Why the web is broken

I have just realized why I now use my iPad more than my desktop for accessing my favorite websites:

This is what IMDB looks like in it’s iPad application. It makes full use of the smaller screen, the navigation elements are all completely interactive and intuitive, and it loads in seconds.

iPad IMDB App

The web app on the other hand, seems to take an age to appear, and looks, well, crap in comparison to the iPad layout

IMDB through Browser

This was shot on a 24″ monitor, the only app running on the desktop was my browser, and it was full screen. This is the layout IMDB showed me. Narrow, lots of plain text hyperlinks, small thumbnail images that ended up being smaller on my monitor than on my 10″ iPad screen, and riddled with ads. Less than a quarter of the screen was displaying information I was interested in.


New Toy – iPad2

OK, so when it comes to gadgets, I am a magpie – ooooh, sooo shiny!

So when I woke up at 4:00am in Christchurch during an aftershock, I remembered it was iPad launch day in NZ, so I woke up my iphone, checked the price on line, noted that even one hour after launch the delivery time was now out to 3 weeks, then checked the bank account, and confirmed I had just enough for the 16GB wifi version and a smartcover, and hit the buy button.

Then the cover arrived a few days later and I got to play with it and imagine what the glass toy underneath was actually going to be like, and started the long wait for the iPad itself to show up, while smirikng at those waiting days in a queue to only walk away empty handed. Then, like mana form heaven, I got an email saying the iPad had shipped and UPS would have it in my hands in a few days. What! Thats almost 15 days early! And even then it turned up the day before it was expected. Go Apple on the customer satisfaction! Under-promise and over deliver.

So, is it worth it? Well so far it has helped ammuse my son over a hospital stay, kept my daughter happy for hours on end with Garage band and been a faithful bedside companion for over a week.

What I really like: Man it is fast. I mean silky smooth and almost no friction at all when using it. In one swift move it made my iPhone4 feel old and jittery. Citrix Player on the pad is simply awesome in how it handles my connection to work, and I got my timesheets in quickly and easily from bed without having to start up my much louder laptop, and waiting for it to boot etc. Movies stream seamlessly using AirVideo, and VLC player (luckily downloaded for my iphone earlier, so my iPad inherited it) plays everything that the iPod app wont, an eboks are simply drop dead beautiful. I might not be able to read a book on the beach or on a bright sunny day outside, but for me, that not really what I want to do when the weather is fine anyway 8)

Complaints: I WANT WIFI SYNCH OF MEDIA – especially podcasts already! Managing my watched list of podcasts went from simple to frustrating overnight. If I watch over an iTunes library share, it doesn’t mark it as watched, so it still synchs to my iphone when I dock it, so when I use my “Unplayed Audio Podcasts” voice command playlist when driving, or excercising, I keep getting casts I’ve already listened to, and when synched to the iPad, if the kids or the missus watches/listens it dissappears from my playlist as if by magic after I synch the pad! grrrr! Ipad needs user profiles – especially for mail and calander. It’s cool that I can synch all my mail contacts and calenders to it just like on my phone, but then I worry that my kids are going to stuff up my schedule or send an email to my boss accidentally. MyPad is a facebook app that atleast gives access to multiple profiles, but no passwords or pins to lock each one out. This is fine on my iPhone which is much more of a personal device, but the iPad is shared with the whole family. And my last gripe, the onboard speaker is really weak. During the hospital stay mentioned above, the movies we were watching was barely audible in such a large noisy space, so the larger screen inviting a coupe of the kids in the ward over to watch the movie was frustrated by only having one set of headphones, and without it was very quiet and difficult to hear.

Oh, and I need another one now, just for me 8)

2 iPad, or not 2 iPad

The iPad 2 has now been launched, a million of them have been bought by happy faced Americans, and probably a million more are being shipped as I type this.
In a few days, we should be able to order them here in New Zealand.
I want one, but do I need one?
I am very happy with my iphone4, and that is actually why I never got an original iPad. The iPhone actually felt faster to use in many cases, is much more portable, and has an awesome screen for a little gadget.
I can also justify using it for work, so spending $1000 on a phone can be justified as it makes my working life just a little more pleasant.
The iPad though can’t do everything my 4 year old work provided laptop can do. It can get close, but with no proper USB port I can’t connect to switches to configure them, and not all my clients will let me use their wifi, so I’d have to have the 3G one, and pay for another data connection.
I also want to upgrade my old Mac mini as I am starting to find editing 720p video quite painful.
Now the iPad 2 and iOS 4.3 fix some of those problems.
I can do wifi hotspot on the iPhone, so I can get the wifi only iPad, and iTunes homeshare streaming means I don’t need the largest capacity one. So I can justify getting the 16GB wifi only and not feel I am missing out.
The kids are old enough now that they want to web browse, and the lack of flash on the iPad is actually an advantage here. Not so many unsavory ads, and tons of games. Also if I buy it for myself, and not for work, I can jailbreak it and really go to town on it. I want to get back into coding for it, but I don’t want to have to pay $200 for the joy of running the code on my own damn device. I remember having heaps of fun with my old zx spectrum when my father bought that, and the iPad could be a family computer in a way my desktop can’t be because, again, I need that for work.
So as long as I realise I am buying this as a luxury toy, I can justify it to myself. I just need to convince my wife that we actually NEED it though to liberate $800 from the family budget to buy it. 8)

Wallpaper Changer

My Desktop

My Desktop

One of the nice things about OS X and the Windows 7 desktop is that it allows you to set a whole folder of great artwork to use as  desktop wallpaper.

Under Linux, the way to do this varies with each desktop environment. KDE (at least the last versiosn I looked at) let you change the wallpaper randomly, but Gnome, going for a simpler environment doesn’t swap art out  of the box.

To fix this I use to install a small utility called wallpaper-tray. This does not seem to be available in the current repositories. But this is opensource, so someone must have made something good by now to replace it?

Yup. It’s called Desktop Drapes. To install in Ubuntu:

#sudo apt-get install drapes

Run it. Configure a folder of art to use, tag the options to run at start-up and you’re done.

Desktop Drapes Preferences

Update – 14 April 2012

Linux Mint 12 (Gnome 3 desktop environment) no longer supports wallpaper-tray. A good replacement is wallch, which can simply be installed by using the synaptic package manager. Search for it, mark it for install, then run the app once installed. Configure the folder to use for images and the wappaper changing time and click start. All done.

I am also now using a wallpaper folder synced through Dropbox. This way if I find a great image, it will get added to the wallpaper changers in all my favourite desktops

Cheap MiFi

OK, so I really am a cheap bugger sometimes, but what annoys me is that I pay NZ$90 a month for my cell phone plan, and I get 3GB of data on it, but I usually only use about 250MB or maybe even 300MB on a bad month mainly because most of the places I go also have pervasive wifi. So I waste 2.5 GB of data I’ve paid for on my 3G connection. I can’t just buy a MiFi or another 3G USB modem and hook it up to my cell phone plan, they all want extra money as they wont share my phone data plan.

So, how to make the most of my 3G connection? I need to make my own MiFi!

What you Need:

iPhone (or similar) on a plan allowing tethering.

Laptop with bluetooth and Wifi, (mine runs Linux Mint 9)

Other wifi clients wanting to use the connection.

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Argh!! Network Failures

Damn Router failed today. 8( First it started crashing every now and then when handing out new addresses on DHCP, or new wifi connections. Then today, it just kept crashing every 5 minutes. Grumble, grumble. After a couple of hours trying to work out what part of the network was dying, hampered by the lack of internet access every few minutes, I decided the old Linksys WRT54G had given up the ghost.
Quick trip down to Dick Smith and I have procured a new Linksys WAG160Nv2 802.11n router.
Once I connected it, ignored the setup wizard and configured it manually I was back up and running. (Note to self, keep the cable modem IP Address details in an easier to find place)
My home network is a little complicated. Because I have a media centre upstairs with no cabling to the lounge, and foil insulation in the floors that make getting wifi all through the house problem, I used to have another Linksys WAP54G acting as a repeater under the TV. This meant I couldn’t use any encryption better than WEP. If I kept the WAP asa repeater, I would be crippling future performance as I would not be able to add any -N clients. So reconfig time.
The WAP54G also supports AP Client Mode (where the AP can bridge two wired ethernet networks together, but does not serve any wifi clients itself), but for this I also need to add a switch. But now we have more ports for the old XBox and the new 360, and an increase in security to WPA2. The new AP gives a signal strong enough to use all over the house, but I did find it weak in the kitchen. I may still have to add another AP to cover all of upstairs, but maybe I’ll make that an Airport – then I’ll be able to stream music to the upstairs stereo without having to have the XBox XBMC on during parties. I’m also going to look at other options for this for now.
Damn network failures during the holidays, feels too much like work!


Digital Ink

At a Phoenix Science Ficton Society inc. meeting, I hosted a discussion on Future Tech from Science Fiction, and how much was available now, from Robots to Ray-Guns. One of the comments was that the iPhone and similar smart portable devices finally made me feel like I was now living in the 21st Century. I still dont have a flying car, I don’t have a robot butler or maid cleaning my home, I still can’t talk to my computer (and actually have it do what I ask), but what I do have in my hand is the equivalent of the Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy. A small electronic gadget, that can access the vast store of random information that is the Internet. I have Wikipedia, untold number of blogs, newpapers, music, movies and TV shows, but until recently one piece of the perfect pie was missing… books. This is now changing as the reader technology becomes cheaper, and more people start swapping paper and ink for pixels and LCDs.

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