No ads? Contribute with BitCoins: 16hQid2ddoCwHDWN9NdSnARAfdXc2Shnoa
Mar 072012
 

So tonight, Apple launched their new iPad so undoubted mass hysteria from the Apple fans but is it interesting?

Well of course it is – whatever the specifications, it is going to sell in huge numbers and have quite a big influence on the IT landscape. But ignoring that, what has changed ? And is it all good ?

The big change is the use of a high-density screen – 2048×1536 in a 9.7″ screen. The use of a high-density screen might seem like it is excessive given that each individual pixel is getting towards being too small to see. But it does make the overall effect better – text (when scaled appropriately) becomes clearer, etc. After all one of the reasons that reading paper is easier on the eye is that the greater density makes things clearer.

Software that does not scale the display is going to look a bit odd – after all this screen is very roughly the equivalent of an old 1280×1024 screen (commonly a 20″ screen) in 9.7″. But I dare say Apple has a trick up its sleeve to deal with that.

But it is a bit odd that this is still not a wide-screen format screen – most other slate makers use the wide screen format so films can scale up to the full size of the screen. But Apple wants black bars! Or letter-boxing if you insist although as a film fan I hate that.

With any luck the new iPad’s screen resolution should trickle into other products – whilst I’m not that keen on the iPad to go out and get one, I do want to see a high-density screen on my desktop at some point. And why not? Screens on the desktop have been not just stuck at the same resolution for a decade now, but actually decreasing in resolution – before HD TV became popular, 1920×1200 was a popular resolution on flat screens; now it is 1920×1080. Except if you have very deep pockets (although even that monitor does not have the density of the new iPad).

But what else ? Well, except for the new screen, it’s all a bit “Meh” … nothing shines out as a dramatic improvement.

For instance, it has a new processor. But it is only dual-core when some Android slates are getting penta-cores – usually advertised as quad core, but the many are using a processor with four high speed cores, and a single slow speed (and low power consumption) core.

And the rest of it looks pretty much the same as the old iPad – no memory slot for adding additional media, a proprietary dock connector and no micro-usb so you have to make sure you have the right cable with you. And so on.

And I still find it odd that the camera pointing towards the face is of a lower quality than the camera facing out – doesn’t the front facing camera get used more for video conferencing than the other ?

Jun 152011
 

.. or to give them the more popular name, tablets.

What is the one thing all slates (whatever the usual choice of operating system) are missing? Support for multiple users.

Whilst there have been and are slates based on desktop operating systems, the only ones that have gained any level of popularity are based around operating systems for mobile phones – principally iOS and Android. And for some reason, these do not have support for multiple users which is sort of understandable for mobile phones but it is definitely a weakness for slates.

Imagine if you will, that you have bought a slate and setup the details for your work email, and are busily exchanging emails with someone who insists on being called “Bubbles” and you are engaged in a bit of harmless flirtation. Now you plonk your slate down on the coffee table, and your partner picks it up to play with; of course they end up looking at your latest email from “Bubbles”.

Or in the morning, you rescue your slate from the resident teenager wandering around the house under an angry cloud. You’re in a hurry and don’t check the slate until you wire it up to a projector to show those figures you were working on last night. And this is when you discover (to the amusement of the collective senior managers) that your pet teenager has replaced the default background image with an image of their favourite teenage idol in a scantily clad pose.

Now both of those examples were extreme and intentionally a bit humorous, but the problem is genuine. Even if you are single and excessively possessive about your slate, having a user called “work” and another called “play” allows you to hide one activity from the other. Not a bad idea to keep the games hidden from your boss!

Add a “demo” user and you can hand your slate to a fellow worker or friend to let them have a look at your slate without the risk of them discovering something they shouldn’t.

The mistake the manufacturers have made is assuming that a slate is a single user device. In practice, everyone wants a go and unless you have really big pockets and carry it around everywhere with you, people will pick it up and use it. The ‘net is full of stories about geeks who bought a slate, and wound up with their partner using it more than they do. And not always through choice!

It appears that I’m not the only one who thinks this would be a really good feature.

Nov 062010
 

Well it’s here! An android slate that is – something I’ve been after for quite a while. And it turns out to be a Toshiba Folio 100. Perhaps not the best picture, but at least it hasn’t been stolen :-

55585

Hardware Thoughts

Supposedly some people thinks it feels cheap, well I can say it doesn’t. Admittedly there is a fair amount of plastic involved in the case, which is perhaps where the thoughts come from but it’s pretty good plastic. Perhaps it compares a little unfavourably with the Apple iPad or iPhone4, but for a half plastic device it’s not bad at all. The back is textured plastic which is perhaps a slightly dated design feature, but it does mean the slate feels less likely to slip out of your hands – that iPhone experience of the slick metal and glass (for the iPhone4) and slick plastic (for earlier iPhones) feels good out of the box, but most people end up sticking it inside a case and the need to feel it securely in your hands is at least part of the reason for the case.

The back is slightly smaller than the front, which makes it look a tad slimmer than it really is, but the thinner edge makes it easier to hold onto the device. The 25cm screen sits within a larger area leaving a 2cm border around the device. Again a slightly dated design feature, but it does mean that when you hold it with your thumb on the top surface for a more secure grip, you don’t obscure any part of the screen.

The top of the bezel holds the tiny lens for the built-in webcam and a hole for the microphone. The right edge holds in order, a battery/power light, and a series of four touch sensitive buttons which are quite possibly just sensitive areas of the touchscreen – the LCD panel doesn’t extend to the edge of the device, but the glass of the touchscreen does. The top edge holds the only physical buttons – an on/off switch, and a volume control rocker switch. The on/off switch feels a little loose, which isn’t good, but the volume buttons seem to work fine.

Connectors can be found on the right edge and bottom edge with some covered by rubber covers. After having seen so many devices that recharge through a USB connection, it seems oddly old-fashioned that Toshiba have included a conventional powerbrick to plug into an old-style proprietary power-jack. This is one place where being dated is not good – why not use the USB ports for power like everyone else ?

Without commenting on the software (yet!), in use the device works pretty well. The screen is nice and clear; the touchscreen is pretty responsive and accurate although there’s always room for improvement. The only oddity is those touch sensitive buttons on the right – they sometimes seem reluctant to activate. Of course the screen is both reflective and subject to getting greasy fingerprints on it.

The Software

Before I start making any comments, please be aware of two things that may influence my comments :-

  1. I haven’t used an Android device before so I won’t be aware of how this device compares in use to other devices. Plus of course nobody (according to Google) is supposed to be using the current Android builds for tablets!
  2. My home Wifi network is especially flaky so some problems may have been down to this.

The Toshiba may be running Android 2.2 but it isn’t quite the full Google experience – there are no Google applications, and the real Android Marketplace isn’t there. Of course Toshiba has bundled in some applications to get started with, including it’s own Marketplace application, but it would be nice to have a choice. What is missing from the bundled applications is a map viewer (admittedly this would have to be manually driven given the lack of a GPS unit, but even so), and a game or two. It may also be sensible to have a more obvious “widget” on the home screen(s) to lead into a quick overview of the device. And please explain the different power lights in that quick overview!

The Marketplace. Well it looks fine at first glance, but is a little flaky in operation. It is subject to frequent crashes, and there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot in it – for instance where is the Kindle app? And what there is in there seems to be very haphazardly arranged with some rather startling choices of categories.

Ok, perhaps Toshiba have restricted apps to things that will work well on the Folio which would explain the limited numbers. Well, no. At least two of the apps I downloaded turned out to restrict themselves to a phone-sized display which looks very silly. I could understand that sort of thing on the main Android Marketplace as Android slates are so new, but in Toshiba’s “walled garden” ?

The photo above shows that at least some applications originally written for a phone-sized display work “correctly” on the larger screen of a slate, although perhaps resulting in a somewhat humorous result. Although I can imagine some people would find calculators with such big buttons useful. What Toshiba needs to do is :-

  1. Debug their marketplace app so it doesn’t crash (and doesn’t have so many issues with long lists of apps!).
  2. Restrict apps in their marketplace to those apps that work well on the Folio, and categorise them much more carefully.
  3. Allow the use of the standard Android Marketplace – perhaps with the addition of a quality warning screen. Or indeed with an option in the settings to allow it’s use.

Despite claims that this device supports Flash, the Youtube experience shows that it isn’t quite there yet – you get a screen saying you need to upgrade your version of Flash. There was a slip of paper put into the box telling me to check the Toshiba Multimedia website for a Flash download, which doesn’t seem to be there. But why can’t the Flash update be included into the standard update mechanism ? This all has the feel of a slightly rushed product. In some ways this is fair enough, providing that there are frequent updates online (through the “Toshiba Service Station”).

Over a few days, my initial impression of it being a little rushed have been reinforced – there after frequent crashes of the Toshiba applications, and the system has a habit of slowing down to a crawl from time to time. The only update that has been provided so far has been to the Toshiba Marketplace application – which didn’t come through the “Service Station” app, and that has made things worse. Now there are no applications available at all!

Apparently Dixons have gotten so many returns, that they are effectively refusing to sell any more (see the article from The Register). Toshiba needs to buck up it’s ideas pretty quickly here. Even if it is just an update to :-

  1. Provide the standard Marketplace application.
  2. Provide an option to remove all of the added Toshiba applications.
  3. Provide an explanation that the Toshiba branded applications are being temporarily removed for quality issues.

At the very least they need to send out a message either on the device itself, or via an email to urge customers to apologise, be patient and announce expected dates when updates will be provided.

Final Words

Well, even after the long awaited update the Toshiba software was still sub-standard. The best option for anyone who hasn’t lost patience and returned their Folio is a community-hacked up ROM.

Apr 232010
 

If you get yourself one of Apple’s iThingies (an iPhone, iPad, or iTouch) you are officially restricted to installing software onto it from the selection in Apple’s App store. Which is hardly news, as is the news that geeky types do not like this – which is why the iThingies have been “jailbroken” to allow the addition of unauthorised software.

At this point I would like to point out that I am not an Apple hater – I own an iPhone 3G and intend to upgrade to an iPhone 4G (when it comes out). I also use a Macbook Pro as my work laptop. I like Apple products. But Apple gets and deserves some criticism …

Much of the criticism of Apple’s software model for the iThingies has revolved around the continual censorship of the applications allowed into the App store. This is fair enough, and indeed Apple has made itself a laughing stock with inconsistency applied standards with applications rejected for breaching conditions not applied to other applications. In addition even Apple’s published standards can be become more restrictive leading to situations where you can find it impossible to restore an application that you have paid for!

But despite these disadvantages, the App Store method of software distribution does on the surface offer something genuinely advantageous to the average consumer. The applications in the App Store have been verified by Apple as being appropriate for use – reducing the malware problem considerably. One of the regulations is that applications should not be capable of interpreting code (approximately) which reduces if not eliminates the damage a compromised application can cause.

But a single source of applications is limiting and potentially dangerous. Indeed it can even be considered to be a restriction on trade as Apple is the gatekeeper (and insists on a rather large toll) for any developer who wants to develop for the iThingies. Perhaps ordinary consumers do not care about this especially when you consider that many applications have a very reasonable cost.

But it is still of some concern. The restrictions make experimentation more difficult.

But perhaps more seriously it prevents tinkering by ordinary consumers. This can be an advantage but is also a significant disadvantage as the very people who developed the iThingies would have tinkered with consumer devices as children on their way to becoming developers. By restricting tinkering by children we restrict the size of possible people who go on to become the techies of the future.

The obvious counter to this are the existence of other devices that are far more open – even equivalent devices to Apple’s iThingies such as the various Google Android devices. But if Apple’s App store model is successful enough (and it certainly seems to be heading that way), we could find ourselves with the same model being extended to not only competitors to Apple’s iThingies, but to more general purpose computing devices – netbooks, laptops, desktops, or even servers.

We could end up in a situation where the only devices you can buy are devices that can only run software sanctioned by the vendor. A dangerous possibility.

Jan 272010
 

Enough details have leaked from the announcement to talk a little about Apple’s new toy – the iPad (which seems to be one of the less popular guesses about the name – I went with the “iSlate” possibility). For those looking for the specifications :-

  • 1.25cm thick.
  • 700g heavy
  • 25cm multitouch display
  • 1GHz Apple A4 chip – presumably an ARM variant.
  • Between 16GB and 64GB of flash memory
  • Around 10 hours of battery life.

And it starts at $499 for a 16Gbyte one limited to WiFi access – what’s the betting that means £499 in the UK ?

Basically it’s a big iPhone with all the advantages and disadvantages that brings – both great usability and savage vendor lock-in. There are a few new presumably built-in applications to allow for the greater functionality possibilities – an eBook reader, iWorks, etc.

Interestingly Apple also announced a keyboard for the iPad and implies that it should work with any bluetooth keyboard. Finally admitted that not allowing keyboards on the iPhone was a mistake ? Maybe Steve Jobs finally listened to me 🙂 Who knows ? Maybe the next version of the iPhone software will include keyboard support.

And where’s the forward facing webcam ? That is perhaps the biggest missing feature. Whilst you may want a separate device for making normal videos, a webcam suitably placed for video chatting is pretty much the norm for those little Netbooks that Steve hates so much.

There are other things missing too :-

  • A set of magnets to let you stick the iPad to your fridge in the kitchen – get a recipe up on the iPad, stick it onto the fridge whilst you cook.
  • An SD card slot or two. Who wants to buy a replacement iPad if you find that the 16Gbyte version is not quite big enough. Well Steve wants you to, but an SD card slow would let you hold off on that extra purchase.
  • A USB port or four. Sure there’s Apple’s dock connector and I’m not suggesting they get rid of it. But not have a USB port to allow emergency charging and connecting to a portable hard disk ? Or a USB keyboard ?

The funny thing about the Apple site is that special section proclaiming how green Apple is with their iPad. Total rubbish of course. There is no user replaceable battery and no expandable storage, so the only option you are left with when the battery life declines to a level where it becomes useless or you run out of storage, is to throw the old iPad away and buy a new one. Being green isn’t just about using less environmentally hostile materials.

But does it do anything about the vendor lock-in for content ? It does not seem very likely – this is Apple we are talking about after all. However it does seem that the iBook application (and it used to be the name of a nifty Apple laptop) does support the ePub format. Whether that means that content bought through iBook will be transportable to other devices remains to be seen.

Whilst most of us are used to vendor lock-in when it comes to software – Windows software runs on machines running Windows; OSX software runs on Apple computers, and Linux software runs everywhere(!). We are not so used to the idea that content is only available on one device.

If I buy a book, a film on disc, a magazine, I own a physical object that I can put on shelves and go back to later. If I buy an eBook to go on the iPad, can I read it on anything else ? My Sony reader ? Anything else ? Well we do not have enough details to say, but I doubt it.

Content “hoarders” who accumulate scarily large piles of books, etc. are unlikely to be too keen on a content paradigm that means that content stays locked to a device. I have books that are in the region of 100 years old, and even some tatty paperbacks that belonged to my grandfather; will I still be able to read eBooks that I bought on the iPad in 40 years time ?

As it is an Apple product is has a certain “cool” aura, and I am sure it will sell. Heck, if Apple announced a downgraded iPod Classic they would have fans who would buy it without checking that the new hard disk (120Gbytes) was smaller than the old (160Gbytes). Will it change the way we think of consuming content ? I somehow doubt it. It will however push forward the idea of tablet type devices as a way of consuming content; not enough to gain iPhone-like status (which effectively put the smartphone into the hands of the ordinary consumer, and gave a swift sharp kick to other smartphone manufacturers).

Would I buy one ? Well if I had not already bought a netbook/slate to use as a couch potato machine – I tend to look things up whilst watching TV – I might very well do so. But would it replace my Sony eReader if I managed to put my own DRM-free eBooks onto it in a satisfactory manner. Hmm … will Stanza adapt well to the iPad ?

Hey! Apple, want to donate one in return for a review ? 🙂

Still not convinced by the name – iPad ? Sounds kind of American and comes across kind of odd to British ears – Apple’s crash-pad, a pad for dealing with spills, not a notebook that we use for scribbling notes in.

Facebook Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.

Close