Category Archives: iOS

Knowledge Enthusiasts and Knowledger

I’ve been writing about knowledge apps for over two years here and now I’m going to begin the reveal on my latest knowledge pursuit.

I am building an iOS and Mac Knowledge app using FileMaker 12. FileMaker Go on iOS is free. My distribution options are wide open. This is the creative part of my app journey, though, so distribution is not on my mind yet. It is great fun building the app I want for my iPhone, iPad and Mac.

Knowledger

I call my new app-in-the-making Knowledger. It’s the shortest app name I could think of that plays on the word Knowledge – the focus of the app. For now it is a code name. Things are in flux.

Knowledger is a customizable, personal knowledge dashboard. It can pull information from Wikipedia, Google Search and Google Maps on subjects of interest. It is your own database and internet tool. Ambitious Knowledge Professionals may want to use FileMaker Pro to integrate Knowledger into their own Filemaker framework. Lack of integration is one of the frustrations in the knowledge arena and the door is open to go there as needed and desired.

Knowledge Enthusiasts

If you are a knowledge professional, you must keep up in your area of specialized knowledge and also knowledge in general – including current events. You don’t operate in a vacuum. Forces outside your specialty affect your work. Your perishable knowledge exists in world that changes every day.

Computers have been the tool du jour for knowledge professionals for good reason. You need to master the tool to function as a knowledge professional or pay a price. Now we have new species of computers: iPhones, iPads and their brethren providing access to information 24/7.

Are you a Knowledge Enthusiast? I’ve come to believe that my real market is what I call Knowledge Enthusiasts. I’m one. I love to learn. I have learning goals that exceed my professional interests. I am curious about my passions and become curious easily. Managing my attention so that it goes where my priorities are is part of the reason for Knowledger.

Maybe 5 – 10% of the population share this passion for knowledge whether working or not. That’s where Knowledger comes into play more broadly.

The Holy Grail of Knowledge

I’m treading on dangerous ground working on an app called Knowledger. Having access and storage of all your notes, ideas and clippings, books, whatever is what the knowledge enthusiast craves. Ideas, insights and information slip away as other pieces of information and other ideas come to mind. Knowledge at your fingertips. Google says they want to put the world’s knowledge at your beck and call. I’m entering holy grail turf with caution in my own way and trying to keep focus in the midst of a hurricane. Here’s what I’m up to.

Knowledger Features in Development

In its current incarnation, Knowledger tracks your people, groups, places, things, ideas and works. Whenever you encounter any of these and want to save them and follow them as needed, you just type in the name. Data entry is next to nill. Quick. No hassle. Frictionless.

One of the problems you encounter on iOS is that you have to operate in app silos – App A doesn’t know what App B is doing. That problem is starting to be addressed here and there by URL schemes that allow apps to talk to each other. Knowledger uses URL schemes to talk to other apps. Knowledger can access the web with FileMaker’s built in browser, but stopping there limits you. Key Apps used in concert can crucially improve the experience and aid your knowledge quest.

Knowledger can talk directly to excellent Wikipedia apps like Articles and Wikipanion. It can talk to Chrome if you have it installed. It can talk to Drafts and Day One. This inter-application communication is a key feature of an app that is designed to be your dashboard to the world of information beyond your doorstep.

Creativity

Creating requires invention which requires concentration over time. It is facilitated by obsession. To be creative you need to be mulling over the roadblocks to your vision, dwelling in the subject matter at play and using your subconscious to do the rest while you are driving, dreaming or in the shower. You need to have your note pad ready at all times to capture the stray insight that comes your way. But, the dwelling on and obsession piece is where Knowledger comes in.

Travel

There are huge possibilities for knowledger. We are a world of knowledge workers in a knowledge economy. Flooded with information, most of which we don’t want. Collect the places that catch your interest and learn about them in your spare time. I’ve got Iowa where my grand father was born to go with Duluth where my Norwegian grand parents migrated. I’ve got the classic cities like Paris, London, Rome and Berlin. The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland. And Akihabara, the amazing gadget shopping mecca in Japan. Every time I capture a new place or person I get a sense of satisfaction that I’ve claimed them for my collection.

Better Use of your Time

If you are a knowledge enthusiast, you may be among the minority who resist the call of various iOS games, staying on track with your quest for relevant knowledge. Or not. I would like you to have Knowledger with you as a constructive option and alternative to seductive time-fillers.

With Knowledger, you spontaneously add people, places and things as they occur to you. You favorite the ones you want to dwell on and unfavorite them when they’ve become less interesting or you’ve moved on.

That’s it. Your knowledge system dashboard and personal interests database.

Thoughts on Apple’s Executive Shakeup

News of Apple’s fires and promotions is unsettling and leaves many questions to answer. The Jony Ive promotion over all human interface at Apple is great. The firing of John Browett as head of retail seems good. Why should the rapidly growing and most profitable retail operation in the world get cut backs to save a few bucks? The loss of Scott Forstall, the key force in the development of iOS, is a little scary.

I want to put in a disclaimer here before I get started with my comments. I don’t know nearly enough about these guys. This is more a list of questions and guesses than solid information. I will post updates as more is revealed.

Jony Ive

Skeumorphism begone! No more bookshelves, leather stitching and horrible fonts like in notepad. Jony will see to the elimination of all unnecessary ornamentation, you can be assured of that. In its place will come extraordinary care in all manners of software design. The differences between hardware and software design will cease. Yay for that. The only questions here are:

  1. Who will lead the software and UI effort underneath Jony Ive? Is there a designer in waiting to take that role? Probably so.
  2. Will there be loss on the hardware side due to less attention there? I’m hoping the broader focus won’t dilute the secret sauce once an awesome design lead is selected.
  3. Will the elimination of conflicts and workarounds necessary to overcome the ongoing differences between Ive and Forstall free up energy that more than makes up for #2?
  4. Will there be synergy having hardware and software design under one roof? Yeah.

Scott Forstall

  1. Forstall is extremely talented or Steve Jobs wouldn’t have kept him and promoted him to top of Apple software.
  2. It’s scary to think what happens when all that knowledge in his head and passion goes somewhere else like Google or Microsoft. If he goes to a smaller venue to become CEO there, that could be a good thing for Apple.
  3. The iOS team is the A-Team at Apple software. Can Craig Federighi take that A-team higher without a dip while he and the team adjust to a new leader?
  4. Some say Scott may have been the closest to a Steve Jobs in his passion, creativity, vision and take-no-prisoners determination. Will his leaving make Apple too soft?
  5. I want to know a lot more about Federighi and his immediate reports. Will this be a plus or a minus for iOS?

Eddy Cue

  1. Who is this Eddy Cue guy anyway? I don’t like iTunes much and iCloud looks pretty great but is still in that awkward stage where we can’t be sure how successful it will be. Apple TV is still struggling.
  2. Eddy is taking over Siri and Maps and already had a full plate. We hear he is not an egomaniac and just does what needs to be done. I’m sure that makes him popular, but does that make him able to drop jaws and delight?
  3. I like Maps so far given its toddler stage so I think it will be fine.
  4. I’m not too worried about Siri. It hasn’t been great yet although it surely has its moments. Pour in the money and I think you will keep moving up that ladder. I love the dictation that’s already proving useful.
  5. Practical and pragmatic are two things that really help balance creative efforts. Apple is heavily laden with creatives, so Eddy’s practicality may be good. When Steve came back to Apple, he got really practical and we all know how well that went. Brilliantly!

Bob Mansfield

  1. Bob seems perfect in the role he’s played at Apple in hardware engineering. He comes across really practical and earnest in his videos.
  2. Apparently, Bob didn’t get along with Forstall and would probably be long gone by now if Scott wasn’t leaving. And Bob is well-liked by Jony Ive.
  3. His new Technology group should be interesting. I hear wireless and semiconductors will fall here. Those are mobile technologies that are important these days.

Craig Federighi

  1. Sr. VP, Software Engineering – OS X and iOS.
  2. I like him from his keynotes. Seems highly competent and smart.
  3. We need to learn more about this guy as his job is critical.
  4. Big job. I hope he is really, really good.

Dan Riccio

  1. Sr. VP, Hardware Engineering
  2. Yikes, I don’t know this guy – yet.
  3. The word is Jony Ive prefers Bob Mansfield.
  4. The word is the Hardware Engineering troops were grumbling after Riccio’s promotion.

John Browett

  1. He gave well-deserved pay raises to some of the retail staff. That’s a start.
  2. He cut staff hours to to try to save money. Not so good when Apple sales are through the roof and consumer expectations are that they will be treated as well as they would be at a Rolls Royce dealership. Retail pay is low. Apple has over $100 billion in the bank. This does not compute.
  3. Tim Cook selected him. Bad decision in my book.
  4. Tim has now taken over retail until a replacement is found. I’m sure efficiency will be great but that’s not sufficient.

Phil Schiller

  1. Sr. VP of Worldwide Marketing.
  2. Nothing here to see except Phil did run the whole keynote pretty much when the iPad mini and all the rest was introduced.
  3. It’s obvious that Phil is really bright and no pushover. He’s going to help keep the ship aright. Without Steve, his voice is louder.
  4. He’s not just a sales guy. He has a lot of input into products too.

Considerations on Whether to Get an iPad mini

Oct 29: I see that all models of the iPad mini are now showing 2 weeks for their delivery time in the US Apple store. Brave souls have taken the plunge sight unseen. It would help to evaluate this new device to hold it in one’s hand and try it out though. I’ll report back to you on Friday when mine arrives.

Like most Apple products, the build of the smaller tablet is excellent, easily surpassing the competition on the market. By comparison, the Nexus 7 and Fire HD feel like toys. Other manufacturers are going to have to up their game with this product in town. It’s just a striking difference in materials and solidness.

Updated Oct 26: I  preordered a white, wifi-only 16gb iPad mini at midnight Thursday. Please note, I would get an LTE 32gb iPad mini if it was my only iPad but I’m keeping my iPad 3 LTE. I can create a personal wi-fi hotspot with my iPhone 5 for my mini if needed.

At $329, the iPad mini is a more costly than we expected. I had it pegged at $249 and some thought Apple might get crazy and hit $199. I already have the iPad 3 which is now old news with the new iPad 4 announced yesterday.

I thought I would pounce on the mini when I imagined it to be a cheap smaller iPad even if it wasn’t retina because I wanted a Nexus 7-sized tablet that could be a cross between a color kindle and an iPad. I could forget about Kindle and be iPad all the time using my iPad 3 at home mostly when a bigger screen seemed better and using the mini around town when I was travelling light.

Spoiled by the size and lightness of the Kindle 2, I’ve wanted a smaller, lighter iPad all along. I bought a Kindle Fire last December. Even though it is a bit of brick, I liked the size especially for reading. I bought a Nexus 7 in July and love its size, shape and weight. Both of these are gathering dust because I can’t get the apps I want on these devices. I’m not married to google, so that ecosystem doesn’t hold me. I strongly prefer iBooks as an ereader to the Kindle app and don’t appreciate the dumbed down interface on the Fire.

There is inherent loss in just reducing a product in size. We took the time to go back to the beginning and design a product that was a concentration of, not a reduction of, the original. – Jony Ive

These are my big considerations on whether to get this little iPad mini:

  1. The size, thinness and lightness. Everything I liked about the Kindle Fire and Nexus 7 will be even better on the mini. It will be easier to hold while I’m using it. It won’t have to be propped up and accommodated to get into a comfortable position. It will be cute and lovable. It will be fun.
  2. It doesn’t have a retina display. I love my iPhone 5, iPad 3 and MacBook Pro retina displays. Firsthand observers who played with the iPad mini yesterday say it is noticeably not a retina display. The word disappointed was mentioned even though further comments emphasized that the screen is very good and better than the iPad 2 screen which is good. I hope the greatly reduced size and weight is more than a fair trade for losing retina. Even for someone spoiled by other retina devices. Retina is high priced in terms of size and weight (you need more batteries).
  3. It’s expensive especially when compared to the Kindle HD 7 and Nexus 7. The comparable Nexus 7 is $249. You have to pay an extra $79 to get the better hardware (but not better screen) and app ecosystem. That hurts. On the other hand, you know very well that $79 doesn’t go far and your time has value. If this tool works for you, do you want the best in class tool or one of the cheaper, economy tools?
  4. It’s a cheap iPad. I paid $359 for my Kindle 2, so this is an amazing bargain in a lot of ways. This is going to be great if you don’t have an iPad yet. It’s $170 cheaper than the iPad 4 retina.
  5. Should you have both a mini and a regular, though? That’s my question. How many devices can you use? This may just be a the right tool for the job situation. I know that my iPad 3 is great when I’m sitting up in bed with my knees up. It’s great on a table with my Logitech keyboard cover when typing. When I need room for whatever reason, that bigger canvas will still be preferable. But when those situations aren’t there and I want easy and light, like for reading which is my highest percentage use, the truly pad-sized, iPad mini will be great! The iPad mini will be a lighter adjunct to my laptop when I need to bring it along with me.

One thing I consider when indulging in more than one iPad or other tablet device like the Kindle or Nexus 7 is that we are moving away from paper. As we do so, we will need digital paper devices of different sizes just as paper pads and notebooks come in a variety of sizes. We don’t limit ourselves to one size of paper pad but use many sizes. The full-sized iPad may be your perfect size, especially if you are a fairly large-sized human. Women, normal to small-sized men and children will really love the iPad mini’s smaller, lighter, more portable form factor.

One last thought. The iPad mini will certainly get a retina display in a future update. Just as the Macbook Airs will get retina. But, the extra size, weight and processing requirements of the retina display are tradeoffs that these diminutive devices cannot yet abide.

Related post: Nexus 7 vs. Kindle Fire 2 vs. iPad mini updated Oct 23 2012.

Other good posts on iPad mini:
eReader Joy: New: iPad Mini.
Josh Topolsky, the Verge: Apple iPad mini Hands On
iPhone J.D.: Why Lawyers will love the 4th gen iPad and iPad mini
James Kendrick: iPad mini: Why I’m buying one as soon as possible

The iPhone 5 is a Great Piece of Tech

Updated Sep 16. I like the new iPhone 5 a lot. The 4 was a museum piece and 5 takes it to a new level of design goodness.

Apple is about simplicity. The features race is for the guys chasing the leader. What Apple does is make really good technical choices. They don’t go early on unbaked technology. They have the best volume pricing and availability of any phone maker so have their choice of exotic technologies. Their profit margins allow them to do whatever they want. We get incredible tech for the price.

To break it down, what stood out to me in the announcements, hands on reports and Apple’s iPhone 5 video.:

1. Feel. The feel of the device is extraordinary. Jony Ive says so and shows how they’ve done it. [Apple Video] People who’ve had hands on the device claim you will buy it if you hold it for 10 seconds. The fit and finish, texture, shape — these are subtle things and certainly hard to convey in a presentation. Gene Munster, who had hands on with the 5, calls it “a Rolex Among a sea of Timexes”. [Anandtech.com]

2. Size. The 4″ vs 3.5″ screen real estate is an 18%-sized chunk taller. I would probably be willing to sacrifice one hand use for a bit more real estate, but I’m satisfied with the improvement this time around. It is 18% thinner. 20% lighter. 12% less volume. Right – it is a smaller device overall than the iPhone 4S.

3. Museum Quality. People in the art and architecture world think about how great art and design elevate the human experience. The best iPhones so far from this point of view are the first, the 4 and now the 5. I haven’t had hands on the 5 yet, but the 5 should elevate us to a whole new level. I love carrying such a useful device that alters me at the same time. [Apple’s iPhone 5 Design page].

4. Speed. Anandtech.com was very pleasantly surprised by how big a speed bump Apple put into the iPhone 5. Up to twice as fast as the 4S. They didn’t think Apple would put in a new A6 chip loaded up with dual ARM Cortex A15 cores (correction, Apple is doing something custom in the A6 so Anandtech now (Sep 15) isn’t sure what is in there exactly). Double the RAM too (1 gb). Technology mavens know that an increase in speed increases the size of the playing field for creativity. Developer resources just shot up again and more is possible. The app marketplace will be inspired to find new and better applications for iPhone 5. [Anandtech on custom A6]

5. Better Screen. Anandtech reports the screen of the iPhone 5 is noticeably better than the 4S even in the very challenging lighting conditions in the demo room. 44% more color saturation compared to 4S. I can’t wait to see what a screen better than the amazing 4S screen looks like.

6. “Less but Better“. We know Jony Ive is and Steve Jobs was a big fan of Dieter Rams, the great industrial designer for Braun. Tenth of his famous 10 Principals of Good Design:

Is as little design as possible – Less, but better – because it concentrates on the essential aspects, and the products are not burdened with non-essentials. Back to purity, back to simplicity.

Chasing specs and new technologies is for the Samsungs of the world. Apple moves on these technology opportunities and new materials when the time is right. That doesn’t make them less innovative. Throwing tech up against the wall to see what sticks isn’t all that desirable. [David Chartier] [Apple’s iPhone 5 Features page]

7. The Apps. Apple’s ecosystem is ahead here and that lead is showing staying power. There is little profit on the Android Google Play app store. Windows Phone bombed in the marketplace. Windows 8 isn’t out yet. A few apps like Evernote are on Android in good form, but so many are markedly inferior or missing. Unless you are gung-ho for Android or buy multiple phones, I wouldn’t be straying from iPhone any time soon. My home screen showing the apps I use most is at left.

8. Thunderbolt and Lightning. The new small 8 signal iPhone Lightning connector won’t work with old docks but is overdue for an upgrade. Not going with the standard micro USB connector gave Apple the chance make it the best connector ever and to future proof it. Luckily, Apple’s track record and less is better attitude means they’ve thought this through and we’ll be happy with the end result. [MacWorld]

Should you upgrade? I have a 4S and I’m going to upgrade on day 1, but that’s no surprise.  I can trade my *old* 64gb iPhone 4S in for ~ $350 and buy a new 32gb iPhone 5 (with a new contract) for $299. I’m switching from AT&T to Verizon and paying the $215 cancellation fee. It is worth it to me to pay the extra charge to take advantage of this exquisite tool. If you get good use out of the the computer in your pocket and are a knowledge professional eligible for a full upgrade, why not upgrade?

My Plans. Personally, I’m leaning towards the white/silver version although I think the black/slate is pretty hot in a darth vader sort of way. I’m still sussing things out and plan to go online before preorders start tonight at 12:01 am PST. Planning to use my iPad’s Apple Store app to place the order. (Update, I preordered the 32 gb black/slate shown here due for delivery Sep 21)