Tag Archives: gadgets

IPad Pro 2 years on – mostly getting better

I spend a lot of time thinking, reading and writing about gadgets. And quite rightly so, gadgets are awesome. About 5 years ago, when I first bought a Mac Air, I remember saying to a slightly bored friend of mine that the perfect device would be a Mac Air that could separate into a tablet. Then along came the iPad Pro which is almost, nearly, kinda that.

I say almost because it can do about 95% of everything I need. I use a laptop for writing and browsing the internet. Or watching Netflix if cooking / washing up / brushing my teeth / shaving / going to the toilet, etc. I can do all that on the iPad. And while it is getting better, there are some minor annoyances and a couple of things that are slightly worse. If you are still reading by this point – this may interest or even be helpful to you. (No promises.)

The better:

More apps are available and they are increasingly designed to work well on a tablet. This has bugger all to do with anything done by Apple (or they would be more expensive) but more about apps like Dropbox, Evernote, Word and so on releasing better products that are good on a tablet. A combination of improved interfaces and my getting used to doing things in a different way, have meant that I do more on the iPad now than when I first got it.

iOS11 – This was a superb update. As you can see from the picture, the iPad is looking more like the laptop version than ever. It is now a lot easier to switch between apps and with access to files, I can write and edit documents directly in the cloud (mostly Dropbox, Google docs and Word). It is pretty damn cool and it just requires a slight adjustment to how you work.

The worse:

I am currently writing on the official iPad cover keyboard wotsit. It is actually pretty nice when you get used to it. I also have a Logitech keyboard which is even nicer but quite bulky. However both are increasingly having problems connecting to the iPad. Looking at forums, I am not alone. I have to keep disconnecting and connecting until it reluctantly lets me type. It is particularly galling when trying to connect the official apple cover and it tells me that the device is ‘not supported’. Apple is supposed to be overpriced but well designed so it infuriating when you buy two things from the shop and they don’t seem to like playing together any more. If anything, the Logitech is slightly better.

iOS11. While it has made using the iPad a lot better and more like the laptop replacement it aspires to be, it has noticeably caused battery drain. I could write and read for hours before and it would only lose a few percent. I don’t want to get too technical here but it is bollocks. When I hoped for a more laptop-like experience, I didn’t meant to include the battery life. I haven’t tested it but I think it will still outlast most laptops but only just. I am quite a heavy user, so there will be battery degradation but again, the forums are full of people complaining.

Conclusion

I promised two years ago to review the iPad and so there you go. 95% of my writing is done in apps. The 5% that will means I will still, daily, have to buy a new laptop is down to:

– No mouse. Let us use a sodding mouse. Highlighting words on an iPad screen is still a ball-ache and will always be. I can use the pen to click on stuff but a mouse is better, especially when editing.

– I like saving stuff to folders on the desktop. While I can now write and edit stuff in the cloud, it is still annoying and fiddly. If I need to read a variety of sources while writing I generally revert to my laptop. The ‘files’ update is a good step as I can at least group different documents in the same project together.

– I edit a lot of stuff for a lot of clients – advertising, copywriting, doctoral theses and so on. This can similarly be a bit annoying when I need a few windows open.

Otherwise it is great. I still fucking love my iPad and use it daily. However, I do sometimes look at friends with a Microsoft Surface and envy them with their ability to do everything on it. Until you ask them about it and hear a whole different set of issues. Come on technology – get it together. As always – feel free to send me free technology to try out. You know the address.

 

 

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Introducing The Leap.

Why the gloves Tom?

A friend just posted this on Facebook (thanks Tim). Very cool. According to the blurb ‘The Leap’ is more accurate than a mouse. I don’t play many PC (or Apple games) very much any more but I remember the frustration of Quake 3 Arena with a mouse – especially before laser mouses and we had to use stupid ball things. (Plus laser mouses sound cool for some reason.)

Well the future is here my friends and it looks a lot like Minority Report but without  the gloves and the weepy, happy ending. (Especially if you need both hands to scroll through porn sites.)

It looks cool in my opinion. Especially the game bit. All those years practicing shooting with imaginary finger guns are finally going to pay off. (And they said I was a fool!) I assume some kind of weird arm rest would be needed after a while but what the hell. Me want!
http://youtu.be/_d6KuiuteIA
 

 

 

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Guinness QR glass

Guinness QR

This is genius/awful. I love Guinness, it’s a tasty pint of health and alcohol. I also love gadgets, so you can see while this really appeals to me. Basically it’s a glass that has a QR code on it that is only visible when filled with ‘the black stuff’. It doesn’t work with normal lagers or other inferior drinks (except stouts obviously).

When I first saw it I immediately thought what an absolutely genius idea. But then I read an article about it on Boing Boing (great site if you don’t know it). Apparently it then: ‘tweets about your pint, updates your facebook status, checks you in via 4 square, downloads coupons and promotions, invites your friends to join, and even launches exclusive Guiness content.’

I don’t know if this is true (hopefully it is a zeitgeist joke) but if it is then the idea has been downgraded from genius to ‘leave me the fuck alone’. I recently wrote how annoyed I was that every app or programme wants to ‘share’ everything I do with facebook. Now my beer wants to grass me up. Thanks technology.

(Thanks Boing Boing for the image http://boingboing.net/2012/05/18/hidden-pint-glass-qr-code-is-o.html )

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Apple worship

Bow before Apple!

I saw a cool documentary the other day, called ‘Secrets of the Superbrands’ on good old BBC. It was actually pretty interesting given that I generally don’t care about brand names. Perhaps it was because the journalist, the slightly goofy looking Alex Riley, doesn’t care about brands either. I watched it though, because this episode was about technology and I care deeply about lovely, lovely gadgets.

There was one segment on Apple that I genuinely found a bit scary. It was at the opening of one of their shops. This particular one was the store in Covent Garden. Now keep in mind that it is just a shop that sells Apple stuff. That’s all. Yet people had flown in from all over the world and queued up to 24 hours just to be at the opening. They didn’t get anything, they just wanted to be there. Then the staff start cheering and whooping and hi-5ing all over the place and everyone seems to get into a religious frenzy. It really is like a weird cult. One of the happy ones obviously, not a kill yourself and be rescued by aliens type cult. It was pretty weird and quite frankly, very un-British.

I should state at this point that I have nothing against Apple at all. I have both an iPhone and an iPad and love them dearly. If a better phone came along though, I would buy that. I bought the iPad because I wanted something that was light, could easily fit in my bag, had internet connectivity everywhere, and a battery life of 10 hours. If a better device came along, I would buy that instead. I hate netbooks though, they are hard to write on.

When this laptop (the one I’m on right now) dies, I will very probably buy an iBook.  The problem I have with the Apple brand is its fanboy base of smug Mac lovers. I am sure it is a better computer but there is no need to be that into it. I don’t mind people who like Macs because ‘they just work’ or ‘have always used them’ or need them because they are good for graphics or editing. I have heard they are a joy to write on too. What I don’t like are people who love all things Apple and look down on you with disgust or pity for having a PC. The reason I have always had windows-based PCs is because you get higher specs for the same money. More bang for your buck. I also used to play a lot of games and games on a Mac are shit. There are hardly any, presumably because Mac owners are doing such important things.

I always liked the Charlie Brooker analogy when he said that Macs were like the Imperial Destroyers in Star Wars whereas Windows PCs were like the Millenium Falcon. You can just add things and random bits to PCs and they sort of work if you bang them occasionally. Thing is I just want a laptop for writing or watching films or doing stuff on the internet. The days of opening up the system and adding new cards and memory are done. I guess I have joined the Empire. I just don’t want to be brainwashed by it.

Here is the first part of the documentary. Watch it all or skip to about 5:30. Watch it and be afraid.
http://youtu.be/h0dUuHo58UE

 

 

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Mind Lamp

Pic presumably taken with mildly annoyed scientist nearby.

I wrote recently about robots controlled by the brains of rats. Rats have all the fun. This week, I bring you a lamp that is controlled by human thoughts. Not as cool as a robot and much more likely to be horse shit, but it is one of those things I really hope is true.

Back in the 70s, when I was just a precocious nipper, mood rings were all the rage. These were rings with a stone that could apparently sense your mood and changed colour to match. Even at the tender age of 7 I possessed a genius and sceptical mind and I conducted a series of tests on one of these. I soon discovered that it just responded to temperature. Which still made for a cool ring, but lacked any of the psychic qualities I really hoped it possessed. I really want these things to be true but can’t help feeling the need for some actual proof. It stops me believing in things like: the moon landing is a hoax, god, aliens inserting rectal probes and then not quite fully wiping your memory, psychics, and so on.

It sucks to be a sceptic. I really want to believe in psychics and mediums too, but no one has ever been able to be even slightly accurate under controlled conditions. The most convincing practitioner of these skills is Derren Brown where he explains it is all down to a set of techniques. Watch his brilliant Messiah where he proves to be the best medium and psychic the ‘experts’ have ever seen. The world must be more exciting if you believed everything.

Anyway. Mind lamp. Like the mood ring, this lamp apparently senses your mood and adjusts its colour accordingly. They’ve even used some science-like words to make it more convincing. The website www.mind-lamp.com says: ‘At the heart of the Mind Lamp is a precision device known as a random event generator (REG), which was designed by engineers at the PEAR lab for use in scientific experiments.’ Apparently no one can work out just how it does its magic. Spooky. A Random Event Generator sounds suspiciously like it just er, randomly changes colour. If it was me I would program it to start it off with a purplish colour to symbolize curiosity, then green when you are astounded that it works, then orange when you start to think that perhaps it is crap, then red when you think it is either preprogrammed or random.

If anyone has one of these lamps please let me know. I will do a follow-up story. The email address is on the home page. Don’t bother with comments. I get too many morons spamming me, so I have to disable them. If I had a mind lamp, it would turn red every time I checked the comments section. If it didn’t, then at least I could cheer myself up by smashing it.

Below is a video that practically proves it works. Apparently ‘many scientists’ now think we can control stuff with our minds. Presumably, these are some of the scientists that used the REG in their ‘scientific experiments’. It uses ‘quantum’ things to change the lamp’s colour, which sounds very convincing until you look on the website where they admit: ‘The mechanism by which this occurs is unknown, and is the subject of ongoing research.’ So scientists doing scientific experiments discovered a lamp that uses quantum mechanics and a Random Event Generator so that it can change colour according to your mood. Or your mind. (That remains unclear). The only problem is that they have no idea how.

I want this to work! I just can’t help feeling slightly doubtful. My mind is currently a greenish/bluish/orangish/ reddish/purplish colour representing hope/cynicism/doubt/belief/etc.

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Cyborg controlled by rat brain

Robot revolution

Continuing with my ‘robots will take over the world’ theme, here is something even cooler and scarier than the Aggressive Quadrotor I wrote about recently. It is a robot controlled by a rat brain. Which is pretty awesome unless you’re a rat. Presumably the robot currently heads for the nearest bin and hangs out there. Like in the Simpsons when Mr Burns puts Homer’s brain in a giant robot and all it does is eat doughnuts and nap.

I now have a dilemma about what to do when I die a couple of hundred years from now. I was going to get frozen and then reawakened when they have the technology to make me live forever and all the women wear nothing but spandex. Now I’m toying with being Robocop. Unlike Robocop though, I’d like my private parts to still work or there isn’t much point in survivng.

So without further ado, here is a very cool video of ‘Ratbot’. They should have had a clear perspex dome so you can see the brain but I’m just being picky. Maybe in Ratbot 2.0

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Aggressive Quadrotor

This is where it begins. Rise of the machines. I don’t understand how scientists – generally huge Sci Fi fans – can watch films like Terminator or Matrix and then go to work and create stuff like this. Don’t they care? Or are they like me and think that a world ruled by robots while a surviving group of generally attractive humans fight back is actually a fucking brilliant future.

Check out this new helicopter thing. It’s pretty impressive. Give them lasers and make them swarm and surely mankind’s struggle against evil emotionless robot overlords is just months away. Or a huge one with a massive machine gun and rocket launchers. Call it the Killotron 3000 or something

Bring it on!

The iPad for writing. One month on.

iPad landscape mode for writing

I have now had my lovely iPad for almost a month. A friend suggested I write about it, so here we are. How does the iPad work as a writer? How is it generally?

When I originally bought my iPad, I was actually on my way to buy a netbook. At least, I was going to look at netbooks with a view to getting something I could travel and write with. My main laptop is still superb and state of the art and I love it lots. It’s just that it is big and heavy. I wanted something portable that I could carry everywhere and had a decent battery life. In short, I’m very demanding.

Buying the iPad

At the new Apple store in Covent Garden you can have a play on the iPads. There is a whole section dedicated to it, largely peopled by tourists grinning in wonder at the iPad like small children staring at fireworks.

Having elbowed a few children and tourists aside, I had a go on one. I tried writing on it and was impressed. Very impressed. It seems to suit someone such as myself who types with the “two fingers and a thumb of each hand” typing technique. In landscape mode, I really can’t tell any difference in my typing speed. In portrait, it is slightly more fiddly but some people seem to find no problem with it at all.

Keyboard Docking Station

As well as the iPad, I bought a keyboard which also doubles as a docking station. This is what I am writing on now as it happens. For sustained periods of writing, this is a seriously good option. A few critics have complained that this means carrying around an extra bit of kit. They are right but I have found a cunning way around it – carry a bag. The keyboard doesn’t weigh much after all. The keyboard is great if you intend on writing for hours at a go. Plus, with the docking keyboard you can see more of the screen than with even a conventional widescreen laptop.

iPad Keyboard dock

iPad Keyboard dock

Another problem I was worried about was with writing for the internet. This isn’t the only site I write for and nearly every site requires you to write in a window in a piece of third party software. This site uses WordPress for example, and other sites like Suite 101 require that you write in these little windows. This is because a lot of writers aren’t savvy when it comes to things like HTML. We’re creative and all that crap.

For some reason Safari doesn’t seem to like these interfaces. There was no need to worry though. As it says on the adverts – there’s an App for that. One option is called ‘Split Pea’ which allows you to open a document in one half of the page and a non-Safari browser in the other. Another option for this site, is the WordPress App. Does what it says on the tin, although it is a tin with a few bugs in it. A third option is called iTeleport which allows you to control your PC/Mac through the medium of magic as far as I can tell. It’s a bit weird seeing your PC on your iPad, but it is cool being able to manipulate files and so on. It means your laptop has to stay on and there can be trouble with firewalls, but it is possible.

Conclusion – 1 month on
I bloody love this thing. My writing levels have increased dramatically. For some reason, it doesn’t feel like as big a deal to write on a bus or in the corner of a pub. Even with a net book you probably wouldn’t bother as it involves opening the thing and going through startup and so on. Maybe it is just me. If I want a more extended period of writing then the keyboard dock is superb. Otherwise the landscape screen does very nicely.

So writing is great.

Surfing the internet is superb too. Lots of sites seem almost designed for the iPad. An evening’s telly while surfing the web has never been so user friendly.

Is anything wrong with it?
Personally, I have come across two main issues. Only one of which is of concern to me and possibly none which will be of concern to you.
One is that it doesn’t have a camera pointing directly at your face so you can’t video Skype or anything. There is a microphone socket, so it will have to be audio only. I am pleased about this as I don’t even really like the phone, I certainly don’t want the added stress of a cam. Calling in sick for work will soon be a nightmare.
The other is that I can’t play poker on it. This might not bother some, but it pisses me off that Apple won’t let this happen. I can gamble on football or horses but not poker.

Otherwise, I am delighted with my purchase. Unlike my laptop, I no longer have to worry about whether it is worth bringing it along given the weight. I carry it everywhere. As a device for other things – apart from the poker thing – there is an App for that.

Lame though that sounds.

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iPad is now justified

Like the sad nerd that I am, I got filled with techno envy and impulse bought an iPad. I now need to justify this purchase by writing something on it. Plus, if I review it, then I can hopefully write it off against tax.
The review will follow at a later date when I have got to grips with the typing and interface and so forth.
First impressions though. Fuck is pretty. If I wasn’t me right now, I’d be looking over my shoulder riddled with pathetic jealousy. I was worried about typing on it but I only use four fingers when I type, so it seems surprisingly easy. I also bought a docking station that is a full-sized keyboard which is pretty god-damned awesome. Haven’t used it yet so I’m pre-assuming brilliance.
The first time I saw an iPad I thought, “What the fuck is the point of that? It looks like one of those futuristic clip-boards they use in Star Trek.” Now that I’ve had one for a whole 30 minutes I realized, “Wow! It’s like one of those awesome clip-boards from Star Trek.”
The big question is whether it will stand the test of time as a writing device. The even bigger question is whether my wife will kill me when I tell her I bought one.
Only time will tell. For now though, Trek on!