The iPad, A Year Later

I was asked a number of times recently to write about my experiences with the iPad. I set out to write a short something on what it has done for me since having one around and how that use has evolved over time but the writing sort of took off without me. For such a simple device it certainly took a fair amount of thought to focus in on what has made it great. I decided to also use this space to go ahead and talk some about the apps that see the most use.

There are many who still find the iPad to be relatively weak as far as it’s usefulness is concerned. I can admit that when the iPad was first introduced I was drawn to it not because it seemed like an important or useful device but because it looked like a wonderfully fun gadget to have around in my day to day life. By the time I actually ended up investing in one I had come to the conclusion that it would hopefully become a perfect way for me to have access to important information while traveling or simply away from home. I hoped to be able to leave my laptop behind and go about my day as usual with this new, lighter, easier to access device to help me continue to be functional at work as well have a quick way to stay connected to the never ending Internet.

A couple of months into this new foray into iPad living I fought myself still lugging around my laptop everyday as I always had before but not because the iPad was not as useful as I thought it would be but because I failed to realize just how much I rely on tools like Aperture, and other work related needs that simply didn’t really exist yet on touch screen devices. There Was a period of time that I found the iPad rarely seeing any action as my laptop was simply a more viable way to get done what I needed to get done through the day.

Then, I’m not sure what it was that triggered it exactly, but I discovered that I had the iPad out a lot more often than I once did. Somewhere along the line I realized that the applications built for the device were starting to aid the iPad in becoming a much more useful tool. I was able to print out PDF tech riders for concerts I was working as well as store them locally in iBooks. I found myself using the iPad more and more to write distraction free as I am right now using the great writing app iA Writer. More and more apps that I enjoyed but didn’t use often because it was such a pain to get information on and off the iPad were becoming useful as they started to use dropbox as an amazingly simple way to keep things in sync. Now I use it so much that I actually have days where I may find myself with a 30 percent battery life at the end of a busy day which is amazing considering the battery life really is as good as you hear it is.

I discovered I was replacing much of what I was doing with the laptop with my iPad and it feels good to finally feel as though it has caught up to my needs almost fully at this point. I have a simple Manhattan Portage messenger bag with a space that perfectly fits my iPad and it’s lovely cushy sleeve that I wrote about here before and it makes it so very easy to pull out my iPad and instantly be checking my mail, opening up a tech manual for a new piece of gear at work, catching up on the latest news, or sharing a few photos quickly and easily on the big screen. This kind of casual quick approach computing isn’t as accessible on a laptop. Well, maybe on one of those tiny little MacBook airs to an extent but not in the same way.

I think a big part of why I started using the iPad gradually more through the time I have owned it is not just because the apps have become more capable but also because I have grown accustomed to using the simplified approach of using a touch screen device to access and manipulate information. It is largely a single task device and while it really is quite simple to jump between apps I find it does take time to get used to using the iPad after coming off years of laptop and desktop use. It takes a slightly altered mindset to approach it and make it work for you in your own personal workflow from day to day but once its usefulness clicks you won’t look back. I was trying to think of a good real world example of a time when the iPad stood out as being extra ordinary and I think I have a perfect instance.

A few months ago I was hired to shoot individual portraits of a team of employees at an international company whose headquarters are located here in town and the client was willing to take the photos on the campus surrounding the buisness which is a beautiful area surrounded by woods. One by one a team member would come out to a predetermined location where I would have a few minutes with them to capture a handful of images. The iPad came into play when I finished each individual shoot. Using the camera connect kit I pulled off photos between sessions to double check results and gather them all into one place.

The best part of this came when the sessions were over and I could step back into the offices to share the images with those who I took photos of. The iPad excels at this because I am able to put the photos on this big wonderful screen and put them right in their hands. I could then easily transfer the images from the iPad into Aperture in full RAW resolutions.

While I am eagerly waiting for iPhoto to appear on the iPad to allow better on device organization of photos this was still an easy process that made for a great presentation tool while out shooting. Sure, I could have just as easily used a laptop but the personal touch of showing photos this way can add a lot of personality and intimacy to a presentation.

I do have a complaint to lodge as some of you may know already, connecting devices to the USB camera port is fairly limited because apple decided to limit the amount of power the dock connector is able to supply to a device. This really annoyed me when I discovered that I could not use my flash card reader any longer. While I have not tested this under the new iOS update I don’t doubt there is still this limitation in place and its something to be aware of. Connecting to a camera directly works like a charm but it’s a slower process.

Speaking of using the iPad for showing off photos, it makes for a wonderful place to keep a portfolio. I highly recommend an app called minimal folio for this. As soon as they added simple dropbox support it ended up being a fantastic way to showcase images on the iPad.

Of course showing off photos is not at all the core use for my iPad. There are a handful of other apps that see very regular use these days. The built in mail app, while not perfect, is certainly a great way to catch up with new mails and fire off simple replies. One thing that I wish it could do is easily re-size photos from my photo library but it’s not a pressing need, this and it would be nice to be able to flag emails. I know there are some power email users out there that have very strange and specific ways of working and may need something more powerful but for me it’s more than adequate.

Another app that is a daily fixture for me is what I consider to be the best RSS experience anywhere on any device and that is Reeder. Is a brilliantly simple approach and allows me to quickly navigate through my news feeds with ease through the day. If I had one request for this app to improve I would ask that feeds be manageable from within the application. I really hate having to use the web interface for google reader, it’s just a mess. I have tried a number of other RSS apps but they have always come up short of my expectations.

Next up is twitter. It is currently the only official twitter app that I like to use. While at first I didn’t really see the appeal it has since grown on me and I greatly appreciate it’s layered approach to seeking out content featured in any message as well as following conversations. It takes the mess that Twitter has become and turns it into something a bit more logical and easy to follow.

Then there is Instapaper. I think there is nothing but universal praise for the concept and I love it too, now with readability around as well feeding back to the content makers I can’t think of a reason not to use such a service. I tend to simply read a lot straight in reeder but Instapaper provides me with a great way to come back to articles I want to examine closer.

Last but not least in my short list of most used apps is iA Writer. I have had this for quite a while now but only just recently started to put it to good use. The last few things I have posted were written here in Writer synced over to my laptop with dropbox then formatted and posted with mars edit on my laptop. I tried pairing a bluetooth keyboard with this app and found it was a great environment to write in. It left me to focus on nothing more than the text. No casual trips to the dock to check my mail or twitter like on my Mac. My favorite things about the app are the additional typing tools above the keyboard letting you have access to arrows to skip through text and quick access to punctuation. This and the fact that hiding the keyboard turns what I have written into a book of sorts while in portrait view and makes for a great casual editing environment.

As for the subject of games on the iPad, I love a good game here and there and gaming on my iDevices has pretty much become my sole source for gaming outside of my Wii or old playstation 2 heh, maybe because I don’t own a TV anymore. So as for games on the ipad, I find ones that I enjoy most are ones who’s control structure works well on the iPad. Not all iPhone games work well on the iPad due to the size of the thing. I find that I usually have one game that I come back to for a few weeks and keep closer to the front page of my apps. At the moment that game is Land-a Panda and sometimes an old casual favorite, Sneezies. Simple but a good distraction here and there when I need a break.

All in all, the usefulness of the iPad, for me, has boiled down to the apps available for it. I think its a fairly obvious deduction if you follow the apple world at all but its true. I have written a couple of posts focusing on iPhone photo apps but I am considering starting these back up again with other types of apps as well in the future. A year after its introduction and I feel like the platform is just starting to take shape. There is still a lot of growth left to do. Just look at how the ipads smaller sibling started off. I remember seeing the iPhone rotating in a little glass tube in front of me at Macworld years ago when it was introduced with its meager built in app offerings. Who knew what kind of crazy revolution it would spark in our daily lives. Whether that is for better or for worse is up for interpretation and ill leave that for another day, the simple fact remains that the iPad has been a great addition to my daily life and at this point there is no turning back.



I have seen a lot of chatter about the white versus the black iPad 2’s and after a good amount of messing about with both models side by side in an Apple store I drew up my own conclusions on the mildly controversial white iPad and the fact that some seem to think it feels more toy like than the black model.

I feel part of the reason for this is because the white surface takes on the color of the light surrounding the device so the overall feel of the device is altered greatly in different environments. I was trying to think of another product like the white iPad that uses a combination of a glass surface with a white backing but can’t come up with many. Typically when you think of shiny white things you imagine polished, shiny plastic. Largely because of Apples own product line in the past. The soft round bezel on the edges of the new iPad simply add to the mental idea that it is a curvy piece of plastic but it’s all in the mind. This is certainly new territory they are breaking into and I feel it messes a bit with our perception.

The black iPad seems to be preferred for many because of the idea that it feels more like you are simply holding a screen, there is nothing else to distract you from the content there in front of you. Not to mention black is the classic geek chic color of choice and to many back means classy. I feel as though black electronics like this have this feeling because of the emotional nature of the color in our minds. The deep black of space, it is a color that consumes light, not one that adds to it. Psychologically, a black iPad appears to be stronger and more solid because of this simple fact. The same goes for the idea that black is somehow less distracting, that it blends into the environment around you. This is a largely circumstantial argument, however and totally boils down to ones own taste.

Then there is the argument that the screen feels further away from the glass which is not actually true at all but you want to think that because of the way the light falls onto the white bezel, it tends to bend in a different way because of the light reflecting back up from the white on the back of the glass giving you the feeling that the content on the scene is further away from you.

There is also a black edge around the content of the screen. This is most likely unavoidable. The screen would have had to be pressed up against the glass to be rid of such a gap. This or the bezel would have to overlap the edge of the screen not unlike the bleed used in print design but this would result in a glowing bezel and lost pixels. I find that the black gap is not as much about the distance from the edge of the bezel to the edge of the first pixel on the screen as it is simply the illusion of a larger gap because of your perspective looking down into the dark behind the bezel or maybe thats just me.

To some this may be a troubling distraction but honestly I think that, like the comfortable feel of black, it is also a matter of what you are used to seeing. What you see as a distraction may simply be your mind wanting to push against something you are not used to seeing, our instincts evolve quickly sometimes and its important to pay attention to the reasoning behind why we make the decisions we make. I feel that with a few days of use that thin black edge would never be noticed again and simply be seen as a border to the screen. It makes for good tech writing to discover things that could be seen as wrong with a new devices design and while things like this do warrant being pointed out I always find it troubling when its not really investigated or thought through well enough before jumping into the group think mentality that leads to assumptions and misguided opinions. Perhaps I am making an assumption myself in saying this, who knows.

Whats my personal taste leaning towards? While after a year of using my first gen iPad with its deep black screen I still feel as though the thick black bezel feels heavy around my screen. I understand the functionality of having a bezel large enough to hold in my hand though, which is a functional compromise for the better in my opinion.

There is also the emotion involved within a color choice. We are all emotional beings after all and so its hard not to bring emotion into the conversation while talking about a device that could end up being so closely intertwined in your every day life.

I find that I like the peacefulness of having lighter colors around me while I work and live my life or at least a nice balance of color. So for that reason alone, the airy lightness of a white iPad seems more appealing than yet another black monolith laying around on my desk. I feel like I have had enough black for now. The white border hardly feels distracting to me personally and in fact feels more natural and welcoming if it’s possible to say such a thing about an electronic device. This, of course, is simply my opinion, and many of you may prefer black for the same reasons I prefer white.

I have really loved having the iPad around and I have discovered that I have been using it more and more as applications continue to progress into new levels of functionality and appeal. I will explore this a bit more in another post soon. The reason for writing this was simply to mention my opinion on the ongoing discussion of the white and black iPads which seemed to vary somewhat from what I have read elsewhere. Funny thing me writing about a product I don’t own though. Thats what opinion articles are about though then aren’t they? What do you think?



While digging through endless bookmarks and links trying to track down an old forgotten website I came across an amazing application for mac OSX that creates a simple, beautiful, responsive environment for writing. I know there has been a rash of minimal writing applications lately but none have taken things to this level. The app not only creates a minimal writing surface free of distraction but goes the extra mile and adds audio and visual elements to create an experience unlike any other I have seen in a word processing app. It’s absolutely refreshing to write in this space. The customizable workspace is fantastic and a clear, concise set of tools appear only when you need them to be there. I can easily see myself using this often as I sit down to focus on a post for the site or any other writing needs.


One of the nicest things about the app is the fact that it has a full featured version that is totally free of charge. An additional version appears to be available as well which contains even more options to customize the experience. In fact that is exactly what OmmWriter does, it creates a full tangible experience for your writing. I can safely say this will end up living in my dock as a go to app when I need to sit down and focus on writing and I highly recommend anyone in need of a great writing experience to take a few minutes and have a look at what its all about.


More information can be found on the official site for the app www.ommwriter.com.


Update: the application is now available on the Mac App store as well. You can access it though this link.


My Mac Setup


Fellow blogger Shawn Blanc asked me to participate in his ongoing series of Sweet Mac Setups where he asks fellow mac users in the mac/design community to talk some about their mac setups and take a few photos of their workspace. The series does not focus only on people with fancy, perfect, expensive setups. It seems to be more about the relationship between the user and how they use their setups to work creatively with what they have. Its a fun series to look through if you want find interesting ways other creatives use their computer setups, both hardware and software, to work creatively. Its a great idea for a series of article/interviews and I was happy to take part in them.

You can see my entry in the series over on shawnblanc.net by clicking here.

Update: Some readers have been asking for a wallpaper of the above image so I cropped it down into wallpaper resolutions for everyone interested. Download the zip here.

To whom it may concern,



• Enjoy the images! It’s a labor of love, thanks for your support!
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• Make prints.
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• Use them in commercial work.

If you help me out with these I will be able to keep doing what I love to do. Thanks again, really, for your support and understanding. -J


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All of the images contained within this website, fiftyfootshadows.net, are property of, John Carey unless otherwise posted. The images are distributed as freeware but they are available for personal use only on your personal computer, tablet, or smartphone as your wallpaper image. Any use of these images for any purpose other than this is a violation of these terms and anyone found using said images will be asked to either compensate the creator for doing so or be asked to stop using them immediately.

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Use your best judgement and we will get along just fine.

Thank you for your understanding and support!

John Carey (curator, owner)