iPad

Jessa Jones, master microfixer

Jessa Jones does board-level repairs on iPhones and iPads. Brilliant video, amazing work, and while I get why Apple doesn’t get into this I’m glad she is and hopefully Apple supports her work.

Her company is iPad Rehab.

Jessa has a youTube channel: iPad Rehab with lots of detailed demos on the really nerdy stuff.

[via The Kid Should See This]

Trackpad mode in iOS 9

One of the many reasons I’m writing this post on my MacBook Pro (with MarsEdit) as opposed to my iPad Air 2 or my new iPhone 6s is because I prefer a hardware keyboard and a trackpad or even better, a mouse, for moving the cursor/insertion point around and selecting text. Over the years, text editing in iOS has improved but its still awkward compared with doing it on a Mac.

in iOS 9, Apple has added a feature that helps quite a bit. If you’ve got any iPad or iPhone running iOS 9 (except the new iPhone 6s and 6s Plus which I’ll discuss in a minute) try this:

Run any app that uses Apple’s standard on-screen keyboard.

Type some text.

Place two fingertips anywhere on the on-screen keyboard and press down lightly, the keyboard will dim and turn into a trackpad (trackpad mode). This will initially take a bit of practice as there are two gestures possible here.

A touch with a shorter duration will allow you to move the cursor by dragging your two fingers across the keyboard/trackpad. A touch with a slightly longer duration will allow you to drag/select text from the initial touch point to another (like shift clicking text in Mac OS).

This is a brilliant use of multi-touch and once you get used to it it really works.

If you have an iOS device with a “force touch” or 3D Touch screen (at this point the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus), you can do this a bit differently and more easily.

Run any app that uses Apple’s standard on-screen keyboard.

Type some text.

With a single finger, press down firmly on the keyboard and you’ll feel the “taptic feedback” of 3D Touch kicking in, the keyboard will dim (trackpad mode) and you can drag the cursor around with your finger. Once in this mode to select a single word, move the cursor over a word and press a bit more firmly, the word will highlight. If you release pressure and drag up, down, left or right you can select larger chunks of text. This is taking some practice for me to get but I’m getting it.

These kinds of details are great to know about and while I’ll continue to do most of my writing on my Mac because I’m more comfortable with its hardware keyboard, mouse or trackpad, and Mac OS text editing conventions which I’ve been using since 1984, these kinds of features which make great use of multi-touch will allow me to use my iOS devices a bit more for informal writing where I might have avoided them.

For more on this including a video (with obnoxious music): How to use iOS 9’s keyboard as a trackpad with 3D Touch on iPhone 6s.

Here’s another post on Trackpad mode: On trackpad mode in iOS 9 and the iPhone.

The app effect

I saw this video during the less than wonderful 2015 Apple Worldwide Developer Conference keynote presentation but unfortunately, it was lost in a mess of a presentation.

It’s a brilliant video, and it reminds me of the old Knowledge Navigator video Apple made in 1987 to explore what computing might look like in the future.

This app effect video isn’t a mockup, it’s real now and yes, it’s all about Apple devices and apps, but it’s also about all handheld devices that have the ability to add applications that haven’t been thought of yet.

Of course, we’ve had this relationship of hardware and software (applications) since the dawn of personal computing in the late 1970’s but hand-held devices change the equation in powerful ways.

Apple needs to slow down: surface appearance vs. underlying form

Declining iOS and OS X quality imperil Appleā€™s future growth and retention

Amen.

I’ve been waiting for someone else to post about this for me to let go my rant.

It seems that Jony Ive spent a lot of time on the way things look, but very little time on the way things work (or don’t work). This reminds me of the Robert Pirsig’s epic rant about his friend’s loose handlebars in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (his friend was concerned with surface appearance instead of underlying form and usability and wouldn’t let Pirsig fix the lose handlebar with an aluminum beer can shim instead wanting to get a BMW official part, etc.).

As far as I’m concerned, my Mac, iPhone and iPad all look great but have loose handlebars and Apple needs to get things tightened up. Too much concern with form, not enough with function. I don’t know where the problem lies but these issues started at about the same time Jony Ive took over the entire software enterprise at Apple and he’s a designer, not a software guy.

This is a very bad omen going forward. With a growing installed base for Mac OS, there should be fewer and fewer system level bugs in the OS. There are more than ever now.

I’m very pro-Apple so don’t take this the wrong way, but in the past few years the quality of Mac OS, iOS and iCloud and iTunes services has gone downhill.

I’m running a brand new (newest model) MacBook Pro 15″ retina, everything maxed out. I have plenty of hardware power. I’m running the latest version of Yosemite which I clean installed on this new computer.

The computer freezes pretty regularly in the Finder.

Wake from sleep, wifi connection needs work to get connected. Restarting computer solves this but even with an SSD, I’d rather not do this.

The Finder main window opens in a different place on my screen at odd times, with different layouts chosen (I prefer column view, but don’t always get it).

I have Apple’s external CD/DVD burner but it gets confused every now and then about whether I’ve ejected a CD.

I bought a book in iBooks on the Mac and it came down corrupted. I noticed that a few of my other books, that I’d had a while were corrupted since Yosemite. I called Apple and 4 hours and 4 people later and after reinstalling Yosemite, the problem wasn’t fixed and I felt trashed. Apple support has also gone downhill. I started a long blog post about this but trashed it. This was the single worst support experience I’ve ever had with Apple and I’ve had great ones over many years. Apple support is not what it used to be.

The relationship between iBooks and iTunes used to be easy to understand. Now there is no relationship. And, iTunes has also gone downhill in terms of usability.

Location manager on all of my three Apple devices thinks I live two houses south of where I actually live. This is new with Yosemite/iOS 8. Location manager gets confused in the field at times (away from my house).

When I click on a link in Reeder and expect Safari to open, it sometimes freezes. This never happened in Mavericks. I do this often. I often cringe when I do it. This is not the way I want to feel using these great tools.

Finder freezes at times when copying a lot of image files onto a CD to burn. Drag them on, everything freezes up while copy happens (no screen feedback), then, either system hung or copy completes.

When I move my computer downstairs it struggles to continue to find my Apple Magic Mouse (bluetooth) sitting upstairs on my desk and reconnects and drops the connection numerous times before it releases it. This never happened in any earlier OS.

I’m asked for passwords by things connected to iCloud way too often. My iPhone, for no reason I can understand turned iCloud off by itself the other day. I turned it back on and put in the password but I’m not confident this will stick.

I’ve had so many problems with iOS 8 on both iPad Air 2 and iPhone 5S that I can’t list them here. It’s the most bug-ridden release yet for sure.

I could go on, but why bother.

This is incredibly depressing. While Apple is doing better than ever: selling lots of stuff, stock doing well, those of us who have been using Apple products for years know that things are not right, there are too many bugs and problems and it’s getting worse as Apple grows more quickly.

God help us when the Apple Watch ships. I’m delighted they’re making it but it’s an entirely new device with it’s own issues, it’s own software, it’s own support. Ugh.

I would be happy if Apple did not release any more new systems, new features, or new anything until they got all of this stuff working correctly and reliably.

I had such a bad experience with AppleCare with my small iBooks problem I’m not anxious to call them again, and this is not good as I’ve already paid for it for every one of our six Apple devices.

Get your act together Apple.

Update on MacBook Pro issues

While I was in Los Angeles earlier in the week my 2011 MacBook Pro started showing signs that it was suffering from a well-documented video card failure and I wrote about it here: MacBook Pro issues.

The best description of the problem can be found here: Owners of 2011 MacBook Pros report critical GPU failures, system crashes.

Just as the AppleInsider report states that others have done, I reset the Power Manager, reset the PRAM, reinstalled the system via Safe Mode and the problem continued intermittently and then as things got bad there was no way to get an image on my screen. It seemed like the SSD was fine although I had no way to know that without a screen.

When I returned home I used an Apple HDMI cable to connect my computer to our HD television, thinking this would show me if the problem was my LCD screen. Our TV showed video noise when the machine booted which told me that in fact, I had/have a video card problem in my computer. I then used Target Disk Mode to boot my wife’s 2011 13″ MacBook Pro with my computer (using my computer’s SSD) and the SSD was and is intact.

I’m religious about doing backups and so I’m covered and am running off a hard disk backup I made in LA just before I couldn’t use my machine anymore. I’ve booted my wife’s 13″ 2011 MacBook Pro off my backup hard disk and while it’s not the same experience as using my own machine, it’s a good stopgap until my new machine arrives on Monday (from China).

My plan is to use the instructions on iFixit to take my machine apart and get the SSD out of it, then put it in an old FireWire enclosure I have and make sure the few things I’ve updated on my backup hard disk are updated on the SSD, then boot this machine with the SSD. At least I’ll have a bit more speed here until Monday.

I’ve learned a lot of things in this process, I’ll list a few below.

The importance of a bootable backup

Having a backup is important and I have three: two SuperDuper clones, and one Time Machine. I know it’s possible to use a Time Machine backup to migrate data onto a new computer, but in fact, you can’t boot from a Time Machine backup so anyone reading this who relies solely on such a backup may want to consider another method in addition or instead. I rarely dig back into my Time Machine backup and frankly I’m not sure I need to use it since I’m very disciplined in my other backup method.

I’ve always wanted bootable backups so I can do what I’m doing now: run another machine as if it was my own from the backup in case something happens.

It’s been a bit bumpy with Keychain and 1Password because they use machine IDs as well as usernames and passwords so I’m having to sign into things again. But, at least I have that option running from a backup.

Once you go SSD there’s no going back

In 2010 I put an SSD in an older MacBook Pro MacBook Pro SSD upgrade and it made such an amazing difference that I swore I’d never go back to using a hard disk to run a computer.

The MacBook Pro that just died has an Apple-supplied 512GB SSD in it and it was a joy to use and would still be a joy to use if the video card hadn’t died. In other words, while the entire machine was slower than what I am getting on Monday, it was fast enough for almost everything I do on it. A three year run on storage is pretty amazing and my recommendation for anyone reading this is to not balk at spending the extra money to get a large SSD in a new computer, it’s a worthwhile investment and will make a huge difference in performance. The Retina MacBook Pro coming on Monday has a 1TB SSD in it and that large SSD was a substantial extra cost. For me, that extra cost is well worth it and once you experience running on an SSD my guess is you’ll agree.

Note: Apple only makes one portable Mac with a hard disk anymore, a low end 13″ model.

I have no problem with hard disks for backup and if I ever buy an iMac I’d consider an Apple Fusion drive (SSD and HDD combined) but in fact, I’d rather go all solid state.

13″ vs 15″

I thought I might be able to run my life on a 13″ MacBook Pro and was considering downsizing to it, but after spending last night and this morning using my wife’s older 13″ screen, I can say without a doubt that I could never do it, even with the higher resolution on the newer Retina models. If I had a larger monitor I’d consider it but in fact, the 15″ models of MacBook Pro come with higher end processor and RAM options and these things are important to me. Portability is less important to me. The 15″ model is a sweet spot for me: I can carry it around the house or back and forth to LA in my pack and it has enough screen real estate to do real work on. I like multiple windows showing on screen and 13″ just isn’t enough for me.

Mac OS vs iOS

I cannot use an iPad Air or any iOS device as a complete or even partial substitute for a computer. This is a big thing and I’ve sort of known it all along but this recent experience underscores it because the iPad Air is such a capable iPad.

It isn’t just the differences between Mac OS and iOS (which are huge) but it’s text editing, the use of a mouse, and frankly, familiarity. Some serious Mac users have tried to use the iPad as a complete substitute for a laptop and some with great success but for the mix of things I do, and the fact that I touch type, by the time you’ve bought and connected a bluetooth keyboard to an iPad, you might as well have a MacBook Air.

Even though I do have Pages, Numbers, and Keynote on my Mac and on my iPad, I tend not to use them on the iPad. The things I do on the iPad are reading, a bit of research, reading RSS feeds, and watching ripped movies. I could do most of what I do on the iPad on a MacBook Air and at some point, maybe that’s the way I’ll go. The rumored 12″ model is attractive to me (in addition to a 15″ MacBook Pro).

But, what I’ve noticed over time is that for me, the integration of all of my various applications and identities works better on my Mac than it does on my iPad, even though I have iCloud Keychain and 1Password running everywhere, I find my MacBook Pro easier to use to do what I do than my iPad Air.

What’s coming

The new Retina MacBook Pro that’s coming will not have a Firewire port on it, Thunderbolt replaced Firewire a while ago so I ordered a Thunderbolt to Firewire adaptor from Apple so I can continue to use my backup drives until I get newer Thunderbolt drives at some point.

Apple has taken the CD/DVD player out of the chassis of newer machines and so I ordered their USB CD/DVD drive so I can continue to rip movies and music as I need to.

No doubt there will be some bumps although I’m hoping migration goes smoothly and it should be fast if I can get the SSD set up in an external enclosure.

Dark Sky (on my iPhone) just told me it’s going to start raining soon, the perfect day to take my old computer apart and salvage its SSD and get it set up in a case.

I’ll get that done in the next hour or so and I’ll get some new images posted here and do a few other things.

But, the bottom line is, I feel bad that I don’t have my computer in front of me to work with. My computer is such an important element in my life that losing it is more than just a small inconvenience, it’s like I’ve had an “insult” to part of my brain.

Monday can’t come soon enough.

Update: I’ve taken the SSD out of my old 15″ MacBook Pro, put it in a Firewire enclosure and booted this 13″ MacBook Pro from it. Working quite well and while it’s not as fast as it was on the internal bus of my older (faster) machine, it’s a heck of a lot faster than the built in hard disk. When all the dust has settled on this I’ll put the SSD in this computer for Anne.

iPad Air

A little over a week ago I wrote a speculative piece on Personal disruption. This post is a continuation of that thinking.

First, let me say that I’m known for getting a bug in my head, buying something, then getting a gut feeling its not working out, changing my mind, and returning it. This is true with hiking boots, packs, computers, cameras, clothing, and anything that I use daily and means something to me. Things that I’ve kept too long to return I sell on Amazon or give away. I don’t like to put up with things that don’t absolutely please me. My wife thinks I’m borderline (or not so borderline) OCD because I like some silverware better than some other silverware in our silverware drawer but the fact is, we have a bit of Dansk silverware mixed in with other stuff and it has a better feel to my hand, so I choose it.

The short of it is, I notice details and I’m picky.

Lest you think the Dansk name drop makes me a brand snob, my favorite butter knife is an old tarnished piece of plated silverware I got at a tag sale for ten cents twenty years ago; it’s less about brand, more about feel and usability but in fact, some brands (Dansk, Patagonia, Apple) combine great feel and usability with great design. Doesn’t mean they can’t flop and I don’t like everything Patagonia makes, but I do have the sense that they care about design and usability.

iPad mini
After using the $299 16GB iPad mini exclusively for a week (avoiding my iPad 3) I decided that the weight of earlier full-size iPads was affecting the way I used them: less weight=more use and the size of the mini (in addition to its light weight) was affecting how I carried it around and used it.

By the way, this has proved true with cameras for me too, my current camera of choice is a compact Ricoh GR and I use it for everything having unloaded my entire DSLR rig over a year ago. Too much weight, no matter how good the images, means less use.

I wasn’t sure I’d be comfortable reading everything I like to read on the iPad mini’s screen, some web sites are too small on that screen to be fully accessible, even when opened in Safari directly in landscape and when scanning sites that open up in windows on top of Tweetbot, Twitterific, Reeder, Mr. Reeder or Feedly, accessibility in iOS and on a small screen becomes near impossible.

There is an interesting relationship between size/weight and readability and as one gets older and one’s eyes get weaker, readability starts to trump size and weight. A retina screen can only go so far in making very small text readable or a very small button on screen pushable.

But, even though I wasn’t sure about the mini (because of a few instances of tough readability) I decided to go ahead and recycle my iPad 3 as there was no going back; it felt like a brick compared with the mini and my future was either a mini or a new Air.

I set up the recycling of the iPad 3 with Apple, reset it and put it aside with cable and charger.

I noted that even with the small, 16GB mini I could get all of my various apps, a bit of music, a few pictures and four ripped DVDs on it which is more than enough to fly across the country with. So, I was content to sit tight with the “old” mini, maybe skipping the new iPad Air and the upcoming retina iPad mini but certainly in no rush to buy anything right now.

I’m writing this on a MacBook Pro and no matter what kind of iPad I ended up with I like a hardware keyboard for this type of writing so any iPad I get doesn’t have to do this job, although any iPad could do this job.

It felt good to have made this kind of decision although my wife kept waiting for me to change my mind, sell the mini and regret recycling the iPad 3. I didn’t turn the iPad 3 back on, however, I did have second thoughts about the mini as I ran into readability issues and watched a part of a movie on it and noticed that I missed the bigger screen for movie watching.

iPad Air
There I sat for most of last week and while I didn’t lose any sleep over this decision, I knew I had to at least get my hands on an iPad Air to see what they were like.

Anne and I planned a shopping trip to Trader Joe’s and Costco in Danbury and since the Danbury Mall is close, we decided to stop into the small Apple store there and check out the iPad Air together.

By this time my iPad 3 was on its way back to Apple and I had about $200 left on an Apple gift card from recycling my iPhone 4S a while back. I decided even if I wanted the Air, I’d wait until the iPad 3 cleared so I could apply that gift card to a new purchase. In other words, I went into the store attempting to not buy anything, just to get a sense of what the iPad Air was all about.

Before we went I used Apple’s online tool to make sure the Danbury Apple store had what I might want in stock: 64GB “space gray” iPad Air. They did.

We walked into the store, some nice Apple sales people directed us to a table of iPad Airs and we each parked in front of one. I picked it up, looked at Anne and she looked at me and we knew Apple had hit a sweet spot with this version of the iPad. It was less a matter of weight relative to anything else, it was more a matter of the feel of it. I hadn’t even turned it on yet but I could tell immediately that this thing had the right feel.

The iPad Air looks and feels like a big iPad mini. If you like the mini you owe it to yourself to experience the Air before buying a retina mini. It’s about the same height as other full size iPads and a bit narrower and quite a bit thinner. The edges and bezels feel great in hand, just like a mini (which feels great in hand).

Before I actually used the Air, I pulled out my mini (with a third party cover on it) and held it in one hand, the Air in the other. The weight difference was negligible. I gave the mini to Anne and she agreed. Yes, the size of the Air affects how it feels: holding it in a corner as you might a book will put more weight away from your hand relative to the smaller mini but compared with the older iPads this is much less of a problem.

Anne ran the Maps app, got into satellite mode and started panning around. She was amazed at how fast the Air processed information.

I ran Safari, went to this web site and read some text in both the body and the sidebar. Then I went to other sites I browse daily to see how readable the text would be for me. This is all with no changes in the OS, just as-is on the Apple display table.

I’ve noticed that the iPhone 5S is incredibly fast relative to the 4S I had before. The 4S was totally fine, a great phone and mine got a lot of use but when you know a tool will bog down in certain places you avoid going to those places. The iPhone 5S doesn’t bog down anywhere and neither does the iPad Air. They both share the same A7 processor and it’s a significant improvement in Apple’s new iOS devices.

I used as many of the demo apps as I could, opened a lot of web pages, turned the Air off completely and booted it up and within five (5!) minutes I knew I’d be walking out with one.

I looked at Anne and she agreed, it was a no-brainer, not even close.

Since Apple has retail stores in Connecticut there’s no reason to avoid buying something like this locally, there’s no way to avoid sales tax and they had the configuration I wanted in stock.

I waved an Apple sales person over, told him I wanted a 64GB space gray iPad Air with AppleCare and a black Smart Case (the full cover case). He got the boxes, scanned my gift card off of Passbook (we should have used the Apple retail app which I also have), ran my credit card for the balance and we were out of the store.

The entire store experience was about ten minutes, maybe twelve but not much more.

We got home, I got the Air set up and started a sync to load it up with my stuff and I went out to work on leaves (my least favorite chore, even with a backpack blower). When I got back inside and showered I put the Smart Cover on and made sure all of my stuff had synced over.

First, the Smart Cover is absolutely fantastic. If you have an iPhone 5S and have experienced Apple’s leather case for it (Anne and I love the iPhone case) then you’ll appreciate what Apple has done with this Smart Cover. It fits like a glove, protects the back, has a decent hinge, and the cover can act as a stand. It’s expensive relative to third party options but I have no regrets, it feels great and doesn’t add much to the size and weight of the iPad Air.

The iPad Air itself really is everything I experienced in the Apple store: it’s fast, it’s light, and it feels of a piece. The retina screen is incredible, seemingly better than my retina iPad 3. Not only do I have no regrets about having made this extremely fast and seemingly impulsive decision, I’ve already reset the mini and its on its way back to Apple through their recycling program.

The mini showed me that my older iPad was a brick and I wasn’t using it as much as I could because of this. But, the older mini still used the same older processor that the iPad 3 and 4 used and while its fast enough, it’s slow compared with an iPad Air or the newer retina mini coming out soon. So, while the mini is a great size for travel and I considered keeping it in addition to the Air, I have a most excellent iPhone 5S that can be used on trains and other places where any iPad would be too big or non-cellular iPads would be unconnected.

When Apple released the first iPad it was apparent that this tool was going to be disruptive but because it was a new way to work for many of us who are serious computer users we may have been considering it as an iPod-like appendage. As Apple has slimmed it down, added a retina screen, and upgraded its processor and speed, the disruption has continued apace. The iPad Air certainly tips the iPad into complete computer replacement for many people. This is significant.

I’ve now had the iPad Air for three days and have absolutely no regrets at all. I’m glad I bought a mini and set it up to see how it would affect my work patterns as it led me directly to the Air. I might have bought an Air otherwise considering it’s a natural upgrade from an iPad 3 but the mini was an itch I had to scratch and I’m glad I did.

Looking at spec sheets on weight and size and online unboxing videos doesn’t do it. If you’re an iPad user you really need to get your hands on the iPad Air. I’d go further: with Apple’s 14 day no-questions asked return policy, just buy one, sync your stuff onto it and try it out for real. My guess is you won’t be returning it.

Personal disruption

John Gruber wrote a piece the other day on the iPad Air but more importantly, in discussing it, he discusses how the evolution of this product is not just disrupting computing for casual users but for users like him (and me) as well. His piece is well worth reading.

The iPad Air

Let me preface this post with this: I don’t like change. I like to construct processes for doing things and get facile enough with them so they fall into the background. I have no idea how people who are constantly changing computers, app mixes, and the like get anything done. Same goes for cameras. I like my cameras to be simple enough to fall into the background but deep enough to do what I need them to do (the Ricoh GR is my current fav and only camera). It takes me a while to come up with stuff that works for me but once I do, I stick to it, sometimes for too long but certainly as long as it enables me to get done what I want to get done. So, in short, things that disrupt the way I’ve been doing things successfully for a while take a while for me to digest.

Even with what Gruber has said about the iPad Air and what I’m about to say below on my iPad use, there is no way that any iPad could replace this computer for me. But, of course, it doesn’t have to.

I’m writing this on a 15-inch, Early 2011 MacBook Pro with a 2 GHz Intel Core i7 processor, 8 GB of RAM and a 512 GB Apple SSD running OS X Mavericks. This computer is one of the best I’ve ever had (and I’ve had many Macs) and has kept up with OS upgrades and the load I put on it with Lightroom (5) and other applications I use to process images, support blogs, and the like.

I could have constructed this post on my iPad or even on my iPhone and with dictation being as good as it is, the need for a keyboard is now up for grabs for many people. I touch type and I’m still more comfortable with a hardware keyboard on a computer as well as a mouse for editing and I like the 15″ screen on this computer for keeping lots of windows open. So for me, at least for the time being, a 15″ MacBook Pro is an important part of my process and at some point I’ll no doubt upgrade to the retina version. I don’t need my computer to be as portable as it can be, that’s what I use an iPad for but I do like to carry it with me when I travel (in the overhead bin).

As the iPhone has improved (I now have a 5s) its usefulness as a serious adjunct has increased. The 5s with its better processor and better antennas has tipped the iPhone into a much more serious tool that for many tasks can keep up with a computer. This is amazing to me.

I have an iPad 3 (retina, 64 GB) and have used it since it came out, mostly for feed reading on the couch but while on the couch for email and other less formal things. I use it on my monthly trips to California for watching movies on the plane and for this its been a godsend (coupled with a set of Bose QuietComfort 15 noise canceling headphones).

When Apple announced the iPad Air, retina iPad mini and a price reduction on the older 16 GB iPad mini, the price reduction on the old mini caught my eye. I’ve wanted to try out a mini but using one in an Apple store without my stuff on it isn’t a real test. The best test is to get one, get it home, get your accounts and apps on it and use it to see how it compares with a regular size iPad. The fact that a few of my friends have completely moved from the larger iPad to the mini has made me want to try one even more, so, I bought an iPad mini for $299 and set it up.

In a word, it solves the weight problem with iPads older than the new Air which by comparison feel like bricks. The iPad mini is light enough to hold up with one hand and read like a book (or a Kindle). This is something you have to experience to understand, that weight factor is very meaningful. I don’t know yet if the size factor is as meaningful: if the new iPad Air and mini were the same weight, would the size of the Air make it awkward in some situations. No way to know until I get my hands on it.

Now, my iPad mini has been rendered “ancient” with the new model coming out, its in the same speed class as my iPad 3 and it doesn’t share the iPad 3’s retina screen which would no doubt make small text a bit more readable on it but still, for most of what I use my iPad for, I can use the mini easily.

For me, the iPad disruption is interesting and unsettling and great all at the same time: I’m a serious Mac user who, over the years has become comfortable with the slow evolution of Mac hardware and OS. When the iPod came out I was comfortable using it as an appendage of my extensive iTunes music library. As iOS has matured and iCloud and other cloud services have allowed us to synchronize lots of information across Mac OS and iOS devices, these devices have evolved into equal partners and even more than equal partners for many people. Most of us have been considering this disruption over the years the iPad has been out, but these new models change the speed at which this disruption is happening.

Check out these CNET benchmarks of the various models of iPad: iPad Air benchmarks show 80 percent speed bump over iPad 4. This latest bump applies to both the upcoming iPad Air and the new iPad mini which both share the same A7 processor. Between a processor speed bump and better antennas, these iPads are truly substitutes for computers for many people and according to Gruber, are better values than the MacBook Air for many people. This is significant.

So, I’m left with an older MacBook Pro that still works fine and I probably won’t upgrade until next year (if then), a 64 GB iPad 3 and a new (old) 16 GB iPad mini that I got to experiment with.

My plan is to not pre-order an iPad because I want to feel the weight of the Air next to the new mini. If it’s light enough for me, that’s the way I’ll probably go because the bigger screen will be better for movie watching on planes and can’t hurt for reading web pages. If it still feels awkward to hold relative to the mini, I’ll order a 64 GB retina mini. Either way, I’m pretty sure I’ll be recycling my iPad 3 in the next few days.

Small screens make reading easier for some

Personal discovery on dyslexia may aid many

Astrophysicist Matthew Schneps was waiting at a bus stop, scanning a scientific paper he had downloaded onto his smartphone, when it dawned on him: he was reading with ease.

That realization surprised Schneps, who has dyslexia, a learning disability that makes reading difficult. He had always felt comfortable in the lab, not the library.

While much of my personal research on how technology can make a difference for people with dyslexia was done before the invention of smartphones and iPod Touches, I learned then that reading was easier for me in narrow columns. The reason is that when the process of reading slows down (for a variety of reasons, including weak or slow automatic decoding as in dyslexia) staying on a line becomes more difficult because one isn’t so sure what to look for content-wise to stay on track (on the right line).

Narrowing the width of a column of text can make this easier. There are many ways to do this:

1. Increase typeface size on a larger screen

2. Put text in columns on a larger screen

3. Read the text on a smaller screen, adjusting typeface size to suit one’s eyeballs.

When you add attention problems to the mix I’m not so sure reading on a small screen makes things better because one’s peripheral vision can pick up distractors more easily making it harder to immerse in the text. This is one of the reasons I’m reluctant to get an iPad mini, even though I love the form factor and size, I do a lot of reading on my iPad and I don’t know how this would work for me. No doubt I’m going to try it but one of the things I’ll be looking for is how deeply I can immerse in text on it vs. the larger iPad screen or my Mac’s larger screen.

Well, let me restate that: I did a lot of reading on my iPad with the Reeder RSS aggregator app before the death of Google Reader but for the past week that’s changed because Reeder on the iPad is on hold and Mr. Reader, while a great app, doesn’t sync with a native (not a web app) Macintosh counterpart. So, I’m using NetNewsWire on the Mac and I have accounts with DIGG, Feedly, and Feedbin all of which I’m not happy with so I don’t use them much.

What (was) great about the Reeder app is that content ruled and the controls had just the right weight to stay out of my peripheral vision unless I needed them. Mr. Reader, while a beautiful app looks a bit like Tweetbot to me (also a beautiful app) but what they do is make the controls of equal weight visually and this doesn’t work for me. Reeder was the perfect mix of easy readability with controls there but in the background.

This is part of the reason I want a native app on the Mac and not a web app: I want to be able to make the screen and reading area smaller so I can scan narrower chunks of text. It looks to me like the new Macintosh OS: Mavericks is moving in that direction by offering things like maps in native application form rather than as web apps. This appeals to me, like “desk accessories” did in the old days.

Both of these ideas: smaller screens making reading easier and the bump in the RSS reader world are bumping into each other in interesting ways right now for me since I do most of my reading in my RSS feed reader.

[via Will Small]

Apple announcements today

I watched various Apple folks present the keynote at the Apple World Wide Developers Conference today and I have to say, I got really excited and was cheering like many do watching sports games.

You can watch it here: WWDC. June 10, 2013.

I wasn’t really looking for new stuff, I was looking to see how Apple was going to refine and enhance the things they already have out there.

Mac OS X (Mavericks) looks fantastic with lots of integration with life outside of one’s computer (namely, one’s other Apple devices). But, little things like tabbed Finder windows and tags at the system level look extremely useful to me. Maps is now an app on the Mac with easy syncing to iPhone and/or iPad and something that I’m very much looking forward to is iCloud Keychain: passwords and logins are shared between all devices immediately and automatically. Oh, and iBook is now an app on the Mac. Yes!

iOS 7 looks great to me and while the new flatter look isn’t necessarily my cup of tea, the integration of the design throughout the OS and standard apps is apparent. A lot of thinking went into the small stuff and these kinds of things won’t be apparent until we get our hands on it. I noticed and particularly liked the new Photos app. Very nice update to an app that was in sore need of one.

I particularly liked the demo of iWork for iCloud: Open or create iWork documents (Pages, Numbers, Keynote) in a browser window on iCloud and share them easily with all your devices. Even work on the document on a machine running Windows 8 in IE. Very cool.

I’m a fan of Pandora so iTunes Radio looks great to me and it will integrate well with my existing iTunes library. I doubt I’ll leave Pandora over it but I see no reason they can’t coexist.

The new Mac Pro looks fantastic, especially its size (when compared with the existing Mac Pro). Note: It’s small. I have no use for it myself being a MacBook Pro kinda guy but I have friends who are drooling over this thing. And, one of its nice new “attributes” is that it’s assembled in the USA. I hope Apple sells a ton of them.

There’s an upgrade to the MacBook Air which looks great and a redesign and upgrade to Apple’s wireless router: AirPort Extreme and router/backup device, Time Capsule. The new AirPort Extreme appeals to me as it has a smaller footprint, is taller and has better (and faster) coverage. I’ll probably be getting one.

I have to say, I loved today’s announcements and while Wall Street seems to have been disappointed, I’m done thinking that there’s any coincidence between AAPL and Apple, Inc. I’m a user first, an investor second and as a user, I’m totally psyched.