Category: iPad

Going iPad: One Year Later

It was one year ago this past Thursday when my iPad 2 arrived in the mail. So I thought it would be a good time as any to review my experiences with the tablet over the last year. To sum up the experience, however, the iPad was well worth the cost. Indeed, with the various apps I use, I have probably saved several times the cost of the device in labor-savings, efficiencies, and other cost-saving uses.

Me, this morning, celebrating the countless ways I've found to use my iPad in the last year.

The things I use most frequently

In the year that I’ve had to play and experiment, I’ve put together a “home” screen for my iPad that reflects my daily use and behavior.


Starting on the bottom are the apps I use most frequently. They are there because they’ll appear on any page I happen to be on. I think that my home screen reflects three activities that I do a lot of on my iPad:

  1. Reading (Kindle, Zinio, iBooks, Reeder)
  2. Writing and capturing information (Evernote, Paper, Penultimate, OmniOutliner)
  3. Social Networking (Gmail, Twitter, Facebook)

There are also a few apps here that I use to relax: SiriusXM satellite radio, Music, and HBO GO.

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“Jump gestures” for e-books

So in thinking about more use cases for traditional books and e-books, I came up with one that would be incredibly useful to have in e-book readers. I’ll use the Kindle App as an example, since that is where I do 97% of my e-book reading.

Let’s say you are reading, oh, I don’t know, George R. R. Martin’s A Feast for Crows. You have the physical book in your hand. Your reading a passage referring to some geographical point of interest so you flip quickly to the map and then back to the passage you were reading. Very easy to do in a physical book. Not so easy in an e-book.

In my Kindle App, there are a couple of ways I can do this:

  1. I can go to the table of contents, click the map, take a look at it, and then click the Back button a few times to get back to where I was in the text.
  2. I can bookmark the map, jump to the bookmark, look at the map, and then return to where I was in the text.

The problem is that each of these methods take at least 3 click to get to the map.

I think a very useful feature would be to be able to assign a single bookmark to a “jump gesture.” It would work like this:

  1. I bookmark the map page and assign that bookmark to my jump gesture.
  2. As I’m reading, when I want to refer to the map, I use the “gesture” (whatever that gesture might be, maybe a 3 fingered backward swipe, it really doesn’t matter) and I am instantly on the map. All I have to do is that swipe. To get back to where I was in the text: repeat the gesture.

This gesture acts as a toggle and would let me get to the reference point as quickly as I could in the traditional book. And of course, it would apply to other things than just maps. Maybe there is a passage you want to keep referring back to. Assign that bookmark to the jump gesture and you can swipe to it instantly.

I can’t imagine this would be a difficult gesture to implement. Maybe it’s just me but I would make heavy use of this feature if it was available.

Why no notes or highlighting in Kindle magazines?

I’ve written before of the many reasons why I love e-books. One of those reasons is the ability to highlight text and make notes about what you are reading. I find this enormously valuable, and it is something I would never dream of doing in a physical book.

I’ve been reading a lot of magazines on the Kindle App on my iPad and iPhone lately, trying to catch up with stories that I missed in the SF/F magazines this year. And one thing I’ve noticed is that the highlighting and note-taking functionality doesn’t work or is deliberately disabled. This seems to be true for the four magazines that I read on the Kindle App: Analog, Asimov’s F&SF and Clarkesworld.

Does anyone know: is this a limitation to the Kindle App on the iPhone/iPad? Can you highlight/annotate magazines on a Kindle device? Or is this a limitation of the magazine format on the Kindle? Or, perhaps, is this a deliberate choice by the publisher? Any ideas from the experts out there?

I’m curious because it wouldn’t seem to be a technical limitation. I’ve discovered that I can highlight and annotate my copies of Lightspeed that I receive in ePub format and read in iBooks. So why not Kindle?

iOS 5.0: My day-one experience

I read quite a few posts yesterday of people who had some rather nightmarish experiences upgrading their iPhones and iPads to iOS 5, some of which resulted in bricked devices. My experience was completely opposite. When I got home, I did the following and it all worked smoothly and without a hiccup:

  1. Upgraded my MacBook to OS 10.7.2
  2. Upgraded iTunes to the latest version (that supports iCloud)
  3. Upgraded my iPhone to iOS 51
  4. Upgraded my iPad to iOS 52

The post upgrade configuration wizard on both devices was easy to use and my devices were working properly.

There were a few things I needed to do once the upgrade was completed:

  1. After upgrading my MacBook, I need to sign into iCloud. The first time I did this, it said my password was invalid, even though it was the right password and it accepted the password and logged me in despite the message.
  2. I configured both my devices for iCloud. Right now, I have everything going to the iCloud except for email3 and the photo stream4
  3. I discovered that by default, the devices are not configured to sync to the laptop wirelessly, so I had to enable that on both devices.
  4. There were a number of apps that required new versions once the upgrade of the devices were complete, so I had to do that as well.

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  1. It took 11 minutes to download the update over my connection.
  2. Apparently, you can’t download both updates at the same time.
  3. I used Gmail so there’s no need to store my mail in iCloud.
  4. I am 1 version behind in iPhoto, but the truth is, I use Picasa for my photos in the cloud and I like Picasa better. Sorry, Apple.

Ask and ye shall receive…?

Last week I wrote a post suggesting some improvements to some of the apps that I use on the iPad. One of my suggestions was the ability to send articles from Zinio directly into Evernote. Well, that hasn’t happened yet, but yesterday, I discovered that my RSS app, Reeder released a new version in which I can send items from that application to Evernote, and that can be pretty useful, too. I’m certain that my post had nothing to do with the enhancement to Reeder, but I was glad to see them add the feature and the timing of it made my post feel like it had an impact.

Thoughts on how to improve the utility of some iPad apps I use

More and more, I am transferring my base of computing operations to the iPad. There are really only two things that I do a substantial amount of on my laptop as opposed to the iPad: writing fiction and writing blog posts. Nearly everything else I do in my iPad and I am beginning to uncover an added convenience: the interaction between the iOS, the Cloud, and various apps is more powerful than any one app by itself. For instance, I can sit in my office and read my RSS feed in Reeder. If the Little Man suddenly needs my attention, I can send the particular article I’m reading to Instapaper and read it later, while still being able to purge my feed. The tight integration between these apps make the overall process of keeping up with my RSS feed easier.

That said, I’ve found some places in the apps I use regularly where some improvements and better integration between apps would make for an even better overall experience. I list seven examples of potential improvements below.

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The science fiction magazine e-format boom!

I hesitated to update the Kindle App on my iPad to the most current version because of a philosophical issue I had with Apple’s in-app purchase policy. And yet I am weak, and cast my morals aside when the right circumstances arise. Two events converged this evening that convinced me to update the app:

  • Event #1: Fantasy and Science Fiction is now available on the Kindle. There are two versions of it: a free version which contains one story from the issue as well as the non-fiction in that issue. Or the “extended” version which costs $0.99 and contains the full issue.
  • Event #2: I discovered that Analog and Asimov’s are also now available on the iPad version of the Kindle App. However, you have to upgrade to the most recent version of the Kindle App to get them there. Up until now, I could read Analog and Asimov’s on my Kindle, but they weren’t available on the iPad version of the Kindle app. But now they are.

So I caved, and now, I can read all three of these magazines: Analog, Asimov’s and F&SF on my iPad.

In fact, I can read Lightspeed and Clarkesworld on my iPad as well. The former can be purchased issue by issue, but the latter can be had by subscription.

Apex Magazine is also available in e-format. Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show is available for the Kindle (and other e-book format). There are other magazines that are available online or in e-book format. Many of them.

So when people ask if science fiction is dying, or if short science fiction is dying, I look around at all the science fiction magazines, particularly those that are available in e-book format and I say, “Hell no! We are in a short fiction boom the likes of which probably hasn’t been seen since the 1950s.” I simply cannot keep up with all of the great magazine science fiction that is being produced today. Not even close. And that is a good thing.

It makes me feel good because I love science fiction and I love short stories–reading them and writing them–and it is wonderful to see them alive and well and thriving.

My virtual to-read stack (who needs a nightstand anymore?)

Since I haven’t posted it in a while, here is what is on my virtual “to-read” stack on my Kindle App for the iPad:


And in case you can’t read what’s there, here is the list, in no particular order, except the first item which is what I am reading now:

  1. A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin (<– currently reading)
  2. A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin
  3. A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin
  4. In the Plex by Stephen Levy
  5. I’m Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59 by Douglas Edwards
  6. The Mote in God’s Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
  7. The Jewel-Hinged Jaw by Samuel R. Delany
  8. The Quantum Thief by Hanny Rajaniemi

It’s nice to be able to take this stack with me wherever I go without an added weight. Have I said recently how much I like e-books?

What’s on your list?

Going digital: New Scientist

I’ve been a subscriber to New Scientist since October 2008. It is my primary source of keeping up with science and technology each week. For those who’ve never read it (or heard of it), New Scientist is a weekly science magazine out of the UK. It is usually around 48 pages and contains a summary of science and technology news, opinion pieces and op eds, as well as three or four feature articles in each issue. There are also book reviews, and letter columns. It is my favorite science magazine and I’ve tried very hard (although at times unsuccessfully) to read every issue cover-to-cover.

Back when I got my iPad, I downloaded the Zinio app which provides access to scores of magazine subscriptions in digital format. The nice thing about the application is that the digital version of magazine looks exactly the same, page-for-page, as the print edition. At first, I bought a single copy of New Scientist to see how it felt on the iPad. When I found that it was just like reading the print issue, I subscribed to the digital edition for a year, despite already having a print subscription.

This weekend, I received in the mail my renewal for the New Scientist print edition. And after some teeth gnashing, I decided that I was not going to renew the print edition when it comes up in October. I’m going to go entirely digital with New Scientist.  There was one thing that made this particularly difficult: a subscription to the print edition of the magazine gets you free online access to the entire catalog of New Scientist back issues. There is a vast wealth of articles and information available and I like the thought of having easy access to that information. But in the end, I realized that in the nearly-three years I’ve had a subscription, I’ve only gone back to the archives maybe half a dozen times. And that’s just not worth keeping the print edition.

On the other hand, there are a number of reason for going digital:

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The Death of Borders and My Book-Buying Practices

If you are at all a fan of books and reading, you’ve by now heard that Borders books will be liquidating their stock and closing their remaining stores. This has to be incredibly tough on the 10,000 or so employees who will be jobless at the end of this process. And yet, I felt like I saw this coming. People have argued that e-books are killing off traditional bookstores, and that may very well be true. In my own case, it has been an interesting evolution, and an example that even someone with strong opinions can change his mind.

As e-books became steadily more popular, I shied away from them. The reason, I told myself and others, was aesthetics: I liked the feel of a book in my hand. I liked the smell of a musty old book. I liked turning the pages. I felt that paper books were superior in many ways. A paper book’s batteries don’t run out for instance (although reader’s might). Every once in a rare while, I’d give an e-book a try and it simply didn’t feel right to me.

Then, in June 2009, I got a Kindle and everything changed. The Kindle managed to capture a lot of the aesthetics of a real book without some of the drawbacks. It was easy to read from and it felt like reading a book. It’s battery lasted long enough that I was never concerned about power. Sure, I didn’t have those rich book smells, but on the other hand, I could mark up the book to my hearts content without feeling that I was “damaging” the book. And of course, I could instantaneously purchase new books with a few clicks.

It was the latter, of course, that signaled the death knell to bookstores. That and that fact that e-books are generally cheaper than their paper counterparts. (Sure, there are people that will argue that they should be even cheaper, but I’m happy to pay the prices as listed because of the additional convenience offered.) Because of the Kindle (and the iPad which followed), my book-buying habits have changed dramatically since June 2009:

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Some more thoughts on the iPad 2

This holiday weekend is the first time I’ve taken the iPad on the road. I didn’t bring my laptop with me–a deliberate effort to see how well I could get along without it, and how many of my most common tasks I could perform using just the iPad and my wireless keyboard.

I’m pleased to say that I’ve been able to do just about everything that I would normally do and without any added strain or inconvenience.


Obviously, I’ve been able to blog. I prefer using the WordPress web interface for blogging than the WordPress app for the iPad. I have access to all of my normal functions on the web interface (including my plug-in that allows me to pick photos from Picasa). The only thing missing is rich text formatting. That’s only a minor inconvenience since I’m fluent in HTML, but I wonder how this will change (improve?) with WordPress 3.2.

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Going iPad: the complete series

For those who haven’t had a chance to see it yet (and because I am particularly busy today and don’t have much time for new content), here are the links to the entire Going iPad series I wrote a few weeks back after I first got my iPad 2:

  1. Reading on the iPad
  2. Writing on the iPad with Scrivener and SimpleNote
  3. Note-taking, Evernote, and Science Fiction Conventions
  4. Social Networking
  5. Entertainment and Multimedia

I’ve had a few more observations on the iPad in the weeks since these posts, but I’ll save them for another time.