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.


Recommended - Introduction to Snow Leopard's Automator & Services

Macbreak-auto-servMacBreak Weekly #235 (Part 1) starts off a great informative series (Part 1 of 4) to introduce the new features found in Automator and Services in Snow Leopard.

There are additional videos: #236 (Part 2), #237 (Part 3), and #238 (Part 4). More information can also be found at: www.macosxautomation.com

Summary - Doing A GTD Weekly Review Via Twitter

I wasn't able to attend this event but I thought it was important to capture and share.

Kelly Forrister at the David Allen Company recently did an innovative event on Twitter (#GTD #Tweekly).  It was an interactive Getting Things Done Weekly Review.  Here is the sequence via 29 tweets that she posted:

  1. Hello everyone! Ready? We'll do this in 3 parts/11 steps
  2. PART ONE: GET CLEAR. Collect loose paper and materials. Gather everything that's loose into an Inbox, Tray or folder.
  3. You have 5 minutes for this step. Go...
  4. You all have one more minute on step one: Collect loose papers and materials.
  5. PART ONE-STEP TWO-GET CLEAR: Get In to Zero. Choose the inbox that can good progress on in 5 min--email? paper? VM? Go!
  6. a good way to process in is 4D's: Delete it, Do it (under 2 mins), Delegate it, Defer it (onto a list)
  7. PART ONE-STEP THREE-GET CLEAR: Empty your head. Open a Word doc, or grab and pad and clear your head for 5 minutes. Go.
  8. STEP THREE - SOME MINDSWEEP TRIGGERS: Family, health, meetings you've had, meetings you're going to have...
  9. SOME MORE MINDSWEEP TRIGGERS: Your direct reports, finances, 401k, the dog, your car, health appts you've been putting off...
  10. PART TWO, STEP FOUR-GET CURRENT: Review your Action lists (or maybe you call them Tasks or To Do's.)5 minutes start now. Go!
  11. 2 more minutes to review action lists--are they current? anything to mark done? anything trigger you to add?
  12. PART TWO-STEP 5-Review previous calendar info. Any triggers?
  13. Many times reviewing your old calendar (go back about 3 wks) catches things you meant to do. 3 more mins left
  14. PART TWO-STEP 6-REVIEW UPCOMING CALENDAR DATA - anything you should start getting ready for? Go!
  15. REVIEW UPCOMING CALENDAR TIP: if you find something you need to process, you can add to your mindsweep for now.
  16. if you don't get anything on reviewing your calendar, try going further out. Recurring Tasks are great for calendar.
  17. PART TWO-STEP 7-REVIEW WAITING FOR - if you've got a list review it. If you don't have one, what are you waiting on?
  18. WAITING FOR TIP: Review your email Sent folder. Usually some waiting for's hiding in there.
  19. PART TWO-STEP 8-REVIEW PROJECT LISTS. Projects are your outcomes that require more than one action step. Go!
  20. PROJECT TIP: Projects are typically completed within 18 mos. If you can NEVER mark it done, it's likely an Area of Focus.
  21. PROJECT TIP: Most people we coach have 30-100 current personal & professional projects. Don't be surprised!
  22. PROJECT TIP: If you are not willing to take any next action on a current project, are you sure it's not Someday/Maybe?
  23. PART 2-STEP 9 - REVIEW CHECKLISTS - birthday checklists? travel checklists? home mntce? Go!
  24. CHECKLIST TIP: Maybe you want to CREATE a checklist? Anything recurring that would be good? What to always pack for vacation?
  25. PART 3-GET CREATIVE!-STEP 10-REVIEW SOMEDAY/MAYBE: If you have one, update it. If you don't have one, create it!
  26. SOMEDAY /MAYBE TIP: S/M is not just a "fantasy wish" list. It can be a fantastic place to stage "not yet" projects.
  27. SOMEDAY TIP: You'll trust S/M list(s) more if you know you're actually going to review them again. Otherwise they'll die.
  28. PART 3-STEP 11-BE CREATIVE & COURAGEOUS! Any new thought-provoking, creative, risk taking ideas to add to your system?
  29. CREATIVE & COURAGEOUS TIP: What's REALLY got your attention in your job, family, environment? This is the last step!

It is my understanding from the GTD Virtual Study Group which did a quick review at the very beginning of their latest podcast is that the timing for this weekly review was limited to 1 hour with all the major items (11 steps) taking approximately 5 minutes each.  The big take away from many of the participants was that they were  amazed at what they accomplished in 1 hour.

Other recommended resources during the Twitter session were:

I've listened to the Weekly Review CDs and I personally recommend them.  The guides are excellent also, and I use them when I need references during GTD processing.


Some Music Podcast Recommendations - Interviews, Blues, Rock, Classical, Electronic

I have a pretty wide set of musical tastes that includes more than just the Jersey Boys, and Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons.

There were recently several interesting music related podcasts from San Diego's KPBS These Days:

When I'm in the mood for the blues I always turn to The Roadhouse podcast.

When I'm in the mood for classical music, I find WGBH Classical Performance Podcast to be great.  I also find the classical feed on CBC Radio 2 to be a nice streaming option.

The Magnatune "great pianist" podcast is very good if you want something 'lite' playing in the background.

The Alternative Classix Podcast is a well produced and researched 80s 'new wave' radio show you will not be disappointed with.

For those that like electronica and/or techno ... I highly recommend:

If you want something more mellow but still pretty electronic then check out the Ultima Thule Ambient Music podcast.

I also enjoy the Coverville podcast and the Rock'N'Roll Geek podcast.


Podcast Recommendation - Berlin Airlift Book Review

I just finished a highly recommended podcast interview with Andrei Cherny over at the Pritzker Military Library in Chicago about his book "The Candy Bombers." 

It is a great intro and overview to the history of the Berlin Blockage, and the remarkable airlift that changed history. 

While listening to the podcast it made me think a lot about what Dan Carlin over at the Hardcore History podcast likes to say about examining/studying/imagining one of those major "what if" time period scenarios in history.  By many accounts, if the airlift didn't work the "Cold War" could have been over (with the Russians controlling all of Europe) or radically different by the end of 1948.


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?


Conference Update - GTD Roadmap, New Media, MT Communications, Office 2.0

I was recently able to attend a David Allen Getting Things Done (GTD) Roadmap seminar during one of my regular trips to Washington DC. 

It was a fabulous one-day conference. 

As someone who has been practicing some form of GTD since 2004, it was great to finally get to learn from David Allen in-person.  The Roadmap material was, frankly, excellent for someone in my situation who tries to practice GTD on a daily basis and is maturing in the model.  For instance for me, my Runway is pretty well managed, as is my Horizon's of focus above 20,000 feet. But I do struggle with Projects (10,000 feet) and consistent Weekly Reviews.  This year (2008) could be considered the year of getting a handle on both Projects & Weekly Reviews. After this seminar, I definitely think I have some good best practices to move forward with.

There are three other conferences that have my attention right now:

I will be at the upcoming New Media Expo (NME) 2008 speaking on "Getting Started With Audio Editing - Hands-on With Audacity." More information about my Audacity related resources over at AztecMedia.net/Audacity.  Christy is going to go with me this year, and we hope to get some Jersey Boys Las Vegas interviews completed for the Jersey Boys Podcast. And yes, we will be seeing the show again while we are there. ;-)

I am also planning  to attend the Manager-Tools.com Effective Communications conference in San Antonio, TX on September 9-10, 2008.  This should be a great conference and if you are a manager, you should really consider attending.  Or at the very least, go over to Manager-Tools.com Getting Started page and get started.

The other conference that is on my radar but I don't think I'm going to be able to attend is Ismael Ghalimi's Office 2.0 Conference.  David Allen is going to be giving the keynote which is great, but the line-up of other speakers is impressive, and the content seems right up my alley.  If you are interested in attending, you can save $100 off the conference fee by using this link that Ismael gave me.  For those who are GTD Connect members, David recently interviewed Ismael for the In Conversation podcast.  It is a very good podcast that examines what Ismael is up to with regards to Office 2.0, and gets deep into the personal GTD systems Ismael is deploying.  He is definitely an impressive 'cloud/virtual systems' guy.

 


Some New Cold War History Recommendations

I am a big history buff. I am particularly interested in stories about World War II and The Cold War. 

I came across a bunch of recently released Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) docs at the Federation of American Scientists (FAS.org):

  • "The Secret War in Korea, June 1950 to June 1952," March 1964 [pdf]
  • "Record of Paramilitary Action Against the Castro Government of Cuba, 17 March 1960 - May 1961," May 1961 [pdf]
  • "The Evolution of Ground Paramilitary Activities at the Staff Level, October 1949-September 1955," November 1968 [pdf]
  • "The Berlin Tunnel Operation, 1952-1956," 24 June 1968 [pdf]

They all have some pretty interesting information in them.  I am fascinated by considering what the redacted parts contain.

The Cold War has many different angles and perspectives. One of the other resources that is really interesting is from Tony Kahn over at WGBH's Morning Stories podcast.  Tony produced the following series called "BlackListed" (RSS):

In October 1947, the House Un-American Activities Committee opened its hearing into Communist influence in the movie business and promptly denounced 19 prominent directors, producers, screenwriters, and actors as enemies of the state. One of them was Hollywood screenwriter Gordon Kahn, whose films include All Quiet on the Western Front and The African Queen.
    
In this six-part personal history of the Hollywood Blacklist, Gordon Kahn's son, Morning Stories producer Tony Kahn, tells the story of his father's 15 years of persecution and the fear that followed him, his family, and thousands of other Americans for being accused of having the wrong political ideas.

I have currently listened to three of six podcasts, and I am really enjoying this very well produced audio program.  No matter what your political views this is is a podcast that should not be missed.


MP2 Preview Feature Missing in Mac OS X Leopard

I recently updated my Mac Book Pro to Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard.  The upgrade process was pretty seamless and I only had a few initial performance issues that seemed to go away with time.

I did notice one missing feature this morning while doing some audio troubleshooting on a just eBay purchased Telos-One with Paul Figgiani and Victor Cajiao that the Leopard's Finder no longer allows you to preview MP2 files in the Columns view or in the new Quick Look feature.

This feature was in Mac OS X 10.4, and I am perplexed on why it would go away. 

For podcasters and other audio engineering folks MP2 are used a great deal in collaborative post production.

If anyone knows a work around or a way to enable the lost feature, please let me know.