The Third Device

A blog about the iPad.

What’s new on my iPad this week.

A couple of good apps, both free and paid, have found a home on my iPad in the past few days.

The most eagerly awaited one (for me anyway) hit the App Store just a few hours ago. It’s the iPad version of a calendar/to-do app that I’ve been using since my Palm days and it’s called Pocket Informant HD.

Oh look. I'm not doing anything today.

Since I use cloud-based task management and calendaring (Toodledo and Google Calendar, respectively) setting up Pocket Informant was as simple as plugging in my username/passwords for both services and doing a full sync. Within minutes I was up and running. I look forward to giving this app a good workout over the next few days but for now it seems as stable and full featured as I could have hoped. Grab it now while it’s still being sold at a launch price of $7.

Now on to another recent release. Next up is the wildly popular Flipboard “social magazine” app. It’s hard to peg down exactly what it is – it’s not quite an RSS reader, not quite a Facebook / Twitter client, and not quite a photo browser. It’s a combination of all three.

Flipboard home page

What it does have, and in spades, is a polished, refined and elegant user interface that makes even the most inane tweets or FB status updates seem pithy and intellectual! You have to check out this video and appreciate its gorgeously designed, responsive layout.

A sample page from my Twitter feed

As you can see from the above screenshot, it adds a lot of class to the act of browsing your social networks. However, it still doesn’t replace a full featured Twitter client or the Facebook website. For instance, when browsing a Twitter feed, there’s no obvious way to compose a new tweet – you can seemingly only respond to or retweet someone else’s post. (Hint: You can however just delete their @usernames from your reply to start a fresh tweet). You also have no access to any custom lists that you might have, nor can you do a search. In fact, there seems to be no way to even set a refresh time or force a refresh other than quitting the app and relaunching.

Flipboard Photos page

It also offers you other pre-selected channels (tech, sports, news, etc) that aggregate interesting articles and photos from around the web. Unlike a dedicated RSS reader, there’s no way to subscribe to a specific feed or website, so you’re stuck with the default topics for now.

Overall, it’s a very promising app with loads of potential. The engine is powerful and beautiful and it’s just a matter of ramping up the features in succeeding updates. The past day or two, there’s been an overwhelmingly positive response, and you may even have trouble configuring your Facebook and Twitter accounts because the Flipboard server is still getting hammered.

Flipboard has rocketed to the top of the App Store charts, and for good reason – did I mention it’s free? Download it now.

July 22, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

iOS 3.2.1 for iPad is out! ….

… but it’s not iOS 4. Big deal.

November can’t come soon enough.

July 16, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Free for a limited time – Stick Golf HD

Fore! Free!

If you like physics games like Angry Birds (or if you like golf! or … sticks …or … HD…) then you can’t go wrong by downloading this game, currently free for a limited time on the App Store.

It’s quite addicting, and I only wish my golf scores were this good in real life. Then again, you don’t run into very many par 7s on an actual golf course.

Grab it now.

July 15, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Control your Mac – via Twitter!

So you’ve got an iMac running at home while you’re out and about with your iPad.  Or (like me) you leave an MBP15 sitting on your desk at work every day because the iPad is all you need out of the office.

Well, now you can check in on your Mac and see how things are going – via Twitter!

The first step is to create a new, separate Twitter account just for your Mac. Name it whatever you want – “Vic’s MacBook”, or “My Home Machine”, or “Melvin the Mac”. Then you want to make sure your Mac’s Twitter account follows your own personal Twitter account, and vice versa. That way you can send DMs (direct messages) to each other.

Next step is to install a tiny application called TweetYourMac on your laptop / desktop. This resides in your menu bar and waits for you to send it incoming messages.

Now that you’ve got everything set up, you can launch a Twitter client on your iPad (or on your phone, or another Mac) and start sending messages. Here’s where the fun begins! You can send system commands, like “shutdown“, “screensaver” or “sleep“. You can “open [App Name]” or “quit [App Name]“. You can (very useful for me!) tweet your Mac a URL that links to a torrent file – the Mac will download the torrent file and open it in your default torrent client. Great for queuing up TV shows that you want to watch when you get home.

And, if you’ve got a shared office or home Mac and really want to assert your control over it, you can tweet “screenshot” – which sends you back a TwitPic of whatever is on the screen at that point. Or “isight” which fires up the Mac’s built in camera, stealthily snaps a pic, and then tweets you back the image. Or even “say [phrase]“, which will command your Mac’s voice synthesizer to speak whatever you type to whoever is using it! It’s too bad I didn’t discover this in time for April Fool’s Day.

The complete list of commands is on the website.

Me and my laptop, tweeting each other.

If you’re worried about security (did Vic really just post his laptop’s user account up there for everyone to control?!) bear in mind that your Mac can only be controlled by direct messages. And in order to send and receive direct messages, the two accounts need to be following each other. Otherwise, it just won’t work.

If you have a PC, you can join in the fun too! (Jerry Tieng, I hear you.) Go to TweetMyPC. In fact, you can send your PC more complex instructions, like commanding it to email you a file or generate and send a list of running processes.

Try it out and let me know how it works for you! And just to reiterate – although this blog is all about the iPad, you don’t need one to do this.

July 15, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Macroplant Phone Disk – free until September 1

A few months ago I posted about manually managing the videos / music / photos on your iPad / iPhone / iPod Touch using a utility called Disk Aid. Well, good news – Macroplant has a similar Mac utility called Phone Disk that also allows you to transfer and backup  files, without needing to jailbreak your device.

Best part, it’s free until September 1. Grab a registration code off the Phone Disk website!

"This copy is registed, thank you!"

July 13, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Great notebook on the App Store – free til July 7

Wondershare’s iDraft app for note taking / sketching / doodling is free for a limited time (July 1 to July 7). I downloaded it and after a few minutes of playing around I’m pleasantly surprised. The “feel” of the electronic ink, especially when using a stylus, rivals that of any other notebook app on the store. You write quickly for thin lines and slowly for thick. In fact it could even be a touch more convincing than Penultimate, my current benchmark for “ink flow”.

This picture is worth a thousand captions.

Just like Penultimate, it offers different ink colors and an adjustable nib width, but I think iDraft has a better system for organizing notes and notebooks. Too bad iDraft doesn’t have Penultimate’s “wrist detection” feature – you have to elevate your wrist off the screen as you write to avoid confusing the iPad. Also, iDraft doesn’t have the stylish Moleskinesque appearance of Penultimate.

Grab it now while it’s still free. (EDIT: For serious note taking – the kind that fills up an entire legal pad – I still recommend Note Taker HD)

July 6, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Case to Case (Part 2) – Cyn and her Piel Frama

Today we bring you the second half of our case roundup, written by guest reviewers. My wife Cyn tells us about her brand new leather Piel Frama iPad case. Does she like it? I’ll spoil the ending now: Yes, she does.

I love surprises. And the best kind are the ones you get which you didn’t even know you absolutely wanted.

When I first got my iPad, I immediately bought a CaseLogic neoprene sleeve. Annoyingly, the only choices were black, pink, and depressing moss green. I settled for pink, but was bothered that I now had two separate pieces that I had to take care of.  It was aggravating because Vic would be right beside me casually flipping open his official Apple iPad case, while I was wrestling with two pieces, the iPad and the sleeve. I just couldn’t bring myself to buy the boring black apple iPad case… I’m sure you understand why. (Vic: BORING!? Hey!)

So I was happily surprised when Vic one day came home with a beautiful orange box for me to open, elegantly labelled Piel Frama – which I had never heard of before but whose gorgeous label had me intrigued.

Waiting for the unboxing

Lo and behold, a handmade, leather, notebook-type iPad case, which came in my most favorite color, with pretty stitched edges. (It also comes in happy orange, serious black, and upscale black, among other colors. Adjectives are mine, of course.). Functionally, it looks like the official case but in a much more personalized color, and is sexier to the touch.

Inside the box

It perfectly fits the bare iPad in a frame-like compartment, though with my full-body Wrapsol protective film, it was a bit too snug. Freed from just the front wrap, the iPad now fits just right. I would never have thought of taking off the screen protection before, but with the the book cover, I’m confident that my iPad is safe.

All ready to go

The case has raised sides around the iPad screen edges, which can very occasionally get in the way of your writing. Other times, though, it serves as a palm-rest to avoid accidental “pinches” of the screen.

Not a stitch out of place

On some surfaces, I can use the front cover as an iPad stand, to make a nice photo frame. However, on slippery surfaces (oh, like an office desk perhaps), it’s constantly falling over. For me, that means that my iPad can never be a photo frame at work. Yeah, big boohoo. 🙂

Pretty as a picture frame

The docking port, buttons and speakers are all comfortably accessible, so the case doesn’t interfere with use or sound. But no port covers means that, if you’re ever unlucky enough to get your iPad splashed, there’s absolutely no protection there even with the case closed. Of course, you’ll also be crying over the fact that your handmade leather case just got splashed, and at an undisclosed price Vic won’t reveal (Vic: It retails for $140 but I was able to find it for $99) that’s a lot to lament.

The inner covers are devoid of any pockets and stuff. Quite prettily embossed with the Piel Frama logo, but it lacks anywhere for me to put a calling card or any identifying mark.

The biggest downside with having a lovely case like this is that, now, I’m mortally afraid of putting my iPad down on any surface – ANY surface. Oddly I was more comfortable putting down the bare iPad.

But that’s just because I love my case so much!

Case closed!

Check out the other styles and colors on the Piel Frama website.

July 5, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Case to Case (Part 1) – Hoho Does DODO

For the first time here on The Third Device, we’ll be featuring guest reviews! I’ll be bringing you a pair of iPad case reviews from two fellow geeks (one is an old friend from the Bay Area, and the other happens to be my wife, and I think you’ll be able to tell which is which). Today in Part 1, Horace Posadas give us an overview of his new DODOCase.

DODOCase 1

After 6 weeks to the day, my DODOCase has finally arrived! I first came across the DODOCase at The Unofficial Apple Weblog (www.tuaw.com). They had posted a review and it definitely caught my eye but, at that point I was still on the hunt for my iPad, so I didn’t order one. Big mistake, the day the review came out was the day they logged the largest set of orders. The first batch of cases came out with a handwritten and numbered library card, a nice touch. Too bad my order fell way short of getting the first printing.

The case itself feels very sturdy. The cover and back are made of wood covered to make it look like a leather bound book. It looks very deceptive especially when I am walking around the office, people hardly give the iPad a second look.

DODOCase 2

The tray holding the iPad itself is made from bamboo and is the only part that is machined, everything else is hand made, from the covers to the bindings. To keep the iPad from falling out of the tray, there are what looks like neoprene corners to keep the iPad snugly in place. If you turn the case over, the iPad stays firmly in place. One thing that I have noticed is that after a couple of weeks of using the DODOCase, the corners have been compressed so much that the iPad isn’t held as firmly in place as when the case was new.

DODOCase 3

The tray is CNC machined to exact measurements that it fits the iPad exactly, not even a millimeter of space along the sides. There are cutouts along the top, side and bottom, allowing access to the various iPad controls, including syncing and volume controls without having to take the case off.

DODOCase 5

The spine puts the iPad at a nice angle for typing on a desk, or even on your lap. The downside of this, at least for me, is that it puts the home button on the left side of the screen, whereas I like having the home button on the right.

A garter is provided in the style of Moleskines to keep the cover securely in place when the iPad is not in use. When closed the DODOCase looks very much like a Moleskine Folio, one of the larger ones anyway. Add the Penultimate iPad app, then you’ve got a pretty nice digital Moleskine.

DODOCase 4

The iPad weighs about 1.5lbs, the DODOCase adds another 0.5. This makes the iPad noticeably heavier to carry around, but not obnoxiously so. The case also adds another 1/8 of an inch to the iPad’s thickness giving it a nice heft to it. Both the case and the iPad fit inside an Incase netbook neoprene case. I know it sounds weird to put a case inside a case.

The DODOCase is definitely one of the more popular cases for the iPad, so much so that to they are actually raising their prices from $49.95 to $59.95 as of July 1. All in all, the DODOCase is well worth the $49.95 that I paid for it, not sure if I would order one at $59.95 though.

(Horace Posadas is a photographer, gadget geek and longtime Apple fan based in the Bay Area. You can view his personal website at http://www.ph-photo.com)

July 4, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

How to Americanize your iPad

I envy US Apple fans. Not only do they get first crack at everything, they also have access to apps and services that the rest of us either have to wait for, or never get to use at all. American residents enjoy music streaming services like Pandora, video streams from Hulu, Netflix and the TV networks, and can pick from a couple of thousand extra books on the Amazon Kindle store shelves.

Today I’d like to discuss how you can set your iPad up so that it thinks it’s logged on from the United States rather than from here in good ol’ Pinas. When it comes to sourcing media from abroad, there are lots of little loopholes you can take advantage of, which is why I have a US iTunes Store Account and a US Kindle account without having actually possessing a US credit card – but that’s the subject for another post.

First off, here’s the most important ingredient: you need a VPN service. In corporate usage, a VPN allows you to access your company’s network from wherever you may be in the world, via the public Internet. But for our purposes, a VPN also allows you to connect to a computer (say, in Seattle, USA) then appear to the rest of the Internet as if your own machine is logged on from that same location.

I highly recommend HideMyNet.com, which not only maintains servers in various US cities but in the UK, Singapore, Germany, and other European cities as well. They charge $5/month for unlimited usage.Their setup page has easy to follow instructions for iPhone, OS X, Windows, and of course the iPad. (And if you do sign up for an account, tell em I sent you!)

HideMyNet.com

Once your VPN is configured, all you have to do is toggle the slider switch. The iPad will negotiate with HideMyNet’s servers, and (if all goes well) in a matter of seconds you’ll see a “VPN” box appear next to your Wifi signal indicator.

Pandora + iOS4 multitasking = Love.

Now for the fun part. If you launch Pandora, or Hulu, or the ABC.com app, you will no longer see a territorial restriction warning. Have at it, and have fun.

Easy as ABC ... dot com.

Incidentally, while Pandora works great, especially on a multitasking iOS4 device like my iPod Touch, the Hulu app for iPad sucks. Better to set your VPN up on a laptop or desktop as well and just access the content off the Hulu website.

Enjoy!

July 4, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 14 Comments