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Tag: ipad

iPad Laptop

I’ve recently been on holiday and decided that I wouldn’t take my laptop with me, I’d stick with my iPad Mini. I felt that I’d be able to do everything I needed to with just iOS.

Turns out, I’m not far wrong.

Keyboard

Perhaps the biggest bugbear was the keyboard. I’ve got the Logitech Keys-to-go and whilst it’s small and lightweight, I’m not a fan of using it. I’ve found that I have to hit the keys quite hard to get them to register and that isn’t that comfy. However, for what I needed the keyboard for whilst travelling, it does the job.

2017-04-24 12.24.25

Zim

Zim has become my journalling software of choice since Day One went to self run cloud sync. Zim doesn’t have an iOS app so I’m not really able to get the full effect of using it on my iPad. However, it stores all of it’s data in text files, so I’m able to use any text editor on the iPad to write in it.

I use Editorial to edit my files on the iPad, using the workflows I describe here.

With this, I was able to keep up my journalling habit without much hassle and was even able to add photos to my entries. When I got back to my PC, I was able to view everything had worked fine in Zim itself (access either via VNC on my Linux machine or the Linux Virtual Machine I keep on my Mac).

iCab Mobile

Where needed, iCab Mobile was able to download files etc for me where Safari would let me down. For example, with iCab, I was able to download GPX files from Strava and place them in Dropbox ready for when I returned to a computer and could file them on my NAS (as it was down for the duration of my trip, due to a house move).

Overall, it worked pretty well and I didn’t miss the laptop to much – certainly not with the carrying it around!

iPad Update

I’ve been using a tablet since I got my iPad 2 for a Christmas a few years back. I eventually upgraded that to an iPad Mini which I’ve then had for almost the past two years.

I’ve briefly experimented with an Android tablet (the Tesco Hudl and Hudl 2) but I haven’t been impressed with them. I just don’t get on with Android it seems.

However, I’d been debating if I wanted to upgrade the iPad. I have a laptop provided to me by my office, so I had a fully working laptop at home, as well as my iMac. I recently hadn’t seemed to be using the tablet to the best of it’s ability. I’d got an iPhone and that seemed to be my go to item for looking stuff up whilst on the sofa. However, a number of things were coming up that made me upgrade (and I’m currently glad I did).

Apps

Apps are what make the iPad great. The hardware is decent but then some of the Android tablets are good as well. However, iOS still has an advantage in productivity apps in my opinion, as well as overall better polished apps.

I’m now a monthly reader of the Judge Dredd Megazine from 2000 AD – dark and gritty. None of this US awesomeness that Marvel and DC seem to promote (though I do like the latest Marvel films).

Whilst reading them on the iPad Mini was fine, reading them on the Hudl 2 was odd. The screen ratio didn’t suit the comics and the app didn’t seem to zoom in well enough and the whole experience was a mess. I missed Chunky. This was the best PDF/CBZ reader I’d found on the iPad (though I use it for eBooks and comics only, as I use PDF Expert for reading documents as I can make notes in this) and I very quickly updated to the paid for upgrade to let me access documents in Dropbox. Useful, as that’s where my Calibre content is kept.

The bookshelf view automatically groups together items of the same time into bookshelves and these can be manually changed if required.

Chunky bookshelf

The comics themselves look fantastic on the retina screen. Hats off to both Apple and 2000AD.

Chunky Comic View

I also found that I missed Editorial and Byword. There were Android equvilants but I wasn’t happy with either of them in comparison to the iOS versions. Whilst I could move everything into Evernote and have that sync between devices, I’ve slowly moved away from Evernote for some reason – having my own notes in markdown format seems easier, though admittly searching isn’t as good on Windows systems (on the Mac, it’s fine, as I use nValt.)

Because of this app ecosystem, I felt that this detracted from my Android experience and so I decided it was time to move back.

In addition, I got the following video sent to me via Youtube’s subscribe function from Ironhide Studios…

Kingdom Rush is back! Whilst this didn’t effect my decision to get another iPad, it’s nice to see that I’ll have a tablet I can play it on. Was quite happy with the first and second one, so I’m looking forward to this version. Maybe I’ll try and complete the previous two again before this one arrives.

Hardware

The iPad is one of the best tablets on the market in my mind. I know it isn’t really fair to compare the Hudl and the iPad as they’re about £300 difference in price. However, the iPad is still one of the best tablets I’ve used. Comparing it to the Nexus 10, which my brother owns, the iPad stomps all over it in my mind. iOS and Android aside, the quality of the iPad is much nicer.

I’m yet to acquire myself a Bluetooth keyboard for it, but this is something that I’m stuck on. Whilst I can type on the Apple keyboard, it’s not really a pleasent experience in my mind – I much prefer keys with more travel. The best bluetooth keyboard I’ve ever owned is the Matias Laptop Pro, however, it’s not cheap and its not particularly easy to carry. I think I’ll need to keep an eye out on a new bluetooth keyboard to use on the go. Mind, in fairness, I have to question how often I would need the keyboard (though it is the intention to write more on the iPad in the future).

I went for the 64GB version of the iPad and I’m extremely happy I did – its made it a much more useful device. The iPad Mini I had was 16GB and it meant I could never really use it for what I wanted it for – I would keep having to delete data from it to make room for something else. With 64GB, I can happily download papers from my Zotero library (stored on Dropbox) to read as and when, I can store all my graphic novels and comics within Chunky and I don’t have to worry about deleting an old game to play a new one.

Backup

Whilst Android has instigated this, it’s a lot more transparent in iOS. Plugging in and connected to wifi, my iPad backs up itself up to the iCloud servers. This happens automatically over night. Likewise, most of the apps sync with Dropbox, so I can sync across whatever I need to from my iMac.

I’ve not yet upgraded from my free 5GB, but I imagine in the future, I’ll be upgrading to 20GB, as the backup function is excellent and extremely handy. It’s part of the reason I prefer the iPad to getting a Macbook Air, as I don’t have to run any additional programs – it’s all done in the background without me doing anything. This is in addition to a lot of the apps built in Dropbox integration. However, I note that my dad managed to lose almost a years worth of photos when it didn’t back up properly, so it’s something I need to double check occasionally. Also, because of the battery life of the iPad, it might go a day or two without being charged and it only backs up when connected to the power.

Portability

The iPad is a lot more portable than my work laptop. This makes it easier to just drop it in a bag and disappear somewhere with it. My intention is to spend some time writing magazine articles, journal articles and other items on the iPad. And I would do this outside of the house and the office. To this end, I looked at the iPad as a laptop replacement. As I use plain text for writing and I can pretty much do almost everything else I need to do on the iPad, this made sense.

Conclusions

Overall, I’m happy with the purchase. I think it already sees more use than a laptop would have done in the same situation and it’s carried around with me where I go. It manages to do almost all the tasks I need it to do, but only falls short on a few specialised tasks. The biggest one I wish that could be done is to upload and download from my Garmin 800 to Strava – however, this might be possible using a camera connection kit and a file manager app, but I’ve not fully investigated that possibility.

It’s extremely handy, and I’m finding that I’ll often sit on the sofa with the iPad rather than boot the iMac up (though this is potentially down to catching up with Lost on Amazon Instant Prime at the same time…). Even posting this to my blog is easy from the iPad.

The speed increase from the iPad Mini is well worth it. I’m going to try and use it to go more paperless in the office – the intention being to take notes whilst I’m in meetings on the iPad, rather than on paper. I’ll see how this goes (I imagine it’ll come down to my typing speed).

Markdown – Syntax Missing

So coming to edit some Markdown notes on my iPad today and I come across one flaw. Don’t get me wrong, I love Markdown and my Markdown app of choice (Writing Kit) is fantastic, with Dropbox auto sync (every 10 key strokes) and built in web browser, it’s still missing something.

That something happens to be syntax highlighting. I didn’t realise how much I miss it until hitting it up on the iPad and missing the feeling I get when I see the different colour code such as when I open documents in Multimarkdown Editor on the mac. I just get presented with a wall of text and that’s no great.

The syntax highlighting breaks up my work and makes it easier to read – why isn’t there an iOS markdown editor with syntax highlighting? Textastic says it does markdown highlighting but I can’t seem to get it working. It’ll even import Textmate syntaxes, but again, no luck there.

Any ideas?

iPad Experiement – The Results

Early Morning

So the day didn’t get off to a good start really. Friday sees me paying some regular bills and moving some money around. Not an issue, I can easily check the payments using the Santander iPad/iPhone app. Easy. However, the problem comes in when I try and add it to my financial records. I keep these in GNUCash OffSite Link and with no iPad app, I’m stuck having to use the main desktop to enter the details in.

Easily done using the iSSH OffSite Link app which let me log into my home Mac, open up GNUCash and enter the details. I found the bluetooth keyboard to actually be a hinderace at this point – using the onboard keyboard was much easier. Once that was done, it was time to log off and head to work.

iSSH showing my Mac desktop

Work

So getting into work, it was pretty amazing to just get out the iPad, stand and keyboard – the whole affair was small and tidy, compared to my usual Macbook, mouse, hard drives, cables everywhere and paper and pen. This seemed much tidier than normal, possibly due to the fact the keyboard was the only accessory I had out and that’s wireless (bluetooth), compared to my mouse and charging cables.

Once that was all sorted, I started the Textastic OffSite Link app and got down to work. Textastic is a great app, with Dropbox and FTP functionality built in, meaning that I could easily connect to Dropbox, and download my LaTeX code to get working on my thesis. I prefer Textastc over other apps because it has this functionality built in and it support LaTeX syntax highlighting which is a great help (it also supports TextExpander OffSite Link snippets which I use on the Mac and therefore makes it fairly similar to working on my Mac). I found the ability to portrait layout the iPad to be a nice change from working widescreen across (which I’ve found to be a pain sometimes on the smaller laptop screen – certainly it’s not so nice for displaying PDF documents which tend to be portrait aligned).

TexTastic on the iPad

I’m a big music fan (if you head over to my Last.fm page linked in the sidebar to the left), you’ll see that I’m a big fan of music (and Last.fm!). However, I only have the 16GB iPad and most of the used space on my iPad is used for apps. I have plenty of space for some music but not all of it. That’s where Audiogalaxy OffSite Link comes in. Install the help application on your home PC, set it find music and it’ll find it and stream it to your iPad or iPhone with the free app. No faffing with portforwarding or anything like that. It also supports on the fly Last.fm streaming so I don’t have to worry about connecting the iPad to iTunes to upload my listens! The app performed fantastically and also has a iTunes Genius style feature (called Genie…) that works fairly well.

Browsing was done using either the Tapatalk OffSite Link app or using Mercury Browser OffSite Link which performs nicer than Safari and allows me to set the default search engine and looks more like Firefox or Safari on the Mac.

New tab page of Mercury Browser

I have it setup to use the excellent Duck Duck Go web search, rather than the default Google client as I’m no longer a fan of Google’s privacy policy and ability to track everything, even when they shouldn’t OffSite Link.

Afternoon

The afternoon saw me take an early trip home to do some work from the comfort of my sofa. Easily down when the combined weight of the iPad and keyboard is under the weight of a Macbook Pro. (The keyboard and stand weigh more than the iPad! The iPad 2 is 601g according to Apple and the Logitech Keyboard is 771g!)

Setting up, I was easily able to use it for a Skype conference call for a LSU Airsoft committee meeting where it performed fantastically.

I also took some notes on a book, noting them down in Writing Kit OffSite Link so that they sync automatically to Dropbox, ready for me to use on the Mac. This point is somewhere where the iPad falls down. I take notes in Markdown and then I copy and paste the output Markdown into Evernote on the Mac. For some reason, Evernote doesn’t remember (and sync) the copy and paste formatting unless I copy and paste in from Chrome (and only Chrome). Also, I attach the Markdown file to the note in case I need to edit it at a later date – this I cant do on the iPad.

Last thing before bed was to update my Day One OffSite Link journal. The easy sync between the iPad, Dropbox and my Mac means that it’ll remain in sync when I move back to the Mac tomorrow.

Overall

Overall the day was fairly successful in using just the iPad. However, I should point out there were a few instances where I needed to VNC to my home PC to sort out some work – this demonstrates that the iPad isn’t suitable for replacing a laptop completely (as a researcher, I have to use data analysis tools as well which aren’t iPad compatible).

However, as far as today went, the experiment went pretty well. It’s something I’ll be doing more often I think as I move from less research and more writing in regards to my thesis.

The main problem I found was app switching – it would be nice to have an easy method of switching apps on the keyboard (such as ⌘ + Tab on the Mac). In the mean time, it was best to double press the home button the Logitech keyboard and select the app I wanted from the recently used apps bar along the bottom. A bit annoying as it means I have to take my hands off the keyboard to do so but not the end of the world.

As far as the iPad goes, it’s not just a content consumer, it’s also incredibly productive. The instant on programs were great – something that some of the Mac programs could learn from!

iPad Experiment

Ok, so I’ve had the iPad for a while now and it’s been a great help to me for work. Just being able to mark up PDF papers (I read a lot of academic papers and the ability to highlight corrections etc in my thesis drafts is fantastic), keep a copy of my notes beside my Macbook screen and be a small, easy to use, portable device I can easily carry around, easier than my MBP is terrific.

This past weekend I visited Leeds and managed to use the iPad as my main method of working/browsing the web/connecting to people and it performed pretty damn well.

However, tomorrow I’m going to try and last the day using only the iPad, based on an article I mentioned earlier last year (I swapped my MacBook for an iPad+Linode OffSite Link). So tomorrow, I’ll be attmepting to work solely from my iPad. Well, maybe note quite solely, I’ll be using the equipment below.

Equipment

  • iPad 2 (16GB wifi model)
  • Logitech Tablet Keyboard

  • Mac Mini (running at home – connectable via VNC)
  • Headphones and iPad Stylus

Based on that equipment, I should be covered for everything I need. I’ll be using iPad native apps where possible – ideally I’d like to minimise the use of the VNC connection as I know that isn’t an option if I don’t have a network connection (either where I am or if my home network craps out!)

Either way, I’ll be posting tomorrow (or Saturday) on how it goes!