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Posts Tagged ‘ipad

The Daily

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I think a lot of people will scoff at the idea of The Daily when they hear it’s a News Corp venture: one of the major News Corp properties, Fox News, is widely regarded to be soapbox for right-wing politics with heavily slanted coverage.  Whether this distinction is completely fair I find hard to say, since most people seem to cite the opinion shows in the (i.e. Hannity, The O’Reilly Factor, Huckabee, and Glenn Beck), as opposed to the regular newscasters during the day, but I have no problem seeing the station as being sensationalist and entertainment driven, just like CNN and MSNBC.

News Corp also owns The Wall Street Journal and the New York Post, and it feels like The Daily sits in between the two in terms of its integrity, seriousness, and quality.  The Journal one of the two premiere newspapers in the country (alongside of The New York Times), whereas the Post is only a notch or two above being a rag.

The articles in The Daily are well written if a bit random: I agree with others’ interpretations that it’s difficult to pin down just who this digital newspaper is for.  Another reviewer noted that it’s especially odd that it doesn’t even contain a true Tech Section, which would be wonderfully appropriate for this endeavor.  (There are nice iPad app reviews, however.)

Overall, it’s beautiful and ugly all at the same time, featuring a clever layout but serious lag in carousel mode.  The carousel view also features previews of the articles, but those are horribly compressed pictures.  This is also true of the video overview one sees at the start of each day’s paper.

The Daily is free right now, but it will be either $0.99 a week $39.99 a year, which is incredibly fair for a well-written, daily paper.  But this publication needs to find its focus and fix the weird issues it’s having first, before it can justify charging for its content.

To Rupert Murdoch’s credit, either way, he immediately bought into the credibility of the iPad and the future that tablet computing is ushering in.  I love that he believes that The Daily needs to combine the qualities of traditional journalism and marry them to modern technology.  We’ll see if he succeeds.

For now, I’m excited to download each new edition every morning and see where it goes.

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Written by Michael

6 February 2011 at 11:09 pm

Posted in News, Technology

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1st Gen iPad Verdict

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I’ve now owned the iPad since the 3G model launched April 30, 2010.  Here is a list of things the iPad does really well, and some things it doesn’t.

Positives

  1. Battery life is still amazing.  As a habit, I usually place my iPad on charge at night before I go to sleep; that said, it’s almost always north of 50% when I do, meaning I could usually get two days of life out of it.  Considering that I tend to use it a lot, this statistic is amazing.
  2. Web surfing is more natural and comfortable than a computer.  I don’t often run into any limitations with it being a “mobile” browser (i.e. no plugins, like Flash), though I’ve noticed it has a hard time rendering all of the pictures in a photo album on Facebook.  It’ll give up after about 30 and just show pictureless boxes.  I’m not sure if it’s a bug in the way that mobile Safari handles the code on this page, or if it’s actually a matter of memory (only 256MB of RAM, after all).
  3. It’s a perfect news aggregator for me.  I use NetNewsWire, which scrapes all of my RSS feeds to assemble only the news that matters to me.  I also check in with Flipboard and Pulse News, which are both lovely.
  4. Multitasking and folders really take the iPad up a couple of notches.  These features launch with iOS 4.2, which comes out in November, but I’ve been using a beta build and I couldn’t go back.
  5. The multitude of apps is a blessing (and a curse).  I’ve had to moderate myself on how many apps I purchase in a month to avoid going bankrupt.  The advantage of Apple’s curated store is that there seems to be a higher percentage of great apps for the iOS platform than others.

Negatives

  1. Video playback.  This is a tough one to criticize because there is a lot of great video content available for the iPad, including Netflix, Hulu Plus, YouTube, iTunes, etc.  If, however, you get video that’s encoded in some other way besides H.264, at a resolution the iPad is comfortable with, then you’re going to have to run through the sometimes painful process of transcoding.  I can’t fully blame Apple for this: there is dedicated H.264 decoding hardware in this device, which is how you can get away with watching 10 hours of video before killing the battery.  If you were to play any other kind of video back somehow, it wouldn’t be hardware decoded, but rather software decoded.  Which would peg the processor and eat the battery alive.  This was kind of proven by the VLC app, which does just that when viewing HD files.
  2. It’s a bit heavy at times.  Not ridiculously so, and I rarely have a problem with it.  But this is one of the reasons why the iPad is only a good e-reader, not a great one.  Pick up a Kindle and you’ll see that it’s not only lighter and easy to hold in one hand, it also doesn’t get overwhelmed by sunlight.  And while it’s true that the backlighting on the iPad allows you to read in the dark, it can be eye-straining to do so.
  3. That beautiful aluminum and glass design is striking, but you need to protect it.  I do not use a screen shield, but I have placed a carbon-fiber sticker on the back to protect the anodized aluminum from scratching (because it will).
  4. The lack of a camera on the first-gen model seemed like a minor oversight to me.  Honestly, the idea of video chatting on the iPad seemed uncomfortable.  But now Apple has launched FaceTime on two marquee items (the iPhone and iPod touch, and even added the ability to Macs), so now it’s obvious the iPad will need it too.
  5. Data throughput speeds seem to be noticeable slower than a computer (by about 38%).  Oddly, this has no impact on Netflix, which continues to deliver good looking video despite this fact, but YouTube has its occasional problems.  (I’ve read that Google has a different set of servers for mobile content, and that they get overloaded.  I’m not sure how true this is.)
  6. The iPad requires iTunes to activate, and really, really wants to use iTunes to sync and backup its data.  I think this is an umbilical cord that needs to be cut someday soon, especially if Apple believes the iPad will be a kind of consumer appliance computer.

Overall, the iPad is a great device and one I highly recommend.  It won’t do heavy lifting for you, typically, but I have a hard time imaging a better Internet browsing device, especially one so portable.  And its media capabilities (namely video viewing) are unparalleled — the idea that you could view two feature length movies and still have several hours of web browsing ahead of you if truly amazing.

The one challenge I foresee if how it will compliment my future iPhone.  Since both devices do many of the same things, and indeed run the exact same software, I wonder if I’ll be compelled to not bring my iPad to work as often.  I will post my experiences in that regard in late January, once I have said iPhone.

Written by Michael

5 November 2010 at 12:48 am

Posted in Reviews, Technology

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Two Days with 3G Data on the iPad

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I might as well live in the land that time forgot, I sometimes think.  Lacking such basic life necessities like Red Lobster, Olive Garden, and Best Buy, has left me feeling like a pilgrim in a savage land.

While I’m exaggerating, we do lack a few things I was used to having back East, including AT&T coverage.  This has meant that I can’t buy an iPhone for the last couple of years, and it also means that my iPad with WiFi and 3G has been useless in the latter regard.  This will all change at the end of this year or beginning of next, since the Montana portion of Alltel (my service provider) has been purchased by AT&T.

However, I took a short trip to Idaho Falls recently, a realm that actually has this coverage that I’m moaning about.  So, I went ahead and purchased the 250MB plan for $15, and here are a few observations:

  • When I was in a 3G area, the overall Internet speed was pretty fast.  I didn’t think to do a Speed Test, but I found it more than acceptable.
  • 2G areas (EDGE) were really slow.  At times unusable.
  • 250MB goes fast when you have a lot of downtime, especially during a long car ride with the family.  I nearly used all of my allotment in 48 hours.
  • Using the Core Location service (with an app like Maps) was a lot of fun.  The iPad has a GPS module in it, so it worked really well with the aforementioned Maps application: I was able to track where we were to as close to 30-50 feet or so.

I look forward to having this 3G service in Bozeman, MT, but I wonder how much data I’d end up using in a month.  The saving grace could that I’m usually around WiFi so much, at home and work.

Written by Michael

31 July 2010 at 8:32 pm

Posted in Technology

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Roundup of My iPad Accessories

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Now that I’ve had the iPad awhile, I’ve managed to accumulate a few accessories that are worth describing.

* * *

Griffin A-Frame
This is a heavy aluminum stand that can hold the iPad in either or portrait or landscape.  It can also be laid flat on a desk to create a “typing angle”, though I’ve never used it this way.  I decided to go for this product over the standard Apple iPad Dock, which my brother has and likes, because it can only hold the iPad in the portrait orientation.  It goes for $49.99 off the Griffin website, but I found it for less on Amazon.

Apple Wireless Keyboard
There are cheaper Bluetooth keyboards out there, but this one pairs nicely with the A-Frame stand (in that they look similar with that brushed aluminum look).  Also, the battery life on this keyboard is pretty spectacular.  I don’t use this often, unless I’m sitting at my desk and using the iPad as a quick lookup tool or instant message center.  Retails for $69.00 on the Apple website.

Griffin Elan Sleeve
I’m not a fan of cases that stay on a product, and I typically “go naked” with most of my stuff, including my cell phone and iPod.  The same is true for the iPad, so I found a case that is merely for transport, not one that you would leave on during use.  (I do also own the official Apple iPad Case, which is okay, but it’s not nearly as good as other options out there.  My brother uses a black Speck CandyShell, which is nice.)  This slipcover is elegant looking, but it’s softer than it looks in the promotional images: it actually feels slightly plush, which may actually provided better padding against external pressure.  The Griffin website has it for $49.99, but I was lucky to find it for half that much on Amazon.

SGP Carbon Skin
I’ve mentioned this in a previous post, but I thought it appropriate to mention here.  While I do not use a screen shield (since scratching glass is actually more involved than many people realize), I’ve decided to protect the brushed aluminum back of the iPad.  That kind of metal is, unfortunately, prone to scratching, and since I don’t employ a case, I set it down on its backside at work all the time.  This has done a great job protecting it so far, and I like that it’s really little more than a nice kind of tape, so it’s easy to remove if I decided I don’t want it anymore.  Retails for $19.99 on the SGP Store.

* * *

Overall, these accessories serve me pretty well.  The next item I have my eye on is the Incase Travel Kit Plus, which is a carrying case just large enough to fit the wireless keyboard (it also includes its own small travel stand).  While the Griffin A-Frame is very nice, it’s a little heavy to take, say, on a plane.

Written by Michael

31 July 2010 at 8:14 pm

Posted in Reviews

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SGP Carbon Skin for iPad

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I purchased an SGP Premium Protective Cover Skin Carbon for Apple iPad (try saying that ten times fast) recently, so I just wanted to give some initial thoughts.

The reason I opted for a skin was twofold: first, I don’t want the back of the iPad to get scratched up.  This may sound counterintuitive, but the glass front is safer than the aluminum back with regard to this concern.  Second, I wanted protection that didn’t add a significant amount of bulk or weight, especially since I still use it in the official Apple Case when I go outside with it.  Also, I may one day buy a dock  (soon, even), and I’d like the protection to work with this.

Installation is pretty reasonable.  You really just need to align it with the Apple logo on the back, but it’s important to slowly apply the skin to avoid forming bubbles.  The adhesive is pretty strong, but not so much that you can’t peal it up later.  I had to do so after a few days when I noticed I had a few bubbles because I wasn’t careful at installation.

SGP also supplies a clear sticker to go over the Apple logo to protect it from scratches as well, but I have to say that this is the poorest design component with this product.  It’s very easy to get fingerprints on the underside, and those show through.  It’s not too bad on mine, but I can see little lines of my index finger on one of the edges of the apple.  I think this would have worked a lot better as a peal-away design, where you lay a square on top of the logo and the adhesive is only on the apple shape.  The logo would be perforated to permit for easy tear away.

The product is pretty fantastic otherwise.  SGP also makes other kinds of skins, including leather.  These look good, but since I was trying to avoid scratching, and leather, well, scratches, I opted for the stronger carbon fiber.

Lifted right from the official site (because I'm too lazy to take my own snapshot)

Check ’em out at http://www.sgpstore.com/advanced_search_result.php?keywords=ipad&x=0&y=0.

Written by Michael

25 May 2010 at 12:11 am

Posted in Reviews

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Head in the Clouds

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Cloud computing is the fancy buzzword flying around the Internet these days. In simple terms, it means taking your data and your media and putting it on a server somewhere so you can access it from multiple locations and with multiple devices.

I was pulled into this world in late 2007 when I purchased my iPod touch. Since it had a built-in email client, I started checking mail with it instead of my laptop, especially if it was closer at hand. That said, it was still on my same home network all the time, so the multiple locations facet of cloud computing was hardly served by doing this.

By the end of the following year, I purchased my first smartphone, a BlackBerry — I would have gone with an iPhone, but AT&T has no stores in Montana right now — and I naturally started using it for my email. I set it up with IMAP, a mode that keeps copies of the email on the server rather than on your local machine so that multiple-device syncing works a lot better. If I read an email on one machine, all other machines know this. If I send something from one machine, it appears in the Sent box of all others.

“I already do that, Mike,” you’re probably thinking. You probably do if you go to your email provider’s website to check your email manually. I use an email client to fetch it for me (specifically Apple Mail and BlackBerry Mail). I prefer this because a) I like native applications better than websites, and b) because I like being told when I have new mail rather than having to remember to check periodically.

The next step was signing up for Dropbox, which I highly recommend. We’ve started using it at my job (at my suggestion of course), and it’s really helped us out a lot. We share a lot of material between our four stores, including price tags, signage, etc., so rather than having to email each other every time something changes, or have multiple employees do the same job more than once, we share all these documents over one virtual folder. This folder, or Dropbox in the nomenclature of the service, lives on every computer we use (six or seven, I think), and has helped us maintain our sanity.

I use this in my personal life, too, by placing all the important pieces of writing I’ve done so I can reference them remotely.

That said, I only own the one laptop, but I have recently purchased an iPad. There’s a wonderful Dropbox application for that now, too, so I can see all of my work anywhere I go with either device.

But the biggest sea change that the iPad brought to me for how I interact with computers is RSS. RSS, or really simple syndication, is a method of displaying headlines and blurbs from different news sources in a streamlined format — this makes it very easy to aggregate all this information together in one place, so that you don’t have to visit multiple websites to get all the information you need.

I read from probably a dozen sources, but I hardly have the patience or time to visit each of those individually and periodically enough to matter.

I was using the Safari web browser’s built-in RSS reader to accomplish this. I simply told it what sites I wanted to see updates for, and it goes out and checks them for me. When changes happen, the browser displayed a number indicating how many changes had occurred since I last checked.

The trouble with this, however, was I had no way of telling other computers I had already read the previously displayed articles. This became an issue because I often use my iPad as a news reader, but I was continually confronted with duplicate information when I returned to my MacBook Pro.

Given that Safari has no built-in syncing capabilities for RSS, I finally broke down and went with a third-party RSS reader. Many reviewers have long said that these other applications were more featured anyway, but I’m sometimes slow to change.

I went with NetNewsWire on both my iPad and MacBook Pro. This application uses the Google Reader, a website which you can aggregate all those feeds you’re interested in, just like I used to do on Safari. Only, it’s saved remotely on some Google server instead of my equipment.

This is how NetNewWire syncs between all the clients.

I have to say that I love it, by and large. Perhaps several will find this surprising, but I actually prefer the RSS-reading experience on my iPad over the one that the desktop application provides. It just seems more elegant.

All of these devices and pieces of software, mostly created by several different companies, have come together for me to form a communications system coupled with content consumption/creation. While this is pretty geeky and probably a bit esoteric to many, I can’t recommend organizing your life with tools like this more.

In fact, my next step is cloud-based task management. I’m very excited for applications like Things for both the iPad and Mac, but this example only syncs over local WiFi. If they bring this capability to the actual cloud (i.e. the Internet), and I can actually sync tasks from any remote location, then I’ll happily pay the premium Cultured Code charges for those applications.

Let me feedback if you know of any great To-Do system that accomplishes this.

Written by Michael

24 May 2010 at 1:14 am

WordPress App for iPad Test

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This is just a brief test of the WordPress application for the iPad.

It’s fairly elegant, with a kind of Mail look to it — I’ve noticed many 3rd-party apps take cues from that bundled application actually, and this is a good thing. The WordPress app works pretty well, except with one issue I’ve noticed so far: during setup, it won’t let you paste in your password, which is a shame because mine is so damned long and random. At least you only have to deal with that once (I hope).

If i come up with anything more, I’ll mention it here.

Written by Michael

2 May 2010 at 8:36 pm

Posted in Technology

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