Apple, CAMPING, Computers, CONS, Microsoft, RANDOMIZER9.COM, Uncategorized, Writing

I Wish I Knew How To Quit You, Laptop!

technology2I have a trip planned for this weekend (to Furry Fiesta) and as I begin to pack, I ask myself the same question that I do every trip:

Do I bring my laptop along for the ride?

I have a smartphone and a tablet and while they both do a decent enough job at keeping me connected to my precious data out in the cloud, I always find myself going back to Ye Olde Laptop.  I always need to have it with me whether I’m going to visit my folks or I’m at a convention or yes, even camping.

The most obvious advantage to the laptop over mobile devices is the screen size.  My smartphone has a 4-inch screen and I have no desire to get a huge phone (or ‘phablet’ as self-important tech writers call them).  The iPad mini is okay at 7.9 inches, but even then, a good chuck of that gets eaten away by the on-screen keyboard, and I have no desire to upgrade to a full-sized iPad or fork out a c-note for a decent keyboard accessory.  Speaking of keyboards…

The second obvious advantage of a laptop is the presence of a full-sized keyboard.  More importantly, especially to me, as a writer, the laptop keyboard actually has all of the keys.  I’ll never forget how flabbergasted I was when I was merrily typing away on my iPad mini’s Microsoft Office program and discovered that there was NO TAB KEY.  WHAT. THE. FRAK.

Speaking of ‘having everything,’ the most important benefit of having a laptop is that it has Windows.  While iOS and Windows Phone can do lots of stuff, neither one can do everything.  Even the Microsoft Office app on Windows Phone feels kind of half-assed (no tab key there, either *sob*) so if I need to do Serious Things I need to have Windows.

Finally, for all my tech knowledge and willingness to try new technologies, I tend to stick to old habits to a certain degree.  I still use a desktop, rarely watch video on mobile devices, prefer to get media on physical discs and still have a checkbook.  Based on that, it looks as if I’m stuck lugging around my old faithful 14″ Toshiba for the near future.

Or maybe not, I see there are Windows 8.1 tablets out now.  Hmm… 😉

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Android, Apple, BUSINESS, Computers, JUST SAYING, Microsoft, Tablets, TECH, WHATS GOING ON

Apple Does Not Like Files

technology2As my iPad mini is my first iOS device, I have had to learn it and adjust to its idiosyncrasies. Some of the new things I’m discovering are good, like the ability to swipe up with four fingers and bring up a list of currently open apps and volume/brightness controls. Of course, there are bad things to discover as well, such as the ‘locked down’ nature of the device. In particular, I was initially miffed that I could not work with files like I could on desktops or Android devices.

I like files. I know how to work with files. I like to make folders for my files and organize them and e-mail them and sort them and rename them and open them and edit them and do all kinds of fun stuff with them.

Apple does not like files.

Apple likes objects. On an abstract level, apps are objects in iOS,not files.  Instead of having files scattered all about, like in Windows or Android, your stuff lives in the app that uses it. If you’re going to work with a picture, you open up Photos, select the picture you want to work with, and get to work. Music lives in iTunes, documents live in Pages, and so on and so forth. The app comes first.

iOS gets irritiating for people like me because unlike Android, where I can get an app like Astro and poke around at the underlying file system, iOS does not let you get ‘under the hood’ at all.  I can’t put stuff where I want it because Apple won’t let me, and coming from a world where files rule and I can do whatever I want to with them, that is frustrating.

Case in point: I use Dropbox to store stories that I am working on. Indeed, one of the first apps I downloaded onto my iPad mini was the Dropbox app.  I also got the Pages word processor because it had totally knocked my socks off on the iPad demo units. Awesome. I quickly learned that Pages does not talk to Dropbox. My file-centric brain then said: “No biggie, I’ll download a copy of my latest story via Dropbox, open it in Pages, do some editing, save my changes, then upload the newest draft back to the cloud. After all, that’s how it had worked on my Acer Iconia Tab A100.”

In response, Pages threw the finger at me and said, “NO SAVING FOR YOU.  You’re going to open the file in Pages and I’ll make a copy there. Its staying there after that, too, because I don’t like Dropbox and I ain’t giving it back.” So I end up with two copies of the story floating around, one in Dropbox and one in Pages. So much for keeping things in sync.

Ultimately, I found a Microsoft Office-compatible app talkd to Dropbox direclty, so that fixed that, but its just one an example of how I have had to work around iOS because it ‘thinks different.’  Its methodology is awesome for end-users because files are icky things and people don’t like dealing with them.  I think its because most folks can’t make the mental leap from objects (like documents, pictures, and music) to files. They can’t wrap their heads around the abstract concept like ‘computer people’ do.

If everything lives in the app, then they don’t have to deal with files at all.  If they want to do something, they open the appropriate app, and everything is there.  Instead of a list of files, they see pictures, songs, and documents, and that’s what they know.

Those of us that are more ‘computery,’ on the other hand, have a few options: muddle around iOS as best we can, jailbreak our devices, or just not bother with it altogether. Unfortunately, I think I’ve taken one step too far into the rabbit-hole, because for all that fuss, I’m still loving my iPad mini…even if it doesn’t want me to have my precious files.

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Apple, RANDOM REVIEW, Tablets, TECH, WHATS GOING ON, WORDS, Writing

RANDOM REACTION: iPad mini

The hands in these ads always look fake to me

As I mentioned previously, I was intrigued by the iPad mini because of its lower price and its size. The popularity of Apple’s newest wunderkind meant that I was going to have to hunt for one, but after a few weeks of looking, I finally got my grimy paws on a 16GB white iPad mini last week.

If there is one thing I have learned from owning my Acer Iconia Tab A100, it is that tablets are fairly close to useless without data, so I purchased a model with a cellular modem. I have used my iPad mini for just over a week and I am very impressed with it so far.

I have a friend that used to work at an Apple store. In talking with him about the mini, I found it hard to describe just how different it felt to use the iPad compared to other devices. He wasn’t surprised at that and mentioned that it was fairly common for folks to have difficulty in describing the experience of using one. I took that as a challenge, thought it over and I think I may have found a phrase:

The iPad doesn’t get in the way.

I know that sounds odd, so allow me to elaborate: In using my Android tablet, and indeed, this is the case with many portable devices, the device itself will not work as well as it should. I then have to stop what I am doing to deal with its idiosyncrasies, interrupting my work. For example, while typing, every now and then the keyboard on my Iconia would barf up a bunch of letters instead of what I wanted to type. I would then have to stop and correct the mistake before continuing. In contrast, I can type away on my iPad mini with abandon, fairly confident that the software will catch the overwhelming majority of my mistakes.

Android just feels clunky and half-done to me; a hodgepodge of different bits and pieces glued together to make a Frankenstein of an OS that works…but doesn’t work well.. iOS and its apps, on the other hand, feel more like a unified system. I don’t have to go through a relearning process with each new iOS app I install, and it is very responsive.

While I have no doubt that metaphorical wrinkles and dings will soon appear on my iPad as I get to know it better, I am a very happy owner so far.

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