I'm not 100% sure yet that I want a tablet but I'm considering it. So far I like the iPad2, Playbook and the Toshiba Thrive. In particular I want to view and organise pictures on my Linux Samba server. Do any of these tablets allow this? Thanks
Basically the iPad does nothing in terms of file access and sharing out of the box (except via USB, which for a wi fi device is kinda "fail" right?).
However there are some OK apps for file sharing with different methods, and some more advanced options you can play with in conjunction on your linux box.
Most of the apps are httpd/WebDav or ftp/sftp clients. So if you set up apache on your machine, and point it to your home directory you will have access to all your files. If you enable WebDAV on it, you will be able to write back them too. This should have negligible performance impact on any reasonable PC from the last 2-3 years.
Now the apps: The best to consider are:
Air Sharing: Supports ftp, sftp, webdav, dropbox, idisk and all the other cloud storage types. However you can set up an ftp or WebDAV server on your linux bo and you're off. Speeds are so-so.
Filer: nice and simple, has an http client to download files (I think it also supports WebDav & dropbox). Fastest of the bunch.
FileBrowser: this is a SAMBA client, so the advantage is it finds windows shares as well or you can configure SMB on your linux systems. ITs a bit buggy, sometimes doesn't list diectory contents if there are many files in them and speeds vary between filetypes (!). It kind feels like a SAMBA implementation written as a school computing project but its OK.
I find Filer the easiest to use, air sharing the most complete. A lot of people use GoodReader - it's ok too but its not a dedicated file sharing tool so its UI can be a bit awkward.
Basically you cannot avoid doing some extra config on your PCs
and play book too has a built-in Samba file server, so that once you connect the Playbook to your Wifi network, you have an IP address on your network just like any other device.
And Android devices are best suited for any networking options and out-of-the-box solutions.
ipad2 has IOS in it.
Playbook has BlackBerry Tablet OS based on the QNX Neutrino real-time operating system designed to run Adobe AIR and BlackBerry WebWorks applications
Toshiba Thrive has Google's Android Honeycomb
Now its in your hands to decide which one to buy...