Archive for May, 2010

The iPad: A Review

May 29, 2010

[Note to reader; I’m assuming you’re familiar with the iPhone OS to some extent in this article].

 

Since the US launch of the iPad at the beginning of April, worldwide customers hankered for the news of their own launch dates. Just a few weeks ago, UK customers, along with those from eight other countries, including, Canada, Australia, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and Japan were able to pre-order their iPads for a 28TH May release date, while other countries still anxiously await their launch date, expected to be announced sometime in July.

 

I, along with many others, pre-ordered my iPad, opting for the 32 Gig wifi model and impatiently waited for it to arrive. It came early though, a day in fact and am I glad I was home Thursday morning to receive my new toy. I created an unboxing podcast and could not wait to play with the iPad.

 

Initial Reaction

GORGEOUS!

It’s sleek and very aesthetic, even to the touch. A slightly curved back with the smooth glass touch screen we were promised. Everything about the iPad, before you switch it on is beautiful. And I don’t believe I’m saying this because I genuinely love Apple products. The keys are seamlessly fitted into the device and nothing looks out of place on this sleek unit.

 

Setting Up!

 

The setting up process is such a breeze. Literally, plug it in, register it and turn on universal access and off you go.

[Note, the device needs to be connected to a computer running the latest version of iTunes for it to work so you do need a computer to utilise the iPad.]

setting up voice over or Zoom or contrast on the iPad is very similar to the way it is achieved on the touch, iPhone, nanos and the shuffles. In summary within the iPad, or as voice over calls it in iTunes, iPod scroll area, VO to universal access and select voice over on under the “seeing” section. Once the iPad has synced, voice over will come on as I’m sure the other desired methods will.

 

You have a choice to use back-ups from any other devices, I.E. iPhone or I’m assuming iPod Touch. I chose to not do this as I wanted to customise the iPad at my own leisure and although I have put a few of my iPhone apps on the device, I didn’t want them all there.

 

First Use!

 

Using the iPad is as Steve Jobs said, “Magical”. It feels at home under your fingers and when taking the experience at a leisurely pace, you can truly appreciate the style the iPad has. It is a lot bigger than other touch devices that people may be used to using but that is an advantage. Using apps like settings, mail and safari gives an intricate experience with the iPad screen. Now, you can select a general setting in the settings app and see all of your choices without having to go back to the previous page if you want to select the mail/contacts/calendar settings, for example in Settings. Mail is beautiful on the iPad, being able to see your emails in the left column and read the message in the main screen area. And Safari definitely utilises the screen giving the browsing experience a whole new level of smoothness and realness.

 

iBooks, worth it?

 

Although the UK store is not populated to capacity, and I am realistic about this fact, it will take time to become my primary book source, it is amazing. I’ve downloaded a few free classics so far and have searched the store for some titles and found a few that I shall be purchasing soon. The search function was a little tricky at first but this is where one of the new gestures comes into its own. Although, the four-finger-swipe can be used in apps like mail or settings to jump from the selection list down the left side to the content area and vice versa, I didn’t comprehend it would work in the app or iBook store. But it does. I four-finger-swiped and was able to type my search, swipe again and see the results. A wonderful edition to the Apple repertoire of gestures.

 

Actually reading on the app is wonderful. I can lay my iPad down and let it read to me or use my fingers to scan down the page. It’s a very personal experience of reading books I’ve not experienced before. Braille has to be read word to word and audio has someone else’s voice and interpretation while iBooks utilises the voice over voice, your own interpretation is very real.

 

Twitter, IM and social Networks?

 

As I no longer have a facebook account, I shall comment on the social networks I have used on the iPad. Twitter Apps are few and far between on the iPad right now. Some of my favourites have not yet transgressed to the iPad. However I’ve found an app for the iPad that is accessible and works good enough. Not had that much experience to comment on some features but it reads your timelines, you can reply, DM, retweet and such but no list support as yet. And I’m assuming there’s multiple account support but haven’t tried so don’t quote me on that. That app is Tweet and it’s free.

 

I haven’t found an iPad specific app for apps such as Fring or Nimbuzz which I use on the iPhone so I’m using the fring app for now. I have it in full screen mode and still works nicely. They tend to only work in portrait and seen as I have my iPad in landscape for the majority of use, this can be a slight annoyance but once the app is Ipad specific, [let’s keep hoping], it’ll work beautifully. There is a slight border around the screen in full mode but it is still workable.

 

Skype works nicely on the iPad too. In the UK, still no iPad specific app but I’m told they have one in the US now so we’ll just have to wait for our version to hit the App store.

 

Typing!

 

I immediately opted for touch typing mode which I love. This can be changed while in an edit field with the rotor setting. I am finding I’m becoming quicker all of the time but will still opt for my wireless keyboard for extensive use. Touch typing will become easier and feels very natural. When I go to type on my iPhone, I hold the key down to hear the phonetic letter and it of course never comes and often forget to split tap to enter text. I cannot wait for touch typing in 4.0 on the iPhone. Typing on an almost full sized keyboard feels good and even if your finger is a letter out, sliding it to the right letter and lifting up feels great. Double tapping here will lead you to the need of a lot of deleting.

 

The phonetic speaking letters are a welcome edition to the iPhone OS and will strongly be looking forward to utilising this function on the iPhone.

 

 

Sound quality!

One Word! Awesome! The speaker sounds wonderful and the US voice I opt to use sounds incredible. Music and videos perform nicely and even though I haven’t tried it yet, I’m assuming headphones will sound just as crisp and clear.

 

Weight!

 

It is heavier than the touch and iPhone but this seemed obvious to me. Its compact and durable and I like the weight so I don’t lose it somewhere. It is not so heavy you could not carry it around with ease and yet it’s not light enough that you will forget it’s on your lap.

 

Overall Impressions!

I waited eagerly since the announcement in January and I have to say I am delighted with the product. Is it worth the money? Ask me that after a few weeks of working with it but I will go out there on a limb and say yes, I’m glad I paid for such a revolutionary product. Do I think it’s an oversized iPhone? No! It’s a different product entirely and the beauty of it is, people will choose to use their iPads for their own uses. There’s no rule book when it comes to the iPad and that is what I love the most about it.

 

 

Nambu: A twitawesome App

May 23, 2010

Twitter has become a huge part of many people’s lives. From celebrities keeping their fans up to date with their lives, to news stations and sports teams keeping us all clued in to your sister telling the world of her boring existence, twitter has truly taken off. Even within the blind community.

 

Other Twitter Clients

 

On the Mac with voice over, we have had a choice of the web, the accessibility twitter page, twitterific and syrinx as our choices for twitter clients. Adium also offers a limited service but the desktop apps are limited in their various ways and for those of us who manage more than one account, or crave to add our comments to others tweets in the form of a retweet, Syrinx and Twitterific and Adium lack functionality.

 

I am an iPhone owner and have discovered many other twitter apps that are much more feature rich than those available on the mac. They are up to date with everything that twitter offers, such as the new lists feature that allows users to group their followings into a desired list. For example, all the news tweeters to a news list so you can prioritise who you read about first thing in the morning over your cup of coffee.

 

Enter Nambu!

 

So the search continued for an accessible twitter app for the mac. All seemed relatively accessible if you didn’t feel like reading any time line whatsoever. Until this past week when after requests from several twitter users to implement more accessibility, the nambu network came through for all of those voice over users yearning for a new environment to tweet in.

 

Positives

 

Nambu is currently in public beta so many of the features are new and still improving. Here are some of the major features that attracted me to Nambu.

  1. Ability to manage multiple accounts on the fly.
  2. The traditional RT feature.
  3. The option to view your twitter lists’ time lines.
  4. Different notifications for different tweets, mentions/direct messages and new tweets.
  5. The option to translate tweets.
  6. Hide tweets.
  7. Mute hashtags or users which is a very nice contribution.
  8. The ability to read your own sent tweets.
  9. The option to search for trending topics and an across twitter search.

 

Old, familiar Features

 

Some of the features you can get in Syrinx that are not lost in Nambu

  1. Conversation view. [great if you forget what you were talking about when someone replies].
  2. Reply, dM, delete own tweets, RT, Open links all with keyboard shortcuts.
  3. Follow or unfollow and block people.

 

Design

 

I think the most wonderful thing I like about Nambu is the design and feel of the app. On http://nambu.com site they state they based it on the feel of iTunes and this is certainly true. There are two views, combination view and outline view. Both are accessible with voice over and so how you use it is your choice.

 

Combination View

This view does what it says. It combines your tweets into a timeline, including your other accounts if you have them all connected. With voice over you can move through the buffers with option and right arrow or left arrow respectively. It makes the window a little less spread out and works fine but I have three accounts running and don’t want all of my accounts in one timeline so outline view is my preference.

 

Outline View

 

Imagine iTunes, you have the sources table and whatever is highlighted there is shown in the songs table. This is true in outline view within Nambu. so for example, my personal timeline home timeline is highlighted in the first table, my timeline is then visible in the buffer section which is always labelled with which kind of buffer it is, I.E., mentions/sent, etc. It does not say which account it is focussed on but this can be found out if you jump to the first table or VO to the service pop up.

 

Other Business

 

Nambu also lets you know how many characters you have left as most other apps do. And it allows you to customise sounds if you would like to and this includes a sent sound. The option to have sound schemes may be a nice add on if anyone could find a way of doing this.

 

 

One of my favourite designs in nambu is the ability to interact with the tweet and see any hashtags you can VO-Space and it will list all of the hashtags in the timeline for you. Hitting a link will take you to safari and you can also use CMD-o to open any links.

 

Conclusion?

 

Nambu is still being worked on and so features that are currently missing or not quite complete will hopefully be updated in the future. The lists works great for reading your prepared lists but the ability to edit your lists or add new members to your lists is not currently available. I have left feedback for the developers and their continued support for all their users has been a great experience.

 

Give the app a try and see what you think and if something isn’t working then visit the feedback page and give the team a constructive piece of feedback.

 

Overall, Nambu is a clean, highly functional app with a lot of potential to take over mac voice over users’ macs in the near future.

The iPad is Coming! the iPad is coming!

May 7, 2010

The iPad is coming! The iPad is coming!

Apple today announced today, 7TH May 2010 that the iPad is being rolled out to Australia, Canada, the UK, Spain, france, Germany, Italy, Japan and switzerland on 28TH May. So far, UK pricing has been released as follows:
Wifi 16 gig, £429
Wifi 32 Gig, £499
Wifi 64 Gig, £599
Wifi + 3G, £529
Wifi + 3G, £599
Wifi + 3G, £699
All prices include VAT and can be pre-ordered 10TH May with apple. all models can be bought through Apple’s online store or their retail stores and through selective third party retailers.

The iBooks app will also be released in these countries on the same day but release dates, pricing for other countries is expected in July.

So finally we have a date. Now the choice is in your hands, if to buy, which model do you get your eager hands on?