Tag Archives: ipad

The iPad mini

iPad mini white

I have this weird thing where I’ll keep a tab open for days, weeks, even months, if there’s something even potentially interesting that I can’t deal with right now, but want to do something with eventually. Before you ask, yes, I have heard of bookmarks, but ask any nerd and they’ll tell you they do a similar thing with their browser tabs. It’s not uncommon to have umpteen tabs open at any one time — and of all the stuff I have backed up, I’d be pretty devastated if I lost all my tabs. I could potentially get them back, but that involves trawling through days, maybe even weeks of internet history.  When you visit as many websites as I do, it’s hard to tell what you had open as a tab and what you were merely browsing out of curiosity.

But I digress. I’ve had two tabs open for close to a year now, and as much as I’ve wanted to write something substantial about the iPad mini, there just isn’t anything worth writing about. Not because the iPad mini is boring or anything, but because I just haven’t been inspired to write anything worth publishing. Because when it comes down to it, the iPad just isn’t as interesting as the HP TouchPad was, back in the day. WebOS was just so bad and so good at the same time, you know?

I’ve owned an iPad mini since it was first released around this time last year. It wasn’t my first tablet, but it is my first iPad. I honestly don’t have anything else to say about it that hasn’t been said elsewhere, but with the new iPad Air coming out riding on the coat tails of the iPad mini, I thought I’d take a moment to write about how I’ve been using it.

I think the most telling thing about the iPad is that it hasn’t replaced my computer. That’s telling because I see a lot of older, mature folk replace their clunky Dells with futuristic, touch-enabled iPads, even if they don’t run the same programs as their old computer used to. Why? I’m not sure, exactly, but at a guess, it has something to do with how intuitive Apple has made iOS (and then turned everything upside down with iOS 7, but that’s for another time).

But as much as I enjoy using the iPad, it hasn’t replaced my computer. If all I’m doing is light web browsing and catching up on my Instapaper backlog, then sure, I’ll pick up the iPad over the MacBook Pro any day; the iPad is lighter, has a much longer battery life, and lets me concentrate on one thing at a time, for the most part. It’s kind of like the Kindle, in that regard. For everything else, there’s the Mac: for switching between any of my umpteen open tabs, writing content into browser text boxes, and doing any other kind of serious work.

I tried writing one of the MacTalk daily news posts on my iPad mini one time, and while it was OK, the software keyboard really hindered the process by needing to switch between the various keyboards to access special characters. I could have worked around the issue by using a hardware keyboard or using an app that offered an extra row of characters, but that would have required a little extra preparation on my part, something I wasn’t able to do at the time.

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Apple’s iBooks Author, Interactive Textbooks, and All That Jazz

Below is an article that I wrote for MacTalk a few weeks ago. Thought I’d post it up here for posterity. Published without pictures unlike the MacTalk version.

Alternatively, Apple’s latest foray into the big bad world of education (and why it matters).

I’ve now had the whole weekend to think about what Apple’s education event means. Somewhere between the new Star Wars MMO, some epic rounds of Battlefield 3, and something that I’m calling “general internet procrastination”, I’ve thought about the implications for the education sector that this event has wrought.

As a quick recap, Apple released iBooks Author for the Mac alongside a plan to shake up the textbook industry as we know it (also featuring the iPad, iTunes U, and a few big-name publishers). There are those that think Apple don’t care about pros anymore, but Apple’s education event held in New York was proof enough that (and perhaps now more than ever), Apple cares about education.

What happens when you can’t see the forest for the trees?
Before we get into the meat of what all this really means for the future of education as we know it, I’d like to dispel a few misconceptions about iBooks Author that seem to have cropped up.

Firstly, there’s a few people getting caught up in the iBooks Author EULA, and how it apparently (depending on your preferred interpretation) dictates, totalitarian-style, what you can and cannot do with the app. Specifically, people have their underpants in a twist over the fact that books created using iBooks Author can only be sold via Apple; the question is, is that actually so unreasonable? Some say the whole situation draws certain parallels to the similar iOS/Mac app and Xcode equivalent, but others still say that’s different because Xcode doesn’t attempt to dictate what you can and cannot do with output from that app — iBooks Author, on the other hand, does. If we’re being really pedantic, there are even those that liken the iBooks Author EULA terms to what would happen if Adobe said you could only use files originating from Photoshop in a certain way. Those people are pretty far off the mark.

Let’s get one thing clear: Apple isn’t taking your copyright away.

Your content that you put into the app is still your content, you still retain full copyright of whatever material you put into an iBook, and pigs still don’t fly. Frankly, I think the whole “iBooks Author is telling me what I can and can’t do with files I produce using the app” is just a cry from those who are overly concerned about proprietary software and certain usage scenarios. Yes, Apple should probably open up iBooks Author (and iBooks themselves) to an iOS-like enterprise implementation, where books can be distributed internally in a company without having first been published to a public iBookstore. For the moment though, selling your iBooks through the iBookstore just means that you’ll get many more eyeballs on your content than if try to hawk it yourself. It’s also important to note at this point in time that you’re still very much permitted to give your work away for free — Apple aren’t preventing you from sticking your iBooks Author-produced iBook up on your website somewhere and letting it people download it for free. No, I guess the message from Apple here is that iBooks created using iBooks Author are much like iOS apps you create using Xcode: feel free to do other things with your iBook, but if you want to sell it, your best chance of success lies in the iBookstore.

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A (mostly subjective) review of Essay, the rich text editor for iOS

Essay is more fancy. Essay isn’t perfect either, but first, here’s what it does do. Firstly, it’s a text editor. Off to a great start there. There’s no accompanying web-app for easy access to my writings away from the iPhone, but it does sync the HTML-formatted files to Dropbox which is fine. For a writing app, it has some pretty advanced features. Things like rich-text, combined with pretty standard HTML stuff like lists (ordered, unordered), sections, paragraphs, and so on like in the screenshot above. You can create hyperlinks to other files within Essay, or to actual web locations. Bold, italic, underline, strikethrough — all present, all easily accessible through the custom keyboard add-on (which works brilliantly, by the way. Fluid, simple, all-round excellent implementation that could have been very convoluted indeed). The iPhone app is very new (just released today, in fact), so there’s no word count (that I can find, although I assume it is in the iPad version), and it even has a full blown web browser in-app to allow you to browse links.

The number one issue I have with Essays is that it isn’t fully native. Not that it’s a web app or anything like that, it isn’t, but that the main editor view is basically some glorified HTML interpreter. Let me tell you what I mean. While the editor tries its very hardest to appear native (at least it includes the standard text selection tools), it’s unlike any other editable text section I’ve ever seen. This is evidenced by a couple of factors:

  1. The marquee tool that appears when you tap and hold to finely place the cursor makes text look pixellated. I’ve never seen that before, on any app. Example: Essay, Simplenote. It’s not just the iPhone version that does this, it looks just as bad on the iPad too.
  2. The cursor blinks at a different rate, in a slightly different way to any other cursor I’ve seen.
  3. Selecting text is sloooow. There’s a lag associated with everything.

Points one and three lead me to the conclusion that it must be some sort of emulated HTML interpreter, not the native iOS text view that I know and love. I’m guessing it’s this non-native text view that allows such advanced features as text styling, lists, highlighting, and so on, but it’s also this non-native text view that has some serious drawbacks:

  • Selecting a part of text, hitting “select all” frequently results in the standard “cut copy paste” popup not popping up. Selecting a few words works, however.
  • Tapping the time doesn’t take you to the top of the current scroll view, like it does pretty much everywhere else.
  • Points one and three above — sure, pixellation is just a cosmetic issue, but having slow text selection is a functional one. It’s also terrible UX, that’s how much the cursor-placing lags.

It’s these small things that make Essay not what I’m looking for at the moment. Sure, it’s fancy — but when fancy comes at the cost of serious drawbacks I’ll have to turn down that particular offer.

via iOS Reviews.

Written by yours truly, of course.

For the life between buildings – some notes on the iPad

It’s a device for cities.

It’s not that it couldn’t be used in rural environments of course; just that it wouldn’t be. The general lack of third spaces in such places means that a phone and a PC are sufficient. By living in cities, in other peoples’ places, a different kind of device becomes appropriate. Something light and small enough to fit in a handbag or satchel, yet powerful and productive nonetheless. In the old view of city living – say, the classic Parisian apartment – the small size of dwelling meant that the bistro downstairs at the street level of the block becomes the dining room, the bar/coffee shop becomes the living room, the shared courtyard becomes the garden, and so on. While this vision is hopelessly romantic, there are numerous urban variants on this kind of living, and these transient (yet personal) spaces are where the iPad will fit right in. (Again, exurban environments clearly have coffee shops too, but they are not part of a integrated system of living in the same way. And so different tools will suffice.)

As software becomes a service, data resides in the cloud, various forms of wireless connectivity coalesce over the city, and yet face-to-face physical connection becomes more important than ever, a device like the iPad becomes obvious. The cloud is the connective tissue between these spaces, the software provides the platform for interaction with information, the tablet is the tool, and the forum is the city.

via cityofsound: For the life between buildings – some notes on the iPad.