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Apple launches the iPhone 5 and iOS 6

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

The new iPhone 5 brings a new size format and new socket as well as SIM card format but in return users get double the speed and compatibility with 4G in Australia.

New iPhone 5 features include:

  • longer and 18% thinner giving a 4″ 16:9 display instead of 3.4″ display but otherwise the same “Retina” display resolution as the 4S
  • legacy apps will appear letterboxed in the larger 1136 x 640 pixel display
  • metallic back
  • 4G LTE capability would work with Telstra, Optus and Virgin Mobile in Australia
  • faster A6 processor which approximately doubles speed of most functions
  • new dynamic low light mode that offers up to two f-stops better performance in low light for the camera
  • panorama sweep mode where users can sweep a scene while holding the camera vertically
  • better stabilisation of 1080p video
  • face detection of up to 10 people
  • front camera supports 720p for video calling on cellular networks
  • new “lightning” connector instead of 30-pin socket – makes all existing iPhone plug-ins incompatible unless you buy an adapter
  • new SIM card – a “macro-SIM” instead of “micro-SIM”
  • BUT NO Near Field Communication (NFC) chip, so no contactless payments
  • for most people the hastle of the changes will not be worth the upgrade from iPhone 4S unless they really want 4G in Australia

New iOS6 features:

  • Safari can now sync bookmarks and the actual webpages across iCloud and with Mac and iOS devices – “iCloud Tabs” but we still can’t have multiple browser apps open to better organise your workflow, just multiple tabs.
  • Siri has been improved and becomes available on the newer iPads – I have Siri turned off on my iPhone so am guessing I won’t be missing her calling international numbers accidentally!
  • more options for preventing messages and text notifications from disturbing you at night
  • turn on Do Not Disturb and you won’t be bothered by anyone — except can’t-miss contacts like your boss or your family
  • maps are no longer Google
  • new 3D map application – but 3D buildings is only available in US
  • turn-by-turn navigation and voice by Siri in the US but not here in Australia, and if it is, requires cellular data – you will be better off sticking with TomTom!
  • Passport app to store and display barcoded loyalty cards, movie tickets, virtual airline boarding passes (apparently Virgin Australia will support this)
  • photo streams can be shared with others as long as their iOS 6 device or Mountain Lion Mac are connected to iCloud (photos are downloaded to their device) or they use a computer to view the iCloud photostream
  • better integration with Facebook – single log in which becomes available to all apps needing it, plus sync FB calendar and friend’s birthdays onto the phone calendar
  • improved email – can designate certain people as “VIPs” and locate their emails more easily in the VIP inbox; swipe down to refresh a mailbox; easier photo attachments
  • FaceTime now works over cellular networks as video calls not just over WiFi and the internet
  • Guided Access for improved accessibility
  • Find My Phone improved with ability to immediately send it a 4 pin lock out and a message to contact a phone number if found which can be called from the iPhone while it is locked, plus while Lost it will keep track of where it has been not just the current location
  • NB. the original iPad is NOT compatible with iOS 6 – so guess that is the end of the updates for it!
  • see Apple’s What’s new and which features are available in which country

Apple iOS 5 for iPhone, iPad and iPods – why you should upgrade

Sunday, October 16th, 2011

Upgrading to iOS 5 seems a no brainer – it is free, and generally upgrades without issue as long as you have a few hours up your sleave and don’t do it when it is first released when the servers are over-loaded.

BEFORE you upgrade, make sure you update iTunes to version 10.5 then backup your device to your computer using iTunes and doing the sync will transfer apps to the computer.

If you have encrypted your backup, make sure you know your password for the backup.

Make sure you know your AppleID email account and AppleID password.

 

No. 1 reason to upgrade: iCloud

My biggest beef with Apple until now has been that you MUST sync and backup your device to ONLY ONE computer and without physical access to THAT computer and user logon, you are NOT able to sync or backup your device.

iCloud potentially changes this – it essentially creates a copy of your device data, photos, apps, etc on an internet server BASED upon the AppleID account that you set it up with.

Perhaps just as importantly, you no longer need a computer to set up your new device – very handy if you buy one whilst on holidays after your last one was stolen.

Optionally you can elect to use Photostream which sends all your photos taken with the device to iCloud Photostream folder as you take the photos – this might be handy if you take holiday snaps with your iPhone and it gets stolen before you get to back it up. The Photostream can be synchronised automatically across various devices.

There are a few issues with iCloud:

  • you only get 5Gb data storage for free – if your device stores more than this, as most do, you may have to pay for more storage, or, disable backup up and sync of part of your data (eg. your videos, music or photos) which defeats the purpose of iCloud.
  • if as a family, you share an AppleID for Apple Store for app purchases, you will need to ensure each family member creates their own AppleID for iCloud and iMessage and configure their devices in Settings to use these AppleIDs instead of the shared Apple Store AppleID – see here for details.
  • given the recent issues with overload of Apple servers when new upgrades are released, will Apple be able to ensure adequate upload/download speeds from their iCloud, particularly during peak activity periods? My experiences in download speed of iTunes updates taking a very long time does not give me confidence that this will work as seemlessly as they suggest.
  • using iCloud for documents seems problematic and of course they are only available for Apple devices, so most people would probably best using a service such as DropBox for their web-based document management rather than using iCloud.

No 2 reason: Notifications

The annoying behaviour of popup screens for notications has now been addressed and you can configure in Settings:Notifications the apps that appear in the Notification Centre which is a pull down screen accessed by downwards touch gesture.

No 3 reason: rapid camera access

The iPhone camera is not bad as a last resort for when you don’t have your camera with you or it is too inconvenient or not appropriate to use.

Until now, you had to unlock your iPhone, tap on the camera icon, wait for the AF to lock on your subject, then tap the screen to take the shot, all of which was time consuming and you may miss the magic moment, and tapping on the screen caused camera shake.

Now with iOS 5 you can double click the home button when the screen is still locked, and a camera icon will display, just tap it to open the camera,zoom using finger gestures (which also activates a zoom slider control), wait for AF to lock, then use the VOLUME button to take the photo in a similar way to a camera shutter release button.

Much nicer interface.

No 4 reason – improved Safari web browser

I have never been a fan of Safari on the iPad or iPhone with its many frustrations and limitations.

iOS 5 at least improves Safari on the iPad by adding tabbed pages (not available on iPhone though), and removes ads while giving better performance.

No 5 reason – improved email reader

Again, the iPad and iPhone email functionality has not been brilliant compared to Outlook, but it gets some improvements with iOS 5 including:

  • ability to format text with bold, italics, etc
  • ability to flag important messages
  • ability to add or delete mailboxes
  • search now also can search the body of emails
  • a free iCloud email account if you wish

No 6 reason – improved calendars

I was not impressed with the iOS 4 calendars and used a 3rd party app (Saisuke) to sync my Google calendars.

iOS 5 has improved the calendar functionality by adding:

  • ability to share calendars with family and friends via iCloud but only if they use iOS5 – so just use Google calendar and ignore the Apple proprietary nonsense
  • a few minor editing and reading improvements
  • I can’t see the improvements justifying me changing from Saisuke and Google

Other reasons – all the other little niceties or gimmicks

  • optional automatic sync/backup to PC over WiFi when device plugged in to power supply to recharge overnight
  • iMessage – send messages via internet to other iOS 5 users, and if not possible, default to SMS text service. You can do this now using 3rd party apps such as Skype, WhatsApp, etc and your target device does not need iOS 5 installed, just the app.
  • Newstand – just a folder to encourage you to spend more money on publication apps, but it may be useful to some.
  • Reminders – a To Do task list but perhaps not as useful as it is made out to be as the location services is not as flexible as one would like. There are 3rd party apps that do this better, but I am not a fan of such lists.
  • Twitter integration – for twits to make it easier to rapidly publish messages to the world without thinking of their ramifications.
  • dual thumb typing interface for iPad users – does anyone really like typing on these devices?
  • multitouch gestures for iPad2 only
  • AirPlay mirroring for streaming HDTV over WiFi to an Apple TV from iPad2 or iPhone 4S only
  • Siri voice commands – iPhone 4S only, and only really useful within the US it seems
  • Find Your Friends app – a double edged sword, may be great for travellers with internet access from their devices, or perhaps for meetings, but runs considerable risks of 3rd parties tracking you when you want your privacy – of course, you can disable it if you remember it is on. Requires iCloud account.

What will 2011 bring for the photography world – and what should it bring?

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

2010 showed us a glimpse of what is likely to come with:

  • the continued rise in popularity of large sensor compact digital cameras with interchangeable lenses such as the Micro Four Thirds system by Panasonic and Olympus, and the systems by Sony and Samsung
  • the increasing dominance of Panasonic in the quality of compact digital cameras
  • the introduction of slate-type multi-touch devices such as the Apple iPad and the Samsung Galaxy.
  • the improving HD video capabilities of dSLRs
  • the need for better lenses to cope with increasing megapixel density in dSLR cameras – both Canon and Nikon embarked on serious revamping of their pro lenses – Olympus had already designed their pro lenses to cope with this increased megapixel density.

What can we expect in 2011?

  • more of the same but with incremental improvements
  • Canon and Nikon may finally decide to enter the mirror-less interchangeable lens compact camera markets which must surely be cannibalising their entry-level dSLR sales as well as compact digital camera sales – Nikon has been rumoured to be looking at a smaller sensor than Micro Four Thirds, while Canon’s “EIS” is rumoured to be approximately the same size sensor as Micro Four Thirds but in 3:2 aspect ratio.
  • an Apple iPad II to correct a lot of the very annoying deficiencies of the initial iPad – see my many blogs of my frustrations.
  • a multitude of iPad-like devices using Windows 7 and Android operating systems
  • the Panasonic GH-2 should dominate the travel photography world given its versatility, relatively compact size, the best HD video of all hybrid/dSLR cameras, the best electronic viewfinder, a relatively fast AF system and touch-screen flip out/swivel LCD screen – what more could you want? (I can think of a few but this camera should satisfy the needs of most travel photographers).

What would I like to see?

  • Panasonic and Olympus to bring in more lenses for Micro Four Thirds, in particular, more fast prime lenses – I would love to see a 10mm or 12mm f/2, a 50mm f/2 macro, a 100mm f/2 macro and a 200mm f/3.5 OIS lens – oh, and there is need for a cheaper consumer level macro lens – perhaps their 35mm macro?
  • Olympus to give us a really compact Micro Four Thirds body as well as a semi-pro level weatherproofed body similar to the GH-2 (given that it seems Olympus may not be producing any more entry level dSLRs such a body is highly likely).
  • Olympus to create a macro flash system for Micro Four Thirds.
  • a Windows 7 device that works as nicely as an iPad but without all the problems of an iPad.
  • a global electronic shutter in a Micro Four Thirds to finally give us silent photography for use in weddings, classical music performances, etc, as well as the possibility of high burst rates such as 10-40 fps still photography.
  • Panasonic and Olympus in Australia to start pricing their products to reflect their pricing in $US – why should Australian’s pay almost twice as much when hour dollar is par with the $US?

Navigating the iPad file system jungle – could it have been more poorly designed?

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

OK, so the iPad is really just for dummies with more money than sense – well I got sucked in by Apple’s lack of documentation as to its considerable limitations – see all my previous posts on the iPad.

Each application you buy or download has its own discrete data storage area which is NOT shared with other apps.

It seems the only data storage area within the iPad which is shared amongst various apps is the Photos app folders and albums.

Let’s explore a few little process issues for iPad  users – processes which should be very simple.

The photo albums:

  • while you can create various photo albums on your main computer and select these in iTunes to be copied to your iPad, you cannot use the iPad itself to create new albums, or move photos between albums, or even delete these photos, but you can Copy to the clipboard or email them.
  • any images saved from Safari or other apps will go ONLY into the Saved Photos folder and then cannot be moved to another folder.
  • any images copied from your camera or SD card are added to Event folders and to All Imported and Last Imported albums where they CAN be deleted, emailed or copied to the clipboard.
  • thus you cannot create your own albums or slideshows using the iPad alone and the Photos app – you need iTunes on a computer, or you need to copy photos to a different application with its own folders.
  • furthermore if you re-connect to your computer, you do not get access to these images via iTunes (but a warning that iTunes may indeed delete them during sync if you are not careful) – you must try to find it as a drive in My Computer if it is being nice to you and showing up as a drive.

Download a file from the internet:

  • open up Safari web browser, navigate to the web page you want
  • let’s say there is a photo on that web page you would like to add to your album of photos on iPad
  • well this is at least easy, hold you finger on the photo and you get two options – Save (which does add the image to your Saved Photos folder accessible by Photos or many other apps – but bad luck if you want to move it to a different folder – that is not possible!) or Copy (which copies it to the clipboard, but you can’t paste it into Photos or any of the Photos albums).
  • but what if you wanted to download a pdf file?
  • using Safari to open and display a pdf is possible, and you can have it saved as a separate Safari tab for future use, but you can’t save the pdf file anywhere, nor can you copy to clipboard or email it, let alone even think of editing it.
  • you can partly get around this mess by buying an app such as Downloads HD – but you still will not be able to copy a photo to a photo album of your choice.

Paste a file:

  • well, you have selected Copy from Safari or Photos which copies that file to the clipboard memory space so you can paste it somewhere else
  • but where can you paste it?
  • not in Photos or its albums, not in apps which you would expect would support pasting of files such as Air Sharing, DropBox, Documents or Stash
  • you CAN paste these files into some apps such as USB Disk (which has a rectangular icon at the bottom which is supposed to indicate how many items are in the clipboard and available to paste BUT unfortunately does not seem to show them).

Instead of being a device to make you more productive, it has the opposite effect – frustration after frustration once you get past the novelty of the nice touch interface.

Perhaps Apple’s philosophy is “Let the buyer beware ” instead of being a bit more transparent in documenting what in can and can’t do!

Oh, and if you are wondering, the iPhone uses a similar folder management system, but at least with an iPhone, you are not really expecting it to be your main web browsing and file management tool as is the case with the iPad.

If there are ways around all this, please feel free to add comments, as I am sure there are thousands and thousands who are just wondering why they spent their hard earned cash?

Europe holiday over, back home, time to see if I can transfer photos from iPad

Monday, November 1st, 2010

Well, my holiday to Europe is over and I am back in Australia.

Readers of my previous posts will note the saga with issues with the Apple iPad which had hoped could be used to backup my photos as well as browse them.

I connected the iPad to my home computer, iTunes booted up as expected and although one can only view low resolution photos on the iPad, the iTunes reported 34Gb of space used in the Photos section, this would equate to all the original RAW and jpeg files which perhaps the iPad imported from the SD cards and cameras, if this is so, it would be a pity that you could not view the original resolution jpegs on the iPad, but one cannot tell what is stored in the photos section of the iPad using iTunes.

Next step in iTunes was to look at the photos sync section, so I turned this on and selected only one folder on the computer to sync with and iTunes kindly displayed a warning to this effect – new photos detected on iPad, if you select sync photos, the iPad photos will be deleted and replaced by the sync photos.

Now that is NOT what I was hoping for, so I turned off the photo sync.

Time to run iTunes sync, and as previously, it has to run backup first – readers will remember that with almost no data on my iPad but a few apps for travel, the backup process before I left took about 48 hours to run!

Well, iTunes sync has now been running almost 48 hours and step 1 of 4 (backup) only 50% complete – unbelievable!

Google search for solutions was not helpful – I had already tried all the “solutions” last time and they did not help, nor does Apple’s online manual or support docs, although they do specifically indicate that media including photos are NOT included in the backup process – the iTunes backup process only backs up settings, notes, SMS messages, contacts, application data, etc.

The simple solution is to do a factory reset of iPad to hopefully get iTunes sync/backup back to manageable times but that would not only delete all my photos and music, but all my settings I had painfully installed.

Time to look at options other than iTunes to backup the iPad.

A replacement for iTunes:

A quick Google search revealed the following options which work on Windows and are compatible with iPhone as well:

iPad backup Software:

  • the iPad File Transfer and Converter Suite appears to cost ~$US25 although when one clicks on the Buy Windows link, you get a link to buy iMac software, so I am not sure what is happening there, but you can download a free trial version and then upgrade to full version later.
  • “Can easily transfer any types of files including photos,messages, videos, contacts, and all other files”
  • “fast backup”

iCopyBot:

  • this company produces several products including iCopyBot which allows one to copy files to and from the iPad (ie to actually do a backup without using iTunes) as well as iVideoBot video converter and iYouTube for downloading and converting YouTube videos for storage on the device.
  • prices range from US19.95 to 34.95 for each product
  • the iBackupBot product does not actually do a backup but helps you read and edit the backup files created by iTunes.
  • there is also a pList Editor for viewing and editing Mac plist files in a Windows system
  • these products are for Windows only, there is no Mac version.

Emicsoft iPad Converter Suite:

  • this suite of products will cost you $US35 but includes a DVD to iPad converter, iPad video converter, and an iPad to PC or Mac file transfer for backing up your iPad files
  • alternatively, you can just get the iPad Manager Suite for $US25 which seems to include DVD, video conversion as well as file copy and iPad backup/restore functions, and ringtone creation
  • they also sell a YouTube/Vimeo video downloader for $US25

Now which one to choose?

Perhaps I will wait and see how long this backup actually takes .. stayed tuned!

Finally! …

The backup finished after 4 days!!!

So I uninstalled all the apps and backup returned to its normal 1-2 minutes, I have now installed nearly all my apps except the travel apps and the book/reference type apps, and so far, so good, backup is less than 2 minutes!

BUT…

The iPad is not showing as a drive in My Computer on this Vista computer, so I still couldn’t see what photo files were actually stored :(

I went into the Computer Device Manager and all seems to be working fine with the Apple USB drivers installed and working.

Found the original camera photo files at long last!

I then connected it to my old XP laptop and lo and behold, the iPad did show up as a drive, and all the camera RAW files were there as well as original camera jpeg files – but jpeg files from the camera were NOT there if a RAW file had been captured at the same time!

Unfortunately, scrolling through the files in detail mode (not thumbnail mode even) crashed the instance of the computer drive window, forcibly closing down the process using Task Manager, disconnecting iPad and reconnecting resulted in no iPad showing up as a drive in My Computer!

Time for a reboot of the computer!

… seems life was not meant to be easy!

Addendum:

After I rebooted the computer, the iPad did show up in the Vista My Computer as a drive, and all the photos were there in individual folders which corresponded with the iPad Event structure which in effect was date photo taken.

Furthermore the original jpegs and RAW files imported from the camera and SD card were all there, and were NOT deleted by selecting iTunes photo sync to be ON.

Perhaps the iPad does make an OK photo backup system after all, although it seems very temperamental in showing up in My Computer as a drive, and this is really the only way to access these files to transfer them onto a computer.

Europe holiday week 3 – summary of experience with the Apple iPad

Monday, October 25th, 2010

It has now been 3 weeks of travel in Europe with an Apple iPhone and iPad, so time for an update on how well this combination works for the travel photographer.

Email whilst overseas scores 5/10:

Although not an iPad issue, I was not able to configure my ISP’s email to send email except by going through their webmail system.

Webmail on the iPad is very dysfunctional and very frustrating to use.
Whilst one can scroll using the iPad, it will NOT let you scroll within a webmail text message which is a big pain, but worse, you cannot send photos with webmail because Apple has NOT allowed Safari web browser to access your photo folders!

You can of course copy a photo then paste it into your email but unfortunately this only copied the file name of the photo – not the photo!

Furthermore, my friend tried to change his Yahoo password using Safari and this was impossible to achieve.

I solved the photo emailing issue by creating a hotmail email account and this worked OK for emailing a photo – although cumbersome as one has to go into the photo application, find your photo, then select email and then it opens a new email message and you have to change the email account to your hotmail account, and Also make sure you are logged into live Messenger in Safari!

Of course, you do not get any options to alter image size or jpeg compressn prior to sending – you just send the already compromised “optimized” jpeg file that the iPad had created when you imported the photo from your came a or SD card.

Another frustrating aspect of writing emails is the iPad spellchecker – it can drive you crazy and make your emails illegible, particularly if you like to use abbreviations And not adhere to correct grammar!

Mine even kept reverting to the Italian keyboard AND spelling even though I had deleted Italian from the settings!

Web browsing scores 5/10:

There are a number of issues which cripples ipad’s web browsing experience:
– no support for Flash player – it is surprising how many websites become inaccessible, and it is often the ones you really need like 3 mobile.
– no access to your photos so unless you use a dedicated application, you cannot upload a photo to a website using Safari, unfortunately, only a few websites have iPad application to allow this.
– no ability to save a web file for offline use, let alone save files into organized folders! You can buy an app called Downloader HD which I highly recommend as a compromise.
– no ability to scroll within a text box on a web page – this makes editing a word press blog post very difficult indeed! In fact, this post was primarily authored in the iPad Notes app in plain text, then copy and pasted into a new post within Safari, but as I was not able to scroll through it in Safari, nor choose WYSIWYG mode, I had to resort to using a WordPress app to finish the editing, and even then had to use HTML to format it! Just not good enough Apple!

Photo browsing scores 5/10:

The user interface for browsing photos can be quite fun and enjoyable, but zooming in On a photo Is not as useful as iPad only stores a low resolution image with loss of detail.

A nice feature of the photo app us that it categories your photos by Events which essentially Are the dates the photo was taken on.

Unfortunately, you cannot create folders on the iPad so that you can organize your photos, or even create a best of folder.

I did buy an app called Photo Sort HD which allows you to create folders for your photos, but the interface is very clumsy, and you must import photos from your main photos folders, and this is done by viewing tiny thumbnails which makes this process very frustrating.

Even worse, the display of images in browsing is quite slow to load making the app poorly responsive and during a slideshow it would continually crash.

Photo editing scores 2/10:

Whilst you can download apps to do rudimentary photo editing, there Is not much point wasting your time editing the small resolution images that the iPad only allows you to play with.

Uploading photos to your own website scores 4/10:

You need to buy an FTP client application to upload photos to your own hosted website, but again, you are dealing with the low resolution images and it is a slow process.
Worse still, there is no native JAlbum application to create these albums on your own website as you can with a Windows computer – nor can you update existing albums.
There is a JAlbum.net application which will allow you to upload photos to your Jalbum.net hosted albums, which may be useful, likewise, there are similar apps to do so for uploading photos to Facebook, Picasa, etc.

Photo backup scores 1/10:

As mentioned in a previous post, backing up your original image files and jpegs is virtually impossible to do on an iPad.

It does a reasonable job of importing your photos although the SD card reader is buggy and requires rebooting several times to get it to be recognized as a valid device, but the imported Files are degraded jpegs only – only for worse case use as backup.
Whatever you do, make sure you choose the KEEP option after importing otherwise all your originals will be lost forever!

Conclusion:

Don’t waste your money on this first version of an iPad – sure it is relatively light, compact and cool to play with, but when you really want to use it, it let’s you down in so many unexpected ways.

And of course, there is no easy way to print anything, such as your flight booking card, as there is no USB connection for printers, and you cannot use USB memory sticks as your intermediary device.

Buy a Windows net book or similar instead!

I thought I was doing my wife a favor buying an iPad for her but she just hates it – and she only uses it for webmail and surfing the net!

ps.. I did find an app that will allow me to send a photo from my iPhone to the iPad via Bluetooth – it’s called picTransfer and seems to work well.

Europe holiday day 4 – the iPAD saga gets worse

Monday, October 4th, 2010

Following on from my recent issues with my wife’s iPad – see previous posts – it decided to cease functioning today!

As I have been doing. I loaded my 16gb SD card into the card reader and now with 144 jpeg + raw files totalling 2.3Gb the iPad photo viewer crashed while trying to read all the thumbnails.

I closed the app and turned off the iPad but the busy icon displayed and refuses to close it down – am waiting 5 hours now and still can’t close it.

No Apple store anywhere near here so have to wait until battery runs out and hope that rebooting it then will work.

If it was a Pc I would just take battery out but no option for this on the iPad!

Luckily the iPhone is still working although poor reception even with wifi networks here.

Some early experiences with the Apple iPad – perhaps not as productive as I thought!

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

I bought an Apple iPad 64Gb 3G model last week for my wife to take on our trip to Europe.

Initial problems with iTunes syncing with no MicroSim card:

Initial sync with the latest version of iTunes running on Windows Vista refused to work until I installed a MicroSim card so it could “download updates for the carrier” – luckily I had a Micro Sim card for my iPhone 4 and this resolved this issue nicely, although it did require rebooting the computer and the iPad.

The one iTunes per device issue:

As most would be aware, you can only sync a iPad/iPhone/iPod with ONE iTunes version on a computer, so although I use my laptop iTunes to sync with my iPhone, I decided it best to use the desktop computer running MS Vista to sync the iPad so my wife could maybe one day gain control over it (not much chance of that happening – iTunes is far too temperamental!).

You can connect the iPad to another computer or user account with iTunes installed and you can add files to any apps installed with File Sharing capabilities BUT you cannot attempt to sync apps, music, photos, etc as it warns you that trying to do so will ERASE and REPLACE all such files from your iPad with those on the current iTunes.

Configuring the iPad does take time:

I had spent much of the week setting it up for my wife so it would sync with Google calendars (using the SaiSuke app), her Outlook contacts, and mail, loaded some of her music playlists, purchased and installed a number of iPad apps and configured them ready for her use without having to understand all the settings.

iTunes settings were set to manually manage music and not to encrypt the backup – so backup should work fast.

All seemed to be working well …. until last night.

The saga of the extremely long backup preventing iTune syncing:

Despite having the latest version of iTunes installed, and only 4Gb space used on the iPad, iTunes inexpicably started taking a LOOOONG time to even get a little way through the initial backup stage – after a couple of hours with the progress bar seemingly stuck on about 5% done.

I decided to reboot everything, delete the last backup (iTunes:Preferences:Devices), and reset sync history, as well as removing the MyPictures:IPod Photo Cache folder which has been reported to be an issue with iTunes sync problems.

The computer is running with 4Gb RAM, 92Gb free hard disk space – should be no problems for backing up 4Gb data!

Unfortunately, there does not seem to be a way of setting iTunes NOT to automatically back up the iPad during the sync process.

Installed latest version of iTunes (v10.01), rebooted everything again, tried to sync iPad and left it overnight running – after 10 hours, still in Backup phase but progress bar had made it to about 40% – NOT GOOD – so time to call Apple Support whose first priority was to try to sell me extended warranty (Apple Care for $A129 as I already had bought it for the iPhone) but I am not sure the warranty will cover me throwing the iPad against the wall!

Apple support advised to try what I had tried above, but as that hadn’t worked – time for drastic measures – a complete uninstall of everything Apple including iTunes, Quicktime, etc – see the specific order in which this needs to be carried out here.

Then reinstall the latest version of iTunes.

Somehow the uninstall process did not delete my music playlists so guess that is good and it recognised the iPad when I reattached it, and then immediately started to sync it, again of course by backing it up first.

After 20 minutes, backup progress bar had reached the ~5% mark and the feeling of deja vu had set in :(

We are leaving for Europe in 2 days – this is NOT what I was expecting from Apple!

My biggest fear is if I used the iPad camera connector and iPad SD card reader to backup up my travel photos, and when I get back I had to do a complete new install of iTunes and remove all traces of the iPad (not yet sure how to do this – guess I follow these instructions), that the initial sync might erase everything on the iPad before  had a chance to copy it onto a computer.

It certainly does not fill me with trust!

40 minutes into the sync process and surprise, the backup progress bar had actually progressed – albeit only to about 15%, but that was much faster than last night!

Fingers crossed and hoping it continues and completes its task before I leave for Europe!

60 minutes and it seems it is pretty much stalled at ~20% done – time for almost drastic measures!

Time to cancel the sync and go into iTunes preferences again – delete all backups, reset sync history, reboot everything, temporarily disable antivirus scanner, and try again.

So sorry Apple support, your advice just wasted a few more of my precious hours, perhas you could have told me the truth about the backup/sync debacle, and given me some real advice!

I don’t really want to delete all user preferences just yet – that would be another day’s work recreating them and it may erase all my good work on the iPad in setting that up.

Same thing again.

Almost time to throw it against the wall.

Google search of the web found this great blog post which may help solve the issues – perhaps its time to find the app which iTunes can’t backup well?

I am thinking perhaps this is going to have to wait until after we get back from our holiday, too bad if my wife wants to change the music playlist I have selected for her

It seems that not only is the iPad severely crippled as per my previous post on it, but iTunes itself has a poor design which means if you use the iPad with apps and store some files outside of the iTunes data store (as most of the apps do – thank goodness), iTunes will take 12-72 hours of continuous backing up before you can run the sync.

If you just want to use the iPad as a web browser, mail and calendar client then things should be OK, but if you really want to try to get value for your money from it and use apps, well you may be in for a shock!

If you don’t believe me, I am not alone in this experience!

Here are a few comments posted in that blog:

“The way iTunes backs up any files not directly stored by it (videos, songs, photos) is horrible. What’s the point of getting 64GB ipad and not being able to put even 1 GB of files, risking hours of backup. This has been an issue since April and there’s no reply from Apple yet. It’s not the developers’ fault in any way, it’s just the criminally stupid way that iTunes backs up application files. I had around 5GB of comics in ComicZeal and it kept syncing for 5 hours to get only around 20%… This is unacceptable. There’s no way I’ll stop using the apps I bought my iphone for just because iTunes was coded by monkeys. Even version 10 has the same damn problem. Wake up Apple.”

“You tip worked very well. I was very unhappy with this backup situation. Yesterday it took more than 4 hours, and now, less than 3 min. Thank you very much for sharing your knowledge with us,”

“This is awesome. iPod Touch Backup went from apparent infinity (the longest I actually waited was just over 12 hours) to less than 30 seconds (!) after removal of one offending app–from a Kong Kong newspaper called Apple Daily. What is it with newspaper and magazine apps?”

“This is very good information. I am finding, however, that the slow backup is caused by photos stored on my ipad. In every mdinfo file, I have a string like Media/PhotoData/Thumbnails/00000/00000/00086.jpg. Before starting the backup, i had several hundred photos on the ipad, but had deleted all but 40. It seems that the thumbnails for all the rest are still there and still slowing the backup. Does anyone have ideas how to delete these thumbnails?”

I only have a dozen photos ever put on my iPad so thumbnails is not what is causing my backup to be slow.

I’m monitoring the cleaned backup folder whilst watching the hours pass on yet another attempt at sync – so far after 5 hours and backup progress bar has hit 30% done and created 8,000 backup files (mostly 1kb each) and still going!

6 hours, 33% done and 9,100 files created ….

8 hours, almost 40% done, 11,000 files created ….

9.5 hours, ~45% done, 13,000 files created …. I’m off to bed!

20 hours, 70% done, 27,000 files created …..

24 hours,  80% done, 30,000 files created …..

28 hours,  84% done, 33,000 files created ….

32 hours, 89% done, 35,500 files created ….

finally the backup finished, presumably at 40hrs, 37,500 files created then took under 1 minute to do the sync.

By the way, my iPhone 4 with 13Gb data gets incrementally backed up in a minute!

Good luck if you buy an iPad, and thanks Apple for designing a dodgy product and iTunesplease fix this ASAP!

And Steve Jobs, if your team cannot fix this backup debacle, at least put a mechanism in place in iTunes where we can easily disable backup during sync – so at least we can sync our files!

Some workarounds to bypass iTunes:

Fortunately, I had bought a ZoomIt SD card reader which bypasses Apple iTunes software, and although VERY slow to copy files from SD cards, it may offer me a workaround for copying images and other files to and from SD cards if I can’t get this issue fixed before leaving.

Also, the AirShare app allows me to copy non-iTunes files to and from my computer via WiFi without requiring iTunes, so again, another possible workaround – but I won’t have my laptop with me in Europe – that’s the whole point of buying the iPad – no need to take a laptop – or so I thought!

Apple iPad and multi-touch compact tablet alternatives for the travel photographer

Saturday, September 11th, 2010

The revolutionary but crippled Apple iPad:

The Apple iPad needs little introduction and is a wonderful device for the traveling photographer wanting to browse through their photos and access the internet, all with a very nice multi-touch user interface and most importantly, in a compact, light weight device.

The iPad measures almost 8″x10″ and is only 0.5″ thick and weighs a mere 730g with the 3G module, although the optional carry case ($A48) does add a bit of weight, and you will need the optional camera connection kit ($A39) to allow connection with certain cameras via USB cable (but NOT compatible with Apple iPhone 3G) or SD memory cards (may NOT be compatible with some cards such as SDHC cards).

The multi-touch display is said to be quite good for photos and has 1024×768 pixels with fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating and the battery is said to give about 10 hours use.

As revolutionary as the iPad is though, it has a number of problems:

  • internal flash drive memory is limited depending on the model – 16Gb ($A629, 32Gb ($A759), and 64Gb ($A879) – add $A170 for 3G data model.
  • no USB port – even the optional camera connection kit USB port is very limited – you cannot connect a flash drive or a USB hard disk drive (unless it is self powered such as most 3.5″ kits – precisely the ones you WILL NOT be taking on your travels!)
  • no printer port – you are restricted to wireless printing and then, waiting for the iOS 4.2 software update in November 2011 for printer support
  • no VGA port – this is another optional adapter ($A39)
  • no keyboard for serious typing work – you can buy an optional iPad keyboard dock ($A89)
  • does not run your usual software such as Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom, MS Office /OpenOffice (you can buy Apple iWork software to give you word document and spreadsheet functionality)
  • does not allow Adobe Flashplayer powered web pages to be displayed
  • no camera or webcam – thus some of the interesting iPhone apps will not work as there is no camera
  • you cannot replace the battery yourself – Apple will sell you a refurbished iPad with new battery to replace your dead iPad
  • video playback only supports only motion jpeg or H.264 at 720p 30fps while MPEG4 video at up to 640×480 30fps
  • cannot calibrate display for accurate image rendition or assessment – the default colour balance is too blue, and it is too contrasty resulting in loss of detail in shadow areas.
  • you can only import photos via iTunes on a connected computer, or via the iPad image application (or 3rd party iPad app) via the camera connection kit, or from a WiFi camera or Eye-Fi memory card in a camera via an iPad app such as ShutterSnitch and a wireless router, but at least it does support RAW files and jpegs.
  • MUST use a camera or a computer to import images from memory cards other than SD/SDHC/miniSD/microSD (the SD card reader does not support SDXC cards)
  • you can ONLY STORE 16Gb of photos even if you have the 64Gb model - this is a photo indexing limitation apparently related to photo app creating thumbnails and storing them in memory and this memory is limited to 256Mb – you can store more videos or music files though – see here
  • you may be able to get around the above limitations by purchasing ZoomIt SD card reader for iPad which will allow using your SD card as a file storage device (you will need to download the app via iTunes store as well).
  • no ethernet cable port – this may be an issue in work environments and some hotels
  • you cannot output your photos to a projector via the optional VGA port adapter unless it is in a slideshow mode (ie. create a Keynote presentation or perhaps buy the Portfolio app) – what were they thinking?
  • no multi-user log on – you have to share EVERYTHING including email, calendars, website favourites, photos, playlists – and of course, can only sync with one version of iTunes – ie. this is a PERSONAL device not a family device!
  • backup requires a computer with iTunes and is NOT very transparent, and you can only sync an iPad or iPhone with one computer – bad luck if this is not the one you have with you
  • an iPad is a desirable target for thieves
  • a 64Gb, 3G model with case and camera connection kit sells for $A1136 – not exactly cheap!

Archos Internet Tablets:

Very similar in functionality to the iPad with multi-touch display with accelerometer, 720p HD video playback, and WiFi connectivity, but sporting internal storage up to 250Gb HDD,  webcam, microSD card expansion (on flash drive versions), SD/SDHC card reader, USB (host and slave) and HDMI ports and runs on Google Android operating system and thus has Flash player support.

Can tether to a web-connected phone via Bluetooth or USB to allow the Archos to become web connected (you may need to jail break an iPhone to enable this).

UPnP and Samba support to allow you to play media files located on other computers via your WiFi network.

3D graphics accelerator for 3D games. Sync your pictures with your Facebook©, Picasa© or Flickr© account

Large library of Adroid apps you can download.

Issues with current models:

  • does not support 720p motion jpeg or AVCHD video
  • does not support viewing camera RAW formats

Archos 101 Internet Tablet:

  • 10.1″ 1024×600 pixels display
  • 12mm thin, 480g, up to 10hrs web browsing battery life
  • available October 2010

Archos 70 Internet Tablet:

  • 7″ 800 x 480 pixels display
  • 14mm thin and 400g for 250Gb HDD version, up to 10hrs web browsing battery life
  • 10mm thin and 300g for 8Gb flash drive version

Archos 5 Internet Tablet:

  • 4.8″ 800 x 480 pixels display, FM radio, FM transmitter for car radios, Dual OS with Linux option
  • GPS voice navigation – you can purchase Tele Atlas maps for Western Europe and Northern America but seems not for Australia – also possible is 3D photo-realistic maps for over 2000 cities.
  • 10.4mm thin, 182g for 8-32Gb flash drive version – 8Gb version sells for $A429, 32Gb version $A539
  • 20mm thin, 286g for 160-500Gb HDD version – 500Gb version sells for $A719

Multitouch tablet Windows 7 Home Premium netbooks:

2010 has seen a new paradigm in mobile computing – multitouch tablets – but note that you need the Premium version of MS Windows 7 for multitouch gesture support as the Starter version does not support multitouch, doesn’t include handwriting recognition or an onscreen keyboard.

Unfortunately, the initial offerings don’t quite meet expectations, partly due to use of an under-powered Atom cpu rather tha a dual core CPU which makes Win7 multitouch more responsive, but they may suit some people.

ASUS eee PC T101MT Multi Touch Tablet:

  • Intel Atom N450 1.66GHz Processor, 2Gb RAM, 10.1″ 1024×600 resistive matte display, 0.3mp webcam, VGA out, 802.11n WiFi, 10/100 ethernet
  • 6.5hrs battery life, SD card reader, USB ports, pen supplied
  • 1.3kg
  • switch on-the-fly between Windows mode and Eee PC Touch mode
  • $A799 for 320Gb HDD – add $A238 to upgrade to 750GB 7200rpm Hard Drive + get a 500GB External USB Drive
  • no Bluetooth, like most netbooks, performance tends to be sluggish and HDD is always running creating noise
  • washed out image colours, poor viewing angle and the graphics chip does not playback HD videos well at all
  • doesn’t have an accelerometer, so you have to rotate the screen by holding down the button on the bottom bezel
  • “For a resistive panel, the touchscreen is actually quite responsive, though unsurprisingly requires a firmer press to make selections. But since we have become so accustomed to using capacitive tablets we had to get the hang of having to really give icons a firm press or use a fingernail to maneuver through menus. Multitouch gestures are just not as smooth as they should be – there’s just something unnatural about having to firmly press two fingers down on the screen to scroll.” (see review here)
  • annoying single rocker tab on the trackpad instead of individual left, right mouse buttons
  • ie. $A1037 gets you 750GB internal HD plus 500GB external USB HDD
  • ASUS Webstorage, provides an extra 500GB of online capacity with drag-and-drop interface to backup online

Lenovo IdeaPad S10-3t:

  • Intel 1.83GHz Atom N470 CPU, 2GB RAM but graphics chip has trouble playing 720p video
  • 10.1″ capacitative 1024×600 glossy screen but issues with limited viewing angle and “flaky” accelerometer
  • tiny trackpad, poor touch screen software, no pen supplied
  • see here for a review

Gigabyte T1000P:

  • Intel Atom N470 1.83GHz 1-2Gb RAM
  • 10.1″  1366×768 with LED backlit, capacitive
  • Embedded HSDPA Support for 3G
  • 250-320Gb HDD, USB, SD card reader, 1.3mp webcam, Bluetooth, WiFi, Ethernet
  • multitouch touchpad with separate mouse buttons
  • 1.5kg

Fujitsu Lifebook T580:

  • 10.1″ 4-finger multi-touch display
  • 1.4kg
  • optional 3G, optional GPS
  • coming Nov 2010?

Larger, heavier, but better performing Windows 7 tablet devices:

Acer 1825PT Tablet PC:

  • Intel Core2Duo SU7300 1.3 GHz CPU, 4Gb RAM, 320Gb HDD, will play HD videos
  • 11.6″ capacitative 1366 x 768 LCD but too glossy, and no capacitative stylus included and you really need this to write notes
  • accelerometer for automatic display switching
  • SD card reader, WiFi, USB, ethernet, HDMI,
  • keyboard not as good as chiclet models (such as the Asus above)
  • small touchpad and only one button for mouse clicks
  • screen wobbles in tablet mode and there is an annoying protruding hinge
  • 4-7 hour battery life
  • 1.7kg

HP Touchsmart TM2:

  • Intel Core 2 Duo processor SU7300 1.3GHz, 4GB of RAM (up to a maximum of 8GB), 500GB HDD, switchable 512MB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4550 graphics
  • 12.1-inch, 1280×800-pixel capacitative display
  • USB, WiFi, Ethernet,
  • ~3-4  hour battery life
  • some issues with overheating and poor life
  • 2.1kg – too heavy for most travelers

Multi-touch Slate devices:

2011 will see the introduction of a multitude of multi-touch, light, compact iPad-like devices running Windows 7 (and also devices running Android and other operating systems).

One of the first of these is the soon to be released, ExoPC Slate:

  • 11.6″ 1366×768 capacitative, pressure sensitive dual touch screen (perhaps the perfect dimensions for my portable imaging needs)
  • Intel Atom Pineview-M N450 1.66 GHz CPU with 2GB RAM and 1080p graphics chip
  • WiFi 802.11 b/g/n and Bluetooth + EDR
  • USB 2.0 port, mini-HDMI port, SD/SDHC card reader (up to 32Gb)
  • 1.3mp webcam
  • 4 hour battery life, 950g
  • proprietary ExoPC user interface software layer to optimise multi-touch user experience and allows for 3rd party apps via an app store and uses Javascript and Flash technologies.
  • 32Gb or 64Gb SSD drive
  • see ExoPC – very exciting indeed! Seems it will be released to US in late September 2010.

Tegatech’s Tega v2:

  • Intel Atom N455, up to 2Gb RAM, 16/32/64GB SSD storage, plus up to 32GB SD/SDHC storage
  • 10.1″ screen
  • Win7, dual cameras (0.3/1.3mp), accelerometer, SD/SDHC card reader
  • USB x 2, HDMI, WiFi, Bluetooth, optional 3G, WiMax, Wibro
  • no Ethernet
  • 870g, > 4hrs battery life, 14mm thick, almost as thin as the 12mm thick iPad
  • see preview here

Viewsonic’s dual-boot slate ViewPad:

  • Atom N455 CPU, 1Gb RAM, 10-inch 1024 x 600 LCD
  • dual boot – Win7 or Google Android v1.6 (older version to support x86 processors)
  • coming in 2011? see a preview here

Samsung Galaxy Tab smartphone slate:

  • 380g, 7″ 1024 x 600 Android-based slate, smartphone device, 16/32Gb storage with microSD expansion up to 32Gb extra
  • 3G, WiFi, Bluetooth, dual front/rear cameras (1.3/3mp), full HD video playback
  • gyroscope sensor, geo-magnetic sensor, accelerometer, light sensor
  • 30-pin dock connector allows for HDMI, USB, car dock, etc
  • 7 hour battery life on movie playback
  • see preview here

Don’t need a touch screen?

Prior to netbooks, portable hard disk drive media players were the most cost effective and compact method of storing your travel photos on a hard drive and may still be a great option as they certainly are the lightest and smallest option. Popular models include:

  • Vosonic VP8870 – user swappable 2.5″ SATA HDD; CF and SD card reader; Host for USB flash drives via miniUSB port; 800×480 LCD to view images, even RAW files. 328g. $A509 for a 320Gb model.
  • Hyperdrive Album – 400g.  320Gb version is $US499.

Now, you could choose just to bring multiple memory cards – I generally use about 15Gb per week on travels excluding videos – but it still means you have only ONE version of your precious photos and if they are lost, stolen, or corrupted, they are gone forever.

You could upload to the internet in an online storage system, but this is time consuming and requires internet access.

  • Users of the iPad or iPhone can sign up for Apple’s MobileMe online solution for $A119/year. MobileMe allows sync of email, contacts and calendars, and uploading of your images to your public viewable online gallery, and uploading of your files to iDisk – to a maximum storage of 20Gb – adequate perhaps for backing up your jpegs of your trip, but not all your RAW files. MobileMe could be indispensable for the traveler taking photos or videos with their iPhone.
  • Those who buy an Asus netbook get 1 year complimentary online storage of 500Gb.

A cheap netbook can be bought for not much more than a media player and still give you a large hard drive for storage (eg. 250Gb is common), an SD card reader, a USB port to connect your camera, or even a secondary external hard drive storage, and you still get to surf the net and use Windows.

Until the multi-touch PC’s are optimised, perhaps a cheap netbook may solve your travel storage issues – you can get 10″ 250GB netbook for $A599 but they still weigh at least 1.1kg such as:

  • Toshiba NB305 at 1.18kg and seems to be rated highly – see here
  • Asus eee PC 1018P – USB 3.0, 18mm thin and at 1.1kg with 4 cell battery giving up to 9hrs but this one comes in at $699 – cramped keyboard and stiff touchpad buttons
  • Asus eee PC 1005PE – 36mm thick and at 1.3kg with 6 cell battery giving up to 13hrs

Those who want a something a touch bigger and much more powerful (with Core2 Duo ULV chip), but still relatively light and cheap, may look at an ultraportable notebook computer:

  • Acer Aspire 3810TZ is a 13″ ultraportable at 1.6kg and is also highly rated sells for $A790 – see here.
  • Acer Aspire Timeline 1810T is a 11.6″ ultraportable at 1.35kg with 8hr battery life and sells for $A799 but keyboard maybe an issue.
  • Toshiba Satellite T110 is a 11.6″ at 1.6kg but Pentium single core chip with RRP $A899

My current preferences:

If you want lightest, and most compact and you have an iPhone or similar to browse the net, then consider a HDD media player such as the Vosonic or the Hyperdrive.

If you want a multi-touch compact, light internet browsing media player with 250Gb HDD storage, then consider an Archos 7 or 10 internet tablet.

If you want a netbook with reasonable performance and price but under 1.2kg, then consider the Toshiba NB305.

If you really want a Windows 7 multi-touch device now, then consider the Acer 1825PT Tablet PC.

If you want a bigger screen but still relatively light and inexpensive, then consider the  Acer Aspire 3810TZ.