Tag Archives: ipad

The iPad is 3 years old


Time flies.

This is what I said back when it was announced. I underestimated how much laptop usage time would be replaced by iPad usage time.

If you want to see what professional technology reporters, analysts, etc. said at the time, then check out this post by Asymco. It’s eye-opening. Summary: iPad is an overpriced, underpowered, crippled disappointment that will bankrupt Apple.

In reality, the iPad turned Apple into the biggest and most profitable computer maker in the world, destroyed the horrendous netbook market, forced Google to clone it, and MS to completely redesign the Windows UI for touch and start making their own hardware.

Shows you how much faith you should put in the opinion of “experts”.

Surface thoughts

By now you’ve heard that Microsoft announced its own tablet: Surface (formerly a largely vaporware table). If you haven’t, go read about it before continuing.

On the surface (pun intended) it looks like a cool product that may challenge the iPad for best tablet. I like following what happens in the tech sector, so I have a bunch of thoughts.

OEM backstabbing

Microsoft for the most part has been a software company. Notable exceptions are their mouses and keyboards, Xbox, Kinect, Zune and Kin. They make a huge chunk of their money by selling Windows licenses to companies like Dell and HP, who then build largely identical PCs and sell them to you.

Now Microsoft is going to compete directly with its partners, with the handicap of earlier access to software, the ability to better integrate the software and the hardware (Apple style), and without the added cost of software licenses.

Yeah, people at Dell are pissed, even if they won’t admit to it publicly.

Even more confusion

Windows licensing has been a complicated mess for some time: Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium, Professional, Enterprise, Ultimate, etc. I don’t even think people who work at Microsoft know what the hell the difference between them is.

Now it’s worse: Windows 8 will also run on ARM processors. But it will be a special version of Windows 8 called Windows RT. Windows 8 has desktop interface and tablet (Metro) interface. Metro will work great with fingers but horribly with a mouse. Desktop will work with a mouse but will be unusable with a touchscreen. Windows RT only supports Metro. And it won’t run any of your existing Windows applications because those are built for Intel processors.

But Microsoft is releasing two (!) tablets: one that runs Windows RT and will be comparable in size and weight and price to an iPad, and another one that has an Intel processor and will be comparable in size and weight and price to a MacBook Air. But in tablet shape. The expensive one will run your current applications, but they will probably be unusable unless you use a keyboard and mouse/trackpad.

Are you confused enough yet? Is it obvious to you which one you should buy? Why are they making such a mess? Because…

Nobody at MS can make a decision

And this is the heart of the problem. To me it seems like nobody at Microsoft has the balls to make a decision: “We’re going to do ARM.” “We’re going to do full Windows with Intel.” “We’re going to pick keyboard A or B.”

The lack of a clear message confuses customers and ensures that no matter what you end up buying, you will at some point regret your choice or at least having a nagging solution that you should have bought the other model: my tablet is too heavy! the battery life sucks! I can’t run all applications! the cover is too thick! the keyboard has no travel! I can’t use the pen! I paid extra because of the pen and I never use it!

Protecting the Monopoly

All of this reeks of desperation. They see Android and iOS slowly but surely threatening the Windows PC monopoly. Tablets are growing, PCs are not. They don’t trust OEMs to come out with cool or cool enough products running Windows 8. They felt like they had to do it themselves. And maybe they had to. Maybe Apple’s do-it-all approach really is the way to go if you want the better (but not necessarily cheaper) product. And maybe more people are buying the better, not necessarily cheaper, product.


So why announce all of this now? They have no prices yet. They announced no specs. No battery lifetime. Not even the ports on the device. They had no Intel-based tablet on display at all. And nobody was allowed to touch the keyboards – the most important and arguably innovative thing about Surface. They clearly are not ready. This is vaporware.

The reason, I think, is that they had to show something before Google very likely announces their own tablet next week at Google IO (also backstabbing their own hardware partners in the process).

They had to do it even if it means pissing your partner off. Even if it means that nobody with a clue will buy a Windows Ultrabook until the Intel Surface comes out so that proper reviews exist – a full three months after Windows 8 ships! Crazy.

Surface vs iPad

Surface and iPad are both tablets. But I think there are some fundamental differences in the basic usage philosophies surrounding both. Time will tell which one is right or if there’s room for both approaches. But if Microsoft’s tablet history (they’ve been pushing tablets since the nineties, believe it or not) is any indicator…

First, iPad is meant to be used mainly in portrait orientation. That’s why it has a 4:3 screen ratio, the home button and cameras and dock connector are where they are.

Surface is meant to be used mainly in landscape orientation. That’s why the keyboard attaches where it attaches. That’s why it has a 16:9 (optimal for video watching) screen.

iPad is primarily meant to be used while holding it up with your hands and with your fingers.

Surface is meant to be used as a traditional laptop: on a table, with a keyboard and trackpad. Since it sits at a 22 degree angle when using the built-in kickstand, I bet that tapping on it with your fingers is too likely to knock it down.

For all these reasons, I think Surface is more a laptop that looks like a tablet (as defined by the iPad) and not as direct of a competitor to the iPad as one would think initially. It’s a very basic different approach to computing, and one that’s understandable knowing where Microsoft comes from.

Surface vs Android

Android on tablets has failed so far. Let’s wait and maybe talk about it later.

One more thing: Windows Phone 8

Windows Phone 8 was announced yesterday. It’s a nice and much needed upgrade. But it’s not shipping yet, and one thing they did say is that no Windows Phone 7 hardware will get upgraded to the new OS. This is reasonable because under the hood they are quite different pieces of software even if they look similar.

But what schmuck would go out and buy a Windows Phone 7 today knowing this? Only a clueless schmuck. Nokia is already hurting, now it’s going to get worse. Thank you, from Finland!


Yeah, I think that it’s desperate for MS to release a tablet and betray it’s partners. I think combining a tablet/touch interface with a desktop/mouse/keyboard interface in one OS is a mess: you’ll get a horrible experience at least part of the time regardless of what kind of machine you have in front of you.

But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Windows 8 is really really good and developers will get behind it and it will be a great success. Microsoft has lots of money and a few monopolies that allows them to push this for a while even if it costs them dearly.

Time will tell.

Font size bookmarklets

Last night I was reading some online documentation on Safari on my iPad and was annoyed by the small font size. On most web sites, the text is formatted in narrow columns and you just double tap to zoom in perfectly. In this case that wouldn’t work well because the text spans from edge to edge on the site. You’ve probably bumped into a similar situation on your iPhone or iPad.

This morning I looked around for a solution. I didn’t find exactly what I was looking for ; but I combined and modified some of the things I found and created two bookmarklets: one that increases the font size of the page you are in, and one that decreases it.

There are two ways to install them.

Method A

If you use iCloud to synchronize bookmarks between Safari on your Mac or PC and your iPhone/iPad, then the easiest way is to do this from your computer. Just drag the two links below to your Bookmarks Bar.

Let iCloud take care of the syncing for you.

Method B

If you need to do this from your iPhone/iPad because you don’t use iCloud for syncing bookmarks, then things are a little harder. I won’t describe the process here because others have already done a great job. The only difference is that you will use the code from my bookmarklets:


javascript:var p=document.getElementsByTagName('*');for(i=0;i<p.length;i++){if(p[i].style.fontSize){var s=parseInt(p[i].style.fontSize.replace("px",""));}else{var s=12;}s-=2;p[i].style.fontSize=s+"px"}


javascript:var p=document.getElementsByTagName('*');for(i=0;i<p.length;i++){if(p[i].style.fontSize){var s=parseInt(p[i].style.fontSize.replace("px",""));}else{var s=12;}s+=2;p[i].style.fontSize=s+"px"}

Once you have installed the bookmarklets, use them the same way you use a bookmark. I recommend putting them on the Bookmarks Bar for quick access, as shown:

Bookmarklets on iPad

This is how the original website looks:

Original font size

And this is how it looks after increasing the font size a couple of times:

After increasing the font size using the bookmarklet.

In order to reset the font size back to its default, just reload! Hope you find this useful.

The new iPad

Left: iPad 2. Right, the new iPad and its Retina display. Click to zoom.
The new iPad vs iPad 2 screen comparison by The Verge. 

A new iPad is out. It’s not iPad 3 nor iPad HD. Just iPad. Kind of how Apple used to name the new version of the iPod. And it’s “Resolutionary” – lame pun intended by Apple, not by me.

The biggest change, at least in my mind, is the new “Retina” display. Four times as many pixels in the same area, making each individual pixel so small that you cannot effectively see them anymore. That’s it! The pixel has died, you no longer need to worry about the number of pixels in your iPad; more pixels would be pointless since you cannot see them already!

And so the death of the pixel continues.

And if it’s anything like the difference between the screens on the iPhone (3G, 3GS) and the iPhone 4(S)… it’s going to look amazing.

Is the third time the charm?

2011 was not a good year for me as far as respect for my private property is concerned.

First, in April, my house got broken into (in Texas). This was a rough one.
Then, in November, my car got broken into (in California).
Now, with only a few hours left in the year, my iPad got stolen (in Israel near Jerusalem).

On this undated photo taken earlier today, I am shown telling two Israeli police officers about the wonders of "Find my iPhone"

Hopefully this is the end of my streak. Shall the iPad popup on a WiFi network, I will get its location courtesy of iCloud’s Find my iPhone feature. Not that it will matter…

Why I bought a Kindle

I finally broke down and bought a Kindle. I have an iPad, so why did I buy a Kindle?

Amazon would like you to believe it’s all about the screen. Truth be told, I’ve been reading about E-ink since the mid nineties, fascinated by the prospect of a screen that uses almost no power and looks like a printed page. It took many years until I saw one live and I loved it. And it took another few years until I owned one (this Kindle). But no, reading in direct sunlight is not a huge selling point for an ultra-white Mexican who’s respectful of the Sun’s ultraviolet rays.

I actually really like the iPad’s LCD screen for reading. My eyes don’t get tired, and it’s great to be in bed at night, in total darkness, reading on the perfectly illuminated screen – brightness turned all the way down. Battery life is more than fine as well: I never read for more than 11 hours straight at a time without access to a power outlet. I’ve read several books on my iPad and I’ve enjoyed immensely.

Then Amazon released 3 new Kindles:

  1. Kindle Fire: Ultra-cheap media-viewing subsidized tablet ($200)
  2. Kindle Keyboard (a.k.a Kindle 3): ($99)
  3. Kindle Touch: E-ink with a touch screen ($99)
  4. Kindle: E-ink, no keyboard ($79)

I always thought that the keyboard on the Kindle was stupid. It takes up a third of the device’s space for something you only use once a month for a minute! On the other hand, the new Kindle’s lack of keyboard and touchscreen make it unbearably painful to type, whenever it is you need to. So why would anyone buy the Kindle when for $20 more you can buy a Kindle with a touchscreen keyboard?

And why would Marcos spend money on a dedicated reading device that limits you to a single store for buying books?

This is why:

New cheapo Kindle on top of iPad 2. As classy as a pocket billboard.
  • iPad 2: 21.28 oz
  • Kindle Fire: 14.6 oz
  • Kindle keyboard: 8.5 oz
  • Kindle touch: 7.5 oz
  • Kindle: 5.98 oz

When you are holding something up for hours, every ounce counts. This new Kindle is tiny, super light, and at $80 well not impulse buy territory. And I can still pick up in whatever page I was at on my iPad when in total darkness, or on my iPhone when I have a few minutes to read and I’m away from the larger toys.

Live soccer on Apple TV

I don’t know you, but to me this is a Big Deal™:

Veetle, a peer-to-peer video technology uses a proprietary plug-in in order to see their streams, usually at exceptionally high quality. On the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad, browser plug-ins are not available. Thankfully, Veetle provides some of the videos using HTML5 and Apple’s HTTP streaming which in English means “live high-quality streaming video on your favorite toy’s browser”. The quality is top-notch.

Live soccer on Apple TV, courtesy of Veetle, iPad, and AirPlay

At some point recently, they enabled AirPlay on the streams in their website; or maybe it’s an iOS 4.3.1 thing, but it didn’t work last time I tried it. This means I can finally send live video from my iPhone/iPad to my Apple TV. Since the TV in my room is hooked up only to an Apple TV, this is great. And the quality is very, very good.

Bonus tip: Exit Safari to use another app or open another tab while the video is playing on the Apple TV. Playback will stop, but you can double click on your Home button in order to bring up the multitasking tab, swipe to the playback controls, and resume your video in the background!

No device neutrality at The NYT

Starting today, full online access to The New York Times will no longer be free (i.e solely ad-supported). That is fine and it’s fair: a serious newspaper has very high costs including paying the salary of professional reporters. They create valuable content and annoying Flash ads that no one clicks on is not paying the bills.

So they came up with a subscription plan, as decoded by Frédéric Filloux:

  • The first 20 articles in a “calendar month” are free. After that, you’ll be nudged towards a $15 subscription for 4 weeks of Web access.
  • Smartphones? An iPhone, Android, or Blackberry app is included with the $15 deal. For one year of 52 (4 * 13) weeks, you’ll pay 13 * $15 = $195. Yearly subscriptions aren’t offered. But do I have to pay twice if I own both an iPhone and a Moto Droid?There’s no Web-only deal. The basic $15 rate bundles Web and smartphone access.
  • If you have an iPad you’ll pay extra: $20 per 4-week billing cycle = $210 for one year.
  • Other tablets? Not yet.
  • You want access from all of your devices? PC, smartphone, iPad, Times Reader 2.0, the NY Times app from the Chrome Web Store…that’ll be $35 for 4 weeks, $355 for a year.
  • If you’re a paper subscriber, the NYT elders smile upon you: You’ll have access to everything from all your devices with no unseemly display of surcharge. But it depends on the deal you make: new subscriber, renewal, special offer, a conversation with a Customer Retention Specialist… It all sounds like dealing with a cell phone carrier or a cable network provider or an airline. Three well-loved businesses.
  • For e-book readers such as the Kindle and the Nook: Sorry, no access at this time. (Amazon will sell you the NY Times newspaper, but it doesn’t give you access to the site.)
  • What happens if you touch a page through a search engine, through your friend’s Facebook wall or Twitter tweet, through a link on someone’s blog? Free…unless it’s not. Some visits fall within the 20 articles/month rule; others, such as through Google links, will have a 5 free articles-a-day limit. One can see what an enterprising geek could make of this. How does the NYT know it’s you coming back for one more hit of their good stuff? They do it through cookies. $195/year is a good incentive for a little bit of “cookie management” and IP address spoofing.

Yes, it makes your head hurt. This is another instance of (lack of) device neutrality, which I talked about in an earlier post. Basically, they have decided that they can charge different amounts for the same content based on what device you read the content on. In this case, similar to Hulu, they can see that an iPad would be much more appealing to read the newspaper on, so they charge more to read it there than they charge to read it on a web browser. All of a sudden, designing a better user experience becomes a liability for Apple’s device.

We’ll see how this goes with readers, assuming this makes it past Apple’s subscription rules about charging less outside the app. I just wished their subscription plan didn’t give me a headache trying to understand it. That’s what my cellphone company is for.

Cheap solution to the Smart Cover dilemma

As you know, I bought the Smart Cover for my iPad 2. It’s really slick but it has one problem: It does not protect the back of the iPad. I like taking my iPad from one place to another and put it down on hard surfaces: the kitchen table, the tile floor next to the toilet kitchen table, etc.

I really liked the original iPad’s Apple Case because it protected the back well enough so that I’m not scared of scratching the aluminum back. Until I can find a suitable replacement, I found  a $3 stop-gap solution:

Read more to find out…

Continue reading Cheap solution to the Smart Cover dilemma