An Apple iPad ~2 Month Later Review & Update

Ipad2

Here is a follow-up update to my one week review of the Apple iPad.

Overall, I am still extremely happy with the device.  It has become my primary personal device when I'm at home eliminating my Microsoft Windows 7 TabletPC I was using before the iPad.  I have also travelled with the iPad twice since the initial purchase, and I have found it a great device for reading material (books, PDFs, magazines, saved offline web content, etc) and for consuming videos (podcasts, TV shows, and movies).  Taking the iPad on travel vice the personal TabletPC has also meant that I had over 6 pounds less in my backpack than normal.  This made travel much more enjoyable.

NY Times' BOB TEDESCHI recently did a review on his impression of travelling with the iPad.  The only thing I found different from Bob article is that TSA at both San Diego (SAN) and Washington Dulles (IAD) wanted the iPad in a seperate container to scan vice stored in my backpack.

Things that continue to make this device enjoyable:

  • Excellent form-factor, screen, and battery life
  • Internal speaker is well suited for casual listening
  • Consumption of media when and where I want to is ideal
  • Applications customized for the iPad are compelling

The one thing I did have to figure out was how to seemlessly as possible listen to "new" news and video podcasts directly on the iPad without having to do a regular desktop sync.  I tried using Safari and Google Reader to manage the feeds but playing MP3s in Safari has proven to be buggy for me.  Safari would play them for a while but then become unstable and quit, especially for large shows over 15 minutes long.  I then moved those specific news and video podcasts to my desktop iTunes to get the subscriptions loaded on the iPad.  Once loaded you can then play them from the iPod application.  But if you want new podcasts you need to click "Get More Episodes ..." which then launches the iTunes application.  You then need to click on the Free icon for the newer podcast items you want to download directly.  The Free icon then changes to Get Episode which when you click on that icon will download.  You then need to application context switch back to the iPod application to play the new content.  It works but definitely not seamlessly.  But the benefit of using Apple's iPad and iTunes applications on the iPad is that you can listen to content and launch other applications.

The biggest negative continues to be lack of multi-processing. Switching between applications is fast but swapping context is mentally challenging.  Plus, I'd love to be able to run Pandora in the background and then go about whatever else I'd like to do.

Ipad-apps1 

My top ten most used 3rd-party iPad apps seem to be:

  1. TweetDeck (Twitter app)
  2. Kindle (eBook reader)
  3. iThoughtsHD (MindMap tool)
  4. Evernote (online notes and reference library)
  5. Toodledo (projects and tasks management)
  6. Goodreader (PDF reader)
  7. The Weather Channel MAX+ (check the weather)
  8. Dropbox (online, multi-computer file storage)
  9. Atomic Web (multi-tab browser)
  10. QuickVoice (audio recorder)

Ipad-apps2 

Next on the list is to consider trying out some of the remote access solutions to see how well you can run a Mac or PC from the iPad.  If you have a favorite then please let me know.


One Week With The Apple iPad Review

Ipad-mosaicAfter experiencing the Apple iPad for the last week, I thought I'd outline my thoughts on the device that seems to still have a lot of buzz and interest.

In a nutshell, I am very happy with the iPad and I believe that it is a compelling device that fits in well between laptops/desktops and mobile phones.

I believe this device is going to help me be more effective with reading, podcast & audio book listening, and consuming professional content in eBook, PDF, and other standard formats.  I expect it will also help me on the organizational front with more ubiquitous access to reference material, project support data, and communications services.  Plus, it will be a fun device to decompress with casual games, videos, and music.

No device is perfect -- says the former Newton & still TabletPC laptop fan. As I outlined in a previous blog post, I had some concerns with the hardware and software as proposed by Apple for iPad v1.0 before picking up the device. 

The good news is that as far as I can tell there isn't anything new that the iPad can't do that wasn't already publicly announced before it was released. So, I don't have any buyer's remorse. I know there are now confirmed Wi-Fi issues, but I haven't experienced those with the Wi-Fi networks I have available to me.

Things that are great:
  • The screen is awesome.
  • Battery life is equally impressive.
  • Bluetooth keyboard support is solid.
  • Surfing the web is fast and fluid on the screen with the pinch-to-zoom working as expected.
  • Books via Amazon's Kindle application are readable and easy to consume over hours of reading.
  • Physically the device is solid and feels good in your hands.
  • Goodreader.net is a very nice $0.99 application for reading PDFs.
  • The interface and applications run fast -- so the custom Apple A4 processor was a very good idea IMHO.
  • The built-in Apple iPad applications are well designed.  The Email application with support for viewing a large number attachment formats is especially functional.
  • Native 3rd party iPad/HD applications look spectacular on the device. Some of the ones I've been using include: USA Today, Reuters, TweetDeck, The Weather Channel, Zino, Evernote, Toodledo, Kayak Flights, Dictionary, ABC Player, Yahoo! Entertainment, Sudoku Tablet, YouVersion Bible, and Box.net.
  • On screen keyboard is significantly better than my previous iPod Touch experiences.
  • Internal speaker is better than I expected and so is the microphone.
  • Doing a one on one demo with someone is pretty powerful for sharing and viewing information. The built-in Photos application is especially noteworthy as a good example.
  • Maps with Wi-Fi geolocation is remarkably accurate.
  • I haven't really ran into situations where multi-tasking would be an issue, but I can think of one area I am going to run into problems -- browsing in Safari and then wanting to post via TweetDeck.
Things that are not so great (from a consumer perspective):
  • Screen gets smudged very easily, but cleans up well.
  • Can't subscribe to podcasts directly in iTunes on the iPad.
  • The iPad could lose a half-a-pound in weight, and be more portable plus easier to hold over a longer period of time.
  • Pricing on new iPad specific applications is way to high in my humble opinion. Kudos to many of the application developers I currently use for creating 'free' upgrade versions.
  • The 2x upscale for standard iPhone apps leaves a lot of pixelation issues that distracts from the experience.
  • Safari has crashed more than I expected when consuming media files directly from sites like podcast RSS feeds.
  • I don't like having to sync to iTunes to get Contact updates.  You can get Google Calendar updates directly via CalDAV.
  • iBook prices appear to be on average more expensive than Amazon Kindle prices.  For instance, David Allen's "Getting Things Done (GTD)" is $9.99 on Amazon and $12.99 on Apple's iBook store.
Things that are not great (from my own Enterprise work perspective):
  • No DOD PKI CAC support so you can't sign emails or read encrypted emails.  You also can't use many DOD sites without DOD PKI CAC support in the browser.  Plus at my organization, VPN access and authenticated WIFI is not currently possible without DOD PKI CAC support.
  • Currently there is no way to encrypt the whole device and/or all the application specific storage areas.  This will be a problem as Data At Rest (DAR) requirements become more prevalent and no longer optional.  I've heard rumors about possible 3rd party solutions being released soon that solves this type of problem but nothing definitive as I post this review.  If anyone knows anything about future iPhone/iPad DAR solutions, then please let me know.
Other than fixing the items that are not so great, what could Apple do for improving iPad 2.0 hardware?  Here are a few suggestions:
  • More Bluetooth device support (i.e. networking, GPS, DOD CAC PKI, etc),
  • Integrate a native USB port,
  • Add an SD Card slot, and
  • Drop the price for all units by $100.
I'm sort of ambivalent on adding the camera from a video conferencing/chat perspective, but I think the camera as a sensor to capture location views, barcodes, snapshots, etc would be useful.

With recent news of the iPhone/iPad OS v4.0 coming out soon there is a good chance that many of the software issues will be either solved by this v4.0 release or an earlier v3.x release.  Given that the current release date for iPad support for v4.0 is Fall 2010, I'd expect a hardware update for the iPad when this actually comes out.  Regular Fall releases for new iPad hardware makes more sense for Holiday Sales, and future iPad release will probably be part of Apple's traditional new iPod releases usally in September or October.

The one thing I have not had a chance to try out but would like to is using the iPad to remotely connect to Windows or Mac systems.   I think this could be a big business area for Apple when the 3G version comes out.  With this feature, businesses could leverage the iPad for mobile computing solutions like access to intranet applications, sales presentations, eLearning, etc outside their internal physically controlled Wi-Fi networks.  The only reason I haven't tried them out is the three that look good for evaluation had prices ranging from $15 to $35.  Apple and their developers really need a 'demo' option for items in their AppStore, especially for applications with high price tags. Spending money to do multi-product evaluations is not that appealing to me.

Another thing worth noting is that there is definitely going to be more iPad-like products coming to the market in the near future. I think some of these will be pretty competitive, especially those with Google's Android and more than likely Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 Series.  The big change, when compared to the past, is that the iPad is based on an operating system geared for being mobile, and the full blown operating system software like those on previous TabletPCs is not the right answer for devices in this middle ground between laptops/desktops and mobile phones.

Want to learn more? One of the better Apple iPad consolidated tips, tricks, and pointers articles is posted at HowToGeek.com (link via Kreg Steppe @ FriendsInTech.com)  Another tool that looks interesting is a Google Docs editing tool called Office2Pro that was recently reviewed on one of my favorite mobile technology blogs JK On The Run.

If you have any comments, then please post them below and I'll definitely respond.  If you have any questions that you'd like to have answered, then you can send me email at: sholden@pobox.com or send me a Twitter message (@sholden) or on direct message on Facebook (sholden).

Does The Apple iPad Violate Steve's Best Practice For Tech Purchasing?

Steve's Best Practice for Technology Purchasing was developed during the Apple Newton years (1993-1997) as the editor and publisher of NewtNews - a weekly newsletter that covered the Newton marketplace and community.

The basic premise is that Steve will never purchase the 1st generation of any technology product.  After what seemed like countless painful experiences buying every Newton device, software, etc. released, this best practice has proven very helpful over the last 13 years.  Some successes - TabletPC ( HP TC1100 vs HP TC1000) and Apple iPod Touch (2nd generation vs. 1st generation).

Now that the Apple iPad is coming out (pre-orders start on March 12, 2010), I'm torn on whether or not to purchase the new iPad 1st Generation vs. the iPad 2nd Generation with a ton more features and more MTBF (mean time before failure) engineering. 

I am pretty sure the Wi-Fi only model is better for me than the WiFi + 3G version so that decision is easy for me.  

As a very happy iPod Touch (2nd generation) user I can really see how a bigger screen would be a major improvement.  And many of the applications that I use every day would seem to be very compelling on the iPad form-factor: Pandora, Evernote, Peggle, Facebook, TweetDeck, Stanza, Kindle, Toodledo, and Safari

The other bonus is that I'm pretty much using my older HP TC1100 as an "iPad-tablet" device already.  In the morning as I'm getting ready for the day, I listen to news podcasts via iTunes, catchup with social media sites, and check in on my news feeds.  And then in the evening, some of the same activities happen.  But the iPad form factor (smaller, thinner, etc.) plus battery life will be an improvement.

As a frequent traveler, the ability to watch videos, listen to podcasts, and ready books plus other references is a great improvement over the iPod Touch I'm currently using in this situation.

The Bluetooth integration seems like another key feature both on the audio side of the house but also for keyboard input.  Sometimes you just need to use a real keyboard!

As I write this and review what I've written, I get a sense I've already made enough case for the device at least for me. 

But the one thing really bugging me is the lack of multi-processing support. When I'm using my current "legacy iPad" (aka the HP TC1100) I have several applications open and I like to bounce between them and also stream music from Pandora or other sources.  Reading something, capturing it, and then sending it out on Twitter or Facebook currently doesn't work well for me on the iPod Touch, and I'm thinking the same is going to be true about the iPad.  The iPad is a content consumer device not a content producer device.

Well, I guess I'll need to make a decision soon or hold off.  To be honest I'm pretty sure I'm going to get one but I'm open to input.  If you have any, then please let me know!

NOTE:  One killer application for the WiFi + 3G version is how well Citrix works on the iPad.  If it works without issue, then the platform will really be compelling for the Enterprise.  And that could make the iPad both a consumer and a business success.


Old School Netbook - HP TC1100

The GDGT Podcast #3 with Ryan Block and Peter Rojas finally got around to talking about "netbooks" after teasing us in Podcast #1 and Podcast #2.  It was a great discussion, and they asked for recommendations from listeners on what they would recommend.

My recommendation based on some recent research would be the MSI Wind.  A lot of what I have been able to gather comes from a variety of blogs and gadget sites, but is heavily based on comments/research/analysis made by Kevin Toffel at jkOnTheRun's Mobile Tech Roundup podcast.  The MSI Wind seems like the right mix of features vs. cost -- the biggest bang for your buck.

That being said, for the last couple of years I've been using a Hewlett-Packard (HP) TC1100 as my "netbook" or "Internet tablet" around the house and on family vacations. It continues to fit  many of my needs, and still has a great run down of features:

  • pen interface
  • Windows XP SP2 the Tablet Extensions
  • support for tablet and standard laptop form factors
  • pretty good keyboard if needed (I don't use it that often)
  • 802.11a/b/g WiFi
  • two USB ports
  • 1024 x 768 ( XGA )10" LCD screen
  • Bluetooth
  • 3.5mm headset-microphone jack (great for SKYPE)
  • full PC Card slot (like for EVDO)
  • ~2 hours of battery life [with 2 backups available]
  • SD card slot
  • modem (actually useful if you need to send a fax)
  • 10/100 Ethernet port

What I use it for:

  • browsing (IE, Firefox, Chrome, WebKit, Flock, Safri)
  • cloud applications (Google Docs, Gmail, Evernote, Newsgator)
  • iTunes 'news' podcasts (Fox, CNN, NYTimes, WSJ, CNET, Stratfor, CBS Radio, InfoWorld, CNET, NPR)
  • social networking (Twitter, FriendFeed, Meebo)
  • communications (SKYPE, Gizmo, Thunderbird)

If you go the route of trying to find an TC1100, I would definitely recommend the version with an Intel Pentium M chip, and get as much RAM as possible.  Mine has 1.5-GBs.

Any other options for an old school netbook?


My Getting List Manager Analysis Of Outlook & Pocket Informant

I recently read a post by Kelly Forrister "What makes a good Getting list manager?" But it wasn't until I read Eric Mack's analysis of her post that I made the connection that I should evaluate what I do.

Here is the criteria:

  1. Sorting lists by context
  2. Ability to assign a due date
  3. Portable for on the go access
  4. Easily accessible
  5. More attractive to you than repelling
  6. Doesn't force priority codes
  7. Place to capture additional notes
  8. Ability to search and sort in various ways.
  9. Robust enough to handle all of your stuff.

My system for handling Getting Runway "Next Actions"  is an IBM X61 TabletPC with Windows Vista running Outlook 2007 teamed up with an AT&T Tilt with Pocket Informant 8.

As I read through the list, I find that Outlook + Pocket Informant do the majority of the items pretty straight forward for me: sorting (#1); due dates (#2); easy access (#4); search & sorting (#8); and capture notes (#7)   Neither seems to force priority codes (#6) but offers them if you want them.

I gain portablilty (#3) not so much from the list manager software but more from the platforms.  The IBM X61 is the best PC laptop I've ever had, and I have it with me nearly all the time I need it. Outlook is usually always running and usually only a click or pen gesture away. If I'm going some place without my X61, then I have a good sync with the AT&T Tilt Windows Mobile Phone so I don't miss many @phone, @store, etc items.  Using this setup to capture is pretty straight forward, but I actually use a combo of 3x5 cards and Moleskine for the most of my capture which is probably a topic for another post.

The part that is probably completely personality preference is #5: 'is this attractive enough to you to use it or not? ' It is probably also one of the most important questions that you need to tackle or you'll have a hard time getting things done.

What works for you?


TabletPC Thoughts #1 - Upgrade from Toshiba M400 to ThinkPad X61

I am about 30 days into my complete migration from the my old TabletPC the Toshiba M400 to the ThinkPad X61.  Thanks to Marc Orchant and James Kendrick for their early suggestions on some migration questions I had.

The big changes include Vista Ultimate, Office 2007, OneNote 2007, Visio 2007, and Project 2007.  I also have only been adding applications as I need them, this included: Firefox, ClipMate, Newsgator, PDF-X Change Lite 3, IBM SameTime, and MindManager Pro 7.

Things I like about this new setup:

  • Form factor - smaller and easier to pickup and move
  • Performance - much faster processor and other internals
  • Screen - very good even outside
  • Sleep/Hibernate - this is extremely fast and works every time without errors
  • ThinkVantage utilities - well thought out functionality wise and useful
  • Battery performance - easily double from the M400
  • Keyboard - there is something special about the ThinkPad keyboard

Things I'm still getting use to:

  • Smudges on the X61 screen - you have to clean it a lot
  • Differences between Windows XP and Vista when you want to do a power user task (like TCP/IP configs or change wireless networks)
  • Missing the trackpad
  • Not having an integrated DVD/CD (haven't needed it but it makes me a little nervous)

All in all I am really enjoying the X61, Vista Start Menu Search (it works very well!), and Office 2007 especially Outlook & OneNote integration.

Only real downside at the moment is that my organization has not yet completely figured out how to enable VPN access.  The problem is an integration issue between: Vista, Cisco, and DOD CAC PKI.  Hopefully it will get resolved soon and then everything will be working great.


Windows Vista Status - Two Installs Completed

If you have spoken to me in person over the last two weeks or so, I probably mentioned I'm on my second Windows Vista install. 

My first work install was a Toshiba M4 Tablet PC that also had RC1 and then died with RC2 (long story), but is now working pretty well with Vista Ultimate edition.  My only real issue is the strange way video out works and how to control it.  Things seem much better after downloading all the Vista drivers from Toshiba.  This system also is running Office 2007, but it is not my primary system so I've only been doing light work on it. So, other than launching all the new applications, that is all I've done.

I have ordered a new SATA laptop drive for my primary laptop system for work (a Toshiba M400 Tablet PC), and I'll be upgrading that soon now that I know more about issues to expect based on experience.

My second update is my custom home desktop PC.  It is going a long fine without too many issues.  These have both been clean installs with new hard drives, no upgrading in place.  So, most issues are pretty straight forward to solve with latest software or drivers.

I really like some of the new performance monitoring features in Vista (how-to) but I did have some trouble finding were the TCP/IP configuration options got moved to.  I do not have Aero Glass at home (the NVIDIA Quadro NVS 285 is not powerful enough I guess), but the Toshiba M4 does have it.

Questions?!?  I'll keep the blog updated on anything new.  BTW ... I did notice that Dann Sheridan recently did an upgrade from Windows XP to Vista Business.


Less Typing Strategy Underway

For the last 6 years or so, I have been very observant about my workplace ergonomics, especially related to typing, since as an IT professional my ability to type is a key requirement. 

I've invested both at home and at work in great keyboards, chairs, desk layouts, and Handeze gloves (which I highly recommend).   I also use a text short cut tool both on my Mac (Textpander - no longer free) and on my Windows (Short Keys - free version still available) systems. 

But apparently that has not been enough to ward of potential problems.

About three weeks ago I noticed a lump in my left hand, right at the base of my thumb but above my wrist.  A quick visit to the doctor came back with good news - Ganglion Cyst - which is not cancerous and unless there is pain, is probably something to just monitor.  I don't have any pain, so I'm going to just monitor it for the time being as suggested by my doctor.

Mean while, I have loaded up Dragon Naturally Speaking 9.0 on my TabletPC and using it a lot when I'm in my office or at home.  It seems to be working very well.  In fact, most of this blog post was done with me speaking vice typing.

I noticed that IBM's ViaVoice for the Macintosh is available but I can't seem to tell if it has any support since the last version posted is from 2005.  Comments?


Thoughts on MindManager

If you are using MindJet MindManager, there are a couple of blog posts related to the product I thought I'd highlight:

  1. Eric Mack is reporting some serious slow downs of his system related to MindManager.
  2. You can learn more about MindManager on the Mac via this podcast.

On topic #1 -- I have to honestly say, on my Toshiba M400, that I haven't seen the performance issues that Eric is speaking about while I'm using MindManager.  I do seem to have a performance issue with Outlook and IMAP but that has been a long going issue for me, and happens independent of the system I'm on and what programs I'm using.

I have MindManger open and functioning for me nearly 60% of my work day if not higher.  My M400 though is typically powered and in laptop mode (vs. tablet mode) when I'm at a desktop workplace location (which is about 70% of a normal day).

On topic #2 -- I am looking forward to listening to the MindManager on Mac podcast, since I'm using that tool a great deal for doing show notes for JerseyBoysPodcast.


MindManager - Task Status Tracking?

I went looking for a feature that I use to remember using in Mindjet MindManager but I'm not sure if it got deleted or moved from Version 5 to Verison 6, or if I just can't find the feature.

The function I was looking is a minor subst of what Result Manager does, but it seemed like it was built-in to MindManager.  I would bring up a map, and I thought run something from the Tools menu that would walk me through all the outstanding tasks in the current MindMap.  Like a task review.

I've searched on the Help both internal and on the the Net but haven't turned up anything.

Suggestions?!?