Category Archives: Apple

Who needs a laptop?

On a recent trip to Iqaluit (Nunavut), I basically used my Android based #Xoom tablet and a Logitech BlueTooth keyboard for 4 days straight. Only time I broke out the MacBook Pro was for a mindmapping session with a client, and that was because I hadn’t tested the excellent MindJet app with a VGA projector yet, so I didn’t want to take a risk. Used Docs2Go for word processing and spreadsheets, native email/Skype clients, MindJet (for brainstorming), camera/video capture apps, MoboPlayer (for movies, since the TV available didn’t have connection), and many of the Adobe apps for design, creative and annotation.

Sitting down with my MBP, Ubuntu and Windows laptops now at home, I realize that I haven’t used them in nearly two months. LOT of security updates to keep me busy today.

I’ve heard of people trying to “live on a tablet” for a few days as a test of their technical mojo and to explore the current state of mobile software, but it seems that I’ve been doing this without even trying. Very impressive. I wonder where we’ll be this time next year?

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Playing with iOS5, Lion and iCloud

Upgraded both my iPhone and my iPad2 to iOS5 yesterday, and my MacBook Pro to Lion. Aside from the infuriating reverse-direction scrolling in Lion (push up to go down and vice-versa — I’m too hardwired), I have to admit that I like the whole experience. I’m assuming that I’ll have to await more iOS apps’ use of the notification system –the only thing appearing there so far with mine is Apple Mail– but it’s a far cry better than the pop-up alerts from before. (Tap tap tap tap –what was that? Oh, dammit — tap tap tap….)

Not fond of the app switching yet in iOS5, although it’s still better than iOS4: use all the fingers of your hand to swipe the app “off” one side or the other. It reminds me of a poor man’s webOS card system, the biggest differences being that you don’t actually flip between all the cards in a nice visual manner, and there’s no stacking of related/conjoined cards in a deck (e.g., the PDF viewer that you called up from the email app). Better than Android Gingerbread’s standard icon-based view, but nowhere near as nice as Honeycomb’s thumbnail views. Plus, I can’t seem to do much in the background yet, like how in Android I can download torrents, suck down podcast files, run installs, and put almost any app in the background and it still carries on, pushing out a notification when its job is done.

Still wrapping my head around the tacky faux-leather-with-stitching interface of some of the apps. Really, Apple? You don’t think that’s a wee bit tacky? Like, 6 years ago, tacky?

I haven’t played with the magazine/press shelf or the iBooks yet, since I already use platform-agnostic Zinio and Amazon for that. I don’t want to be tied into only one hardware platform.

iCloud has a streamlined web interface of mail that’s nice and clean, very Apple-like and an improvement over the last time I used Apple dotMac Mail some 3 years ago. The calendar and contacts web apps look very much like the iPad versions, and I must admit that I don’t have Pages, Keynote or Numbers on my iPad yet, so the documents online sync is rather useless for me at the moment. (Again, I like the platform-agnostic Google Apps that allows other programs, such as Docs to Go, to synchronize with it.)

One inevitable conclusion: you really have to want to invest in this ecosystem if you want to make the most of it. Unless you’re running a Mac full time on the desktop (me, I use Linux 80% of the time), have purchased and used mostly iWork (which isn’t available outside a Mac), and only use iOS devices (me, I use Android phones and tablets most of the time, with an occasional foray into my iPhone, iPad2 or HP webOS TouchPad), you’re not going to get the full benefit of this holy Apple Trinity of iOS5, Lion and iCloud.

More thoughts later as I dive in.

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Syncing a Newton with a Modern Mac

My Newton MessagePad 2100 remains disconnected from my computer and the world at large while I wait for a) a Newton 2100 Serial Adapter Dongle; or b) Andriano’s Newton-USB dongle. Thus I’m taking this time to play around with my Newton eMate 300 and a few of the available sync programs. To tell the truth, I had heard so many intimidating and frustrating things about synchronising a Newton with a modern Intel-based Mac OS X box that I doubted I’d ever bother with it. Sure, I could always go back to my Pismo and OS 9, but my wife has now claimed that machine, and besides, I want to sync with my OS X address book, calendar, and so forth.

So, my current set-up: a 15″ MacBook Pro, a stock eMate 300, an old-school Mac serial cable, and a Keyspan USA-28X serial-to-USB adapter. One end of the serial cable plugs into the eMate, the other end into the Keyspan, and the Keyspan’s USB connector into my MacBook Pro. Keyspan drivers are downloaded and installed.

First, the most basic sync program: NewTen, by Panic Software’s Steven Frank. This is basically a package installer. I choose my Keyspan connect, set the eMate to dock via serial, and drag a Newton package onto the app. After a little while –remember that a serial connection can be rather slow– the eMate has the package installed. A one-trick pony at the moment, perhaps, but it works well.

Second, Simon Bell’s NCX, also known as Newton Connection. This is an impressive little app that looks to replace Apple’s official Newton Connection Utilities (NCU). While it doesn’t yet do full synchronisation, it currently has the ability to:

  • Install packages through a drag and drop;
  • Import and export NewtonWorks “paper” (text) files as RTF and Notes files as text, plus Calendars and Names.
  • Back up and restore the programs, extensions and data files on the Newton.
  • A pass-through keyboard. This is neat. Whatever you type on your computer comes out on the Newton. Drag and drop text on the window to copy it into whatever program is currently open on the Newton, right where you’ve put the cursor.

The latter has proven handy to drop text right into a NewtonWorks or Notes file right from the Mac’s desktop. The export works well too — I’ve written four articles on the eMate thus far (including this one).

The third program I’ve been trying out is NewtSync, also known as nSync. (*cough*) I’ve already used this program to transfer all 200 of my OS X Address Book entries to my eMate, and am now experimenting with its text, outliner, calendar, and newsfeed synchronisation. It’s still an early release, and so I’m attempting each sync with extreme caution, being sure to back up my data often. Thus far, no problems.

I should note that none of these programs were created by Apple, nor are they sponsored by Apple in any way: these are hard-wrought fan projects, pure and simple. There’s something to be said for the dedication needed to program such things, given that the Newton platform was prematurely canceled nearly a decade ago.

More posts later, no doubt, as I learn the ins and outs, strengths and weaknesses, of each of these applications.

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YANN – Yet Another Newton Newbie

eMate 300In two articles for DIYPlanner, one about the MessagePad 2100 and another about the eMate, I mentioned how I’ve got the decade-old Apple Newton bug. Given that the site is mostly about paper-based fetishes, there’s only so much I can say there without upsetting the apple cart. (No pun intended.) Here I can say a little more.

It’s a little bizarre: I normally receive a half-dozen email per article, in addition to the 6-12 comments left on the site. These Newton articles not only generated a lot of comments, but some 30 email, and were picked up by The Unofficial Apple Weblog and –giving me a brief and unexpected laugh-out-loud instant in a supermarket check-out line– on the MacBreak Weekly podcast. Most of the email posed the same conundrum: “I’ve always wanted a Newton, too…. Should I buy one on eBay?”

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