A quick comparison between my Apple iPad Mini 3 and iPad Air

I’ve had my new Apple iPad Mini 3 (64GB, cellular model) for a couple of weeks now and it has become my favourite iOS device (I have an iPhone 5S (16GB) and iPad Air (16GB, wi-fi model)). Compared to the iPad Air the iPad Mini 3 feels better, more balanced when handheld. The iPad Air does have a nice big screen but otherwise iPad Mini 3 is better in every other respect.

The upgrade (or in some people’s eyes, “downgrade”) is one I like. Even though the internal hardware performance specifications are the same, the extra hardware are truly welcome.

Here is my list of things I really like about my iPad MIni 3:

  1. Touch ID
  2. 64GB (my iPad Air had only 16GB)
  3. cellular model (my Air was only a wi-fi model)
  4. better battery life
  5. form factor

Because the two tablet’s performances are virtually identical it is only the hardware that make the Mini 3 better. Let me talk about why each of the above points were important. Continue reading

iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 2 (not 3)

Apple this week announced their new iPad (and iMac) lineup. The most significant addition was the thinner top end iPad Air 2 with its new processors (A8X and M8), communications (wi-fi ac supported) and upgraded camera. But the iPad Mini 3 announcement was essentially a name upgrade with no change in form factor and/or hardware except for the addition of Touch ID.

I welcome the Touch ID which makes projector use much better. Up until now I have had to disconnect or blank out the projector screen whenever I needed to enter my security password. However I do not think this single hardware inclusion is worth the USD100–150 more for the same “older” versions that do not have this one functionality.

So save yourself a lot of money by purchasing the iPad Mini 2.

The iPad Air 2 however is a different beast with some new core hardware. So there is no contention as to which to buy if you need the larger form factor of the iPad Air. The upgrade is significant in taking advantage of the latest technology.

So if you have deep pockets then iPad Air 2 is the one to buy.

Byword – Short Review

This app is great for text-oriented content blog posting. It directly links to WordPress, Tumblr, Evernote, Blogger and Scriptogr.am. You can also export as HTML and PDF to the Cloud, iTunes or share through various means in another app, Twitter or Facebook email and Message as well as copy as HTML.

Byword also supports Markdown and allows you to preview it. Some more other important features include being able to post images to WordPress, sync through iCloud and TextExpander extensibility.

Non-English external keyboards now work perfectly with Byword (tested with Japanese layout keyboard and iOS8).

Byword is free but publishing cost 500 Yen (in-app purchase). Single purchase for all iOS devices.

UX Write – printing troubleshooting

There are two methods which work for printing .docx documents created in UX Write.

Method 1:

  1. from the Export Menu select ‘Create PDF’ (check your typesetting is set to ‘Webkit’)
  2. once the PDF is created from the Export Menu select ‘Open in’, then select your printer app
  3. print from within the printer app

Method 2:

  1. save it into the cloud (or send it to your Windows computer)
  2. open it in Microsoft Word
  3. print it from within MS Word

Both methods work well with minimal style differences between the iOS and Windows printed versions.

UX Write and autocorrect while using an external wireless keyboard! (You heard it here!)

I can’t believe it’s true but autocorrect works while using an external keyboard with the UX Write app for iPad!! That’s right folks! For some reason this feature is not highlighted by its creator and it is nowhere to be found on the official website. Nor have I seen much mention of it in discussion forums about the impossibility of getting external keyboards to work with autocorrection even though this is exactly what everyone has been looking for. It is possibly the only writing productivity app that does this right now even in 2014.

On top of that it works in the free basic version! Wow!

Here are some of the other features which I have liked so far with the Basic Version:

  • fully .docx supported and save-able

  • Dropbox connectivity and navigation

  • Excellent cursor navigation system

One has to stunned as to why Apple’s Pages cannot do some or all of these things as well as UX Write. It may be well worth the money at $24.99 (or try for a one month subscription for $0.99). I am going to test some more before making the one-off payment. But what I have seen so far I think this one is a real winner.

Is it really GoodNotes vs Notability?

I have been using both GoodNotes and Notability for a bit now. Both purchases were made after recommendations and some research. Most people seem to pit these two against each other as if they are rivals. But I beg to differ. I’ll tell you why at the end.

Continue reading

Using GoodNotes in the classroom

Recently I have been upgrading in the apps department to match my needs for English language teaching. By far the iPad is the best thing for presentation of teaching material on the big screen (the classroom projector screen, that is).

Having held back on forking out money for apps which do similar work to free ones I thought it was high time I tried some to see what all the hype is about.

One apps which I heard recommended over and over again is GoodNotes. Particularly it is the handwriting input system which has caught all the attention. And low and behold I wasn’t disappointed. The implementation of the handwriting by zoom input and auto-shifting (or auto-scrolling, call it what you like) is fantastic. And this works really well with its Presentation Mode which hides all your actions from the students makes it ideal as a teaching tool.

For me I mostly use the projector to show the textbook and teaching material (in PDF format) while we go through it. So being able to annotate there and then is all but crucial. My students love watching the action and it certainly has made my teaching much easier to follow since I use only English to my non-native students. So any instruction tend to be lost or difficult to follow for them.

Checking the answers with students has also made it much easier and more understandable since I can show students exactly where a problem might be for them. By filling in the answers in together as if directly into their textbooks or handouts students tend to respond much better than if checking the answers verbally only.

Ironically it is this aspect of my research about the importance of embodiment which has enhanced and informed my overall teaching skills.

Solution to problem with Japanese input in Apple Pages

Equipment used in this problem: iPad Air, Apple wireless keyboard (MC184J/B), Apple Pages app (2.2.1).

This problem occurs when you are using an external keyboard like Apple’s wireless keyboard on an iPad to input Japanese text into Apple’s Pages.

When zoomed at greater than the width of the entire page text alternatives for your input is off the left side of your page as in the image below. This makes it difficult to select which input alternative you want.

keyboard only

To work around this bring up the virtual keyboard. The alternatives are then displayed at the top of this. You lose a lot of screen space but at least it works.

virtual keyboard

Not sure why Apple has not noticed this problem before or even fixed it (where do customers go to make complaints and suggestions?).

Zamurai Mobile Whiteboard – Short Review

Back in the 1990s I was fascinated with electronic whiteboards. These things work like ordinary whiteboards on which you would write then press a button to print the content of the whiteboard for copying and distribution. It was better than taking a photograph, print or nowadays digital. The problem back then and still now is the prohibitive cost and that of the single format in the form of a physically printed page.

Now fast forward to 2014.

45NxYn2jsJgYg0yJNsFjOw-Zamurai_Logo_HorizontalZamurai Mobile Whiteboard is an app for the Apple iPad that works like a whiteboard for projectors. You simply write, draw or attach images to your tablet whiteboard space and it shows up on the big screen during meetings or in lectures. It is better than a whiteboard – electronic or otherwise – because you don’t need to physically be at the board. The physical act of drawing and writing is translated on to gestures you make on a tablet surface. It will also automatically be saved on your device as a note, or to be used in future meetings or lectures, or else can be saved for distribution later in various useful formats. Finally you can supplement it with image icons and digital images to make electronic whiteboarding just like old fashion displaying of photos and pictures.

Continue reading

Apple Wireless Keyboard and iPad Air – Hands-on test

The other day I made friends with someone who had a similar approach to technology as me. He had bought an Apple wireless keyboard to go with his iPad.

As logic would dictate genuine Apple products should work seamlessly with their other products. But this was not the case.

Soon after I bought my keyboard I immediately found problems with compatibility. Not so much that it didn’t connect with the iPad but rather some apps just didn’t recognize the keyboard as Japanese layout (which is the country I bought the keyboard in). That really isn’t the problem as I also require Japanese. But not being to find characters because your iPad thinks you are using an English keyboard is really really annoying.

Thinking that this was an issue with the keyboard and Apple’s manufacturing error I went online to find a solution but to no avail. I gave up and continued to rubbish Apple for its lack of language compatibility.

But as I said, I made friends with this guy who had a similar to mine and asked him about whether he had this problem or not.

“No,” was his answer.

So this got me thinking: perhaps the problem isn’t with the keyboard but with specific apps.

So I went home and began testing all my apps to see which worked with keyboard and which didn’t. And these were the results.

Text-input-driven apps that didn’t work with the keyboard:
Gmail
Instagram
Facebook
Moleskine
Simplemind (mindmapping)
Blogger
Twitter

Text-input-driven apps that worked with the keyboard:
ALL Apple made apps (including Pages, Numbers, Keynote, Notes and Calendar)
WordPress
Tumblr
My Wonderful Days (journal)

Of all the apps listed Gmail and Simplemind are perhaps the most missed. It literally means I cannot write emails or produce mindmaps effectively with the keyboard hardware. The point of a keyboard is to make typing easier, as an alternative to the virtual keyboard. But since most of my work is done on the Apple apps and the WordPress app not all is lost.

And Apple are not the ones to blame for this since this seems to be a problem on the individual app makers’ part. So now I wish there is a list of apps out there that would tell me which apps are not compatible with Japanese keyboards. This would save me from buying unusable apps.