I few days ago, I wrote about me starting to read The Martian, the hyped sci-fi novel by Andy Weir. Since opening up the Kindle app on my iPad, I have had a hard time putting the book down, and this is probably the fastest I have ever finished a novel of this size. The story is in its nutshell quite simple and straight-forward and here is the Goodreads summary: Continue reading
One of the most prominent apps when thinking about productivity is without a doubt the green note-taking app with the friendly elephant called Evernote. There are apps available for virtually every platform and device imaginable, and it will sync virtually anything from photos to large files. There is one area where Evernote currently is lacking though — the actual note-taking and organizing notes into notebooks and the user experience to make that happen. The recently released app called Alternote has set out to change all that.
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.
The iPad is arguably an excellent productivity tools sans keyboard. It does however heighten the use of the many writing tools currently available. ↩
Ever since the immensely missed Google Reader service shut down last year, everyone seem to have been scurrying around trying to find a viable alternative. I settled for Feedly, exclusively using their iOS apps.
Being an avid RSS user and I find it quite enjoyable when given the ability to catch up on feeds in short bursts instead of having to read though an entire folder of items before being “done”. Its main application is during my daily commute where Feedly shows my unread feed items one screenful at a time. When switching to the next screen to grab a bite of articles, the previously displayed articles are automatically marked as read.
Now there is a new RSS reader in town called Unread, with a focus on beautiful design and creating an immersive reading experience. After some exceptional reviews from Shawn Blanc and Macstories among others, I decided to take it for a spin.
A lot has happened since 1996 when the first Tomb Raider game was first released. It featured a well endowed but heavily pixelated 3DFX rendered Lara Croft and involved lots of puzzle solving, a wide range of opponents and extravagant environments.
Fast forward to 2013 and we have the all new coming of age Lara, played by Camilla Luddington, who is the voice and motion capture model. Lara is now much younger and vulnerable, not aware of her bad-ass survival abilities passed down from her father. She is on a path of self-discovery and finding the physical and psychological limits of the human mind.
I have been a long-time user of Shoei helmets, having used their XR–1000 for years. The time to find a new helmet is now, and Shoei was the obvious place to start looking given the comfort and great fit of the previous helmets. The fact that they have just released a new range of helmets was just perfect timing.
The GT-Air is a step up from the XR line in terms of functionality and safety, and is a full-face helmet geared towards sports-touring and for varying weather conditions with its built-in sun visor and excellent ventilation. Not to mention the great aerodynamics and light weight makes it a great helmet.
The most-hyped feature of the new GT-Air is definitely the built-in sun visor and with good merit. It works really well, and it does not affect the vision at all, except that headlights may get a slight halo at dawn. The positives definitely outweigh the small negatives though, since you will no longer have to carry multiple visors on long rides, and it is easily operated with a lever on the left side of the helmet. The lever itself is robust and can easily be operated with gloves while riding. It does not lock in certain positions but stays in place only using friction at your desired setting.
The outer visor has been given some major attention compared to the XR series, beginning with its placement. The XR series field of view always felt restricted, especially in the vertical plane, but the GT-Air leaves you with an almost entirely unrestricted field of view. Like other Shoei helmets, the outer visor comes preinstalled with the Pinlock bolts, and a pinlock visor is provided free in the GT-Air package, so foggy visors will soon be a distant memory.
The locking mechanism of the visor has received an upgrade as well, and will automatically hook on the visor when it is down. To release it, just pull up on the visor tab, and it will be released. The secondary purpose of the lock is the ability to have the visor resting on it, which will create a small crack in the bottom for additional air to be injected into the helmet.
Speaking of air, the GT-Air has a greatly improved ventilation system. The main air intakes are located in the normal places; in front of the chin and on the forehead. The vents open in three different settings, making it easy to adjust to the current temperature. The air-intake itself is the best I have ever tried, and it really makes all the difference.
The bottom of the helmet features two red straps on the cheek pads, which in case the worst happens, EMT personnel can pull to release the pads, freeing you of the helmet without further injuries.
The entire inside of the GT-Air liner is easily removable as well, which means that washing the helmet will be a breeze. Like other Shoei helmets, there are cut-outs for glasses, which work exceptionally well. They have however changed the position slightly for this helmet, which means that the glasses will be positioned slightly higher. It works fine for my glasses, but some type of frames could potentially have a problem with this.
The first thing I really noticed when putting on the helmet was the soft plush lining. It is so comfortable that I wouldn’t mind having a pillow made out of that material.
The second thing I noticed was the weight. While it is not the lightest helmet out there, it is a rather large difference compared to the XR–1000. It felt so light, and turning your head at high speed will not make you have to combat the wind anymore, but will easily let you swivel your head as you please.
Noise, or lack thereof, is definitely on top of the list of wanted features in a helmet, and the GT-Air does not disappoint. At slow speed below 70–100 km/s, there is virtually no painful noise at all. Going faster at highway speeds++ paired with decent concert earplugs made it exceptionally quiet, so for a quiet helmet, this easily wins the price.
Music is something people from all over the world can relate to and appreciate. Most people carry around their music by plugging their white earphones into their ears and pressing play on their favorite iDevice. What happens if you want that portable experience, but want to share the music with other people, like those boom boxes from the 80’s people used to carry on their shoulders? Luckily, this is the year of 2013 and technology has advanced to streaming audio over Bluetooth and having great batteries lasting for days.
The first real contact with a modern day boom box for me personally was a couple of years ago when the original Jambox from Jawbone was released. It had superior sound quality for such a small size and for that price. Times change, and Jawbone recently released a new, bigger version of their popular speaker – the Big Jambox.
This time however, other players have entered the market as well, competing for both the smaller form-factor of the original Jambox and for the larger one as well. I was convinced that there had to be something else out there with features matching, or even surpassing, those of the Jambox.
Philips recently released their new premium speaker Fidelio P9 (the link goes to the Swedish site. It is not yet available on the US site, but Google Translate may help), and it looked like the perfect portable speaker featuring natural materials such as leather, metal and wood. A lot of care and consideration has been put into not only getting a great sound, but the timeless design and smart features.
The speaker is carefully wrapped in a built-in and non-detachable leather cover, which also doubles as a stand. The detachable side of the leather flap has magnets similar to the iPad SmartCover built-in, which are used to securely fasten the cover when used as a stand. When closed, it keeps the cover firmly in place, and as a smart feature, it automatically turns the speaker off after a few seconds, just like when the SmartCover turns the iPad off.
The stand can be used in several different positions, making it easy to tilt the speaker to get the perfect speaker-to-ear angle.
The battery level can be viewed simply by touching the speaker. Four different white diodes briefly light up to indicate the current charge, and fades away after a few seconds.
The speaker does not use a standard micro-USB port for charging, but instead has an old-fashioned charger. This is usually no problem, since you will get around eight hours of battery life according to the specs, which lets you keep your charger at home, or at least in a bag.
In addition to Bluetooth audio using A2DP, the P9 speaker also includes a standard 3.5mm jack for plugging in devices without Bluetooth. There is no audio cable included in the package though, which really a bit strange for a premium product, considering that one of their main competitor, Jawbone, includes a great flat cable with their speakers.
The leather cover is not the only “smart” feature. There is a standard USB port on one side of the speaker, which lets you charge your iPhone or other USB powered device, taking power from the speaker batteries. This is a fantastic feature, and there have been reports of getting three complete iPhone charges from the speaker.
If we remove the speaker grille and take a look behind, we find four 2 inch full range woofers, and two 3/4 inch soft dome tweeters. There are in addition two passive elements on the back using Philips wOOx technology for an increased bass response.
These speakers put out 20W RMS, which is enough to fill a normal sized room without any problem.
The most important property of a speaker when it comes down to it, still has to be the sound quality – and this is where the P9 really excels. The sound is crystal clear even when turned up loud, much thanks to the separate tweeters and wOOx membranes. If you are a fan of loud music, you will not be disappointed.
The Fidelio P9 is a great product with few shortcomings, but there are however a couple of small annoyances.
From time to time, when you connect to the speaker using Bluetooth, the connection can suddenly drop and reconnect causing a skip in the music. The solution is to disconnect the Bluetooth connection from my iPad and reconnect the speaker. For some reason, it will work fine at least until the next time the speaker is connected to a device.
Another small issue has to do with the leather cover. It is fastened with screws on the speaker, but the cover is not perfectly aligned with the speaker, meaning that the center of the cover does not match the center of the speaker. It is easily visible on the edges, and the difference is at least a couple of millimeters.
After using the speaker for a while, I have to say that I am very satisfied with it. It works great and sounds fantastic. I have been using it with everything from romantic dining music to Friday night parties, and it has worked great in every instance I have tried it.
The only thing missing is the 3.5mm audio cable which is not included in the package. Without it, I can not test the speaker when playing games such as Call of Duty, since the slight delay would cause things to become terribly confusing.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?