CSUN Persons With Disabilities Expo, Hype 1.5 update to last week’s review from tumultco.com. HP Folio 13 Review from hp.com compared to the current Macbook Air from Apple. More Windows fun with a first look at Windows 8 Consumer Preview from windows.microsoft.com. Knightwise gives us a review of Apps Gone Free from the iTunes store. Eyepal Reader from ABiSee at abisee.com. In Chit Chat Across the Pond Guy Serle from mymac.com and I talk about the future of OSX.
Hi this is Allison Sheridan of the NosillaCast Mac Podcast, hosted at Podfeet.com, a technology geek podcast with an EVER so slight Macintosh bias. Today is Sunday March 4th, 2012 and this is show number 356. This has been a big tech adventure week, I’d better dig into it. I often think I won’t have enough tech content but then something ALWAYS comes up! This week I went to the CSUN Persons With Disabilities Expo and it was SUCH a blast. After six years I FINALLY got to meet up with Darrell Shandrow of the Blind Access Journal Podcast again. He and Allison Hilliker do the show together and I finally got to met her! We had a great time on the exhibit hall floor and we even took a break for them to chat with me about how I got mixed up in all this disability tech fun. I blame it all on Darrell – he was the first blind person I met outside of my own family. I’m not sure the show is posted yet, but check out the Blind Access Journal at blindaccessjournal.com. I did a video interview with Allison because I wanted to see her Braille display for her iPhone. I’ve always wondered what they look like and how they work, I love learning about the tools for accessibility, they’re fascinating. We don’t have the video of Allison’s Braille display ready yet but we will by next week.
I was also thrilled to meet Kevin Chao with whom I’ve been emailing and tweeting for ages. I think I need to get him on the show soon because he’s got a lot of experience in the development community and I bet I’d learn a lot from him – just hanging with him for about an hour on the show floor I learned a lot! I also ran into Lore Schindler, my friend who teaches blind children in the LA Unified school district. I wish we’d had more time together, it was almost a fly-by!
The exhibit hall was awesome – really about a day’s worth of entertainment, and since that’s exactly how much time I had it was perfect. I did SEVEN recordings, all just with my iPhone because I didn’t have my trusted videographer at my side. I had no idea I would be able to go when I started writing up this week’s show, so I’d already written up a lot of content I wanted to tell you about. I’ll have to sprinkle these interviews out over the next few weeks. I love having too much to talk about! Back to our original programming and I’ll give you one interview from the CSUN Disability Expo later on.
Last week I gave you a review of Hype from Tumult Company, the drag and drop HTML5 creating application. They had just released a brand new version 1.5, so I based my review on that. I had one problem with the software, that there was no longer a button to add keyframes, that you had to use the recorder to do everything. I wrote to the developers to find out if it was a bug or a design decision, because I couldn’t see how you could be very efficient without adding keyframes at will. Luckily it WAS a design decision but what I didn’t realize is that they improved it. With the new version of the software you can actually add keyframes by property now, so it’s much easier to add effects (like opacity, rotation, etc) and add their own timeline keyframes. Jonathan (one of the developers) showed me how it works by sending me a link to a video they produced showing 25 new features in 10 minutes. I put a link in the show notes to the video so you can see all the new features.
I’m really glad he sent it along because he showed SO many cool features I hadn’t discovered! In particular I was thrilled that you can now zoom in to view things better, you can copy objects AND their animations to another scene, you can group elements (my favorite new feature), you can even lock items so when you’re grabbing other things they don’t get moved.
Overall the folks over at Tumult have taken a wicked cool application and made it so much better with the new version. Check it out over at tumultco.com.
HP Folio 13 Review
So I appear to have a slight Macintosh bias, but I do try to keep an open mind. HP has been a good company over the years, known for making quality hardware and I’ve always loved their printers. One time I strayed away from HP printers, and bought an Epson, and it was the 2nd worst piece of tech I’ve ever used (the Blackberry Storm will go down in history as the very worst of course). Because of that I’ve had a soft spot in my head for HP ever since.
I also find it fascinating how Apple keeps defining categories. the MP3 player, the smart phone, the tablet…and it looks like they’re defining yet another category, which the other manufacturers are calling the UltraBook, started by the Macbook Air. HP has a model called the Folio 13 that is obviously targeted squarely at the Macbook Air. I got my hands on one to give it a spin. I like that they reused the name Folio – when they bought Palm they evidently got custody of that name. I bet you don’t remember the Folio, it was debuted at All Things D quite a few years ago. It was this weird companion device that you’d plug a Treo into that would give you a big screen and keyboard so you could type email. Sort of like a Blackberry Playbook but not as good.
Let’s do a feature and cost comparison of the HP Folio 13 against a 13″ Macbook Air:
- 1.6-1.7 GHz Intel Core i5 – both
- Intel HD Graphics 3000 – both
- 4GB RAM – both
- 128GB SDD – both
- built in webcam – both
- SD card slot – both
- Ethernet – Folio only
- Thunderbolt- Macbook Air only
- USB 3 – Folio only
- HDMI – Folio only
- Backlit keyboard – both
- Folio dimensions: .7 x 8.67 x 12.54
- Macbook Air dimensions: .11-.68 x 8.94 x 12.8 (at it’s thickest the Folio is only .02 in thicker
- Screen resolution: 1366×768 on the HP, 1440 x 900 on the Mac
- weight – Folio 3.3 lbs, Macbook Air 2.96 lbs
- price: List is $900 with Windows Home Premium but they recommend you upgrade to Windows Professional for an extra $150. At $900 it beats the Macbook Air by $400 that lists for $1300. That’s a pretty significant chunk of change more for the Mac. I know I can make all the arguments about the built in applications like iPhoto and GarageBand and iMovie and iDVD, but the Folio comes with Windows Live Movie Maker and Windows DVD Maker. I know these applications are dreadful, but they do come built in, so the $400 price difference stands as a big differentiator.
So the big differences are that the Folio is about 10% heavier, sports 2 more useful ports and the backlit keyboard people seem to be crazy about. The Macbook Air is sharp as a knife at it’s thinnest point but the Folio is about the same in the thickest part. The screen resolution on the Mac is 24% higher, which is really significant, especially when you’re dealing with the smaller screens. In general I’ve not been impressed with the brightness on Windows laptops, but the Folio 13 seems ok. I do wish they had a button for that but in windows you have to dig around in the energy settings to find it.
Steve and I ran a couple of boot up timing tests, and not surprisingly, the Macbook Air and the HP Folio 13 booted up just about the same. The Macbook Air booted up in 14.8 seconds, with the Folio taking 2.4 seconds longer. Now I could point out that the Folio was 16% slower, but with boot up times in the 15 second range, that’s not at all significant.
The keyboard on the Folio looks a lot like the little black chicklet keys on all the current day MacBooks, but it’s a tad spongier. Not bad but for me the clicker the better. The keyboard is full size and has virtually an identical layout to the Mac keyboards. I looked up the battery specs and they claim 9.5 hours. I didn’t run a full battery test but it seemed to last forever. I plugged it in for about an hour when I first got it and played with it on and off for a couple of days without ever needing to plug it in. Definitely a player in the battery game.
The trackpad on the Folio is pretty good, even supports 2 fingered scroll. I have to say though that the left and right mouse buttons built into the track pad are nasty. They’re not standalone buttons that stick up (which is so 1990) so that’s cool but you have to push REALLY hard to get them to engage. I spent some quality time in the Mouse Control panel, specifically in the Synaptics ClickPad properties, in hopes of finding a better way than to use the left and right buttons. In Windows 7 they’ve really “borrowed” from Apple in that they have little videos in the control panel to show you how the trackpad works. One of the settings is called click-and-drag and the video shows that you’re supposed to be able to two fingered drag over an item in Explorer and get the same menu to pop up as hitting the right button, but on the Folio 13 it never did anything when I two fingered tapped. Not sure if that’s a Windows problem or a Folio problem but it was irritating either way.
Just after writing up this part about the click pad on the Folio 13, I happened to be reading Laptop Magazine and found an article entitled “Attack of the Crappy Clickpads” ( http://blog.laptopmag.com/crappy-clickpads-could-kill-the-ultrabook). In the article, after explaining what a click pad actually is (a touchpad without discrete mouse buttons), they said, “Apple nailed this technology a while ago on the Macbook Air. Mark Spoonauer, the author, went on to describe all of the horrid problems you get with these crappy click pads on Windows machines. I bring this up not just because he agrees with my experience in general but because he SPECIFICALLY calls out the HP Folio 13. He says, “There is one thing that prevented us from giving the HP Folio 13 an Editors’ Choice Award, an otherwise great Ultrabook with best-in-class battery life. And that’s the stiff clickpad. We had to use too much force to activate the buttons.” So I guess it’s not just me.
The Folio 13 came with a fair amount of crapware on it (not my term, Walter Mossberg of All Things Digital coined that phrase), things like the Bing toolbar in IE, and a really annoying application I think was called the HP Assistant. I did eventually get it to stop popping up on me, and since it wasn’t polite enough to wait until I asked for it, I didn’t care to even investigate what it could have done for me. It did come with Skype built in which was nice. I launched a Skype video call with Steve and it worked just like you’d hope with the built in webcam. It wasn’t a high def camera but it was all you’d really need for a Skype call. Speaking of crapware, the Folio 13 came with an HP setup thing you have to go through, and it actually crashed as I went through the screens. I was able to control-alt-delete it away without harm but I thought it was kind of ironic that it crashed on their hardware.
Bottom line time. I think the HP Folio 13, even though it does run Windows, is a really nice Ultrabook. It’s not for the super budget conscious but it’s a lot less expensive than the Macbook Air. You do have to realize that with this entire class of machines, you’re limited by the size of the drive and how much RAM comes preinstalled. If you’re willing to take some risks the SSD can be replaced by the very clever, but the RAM is soldered on the motherboard. For $900 realize that you’re stuck with 4GB forever. With all those caveats aside, if I were in the market for a very light, sleek Windows laptop, and I was willing to pay the ultra book premium (sort of like paying more for a smaller bikini), I would seriously consider the HP Folio 13.
I’m ALMOST done reloading all of my applications on my Mac after the nuke and pave adventure of last week. I like waiting until I actually NEED something before I load it, that way I don’t bring over all the cruft from the apps I don’t really use. Last week before the live show, I realized that in addition to installing Adium, my preferred chat client, I had to reconfigure it to hook into the live chat on our IRC channel on Justin.tv. The first time I did it, I remember requiring a LOT of hand holding because it’s just not very intuitive to me. You have to know the IP address of the server over on Justin.tv, you have to know where to put in your chat name and password, and all that.
Lucky for me, I didn’t have to figure ANY of this out the second time, because Kirschen Seah of freerangecoder.com is an avid user of Clarify from BlueMangoLearning.com, and she already documented it for us! She shows where to get Adium, where to install it, and how to configure it specifically for NosillaCast Live on Justin.tv. It was so easy to follow her instructions because she had lovely screenshots that were annotated for each step with arrows and highlighted boxes, along with helpful text to go with each image. I’m sure this only took her a few minutes to create, but it saved me an hour of fiddling with settings! If you know how to do things, get yourself a copy of Clarify from BlueMangoLearning.com, and document these things to save your friends and family gobs of time like Kirschen did for all of us. I put a link in the show notes to Kirschen’s Adium setup for NosillaCast Live in case you missed it the first time. If you ever lose it, it’s in my tutorials section in the menu bar over on podfeet.com. Clarify is only $29.99, available for Mac or Windows, or you can get a cross-platform license for $39.99. Even better you can get Clarify from the Mac App Store for the same $29.99 and have it on all your Macs.
Windows 8 Customer Preview
This week the Windows 8 Customer Preview was released, not to be confused with the previous preview for developers. After just a few days of playing with it, I’m finding Windows 8 customer preview good and bad compared to the developer preview. Where the first one was clunky feeling the new one is smooth. where there were no apps to play with on the old, there’s lots to play with on the new.
Several things are such bad UI I am baffled at the choices. For example, to bring up the metro UI when inside a running application, you have to hover over the very bottom left hand corner, and move your cursor straight up – NOT going over to the little tile icon that you naturally think you should tap. I’m wondering whether the UI expecting a big fat finger would naturally be able to select it, but a cursor is actually too precise so you have to NOT hit it to get it to work.
In the developer preview, when I wanted to get back to a running application, all I had to do was hover on the left side of the screen and up would pop a small version of the open application and I could jump to it. Now in the customer preview I have to start in the bottom left till the tile icon comes up, then there are some little transparent slivers of rectangles hovering on the left side of the screen. How I discovered them at all is a miracle, makes me wonder what other completely obvious tools are hiding on me.
Luckily on Tech News Today Tom Merritt happened to hover over the RIGHT hand bottom corner and revealed some other buttons I hadn’t seen. I poked that thing and suddenly all of my tiles had shrunk down real small for no apparent reason, but now I had some black and white icons to click. I played around in settings and I uncovered an “ease of access” setting that had a setting to make everything on screen bigger. In there you can also change the thickness of the cursor (I bet that’s handy with low vision) and to make the contrast too. There’s a setting in there for pressing Windows + Up arrow, and you can assign it to the narrator, or magnifier.
I completely stumbled across one thing – I wanted to close a window, and my Mac instincts made me tap command-w. low and behold I was taken back to the home screen. I thought it funny that they used the same key combo, till I realized that it was actually only the command key that was closing the window for me. I know on the iPad I don’t have to close or quit applications, but it bugs me to no end to allow them to run indefinitely on the PC. I’m sure there’s yet another hidden keystroke to make them go away.
At one point, I forget which application I was in, but I was prompted for my Windows Live login. By some miracle I a) had one, and b) could remember it, probably created it back when Microsoft first started putting apps on the web. I logged in and it told me that my account had been compromised. Hmm. Ok, it send me a code to my email, I put the code in, and it apologized profusely but said I had to have a new code sent. Rinse and repeat and I was ready to go (after changing my password and all that goes with it). But then I tried some social programs, like Facebook, and it asked me to log in with my Windows Live credentials. Huh? It wanted me to connect the two accounts. Why does it need to do that? Forget it. On to Flickr, same thing! Basically everything I try to do on a cloud service is requiring me to log in with my Windows live credentials. And they require me to log in over and over and over again. It’s as though to connect to Twitter on a Mac, it made me enter my Apple ID and password every time. Makes no sense.
Finally I was prompted in the settings to actually log into the machine as my Windows Live account, and I hoped that would settle it down. I did successfully connect to Facebook, but Twitter never has worked right for me yet. It’s all excited about sharing information between Windows Live and Twitter though.
I’m pretty confused by the whole interface, so I’m not sure how well this will be accepted by the masses. One of the things that has kept a lot of people coming back to Windows is that they know it, they don’t want to try something new. I’m not saying everyone is like that but an awful lot of people who are non-technical that I talk to have felt that way. With Windows changing so dramatically, I have trouble imagining those folks embracing something where nothing is where it used to be. if they have to live with all that change, why not pick up that iPad their friends have all be raving about?
Knightwise on Apps Gone Free
My FAVORITE Belgian Knightwise tells us about Apps Gone Free from the iTunes store, that tells you each day what applications have gone from paid to free. Go to knightwise.com to hear more from your favorite Belgian.
Thanks Knightwise. I think I can call you my favorite Belgian, because technically Bart is a lapsed Belgian since he lives in Ireland. How’s that for weaseling out? Of course there’s Stefaan Lesage who gave me wonderful beer and chocolate, and there’s Peter Boodts who gave us a tour of his sister’s chocolate factory, and let’s not forget the lovely Nyana, the beauty behind the Knightwise…it’s so hard to choose because there are so many wonderful Belgians.
One of the most interesting and useful interviews I did at the CSUN Persons With Disabilities Expo show floor was with a company called ABiSee. I’m going to play the audio interview for you first, and then I’m going to tell you a harrowing story about it:
insert interview about the EyePal Reader from abisee.com
After the interview with Lena, she and I got to talking about how AWESOME this would be for my mom. I had made plans to take mom to dinner after the expo, and she had told me that she needed us to read stuff to her. Well the EyePal Reader was MADE for my mom. After the interview Lena had explained that they had great products for those comfortable with a Mac or PC (yay – they have it for macs!) but they designed the EyePal Solo for the elderly who might not want a computer, who might have shaky hands and all that.
Many many years ago (15?) a salesman came to my mom’s house to show her the new fangled V-Tech that would let her put a paper down on a flat bed, and then a monitor above would show a huge magnification of it. She was enchanted. My father ALWAYS had his priorities straight, without even asking the price (thousands of dollars) he told the sales guy that he was leaving the unit at their house. Well I thought about that, and decided to channel my dad and buy this thing for my mom. I talked Lena into selling me the demo unit on the spot! With great glee I drove to Mom’s and surprised her with it! I unpacked the iBSee Eye-Pal Solo and plugged it in. It played a song while it was starting up…and mom said, “uh oh. I’ve heard that before.” At first I thought she’d just heard the SONG, but it turned out she already had the ABiSee EyePal Reader! I couldn’t believe it. It was a slightly older model but worked just the same, and she loves it of course! Oh well, my intuition was right, I just should have asked her if she had one first. ANYWAY, if you know someone blind and they DON’T have an ABiSee already, then be sure to tell them about it, it’s positively AWESOME!
Chit Chat Across the Pond
Guy Serle of the MyMac.com Podcast joins us. You can find the podcast he and Gazmaz do at mymac.com, you can find him on Twitter at @MacParrot or at a Twitter handle he and Gaz share called @GuyAndGaz or you can email him at Guy@mymac.com
The probable OS death for a whole bunch of Macs with Mountain Lion.
Apple’s gradual closing off for independent developers outside the Mac App Store. With sandboxing coming, a lot of the tools we use and enjoy will not make the cut into the Mac App Store or even be usable once sandboxing is fully implemented. As an example, Ambrosia Software’s WireTap Anywhere which I need for the podcast can’t be used with Lion because Apple broke the way the program routed internal audio. Even with Sandboxing, we should be able to bless certain ways programs interact with one another if we choose to. Apple seems to be taking that away and who knows if it will ever come back?
Where will the Mac or Mac OS be in 5 years with the gradual seemingly merging of OS X and iOS. Will the Mac as a computer even be recognizable from what it is today? Macs haven’t changed that much physically is quite some time. The iMac hasn’t really changed in it’s from factor since the iMac G5 and the Mac Pro since the it’s G5 debut. The internals have and to some extent the casing, but if you look at it with a critical eye, what’s the real difference? Laptops other than the MacBook Air have also been relatively stagnant in design. So where’s the change? In my mind they haven’t changed that much because mostly they are good, efficient, and sometimes change for the sake of change is silly. So what am I complaining about? I’m not, but with Apple a lack of change is almost as telling as when there are big differences. What has been the big breakthrough product of the last 5 years? I submit it wasn’t the iPhone though for telecommunication devices it was huge because everything else just sucked in comparison. The BIG change was the iPad for computing. With iOS 5 and all the apps now available in nearly any category, how much do people even still need desktop and laptop computers? There are still some pieces missing mostly having to do with file structure and storage, but with iCloud and other services like DropBox those are starting to be answered.
Why so many people are acting like it’s 1984 again…by this I mean the non-Apple favorable press and blogs looking at tablets like toys instead of realizing that personal computing is about to change just as much as the Mac OS changed computing in 1984. I can remember being in AOL chat rooms (remember those?) talking about tech with the DOS guys going on and on about how inefficient a GUI was as compared to command line interfaces. What they’re REALLY scared of is that as in 1984, they are about to be left behind.
I hope you enjoyed the talk between Guy and me, it was a bit more philosophical that what you’ll get next week when Bart will dive into how to make your own home router. Buckle up for that one. That’s going to wind this up for this week, many thanks to our sponsor for helping to pay the bills, Blue Mango Learning at bluemangolearning.com makers of ScreenSteps and Clarify. Don’t forget to send in your Dumb Questions, comments and suggestions by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow me on twitter at @podfeet. I contribute a fair amount over on Google Plus nowadays so just search for me by name if you want to circle me up. If you want to join in the fun of the live show, head on over to podfeet.com/live on Sunday nights at 5pm Pacific Time and join the friendly and enthusiastic NosillaCastaways. Thanks for listening, and stay subscribed.