Monthly Archives: February 2013

Adam’s iPad Guide – Dual Screens

The iPad does not need windowed apps. The screen is simply too small too use windowed apps. Back in old fashioned days, when a 14 inch square VGA monitor was a luxury, computer users tried to sandwich two running apps onto the same screen. The monitors were just not large enough. Either the windows would be smooshed vertically or two windows would be placed side to side, with half the material off screen. We all wanted larger monitors or dual displays, but the former was not affordable and the latter was not possible. It was a different time.

dual window displays

Dual Windows on Big Monitors

On the iPad, these multi-windowed use cases are not possible. The screen size is simply too small. A single letter sized documents will fit full size on the iPad's screen, assuming the margins are set at 1 inch all around. Two documents, however, are impossible to see on the iPad's small screen. The resolution of the iPad is high enough that you could shrink the text small enough to see two full documents side by size, but you would bust your peepers trying to read it. Conclusion: comparing documents side-by-side requires huge displays or dual displays, and the iPad has neither.

iPad Dual Displays

The iPad Screen Is Small

Pento and PaperHelper icons

For the second use case, collecting research notes, two note taking apps present a partial solution. PaperHelper comes with a split screen interface: browser on the left and text editor on the right. Either side can be resized to full screen. The text editory is text only, no images. (A similar app, Knowtilus, has a text editor screen above the browser screen.) Pento has unique “graber” tool that opens a full screen browser window. Any text or images selected with the graber tool can be placed on the notebook page. However, notes are shared as one page image files, not a mix of text and images. Like the fabled Hobson's choice, multiscreen notetaking apps on the iPad are sadly text only or image only.

PaperHelper screenshot

PaperHelper Browser and Editor

Pento screenshot

Pento Graber Tool

Dolphin icon

Just as I started writing this, I found an announcement from Evernot that the Dolphin browser for iOS has integrated Evernote note taking. On a PC browser with Evernote, you can select both text and images and make a note out of them. The notes sync with Evernote on the web, not locally, and cannot be combined with existing notes. (But notes can be combined in the Evernote application.) Even with these limitations, Evernote integration with Dolphin looked promising. Unfortunately, it was not. Dolphin will either save a clipping as text only or an annotated clipping that is an image only.

Dolphin screenshot

Dolphin Text Clipper

Dolphin screenshot

Dolphin annotation clipper

Domestic cat
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Felidae
Genus: Felis
Species: F. catus

The fallback for the iPad is the old copy and paste. At least switching apps on the iPad is easy enough. What I would like to have is a browser for Evernote, or an app like Pento that will share notes in a format that supports texts and images. A clever app could also combine two documents into one for comparison purposes. On the PC, there are plenty of apps that let you input text in particular fields and then spit out a finished document. This kind of app would be perfect for a single window device. Alternatively, Apple could expand iOS to include a pull out notepad similar to the pull down notifications menu. With hundreds of thousands of app, there must something out there to maximize single window use on the iPad.

Oddly enough, or ironically enough, Blogsy can handle text and pictures notes in one app. Blogsy includes a browser, and images, text, and links can be copy or dragged to the Blogsy editor. The browser is only half the screen size, but it works. Notes cannot simply be saved as a PDF or document formate, but whole notes can be copied into another application, such as Evernote. The material to the left was copied and pasted directly from Wikipedia for demonstration purposes. In Yet a nother twist of Irony, however, this actual post has been incredibly difficult to create with Blogsy. So while Blogsy has a hidden use as an iPad research machine, Blogsy is not so useful for its stated purpose, creadting blog posts. The iPad giveth and the iPad taketh away.

Blogsy icon



Get That Crayon

Inspired by real events.
get that crayon comic


Typical Saturday Projects

This morning started with the Build and Grow program at our local Lowe’s hardware store. My wife smartly brought ear plugs; the kid sized hammers are louder than they look. Our oldest child is becoming more self sufficient with each Build and Grow activity. Our youngest child is started to hold the hammer correctly.

The project was a wheel of love in celebration of Valentine’s day. My son built the project with the wheel backwards, so he could write in his own messages. He wants to use the wheel to make his own board game, perhaps about robots. He always wants to do his own thing.

4 year old with wheel of love

7 year old with generic wheel

Then after a princess party and some 1980s Transformers cartoons, I started my own project. We want to move our wi-fi router to the middle of our basement, but the middle of our basement is an unfinished space with no electrical outlets. So we added one. Consulting a home improvement book, I mapped out a plan in Penultimate.

wiring plan


The source wires were 4 wires: one black, one red, one white, and a ground. The wire I had on hand was regular 3 wire: one black, one white, and a ground. I called my Dad and he said that I could cap off the extra red wire and use only the remaining three. When I opened up the old box, I saw the black wire from the source and the next outlet had already been tied off with a wire nut. I ran connected the source to the new outlet in parallel, as shown in the diagram.

Shoving 4 wires into a wire nut is hard. I estimate at least an hour of my time was spent trying to twist wires together. The 4 sets of wire nuts also take up as much space as an entire outlet, so I replaced the source outlet box with a double sized gang box. Thank goodness for unfinished spaces.

The next project is moving the modem and connecting the AirPort Extreme over ethernet to run as a wireless extender. Maybe we’ll tackle that next Saturday.

Adam’s Guide to the iPad

The iPad is the computer I have been waiting for my whole life. It is easy to use, portable, quiet, and quite frankly, magical. The iPad is my personal computer; I sold my MacBook after realizing how much I was neglecting it in favor of the iPad. Yet, there are things you cannot do on the iPad. Or at least, there are somethings I cannot do on the iPad. The hardware itself is not the problem. I have the now aged iPad 2, and in the last year I have owned it, I have never thought the processor should be faster or the RAM should be larger. (The 32GB of storage is limiting, and I highly recommend the new 128GB iPad).

Finding apps is not a problem. There are so many apps for the iPad, the only problem is picking the best apps. There are more free apps for the iPad than apps for competing platforms. These are my go to free apps:

Adam's Favorite Free Apps

Productivity is not a problem. This entire post was typed on a Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard cover at regular speed. The iPad also has a bevy of office apps, a plethora of PDF apps, multitudes of photo and video editing apps, and hordes of task management apps. In fact, you can probably do more on the iPad than you can do on a regular PC or Mac.
Finding internet storage is not a problem. Dropbox, Google Drive, SkyDrive, Box, etc all provide some amount of free storage. Documents by Readdle has become my de facto file system for the iPad. Documents is completely 100% free and I can connect it to nearly any cloud storage service and then downloaded my essential documents to the iPad.
Documents by Readdle

Documents Works with Any Cloud Storage

Oddly or perhaps ironically, while transfering files to and from the cloud is easy, transfering files locally is excruciatingly difficult. The iPad has no native way of connecting to drives and computers on a local network. Some apps like Photosync will connect to local FTP servers, assuming you have the local FTP server set up correctly. (I am not about to buy a server to test the app.) And of course you can transfer files in Rube Goldberg like chain from the iPad to cloud storage to the family computer and finally to network attached storage. For large files such as a 10 minute video, I have yet to find a cloud service that will accept the huge upload size. In an odd twist, you can transfer files from an SD card, iPhone, or camera with a Camera Connection kit, but you cannot transfer files to an SD card, iPhone, or camera. Apple should add local file transfer to iOS 7.
drawing made with Sketchbook Pro

This would have looked better on real paper.

Drawing is another sore point I have with the iPad. I downloaded Sketchbook Pro, the premiere drawing app for the iPad, and found the app to be much more difficult to use than pen and paper. The app itself is fine. The problem is my big fat finger. The iPad was made for finger input, not stylus input. Most styluses for the iPad have big fat rubbery tips to mimic fingers. These drawing apps show demos of some really good looking art made on the iPad, but I guarantee the artists creating the demos would have worked faster and produced better results with pen and paper. My kids do not mind; their tiny fingers are about the same size as their Crayons.
Aside of file transfer and digitizer issues, the iPad works as well as or better than a traditional computer in all respects. The drawing failure is not so much the iPad’s fault as a marketing issue. The iPad is held out as the next big thing in art and for my kids, that is true. Cintiq and Wacom can feel safe in the viability of their products. Some business apps, like PDF mark-ups, would also benefit from a finer stylus input. The file transfer issue is a vexing conundrum, especially when someone hands you a USB thumb drive.

Kid Made Comics

My daughter wanted to make a comic with Comic Life on my iPad. She had made some screenshots with the free Toca Tailor Fairy Tales app for the iPad, and my daughter chose these pics as the art assets. She selected the format, style, and all the dialogue. The comic appears to be about a princess in enduring some kind of existential crisis.
(BTW, I kept trying to add a link to the term “Toca Tailor Fairy Tales”, but Blogsy for iPad kept crashing on me. Here’s the link: )