Friday, March 18, 2011

Back to minimalist shoes: the Vivo Barefoot Neo

Back in the day, I used to prefer running with minimalist shoes -- retro-styled sneakers that had little cushioning. The last pair I used when I was still running regularly were black and gold Puma sneakers that looked similar to the Usain Bolt-branded pair pictured below.
Back then I didn't have any "scientific" reasons for preferring minimal shoes over cushioned ones -- I just liked being able to feel the ground more when I ran.

Fast forward to this year, and I find myself once again with the urge to go minimal. This time, however, for reasons beyond just wanting to feel the ground.

Barefoot Running


In the past several years, the movement for running barefoot has gained a lot of momentum, pushed in large part by the success of Christopher McDougall's book, Born to Run. The argument for and against barefoot running is rooted in biomechanics, and there is already a rich collection of resources online that cover both the pros and cons of running barefoot. (About.com has a nice summary of the general pros and cons, here.)

In my case, I decided to take the (barefooted) leap with two objectives in mind:

  • to help prevent repeated stress injuries (RSI), particularly on my knees and ankles;
  • and, to improve my running form. (The video below, while doubling as an advertisement for a particular commercially available service, provides a nice discussion about how runners can improve their stride efficiency.)


After deciding to run the barefoot route, the next critical decision I had to make was settling on a pair of minimalist shoes to wear. As of now, there are two lines that have cultural leadership in the barefoot market: Vibram Five Fingers and Vivo Barefoot (by Terra Plana).

Vibram Five Fingers (VFF) Bikila

Vivo Barefoot Evo II
I decided to go with the more conventional looking Vivo Barefoot (the VFFs look very atypical, with separate toe pockets in every shoe model). Vivo Barefoot shoes are kind of hard to find in Metro Manila. In Quezon City the only place to buy them is a pop-up Barefoot Store outlet in Trinoma (3rd floor, near Marks and Spencer).

The sales staff were very nice, if a bit misinformed -- they were insisting that the Evo models were Evo II models, when in fact they were not -- and allowed me to test run both the Evo II and a "budget" variant, the Neo. I eventually ended up buying the Neo instead: not only was it cheaper by Php 1K (the Neo costs around Php 5.5K, the Evo II around Php 6.5K) , it also appealed to my aesthetic preference, with its retro-styled design.
Vivo Barefoot Neo
Since purchasing the pair, I've had three runs with the Neo. Some observations after a week of use, about the shoes, and also about my experience in general:

  1. Transition -- Since January this year, I had been running with a relatively flexible pair of Nike Free. Because of this, the transition effects due to wearing something like the Neo have not been as pronounced as they might have been. That being being said, my calves and achilles tendon do feel like they have gotten more thoroughly worked out, and my feet have felt more exercised than they have in years. Luckily though, I haven't felt anything that could be described as painful -- just a bit of stiffness here and there after runs.
  2. Protection and Comfort (on rough surfaces) -- I went for a couple of runs in Legazpi City and there were segments where the surface I ran on had more than a couple of rocks. The Neo did well enough to protect my feet from puncture threats: the most jagged rocks barely left marks on the sole. That being said, I may not (yet) take the Neo out for runs on mostly rocky terrain any time soon. The tactile feedback is much closer, and stepping on sharp or jagged objects is less comfortable than it would be with more cushioned shoes. I think the Neo is best suited for somewhat level surfaces.
  3. Running Stride -- Heel strikes are definitely more painful. (Out of curiosity, I tried striking the ground with my heels, but stopped after just a couple of strides. My feet and legs just felt too uncomfortable with that kind of contact.) Because of a lack of cushioning, the Neo encourages its wearer to hit the ground with the forefoot, or at the very least the midfoot.
  4. Overall Feel -- Not only does the Neo feel light, it is also very flexible -- you can literally fold the shoe in half. This allows a range of motion almost akin to being really barefoot. Over time this may be more of a net good than a net bad, but of course in the short run, it can  prove to be a good thing or a bad thing. If you already have very faulty foot/ankle biomechanics prior to transitioning, or if there is some sort of structural issue that causes instability when striding, then it might be a good idea to consult with a foot doctor before committing to something like the Neo for regular running.
I've been pretty happy with my Neo so far. In the next few weeks I'll continue to ease into it as my full-time training shoe.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

5K Route, QC: UP Diliman (Start: Oblation | End: Oblation)

The Oblation Run.
(No, not the annual frat-sponsored sausage fest.)


The run starts along the Acad. Oval, in front of the Oblation sculpture.

  • Run towards the Checkpoint (near the pointy waiting sheds).
  • Turn right on E. Jacinto and run towards the UP Gym.
  • Run past the E. Jacinto-Magsaysay Ave. intersection, uphill towards Ylanan.
  • When you reach Ylanan, turn right and run along it until you reach Magsaysay Ave -- turn left and run towards the Bahay ng Alumni.
  • Take a left on the first corner after Bahay ng Alumni; run along the road until it curves to Juan Luna St. at the end.
  • Attack Heartbreak Hill and, when it peaks, take a right on the corner before Gomburza.
  • At the junction take a right, and then on the first corner (Agoncillo), turn left.
  • Run downhill along Agoncillo -- past the infirmary, past the School of Statistics, past the NEC and the College of Law -- until you reach the Academic Oval.
  • Take a left on the Academic Oval and run along it, going past the School of Economics and the College of Business Administration.
  • When you reach the intersection of A. Ma. Regidor and the Academic Oval, go straight along Regidor (this is the street going to the Math Building) -- as you run, you should pass the College of Education to your right.
  • Take a right on Quirino Avenue and run along it -- past the Institute of Biology.
  • Cross the Velasquez St. intersection, towards Pardo de Tavera.
  • Run along Pardo de Tavera until you reach its intersection with E. Delos Santos.
  • Take a right on E. Delos Santos and run along it -- past the College of Achitecture -- until you reach the Oblation.
By the time you reach the Oblation, you will have run a total of around 5 kilometers.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The best things in life are free! (Runkeeper Pro)

Looks like the good folks at Runkeeper were so happy with the response to the January 2011 Runkeeper Pro promo that they decided to extend it -- indefinitely! Runkeeper Pro -- with all its bells and whistles -- will continue to be available for free to all iPhone and Android users, even after January 2011.

Hooray!

In the time since I resumed running, I've tried all of the top Run-tracking apps, and Runkeeper Pro was -- by far -- the best of the lot. In most other respects, Runkeeper Pro has roughly the same features as the others (Endomondo, MyTracks, CardioTrainer, Runtastic Pro, just to name a few):

  • GPS-tracking;
  • Google Maps (or Maps-like) integration;
  • distance or time-based audio cues (for example, every 1km/10mins., you can ask Runkeeper to give a set of audible updates, on your pace, total distance/time travelled, and so on);
  • and, a syncing facility that allow you to upload your workout information to an online, browser-based site.


In some ways, it even lags behind some of its competitors. (Compared to, for example, Endomondo...):

  • Runkeeper Pro is slower to upload your workout details;
  • for whatever reason, it is less able to quickly get a lock on a GPS signal (in fact, I have to use Endomondo to first get a lock on a GPS signal before proceeding track the run using Runkeeper Pro);
  • and, there is no audio-cues-on-demand, via headset controls.

Nonetheless, Runkeeper Pro has a couple of killer features that put it a couple of strides ahead of the competition:
  • A customizable coaching feature that lets you micromanage your workouts:
    • lets you breakdown your workout into several intervals -- by time, distance, or both;
    • lets you specify the intensity of each enterval (slow, steady, or fast);
    • optionally allows to quickly add 5 minutes warm up and or cool down intervals;
    • and, allows you to keep several (limited only by your phone's storage?) workout coaching modules, for your quick reference and use whenever you may need to.
  • A way to integrate workouts with customized routes:
    • through the browser-based Runkeeper website, you can create training routes (via a neat facility built on top of Google Maps that allows you to define paths/way points from the start of a running route to the end -- as you plot each way point, the route creation view informs you of the total distance covered by the route);
    • the routes you created and saved are synced with the mobile Runkeeper Pro app (on Android phones or iPhones) -- when you are about to start  a workout, you may opt to link that workout to one of the routes you had previously mapped out;
    • while out running, you may refer to the route you had linked to your workout via a Google Maps-like view -- it is less likely for you to get lost when running a new route for the first time;
    • Runkeeper Pro allows you, post-workout, to see all of the activities you have completed in each route;
    • and, when you finish any workout (and tracked it via GPS), you may optionally choose to export that workout into a defined route.
Truly a wonderful app!

Consider this, a Garmin (GPS-tracking) running watch, 2nd-hand or brand new, costs anywhere between PHP 5K and PHP 15K (bet. 100 and 300 USD). An LG Optimus One Android phone costs around PHP 12.5K (around 250 USD). Runkeeper Pro transforms your Android phone into a highly capable workout tracker that compares favorably with most dedicated (GPS-tracking) training computers -- and even one-ups them in some respects! Add a few all-weather accessories -- a waterproof Dicapac container with armband strap and a pair of waterproof earphones (~PHP 2K, or 40 USD) -- and you'll really be all set to go, rain or shine. 

Friday, January 21, 2011

5K route, QC: UP Diliman (Start: Eng'g | End: UP Shopping Center)

The 5K Oblation and Heartbreak (Hill) Route

Click the map to enlarge

The run starts along the Academic Oval, at the corner of Apacible St. and Osmena Ave., near Melchor Hall (the College of Eng'g).

  • Run straight along the Academic Oval -- follow it around the corner till you reach the Oblation.
  • Turn right, on University Ave., and run straight till you reach the Checkpoint.
  • Turn right on E. Jacinto and run towards the UP Gym.
  • At the corner of Magsaysay Ave., turn right and run straight along the road till you reach the UP Bahay ng Alumni.
  • Turn right on the corner right after Bahay ng Alumni and run along that road till you reach the end: the road curves into Juan Luna St.
  • Juan Luna St. is where Heartbreak Hill lives! Use the initial incline to build up a bit of momentum, and then attack HBH with gusto! (Try not to slow down till you reach the peak. :D)
  • Turn right on Gomburza and use the downhill run to catch your breath.
  • Run straight along Gomburza till you enter the Acad. Oval, via the College of Law and the School of Economics.
  • Run along the Acad. Oval -- pass by the College of Education and Palma Hall.
  • When you reach the corner of Roces St., make a right turn and run straight along (past a stoplight, past the College of Eng'g, past the Dorm).
  • Turn right on Laurel Ave. and stop just before you reach the Shopping Center.
Extra step: treat yourself to a refreshing fresh fruit shake at SC!

By the end of the run, you will have logged 5K. :)

Monday, January 17, 2011

To a happy, healthy 2011!

2010 was a fun year, but it was also one of the worst ones I can remember in terms of my health. It began with an annoying bout with Herpes Zoster (no, NOT the STD -- rather the dormant Chicken Pox virus playing Bruce Willis in Die Hard 3: With a Vengeance), was frequented by struggles against Allergic Rhinitis and more than a couple bouts with the Flu, and limped to a close care of a Grade III ankle sprain.

Beginnings are not deterministic indicators of the journey ahead, but they can be important.

Resolution number 1: hit the ground running!

Back in college, I was pretty active. At least twice a week, my friends and I would spend a couple of hours playing football at the Sunken Garden. Aside from football I would also spend a couple of days running around campus. I loved football, even if I was rarely among the most skillful on the field (my strongest days were mostly due to heart and effort rather than artistry); on the other hand, I enjoyed running, and -- without meaning to boast -- I was a pretty strong runner. Not that I ever competed (this was before running, as a popular social event, exploded), but I could run  at a fast pace and sustain that pace all through a 10K run. Unfortunately, I knew very little about structuring a training regimen towards preventing injuries, and after some time my left knee started giving me problems. Then I had to cut down on running, then football -- and even when the symptoms disappeared, the mental aspect of knowing that I had a troublesome knee prevented me from even wholeheartedly attempting to get back to where I had been. Then graduation, then work... By 2008 I had very little of either football or running, and by 2010 the physical toll really began to surface. (And it could be plainly seen: with a gradually expanding gut beginning to blanket what had used to cut a trim figure.)

A healthier 2011, I thought while vacationing in Cebu near the end of 2010, would be more likely realized if I went for it sooner rather than later. Thus -- I committed to myself -- as soon as my ankle felt strong enough, I would resume running regularly again.

A robotic coach


I've found that it is always easier to commit to any athletic activity if you have a group of friends or teammates who can train with you regularly. Unfortunately, when you and your friends are already working, it can be difficult to find common ground in terms of scheduling. Luckily for me, technological progress has provided a 2nd best option!

Sometime in December, before leaving for Cebu, I went ahead and bought my first Android Device: the LG Optimus One (also known as the LG P500).

Image copied from GSMArena.
I had been thinking about getting an Android device. While I love my E63, development in the Symbian platform has slowed considerably in the years since I purchased the qwerty phone; in contrast, the Android ecosystem has only become richer and richer, most especially in the past year.

The Optimus One is a wonderful phone, and gives good value for money considering its price (around Php 13K when I bought it). It is zippy enough, has a generous amount of RAM for multitasking, and compares favorably with Andoid phones that are several thousand Pesos more expensive in terms of features and day-to-day use experience.

One of the features that caught my eye was its built-in GPS receiver. When I bought the Nokia E63, although I did mention that it did not have GPS, having a GPS-capable phone at the time wasn't a primary want. In retrospect, the available software that made use of GPS weren't compelling enough (yet) to prod GPS capability beyond just being a "cool" feature. Sure, Google Maps was "cool", but back then even the major cities in the Philippines had yet to be properly mapped. And on the Symbian platform, apps like Nokia Sports Tracker (now known simply as Sports Tracker), while already available, were still in their infancy and had yet to achieve (at the very least in the eyes of this user) killer-app status. Besides, GPS-equipped phones back then were expensive, costing around and upwards of Php 20K. I love gadgets as much as the next techie, but -- as economists would point out -- wanting to buy something does not always come with a willingness to buy (especially not in a city where being the victim of a pickpocket is a daily concern).

Fast-forward to 2010, and the usefulness of GPS has progressed by leaps and bounds. First of all, in 2009, the Philippines finally saw decently plotted maps available through Google Maps. Maps were now not only "cool", but useful as well! I can't even count how many times I've used Google Maps to find out how to get from Point A to Point B, or to help others find their way. Also, more and more apps were beginning to offer services that made better use of GPS (and mapping solutions like Google Maps). Even Nokia joined the value added game by offering free worldwide turn-by-turn navigation on its GPS-equipped phones -- this was done as a response to Google's free turn-by-turn navigation service (at least in some territories) through Google Maps. Lastly, competition gradually brought retail prices among GPS-enabled phones lower and lower. The Optimus One nominally costs as much as the E63 did when I bought it, but taking into account inflation, in real terms it is actually cheaper! And considering the extra features that come with the Optimus One, it is safe to say that even if inflation is taken into account, the computed difference in the "real" prices of the Optimus One now and the E63 in 2008/2009 would still understate the degree with which competition has brought the cost of owning a feature-filled smart phone down.

Among the different kinds of GPS apps, my favorite are the Trainer apps -- the ones that use GPS to keep track of outdoor activity, be it hiking, biking, running, or what have you. In lieu of regular running buddies, I have been using my Android phone as a 3rd party, a coach if you will, to keep me on track towards achieving my main goal (for now) of being able to run 10K in under an hour. I actually have several apps installed for that purpose, but my current favorite is Runkeeper Pro. Normally an app that has to be purchased, I was able to get a free copy through an on-going promo: the Pro version is available for free all through January 2011. (Grab it while you can!)


Since the start of the year I have logged more than 20K (or around 170 minutes) of running. With 11 months still left in the year, declaring victory would be premature. That being said, it has been a good start nonetheless: one that has put me on a path towards a happier, healthier 2011. :)

---

P.S.

UP Diliman has been my training venue of choice, but rather than just running circles around the Academic Oval, I have been mapping out different routes -- to keep things more interesting. During the course of the year, I shall be posting my favorite routes, for my own reference as much as for others'.

The 5K "Infinity" route:

Click the map to enlarge.

The run starts along the Academic Oval, at the corner of Apacible St. and Osmena Ave., near Melchor Hall (the College of Eng'g).
  • Run one full circle along the Academic Oval, past the Vargas Museum (1K), then the School of Economics (2K), then past the cor. of Apacible St. till you reach the stoplight at the intersection of Roces St. and Osmena Ave.
  • Take a right and run a short distance along Roces.
  • At the next intersection, with Magsaysay Ave., take a left and run straight along the road until you reach the UP Bahay ng Alumni.
  • Turn right and run along the street just before Bahay ng Alumni. Run along the road -- past Bahay ng Alumni you should be able to see the Track Oval to your left -- eventually the road veers right and the road signs will tell you that you've reached Juan Luna St.
  • Upon turning the corner expect to run downhill until you run past the corner of Apacible St. Past that point, Juan Luna slopes upward into the most famous hill segment in UP, what runners have over the years referred to as "Heartbreak Hill".
  • Attack Heartbreak Hill until it levels off, and then take a right on Gomburza. Go straight along Gomburza until it leads you back to the Academic Oval.
  • After Malcom Hall (College of Law), turn right into the Academic Oval -- run along it until just before the stoplight at the corner of Roces and Osmena.

By the end of this "Infinity" route, you will have run a little bit more than 5K. :)

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

And the (Tablet PC OS) winner is...

Windows 7:
  • Best support for pen-abled computing;
  • Best-in-class Tablet PC applications, many of which are Windows-only. To name a few:
  • Best power management for longer battery life. Real-world use, with WiFi and Bluetooth turned off, on the 6-cell primary battery of the TC4400:
    • Windows XP Tablet PC Ed., between 3 to 3 1/2 hours
    • Ubuntu 9.10, between 3 1/2 to 4 hours
    • Windows 7, 4 1/4 to 4 3/4 hours
  • and, the jog dial works! (I unfortunately was unable to make it work when I was still using Ubuntu 9.10.)

Ubuntu was a good experience for this Tablet PC owner. I have been an advocate of free-to-use alternatives to commercial software -- when an opportunity to do so presents itself, I try to point out to people who ask that there are many free options that are just as useful to end users as for-pay counterparts. I love using Linux. In fact, both my Home Desktop/Server and my office workstation are still running on Linux distros (even though the office PC has a Windows Vista license). It just to happens that in the case of my beloved Tablet PC, the benefits offered by the commercial counterpart are well worth the Php 5,800 (123 USD) price tag.

On a kind of sad note, the final push that resulted in an eventual Windows 7 Home Premium license purchase was a short but nonetheless disappointing experience with Ubuntu 10.04. Tablet PC support kind of regressed from what was available in Karmic Koala -- at the very least, the existing solutions were no longer available to not-so-expert users, owing to some changes in Ubuntu's WACOM support.

Monday, March 1, 2010

HP Compaq TC4400 and Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic Koala



A really big plus for Tablet PC users who want to try Linux is that, with the recent versions of Ubuntu based distros at least, the WACOM digitizer is a recognized input source on first boot. Moving the mouse about by hovering the pen just over the display, clicking objects by tapping the screen with the pen, moving objects by clicking, holding, and then dragging -- these are some of the things that can already be done without having to do some extra tinkering. I have tried both Jaunty Jackalape (Ubuntu 9.04) and Karmic Koala (Ubuntu 9.10) on my HP Compaq TC400 Tablet PC, and both versions offer the same kind of first-boot experience.

Unfortunately some other Tablet PC functions of the TC4400 are initially not available, just to enumerate a couple:
  • Screen Rotation of both display and digitizer (landscape to portrait to landscape)
  • Use of the extra buttons on the stylus
  • Use of the Tablet PC Shortcut Buttons on the bezel surrounding the display (the "Quick Launch Buttons", as HP refers to then)
Also, Ubuntu-based Distros tend to cater to the general user -- as such, Tablet PC-specific programs are usually absent from the applications available on first boot. In particular, I wanted the following kinds of applications:
  • a Journaling App that has support for inking (like Windows Journal, or OneNote)
  • an App that allows users to annotate PDFs (like Grahl's aptly named PDF Annotator)
  • an art/drawing App that is able to make use of pressure sensitivity
Linux being Linux, I had a feeling that, although not immediately available, the features that I wanted were nonetheless implementable -- so I did what any determined Linux user would and should do: I searched through community billboards for possible solutions. This post aims to summarize the process, in large part for my own future reference, but hopefully also to help other people (in particular other TC4400 users) who may also be looking for ways to make their Tablet PCs more functional in a Linux Disto. The subsequent steps are meant to be executed in a Karmic Koala installation; some of the steps may have to be modified if the installed Distro is Jaunty Jackalope.

PRELIMINARIES

First off all, it is necessary to install the main utilities to be used in this exercise.

Become a super user in order to have administrative privileges (and subsequently make modifications to the system)

sudo su

Install the utilities to be used to setup the important tablet functions

aptitude install wacom-tools xbindkeys
wacom-tools: "This package provides utilities to test and configure Wacom graphics tablets. You will need kernel and X.Org driver support for your tablet to use them."
    • wacomcpl: "wacomcpl is a simple graphic Wacom driver configuration tool. It changes the pressure sensitivity, click threshold, button functions, cursor mode, speed, mapping, etc. without having to manually modify XF86Config/xorg.conf file. For Cintiq and Tablet PC users, it is also a tool to calibrate the tablet."

xbindkeys: "xbindkeys is a program that associates keys or mouse buttons to shell commands under X. After a little configuration, it can start many commands with the keyboard (e.g. control+alt+x starts an xterm) or with the mouse buttons."

  INSTALL TABLET PC APPS

While not as polished as their Windows counterparts, there are a handful of Linux Apps for Tablet PCs/Handwritten Input that are surprisingly capable. Two of the best examples are CellWriter and Xournal. CellWriter facilitates handwriting-to-text (as the Tablet Input Panel Does on Windows), while Xournal can function as a Journaling App, a Sketching App, and a PDF Annotator.   
CellWriter: "CellWriter is a grid-entry natural handwriting input panel. As you write characters into the cells, your writing is instantly recognized at the character level. When you press Enter on the panel, the input you entered is sent to the currently focused application as if typed on the keyboard."
Xournal: "Xournal is an application for notetaking, sketching, keeping a journal using a stylus. It is free software (GNU GPL) and runs on Linux (recent distributions) and other GTK+/Gnome platforms."
To install both, open an instance of the Terminal app and run the following:

sudo aptitude install cellwriter xournal

CLEAR UP COMMUNICATION BETWEEN HAL AND LINUXWACOM

(Steps courtesy of Ubuntu Forums user Favux.)

Apparently, a major source of complication has been the assignment of names by the Hardware Abstraction Layer (HAL) -- to, say, the WACOM Stylus and Eraser -- that is different from what is expected by linuxwacom. One workaround is to revert the assigned names to what linuxwacom looks for.

Backup the "10-linuxwacom.fdi file" in Karmic to, for example, the User's Desktop (fill in your user account name to [user]):

sudo cp /usr/share/hal/fdi/policy/20thirdparty/10-linuxwacom.fdi /home/
[user]/Desktop/10-linuxwacom.fdi.bak
 
Download "Favux_new-generic_rc2_10-linuxwacom.fdi.txt" from this thread (the hyperlink is at the bottom part of the post); after downloading, open the text file with the Ubuntu text editor by opening the file from Nautilus (Ubuntu's built-in File Explorer).

Open "10-linuxwacom.fdi" for editing:

gksudo gedit /usr/share/hal/fdi/policy/20thirdparty/10-linuxwacom.fdi

After opening "10-linuxwacom.fdi", replace its contents with that of "Favux_new-generic_rc2_10-linuxwacom.fdi.txt". (In other words, copy-and-paste the content of the latter into the former.)

Save the modified "10-linuxwacom.fdi" and then reboot. After rebooting, run the Terminal app and execute the following lines, one after the other:

xinput --list
xsetwacom list

The names assigned to the stylus and the eraser in HAL should now be the same as in linuxwacom.

SETUP SCREEN ROTATION

(Ubuntu Forums user jelera provided a script that, when executed, changes the orientation of both the display and the digitizer from landscape to portrait, or from portrait to landscape; the subsequent script is based on what jelera shared.)

Without installing anything else it is already possible to rotate the display in Ubuntu through the use of the Display Preference utility. For Tablet PCs, this is however only one half of the orientation rotation equation: opting to rotate the display 90 degrees (clockwise), while allowing the visual shift in orientation to portrait from landscape does not similarly shift the Digitizer 90 degrees (clockwise) -- movements of the stylus would thus result in perpendicular movements of the pointer! (The pointer does not mirror the direction of the stylus.)

Open an instance of the Text Editor -- copy and paste the series of commands found below, and then save the resulting script as, say, "/home/
[user]/Tablet PC/rotatescript" (fill in your user account name to [user]):
#!/bin/sh
if [ $(xrandr --dryrun|awk '/LVDS1 connected/ {print $5}') = "normal" ]; then
xrandr -o right
xsetwacom set "stylus" Rotate CW
xsetwacom set "eraser" Rotate CW
else
xrandr -o normal
xsetwacom set "stylus" Rotate None
xsetwacom set "eraser" Rotate None
fi
Once the script has been saved, it may be a good idea to make it executable, and then to move it to "/usr/bin/":

sudo su
chmod +x "/home/[user]
/Tablet PC/rotatescript"
mv "/home//Tablet PC/rotatescript" "/usr/bin/rotatescript"


jelera's script works great! For convenience you may want to make a launcher shortcut on one of the Gnome Panel that runs "rotatescript" -- you could then tap on the shortcut with the tip of the stylus whenever you want to change the TC4400's orientation.

CONFIGURE THE WACOM STYLUS

"wacomcpl" gives users a GUI to tweak some configuration settings of the WACOM Digitizer, including changing what the buttons do as well as calibrating the digitizer on demand. To run simply open an instance of the Terminal app and run:

wacomcpl

As with "rotatescript", you may want to make a launcher shortcut on one of the Gnome Panels for "wacomcpl".

SET UP THE "QUICK LAUNCH" BUTTONS

"xbindkeys" allows custom key mapping: if the assignments for the Quick Launch Buttons are known, commands could then be mapped to these keys. Thankfully, this blog post was able to point out the assignments (technically for the TC1100, but the same are applicable for the TC4400 as well).
   
The first step would be to make xbindkeys start up automatically on login:
  • Open system > Preferences > Startup Applications.
  • Click add.
  • Enter xbindkeys in each box.
  • Click add.
The next step would be to configure "xbindkeys" and assign commands to the Quick Launch Buttons

sudo gedit .xbindkeysrc
       
Enter the following text into the file:
"cellwriter"
b:30
"rotatescript"
b:31
"wacomcpl"
b:32
Save and close the modified ".xbindkeysrc" and then run "xbindkeys":

xbindkeys

The Quick Launch Buttons should now be functional:
  • tapping the "Q" Button with the stylus should launch the WACOM Control Panel
  • tapping the Rotate Button should shift the orientation from Landscape to Portrait, or from Portrait to Landscape.
  • tapping the Input Panel Button should pop up Cell Writer, a decent handwriting-to-text utility.

BONUS: ENABLE PRESSURE SENSITIVITY IN GIMP

According to the initial Developers of the GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP), "GIMP is our answer to the current lack of free (or at least reasonably priced) image manipulation software for GNU/Linux and UNIX in general." It has been one of the mainstays of the most popular Linux Distros, including Ubuntu and its variants.

While GIMP is available on first boot, it is not -- as to be expected -- configured to take advantage of the WACOM Digitizer's pressure sensitivity. As MetalMusicAddict points out in an Ubuntu Forums thread, this is easy enough to correct:
  • File--- Preferences--- Input Devices--- "Configure Extended Input Devices".
  • under "Device" you will have 3 settings: Cursor, Eraser and Stylus. Set them from "Disabled" to "Screen".
After saving your preferences, you should now be able to take advantage of pressure sensitivity in GIMP.

REFERENCES
http://ubuntuforums.org/showpost.php?p=7234134&postcount=176
http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1294392   
http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1100119
http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=25151
http://www.unifyingtheory.net/tabletubuntu9.10.html