I hate these things) and it tells me I have Vectorial Map Viewer installed and I can buy some addons to get more features.

Download maps works. I connected the Wifi and hit the download maps button and it offered me the Mapsforge website and then a list of files. I downloaded Portugal as I think we’re off there later this year for a SOTA/holiday and the map loaded. I copied all my maps I’d downloaded for Orux from my phone to an SD card and told Vectorial to load the local map from “disk” and up came the map. I had to copy and zip my Mapsforge style data from the phone to get contours etc. There’s an issue that some forests come up black not green, need to fix that. But I can see tracks, contours, woods etc.

Here are some quick screen shots:

Local SOTA East Cairn Hill SS-282 showing contours and footpaths.

Menu options available.

List of offline maps.

The reviews were scathing but it’s working for me. Certainly it’s buggy in that trying to record some waypoints causes it to exit. But it seems so compatible with other map viewers using OSM maps I reckon I can set up the waypoints on my phone and copy the files over and it may well work.

Certainly does a lot more than I expected. Perhaps it was the Feb29th free bonus download :slight_smile:

I’ve just thought on that maybe I downloaded the paid-for options. I had to register a Microsoft ID to get the store to work. I have 2 I use, only one has the ability to buy things from Microsoft, that’s the one I use with Microsoft Azure cloud services. The other is the one I’ve had for years and years which says I’m a 115 yr old woman from Afghanistan. That was the one I used so this either is a broken download of the free version that has unlocked features it shouldn’t or the store offered me a fuller version for free.

It certainly looks like the same app. I can see a lot of the functionality you cite.

Downloading offline Mapsforge maps does work, and I see the same menu as you do when I’ve done so. The same lines are greyed out.

Downloading and changing styles seems to work, and I can get to the menu to load styles from disk (don’t actually have a style file to hand to try)

What I don’t see is a facility to download maps from disk. There is a button “Local map” in the bottom right corner of the offline maps screen, and this is the one that says it wants to be paid for. So close…

Sigh… I don’t really need this. But there is no cure for map addiction :frowning:



How are experiences to use it for operating? Does it work to install for example a software like N1MM+ and then go out for some hours of contesting or 59ing from a sought after portable location including rig control.

Apart from some USB devices that are no longer supported and so have no drivers, everything I have tried just worked. Battery life around 7-8hrs continuous. Wifi does 65-72mbps. Keyboard has good spacing and feel (one key in a strange place). Touch pad is a bit strange till you get used to it (combined pad and buttons in one item). The keyboard is as heavy as the tablet so it will sit in place.

N1MM says it needs 4GB (what for a log program?) and this only has 2GB memory max.

We did a test in the office. We have a W10 machine we have for testing compatibility of our tools and I got the testing-dude to download Vectorial Map Viewer. It will not allow local map loading. We checked against the W10 store… we had installed the free version of Vectorial Map Viewer and Vectorial Map Offline Viewer was available to install for £6.19. Then we checked and my machine thinks it has the free version of Vectorial Map Viewer and Vectorial Map Offline Viewer is available to install.

Why mine works is just one of those things were, for once, luck was on my side. If I have the paid for version for free then based on what I have seen it’s probably expensive at £6 but good value at £3.