The future of (iOS) gaming

Extending the functionality of the iPad using external hardware has been done for a long time, and the most popular addon is probably a real bluetooth keyboard. By adding this piece of hardware, the iPad is immediately transformed from a simple entertainment device to a real productivity tool1.

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  1. The iPad is arguably an excellent productivity tools sans keyboard. It does however heighten the use of the many writing tools currently available. 

Windows 8 and the Microsoft Surface

If you are going to read one review of Microsoft Surface 2, make it this one by Lukas Mathis who is a long-time Mac user.

Another difference between the Surface and an iPad is the Surface’s split screen mode. iPad owners often note that the iPad’s «one app owns the screen» system is a good idea, since people can’t multitask anyway. But that ignores that people often need multiple apps to work on a single task. I can’t count the instances where I’ve used split screen mode just in the last few days. I’m in a meeting, taking notes in OneNote while looking at last week’s meeting notes. I’m responding to an email while looking at a spec. I’m making a drawing while looking at a reference. I’m changing a mockup based on feedback in an email. I’m taking notes during a Skype call.

This is definitely one of my main issues with the iPad as well. Not being able to research something while writing at the same time is a big pain. Pasting the research content into the writing app is a poor way of solving the problem.

What I would like to see is something like what Microsoft have done with Surface, but with an Apple twist. Something in the lines of having a main app which runs in normal iPad mode, and the ability to run a second app in 1/4 of the space in landscape mode. The twist being that the secondary app has to be a multi-platform app, and when bringing it up in secondary mode, its iPhone user interface is shown.

This could fit quite nicely and would be a terrific asset, and I can imagine a lot of use cases where this would be a fantastic way of getting things done.

The problem with Metro might not be that it’s performing badly at its intended function. The problem might simply be that, unlike me, most people don’t want to use their tablets for productivity. They’d rather keep using their old Windows PC for that, and also have an iPad for watching movies and playing games.

This is a valid and fair point. Having the ability to distinctly separate devices for work and play can definitely bring peace of mind and the ability to focus better1.

I personally prefer using the iPad for as many things as possible2, including reading, answering email and using productivity tools such as OmniFocus and the calendar. When in serious “work mode” though, nothing beats the MacBook Air.


  1. Don’t add your work email to your iPad if you only use it for personal tasks and entertainment though. 

  2. I do recommend turning off notifications if you plan on using the iPad for work and personal tasks. 

Using Flickr as an iCloud Photo Stream replacement

When Apple first released Photo Stream as part of their iCloud service, I was excited to finally have all my photos automatically transferred between my devices. They were in addition automatically backed up to my Mac, which meant that the need to sync my iPhone to iTunes would be a thing of the past.

What I failed to realize at the time was that although automatically backing up all photos to my Mac was a breeze, there was no convenient way to view older photos the way they were meant to be viewed – on the crisp Retina Display on my iPad.

There are services which have tried to achieve ubiquitous access to all photos, and Everpix was just that kind of service. Once configured, it was basically a set-and-forget solution where all photos were automatically uploaded to their servers. If you followed the above link, you will notice that they are no longer in service since they apparently ran out of money.

I found another solution to my problem, and I think you have heard of this service before. It comes from Yahoo and is called Flickr.

In a recent Flickr for iOS update, the ability to automatically upload captured photos to a private set was added. This gives you the same set-and-forget setup that Everpix once brought, and with 1 TB for free you will undoubtably last a very long time without running out of space.

The problem with the Flickr iOS app is still the viewing part however, which is why I bought Flickring for iPhone and iPad. It connects to your Flickr account and shows your sets and photo stream in a beautiful way.

Since both Aperture and Lightroom support publishing to Flickr, you will always have access to all your photos taken with your traditional camera as well, as long as you have internet access or have synced the photos for offline viewing using Flickring.

Retina iPad Mini now available

The new iPad Mini with Retina Display was silently released by Apple earlier today.

There have been reports of a low initial stock, so be sure to order one online immediately if you want that retina goodness in time for Christmas. If you are lucky enough to live in the US, you can schedule a pickup from your local Apple Store today.

I went ahead and ordered the space grey 32 GB LTE model, together with a product red Smart Cover. Estimated ship dates in Sweden seem to be set for the first week in December, even though apple store says 5-10 business days.

Photo credit: closari

The Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover for iPad

The iPad is great for so many things, yet many people believe its primary usage is media consumption, in contrast to creating content. A bare iPad does not have the exact precision of a pencil, nor the same touch typing experience of a regular keyboard, making those points undeniably valid.

There are however things you can do to augment your iPad, and achieve a reasonable precision when drawing, and to get that special touch type experience you only get from a physical keyboard.

Impressions

I recently purchased a Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover for my iPad 3. Its backside resembles the brushed aluminum back of the iPad, which makes them go perfectly together. The keyboard side is made from high-gloss plastic with matte keys, and the groove where the iPad rests feels solid and will not break easily.

The keys feel firm and has a good resistance to them when pressed, and can be compared to the keys on a Macbook Pro. The keys are only marginally smaller, with the exception of the Nordic layout which have the special characters å, ä and ö pushed together next to the enter key. After a few minutes of typing though, you will get used to them and it will not bother you.

The Smart Cover magnets

The iPad has magnets to hold the Smart Cover in place. The Logitech Keyboard Cover uses these magnets to latch on to the iPad, preventing it falling off when the keyboard covers the screen.

When the iPad is docked in the keyboard groove, the magnets will latch on to the bottom, which is a great reassurance if dropping the iPad is a big concern. You can even pick up the iPad, and the keyboard cover will still hang on firmly.

It does only work in landscape mode though, since there are no opposing magnets on the portrait side of the iPad. It does work fairly well in that mode as well though, as long as the keyboard is resting on a flat surface.

Vim and escape

One of the main reasons for using the keyboard cover is to access remote servers using SSH in addition to typing articles and documents. I mostly use a combination of Diet Coda and Screen to attain some level of productivity.

The main problem however, occurs when using vim to edit files. It extensively uses the escape key, which poses a great problem since the escape key is conveniently mapped to the home button. This means that every time the escape key is pressed, the application closes and one is taken back to the home screen.

The only solution I found is to double-press the escape key, making the multitasking bar appear on the iPad, and then tap it again to get back to the application. Other than that particular gripe, things have been working very well.

Battery life

I was very skeptical when reading the specs indicating six months of usage from a single charge. This was supposed to be possible because of the magnets, which automatically powers the keyboard on and off when it is attached to the screen.

I was wrong.

I have not charged it since the unboxing, and it is still going as strong as ever. Even with it being powered on for entire days at a time. It charges using a micro-USB connector, which is right next to the power and sync buttons.

Conclusion

Having used the keyboard cover for about a month, I have found both good things and bad. I do not regret getting the keyboard and will continue to use it daily.

One issue with the keyboard cover is that it basically doubles the thickness of the iPad, making the iPad feel a bit bulky when you are carrying it around.

The main problem however, occurs when you want to use the iPad for reading, browsing or some other activity not using the keyboard. Where do one put the cover? The original Smart Cover would just fold around, but the keyboard has to be placed somewhere.

On a more positive note, writing has been a breeze and everything from instant messaging and using ssh to connect to remote servers, to writing articles and just browsing the web has become a lot faster and easier. It almost feels like typing on a real Macbook, with the exception of not having a trackpad.

iPad Mini

Looking forward, I am not sure what to do once I get the iPad Mini (the cellular version has just been released in Sweden and is out of stock). On one hand, the iPad together with the keyboard cover makes for a great workstation when on the go, but on the other hand, the iPad Mini is just too perfect to pass up. Would a similar keyboard cover for the iPad Mini work, or would the keys be too small?

Surface vs. iPad

On Monday, Microsoft held a secret press event in Los Angeles where it announced a new family of tablets under the Surface moniker. Along with Surface, the event revealed a branding shift for Microsoft, one that values the unity of hardware and software, and the idolization of aesthetics. Something about it felt familiar…

Interesting similarities in the presentations of the Apple iPad and the Microsoft Surface.

16 Essential iPad Applications

I have been using my iPad for a couple of months now and have grown accustom to certain applications and ways of using them. This is basically a list with my most used and loved applications for the iPad, and what better day to write this article than today, the day the iPad is officially released in Sweden. A lot of people interested in Apple and the iPad have already imported their own ages ago, and Swedish media have been writing about the device for months now. This is however the first day when everyone in Sweden easily can get ahold of one.

The built-in applications will not be mentioned in this article, even though some of them are used extensively by me. Let’s start with the fun stuff.

Media and Entertainment

Cover Art

Air Video

Forget about converting your video library for some movie viewing. If you get Air Video and install the server on your Windows or Mac, you can enjoy super crisp high-definition video on the go without having to convert and copy the media to your iPad. The server can transcode just about anything to fit your current bandwidth. This is a universal application, so you can install it on your iPhone too!

Cover Art

IMDb

If you enjoy movies and want to view plot information, reviews or even watch a trailer, be sure to pick up the excellent IMDb application for the de-facto movie source on the internet.

Productivity

Cover ArtOmnifocus

The best tool for Getting Things Done is definitely Omnifocus. There are applications for the Mac and iPhone as well, and they can all be easily synced together. While having a premium price tag, it makes up for it for being the best task manager available. Some features are even better implemented and more usable than the desktop version.

Cover ArtSimplenote

If you want simple and fast note taking on the iPad, Simplenote is the way to go. It synchronizes with their web service, which means that you can access your notes anywhere. Simplenote only supports standard text, which means no rich text, images or any type of attachments.

Cover ArtEvernote

If Simplenote sounds too simple, Evernote may just be the thing for you. In addition to writing standard text notes, you can upload images and just about any type of file. There are clients for Windows, Mac and the iPhone too, and together with their free web service, you can access your notes everywhere.

Adobe IdeasAdobe Ideas

This excellent and free application is perfect when you need to be creative and create mockups, or just to doodle on while listening to a boring presentation. It has a rather basic tool set, but I find that it works great for anything I want to create. If you need more control and functionality, have a look at Sketchbook Pro instead.

Reading

Cover ArtReeder

If you get your news and website updates in Google Reader, Reeder is for you. With its beautiful, clean and legible interface, going through your daily feeds is a breeze. There is a client for the iPhone available too, and a Mac version is on the way.

Cover ArtRead it Later

You know when you find a very interesting article to read but just don’t have the time to finish it at the moment, Read it Later handles it for you. Adding a site done just by clicking a bookmarklet, and reading the articles on the iPad works exceptionally well.

Cover ArtiBooks

iBooks is the official application from Apple to read books with, and has support for epub and PDF files as well. Being in Sweden however, the store only contains free books, which makes it hard to buy books at the moment.

 

Cover ArtKindle

Kindle in contrast to iBooks makes it possible to buy ebooks directly on your device from the Amazon Kindle store. It even has an iPhone client and syncs notes and reading position between the devices.

 

Cover ArtZinio

If you are into international magazines, you can get PDF versions of most magazines for a great price using Zinio.

 

Cover ArtQiozk

Qiozk is like Zinio, but targeted to the Swedish market, which offer many of the most popular magazines.

Cover ArtThe New York Times

The New York Times application covers a wide range of areas, and will be free until early 2011.

 

 

Cover ArtHuffington Post

If the New York Times is not for you, then perhaps Huffington Post can be the bringer of news and interesting articles. It is a free application which has a lot of sections for viewing.

Other

Cover ArtTwitter

If you are into Twitter, the official application is excellent and provides everything most people need in a Twitter client.

 

Cover ArtiTap RDP

If you need to use Remote Desktop, iTap RDP is the best I have used. Even though it is somewhat pricey, it is rock solid and has innovative features for quick and easy navigation and usage of the remote system.

 

Forced to use the iPad for better or worse

What happens to most users at least once, has now happened to me too. A couple of days ago, when resuming my Macbook Pro from sleep, it woke up as usual, but the screen would not come on. I digged around a bit and found that this is a common problem with the Nvidia chipset for this particular model and build.

Apple would fix this for free, but the problem I, and probably most people face, is how to continue working without the means to do so. I luckily have a Time Machine backup of the entire computer from just a day earlier, so I at least do not have to worry about data loss.

As it happens, I have an iPad, so this would be an excellent way to use it for real. For work stuff I still need a real computer though, so an old Mac Mini at the office would suffice for development and things like that. For personal use however, the iPad will be my closest friend for the next week.

The problem with the iPad is that it is designed to consume website, movies, music and just about anything imaginable (except Flash). It is however, not made for content creation in the same way a normal computer is, so this would be a challenge.

The first thing I did was to hook up my wireless Apple keyboard, making typing more lengthier texts a non-issue. The iPad is responsive and works beautifully with the keyboard in just about any situation.

The first real issue I had is with Evernote, which I use for writing down most types of information. The draft for this post was for instance written in Evernote on the iPad using the wireless keyboard. If there were a good alternative out there for WordPress, I would gladly switch though.

Anyway, what I am trying to do is to be able to rely on the iPad for more than just casual surfing and media consuming. When tied together with a proper keyboard, it can truly be something to actually create content on. I guess the only thing missing is a proper file editor.