Friday, April 24, 2015

Post-PC Day 6

Yes, I skipped a day of posting due to an injury while working out. There was no Day 5 post. Tomorrow I will be writing the Day 7 post, which will be the final post of this particular series.

Now that’s out of the way, it’s time to press on. What I have learned so far? For starters, the basics of moving to a Post-PC lifestyle are easy. My iPhone does well over 90% of what I need a traditional PC to do. It has been fairly rare that I felt that I needed to use my laptop. In fact the only need I currently have for my laptop is to get the media files currently stored on it. However, as part of this experiment, I shut down my laptop to force myself to find new ways of doing things.

Part of that learning process included discovering what apps would be needed, and what would be just nice to have. I don’t want to spoil my final post on this project, but I have come to a few realizations. Sorry, but you will have to check back tomorrow to get all my findings.

What I can say though, this experiment has been frustrating, fun, exciting and more than a little educational. So why would anyone put themselves through all of this, on purpose? Because I can, and because of Ubuntu.

A while back Ubuntu starting talking about a PC in your pocket. You dock your device and you can use a real keyboard, mouse and screen and get a real desktop. However, this is actually a major disadvantage and sets up Ubuntu to fail even before they got started.

In theory Ubuntu had a great idea. The reality is all you really get a terrible PC. The fact is a phone uses, not only a mobile processor, but a R.I.S.C. processor. R.I.S.C. is an acronym for Reduced Instruction Set Computing. There are all kinds of processors in the world and if you are reading this on a modern PC, your most likely using a C.I.S.C., or Complex Instruction Set Computing, based computer. The Intel line of x86 chips alone have multiple sets of these complex instructions sets. Without going into to much detail, the bottom line is that a desktop processor (CPU or GPU) will always be more powerful than it’s mobile counterpart.

The Ubuntu model attempts to bring desktop computing to mobile, a grand and futile goal. When a user sits down in front of a real keyboard, mouse and screen, they are going to expect real PC performance. A certain level of capability has become expected by just abut everyone who uses computers. The performance just will never be there. As mobile devices become more and more powerful, so do the laptops, desktops, servers, workstations and everything else that people use every day. The Mobile Desktop is a pipe dream.

What is really needed is a new way to work, a new way to learn to use devices to get real world work done. You can’t use new tools that have a completely new way of user interaction, and completely different capabilities (in most cases less capable) to do things in the same way they have always been done. It’s just not going to work.

So what is the answer then? While I am still learning, you will have to read tomorrows post for the conclusion of this experiment.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Post-PC Day 4

So, here I am at day four of my test. So far it has been, well, interesting. As I said once before, storage is the key. Right now there are more than a few media files on my laptop that I really want to access, but I wont. I am actually in the middle of an audio book and the second half is still on my laptop. While it is kind of frustrating it is also informative. I really need more portable storage.

To that end I found this Seagate wireless hard drive. On the surface it looks like a really good deal. However, it still doesn’t solve all of my storage needs. What about SD Cards? I do have an “action camera” and to be honest I would like to go on using it. So while this is a step in the right direction, I was certain there was a better solution to be had.

Enter Western Digital, with their MyPassport External Wireless HardDrive, that not only hold a whopping 2TB of data, also holds an standard SD Card slot. Combined with a decent app I am sure this will go a very long way to getting me to my dream of a Post-PC world.

The downside? Cost. Really though, for less than $200 it is a really good deal. I just don’t have the $200 at the moment. So while I can theorize about how it “should work”, or at least how I think it should work, reality usually has a way of biting you in the back side if you take too much for granted. A review of this drive will have to wait, for now. But it is the most promising lead I have found so far.

As day four comes to a close, I find that I am missing my media files more than my laptop. Only three more days, I can wait that long. Right?

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Post-PC Day 3

So far so good, mostly. I still haven’t found a good external storage solution. I am trying very hard to stay away from cloud drives, network attached storage (NAS) and anything that can’t also be (nearly) as portable as the phone itself. I realize this is asking a lot, but I am confident that I will be able to find a solution.

Really though, that is the big hurdle at this point. Everything else is going to depend on the way the iPhone interacts with whatever local storage solution I can come up with.

Seriously. Every major web site I visit (FB, Google+, YouTube, Vimeo, most forums, etc..) have a dedicated app. Granted some are from a third party developer, but many of those are just as polished as the big names. So really access to content is no longer the hassle it used to be.

Creating content is not nearly as bad as it used to be either. With native apps such as Garage Band, iMovie and third party apps like Camera+ the phone has all of the tools you need. Once again, this is not really much of a problem. The problem really comes down to storage.

Once I have some more time (today I am pressed for time to even write this post) I will make sure I give as detailed analyses as I can for what options are available, and what I think should be available.

At the end of the day though, which this is the end of my day, I am still happy with going Post-PC.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Post-PC Day 2

My laptop has been shut down since the start of day 1 of this little experiment of mine. So far, there have been a few changes. Some were expected, and others not so much.

The first change I noticed is that I spend a lot less time “at the computer”. I don’t mean that I have switched my time from computer to my iPhone. I actually spend less time online. My dog seems to like this a lot.

Another change I noticed, even when I am not online, and I need a “real” keyboard, I don’t sit at my desk. I sit at the dining room table with my Bluetooth Keyboard and my phone. My entire work flow, including what I think of as “work space” is changing. A complete lack of wires and much much smaller hardware allows me to work just about anywhere in the house. Its a strangely liberating experience in that I no longer feel bound to any one place to get things done.

This part I was not prepared for. Yes, having a laptop meant that I could work anywhere, for a while. When I do actual work, I tend to do a lot of it. Diving in with complete focus and making the most of every minute. This aggravates my wife to no end as I tend to tune out everything around me.

You see, when I am on the laptop, I am also listening to music, doing the whole email thing, multiple browsers open, more than a few documents and usually at least two spreadsheets are all open at the same time. I am <gasp> multitasking. The iPhone doesn’t handle that real well, and as it turns out, its a good thing.

By keeping my apps smallish (mobile version) and taking the time to find new ways to do things I have discovered that I can get more done in less time by concentrating on one task at a time. Although I still listen to music while working. That will probably never stop. I love music and Apple does music very very well. It really is a great fit.

Then the laptop battery would get low and I would scramble for an outlet after only a few hours. All this while the hot aluminum shell got (sometimes uncomfortably) warm on my legs. With my iPhone, I not only get all day battery life, I get it for days. I recharge my phone every night starting around eleven p.m., where it usually is still around 75% charged. I have gone two and half days with out charging just to see how long it would take.

For now at least, I am loving the Post-PC experiment I have set out for myself. I still haven’t figured out all the answers, but I see a lot of potential in this new workflow. Only five more days to go before I end this experiment. Only time will tell.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

iPhone Storage

Apple has a set business model that has made them a revenue generating powerhouse. It works very very well, for them. Don’t get me wrong. I love my iPhone, my MacBook Pro, Apple TV and every other iDevice or product I have ever purchased. They are all made exceedingly well, and last well past what would be a comparable devices normal life cycle. Apple makes products to last. They also make products you want to buy, and that is the secret sauce.

However, when it comes to storage in most Apple products, you get what you pay for. Nothing else. A 16Gb iPod will forever hold 16Gb. Less if you account for the space taken by iOS.

There is hope on the horizon, sort of. A few companies are trying to break the barrier, but they are doing so in the same manner that made Apple what it is. The Leaf Bridge is one such example. Yes, it is stylish. Yes it is over priced for what it is. So yes, they should do well with those who buy Apple products. Basically, it is a just a regular USB thumb drive that comes with a custom app that lets you actually move files between the drive and your phone. One file at a time. Ok, the app needs work, but it’s a start.

There is also this guy. Yet another contender to the burgeoning market of iPhone storage. The iStick (that name though … ) is another example of lack of forward thinking. Then again, it may be just that. If the idea is to get people to buy more than one of something, then I guess this would be one way of doing that.

There are others out there, some better than others, some worse. Some even let you connect micro SD Cards of various sizes. Each device has its own custom app that must be used with a particular device. Each has its set of features that promise the world, and most fall short. Some of these are not entirely the fault of the app developer.

Apple places strict limits on what any one app can access. This makes the iPhone very secure when compared to Android, and probably has something to do with why government agencies are slated to begin issuing iPhones in favor of the venerable Blackberries that government employees previously used. Security on iOS is very tight, as long as you don’t jailbreak your device. For the most part this is a good thing, but sometimes it makes development a real pain in the … epidermis.

As an example an App like DropBox can’t really access the files you saved in iCould when using such apps as Pages, Word, or even the Notes app. What apps like DropBox can do is use an “open with” option, to open the file in an external app. Apps like Camera+ need special permission granted to it in order to access the photo’s you have saved on your phone. Even then, there are “hidden” files in the same folder as your folder that neither you nor “Third Party Apps” can see or access.

Even with these restrictions in place, it is possible to develop a great app for external storage. There are several such apps in the App Store for accessing Network Attached Storage (NAS) and share drives from other desktops. While such Apps go a long way, they are still missing the point of the Post-PC era. To work and play effectively without a traditional PC.

So, what is the right answer then? I have always been a fan of choice. Strange sentiment from a iPhone user I know, but it’s true. I personally own thumb drives, SD Cards, external hard drives and a few standards that didn’t quite survive the popularity wars. I would like to be able to use all of these things, or at least most of them.

My idea then? Two parts, an app and a piece of hardware. Go figure. However, the app would be free and the hardware would cost just $24.99. The secret is, the hardware is just a dongle with a female USB port. This would allow you to plug in any standard SD Card reader, external hard drive, thumb drive, flash card reader, whatever. Any type of mass storage device that can operate over USB can be plugged in. If that works out, then why not a “Pro” version for $50 that allows you to connect two devices at the same time so you can move files between the drives. Something like copy the files from your cameras SD Card to a 1TB external HD. The app is just there to handle the transfer, or to copy the files to your phone for editing.

Honestly, this doesn’t even have to be a dongle. It could be a small wifi box with USB and SD Card ports. Think of a Wifi GoPro Camera without the camera. The GoPro file handling app works well enough on it’s own for this to work. Think of filming on the iPhone 6 Plus, in Slow-Motion, with the massive file sizes that it generates. How nice would be to be able to dump that off to say a 3Tb hard drive. You could keep shooting without to much interruption, and still have the files for post processing.

In the long run, it may happen, it may not. But whatever happens, mobile storage solutions are a real need that could be filled for very little investment.

ByWord2

ByWord,

The iOS App ByWord claims to use Markdown, or Mark something-or-other, inorder to provide dynamic text that you would normally find in say, an RTF or Word Document. So far, it seems to be a strait forward application for saving plain text. You can use do a few things like:

  • Create a list
  • Add BOLD text
  • Or even italics

This, of course, is part of the markdown *syntax that ByWord uses. Honestly it reminds of posting on Google+. Weather or not any of these marks acttualy translate into formatted text remains to be seen.

One of the things I have noticed, and it kind of made me … erked … was the ability to publish directly with ByWord was an add $4.99 in-app purchase. This, after the original $5.99 app price puts the total app at $10.98. A little expensive in my opinion, and to be fair, the publisher did list the in-app purchase in the description. I guess that’ll teach me to read everything before committing.

Another pet-peeve that I found was spellcheck was disabled by default. Why would you do that? The navigation is also more than little lacking. I can only assume it meant to be spartan. However, if you have never used the app before, it is a little less than intuitive.

Over all though, I really like it. I like that can save documents to dropbox, I can open iCloud documents and basically it gives me a lot of flexibility. Something that is all to often missing in iOS and the apps available for it. For this reason, and a few others that more personal preferance, I think I will come to like this app very much.

This largest hurdle to overcome has been the markdown itself. As I am not used to using markdown, as such, it has been a case of trial end error.

Test from imgur

The above image is one I posted on Instagram a long time ago, and is only being used to test image support in ByWord and to see how well it shows up in Blogger.

The one thing I wish Byword did offer, was a way to publish as a draft to Blogger. Although, I probably would be doing that now instead of learning to get the Markdown correct before publishing. Still, it would be a nice feature.

I have also discovered that by using the “eject key” on my keyboard (a standard Apple Bluetooth) I can bring up a menu at the top, and there is an option to preview the Markdown before publishing. A great addition. So, as I said before, the interface has a learning curve, but it is meant to be spartan.

All in all though, the clean interface allows me to concentrate more on writing and less on formatting, which I like a lot.

Post PC - Day 1

    So, today I start something I never really thought I would actually get to try, Post-PC. I will spend a week without using my computer. I will use my iPhone and that's really about it. I should point out, at work, I am required to use a Windows PC on a closed network. It's my Job and there is just no getting around that.

    What I can do is keep the two completely separate. This is actually fairly easy, since my work computer is on a closed network with it's own email system.

    So what will change? For one thing, I love shooting video, including with my SJCam (GoPro clone). I will need to find a way to get those videos off of the SD Card and on to my phone, without using a PC. Of course, all this would be easier with an Android Phone, sort of. Yes I could access the SD Card on some Android models, but then what? Even that doesn't answer the "how" to get the videos off of teh card. Yes, I can delete them, and eventually I will.

    I have quite a number of storage solutions around the house (a myriad of SD Cards, thumb drives, hard drives and the like) but they all depend on one common element, a PC. At this point, I would be open to suggestions or ideas.

    Someone else may have spent weeks, or even months planning such a transition. Me? I tend to just jump right in and see what happenes. This should go ... well. 

Saturday, April 18, 2015

iPhone 6 Plus ... more (and less) than expected

     While the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus were released as far back as September 2014, I am just now getting my hands on one. Specificaly the iPhone 6 Plus. This thing is massive. If I didn't know better, I would say they (Apple) are trying to compete directly with the Galaxy Note line of phones. The battery last for days. Honestly. I have been using this thing heavily for two days I am just now dropping below 20%.

    With this release Apple has continued to blur the lines, though not between iOS and osX. Instead, with iPhone 6 Plus, it blurs the lines between iPhone and iPad. The screen has a native 1080p resolution, and is large enough that Apple decided that the main "desktop" screen should also have a landscape mode. However, I still can't use Blogsy as it is an iPad only app.

    On the plus side, the camera is (of course) amazing and with the size and feel of the iPhone 6 Plus, I was thinking that thing should be able to be about as close to a desktop replacement as you can get. So, I have decided to find out just how well (or poorly) this will work out.

    I will spend the next few days not using my MacBook Pro at all. In fact, I am writing this post on the iPhone with an Apple Bluetooth Keyboard. As I am justgetting started with this, the fact that I have no real "plan" and that I am not sure what apps are available to replace my desktop apps, one would think this is doomed to failure before it even really gets started. But that's the idea. What would it take for the average user, who is used to using both a computer and a mobile device or two to completly drop the traditional "PC" as an everyday device? Is the iPhone 6 Plus up to it? I'll be honest; I really don't think so. However, I will give it a fair shot. 

    So, in the interest of fairness, tonight, before I go to bed, I will power down my trusted and proven laptop. I will leave it off for seven days. If I have to open it up to solve an issue, the test will be a failure.