All posts by Thomas

My name is probably Thomas (yes, it is). I'll be able to help you figure out why Evernote isn't syncing, or recommend your favourite new RSS reader to you. That's partly because I am enamoured with the iOS ecosystem and hardware, but mostly because I'm Canadian.

Transferring 24MP Pictures To My iPad With The PlayMemories App

  
I recently purchased a Sony A6000 so that I could take more dramatic videos and stylish review shots. One of the biggest changes I’ve been adjusting to is that modern cameras actually have Wi-Fi on board, and so I can transfer my 24 MegaPixel JPEGs right from the camera to my iPad for editing on-the-go. I can do all of this thanks to the PlayMemories app on the App Store, which allows me to connect straight to the ad-hoc network broadcast by my camera. 

This is an awesome setup for me, as I can take a few hundred burst shots while I’m playing tennis with friends and then send all of them over to my iPad while we break for lunch. It takes about 5-10 minutes for each set of 100 shots, and so the transfer is usually complete by the time my friends and I are done eating. I can then cull all of the crappy out-of-focus shots from the iPad’s 10-inch screen, and even start editing photos with some of my favourite extensions. 

When I get home, I don’t even have to worry about transferring pictures off of the camera to the Mac. iCloud Photo Library automatically uploads all of the JPEGs from the iPad to my iPhone and Mac. This workflow is a dream come true for me, and it’s a far cry from the days of requiring iPad memory card adapters, or worse: transferring all photos from the camera to iPhoto, and then syncing lower resolution versions to the iPad through iTunes. 

I’ve been using the iPad as a computer substitute and a second screen for years now, and so it’s a thrill to be able to use the machine in a new context. It’s amazing how versatile this little tablet is proving to be.

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Typing Comfortably on the iPad 

  

One of my ongoing missions, despite all of the lovely hardware keyboards available, is to find a way to write comfortably for longer periods of time on the iPad. I’m actually surprised there aren’t more articles out there that acknowledge that the iPad isn’t really a very ergonomic setup for touch typing. I can’t be the only one suffering from occasional pins and needles, or soreness from typing for too long at the tablet.
In fact, a few minutes of typing is usually enough to I start to cause the dreaded finger tingles that signal the return of RSI. However, in the interests of science and my own morbid curiousity, I push onward and try out different sitting and typing positions every once in a while.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about my posture while I type and how it distributes the weight and pressure on my wrists. My latest attempt at a more sustainable typing position involves keeping my feet flat on the ground, lower back pressed ups against the chair, and generally reclining while looking down at the iPad. This takes a lot of strain off of my wrists, and because I don’t have to bend them upwards as far, and I’m finding I can type for a good 15-20 minutes in this position before actually feeling uncomfortable.

Another key has been to experiment with keyboards that minimize the numbers of keystrokes I actually need to complete a sentence. I’ve written about Nintype and Fleksy before,but I’m giving SwiftKey another thank due to its more aggressive auto-suggestion algorithm. SwiftKey is much faster the iOS QuickType keyboard at showing corrections and at displaying predictions for what my next word will be, so a lot of my typing can be reduced to simply tapping on the spacebar to confirm the currently suggested word.

I’m also learning to try and type at a slower pace on the iPad. Doing so has reduced the number of typos in my pieces, but also made it a little easier on my hands. My fingers tend to fly on real keyboards because I can feel the he rhythm of a sentence and how much pressure certain keys will respond to, but it’s a very different experience on a touchscreen that doesn’t move. I’m finding a lighter, more deliberate touch just feels better and ends up being more accurate overall.

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Review: Pencil Stylus for iPad

 

I’ve had about four months to use the Pencil Stylus from FiftyThree, and I think it’s now safe enough to call this purchase a success. I was initially worried by reviews I’ve seen on Amazon that suggest that the Pencil can’t hold up for very long before breaking, but I’ve been taking the stylus around everywhere with me for a few months now, and it’s handling everyday wear and tear just fine. The rubber tip and eraser require a bit of a wipe down every few days, but that has been the extent of the upkeep.

I bought the Pencil because I wanted a solid stylus to help me draw more accurately within the Paper app. Pencil nails that with its great build quality and interesting material choices. I like that this stylus is made out of wood, yet still feels right at home alongside my aluminum iPad.

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The New MacBook As An iPad Alternative 

 

The reviews of the new MacBook are out and they’re a little divided. Everyone seems to like the body and the lightness and the Retina Display, but opinions differ on the quality of the keyboard and the single port design.

But why am I talking about reviews of a new MacBook on an iPad website? That’s because there’s something that a few writers, like John Gruber at Daring Fireball or Christina Warren at Mashable, have picked up on: the new MacBook could function as an iPad-like device.

After all, at just two pounds, the new laptop is only slightly heavier than an iPad Air 2 and accompanying keyboard case. Then there’s the portability in terms of physical dimensions. This new MacBook is actually a little slimmer than the existing 11-inch MacBook Air, which means it’s about as bag-friendly as an iPad Air.

I’m actually entering a newfound era of iPad appreciation lately, and yet I admit I still find the new MacBook tempting as a possible iPad replacement. I’d be able to carry the computer everywhere just like I do with the iPad, but I could do so with the full power of OS X with me, without sacrificing the Retina Display.

The one majorly prohibitive aspect of the new laptop is its price: it’s over $1500 Canadian for the base model with 128 GB of storage. It does have the requisite 8GB of RAM I would want from a serious computer, but that amount of money is just too much to fork over for a device that could compete with the iPad for similar tasks and portability. I’ll stick to my current combo of a Retina MacBook Pro and iPad Air 2 for now.

All that said, I’m now even more excited to see how Apple refreshes the iPad lineup this fall. Force Touch looks so promising on the Apple Watch and MacBook, but I think it could really come into its own on the iPad.

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iOS 8.3 Now Available  for iPad 

iOS 8.3 is now available for download and there are a few reasons this release might be particularly exciting for avid iPad users:

  • iCloud Photo Library is now out of beta, and the Photos app for Mac is also available in, so you can give the service a try across all of your Apple devices now
  • Performance improvements have been announced across the board for first party apps, third party  keyboards, and Wi-Fi connectivity
  • Messages now has more powerful anti spam features for those who suffer from unwanted texts
  • A new emoji keyboard is now available with easier access and a more inclusive set of icons for people of different races and orientations
  • Many more bug fixes and under the hood improvements

I’m glad that this update is out so that my family can also try iCloud Photo Library across all of their devices, but I’m disappointed that I’m still seeing keyboard crashes. You’d think six months would be enough time to iron out the kinks…

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Review: Nintype Keyboard for iPad

 

 

Nintype is an incredible keyboard concept, and I think it could prove to be one of the very best ways to type on a tablet screen. I’ve always thought that an awesome touchscreen keyboard would involve a mix of tapping and swiping, which is exactly what Nintype offers. But the most innovative feature of this keyboard is that it can accept taps and swipes within the same word.

Other keyboards like Swype require that you complete an entire word by tracing a single line through multiple letters for a single word, which can be very clumsy for words that are longer than five characters long. Nintype addresses this by allowing me to write by using combinations of taps and swipes, in whatever order I like.

For example, typing the word “keyboard” starts with a tap on the letter “K”, then my left thumb taps “E”, my right thumb traces a line from Y-B-O and then my left thumb finishes by tracing through “A” then “R” then “D”. Working with Nintype is a lot like learning a dance. There’s a rhythm and order to the process, and it’s confounding to witness for the first few minutes. However, the really impressive thing is that this idea actually works out in practice… and it’s really fun to use.

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Flare 2 For Custom Photo Filters On My iPad

I took advantage of the current Mac App Store promo and picked up a copy of Flare 2 for $7, which I think that will really unlock the potential of the Flare Effects app on my iPad.

I now do most of my editing within the Photos app in iOS. I use the basic iOS sliders to adjust basic light and color, add a hint of sharpening in the Afterlight photo extension, and then save the changes. One thing that’s missing from this editing flow is the set of filters I used to apply within VSCO Cam. I love VSCO’s filters, but I don’t like having to import pictures into VSCO to edit, and then save those edits as new pictures in my photo library. That process creates a lot of clutter.

So on the advice of Ben Brooks, I’m going to give Flare 2 a shot. The Mac app can create photo filters and sync them to the companion iOS apps, which have working extensions in the Photos app. If I can manage to create a few filter sets I really like, Flare 2 should essentially act as a suitable VSCO replacement.

I still have to figure out exactly what kind of filters I’d like to try and recreate, but I’m excited at the prospect. If you’d like to pick up Flare 2, it’s still on sale for 50% right now. The Flare Effects iPad app is completely free.

 

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Four Month Update: iCloud Photo Library On My iPad

  

I had someone on Twitter ask me about how iCloud Photo Library was working out, so I thought I would provide an update. iCloud Photo Library is officially still in beta, but I’m so tired of managing photos across my Mac, iPhone, and iPad that I’m willing to be Apple’s guinea pig in this regard. I previously uploaded all of my photos to iCloud Photo Library thanks to the power of the Photo Transfer app. After a few weeks of testing, I took the leap and uploaded all of my videos as well. So I’ve gotten to the point where all of my personal videos and photos are loaded into the cloud.

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iPad App of the Week: Afterlight

 Who doesn’t like great iPad apps? At iPad Insight we definitely do. With that in mind, we offer up a quick review of an excellent iPad app, or a few great iPad apps, here each week.

Our weekly picks for Best iPad App of the Week are published here every Saturday. Check out all out picks below and you’ll soon have a collection of stellar apps for your favorite tablet.

This week’s pick is Afterlight…although I’m not really talking about the base app, but isn’t actually the app per se, but its excellent extension. Afterlight fulfills the promise of iOS 8 for me: the ability to use the Photos app for photo management, viewing, and editing.

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The Benefits Of Reading List On My iPad

Reading List > Instapaper

I used to be a really loyal Instapaper user because I loved the reading experience inside of the app. I still do,

And it’s still great, but I find myself slowly preferring Safari’s Reading List more. If you’re not familiar with Instapaper, it’s a read-later service for storing articles (like this one) for reading later on, at your leisure. Throwing something into Instapaper is different than just bookmarking, because each article has a read status, and you can archive articles you’ve already read. In addition, Instapaper crawls the page for just the content, and strips it away from the website’s UI, providing a clean and consistent reading experience. Instapaper can also intelligently save your content intermittently in the background, so it’s available for reading even without an Internet connection.

In comparison, Reading List is a feature that lives within the Safari browser. A quick tap on the bookmark icon and another tap on the glasses icon will get you to your Reading List. Adding links is as easy as tapping and holding them within any app that detects hyperlinks.

I find myself using fewer and fewer apps these days, and one of the reasons that Reading List is appealing is because it lives right inside of Safari. It also mimics (Sherlocked?) many of Instapaper’s features, right down to the offline reading, “Reader view”, and read vs. unread status. The big difference is that Reading List can cache an entire webpage for offline reading, which means that I can see a 1:1 version of the article in the way that the author wanted me to see it — pictures, themes, and all. I like this because it’s a great way to see sites I don’t normally follow, and I know the article layout is as it should be. Instapaper has refined its text crawling over the years, but it still has occasional hiccups with captions. Some image captions can read like they’re paragraphs, and some sites (like the New York Times) actively work against services like Instapaper.

I haven’t had to change my habits much in adjusting to Reading List. It’s available most anywhere that I can tap and hold on a link, and it’s available on all of my iOS and OS X devices, just like Instapaper. One of the noticeable tradeoffs has been that Instapaper remembers where you left off in a longer article, whereas Reading List does not. However, seeing as I don’t read long form New Yorker articles every week, this hasn’t affected me too much.

Instapaper is still awesome, but I’m really surprised how useful Reading List has turned out to be. I’d recommend it as a great, lightweight alternative to the dedicated Read-Later apps on the App Store.

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Review: Belkin QODE Ultimate Pro for iPad Air 2

 

I wouldn’t fault you for making fun of Belkin’s naming convention with the QODE Ultimate Pro keyboard case. After all, why does an “Ultimate” accessory need to also be described as “Pro”? In Belkin’s case, it’s actually because they already have a QODE Ultimate case, and so they added the Pro moniker to let us know that they’ve upped the ante.

The good news is that, although the name may be silly, the product really delivers. Belkin’s QODE Ultimate Pro is one of the best keyboard cases I’ve ever used.

One of the tradeoffs of keyboard cases is that the added utility tends to double the weight of the iPad. The resulting combo is not heavy enough to weigh down a bag like a laptop would, but the added heft of a keyboard does make the iPad Air 2 harder to hold in one hand.

One approach to keeping the iPad lighter is to make sure the keyboard is easily detachable. This is the approach that Logitech took with their Ultrathin Keyboard’s magnetic hinged design. However, the Ultrathin fails to address the way that iOS Bluetooth pairing affects the software keyboard.

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