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.

Quick Look: Apple Pencil Pocket from GearCase

GearCase Pencil Pocket review_1

GearCase reached out after my previous post about my storage option for the Apple Pencil, and I’m really glad that they did. As accessible as my co-opted Pencil clip was for usage at a desk, it did feel a little precarious for storage in a full bag. The Pencil usually stayed in place, but it could easily get caught on other objects in my bag during transit because it was only secured to the iPad at one point.

The Pencil Pocket from GearCase is secure and keeps the Pencil snug against the iPad Pro during transit. I don’t have any concerns about the stylus falling out or getting scratched by other items in my bag.

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Taking It Easy With The iPad Pro


Considering the price of an iPad Pro, there can be an internal pressure to maximize the usage of the device. There’s a compulsion in me to try to do as much as I can on the iPad Pro: to edit more videos, manage photos, watch movies, and browse on the Pro. In order to do all of that, I need to bring the Pro everywhere. Well, I felt I needed to, anyway.

Everywhere was the de facto location of my last iPad, the iPad Air 2. That tablet had a 10–inch screen and weighed just a pound on its own. It was light enough that it was still a viable companion if I was bringing my laptop around for the day. In fact, the iPad Air 2 could really complement my 13–inch MacBook Pro as a great secondary screen for tasks or chats. The iPad Pro is different in this regard because it’s actually as wide as most laptops, which means that it will fill the width of a laptop bag, even though it isn’t very thick. The sheer size does make a discernible difference in how easy it is to carry the iPad Pro alongside my other daily carry items (canvas pouch with cables, camera).
However, a few weeks ago I decided to just relax more when it comes to my iPad usage, and I’ve been enjoying the device more ever since. Relaxing means that I don’t bring the iPad Pro with me everywhere that the Air 2 would have come, and that’s okay. Aside from having a stupendously large iPad, I also own a stupendously large iPhone 6S Plus. That’s more than enough for reading and browsing while I’m on transit, and it’s also great for editing photos on-the-go.

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Update on Apple Music vs. Spotify


I’ve been an Apple Music subscriber ever since it was introduced last June. I really like the idea of an all-you-can-eat music subscription for checking out new artists and songs, but I’m not totally happy with Apple Music as it is right now. I did spend some time with Spotify last year and quite enjoyed using it, but I stuck with Apple Music because it was a first-party solution. 

I’m reviewing that decision again now.

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iOS 10 Wishlist: More Keyboard Shortcuts and Improved Photos Support

  ‘Tis the season: it’s getting closer and closer to June so people are unwrapping their biggest wishlist items. The funny thing is that we’re really close enough to the beta of iOS 10 (usually released just after WWDC in June) that our wishlist items couldn’t actually have any effect on development at this point. They’re either in development now, or they won’t be in iOS 10. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun to write up a wishlist anyway.

Better Photos Support

I’ve already talked about the lack of decent RAW support, so I won’t re-hash that. However, as I test Lightroom 2.2 on my iPad, I arm starting to realize what else is missing from the Photos app.

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Reconsidering Lightroom Mobile 2.2

I spent a month last Fall trialling Lightroom Mobile as a suitable alternative to Apple’s iCloud Photo Library. Lightroom drew me in because of its advanced editing controls, options to quickly reject pictures I didn’t want to keep, and the synchronization of edits across all of my devices (which is a surprisingly rare feature even in 2016). However, there were two aspects that put a full stop to the whole Lightroom trial: the export resolution and the resolution of synced images.

It was disappointing to find out that, although I could edit my photos to a far great extent than with Apple’s Photos app, Lightroom would export those photos at a far lower resolution.

I thought that the resolution limit was probably caused by the size of the photos that Adobe allowed to sync to Lightroom Mobile. Even if I uploaded photos straight from my camera to the iPad, Lightroom would compress everything into their proprietary Smart Preview format, which has a maximum resolution of 2048 pixels on the long end. When I compared that to iCloud Photo Library, which can sync full resolution photos to all of my iOS devices (provided there’s enough storage), it quickly became clear which solution I should stick with. I killed my Lightroom install and moved everything back to iCloud Photo Library.

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Quick Look: Screens 4 for iPad 

  
It’s been a little less than a year since I last wrote about Screens. The purpose of the app hasn’t changed: it’s still a VNC app for remotely connecting to a Mac or PC from an iOS device. But there are a few specific features released in Screens 4, which is a free update to all existing users, that are so tasty that I just have to talk about them.

Curtains for you (well, for anyone really)

One of the coolest new features is Curtain mode. I really like this idea for providing a little bit of extra privacy when I’m remotely connecting to my own machine. I haven’t had the need for this feature very often, but I’m really impressed with the implementation. Sometimes you want to connect remotely to a machine, but have that session remain private. If you want to grab some files from your machine quickly without providing access to anyone who might be near the actual computer, Curtain mode is a great way to go about this. When activated, this pulls a curtain over the screen of the machine you’re connecting to, disabling all of the local controls and also blocking view of the monitor with a gigantic padlock. You can set specific remote sessions to always launch right into Curtain mode, so if you frequently need to VNC into a computer that’s in a very public location, this is a great way to go about it.

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Using a Coiled Horizontal Pen Clip for Storing the Apple Pencil

  
I was examining different ways to hold my Apple Pencil on the Smart Keyboard of my iPad Pro. It’s a difficult thing to pull off because the keyboard folds up in a lot of different ways, and finding the right spot to mount the Pencil has been challenging.

I was originally thinking of purchasing one of Moxiware’s magnet stickers for the Pencil, but was a little concerned with some of the videos and reviews I saw on Reddit. The Pencil Magnet is strong enough for temporary storage on the iPad itself, but it’s not strong enough to help with storage during transit (the Pencil will still just fall off). I may still get one down the line, but my first priority was to find something to keep the Pencil tethered to the iPad Pro while it’s in my bag.

During my recent trip to Japan I stumbled upon a metal pen clip in one of the many (many!) stationery stores. I was very careful to choose the orientation of the clip. Many are vertical-style clips like this one from Muji, but I ended up choosing one that mounts vertically on the Smart Keyboard (kind of like this one from Rakuten), but holds the Pencil horizontally along the top of the tablet. I inserted the clip on the middle panel of the Smart Keyboard, since that’s the one that rests away from the iPad, and also prevents the metal clip from ever touching my iPad’s screen (because the keyboard is folded under it during storage).

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On Recommending the Larger 12.9–inch iPad Pro…

  
I’ve already written a little about the smaller iPad Pro, but I had an interesting discussion about it this past week. My sister’s 13–inch MacBook Air has been on its last breath for quite a while now, and it’s finally just about to give up the ghost. It no longer really holds a charge and is so slow she can’t even load her pictures into Lightroom any more. This will leave her crucially — for the first time in her adult life — without a computer of her own to use.

We had a talk about what her next purchase might be, and I thought it would be about the type of MacBook she should buy. However, her first question was actually about the iPad Pro: which one should she get? The larger 12.9–inch iPad Pro that I own, or the smaller 9.7–inch iPad Pro? 

As an owner of the larger iPad and a regular writer on this site, you’d think I’d have told her about the merits of going iPad-only and the amazing comfort of the larger screen. My iPad Pro really is the most comfortable iPad I’ve ever used when it comes to long stretches of time at a desk. However, as I started to think about what other selling points (4 GB of RAM, USB 3 transfer speeds, high-res display), none of them really felt like they’d really change her experience. The RAM is useful for Split View, but aside from Graphic and Safari, the apps I run really aren’t very memory intensive. The USB 3 transfer speeds have yet to mean anything to me because I can’t transfer my camera’s video to the iPad.

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Trying Apple’s New USB 3 Camera Adapter for XAVC-S Video

   
One of the things I was keen to try upon my return to Canada was Apple’s newly announced USB 3.0 Camera Adapter, which has support for Lightning charging. Jason Snell has already discussed the merits of this adapter for podcasting, but I was really curious to see if it could help me finally import XAVC-S videos from my Sony A6000

The main reason I can’t transfer videos from my camera to the iPad is because that iOS complains that the camera is taking up too much energy during the transfer, and it shuts the whole process down. With this new cable, I should be able to transfer videos over by using a Frankenstein combo of wires:

  • a Camera Adapter connected to the iPad Pro
  • a micro USB adapter connecting my camera to the Camera Adapter (to transfer the video)
  • a Lightning cable connecting a mobile battery or power adapter to the Camera Adapter (to provide power to the iPad)

It’s definitely a tangle of wires and far from simple, but it would be worth it in order to make the iPad Pro a bigger part of my multimedia workflow. So one of the first things I did after my return was to head to the Apple Store and pay $49 CAD + tax for the USB 3 Camera Adapter.

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Review: Ulysses 2.5 for iPad

  
Ulysses 2.5 really is a very, very impressive writing environment. This latest version does enough new stuff, and fixed one of the most irritating bugs I was experiencing, that I think it warrants a fresh look since my last review of Ulysses in June 2015.

Ulysses isn’t a notes app, it’s a writing app. As such, it’s meant for longer form writing and has special features to help you structure larger bodies of text, as well as keep your eyes on the prize as you write.

Each of my documents is called a Sheet, and all of these Sheets sync up over iCloud. The Sheets are in plain text but do support in-line Markdown formatting, which is great if you write for the web like I do. Ulysses also supports the addition of extra metadata, like pictures, notes, and goals in the sidebar.

What’s fun about Ulysses is that it embraces choice. There are choices of themes, fonts, layouts, and multiple export options (including some solid DOCX support). There are a lot of different ways you can use Ulysses, and it’s not one of those apps that tries to shoehorn you into a specific way of thinking.
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Halfway Point: Field Testing the iPad Pro For Photo Editing

  

I wrote last week about taking my iPad Pro for a field test as my only travel computer. I’ve shot nearly 1000 shots in Tokyo so far, and the vast majority have been edited on the iPad Pro as I get back to my room at the end of the day. I don’t make as many stops during the daytime as I thought I would, so the only reasonable time for me to lock my camera down is the end of each day.

This makes it easier to transfer photos over, since I can simply specify that I want to transfer all images from today, instead of picking them out one by one. I had thought about picking up a USB 3 SD Card reader for this trip, but since it still doesn’t allow me to transfer Sony XAVC-S videos over to the iPad, It just didn’t feel like it was worth the money. Thankfully, Sony’s PlayMemories app has been behaving really well and handling transfers of over 100 pictures in one session. I usually start the transfer, surf for about five minutes, and come back to all of the pictures on my iPad.

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