This Year’s Upgrade: You!

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Roaming around the web I ran across a post by Patrick Rhone titled The Best Upgrade Is You. This is well worth the time to read in its entirety, but I am going to pluck out some concepts that appealed to me. The central theme of Patrick’s discussion focuses on upgrading your own capabilities before investing in new technologies. Here’s a quote that I really like:

The point here is that we are very easily taken in by the promise that buying or upgrading to some new thing will measurably improve our lives. I propose that, if we learned how to fully use what we already had better, such depth of knowledge and skill would have a far greater and more lasting impact.

The idea is that you should focus effort into improving your ability to utilize all the capabilities of the technology you are currently using before upgrading. This minimalist approach aligns with my thinking about how I want to continue using my first generation iPad (despite the “newer and better” iPads that have been introduced over the last two and a half years) and master the apps that I utilize day to day.

These are key points, paraphrased, that Patrick provides to support his approach:

  • Utilize the simplest technology needed to accomplish the task. Less complicated is easiest to master.

  • Consider upgrading only when there is an overwhelming reason.

  • Money is not the only upgrade cost. Time and attention are hidden cost that can be greater.

  • Learn and use the keyboard shortcuts of programs you use often. Even on an iPad if you are using a wireless keyboard this can save you time

  • Really learn your programs, dig into the details and the user manual or documentation. You will find new features your were not aware of that improves a work flow.

His last point is neat way to think about the situation:

Force yourself into the mindset that this is all you have. Imagine this is the last working technology on earth. How would you still get the job done? How would it help you create? How would it help you work? How would it help you survive?

Kind of an interesting way to think about the situation isn’t it? It forces you to push away the desire for the new, the latest, the greatest and utilize what you have on hand. If you are like me, you may find that what you have on hand is more than adequate for getting the job done, you might learn some skills that will help out in the future and you might even have some fun!

That sounds good to me.

Why Original iPads Sell Well

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I saw this headline as I was reading TUAW articles in Flipboard and as a proud owner of an original iPad had to take a look! The article summarizes the findings from a post on Wired titled; Why You Can Still Sell Your Original iPad for $250 and provided details about how the first generation iPad still holds a decent value.

I was happy to read that my original iPad was still considered to have value, especially after reading some of the comments that iPad 3 owners have expressed following the announcement of the iPad 4 a couple weeks ago. I even had the thought of how a $250 sell would be a nice little savings if I was buying a new iPad, but that thought quickly passed as I remembered my recent posts and my desire to use my iPad until it no longer supported my needs. Also, I realized that I would have to go through the hassle of trying to sell the device myself to actually get that price. This evening I scanned over the local Craig’s List and found the price of first generation iPads being sold for a little less then the $250 price in the articles.

In reading these articles I found that several of the comments posted in response to the two articles very interesting. People were complaining about their original iPads crashing “constantly” after installing IOS 5 and implying that the machines were useless. My iPad certainly crashes, but I’m not sure the crashes occur anymore than when I was running earlier versions of iOS and the machine is still very usable. In fact I find that most of the time it crashes I can attribute it to specific app problem that is almost predictable (Safari and Pinterest) or the problem seems to be caused by my having MANY apps open.

It may seem odd, but I have always shutdown my iPad when I do not plan on using it for several hours and when I go to bed. I also routinely double click the home button and shutdown all apps that I am not using. I do a reset and restore on the device monthly from iTunes on my desktop machine. I think all these practices make the machine more stable.

I find my original iPad still very usable and stable. It is not perfect and sometimes it is a little slow but not at all like some of the complaints that were posted.

iPad as Primary Productivity Tool

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When I am at home, I use my iPad 70% to 80% of the time that I am using a computer, at work I use a Windows based PC and do not have an option of any other device. When using my iPad I normally use the touch screen keyboard, but I do break out my Apple wireless keyboard if I have a lot of typing to accomplish. Yesterday I read the article One Year Later by Harry McCracken and really enjoyed reading about his experience with the iPad. In his well thought comments, Harry provides five key reasons why the iPad has become his primary computing device:

  • Battery life
  • Simplicity
  • General robustness
  • Embedded internet
  • Portability
  • I have looked at this list, thought about my experience with the iPad and agree that these are key factors. The one aspect of my experience that I would add to this list is:

  • Fun!
  • I enjoy using my iPad! The hands on experience is very different than my desktop experience. The device has exposed me to new software by a very capable group of small developers that reminds me of the early days of the Macintosh. I also feel a lot closer to the work that I am doing on the device, even if I am just web browsing.

    The iPad is just fun!

    This Week’s Apple Event

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    It has been almost a week since this week’s Apple Event introducing the iPad (4th generation) and the iPad Mini. I have watched the recording of the event, reviewed the specs for each machine and read many blogs that frankly are all over the map.

    Have I changed my mind about getting a new iPad? No not at all, first it was neat to be reminded that no matter when you buy a new device it won’t be very long until a better one comes on the market. The owners of the iPad (3rd generation) are certainly seeing that with the latest iPad. So my thoughts of “buy when I need it” is reinforced.

    As to the Mini, I don’t think I am all that interested in it. It is certainly a nice machine, but I am very happy with the size of the iPad and I don’t think I would be as happy with the smaller screen. I will certainly check it out when it comes to local stores, but I don’t seem to have any desire to go buy the thing. I may not be the target market, but I bet these things are going to sell very well.

    Apple tried to tempt me this week, but I am sticking with my iPad (1st generation) and continuing to master it and the programs that I have. My iPad is still going strong, although I have noticed more crashes of applications this weekend. But I suspect that even with some random crashes that I have many more days ahead using this device!

    New iOS Device Envy

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    So Many Choices!

    My goodness, the iPad 3, a cheaper iPad 2, iOS 6, the new iPhone 5, the new iPod Touch (5th generation!) and this week the rumored iPad mini! So many new iOS devices all of them so tempting.

    Over the last few months I have found myself wanting a new iOS device. My current iPad (first generation) is running iOS 5, but the poor thing seems to be getting a little long in the tooth. It seems a little slower, the storage a little small and now my iPad cannot utilize the latest and greatest operating system iOS 6! Sad isn’t it?

    I find myself wanting something new. In fact a couple of months ago I bought a 16GB WiFi iPad 3 and offered it to my wife hoping she would settle for my original iPad. She didn’t fall for my tricks and I went back to the store to return my purchase unopened.


    I was disappointed, but after reflecting on this I find I am more disappointed by my desire. What causes this desire for the new, the latest, the greatest?

    I think this is related to the effectiveness of the marketing campaign for these devices. I read many Apple related blogs and web pages. These sites review the devices and highlight all the wonderful new capabilities. I also watch each of the Apple presentations introducing each new device and software. These are very effective in generating desires for the new.

    But looking at the situation, I have asked how does my first generation iPad fail to support my work flow? What am I not accomplishing with this little tablet that I want to accomplish? And what will these new devices provide that I don’t already have?

    The answer is not much.


    The reality of my situation is that I have not pushed my wonderful little machine to the limit of its capability.

    I have several dozen programs on the device that I have not mastered. I don’t know the full capabilities of the applications or their limitations. I seem to be just collecting these apps (again based on desire), most just sit on the machine with very little use.

    My work flows are not overly complex and my iPad supports these work flows well. If it doesn’t there is normally an inexpensive app that can be downloaded or I often find that I already have an app that can do what I need.

    Of course if all else fails, I can accomplish the task on my desk top iMac, often faster because the 24″ display is better suited for the particular task.

    I have determined that I don’t need faster, I don’t need better and I don’t need more storage. This determination helps my pocket book and it helps ease my desire.


    At the end of the day I find I use my iPad for many more hours of effort than I spend on my iMac and accomplish most of the tasks that I used to use a desktop computer to accomplish. That is impressive for a $500 device that is over two years old!

    I can still remember how my iPad generated a tremendous amount of excitement when I started understanding the capability of this device.

    So has that excitement changed? Not at all.

    I still have a lot to learn with my iPad. Mastering iOS 5, improving my work flow, increasing personal productivity, mastering Markdown, learning Lua scripting and so much more! There are many many things that I can still learn about on this iPad and the apps that are installed!

    I also know that as I continue to use the iPad, I will find new capabilities that I did not know existed on this machine to improve my productivity.

    No I don’t have Siri and other cool stuff that is in iOS 6, but I don’t really need these things.

    After reflecting on my desires I discovered that they are simply; desires. I want what I don’t have, even if what I already have isn’t being utilized to its existing capabilities.

    If I went out and bought one of these new devices I am sure I would enjoy it for awhile. I would find new ways to utilize it, but over time I am sure I would find my happiness decreasing and new desires would arise as newer things come on the market.

    So I have decided to just keep using my first generation iPad and improve mastery of the device and the apps that I use. Then when the battery wears out, I discover some new capability that I really need or the device fails I will purchase the latest and greatest or maybe even settle for a used device that meets my new requirements.

    When this happens I will have a better reason for a new device and it will be on my terms and not just a reaction to the marketing forces that try and influence my decision making abilities.

    Besides, I think it would be cool to use an older device that runs circles around the newest equipment that is out there!!

    The Notes App

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    Overview of the Notes App
    It has been awhile since I last posted, so I am going to jump right back into things and write about one on the most used apps on my iPad: Notes!


    Notes is one of the core apps included in with iOS so it is a free app and that is always a selling point for me. If you have not downloaded a copy of the Apple iPad User Guide for iOS 5.1 I highly recommend that you do so. Beside being a very good manual on how to get the most out of your iPad and the latest operating system, I found that I learned a couple of tidbits about the Notes app that I was not aware of and I have used the app for over two years. I have included a link to the User Guide at the end of this post. It is a free ebook and I keep a copy ready for reference in my iBook app.

    So what is the Notes app? Well basically it is a text only application that makes capturing notes and ideas very easy. The app has a full text search capability that allows you to enter in your search criteria and the text in every document in Notes is searched. The results are displayed for your use.


    The app also supports Spotlight searches that can be initiated by going to the iPad home screen and swipping to the right. This swiping action displays the Spotlight search function.

    In addition, when using the iCloud capabilities of iOS, the individual note files on your iPad become available on your other iOS devices and Mac computers. Notes you make on your desktop or iPhone become available on your iPad.

    The app is currently “text only”, but with each update of the OS the app is becoming more capable. For example, changes introduced in the Mountain Lion version of Notes on the desktop support inserting pictures into a Notes document. The picture is not visible on the iOS device, but I am betting that in iOS 6 we will gain the ability to view pictures within the individual note files on the iPad. That will make this app even more capable and nicer and more powerful to use as a day to day text editor.

    Once you have created a document in Notes there are a couple of ways that you can share your documents. The app allows export of the text using the email app or the document can be printing using the an Airplay capable printer.

    You can also select the entire document and paste the text into another app that supports cut and paste operations. This may seem limited, but I find it useful in support of my workflow on the iPad.

    How I Use Notes
    Notes supports a basic workflow that I use for capturing ideas. For example, the app is great as a quick way to capture ideas as I am listening to podcasts, reading documents from the web or watching television. The app fully supports cut and paste allowing capture of information from a web site or pdf very easy. The search capability allows me to easily go back and find this information when I am ready to use it.

    In addition, I use the app as a way to capture my daily writing tasks. Later I will open these notes and copy and paste the text into my desktop MacJournal application. Once I am finished with an individual Notes document I delete it from the Notes app. I also use Notes to capture ideas that I will then email to my work account to capture tasks or ideas that I will implement at work on Windows machines.

    I also store short notes such as quotes or inspirational readings that I enjoy periodically reviewing. Every few weeks I go through my notes and delete files that I no longer need.

    I recently started using Apple’s iCloud service after upgrading to Mountain Lion on my iMac. I am very happy with this capability! I love the way my notes are automatically synched between devices. When I first started using iCloud I had a little problem with duplicate notes, but once I cleaned up the database (by deleting the dupes), I have not had any issues. iCloud works in the background and it is a wonderful feature of the program. I find iCloud to be much easier to use than DropBox, but I recognize that each of these programs support my work flows in different ways. I need both for now.

    Notes Strengths
    There are a number of strengths to this app. For one it is a native app that is part of iOS. This means it will be supported by Apple and I don’t have to worry about it suddenly being dropped by a developer.

    It also has iCloud synching. So far I have found no significant issues with iCloud and I am looking forward to improvements that Apple will be making to this new service. I am especially eager to see an upgrade to iCloud that would allow a web browser interface to my notes. For details on how to set Notes up to utilize iCloud see the Users Guide and the Apple Support article that I have listed at the end of this post.

    Another strength is the search capability, within the app you can do a full text search of all notes. I routinely maintain almost 200 notes and I find this search capability very useful.


    You can also do full text search by going to the iPad Home page, flicking to the right and using iOS Spotlight. Using this method to search will also conduct searches of all other Spotlight capable apps on the device. This is similar to how Spotlight searches are conducted on a desktop computer.


    Notes Weaknesses
    In the app you are limited to a choice of three fonts, to change fonts go to the Settings App, scroll down to the Notes section and tap, and then select one of the fonts.


    I have noticed that if you change the font, all your notes will be changed to the font you have selected. This is not a big deal to me, but can be a little confusing as older notes that were written using a different font suddenly change.

    The Notes app does not synch to other web based services. There is no Dropbox sharing in Notes. With only iCloud synching you are able to utilize the documents you have created in Notes only on Apple products and not on other platforms or through the web. This may may change as iCloud matures, but is currently a limitation compared to other apps that are available.

    The capability to export your documents is also limited. You can currently only email a note or print it, you cannot export the note as a plain text file to other apps, but you can copy and paste the text into other apps. I consider this a minor inconvenience.


    Comparing Notes to Other Note Taking Apps
    Notes may not be for you, it is a simple app that lacks features found in other apps. I find it very useful for my work flows, but each of us have different needs. If you are interested in learning about other note taking apps available for iOS I suggest taking a look at the link to Bret Terpsta’s website that is provided at the end of this post. The site has assembled a detailed document that compares a slew of note taking apps available on iOS devices. The list provides details of features you may find of interest. In reviewing this site, I found it interesting that Notes is not one of the entries!

    Important aspects of these note taking apps highlighted in this list include;
    (1) built-in TextExpander support,
    (2) import of Markdown and Multimarkdown files, and
    (3) synchronizes to the Cloud or to Dropbox.

    In my work flow, I utilize other apps to provide these capabilities, I will be exploring the apps I use in later posts!

    Useful Links

    iPad User Guide for iOS 5.1

    Brett Terpstra spread sheet of iOS text apps

    Why I Use Plaintext

    Apple Support article iOS: Synching Notes

    Using the Photos App and Creating Content by Email Sharing

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    This is first of a two part post in which I will share knowledge I gained using the iPad’s Photos App and how it can be used to share photos.

    In this first part I will examine how Photos provides the user with the ability to create content for others through email. The second part will examine how the application works with the Gallery feature of Apple’s MobileMe service allowing you to use the iPad to populate web based photo albums that can be shared with others.

    The iPad comes with an application called Photos, this application allows you to view photos on your iPad as well as sharing them with others.

    If you are interested in a full description of the features of the Photos application, check out the Apple iPad User Guide which can be downloaded from:

    or for the original iPad and iOS4.2

    The user guides are outstanding documents and I keep a copy of the pdf file on my iPad in iBooks. The guide has allowed me to better understand the capabilities of my iPad, I highly recommend downloading either one of them.

    Basically there are four ways to place photos into the Photos App:
    – during a iTunes synch using the desktop application iPhoto or Aperture,
    – by saving photos from iPad applications such as Mail or Safari,
    – adding photos using the Camera Connection kit,
    – creating or modifying photos using another iPad application. For example the free drawing program DrawFree.

    Once you get an image into Photos, you will find that the App has no capability to modify an image. I look at the App as strictly a storage space. However, the App does provide methods to share photos with others and this capability provides simple methods to create content.

    There are three ways to share content from the Photos App:
    – email
    – posting to MobileMe
    – creating a slide show

    In the first method, while in Photos you attach a photo to an email and share with the people you send the email to. This is a pretty basic capability, but pretty important. To create an email in Photo while viewing a photo go to the upper right hand portion of the tool bar and tap the little box with the arrow and select “Email Photo”. An email will pop up with the photo you are viewing attached.


    You can also attach multiple photos to an email by viewing photos in Album view and tapping the box with the arrow in it. You can then select the photos you want to attach by tapping each photo and then tapping the email button. An email form will appear with the photos attached.


    This email capability becomes more useful when you have a service that allows you to post photos using email.

    For example, during my recent trip to Vietnam I learned that the Vietnamese government did not allow Facebook to be accessed from a web browser within the country. I enjoy Facebook and had planned to use my Facebook page to share photos of my trip and provide regular updates on how my trip was going.

    Before I left, I discovered that Facebook allows you to post photographs via email. I thought this would be valuable because I didn’t really know how accessible the was Internet would be while in Vietnam and I knew I could always write an email and have it wait in my outbox until I had access to the internet.

    To use this service you obtain a special email address from Facebook and then send an email to Facebook that has your photograph attached. The subject line of the email becomes the caption for your photograph. This service also allows you to post an update of your status, just write your status in the Subject line and do not attach a photo.

    You can learn more about how to email photos to your Facebook account and how to get a specific email address for your account here:

    I used the service many times while on my trip and found that it worked perfectly. I still regularly use the service now that I am back in the states as I find it simpler than using some of the Apps that are available for accessing Facebook.

    Facebook receives the photo and stores it in an album named Mobile Uploads. Once the photo (or photos) are uploaded you can use a browser to access your Facebook page and rename or modify this folder and the photos just as you would any other photo folder you create on Facebook.

    This is a very handy service, because the normal method of uploading a photo to Facebook using a web browser interface does not work on an iPad because it requires Flash.

    Next post I will share details on how the Photos app can be used to post photos to the web using the Gallery app and MobileMe.

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