The Apple iPad

The iPad is now about two months old. I had actually started writing this post the first week we had it, but never got around to finishing it. Luckily, my view has stayed pretty consistent over time. By now, you probably have read tons of reviews (both positive and negative), many of them saying the same thing. I am not saying that I will say anything new or different – I just want to record and share my thoughts on the device as well.

Sorry if some of the thoughts below are random and mixed together. While I want to say a little about each of these, none of them warrant their own section. Most of this is a list I have been building over the last month. Also, this is a rather long post. I couldn’t decide on a good way to split everything up between multiple posts.

  • Why we got it – I can’t say I have always wanted a tablet-like device, but ever since owning an iPhone, I really wanted something larger as well. But more recently – I have really wanted an extra low-end machine to keep in the living room so I could browse the web while our laptop may be in use (its my wife’s primary machine). I do this on my iPhone already, but that gets tedious after a while – and wanted something only slightly larger – not having to be more powerful. After the announcement – I still wasn’t sure about purchasing this versus a netbook. Right before the launch though, we also started talking about replacing my primary machine (our almost 3-year-old 24″ iMac) – with either a new MacBook Pro or another iMac. I went with the iPad vs Netbook since I didn’t want another ‘machine’. If I had the netbook, that’s another profile to manage, documents to keep, etc. For something just for web browsing and other random things – it’s a lot of overhead for a full-blown OS.
  • I didn’t preorder – I really wanted to feel the device in my hands before preordering. I wanted to feel the weight, see it hands on, and use one before I dropped the cash on mine. Luckily, almost everyone I know through our local Cocoaheads ordered one – and one of the guys had a cookout on the release date. My wife and I got to use some of theirs – and then decided that if there were some in stock – we would buy one. Luckily that afternoon – all 3 sizes were still in stock – so we purchased one (as well as the Apple case for it).
  • Don’t buy the Apple case – We bought the Apple case on day one. I then sold it a week or two later. While it worked great and fit the iPad perfectly – it has major flaws for me. It feels rather cheap (for its cost). It also collects WAY too much dust and fingerprints. Finally, it’s a pain to get on and off the device. While I am at home, I didn’t want to use it in the case much – and it was a pain to keep taking the case on and off. Instead, I purchased a Belkin netbook case, which keeps the unit safe. It doesn’t hold the device snugly, but I am also not throwing the device around the house.
  • The San Francisco trip – Shortly after purchasing the iPad, we went on vacation to San Francisco. Instead of bringing our MacBook or my work Dell, we decided to just use the iPad for the whole week, as well as our iPhones. This worked PERFECTLY. Our hotel had wi-fi, and we had no issues connecting to it (on the other hand, it was a very slow network). We used many different apps, including Maps, Mail, Yelp, GoodReader, and Safari. We were able to keep in touch with everyone, as well as plan a kitchen remodel across the country, on the iPad. Our contractor would send email and PDF’s, and we could share the iPad to check things out and respond. We also used Game Table and solitaire to play a few games on the flight, and I also started reading The Lost Symbol through Amazon’s Kindle app. We had no issues with this device out there, and it honestly was more enjoyable (and lighter) than having a laptop to carry around. The camera connection kit was not available while we were out there – but we were hoping it was. I was getting close to running out of space on some of my SD cards from our T1i, and it would have been great to copy them over to the iPad.
  • My next machine – The device has really made me start questioning what I would like for my next machine. I was planning on getting a MacBook Pro, so I could be a bit more mobile with the device. But when it came down to it – other than development and photography – the iPad let me do all of this. Therefore I could get more machine for my money by going with another iMac (plus a lot more screen real estate).
  • User Interface and Experience Decisions – One thing I found interesting is that most of the Apple apps have a very rich UI, and very tied into real-life materials. For example, the notepad app has a UI that shows stitching in leather. While very clean and nice looking – I wonder why they went into such detail to make it so ‘real’ looking. Another observation is the paper-turn animation in iBooks. While very cool and pretty – its honestly a little distracting at times. Plus – I know I am not reading a dead-tree version of the book – so why imitate all this? The one reason I think they did all this is to help bridge a bunch of mental gaps. They want you to feel comfortable using these – and it helps. Also, many 3rd Party developers realize there are more “power users”, and develop their apps to look very clean and pretty – but remove a lot of the bells and whistles of the UI. The most interesting UI choice for me was this – the keyboard has dimples on the F and J keys. On a normal keyboard this lets you find the keys without looking, and then prepare your hands accordingly. But on a virtual keyboard?
  • iBooks (and Kindle) – I don’t read much, but have been wanting too. I did download a few books with iBooks, and I do like it, but the library just isn’t there yet. But thankfully with the Kindle app for iPad, there are plenty of books to choose from. I plan on mostly using the Kindle app for now – but downloaded a lot of the free classics in iBooks. Reading on this device has been great, and not as distracting as I once thought it would be. Though, over time and depending on how you are sitting/laying, the device does start to get heavy.
  • Is 16GB enough? – When I got the wife’s approval to get the iPad – we decided on the 16GB one. When getting ready to checkout – she failed to mention I could have picked up the 32GB instead! But I am not worried about it – the 16GB has been enough for me. That may be due to my usage of the device:
    • I currently stream my videos (Netflix or podcasts or YouTube – and may use StreamToMe later)
    • I don’t carry music on the device. I hope Apple does release this rumored ‘iTunes in the Cloud’ at some point, but not holding my breath yet. I can stream some music if I really want to, as well as usually always have my iPod with me.

    Since these are two things that take up the most space on the device – you can see I am not using all of that. So I have plenty of room for Apps and other things. I still even only have less than 2 pages of apps. I feel that 16GB is plenty for someone who isn’t carrying all the other stuff around.

  • Insane battery life – its true. I easily can go a week or two of using this a few hours every night to check feeds a few times, check twitter and Facebook, and read some. I am easily getting 10-12 hours a charge.
  • What’s missing?
    • Flash – Steve Jobs said it perfectly in his D8 talk – while everyone didn’t like that Flash wasn’t on the iPhone – it really went to another level when we found out the iPad didn’t have it either. This is nearly the number one thing people complain about. For me – I don’t care. You need flash for 2 main things – games and videos. I personally don’t play any flash games at all – and actually many of them (or their concepts) are available in the app store as full games. You will see even more of this over time. And the games that are on the iOS devices are much better than most flash games I have seen. As far as videos – I don’t feel like I am missing much. And over time – this will change too. You only need flash for the ‘container’ or player – not the video. As more sites embed using HTML5 and the like, it will be even better. This is not to say I wish we didn’t have it – but I am glad I am not hindered by it when it’s not working well on a mobile device (plus, every crash I have on my Mac in Safari is related to Flash).
    • Multitasking – Now using the iPhone for 2 years, I can’t say that I was in dire need for this. But this point is now moot – Multitasking will be in iOS 4. I can say I do welcome the feature, and look forward to using it – but never felt this hindered what I used the iPad or iPhone for.
    • A Camera – a rear camera would have been nearly useless on this device. Could you imaging how you would have to hold the thing to take a picture? But I do think a front-facing camera would have been nice – especially with iPhone 4’s new FaceTime feature. I am sure the next iPad will have a front-facing camera, and will be able to use this feature as well.
    • Multiple Users – one thing that I would love on this device is the ability to have multiple users. My wife and I share the device – and so we always have to login/logout of various web sites or use various different apps (for example, she reads here feeds in the Google Reader webapp, while I use NewsReader). This works great for us but it would be great if some apps (especially Safari) would let us have separate profiles or something. I guess the other solution is to eventually just buy another iPad (which I know quite a few people that did this).
  • My iPhone feels so slow/second class now – I have a 3G, so I haven’t yet had the experience of using a 3GS (or now 4) as a day-in, day-out phone. But when I picked up the iPad, used it, then picked up my iPhone, what a world of difference. Since then, my iPhone feels so slow. But this changes in just a few weeks – as we are picking up the new iPhone 4.
  • iOS 4 – You may have seen me mention this already – but iOS 4 is what Apple renamed their iPhone OS too – since its now on more devices than just the iPhone. You can read on Apple’s site all of the features coming to these devices soon. But while on the topic of the iOS, I do have two things to mention
    • Apple has already thought of everything you are thinking of – this is pretty general (and not iPad specific), but many people complain about iOS not having certain features, and think Apple just doesn’t care or doesn’t think things through. Let me tell you – that is not the case. I am sure, without a doubt, they have thought of everything people complain about, and tried it at one point or another. There is usually a good reason why a particular feature is not available.
    • iPad will be getting iOS 4 late – Many people are complaining about getting this fancy new device, but the phone getting the features months ahead of the others. There is a reason for this as well, I am sure. iPad was a very secretive product, and I am sure many people on the OS/Phone teams did not know what was going on. I feel that at some point, they branched the OS 3.x codebase – and went their own way. The results of this were shown off in January, at the devices announcement. At that point – the two teams could merge back together – and basically had to unify everything again. Secondly, with the huge changes in iOS 4, not only did OS 3.2 have to merge back into the 3.x branch, they also had to get all the updates to 4. This is going to take time, and that’s why the iPad will get 4 later than the phones or iPod Touch.
  • Development for it – I am finally getting around to getting my iPhone Dev Connection stuff setup, and finally able to develop for all the different types of iOS products. With the now 3 key screen resolutions (iPhone 1-3, iPhone 4, and iPad), the tools are in place to really make some cool apps for all the devices. I have some plans for these, and will write more about it when the time comes.
  • It is still an appliance/tool. It does not change you as a person. I find it funny just how many people think that because you own any Apple product – you are a consumer whore, zombie, or fanboy. Look – it’s just a tool. You pick the right tool for the job. I chose Apple a long time ago, and I feel like I have the best tools. Other tools may do the job better – but for what I do, I am very happy with my choice of tools. Many people don’t understand this concept – and feel that a computer is more than a tool.
  • Smugness of non-users – above and beyond what I just wrote above, I have noticed a very odd backlash of non-users against those that purchase one of these. Even though I have been using Apple things for a LONG time, and used to the usual ‘Oh you have a Mac, get a real computer’ – the iPad really seems to really increase the volume of the non users, using the same old argument. I really just don’t understand it. Not a big deal, but just an observation.
  • The mom test (multi-touch, still took getting used to, still needs a purpose) – A few days after I got it, I showed it off to my mom, stepdad, brother, and his fiance. Watching my moms use the device was the most interesting. When I showed her multi-touch – she wanted it everywhere. Every place she got a chance to use multi-touch – she wanted to, and thought it was nice. It made sense, and she picked it up quickly, for not being a computer person (she seriously asked me when learning on our first Mac what exactly a double-click was). She was a bit overwhelmed by what it could do – and I think this relates to the ‘Sales Pitch’ below. Finally – she said she just didn’t have a use for it. She couldn’t play Farmville (which is actually changing – as its coming out the end of this month), she liked her big computer, etc. Though I do think when she (if ever) wants a mobile – this would be the device for her rather than a laptop.
  • It’s a big iPod Touch, but is that a bad thing? – I swear I hear this all the time. And when I first started hearing it – I came back with just as silly jokes. For example – isn’t your BMW just an expensive car? But then I realized – it’s not the question – it’s the way people ask. This question seems to always have a negative connotation (why would I want one if I can just get a cheaper iPod Touch). So I decided the best route was to answer this question as ‘Yes, it is, basically’, but then dive in deeper with what makes it better having a big iPod Touch. The screen is the HUGE factor here, and lets you do a lot of things you couldn’t do on the smaller devices.
  • The Sales Pitch – I have found this device, more than anything, the hardest to demo to friends/family. Many people seem to have already made up their minds – because the media/bloggers told them what to think. To top this off – it’s very hard to ‘show’ the product off, what do you really demo? I found it best to let those people play with it, or recommend they check it out at the store. They need to sell themselves. Explaining how I use it has helped a lot too. People either get it, or they don’t. You don’t really need to waste your time selling it to them.
  • A first gen product? – This is actually the first “first generation” Apple product I had ever purchased – though it doesn’t feel like a first-gen product. I say this for two reasons: 1) This device has been in development for years, possibly before the iPhone, and refined like crazy and 2) Already owning an iPhone and using almost every iteration since – it just feels like a continuation of that line, to an extent.
  • Do I regret purchasing it? – I ask myself this question at times, but no – I don’t. I don’t think anyone has a need for this product – it’s just something cool to have and use. I happen to be lucky and have some disposable income to put toward this product – and generally very happy with my purchase. Sure I could have saved that money or bought something else, but I don’t regret purchasing this one. I also at one point worried that iPhone 4 would make me never use the iPad again, but I don’t think that will happen. The extra screen space makes a big difference.
  • Won’t the next one have _______ and be so much better – Of course it will, and then the one after that too, and so on. And hopefully I am lucky enough (and the feature set is worth it) to upgrade to the next one (or purchase a second one – one for me, one for the wife – as I mentioned above). We will have to wait and see.

If you really read this far – thanks! I hope to look back at this post one day to see if I feel the same way. But as you can see, I am very happy with my purchase, and really recommend it to everyone.

Odd popping noise with 24″ iMac with external speakers

I noticed recently this odd popping noise coming from my speakers over the weekend, right before any audio was played. I’m not sure how long this had been going on, because when I use the iMac, I almost always have music playing. But on Sunday when I only had iChat running for a bit – every few minutes when someone would sign on or off, the speakers would pop and then play the audio.

After doing a little bit of research, I found that a few other people had this problem, but no one could ever find the final cause. Here are some of the fixes that I found:

  • Doing a OS update (either with the Combo updater or some other updaters). This is mainly because often you are replacing the audio drivers
  • Zap PRAM
  • Remove some of your sound preferences.

Since we are so close to 10.6.3 coming out, I decided to not do another update right now. My plan of attack ended up just zapping the PRAM (hold down Command, Option, P, and R when booting, you will hear the chimes, it will reboot again, once you see the Apple logo, let go – the same way its been since even Classic Mac OS) and removing the following

  • ~/Library/Preferences/com.apple.soundpref.plist
  • /Library/Preferences/com.apple.soundpref.plist
  • /Library/Preferences/com.apple.audio.DeviceSettings.plist

Not all four existed on my system, but this is the list I put together from other sites so far.

After a reboot, things seem to be better, but not 100% fixed just  yet. I have noticed my tests no longer replicate the issue, but when I come home from work and play audio for the first time (which would leave the machine sitting idle for ~10 hours), it still pops. Also, the audio system does ‘sleep’ when not in use, and possibly the above methods just reset whatever that timer was.

Picasa for the Mac!

I’m not sure how many people know, but last year, I decided to start a new blog focusing on photography called ‘Exploring Photography Blog‘.

Well I dont plan on doing this that much, but I wanted to link to a post over there I just wrote about something I have been wanting for a while, Picasa for the Mac!

If your interested in photography, please bookmark the site and add the feed. I plan on posting quite a bit more to it this year!

Platform Wars

Arguing on the Internet is just stupid, and of course one of the longest on-going arguments on the internet is ‘My OS is better than your OS’. Of course when I started as a Mac user, no one wanted to say they were a Mac user :). Now you have fanboys that cant help but rub it in your face that they use a Mac. And quite honestly, you have the same amount of people on the PC side that still think Apple is going to go under any day now, or that they are some type of elitist because they haven’t made the ‘switch’.

Being a multi-platform user, this ‘argument’ just doesn’t make sense to me. The computer, and its operating system, is just a utility/tool/device. Just like your toaster, or your fridge, or your car, or your phone (oh wait..). Obviously people have preferences about the tools they like, and this is especially the case in autos (I used to never want a non-American auto, but now, I never want to buy American again). Its funny to watch flame wars happen on various forums, twitter, and even in person.

Maybe I look at the conmputer differently – as an open platform for me to express myself as I see fit, and then choose the appropriate tools (Mac, PC, whatever) to help me accomplish what I need to do. While Im an AVID Mac fan – Im not tied to Apple. In all honesty, Im actually getting sick and tired of Apple’s failing quality control and failure to address flaws in a timely mannor (or even tell us whats going on).

I don’t know what sparked this post, and originally, wasn’t going to even post it. But I just find it odd from various places I have seen online for people to ‘blindly follow’ a brand in some cases, just becasue ‘its the right thing to do’. A perfect example will be tomorrow. Apple (and Microsoft) have an event. Im in the market for a new small iPod, so Im excited for what Apple may release. But im also hoping they can fix our phones…

SSH tunnel

Well, finally go that to work.

As I have mentioned before, when I upgraded to Tiger (10.4), I did not reinstall my VPN. While the PC users get to download the VPN client, Mac users have to get a CD to install the client. These CD’s are limited, and I have one, but haven’t taken the time to install it on here (and it never worked right).

Well, after a bit of complaining, they tried out another one. But the disadvantage is that it locked everything down except port 80, which is your web browsing. So this means you cant Remote Desktop, VNC, or get on AIM.

Then go back to a post I made recently, that I got my server up and running. I then set it up so I can ssh into it to do all my work. ssh also lets you make tunnels, so you can connect to other computers with a secure connection. Well, with that tunnel, you can also forward ports. After reading a bit online, I finally figured out how to get that tunnel to work, and RDC into my home machine.

The following instructions worked for me. If you need some help, feel free to contact me.

1) set up some type of ssh server – Some routers can be directly ssh’d into. If so, skip this. This was not my case. I instead opened the port on my router (22), and then have the router forwarding everything from port 22 from my router to 22 on my server.

2) set up the tunnel – You then use the following command to create the tunnel.

ssh username@xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx -L 3389:yyy.yyy.yyy.yyy:3389

In most cases, this then will ask you your normal ssh login password. xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx is the IP address of your router (or ssh server). Remember, my router is sending everything from port 22 straight to my Ubuntu server. yyy.yyy.yyy.yyy is the IP address of the internal Windows machine you want to connect to. In my case, it was a 192.168.zzz.zzz address.

3) Connect with RDC – Once connected, you have made a tunnel over ssh for port 3389, the standard RDC port. Now you can go to Remote Desktop Client, and then type ‘localhost:3389’ in the connect to dialog.

4) Your done!

Im Listening to: ‘Liki Cat’ by Jimmy Chamberlin Complex & Billy Corgan from the album Life Begins Again