Apr 112017
 

Since I started attending the Traditional Latin Mass on Sundays I thought it was time to get a good 1962 Missal to use. I had considered buying the one from [Baronius Press][press]. For one I have other of their books and they are super high quality so I knew I could not go wrong. Still I took the question to social media and got several suggestions including Baronius Press’s offering.

One suggestion surprised me, using an app called iMass. This was suggested by several TLM goers of whom I have respect for. Now I am pretty geekly and use technology a lot, but did I want to use it during Mass? Plus there was the dichotomy of using a phone app during the TLM. Are you allowed to only use technology developed up to 1962?

Plus there is a vanity in me that doesn’t want to stick out. I figured if I started using a phone app during Mass the other Mass goers would be all like this:

Still I have noticed that more and more people are using phone apps during Mass for the readings. Something not confined to just younger people, but something I have observed across age groups. Still my first reaction when I see somebody holding a phone during Mass is:

Couldn’t they wait to text later on! Oh wait they have a app with the Mass readings.

So I decided to give the iMass app a tryout.

Now this app contains a full Missal along with the Breviary in multiple languages including Latin. You can even view live streams of Latin Masses and Liturgies.

So previously while attending the Latin Mass I used the booklet they hand out that helps you to follow along to an extent. The iMass app lets you fully follow along.

The app is used in landscape mode so that you can see both the Latin and the English text. I have an iPhone 7 Plus so the screen size is pretty much perfect for this. Mostly you just scroll along as you coordinate what the priest is saying to where you are in the Missal. Mostly I was able to do this despite the priest being soft spoken. I also found that I was able to read the English text as I was doing this and stay in place. The rubrics also help you to identify where you are in the Mass based on what the priest is doing. Besides just using the scrolling there is also quick navigation to the top or next section.

So I was pretty impressed with how useful this was since if I was using a Missal I would have been skipping around more. So mostly I was able to stay focused on the Mass and to see the translation.

This app is on both iOS and Android.

So when it comes to using technology for prayer I have a simple test. Does it actually help me pray or is it a distraction? Or a distraction to others. The iMass app passes this test for me.

I once suggested the iHALO a visual indicator showing you are using a Mass appropriate app.

Speaking of Mass related technologies. Recently Apple came out with Theater Mode on the Apple Watch. This is different than just the mute button. In addition to muting, the watch would not light up when you moved your wrist.

So I now call this Mass mode and I now always put my watch in this mode before entering the church along with muting my phone. I wish the watch could mute both. Now I am pretty good about remembering to mute my phone before entering the church, I just usually forget to un-mute it later on. The “Mass Mode” provides me a reminder that I am muted and to remember to turn off “Mass Mode” and to un-mute my phone.

Mar 232015
 

Thomas L. McDonald modeled his How I Pray series after Lifehacker’s How I Work series. He decided to publish his own entry on “How I Work” and to invite others to do the same. Well any opportunity to geek out and talk about myself geeking out – well how could I resist?

Location Ask the NSA for specifics, generally Jacksonville, Fl.

Current Gig Application Developer

One word that best describes how you work: Edison (caveat below)

Current mobile device: iPhone 6 Plus, iPad Air 2

Current computer: Since I do work at work and from home:

  • Home: 5K 27″ Retina iMac with a 500GB SSD and 1TB Fusion drive and 24GB of memory. Along with two external monitors: 27“ Apple Thunderbolt Display and a 24” HP display.
  • Work: 2012 Mac Pro with 500GB and 256GB SSDs and 24GB of memory. Along with one Apple Thunderbolt Display and two Dell 24″ monitors.

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without? Why?

Visual Studio, Sublime Text 3, Dropbox, Markdown, Marked, Pinboard.io.

Microsoft’s Visual Studio Much of my work involves writing software used in courseware development. Since the company I work for mostly uses Windows along with the military, then Visual Studio is really the premiere development IDE available. C# is mostly my language of choice for Windows desktop software. I’ve used Visual Studio since it came out and I have come to really enjoy the power it has developed over the years, especially when used with Resharper. Considering that I have worked with it day in and day out for years on end I am surprised that I still enjoy coding with it. Although the development of C# during the years is part of that. On the Mac side I have also done some OSX and iOS development which is why even as a Windows developer we now have Macs at work. Apple IDE Xcode is quite different from Visual Studio in many ways along with a different emphasis regarding development. Xcode has gotten better, but Visual Studio is superior in many ways. Although Xcode new playground feature is pretty awesome.

Sublime Text 3 Programmers are well known for getting into flame wars over text editors. I have used dozens of text editors over the years with various text editing love affairs that eventually end when I move on. I’ve only been using Sublime Text for a year, but there are several reasons it has become my favorite.

  • The fact that it works on Mac and Windows is certainly key to me since I run a Windows virtual machine on my Mac and an constantly going between the two OSs.
  • Extensibility on Sublime Text is amazing. Strangely it was a third party that provided a package manager that allows all the power of Sublime Text. These packages make a good editor great in what you can do quite quickly and text selection capabilities are so good it is quite annoying using any editor with them.
  • As a keyboard jockey I like to be able to do tons of editing without moving to my Apple Trackpad to perform them. Sublime Text lets you set your keyboard bindings and pretty much all user settings. The fact that I can use VIM keyboard binding also is a plus.
  • Searching across projects is easy along with fuzzy matching. Again with a quick keyboard shortcut I can jump through a file or search through multiple files quickly. Sublime Text_ is not free and recently GitHub has developed there own open source multi-platform text editor Atom which is very much like Sublime Text including almost exactly the same features and keyboard shortcuts.

Dropbox I’ve used Dropbox since it was in beta and you needed an invitation. Since I do work from home and my work location having my files instantly synced wherever I go is perfect. The fact that so many iOS apps also support Dropbox means that I can also access those same files from my movile device. Dropbox has been integrated into almost all of my workflows. While there are similar services like Google Drive and One Drive, Dropbox is better integrated in most mobile apps.

Markdown is a plain text formatting syntax that has become increasingly popular for more than just geeks. I use it for wiki documentations of applications I write, notes, history, and of course blog posts. I mostly use it with Sublime Text, but also with Drafts and other iOS editing apps. Since it is plain text it is not limited or proprietary like other document formats. I wrote a quick introduction to the power of Markdown here. To give some idea about how good the Markdown syntax is I give this post as an example. It is filled with formatting and links, yet I can easily read the plain text file almost as if it was already formatted.

Marked Since I use Markdown so much it is nice to be able to see those files as formatted in HTML. Marked 2 by Brett Terpstra is phenomenal in displaying Markdown as HTML along with allowing direct export to HTML or PDF. I use this with Sublime Text where I can see the currently edited document with a keyboard shortcut. This is just a great app which is constantly updated. It’s only downside is that it is Mac only and I have not found anything near as feature-rich on Windows. Although when using Sublime Text on Windows I use the Markdown Preview package to see my current document in a browser window.

Pinboard.io This is a bookmarking service that I use constantly. Whenever I come across a web page with information I want to archive or refer back to I add it to Pinboard.io. This is a service much like the original Delicious. But it is a service I expect will be around for a while since it is not free. The one time cost is rather minimal, I think I paid a bit less than $10. The cost is to support and to keep the service running. When reading through all my RSS feeds or doing research for work anything useful I find I just tag and add it to Pinboard.io and then I can easily find it later. For an annual fee they will also archive all the pages you tag so even if the page you added goes away later you will still have it. What I do instead for information I want to make sure I keep, I use Heck Yes Markdown to convert the page from HTML to Markdown and then save it in my notes or archive folder. Now that iOS 8 has shared extensions I can send links to Pinboard.io from pretty much any app.

Honorable mentions go to Drafts 4 on iOS which is a clearing house for ideas and notes. iOS 8 has given Drafts even more power since I can quickly tap in notes from the notification screen and add chunks of texts to my monthly archive on Dropbox. Pushbullet has also become another go to app. This service which works in a browser, iOS, Android, and OSX allows you to send information to other devices. So I can easily send text between my phone, work and home computers, or to all my devices. This service keeps getting better.

Oh and one more facet of my workflow that is intrinsic to the way I work is text expansion and keyboard shortcuts. With text expansion I can just type a couple of letters and then have words, phrases, etc, inserted into my text . Great for coding, writing, and even filling out forms. I use TextExpander for this and this is a great application. Since I use a ton of keyboard shortcuts, keyboard remapping is important. I have remapped my Caps Lock key to be able to use it in combination with other keys to trigger actions. On the Mac I do this with free software with the instructions listed here. On Windows I use the freeware program AutoHotkey.

What’s your workspace setup like?

At Work

At Home

iPad Screen

iPhone Screen

What’s your best time-saving shortcut/life hack?

The problem with most note systems is tagging and finding what you have previously jotted down. My system isn’t perfect, but it works for me.

  • I mostly keep all my notes in one folder with few sub-folders on Dropbox.
  • My tagging is in the filename. For example for work I might have files like “Language.C#.Linq.md” and “Language.JQuery.md”. So this gives me a general category for the first word then with further topic differentiation separated by periods. So instead of having the organization in folders, the organization is inherit in the filename in one main folder.
  • Finding notes is extremely fast using the following methods.
    • Using Alfred on OSX with a keyboard shortcut I can instantly search for terms in my filename and select from a list of matching files to then load up into Sublime Text. This could be also done with OSX built-in Spotlight. Window’s users could do the same with something like Launchy.
    • When I have my notes project loaded into Sublime Text I get even quicker file name and file content searches.
  • Since my notes are plain text files on Dropbox it means my notes are easily accessed via any mobile device. With the iOS app Trunk Notes I even have a wiki on my iPad which uses my Dropbox notes in one folder.

What’s your favorite to-do list manager?

I have seen and used a lot of them, but mostly I just don’t use one. At work the developers as a team use Agile software development with task organization divided into sprints. So I guess that is my to-do management for work. At home I am much more laissez-faire where mostly my to-do’s are what book I am going to read next or blog ideas. For both of those and honey-do tasks I use my note system already mentioned.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without and why?

Well like the wording in the other question I take issue about the whole idea of not being able to live without something. My years in the Navy taught me there are lots of things I can live without and annual Lenten periods taught me that there were another whole group of things I can live without. Yes I am a geek and I enjoy working with technology very much and love that I have a job that I very much enjoy doing, but I could live without all of it (if forced to).

Still I have loved music my whole life and have continued to find new artists I enjoy. So the fact that there are now subscription music services is pretty awesome. When I use to go to sea I would take hundreds of cassettes with me. It was a major pain to cart them all on and off ship and so now I greatly appreciate both music stored on disc space and streaming. So much more convenient.

Along with that Netflix is another great service. I hardly watch any live TV at all and just binge watch series along with receiving Blu-Ray discs. Totally changed the way I consume video.

As a final note, ebooks have also transformed the way I read. It has become my preferred way to read since now I am never without a book as long as I got my phone in my pocket and besides I can carry around my whole library. I currently have 1307 book stored in a Calibre library on Dropbox and out of that number there are about five I haven’t read yet. Mostly I use the Kindle app on my iPad along with Marvin. Although I am starting to use the Logos iPad app more and more for both scripture reading and my growing Logos library. In connection with this I also use Voice Dream Reader on iOS. This is a Text-To-Speech app with phenomenal voices and a slew of capabilities. I use it mostly to play ePub books imported from Dropbox during my daily commute. Gives you an instant audiobook with quality voices. I also use it to play back articles I stored in Pocket.

What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else? What’s your secret?

In one of the first questions it asked me to use one word to describe how I work and that was Edison. I chose this word not through prideful bravado or thinking I am any kind of genius, but because of my stick-to-it-ness. Supposedly Edison just kept trying different filaments until one worked. How true that is I don’t know. But I do know that in coding and other situations I don’t easily give up regarding a frustrating problem not easily solved and keep trying different alternatives until I find one that works. In the past this allowed me to do some rather surprising things with software development not envisioned by the authors of the tools.

As for doing this better than everybody else, well I wouldn’t want to put any money down on that proposition.

What do you listen to while you work?

Well sometimes my boss. But seriously mostly I listen to podcasts and music. During most coding tasks I can listen to podcasts while working. If I am learning something new or architecting software design than I just listen to music.

What are you currently reading?

This post has gone on long enough. But oh well. As a bibliophile I spend lots of time reading. You can see this from my Goodreads account. On my reading list of books I own and will read within the next week or so I have.

  • Furies of Calderon – Jim Butcher
  • Son – Lois Lowry
  • Scripture – Stephen J. Binz
  • Finding True Happiness – Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J.
  • The League of Frightened Men – Rex Stout
  • The House of Silk – Anthony Horowitz, the first Sherlock Holmes authorized by the Arthur Conan Doyle Estate

Then of course there is the Liturgy of the Hours and other devotional reading I have set out for the year.

What has changed over the years since you started and what do you do differently?

I first became interested in programming in High School. At the time the only real personal computer was the Altair 8800 which was a kit you put together and it only had switches for octal input. I use to go the the Byte Shop with my High School electronics teacher to learn on this machine. At the time I also picked up my first book on the Basic computer language. After that there was dabbling with programming on a Commodore 64, then Commodore Amiga, and then the IBM PC and the subsequent PC clones. While still in the Navy I started to get much more seriously into programming and for the last half of my Navy career I ended up being allowed to spend a lot of time writing programs for use.

So what has changed over the years? Well pretty much everything. Still I won’t get into older geek reminiscences where I say “I remember when <insert any hardware> cost this much!” Still maybe the biggest change has been a move from the desktop to the web and then to mobile devices. There are strange congruences here since much of mobile application development is just like desktop development. Web technologies which have become very powerful, but they still don’t fully match up to applications developed for specific processors. Still for many developers this means that, as in my case, you have to be able to do more traditional application development along with development on the web side.

Aug 052014
 

So who is the geekiest Catholic Apologist? No doubt it is Catholic Answer’s Jimmy Akin who has just released a new blog Let’s Watch Doctor Who! subtitled “Reviewing every Doctor Who TV story … from the beginning!

Now I just love cheesy SF and this creates a good excuse to watch the series from the start. Besides I have exhausted all the episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000 available for streaming on Netflix. Fortunately most of the episodes of Dr. Who are available for streaming on Netflix, except part of the first season. Although I ordered the DVDs of it and now have it for viewing.

In one of those strange coincidences I happened to see this image for the first time today.

William Hartnell was the first Dr. Who and of course St. John Vianney’s feast day was yesterday.

Mar 152011
 

On the day the first iPad became available I bought one.  Over the last year it has been a constant companion usage wise as I took it to work and around the house and elsewhere.  For what was a first generation device it fulfilled my expectations and more.  This did not keep me from lusting after the iPad 2.  So last Friday I drove by the Apple store only to see a huge line so I ended up going from store to store finding them sold out wherever I went.  So back to the Apple store and the line.  I ended up with the last ticket they had to ensure I would get the iPad 2.  As luck had it the last ticket was for the very model I wanted – A Black iPad 2 with 32GB and Verizon 3G.  Two hours later I was a happy owner with sore feet of the new iPad.

As many reviewers have had this is more of an evolutionary upgrade of the iPad than a majorly changed device.  The original iPad did not feel slow in any way and load times of apps and browsing was acceptable.  The iPad 2 though is even snappier and large games load much faster and rendering of pages in the browser is noticeably improved.

The main engineering changes are that the iPad is much thinner and in fact thinner than the iPhone 4 at 8.6mm.  This makes it much nicer to hold in that there is not the flat edge that use to be there. It is slightly lighter at 1.33 pounds vice the original 1.5 pounds. As someone who does a lot of reading, holding the iPad for long durations is no more annoying than doing the same with a good size hardcover book.The main display is the same in size and resolution.  Models are available with either a black or a white bezel. I got the black bezel since white would frame the content too much and be a distraction.

Under the hood the Apple developed A4 ARM processor has been replaced by a dual-core A5 ARM processor along with a significantly faster dual-core graphics processor that puts iPad gaming to the next level rivaling game machines.  The memory has been doubled at 512MB along with a faster bus.  In addition front and back facing cameras have been added.  Like the iPhone 4 the iPad 2 includes a gyroscope which can be quite useful in gaming and other applications.

After using it for a couple of days I am very happy with the speed bump and task-switching is much better with the doubled memory.  The browsing experience is much improved, though partly this is due to the release of iOS 4.3 which includes a new javascript rendering engine.  I am not a major gamer, but I do game much more since I got the iPad.  Games that did take some time to load, take very little time now and there are reports that games updated for the iPad 2 such as Infinity Blade are truly amazing.  The iPad 2 also now supports display mirroring.  Using the new HDMI adaptor you can now output the display to a monitor via an HDMI cable.  So not only could you output Netflix from the iPad to your TV, you can also simply display the iPad desktop and any application currently running.  I had great fun playing Robot Unicorn Attack on a large screen TV while using the iPad as the controller.  This is also good news for those using the iPad in business or education.  Battery life seems much the same, over ten hours.  Quite an accomplishment to beef up the hardware and retain the original iPad’s exceptional battery life.

I am glad that I knew ahead of time how crappy the cameras would be.  The back camera is 1-megapixel and the front-facing camera is VGA resolution.  It is quite obvious the cameras were designed just for Facetime (a video phone app) and for video capture.  While it is doubtful anybody would really be using an iPad because of it’s size for their main camera – I certainly would have wanted a better camera and especially the one used in the iPhone 4.  Despite their reasoning you know the next version will have better cameras.

Surprisingly the new Smart Cover is something to write home about.  This cover which attaches magnetically and also becomes a stand is really quite amazing.  It just plain works and is also fun to use.  Of course the cover sets you back another $39 just like the HDMI adapter.  No nickel and diming for Apple – the nickels start at $39.

Apple also released two new apps for the iPad 2. iMovie and Garageband.  I have not yet tried iMovie, but the reviews are overwhelmingly positive concerning power and ease of use in editing videos.  Though imported videos need to be in h.264 formatted 720p .MOV files as used by the iPhone.  I have played around with Garageband and it is spectacular with an 8-track recording studio and virtual instruments. As a guitarist I played with the smart guitar that pretty much lets anybody start playing guitar quickly with a default set of chords for each key along with different types of guitars and effects.  The smart keyboards and drums also give you plenty of options and again great fun to play around with.  You can also plug your guitar into the iPad 2 and play it through various amps and effects.  This is both a serious app for musicians and something most people can learn from and have fun with. Apple just to throw us off are only charging $4.99 for Garageband and iMovie.

Last time around I got the 64GB iPad and I had filled it with apps, books, and just a part of my music collection.  This time I got the 32GB instead since iOS 4.3 now has home sharing allowing you to use the iTunes library on another computer at home via wi-fi.  So now that  I can access my music collection  directly I did not need as much memory.  Last time I got the Wi-Fi only version and this time the one with 3G.  In the U.S. AT&T and Verizon versions are available.  I went with Verizon since their network is more robust (though slower) and their basic plan gave 1GB of data vice AT&T’s basic plan of only 250MB.  I also went with the 3G version since I don’t have a cell phone and thus can’t tether the iPad to a phone.  Data plans for the iPad are also month to month with no activation fees or contracts.  The 3G versions also have GPS so you can use one of the many GPS apps available.  My wife now has my old iPad and she is discovering the joys of going from the 4-Volume set of the Liturgy of the Hours to iBreviary and leaving all those ribbons behind.

The iPad is one of those devices you wonder how you would use it and then later wonder how you got along without it.  The range of applications give you innovative ways to consume information and to also create content.  Besides I am now addicted to Angry Birds.

For an in-depth technical review see the one at Ars Technica.

Apr 282010
 

“The Vatican Library plans to digtize 80,000 manuscripts and store them in the open data format FITS, originally developed for astronomy and maintained under the IAU. The result is expected to be 40 million pages and 45 petabytes. FITS was chosen because it ‘has been used for more than 40 years for the conservation of data concerning spatial missions and, in the past decade, in astrophysics and nuclear medicine. It permits the conservation of images with neither technical nor financial problems in the future, since it is systematically updated by the international scientific community.'” [Source]

Yes the Vatican Secret Archives (yes it is still called that) will be using an open data format. Pretty cool as more and more documents are getting digitized and the archive to be accessible to anybody. Gee you would think that they would be guarding the archive with albino monk assassins with degrees in cryptography to encrypt everything with 512 bit encryption. Well you would think that if you bought the media’s line about the archives in the past.

Apr 082010
 

5 years ago I had joked about not becoming one of those iPod People and that I checked my bed at nighttime making sure nobody placed an iPod near me making me one of those strange people that become Apple fanboys. Maybe I had seen Invasions of the Body Snatchers one too many times, but the idea of having an iPod (what a stupid name I though) was alien (pun intentional ) to me. At the time Jimmy Akin had commented back “I’ll tuck one under your pillow.”

Needless to say I later became one of the iPod people. I am convinced though that Apple has special brainwashing capabilities encoded into their software because within a couple of years I subsequently switched over totally to Macs and happily left my days since the original IBM PC behind me. To put it simply I have become an Apple fanboy and not only do I drink the Apple Kool-Aid I have it intravenously fed to me. As a full-time Windows application developer I am very happy with Windows 7, but I still prefer coming home to use my Macs. I give this preamble to let you know how “objective” the following review will be.

For the last couple of years following Apple news I became annoyed by the number of people clamoring for a tablet computer from Apple. I wished Apple would release one just to shut those people up. I just had no interest in a tablet computer. Sure it would be kind of cool, but really usable? After the iPad announcement though, the subliminal brainwashing program in Apple software started to make me want an iPad. Sure the name is the worst name since, well, the iPod – but since my iPod Touch had become such an integral part of my daily life I thought the same great interface would be even better on a larger screen. So marching to the orders of Steve Jobs I pre-ordered the “magical” iPod and picked it up last Saturday.

When the iPad was first announced people joked about it being just a big iPhone/iPod Touch and I even twittered that I would sell an iPad upgrade kit which would include an iPod Touch and a big magnifying glass. Ars Technica in a thorough review started by saying:

The iPad isn’t a big iPod touch—an iPod touch is a miniature iPad that restricts the full multitouch experience in exchange for offering greater portability. With the iPad, in contrast, you get multitouch the way it was meant to be done.

This is exactly right. Multitouch on the iPhone/iPod Touch made a small portable device actually usable and set the standard for excellent smart phones that came after it.

Reading

I did a good amount of reading via my iPod Touch especially after the Kindle App came out for it. I really liked having my books with me and being able to read at pretty much every occasion. I thought if only the screen was bigger it would be even a better experience. I thought the same thing using iBreviary the Liturgy of the Hours app. I have been wanting an eBook reader and came close several times to getting the Sony Reader and then later I looked seriously at the Kindle and later the Kindle 2. But forking out the money to buy a dedicated reader that could basically do one thing well, I kept putting it off waiting for the eBook reader I would be comfortable with. I justified to myself buying an iPad mainly as a reader and when you think it is only a hundred dollars more than the original Kindle and close to the same price as the larger Kindle DX which is a little smaller than the iPad’s screen.

Apple’s book app is called iBooks and it is simply the best eBook reading app I have come across. In landscape mode you get two pages displayed just as if you were reading a regular book. Lots of options for changing the colors and the font size to suit your taste, but all book apps have this. You can even buy book directly via iBooks or use ePub formatted books. I have a large collection of ePub books I have read from Project Gutenberg, Baen Books, and other sources. Plus Ignatius Press supports this format. I am into my second book on the iPad and just love the reading experience. The weight of the iPad is no deterrent since it was similar to reading a hardcover book and I found I had no problem holding it for the prolonged reading binges that are my habit. A good eBook reader just becomes invisible to you as you just get immersed in the book. Plus the case I got for the iPad turns into a stand that I could just place on the table and read from. While the iPad does not have as high a screen resolution as e-Ink technology in the Kindle and other readers, I found that this was not a problem. I experienced no eye-strain from prolonged reading. Apple screens though are very glossy and so the iPad is not something you can read from in direct sunlight. The glossy screen is quite beautiful and really brings out the colors. The Kindle though can be read in direct sunlight, but needs a book light or other lighting source since its screen is not backlit. Reading in bed with the iPad because of its LED backlit screen is quite nice and my poor book light now sits quietly on my table. It is nice to have a even uniform illumination of a book instead of the patches of light and shadow you usually get. The Kindle App on the iPad is also very good, but not as good as iBooks and the Kindle App still does not have a application for buying books other than the normal Amazon page. The iBook app has a nice built in store that works pretty much like iTunes – but like iTunes not the greatest for just browsing to find something. If you know what you are looking for you can download and be reading something in no time. Like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc — the books you buy via iBooks are wrapped in Digital Rights Management (DRM) so they are pretty much restricted to the devices. Unfortunately the publishing industry has not yet learned the lessons of the music industry in that DRM only hurts your customers and does not deter hackers in any way. Though I am fairly confident that since I can read all these different formats from different stores right now on one device, I will continue to be able to do the same in the future. Regardless, I love reading on the iPad and returning to normal books is harder. For those who can’t do without the smell of a good book I would suggest buying an iPad and wafting the smell of a good book towards it.

Since I am getting older I have resorted to reading glasses and I am not sure if wearing glasses makes reading off a glossy screen easier so your mileage may vary.

Battery and Portability

Apple advertised that you would get about 10 hours battery life. Manufacturers often exaggerate battery life for some usage case that does not match the real world. In this case Apple lied about battery life — eleven to twelve hours of use is more like it. I bring this to work with me and pretty much have it running all day listening to podcasts, music, web browsing, twitter, etc and I have yet not come close to running out of power at the end of a day of use. It recharges best off of the supplied power plug, but charges more slowly over higher power USB ports, and charges even slower over other USB ports.

I take my iPad to work with me and just tuck it under my arm as I walk a good distance from the parking lot to my cubicle. So while the iPad is not exactly super light at 1.5 pounds, it is light enough to be highly portable.

Keyboard

The major problem with all tablets is of course keyboard entry. Virtual keyboards leave a lot to be desired to type from. But as virtual keyboards go the iPod in landscape mode is very easy to type on.

I have the Apple case which can be folded to place the iPad as in the above picture or can stand vertically on any flat surface. Positioned as above is the most natural and easiest method to type, with practice you can pretty much type at a normal pace. You can also connect to any keyboard that support Bluetooth. I have a wireless Bluetooth keyboard I use with my Mac, but I haven’t felt the need to pair it with the iPad since the virtual keyboard was good enough.

Screen and Form Factor

Apple has a pendant for high glossy screens as I mentioned previously and they are not to everyone’s taste. I have grown use to them and for my usage I don’t run into problems with screen reflection. The vibrant colors really makes viewing the myriad applications on the screen stand out. 1024-by-768-pixel resolution at 132 pixels per inch (ppi) is not high definition and widescreen movies will play back at less than full screen because of the aspect ratio. I can see though why Apple made the decision not to use the 16×9 aspect ratio when I look at the just released Joo Joo tablet that does have that ratio. In portrait mode the Joo Joo just doesn’t look right. The iPad looks great in either orientation and the 9.7 inch screen is a good compromise in both giving you a good amount of screen real estate while still being highly portable.

The viewing angle on the screen is amazing. You can look at the screen from most angles and it is viewable. If you look at a normal LCD panel when you get a little off axis the screen is hardly readable.

Interactivity

Touch interactivity for a normal computer monitor is not that useful in real life. A smaller screen at easy distance to your hands is another story. The iPad is just plain fun to use as you interact with the applications. Pinching and zooming with your fingers along with navigating around a screen becomes so natural. Reading all the sites and news sources I follow I don’t feel restricted and I can do this pretty much anywhere I want around the house, etc. The applications coming out for the iPad are just starting to take advantage of this new device and I can easily see applications improving even more as they take full advantages of the iPad.

Apple had previously bought a chip maker and the ARM chip they subsequently created is what they use to power the iPad. The one thing most people notice when using the iPad is just how responsive it is. There is no lag when interacting with the screen and zooming/panning photos just keeps up with your finger interactions. It certainly does not feel like an underpowered netbook.

Applications

The iPhone/iPod Touch launched a gigantic flood of applications ranging from the extremely stupid to innovative apps mostly at very low prices. iPad applications are following along in the same way. Some applications though really take advantage of the larger screen and the fuller possibilites and they are charging more than their iPhone/iPod Touch cousins. Applications like The Elements really show the possibilities and comic books fans will like what Marvel has done with their app. As a casual gamer I ended up gaming more than I usually would on my iPod Touch. Gaming on the iPad though really kicks it up a notch and games like Plants & Zombie become more detailed and more like console gaming. I am very interested to see what Catholic apps will come out for the iPad. iBreviary is suppose to be coming to the iPad. For now I am using the Universalis app which while pricey at $24 dollars ($40 bucks originally on the iPhone) really is about perfect for the Liturgy of the Hours viewing wise. Now if only someone out there could get the permission to do a Catechism app – that would be excellent. Logos Bible Software has a very good free application that if you own the desktop version of Logos will let you use books and study materials you have bought. I noticed that Jeff Cavins twittered that he was reading the Bible via his iPad using the ESV Study Bible and RSV-CE from Ignatius Press (I assume in their ebook forms).

One thing about the iPad is that it is more than just a device for an individual. This can easily be a gaming device for a family to use since the screen is large enough for board games and the Scrabble app really shows the possibilites for multi-player use that does not mean playing over the internet.

You can even use applications you might have gotten previously for the iPhone/iPod Touch. They can be displayed at normal size or expanded to fill the screen. Filling the screen will of course introduce some distortion, but I have found it an acceptable trade off for applications not updated yet for the iPad.

I have a NetFlix subscription and I stream a good amount of content on my computer to watch. So I was mighty pleased to find that NetFlix had an app for the iPad from day one. Hopefully Hulu will be doing the same.

What is missing?

This is a first generation device and of course there is room for improvement. Most people would think that it not having a built in camera to be rather odd. We have gotten so use to camera’s being available on most phones and now laptops. Many pundits think that a front-facing camera is really what is needed for video Skype, etc. I think they are correct in that it really should have a camera and that Apple could have found a way to include one. Though as Apple is fond of doing they will include one later as a reason to upgrade. I don’t use the camera on my laptop anyway, but some will find the absence more troubling — especially since every table they will come out now will have one.

For whatever reason Steve Jobs and Apple hate Adobe Flash and don’t want it on the iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch. While there are some technical reasons why this is so and that Flash causes many browser crashes, Apple is being a bit of a jerk here. Steve Jobs does not need to save us from CPU intensive and buggy software. Regardless, I haven’t really missed not having Flash. YouTube and many other sites will serve HTML 5 instead of Flash when they detect a browser without Flash installed. I especially don’t miss ads in Flash. Hulu is the only case where I wished the iPad supported Flash, but I think Apple is winning the Flash jihad in that HTML 5 is becoming more prevalent at a faster pace to specifically support the iPad.

Another typical Apple hardware design tactic is that inputs and buttons are kept to an absolute minimum. This means that there is no card reader, USB port, etc. Apple will be selling a plug so that you can connect your camera to the iPad to upload photos – at an additional cost of course. Depending on the application you can output video via a VGA adapter (not included).

Multitasking is often cited as something missing form the iPhone/iPad/iPhone Touch. They do have limited multitasking in that for example the Apple app for playing music will run in the background when using third party apps. That missing piece was in part taken care of today. Apple announced that the 4.0 software for the iPhone/iPad/iPhone Touch iPhone/iPad/iPhone Touch (depending on model) would be included. It really looks like multitasking done right for devices that are more limited in memory and CPU speed than larger devices. Unfortunately the software update will not hit the iPad until September. It will be nice to be able to then use Pandora at the same time as another app. Multitasking will also be great for collecting information from the internet and using it with other applications. Yes you can cut and paste between apps right now, it will just be a better and faster experience. There were a bunch of other enhancements included in the 4.0 software release that will really improve the experience of the device.

For now only the WI-FI model has been released with a WI-FI/3G model being released later this month for a $130 more for each model. For those who want to use 3G the news is good that at least you will not need a contract and can go as low as $15 dollars a month and can just turn it on one month and off in another with no hassel. The iPad supports the newer micro-SIM card and when other wireless providers support this you will be able to use whatever carrier you want, for now it is still AT&T.

Computer replacement

Is the iPad a computer replacement? For most people the answer is no. For now at least the iPad like its smaller processors syncs up with a computer via iTunes. While there is much it can do stand-alone such as browsing the web, emails, gaming, etc; unless something has changed, software updates are gotten via iTunes on a computer. While you could use this device standalone and even buy music/books/apps without access to a computer — this is not the best usage case. For one you want to be able to keep everything backed up which only happens via synching.

I listen to a lot of podcasts and for whatever reason you have to use iTunes on the computer to subscribe to podcasts and then sync them to your device. While you could download an episode of a podcast manually via the iPad you can’t just wirelessly update a list of shows you listen to. Apple really should address this limitation.

While the iPad is not really a computer replacement it is an excellent enhancement to your normal computer workflow. If you have a desktop computer and thought about getting a laptop/netbook in addition, then in that case the iPad would be just about perfect. When I go on vacation I plan to just take the iPad and maybe a wireless keyboard instead of my laptop. I can easily see the iPad filling in perfectly in that situation without really missing anything.

Summary

The iPad is really is a new device filling in a part of the computer ecosystem that did not previously exist. It is certainly a device you can do without. After all we have gotten along without it up till now. The iPad though once used is a device you want and then wonder how you got along without it previously. I have found that some of my co-workers who asked me about my iPad that once I demonstrated it to them would move from skeptical to trying to justify buying one — or at least seeing its merit. Maybe the PC based tablets starting to come out will be better all-around devices. Well we have had touch screens for year and pretty much no market for them. The iPad really does the tablet right for the most part and as Apple often seems to do will set the standard for others now and in the future.

But then again I am just a geek easily distracted by shiny gadgets. This is one heck of a nice shiny gadget!

Jan 012007
 

Via my job I am a MSDN subscriber which means I have access to all the programs Microsoft creates for development purposes. Over the Christmas holiday I have been playing with and using the new version of Windows called Vista. As a certified geek I always enjoy playing around with operating systems to see what they can do. So I thought I would give a quick review of Vista. I will try to keep my review pretty much acronym free – something difficult for both a geek and ex-military.

Vista has been in development for five years and I will review what actually made it into the final product and not gripe about all the things that got cut along the way.

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