Category Archives: iPad

Keyboards, touch typing, dictation

Shawn Blanc has done some research on keyboards for the Macintosh and written an exhaustive piece on using them as a professional writer: Clicky Keyboards. It’s not clear from the piece if Shawn is a touch typist but my guess is he is.

In 1985 I witnessed my friend Steve Splonskowski (still in college) typing at lightening speed on the awful Macintosh 128K keyboard. He was looking at the screen and typing away and it was a thing of beauty. I wanted to type like that so I bought a copy of the keyboarding instruction program “Typing Intrigue” and started playing the rain game (type a letter as it falls from the top of the screen) and quickly moved on to typing odd practice sentences.

At that time I was starting to contribute articles to early computer magazines and between that writing and early email with AppleLink, bitnet and a few other email networks I had enough of a writing load so that within a few weeks I was able to leave hunting and pecking behind. Once I’d made the transition to touch typing my speed and accuracy went down for a while but as I felt more confident and kept my eyes comfortably on the screen and my writing the feedback loop between fingers and brain got tighter and faster. The more writing, the better it got and as a person who had avoided writing for most of my life, a computer and touch typing was like opening a dam: writing spilled out of me on a daily basis.

The way to become a better writer is to write more. If improving your writing tool (a keyboard, a pen) helps then improve it.

Touch typing has changed my life by being one (important) part of the process of getting my ideas outside my head and encoded into writing. Before computers, keyboards, and touch typing my image of myself did not include “writer.” Here’s a now dated piece I did on the mechanics of this experience: How Computers Change the Writing Process for People with Learning Disabilities.

At some point, maybe after I’m compost, touch typing will probably go the way of cursive handwriting but until then it’s a useful skill to have and if you have it the layout and feel of your keyboard is an important part of your writing experience.

One of the things that will send keyboards and with them, touch typing to their grave is dictation: being able to talk to your computer, iPad, iPhone or whatever and have the device type out (encode) your voice. We used to call this “speech to text” or “speech recognition” but the single term “dictation” will no doubt supplant those awkward phrases.

I bought a new iPad (3) for one reason (not the screen): it has dictation capabilities. I’ve been using dictation quite a bit on my iPhone 4S and I’m finding it quite useful and it’s quite good on the new iPad as well. However, it’s a very different writing experience from touch typing and so, my brain is making a feeble attempt to adapt. I really like the tight feedback loop that happens with touch typing and dictation is a different kind of experience. We’ll see how touch typists like me adapt (or not).

No doubt we’re in transition: I’m touch typing this on my MacBook Pro’s keyboard which works quite well for me and for any longer piece of writing/editing I’ll probably be using this tool but for a lot of the other writing I do I’ll just as easily be using the iPad or iPhone with dictation (or with their awful but useable onscreen keyboards).

Apple’s Secret Plan For Its Cash Stash

Apple’s Secret Plan For Its Cash Stash

Connie Guglielmo at Forbes has written an excellent piece that looks like it’s a roadmap for Apple for the next few years: after adding more retail stores, server farms, a new campus in Cupertino, paying dividends, and buying a few companies to expand research and development, she thinks they’ll start buying pieces of their own supply chain. Tim Cook has done things like buy up huge quantities of Gorilla Glass from Corning, LCD screens from Samsung, and flash memory from a variety of vendors which gets him what he needs to build millions of devices a quarter but also gets him lower pricing and locks competitors out of both the pricing and the parts. Going a bit further into ownership of pieces of the supply chain with its huge pile of cash seems like a real possibility.

[via Asymco]

The many voices of Siri

Siri is built into the iPhone 4S and can speak and understand English (US, UK, AU), French, German, and Japanese with more languages to be added in 2012 including Chinese, Korean, Italian, and Spanish. Here’s more information about Siri.

As an iPhone 4S user I must say I use Siri all the time and while it’s not perfect (it’s still in beta) it really does make things easier.

My wife Anne just got a new iPad and while it does not include Siri, it does have dictation capabilities and it works quite well.

I think Siri and dictation make the use of multi-touch tools like the iPhone and iPad not only easier but fun.

[via Zapong]

The Scary Consequences of a Lost Smartphone

The Scary Consequences of a Lost Smartphone

This is a chilling piece, worth reading for anyone who travels with a computer, smartphone or tablet.

I found an iPhone on the Undermountain trail on Bear Mountain two weeks ago. There were numerous hikers on the mountain and the woman who lost it gave her boyfriend’s iPhone # to another hiker in case they ran into someone who found it. She should have posted it as a note on the bulletin board at the bottom of the trail but that’s another story. We luckily ran into the hikers with the phone number and I mentioned that I’d found an iPhone. The iPhone was passcode locked but it had a distinctive ring tone: a dog barking so I could use that to ID a claimant.

We called the phone number and the woman who had lost it turned around and in 15 minutes had driven back to the parking lot where we returned her iPhone to her.

Had she not posted or given her number out I might have posted notice on the bulletin board but frankly, I don’t think that’s my responsibility. I’m not after a stolen iPhone and I would have no doubt sat on the iPhone and posted here and called the Connecticut chapter of Appalachian Mountain Club and reported it. I never asked her if she had “Find my iPhone” activated on her computer or she knew how to use it to pass a note to the finder and erase the iPhone if necessary.

As the Symantec study illustrates, had all of this happened in almost any city in the world I’m not so sure the outcome would have been the same.

Marco Arment on the Instapaper business model and more

Marco Arment on Planet Money

This is a great interview. The Planet Money guys are brilliant and Marco gets right in sync with their style.

Marco made and sells one of my all time favorite utilities: Instapaper. In a nutshell, if I start reading an article on my computer and want to finish it or read it on my iPad, I hit a button on my browser “read later” and the article is sent up to Instapaper, a cloud-based service that acts as my breadcrumbs in the clouds. Later, when I’m using my iPad (still connected to wifi) I click the Instapaper app and update its cache of saved stuff. The article appears and I can read it there.

What many don’t realize is that Instapaper caches the articles on the iPad and/or iPhone and so, I can read them there when I’m not connected, like when I’m on a plane. So, before my regular trips to LA I routinely load up my Instapaper account with things I want to read on the plane, then update the iPad’s Instapaper cache memory and I’m set.

Instapaper has many iBook-like reading tools including typographic control and more.

I’m hoping to use Instapaper to help my mother read The New Yorker as its app is totally worthless for anyone who can’t read small type.

Speculation on future AppleTV

Guy English: How I’d Build an Apple Television Set

The piece of Guy’s essay that appeals to me most is this:

So if you’re in an Apple based household the odds are good that your new Apple TV will be able to talk to one of your other devices and get the required network info from it. I’d bet heavily that this capability makes its way into AirPort devices and Macs. “Want to let this device on your network?”, is exactly the level of simplicity that Apple tends to aim for.

Setting up and using an AirPort network is much simpler than any of the other wifi routers I’ve played with over the years and my guess is that Apple is going to continue to make it simpler to add new devices to the network, including the AppleTV. It’s easy now and it will be even easier which is part of the puzzle of making a living room appliance that’s easy to use and integrate with other devices you already own.

I’m not entirely convinced that Apple will get into the flat panel TV business but I’m convinced that they’ll expand the capabilities of the current AppleTV, turning a Sony or Samsung flat panel TV set into a dumb HD screen, which is fine by me, I hate the menus on my Sony Bravia.

[via Steve Splonskowski]

New Samsung A5 plant in Austin

Samsung’s New Texas Factory for A5 Chip Production Now Fully Operational

If you don’t think Apple is making a lot of iOS devices, read the numbers on this: Samsung built a 1.6 million square foot, $3.6 billion plant in Austin, Texas to build Apple A5 processor chips for iPhone 4S and iPad 2 devices.

Since the devices are assembled in China at the moment I wonder if this marks a move by Apple to have an assembly plant in the United States. I’d love that. But, short of that, the more components in these devices that are manufactured in the US, the more Americans will have jobs even if the factories are owned by other countries, in this case, Samsung is a Korean company.

Memo Touch

Introducing Memo Touch, a tablet designed for elders with short-term memory loss

While the implementation may not be the best, this is a killer good idea and it allows family members to log into the account and set up reminders.

Of course, someone might write an app like this for iOS and then one could have all the benefits of an iPad plus a custom reminder system.

The problem with any idea like this is it has to be made fully accessible to people who can’t see, hear, or use the tablet’s UI well.

I think this is a job for my friend David Niemeijer at AssistiveWare.

AssistiveTouch

Apple’s AssistiveTouch Helps the Disabled Use a Smartphone

David Pogue is pretty worked up over AssistiveTouch and I can see why. After reading his piece I just played around with it and it’s quite fantastic. Settings/General/Accessibility/AssistiveTouch.

Try it (iOS 5), it’s quite interesting.

I’m most interested to see if it might make the iPad more accessible to my 96 year old mother. I don’t think so but it would be great if Apple worked on making iOS devices more accessible to the elderly.

Voting by iPad

Voting by iPad in Oregon on Tuesday

Election workers are taking the iPads to disabled voters who might otherwise have difficulties marking their ballots, the AP wrote. These voters are able to pull up the ballot on the iPad and tap the screen to mark the candidate of their choice before printing out their completed ballot. After that, voters will send in their votes in a much more traditional way: by mail.

Apple Inc. donated five iPads to the state for the program, and Oregon shelled out about $75,000 to make the software, the AP reported. According to Secretary of State Kate Brown and the state elections director, Steve Trout, the office tested several different types of devices before settling on the iPad.

Now, how about using iPads so the rest of us can “vote different.”

[via Gary Sharp]

Ask Different

Ask Different

Ask Different is a brilliantly built discussion site that allows people to ask questions about their Apple products and get a variety of answers and tips from others.

I first heard about it back here and I decided to subscribe to its RSS feed for a while to see what kinds of questions and answers were being put up.

In short order I figured I might be able to answer a few of the questions so I registered and posted an answer. That led to another and pretty soon I was hooked, less on being a know-it-all (I know much less than most people posting there) but on the challenge of attempting to explain in words the answers to various questions (one can also post screen shot images there).

Questions and answers are rated, much like Amazon or eBay reviews might be and in this case it’s less about a popularity contest, more about helping folks find the credible sources and to support well written questions and answers. Brilliant.

I’ve learned quite a bit from this feed, not just answers to my own technical questions but also about the types of questions and problems people are having in the Apple world. Ask Different could easily turn into a more up to date and fluid source than Apple’s support area or Wikipedia (Apple products) for these types of things. Certainly a parallel source for more specific questions.

Many of my Mac and iOS using friends who read this blog could easily become addicted to this so I’m warning you, be careful.

Phonetic pronunciation field

I just read on Shawn Blanc’s site about a new field in iOS 5′s Contacts app for adding a phonetic pronunciation of a name so that Siri gets it right.

That same field is in the Address Book in Mac OS 10.7.2 so you can add those phonetic equivalents for your iPhone 4S and Siri on your Mac if you like, syncing through iCoud.

Add the field in Address Book’s Preferences/Template pull down.

screen shot of a dialog box

Apple October 4, 2011 Special Event

Apple has posted the video of yesterday’s October 4, 2011 Special Event.

I really like Tim Cook’s style, I think he did extremely well in this new role. No doubt the pressure was on. I loved his pauses to underscore some of this points. He’s not Steve Jobs and that’s just fine.

Here’s the iPhone 4S video and while we’re at it, the iCloud video and the iOS 5 video.

Kindle Fire

Seen in a comment thread this morning:

Person 1: “Anyone know: what planet or star system is Jeff Bezos from?”

Person 2: “Kindle.”

Brilliant!

In all seriousness, the Kindle Fire looks like a very interesting device.

The iPad and Kindle Fire are two different things and will appeal to two different types of users. My guess is there will be plenty of room for both devices: the iPad will continue to grow its already large user base and the Kindle Fire will grow a large user base as well, some of which will be iPad users who want both devices.

It’s not all or nothing, one or the other. Framing it that way is a mistake. There will be room for many devices and different operating system styles in this category.

These types of devices are the first steps toward replacing general purpose and cumbersome computers with smaller, cheaper, and much less cumbersome tools for doing the same things. I use my iPad in places I would never carry the MacBook Pro and have used a MacBook Pro for many years in many places where one could not use a desktop computer. The fact that these devices are getting smaller and cheaper coupled with the fact that access to the internet is getting cheaper (free in many places) and more widespread seems to me to be a leveling of what used to be a rather tilted playing field.

I like the fact that people are tweeting the Green Revolution from the streets of Iran (with smartphones) and these tablet devices are another category of device that allows computing anywhere.

Never sell Jeff Bezos short, he may not be as charismatic as Steve Jobs (his laugh is hilarious) but he’s done amazing things with Amazon and I’m pretty sure the Kindle Fire is the beginning of something important for the industry and for us users, whether we ever buy one or not.

Public Library Books for Kindle

Public Library Books for Kindle

You can borrow Kindle books from more than 11,000 libraries in the United States to read on any generation Kindle device, free Kindle app, or in your browser with Kindle Cloud Reader. Public library books for Kindle provide the same unique features as Kindle and Kindle books, including Whispersync technology that synchronizes your notes, highlights and last page read, real page numbers, and more. This feature will become available to libraries nationwide in the coming days.

This is a very big deal. Amazon is really on to something here.

More iPads Take to the Sky With Qantas In-Flight Trial

More iPads Take to the Sky With Qantas In-Flight Trial

A new Qantas trial pilot program will see one of the airline’s Boeing 767-300 jets outfitted with one iPad 2 for each passenger, according to the Australian Business Traveller. Each of the aircraft’s 254 seats will have its own iPad 2, and there will also be several spares kept on hand just in case. All seats pockets will carry an iPad 2, but business-class travelers will also get a flexible stand to use with their fold-out meal tray.

The pilot program is about testing Qantas’ in-flight Wi-Fi streaming capabilities, Qantas Executive Manager for Customer Experience Alison Webster told the ABT. The ultimate goal is to be able to provide passengers with access to the Q Streaming service through their own devices, be they Apple’s iPads and iPhones or Android tablets and handsets.

I love using my iPad on United PS flights cross country but I must say, gogo inflight internet isn’t the greatest (yet). I buy and use it to keep up with email and RSS and comments at this site but for anything serious like a video download it’s useless. I don’t know where the bottleneck is but no doubt this kind of deal is the beginning of working it out.