MacBook + iPad Pro

The iPad Pro 12.9” is a fantastic device that replaces much of what I might need a “traditional computer” for. As I used the iPad Pro, I found it replacing a lot of tasks that previously were done on my 13” MacBook Pro. I still had both devices though, so if needed, the MacBook Pro was not out of reach. Well, at least until that one day…

I was sitting at the airport on a Monday morning, heading out for work travel that would be a full week on the road. As I sat at the gate typing on my iPad Smart Keyboard, I came to the realization that I forgot my MacBook Pro on my desk at work, when I left the previous Friday. Because I have my iMac at home, I was in the habit of not bringing my laptop home from work unless I needed it for travel. Except for this particular week, I guess!

I wasn’t terribly concerned that I would be without a laptop, but who knows what would come up during the week. Even though I use my iPad Pro A LOT, I have always had my trusty OS X available just in case. Not this time!

Time to find out if it was possible to use only iOS for work and personal stuff for an entire week, and while on the road. This is about the most extreme test you can do, so let’s see how it turned out.

While on the road, I have a wide variety of things I need to accomplish, and here is how the iPad Pro did in each area.

Email: I really like doing email on the iPad. Big full screen to plow through the stack of mail that accumulates throughout the week.

Conference Calls: We use Zoom for conferencing, which is fine, but their app is not updated for the large iPad Pro, so the interface is kinda wonky.

Video Edits: I didn’t need to edit anything video related on this trip, which is good because I really need to look into this as a capability of the iPad Pro while I have Final Cut Pro around, before I dive into the deep end on this one.

Photo Edits: iOS has a really nice selection of photo editing applications for almost every occasion. I generally need to work on product photos for work, and for that I use the awesome Pixelmator.

Document edits and creation: I love me some Pages, Keynote, and Numbers! Unfortunately, I have to use Word for a lot of documents, because of Word specific features. The good news is that Word on iOS is actually better in many ways than Word on macOS.

Project Management: I track all my own tasks using Wunderlist. For tracking and managing projects at work with teams we use Teamwork which does have an iOS app, but I prefer the web browser version since that is what I use on the Mac. This works well enough in Safari on iOS.

Watching videos: The iPad is basically the perfect device for watching vidoes! Also with the new picture-in-picture mode, I can watch videos while still working on other things.

Listening to music and podcasts: I use Apple Music and this of course works great on any iOS device. For podcasts, I go back and forth between different apps. I have used Overcast, PocketCasts, and the Apple Podcasts app. I am currently using the Apple Popdcasts app because I subscribe to a mixture of audio and video podcasts, and this lets me have both in one app, and gives me the ability to sync my podcasts between every device I have.

TelePresence Calls: MyMeetingVideo App is my only option here, but it works! Great for testing calls with room endpoints when needed.

Downloading files from medical devices: I used a Lexar JumpDrive M20i that has both a standard USB connector and a Lightning connector.

Downloading files from CD: Nope, not happening even a little bit.

Bottom line, there is still plenty of room for both iOS and macOS in my life, so here is what I ended up doing:

In the end, I decided to replace my MacBook Pro 13″ with the second generation MacBook 12″ (maxed out specs!!) This gives me the best of both worlds. I now have my 12” MacBook + 13” iPad Pro. This is a really killer combo for me, and also because they are each so light, I can carry both of them without even noticing.

Using Apple

RSS has been my news collection and curation tool since the beginning. Throughout time, RSS as a technology has been pretty stable and it was the job of the reader applications to bring features to the curation. At it’s core, you add feeds to a list and then those feeds are checked on a schedule, and this allows you to view many different sources of information from a single entry point. As time went on, we got better tools to help shape the way we were consuming the information from a rapidly growing set of data. For the most part, RSS works very well, but it does have some downsides. The biggest one is simply the shear volume of information that is available and having to parse through it all. I have filters and rules to aid in not viewing duplicates from multiple sources, but too often I still ended up with the Inbox “1000+” problem. This would often result in a click of the “Mark All As Read” button. At that point why even bother with it at all?

I looked at alternate means of staying informed when it came to the topics that interest me. I tried Nuzzle as a single source, but found it to be too hit or miss. I looked at Flipboard, but found the interface and navigation not to my liking.

Finally I looked at Apple News which was recently launched with iOS 9. Apple News caught a lot of flak when launched as not being that good. Truthfully, when I first looked at it, I didn’t really find it appealing. Then I realized the problem. People were opening the app, finding that it wasn’t showing them the exact news they wanted, closing it, and saying it sucked. However, Apple News is just like every other news app in that it doesn’t read your mind. I sat down and spent about 30 minutes getting the feeds added that I enjoy most and looking through the “Explore” section to add things I may not have known about. After doing this small amount of work to get it customized to my liking, I found Apple News to be a really great interface for keeping up with stuff that interests me.

Apple News is currently only on iOS, so there is no way to view items on your Mac. At first I immediately marked that as a con, but it has turned out to not affect me, personally. Outside of work, my primary computer is my iPad Pro, so it makes sense for me.

It definitely seems that for some reason if an application comes preinstalled on a device, it is somehow held to a higher standard and should be exactly perfect for your exact needs out of the box. If you download an RSS reader app and don’t add feeds, it isn’t very useful either. Of course, Apple News is not the end all be all News consumption app for everyone, but, what is?

If you were curious about how Apple News might work for you, take a couple minutes to get it setup with your likes and see how it works out!

iPad Pro(ductivity)

Holy crap I get a lot done with my iPad Pro! To the casual observer, it definitely comes off as simply a larger version of something that already existed in the product line. Looking at the device aesthetically, aside from from some small but very cool hardware updates, this is mostly true. When you power it up, though, things take an exciting (and fast) turn.

This updated generation of Apple’s System on a Chip (SoC) is so quick, it’s easy to forget you are on a mobile device. Booting the device is quick and getting around within iOS feels like silk. iOS has added a lot of new features as we have progressed through iOS 9.x (some of which are iPad Pro only right now).For example, split screen is a nice way to view and edit information from two independent applications concurrently since each application can now be full iPad Air 2 size. In terms of viewing video, you can now put video into a floating window and position it to best fit what you are working on. Think of it like picture-in-picture! External keyboard shortcuts are a welcome addition as well. The ability to move around within apps and the OS using keyboard shortcuts brings traditional laptop feel into the iPad world. Touch is still the primary interaction method, but having the ability to use keyboard muscle memory aids in productivity when typing.

It doesn’t stop there, either. Two new accessories were released alongside this new iPad: Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard. Both of these accessories are only compatible with the iPad Pro as of this writing, but I can see them branching out to other size iPads over time. The Smart Keyboard is a mix between an external keyboard and a Smart Cover. Unlike most iPad keyboards that rely on Bluetooth to connect to the iPad, this new keyboard utilizes a new Smart Connector on the side of the iPad Pro. This means the keyboard doesn’t require an internal battery or wireless connectivity, making it very thin and light. It also doubles as a cover for the iPad screen, much the same as the traditional Smart Cover. I did also order the new BRYDGE Pro Keyboard, but won’t be able to comment on that until it ships in April of 2016.

Now, the Apple Pencil. We have seen various iterations of stylus going back to pre-iPad days. For the most part, they have all pretty much been the same in terms of how they interact with the screen. Because they were completely passive and had little to no communication with the iPad, they were very limited. The Apple Pencil is the first device of its kind that truly feels like pen and paper. The integration between the screen hardware of the iPad Pro and the Pencil are matched to a level of precision never before seen. Not only that, but the palm rejection is so good, you can rest your hand with no fear of stray lines or marks on the virtual page. This takes some getting used to, as we have collectively become trained in the past that you must not touch the screen with anything but the stylus tip. The Apple Pencil has set a new high bar in the area of handwriting on digital devices, and I would argue it being the official starting point of a true digital writing instrument.

Although I have replaced my laptop with an iPad in the past, the iPad Pro is really feeling like it is up to the challenge of taking over for a laptop in the majority of tasks. I am really happy with the device overall, and absolutely love having it as my main machine. I do have other computers (27" iMac / 13" MacBook Pro) and they will serve their purpose for some time to come, but the iPad Pro is definitely my first choice and the device I most enjoy using on a daily basis. I can’t wait to see where the device goes and how it helps morph the future of iOS.


Keeping Up With Finances (OS X & iOS)

Keeping track of your finances is a very polarized topic for most people. Love it, or hate it, it’s one of those responsible things that just needs to be done. I have gone back and forth on how I manage our family finances. From tracking every penny, to completely ignoring it as long as everything was getting taken care of.

I am currently in the swing of the pendulum back toward wanting to keep an eye on things a little closer. It isn’t a ‘new year resolution’ or anything, I just want to ensure we are handling and growing our assets in the best possible way. At the same time,  I don’t want to turn this into another job, but rather have the ability to check in regularly with a dashboard of our overall financial status.

There are online services for tracking your financial life, like Personal Capital or Mint. I prefer (and use) the features of Personal Capital over Mint, but mostly it comes down to personal preferences. Personal Capital has a lot of features and benefits, but doesn’t show me everything I am looking for. For my overall day-to-day look at family finances and budgets, we have started using MoneyWiz 2 by SilverWiz. The application is available on all the usual Apple Devices (iPhone, iPad, Mac, Watch) which makes it great for easy access to all your info in one place.

MoneyWiz 2 has the ability to use online accounts, offline accounts, or a combination of both as the source for your finances. This data can be organized by account, and used to administer reporting or budgeting. The ability to sync all changes and data means you can have access from multiple devices and among multiple people.

If you have been looking for something to help you get started with managing your finances or are looking to get back on track, check out some of the online services and MoneyWiz 2 to help you get a grasp of your financial life. MoneyWiz had an interesting revenue model with a couple different ways to access their software and services.

Alt. Mobile Gaming

Generally, the term “Mobile Gaming” refers to playing video games on a mobile device such as a smartphone. For the purpose of this post however, I am referring to mobile gaming as the ability to move a game and its state from one device to another, seamlessly. The game that sparked this post and my modified definition of mobile gaming is Oceanhorn. Oceanhorn is a universal app for iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV. This game and the platforms in which you can play it are pretty amazing.

First, the fact that a game of this quality and polish only costs a mere $8.99 blows my mind! But, follow that with the ability to play this game in the living room on a TV in 1080p, to an iPad, to an iPhone, migrating all play states seamlessly through iCloud, and now you have a true definition of ‘mobile gaming’. With the launch of the 4th generation Apple TV, gaming was made out to be a big push for the device. It was easy to be weary of this, mostly due to the fact that it could easily just be about phone games on the living room TV, and that didn’t sound compelling. Oceanhorn was the game that made the idea of gaming on the Apple TV make sense. This game represents the type of gaming platform I have always wanted: something that is versatile and changes to fit my surroundings. At home, a bluetooth controller in hand in front of the TV. In a hotel room traveling for work, on my iPad Pro with that same controller. Waiting for car service, on my iPhone 6s. The game is capable of adapting to all of these scenarios without losing any of my progress.

The Apple TV comes with the new Siri Remote, and that can be used as a controller for games. For a game like Oceanhorn, however, a traditional gaming controller is really the way to go. At the time of this writing, the best controller out there is available from the Apple Store and is called the Nimbus, by SteelSeries. It is very comfortable to operate and has all the buttons you could want for games like this. Because it is Bluetooth, you can connect it to all your iOS and Apple TV devices. It pairs really nicely with the iPad Pro for on-the-go gaming.

Gaming is an always evolving area when it comes to technology, and I hope ideas like this help to push gaming more towards bringing games to where we are instead of pushing us to be where the given platform is. Of course, this setup is still technically all one platform, but it still does a much better job of bringing my game to me than any of the major console makers who have had living room consoles and handhelds for years and failed to implement this tight integration.