NEC T400/Litepad TabletPC Configuration

This is very much a work in progress, I started this months ago, and am only putting it up now so that while it isn’t finished, it may still be of use to some people. I’ll update it as I find time.

Early 2007 I bought a well-used NEC T400 (also marketed as the NEC Litepad in the US) and thought that I should put my experiences online, both as future reference for myself, but also to help others. It seems to me that the NEC tablet wasn’t as popular as some other brands, so it was much harder finding resources for it online. Maybe this will help. This article will focus on the NEC tablet, but may also be relevant to other tablets of that generation.

About the NEC T400

The NEC is a slate tablet PC (it doesn’t have a keyboard) and is in fact one of the smallest tablets of that first generation, (I wasn’t fully aware of this when I bought it). It is smaller than many tablets from later generations of these devices. It has a 10.4″ XGA (1024×768) screen, in a case that is the same length but slightly wider than an A4 sheet of paper, and only 15mm thick. It has a fully Wacom-compatible digitiser, something that I’ll expand on later in this article. Hardware may have been leading edge for such a small mobile device of it’s time; it has a 933MHz PIII-M (Tualatin) ULV processor, 20GB 1.8″ hard drive, 256B PC133 SDRAM (upgradable to 512MB, but it only has one SODIMM slot). Built in Wifi, ethernet, 3xUSB ports, VGA out port, mic in and audio out.

Why a TabletPC?

I use PCs a lot at home, and I wanted a device specifically for use anywhere in the house, for use mainly as a web-top. The amount of useful work that you can do online has been rapidly increasing over the past few years, and I wanted a device to take advantage of that, without having to lug around a full laptop. I do a lot of reading online, and read ebooks as regularly as I read paper books. I’ve found that my Palm T3 and Nokia 770s are indispensible for many activities including reading, but just don’t provide a compelling web browsing experience.

Why the NEC?

Price, features and availability. I could never justify the price of a new tabletPC, so I’ve had to wait for older ones to become available. I’m certain that the extremely high price of tablets is holding back their wider adoption, though I think there are other factors. I was specifically after a slate, as I already own a laptop or two, and I wanted the minimum possible bulk. I had considered buying a more modern grunty convertible (like the Compaq TC4200 or 4400) but having seen the latest HP TX1000 12″ convertible really changed my mind about that. Those devices are far too hot and heavy; for web browsing and more general use, you don’t need a lot of processing power, keyboard or optical drives.

NEC condition

The NEC is relatively old, and is far from “as new” condition. It has a magnesium alloy case, so is relatively durable, however it does have a few minor scratches, and the case under the CF slot has cracked slightly. The buttons all work fine, and the tablet came with the small original stylus, unfortunately the full size pen was missing. The screen has a few very minor scratches on it, but these aren’t a problem, they are only visible when the screen is off. The screen seems very durable, and I don’t use any form of screen protector on it, given the age of the system. The digitiser seems to become slightly erratic at the lower right corner when the system is running at full speed and on mains power, otherwise it seems fine. The ethernet port does not work at all, which is unfortunate as that removes the ability to PXE boot the tablet, but Wifi works fine. Both the Wifi antenna cover and the VGA port cover are loose, but have been taped over. Battery life is a little over an hour with Wifi.

Initial Setup

I received the tablet with a fresh installation of XP TabletPC 2002 edition, unfortunately two of the NEC installation discs originally supplied with the tablet were missing. The following are some pointers related to setting up the tablet from this state.

BIOS Settings

Before proceeding the first thing you should do is check the BIOS settings; in my case, all were correct except that SpeedStep was disabled. This has the effect of making the processor always run at the slowest possible speed setting. To learn more about SpeedStep and the implications of disabling it, have a look at the FAQ at

http://www.bay-wolf.com/speedstep.

BIOS settings are accessed by holding the “Down” button when the tablet boots. There is a BIOS update available, but the release notes indicate it only fixes one issue that didn’t seem relevant to my situation, so I decided not to risk the upgrade.

Operating System

Because this is a full Windows XP installation, applying SP2 is recommended. For tabletPC users, the service pack is quite compelling, as it contains a free upgrade to XP Tablet Edition 2005. This update includes a new TIP (Text Input Panel) and better handwriting recognition.

Update all hardware drivers

I noticed a significant decrease in performance after installing SP2, however installing the most recent hardware driver updates fixed this; particularly important was the system board (ALi M1644 CyberALADDiN) chipset drivers.

The best source of drivers I could find was via the NZ NEC support website at:

http://www.nec-computers.co.nz/Support/Product_Support.asp?CID=9

which leads to the download site at:

http://202.188.160.140/…category=Tablet%20PC…

The most important drivers to download are:

  1. ALI AGP Chipset driver (Direct download)
  2. Trident Display Driver (Direct download)
  3. Wireless LAN Driver (Direct download)
  4. Realtek Ethernet Driver (Direct download)
  5. Audio Driver (Direct download)

I’d recommend installing the drivers listed above in the order shown. The following drivers are possibly not as important but I list them here for completeness.

Upgrade the digitiser driver using the Wacom driver update; this gives much more functionality than the XP driver. The driver (Wacom Penabled Driver Driver 5.03-3 (RC) for Penabled Tablet PCs) is available from Wacom, http://www.wacom.com/tabletpc/driver.cfm

System Software

There are a number of free utilities that may make your Tablet PC easier to use.

  • SpeedswitchXP – Windows XP removes the system tray power settings icon that was present in previous Windows versions, so it is harder to monitor or change your power settings. This little utility adds that functionality and other features, too. It is available from http://www.diefer.de/speedswitchxp/index.html
  • Inscribe Keyboard – a free alternative to the TIP and the XP OSK, but this doesn’t work in all applications. It has the advantage of being extremely customisable, and is much better than the OSK, even if you don’t make any use of Inscribe’s “slide” input technique. See http://www.iliumsoft.com/site/fp/inscribe.htm
  • TweakUI – free from MS, adds some extra configuration options to Windows, many of which make tablet PC use easier. Direct download from http://download.microsoft.com/download/…/TweakUiPowertoySetup.exe
  • TabTipTamer – fixes the cursor lag in some applications. See http://www.cartoonmonkey.com/TabTip_TamerV3.htm
  • FreeShade – I always install this utility on all Windows systems, it makes windows shade (same behaviour as in some *nix window managers). Just double tap or press and hold the titlebar to shade/unshade, makes managing windows easy without needing to pop up the taskbar. http://www.hmmn.org/FreeShade/

Button and Stylus settings

You may have different preferences, but I’ve left the default settings except for the following:

  • Power – set to hibernate/resume.
  • Down – set to move down a screen at a time (Page Down); Up is left at default (Up).
  • Stylus Button 1 – set as middle mouse click
  • Stylus Button 2 – grab scroll in any window

Other Windows Settings

There are a number of Windows settings that I am using specifically for tablet use, as well as some which I apply to all my Windows installations.

  • Cleartype
  • Taskbar

Essential Software

The usability of the tablet can be significantly improved with third party software.

Web Browsing and Enhancements

IE7: Windows XP with SP2 will enable an upgrade to IE7, which, if you must use IE is definitely recommended.

Firefox: My preference is to use Firefox, the following tips and enhancements make using the tablet (with its limited input devices and very high resolution screen) very much easier. I care less about what OS I’m using, and more about what browsing extensions are available. There are several Firefox extensions that I consider indispensable (like “Send to Sunrise”, FotoFox) but I’ll list the ones most relevant to general tablet use here.

Input and Control Enhancements:

Pen-based browsing requires you to rethink how you use your browser, as you no longer have a mouse scroll wheel, and you’ll want to avoid keyboard input as much as possible. Bookmarking becomes quite important, and extensions that help with bookmarking are worth investigating.

  1. Drag de Go – allows the use of gestures to execute several commonly used commands.
  2. Grab and Drag – enables Acrobat-style grabbing anywhere in a page to scroll in any direction – no need to find the scroll bar, and this functionality replaces the scroll wheel on a normal mouse.
  3. GeckoTIP – support for the TIP in Firefox input fields, in the same way the IE and other MS applications already have this built in. Also predicts the most likely form the input will take (URL, date, email,etc) and optimises recognition to take this into account.
  4. CustomizeGoogle – adds Google Suggest to search boxes (now a standard feature of Firefox) so this sometimes saves some typing. It also removes advertising from Google products, so you get more usable screen when using gmail.

Display Enhancements:

Screen size is also quite small, so you’ll want to make the most of it. To do this, I rearrange the browser window to have the minimum of clutter. I have the menu, basic controls, location and search boxes all in one toolbar, with a Personal Bookmarks bar below it. I also hide the status bar when it isn’t needed.

  1. No Squint – enables text size of web pages on a site by site basis, and remember settings for future use. This is very important when using XGA resolution on a small screen as the actual dpi resolution is very high – far higher than on most desktop screens. As a result of this, text appears smaller and may be harder to read. No Squint is an unobtrusive way of fixing this problem.
  2. Tiny Menu – maximise screen real estate; Tiny Menu moves the whole menu to a single entry, leaving plenty of room to fit it, the navigation and search bars onto the same toolbar.
  3. Full Screen – maximise screen real estate, yet have the toolbars available when you need them.
  4. autoHideStatusbar – recover extra screen space by making the statusbar hide when not required. You can set it so that it is visible while pages are loading, when hovering over a link, or when the cursor is within a specified distance from the screen bottom edge.

Other Enhancements:

  1. del.icio.us – easy online bookmarking, with minimal typing required. I prefer to use the”classic” version, so I can keep my local bookmarks separate from my del.icio.us ones.
  2. Firefox Showcase – easily view open tabs, and easily navigate to right and left tabs.
  3. Snap Links – easily select multiple links (for viewing or download)
  4. Tab Counter – I lose track of how many tabs I have open at any time (sometimes I have more than 100) and with a memory constrained system like the NEC it is better to reduce the number of tabs open.

Other Software

Inscribe keyboard

Replacement Stylus

Originally, the NEC shipped with a full size, pressure sensitive stylus, and a small emergency stylus that stores in the tablet case. The larger stylus was no longer with the tablet when I bought it. When I contacted Wacom Asia/Pacific to purchase a replacement full size stylus, they were incredibly unhelpful, and were unable to tell me which of their products would work with a “Penabled” TabletPC. Wacom Direct stock the correct pen, but won’t ship outside of the US. It was actually easier for me to buy a new stylus on eBay and have it sent from the US – I bought a 2 button stylus with eraser (actually from a Sony Vaio) for $30 with $2 shipping. It works well, and feels a lot nicer than the small stylus.

Pet hates

The TIP keyboard:

The layout of the TIP onscreen keyboard is not customisable, you cannot even change the fonts used on the keys, and they are not particularly well chosen for usability. Even the built in XP OSK has better features. When docked to the bottom of the display, the TIP keyboard is quite wide, this means that in landscape mode the keys are spread too far for easy input.

On the plus side, though – handwriting recognition is excellent. Unfortunately it is difficult to input URLs using handwriting, but for everything else it is easy to use.

Memory

Really, 256MB is not enough to run XP, so one of the first things I did was upgrade to 512MB. The NEC only has 1 SODIMM, so this is the maximum possible memory. The difference is remarkable – a very real increase in responsiveness for very little outlay.

Heat and performance

If used at full power for any length of time, the device gets quite hot; it is fine when throttled back to 398MHz, but this does affect the responsiveness of the tablet. I’d hate to think what the recent crop of UMPCs running Vista must be like; their specs really are not much higher than the NEC.

Hard drive

The hard drive is a 1.8″ Toshiba MK2004GAL. It is awful. These drives may be fine in the 20GB ipods, but they are too slow for use in a PC. Unfortunately there are few choices for upgrading; the most promising route is to fit an IDE to CF adapter, and fit an 8GB Sandisk UltraII compact flash card. Some people are reporting improved performance by doing this or fitting SSD drives to the NEC.

To complicate things the NEC recovery discs apparently won’t install unless the drive is prepared (tattooed) in a special way. Once again, manufacturers paranoia shafts the customer. At present (lacking the recovery discs) the best I can do is take an image of the drive and hope that should the need arise I am able to re-instate the OS is some fashion. There is a hidden 1.7GB partition that I suspect is used for recovery.

Advertisements

24 thoughts on “NEC T400/Litepad TabletPC Configuration

  1. Do you have a copy of the image? I’ve been fighting for over a year to install a new HDD in my system and I’m getting nowhere thanks to the ‘tatoo.’
    Thanks,

    • Hi,
      I got a NEC Versa T400 without install disks and formatted HD. Should I just install a XP Tablet? Any pointers? Thanks!!!

  2. Same problem here … the old hd died on me and I had to install everything in a new hd, unfortunately I bought the litepad 2ndhand and didnt have the install cds. Made a fresh install of xp pro and everything seemed fine at first (only downside is that the ebooks readers have better tabletpc version like microsoft reader and mobipocket) except that I wasnt able to have the screen orientation button to work.

    However, after a reboot… now im getting problems with the backlight. It doesnt work on batteries, meaning that the screen goes dark when unplugged. I seem to correct this everytime I disable the cyberaladin, but it really seems strange to me.

    Im planning to have a fresh install and change the hd with ssd… any help you can give me would be much appreciated.

    Cheers.

  3. Yes the recovery cd sucks… and i do have one if someone can find a place to store it I can create an ISO 4 it.

    There is a bug also if you recover without the keyboard attached the tablet buttons dont work.. 😦 (or was that the other way around? hmmm was a late night)

    Ubuntu 8.04 works OK if u get keen but the wacom driver doesnt load… my solution was to install 7.04 and upgrade… worked fine then.

    Image the disk first including mbr so you can recover more easily. Ubuntu’s video driver sucks and screen rotation is not possible and your tablet buttons are not supported. That was enough to kill the experience…

    And yes the cursor jump problem …. if u are so cursed There is a fix of sorts another layer of tinfoil between the screen and board and a better power supply Apparantly the small but chap adapator that shipped was prone to “ac leakage” which made the cursor jump randomly when connected.
    http://www.veridicus.com/tummy/programming/litepadfix/
    for details…

    • Reply to Robert Smith
      You wrote:
      “Yes the recovery cd sucks… and i do have one if someone can find a place to store it I can create an ISO 4 it.”
      What do you mean by “a place to store it”? Do you need storage space to store the image of the recovery CDs? Do you want me to make one of these CDs? If yes, please provide instructions or a link to same. I have both recovery CDs and have not been able to get beyond the tatoo problem.
      Please tell me what, if anything, I can do to help.

      Thanks for listening.

    • Hi,
      Help!
      I got a NEC Versa T400 without install disks and formatted HD. Should I just install a XP Tablet? Any pointers? Thanks!!!

  4. Hi,

    First, your analysis is a very thorough one. Tks.

    You are right about the hard drive. I have tried to upgrade by using my MTRON zif 1.8″ SSD with a ZIF to 50 PIN IDE adapter, but the total length is about 0.3 to 0.4 mm too long. In any event, I still can fit in the harddrive space/slot, but SSD will be on top of the connector. I am afraid to damage the connector.

    Do you know any smaller adapter that I can use to connect the MTRON ssd? I really like the MTRON SSD, which is extremely fast. The only other 2 options that I have is to install:
    1. A PHOTOFADT SSD w/ 50PIN connector (80MB/s read & 45MB/s write) from DVNation
    2. SAMSUNG MCAQE16G8APR-0XA00 SSD (57MB/S Read & 38MB/s write) from EBAY

    But, my first option is to fit a ZIF drive to NEC T400’s connector. Hope you can help. Tks.

  5. hi ,, um having a problem with my t400 versa … nec … i am getting an erro saying that an erro eccoured n bein shit :@ ,,, dammn ,,,, i feel like beshing it hard on the wall ,, mmmm is there any 1 who can help me out ! … n the erro message says if this is the 1st time ur getting the message than to follow the steps n all that ,,, n the following steps / the options it says 00×477 n after something i must restart n shit all ,,, um sorry i really dont remember what exactly the message is ,,, but thats what it says over roll … looking foward to c any 1ce help .. as soon as possible ,,, thank you so much ,, babaye

  6. does any body know where I can get the drivers for the litepad. Nec doesn’t seem to have it on their site any more. and the above links don’t seem to work either.

  7. Adata speedy 533X compact flash card $100 works well with Small ide adaptor $6. HD Tune reports 49 megs average faster than the original drives 19 megs everything runs faster, hell I might buy a second one for the Cf slot. Used Arcronis to copyHD to CF

  8. hi, i have a nec versa litepad and without the instalation CDs and i simply cannot get wifi working,

    do you still have a copy of the wifi driver that you can send-me via megaupload/email?

    i would appreciate it so much

    email: andyzeo@gmail.com

    thanks in advance

    andy

  9. I have the original recovery disks (disk 1 and disk 2) I can make a copy and send by post (no charge) to help somebody

    My LitePad does not work beacuse the HD failled , and I bought a refurbished Toshiba HD, same model, and it is impossible to run the recovery disks on it.

    Joan e-mail: joan.esteve@gmail.com

  10. I was looking over all these comments. I, too, am a fan of Nec, having used the MobilePro 700 and 900 series for almost 20 years. I just acquired the Litepad from an Ebay auction and it looks (?) in almost perfect condition. However, I can’t get the screen to rotate between landscape and portrait modes and the wireless lan does not seem to be working. I purchased it with no operating system and no software. I managed to get both Windows XP service pack 2 and Windows XP Tablet onto it. Perhaps the fact that I am missing the drivers has something to do with it. If anyone could help me in finding these drivers I would greatly appreciate it.

  11. I don’t remember where I found it but there was a driver that worked perfectly to fix the problems you mention. Try download.com actually. Mine died a long time ago so I don’t think I can find it anywhere… The driver from NEC site didn’t work for me either.

  12. I’ve never managed to locate drivers that worked to restore screen rotation after they broke it in XP SP3. If anyone knows where to find it (download.com has a ton of stuff but the search function is non-viable so it’s impossible to sift through), I’d be much obliged too.

  13. The only possibility is that I never deleted the backup drivers that I kept on the flash cards. I need to find a flash reader. I no longer have a functioning NEC so I cannot retrace my research to find the drivers, but I remember looking at some codes in the driver directory. The working code was found on cnet.com , same as download.com but it was not easy back then either. Please bump up this thread so I get an email and remember to post if I found the drivers on the flash card. In that case I will be happy to make them available.
    All the best!

  14. Hello everyone!
    I also got a t400 to play with, and unfortunately it seems to have a strange issue: immediately after i take out the power supply (thus running on battery) the back light stops, I have no way to change this with the software? I have installed all the drivers mentioned in article, to no avail.
    Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s