iPad: Love It or Hate It?

“I still can’t believe this! All this hype for something so ridiculous!”
“The Reality Distortion Field™ is starting to warp Steve’s mind if he thinks for one second that this thing is gonna take off.”
“I’d call it the Cube 2.0 as it wont sell, and be killed off in a short time…and it’s not really functional.”
“Not exactly “revolutionary”. With the economy in its current state”

While some people are reporting on their hands-on time with the iPad, others are already complaining about the features left out of the iPad.

Wired had an interesting look at 10 things missing from it. And in many cases pointed out that the target audience for this device doesn’t care about most of those things. A San Francisco Chronicle column highlights four “whiffs” of the iPad. The one with the most teeth, I think, if the screen resolution of 1024×768. I understand why a 16:9 ratio would be weird when using the portrait aspect, but couldn’t it at least be able to show 720p video like the Apple TV?

Yet another blog calls the iPad “crap futurism” not because the iPad is a badly designed device, but because they think the iPad is marketed as a computer, while it is in reality a media consumption device. They think that is bad, since Apple’s M.O. is to tightly control the apps they allow on their devices. I disagree with the assessment of the marketing plan, but totally agree that it is a media consumption device. They go on to talk about media convergence in a device. The thing is normal people want easy, and a product may be the best new thing since the microchip, if it’s not easy it won’t sell well. The iTunes/iTunes Store interface is easy. The iPad looks easy.

CNet asks, “Who will buy the iPad?

“John Gruber made an excellent point Wednesday: “Apple doesn’t talk much about the technical details of the iPhone. They never talk about CPU speed or the name of the chip being used. They don’t tell you how much RAM is in there. Part of their vision for moving computers from technical culture to popular culture is about getting away from defining these things by their technical specs.”

There’s much more that could be done with the iPad, and it’s not hard to imagine there’s more to come with subsequent product updates. But Apple’s not being upfront with the technical details and having the latest and greatest technology, while it seems to infuriate/disappoint people with technical chops, might mean this device is not for them. At least not yet.”

When I think about the iPad, I think about the potential more than what we saw in the keynote. The keynote showed us some of the things it can do, but in the next 90 days we will see a lot more of the potential of this device. I told one friend to “give it a year.” In a few months we will hopefully see software companies using the iPad beyond just double size iPod apps. We will see people pushing the limits of what this things can be.

The quotes at the top of this post are from an thread a friend of mine pulled out from the day the first iPod was announced. The reactions sound a little like some of the reactions to the iPad. But look at what an iPod, with the power of iTunes, can do today. Below are some of my favorites. (I especially like the one asking where the next “Newton” is)

“The Reality Distiortion Field™ is starting to warp Steve’s mind if he thinks for one second that this thing is gonna take off.”
“I’d call it the Cube 2.0 as it wont sell, and be killed off in a short time…and it’s not really functional.”
“Not exactly “revolutionary”. With the economy in its current state”
“Great just what the world needs, another freaking MP3 player. Go Steve! Where’s the Newton?!”
“I still can’t believe this! All this hype for something so ridiculous! Who cares about an MP3 player? I want something new! I want them to think differently! Why oh why would they do this?! It’s so wrong! It’s so stupid!”

I wonder if we will look back on similar comments, articles, and threads about the iPad just like we look at these about the iPod…

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Is the iPad a Kindle Killer?

The WSJ has a Digits post with video from the Apple iPad presentation talking about the new iBooks app.

I wondered how the base iPad compared to the Kindle. If someone just wanted the e-reader capability would the iPad be the way to go, or should they stay with Kindle? I am assuming that quickly all the same books will be available on both devices.

I’ve played with a Kindle a little, and it’s got a nice feel to it. I own an iPhone and iPod Touch, so I can imagine how the iPad feels.

The base iPad run $500 while the larger (similar sized) Kindle runs $490. The 6″ display model is $260.

The larger Kindle has about 4GB of storage, while the iPad weighs in at 16GB. But both will store more books than you need.

iPad is a color display, but either show basic text pages just fine.

The Kindle boasts global 3G downloads via “Whispersync”, while the iPad base model would only be wifi. The price goes up to $629 + monthly charges for 3G access. This is really where the Kindle beats the iPad. Even so, do you really need to be able to get your next book anywhere, or could you wait until the next wifi hotspot?

If you are just doing book reading with this device, then maybe the Kindle is the way to go (especially if you don’t mind the small version). But if you want to do anything else, the iPad does so much more. if you own an iPhone or iPod and want and e-reader, the iPad is the way to go.

The real Kindle Killer would be new release e-books priced the same as a paperback… $7. That’s what I would like to see from any e-reader. I’m hearing $8-15 for iBooks.

The iPad: How Close was I, and Will I Buy It?

The other day I had a thought, and took a guess at what what the new Apple tablet might be. I moved away from the actual tablet laptop and toward something akin to a large iPod. How close Did I get?

I was wrong about the name. It’s not iSlate as so many predicted, but iPad. I’m not a huge fan of the name.

Here’s what I guessed:

What if it is just a big iPod Touch? 10.1″ screen, with 3G capability. It acts like a big iPod. Runs all iPod apps, and introduces a whole new class of apps for the larger screen. Has a USB port and Bluetooth. It’s not a phone, but you can Skype and iChat with it and a built in microphone and camera. It can access Mobile Me files via a new interface.

And then Apple launches the iGuide service, which is a media delivery service for books and magazines. And the iSlate has a great e-reader app. And the books sell for a Kindle-killer price of $7 each (the price of a paperback).

And the starting price? $300 for a 16GB model. $400 for a 32GB, $500 for 64GB.

The reality is a 9.7″ big iPod with some new features. Wifi + 3G capable, and it’s not just on AT&T. it does run almost all iPod apps, and there is a whole new class of app for the device. Bluetooth, but no built in USB port. It was not a phone, but there is no camera built in. Yes on the microphone. Mobile Me can be accessed through the iPhone app, but not through any new interface.

iGuide was way off name-wise, but there is an iBookstore with an iBook app. No word on cost of books.

I was way off on the price. $200 off.

To be honest, the new iWork apps sort of take this device back toward a netbook. You can do real work on it. Nothing too intense, but word processing and spreadsheets and presentations are what a lot of people do every day.

I don’t think I will get a 3G version. But I might think about wifi version. With some iWork apps. Maybe.

What If the Apple Tablet, iSlate, is… Just a Big iPod+?

{This post was from 2 days before the Apple Event that announced the iPad.}

I had a thought today. I have been expecting the iSlate to be a full fledged tablet computer with “netbook” capabilities. I have been expecting it to be able to run real computer programs.

But when has Apple ever just entered a market? Do we really expect Apple to release an $800 “netbook” tablet device? The price point is a lot higher than the competition. That’s not something that Apple has shied away from before. But this market isn’t like the regular laptop market, where buying a PC of similar power means spending similar money.

Or do we expect Apple to come out with a device we didn’t know we needed before Wednesday, but can’t wait to get?

What if it is just a big iPod Touch? 10.1″ screen, with 3G capability. It acts like a big iPod. Runs all iPod apps, and introduces a whole new class of apps for the larger screen. Has a USB port and Bluetooth. It’s not a phone, but you can Skype and iChat with it and a built in microphone and camera. It can access Mobile Me files via a new interface.

And then Apple launches the iGuide service, which is a media delivery service for books and magazines. And the iSlate has a great e-reader app. And the books sell for a Kindle-killer price of $7 each (the price of a paperback).

And the starting price? $300 for a 16GB model. $400 for a 32GB, $500 for 64GB.

It would face the same sorts of criticisms that the iPhone did. There would be all manner of comparisons with actual “netbooks” that sell for similar amounts. Multitudes of articles would be written complaining about the lack of whatever it lacks. And Apple would ignore it all (until they fixed the glaring “mistakes” in a later update) and just keep selling them. The question would be, is this the next new thing, or just a niche product?

And the real question, would I buy it?

But then again, maybe it is a real tablet computer.

Reading

Last year my wife read 61 books. Yes, 61, and that doesn’t include books read to the kids.

I am also an avid reader. I have been a reader since I was a kid, living in a home with only one TV station.

I have not really gotten into the electronic readers out there. I did download Kindle for my iPhone and have read some samples on it. I have one app that includes classic fiction books. I like the stand along Kindle, but won’t shell out tat much for a book reader until the electronic books come down below $10 a piece. If I can wait until books are in paper back (selling for $6-7 each) I’m not willing to pay $10 for a book I can’t loan out, or let my wife read without giving up my own e-reader. I understand that Amazon and other e-reader maker are working to lower costs even on new releases. When I can buy new releases at less than paperback prices, I will look more closely at an e-reader.

Meanwhile, we love the library. Did you know tat the Orange county library will let you select books online, and deliver them to your front door, for no charge?

We love book sales. And used book stores. If you frequent used bookstores, you know there always seems to be one in every town that smells a bit like cat litter. That’s the one where you can find some really good deals. My wife likes thrift stores for books as well. And the library sales.

I read a combination of fiction and non fiction books. I once was told that reading fiction was self indulgence. I disagree. As a person who tries to tell stories, I think learning how others tell stories is important. In addition, as a person who communicates to those who are inundated with culture, I need to know what people are are saying, and how they say it. Books deal with all kinds of cultural dimensions. So, I will continue to read fiction and non fiction.

When I hear about people who don’t even read one book a year, I wonder what happened to make them that way. Did they lose all desire to learn? Have they never read a good book, one that captivates the imagination? Don’t they like stories?

Me? I love them. I am experiencing what my wife and I call “good book let down” right now. I just finished a fiction book, and I wish I was still reading the story. I wish I knew what happened next. Luckily, it passes as soon as I start another book. I think I’ll go look for one right now.

New Missions Haiti Team Airport Reunion

They went to Haiti for a reason, and that reason did not change because of an earthquake. As soon as possible the teams were carrying rice and beans to nearby villages. They continued to serve to the people of Haiti.

Even though they wanted to stay and continue to help, the situation required that steps be taken to get them out as soon as possible. New Missions property was in a location that allowed us to work with private and public resources, and secure air transport from Haiti to The Dominican Republic for all 44 people on this trip, plus a missionary family living on New Missions site. The New Missions site is on the Leogane plain, on the north side of Haiti. About 25 miles from the airport in Port-Au-Prince.

From there we arranged a plane to take our people, and over 70 others, from Haiti to the United States. They could have been home hours ago, but they worked with the State Department to fill the plane with dozens more, transporting them to safety.

While we rejoice that we were able to get out people back home, our hearts break for those we could not help. Please continue to join us in prayer for Haiti. Now more than ever, our focus should be on helping the people of Haiti.

This is footage of the team’s return home at the airport.

Missions Team Uses Facebook and Twitter to Communicate from Haiti After Quake

Several people associated with our church and school were part of a 40 member mission team in Haiti when the devastating earthquake struck yesterday. The team is there working with New Missions, and was delivering hundreds of the “Christmas” shoeboxes people in Orlando had donated for the children of that impoverished nation.

Right after the quake, aside from a couple of spotty cell phone calls, information from the team was almost nonexistent. We knew that everyone on the team was OK, and they were moving to higher ground in case of a tsunami. But that is it.

The next day they returned to the main campus for New Missions. They still are having trouble making calls, but they can access the internet through a satellite wifi connection. New Missions has been posting video of the team members to their facebook page, and posting twitter updates. from those we have seen the whole team on video, alive and well. we have seen pictures of people handing out food to the surrounding community, and of the damage there. I just saw a picture of someone fixing the water well on the compound so they can continue to have clean drinking water.

Everyone is safe, but the situation is still unstable, so we are doing everything we can to get our people home.

The “Bow Tie” Ending and Christian Film

I don’t make films, but I watch them, and I do try to use media to tell stories.

Have you ever noticed that we Christians have a hang up about loose ends? About story lines that have not been resolved? We cannot just let something remain unresolved. We have to tie it all up in a bow before the end credits. but fils that are not tied to a Christian message don’t always seem to have that rule?

I remember watching a pretty good Christian film. It was almost over, and the main character had not been reconciled to his mother. I actually thought that the film makers might not have time to properly resolve it, and would leave it hanging. But no, tacked onto the end was the tearful hug. It felt like an afterthought, and to be completely honest, I wondered if in the same situation I could forgive so easily. It didn’t ring true. In my opinion, it detracted from an otherwise great story. That sub plot needed more than 60 seconds to be resolved.

It’s obvious that the main story line has to be resolved. That’s the point of telling the story in the first place. But why does every nuance of the plot have to explained? Can we not leave people wondering?

Maybe we think that if we don’t resolve the story we are signaling that the issue at hand is not important? Or that we don’t think it’s an issue that should be resolved? It’s easier in a series or sequence of films, I guess. People know there is something coming later. It actually becomes imperative to leave significant plots open to be resolved later. But why do we have to tie up all the loose ends in a story?

I think part of it is that we put those sub plots in for a reason. We want to tell that story. Sure, it’s not the main story, but we wanted to show that issue; that conflict, and we want very much to resolve it. But often we rush to resolve the issue, and it feels wrong. Unnatural. Fake. Not like real life. In real life there is rarely a time when all of life’s sub plots are tied up at one time. Life is messy. It’s complicated.

No, that’s not real life, but neither is a movie. If we are just telling a story, then it doesn’t matter if it’s all clean at the end. But when the conflict is teaching a biblical principle, then the principle must be taught. Maybe that’s our problem. Maybe not every issue in film should have an ultimate purpose in teaching a biblical principle. Maybe it’s just a part of the story.

I would like to see us feel the freedom to move away from “bow tie” endings. If we want Christian film to have broader appeal (read- seen by more people…) then we need to make really good films, with really good stories. Sometimes that means we will just have story elements that are not part of some additional message. That conflict with the main character’s mother is not something to be resolved, it simple gives information about the main character.

Or at the very least, if an issue that must be resolved is introduced, make time to do it in a way that feels natural.

Comparing Settings for Handbrake 0.93 and 0.94

The new version of handbrake took the program in a new direction, and left my old settings behind. My first attempts at using the new version had less than stellar results. After a lot of trial and error, I think I have landed upon settings for 0.94 that mirror my settings for 0.93. These are not really scientific, and stills don’t really represent it very well. The frames are almost, but not quite the same frame from the move. Hopefully close enough to make some comparison

Screen shot from 0.93:

Average bitrate of 2000, 720 width, 5g support, h.264 file. File plays on Apple TV, iPod and iPhone.

Screen shot from 0.94:

iPod preset, raise resolution to 720 width, 65% constant quality, 5g support. File plays on Apple TV, iPod and iPhone.

Screen shot from 0.94:

Apple TV preset with no alterations, just for reference. File Plays on Apple TV, and the ones I tested played on my iPhone 3Gs, but not on my iPod.

The 0.93 file and the 0.94 file from the iPod preset are almost exactly the same size. The 0.94 file from the Apple TV preset is actually smaller, but I cannot use it on my iPod.

Here is an 0.93 capture blown up to fit my computer (Macbook Pro 15″) compared to an 0.94 iPod base capture.

To my eye, the 0.94 iPod base settings are just a bit sharper. I watched through this clip from Transformers, looking for artifacts and noticeable compression. The light and dark with smoke and explosions did reveal some compression in all versions. But all were within acceptable ranges, especially at actual resolution. The Apple TV base setting actually showed a little bit more compression than the others.

For the time being, it looks like I will switch to 0.94 with my new altered iPod preset for future rips.

200

A little less than a year ago I started writing this blog. My goal was 200 posts in the first year. I hope anyone reading is getting at least something out of this. It’s been viewed over 4500 times, but the last month visits have really accelerated. 1000 views have been in the last 30 days. Nothing compared to many sites, I know, but still very cool.

I wanted to write about things in my life- media in ministry, tech, faith, work, and anything else I found interesting. It’s been great, and I think the next 200 posts will be just as fun.