How long should a tablet be supported for?

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Tablets are billed as “post-PC” products designed to replace the job of a PC for most people. The argument goes, most people don’t need a truck (a PC) and instead they just want a small car. True as that may be, I see a problem when the car only gets supported by the manufacture for 2 years. That’s the case with the original iPad. According to Apple, iOS 6 will not run on the iPad 1 which was released in 2010. Buy not having the latest operating system, this means the latest security updates will not be available, nor will the latest developer APIs. Many of Apple’s own apps (such as the Pages) will likely be updated, and these updates will only support iOS6 (this was the case when iOS 5 was released). Will the file formats be compatible? Let’s hope so. The same will probably happen with a lot of 3rd party applications. It also means the new OS features such as shared photo streams and Facebook integration wont be available.

Yes this is a fast moving industry, and yes the iPad 1 was woefully underpowered (especially when it comes to lack of RAM, the version of iOS it came with didn’t support multitasking remember) and you might argue the that iPad 1 is a special case, as it was mostly purchased by early adapters who will probably be running the latest model of iPad by now. I can also see how Apple might not want developers to hold back their software to ensure it works on the older hardware – iPhoto doesn’t run on it today.

That said, I really think Apple should be sending the message to consumers that their tablet will be relevant in at least 2 years time (you would expect a laptop to be). If they can continue to support the iPhone 3GS (released roughly 6 months before the iPad in 2009) then why not iPad? 

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The Cult of Over-Protection

On my holidays this year I’ve noticed a large number of people donning iPads. In the pub, on the train, on the ferry and even sat on the beach. Like it was intended to do, the iPad is finding its way into places no one would ever imaged a laptop would. One thing did strike me though, and that is how nearly every iPad I’ve seen out and about is parcelled up in a protective case (one person who sat opposite to me proceed to get their iPad out of one case, only for it to be inside another).

Yes, I get that these things aren’t cheap, but they’re also not as fragile as most people think. Why pay all that money for iconic design if you’re not going to ever see it? This is exactly the thinking behind the Smart Cover, which protects the screen while not in use without sacrificing the slimness and design.

My wish list for iOS 6

iOS delivered when it removed the need to synchronise with iTunes, and incorporated cloud backup right into the device. But what is still missing?

 

iTunes Account Sharing

Yes the bosses at Hollywood and the big music companies will hate this idea, but we humans like to share. Who knows what evaluation might have thrown up if we had been purely selfish creatures. That means when my partner downloads a TV show on her iPad, it would be quite nice if we could watch it on my iPad without jumping through hoops. How about a feature to link up to 5 iTunes accounts, so they can all download each others purchases? It would be one more argument for buying DRM protected content as opposed to downloading it for free from other unofficial sources.

Automatic App Updates

More ‘normal’ users don’t religiously check the App Store for updates, so having an Android-like feature whe selected apps can update automatically would be useful. This would need to be user-controlled, as some apps makers have a tendency to make their apps worse over time instead of improving them.

Standard platform for magazine/newspaper content

Digital newspapers and magazines are a mess. Most are custom apps that contain a series of digital images. There’s no ability to email links, lookup words or save out articles. What iOS needs is a standard system for newspapers (and a lesser extent magazines) – that offers a consistent way to navigate articles. When you pickup a newspaper, you expect it to work like every other newspaper. That’s not the case on the iPad. App makers might say this limits their creativity, but I think the egos of software developers can take the hit, and that the written content should take centre stage. It would surey be cheaper to produce for a system like this where all the publisher needs to worry about is the content and not the cogs and wheels that drive the app.

Less Clutter

iOS 5 seems a little bloated in placed. Cick the action button in Safari and the options no longer fit in on one screen on the iPhone. Where we once had ‘Add Bookmark’, ‘Add to home screen’ and ‘Mail link to this page’ we have now options to Tweet, Print and do even more. This is systematic of the OS in many places.

 

System wide sharing to other apps

Instead of a ‘Tweet’ link hard-coded into the operating system, why not have a share system simular to Android. The UI would need some work and the ‘intent’ be more specific that Android (on my Androird phone, sharing a link brings me a list containing Twitter, Facebook, Dropbox and a File Explorer app, why would I want to send Dropbox a URL?) – perhaps a way for apps to register as social applications ?

 

Scheduled Notifications

I like the fact my iPad has push email. I don’t like the fact it notifies me of new email at 2 in the morning. ‘Nuff said?

 

How to make your Kindle work with a BT Home Hub 3

If you search around for WiFi connection problems relating to the Kindle, you’ll soon discover that Amazon seem to have played a bit fast and loose with the WiFi specification and problems with the Kindle are rife.

It was no surprise to me then that when I switched to BT ADSL that both my Kindle 3 and my Dad’s Kindle 4 wouldn’t connect to the Home Hub 3 router. I counted 11 other devices in the house which connected without any trouble; laptops, iPods, Xboxes and phones of different makes – so I knew the problem was with the Kindle. After not getting much help from Amazon (for what its worth, their support staff answer the phone quickly, and were pleasant to deal with) I decided I would just need to go through a trial and error process myself. This was time consuming, because the problem only seemed to manifest itself once the Kindle had put the WiFi radio to sleep, so after making a change to the router’s configuration and reconnecting the Kindle, it would always work, and only after 30 minutes or so when the Kindle failed to connect would I know if there was still a problem.

Anyway, the solution for me was to disable mixed WPA and WPA2 encryption, and set the router to use only WPA2. Contrary to other Internet sites, changing the wireless channel or turning off ‘N’ mode made no difference to me. This fixed worked on my Kindle 3 3G and the new Kindle 4 WiFi. All my other devices still connect fine (event a first generation iPod Touch) so not having the original WPA specification in use doesn’t seem to have any drawbacks.

I hope this is of use to someone – let me know in the comments if you’ve had the same problem.

10 years of the iPod

A few weeks ago, the iPod turned 10. Hard to believe I know, at the time I’d just recently been bought an iMac (of the original curvy variety) and so I was keeping a close eye on all things Mac (only my AOL dialup connection). I remember reading about the announcement of the iPod and thinking “Wow!” – and feeling pretty smug because as a Mac user I would be able to get one (they were Mac-only to begin with). Of course at the age of 16 £300 for a gadget is hard to come by and so I wait until that Christmas and to my surprise I had an iPod in my stocking.

IMAG0657What struck me was the simplicity and purpose the device was beaming with, it integrated with iTunes so well and songs transferred across at lightening speed. Before the iPod I had been using an MP3 CD player which was a nightmare to navigate, and exceptionally bulky. I was getting the bus to college daily, and I remember I would have to pack it up the stop before because listening on the move wasn’t really an option due to it’s general bulkiness.

Any music player is pretty useless without good music to put on it, at the time I remember listening to Turin Brakes’ debut album The Optimist LP. Even today when I listen to this album, I am reminded of the novelty of the first iPod (as well as standing in freezing January weather waiting for a bus).

Apple released various updates, to support AAC and improve battery life – but the iPod remained the same essentially, a beautiful music player.

 

IMAG0654By about 2004 my iPod was well and truly battered, this was before it was common knowledge that that “durable” metal back was also very stretchable. I decided to move to a HP PocketPC running Windows Mobile 4, with a 500MB Compact Flash Card. It was nowhere near the 5GB of the iPod, but the geek in me wanted something that could play video and surf the web (using IrDA and GPRS). It was a functional little device, but shoddily built. In 2006 I decided to get an iPod Video 5.5. By now Apple had moved well and truly away from the physical scroll-wheel to a touch-sensitive one – I still use this iPod today and I have never managed to get on with it as well as the first iPod. The video was great though, and the battery was even better. I remember it got me through the hours I had to sit in LAX when my flight was cancelled. That trip was to New York in 2007, a few months after the release of the iPod Touch. After visiting the Apple Store on 5th Avenue, I couldn’t resist the spending IMAG0658my entire holiday money on one of the things and promptly purchased an iPod Touch. The first generation iPod touch was all about music, and being able to buy it online wherever you were – there were no games, no apps, you couldn’t even edit calendar appointments – this was all about the music (and video). It was therefore a nice addition when Apple released an update (I think it cost about £5) that gave users the ability to install apps.The iPod Touch was also the first time I had ever used a mobile browser and actually enjoyed the experience. My phone at the time (a Nokia N95) was a great phone, but browsing the web it it was awful.

The iPod Touch, like the iPod Video I own remains in use today (I have passed it down the family). Shocking when you think since 2008 I have had 2 laptops fail on me yet these devices still work perfectly. The original iPod powers up, but the battery only lasts a few minutes, and I don’t have a PC with FireWire to get songs onto it anymore

So just some of my iPod memories! I wonder what I’ll be using in 10 years time?

I did it, I bought an iPad

I have been tempted by the iPad for a while now, it seemed to offer the power of a laptop without the inconvenience of a laptop. A long battery, yet always connected and always on. I knew full well about the downsides and I didn’t expect to be typing large documents on it, but for browsing the web, checking email and chatting on instant messenger it seemed perfect. So was it?

Not prefect, but very good

The iPad 2, despite considerably lower specs than my laptop on paper feels snappy and rarely do I have to wait for anything to happen. Unlike a laptop, there is no fan – so I feel comfortable leaving it on my bed, or on the carpet knowing I’m not to come back and find it with fans whirling while it melts. The device seems durable, whereas the iPod has a an easy-to-scratch surface, the iPad won’t get scratched under normal use.

Lack of apps

One thing I have found is the lack of iPad specific apps. It’s still quite a new platform, so I can forgive app developers slightly – but the big hitters such as Spotify and Audible still make you use the iPhone versions of the app, which only work in portrait mode and look pixelated. The keyboard layout is also different for iPhone apps, which is rather confusing. While I can type pretty fast on the iPad, the lack of any blogging software as good as Windows Live Writer means I still prefer to fire up my laptop to write anything substantial. An iPad version of Google Chrome would be nice, or at least a way to sync your Google Chrome bookmarks easily (it can be done now, but involves using a 3rd party service and isn’t worth the hassle in my opinion).

Quality not quantity

Having said all that, the apps that come with the iPad are of a very high quality. The Mail, Calendar and Contacts app are very impressive. I was surprised Apple didn’t include an alarm clock and weather app, seeing as there is one available for the iPhone but it’s not a big deal as 3rd party apps have filled the gap.

For casually browsing the web or responding to emails, iPad wins. Booking a holiday? Then I’ll want 30 tabs open at once, and the iPad isn’t good at context switching. Overall I am impressed, it really does fill the void between a smartphone and a laptop. Tablets won’t replace laptops in my opinion, but they will take on many of their roles relegating laptops to the more comprehensive tasks.

Highly recommended.

Goodbye iPhone, Hello HTC Desire S

So it’s nearly 2 years since I got my iPhone 3GS, and I decided I wanted to change. Not because the old 3GS was feeling old – it still felt snappy and the battery lasted 2 days. What made me change was those ever-so-annoying “if you don’t have an iPhone” adverts. The thought of being associated with a brand that came across as self-obsessed and narcissistic had slowly been eating away at me, and when I read this story my decision was made.

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Compared to iOS, Android has a very “home brewed” feeling to it. The interface is much more complex and far less intuitive. On the flip side however, that means everything is a lot more configurable. In this respect, Android reminds me of Windows Mobile and Symbian more so than it does iOS, I can schedule my work email to only push new items during work hours for example – something I missed from my Nokia, that the iPhone did not offer. The home screen is far superior to that of the iPhone, but it falls down on simple things: Renaming a folder was surprisingly difficult to work out, it turned out I needed to click and hold on the folder name in the folder’s popup. Dragging widgets is awkward as you can’t seem to have more than one floating at once, so rearranging them when the screen is full is impossible.

Unlocked Doors

While the software does have a “rough and ready” feel to it, this has benefits as there is virtually no vendor lock-in. I managed to stream music from my DLNA NAS box quite easily. Apple will let you do this, but only within their ecosystem. There is free satnav (although the phone doesn’t come with a carkit), voice input and a whole host of good quality apps available from the app store. One really useful feature is HTC Sense Online, which lets you locate your phone, make it ring, and lock it remotely – great when you think you may have lost it.

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Battery Life

I am disappointed with the battery life. My iPhone (when new) would be at about 70% at 5:30pm when I left work, with average use. The Desire S was at about 40%. It is doing a lot more however, and just proves how little battery technology has improved in the last few years.

Part 2 of review to come soon.

Gadget Review: Iomega NAS Media Server

I have a lot of media on my various computers, music, photos, videos and the like, but I’ve never found a satisfactory way of storing them all. My solution was to put them on my main laptop, which has a large hard disk, and then share the folders to my other laptop and Xbox 360. This is fine, except I tend to reformat my laptop quite often, and don’t keep it at on all the time at a desk, instead it’s packed away in its bag when not i use, making playing some music from my Xbox a bit of a hassle. So I decided a NAS box was what I needed. My only consideration really was price, I really don’t care about speed since most of the time I’ll be using 802.11g to access the files and so the Iomega 1TB drive is what I picked. It cost £120 from PC World, which I thought was good value. I’d read a few reviews, but since these reviews Iomega has released a new firmware (which came preinstalled on mine) and so a lot of the drawbacks have been addressed.

NAS BOX

I have to say, I am very impressed. The drive is fully accessible via SMB, meaning the software that comes with the drive is not essential (I only needed to install it once to find out what IP address my DHCP server had assigned it). The drive is actually a very small computer (probably running Linux, though I can’t be sure) and so it offers extra functionality. So called “Live Folders” allow you to create a folder that’s contents gets uploaded to Facebook, YouTube or resized for example. The NAS box can also act as a bit-torrent client, but unfortunately can’t be set to download a large file over FTP/HTTP. The device is also an iTunes server as well as a DLNA server (this is an open standard that the Xbox 360 uses to stream music and video over a LAN). If only TV shows purchased from iTunes didn’t have DRM, I’d buy a few, since being able to download a series of 24 straight to this device and watch it on my Xbox would be amazing. Still, having all your media always available via Media Centre/Xbox/ITunes is great.

The downsides to this device are the hard disk appears to be FAT32 (according to another review I read) – this means it’s not journaled and in the event of a power-cut the drive/data could be corrupted. There’ is only one hard disk, and 1TB of data is a LOT of data to be held at the whim on someone spilling something on it, or a cat knocking it over, so I will still be keeping the stuff I value most in two places. Anyone wanting a proper backup solution rather than a media server solution would be wise to get something that has RAID. It’s also quite noisy and doesn’t spin down the hard disk when it’s not in use.

Overall, I am pleased with this purchase and would recommend this media server to other looking for a good value solution.

Update:

I found the following information in the manual that states the drive actually uses the XFS filesystem, which was one of the first journalled filesystems. Hooray!

The Home Media Drive shares files using the SMB (Server Message Block) protocol and stores its files on XFS (built-in), FAT32 (external), and NTFS (external) hard drives.

I didn’t mention this before, but you can also plug in a USB drive and share it, or you can plug in a USB printer than share that instead. Shame there’s no SSH access however 🙂