ios 5 on the way

Sat, Jul 16, 2011

First Mobile Phone
iOS5 is coming and there are a couple of things I like about it. The first is PC Free. When the iPad came out I took an immediate interest as it seemed to be an iOS device for the normal person. Wrong. You need a hulking great Mac to get it to work. It’s touted as a mobile device, as are all iOS devices but they all need a monster of a machine back at base to make them work. I remember walking into the Apple store in Glasgow, finding one of the myriad salespeople and asking if the iPad needed a Mac, then walking straight back out. Apple mobile devices are the equivalent of the first mobile phone. That’s the phone on the left, nice and slim and portable but look what you need to make it work! Apple products are for an Apple lifestyle I’ve always said. I used to have a tiny Creative MuVo mp3 player that took a single AAA battery that lasted for weeks and when the iPod came out I had a quick look and went back to my MuVo. You see, I’m a mountain guide as well as programmer and the Apple lifestyle just doesn’t work for me. You need a grid power source to maintain an Apple mobile device. Either a plug socket or a huge Mac, neither of which you find in the mountains. So Apple products have never really appealed to me, especially as they’re so fragile and are useless once the juice runs out. Plus I’m not that keen on having the phone used as an entertainment centre in the wilds when it’s the phone you’ll have to rely on in an emergency, only to find all that mp3-ing has drained the battery and it’s turned into a useless lump of plastic.

Well PCFree doesn’t address any of my outdoors concerns but it does help with the monster Mac syndrome. You don’t need one now. You get the device working wirelessly and joy of joys, no more downloading hundreds of megaboobles every time there’s an iOS update. iOS5 only sends the changes to your device. On a 1Mb connection that makes a LOT of difference.

However, it leaves you with a bit of a problem. Buy an iPad or an iPhone and forget the small planet sized infrastructure you used to need to get these mobile devices even working and you have nowhere to backup your music and purchases. In fact you’ve no way to get your music onto the damn thing in the first place. Enter iCloud. But you need iTunes. Back to square one! But you can use iTunes from a PC, a vastly cheaper alternative to a Mac. iCloud will scan your iTunes library and if it recognises your tracks it will add them to your library in the cloud rather than force you to upload them, which will never work on a 1Mb connection. That’s a very nice touch Apple.

So to close up on PCFree, I think it’s a great step forward for non Apple-bugs to get into Apple mobile devices. A second hand Mac Mini off ebay should do the trick as a music ripper and iCloud stuffer for your iPhone/iPad to sync from and the OS diff updates should be much more manageable. +1 on PCFree.

What about a USB connection for the iPad though? Backup straight from the device. Please? Or how about interoperating with non Apple devices? My idea of paradise would be the iPhone or iPad being able to be populated from a Brennan.

The other thing I like is the decluttering of Safari. iOS5 will let you get rid of the ad junk and focus on the content. I’m hoping this means the content font will be that little bit bigger in iOS5. The first thing I noticed about Safari on Apple mobile devices was it was useless in default mode. I always, without exception, have to pinch and zoom a fraction of a millimeter to get the content into focus, otherwise it’s slightly blurred. The font issues are described quite well here but what’s the point of a device with blurry output?

There’s another feature in Safari called Reading Lists but to be honest, they don’t work with me. None of them. I’ve tried the now defunct Google Notebook to save stuff for later. I’ve tried Instapaper. I’ve tried bookmarking with Diigo and Delicious but none of them work for me. Well, what I mean is, they work perfectly, saving stuff for later reading but I never find the time to go back and read the stuff. If I don’t read it there and then, it’s gone. Forever. I usually find something either better written or more relevant to what I’m researching a few clicks later, so the reading list fills up with junk I’m never going to read. I normally skim the article and can tell within a few seconds whether it’s worth reading. If it is, I read it and bookmark it if it’s good, otherwise I move on. Using this strategy, my bookmarks become a research library rather than a literary wish list. That works for me.

There’s one more iOS5 feature that tickles my fancy though and that’s Newsstand. I’m coming round to reading magazines on the iPad as I read lots of techncal books as ePubs or PDFs on it already. I’m a great fan of The Pragmatic Bookshelf and my eLibrary is overflowing with stuff from them. I particularly like to have a screencast playing on a propped up iPad while learning a new programming language or technology, so the move to magazines is the logical next step to take. I don’t read newspapers, end of. So I’ll prolly explore magazine subscriptions on iOS5, especially as it will broaden my reading as the local co-op is the only source of magazines within 100 miles.

So all in all, for a software engineering mountain guide living at the end of a 1Mb connection in the rural highlands of Scotland, iOS5 is a welcome addition to the already impressive iOS line up. Luvvly jubbly!

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