Posted on January 30th, 2010 No comments
I have been following the blogs and press related to the Apple announcement of the iPad. A lot of what I have read is on the negative side. However, these writers are focusing on what the iPad can’t do. Yeah, it doesn’t run Flash in the browser, no ability to run multiple applications at the same time (yet?), no camera (yet?)…yadda, yadda. I do believe that despite these issues, the iPad will be a very prominent device used throughout the home of the average consumer. With the entry price point of $499, it will be sitting on the coffee table a lot quicker too. Here is a little scenario of what may very well be the typical day in the life of an iPad.
- While making coffee to start the day, I reach for my iPad to check out the morning news sites in Safari and the various news apps that I have installed.
- As I eat breakfast and sip on some ever so delicious coffee, I bring up the calendar app to get an idea on how my day is going to go.
- I do a quick check of my email and reply to a couple before I go in to work.
- Kids are getting up now and they ask for the iPad (I really must get another one!) so that they can check off their daily chores via the GizBitz chore app (yeah..I know…a plug).
- My beautiful wife (another plug..hehe) is up and repeats the same usage I did on the iPad.
- Even though my wife works during the day, she takes time out to take one of our kids to get his allergy shots. Lucky kid. He gets to use the iPad to watch a TV show and play a game during the drive time and while sitting in the Drs. office.
- Making dinner for us tonight, my wife brings up her recipe app on the iPad. Complete with pictures and a calculator that automatically adjusts the recipe for how many of us are eating at home tonight. Our oldest ones aren’t home as much as they used to be due to work and sports. My wife also complains that the dinners never look like the pictures. I tell her they still taste the same. Oh…and it always tastes good too.
- Still making dinner, she brings up facebook to catch up on whatever the heck her friends are either doing or want to do. There is no Flash so she can’t play farmville and that may be a good thing.
- After dinner, the kids check off their chores again via the iPad. They get $$$ for them so they are really into chores now.
- Most of the time we all have too much going on in the evenings, but tonight is different. We all plop down on the couch to watch some TV. Grabbing the iPad, we use the (insert Satellite or Cable TV vendor here) iPad/iPhone app to view the schedule. Yes, we could use the onscreen guide, but it is slow and the interface just plain sucks. The iPad is fast and has more information on it’s screen.
- After we agree to a TV show to watch (we really need an app for that), I tap on the “View Now” button and viola, the iPad is now a remote and the channel on the TV changes to what we agreed on! Due in part that the tuner is on the same network and the iPad app can communicate with it.
- While watching the TV show, we see a trailer for a movie that is coming out this weekend. Hey! The iPad is right there so we checkout the showtimes for this weekend and compare the times we have available with the calendar app. Holy crap! we have some time that we are all together on Sunday afternoon. So we touch type the event into our family calendar. (we now have a new meaning for touch typing)
- One of the kids just remembered that he has a paper due for school tomorrow. So while partaking in our family TV night. he grabs the iPad and uses one of the iWork apps to get it finished.
- The kids are still up but my wife and I head to bed. I’d love to read my latest iBook purchase, but she has dibs on the iPad tonight. Did I mention that I really, really need to get another iPad?
That is just one scenario of using an iPad throughout the day. Sure, we could just use our iPhones or jump on the laptop/desktop to do most of these things. However, having an iPad around is like reaching for the remote, but better. The remote sometimes gets lost in the cushions.
Posted on March 6th, 2009 No comments
Notes, notes, notes. In my real life as a web designer and software developer, I meet with clients routinely. During the course of these meetings, brainstorming sessions take place and I try to write down all the ideas and directions as fast as I can. However more times than not, I have a hard time focusing on my note taking and the discussion at the same time. Over the past month, I have been using a simple device that is proving to be very effective in keeping me involved in the discussion and taking notes at the same time. That device is the LiveScribe 1GB Pulse Smartpen available on Amazon.com or Target stores. The pen writes like an ordinary pen, but the similarities stop there. The pen also records your handwriting using special notebook paper and it records audio at the same time. Ok, I know what your thinking….so what! Well, during the audio playback, use the pen and tap on any word or drawing that you wrote while recording and the audio plays back exactly what was being said at that time. Here’s the awesome part. Now I don’t have to take meticulous notes or jot down verbatim the ideas, slogan or specific wording that comes up. I just write down various keywords or snippets of the conversation. Then, when I am back at my computer or whenever I need to go over what was said at the meeting, I just tap on a word or diagram that I jotted down, listen to the conversation and take any action that need be. Apart from the purchase of the pen, you do need to use special paper to make all this happen. Sure, the pen will write on regular paper, but the beauty and functionality is in the paper as well. Each page of the paper is coded with thousands of little dots that tell the pen (through its infrared sensor) what page in the notebook the writing is taking place and where on the page. If you look very closely at a page (at my age I have to use my glasses) you can see the little dots. However, they are not noticeable otherwise. The special paper is available in college ruled spiral bound notebooks and both lined and unlined journals. They are sold in packs (usually 4 notebooks per pack in notebook form and 2 per pack in journal form) with each notebook or journal numbered. Yes, the pen even knows which notebook or journal was used to take the notes! I’ll show you where this comes into play in a moment. At the bottom of each page, there are various icons that you can tap with the pen to start/stop recording, pause, adjust volume, playback speed, audio bookmarking and a way to jump to various places in your recording.
Even though you can use just the pen and paper for note taking and audio recording, you can add to it’s functionality by downloading the LiveScribe software that is available for both Windows and Mac OS with the Mac version just released out of beta. The pen comes with a nice little USB charger/dock. There is a magnet in the dock and all you do is set the pen flat in the dock and the magnet guides the pen in the proper spot so that the connecting points are lined up. When you launch the LiveScribe software, it senses the pen and begins a transfer of the audio and pen strokes stored on the pen. If it is the first time connecting the pen, you will be prompted to name and register the pen. After the transfer, the LiveScribe application will display each notebook used in the left panel and the pages with notes on the right panel. I have a separate notebook for my web design and custom software meetings, another for personal notes and a journal that I record information for my kids high school hockey and baseball activities (I’m their coach for both of these…whew!)
All my notes are stored on my Mac through the LiveScribe software. You can view the note pages, print them out or even click on an area of the note to hear the recording, just like when using the paper. I can delete the notes on the pen to conserve storage space on the pen and still have all the notes and audio available through the software.
Currently, the SmartPen comes in a 1GB and 2GB version. $149 for the 1GB model and $199 for the 2GB model. According to the LiveScribe website, the 1GB model can store 100 hours of audio recording, however there are various audio recording quality modes that may affect this number. The audio quality is very good and I usually leave it on the default setting. You can change the audio quality to various modes including mono, stereo and with the included headset you can even record in 3D. There is a microphone in each earpiece and the headset has a special jack that fits into the end of the pen that allows this. You cannot use your regular headphones (such as the ones you use on an iPod or iPhone) as the SmartPen has a 2.5mm jack whereas most devices with headphone jacks are the 3.55mm inch kind. I usually listen through the speaker located on the side of the pen itself and have no problems.
You wouldn’t think that a pen could have applications, but the Pulse Pen does. Pre-installed on the pen are various utilities such as time, date, battery life remaining and storage remaining. You can get to these utilities by taping on the menu icon on the paper or just draw your own menu icon. There is even a development kit for the pen that allows developers to write applications specifically for the pen. A few that are included in the pen include Calc, Piano and Translator. With Calc, you can write an equation on paper and the LCD display on the pen will show you the result. Handy if you don’t have a calculator around. My iPhone has a calculator app, so I don’t really use this feature. There is also a Piano application that guides you through drawing a simple piano keyboard on paper. When you are finished drawing the keyboard, you simply tap on the simulated keys to emit a piano like sound from the pen. I sense a good bar bet with this. “Hey, I bet I can draw a piano keyboard and play notes that you can hear” There is a demo translator that will convert English into Spanish, Swedish, Arabic and Mandarin. There are only a handful of words and the numbers zero to nine to work with. I have no idea why those languages, but having the pen say “Beer” in Mandarin is a hoot. Hmmm…something more for that bar bet.
Overall, I give the LiveScribe Pulse Pen 5 Gizzies on a scale of 1 to 5. A Gizzy is a Gizbitz rating that I just made up. I use the pen constantly and it is always in my laptop bag or on my desk. Various accessories such as the Livescribe Single Subject Spiral Notebook, 4-Pack, Nos. 1-4, Premium Leather Case and SmartPen Ink Cartridges should be on your list too, either for yourself or a great gift for that note taker in your life.
Posted on February 26th, 2009 2 comments
I’ve had the Kindle 2 for 3 days now and I am loving it. I held off on purchasing the original version that Amazon offered over a year ago. I really didn’t care for the cosmetic design and I heard various reports of accidental page turning. This was brought about by the relatively large buttons for next and previous pages. Well, the Kindle 2 has redesigned page buttons and a thinner body which make it very easy to hold and navigate. It uses the E-Ink technology which gives a more or less ink on paper look. The Kindle is about as thick as a number 2 pencil and very similar in size to a paperback book. Using Amazon’s Whispernet (free Sprint 3G service included) you can browse the Amazon online book store for Kindle formatted books very easy. Purchasing them is almost too easy and if you are an avid book reader, you can really rack up the $$$. Heck, it only takes about a minute from purchase to having the book delivered wirelessly to your Kindle. However, most books are around $9.99 which is much less that what you can get it in paper form. As for technical books…well, there are not a lot on the Kindle store and the prices are only slightly less than the printed versions. I found a thread on blogkindle.com about Pragmatic Programmer books becoming available. The PragProg guys have been toying around with offering Kindle versions of their books, but the formatting of code examples is not that great. I do have a couple of their books in PDF format, so to convert them to the Kindle format, you merely send an email with the PDF as an attachment to yourkindlename@free.Kindle.com. After about 5 minutes or so, you will receive an email back from Amazon with a link to download your Kindle formatted PDF (.asw extension). Make sure you set up your Kindle on the Amazon web site under Manage Your Kindle first however. You will need to add your regular email address to the list of authorized addresses that are allowed to email stuff for your Kindle. According to the Amazon web site, there are other supported formats that you can use with the Kindle. Kindle (AZW), TXT, Audible (formats 4, Audible Enhanced (AAX)), MP3, unprotected MOBI, PRC natively; PDF, HTML, DOC, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP through conversion.
On a scale of 1 – 10, the Kindle 2 receives an “It Rocks!” (aka…10) Ease of use, book purchasing (their site states over 240,000 books in Kindle format) and the ability to carry around 1,500 books puts this device as one that I will use on a daily basis. Oh..and nightly basis too. I picked up a Mighty Bright XtraFlex2 Clip-On Light
so that I could read while in bed as the Kindle does not have any backlighting. This of course saves battery life and standard for these type of electronic books.
Update: You may want to get the extented warranty. The first known case of someone breaking theirs comes from Rob Bushway who is one of the editors at GottaBeMobile.com. He is getting a replacement due to the extended warranty. Here is a link to his Kindle’s demise. You may want to get the Amazon Kindle 2 Leather Cover as I did. It protects your Kindle 2, looks good, feels good and does offer a bit more drop protection.