Ruminations on tech, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Posts Tagged ‘usability

The Mouseless, Keyboardless Tablet

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With the holiday lull rapidly approaching, it’s time to visit some of those technology issues that have either been backburnered or pushed to the side in favor of more pressing tidings.

First on the agenda is the whole tablet v. laptop debate.

My take is, the whole thing’s a non-starter.  There is no debate.

Call me old-fashioned, but I like typing on a keyboard.  The real deal, physical keyboard.

Way back, it was those old clackety-clack IBM keyboards that you could hear and feel the letters being impressed.

Before that, it was my first Compaq luggable.

And before that, it was an old-timey Remington Rand portable. On those, if you didn’t hit the key with a good, committed stroke, nothing appeared on the paper.

Paper, the young whippersnappers ask?  What’s paper?

That’s the stuff we used to write to one another on before there were iPhones.

Of course, I have an iPad.  I’m an early adopter, curmudgeon though I can be.

And you’ll have to pry my cold, dead hands away from my iPad.  I love the thing.  It’s a true Renaissance device.

I use it now for a variety of things.

I play NFL Madden 11 on it (which I bought on sale for $.99 at the Apple store the other day!).  I also play Angry Birds along with the rest of Western Civilization.)

I read and respond to emails.  I surf the Interwebs.  I chat with people.

I make Skype calls on it.  I watch Netflix.  I read The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

I check and update my calendar.  I download and read PDFs.

I even use it to blog on occasion.  But typically only when my Apple wireless keyboard is nearby.

Maybe I’m too tactile for my own good.

I’ve tried using the Apple virtual keyboard (the “software”keyboard included with the iPad).  It’s fine for a quick two-line email.

It’s useless when I’m trying to write a long blog post.  My brain can’t seem to reach through my fingers into that glass surface.  The keystrokes just can’t find their way back into the blog post.

I don’t know how to explain it.  It’s a tactile thing.

I’ve also found the iPad useless for doing some of my basic everyday work, like building presentations and updating documents.

It’s not that the iPad couldn’t do it.  But when I try, I miss my mouse too much.

I find myself reaching for a mouse that’s not there, to do something on my iPad that I can’t do.

And why shouldn’t it be that way? I’ve been using a mouse for 20-something years!  It’s like an extension of my person.

And then suddenly, you want me to do real, productive work without a real keyboard and a mouse?

You might as well tell me to try and hit a 325-yard drive with my Odyssey putter!

I will say this: I recently discovered a phenomenal and simple word processing application for the iPad.

It’s called, simply, “Writer.”

It cost me $5 on the iApp store in iTunes.

In Writer, you can’t change the fonts.  You can’t do any bold or italicizing.  There are no windows or drop down menus.

You can work in one document at a time, and then save your work up into the Google Docs cloud. And it works beautifully with the Apple wireless keyboard.

It’s kind of like working back in Wordperfect 5.1 for DOS (which you’ll remember from a previous post, was my favorite software application of all time).

Because ultimately, the “Writer” application lets you focus on the one thing you need it most to do: To write.

Imagine that, a software application that lets you focus on the thing it was originally written for.

Now, if I can just keep from switching back and forth between it and Angry Birds I might actually get some real work done.

Blogger’s Note: Turbo’s taking some time off through early January to visit with friends and family, and to generally catch his breath.  He reserves the right in his holiday solace to blog as frequently or as little as his boredom and inspiration demands.

Written by turbotodd

December 22, 2010 at 3:18 pm

Why I’m Digging My iPad

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Steve Jobs will be keynoting the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco later this morning.

So I figured it would be a good time to finally write that post about why exactly I’m digging my iPad, which I totally had NO need for and bought in an utter moment of weakness.

You can now listen to THAT particular explanation in a TurboTech podcast I recently recorded (MP3, 3:32) with my developerWorks amigo Scott Laningham.

And now on to the iPad.

As I mentioned in the original post “I Have A Technology Problem,” I had no real need for an iPad.  For the record, I own three Mac computers (one iMac, a MacBook, and a MacBook Pro), a Dell Latitude, an Acer netbook, and I’m sure something in there somewhere I’m forgetting.

So, the last thing I needed was another computing device.

But what I’m finding to be pleasantly surprising about the iPad (and I’m sure I’m not the first to write about this) is that it’s a different kind of technology experience.

Not unlike the feeling when I got my first Palm Pilot in 1996, the different experience is hard to explain. It certainly has something to do with how one interacts with the device — not using a physical keyboard, but instead the tablet orientation with a virtual keyboard.

The form factor itself drives a different use of the device than a laptop.  You can easily sit on the couch, kick back, and read on the device without feeling compelled to lean into the keyboard. 

And, of course, it’s very easy to pick up and carry from room to room (or to your local coffee shop, which I did over the weekend).

But it’s the various and sundry use cases I’ve found that make the use of the iPad so unique.

One of my favorite apps is The Wall Street Journal.  It’s what I always envisioned for an online newspaper experience.  On the iPad, Dow Jones has been able to combine the best of the large interface of a broadsheet newspaper (layout, headlines, pictures, etc.) with the interactive capabilities of an online experience (including easy-to-consume video).

Using the online WSJ app is extremely intuitive.  You simply tap a story on A1 if you want to move on to the full story, and once the full article appears, you simply swipe the page to move on to the next. 

If you want to go back to the main page, you swipe your thumb and forefinger towards one another, and voila, you’re back to the main page.

I’ve also found the video experience to be superb.  I recently got hooked on Showtime’s Elizabethan drama “The Tudors” via Netflix.  I watched the first season via DVD, but then realized much of the show was streamable, so I plopped into the couch recently to watch King Henry VIII’s shenanigans with Anne Boleyn et al. 

The video picture was picture perfect, and despite using headphones (I’ve found the iPad external speaker to be marginally adequate, but the volume not nearly loud enough), it was like having a mini big screen TV in my lap.

Though I don’t have a lot of time for games these days, I bought and downloaded a couple of them just to test them, including RealRacingHD and Pinball HD (I know, it’s sad…I’m downloading pinball games on this exciting new gaming platform, but hey, I was raised on pinball and Asteroids!).

RealRacingHD uses the iPad’s gyro function – the iPad itself becomes the steering wheel as you navigate your way around the race course.  Totally cool, and I can’t wait to see people’s reaction to me “driving” on an airplane.

I haven’t bought any iBooks yet, but I did download some free chapters of a book just to check out the reading experience.  It’s pretty much as I would have expected: Very easy to “browse” books in the virtual bookstore, and once downloaded, pretty simple to navigate (If you can turn the page on a real book, you can use this thing).

Surprisingly, I haven’t missed many of the missing elements that I would have expected to be major downsides: No USB ports, no support for Flash, no camera.  If I need to send a video email or otherwise use a Webcam, I have other devices for that. 

As for Flash, many of the Websites I’ve visited certainly have not been functional due to this lack of support.  But I’ve also discovered other sites smartly adjusting to this and using other video streaming technology (WSJ, for example).

I did buy the small docking device for the iPad, and I have used my wireless Apple keyboard just as I would with any Mac.  However, the virtual keyboard is fine for input if it’s in small doses. 

What I miss most when docked and using the physical keyboard is a mouse – I discovered with some research that the iPad is a touch-only device, meaning you cannot use a wireless mouse (even one from Apple). 

So, net net, I’m only two weeks in but totally digging the iPad and not thinking I wasted my money at all.  As much of an Amazon fan as I am, I can hardly see going and buying a reading-only device when something like the iPad is out there, UNLESS all you want to do is read.

The iPad is a versatile, fun, hyper multimedia, and for now, single-tasking device (that may change with today’s announcements at the Apple WWDC) that I’m finding all kinds of uses for. 

No buyer’s remorse here…at least, not yet.

Written by turbotodd

June 7, 2010 at 4:13 pm

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