Adding it Up

Gadgets potentially replaced by iPad:

  • Digital Picture Frame: $150.00
  • iPod Touch: $200.00
  • Portable Movie Player: $100.00
  • Kindle DX: $490.00
  • MacBook: $1,000.00 (assuming a home computer)

That’s almost $2,000.00 worth of stuff that could be replaced — essentially 4 iPads, one for every member of my family. I struggled with throwing the MacBook in that list as it is a full fledged computer, but I was thinking about who in my house would be happy with a MacBook and the only one two I came up with are my 8 year old daughter and 3 year old son. Watching the way each of them use Macs leads me to believe that either would be very satisfied with an iPad (until they hit a site that required Flash). Even without the MacBook, the fact of the matter is that this thing may end being seen everywhere at only $500.00.


I just thought I’d take a minute to remind everyone that Apple is a consumer electronics company. They, unlike lots, do really good things for education (see the ADE initiative, iTunes U, Apple Learning Interchange, and others) but first and foremost they are selling products to people. Lots of us in the higher ed space are looking at the iPad lamenting the stuff that didn’t make it … but at the end of the day it is a really nice product in the consumer space that will evolve.

It might be a hit at my house and if it is, it will cost us a heck of a lot less than a laptop for each of the kids. The only thing that would keep it from being something I’d heavily promote is that at the moment it lacks any sort of real digital content creation tools — and that may be one of its biggest short comings out of the box. We know from our own surveys and national data that kids are creating lots of shareable digital media. How does the iPad fit into that World? I am hoping Apple will do the same thing with some of the iLife apps as it has with iWork — port them to iPad. Imagine an iPad with iMovie or Garageband on it … it would be an amazing UI opportunity. The current inability to do native (read as the Apple way) content creation on the iPad is an oversight.

Having iWork on the device makes it something I can easily take on trips and potentially present from … I say “potentially” because most of my Keynote stacks are heavily laden with digital video. I am guessing Keynote on the iPad can manage all that stuff. That integration alone makes it a great business tool for me. I use Safari, Keynote, Gmail, and Google Docs for more than 90% of my work so the iPad fits my profile. Looking at it, the horizon is unlimited because of the App Store. How long will it be until people start building apps that really take advantage of the form factor and meet business needs?

I am guessing that the iPad will fit into most peoples’ lives. Will everyone in my house have an iPad? I am guessing that is what Apple is hoping for … I didn’t see anything that said the iPad can have multiple accounts running on it. From what I can see is that the iPad and its owner have a 1:1 relationship. A Macbook can be shared, while it looks like the iPhone in that it is a single user device.

No matter, we’ll be testing it. I feel like there are enough interesting aspects of this thing that we need to understand it and its potential relationship to teaching and learning.

Damn It!

I got my new MacBook Pro yesterday morning. I was thrilled … it combined the keyboard I’ve loved from the Air with the speed and screen size of the 15″ MacBook Pro. I couldn’t have been happier. And then I felt the crushing blow that was the WWDC Keynote. I fully expected a speed bump — I went and pushed the speed of my new laptop to a custom level because of it. I did not expect such an aggresive update so soon after the announcement of the uni-body machines not too long ago. The battery life is the thing, I travel and sit in meetings without a power outlet — a lot. The extra few hours is a real difference. I also really like the SD slot … one less cable to carry. All in all it is a shame.

The other thing this means is that my love affair with my Air is waning. I still love the form factor, but it has gotten to the point where my expectations of performance has outpaced the affordances of a very small machine. I thought long and hard about a 13″ MacBook, but that was before it became part of the Pro lineup and at the time it didn’t seem to add up. It doesn’t mean however that my “year in the cloud” hasn’t fundamentally changed my computing habits … I am still working really hard to keep my machine lean and mean. I did break down and install Word although I doubt I’ll use it much given how much I rely on Google Docs.

I spent at least half of this past year living mostly on a MacBook Air and I have been very happy with my transition to a mostly cloud based portable experience. I don’t have Office, Adobe PhotoShop, or many other large apps running on it — and I don’t miss them one bit. I have adopted Google Docs, learned how to use Apple’s built in Preview App and iPhoto to do image editing, taken lots of notes in Evernote, listened to my music online at La La, and have used this space and my PSU blog as an outboard brain with much success. I’ve found relying on local storage as being a limiting factor — and I am betting that more and more students will move in this direction this year.

So while I am moving back into the land of a bigger laptop, I am still committed to using less client based software and to keep things floating out there. I just wish that I would have waited another couple of hours to open the damn box for my old MacBook Pro.

Revisiting iPhoto

For all of my heavy duty photography needs I use Apple’s Aperture. I don’t necessarily use it to adjust photos, I use it as a giant digital shoebox. I made the switch earlier this year when my photo count went up over 30,000 digital pictures … iPhoto just seemed to slow to a crawl. I’ve been happy, but have missed the ease and simplicity of iPhoto.

Then about a month or so ago I started to tinker with my pictures, looking to get more out of them. Honestly inspired by some of the things I was seeing Brad Kozlek doing on the post-production side has gotten me really interested in trying (and I stress trying) to make my pictures a bit more visually interesting. With this in mind I have been tweaking things in Aperture and then working to achieve some Lomo like effects using Photoshop. Its been fun and I’ve learned a little bit about the tools.

effectsLast weekend I was in Chautauqua, NY and found myself without Photoshop or Aperture and only had iPhoto. I took a little down time to experiment with a couple of my shots and really was impressed with what could be done without even touching a slider and instead just layering the built in effects. I had no idea I could apply multiple levels of the effects to make pictures more interesting … I sort of figured all I could do was change a picture to black and white and move on. Not that the simple effects will do it for seasoned professionals, but I think they do a fair job for the newbies out there.

I thought I’d share this given how simple it is and that iPhoto is a very nice free alternative to much more expensive (and complex) tools available for the Mac. Below you can take a look at the iPhoto version with the simple settings in the screen cap above. Granted I don’t like it as much as the fake lomo version I did in Photoshop, but with some practice I am guessing I could get close right out of iPhoto … Also, I bet if I went back through my 10 year digital photo collection and actually paid attention to what I kept I could still be living in iPhoto. I doubt I’ll go back, but I also know I won’t need to install Aperture on my new laptop … iPhoto should be a solid mobile solution.

Not Bad for Free

Not Bad for Free

25 Years of the Mac

happymaciconIt is hard to believe for me, but I’ve been a Mac user since 1984. Yesterday the Mac turned 25 … that means I’ve been a Mac user for the same amount of time. I was lucky enough to get a Mac 128K for my birthday back in March of 1984. I recall that earlier that year I had gone to the local Apple dealer, like I was prone to do, and saw the Mac for the first time. I was simply amazed by the graphics, WYSIWYG capabilities, the finder, desktop, trash, and especially the mouse. I recall on that particular day I had talked my Dad into letting me run in for a few minutes while he waited in the car. I came out so excited by what I had seen … I made him take me back over and over after that. Of course I wanted one, but never thought my parents would actually purchase one. Even though they were both University professors, they didn’t seem to get the whole thing.

I remember that they were going to take me out to dinner for my Birthday and before we went out they called me downstairs to open gifts. There were two big boxes and I honestly had no idea what could be inside them. When I ripped them open I found the original Mac and an Imagewriter I. I was stunned … from that day forward I have been hooked. In the early days I was always wanting to do things with my Mac and I struggled a bit with the seemingly closed architecture. While me friends all had Apple II machines and could write basic and logo I remember having to get a copy of MacBasic to write simple apps. I did all sorts of stuff with MacPaint and MacWrite — and I remember playing Millionaire in my room for hours with my Dad.

My love of technology comes from that moment in March of 1984 and that one gift opened me up to opportunities to work to change things through the application of technology and innovative thought. I think the people who envisioned and built the Mac back in the day hoped that would happen to people. Sort of amazing for me to even think about how one gift could change and chart a course for someone. So I want to thank my parents for finding a way to give me such and amazing gift and to Apple for having the vision to create something that spoke right to me.

Stylin' with the 128K Back in the Day

Stylin' with the 128K Back in the Day

I wonder if other people remember their first Macs and if it was as significant to them?

My Macs through the years … Mac 128K, Mac SE, Performa 600 (for about a week), LC III, Mac Portable, PowerMac 7200, PowerCenter 180, G3 All in One, Blue and White G3, PowerBook G3, Dual G4 PowerMac, PowerBook G4, 12″ PowerBook, G3 iMac, PowerMac G5, MacBooks, MacBook Pros, Intel iMac, and MacBook Air — somewhere in the middle I’ve lost track as work and personal life overlap, but suffice to say I’m hooked.

My Simple iPhone App Wish

I’ve been very happy with my iPhone since I got it last year … I like it so much I haven’t yet felt compelled to pony up for the new one. With the 2.0 software update I am thrilled with how easily I can extend the functionality of the device — and the “fake” GPS works fine for me at the moment. I am betting there will be a killer app for the real GPS integration that will get me thinking, but for now the location based hooks in software are good enough for me.

Why can\'t I have at least a podcast option?

There is one thing I want though … I would really like an app that made it easy to acquire content from the iTunes Store that is in the iTunes U area. I know how it all works behind the scenes (for the most part) so I know it isn’t a simple task, but having the ability to integrate SMS notifications to students that new content is available in their iTunes U course spaces would really kick ass. I fully get the challenges with authentication, storing credentials, and the like but having an app that would at least let me point students directly to (even a public) course in iTunes U would be outstanding. I could easily write a half dozen case studies where this could be put to amazing use — and I am betting it would drive adoption of both the new 3G powered network device and the wifi enabled iPod Touch on campuses.

Real content on the go would be great. Total integration across the iTunes/iPod/iPhone eco-system would be an ideal situation for us all. Thoughts?

My Head in the Clouds

For the past two weeks I have been using a MacBook Air almost exclusively as my mobile platform. I was very skeptical of the Air as a primary machine for me — I thought is was way too underpowered and had way too many compromises for my high intensity needs. I have to say I have been wrong, but with a few exceptions. The biggest drawback is the Air’s inability to drive my 30″ display on my desk. I can’t give that up — no way, no how. But other than that, the Air is a joy to use.

You can read about performance and that kind of stuff all over the web, so I won’t go into that beyond the fact that this ting is plenty fast. Now with that said, I have to admit I have given all sorts of stuff up — stuff I am actually enjoying not having on my machine. I am attempting to live in the cloud as much as possible and only use Apple applications (with few minor exceptions) on the machine itself. So far I have used this thing for nearly two weeks without the following two big suites:

  • Microsoft Office: I am loving not having to wait for that thing to do its work. I obviously get a ton of attachments as Word documents that I have to review … probably a dozen or more a day. What to do? Well, as long as it is a .doc I can simply upload it into Google Docs and edit away. I’m sure I will bump my head on this eventually, but I haven’t missed a beat with it yet.
  • Adobe CS3: I miss PhotoShop, but really only for easy resizing of images. Clearly I am not a graphic designer so this approach wouldn’t work for everyone. I am almost embarrassed to say I use PS mostly for resizing images for blog posts and for other online publishing tasks. I am taking advantage of Preview’s ability to scale images at the moment, but will probably find a better way to do it online or via another light weight application like ImageWell.

I have had wiki fever lately, so I haven’t run into any real issues with my multiple machine life … I have an iMac at home, a Mac Mini at work, and I still have my MBP hooked up to my 30″ on my desk. People have been asking me how I keep it all in sync. The answer lies in the cloud. Bookmarks? keeps that working. Documents? Google Docs keeps that working. Writing? My various blogs and wikis keep that working. Email? I have IMAP for my PSU mail and GMail keeps the personal stuff working perfectly.

I have given up keeping multiple music collections going, but I have an iPhone to keep me happy when I need a music fix. As a matter of fact I haven’t found myself reaching for anything that I don’t have. An amazing thing is going on … I haven’t put any documents (of any kind) on the Air to date. I download them only to move them into the cloud to access them later. Kinda amazing. I’m sure I’ll run into other issues (not sure how I’ll connect my Express Card cell modem, but that is a worry for travel), but at the moment I am very happy. It is amazing how having this small of a machine has altered my use of the Internet. I like it. More to come as it evolves.

MacBook Air

Its been several days since Steve Jobs introduced the new Apple MacBook Air … during that time I have been thinking a lot abut what it is and what it isn’t. To tell you the truth, I am a bit conflicted over this. On one hand it is an amazingly thin and sexy piece of technology, but on the other hand it doesn’t have the same overall lure as did the 12″ PowerBook — to me. As I am sure my tech support group knows, I have been thinking of reasons why it would be important for me to have one … I can easily come up with the obvious — travel. But beyond that it is a difficult sell … trust me, once I see it I may be able to understand the overall value a little better

MacBook Air

The thing that worries me a little is that it reminds me a little too much of the G4 Cube … I was in attendance at Macworld New York the year Steve introduced it and I can tell you I had a bad feeling about how it was positioned. It, like the Air, is a beautiful machine that seems to hit a nice spot but is delivered at a price point that puts it outside of reality. I always wanted a Cube (and I have one on display in my office now), but could never justify the price versus performance it offered. I worry the Air may fall into the same category. When Jobs reveled the price I felt my hopes of owning one drop … if it would have been in the $1000-1200 range it would be a no brainer. It sounds like lots of people have already pre-ordered, but I wonder about it long term.

Clearly the Air is designed to be a second machine … My MacBook Pro is really my primary machine and it powerful and versatile enough that I could eliminate all my other computers. The Air looks and feels like it is a companion to something else — maybe Apple is waiting to do the next big thing with syncing technology so an Air could really feel like an invisible extension to a user’s everyday machine. I doubt Apple will release a docking station like the Duo Dock … I also doubt the patent documents reveling an Apple dock will become a reality. The other thing I realize is that this thing is only a first generation machine — Apple will get better at this over time. The Cube was gorgeous, but didn’t work until it evolved into the Mini. I wonder if the Air will help Apple move to a true sub-notebook … only time will tell. There could be a new eco-system brewing here like the iTunes Store, iPod, and Apple TV but it will take time for it to come into focus. I have to remind myself that actually sat in a Cupertino conference room and told people from Apple that the iPod would fail without an SDK … I think I may have missed the mark on that one, so take these thoughts with a huge grain of salt. I just wonder if there is a market for this, or will the market grow up around the concept? Steve seems to know what he is doing … we shall see.