TagiPad

Simple Tools

I spend my days repairing computers for the federal government. I support the National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institute of Health. I support Macs, PCs, iPhone, Blackberries, iPads and a host of scientific equipment I don’t pretend to begin to understand their function.

Day in and day out I scratch my head, Google obscure error codes, and reach deeply into my brain for the acquired knowledge I’ve accumulated over the near-decade I’ve been doing this work.

My home is an extension of my geekiness. I have a small armada of computers. Some run all the time performing menial functions. Others are test beds for my random whims. Some are the work horses I turn to day in and day out. And some, I honestly no longer have any real use for and need to sell.

My primary machine was a little white MacBook which served me dutifully for years until a fan replacement gone wrong fried the logic board and the cost to replace it was just too great.

Today, it is a PC laptop that I bought thinking it was what I wanted. These days, I find it looking a little long in the tooth and never quite matching up to the Mac’s speed and stability. ((And I’m not going to get into Windows 8 here…)) More and more, when I get home I reach for the simplest tools in my arsenal.

I have a 1st Generation iPad and a prototype Google CR-48 Chromebook.

When I get home, all I want to do is dive into a book-in-progress. When I get home, I reach for my iPad, open the Kindle app, sync it if I’ve read at all on my iPhone during the day, and pickup my story where I left off. There is something very calming and peaceful about reading. After a long day of diagnosing, repairing and explaining I want to get lost inside a story.

After putting down the book, I’ll dig into my RSS feeds on the iPad, stick my toe into Twitter and then open Instapaper and thumb through the articles waiting for me there. I’ll do some filing since Instapaper is my catch-all for any interesting article or story that catches my attention throughout the day.

Once I’ve moved the items for safe keeping or for reference later, I read what is left. I love reading and I post the things I’ve read and liked to Twitter at @CarlLikes.

After I do my reading I’ll move to the CR-48 for some writing. Sometimes there is an article that has sparked my interest or an idea that’s been bouncing around in my head. Often times I reach for it to evict thoughts from my head into 750 Words where I make an effort to put 750 new words on the page every single day.

The CR-48 is ideal for its light weight and relative slowness so it combats my wish to open countless tabs in Chrome. Where I will usually keep 5 tabs open in Chrome always, I always quit every tab on the CR-48 and start fresh every time I open the lid.

I find starting fresh on the small machine lends itself to not getting sidetracked into a social network or a forgotten story I’d left half-read when I closed the lid. When I sit down to write, I want to sit down and make the clackity noise.

In addition to being small, the laptop runs very cool and has great battery life. As I sit here, I have 46% battery left which afford me nearly 3 hours of time to clack along.

There are so many great apps to put words into and the web apps are not lagging behind in quality.

I am typing this entry into Dillinger. Though more and more I have been writing in Draft which deserves a post of its own. When I’m offline I will open Pillarbox which is free from the Chrome Web Store and a great, simple writing app that will auto-save your work and works even if the Chromebook doesn’t have a network connection.

Love the tech you own

I’ve seen a lot of people feeling cheated or ripped off by Apple releasing a new iPad less than a year after the latest one was released.

Are you enjoying your iPad any less today than you did yesterday?
Are you getting less value from the device?
What can it no longer do that it could before the announcement on Tuesday?

The reality is you wanted the iPad enough to buy it. You’ve owned it for a few months and used it. You’ve loved the screen and the speed and the apps. You had the newest toy on the shelf.

And now you don’t.

It doesn’t make your iPad any less valuable. It doesn’t decrease your enjoyment of it. It hasn’t slowed down or stopped running the games and apps you bought it to run. Nothing has changed with the device you own.

It is still the same product you happily bought. Your iPad is not obsolete There is a model that’s newer than yours and there will also be a model newer than yours.

This is the reality of the Android world. Whenever a new, speedy phone or tablet is released, it gets one-upped within the month if not the week.

Apple is in the business to make money. They’re also in the business to put out the best product they can. And if that means putting better components into an iPad 7 months after the last model is released, then so be it.

Your iPad is still just as good as the day you bought it. I get along fine with my 1st Generation iPad that can’t run iOS 6 and the newer apps like iPhoto. Instead of blaming or buying new technology, sometimes the best upgrade you can make is you.

Solace in the Post-PC World

All day long I fight computers. I battle PCs and Macs. I have a long-standing feud with Canon printers and fax machines as a species. I work in computer support. It is my job to come to your desk when something breaks and unbreak it.

I explain why that thing did what it did and what that error message means. I add and remove software, install new hardware and replace faulty components. I spend my days wrist deep in atrociously messy keyboards and desks that resemble my own scattered brain.

My apartment has all the hallmarks of a computer nerd. I have an iMac, PC desktop, Mac Mini, a couple of PCs laptops of varying vintages, a netbook with a busted screen, and a CR-48 Chromebook. This is in addition to the 1st Generation iPad, iPhone 4 and an original Motorola Droid. This doesn’t take into account the various external hard drives, network equipment, printers and other technological devices scattered around.

However, when I get home more and more often I reach for the iPad. I don’t want a computer. I don’t want the hot, heavy, error-prone devices I do battle with every week day.

I love the simplicity of the iPad and the iPhone. I can still read Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and my RSS feeds. I write my 750 Words every day. ((I just passed 65 straight days today!))

Even now, I am typing into iA Writer on a Bluetooth Apple keyboard tethered to the iPad. I am sitting on the sofa with my headphones on listening to Moby’s performance from Moogfest and typing happily on the keyboard in my lap while the iPad sits on the arm of the sofa.

It is a relief at the end of a long day to be able to sit and use a device so powerful and yet so simple. I welcome the Post-PC era with open arms.

iPad is a shot across the bow of Google Chrome OS

It hit me walking to the metro this week. The iPad is a Chrome OS competitor. It is a closed, managed, internet-based computing device.

It is computing for dummies. No malware to worry about (yet). No updates to manage. No underlying OS to play with, infect or break. It is a media machine. An internet machine for consuming media, composing text, and communicating.

All the joy of the rich media Apple empire at half the cost.

Of course, all of my speculation on Google’s Chrome OS is just that since it is still unreleased. However, I imagine the Google OS is a similar walled garden of Googly goodness. Integrated Picasa, YouTube, Gmail, Blogger, etc in a malware-free playground.

Google is no Apple when it comes to media. However, if Chrome supports Flash/Silverlight/HTML5 then Hulu, Netflix and YouTube can begin to fill the gap. Pandora and Last.fm will aid music playback in addition to any locally stored app.

The real question is how will these web-dependent platforms do going forward. Is the trade-off of freedom and openness worth the worry-free, managed environment?

iPad 2: How thin is too thin?

Upon reading Andy Ihnatko’s first look at the iPad 2 tonight a single line caught my eye and it’s been bugging me since the announcement this afternoon.

“But you kind of have to hold the iPad 2 to really get the redesign. It’s thinner by a third, plus its edges taper to a thin line of metal.” — iPad 2 is here

I owned a 4th Generation iPod Touch. I bought it to replace my ailing 1st Generation model and it is still one of my favorite pieces of technology ever. The iPod Touch changed the way I thought about media and entertainment on the go.

My biggest gripe in the upgrade to the newest, sleek model was the tapered edged. The iPod Touch is just .28″ deep. The iPad 2 is going to be .34″ deep. This means a very sharp tapered edge to achieve the incredible thinness.

This also means edges digging into your hands when held at length. Holding the iPod Touch when reading at length or playing Fruit Ninja was fine for short periods. However, when held for 10 or 15 minutes or longer, it would start to become uncomfortable.

The edges would slowly dig into my palm and fingers. There was no comfortable way to hold the device. No matter which way I turned of placed it, those super thin edges would dig into me. The great irony is the beautiful design makes you want to keep your iDevices naked. However, the functionality of the design screams for the use of a case, with soft edges.

When I got an iPhone 4 this past December, I was very pleased at how good those .37″ edges felt. Those straight, smooth, non-tapered non-pointy edges were bliss to behold, literally.

Having just received a 32 GB WiFi iPad for Christmas I am not in a hurry to upgrade it. It still feels new and I get excited every time I use it. I watched the announcements today mainly to see if Apple was going to announce a better way to sync the data between my iPad and iPhone, or if there was some amazing deal-breaking feature for the sequel.

Though I didn’t have anything in my head that would make me sell this one and buy the new one. It didn’t mean I wasn’t open to seeing what the Cupertino gang could dream up.

HDMI video out is going to be killer for some people. However, I have to wonder how many people need yet another device to export video to a big screen. We have a PC Laptop, a Macbook, iPad, iPhone 4, Wii, Xbox 360, Power Mac Tower, and an iMac to export video to our 42″ TV. Do we really need another device to show video?

Face Time on another device is only exciting if you talk to small children in far away places. My wife uses FaceTime with our little niece out west because she doesn’t sit still long enough to chat on a computer. With FaceTime on the iPhone she can wander around and show us things. I don’t see this being a killer feature in the iPad. What’s the benefit for FaceTime on iPad versus iPhone or the a Mac laptop?

Though again, I am not a big video chatter. Also, Apple hasn’t mentioned the resolution of the cameras in the iPad. Will they be high quality like the iPhone 4 or barely usable like the iPod Touch. It’s these details that will make or break the usefulness of the cameras for most people. How about a better way to move photos from iPhone to iPad instead of syncing through iTunes?

A faster chip is always nice., the A5 being dual-core is a boon to the future of the product. Of course there’s going to be faster chips. Two times the speed and 9x the graphics performance means better games and other applications like iMovie.

Smart Covers. Now there is a brilliant idea and the one killer thin that caused me to stop and reconsider the iPad’s second coming. Then I snapped to my senses. It’s a cover. It’s a glorified microfiber wipe and cover for your iPad. That is not enough to sell me on a new device. It’s a brilliant implementation and if it works half as well as demoed will be awesome.

My biggest excitement comes in the form of the new iOS features.

Rotation Lock is a nice option to have back again for the iPad. Since the Mute switch doesn’t mute every sound coming out of the device, it doesn’t work well as a mute switch. I’d much prefer the rotation lock. I got my iPad after the removal of the rotation lock option so I am excited to have it for the first time.

Personal hotspot for iPhone 4 only. How long will it take for AT&T to implement it? Will it even be worth it with the limited data plans? It could be a great feature, or it could be a total non-starter. It all depends on AT&T and their track record has been abysmal. Will Verizon have put enough pressure on them to force their hand in reacting quicker to Apple’s new features?

iTunes Home Sharing is exciting. I’ve used it to manage and backup libraries between computers at home. I don’t sync any music to the iPad so it would be nice to be able to just pull over the few songs I want.

iMove would excite me if I shot video more than once a year or had a child to show off. I couldn’t care less about Garageband as I’m not musical. Photobooth, just as on the Mac was a lot of fun, for about 15 minutes. Then I forgot it existed.

I am curious the enhancements to AirPlay and (hopefully one day AirPrint) since I am much more curious how Apple is going to connect their walled gardens of iPad and iPhone. It really is obnoxious to have the same app or game on both devices but have no convenient way to share data. If everything had Dropbox syncing, the world would be a better place.

Safari is faster. Faster is always better.

There was nothing in the announcement today to make me seriously consider selling my iPad. It will be cause for those holding out to run to the store in a week and pick one up. The device is an amazing feat of computing and has changed how I read and spend my time in the evenings.

I will still go to an Apple Store after they’re released and pick one up. I’ll hold it. I’ll judge its heft against the original. I’ll see how it feels in my hand. I’ll imagine holding it for an hour, reading a book and see if those .2 pounds makes the pointy edges any better.

My guess is it will look beautiful but still be a pain to hold. I’d love to be proven wrong. However, MG Siegler’s preview in TechCrunch are not encouraging, “iPad 2 feels quite a bit like one of the newer iPod touches, just larger, obviously.”