Category Archives: iPad

iPad (3) notes

My wife Anne and I have had new iPads (3rd gen) for almost a month now and I thought I’d report on our experience with them so far.

Anne had been using my original iPad (trickle down) and loved it. She used it primarily for reading and while she tried the Kindle app she prefers iBooks and continues to use that as her primary reading tool. The lack of speed of the original iPad limited her use of it as a computer replacement because much of her computer use is on the web. She does have an iPhone, a MacBook Pro (an old computer of mine) and an iCloud account and has them all working together.

The new iPad is fast enough so that she’s now doing pretty much everything on it: email, web browsing and a bit more. Reading remains her primary use of the iPad and she’s loving the extra resolution on the new iPad screen. Anne says that this iPad is very close to the step that could allow her to go computer-less.

Richard (me)
I was going to skip the new iPad (3) because my iPad 2 was doing the job for me. When Anne’s new iPad came I had my iPad 2 to compare to it side by side. While the screen on the new iPad is spectacular, the thing that tipped me was dictation.

I use both Siri and dictation on my iPhone 4S and find both quite useful (when they work) and one of the things that has always bothered me about the iPad is the on-screen keyboard. I’ve refused to buy a bluetooth keyboard for my iPad because while I appreciate the difference between Mac OS and iOS, I have a computer with an excellent keyboard and I don’t see a reason to recreate that in the iPad world. One of the things that makes the iPad so amazing it’s its small size and weight and simplicity. Adding a keyboard pulls it back into the computer world.

So, I found a buyer for my iPad 2 and ordered the new iPad.

Dictation on the new iPad is a dream and I’m a very fast typist, both on a hardware QWERTY keyboard and on the iPad screen. But, even with that, I find dictation quite useful and I like having it in addition to a keypad. I can’t wait until it’s part of Mac OS.

Recently I cut the tip of one of my fingers off cutting potatoes of all things. It did not require stitches and there was no way to reattach it so I’ve been changing dressings and keeping it covered and it’s healing nicely. However, during the past week and a half, my keyboarding has been compromised by the bandage on my finger and so, out comes the iPad with dictation and it’s a godsend.

Editing text in iOS is still in its infancy and feels crude by comparison to editing text on a computer. This video by Daniel Hooper is a nice demonstration of a possible solution to multi-touch text selection on the iPad. It’s great and I hope Apple is considering this issue.

As iOS gets better text editing it will push me further along the path of using the iPad to replace things on this computer.

Aside from dictation, which was the feature that tipped me I’m finding the new iPad a bit faster than the iPad 2 and this small speed increase is enough to get me to use it more to replace this computer. I still use this computer the most of all of my devices but the new iPad is eating into some of that time.

While the screen is great for reading and looking at images, for me it was not the most important factor in doing the upgrade and even now that I’ve had the iPad for a few weeks and love the screen, I think the maturation of iOS, dictation, and the small speed upgrade makes the new iPad a revolutionary evolutionary version of an already great tool.

I have little doubt that the new iPad is eating away at Apple’s low end computer sales and this in turn affects how they position and market MacBook Airs and MacBook Pros.

Apps that push me to iPad use
I was going to avoid listing all of my iOs apps but in fact, some of these have helped push me into more iPad use so it’s important to list them as part of a general discussion of the evolution of the iPad as a computer replacement. iOS is a very different environment than Mac OS and because of this and the fact that everything runs full screen by default, some tasks done with the right apps are more pleasant for me to do on an iPad than on a Mac.

Each of these is a cloud-based application: each uses the cloud to connect to itself running on another device and so, I use these on my computer, my iPad, and my iPhone along with an iCloud account to keep my contacts, calendar and bookmarks in sync.

Reeder for iPad is a newsreader client for a Google Reader account. It is so well designed and such a pleasure to use I can’t imagine using anything else. Given that RSS feeds are the center of my web life I spend a lot of time in this app on the Mac, iPad and even iPhone. Because it’s cloud (Google Reader) based Reeder syncs all of my devices seamlessly. Reeder for me is the equivalent of iBooks for my wife; I spend more time reading in it than anything else.

I’ve had a Twitter account for a while but rarely used it on anything but my Mac because tracking numerous feeds on multiple devices without any native way to keep the feeds in sync proved less than wonderful for me. Once I got used to using RSS as a way of scanning information I could not tolerate Twitter’s lack of cloud based syncing on multiple devices. I still think this is a severe weakness of the native Twitter platform.

However, once I found out about Tweet Marker I started getting more serious about using Twitter because I could keep my iPhone, my iPad, and my Mac in sync. So, I started using the native Twitter app on the iPhone and iPad for a while and found it awful and eventually got two clients that are better.

Tweetbot is the current “Reeder” of Twitter clients and it’s simple, beautiful and is the hip Twitter client of choice to use. It can and does make use of Tweet Marker and I would not use a client that didn’t.

While Twitterrific is less hip it’s what I use on my Mac so I decided to give it a go on the iOS side as well. It too makes use of Tweet Marker so all of my various Twitter clients are in sync with one another.

Reading Later
Imagine that you start reading a long article on your computer’s web browser and don’t finish it before you have to rush off for a doctor’s appointment. It would be nice if you could take the article with you to finish reading it. If you knew your doctor had public wifi in his or her office you’d be all set, or, if you had an iPad or iPhone and a cellular signal you could get back online and finish. But, if you’ll be off the grid (so to speak) what do you do?

Instapaper was made for situations like this (and others). You click a “Reader Later” button on your browser and it uploads the link to your Instapaper account. Before you leave your house, run the Instapaper app on your iPad and/or iPhone and update your account. The article you were reading will be loaded and cached in its entirety.

Now when you get to the doctor’s office you can run Instapaper on your iPad and continue reading the article in a very clean, iBooks-like reading environment without being connected to the internet. Works on planes, or anywhere.

Instapaper is such a great reading environment I use it in the house to read things on my iPad that I’d rather not read on this computer.

Shared Writing
I know many people use more capable and complex apps like Evernote as their writing and collecting environment on the Mac and iOS devices but as one who likes extremely simple and spare software tools I’ve stuck (so far) with Simplenote. It has continued to work well for me for quite some time and with the addition of dictation on the iPad I use it more than ever. The one change I’ve made since starting to use it is that I’m using nvALT (Notational Velocity Alternative) on the Mac as my Simplenote client. It works quite well and supports the Simplenote API while being a decent text editor on its own for the Macintosh.

Make a shopping list in nvALT on your computer and go to the store with your iPhone (or iPad or iPod Touch) and there it is.

iPad as computer?
I have dozens of other apps on my iPad, many of which I use daily but the ones listed here coupled with iCloud make the new iPad a serious alternative to a portable computer. I don’t mean to sound defensive of what might otherwise seem like an expensive upgrade just to keep up with everyone else (can’t let my wife have a later iPad than me, right?) but the new iPad pushes the iPad into the world of computing and may well be the only tool many people need to do the types of things only done with a computer just a few years ago.

Knowledge Navigator, here we come.

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, Inc.

If you take a look at Apple’s Executive Profiles* you’ll note that there is no “executive” responsible for Macintosh hardware or Mac OS X. No doubt the Macintosh and it’s OS fall under Bob Mansfield’s control but his title is “Hardware Engineering” which no doubt is all Apple hardware: Macintosh, iPhone, iPad, iPod, etc.

Apple has a senior executive responsible for iOS software: Scott Forstall, and Eddie Cue is in charge of all of Apple’s online software and services. But no one at this level is responsible for Mac OS X.

This is an indication of just how far Apple has moved from “Apple Computer, Inc.” to Apple, Inc. Apple probably moves more iPhones and iPads in a year than they have Macintosh computers in the entire history of the company (I’m making this up but you get the idea).

This is no doubt a piece of the reason Mac OS X Lion and the upcoming Mountain Lion are inheriting pieces of iOS. There are (many) more iOS users than Mac users.

*Note, the link is working now, apologies to anyone who tried it and got an error.

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]

Inside Foxconn: making the iPad

Rob Schmitz does a Marketplace story Foxconn and how they assemble Apple products.

Marketplace is a radio show so many of Rob’s pieces are audio only with image slide shows to go with them. Here’s one on the workers who make iPads: The people behind your iPad: The workers.

Note: Rob is the person who “outed” Mike Daisey by interviewing his Chinese interpreter and finding out Mike had built his monologue The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs out of an amalgam of information, much of it untrue.

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.

Square Register

I’ve posted about Square before and I’ve been enjoying an account with them for over a year now. It’s an excellent service and anyone who uses credit cards should open a free account with them.

Square Register takes it to the next level allowing the use of an iPad to replace a cash register. Easier transactions, inventory tracking, customer tracking and a very easy to use, customizable interface.

Square the company is doing quite well and I’d like to think it’s not just because they get a cut of transactions, it’s because they’ve designed an easy to use, attractive system: Square’s Sexy Growth Curve.

Ramblings on Twitter, Tweet Marker, RSS, and the cloud

Last month while reading an interview with Jason Kottke, a blogger I’ve been following for many years I noticed this question and answer:

What’s your online reading setup look like these days? RSS? Twitter? Multiple devices?

For discovery, Twitter and Stellar. No RSS…stopped doing that a few months ago and I feel like it dramatically improved my success rate in finding interesting things (although the addition of Stellar has helped with that too). For reading long stuff, Instapaper.

The fact that he dumped RSS and uses Twitter (and his web application Stellar) gave me pause and I started to think that maybe the way I’m using my aggregation tools needs to be reconsidered. Granted, his response seemed to be about mining the internet for things to post on his site, less about getting news, but many of us mix these two things together and my guess is he does too.

Part of me hates change, especially when I’ve got things working well, but part of me enjoys the evolution of these tools and seeing how things evolve is fascinating. Couple that last thought with the idea that people seem to be skimming rather than reading online these days and you have part of the recipe for the success of a service like Twitter, where posts can be no more than 140 characters long.

Keeping Twitter in sync
Twitter is a service that allows registered users to post (tweet) to their subscribers and subscribers to follow the feeds of people and/or services that interest them. It’s incredibly popular the world over and it runs on computers, tablets, smartphones, and almost every connected device out there.

If you only use Twitter via your web browser on a single computer or device keeping things in sync isn’t an issue for you but if you use Twitter with client software (not a web browser) on multiple devices, have you ever considered that there is no way to keep your feeds in sync? In other words, if you read (skim, browse, scroll) through a bunch of feeds on your computer and get to “now” (a tweet from 1 minute ago) then pick up your iPhone and run your Twitter client there, it has no clue that you’ve already read the feeds you have on your computer, you’re back hours before “now.”

I use Twitter via a client for the Macintosh called Twitterrific and a client for iPad and iPhone called TweetBot. These happen to be popular and excellent Twitter clients in the Macintosh and iOS worlds but I chose them for another reason, they make use of the Tweet Marker service. While Twitter is a cloud service it doesn’t seem to have a way to keep track of the position of your twitter crawl across multiple devices. This is what Tweet Marker is all about and it works quite well with Twitter clients that support it. You don’t need to make an account with Tweet Marker, you simply turn it on in the preferences of supported client applications.

With Tweet Marker enabled, if I update my Twitter feed on my Mac when I pick up my iPhone my Twitter feed automatically scrolls to the place I left off on my Mac, and visa versa. The bookmarking is still awkward on both Twitterrific and Tweetbot but it does work and it makes Twitter infinitely more useable to me.

Frankly, I have no idea how most Twitter users deal with looking at dozens, some with hundreds and some with thousands of feeds across multiple devices. I have no idea how people can deal with more than 100 feeds even on a single device coupled with their RSS and no doubt Facebook activity, but that’s another post. Twitter can be a useful tool and if you want keep things in sync between multiple devices you might want to try Tweet Marker.

I’ve used Twitter for a while but (Kottke aside) prefer my RSS feeds to my Twitter feed for the content I like to track and read. However, an individual can get a Twitter account without having a web site and tweet away while RSS requires a web site that puts out an RSS feed. They’re both useful technologies and there is overlap, it’s up to us to sort it all out as both publishers and readers.

Backstory on RSS
Simply, RSS is a technology that allows a web site like this one to put out a feed and for users like you to subscribe to it. If you subscribe to it and track it along with other feeds in a newsreader application (aggregator) it’s a simple way to see which web sites you visit regularly have updated their information. RSS is useful to a publisher (me) in that it lets me notify you that I’ve posted this piece of writing and it’s useful to a reader (you) because it allows you to see that I’ve posted this along with other feeds you track, all in one place and/or application. It remains my favorite networking technology although it is quickly being replaced by Twitter (Kottke seems to be supporting this) which I’m less than happy about.

The content management system that powers this site, WordPress has RSS capabilities built in so all I have to do is hit “post” on this post and the site will send the headline out to anyone who’s subscribed. In other words, everything I post here is also sent out to my RSS subscribers and if they want to read further they can click on the feed headline and come here to get more information. I could also send the post to my Twitter account automatically so that anyone subscribed to my Twitter feed (an overlapping group) would see notice there. I do this manually now as I update posts and permalinks and don’t want to be posting to Twitter until things are done on this end so that I don’t create dead links for subscribers.

Almost every web site I visit I visit through a headline I’ve clicked on in my RSS newsreader. I have only a few sites I visit daily that I visit by way of a browser bookmark. RSS has been the core of my web experience for many years and I can’t imagine it any other way.

For those reading here who have never used or learned about RSS, look at this old post What is RSS and/or this entry: RSS.

The need for cloud services
In the old days when NetNewsWire was the only game in town for managing multiple RSS feeds on the Macintosh and we didn’t have to deal with multiple devices, life was simple. As people started attempting to manage RSS feeds across multiple computers the need for cloud-based services became apparent and around this time Google started offering RSS feed aggregation with their Google Reader service (there were and are many others). One could use a web browser or a dedicated client application on a computer to read feeds on one computer and log into the same account on another computer and see where one left off. This is the beauty and importance of having this stuff in the cloud but also having the service keep track of activity. I can read some feeds on the train with my iPhone and when I open my computer when I get home I don’t see those feeds as unread, they’re read and gone.

The world of RSS aggregation and reading has remained like this through the transition to iPhone and iPad and at this point I have a Google Reader account that I read on my Mac, my iPad, and my iPhone with a great application called Reeder. There are Windows and Android equivalents of all of this stuff although Reeder is so good I’m not sure what’s quite that good in the Windows and Android worlds. No doubt there’s something. It doesn’t matter, what matters is that you find a client application you like and use it to manage the ever growing stream of information coming our way.

For those new to all of this let me be clear: Reeder is a client application that is not stand-alone, it requires that you have a Google Reader account to store your RSS feeds in the cloud. It taps into that account and displays the feeds and allows interaction with the account more elegantly than Google does in a web browser. Reeder is the killer RSS aggregation app for any Macintosh or iOS using, Google Reader using user.

In the same way I find it difficult to understand how people who use the web for news and information can get along without a newsreader subscribed to RSS feeds, I can’t understand how anyone could use Twitter and keep up without a service like Tweet Marker and I’m amazed that Twitter doesn’t have a service like this built into their API. Twitter the company should buy the Tweet Marker capability from its author and embed it in their Twitter back end.

Will Twitter kill RSS? I hope not. They’re different technologies with different capabilities and I find them both useful, now that there’s Tweet Marker.

Television is dying (and we’re happy about it)

Youths Are Watching, but Less Often on TV

Just ask Jay Rishel, a system administrator in York, Pa., whose son Cory, 4, has become accustomed to watching television via Roku, a small box that streams shows through the Internet. On Tuesday night, Cory asked his dad if he had watched television via Roku growing up. When his dad said no, Cory then asked, “So you could only watch DVDs?”

“Since it was bedtime, I didn’t try to explain we had four channels available when I was growing up,” Mr. Rishel, 31, said. “I don’t think he knows what a channel even is.”

Reminds me of the fact that fewer people use wristwatches (let alone analog wristwatches) as they use their smartphones as portable clocks.

We’re in the demographic which is supposed to be increasing its “traditional” TV viewing and I can say we’re not. The only time I switch channels is to switch from CPTV (Connecticut Public Television) to Thirteen (New York Public Television) because CPTV is showing Connecticut women’s basketball instead of the PBS NewsHour. Once the NewsHour is over its either another PBS show or a movie via Netflix DVD or AppleTV.

However, I use the PBS NewsHour web site to time shift segments or shows I’ve missed and it works well for me. I wish they had an iPad app for that but they do have a YouTube Channel that works fine on the iPad.

When, on occasion we channel surf we are so disgusted with both the content and the commercials on much of cable TV that if it weren’t for our package deal for cable internet service and TV we’d dump the entire TV thing and just use the internet. That day may be coming and it will be interesting to see how it jives with whatever Apple is cooking up in this space.

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]