12 Apps of Christmas

With all my friends talking about their possible Christmas Purchases… the  requests for iPad recommendations keeps coming up. So for those that are taking the tablet plunge this Christmas here are 12 ‘I can’t live without’ Applications

 

12 Epicurious Because every operating system starts with a recipe card application….

11 IMDB the couchside answer to all you TV/Movie watching questions

10 Pastebot Getting Copy and Paste to your computer

9 Remote – the way I want to run all the media in my house….

8 Mobile Mouse – sofa control for my media Mini and any PC or Mac

7 Rivet – just started usign this but it is looking like a winner for my cross device media streaming from the computers to my iPhone,iPad, Xbox, and PS3…

6 Evernote – uses vary but I load pictures of reciepts into it and they are searchable – Sweet

5 Twitter Client of Choice – I use Twittleator Pro

4 GoodReader there are others.. this works and is relatively cheap

3 NoteTaker HD – Handwritting Note app

2 Reeder – All my RSS feeds, all the time

1 Instapaper– Anything I need to read, when I have a moment to read it.

While the best tend to be popular, widely used titles the honourable mentions go to the niche excellent titles…

Foreflight … as a pilot I’d buy an iPad just to put Foreflight on it.

Textexpander – should use it more than I do on the iPad – make that a new years resolution for 2011 – won’t live without it on my Macs…

Omnifocus if you are serious about Getting Things Done…

1Password – it was mostly for password syncing to the Mac but they have a PC client our now too… Saves a lot of typing and keeps you from wimping out on your passwords.

StarWalk – I was initally impressed by Elements for the way to make science compelling on the iPad but Starwalk is just flat out cool on any scale… See the universe by holding it up to the sky .. literally

Living the iPad Lifestyle, The State of iPad Satisfaction

Well I like mine, but here is a little more comprehensive view of what iPad users like.  The State of iPad Satisfaction Its clear the iPad is still largely (>805) used by those that already have a Mac and an iPhone. On the applicaitons side, the screen real estate appears to win points with Web (Safari) and Maps.

The other factor in the size of the iPad is the Battery with Battery Life winning fans (~80% ‘totally satisfied’)

All credit for the stats go to Harry McCracken and his publication Technologizer

Living the iPad Lifestyle, Fit for purpose.

In the language of ITIL, the bible of IT Service delivery there is this concept of “Fit for Use” and “Fit for Purpose”. Fit for Use simply measures whether a product or service can function. Fit for Use takes it to the next step of measuring the capability of a product compared to its intended use.

For example Powerpoint is a functional piece of software (fit for use) and is an acceptable presentation tool (fit for purpose). But some people attempt to use it as an image editing tool because that is all they have – that is a purpose it really isn’t fit for.

For all my talk of the iPad, there was a stated purpose that I had hung a large part of my purchase on. Can the iPad be my Electronic Flight Bag. Saturday, I finally tested that premise with a short but practical field test. A short sightseeing flight with a passenger in one of the club airplanes.

Now the actual in airplane usage is only part of the flight bag concept. Much of staying current as a recreational pilot is staying aware of the rules, regulations and changes in airspace. In Canada, that means dealing with Transport Canada and Nav Canada information.

Transport Canada has done a good job of getting the basic information out in the form of theTransport Canada Aeronautical Information Manual. While the basic rules don’t change that often the Information Circulars and the Supplements need to be reviewed regularly. For example Information Circular 11/10 lists changes to the airspace around Vancouver and Victoria that will affect my future flights which will show up in the new map I need to buy after July 19th. All this information used to be part of a tedious paper process that would fill a small garbage can every 56 days. These PDFs combined with GoodReader on my iPad is a more than capable substitute although I may end up using iBooks which now also does PDFs. The advantage of Goodreader is it will pull these right down from the website.

NavCanada data is a little harder to come by. They have put up basic information such as the Airport Diagrams but you still need the official documents in hard copy. Carrying the hard copies are going to be the rule for the foreseeable future but it would be nice to have a quick reference version (free or paid). I’m really hoping the folks at Foreflight can get a agreement for Canadian charts and info in there excellent iPhone and IPad application. I was able to use the moving map display as part of the US charts overlap Victoria, which is an awesome cross check to the printed charts, but less useful once I get near Naniamo (CYCD).

Screenshot of Foreflight for the iPad

What Foreflight can provide in Canada is the Weather information I would have collected from the Flight Planning website. Long gone are the yellowing rolls of teletype paper that was the standard up to the 1990s. While I had this on the iPhone for the last year, the iPad takes it to a new level. The graphical forecasts such as the Graphical Area Forecast and the Surface Analysis. It does have NOTAMs but I still would rely on the NavCanada website for that. I printed out the local NOTAMs for last Saturday’s Flight. Foreflight does provide some airport data but not enough to replace the Canadian Flight Supplement (CFS).

I will admit that it was a little more of a reminder to read all this aviation information when those piles of ammendments were siting on my desk. However, The iPad combined with some reliable sources of PDFs and live information does give me a better chance of finding something when I do go looking for it. I’m counting on that making me a safer and more informed pilot, which in the end makes me more fit for my purpose – every time I get in the airplane.

PS – Canadian Owners and Pilot Association has an electronic version of their COPA Flight newspaper. Although it is a Flash version online, I was able to generate a PDF to sync to iBook on my iPad.


Living the iPad Lifestyle, Unitasking, and why 1 isn’t always a lonely number.

I’ve been using a iPad, almost exclusively, as my personal computer for a couple weeks. There area pluses and minuses that I have noted before. But there is a real difference inthe work style. It’s been noted by a couple other sources such as Minimal Mac look at Unitasking and Shawn Blanc take on the right tool. In the past, I’ve noted the value of software such as Writeroom which made kit name on crating a clutter free environment for writing. The iPad is that clutter free environment right out of the box. This is really a powerful idea because its either a bunch of ‘us’ fanboys trying to make a vertue of a missing feature … or … the limitation of multitasking has more to with my brain than my technology.

If you accept that multitasking is really a myth, then all you do when you attempt to work on multiple, divergent tasks at the same time is preform the PC equivalent of fast-swtiching. This is when computer theory and brain theory have a little in common. Task switching takes overhead, not a lot in some cases, but enough to reduce the efficiency of a person or a process. In my mind that isn’t the biggest risk. Lack of focus, leads to loss of ‘resolution’ meaning that little things can slip.

Eventually you discover the missed bit of info and loop back, voiding a large chunk of work, and do it over. Or worse, you accept a level of garbage in your output. In computer talk, this problem also occurs when you attempt parallel processing (failed branch prediction). For the rest of us, it amounts to “there’s never time to do it right but there’s always time to do it over…” If unitasking helps me focus, and it reduces the ‘do overs’ then I’m a happy guy.


Living the iPad lifestyle, a couple more limiting cases

Last time I covered a couple of limitations of the iPad. Tris Hussey added another with his post on using the iPad, clearly nailing the issues of blog postings. I’m using my iPad to update this blog but it only works with the basic text entry, links, markup, graphics, and such are painful to non-existent. The WordPress application on the iPad seems broken. Cut and paste (like URLs) in the app doesn’t work for me. This includes the ability to use the iPads improved spelling correction features.

The spelling and cut and paste issues are a real limitation of using an iPad as a portable writing tool. It’s like the iPad should be made for blogging (a Twitter or longer microblogging) but justdoesnt deliver – yet.

That gets me back to the concept of text entry and content creation on the iPad. The keyboard (especially in landscape) is awesome and the predictive text is better than ever but….

There are two issues I personally run into on a regular basis and they are above and below the keyboard itself. When trying to touch type the letters themselves are okay but the space bar is a pain. I frequently miss it on the low (bezel) side and my words run together. This is a particular problem with my WordPress posts where the spell checker doesn’t work. This would be insanely frustrating for the average user.

The other is missing the keyboard to the high side which encroaches on the text arrea. Cashing my cursor to to the bottom of what I’m editing. Also a little maddening. Again this is something that is unique to the idea of an on screen touch keyboard.

Living the iPad lifestyle, what it can’t do…

So a week plus into being an iPad user the initial shine continues…

But in the interest of balance a short list of the things that really fall in the ‘you can’t get there from here’ category.

File Handling
For most of the things you want to do on the Internet from email to updating your blog, the iPad can get it done – until you hit the issue of files. Whether it is sending an attachment in email or uploading a picture to your blog there are some serious limits. Now I use Gmail for almost everything so saving a file locally and attaching it to another email really isn’t an issue for me. But if you are using a conventional mail service (POP/IMAP) I think the average person is going to run into problems. The limit I hit was taking some pictures off my iPad and post them to my blog. You can do it but forget even basic edits before you throw them up. In short, if the web enabled service can manipulate what you need, don’t count on the iPad doing it locally.

Per User support/Guest Mode
This sounds silly for a ‘personal’ device but unlike and iPod or an iPhone it is significantly more common for someone else to be using my iPad. I know many people share laptops and never think about multi-user set up. There are too many hard coded preferences in the iPad apps to just pass it around as is. At the very least a ‘guest mode’ with limited access to some Apps or their preferences (twitter clients, email, and facebook come to mind) would go a long way.

Multiple Clipboards/Scratch Space
I use multiple clipboards on my regular machines all the time and I love it. The ability to key the last 10 or 20 things you cut and drop it back in just saves so much hassle. In the iPad with no ‘drag and drop’ option there needs to be a way to keep the app switching to a minimum. Just the idea of taking a URL and a clip of text from webpage in Safari and get it into a email seems be a little more than I really want to do.

Browser Extensions
The issues with Flash on the iPad is well known. Not really something I worry much about as I run Flash blockers on my desktops as well. But there are many useful browser extensions that I would like to run. Not the least of which is my password manager 1Password. Since Safari 5 just recently got browser extensions, which allows for things we’ve seen in Firefox for years, you hope that a similar capability may exist on the iPad. In the interim, I’ve had luck running bookmarklets, 1Password has one that replaces some of the funcitionality of their extension but not all, the bit.ly sidebar tool works, and tools for Boxee and Pinboard do work.


Living the iPad lifestyle, after week one.

So after one week of the iPad the shine still continues.

The two features that keep coming through are speed and battery life. There are many more powerful computers but from zero to doing something the iPad is probably my fastest computer. Launching and switching apps is so much faster than my laptop or desktop that it is almost hard to go back. I use my iPad while I’m watching my Windows desktop login. Then the battery life Is better than my iPhone. Both of those means you never think about using it, it’s just there. That is truly compelling functionality.

After a week of loading apps I’m now getting to the rationalization phase. The apps I loaded on a whim early are starting to fall away. Likewise , I’m waiting on many of my iPhone favorites to come in with the expanded iPad version. Reeder App for RSS is one of those that seems to be caught up in the App store approval process.

My app count was pushing 150 and I’m beating it back to under a 100 which is probably still a lot.

Here is how I’m organizing my Apps. The first page is my ‘frequently used’ page with all the main applications I use on a daily basis. This has changed a couple times and will likely change

Flying, Weather and GPS applications. One of the key reasons for the 3G iPad was all my GPS applications for on the ground and in the air.

Reference and “Wow” page

Various Remotes and Some Productivity Apps

Utility Page

Media and Entertainment page

Infrequently used page, some travel apps

Last Page is my Games page, Not a big gamer but do have a couple of things to keep me busy if things get slow.


Wow, this computer is Big, Living the iPad lifestyle….

This is my first post this week using my ‘regular’ computer. I really have had little use for either my desktop or laptop this week with the iPad. I was going to carry both laptop and iPad for a couple days to see – but the lighter bag on the walk to work was just too tempting.

I had one major need for a laptop last night when I was mixing a live blog with a IM Chat but even that I hung on to the iPad until the app switching just got silly. Any rational person would have switched about half and hour earlier. So there is your limiting case, can you replace your computer with an iPad – not exactly, can you massively downside your need for your computer – absolutely.

Things that are making it easier,
Online services such as Google, Flickr(Yahoo) are totally usable on the iPad, including YouTube. There are apps that can do that too, but not the same need as on an iPhone.

I’ll start posting some of my iPad screens and explaining what is on them in the coming days. I’ve got about 100 apps on there right now (overkill I know). I expect that number to drop a bit as I have 6 weather apps, 5 book readers and a few other duplicates. Once I decide on the ones I like the others go.

A couple apps to just call out:
First Dan Bricklin’s NoteTaker is the bomb for writing – finger is fine but I use my Pogo Sketch Stylus (Sorry Steve!). Massive improvements for the iPad form factor and v3 looks like it will make my VGA dongle useful in meeting rooms.
Next, Elements the massive Periodic Table reference app with all the Gee-Wiz graphics. But the update this morning was 1.6GB?? That’s 10% of you entry level iPad storage. Well the Tom Lehrer intro music made my Dad laugh and was almost worth the $13 by itself.


iPad vs my last ‘First’ apple portable.

“Intended as a replacement for the Portable ….” in that case they were talking about the MacPortable a luggable portable computer from the late 1980s. In that case they were talking about the Powerbook 140 series. That was also my first laptop computer. I was thinking about that and came across the article describeing the 140 I came to the stark realization that the ipad was another “replacement”.

Take a look at the specs.

PowerBook 140
9.8″ 640×480 monochrome screen
8MB RAM (max)
80MB HD (max)
6.8lbs
2.25-11.25-9.3 inches
2-3 hrs battery

iPad
9.7″ 1024×768 touch screen
256MB RAM
64GB drive
1.6 lbs
0.5-9.56-7.47 inches
9-10 hrs battery

The screen size is the most obvious comparison and the reduced size is just a small sign of technology progress. If you split the PB140 in half to remove half of the laptops “clamshell” Then the are remarkably similar (20% less all the way around). Physical size changes are more limitedly by the users than the technology. Weight and battery life show the examples of technology progress. Like the iPad the Powerbook introduced a new form factor (maybe not a unique one). The PowerBook pushed the keyboard towards the back and added a palm rest and pointing device towards the front. Again, a change in the ergonomics for the user. Even the arguments over expandability is there; PCMCIA then and SD card slot today.

Living the iPad Lifestyle Day 3

And no, I’m not going to do a daily diary of iPad cool stuff but I need to keep writing to see how this is going to replace my Mac Book Pro for my walk around computing. I try and avoid doing anything remotely personal on my work machine. But I can’t leave my Internet addiction for 10 hours until I get home. So I’ve been toting my personal laptop to and from work every day.

So I’m going cold turkey on Monday morning with an iPad only day at work.

First the walk to work was considerably more comfortable without the extra few pounds of a laptop and the associated bits and pieces.

I chose to do a fresh sync with iTunes to my iPad so I needed to reconfigure all my applications on the iPad. (a sync of my iPhone backup would have brought all this over) So the names and passwords takes a little work but typing is so much easier that it is not a big problem. Only a few forgotten passwords.

Other than the significantly lighter tote, an interesting thing is the fact that I forget that I have a web browser. I think after a couple years of iPhone use i got used to special purpose applications for most things. YouTube, gmail, Google Reader, and other web apps are totally useable on the iPad.

The on screen keyboard takes a couple minutes to get the rhythm goings but after that it is not that much slower than my laptop keyboard.

The one limitation is the lack of a multiuser mode for sharing a iPad with friend and that seems to happen regularly.

The battery life is epic. As a portable device it beats everything I’ve ever owned short of a couple non-smart PCS cell phones I had. All day connected to WiFi and trying to push it whenever I though about it. From 6 AM to almost 7 PM I’ve gone through about half the battery power. Awesome.

The real punchline for the day is the snappiness of the device itself. I don’t doubt that other devices are faster but this just FEELS fast. Compared to my iPhone 3G is no contest but it even starts to feel faster than bringing up a application on my desktop (Mac or PC) or my laptop (Macbook Pro). The release of iPhone OS 4 will give the ipad even better capabilities but they better not loose any of this zippy feel that really defines the experience.

PS all this was written and edited on my iPad.