iCloud

One thing about Apple that amazes me is how often they hit a new product out of the park — iPod, iPhone, iPad; all phenomenally well-received — but with Internet services consistently no matter how hard they try, they fall down. When he announced iCloud Jobs joked: why should you trust us? We’re the ones that brought you MobileMe.

iCloud shows early signs of being a MobileMe. Which is unfortunate. It’s not the hands-down launch disaster MobileMe was, and sitting through more MMO launches that I’d care to remember, I know bad things happen several million people hit a service at once. In Apple’s case, it was a couple-hundred million.

The Mail Issue

Nothing puts a public face on a service issue like email going down. I’m not likely to notice if an iCloud backup failed, or my bookmarks don’t sync. I may not notice, or care, that Photo Stream didn’t sync. An error message that pops up on my Mac or iOS device that says it can’t connect to the mail servers is very in your face.

Mail went down for 3-4 hours Thursday and about an hour today. It’s not the end of the world. Other than the pop ups, no mail was delayed getting to me. The problem is, while my me.com address sees very low volume, that volume is very high priority. It’s an e-mail address I only give out to very close and personal friends. When I see that e-mail light up with an unread message, I know it’s important to me.

Again, the MobileMe problems were greater. However, because back then MobileMe was a paid service I wasn’t using it didn’t affect me. I started subscribing about a year ago and use it a lot now. So, the load issues are troublesome.

Documents in the Cloud

When I complain about Documents in the Cloud I have to take a step back and remember that with this Apple has build the framing of a house. It’s not quite ready for you to move into yet, but you can see it take shape and let different trades to their work. Documents in the Cloud does a fantastic job at syncing data across my iOS devices. The problem is needing to use a web app to upload and download my documents to my Mac seems like totally the wrong solution to the problem.

Apple not having iWork apps on the OS X ready to go on day one is a big letdown. I have a feeling that getting an OS X app to work with iCloud’s sandbox is a bit of a hurdle. Given the nature of Apple’s inter-department security, I’m not sure the iWork team knew much about iCloud before WWDC. That’s speculation on my part, though. My belief right now is that since Apple is mum on this, and at no point during any of the WWDC or iPhone 4 announcement is there even a glimpse of iWork on OS X working with iCloud I think this is a long time coming.

The big problem I see is being able to group a mishmash of documents. Many times a project will have PDFs, Word and Excel files. With each app having its own sandbox, there’s no way I can just look through all of them at once.

Backups and PC-Free

I’m lumping this into the same header because to me, they are the same. iOS 5 lets you never attach your iOS device to a computer. This is a life-saver. I set my girl friend up with it and it’s nice to know whenever she plugs her iPad in overnight it’s gonna get backed up. Hell, it’s nice knowing when I plug it in it’s getting backed up.

The bad part is, right now the only way to restore is to reset the device. I’m not sure if this is something Apple will eventually let you grab selective bits, but I doubt it. iCloud backups are for when you need to restore the entire system when you get a new device or you need to start over. I’m ok with this.

PC-free is, well, interesting.

I think for most people, this is true. If I got my Mom an iPad for Christmas I’d take it out of the box, set it up with her email account already, and then when I hand it to her, add it to her home network and get her set up with apps. She’ll never, ever need to sync the device. When I know an important software update has been released either see or I can take care of it. She’ll never know iTunes exists.

For my iPad, it’s likely it won’t sync to iTunes, or at least often. My iPhone will due to my music library on there. Maybe after iTunes Match comes out I will, but until I can manage playlists on my iPhone and have them get beamed to my iPad, it’s of limited value. I don’t often sync music to my iPad, but when I do, I want my playlists to follow.

Documents is likely to be where my iPad gets connected. I side load books to my Kindle and Kindle.app and I need to use a cord to do that. I don’t do that often, since its mostly legacy ebooks I’m side loading; future Amazon purchases will be synced via Whispersync.

Do I like it?

Overall, yeah. The Documents in the Cloud thing is a major pain right now, but it’s rare I need to round a trip a file with any regularity. It’ll be great when I can sync in the background, but for now it’s inconvenient rather than aggravating. That said, I do see myself using Dropbox more, since I can set up sync folders in Goodreader. I’m doing a contract negotiation for some personal stuff and I just dumped the folder of documents on Dropbox if I need them.

Unfortunately, that day has come

The beginning of the video of yesterday’s event lingered on an empty reserved seat in the front row. I thought then, “oh. shit.” I knew it was intentional. I knew it was a sign. A missing man formation had been flown. Steve’s time was limited.

There are two people who greatly influenced the path my life took: Steve Jobs and my father. Both died this year of pancreatic cancer.

In the 90s, I had just finished a failed attempt through architecture school. The day I walked out of Wentworth, the building industry collapsed. I would never work in the field I spent five years learning. Around six years earlier my Dad had bought me a Macintosh. As the desktop publishing industry was growing out of nothing, I was there in the early days. I helped steer two print shops into the digital age. One of them with my dad. Had Jobs not created that industry, I would have likely enlisted in the Marines.

When I looked back on the last months of Dad’s life, I remembered there was a point where he could no longer do the things he loved to do: cook and photography. When he died in February, the new camera he had bought in December had less than ten photos on it.

In August, when Steve sent out his note saying he was no longer able to function as CEO, I thought that was one of his turning points. He wasn’t able to do what he loved: Run Apple. I knew then he didn’t long have to live. Writing that letter must have been one of the hardest things he had to do. Today is a hard day. I can’t help but think of my Dad and the influence they had on my life. Thank you, both of you, I wouldn’t not the man I am today without either of you.

I love this bit from his Stanford commencement address:

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

Go and live your own life.

Reflections on today’s Apple presser

At the beginning of the keynote, the camera panned to an empty reserved seat at the end of the row. One imagines this was left open for Steve Jobs, who decided against attending the event. It could be due to his health or wanting Tim Cook to have the entire spotlight. I also wonder if was intentionally left open — and in a prominent position — as kind of a “missing man” formation. A seat left in memory.

Tim Cook is not Steve Jobs. Tim’s presentation style is akin to a Southern Gentleman. Steve had a bit of snake-oil salesmanship. Both are effective, but I could also see where the first 30 minutes may have caused a few people to nod off. Thirty of the 90 minutes were given to sales updates and ego stroking. I need to remember these presentations are not geared towards the same crowd at WWDC. Apple is setting expectations for their quarterly results in a few weeks. I wasn’t feeling well and following the live blogs reminded me it’s not a waste of time to have take out delivered right before the event starts. The problem with skipping the statistics is people will think Apple is hiding something. Tim Cook is very much a numbers game and I think talking about these let him ease into the rest of the talk.

iOS 5

Cards was subject to much derision and sarcasm by me until I remembered that iPhoto does the same thing already. I still think it was in a curious place in the presentation; App-type stuff is usually handled by Phil Schiller. For Scott Forestall to lead off with it made me think they needed to show something new. I’ve written about Cards here, but I can see myself using it. Taking a picture with my iPhone on vacation and sending it to friends and family as a card will be something I do, albeit once or twice a year.

Other than that and a few more details about the Camera app, the iOS 5 portion sounded like the sports highlights at 10pm. It’s all stuff we’ve seen before. The new notifications will be awesome and I hope there is an easy way for me to move my Zinio subscriptions into Newstand.

iCloud

It’s a First World problem, but getting data to and from my iPad is a frustration point. I use Pages across the board, but right now editing documents across devices is a mess. With iCloud, finally all my devices will have the current version of the document without me doing a damn thing. Apps will auto-download between devices. It’s not part of iCloud, but the new wireless sync means a recently-added PDF to iTunes will end up in iBooks.

The PC-free component is going to be nice. I keep a variety of 30-pin cables around the house so I can sync my data. Now, I won’t have to. Find my Friends has uses and seems a logical extension of Find my iPhone. I expect its use to be mainly between parents and their kids, and suspecting spouses.

iPhone 4S

It sharing the same form factor and name as the iPhone 4 didn’t surprise me. Apparently it did for some other people. Betting on Apple doing anything like they have in the past is a fools game (see: no iPhone in June), but I think Apple has been happy with the iPhone 4 design and seem to like to keep big form-factor upgrades to every two years. I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple finally has enough of this naming thing and throws the iPhone into the Mac naming convention: iPhone, late 2011. People bitching because it’s not the iPhone 4 will get old.

The camera is amazing. As a semi-pro photographer, it’s appealing to me. The iPhone 4S camera isn’t as good as my DSLR, but it’s getting better than most point and shoots. Shooting at 1080p video will be amazing.

Siri was the star of the show. If that Apple video isn’t a gigantic smoke and mirrors trick, we’re at the point of Tony Stark in Iron Man talking to his computerized assistant about what to do with his schedule. I can’t wait to see what the reviews say about this. Sadly, I can’t upgrade for a while so I’ll probably hold out until the true iPhone 5 next year.

 

Hands on with the Kindle 4

I’m going to open this with a disclaimer: I have never owned a Kindle . With my iPad and iPhone I felt my ereading needs were met with the iOS Kindle app. The recent power outage made me reconsider this. The iPad’s battery life is fantastic, but when it lasts 10 hours as opposed to the month-plus of a Kindle, I started thinking of a Kindle a little more seriously. As an added bonus, I can read outside with the Kindle. At $130 plus in this economy a Kindle was a tough sell. I had told myself if a Kindle was under a hundred bucks, I’d buy it. Once it hit $80, it was an instant sell.

The version I got has the d-pad and no 3g. The lack of a keyboard doesn’t bother me. The only time I’ve used it is to set up a few collections and add it to a couple of WiFi networks. The 3g I might miss more. It would be nice to be able to buy a book and download it whenever I want. However, if I’m that hard-pressed for something to read, I can use my iPhone to purchase and read the book.

Having never used an e-ink device I’m very happy with the screen. Reading on this device is very easy on the eyes. For most of my daily reading, I expect the Kindle to be my preferred reading device. I’d rather save my iPad’s battery for reading Twitter, Instapaper, playing games and writing.

One of biggest adjustments was getting used to the non-touch interface, especially the buttons. I still think the right button brings me to the next page and the left is for the previous. Instead the large button on the each side is for the next page, and the smaller button above it for the previous. After a few days of using the Kindle, I still haven’t fully trained my fingers. Entering text with the d-pad is a pain in the ass, but most of my Kindle purchases have been made via the web; not via the apps.

What I love about the device is the small size and low cost. I can throw it in a jacket pocket or in my iPad case, and it’s cheap enough that if something happens to it I’m not out the $800 it would cost me to replace my iPad. It’s close to a disposable reading device.

Remembering Dad

Photo Courtesy Gateway Camera Club

When Steve Jobs took his second medical leave early this year, there was much wailing and screaming from people that Jobs needed full disclosure on the issues and ignoring his request for privacy. As a tech writer, it was easy for me to honor his request for privacy. I simply said, “What if this were my dad? Would I want details of his illness treated with all the decency and honor the National Enquirer treats celebrity marriages?”

The question was not rhetorical. Like Jobs, my dad had pancreatic cancer. Unfortunately, my dad lost his battle February 26th. I didn’t think I’d be able to hold it together to give a eulogy, so this is what I would have said.

My dad fought cancer with pride, dignity, faith, and a healthy amount of German stubbornness. The statistics for pancreatic cancer are grim: most die in the first six months, only five percent survive past five years. Dad made two, and arguably they were the best years of his life.

Our family was never great at staying in touch. Months would go by without as much as a phone call. Dinners were few and usually around holidays. That changed when he got sick. Almost every Sunday I’d go to their house for dinner. Dad and I took a road trip of the type we’d often talk about and never do. We spent nearly a week on the road, going to Steamtown in PA, a train convention in lower NY state, and then up to see his sister in Syracuse. I think he needed to get away from being a cancer patient for a bit. He and I made a deal: I wouldn’t fuss over him, but he had to be honest on how he was feeling. That was a moot point. He had more energy than I did. Doing all the driving wiped me out and he’d be up, ready to go. We had made plans to go to Altoona to see trains at Horseshoe Curve, but, sadly, the chemo kicked the crap out of him and he just wasn’t up for it.

I’m going to remember a lot of laughs and good times for years. He and I devouring about 15 racks of baby ribs. His love of spicy chili and Mom’s hating it. We had more patience with each other than we normally would. Dad and I had horrid tempers, and not long after his diagnosis we accidentally dropped an air conditioner out the window. Normally, this would cause an eruption; instead he and I laughed our asses off. My dad had a most unusual obsession with the Wegman’s food chain; a store he had only been in twice. He’d bring his Wegman’s bag to his local supermarket just to piss them off.

His love of photography presented a challenge getting photographs together for his wake. As the dedicated photographer, there weren’t a heck of a lot of photos of him. Instead, however, looking through several thousand slides and prints, I was able to view the world through his eyes. I was able to see his love of family (and see my baby pictures for the first time), his love of nature, and his love of auto races.

Dad was the single-most influential person in my life. Every hobby I have, came from him. My love of reading, photography, trains, and technology came from him. He bought me a Commodore 64, and then my first Macintosh. We were both involved in the printing business; even worked at the same company at one time.

Jim fought the disease with everything he had. He fought it with everything I had, and he fought it with everything Mom had. While dad was truly blessed with amazing medial care, it was Mom who enabled him to be as successful as he was. She made sure he got everything he wanted and needed to be win his battle, but more importantly, she made sure he got everything he didn’t want, but needed to win. Thank you, Mom. You made a difference.

I feel his presence every day. Every picture I take with his camera, I feel like he’s looking through the lens with me — and Dad, I hoped you liked the view in that bar in CT. Photography is coming very easy to me this time. Before, I fought with the technical aspects. Now, I feel like he’s whispering in my ear the things I should be doing. It hits me he’s gone when I think, “this photo came out well; I wish I could show Dad.” But, in a way, I know he’s seeing them.

The last dream I had about him, he was in my Mom’s car, pulling away from the house waving good be. I like to think that means he knows we’re going to be ok and he’s moved on to his next stage. I said this on your deathbed, and I’m going to say it again: Thank you, Dad. You were the best friend I had, and the best Dad I could have hoped for. Thank you for everything.

Hands-on: Scrivener 2.0

The iPad forced Scrivener, a great Mac writing app, out of my workflow. I’ve been using various writing tools for the iPad pretty much exclusively, and there wasn’t a need for Scrivener in the process. Now, new features introduced in version 2.0 have earned Scrivener its place back.

Big Feature Number 1: Sync with External Folder

This feature alone was worth the $25 upgrade fee. As you’d expect, it lets you, well, sync with an external folder. The intent here is for you to use a service like Dropbox as your sync folder, although you don’t have to. When you sync a Scrivener project it creates subfolders with the bits that make up a project — a Scrivener project isn’t a single file like a Word (s msft) document; instead it’s a package made up of  files — be it text files as part of the manuscript, or images or PDFs for your research.

When you set this project to sync, it’ll create subfolders for all those nested bits, and you can edit them on any computer that has access to that folder and can edit the text files. This is a fantastic feature for use with iPad editing tools. I’ll export all my current projects to Dropbox. When I edit the project on the iPad, it’ll auto-sync when I open the project up in Scrivener. Also, text files created in the sync folder will auto import. All my TAB stuff goes into one project, so if I create a new article on the iPad, it’ll get imported. This feature is also very handy if you’re collaborating on a project with another Scrivener user.

Big Feature Number 2: Create E-books

Creating an e-book from your work has been somewhat challenging up until now. Open-source tools like Sigil can create e-books, but my experiences with it showed me it’s not for the faint of heart. It’s probably not something the average writer is likely to want to deal with. When Apple recently introduced ePub exporting in Pages, I felt it was the first e-book creation tool average users can work with. Now, Scrivener can create both ePub and Mobi-formatted books.

I haven’t played with this feature much other than to export a project and view it on my iPad and Stanza (s amzn) in OS X, but, it worked, and looked quite good. I did notice the iPad was a little more font-sensitive than Stanza (it didn’t see all the font overrides I set in Scrivener). Using the supplied novel template I also noticed that the table of contents were auto created.

I haven’t tried to send a compiled e-book off to one of the self-publishing services, so I have no idea how well that aspect works.

Not-so-big Features

Better Academic Usage

My experiences using Scrivener for academic work were frustrating. While it was great at storing research, getting Scrivener to bend to MLA formatting just wasn’t worth the hassle. Now, Scrivener includes templates for MLA and other academic standards. There are also now presets for things like block quoting that really help alleviate some of the frustration of formatting.

Also greatly improved is footnoting. Footnotes (and comments) now appear in the Inspector rather than in-line. The combination of these two improvements makes Scrivener a more appealing tool for student use.

Better Outlining

Most of my work doesn’t involve outlining. That said, there are some impressive new additions to outlining in Scrivener. The biggest one for me is custom columns. I live or die by word counts, and now the outline view can show the word count for all my drafts. I can also add columns for progress to a target word count, modified date, etc. This is especially handy for files like my TAB binder, which can become very congested.

Collections

This is going to be the feature I’m glad was included later, even though I don’t currently use it. Basically, collections let you grab scrivenings without changing their place in the overall structure. If you’re working on a large manuscript and you’ve identified scrivenings that are to be the focus of the day’s editing, you can drag those into a collection and not screw up their position. I haven’t figured if there’s a way to create a smart collection based on keywords. I can easily see using this as a to-do list.

Conclusion

Scrivener 2.0 was one of my most-anticipated upgrades this year. It hasn’t disappointed me. The folder sync feature is a boon to us iPad users and lets me use Scrivener as the Grand Central Terminal for my writing. The upgrade is $25 and the full version is $45. It’s a tremendous bargain for such an awesome writing tool.

World of Warcraft Cataclysm Review

Azeroth is sundered! A dormant dragon awakens. A colony of dwarves lose their ancestral home and need a hobbit to get it back — oh wait, sorry, wrong fantasy series. While Cataclysm ($39.99) is World of Warcraft’s third expansion, the overall changes to the world make this more like WoW 2.0, or, at the least WoW 1.5. What’s nice is a lot of the changes will be available to all current subscribers, even if you don’t buy the expansion.

What You Get For Free

As part of the — wait for it — Cataclysmic event that sundered Azeroth, almost every area in the game has seen its geography change; the only unchanged areas are the ones from the previous two expansions. An ancient dragon, Deathwing, has risen from within the world, and his hatching effected something similar to the movie 2012, only with better acting.

Blizzard has also learned from past mistakes and greatly streamlined leveling your character. Previous quests involved a gigantic amount of running around for little reward; now the quest hubs are gathered closer together and the game does a much better job at guiding you along your path.

New Starting Areas

Blizzard has introduced two new races: the Worgen (a lyncanthropic race) and the Goblins (short little green men with a love of explosives). Each race receives their own new starting area for new characters, complete with new and improved beginner quest mechanics. Each starting area takes about 5-6 hours to complete before you can enter the main game.

Of the two new areas, I enjoyed the Goblin one the best. Blizzard does well when it lets its irreverence and sense of humor shine, and the Goblin area is lighthearted, fun, and full of explosives. The Worgen area is much more serious. You’re cursed to become a lycan and during the starting experience you’re fighting to take back your city. Which would you rather do: watch the game fight a huge battle for you (your involvement in this epic event is limited), or roast zombies on a pair of rocket boots? I’m going with rocket boots, every time.

The Worgen area also shows an odd lack of polish by Blizzard’s standards.  Usually when there’s an epic battle at the end of a quest line, the game shows a “next battle in 10 minutes” popup so you know you should hang around for a few, or maybe see what the baby has been crying about all this time. There isn’t one in the last battle for the Worgens, and it’s easy to get thoroughly confused about what you need to do.

Raised Level Cap and New High-Level Areas

Cataclysm raises the level cap from 80 to 85, and it’s a much shorter journey to max level than in previous expansions. We were seeing “server first” announcements for level 85s less than 24 hours into the expansion launch, and even with my slow-paced leveling my character was 85 in less than a week. Previous expansions took me several months to reach max level. Frankly, I wasn’t upset at how quickly it happened. I enjoy the game more without the need to grind out levels, and taking new characters through the revamped zones is keeping me occupied.

There are roughly seven new zones in Cataclysm, a slight reduction in the number of new areas usually included in a new expansion. I found two particularly notable: Vashj’ir is an entirely underwater area, and Uldum is basically the plot of the three Indiana Jones movies rolled into one quest line. In Uldum, Blizzard again shows its sense of humor, and it’s my favorite of the new areas.

One drawback to the new areas, though, is how Blizzard has phased the zones. In Wrath of the Lich King, the previous expansion, Blizzard introduced phasing as a way of having your adventure area change as you completed quests. A town might be intact during one part, but destroyed later on in the story.With Wrath, the phasing was limited to a couple of high-end zones. In Cataclysm, it’s much more prevalent. Unfortunately, if you’re not on the exact same point in the story as a friend, you won’t be able to play with them. A friend of mine and I were “out of phase” and it was simply because I had accepted two more quests than she had. As a result, Cataclysm is likely to feel a lot more like a single-player game than an MMO at times.

Playing Well With the Mac

Blizzard has always released its products simultaneously for Mac (s aapl) and Windows(s msft), and Cataclysm is no different. Since it’s a native build and not a port using Cider, it runs very well on the Mac. I played through the entire expansion using a mid-2009 13-inch MacBook Pro with the Nvidia (s nvda) 9400M chip, and even with that anemic graphics processor it ran very well. I experienced no crashes or unusual hangups, although the main cities can drag your frame rates down.

Verdict

I like that rather than tack on more “previously undiscovered” zones to the game, Cataclysm focuses on the continents that launched six years ago. Other MMOs (I’m looking at you, EverQuest) have added so many new areas, that it becomes a little ridiculous. The hard mode in Cataclysm dungeons, called Heroics, are indeed fairly hard and require more player skill to complete than players will be used to — Wrath’s Heroics were fairly tame and a lot of us got lazy.

Highs: Big changes to the WoW game world, for all players.

Lows: Phasing takes quite a bit of the multiplayer out of this MMO.

If you’ve got a character that can take advantage of the new high-level zones, Cataclysm is a lot of fun. But even if you’re not a current subscriber, this is one of the best times to start playing. With the revamped low-level requiring only an active subscription, and with lots of old players creating new characters, there’s a ton of new people running around to play with, which is the point after all.

Impressions of iOS 4.2

So, iOS 4.2 is finally here. This version finally brings all iDevices to the same version and feature level. I hope this parity continues with iOS 5. While iOS 4.2 is an update to every iOS device, I think it’s fair to say this update is more of an iPad than an iPhone update.

Since iOS4’s release this summer, iPads have been stuck running iOS 3.x. So, no multitasking, no folders, no fast app switching. On a device one hopes to use a mobile computing platform, this was a hinderance — especially the multitasking and fast app switching. Now, the iPad can do those things. Sure, it’s not the same multitasking, but it’s a big update.

On a daily basis, my iPad gets tons more use than my iPhone. I use it for e-mail triage, surfing, reference,  video watching, ebook reading and it’s my preferred way of reading RSS. I’ve never quite adopted the multiple display workflow, but my iPad is usually next to my MacBook doing something. Without fast app switching or multitasking, my iPad would often be stuck finishing one task while I wanted to do another.

Take Evernote, for example. My Evernote library is huge, and the main reason I spring for the Premium service is for offline storage on my iPad. I’m in the middle of a few projects where I’m storing research notes into Evernote. I recently dumped about 100mb of PDFs up in there. The subsequent download to Evernote for the iPad was painful. Now, with iOS 4.2, that sync would happen in the background. We’ve been seeing a slew of apps updated for iOS 4.2, so most of my apps now support the new features. I’m thrilled with the update. My iPad feels a ton snappier. I love that folders condensed five screens of apps to two rows.

Game Center, AirPlay and AirPrint I’m less thrilled about. I have never wanted or needed to print from iPad. Even when I’ve travelled, I haven’t had to print out a document since I was in England in 1999.

A while back I stated that almost everything I write in some way passes through the iPad. Recently, that’s changed from “almost everything” to “most things.” I’m writing more how-to instructions and their heavy reliance on screenshots pretty much leaves the iPad out of the running. I do have hopes some day of just grabbing my iPad and a keyboard and heading to Starbucks to see just how an iPad would hold up to a day of writing.

Elements for iPad Updated with Folders, Markdown Support

Two iPad apps that have been very near and dear to my writer’s heart: Elements and PlainText. They are two simple apps, that let me edit plain text files on a Dropbox folder — each app uses its own Dropbox folder, named Elements and Plaintext respectively. I’ve loved both, but PlainText was winning because it supported subfolders in its folder, which Elements lacked before this update.

Another writing tool I often take advantage of is Markdown, a sort of formatting shortcut language created by John Gruber. The lack of native support wasn’t a big deal for me. I already know most of the formatting commands so I could just enter them in by hand and preview them when I exported them.

The Markdown implementation is a little tricky. If you’ve created a file on the iPad, you’ll need to change the extension to .md, .markdown, .mdown or .mdwn. That will activate the Markdown preview button. It doesn’t appear to add any shortcuts for common Markdown elements, like #. It’s too bad since the need to access the secondary or tertiary on-screen keyboards can slow you down. If you are a heavy Markdown user, I recommend the excellent Edito iPad app.

Now that Elements supports both subfolders and Markdown in version 1.5, it just might become my iPad plain text editor of choice

 

Looking back on yesterday’s presser

The way I see it, with the iPhone 4 antenna issue is there’s an existing (perceived or otherwise) that the antenna issue is the worst thing to hit the tech market since Windows ME. Apple’s response is needs to hit two key points: what we are going to do about existing users; and what we’re going to do about future models.

Apple’s giving out free cases solves the problem with the existing users. There was no way Apple was going to issue a recall.

Apple was hedgy on the future plans. During the Q&A Jobs said, “we’re keeping an eye on it.” Frankly, I didn’t expect much. The last thing Apple wants to do is get people to wait on a hardware revision.

I get the feeling people were thinking Jobs’s conference was addressed to users. I don’t think it was. This whole presser to me was directed squarely at Wall Street. Even the timing was for Wall Street; it was timed to be over before the market closed.

In full disclosure: I don’t have an iPhone 4. Due to when my contract expires, It’s unlikely I will ever own one — I’ll just get the iPhone 5. My statistical data is from a very small sample set. The two people I have talked with that own an iPhone 4 both have the signal drop issue.

Jobs went out of his way to explain this problem affects all cell phones. I’ve had my iPhone 3GS since March and I’ve never been able to replicate the problem. Once I heard about the problem I’ve gripped my iPhone every way imaginable and can’t make the problem happen.

I tend to believe Apple’s numbers on returns and calls to AppleCare are true, with one caveat — Jobs said 0.55% of all calls to the AppleCare line are about this issue. Now, you can really spin this: does this involve all calls to the AppleCare line, or just the iPhone 4 support line. If Apple is really spinning that number based on all calls to the AppleCare line (i.e. people calling in MacBook issues, etc.), that number affects a larger number than Apple is letting on. Update: Jobs indeed did say 0.55% of iPhone users. Nothing to see here.

Jobs went out of his way to denigrate the tech press. It was pretty clear he holds the tech press with disdain, and I don’t blame him; I hate us as well. The problem with the tech press it this: some site comes out with a half-sourced or patently false story. This story gets grabbed with “so and so is reporting that…” and then a major news site grabs the story, which then gets circulated with “so and so is confirming…” and when you track down the story line, the original story is one that won’t stand up to a basic fact check. Which then leads to “It’s not our fault; we’re bloggers, not journalists.”

I do believe this is issue — for whatever reason — has gotten blown way out of proportion in the press. I do not believe it’s the gigantic problem that it’s being lead to believe. Twenty four hours later, when I ask if I feel the presser was satisfactory, I’m inclined to say yes. Apple was addressing the existing issue. I would not be surprised to see this brought up again during the Apple September iPod Event.

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