Big Tablets Are the Next Big Thing

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Pictured above is the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 12.2 in the 32gB flavor. It is swagged out with a Zagg keyboard case and a Samsung bluetooth mouse. The new Pro series of Galaxy tablets come with Retina level displays and this one just pops colors and details. What really wins me over is the speed which when you run single windowed apps, runs very well on the quad core chip this comes with. Several on line reviews snipe about lag when you run four windows simultaneously -this is a Samsung TapWhiz junky trick that is best avoided. With a keyboard and mouse, it turns the 12 inch tablet into a laptop replacement. Easily going over ten hours of battery time, you don’t have to worry about extra power when you travel internationally or go to work with no cable in your bag. It is pricey and won’t win over bargain hunters -the Google Nexus 7 fills this category, and I think that Google hasn’t released a Nexus 10 II or a Nexus 12, because it wants its clients to have a chance in this world. It kills iPad Air in the screen category -the 10 inch screen on the iPad seems listless and dull in comparison, and I am a certified Apple fan having read the Steve Jobs tome and bought every generation of iPad, including two when the first one came out. I fight daily with my 5 year old who is transfixed by the huge TV like screen. Plus, when I try to work on an iPad, I dream of having a mouse. In Android, when you pair a bluetooth mouse, you get a screen cursor. iOS 8 really really needs to support this. Where Android wins for me right now is it has an edge of future now that Apple is losing as it caters to the extremely young and extremely old and the bulge in the middle. Android, because of its near app parity, means for the most part I don’t have to be tethered to the Apple ecosystem. Even iTunes music can be worked around as your library will be sucked up by Google’s music player on your desktop and made available on Android devices and the Chrome browser. Sure, you can’t play your iTunes movie library, but Google is making that less important by offering the same movies, often for cheaper. Also, the Play app is nimble where the Video app on iPad is ponderous and constantly buffering -maybe Google’s pipes are fatter through some payola -who knows. It’s all good.

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Not like -Best Buy features a Samsung Experience store, where the even cooler penbased Galaxy Pro is displayed but available only by ordering and picking up a few days later. Also, the 64gB version of this tablet was unavailable for immediate pickup and walkout. I get that the iPad’s aren’t available in every flavor, but I don’t understand why every iteration of offered Samsung Tablet isn’t available for immediate pickup and walkout at these store within a stores. Being impatient, I went ahead and purchased with the plan to return if I was disappointed (I am not) and ordering the right tablet from Amazon. Worried -Samsung notoriously ditches its hardware after a year or two, offering maybe one long delayed upgrade in OS or a patch to its Samsung apps here or there (which I just don’t use). I have a bricked Samsung Tablet 2 7.0 in a drawer that won’t power up but I’m afraid of throwing out because of the data in its chips -it died after about three years of steady use. Not Like -while premium pricing implies premium materials, I just see a lot of shiny plastic. Aluminum may bring charges of Apple copying, but they could have gone for a real leather option instead of the plastic leather grain molded back with fake stitching.

The large tablet is a real thing and brings work productivity together with media and fun consumption in a way that Microsoft could only dream of. They so badly want this, but can’t seem to get their act together. My Windows 8.1 tablet from Dell lies unused and powered off because it has a crappy screen and has lost its ability to reset to factory condition which I had to do twice after it got junked up with usual Windows crap -detritus of hacky updater files, streamed media and who knows what rapidly filled up the 32gB SSD and made it unstable and unusable. Despite attractive offerings from ASUS and HP and Dell with super sized tablets -basically detachable 18-21 inch all in ones with 4 hour batteries, I ran away. Microsoft has been revealed for what it has long been apparent to me -an enabler of the “Help Desk” in corporate IT who must have problems arise in computers to exist, and a non-thinking agglomeration of hackers who jumble together whatever works -who uses all the features in Word? While I might use Office for Android when it inevitably limps in in 2015, I will still curse it for stupid things like selecting the whole word instead of part of a word without changing an setting.

Golfshot- Golf GPS and Golfplan -a belated review

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Wakonda #2 from the tee

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The distance from the tee to mid green with about 20 feet of elevation -an 8 iron

Several years ago, after I got my first iPhone, among the first and most useful programs was View Ti Golf, which I reviewed a while back. It was after several overly confusing updates and broken functionality, that I stopped using View Ti, and moved to Golfshot GPS.

While I had meant to review Golfshot GPS, I was too busy actually using it to put a good review together -I did comment on it a couple of years ago, but it is the addition of analytics and instruction from Paul Azinger via Golfplan that make this sing.

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What they achieved is they’ve simplified the geekiest part of tracking statistics. The simplest method has always been keeping track of Fairways, GIR, Strokes from 150 yards, and Putts on a score card. Golfshot has made it even simpler by making the input of strokes, fairways, and putts, along with sand and penalty strokes mere flips of menu dials.

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You can use the program solely for getting distances on all the golf courses in the US (and supposedly the planet). This will cost you 29.99. There is a lite version for free which offers scoring and the analytics. To tell you the truth, the GPS is nice, but I try to set up my shots with sight and local knowledge -its the statistics which make it worth using this program.

All the data is stored in the cloud and so you can use this app on multiple devices even on a GPS-less ipod touch or Wifi-iPad. The program works very well on Android as well (though readers of this blog know my feelings about Android).

The scorecard shows the parts of the game that I have to concentrate on -GIR -meaning my mid irons to pitching wedge, and sand -avoiding them and getting out of them.

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The complementary half of this is Golfplan which is currently at a promotional price of 0.99. Mr. Azinger is a great communicator and passes along in 1 to 2 minute videos perfectly executable knowledge to the average golfer. I think the best results can be had for the advanced beginner to 10 handicapper and this appears to be the target audience.

The stats are analyzed and a customized lesson plan is created for drills and instructions. Given the cost of private golf lessons, this is beyond cheap at just under a buck.
The problem with golf instruction is that most golfers take a band aid approach to lessons -thinking one or two lessons to straighten out the ball is enough.

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That’s like going to the doctor once to start treatment for a serious condition and then treating it yourself. Finding a good professional isn’t hard -every golf course has a PGA professional dedicated to improving play. It’s committing to a series of lessons over years that is tough -in terms of time and cash.
Gofshot GPS and Golfplan both get 4.5 stars on the App store which is basically a perfect score. I agree and outside of signing on with a golf instructor for a year’s worth of weekly lessons, this is the best thing since sliced cheese. I will update everyone on my progress.

Sent from my iPad

iPad versus netbook -FIGHT!

iPad versus netbook, fight!

I am a mobile professional, I suppose. I walk a lot. As a vascular surgeon, there is a lot of downtime waiting for things to happen. Operations get booked, but the rooms have to be turned over. In these spaces of time, I endeavor to be productive. Time was, in the nineties, I had a marvelous pocketable computer called the Psion Series 5 (link) which allowed for mobility with a complete office suite. The internet was not yet ubiquitous and for what I wanted it to do, document creation, it was perfect. It allowed me to type out patient consultation notes from a corner of an emergency room and wirelessly print them out (via infrared port) to the ubiquitous HP computers around the hospital -I really think that I was the only one that used them. What it attained for me after three years of use (and three Psion’s used up), I had a bank of notes on patients which constituted a pocket EMR, indexed via the database. It let me print out very detailed notes often in 5 point font -I also had a terrible dislike of multiple pages which could easily be lost, much to the chagrin of older attending who became hopping mad at the small type sizes.

Since that time, I have tried to replace the venerable Psion Series 5 with something more modern, but nothing would replace it. It had the ability to turn instantly on and instantly off. Battery life was basically infinite as long as I had a ready supply of double A batteries. Litihium cells would routinely last over 40 hours or about a month. I tried using various Palm and Windows mobile PDA’s with keyboards, but was terribly disappointed. The Palm Treo came close with a workable thumb board, but by this time, I had joined a practice that had a fully evolved EMR which required a full PC.

The attempts at mobility then moved to laptops and sub notebooks, and more recently netbooks. It’s ironic that Psion marketed a small sub notebook called the netbook, possibly the best portable computer of its day, but soon quit the consumer electronic category. The problem with all laptops was that there was no instant on. The wait for bootup was inordinately long, and it precluded the jotting ideas down as they came up. The other thing with regular notebooks was the battery life. Even with 3 to 4 hours, it wasn’t possible to go a whole day without recharging or shutting down and replacing with a spare battery -more stuff to carry.

The netbook brought a lot to like to the table initially. As a minimized laptop running on a low energy chip (Atom), it offered better battery life with lower costs. The 8 inch screens soon grew to 10 inches and now 12 inch netbooks are available. The downside was you got what you paid for. The keyboards were often cramped and the screens were too small to see your work. What was worse, the manufacturers could not effectively shrink the trackpad down to anything workable and various awful to terrible trackpads were released. The video which offered the promise of turning the devices into cheap portable iTunes viewing station, would slow down and skip frequently, and HD video is not possible. The final straw is that they ran Windows XP, which was fine for 2005, but now serves as a constant reminder that you are running something pretty shabby.

As a workstation, I tried using a netbook and found it to be just a smaller, less capable sub notebook, poorly suited for any hard work. Running our EMR off Citrix was a chore for the tiny Atom processor and I pretty much gave up using it to blog because of how small everything was. Funny thing was even with the pocketable Psion, touch typing was a breeze, and not being able to turn the machine on with a touch of a button was a really problem.

Even loading the Mac OS X onto the netbook -called hackintoshing, resulted in an inferior experience. The OS is designed to work in a 15 inch screen -it’s barely usable on a 13 inch screen, and forget it on a 10 inch screen with a balky touchpad. The netbook pictured is a Dell Mini 10v which was discontinued recently and was touted as the most easily hackintoshable netbook.

With arrival of iPad, everything has changed. Now we have a very portable computer with a 10 inch screen with the capability of instant on. Email is not only a breeze, but a joy to look at. My calendar which is coordinated by my scheduler over Microsoft exchange is also a wonder to behold. The device is fast, and the Citrix client for it works well enough (needs some improvements) for what I do.

In particular, when I am out and about between operations, I have to find an open computer and get onto my EMR. Now, I can access it right where I stand. When I’m at home fielding a phone call from another physician or a patient, I no longer wait for boot up times, but go straight to the Citrix app.

The keyboard on the tablet is fine for quick emails and texts, but not suitable for longer missives. This blog entry was composed on the Pages app using the keyboard dock, but I also have a wireless bluetooth keyboard that I can use for it when I’m not at home. The netbook and its spare battery lays under my bed, waiting for a reason to be turned on -mostly it’s to go to Flash heavy websites which the iPad won’t run.

The other killer app is Papers -this allows me to organize my journal articles by Pubmed entry metatags with direct access to the PDF’s. All the papers I need to read are handy, and again, its a pleasure to read PDF’s on the iPad. My main Mac (a 2007 MacBook Pro) runs Papers and will wirelessly sync all the journals so my iPads will stay current. Yes, I bought two iPads because I liked the first one so much. Having two is the only way to multitask currently.

Why would you want two -well if you’re doing work with one, you can have the other one stream a live Yankees game over the MLB app, or a Netflix DVD, or a movie you bought or rented on iTunes. You might want to listen to all the NPR pieces you missed that day over the NPR app. Or have access to every episode of LOST via the ABC app.

The final killer app for the iPad is the Kindle app, which will kill the Kindle slowly. Amazon is wise in taking a wide broadcast approach to distribution. The Kindle, which is wonderfully light and has an always on 3G connection (which you can use to do light browsing), is available as an app on iPad and all your Kindle books show up wonderfully. The book light is no longer necessary. The only place the Kindle has an advantage is in direct sunlight -the iPad would not display well pool side.

I’m eagerly awaiting the camera dongle to transfer pictures from my cameras. All the photo processing software on my iphone works great on iPad, and new iPad versions roll out daily. That is the other part -the App store updates nearly hourly with some new technological wonder. The games are immersive and just funner than playing on iPhone or the Nintendo DS. Gratification is instantaneous.

The iPad is not the first tablet, just as the iPhone was not the first smartphone. But like iPhone, it redefines the category and raises the bar to a very high level. Love Apple or hate it, this kind of innovation spurred the creation of Android and even Microsoft is abandoning Windows Mobile, that instrument of suffering. Using the iPad is transformative. It makes the internet more accessible. It makes work joyful. It allows me to express myself even more fully, and that is what technology is meant to do.

Spaceward Ho! -the greatest game not yet on iPhone

 

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This is one of the greatest games ever created for the MAC. It came out in the early nineties, and it was one of those games that just ate up time. It is a resource management/conquering worlds game that was reduced to its barest essentials, but managed to keep certain elements intact to keep it interesting. 

 

It is such an efficiently written game that in the early ’00’s, the authors, Delta Tao (link) published a Palm OS version, which I used to play on my Tungsten T during my first years out of 

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training -usually during the dead time waiting for cases to go in the middle of the night. 

 

Resource management games are very old in the scifi-nerd culture. The problem is that when presented as a board game, an inordinate amount of time is taken up book-keeping. How many Quatloo’s can you keep track of while rolling the dice and moving imaginary fleets across the board? 

 

The game play is simple as clicking the keyboard. You start with a homeworld, and your mission is to explore and colonize surrounding worlds, mining the metal, and terraforming the planets so that your population grows on it and generates revenue. Terraforming, mining, designing and building ships takes money. Borrowing and saving also involves interest. space21

 

The game’s charms involve humorous graphics for the spaceships and funny sound effects for launching and exploring with the spaceships. The game quickly becomes interesting as you confront and battle against other players (both computer or human). 

 

It is turn based and requires a minimum of a learning curve. The shame of it is that Delta Tao has stopped developing it, right at the moment where farting applications are taking the world by storm. I can’t imagine it would take too much of an investment of time to convert it to an iPhone app. 

We can start by emailing Delta Tao to work on an iPhone version (help@deltatao.com). 

Addendum 2-24-2008

It works -Joe Williams -who the program icon is modeled after, replied “We’re talking about an iPhone version, and I’d say it’s highly likely, perhaps by the end of 2009.”

Nintendo DS versus iPod Touch/iPhone 3G

img_1309The struggle for the space between the hands is shaping up to be between the established Nintendo DS and the upstart iPod Touch/iPhone. What are the differences and what are the implications of the recently posted numbers for the iTunes App store -10,000 apps and games with 300,000,000 downloads? Where is Sony and the vaunted PSP? What is Microsoft not up to? 

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The DS is a marvel of thoughtful design, and in its current manifestation as the DS Lite, it has wonderful hand-feel, two sharp screens, and a battery system designed for children -it’s supposed to go 15-20 hours between charges and is rated for 500 charges. We got G one through Amazon for 125. The cost of entry is modest, but it is the content that they get you with. The games cost on average 35 dollars for the new releases. You can get used games on-line and through local dealers like FYE for a modest discount. The games from Nintendo proper tend to revolve around their established universes of Pokémon and Mario. Other publishers publish in Nintendo, but it’s a mixed bag. Some are slapdash ports of their console games or PC games which don’t project well. Some are fossils of PC games made in the 1990’s with all the blocky graphics moved over to the DS -very lazy way to make easy money with a shiny cover with a 35 dollar price tag. You have to read the reviews, but not all the games get reviewed. The well thought out games are standouts with pretty and appealing graphics, compelling story, and engaging gameplay. The greatness of Nintendo is that it does allow for use of legacy cartridges from the Gameboy Advanced, but not from prior generations. The Gameboy Advanced SP is now available online for around 40-50 bucks -I got ours new two years ago for 75 dollars, and will take Gameboy cartridges going all the way back to Tetris from 1988. 

This is an old and established model of game consoles going all the way back to Atari -make modest profit on a discounted console and make coin on licensing of the games, and Nintendo certifies and manufactures all the cartridges. Cartridges allow for a deeper level of play than minigames -which is the new word for arcade games. The problem is unless you’re a kid on vacation -who has 20-40 hours to complete Pokémon Diamond or Call of Duty (on order -am on vacation). The minigames -the arcade style games, still cost 25-40 dollars, but are the most sociable -Mario Party (on order) is supposed to allow you to play with up to 8 players from a single cartridge -and this is the neat thing about the DS -it does allow for you to have one cartridge and share among several players -which promotes the purchase of more Gameboy’s in multi-sibling families. We got our second one through a generous friend who sent G this handsome blue one.

iPod Touch/iPhone/App Store

 I believe that the combination of iPod Touch and App Store is the future of gaming and all portable entertainment. When you get an iPhone or iPod Touch, you have instant connection to the App Store which now features over 10,000 games. Apple vets these -very controversial in the geek-o-sphere, and the result is that the Apps pretty much work as advertised on the iPod Touch or iPhone. Because Apple limits the exchange of data between programs -allowing only one program to run at a time, it makes the system “locked down,” safe, and stable. The Apps are inventive, useful, and above all FUN. They are also much cheaper than buying cartridges. Many games are FREE, and most are 0.99 to 10.00, and you get very accurate reviews from actual users in the App Store. There is no need to drive to a store. My home has WiFi, as does my place of work, and this ubiquity of data-pipes means the iTunes store is ubiquitous as well. 

My favorite games include Field Runners (reviewed earlier), and Flick Bowling. Apple’s Texas Hold ‘Em game is a good time sink. The great thing is that G and J both like the iPod Touch games and find them easy to learn and play, engaging, and easy to put down. The games take up a few megabytes at most and this means you can have hundreds of games on your iPhone without slowing it down -unlike the programs for Windows Mobile. Apple has pulled off a Trifecta -it owns the game box, the store, the TV (I watch most of my movies and TV via the iPhone), and the critical mass needed to move the market. It has created an ecosystem for capitalizing the exchange of content by making it easier to get this content for the average user -it takes a great deal of geekwork to get pirated free content, and a lot less effort for grabbing fun at $0.99 at a time legally. 

Did I mention that with iPod Touch, you can load Fring -it lets you make telephone calls over a Wifi connection via Skype. How cool is that?

Bye Bye Sony and Windows

Sony has failed repeatedly in its history by trying to create a stranglehold on media standards -the Betamax, the MD Disc, the Memory Stick, Universal Media Disk (UMD), and Blu-Ray. I include Blu-Ray because high speed internet has rendered Blu-Ray obsolete. Apple is beginning to offer more of its content in HD, and the storage is now cheap enough that you can have a library of HD content in your living room. The iPhone’s display is gorgeous and basically is the same as watching a 50 inch screen at 15 feet -try it for yourself -when you walk away from a large screen TV to normal viewing distances, it’s basically the same as holding an iPhone at arm’s length. The problem for Sony is that it perseverates on making overpriced, overly complicated items that few deep pocket geeks enjoy. The Playstation Portable is a jewel -beautiful to hold and see -and it’s completely impossible to watch movies and TV shows on it without serious geek effort. Playstation -fuhgeddaboudit for now -it’s a compelling buy in about two years when they go bust, if you want to invest weeks learning how to play their games. The games cost 30-60 dollars!

Windows and Microsoft have failed with their Windows Mobile platform when at every moment until about three years ago, they had their feet on Apple’s neck. The WinMo phones are a bust -they crash and run very slow. It’s takes a computer science degree to buy third party programs for it and load it on without gumming up the phone with installers and other detritus. They make simple things difficult and annoying. X Box 360, which I don’t have, appears to shine compared to the usual Microsoft offerings, but is caught in Microsoft’s web of mutually intersecting interests and complications. The games also cost a lot compared to free or $0.99. 

Apple -the last person on the island

The first year of Survivor was the most compelling -afterwords, it became unwatchable. The weird guy who was the final survivor made some brilliant moves to be the last one left. This is what has happened with Apple and will be Steve Jobs’ legacy. It realized that people respond to things that are easy to use and fun to play. The iPhone has only one big button and two smaller ones. The content is ubiquitously available through the web. For most students, iPod Touch also allows for true web access previously available only on laptops. The iPhone can be turned into a serious scientific calculator, a golf yardage machine, a GPS device for the car, a musical wind instrument (Ocarina), a level, a beat box, a game machine, and an infinite number of other things that for me represents the culmination of all the future stuff I used to see on sci-fi movies growing up. It’s also managing to sell a lot of laptops during a major recession. 

Nintendo DS

The deep games -the ones requiring gigabytes of memory, are Nintendo DS’s strength. The iPhone has some content like Zork and other adventure games from the ’80’s and 90’s. What Nintendo must do is realize that WiFi is ubiquitous and unlock the DS’s capabilities. You should be able to get a widget you can plug in to download and play content and games from the web on your DS. Put Outlook on the DS along with Facebook with a keyboard for an adult version. It’s only a matter of time before Apple puts out a larger screen version of the Touch with more solid state memory and a 24 hour battery life. 

 

at a one year low, like everything else

at a one year low, like everything else