iPad mini rippling thru my hardware setup

Ok I got an iPad mini for Christmas — thanks family! The lack of retina display does bother me, it is super noticeable. I will certainly upgrade to an iPad mini retina when it exists.

But it is interesting to see the impact on the rest of the gear in my bag.

* obviously the big iPad will not be in my bag much anymore, the mini is just so light and convenient. I need to figure out what to do with old iPads. Can I use them as monitors for raspberry Pi’s?
* do I need to carry an eInk kindle anymore? On the one hand, the mini fits nicely in a hand and so can supplant the kindle. On the other, the mini is so light, there is really no problem carrying both, and the kindle still has that great battery life.
* needless to say the Surface is rarely in my bag — and it now seems really obese in light of the iPad mini.
* I used to carry a 17″ laptop. Now I’m at 15″. Really wondering if 13″ would work just as well .. And for the first time considering the 11″ Air. I pretty much run every app full screen at this point, is the larger screen buying me that much?

At least the Surface has forced me to think about what devices I carry

Overall the Surface is, well, a turd. It is a crappy cheap laptop. Or maybe an ok-but-expensive tablet, although completely lacking the tablet apps I want.

But it has forced me to think about the gear I carry. Right now my bag contains a laptop (MacBook pro or ASUS ultra book depending on the day), an iPad 3, and a Kindle Touch. And now the Surface is trying to push its way in there. Oh and my phone is always in my pocket. What do I really need?

The principles I think are this:

* All data is going to synced with the cloud all the time, and will be available with native clients on every relevant platform, so using multiple devices is a fine experience
* All devices are going to get lighter, cheaper, with greater power and battery life. Carrying around a couple won’t be a problem weight-wise or economically.
* Device design will be optimized for the way it is used — consumption, creation, etc.

I’m always going to have a phone. Pocket sized, 1 day battery, great voice/text, decent apps and web. No need for it to bloat up in size, I’ve got other bigger devices with me, and I want it in my pocket, and it just has to be great at texting and talking.

I also need a great content creation device. A 13-15″ screen with a great keyboard (the Surface keyboard is too compromised), in a stiff shell so that the keyboard works well (the Surface has taught me the value of a stiff shell). Today this is a MacBook Air or Ultrabook, these will just get better and lighter.

And then I need a great browsing and consumption device for web, video, games, etc. The current iPad is great but is just a little too big. I’m betting the market moves to the 7″ tablet form factor, the iPad Mini/Kindle/Nexus. Fits in a hand, great for reading or video or web or games, great battery life. Smarter people than me are betting on this move as well — see for instance the “Daring Fireball”:http://daringfireball.net/2012/10/ipad_mini view on the iPad mini. This knocks the current iPad and Kindle out of my bag (though I do love the passive display on the Kindle, so maybe I still carry the smallest Kindle around).

This set of gadgets would be substantially lighter and more compact than what I carry today, and would hit all my needs, and isn’t that much to carry around. An implication: Tweener devices make no sense. Phablets? Surface? Eh. You’ll just carry a best of breed 7″ tablet and a laptop. The tweeners are economic compromises — cheaper than carrying two devices — but over time, the prices on all these gadgets continue to drop, the economic argument is a loser long run. And tweener devices are always design compromises — never great at either scenario, no matter how much work engineering goes into the transforming bridge work.

Watching TV on the iPad

I pay a large amount to Comcast/Xfinity each month to view nearly their entire lineup (ex non-English channels) at our home. And because we pay for a Time-Warner Cable sub as a gift for a family member, I also have access to a TWC account. A lot of dollars per month.

I’d like to watch all this content on my iPad when I am in a room with no tv or when I am out of the house, and I don’t feel like that is an unreasonable expectation given the dollars I spend.

So how do I watch on the iPad? Well as a start I downloaded as many of the branded apps for various channels and distributors as I could find.

* Xfinity TV app. Sounds great but is not useful. Basically a super duper remote control if I am in a room with a Xfinity branded settop box. Doesn’t let me see video, doesn’t do anything if I am out of the room. And since I am mostly a TiVo house, basically not much utility here. I had hoped/expected that Xfinity would give me an iPad app that basically acted as a dvr+tv, and would let me see all my streaming xfinity content. I was wrong.
* TiVo iPad app. Looks nice and for some things — remotely managing my scheduled recordings — it is fine. But for watching video? It blows. Apparently I need to have my TiVo and iPad on the same wifi network, and none of my tivos are on wifi, so I can’t watch video.
* Showtime app. Performs a distributor validation, only works on AT&T Uverse and Verizon networks. Seriously? I am paying a ton for Showtime access and you guys are going to squabble with Comcast and deny me this service?
* HBO Go. A reasonable app. Works on Comcast and works anywhere as near as I can tell, I can watch shows anywhere. So this is great but if the world we end up in is 57 separate apps, one per channel, each with their own UI and login, that will kind of suck. Imagine if your tv had no single guide but per-channel guides which each worked differently, and then different remotes for each channel. Barf.
* NBC. A decent experience. Seems to have all their recent shows, no crazy access control. Yes you have to watch ads but that is ok with me, I have to watch ads on TV too.
* WatchESPN — nice when it works, but only on TWC, Verizon, Brighthouse. Another case of distributors squabbling and screwing users.
* btn2go. no comcast. More distributor squabbling
* CBS sports. Claims to have live seasonal NCAAFB and NCAABB content. We will see.

So — I get very little of my content; I am prevented from getting a lot of choices due to squabbling between various members of the distribution chain; when I do get content, it is spewed across many different apps with all kinds of different UIs, guides, control interfaces, etc.

The whole set of players is really underdelivering to me. Is it any wonder people just seek out torrents?

Yes the retina display iPad is beautiful, but the software is starting to feel dated

OK I am completely conflating issues in this post but that accurately reflects my state of mind.

Like everyone else has said, the new screen is beautiful, the pad does run a little hot, the extra weight and thickness is a little noticeable, blah blah blah. Nothing new to add here. For me, the greatest impact is on the readability of text in retina-enabled apps, it really is easier n the eye. And kind of bizarrely, the few iPhone apps I use on the iPad now look really nice when blown up to full screen, they no longer look clunky.

To the point, tho, the iPad hardware continues to improve and I find myself using the iPad more and more.

However iOS is starting to feel dated. The iPad is delivering a Windows 3.x shell experience — a big beautiful screen and all it shows is a sea of spaced icons. And when you tap them, you get full screen apps, it is actually like earlier versions of Windows.

This works fine if you are basically just launching full screen games, videos, and books all day, which is admittedly the greatest part of iPad use for most people. But i actually have to do some real work in my life, I need to accomplish things. I need a tablet that is a little more productive. Right now if i want to work on a project, I have to navigate a sea of apps, and all the project details are spread around in a million places — I’ve got notes in Evernote and docs in Dropbox and Keynote/iCloud and relevant emails in Mail and todo lists in several places. It is not a great experience dealing with all this — hop into mail or evernote to see what I should be working on (and navigate the folder/tag hierarchies in those as necessary), then hop over somewhere else to work on a doc, meanwhile fighting off distractions from other incoming mail or whatever. My projects and my tasks take a distinct backseat to the app hierarchy and that seems wrong. I’d like to have a screen per project — slide over to my screen with all the things i am working on with respect to a portfolio company, and i could see the docs i need to work on, my todo list, upcoming meeting dates, and the latest email thread, and i could send notes and work on docs right there. or slide over to my maker project at home and work on that. or to home remodel project screen where i can see the plan docs, the latest email, the upcoming schedule and discussion items, etc.

I also want all my data to sync everywhere. If I have a project I am working on, I should be able to go to a folder on my desktop machine and see all the related files. And these should all be available on my work machine, my home machine, wherever. Right now I have content stored in Evernote and synced across all my machines, in Dropbox and synced across all my machines, in iCloud synced across all my machines. If I want to get all the content and files for a project, well good luck. None of these storage solutions are really working the way I want to work. Evernote does a nice job keeping everything ordered by folder and project, and has a nice UI, but it is work to get content in and out of evernote and into other apps. Dropbox has the very natural folder-on-the-desktop model which makes it super easy to use with a million apps, but my Dropbox folder is now chaos with all kinds of random stuff intermixed, apps creating their own confusing folder hierarchies (Byline I am looking at you), and it is just chaos. iCloud also keeps stuff stored by app, not by project, and is just further fracturing my storage.

So to summarize, I want a very project-centric experience, with transparent and complete syncing of project files and contents across all machines, and I want all my apps to work with the same project contents. I could use a web product like “OneHub”:www.onehub.com (an Ignition investment) and they have a good ipad app, and this may be the way to go, I am seriously considering. Box.net is too expensive, Basecamp doesn’t have an iPad app. All these solutions have a lot of great collaboration support but that is secondary for me — I just want to keep my own life in order and get my own stuff done. The iPad and current cloud storage solutions aren’t really helping me to focus, keep things ordered, and get things done.

My overall reaction to iOS5? Confusion.

OK like the rest of the working world I spent hours yesterday trying to upgrade my iPhone4 and iPad2 to iOS5. About a dozen retries for the phone, maybe half that for the iPad, and I finally got there. Not a great experience but no harm done, just a half day of my life wasted that I will never get back, Apple.

So now what? Well my iPhone 4 seems a little zippier but I suspect that is largely due to grinding the old OS off and laying down a bright new clean install. I like the tabs in the Safari. The Newstand seems like an utter waste and sadly cannot be off hidden in an “Utter Waste” folder, thanks Apple. Notifications are cleaner. Renaming the iPod app to Music is good.

and iCloud? Well this is just confusing. Settings spewed all over the control panel — in the iCloud section, but also in the mail/contacts/calendar section, the photos section, the notes section, the store section. Much discussion online about how to make this all work with exchange and how it does or doesn’t work with outlook — for instance http://daggle.com/outlook-icloud-google-calendar-sync-2748. I’ve no idea where things are actually stored in the cloud — the photostream for instance that I have turned on, where is it, can I go see it at a URL? Or Notes — they are associated with an account now, my gmail account. So when I create a new note does it go somewhere in the cloud? Where? The only thing that my cloud control panel lists as being stored is a backup of my phone — why exactly do I want to do this, I never had this in the cloud before, why do I want it in the cloud now?

The design compromises of iCloud — storage limits, and trying to work with a bunch of existing cloud services — seem to have led to a really fractured, incomplete experience. Not all my stuff is in the cloud, what is in the cloud is spewed across many services, and I don’t really know where anything is. Yay.

UPDATE: Ok, new Notes show up in a gmail folder named Notes. Which seems strange, why would I want my notes there? And not in Google Docs or Dropbox or Evernote or … ?

Air Display iPad app is way cool

OK, this thing seems a little laggy, and doesn’t seem to love Spaces, but the promise of “Air Display”:http://avatron.com/apps/air-display/ is freaking phenomenal. The iPad makes a GREAT auxiliary display for my MacBook. Guys, hammer on the performance and on Spaces integration. This app also somehow seems related to all the remote desktop apps, there is some smart integration work to do there as well — like I should be able to drag windows to my iPad, and then walk away with the iPad, and have it start up a remote desktop session so that I can still use that window remotely.

But a great start.

Mech Eng basics on the web

Taking Finite Element Analysis this term which would be way easier if I actually had ever taken a basic course in mechanical engineering. Beams, trusses, springs, cantilevers are all foreign to me, I was learning about resistors and capacitors when the MechEs were learning this stuff.

Web to the rescue:
* “Cantilever calculator”:http://www.efunda.com/formulae/solid_mechanics/beams/casestudy_display.cfm?case=cantilever_endload#target up at efunda.
* “Moments of Inertia”:http://www.efunda.com/math/areas/IndexArea.cfm and other basics for beams of any shape
* A ton of other basic calculations up here as well: “efunda engineering calculations”:http://www.efunda.com/formulae/formula_index.cfm
* Of course Wolfram Alpha has a wealth of info as well.

Just starting to look thru iphone and ipad apps as well. Wolfram ALpha I already have, there are several civil enginnering apps as well — Statics, Civil Engineering Calculations. May try some of them.

First iPad-only day trip

Ok took my first day trip today to San Jose with no laptop — iPad only. I can’t imagine ever taking a laptop on a day trip again. Massive reduction in bag weight, no need to pull the iPad out of carry on bags at security, good email and web access at airports and job site via free wifi, good rendering of board slide decks. Awaiting return flight and battery still at 63% after moderate use. The only thing I didn’t try out is the dongle for attaching to a projector.

My only dissatisfaction is with Numbers which has a pathetic set of spreadsheet features.

But otherwise this thing is a home run. I saw 3 others on the plane.

40 years of computing!

I’m using my iPad to remotely login to an XP machine at UW to run ANSYS, which still feels exactly like ANSYS from the 70s: painful syntax, all upper case, incredibly modal. Takes me way back — card punch machines, pin feed dot matrix printers, disk packs, paper tape. Man those were the days.

Will we still be running ANSYS in another 40 years?

iPad apps — first week likes, dislikes

So here is my first week of good and bad apps, I have spent way too much trying things out. My motto — “Buying iPad apps so you don’t have to!”

These look good and I actually use them:

* “iAnnotate”:http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/iannotate-pdf/id363998953?mt=8. As “previously discussed”:http://theludwigs.com/2010/04/the-ipad-and-pdfs-conclusions-for-now/, the user interface is byzantine, but it works largely as promised — i’ve read and annotated close to 100 pdfs now. One commentor says it dies on large PDFs so not perfect yet.
* “WordPress”:http://iphone.wordpress.org/. Really a much better interface than the iPhone version. It is not bugfree, a lot of people including me are having problems with copy/paste. But nice.
* “Evernote”:https://www.evernote.com/about/download/iphone/. Solid effort, works well.
* “Wolfram Alpha”:http://products.wolframalpha.com/ipad/. Now that the price is no longer insane, this is a great app to have. I wish it failed a little more noisily when the wifi connection was lost, but still good.
* “Pages”:http://www.apple.com/ipad/features/pages.html. Nice looking and adequately featured.
* “Kayak”:http://www.kayak.com/news/creating-kayak-ipad-app.bd.html. Nice extension of iPhone app.
* “Tweetdeck”:http://www.tweetdeck.com/desktop/. I find the portrait display to be a little odd but in landscape mode does a nice job of using screen space.
* “Weather HD”:http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/weather-hd/id364193735?mt=8. Doesn’t display nearly enough forecast data, but it is beautiful. The night scenes make me feel like I am getting forecasts for a moon of Jupiter.
* “NPR”:http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/npr-for-ipad/id364183644?mt=8. I’m not a major NPR junkie but a lot of useful info in here.
* “Bloomberg”:http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/bloomberg/id281941097?mt=8. Don’t know if this is the best stock app but it is free!
* “Soundhound”:http://www.appsforipad.net/soundhound-ipad-song-recognition/. Nice looking and faster than Shazam.
* “Minigore HD”:http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/minigore-hd/id364238135?mt=8. Beautiful, my timewaster of choice on the iPad.
* “Statsmate HD”:http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/statsmate/id351404712?mt=8. Might all be available in Wolfram Alpha but I find this useful as a way to quickly get stat table info.
* Apple’s calendar app. It looks beautiful.

Close but…

* “Papers”:http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/papers/id304655618?mt=8. I really really wanted this to work but I cannot get Web of Science access to work via UW proxy. Sigh.
* “Kindle”:http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html?ie=UTF8&docId=1000490441 and “iBooks”:http://www.apple.com/ipad/features/ibooks.html. Both look fine and I am glad I have them, but I will still do most of my reading on the Kindle, better battery life and easier on the eyes and lighter.
* Apple’s mail app. OK it works and in landscape mode has a nice message list, but not much else featurewise.
* “Marvel”:http://marvel.com/news/comicstories.11835.download_the_official_marvel_comics_ipad_app. Beautiful and I could see using this, but difficult to figure out what to buy/try.
* “Crosswords”:http://www.standalone.com/iphone/crosswords/. Looks nice but fatally fatally fatally flawed. Won’t download the NYTimes daily puzzle here on the west coast at 7pm the previous evening when it is available. Pisses me off. I will stay with 2 Across even tho it is lo-res because it downloads at the right time.

Kind of a waste:

* Apple’s Contacts and Maps apps. All this new screen space and nothing notable feature wise. Yawn.
* The iPad store. I use this a lot but boy does it need work. With a kajillion apps, it is hard to find what you want, hard to remember what you’ve already mentally discarded, etc.
* Numbers. Does not have enough spreadsheet functionality to be useful.
* USA Today. No depth.
* Twitterific. All this screen space and I get one lame list.

Never used — what does that say?

* Apple’s iPod and iTunes apps. I just don’t use this as a music consumption device.
* Apple’s Notes app. This one is so lame compared to so many of the other billion alternatives.

No shows: Facebook, Byline, Tripit, RTM, Echofon

The size of our gadgets

Some smart guys have noticed that “internally, the iPad looks more like a battery with a computer than a computer with a battery”:http://daringfireball.net/2010/04/the_ipad. This is a pretty fundamental point.

I remember back in my first job, working on automotive electronics strategies, someone asked me “how small can a CD player be” and to me it was clear — size would be dominated by the media and the controls, not by the internal electronics.

When we started buying PCs and TVs and cellphones and other gadgets, their sizes were dominated by internal considerations — tubes and motherboards and drives and power supplies and electronics and antennas and all kinds of crud. And we are still in the last stages of this — desktop computers are still big boxy things, many laptops are big chunky things. But thanks to Moore’s law, the electronics are in the last stages of disappearing, and with them the big clunky power supplies, and awkward big antennas, spinning disks, etc. The gadgets we carry will have their sizes driven by human interaction needs, and those damn batteries (getting batteries down in size/weight is a hard problem).

Which is why I think questions like “Which will win, the Kindle or iPad”, or “Will the iPad replace notebooks” are ultimately not very interesting. When gadgets all are lightweight and no bigger than they have to be, and electronics are basically free, and connectivity is ubiquitous, you’ll carry all kinds of these things around or have them in your house and not worry about it, just like we never worried about books vs magazines vs newspapers.

iPad file management blows

Hoisted from the “comments”:http://theludwigs.com/2010/04/the-ipad-and-pdfs-conclusions-for-now/comment-page-1/#comment-1064:

For all the great things on the iPad, file management is currently a disaster. I’ve got two different apps that can connect to my ftp server and my iDisk, but neither one can get the downloaded documents to Pages or iAnnotate. I have to use iwork.com to get files into Pages, and the desktop app for iAnnotate. If we can’t have a complete Finder on the iPad, we at least need a set of common folders that can be shared between applications.

Boy is this dead right. I can use Safari/Web Of Science or Papers on the iPad to find journal papers, but I can’t download them to the iPad and then use them with iAnnotate — I have to go to my desktop, download them, and sync them. I can comment on papers with iAnnotate, but I can’t important the comments into a Pages doc — I have to sync the annotated PDF back to the desktop, copy comments over to a doc, and then sync that back with iTunes to edit on the iPad with Pages. Geez even MS-DOS 1.0 had shared file storage.

This is way more important to me than multitasking. And in fact, I’m not even sure I care about multitasking without this.

The Nook dude at the Barnes&Nobles looked forlorn today

How bad would it be to be a Nook pusher right now? The Kindle has its adherents, the iPad is out there, why would anyone buy a Nook? I have to think that B&N is going to bail on this strategy at some point.

Amazon on the other hand I think is playing its hand well. At the end of the day, I doubt that Amazon cares that much about maintaining control over the Kindle hardware — it was just a vehicle for jumpstarting ebook sales. If people prefer to consume ebooks on phones or iPads or PCs or whatever, Amazon is there with the Kindle software and nice sync’ing of state across all your bookreading devices. I’d expect to see them continue to invest in the software and service asset, and it wouldn’t shock me if they sold the Kindle asset to some hardware company at some point.

Apple faces an interesting conundrum — why would you buy a book in the Apple store which can only be read on the iPad, when you could just as easily buy it in the Kindle store and read it in a dozen places?

Another thought — so many people look at the Kindle vs iPad battle as if it is some head-to-head winner-take-all cagematch. In fact tho, as the cost of electronics keeps driving down to zero, I’d suspect that rather than one unified device in my bag, I’ll have many smart devices all sync’ing to shared data in the cloud. Magazines, books, and newspapers all coexisted just fine in the old world, I carried them all in my bag. No reason why I won’t carry several different smart devices in my bag with different form factors and benefits. As long as they all sync data to the cloud, I’ll be happy (again, nice job Amazon).

iPad and remote desktop

I am trying out my iPad as a remote desktop client to my mac, my windows machine, and an appserver at UW. The net is — it works, but I would never use if for any kind of depth work.

There are a number of rdp/vnc clients for the iPad. I went with “Desktop Connect”:http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/desktop-connect/id364907570?mt=8 because it offers both rdp (to connect to windows boxes) and vnc (to connect to my Mac) (though you can of course install vnc servers on windows and rdp servers on the mac if you want to get complicated — see “wikipedia guide to remote desktop software”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_remote_desktop_software. And Desktop Connect offered both for $11.99. There are a lot more expensive solutions available, this is not an app area with a lot of cheap options.

On the Mac you have to turn on your vnc server — “a slightly outdated and wrong guide to doing so”:http://www.dssw.co.uk/blog/2007/05/14/a-vnc-server-is-included-in-mac-os-x-104/ — but it will point you in mostly the right direction. On windows you have to turn on remote access, I think this is somewhere in the computer properties page.

Anyway, all the connections worked. I’m able to remotely view my Mac, my Windows box, and the Windows box at UW I access for various pieces of engineering software. But the interplay of touch screen and mouse control is a little unnatural. Maybe there is a better way to implement it, but I found it super awkward. In this app, you either have to use the default mode in which case you have to use your finger as a mouse and drag the pointer around while keeping in constant screen contact — it is awkward. Or you tell it to act like a touch screen and the mouse pointer jumps to wherever you touch — maybe better but then some things are awkward/impossible, like the dock popping up as i drag over it on the Mac.

Net impression — in a pinch I will use this, but as a regular thing, forget it. Better off to walk upstairs to the Windows box or across the room to the Mac laptop.

The iPad and PDFs — conclusions for now

Several comments have asked for my recommendations. After two days of tinkering, here is what you should do if you’d like to use your iPad to read and annotate PDFs.

* get the “iAnnotate”:http://itunes.apple.com/app/iannotate-pdf/id363998953?mt=8 app. Its UI needs a lot of work, downloading and uploading are clumsy, but it does a fine job of letting you read PDFs and annotate them, and those annotations are usable back on your Mac/PC.
* install the “iAnnotate PDF service”:http://www.ajidev.com/iannotate/index.html on your Mac or PC. This is a lightweight server that passes PDFs back and forth between your desktop and the iPad. Just point it at the directory where you have your PDFs on your desktop.
* on the iPad now in the iAnnotate app, you can connect to the desktop machine and download PDFs. Unfortunately one at a time. Please Ajidev, add batch transfer capability. UPDATE…hmm batch transfer seems to be happening now. Something I did wrong? Updated app? Either way, awesome.
* Annotate away on the PDF. Personally I use the highlight tool to mark a section, then select the highlight and add a note.
* When done annotating, upload the annotated version back to your PC. This is where the UI really blows. With the doc open in iAnnotate, hold your finger on the doc name in the upper left for a while. You will get no visual feedback. Lift your finger and a properties dialog will appear with an upload option. Upload away.
* Back on your mac/pc, your annotated doc will be in your pdf directory with the words “annotated” appended to the name.

This isn’t bad. It is all very functional. I’ve done 15 papers already and it is becoming natural. How can it be better?

* Integration with Web of Science or other paper sources. The Papers app on the iPad promises to let you download papers directly from WEb of Science and others (tho I can’t make it work with the UW ezproxy settings). This would be very nice.
* Integration with endnote??? I don’t know about this. I use Endnote Web within Web of Science and that works fine, I don’t know what else I need.
* Integration with Pages. Would be awesome to be able to slurp annotations and citations into the Pages app.
* Integration with Papers on the Mac? Don’t know, I’ve just installed Papers, and while I like its organization features, the lack of annotation capabilities makes me wonder if I will ever bother with it.

iPad Day 2 — PDF reading and annotating

One of primary use cases I am testing out on the iPad is reading and annotating PDFs. I am in the process of reviewing 200-300 papers on nanowire/nanotube manipulation via electric fields. Printing them all out would be horrendous and unwieldy — I did print the first 30 and it was a 2 inch stack of paper.

If I could replace 20 inches of paper in my bag with an iPad, that would be awesome. Obviously I need to be able to annotate, extract annotations, etc. Major pluses would be easy downloading from Web of Science searches, and integration with Endnote.

Attempt 1: iAnnotate PDF from AjiDev on the iPad. To make this work, you install a little server app on your Mac/Windows machine and point it at all your PDFs (which you downloaded previously from Web of Science, no integration with, sigh). Then on the iPad, you pull all the papers over (1 at a time, yuck) in the iAnnotate app (the developers say they hope to improve this once they have more time with the iPad). You can then annotate, and upload the annotated papers. Pros: this all actually works, I have done my first 5 papers, I can see living with this. Cons: no integration with Web of Science or EndNote, no integration with Pages on the iPad (that would be killer). And the UI of iAnnotate is incredibly obtuse. Dialogs, toolbars, ribbons, popups, with key commands sprinkled through them all with no rhyme or reason. Figuring out how to upload my annotations took forever (when you have an annotated doc open, hold your finger on the doc name for a while, when you let up a properties dialog will appear, and there is an upload button there).

Attempt 2: Papers by mekentosj. OK this looks so freaking promising but I have been dashed on the rocks. Papers has direct integration with Web of Science and many other paper search tools, and I have tried to set up access. Access is tricky because Web of Science access is limited to subscribing institutions, so you have to go through an institutional proxy, in my case UW. I can configure the logon correctly and see the Web of Science webpage in the app and do searches in the webpage etc. But I can’t get the ezproxy setup right which allows the Papers UI to do searches and downloads. This would be so awesome but I am failing. Apparently if I buy Papers for MacOSX it will automagically sync my collection so that is up next.

UPDATE: OK so I bought Papers for MacOSX and now have tried that. The good news — sync between Mac and iPad is great, much better than iAnnotate. The Mac Papers interface is very nice for organizing PDFs, tagging them, keeping track of read/unread, etc. HOWEVER you don’t seem to be able to markup PDFs in the Mac app or in the iPad. You can add global comments to a paper but no highlighting etc. This is a major downer.

iPad day 1

Really really slow on first sync. I’ve purchased a ton of iPhone apps over time and the iPad insists on installing all of them, even crappy ones that I have uninstalled.

* Kudos to: The calendar app is gorgeous. The Book app is beautiful but so what, I’ll still read most books on the Kindle, and the Kindle app looks good. Zillow looks nice. WordPress app has been nicely rewritten. Soundhound looks good. Wolfram alpha looks good and at the new pricing, is now a reasonable buy.

* Yawns: The Mail app, blah, nothing really new. Maps, disappointing, nothing new.

* Disappointments: almost all games, few have been ported: Civ Rev and Catan, this is your chance. 2 across, I may have to find a new nytimes crossword app. Facebook?

* Need a great texting app, the first two I tried sucked.

I am working now to download a bunch of PDFs to evaluate the device as a PDF review/annotation tool. iannotate from ajidev is the tool.

iPad preorder day arrives

Ok well the day arrived. I can’t quite figure out what the ipad is for. I still need to carry my iPhone for phone calls. I still need to carry my MacBook Pro for real software — Matlab, Mathematica, Aperture, LaTEX-heavy docs. I’ll still carry the Kindle for its awesome battery life. Would I carry the iPad as well??? Or are there occasional trips where I’d carry instead of the MacBook Pro?

Or maybe it is for the couch at home. But usually I again need to run real software. So what is this thing for?

So I only ordered one.