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Entries in iPhone (10)

Monday
Mar132017

Protecting Your iPhone's Data at the US Border

Over the last couple of days, various news outlets have reported that there's been a significant increase in the request of mobile phone passwords when entering the United States, even for those who are natural-born US citizens. A few days ago, the Electronic Frontier Foundation posted "Digital Privacy at the U.S. Border: Protecting the Data On Your Devices and In the Cloud" which I recommend if you're concerned about this kind of issue. 

Here are a few specific tips for iPhone users (which is what I use, so sorry, no Android tips here) for protecting your device's data at the US border or when going through Customs. 

If you're an iPhone user and do not wish to have your phone searched (I assume on grounds of principle and not because you'd have anything that would actually incriminate you for something illegal), make certain you take a few precautions at any border crossing or going through Customs. 

Assuming you've bought your iPhone in the last three years, it is already encrypted. Thank you, Apple. However, your data is only as good as your Passcode. 

1. A Passcode should be required anytime your iPhone is accessed. If yours is not set to to ask for the Passcode, go to Settings: Touch ID & Passcode: Require Passcode: Immediately.

2. Your Passcode should be a minimum of 6 characters, and last year "experts" were saying 11 characters was the ideal length (they're saying 12 or more now). Regardless of the length, it should not be something that would be easily guessed if someone knows you. If your Passcode is the year you were born, married, graduated, etc., change it now. Settings: Touch ID & Passcode: Change Passcode

3. Your iPhone has a failed Passcode "self-destruct" feature that you may not know about. After 10 incorrect Passcode tries, it will erase all data--but you have to turn on this feature. To do so, go to Settings: Touch ID & Passcode: Erase Data.

4. If you use your fingerprint to unlock your iPhone, be certain to completely turn off/shut down your device before going through Customs or a border crossing. A shutdown requires a Passcode to be entered, so you can't be forced to use your fingerprint against your will. 

Always be polite and respectful, but realize that if you do not comply with requests, you may not get your iPhone back.

Fingerprint image courtesy of Pixabay.com.

Tuesday
Aug212012

Unlimited Data (with asterisks)

Kathy and I still have the original unlimited data plans from AT&T going back to our initial iPhone purchases in 2007.

But my definition of unlimited is very different than AT&T's definition.

Recently I received the attached text from AT&T telling me that since I have gone over 3 GB in one month, they may reduce my data speeds in the future if I keep doing so.

Fortunately, we're no longer under contract for Kathy's iPhone 3G or my iPhone 4. We now have options.

Sprint's unlimited data is appealing but their coverage is significantly less than AT&T and Verizon. I've heard grumblings about the new plans from Verizon, but at least now we have choice of carriers when the new iPhone is announced next month.

I'd be interested to hear in the comments from folks who have switched from AT&T to one of the other providers.

[This blog entry was written on my iPhone and posted via AT&T 3G out of spite.]

Wednesday
Jun152011

The Empty Book Bag, Version 2.x

Some of you may remember that I presented a session at IWU's "No Educator Left Behind" conference last year on the use of the iPad in the classroom. This year, I expanded that topic to include a discussion of eReaders. My new session was titled "The Empty Book Bag, Version 2.0: Digital Instruction Using Tablet & eReader Technologies."

Below is a video of this year's session, which I presented on June 3, at the Indianapolis campus of Indiana Wesleyan Univeristy. If you have an hour to kill, enjoy!

 

As always, your thoughts, comments, questions, or rebuttals are welcome in the comments.

Tuesday
May312011

Significant Updates to iWork for iOS: A Quick Look

Not only did Apple release "universal"  versions of their iWork Suite (Pages, Keynote & Numbers) today making them available for the smaller screens of the iPhone and the iPod Touch, the releases also included a few significant updates from previous versions on the iPad.

Here's a quick overview in pictures (click on images for a larger view).

In the "I don't know why it wasn't there in the first place" department, files in the individual apps can be sorted into folders. This works the same way that application folders are created on all iOS devices: drag one file on top of another and a folder is created that can be given any name.

 

Files & folders in Keynote for the iPad


Files & folders in Pages for the iPad

A folder's content in Keynote in Keynote for the iPad

Exporting and printing is now handled internally in a document rather than in the file browser as before:


Print/Export features now accessed from within the file (Keynote on the iPad)

No doubt many who teach with Keynote will be thrilled that the Keynote Remote on the iPhone can be used to control slides. The Keynote remote even gives access to presentation notes for complete classroom wandering! The two devices connect over WiFi.


Enable remote from within Keynote on the iPad (cropped image from Keynote on the iPad)


Control Keynote slides with an iPhone or iPod Touch. Presentation notes included! (iPhone screenshot) 

While the new iPad features of iWork are the most exciting to me, no doubt many will find the new iPhone/iPod Touch versions of these apps to be the really big news.

While I couldn't imagine doing serious editing of a Keynote slideshow on my iPhone, I have to admit it offers some new possibilities worth pondering. It was just a little over a year ago that we neded a full-blown laptop to use presentation graphics software. The iPad last year scaled those hardware requirements considerably. But can you imagine now—walking into a classroom and simply pulling an iPhone and an adapter out of your pocket as the only hardware needed for a presentation (assuming the projector is already in the room)?


Keynote on the iPhone: Create a presentation natively or import a PowerPoint or Keynote file created elsewhere.

Creating a new document in Pages for the iPhone

The same templates available in the iPad version are also available in the iPhone version of Pages.

 

Typing in Pages on the iPhone

 

Editing text in Pages on the iPhone


Insert a chart: all the same features available on the iPad version are available in the iPhone/Ipod Touch versions.

 

Again, I'm not totally psyched about the smaller versions of these apps as I doubt I will use them that much (although I may experiment with using Keynote from my iPhone), but simply giving some file management features as well as allowing remote control of presentations really begins to bring the experience up to par with using an actual laptop.


And yes, I know I've offered no screenshots for Numbers, but the same principles above (with the exception of the Keynote remote) apply to that app, too.

Saturday
Apr232011

Ratted Out! How Do I Convince My Wife That I Really Wasn't in Vegas Last Summer When My iPhone Says I Was?

There's been a lot of news this past week about iOS devices keeping a log of our locations, which is available for easy viewing with the right software, such as iPhoneTracker. While I do understand the privacy concerns, at the same time, I thought it was pretty fascinating to see a visual map of where I've been in the last few months:

My travels over the last nine or so months. Click on the image for a larger view.

Some have called this "feature" a bug, but really, I was surprised at the furor over this. I mean, I just assumed that with a GPS in my phone, I was being tracked everywhere. Plus, it seems like every other episode of any Law & Order series feature a person's cell phone as part of evidence: "Well, according to the data on Mr. Smith's cell phone, he was across the river in New Jersey on the night of the murder."

However, one has to ask if any of the data on a map such as the one above can be incorrect? I look at the locations on the map, and I can't quite remember when I went to some places—such as Cincinnati—in the past nine months, although I'm sure I probably did.

The biggest surprise, though, came when the map displayed another location. Look at this expanded view map below:

Notice the location points in the southeast corner of Nevada. Click on the image for a larger view.
Close-up of my supposed visit to Las Vegas. Click on the Image for a closer view.

Here's kinda how our conversation went yesterday:

Me: "Hey, my iPhone's reporting I was recently in Las Vegas."

Kathy: "What? When were you in Las Vegas? I wasn't with you in Las Vegas!"

Me: "I don't know! I promise I wasn't there! Really!"

Kathy: "That's not what your iPhone says. Why would it lie? What is it you need to tell me?"

So there I was—somewhere between "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" and my own personalized version of the movie The Hangover (which I actually haven't seen, but I think I understand the gist of the plot)—trying to defend myself against the data reported from this cold, unfeeling machine that had seemingly now turned on me.

Then I happened to notice the date which my iPhone was reporting that I was in Las Vegas: June 23, 2010. That was a relief because I had the perfect alibi! That was the very date of our 20th wedding anniversary, and we were both together at Dinosaur World in Cave City, Kentucky (don't ask).

On that day, I didn't even own my current iPhone 4. I still had the older, MUCH slower, iPhone 3G. Kathy had a newer iPhone 3GS, but for reasons I cannot remember now, she asked to borrow my phone. When she gave it back, she proclaimed, "Ugh. Your phone is so slow! You really need a new one" to which I said, "Well, it just so happens the iPhone 4 is being released this week..."

So, on June 23, 2010, I didn't even have this phone, which is claiming it (not me!) was in Las Vegas. I can only guess that perhaps the phone was turned on somewhere in Vegas before being shipped to the Louisville Apple Store where I bought it. I really have no idea. But at least I'm in the clear with Kathy—at least on this particular matter.

 

Tuesday
Mar152011

iPad 2: Not Another Review—Just Some Observations

Some may see it as predictable, but honestly, as early as Friday morning last week, the day of the iPad 2's release, I was denying that I was upgrading from the first gen iPad. And I meant it. But then my circumstances changed about mid-day, and thanks to a very generous gift, I was able to procure the iPad 2 from the Apple Store in Louisville, Kentucky.

This is not a review of the iPad 2. Those are a dime a dozen at this point. Rather, here are a number of mostly disconnected observations based on my experience over the last four or so days.

Black's Always Cool, But White's the New Black.
I don't know if I was fully decided about which color to get—black or white—until I got in the store, but I was leaning toward white. As I assume most of you know, the original iPad came with only a black bezel around the screen. Now consumers get a choice, albeit limited to only one more choice. In the end, I chose white. It wasn't a nailbiter choice, mind you. I just thought I'd like to have a slightly different experience.

It's interesting that since last Friday afternoon, if you walk into just about any Apple Store, you will primarily see white iPads everywhere. Even the employees are carrying the white models.

I had initially one concern about getting a white iPad: it might show dirt more easily. I wasn't alone in this fear since a friend of mine voiced the same thing, and I heard people interviewed on various tech podcasts say this, too. My hunch is that this concern is especially relevant if you ever owned a white plastic iBook or MacBook. After a few weeks, the white plastic, especially on the palm rest, frankly looked gross. You could clean it, but good luck getting it back to the original pristine white.

The iPad's different though because regardless of whether you get white or back, the plastic is under glass. It's not going to absorb the grime from your hands regardless of how much you refuse to wash them.

And an added benefit? Fingerprints show up less against the white than on the black.

If You Use It to Teach, the iPad 2 Is a Significant Upgrade.
The phrase being thrown around in a lot of reviews is that the iPad 2 is an "evolutionary and not revolutionary upgrade." And this is true (and probably by design). However, there was one major new feature that will benefit anyone who teaches with an iPad: the ability to fully mirror the screen.

With the original iPad, video out was implemented on an app-by-app basis. So presentation programs like Keynote for the iPad could send slide images to a projector if connected with the iPad VGA adapter, but most programs could not.

The ability to throw anything on the screen is pretty exciting. This means that if I'm teaching a New Testament class in Keynote, and I want to switch over to a Bible software application such as BibleReader or Accordance, I can switch to these and perform live instruction from these apps. Every teacher with an iPad and a related educational app has no doubt been frustrated about not having the ability to mirror every screen. Now all that has changed. In fact, this past weekend at church, when I switched between programs, one fellow who's seen me use Keynote on the iPad dozens of times, asked "What's that?" when he saw my desktop of icon folders.

Of course, the first gen iPad has always had this ability as evidenced by Apple's own internal use of this feature during presentations as well as a fairly popular app for this that works with jailbroken iPads. Sadly, Apple has not allowed first generation iPads to have this feature even though they are certainly capable of it.

Contrary to What You May Have Heard, Mirroring Works with the VGA Adapter.
Part of the announcement of iOS mirroring, mentioned above, included a new adapter for connecting the iPad via HDMI to an HD television or an HD projector. This led to a question as to whether video mirroring worked with the original VGA connector released with the first gen iPad. In fact, I waited in line with a buddy of mine who was buying his first iPad. The Apple Store sales rep actually told him that mirroring would only work with the HDMI connector. I told her that this did not square with what Apple's own website states: "Video mirroring and video out support: Up to 1080p with Apple Digital AV Adapter or Apple VGA Adapter (cables sold separately)" (emphasis added; see the iPad Tech Specs page under "TV and Video").

I had already confirmed that the first gen iPad would not mirror with the 4.3 update, but one of the first things I wanted to test was the ability to mirror an iPad 2 with merely the VGA adapter. Using the VGA adapter, I have successfully mirrored the iPad 2 with both my television and an Epson projector. It works great. My main use of the iPad for this is with data projectors, but none that I have access to at the moment use HDMI. So, the VGA adapter works great.

Contrary to What You May Have Heard, the Keyboard Dock Works with the iPad 2.
Recently, I read somewhere that only about a quarter or less of iPad owners use an external keyboard. That's probably a testament to how well the on-screen keyboard works, but I occasionally find myself in situations in which I want to use a regular keyboard with my iPad.


I bought Apple's keyboard dock at the same time I bought my original iPad last year. I liked that it provided a very stable stand for the iPad while typing and that it also had an iPad specific row of function keys. However, I didn't like that it's odd shape made it difficult to fit in a bag or that the iPad could only be used with it in portrait mode. I do a LOT of Keynote work on the iPad, and Keynote will only run in landscape mode. That means using the keyboard dock with the iPad can give you a sore neck really fast. For what it's worth, I have tried the iPad with one of Apple's Bluetooth keyboard and that is probably what I'd recommend that most folks use who want a physical keyboard with their iPad, even though there aren't iPad specific function keys. Incidentally, if you use one of Apple's new "Smart Covers," the iPad is quite stable in upright mode to use with a Bluetooth keyboard.

FYI: stability is an issue in these contexts, because even when using an external keyboard, you still have to use the touch interface of the iPad's screen. You want it to be stable so that it doesn't fall over every time you touch it.

Regardless, the new iPad 2 rests in the original keyboard dock just fine despite its slightly different dimensions. In fact, I used the two together for a faculty observation I was performing last night, and I noticed no difference from the performance with the original iPad. Having said that, though, I still may eventually go with a Bluetooth keyboard myself. It would certainly be easier to carry the two together.

About Those "Smart" Covers.
Apple likes to refer to the iPad as "magical." While that may be a bit of silly hyperbole, the new Smart Covers are the closest thing I've seen yet to anything that might be called magic. It was really somewhat amazing when I first attempted to place the cover on the iPad 2. There seemed to be a bit of AI in play as the cover didn't even wait for me to line it up, but immediately grabbed onto the iPad and was lined up perfectly. The ease of placing the cover on the iPad 2 is quite a contrast from putting Amazon's Kindle cover on their eReader. The first time I tried that, I nearly broke one of the hooks, not understanding how it was supposed to be attached.

This automatic "physical syncing" between the Smart Cover and the iPad 2 is achieved through magnets--31 total between the cover and the iPad 2 according to folks who have taken both apart. Somehow this feels dangerous. I remember when we were told to keep magnets away from our computers!

As amazing as these covers are, somehow my new iPad seems a bit naked. The screen is protected, which is a good thing, but the aluminum backside is bound to get scuffed and scratched after a while. There are numerous companies that provide protective films for screens, and now we might need something similar for the back of the iPad. Or at the very least, all those companies that make iPad cases can breath a sigh of relief because I imagine some iPad owners will opt for a bit more protection.

I actually liked Apple's original folio case with one exception. With the case on, it wouldn't fit in the keyboard dock (which, again, evidently only I liked). So, as some of you remember, I "modified" mine with scissors, but Kathy said it looked unprofessional because I can't cut straight. I also liked how the iPad looked and felt in the folio case when I could carry it into a meeting as if it were a very thin Daytimer.

Besides the gee whiz aspect to the Smart Covers, I have to wonder why Apple went this route. I can only imagine it might be because they got tired of seeing the iPad covered up (or more likely, their logo covered up) whenever an iPad was used in real world situations or on television. With the increasing number of new tablets appearing on the market this year, and inevitably appearing in media and in the workplace, Apple probably wants to make certain that their iPad is distinguishable from the rest of all the forthcoming tablet noise.

Get a Grip.
I wonder if whether longterm, I'll want to put the iPad 2 in a more traditional case. The way it folds to prop itself up, either vertically or at an angle for typing, works great. But Sunday, when I was trying for the first time to use my new iPad with Keynote, connected to a projector, the iPad wouldn't stay at the top of the podium I was using. This was never a problem with the original, black folio case. I could turn the cover back, slip it into its notch to put it at an angle, and it would hold its place, even on a slanted podium. With nothing on the back of the iPad 2, there's nothing to grip the underlying surface. I wanted it to stay at the top of the podium, but it insisted on sliding to the bottom.

With the Smart Cover folded into a triangle, I've found that I also could hold the iPad in one hand, in portrait mode, providing I kept my thumb over the bezel. These magnets are strong, but the cover can still come off quite easily and the entire iPad should never be left hanging from the cover. In fact, I've already dropped mine this way, but fortunately, it landed on my living room couch. But how many of us dropped our first gen iPads and were thankful we had them in a full case? I predict with Smart Covers alone, we're going to see a lot more broken iPads this year.

I wouldn't recommend anyone use an iPad regularly without some kind of protection for it. I believe there are going to be better ways to protect the iPad 2 (none of the first gen covers fit the iPad 2, incidentally) than the Smart Covers, but at the very least you need to have something on your iPad.

Professionalism Comes with a Price.
It's nice to see Apple bringing some visual variety back to its products. In some ways, I miss the colorful days of the fruit-flavored iMacs and original iBooks. Most Apple products in recent years have been black, silver, and sometimes white. Last year's iPad folio cover from Apple only came in black, although third parties supplied a wide variety of colors and designs. Nevertheless, Apple's return to colors, even in this small way, is a welcome change.

The new covers come in either polyurethane or leather. The difference in price is significant—$39 for plastic and $69 for animal hide. I would have been fine with a polyurethane cover, having given up on any need for "real" leather a long time ago, if it were not for one thing. What was not immediately clear to me (and probably a lot of others) is that only the neon/pastel colors are polyurethane, while the darker colors—what I consider to be a better fit for most "professional" contexts—come only in the leather. I would have been more than willing—no, preferred—to buy a lower priced polyurethane cover, but I didn't want ANY of the polyurethane colors. In the end, I opted for the dark blue leather. As already described, there are pros and cons to these covers, but they are pretty amazing for what they are. However, when you hold it by itself in your hand and realize that you just paid $70 for it, well...that's a bit hard to take.

How Much Faster Is It?
When Steve Jobs introduced the iPad 2, he said it was up to twice as fast as the first iPad. It has a faster dual core processor as well as twice as much RAM (although Apple never wants to talk about the RAM in its iOS devices). As everyone has said, the first gen iPad was no slouch, so how distinguishable is the second one? Well, I have no idea; the first iPad was fast enough and in most apps, the difference is imperceptible. However, I do see a real difference in a couple of apps.

First, I see a difference in some Keynote transitions. I'm not one to use too many distracting transitions between slides anyway. A plain dissolve is usually fine with me. However, I do like the "Anagram" transition in Keynote which, when advancing from one slide to another, will use a few letters on the first slide to create the word on the second slide (here's a brief YouTube video of it in action). I like Anagram because it's subtle, but also because I feel it can visually link the concepts in one slide to the next.

On the original iPad, sometimes the Anagram transition would stall a bit. I'd be ready to go to the next slide, but I could tell that Keynote was processing a number of algorithms to get the transition to work. Often I would go through a presentation ahead of time, and if an Anagram transition took too long, I'd simply use a simple dissolve. Sunday, I noticed that none of my transitions were slowed down. The Anagram transition worked without a hitch, no doubt benefitted by the extra RAM and faster processor.

Second, I keep quite a few PDF files on my iPad in GoodReader. Some of them are quite large, hundreds of pages long. I use GoodReader, not because I liked its interface best (I really don't), but rather because it's been more robust than a lot of the other readers, crashing less often than other apps when viewing extremely large documents.

But as good as GoodReader is, I could still crash it on the the larger files, especially if I moved through pages too quickly. With the new iPad, while I don't imagine that the extra memory and faster processor make a program like GoodReader completely crash proof, I have noticed that larger files are much more stable, and I'm seeing fewer crashes.

About Those Cameras...
The biggest criticism the iPad 2 has received relates to the lesser quality of the iPad 2's cameras, although from what I understand, the front facing camera is the same quality as the front facing camera in the iPhone 4. It's the rear camera that receives the bulk of criticism as really lacking in quality. Believe it or not, that rear camera is LESS than one megapixel!

Now every once in a while, for sake of full disclosure, I do remind readers that I own a small amount of Apple stock. However, I have no desire to defend Apple on the quality of the camera, as I would like to have better ones, too. However, I do try to understand Apple's reasoning in issues like this—beyond the mere suggestion most often offered that crummy cameras were offered now, so the better cameras can be a feature of the iPad 3. I'm certain each iteration of the iPad will continue to get better cameras, but why not offer something better right at the beginning?

I can't fully answer that question, but here's my theory. I think that for right now, although the lack of a camera on the first gen iPad was lamented even before it was released, Apple's main goal for cameras on the iPad 2 is to help further solidify FaceTime. Whether this will be successful in the long run, I have no idea. I have FaceTime on my iPhone 4, my Mac and now my iPad, but I think I've only used it a couple of times. I have no doubt that there is a Windows version of FaceTime in the works, too. I really believe Apple is trying to make Facetime as much of a standard as Skype.

And for FaceTime, these cameras are perfectly fine. Of course, I have no doubt that many will use the iPad for photos and recording video, and while I don't believe it's going to be the best tool for that job, Ken Rockwell is surely correct when he says that the best camera is the one you have with you. Fortunately, I usually have my iPhone 4 with me, which is an undecidedly better camera, although not as nice as my Canon Digital Rebel (which I don't often have with me).

If Apple didn't intend for people to shoot video, why would they release iMovie for the iPad? Well, if they didn't, someone else would release a similar product. More on iMovie on the iPad in a bit.

Economics 101.
Another criticism of the iPad 2 is that there is no drop in price from last year's iPad. We're accustomed to seeing technology gradually come down over time. And it's no secret that the cost for production of a product goes down after a time, although I guess the iPad 2 would at least partly count as a different production run.

Again, I'm not wanting to defend Apple here so much as simply understand their motives, and in this case, I think I do. Again, I'm no different than any other customer in that I'd like to pay less for an iPad, too. However, from Apple's perspective, keeping prices the same for right now is good business sense.

Why should Apple drop its prices? You drop your prices in order to be competitive. And here's the key: at this moment, Apple has no competition in this market. I have no doubt that eventually, the tablet field is going to get very crowded. When there's some real competition for the iPad, Apple will decide to drop the price of its device. This will competitively undercut the competition who will still be under the obligation of a higher cost of production to keep their products at a higher cost just to recoup their investment. This is Economics 101, really.

I have no idea if it's true, but I remember when the iPad was first released, reading that some Apple insiders were surprised when the bottom tier iPad was announced at $499 instead of $399. In the big picture, $499 surprised everyone a little bit because Apple rarely sells anything for under $500. A lot of early predicters were expecting the iPad to be higher. But knowing that it costs less than $300 to make, evidently many inside Apple were supposedly told that the iPad would start at $399. And then, according to the rumor, Steve Jobs/Apple changed his/its mind.

And again, why not? Economics 101 again: prices are set by what the market will bear. If customers hadn't gone gangbusters over the iPad, I have no doubt it would have been dropped down to $399 for the starting level within six months. But people kept buying it at the prices set and no competition emerged during 2010, so prices remain the same today.

Competition from other companies will be good for consumers because it will bring iPad prices down as well as prices for competing tablets. Further, competition will result in a better iPad 3, 4, 5, etc. and that will cause better results from the competition as well.

And the Rest...
Here are a few more minor observations:


  • iMovie: My upgrade to iMovie on the iPad was free because I had bought the earlier version released for the iPhone. I tried using it one time on the iPhone a while back and gave up. The iPhone's screen is simply too small for editing video. It was difficult simply based on the impracticality of it. However, iMovie on the iPad is quite handy and pretty easy to use. I doubt I'd ever do much video recording with the iPad, but I did transfer over about four minutes of video I'd recorded on my iPhone. Editing on the iPad was easy and even enjoyable. The themes save a lot of time. There are a number of ways to share the final product, but oddly the MobileMe gallery is missing.

  • GarageBand: Okay, if you've never been into GarageBand on your Mac, don't let  that stop you from taking a look at the iPad version. It's the touchscreen that makes the difference because you can actually play instruments. Even I, with zero musical ability, can fake my way through it with the so-called "Smart Instruments." In fact, I found that doing some basic strumming on the guitar to be quite relaxing, even though I'd have no desire to do so on a real guitar. GarageBand works on all iPads, even last year's, so for $5 give it a try. See a demo video here.

  • Elbow Room: I realize that my use of  an iPad is probably not typical, but with the original iPad, I had run out of room in recent months with the 32 GB version I'd bought last year. I regularly had to move files on and off the iPad based on what I needed for the week, often having to put them back on if I need them again the next week. So, this time, I got the full 64 GB iPad. I'm very pleased. In fact, it was a bit thrilling to be able to download my entire Accordance library over the weekend to my new iPad. I've been using Accordance on the Mac since 1998 and over the years, I've built up quite a digital library. Before, I had to be very selective as to what titles I carried on the iPad. With this larger iPad, I can load everything and not worry about it.


So, those are a few observations. I agree with most who say that if you already have an iPad, the iPad 2 is not a "must have" upgrade. In fact, my wife, Kathy, says that while she wouldn't mind having a new one, doesn't feel any rush to get one. Nevertheless, I feel very fortunate to have mine, especially in light of the ability to mirror screen and the upgrade to the 64 GB model. Feel free to ask question or add your own in the comments.

I've said before that I'm excited about tablet computers in general and the potential they bring. Some are going to prefer the Xoom, or the Playbook, or the Galaxy Tab, and that's fine. These devices, while not currently replacing everything a computer can do, certainly give us greater freedom and mobility when we can use them instead of a computer. Yes, there will always be the next big version of each of them coming down the pike, but if you don't have one yet, I encourage you not to wait, but instead, jump in and enjoy the party.

Wednesday
Sep292010

Highlights from the 2010 Accordance Users Conference



I know that while my posts have been infrequent lately, the most recent entries have primarily related to Accordance in one way or another. I promise that I will add a bit more diversity back to This Lamp very soon. I have a long lists of topics to write about, including a number of long-promised reviews.

As I write this, I'm sitting in a service center getting an oil change and the tires rotated on my wife's PT Cruiser. We put about 2200 miles on it last week driving from Simpsonville, Kentucky, to Mesquite, Texas, with a couple of brief stops in Louisiana to visit family—and then back! The main purpose of this trip was for me to attend the first-ever Accordance Users Conference, which met from September 24-25.

The Accordance Users Conference was designed to be distinct from the normal training seminar (of which I've led three or four myself in the past). While attendees could certainly learn to use Accordance better as in a training seminar, the Users Conference was chance to see a variety of specialized presentations on numerous topics. The timing of the conference also coincided with the release of Accordance version 9, and the upcoming iOS version of Accordance which was publicly demonstrated for the first time.

Two scheduled speakers were unable to attend. Martin Abegg had a family emergency, and Joe Weaks was ill. Abegg had been scheduled to deliver an address on the Dead Sea Scrolls. Roy Brown, the creator of Accordance and president of Oak Tree Software, filled in for him adapting a presentation he had previously presented on the subject in Israel.

Is Accordance for Academics Only?
Most of the time, attendees had a choice between "heavy" and "light" sessions—or technical and non-technical or requiring biblical languages and not requiring biblical languages.

I tended to gravitate to the so-called "heavy" sessions, but I have to admit that this was partly because I was also in the back grading papers and there was more room for this in the larger room. One supposedly "lighter" session I did attend was David Lang's "Sermon Prep Workshop." It was not that I thought Greg Ward couldn't teach me anything new in his concurrent "Original Languages Workshop," but I was more intrigued to see what David would present.

Here's why: often I hear a bit of faulty wisdom out there saying that Accordance is better for academics while Logos is better for pastors. The truth is neither of these assertions is valid. Logos can be used for academic biblical study and pastors can use Accordance for sermon prep. And people do both with each platform every day.

David, admitting he doesn't preach sermons every week, chose to create a conversation with people in the session—most of whom were pastors—regarding how they use Accordance in their preparation. Lots of good ideas were shared. This led me to an idea for a similar session that perhaps the organizers could implement for next year's conference.

I know from the Accordance training sessions I've led as well as from the Accordance forums that many pastors use Accordance intensively in their sermon preparation. I believe it would be a great idea to bring in a pastor for next year's conference who is both an experienced Accordance user as well as a seasoned preacher to demonstrate his actual sermon preparation workflow to attendees interested in the subject. Something like "Using Accordance for Sermon Preparation: 7 Basic Steps" or something similar might be helpful for those who preach regularly.

Daniel Wallace and the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts
On the evening of the first day of the conference, Daniel Wallace gave us a presentation relating to his work with The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts. Wallace and his team have been traveling the globe making high resolution photos of priceless, ancient manuscripts before they are lost to history due to age and deterioration. Using high res photography and, in some cases, ultraviolet imagery, the team has been able to create better images and see text more clearly than ever before. The detail in the images Wallace showed us was truly remarkable. And the high res photographs are going to be invaluable for text criticism over the old microfilms that were the only resources some scholars have had to work with. Moreover, in the process of photographing known manuscripts, the CSNTM team has discovered over 70 previously uncatalogued New Testament manuscripts in the last 8 years.

As an aside, this work is fairly expensive. The cost to preserve one page of a unique, handwritten page of the New Testament is $4. The average cost of one NT manuscript is $2200. The CSNTM is a worthy cause for your donations regardless of your theological leanings or background.

In conjunction with Dr. Wallace's presentation, Roy Brown announced that there is currently in the works a project to bring many of the high resolution images taken by CSNTM to Accordance, much as has already been done with the Dead Sea Scrolls Images module. I got a sneak peak at the Sinaiticus images that will be made available. Between that and other tools already available such as the digitized Codex Sinaiticus modulealready available, Accordance users are increasingly able to do their very own textual criticism beyond the resources text critics had available a century ago.

A History Lesson
At the beginning of the second day of the conference, David Lang presented attendees with "A Brief History of Accordance." This was a fascinating session for anyone such as myself who enjoys history of technology, but it was also interesting to hear the history of Accordance development from much of the early "wild west days" which led up to the sophisticated features we have in v. 9 today. I've been using Accordance since version 3.5 (I think) in 1998, but I didn't know all of the background stories.

David is a master presenter who knows Accordance and its history, perhaps only second to Roy Brown himself, but sadly, the brief history was simply too brief. Thirty minutes turned out to be too short of time for this subject, especially with audience comments and question. For next year, I recommend giving this subject a full hour, perhaps titled "A Not So Brief History of Accordance"—and with more screenshots from the early versions, too!

It's a Mobile World
Much of Saturday's emphasis centered on Bible software in the mobile space. Scott Knapp, Oak Tree's primary iOS developer, gave the first ever public demo of Accordance for iOS. Participants were given a look at an early beta and feedback was invited. When the final product is released this Fall, it will be a universal app (meaning it will be optimized for both the iPhone/iPod Touch and the iPad).

As an unexpected bonus, Scott announced that all attendees at the Accordance Users Conference would become part of the beta program. And before you ask (because others began asking immediately after I mentioned this on Twitter last Saturday), no, being at the conference in spirit doesn't count. :-)

Accordance was not the only Bible software with a presence at the conference. Drew Haninger, CEO of OliveTree Bible Software, joined us for a panel discussion I chaired on "The Impact and Future of Mobile Bible Software." This was a "big picture" discussion on the history and current state of mobile Bible software as well as projections for what the future might hold. Although our discussion focused primarily on Apple's iOS, we also referred to Android and Kindle, among others, a number of times, too.

From left to right: Drew Haninger (OliveTree), Scott Knapp (Accordance), Mark Allison (Accordance), Rick Mansfield (Me)

Olive Tree's Drew Haninger shows us the "first" mobile Bible.

The panel discussion on mobile Bible technology was very enjoyable to participate in. Certainly, this is where the focus of my technology interests currently lie. In fact, I originally considered showing up at the conference with only my iPad in hand, but the fact that I needed to grade papers (which I cannot currently do on the iPad) and with the release of Accordance v. 9, I lugged my MacBook Pro along, too. Nevertheless, I suggested to Drew that we ought to consider a mobile Bible technology podcast because there is certainly lots still to discuss.


Also, for those of you who know what I'm talking about, Drew showed me a very quick look at "Project Glacier." I'd like to tell you more, but I'd have to kill you afterwards. But just be patient—it looks awesome.


Syntax Rules!
Admittedly, Accordance was not the first Bible software program to the table with syntax tagging, as many will acknowledge the extremely interpretive nature of assigning syntax to words and phrases in a biblical text. Nevertheless, since users kept asking for it, Oak Tree recently made available the beginnings of its syntax modules for both the Greek New Testament and Hebrew Bible with the promise (specifically made at the conference) of more to come. To see screenshots of Accordance syntax in action, see my previous post.


Robert Holmstedt delivered a paper, "Understanding and Using the New Syntax Searching Capabilities in Accordance 9" which offered a detailed look at both the philosophy behind Accordance's approach to syntax as well as practical and even very specific searches that can be performed. A copy of the paper can be downloaded from Holmstedt's public dropbox folder (if that link becomes broken in the future, let me know).


Wrap-Up
Besides the mobile technology panel, I also participated in the final session, "Ask the Accordance Experts," which was supposed to help round out any remaining "how to" questions regarding Accordance. I was very flattered to be the only non-company (although I have done contract work for Oak Tree in the past) member of the panel. Unfortunately, almost immediately the discussion became a forum for some attendees to voice suggestions (or complaints) about various elements in the user interface. While the Oak Tree employees surely appreciated the suggestions, this was not the actual intended focus of the session, and as one idea spurred another, we never fully got back on track. Thus, I had little to offer in this session. Perhaps next year, a separate session could be offered—perhaps on day one—for suggestions and feature requests. These are certainly important, but I imagine a number of users could have better benefitted from the final session if it had proceeded as originally intended.


The Accordance Users Conference seemed from my perspective—as someone who is both a user and a "sometimes" insider—to be a great success. The sessions were diverse and targeted every skill level. An untold number of fascinating conversations took place both during and in between sessions. It was great to meet many folks in person whom I'd only corresponded with online before.


I hope that this becomes an annual, or at least a regular event. When the next one is announced, I strongly encourage you to make plans to be there. It was truly an experience that cannot be simulated by the internet or even at one of the Accordance training conferences (as these are different in purpose) held throughout the year.


One more thing: A number of people have asked me if the sessions were recorded. I don't know the answer to that, but if I find out, I'll post information here.


Update: David Lang has written "Reflections on the Users' Conference" which you should read, too. Although note that he adds a possessive apostrophe to Users which I don't for the same reason I don't add an apostrophe to Mens Room Boys Choir [edit: better example]. ;-)


 

Thursday
Jul222010

Oak Tree Releases Teaser Image of Accordance iPhone App

In their July, 2010, email newsletter, OakTree Software included a brief first look at their much rumored iPhone/iPad app. Also mentioned is an approximate release date—Fall, 2010. Here's the actual wording:

Accordance on the iPhone/iPad

Progress on the Accordance app for the iPhone/iPad is dramatic. We expect to release it this Fall. It will run your Accordance modules, and offer most Accordance search functions. Convenience, speed, and privacy are maximized; there is no need to be on-line to use it. Once you download your modules to your mobile device you can search and read your modules and edit your notes off-line. In the future we plan to add even more features.
Wednesday
Oct212009

Create Your Own Audio Books

If I hit traffic at the wrong time, I can be in the car up to an hour each day traveling from home to my office and back. Sure, I like music, but just not that much. It seems a bit mindless after awhile. Talk radio? Even more mindless.

So I listen to a lot of audiobooks, podcasts, lectures from iTunesU and other sources—you get the idea. I import them into iTunes and then I transfer them to my iPhone.

You've heard the old saying, "Necessity is the mother of invention." Well, for me this afternoon, it was the mother of discovery. See, I'm teaching a six-week Wednesday night class at my Baptist church on understanding and dialoguing with Jehovah's Witnesses. Just as I do with my Sunday morning Bible study, I like to over-prepare. Certainly, I don't mind saying, "I don't know the answer to that; I'll get back to you," but I'd prefer not to if I don't have to.

So this afternoon, as I was packing up to drive home, I thought to myself, I wish I had an audio book about Jehovah's Witnesses to listen to on my commute home. I wondered if there was something cheap at christianaudio.com. There wasn't. I also looked at a couple of other places.

Then, from the far recesses of my mind, I had this vague memory of reading about Mac OS X Snow Leopard's ability to convert text to iTunes spoken audio. See, I knew I had content because I knew I had Zondervan's Dictionary of Cults, Sects, Religions and the Occult in Accordance. The question was how to convert it to audio.

First I found the article in Accordance. After highlighting all the text, I right-clicked on it. Nothing in the contextual menu. Accordance has been able to "read" text verbally for a long time. Most Mac applications can, but that wasn't what I was after. I wanted to make an automatic recording. Then, I remembered—it was part of Mac OS X's Services menu. But looking there, I saw nothing related to converting speech to text. However, I did see Services Preferences. Clicking that, I got this dialogue box:

Screen shot 2009-10-21 at 4.19.04 PMNoticing the fourth option in the right pane above (it was technically under the "Text" section), "Add to iTunes as a Spoken Track," all I had to do was check the box.

 

Going back to Accordance with my text selected, I went to the Services menu and chose that option. A little gear showed up in my menu bar and began turning. Then iTunes came to the front and displayed a message that it was converting the text into audio. Then, it was through. Of course, I had no idea where it was. I finally found it under Music with the title "Text to Speech." I looked at the length. I had an a 1 hour and 17 minute audio track! I changed the name to "Jehovah's Witnesses."

 

How long did it take to create it? I went back and created it again, this time using the timer on my iPhone to keep track of how long the process took. It took approximately two minutes! To gain some perspective, I copied the text of the article from Accordance to my clipboard and then pasted it into Word. That produced a 30 page, single-spaced document (with a space between each paragraph).

 

So think about this—a thirty page document converts to an hour and 17 minute audio track, and it only took two minutes to create!

 

Of course, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, Yeah, but you have to listen to that mechanized computer voice. You're right, but so what? I've got my speech voice in Mac OS X set to "Alex," and while professional audiobook readers have nothing to worry about, the voice itself has very much improved over the years. Plus, I've spent countless hours of my life listening to people drone on in academic settings using lesser-sounding voices (that's meant as humor).

 

Regardless, the possibilities here are endless. This opens up whole new doors. In Accordance alone, I have more material than I could probably ever read in my life anyway: books, theological journals, reference works, Bibles and more. Further, the ability to convert any text to an iTunes audio track works with any text on my computer, regardless of the source. So, if it's an article from the internet, PDF, word processing document—they can all be converted to audio tracks which can be transferred to my iPhone.

 

What great technology! I also assume that with time, the speech synthesis quality will improve, too. In the meantime, Alex will have to do.

Saturday
Oct102009

Mobile Blogging Test

This post was sent from my iPhone.