Managing Multiple Systems

Right now, I'm using a number of systems to do my daily work and manage my life:

  • iPhone for the ultimate in portable communications
  • iPad as a new experience in reading and interaction
  • MacBook Pro for portable computing (the one I've had the longest!)
  • Mac Pro for audio/video editing and high-performance processing
  • iMac (the family computer) on rare occations

So, and obvious question is how I keep my information sync'd across all of these platforms. Since I've gotten the question often enough, the next few reviews will address this fundamental need we all have as our lives become more tied to our electronics.

Be sure to let me know any of the questions you are mulling in terms of  your productivity so I can include them in a future review.

Kindle for iPad Review

One of the first things I did once I had my new iPad sync'd was to download the Amazon Kindle app to see how it would work for me and compare to the experience with my Kindle 2. My first view was a "Wow!" when I saw the splash screen and then my Kindle library displayed on the big iPad screen.

The experience got even better when I opened a book. I could choose the appearance and font, and choose the comfortable and somewhat old-fashioned sepia background.

Furthermore, I could highlight easily, add notes, and bookmark as I read multiple books during my trip. If you haven't used a Kindle or Kindle application on your iPhone, you may not know that they sync. In my case, the reading locations between my iPhone, my Kindle 2, and my iPad sync transparently, allowing me to use whichever I want which is near by.

I'm glad Apple approved the Kindle app for the iPhone and iPad. The reading experience is great, and now my existing Kindle books are available on my iPad, too.

Oh... By the way, the app is free!

The iPad in Use

Now that I have been actively using the iPad for a bit more than a week, including on a round-trip to Las Vegas for the NABshow, I have a much better sense of how it works for many areas of my daily usage... And also some areas where it doesn't work as well or where it could use some additional capabilities. Overall, though, the experience is revelatory. For reading a book using any of the reading applications such as Amazon's Kindle for iPad, Apple's iBooks, or specialty applications like Logos for Bible study and reading, the experience is unique, stunning, and so personal and intimate that it is difficult to describe in words.

Using the iPad to read email is very effective, as well, allowing me to move through my high volume of email at a very effective pace. Using iPhone applications on the iPad, while lacking in the graphic power of Guardian Eyewitness or the Wall Street Journal iPad application, allow me to continue to work with the applications that I have come to rely upon in my everyday life.

I will begin to review some of my favorite iPhone and iPad applications over the next few weeks to give you a picture of how I'm using the devices, but in the meantime, what about the things that are lacking?

First and foremost, what about typing? You may find it interesting that I am touch-typing this post into the WordPress iPad application. A combination of the keyboard size, layout, and the auto-correction capabilities actually makes this experience much better than I had imagined it could be. While, as with most things, it isn't perfect, it is a pretty satisfying experience, and my speed of composition may rival typing on the iPhone or even, possibly, typing on a keyboard. For comparison, it may be important for you to know that my typical typing speed is 70-90 words per minute, so we're not talking slow typing here! In one online test, my typing was 60 wpm on the iPad. Note: I find it much easier to touch-type with the iPad oriented in landscape.

One challenge to touch-typing on the device is the keyboard itself: it is not standard! This is most noticeable with punctuation and other characters that are on the secondary and tertiary keyboards in the iPhone OS. I would really like to see Apple offer an option for a full real layout, perhaps with an optional Dvorak layout. It's a soft keyboard, after all, so why not?

With the iPad 3G version (which also includes GPS functions) emerging on April 30th, I would recommend you begin to consider if you fit the demographic for whom the iPad is an effective productivity system:

  • Wireless and/or strong AT&T 3G signal in your home
  • Mobile user who doesn't mind the larger form-factor of the iPad over a phone
  • Consumer of written, video, or audio information available in a format usable on the iPad
  • Someone who doesn't mind being tied to the Apple ecosystem

I would suggest visiting an Apple store, using it to read both the web and a book. Try typing on it, especially in landscape. Then, try other things that you would do: watch a video, listen to audio, or play a game.

Then, if you decide that it's right for you, decide if you want to be able to use the Internet while you're away from a WiFi network like in a taxi or on a picnic. Or if you want the device to have GPS accuracy for maps. If so, you'll want the 3G version. If not, the less-expensive WiFi-only version will work for you.

I'd love to hear from you about your experience, as well.

Windows 7: Should You or Shouldn't You?

Microsoft's newest operating system is officially available today. Windows 7 has long been available for those willing to use beta software, and so many people have already experienced what is likely to be Microsoft's most successful operating system release ever. Since I have been using it for a while both on test machines and on all of the Windows virtual machines on my Macs, I will have a number of blog entries reviewing specifics about Windows 7 new features and altered approach to the user experience. Right now, though, you may want to know the simple answer to the question, "Should I or shouldn't I?"

Windows 7 released today

I'll give you those short answers: If you are using Windows Vista on your computer today, upgrade. Windows 7 is what Windows Vista should have been but wasn't. It is faster, has fewer annoyances like the intrusive security dialogs, and provides a significantly better overall experience. Besides all that, the upgrade path to Windows 7 is very clean from Vista, so you should have a seamless experience.

If you are upgrading from Windows XP, however, the answer isn't as simple and the path is not as seamless.

First, depending on the computer you're using to run Windows XP, it may not be capable of running Windows 7 with all of its features. Microsoft lists the minimum requirements for running Windows 7 as these:

1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor 1 gigabyte (GB) RAM (32-bit) or 2 GB RAM (64-bit) 16 GB available hard disk space (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit) DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver

In addition, for some features, Microsoft says that the system requires:

  • Internet access (fees may apply)
  • Depending on resolution, video playback may require additional memory and advanced graphics hardware
  • For some Windows Media Center functionality a TV tuner and additional hardware may be required
  • Windows Touch and Tablet PCs require specific hardware
  • HomeGroup requires a network and PCs running Windows 7
  • DVD/CD authoring requires a compatible optical drive
  • BitLocker requires Trusted Platform Module (TPM) 1.2
  • BitLocker To Go requires a USB flash drive
  • Windows XP Mode requires an additional 1 GB of RAM, an additional 15 GB of available hard disk space, and a processor capable of hardware virtualization with Intel VT or AMD-V turned on
  • Music and sound require audio output

In addition to all of these, Microsoft also says, "Product functionality and graphics may vary based on your system configuration. Some features may require advanced or additional hardware." All of this information is on the Windows 7 System Requirements page. To see if Microsoft thinks your system is suitable to run Windows 7, you can run the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor.

The point of all of this is that you want to understand beforehand what limitations you are likely to experience, and whether or not it makes sense to upgrade your existing computer. A better approach may be to purchase a new PC with the appropriate hardware capabilities to best run Windows 7.

The upgrade path feeds into this, since there isn't an official upgrade path to Windows 7 from XP. In fact, while you could upgrade from Windows XP to Windows Vista and then upgrade Windows Vista to Windows 7, such a path is foolish. Don't attempt it. You're two options are:

  1. Install Windows 7 alongside Windows XP
  2. Wipe your hard drive clean and install Windows 7

While wiping your hard drive clean may seem drastic, for most people who want to continue to use their old hardware, it's the best path. The better path is to bite the bullet and buy a new system, maintaining your old system long enough to make sure you've migrated completely to it.

Time is Money: iPhone 3G S, iPhone OS 3.0, and Palm Pre

In This Week's Big Announcements, I mentioned that the Palm Pre, Apple iPhone 3.0 software, Apple iPhone 3G S handset, and Apple's new MacBook Pro notebook computers were new products that were big on hype, but that you would want to consider what your business needs were before moving on any of them. In fact, I outlined a number of reasons for you to ignore the various products. Now, I'm going to give you one reason to pay very close attention to a couple of those products, and ignore one completely for now.

iPhone OS 3.0

If you already use an iPhone, you understand the value of carrying a mobile computer. It's more than a "smartphone," and the Apple App Store has proven that there is a lot you can do with so much power in your pocket. The new release of software (iPhone OS 3.0) takes an already solid system and adds some additional capabilities that some will find compelling:

  • Cut, copy, and paste
  • Search
  • Landscape keyboard
  • Find my iPhone
  • Push notification for 3rd-party apps
  • MMS and tethering (although not on AT&T, yet... but, see below)

These are the advertised additions, but there are some additional capabilities that business people may find more compelling, including location information for incoming calls (or perhaps I'm the only one who can't remember where every area code is), syncing of Notes between the iPhone and your computer, and wireless syncing of more information.

The iPhone 3.0 upgrade is a no-brainer for every iPhone user. Budget about half an hour to do it unless you have issues with your backup prior to the installation, in which case it can take longer. Most of those delays should be gone at this point, however.

iPhone 3G S

This was the surprise.

I downloaded the new software to my iPhone 3G as soon as it was available, so I had been able to use it for a couple of days before I picked up my iPhone 3G S on Friday morning. I had reserved a white 32 GB phone so that I could tell it apart from the 3G that I've been using for a year, since another member of my family will have that black one. While it took longer at the Apple Store than it should have due to some confusion about who was grabbing the unit from the back, I had it set-up and out the door in less than 30 minutes. If you buy a new one now, it should be even faster for you, since you're unlikely to find lines. You can also buy it on-line from Apple or at an AT&T corporate store. Note that cellular stores that license the AT&T brand do not sell iPhones.

The new iPhone 3G S has a number of new components under the covers, but here's what you need to know for business: the "S" stands for "Speed" and the speed it delivers will matter to you.

Often, speed improvements have more to do with the geeky computer specs than they do with anything that you and I care about. Not in this case. The speed boost creates a much more seamless experience with the phone. Applications launch almost instantaneously, including the ones that were very sluggish before. Web and email performance is noticeably faster, and typing on the soft keyboard is now smooth and without the too-frequent stutters of the earlier phone and software.

For business people, the email, web browsing, and typing performance make the upgrade worth it. Time is money, after all, and this new iPhone will leave you more time to do the other things in your business and not waiting for your app to load, your email to send, or that research web site to draw.

Apple has announced that they sold over 1M iPhone 3G S units during their first weekend. My guess is that more people will buy them as the reviews roll out. While subtle, the added benefits are worth the investment ($199/$299 for the 16GB/32GB versions for those who qualify for the

Palm Pre

The Palm Pre was announced and delivered from Palm and Sprint on June 6th, two days before the iPhone 3G S was announced. The timing wasn't a mistake. Palm and Sprint knew that they only way they would get buzz and momentum was to announce and deliver the device prior to Apple's Worldwide Developers' Conference (WWDC). They did, two days before.

The Pre sold about 500,000 units on its first weekend, and most who have it appear to appreciate the device. However:

  1. They are early-adopters; this is a version 1.0 device and version 1.0 software
  2. They have reported a number of issues, from screen corruption to data loss
  3. Favorite functions like tethering are not available, yet
  4. There are virtually no applications available for it
  5. While AT&T isn't the favorite cellular carrier, Sprint may be worse

Given all those issues, and the fact that the iPhone 3G S is actually faster than the Palm Pre, the Palm device is not a suitable solution for business people who are not also early adopters and closet geeks.

Recommendations

If you already own an iPhone, upgrade to iPhone OS 3.0.

If you are in the market for a new mobile device, the iPhone 3G S is the market-leading best option for business people.

If you are looking for a budget alternative, the $99 price for a new 16GB iPhone 3G (which was $299 last year!) gets you into the market-leading iPhone system at a bargain price-point.

Unless you are an early-adopter and insist on using products not made by Apple, the Palm Pre is not in the running, yet.

I'd like to hear your thoughts!

To YOUR success, ssh

PS If you are looking for ongoing insights into how to get the most out of your technology and to avoid the geek talk, check out how you can get me as your Geek Whisperer. I'm also doing some special coaching on the use of social media like Facebook and Twitter for business.

Windows Backup Made Easy

One of the aspects of Apple's Leopard update to OS X that was so attractive to so many was Time Machine, the transparent yet effective backup system. I recommend Leopard upgrades to my clients that use Macs simply for the value that Time Machine provides. But, backup of Windows machines has been notoriously challenging, and virtually impossible for the typical PC owner. Enter Clickfree, who announce their new Clickfree Traveler and DVD Transformer today. The Traveler is a credit card-sized device with a 64GB capacity. Like all Clickfree devices, simply plugging it into a Windows computer causes the application to run and to back up the selected files. The combination of size and simplicity makes the system usable for any PC owner at home, at work, or on the road.

The DVD Transformer similarly provides one-step backup to the writable DVD or CD drive in your computer without the challenges of typical burning software. Plug the device into your PC's USB port, stick a writable disk into the drive, and it goes to work. You can span disks, and both backup and restore are straight-forward.

Over the next few days I'll have a more in-depth review, but if you have a Windows PC and haven't come up with a clean, consistent, and simple way to back up your files, the Clickfree devices are definitely worth a look.

Another External Disk Solution

As I wrote in my last post, I had a very frustrating experience trying to use a Cavalry external disk enclosure for expanded storage on my Mac Pro. I still needed the space, though, so had to go back to the drawing board. My next step was to look for an alternative. I did some additional research, and learned the eternal SATA (eSATA) disks come in two different types of enclosures: those that use eSATA Port Multiplier technology to connect multiple disks to a single cable and those that have one cable per disk connection. During my research, I learned that Port Multiplication reduces the throughput for data transfer from the disk to the system, so I elected to purchase the Icy Dock MB561S-4S Serial ATA 3.5-Inch Multi-Bay eSATA Hard Drive Enclosure. I combined the enclosure with four Western Digital Caviar Black 1 TB Bulk/OEM Hard Drive 3.5 Inch, 32 MB Cache, 7200 RPM SATA II WD1001FALS, and a Tempo 4CH Sata II PCIe Controller Ext E4P Multiplier.

In that list you see one of the downsides: I had to put the system together myself, instead of simply buying one packaged product. Too bad.

But, it worked well. Immediately after I installed the Tempo card and booted the system, I was able to configure the disks using the software RAID on the Mac Pro. I have run the enclosure now for over a month, and it has run very well. One thing that you'll want to know is that eSATA (unlike Firewire, USB, and even internal SATA) does not provide for a power-saving mode, so the disks will not spin down. The fan on the IcyDock will always spin, as well, adding noise to your environment. You will want to keep this in mind while making your own decision.

At this point, I have enough space to store and protect my media files and other data that had been clogging my smaller and slower disks. I can recommend this configuration as a solid option for those looking to expand their storage capacity.

The Cavalry... Didn't Rescue Me

You may remember that I recently wrote a review about the Cavalry CADA-SA4 4TB external RAID hard drive solution that included the eSATA RAID card in the package. After contacting the US support team, sending in the unit under RMA, and receiving it back, the problems persisted. The grey screen of death on a Mac is a rare event, and this hardware managed to do it consistently. Out it came and back to Amazon it went!

I admit to being very disappointed. I was looking forward to having an external drive array that would enable me to have sufficient space with protected disk. At this point, I had to go back to the drawing board... and I'll review the results in my next entry.

iPhone Update: Do the Upgrade to 2.1

The big upgrade to the iPhone that came in June, with the ability to add third-party applications, was huge.

It was also bug-ridden.

Your iPhone 3G likely experienced a lot of dropped calls, short battery life, applications that would crash and suffered performance issues, and a number of other annoying and possibly detrimental problems. Some of those crashes caused data loss, and it wasn't pretty.

Also, the earlier versions of the software claimed more power from the cell towers than they really needed, thus making them available for fewer other users.

The 2.1 software, released last week and broadcast via text message to all iPhone users by AT&T today, addresses many of these issues. In testing, battery life is considerably longer, and many of those performance issues are gone.

For example, selecting "Contacts" from the Phone application or the home screen would take a long time to come up. Searching was sluggish, and using the alphabet along the right side was painfully sluggardly. The new software addressed this.

So, iPhone users, it's time to upgrade, even if you've waited a while.