Friday, April 30, 2010

Hoping Dropbox's iPad Version is imminent

Three weeks ago, a Dropbox employee stated on their forum they hoped to have the actual iPad Dropbox app out in "3 to 4 weeks".  Let's hope it is imminent.  I know too well though how development deadlines can slip, sometimes badly. The iPad is a new platform and while similar to the iPhone platform, it has its own pitfalls and traps.   What Dropbox does is the very antithesis of the iPad philosophy, making files visible.

The iPhone version works on the iPad for now.  Some report issues on the forum, but I have not seen any.  But the best solution is to use GoodReader to access your Dropbox files.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Thank you for the Dropbox Referrals

A couple weeks ago, in a post about Dropbox & iPad,  I asked folks if they were going to sign-up for Dropbox (and everyone should) to use my referral code.   Several have, so I want to thank Jim, Lou, Eli, and Jason for doing so.  I appreciate the free extra bit of space each referral adds to my Dropbox, and I hope each of them like Dropbox as much as I do.

Be sure to see a post on Dropbox and a PDF Reader for the iPad.  The GoodReader App is wonderful with Dropbox.

And rumor is that Dropbox will soon have a native iPad app.

If you want to sign-up for Dropbox, and bump up my space by 256 meg, use this link.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Those iPad's are contagious

My former colleague @tcarothers was seduced into an iPad. And he puts me in great company in his initial blog entry on his new iPad..  

Loose Ends

I just realized when you click in the Safari for the iPad URL box, the bookmark bar appears.  I want that same behavior in Google Chrome.

The sole design flaw I've found with Job's latest baby, is that when I go to plug in the power cable to the iPad at night, in the dark, there is no tactile indicator on the connector as to which side is up.  The logo on the connector is perfectly smooth.  My bedside table has become the family charging station, and the iPad cable is the only one that has to have a light on to plug it in.  Ironically, my $1.58 6 foot cable from MonoPrice.com (before shipping) does have the tactile clue, so that minor Apple design flaw is dealt with.

Isn't it nice that the only design flaw I can find so far is so trivial?

Of course, I'm not considering iTunes--what a disaster.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Voice over IP explained

This week's Family Tech talks about the advantages of Voice Over IP for the family.  Call anywhere, if not for free, then for a very small amount.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Review of MonoPrice.com

On a recent "This Week in Tech" from Leo Laporte's TWIT network Veronica Belmont almost offhandedly mentioned Monoprice.com.  I'd never heard of this shopping site but took a look.

I have wanted a longer recharging cable for my iPad, so I ordered that and one other cable.  With First Class postage, the two cables came to $5.64.  You read that right, five dollars and change.

I ordered it Sunday night.  I received e-mails from them acknowledging the order, and another telling me it had shipped Monday.  That e-mail included a First Class tracking number.  I didn't know that even existed.  I was able to track to the order at the USPS.com site.

The cables arrived Wednesday.

Monoprice carries an assortment of cables, adaptors, power supplies and other accessories.  I'll definitely use them again.

Men Who Use Computers Are The New Sex Symbols

If you never read this, you will enjoy it.  From a magazine that does not exist anymore PC World, Scott Adams (Dilbert), wrote back in 1995 : "Men Who Use Computers Are The New Sex Symbols Of The 90s"

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Review of iWorks for the iPad

Ars Technical has the first significant review of iWorks I've seen. iWorks is the Office-like apps Apple produces  for the iPad consisting of Pages, Numbers and Keynote.

They are found wanting, but unfortunately are the only games in town.  Currently--I hope that changes.

Google Docs?  Can we, someday, please?

Some things are better on a tablet

Odd. Yesterday's traffic to this blog was more than it has been in weeks, and I haven't posted anything yet this week.

I continue to poke at my iPad, trying to figure out what works and what doesn't with it.  One thing I've found are certain web pages just work better on the tablet form factor.

In fact, I pretty much now use the Twitter web page instead of a Twitter client when on the iPad.  It's just easier and faster at scrolling, and access to Lists and other Twitter features are right there.

I use TweetDeck on my desktop.  On the iPad it would often lag in scrolling while it downloaded profile photos; something I really don't need.

I added Twitterific but it makes noises I don't want and I can't find how to turn them off.  What am I missing?

And it seems easier to get through my back log of Google Reader items on the iPad.  Just being able to pick up the iPad when I have a free moment, lets me run though items briefly before I have to put down the iPad and do something else (like, maybe talk to people??)

One aspect of the iPad I can't get over, and I never see it mentioned in other places.  It is so easy to share something you find online with someone.  Just turn the iPad so they can see it, or hand it to them.  It seems to happen a couple times a day.  You can't easily do that with a computer.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Will ebooks make books go the way of vinyl records?

ebooks are the topic of this week's Family Tech column.

Mike Elgin: Why the iPad is a creativity tool!

"They can't see -- refuse to see -- the obvious possibilities in the new because it threatens their advantages in the old."  With that great statement, Mike Elgin writing for ComputerWorld completely castigates those selling the meme that the iPad is not a creation tool.  Certainly, is it enhanced for consumption, but he reminds us it can also be used as a great creativity tool.


Maybe a student cannot produce footnoted research papers yet since Pages (iTunes link) does not yet support footnotes, but they certainly can generate the raw text of a paper wherever creativity strikes them.  They can take notes in class, write sections while in the library or beside the pool.


In Japan, millions of novels have been written on cell phones. My great-grandfather wrote his Ph.D. dissertation with a #2 pencil. Chaucer, Shakespeare and Jefferson wrote their brilliant works with bird feathers. Yet the iPad's critics say creation is impossible using a device that would have been a Pentagon supercomputer 20 years ago. The computers that today's writers say are absolutely necessary for writing didn't even exist 10, 20 or 30 years ago. Is that when they think literacy started?

Tip:  My brother e-mailed a tip I'd missed.  Do you miss the apostrophe on the iPad's main keyboard?  Hold down the comma key and you get an apostrophe.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Rule Norway? There's an App for That

I love this story from the New York Daily News.  Apparently the Prime Minister of Norway is trapped at JFK because of the Icelandic volcano curtailing flights.  So he is conducting state business from his new iPad.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Tablets, the Clipboard of the 21st Century

We shouldn't be surprised at the appeal the iPad, as the first mass market tablet, has encountered.  Many of us have had touch screen smartphones for over a year or more now.  My Samsung Instinct, other's iPhones or Android phones are really nothing more than mini-tablets.  The iPad, and the many tablets that will follow it to market really just give us more real estate on which to work.

The iPad is aimed as a media consumption device.  You read books, magazines, web sites, and watch videos easily on it.  It hasn't really been pushed for any kind of business setting, although many are using already at work.

I have been thinking about how every job that needs a clipboard can benefit from a tablet.  The most obvious is a doctor's office or hospital.  My doctor walks into the examining room and immediately sits at the computer and pelting me with questions.  After the exam, he sits down again at the computer.

When I was last in the ER (ice, parking lot, head on pavement, no worries), the doctor walked into the examining room with a laptop on a nifty rolling cart.

When I last visited someone in the hospital, I found their doctor having just come from their room, awkwardly writing up his notes in her chart, while standing.  Those notes I assumed would get entered into a computer somewhere by someone other than he; a point of failure if ever their was one.

Imagine a doctor roaming around with an iPad?  The hospital or office setting is a highly controlled environment so wi-fi coverage is simple to arrange.

They pull up a patient's record on the way to their room, see nursing and medication notes since their previous visit.   During the visit, if the doctor needs to check medication interaction, or even look up something in their old text book, it is right their on their tablet.  Any changes to treatment, they can enter in right there, and it is sent to a central system for archiving, and sent out as a "work order" of sorts to a nurse's tablet.

The Washington Post talks about this, and more, including pulling up x-rays and other test results right on the iPad.

The iPad isn't that readable in sunlight, but other screen technologies are.  I can see tablets designed for daylight useful to Auto Shops.  As the in-take person walks around the car with the owner figuring what is needed, he enters it on tablet.  Again, work orders appear on base stations in the repair bays.

Coaches can have a ready catalog of plays, stats on performance, scouting reports, etc. all on their magical clipboards.  They can make notes during practice and more.

Walk onto a car lot, and the salesperson can check stock for your needs right there in the lot.

Touch user interfaces, whether on tablets, phones, or dedicated units are going to change a lot of our already rapidly changing world.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Local 28 year old reporter wins Pulitzer

Daniel Gilbert, a 28 year old native of nearby Manassas, Virginia won the Pulitzer for Public Service this week.

He wrote a series of stories for the Bristol Courier Herald on landowners losing out on natural gas royalties.  Poynter Online has a good background on his achievement.

For a while, Daniel wrote for the News & Messenger, the newspaper my column is in on Sundays.  A friend's daughter mentioned on Facebook that she knew him, and many chimed in that he was always destined for great things.

The beauty of this is Daniel is one of only seven reporters at the paper.  It is really good for small papers to again understand they can do great things.  Of course, an even smaller paper once won a Pulitzer, as I wrote about early in 2009.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Improving the Wi-Fi Reception for the iPad

Like many people, but not all, I had wi-fi issues with my new iPad.  Our access point is on the lower level of the house.  On our mid-level I would sometimes lose connection and then reacqire it.  On our upper level, in the bed room, I'd lose connection and have to walk out into the hallway to reacquire.

Since the iPad is built for in-bed surfing, that was most disagreeable.

Even Apple acknowledged the problem and offered some help.

Several days ago I tried the option of altering the "Wireless Network Mode" in my Linksys router.


When I originally set it up, I had it sending out both "b" and "g" signals since one of the cards we owned back then (like four years ago) was a "b" card, not the then new "g".

So I set it to "g" only.



I checked all the devices on our little home network, and they all ran fine.

And the iPad now gets good reception throughout the the house, loses connections much less frequently, and regains lost connections quicker.

I am a happier camper.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Some iPad Links

First off, I promise this blog has not permanently morphed into an iPad only blog.  I will be getting to other topics eventually.  For right now, my iPad is my bright and shiny new toy.  And I do think the tablet form factor is going to be significant going forward, so it warrants some attention.

Apparently some have had issues with Evernote on their iPads.  I have not.  It has been very successful for me.  Evernote's blog though addresses today the issues some have been having.


Other links of note recently about the iPad:

Netflix, the iPad's First Killer App?

iPad stands  

iPad Cases

10 Tips for the iPad

PDF Reader for the iPad

Friday I wrote about the advantages of using Dropbox with the iPad to make it easy to move over PDF files. The PDF files do not look as clear as they should that way.

Saturday night I was playing around in the App Store and was looking at PDF Readers.  I have bought very few programs for the iPad but knew I needed a good PDF reader.

I found GoodReader (iTunes link) at a promotion price of 99 cents.

GoodReader takes a little playing with.  The user interface is not as intuitive as we have come to expect on the iPad but if you read the help by touching the question mark, you'll get going fairly quick.

What makes GoodReader positively sexy is it is able to import files directly from more than one Dropbox account.  I added my Dropbox account and my wife's account.

Dropbox is but one way to move files over.  You can also wi-fi them over, or move via iTunes.  Dropbox though seems to be the easiest to me.

Reading PDF files is one of those fundamentals you need from any platform.  The iPad does a good job of leting you read PDF files in Safari if you are online.  Since I use a wi-fi only iPad, I can't depend on being online all of the time.

GoodReader supports other formats too :

  • MS Office - .doc, .ppt, .xls and more
  • iWork'08/'09
  • HTML and Safari webarchives
  • High resolution images
  •  audio and video

GoodReader is a good purchase.  It is 99 cents "for a limited time" according to GoodReader.

Update (same day) : Forgot to mention, if you want to read your PDF's in the iBooks app, this LIfehacker.com post tells about the Calibre application to convert PDF's to  EPUB files readable by iBooks.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Dropbox on iPad

Update 4/14/2010: I see this post is getting a lot of hits.  Be sure to check a follow-on post on even a better way to link the iPad and Dropbox.

It was no surprise my favorite app, Evernote is very useful on the iPad.  What I didn't expect is that my second favorite app, Dropbox would be useful too on the iPad.

I use Dropbox to share files with my family, and with a collaboration team I work with every week.  Almost everyone who my wife or I have drawn into using Dropbox for a collaborative project, end up using it a lot personally and pushing it out to their friends.  That is the very epitome of Freemium.

I wasn't quite sure how that would work on an Apple product.  The iPhone, and iPad do not use filenames generally in Jobs' efforts to keep things simple.

The free Dropbox app for the iPad just works.  Once installed, you give it your Dropbox credentials (username and password) and then you see all your files.

If you touch an MP4 file, the video plays.  If you touch a PDF file you see the file.

The quality isn't the same as you see in the dedicated Video app or web browser for the PDF, but it is useful.

Dropbox makes it very easy to send files to your iPad, or to a friend's iPad if you and they have a shared Dropbox file folder.  And any file in your Dropbox is available to all your computers.

Shameless Plug : if you sign up for your free Dropbox account through this link, Dropbox adds 256 megabytes to my account.  It has no downsides for you.  Thank you.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Evernote + Dragon Dictation on iPad is great

The first app installed on my new iPad was of course Evernote.  If you have an iPad and use Evernote on any platform, make sure it goes on your iPad too.

I'd feared my 7000+ notes would take up an inordinate amount of room.  But that wasn't the case.  My storage space was only a bit smaller after syncing was complete.

Having all my notes inside what I'm beginning to think of as my "magical clipboard" is wonderful.

I use the Windows client for Evernote, so the voice recording ability of the iPad client was new to me. It allows you to record comments and it saves the audio file to a note.  You can add text to the note, and tag it of course to assist finding it later.

But there is a better way even then that I've found.

Another free app in the App Store is Dragon Dictation (App Store Link)   Simply press the red record button and speak.  The app does a wonderful job of translating what you have said.  You can edit the text after transcription.

Then just choose the option to e-mail the text to your Evernote account.   It sends the transcribed text to a note in your default notebook.

It would be cool if it would also send the .wav file to Evernote.  Maybe a future version.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The iPad Case

The case and dock for the iPad just came to the door.

I'll tell you something.  It is worth getting an Apple product to just experience what obsessing about design can give you.

I was expecting a huge dock.  Something like a copy stand.  Instead, this thing is small.  It's about 3 inches square and the lip that supports the back of the iPad is about an inch.  And it is heavy, to counterbalance the iPad.   It is what it needs to be.  My vision of it would have worked, but so does this more efficiently.

The case is really well designed.  The iPad slips in like a glove.  All the openings for the connector, and volume, on/off are all in the right place.

The cover folds behind so you can hold the iPad as well as you as you would without the case.

The cover can lock into a flap on the back to allow it to be sit up at an angle conducive to typing on the onscreen keyboard.  Or you can stand it up to use it with the wireless keyboard that I also have.

Both the keyboard and the iPad in the case fit nicely into one of those zippered cases that hold a paper tablet.  I could walk into a meeting with both the iPad, a real keyboard and a real pad of paper and pen.  All would weigh less than most laptops and I don't have to carry a man-purse.

Is a tablet worth it?




I spent the weekend with the iPad.  I'm still trying to "make it my own" as Dave Winer said in his blog this morning.

One sign I have found the iPad useful is how little time I spent in my home office.  I could check e-mail, read my RSS feed, and follow Twitter all from the family room or in bed.  I have always found laptops to be poorly named; they just do not work well on laps.  They need a chair and hard surface to function.  The iPad works well on my lap, or simply being held.

I have found the iPad to be a wonderful tool for reading blogs, checking e-mail.  I knew from Jobs' introduction I was going to like this device. We have been waiting for it for years.  Remember Yeoman Rand handing Captain Kirk orders to sign on a tablet?  And in this week's Time, Stephen Fry wishes his friend Douglas Adams had lived to see his Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy form factor come true in the iPad.  I'm sure there are many other sci-fi references out there for tablets.  I can't count Avatar since tablets were a fait accompli when that came out.

Critics of the iPad like Jeff Jarvis lament that it is only a consumption device.  Time magazine this week reminds up that PC's  are "the greatest all purpose creativity tool since the pen" making every computer "a music studio, a movie studio, a darkroom and a publishing house".

However, an iPad can help you to gather and store information, and even do some publishing via blogs and document creation.  I do not see iPad's replacing every computer in the house; we'll always have a computer. I did retreat to my PC this weekend to edit a series of videos.  But while they rendered, I surfed the net on my iPad.

And I don't see us giving up our smart phones.  They are just too easy to keep with you.

The iPad is truly a new gadget.  Is it of value to us to have a new gadget?  That is for each individual to decide.  For me, I think the answer is yes.

For teens and young adults, I think a tablet could easily become their primary computer, as long as they still had access to a PC in the house when they needed to produce movies, music or other media.  For research, social sites, videos, reading, and writing papers, a tablet properly accessorized could meet their needs well.  Ever watch a young person use a laptop?  They sprawl across the bed, or floor while using it.  A tablet is much easier to use in that environment.

I have much to say about the iPad specifically and tablets in general.  I think I'll say them in several posts here.  For right now, I just wanted to say, yea, I think the iPad is worth having.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

First Blog entry from the iPad

This is my first blog entry done direct from the iPad. It's not perfect. Blogger, I mean. For some reason it won't let me type into the text box in the Compose mode, but will in the Edit HTML box. Why Google? Or should I be asking, "Why Apple?" Does this bode bad things for Google enabling Google Docs for use by the iPad? Now, you can only read Google Docs on the iPad. That was understandable on the iPhone where editing was not really practical on the small screen, but that is not relevant on the iPad.

I added the wireless keyboard today to the iPad and it makes text entry much easier. The iPad case is enroute and I just read up on it online, and it acts also as an easel holding the iPad at the right angle to use the on screen keyboard, or vertically if you are using a wireless keyboard.

The Apple wireless keyboard I have is small and light enough that carrying it along with the iPad is a non-issue. If I was taking a class, as I was supposed to next week, I'd easily take the iPad and the keyboard with me. The combo would be good in class for notes, with the iPad alone for in-my-lap web browsing.

Someone on Twitter said the iPad is the best "couch browsing experience". That's true. It is adept at working places where laptops were not successful, and with keyboards and easels, successful too where laptops are good.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

This Week's Family Tech - Mass E-Mails for Youth Activities

Whether its organizing Scout Camps, Little League, Soccer, Drama Camps or what have you, parent organizers rely on e-mail to keep all the other parents in the loop.  Why shouldn't they use the same mass e-mail tools like the pros?  This week's Family Tech looks at MailChimp, a freemium mass e-mail system.

It arrived!

I received the iPad today.  The UPS guy told me this way far away a busier Saturday than most.  He had no idea what these iPad things were, so we opened it and showed him, albeit not operating yet.

When I did turn it on I was amazed it was already fully charged.  I have never bought an item already charged.  This shows the eye for detail Jobs demands.

I'm still exploring it.  The one thing I have learned, is the whole family loves it.  And these are machines meant for one individuals use.  There are no "accounts" and logins and settings for each member of the family.  Uh oh.

We'll work out it.  Lots more posts coming on the iPad next week.

Friday, April 2, 2010

iPad Eve and a Wonderful Surprise

Tomorrow is the rarest of days in GeekDom.  With iPad's arriving finally to the masses, many geeks wait anxiously.  Even many confident it is no-big-thing have ordered them, while others think the iPad could be the-next-big-thing; perhaps one of the ten most innovative gadgets to emerge since the invention of the microprocessor.

My brother is buying one, and I'd already asked him to guest write a post here of his experiences.  In this economy, and as an under-employed individual I was going to wait this one out.  I was already planning a 45 minute drive to the Apple Store next week to see and more importantly, feel one in my own hands.  And I was eyeing rumored cheaper tablets that may be coming with Google's Android operating system, hoping by then perhaps I could afford one.

My brother and I had a wonderful time these last several weeks considering the potential of a tablet device after both watching Jobs introduction on streaming video.  We both thought geeks who lambasted the Apple Tablet because it was a weak PC, were completely off the mark.  We both have experience helping people who do not want a computer, they just want a device that lets them surf the net, send e-mail, update their Facebook status, watch videos and read books, but  do not want to grapple with anti-virus, network troubleshooting, backing up and the host of other issues that computers come with.

And we felt we had sufficient geek cred to think our opinions are valid.  He and I have been in this game since near the beginning, starting in 1980 when we both lived in the Bay Area.  He and I had been nearby when the PC industry was built.

And I was ready to actively participate in this latest moment, should it prove to be a watershed one, but virtually.  I've read the blog posts, poured over the news, listened to the podcasts and was ready to watch Twitter streams tomorrow as packages arrived.

And then a odd thing happened.  Wednesday afternoon a box came for me, with an Apple Wireless Keyboard.  I do not own any Apple products, other than my wife's iPod Touch.  Looking over the paperwork, I noticed it had been shipped to my address, but had been ordered by my brother.  Was it a mistake?  A creeping suspicion came over me, "It couldn't be?"

I called my brother and indeed, an iPad is arriving tomorrow, a gift from a wonderful big brother.  It'll be exciting to again share with him a big moment in PC history.

In 1980s it was his lead that landed me a job in what was one of the first of the handful of computer stores then in the Bay Area, and thus probably one of the first dozen in the US.  When I had to sign my first NDA on the Friday before the 1984 Superbowl and was shown the Macintosh, not being able to tell him what was coming almost killed me.

That first Monday at Macy's (I was now in my second computer job) Steve Jobs came by to see the reception his little device was receiving.  He saw me demoing the Mac that day, something I wrote about on its twenty-fifth anniversary.  It was my brother I first called with that fun news.

My brother bought a Mac from me back then, and he generously shared it with me when he was out of the country as he was frequently then.  We both knew then the Mac would change the world, and indeed it did.  While I've never owned a Mac preferring instead the more affordable PC's, you have to admit that the Mac begat Windows and the PC world we have now.

So tomorrow because of a wonderful brother, I'll be sharing in the great unboxing.  Now I can write here and in my Family Tech columns first hand.  And my wife and I are already discussing how tablets may potentially benefit not only our family, but her own students.  We'll all be dong a lot of thinking, learning, and experimenting and sharing it all here.

The thing I need to remember, and I do remember most of the time, is the Tablet is not a PC.  It is a device, an appliance that does many of the things we do now with a PC. It won't do everything a PC will, but I believe it will do what it does easier, in a more convenient way, in more places, and without the troublesome overhead the PC demands.  In a way, it is like a car versus a motorcycle.  Both provide transportation.  And while I wouldn't want to use a motorcycle to pull a trailer with a 20 foot boat on it, a motorcycle lets me into the commute lanes, it will go places cars will not go, it uses less gasoline, is more nimble in backed up traffic and is more fun than a car.  And just like a motorcycle, the Apple Tablet is designed for one person to use it, not a family to share it like a computer setup with accounts will.

I have created two new labels for this post, "iPad" and "Tablet".  Much of my postings about the Apple Tablet will actually pertain to the topic of "Tablet". To me, Tablet is a form factor, a way of doing things.  It won't be important if it is from Apple, or if it runs Android, or whatever.  I am expecting the Tablet to be the main topic here, the Apple Tablet just the first important implementation of it.

This should be fun.

Thanks Bro.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

No April's Fools day jokes here

I won't be creating a April Fool's Day joke for this web site, but I have to admire some out there.

Like this one.