And here are some things I've shared.

An iPad Air hands-on from a Mini convert

When the first iPad was introduced by Apple a few years ago, I was excited and intrigued. I knew that this wasn’t just a big iPhone. Its bigger screen would enable new types of mobile computing experiences.

Since then, I had bought a few iPads (succumbing to the RDF, I’ll admit). However, once the novelty had worn off, I found myself not using them as much as I would have thought.

Between my iPhone and MacBook Air, I was having a difficult time deciding where the iPad fit in regard to my day-to-day computing.

The iPhone was always on me. It was easy to whip out of my pocket to check the news or browse social networks or send messages while at home sitting on the couch or while out and about.

Whenever I had to code or do any extensive amount of writing, I had no choice but to use my MacBook.

The problem I had with the iPad was that despite being just a 10" slab of glass and metal, it was still too bulky to schlep around with me around the house. I found myself mostly consuming things on the iPad – reading books, surfing the web, watching videos – versus creating, which was what my MacBook was for. I found it a bit awkward handling its size and found that my arms would tire from its weight after holding it for long periods of time.

Soon thereafter, Apple released the iPad Mini. It was everything I wished the full-sized iPad was: thin, light, and portable. I could use it single-handedly if I wanted. I could hold it in my hands for long periods of time without my arms getting tired because it was so much lighter. The only thing it lacked was a retina display. At the time, Apple had already spoiled my eyes with retina displays on the current models of the iPhone and iPad. It was hard to go back to using an iOS device with such a poor resolution. Still, the form factor itself had won me over and I found myself using my iPad Mini pretty much everyday.

Fast-forward to present day. The 2013 lineup of iPads has finally been announced with the full-sized iPads undergoing a sort of “minification.” It has shed most of it’s bulk and weight and is now being branded the iPad Air.

I spent a good amount of time debating whether I should wait for the retina iPad Mini or if I should take a chance with the new iPad Air. Did it really lose enough of its bulk for me to consider switching back to its 9.7" screen? After reading a few good reviews online and hearing rumors about how the new Mini would be hard to find because of supply constraints, I decided to pick one up from the local Apple Store on release day.

Finally, the review (but not really).

I’ve had a good full day to play with it and have subjected it to my typical usage. The iPad Air is definitely a lot lighter than previous iPads. The bezel surrounding the screen has been shrunken down like that on the Mini. It really does look like a bigger version of the Mini. The large retina display is gorgeous coming from the current Mini, especially with some of the thinner text and icons found in iOS 7. In my usage, software ran much quicker as the Air has the latest A7 processor versus my Mini’s A5. However, it wasn’t as fast as I thought it would be. Perhaps not all the latest apps have been compiled to take advantage of the new processor.

Even though the Air weighs just a quarter pound more than the Mini, I still found it just a tad bit heavy. I chalk that up to being so used to the lightness of the Mini over the past year.

I’ve learned to thumb type efficiently with the Mini. Typing on the Air is a bit more awkward as I need to extend my fingers out more in both portrait and landscape modes.

With my Mini, I feel like I can just almost throw it off to the side of the couch when I’m not using it. I don’t feel like I can do that with the Air because it’s so large and dense, I feel like it would break.

I really wanted to like the Air, and I’m really impressed for what it is, but after using the Mini for the past year, I just cannot get over the size of the Air’s screen. For me it’s just too big, even with the reduction in width and weight of the overall package. As someone that uses his iPad primarily as a consumption device, the Mini’s form factor is ideal for me. Sad to say but I will be returning the Air but I am eagerly awaiting the new retina iPad Mini.

A few days with Android

I’ve owned every iteration of the iPhone since it was first introduced in 2007. When Steve Jobs first announced the iPhone at a keynote at Macworld, I was blown away. The phone has since been my trusty pocket computer and my connection to the world. Every year, I wait in anticipation for the next version. Suffice to say, I’m an iPhone fan(boy). I’ve never given a real thought to its Android counterparts. That is until recently.

As an Apple fan in general, I don’t have anything against Android. I’ve always loosely followed its progress and casually rooted for it in the hopes that it would keep Apple on its toes. In the past couple of months I’ve heard how the releases of Android versions 4.1 and 4.2 have evolved the OS to a point where it may be arguably up to par if not better than iOS. I was also starting to get a little bored with the iPhone and iOS. It’s been more or less the same since it was first introduced, which goes to show you how much right they got right in the first place. Still, my eyes began to wander to the shiny new gadgets coming out in the Android world. Several weeks ago, I started hearing about the HTC One. It was highly praised on several respected blogs and on various forums. People raved about its Apple-like industrial design, its gorgeous 1080p screen, and its loud speakers. I was intrigued.

After much internal debate, my curiousity got the better of me and I pulled the trigger and bought an unlocked 32 GB One straight from HTC.

I’ll try not to rehash what a lot of reviews are saying about the HTC One itself. Instead, I’ll present a list of what I liked and disliked about the One and Android coming from a long-time iPhone user.

  • The screen is large, bright, and beautiful. I actually would consider watching TV shows or movies on this thing. The extra screen resolution is useful. I do like having the larger screen but it might be a little too big coming from the 4 inch iPhone 5. I do hope Apple releases a slightly larger phone as an option though. Perhaps a 4.3 inch iPhone would be just big enough.
  • Because of the One’s large screen, the phone is much more unwieldy to use single-handedly. It’s doable but it requires much hand gymnastics. Most of the time, I ended up using two hands to use the phone.
  • Speaking of the large dimensions of the phone, I found some difficulty in turning the thing on. Most of the time, I would whip the phone out of my right front pocket and have to crawl my hand up the phone so that my index finger can hit the power switch on the top left corner of the phone. This felt like a lot of effort compared to just hitting the home button on the bottom face of the iPhone with my thumb.
  • The speakers are the best I’ve heard on any mobile device. I prefer the way HTC laid out stereo speakers on the face of the phone. I can watch videos on the One naturally without cupping my hand to the one side speaker to better direct the sound as in the case with the iPhone.
  • Because the hardware volume buttons on the side of the One are flush with the phone body, they are annoyingly hard to push down. Even more so with a case on.
  • I wish there was a hardware mute toggle on the One. I also wish there was a quick way to toggle orientation lock. Both required me to dig through settings menus. I suppose I could install a widget but iOS makes these actions pretty easy. I see that Android 4.2 adds a quick settings pull-down menu but the One is unfortunately still stuck on Android 4.1.2 (as of this writing).
  • The One’s camera seems capable enough but I wasn’t blown away by it. I’m also a little iffy about the photos only being 4 MP. Sure more than that is overkill in most situations but there have been many times (for example hikes) where I brought my iPhone to take photos rather than my real camera and 4 MP isn’t cutting it.
  • Charging the One is slow. I remember playing around with the phone while plugged in and the charging couldn’t keep up with my usage as I could still see my battery percentage declining. Compared to the iPhone 5, the One’s battery life seemed worse. I had to make sure a few location apps were disabled to get my battery life to an acceptable level.
  • Perhaps I’m not used to the Android way, but I would hear my phone beep or vibrate and see the little notification LED blink, but I wouldn’t know what type of notification I just received. On iOS, the phone screen would briefly turn on and give me a quick preview of the notification including the app and some text that describes the notification. With the One, after hearing the phone vibrate, I would have to manually turn on the screen, then pull down the notification bar since, by default, Android doesn’t show you any notification summaries on the lock screen save for a few icons on the top bar. In Android’s favor, its notifications bar is so much more functional than iOS’s.
  • It’s cool that the One has NFC but I don’t know any place that uses it.
  • Maybe I got a defective unit but on two wireless routers at work, my One’s Wi-Fi connection would flake out after a couple minutes though it still showed as connected. I would have to toggle the phone’s Wi-Fi to get its network connection to work again.
  • It’s a personal preference but I prefer the system fonts on iOS versus those on Android.
  • Android has a thriving app ecosystem and pretty much all the major apps that are available on iOS are available on Android. In my opinion, when comparing apps available on both platforms side by side, the iOS version always felt better in terms of user experience and polish. I found the same result when comparing counterpart stock apps. Surprisingly, I thought even Google’s own apps looked better on iOS than on Android.
  • I use Twitter as my main news feed and I love Tweetbot on iOS and Mac. I went through several clients on Android and could not find anything that came close. Same thing for my iOS Reddit client of choice Alien Blue.
  • I like music and I like keeping track of my listening habits on Last.fm so I was happy to be able to install an app that ran in the background and scrobbled my latest tracks from whatever music app I was listening to on Android. I can’t do that on iOS without jailbreaking.
  • Scrolling on iOS just feels right. It’s smooth and the physics of it feels more natural. When scrolling through apps on Android, I missed the bounceback effect iOS gives you when you scroll past the bounds of a view.
  • I wish Android had full native support for emoji. It does display them although they’re just these ugly black-and-white replicas unlike the colored graphics on iOS. I also couldn’t find an emoji keyboard within stock Android.
  • It took me a long time to stumble across group messaging support in the One’s SMS client. iMessage does this transparently. On the One, I had to toggle a setting which I accidentally came across. Before that, I had downloaded a bunch of alternative messaging apps (most of which I thought were ugly, sorry). In the meantime, I was unknowingly sending separate text messages to each person in group chats, which they found annoying. I hear this is fixed in Android 4.2.
  • I love how you can easily share items or open files with other apps in Android, something which I think iOS sorely lacks. For example, I can be viewing a web page in one app and easily send that to my Pocket queue via the share menu.
  • On a related note, I can change the default handlers for “core” applications on Android. For example, I can set a new default SMS client or email client or browser or even the homescreen launcher. Apple tries its hardest to prevent you from doing that on iOS.
  • Most of my family and a lot of my friends use iOS and take advantage of built-in services such as FaceTime, PhotoStream, and iMessage. Apple did a good job of packaging these functions into the phone and making them easy to use. I can see that Google is trying to do the same thing with Google+ but its integration is no where close to that of Apple’s.
  • Google Now is awesome. I find it much more useful than Siri and I now find myself checking Now a few times a day. It’s curious that Google recently released it to iOS but I’m happy that they did.

These are just a few of my observations. I’m not saying one platform is better than the other nor am I trying to start any flame wars. Sure, a lot of my Android gripes can be solved by downloading some app or installing a ROM but that requires way more effort than I’m willing to give. It all comes down to your own individual preferences. I really wanted to become an Android convert and I did give it an honest shot. The One’s hardware is breath-taking and Android is indeed a fine alternative to iOS. In the end however, iOS still fulfills my preferences better than Android. With that said, my One will be going back.

jQuery Check All

I finally got around to packaging a jQuery plug-in I made a while back. All it does is provide the common check all/uncheck all checkbox functionality. It’s tiny, it’s remarkably simple, and it’s nothing special but I wanted to go through the whole process of packaging and publishing it officially.

Find out more at its official page.

Introducing Instants

So I was bored one weekend and decided to build a fun little visualizer for Instagram which I’m calling Instants. It emulates polaroids being thrown onto a wooden deck and features the photos from your Instagram feed. It’s all done using CSS3 animations. As such, you won’t see it in all its glory unless you’re using the latest version of Chrome or Safari.

preview

Check it out at instants.narwhal.io!

Paris and the Data Mind

Craig Mod:

I can’t help but see an element of self-preservation amid our data collection. Preservation embedded deep within our check-ins, our food photos, our tracked steps and mapped run routes. We are collecting like never before.

We used to collect privately. The physical possessions one owns when one dies constitutes, perhaps, an idealization of the self. Those possessions, however, have always been unnetworked. And they were limited by physics; you could only collect so much. Closets filled, things decayed, people moved, treasures were thrown away.

As someone who tries to record every track I listen to on Last.fm, every book I read on Goodreads, every movie I see on Letterboxd, every run I make on Nike+, not including the countless photos I take every new place that I visit or the diary entries I write after significant events in my life, I can totally relate to the author’s addiction for digital preservation.