Saturday, December 31, 2016

iPad sound reflector amplifiers

iPad sound reflector amplifiers: I like these things, they really work in enhancing the sound and make it louder for you (about 10db, quite noticable) and quiter for the rest of the world.

There used to be one called SoundJaw, but it's not so easy to find now. But SoundBender is current.

These things do not stick very strongly to the device (works with various kinds of tablets), can be easily knocked off but also easily returned, and it may be seen as a bit expensive for a bit of plastic, but for what it does I find it reasonable, although you need two if you want stereo.

AudioAmp180 is an alternative which will work with the tablet in a (thinnish) case, that's not the case (no pun intended) with SoundBender.

I find them useful if: 1: the iPad needs help given the ambient noise. 2: You don't want to disturb others too much. 3: this includes if you play music/video late at night (or in church, haha).

Friday, December 30, 2016

About the Amazing Kindle

It is funny, but despite reading much more on tablets than Kindles due to their speed and flexibility, I own all major Kindle models ever released, and I still find myself drawn to them. I am not entirely sure why... now, a tablet is almost too amazing a device to fully comprehend, but a Kindle is just remarkable enough to be real durned amazing. I look at it and I think, or maybe rather feel: "a thin, light handheld device which can hold thousands of books at once, display book pages as clearly as a printed page, advance pages at the press of a button... this just blows my mind, even after nearly a decade."

 It's so wonderful that *not* owning one is out of the question. I don't understand people who can resist them, I suppose that either they have a paucity of imagination, or they have far more self-control than I have...

 If I have to be critical, what I still want is that the Kindle should be faster, the background should be white even without front-light, and they should have a pocket model. I don't understand why they have not brought out a model the size of the new large phones, it's such an obvious idea. But all that does not change the fact that the Kindle is an object which would make any mentally agile book lover in history cream his bagels if he could have imagined it.

Also, and I have mentioned this before both here and to Amazon: It's a flippin' oddity that the Kindles have such huge steps between font sizes. I can rarely find a size which pleases me (not on the Fire tablets either), and the programming to correct this should surely be trivial, other ereaders have had stepless adjustments for years. (And also adjustments of boldness of fonts and other things which can mean a lot for the comfort of the reader. Please Amazon, I will chip in if you can't afford to hire the extra programmer it might take...)

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Phones are taking over e-reading

I just saw a Kindle Unlimited ad which shows a woman reading a Kindle book... on a phone instead of an Amazon Kindle! The end of days must be nigh. Funny how after all these years, ebooks are moving to phones in a big manner. I don't believe it's because of the new big phones (though that's it in my case), I don't think enough people have them. So I wonder what happened and why it took so long. (Even is concentrating on phones these days.)

I didn't see it coming, because to my taste, a screen less than five inches is just not satisfactory for e-reading. But clearly I'm in the minority. It's just interesting to me that it took most of a decade for the general public to catch on.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Sanity arrives at Apple's iPad section

[Update: Oh no! This whole post is a mistake, Apple has NOT fixed the problem. I just overlooked (it's very late here) that I was looking at *screenshot* images, so they already had the black background built in! Sigh, the futile wait continues... will it take most of a decade to get fixed like it did in OSX?]

Sanity on the iPad screen. FINALLY! Somebody at Apple has finally kicked the benzos and fixed the long-standing wallpaper problem which was driving me nuts: the braindead situation that one could not fit the whole of an image on the screen of the iPad as wallpaper without cropping it, unless it happened to have exactly the same dimensions as the screen. Now we can. Thank you, sane person, and stay off the pills.
 (They also fixed the newer problem that wallpapers were made darker than the source image. Also thanks for that.)

 (See, a week ago this painting would have been cropped at both ends instead of simple being fit in with letterboxing.)

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Faster charging

(This may even work for Android devices, haven't tested.)

The 13-inch iPad Pro, wonderful as it is, unfortunately ships with a charger which i under-powered for the job. It takes a silly number of hours for it to charge this large tablet to full.

One can get faster results by buying a Macbook charger and an adapter, but at a price.

One thing I've found which helps a lot: when charging the iPad (or iPhone), instead of putting the device to sleep, turn it off fully.
This turns off the wireless services, the checking for email and such things. It may even make a difference in the way the charging itself works. In any case, it makes the charging gratifyingly faster.

BTW, I recommend the 13-inch iPad Pro. It's less portable of course, but if you have it in a stand, it makes a great difference to surfing, usability in general, reading of graphic-rich publications, and video. It's a pleasure. Before it came along, I wrote several times about how we needed a bigger "iPad Pro", and I was not wrong.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

iPad Mini 4

I held out from upgrading my iPad Mini when version 2 came out, with Retina (high-res) screen. I found that the screen on the first one was very good, good enough for almost any purpose. And this I still think is true.

But because I plan to use it more, I have now upgraded finally, to the iPad Mini 4. It's much faster, and of course it has the newest version of the Retina Display.

And that screen is just awesome. It's hard to "count the ways", but it is. And I have looked at computer screens daily for over two decades, and tablet screens since the very first iPad kickstarted the market six years ago. This really rocks. For example looking at a full page of a magazine or a comic on it is just a joy. The colors, the contrast, and as much detail as the best eyes can take in...

You can get cheaper tablets if you can stand them, sure. But:
A good way of saving some money on that iPad or iPhone for that lucky amongst your loved ones, is to buy a refurbished one ("refurbish"; to renovate inside and out). You can do so directly from Apple.
I've done so before and this time also, and honestly the experience is exactly like getting a new one. All new packaging and so on. And get this: the outer shell as well as the battery are *also* brand new, and it has a full guarantee. So in practice no difference, but you save maybe 25%.
Oh, and to save even more, Apple is usually still selling last year's model for a drastically reduced price. For example they now sell, brand-new, the iPad Mini 4 side-by-side with the iPad Mini 2. The price difference is substantial, much bigger, I think, than any tech difference (mainly the 4 is a bit faster).

Friday, December 2, 2016

Netflix now unplugged

I really like that with the new Netflix app for iOS you can download shows or movies and watch them later where you don't have any broadband connection.  (It is not permitted for all their materials, but a decent portion.)   OK, I could, and have done, do that with iTunes before, but getting my video appetite subdued that way gets costly quick.

 This is great for taking my iPad Mini to the cafe over lunch, pull out the keyboard and pretend I'm Iain M. Banks for a while, and then kick back with Arrested Development or Gilmore Girls over coffee.

And then read some articles in Pocket or Zinio on the 'pad, or continue my book in the Kindle app. Or audiobook in the Audible app.

Update: it seems downloaded films are SD (Standard Definition, old TV standard) rather than HD (High Definition), so if you watch them on a large device and plan to watch while you *do* have wifi, you'll get a slightly more detailed image by *not* downloading them before watching.
Me, I find the difference barely noticable, although more so with CGI movies (like Pixar's) where everything is so sharp and detailed.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Why write in cafes?

I was challenged by a commenter on the last post to explain why writing in a cafe helps some people to be productive. (I wrote most of a course in art in cafes once.)

My best take on it right now is that it helps your mind relax. At home or at office you're surrounded by a lot of objects and factors which are constant reminders of things daily duties and such, and that lowers your level of free attention. At home there are also too many opportunities for procrastination.

 And on the other hand if you were sitting in a hotel room (though this works for some people), the isolation and bland walls gives you too little stimulation, and your woolly subconscious start acting up and playing games with you.

I think the cafe or park or such places are a good in-between place where you're away from a lot of your stressors, and yet you have a bit of semi-interesting things and activities going on around you which you can look at while the mental wheels are free-spinning, but are not too hard to look away from when the machine works.

Photo by Jane Birkin

Friday, November 25, 2016

New portable keyboards, hurrah

It has been a disappointment to me (see this article and this article) how even years after the iPad became a fact, portable keyboards were still rare and not of good design. I kept buying them and dismissing them.

But again it's proven how *much* more popular smartphones are than tablets (sigh); after the 5.5-inch smartphone became popular (like the Samsung Note and iPhone 6+) it seems this market has really flowered: a quick search for Portable Keyboards yielded lots of results, and even better: they generelly have good reviews and very reasonable prices (less than half of what they cost a couple of years ago). And there are many shapes to choose between.

I've ordered one (EC, wireless for iOS, Android and Win) which when folded is admittedly thicker, but barely larger than the big iPhone! A big-phone screen is eminently usable for writing, even serious writing, and if the keyboard works as well as a classic one I have of similar size (the old Think Outside), it is very usable even for touch-typing (folded out it's close to Full Size). So with large pockets, look out, the writer is in town.

UPDATE: sadly it turns out that the keyboard below is a bit heavy in real life, and also it has that unfortunate/idiotic design where they have put an arrow key where you're used to hit the shift key...

(This is even the smaller iPhone.)

And of course what with modern smartphones having excellent still- and video cameras, it's a journalist-studio-in-a-pocket. Hell, it even includes the publishing- or broadcast studio!

I've had a love affair with writing in cafes since reading an article about it in 1992, years before I ever got a laptop!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

IPhone seven reviews

If you need help, and we all do, in deciding whether to upgrade to the iPhone Seven, here is a deep, slightly technical review from the Verge, and here is a simple, direct review from David Pogue.

Monday, September 12, 2016

iPad upgrades?

Apple has just doubled the memory of various iPad models, while keeping the prices the same.
This is of course in itself good news, because I use my iPad a lot for video, so unlike my iPhone, I'm always having to delete stuff on my iPad to make space for new ones.

But on the other hand it may be bad news, because when the do this is September, it looks like a signal that for the first time we are not getting any new iPad models this year!
This makes me a little sad, not because I really need a new one, but because I love the iPad beyond all reason. 

It also makes me a little sad that the iPad is being ignored a bit. Sales are flat, and so many important apps (take Amazon Prime NOW for example) only come in iPhone format, not optimised for the iPad. There is no reason it should not come in iPad format, the bigger screen would make it a lot more user-friendly, just as with most apps.

I really hope this is just a lull, because while the tablet may not soon replace the computer, I still think it's a fantastic device, to me it's just the most useful and flexible computing platform in existence. I have a 13-inch iPad Pro, and it's amazing.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Opinion on the Kindle Oasis

General opinion on the Kindle Oasis ereader is that it is a really nice ereader and nicely light and compact, but too expensive.

I can only agree. They should at least sell a version without the extra-battery cover, a week or two of battery life would be plenty for most.

But: it is nicely light, and the form with most of the bulk sitting in your hand is very nice. I only wish it had a more rubbery surface to improve the grip, but that's something I've harped on about regarding most ereaders and tablets.

Personally I prefer an iPad for multi-app reading. Or the Amazon Fire for audiobooks and its really nice computer voice reading ebooks aloud. I can do other stuff, walk, or rest my eyes that way. But if push comes to shove, the Oasis is probably the best portable reader of e-ink type one can find.

Hard restart on iPad

Today, for the first time ever, an iPad completely froze on me.

Usually, if one holds down the Wake/sleep button (on the edge), one will first get a slide option to shut down the iPad... and if one continues to hold down the button, the iPad will shut down regardless.
I thought that was a "hard reboot", meaning it bypasses the software. But this time it didn't even respond to that.

But then I thought of trying something which has worked on similar devices: holding down the Sleep button and the Home button at the same time for a few seconds. Boom, that worked, it shut down, and worked again when I started it.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Shortcut for forward-delete on iPad

I just now finally found an keyboard shortcut for forward-delete when writing on the iPad with an external keyboard: it is control-delete.

Took me only four years to think of sniffing around for this. They call me Speedy Gon-4-lunch.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Most books are bought by non-readers!

On the latest The Kindle Chronicles, guest Bufo Calvin made the wonderful point:

Most books are bought by people who only buy a couple a year, and mostly as gifts, and they don't have book shelves. 
Why didn't we know that??? Seriously.

Just for one thing: That's why the ebook revolution slowed down and changed to an evolution... An ereader only makes sense for heavy readers. I grew up with bookshelves, and I have them in every room. It's spooky to me to visit homes without bookshelves, but that is most homes! (Especially now, with video games and TV and home cinemas.)

It also, by the way, explains why the world sometimes seems a bit ignorant: I try to learn a lot and expand my horizon... How? By reading books! And if 97% of people don't do that, what do you expect? Do you expect Vogue or The Sun to educate people?

Glowing review of iPad Pro

Read this Glowing review of iPad Pro.

It's just how I feel. It's the iPad done right.

First and foremost, it’s the fastest and most powerful iPad to date. Everything feels faster than on any other iPad I own or have used. For example, editing photos and videos is virtually lag-free, and opening and working with large documents is noticeably faster, too. 
 Moving right along, its 12.9-inch Retina display is not just stunning, it also boosts productivity by displaying 78% more than an iPad Air’s 9.7-inch Retina display. This makes the iPad Pro great for just about everything you like using an iPad for — reading, videos, games, web surfing, and almost everything else. They say more is better and in this case it’s definitely true (unless you fly coach; I'll tell you more about that in a moment). 
 Speaking of videos and games, the iPad Pro is the first iPad to include four separate speakers and it makes a big difference. It’s much (much) louder, with a wider frequency range and significantly better stereo separation than other iPads. I was a little surprised — it's the first iPad that actually sounds OK without attaching (or connecting wirelessly to) an external speaker.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Publishers beginning to go ebook-only?

I think it's a clear sign of the economic advantages of ebooks over paper-books when publishers are giving up the latter and going all digital. The latest is Foundation For A Course In Miracles, a publisher of spiritual (non-religious) books. They say:

The world is going digital and so are we! February marks the beginning of our "Going Digital Warehouse Sale." We are clearing out the warehouse of all printed books as we make the transition to electronic books. After the current supply of books is sold, the books will not be reprinted, and will be available only in digital download format.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

What difference does it make to e-read?

Prompted by a question by The Kindle Chronicles about how my reading has changed after ebooks, I wrote: 

Surprisingly difficult question. It feels obvious. 
After a lot of thought, I conclude, for now, that all the little advantages (text size choices, no light needed, 900 books in a handbag, etc) makes it a lot more FUN to read. 

Similar to when I was young and got a quality racing bike. Compared to my old heavy bike, distances felt cut down to nearly half of what they used to be. And it was just great fun zipping through the landscape. 
But if you tried to tell that to me before I got it (and before I could afford it), I would have poo-poo'd it; "Yeah, it's 'More fun'. Zippidy. Big deal..." 

But it is a big deal. If you have to do a one-hour task every day, and doing it one way it's slightly tiresome, and done another way it is fun, that makes a hell of a difference. 

Friday, January 1, 2016

Creative iPad wallpapers [and Apple oddities]

Here is one of my newest iPad wall papers. I treated it in Pixelmator, made it BW, gave it grain, added the "light leak" (the big orange spotlight).
Now when you take a screenshot from a video, there will often be black bars because of the slimmer formate of the video. But the effects in the app treats them as well, so in effect you get a screen filling image. I like the translucent dock, showing the "spotlight" so well.

... And as it looks when used as wallpaper:

And here's the original. Nice also, but a bit of variety is good.  

When I got my first Mac in 1995, the only way to personalize the screen was to make tile
walls out of Apple's supplied tiny, tiny pictures (Really. Like 20x30 pixels.). Or one could use a shareware app called Décor. Now, two decades later, Apple has *almost* caught up to the capabilites of this app made by a single Frenchman. For example, his app could scale the image so it was not partly hidden under the menu bar. Apples OS still can't do this, nor with the dock, or on the iPad. On the iPad one can't even use an image which is smaller than the screen in either dimension, resulting in blurry photos, cut-off heads and whatnot. But hell, with 800 people working on the iPhone camera, I understand it's hard to spare a man to improve this pathetic state of affairs.

Apple makes FANTASTIC products. So why do they always insist on spoiling the experience with the occasional screaming  misstep, like this, or for example mouse cables which were so short they could not even reach to the other side of a laptop!?