All posts by Kevin Breit

Week of the iPad


The iPad has changed how people work. Despite its influences I still have a hard time picturing its use every day. I am going to do a one week experiment to see where it thrives and where it doesn’t for a full time machine. It will be used full time for personal work. Any work for my job will be done on my work laptop and is not included in this experiment. I am able to use my iPhone alongside my iPad for daily work.


I think it will do most common tasks very well. Internet browsing and email shouldn’t be a challenge. I do think there will be a few areas which make a laptop required for the near future.
* Sys Admin Work – Serial and SSH abilities are on the iPad but at this time I don’t have those applications.
* IM – Due to lack of full multi tasking on iOS I think IM is going to be very hard to use. iMessages is about the closest to good IM I think I will find.

Monday September 2, 2013

Today is Labor Day so I had a day off. Much of it was spent cooking and cleaning so I was away from my computer quite a bit. My initial prediction of IM being challenging was correct but I didn’t think of one thing: iMessages. iMessages obviously works quite well on iOS devices. If someone is an iMessages user IM is great. For the majority of people who don’t own a Mac or have iMessages, IM still isn’t great.

Tuesday September 3, 2013

Plex is my media server of choice and requires port forwarding to work behind NAT. My router has no port forwarding on at the moment which would require some CLI work. As I suspected, administration on iPad is going to be really rough. It’s a shame. With such a nice screen split console in horizontal mode would be very welcome. Crisp console text? Geeky, but could be very nice.
Quick discovery. When using a Bluetooth keyboard there isn’t a keystroke to send an iMessage. I need to lift my hand and press the screen. iOS with an external leaves so much to be desired.
By default the fonts are a little small in some apps. In particular, I found NewsBlur to be a little small to read at a computer length distance. Editorial default font seems to be just fine though so I blame this on an app preference more than iOS. Feedback submitted via Twitter.

Wednesday September 4, 2013

When I got home I used my computer. I wanted to IM and check a few things quickly. The iPad, despite all its greatness, isn’t very good at multi-tasking. Want to send IMs while checking email and Twitter? iPad isn’t going to do that.
Smooth keyboard integration seems to be my biggest hang up besides IM. There is no alt-tab. It’s basically used for the keys and no interaction with the system.
My next experiment, I may use my iPad at work for taking notes with customers. I see no reason it wouldn’t do it and do it very well. I use Markdown for note taking making the iPad an optimal device. Sharing will be the hardest as I don’t keep notes in Dropbox.

Thursday and Friday, September 5 and 6

I wasn’t home much these days so I didn’t have much interaction. Of course I had my iPhone on me so I was using that. Long term it probably makes sense that Apple has a mobile OS on its tablets similar to the phone. Microsoft may make some sense having a hybrid model today but long term that’s going to be a hard transition, especially for a company which has such a hard time breaking backward compatibility.


Overall I liked using iOS on a full time basis. It does have some very real shortcomings.
While pretty good the default keyboard isn’t good enough for full time use. Using an external keyboard helps but only for typing. App switching, commands, or form submission don’t work with the external keyboard. Besides Apple doing a lot of things which don’t make sense, I can’t tell what keeps them from improving at least some of this function. I wonder if iOS 7 will support this but I would be a little surprised.
Instant messaging is a little tough if the person isn’t using iMessages. There are some mediocre rated apps on the App Store but they all require registration. I looked into libpurple on iOS and they have some license problems. A client server model with the server acting as a libpurple based proxy would work but that does require some registration. A self hosted system may be nice.
System administration isn’t great. There are SSH clients and even a console application (hardware purchase required) so I should be able to do better administration. During the week I didn’t use any web based administration tools and I expect those to be hit and missed. I doubt they are optimized for touch screen and many of them probably use Flash.
Finances are done just fine on iOS with the weak link being Mint’s pretty good but not very efficient app. Paying bills, checking balances, and stocks all work just fine.
iOS is a few applications and tweaks away from replacing my Mac OS X system as anything more than periodic use. The gaps are pretty major but I do think it wouldn’t take too much to bridge them.

Innovative Keyboards

Some digital ink has been spilled recently regarding the unique keyboard layout the Lenovo X1 Carbon has. If you haven’t seen it…

Take a moment and see how they moved away from the standard layout us touch typists know so well. To start, I’m not enamored by the backspace and delete keys being so close together. Perhaps using it will not be much of a challenge but I prefer a separate key or perhaps a modifier (as in the case of Apple) to use the delete action. My next complaint is Home and End where the caps key is. Yes, caps lock is terrible, albeit slightly useful at times. As a lightweight emacs user, I’m a fan of swapping the caps lock and control keys (note: I don’t actually do that today). Short of migrating both home and end to control, emacs users would be stuck on this laptop. A light at the top right of the left shift key implies caps lock functionality exists but it is not immediately obvious how.

Tilde key makes its home to the right of the space bar. Not that I use that key a lot, especially on Windows, but the location is odd. The layout implies it was placed at the bottom right to prevent the need for another row of keys. Which brings me to the function keys.

Watch the video first.

Interesting idea but I want keys on my keyboard. If I wanted a touch screen, I’d use a tablet. Better would be actual keys which change their function. As a non-Windows user, I’m also wondering how that works in Linux. Not for a minute do I believe Lenovo cares about Linux users but it’s a concern I have, especially if I am going to lay down over $1,000 for the laptop.

I give Lenovo credit for trying something new, especially with the function row but it’s not something I think I’d enjoy. If I alt+f4 a window, I want to be sure I’m hitting the proper key. The layout of the home, end, and tilde key leave much to be desired. The caps lock key’s biggest downfall is not its existence but its prime real estate on the keyboard. I doubt home and end are used frequent enough where they merit such privileged placement. Control on the other hand…

My work laptop is a 15″ Lenovo which in general is nice despite its heft and a few other things. Periodically I think about requesting an X1 Carbon since it seems like such a nice system. Unfortunately this new keyboard design makes me think I’m going to wait a generation until the keyboard comes back to earth.