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Holiday Reading iList

Friday, 13 May 2011 10:52 pm Comments off

While I don’t usually do this before going on holiday, this time I’m not taking any dead tree books with me at all.

Rather, I’m taking my trusty iPad with IBooks and Kindle for iPad installed. Since we’re flying Ryanair, with their stickiness for baggage weights and sizes, he weight saved has been substantial. Usually I take a couple of paperbacks and a hardcover or two, so my bags a lot lighter this time around.

So, that reading list again, split up between iBooks and Kindle.

iBooks:

1. The Void Trilogy – Peter F Hamilton
2. Pandora’s Star – Peter F Hamilton
3. Judas Unchained – Peter F Hamilton
4. Servants of the People – Andrew Rawnsley
5. Life and Death of the Party – Andrew Rawnsley
6. Red November – W. Craig Reed
7. The Hobbit – J.R.R Tolkien
8. Paypal API’s Up and Running – Micheal Balderas

Kindle

1. The Design of Everyday Things – Don Norman
2. Dreaming in Code – Scott Rosenburg

I think that’ll keep me busy for a week :)

As you can see the above list is heavily biased towards iBooks. The ability to buy a book off iBooks without even thinking about it is the probable reason. Amazon Kindle gives you too much pause for thought.

About the Paypal API book. Yes, I’m sad. I do have the tendency to program while on holiday. If you’ll recall, I did some major re-architecting of my Client Server Chat project while is was in Spain in December. So goodness know what I might do this time around.

I hear the Design of Everyday Things is a seminal work and every designer should read it. Jeff Atwood of the Coding Horror blog (and Stackoverflow, StackExchange etc) highly recommends it.

Dreaming in Code is the most readable book about programmers and programming I’ve ever read. Though I must say reading it elicits the same reaction as watching Dennis Nedry screw Jurassic Park’s computer systems up: A Long Loud Cry of NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Sightly changing the subject away from books, I got the Camera Connection Kit for my iPad. It’s works like a swiss car. If I could get Visual Studio on my IPad, I’d leave the laptop at home.

I’ll see you all in a week (and a bit, one always needs a holiday from holiday when you get back)

Getting your News Manually Blows: A Reply

Wednesday, 6 April 2011 4:48 pm Comments off

Last night Holden Page wrote a pretty good blog post entitled: Getting Your News Manually Blows (http://pagesaresocial.com/2011/04/05/getting-your-news-manually-blows/).

It was late, so I thought I’d reply now when I’m fully awake :).

Holden’s point was that when you use a service like my6thsense that auto-curates the news and presents this to you, it’s much easier than using Twitter (and by extension Google Reader etc) to get your news. Essentially, it’s easier to have the news pushed to you rather than to have to go off and pull it from various services.

Essentially, Holden is arguing for the curation model rather than e co sunroom model. This is infect something that I’ve noticed myself. There is consistent lack of content, even using Feedly and Twitter and Friendfeed to get my news.

Now I got an iPad about 2 months ago. And promptly installed Flipboard. I mention this because the experience is as important, if not more so, as the content in that experience. This rapidly warmed me to the iPad as a digital newspaper, complete with page turns and layout. Now it’s blatantly obvious, but the iPads ability to BECOME the app that’s running is a singular experience. As a dead tree newspaper reader, the fuss of a broadsheet just melts away on the iPad. Turning pages on a broadsheet can be a torturous experience. Flipboard showed me how that just melts away.

Thus I went off to seek actual newspaper apps to use.

Now before you groan and call newspapers dead tree media of the past, sit down and think about it. Newspapers were the my6thsense of the dead tree media (albeit it political persuasions, rivalries and narcissistic owners took thee place of algorithms). Decades worth of experience curating the news still produces some damn fine newspapers.

That’s a fact. Take the Times of London. I’ve been a Times Reader for years, even though it is a Tory paper. The iPad apps for the Times and the Sunday Times are incredibly good. They preserve the newspaper’s look and feel whilst incorporating video and some innovative layouts. I like it so much I signed up for the monthly subscription.

Here’s the scary bit: I open up The Times app and read it before I open up Feedly. No kidding. It’s curated news that covers a wide variety of topics succinctly. It’s quick and easy to browse through.

“Hang on a minute” I hear you say, “there’s no sharing or linking or liking or anything! It’s a Walled Garden”. And that’s the truly scary part: I don’t care.

Now i’m not at all suggesting that we abandon our feed readers and start reading digital newspapers. Quite the opposite. I’m saying that if we’re looking for sources of curated news, digital newspapers had better be one of those sources. Indeed, Feedly still gets used everyday. It’s invaluable to me. (Today, for example, the Falcon 9 Heavy story is nowhere to be found in The Times).

There other good newspaper app I found was the USA Today app. It’s nice and clean, with a simple interface that focusses on content. As a bonus, you can share articles to your hearts content. Plus, it’s US centric for the Americans among us ;)

I mentioned above that looking through my feeds for good content or through Twitter and Friendfeed was/is becoming a it of a chore. I’m finding more and more time where i’m looking at absolutely nothing. I probably need to subscribe to better feeds or better people. I probably need to reorganise my feeds to better layout content, and cull the boring ones. But here’s the thing, I don’t have the time to do all that.

As Apple would say, There’s an App For That!

Flipboard Review

Wednesday, 2 February 2011 9:02 pm Comments off

One of the first apps I installed on my 64Gb wifi ipad was the Flipboard app. Now, after all the hoopla I heard from Robert Scoble and others, I was eager to use the app myself.

Now, the fact of the matter is that the app is beautifully designed. Really it is. A work of art. The page flips are beautifully animated. The app start up is brilliant, making me wonder each and every time i start it up what picture I’m going to get. The popout article pages are beautifully presented. Even the twitter client aspect of the app is very nicely done.

However, there are times when I go through my settle very leisurely and rather randomly, and Flipboard is sheer gold dust when it comes to this. Other times I’m more structured about my reading. I read the Tech folder first, then the Space folder, and finally the General folder. Only then, if i have time, do I randomly go through my other folders. This second way of reading my feeds is rather difficult on Flipboard. Moving between folders isn’t a smooth process and it requires too much work.

I actually prefer Feedly on my iPhone for reading my feeds when I’m going through Feedly quickly.

Feedly for iPad is coming soon, and we’ll see what difference it makes in this area.

There is one thing I’ve noticed: read/unread items do not always translate back to Feedly on the desktop. So, in fact, I end up reading some items twice. Since I’ve no idea of how Flipboard works under the hood, I’m not sure where the lag is coming in, whether it’s a Flipboard, Google Reader, or Feedly issue. But it sure would be nice to have some sync going on.

However, that having been said, Flipboard is very much of my routine. I rather enjoy reading it in the mornings over a cup of tea. It’s the first app I open. I really do think that it’s a most marvellous application and will definitely be using it very often.

Categories: Apple, Blogging, iPad, Software, Web

Why Apple will not let Flash on iOS

Tuesday, 31 August 2010 12:05 pm 7 comments

I just left the following comment on Dave Winers blog. He was, once again, having a go at Apple over Flash. And this particular post was a response to Grubers’ response to his original post. I’ve lost you already, haven’t I?

Anyway, this is what I said:

I don’t have an iPad, so I don’t feel the lack of Flash as much.

In saying that, what Apple have to remember is that will millions of Apple Customers convince web designers to dump flash?

Adobe tried to get Flash running on iOS but Apple stopped them.

What we’re looking for here is for some sort of compromise. Would Apple allow Adobe to deploy a completely custom Flash build on iOS, one that removes some UI headaches (such as the mouseovers that Steve always talks about)? Would web devs actually use such a thing ( remembering that the whole premise of Flash is to write once, run everywhere)?

What if the whole reason that Apple is doing this is to give HTML5 a running start?

So, if we are going to ask if Apple is winning and losing, we need to define exactly what “winning” and “losing” actually is. Does Apple win when HTML5 becomes dominant? Does Apple win when Adobe shutters Flash? Does Apple win when iOS only Flash-less sites spring up everywhere?

OF course, for Adobe, they win when Apple lets Flash in any form on to the platform. Adobe even win when Apple lets Adobes translation tool run.
What we can say for certain is that thus far, lack  of Flash has not hurt Apple very much.

Later, it occurred to me, that there could be another reason for Apple to leave Flash out of iOS.

Consider. Most of the worlds advertising is Flash-based. And without Flash, there is no way for people to view those adverts.

So, what does Apple come out with, but their own advertising platform.

So, Apple just locked out most of their competition in the advertising space, giving their own platform a running start. So, this means that all those advertisers have to come to Apple (or Admob, but thats a footnote) to get their adverts some views.

Apple giveth and Apple taketh away (reverse that).

Also, when one thinks of Hulu and other sites that primarily use Flash as a delivery mechanism for content, not having that option means that delivery of said content to iOS users has to go through either the iTunes Store, or H.264 and HTML 5.

So, keeping Flash off the iOS platform is central to Apple’s business interests. And, as I said in my comment above, Apple has yet to see significant backlash. Unless you are  ageek or a web dev, nobody says “I ain’t buying Apple till they support Flash”.

In fact, until this back and forth erupted between Winer and Gruber, I completely for got there wasn’t Flash on iOS. Why was that? Because web designers and developers have been making thier sites iOS friendly for years.

Even if you take the view that Apple isin’t winning, it certainly isin’t losing either.

Categories: Adobe, Apple, Flash, iPad, iPhone, Tech, Web

On iPhone 4

Monday, 14 June 2010 6:20 pm Comments off

You know, I’m kinda glad I’ve yet to buy an iPad. The reason being is the emergence of the iPhone 4.

I can just here you think “Roberto has well and truly lost it this time”.  But think about it. In terms of net technology, the iPad adds only a very little. sure it has multi touch and all these, lest we forget, amazing applications. However, much of what i can now do on my laptop and iPhone I could do on an iPad. Hence if one had to do a cost benefit analysis, one would find that the large outlay for the iPad is disproportionate to the net benefit it would bring.

However, I’m not saying I’m not getting an iPad (next time Jeff Jarvis throws his away, he’s welcome to send it to me for “recycling”).

Now, Apple also has what can be rightly termed a mini-iPad, the iPhone 4. It should be said that the iPhone is now a stable plaftorm. We have a core set of features which we will always expect from an iPhone. This means that the majority of the features I already have in my trusty iPhone 3G are in the new model.

The difference is that the iPhone offers one large feature currently completely missing from my life: video. I on’t have a Flip or other camcorder. My old Nokia N74 did have one, but its no where near as good as the one in the iPhone 4. the iMovie app is yet more value added to the package that’s irresistible. So, the cost benefit analysis would find that the outlay for one is proportionate to the net benefit – the addition of video ( and iMovie).

I’m basing this on one hardware feature. There is a laundry list of new stuff to be found in the iPhone 4, not to mention the A4 CPU that’s to be found, or the bump in battery life.

One word of caution here. When I got my iPhone it got more and more valuable as i discovered apps and workflows that worked for me. And I still do discover things, that sense of child-like wonder is still there. The same will most certainly apply to the iPad.

A second post script to add to this: As a budding amateur photographer, I see tremendous value in both of these devices. The iPad is perfect for showing off a portfolio or album. In the media-rich world we now live in, the ability to record video, even just in 720p from the iPhone 4 adds another dimension to my photography. It is a pity that Apple does not let these two devices work together.

Third postscript: Gizmodo ruined the iPhone 4 announcement. Glad they were banned from WWDC. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

Categories: Apple, iPad, iPhone, Photography

Why I Just Bought A Dell (instead of an iPad)

Tuesday, 2 February 2010 10:05 pm 4 comments

295 best_experience_20100127

Even with all the iPad hysteria in yonder interwebs, there is one fact that differentiates the iPad from a true, bad-to-the-bone laptop: the need to sync.

This above all else cripples the iPad (at least when one considers it against the backdrop of the average laptop hardware spec). Think of it. How are you going to get all those wonderful iPhone apps you’ve bought over the past three years onto your brand spanking new iPad?? You need to sync it. How are you going to get your music, tv shows and movies on top your iPad? You need to sync it. In fact, how are you going to get some swanky software update that Apple will surely release on to your iPad without syncing it??

I have that problem with my iPhones at the moment. My iTunes library  that i sync the iPhones to got borked a few weeks back. Now I have to erase and re-sync BOTH iPhones with my partially rebuild library (its a bit of a hit or miss process). Until I do that, I can get stuff off the devices, but not sync stuff to them. Bit of a pain, no?? Its going to be even worse with the iPad if I’m ever in this sticky situation with it.

Secondly, the iPad runs iPhone OS3.2, the laptop runs Windows 7 Professional. Which gives me the great freedom of applications?? It depends. I have no qualms about the app store. Its the type of application that is allowed on the iPad/iPhone thats the problem. Apple clearly prohibits running Virtual machines, or any kind of Just In Time compiliation on the device in question. So how do I write code on the thing?? (writing code is useless if you can’t compile in real time and debug). A Jailbreak is out of the question , and even then, Visual Studio is certainly not coming to a jailbroken iPad near you.

Second, the hardware itself limits what kind of applications you can run. If Adobe produces a stripped down version of Photoshop (likely – they already have a Photoshop iPhone app), Lightroom (possible, it depends on if the SDK allows access to the SD and USB port adaptors) or Illustrator (after Apple demonstrated the drawing capabilities of the iPad, why not?), you can bet your bottom dollar that they are not going to be anywhere as full featured and powerful as their desktop (and laptop) counterparts. The hardware is Apple’s very own custom silicon. The A4 system-on-a-chip made by PA Semi for its parent company runs at 1Ghz. Not exactly world class performance. And until we have industry standard bench marks, nobody can say for sure. Nevertheless, this nice Dell system runs a Intel® Core™2 T6670(2.2GHz,800MHz,2MB). A nice speed improvement, if I do say so myself. The current consensus is that the iPad has about a 1Gb of RAM. Compared to the 4Gbs in the Dell build.

Now I do a lot of typing on my laptop – whether thats for code or for taking notes or the occasional blog post. So the Keyboard is must for me. The iPad keyboard dock is an ingenious design, and would look good on just about any desktop (not to mention those nice display tables at the Apple Store). It goes along way to answering those critics who, after three years of using their iPhone virtual keyboards, still like their tactile feedback (not to mention the much improved ergonomics of writing volumes on the keyboard dock rather than just on your lap – there must be some ergonomically minded lobby that would blame apple for all the RSI around, right?). What i can’t imagine is lugging the dock all the way to uni, setting it up and then putting this tiny little iPad on it and then taking notes for three hours (mind you, after actually trying this I may change my mind, but thats months away). Equally, I can’t imagine turning up to a busness meeting armed with the keyboard dock and iPad – i’d be the laughing stock of any (Dell-dominated) conference table.

In saying that the iPhone virtual keyboard has been very good to me. If one had to graph the spelling mistakes I (inadvertently) tweet, there is a continual improvement ( a reverse hockey stick graph if you will). So I’m certainly not against the virtual keyboard on the iPad. How it will actually work, however, is another question altogether. I’m typeing this on the last Dell laptop i bought, and the keys give me firm, reassuring feedback. Not to mention the almost soothing sound the keys make as I type, the sound of success (if I an’t typing, I aint working).

Then there is battery. Now, if Apple is to be believed, the iPad has 10 hours of battery life and a month of standby. No idea if that’s 10 ours of general use, of video playback, of web browsing or music playback etc. Going by the iPhone’s track record I’m not so sure I’m always going to get 10 hours out of the thing. However, the 10 hours still far outlives the seven i had for two years with the current laptop’s 9 cell li-ion battery. And the 2 hours I’ve lived with for the past for months. And the zero hours that I’ve had for a week and a half now.

Now lets think of the gravy.

One, the laptop has no app store. On the minus side, this means that I have to source the applications I wish to run myself.  I have replacements for all the iPads built in applications. This, ironically enough, includes iBooks. Its called Kindle for PC. From Amazon. (Amazon’s actions over the weekend is a subject for another post, but read this brilliant article by the author John Scalazi). I have the Full Creative suite 3 from Adobe. I have Microsoft’s Expression Studio 3. I have Visual studio 2008 and 2010. I have SQL Server 2008. I have Office 2008 (soon to be 2010). I have a virtual swiss knife of utilities near and dear to my heart for everything from screen capture to April fools jokes.

Two, webcam. This laptop build has an integrated webcam. And the iPad does not. And yes, I’ve heard of those rumors of the camera cavity in the iPad’s frame. And yes there is every possibility that el Steveo will pull a One More Thing on launch day and announce the addition of a camera. But here we deal with certainties and absolutes, not obscure fantasies and wet dreams of fanboys. So we assume that there is no camera on the iPad version 1. But, again assuming that the SDK allows the access, the appearance of the third party webcam is almost assured. But still, I have a integrated webcam here and now.

Third, 64 bit. This is a 64 bit processor with a 64 bit OS. Need I say more?

Forth, DVD drive. For those movies I’d like to watch without going though the palava of syncing them. The benefits of having the DVD drive handy are still very much apparent, even in this age of the cloud and the on demand nature of the downloading programs off the web (legitimately, of course). The iPad is complete dependant on the internet for its software, music, and there is iTunes syncing for anything else.

The one question mark here, which I will require an actual iPad to answer, is the screen. The Dell screen is anti glare, and promises to be a significant improvement on the screen on my current laptop. The iPad screen is IPS and supposedly has a great viewing angle. According to Steve Jobs, that is. No-one has had it in direct sunlight yet, so we’ve no idea how well it handles the glare. The winner in this category will undoubtedly be Amazons Kindle (that pesky Company again).

So with out further ado, here are the specs:

Base
Vostro 1520 : Standard Base

Memory
4096MB 800 MHz Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM (2x2GB)

Keyboard
Internal Keyboard – English (QWERTY)

Video Card
Integrated GMA X4500 HD Graphics

Hard Drive
320GB (7,200rpm) Serial ATA Hard Drive with Free Fall Sensor

Microsoft Operating System
English Genuine Windows® 7 Professional (64 BIT)

Optical Devices
8X DVD+/-RW Drive including software for WIN7

Wireless Networking
Dell Wireless 1397 Mini Card (802.11 b/g) European

Primary Battery
Primary 6-cell 56 WHr Lithium Ion battery

Processor
Intel® Core™2 T6670(2.2GHz,800MHz,2MB)

Camera
Integrated 1.3MP Camera

Colour Choice
Obsidian Black

LCD
15.4 inch WXGA+ CCFL Anti-Glare Display Anti-Glare

The obligatory iPad post.

Friday, 29 January 2010 6:15 pm Comments off

Now, I am really excited about the iPad. now before you dismiss this post as just another fanboy rant, hear me out.

The App Store

The app store is a smart idea if only to leverage the power, dominance and success of the iPhone App Store.

There is an uproar over the fact that Apple has closed its device up.

One, Apple has very simple rules for admission into the Apps store. if you meet them, then you go in and make your money. Apple is happy since your app will not crash its perfect tablet (and looks good) and you’re happy to be in and making money.

Two, Apple has one golden rule for apps: no duplication of functionality. That’s why the Google Voice App was rejected and caused the entire blogosphere to have palpitations. This still leave considerable leeway for developers.  Note also that the iWorks applications actually have to be bought separately and installed. They are not native functionality. Hence, and if I’m reading this right, Microsoft could in theory have Office Applications on the iPad. Isn’t that fair??

Three, native iPad apps are going to be just great. It will take a while for developers to fully leverage the capability of the iPad, but we have no idea what they will come up with. So, who wants to go tot he end of cyberspace and back to find these little gems?? Not me. The App store is by far the most convenient way of discovering and installing new apps.

(Note – There are a number of apps that I love that would look wonderful on the iPad- more on this in a future post)

The iBook Store

I was seriously considering buying a Kindle 2. Its cheaper than an iPad, it has a great store, it has a great screen and it has free 3G. And, this is the important bit, has international availability. As far as i know, the iBook store is restricted to US customers only. Presumably until Apple negotiates the international rights. And apple has 2 months to do that.

Another thing worth noting:the iBook books are significantly more expensive than the Kindle books. This is a problem. A big problem. I can probably buy the dead tree version of that book for less than either of them.

Now I may only buy a few books year but that cost difference adds up.

there has been much talk of the multimedia capabilities of the device, and how publishers could leverage this in their books, but i want to see what forms this make take to see if its worth it. From that cost difference alone, my Kindle may well pay for itself.

The Wireless

Much has been made about how you have to fork out some money every month for 3G access. So what?? its a contract-less arrangement thats cheaper than AT&T’s normal data contact. being able to use it on a month to month basis makes it extremely flexible.

The fact that there is a 250Mb cap on the cheaper plan has got people frothing at the mouth. Come one people!!! I never have gone above 250Mb a month on my iPhone. Ever.

i already have 3G on my iPhone, so the 3G on the iPad is redundant. that is why I’d prefer the Wi-Fi iPad.

 

The Accessories

The Keyboard Dock is awesome. Period. Whether I actually need one is another matter altogether.

Now this is the point that has been driving me crazy with the iPad coverage. People have been complaining that the iPad has no SD or USB slots. It actually does. There are two adaptors that plug into the connector slot. The current use case for these are for camera’s. Which is great.

Think of it. I’m on a shoot. I take the SD card out and review all the JPEG’s on the iPad. I can email them as well, sort them, tag them, make notes.

Better yet I can stick my portfolio on the iPad and show clients on a beautiful, slick deice, consumerate with the standard of my work. Impressed customer?? You bet.

The Screen

This is where the Kindle really has the chance to shine. The e-ink screen needs no backlight (hence not much battery power), is easy on the eyes and can be read in direct sunlight. Whether the iPad screen will stand up to hours of use (i.e for our own eyes), and use in direct sunlight remains to be seen. I think this is a fairly compelling reason to get he kindle over the iPad.

Since teh Screen does not support Widescreen natively, the actual movie viewing area is very very small. I’m not at all bothered about that.

Conclusion

The iPad is NOT a device, or simply a platform for consuming content – having the ability to install iWorks on the iPad is one indication of that.

The exclusion of a camera does not bother me – i don’t want one.

If Steve lets me do what I wanna do, I’m happy. I wanna work with the iPad and transfer to the PC very, very easily. I wanna use it as a star Trek PADD. i wanna leverage the full eco system of applications and accessories that complement the iPhone. Who knows if Adobe will release Photoshop for the iPad??

But i am a Microsoft developer. I live and breathe in Visual Studio. There is no way I am going to ditch the laptop in favour of the iPad. I need it for work. not to mentiont hat I need it to sync the iPad in the first place (yes here are other machines, but the laptop is the most convenient one). Which is

I don’t feel that there is a compelling case for unilaterally ditching the Kindle (certainly not if Apple will let the Kindle App onto the iPad). I have a feeling that the Kindle 3 will give us more to think about. Amazon will come back at apple with Something. Even if its the mass of personalized recommendations that Amazon has on our book buying habits. I think that this is one arena that the battle is not over in.

But I will say this.

The week after its release, I’m going to the store and I’m having an hands on session with it.

And then I’m gonna by it.

Categories: Amazon, Apple, iPad, Kindle, Software, Tech
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