Making Room For iPad

I’ve been doing some “research” on the iPad, as if I have more money to spend on Apple gear – I’m sure I saw some loose change in the couch cushions. The last time I really used an iPad, it was running on iOS 12. Now it’s on iPadOS 14, and what Apple’s done to evolve the iPad in its own direction is interesting – okay, and exciting.

Mobile Space

When the iPad debuted in 2010, Steve Jobs asked if there was room in the middle for a third device. Since then, Apple’s been trying to make more room. And once they forked iOS into iPadOS in 2019, the middle space grew bigger.

Not long ago, I said that the smartphone and the laptop squeezed the tablet out from the little in-between space it had started with. But now I see the iPad making itself more elbow room!

Before I get carried away and proclaim the tablet can now replace your laptop, hear me out: it just depends. I still think the tablet should be a tablet, doing what it’s best at: tablet-y things.

The iPad was not designed to be a laptop. Remember, Steve Jobs said Apple thought there was room for a third device; no need to replace the laptop.

iPad Grew Up

But something has happened since the iPad launched. iOS on iPhone grew more capable; it also grew more popular. Many people love iOS for its intuitive touch interface and simple design. They love it so much, in fact, that some people want the iPad to become more than a tablet; it’s a modern way to compute.

iOS combined with a huge touchscreen make iPad very attractive. These simple iPad traits make computing more accessible and approachable for many.

The tablet can do more, so the tablet can be more.

This is why tech-savvy nerds like me attach a button-laden physical keyboard to the king of tablets. It must also be why Apple now sells three different keyboards made specifically for iPad. It makes iPad a more capable computer – like a laptop.

What’s more, Apple has added iPad specific advancements over the past few years like desktop-class web browsing, mouse and track-pad support, and app sidebars for example. And these additions are not merely tacked-on after-thoughts. They are tailor-made to boost productivity while maintaining simplicity on iPad, a balance hard to find.

A Modern Computer

Apple’s mobile computing paradigm spans across three devices: iPhone, iPad, MacBook. Or by category: smartphone, tablet, laptop.

Here’s the big picture: the iPhone is a touch-only interface, the Macbook is an old-school mouse pointer only interface – but the iPad is a careful mix of the two.

Apple amalgamated tangible touch with a precision pointer.

The iPad is slowly carving out its own distinct way to compute, taking the best of the old and the new, the touch and the non-touch, finding new ways to work together as needed.

So the iPad can still be the excellent tablet that it is. Or it can be a laptop replacement. And for many, the iPad can be both.

Often times, when you mix two things, borrowing their bits and pieces, you get a compromised result. But sometimes, you do get the best of both worlds.

Bringing It Together

I think the iPad is becoming a great middle ground for modern computing. True, I still wouldn’t want to run AutoCAD on it. But for most everything else, I would prefer the svelte iPad.

As a blogger/writer/text wrangler, I gave up my iPad last year for a Chromebook. I needed a reliable physical keyboard to type words. And I needed precision cursor control via trackpad/mouse for text selection and manipulation.

That no longer seems to be a problem on iPad. Even the cheapest model at $329 now has the Smart Connector, so you can attach a no-fuss physical keyboard instantly. No pairing. No charging. Just magnet-snap and get to typing.

With my expectations tempered, I plan to once again make iPad my main computer. Not only is it more capable than ever, but thanks to the work Apple’s put into it and the direction they’ve taken things, I believe the future is even brighter for iPad.

The space in the middle is getting more roomy and comfy; I’m movin’ in.


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Review Of The Case Of The Lady In The Luggage

All Aboard

When you go on a cruise, you expect fun and relaxation. Not murder. But for Ellie Tappet, well, it’s truly a mystery why death always finds a cozy life around her. So it is in this 4th book, The Case of the Lady in the Luggage. Once again, Ellie’s sleuthing and relationship skills take charge. Whodunnit this time? Here’s my 99.9% spoiler-free review.

Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Story And Atmosphere

If you’ve read any of the previous Ellie Tappet books, you know what to expect here. It’s all good clean amateur detective work. No horror, nothing graphic or lewd, no cussin’. This story is about as comfy and cozy as can be for a murder mystery. And as always, I love how light and quick it is to pick up and read, especially in bite-sized pieces.

Want to breeze through a weekend while avoiding bad reports from the news media in real life? Easy! Grab this book and you’re cruisin’.

The story is also a wholesome one since it focuses more on Ellie’s relationships than previous stories in the series. I thought it was the huggiest of all – there are hugs happening almost every chapter it seems. It makes for an uplifting mood, something totally worth escaping into.

There’s also more drama in this story to accompany the cozy mystery. One character from the past, Violet, has quite a bit of relational baggage, which plays into the plot and keeps things interesting.

Character Developments

Among the several returning cast members, Ellie’s story-arc is best. Her character is challenged as she has more authority than before and must balance between taking charge and being overbearing. She also shows new open-minded growth, learning to work with people who are different from her. It brings a good level of maturity to the story.

There’s also levity and cuteness with a little girl aboard, Clara. She’s a precocious karate kid – don’t cross her! Her presence punctuates the story with glee.

Another new character, who I really liked, was a British guy named Julian. His was a refreshing personality. The writing of his dialogue really brought him to life and was very well done. I’d enjoy seeing him in future stories as he brought nice contrast to the returning characters.

So, yeah, I’d say this story is more character driven than plot driven.

The Mystery

Early on, I thought I had a clue as to whodunnit. As usual, I was wrong. Like the first three Ellie Tappet novels, you can expect this one to offer clues or info along the way that may or may not be obvious and will keep you guessing.

I must admit that one of the main antagonists, Murray the Magician, made me think that some elaborate illusion would be key to unraveling the story’s secrets: the who and why and how of the murder. But nope; I was tricked.

In the end, while loose lips sink ships, in this story, they keep things afloat. Want the truth to come out? Use alcohol. Works every time.

Without a doubt, one of the highlights of Cheri Baker’s writing is the wrap-up at the end. Story-arcs, relationships, and the various plots are always tied-up with a nice bow. Closure is satisfying and complete. There’s heart in it, not just duty bound “i” dotting and “t” crossing.

Summary

Overall, The Case of the Lady in the Luggage was a delightfully easy story to enjoy; it made for a relaxing weekend.

I read the novel on my iPhone in the Apple Books app. It was a free Advanced Reader Copy (ARC). You can purchase a retail copy, now available.

This cruise ship cozy mystery is a recommended bit of escapism. And now’s a great time to read this short book for your annual reading goal. Even with busy holidays, this one’s easy to pick up and get into.

Rating on goodreads: 3 stars.

For more of Cheri Baker’s books, check out her website here.


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All In With Apple Again

Android Attraction To Apple Allure

It’s happening. Again. I’ve been switching up my workflow by using Apple’s apps instead of Google’s or other third-party apps. At first, when I switched from my Android phone back to iPhone, I didn’t think I’d do this. I should know myself better than that; I love to use all the different tech solutions! Also, Apple’s ecosystem is alluring.

Switch Flip

Having returned to an iPhone, I’m reminded how Apple’s iOS is just so simple, elegant, polished and cohesive. You use one part, see how nice it is and how well it works, so then you want to try more of Apple’s solutions – both software and hardware ones.

The cohesive nature of Apple’s products makes going all-in logical, simple, and almost irresistable. Apple is known to make “the whole widget,” which means they design both the hardware and the software to work seamlessly together.

This, of course, is obvious throughout just the iPhone’s software, its default apps and operating system, iOS. A common design language permeates iPhone.

Those are some of the basic reasons why I switched back. And there are more.

Family Sharing

Apple Music – My wife and I both like Apple Music streaming. Going from $20/mo (two individual accounts) to $15/mo (one family account) is a no-brainer. This works best when we’re both on iPhone.

iCloud – It just makes sense, and is more simple, to use the cloud backup solution that’s native to the device you have. With Apple devices, it’s iCloud, so my Google Drive set-up is being upended.

The Big Stuff

Notes – This one has been tough. Evernote is great, but there’s a lot of good I can say about Apple’s Notes app too. The number one strength of the Notes app is its cohesion to the iPhone itself.

The system level integration, by default, gives it great advantage. This means the simple and elegant common design language, both in form and function, puts Notes a notch up.

Photos – First, let me say it, I love Google Photos. If I had to score them, Google’s photo solution gets a 10 out of 10, and Apple’s gets a 9 out of 10. So why did I switch back to Apple Photos? Two main reasons: one, it’s default. So it shares the iPhone’s cohesive design, plus it utilizes the built-in iCloud backup system.

And two, after getting my wife to migrate to Google Photos when I did, several months later she voiced her preference for Apple Photos. So it makes sense for me to share the Photos experience with my wife.

Calendars, Mail, Reminders, Contacts – For many of the same reasons above, the basic productivity and utility apps and services on iPhone are my preference. Reminders, especially, is fantastic, even with Siri voice control, so it wins over Google Tasks.

Other Stuff

Sign in with Apple – This is new to me. Typically, I refuse to reuse the same online identity for various account logins. But I’m really thinking about using Apple’s privacy focused solution! It seems secure and convenient, and it relates to iCloud Keychain, Apple’s password management solution (which is excellent).

Privacy – I had already begun to move away from Google, having installed the DuckDuckGo tracker-blocker extension in the Chrome browser – it works so well! I also changed my default search engine back to DuckDuckGo (I used this for a long time before with great results).

On Apple, more private searching and less ad-tracking is default. Win!

Pages/Files/iCloud Drive – Can’t lie: Google Docs and Drive are great. I might stick with them. But for now, I’ve switched back to Apple’s solutions. (I’m typing this draft post in Pages via the Chrome web app now; it’s quite good.)

iLife

Nerding out on mobile computing tech is a thing I do. And Apple does this kind of tech best, so my new-to-me iPhone has been fun to switch back to.

Maybe it’s obvious, but I tend to switch up my tech workflow in general because I get bored and want something new. Call me human, I guess. That said, I really like Apple’s stuff above all, so I’d like to unpack my bags and stay for good.

For now, yeah, I’m all-in with Apple again. Over the years, the healthy fruit continues to make awesome devices and services. So there’s a strong chance that I remain an Apple convert and don’t revert elsewhere. I’m committed…until I’m not.

So, shocker, I’m also looking at getting more Apple devices: iPad, MacBook, Mac mini, Apple Watch, AirPods… Pretty much whatever has an Apple logo because it stands for quality, reliability, simplicity, privacy, elegance, and more.


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New Macs And A New iPhone

This week in Mobile Computing, two things happened. New Macs arrived; so did an iPhone.

First, Apple finally revealed the start of its move to the new brains and brawn of its Mac devices: their in-house custom built chip called “M1.” The hype was high in the announcement, with claims of high power/speed plus crazy long battery life. Initial benchmarks look promising if not surprising. Did Apple under-promise and over-deliver?

Second, after passing on my iPhone 7 to join the Android life with a new Moto G Power phone earlier this year…I switched back! Now I’m enjoying my new-to-me iPhone 8 Plus; I missed iPhone. 


M1 Macs

Not gonna lie: the new M1 MacBook Air and Mac mini are compelling devices. Apple kinda gushed on the big-picture tech specs during their announcement this week. This geek was impressed.

Apple already has big mind-share and market prowess as an aspirational brand of just-works mobile computing, and I see no signs of abatement. It’s hard to resist. Only time will tell, though, if their new custom Mac chips will land well. Will this be just another iterative change or a transformative one?

What’s the big deal, really, about an M1 MacBook Air, for example? Well, on top of what’s already good about the device, now it’s:

  • Quieter or silent (fanless)
  • Faster (speed)
  • Stronger (more powerful)
  • Longer (much better battery life)

So if the MacBook Air was only very good before, now it’s great. Or if you thought it was great before, now it’s superb. To me, it’s all looking to be a bigger change than the mere annual spec bump, by far.

And this is just the start.

iPhone 8 Plus

Over the years, almost all of my Apple purchases have been of used devices. Because Apple stuff is such high quality to begin with, buying a three year old iPhone like I did this week is hardly sacrificing anything. In fact, I got a fantastic smartphone for a fraction of its initial price tag.

The particular one I bought is in serious like-new condition too! It had been encased and screen protected, and it even included the original unused EarPods. It’s truly immaculate.

I’m extra happy for this iPhone since it’s my first dual-camera and phablet version (I previously owned an iPhone 4, 6, and 7).

While I did trade off a few things in leaving behind my Moto G Power Android phone (most notably the nice ultra-wide camera and mega-long 2 to 3-day battery), I gained some great stuff: NFC for contactless payments, great water resistance for spills and pool drops, a 2x telephoto lens, and wireless charging for saving wear and tear on re-plugging in a cable a million times.

Above all, though, I got an iPhone. I missed it. The system and apps and hardware are just so nice and easy to use. And the main draw in switching back, for me, was the fact my wife and son had kept their iPhones.

I was hoping and kinda planning on leading my family to switch over to Android with me, but that didn’t happen! So with my kids using my old iPhone 7 under the Family Sharing I had set up, and with my wife sticking to Apple Music and iMessage etc, I kinda had to go back. Practically, it just made more sense and works out better overall.

It’s the Apple ecosystem that pulls you in and keeps you. And frankly, I really like it. I had even quit using Spotify, embracing Apple Music beforehand. The switcheroo was a no-brainer.

For a moment, when I was prepping to leave my Android phone, I had some anxiety. I wasn’t sure I could de-couple from it, being so entrenched in the Google-verse. Long story short, I just went for it. And right away, I was so glad to be using an iPhone again.

Apple Centric

So yeah, I guess I give up. Take my money, Apple. I’m interested in more, because the Apple ecosystem of hardware and software gets better the more invested you are. AirPods, HomePod mini, Apple Watch, iPad, MacBook Air, MagSafe, rumored Tile-finding devices… What do I want for Christmas this year? Hmmm…

Yet I’m not too enamored. I’m still loving my simple and affordable Chromebook and, so far, am still relying on many Google apps and services or other 3rd-party ones.

Mobile Computing is my thing. It’s also Apple’s, and I think they do it best. Yet Google is strongest at cloud services. As always, I hope to pick what works best, not break the bank, and resist some marketing hype. But in the end, I’m still only human.

Hey, Siri! It’s me, Jason; I’m back.


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I Beat Final Fantasy X!

Hey blog friends, I’ve not posted lately because I’ve been focused elsewhere – perish the thought! True though. The whole Presidential election was kind of a distraction, go figure. But my gaze has really been offline and inside escapist role-playing games! And finally, I beat Final Fantasy X!


So back in the very beginning of September – technically the Summer! – I started playing Final Fantasy X for the first time ever, on Nintendo Switch. I averaged about an hour a night, skipping a few here and there.

In the end, about 2 months or 65 hours later, I “beat the game!” So I finished the main story; I didn’t 100% the game with all its extras. Maybe I would if I didn’t have a game backlog.

JRPG Game Hiview (Not Review)

What a game! Square-Enix, in their line of FF games, did not disappoint. I really don’t know where I’d rank number ten among its siblings. For comparison, I’ve played through four other games in the franchise: FFVI, VII, and most of VIII and IX.

Story

It was a little complex or convoluted – no surprise there. The game is very linear, the worldbuilding is nice, the settings are beautiful, the characters are very likeable and believable.

I thought it was a strange choice to have a story with such strong tones of religion, but I think that’s a nice break from ones all about politics. The main character, Tidus, I liked him a lot! He was such a breath of fresh air compared to the quirky, jaded, or sulky male protagonists of yore.

Gameplay

Fantastic battle system! It was a departure from the active time battle system of the past, being fully turned based. You could take your sweet time on your turn, think about your strategy, the best move, and execute.

I loved that you could finally swap out party members on the fly during battle and even swap out their weapons or armor too! There was more emphasis on status effects than previous games, if you ask me, and I loved this too. Even summoned monsters were more like playable characters.

Leveling system – it was cool, fresh. I liked the Sphere Grid used to level up party members because it gave a sense of control and direction. You had a choice in exactly what skills or traits your characters upgraded, unlike previous games. Yet there’s still something I like about the simplicity of stats automatically increasing at level-ups.

Graphics

This game is almost 20 years old, PS2 level graphics. But being the HD remaster, it looked great overall. I have not played many modern games, and I had just re-finished FFVII right before FFX, so there was a giant leap in stunning visual design. Loved it.

What I didn’t like, though: No overworld map! No free 360 camera control. Almost zero exploration. The trials (temple puzzles) were okay.

Music

Excellent scores and tracks for the most part. Nobuo Uematsu made great music again, but so did new-to-me artists too. I have several favorites I listen to on my phone now.

Overall

The game was a really great experience and challenge. I had to level-grind in some areas, especially at the end of the game. But I like grinding in a JRPG, I’m used to it. It makes me feel like I’m working towards a goal and earning my level-ups. The rewards are thus more enjoyed.

The cinematic presentation was top-notch, which was expected but no less appreciated!

Will I play FFX-2 or FFXII on Switch? What about FFXIII on PS3..? Maybe I’ll play FFX-2 since I already own it, but it’ll be a while.

I’m currently playing a new JRPG called Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. And I’ve got Tales of Vesperia Definitive Edition lined up after that!

Till next time, have fun!


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