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ipad screenshotGreat though touch-screens on tablets and smartphones are, one of the drawbacks with them that I’ve found is that the experience of typing on them isn’t a particularly nice experience.  It’s all too easy to type the wrong character and it’s one of the things that is always frustrating about typing notes on an ipad, how much time you have to spend correcting what you’ve typed.   So I was really interested to see a tweet today about a technology that has been around for a litle while that makes raised buttons appear from the surface of a touch screen when needed.  Checking out the article from Business Insider and then browsing around for some other information about the technology, including this Techcrunch blog post and the website for Tactus Technology, the company developing this idea, and it looks like a really interesting idea that could make typing on a tablet a much nicer experience and avoid having to cart around a chunk of peripherals such as add on keyboards.

Essentially the technology seems to consist of a fluid layer that can generate raised buttons as and when needed. It’s quite intriguing to see buttons suddenly morph (?) out of a flat screen.  But what you get is a small raised button that looks like it will be easier to touch and reduce the chance of mistaken keystrokes.  I’d be intrigued to find out what the buttons actually ‘feel’ like but they look like being a really useful feature.

Ideally this technology would be integrated into the design of the smartphone or tablet and driven by the software although I see that they’ve also worked on an interim approach using a case.  It will be really interesting to see how they get on with getting this technology integrated into mainstream devices and when we might see the first production examples of the technology.  It also strikes me to wonder whether the fine-definition of the technology would let you develop a tablet that could display braille writing.

I updated the ipad to iOS 5.1 this morning. Apple seem to be getting smarter with doing these updates for the ipad now it doesn’t have to be done through itunes.  So I got a pop-up message saying that it was available with a link (and an indication in the Settings list that there was an update available).  That took you through a licence terms screen to the installation process.    After a quick download and verification process the installation process was actually marked by the logo and a progress bar on the ipad screen.  That’s an improvement on the screen just going blank while it does the update.  The process took about 10 minutes from start to finish.  It still ends up just blanking out the screen at the end as far as I could tell and doesn’t seem to give any message that it has actually finished (which would be good).  But a really straightforward and painless experience.

Apple list the following updates in 5.1.  Probably few if any are relevant for me on the original ipad without a camera but never mind.

  • Japanese language support for Siri (availability may be limited during initial rollout)
  • Photos can now be deleted from Photo Stream
  • Camera shortcut now always visible on Lock Screen for iPhone 4S, iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS and iPod touch (4th generation)
  • Camera face detection now highlights all detected faces
  • Redesigned Camera app for iPad
  • Genius Mixes and Genius playlists for iTunes Match subscribers
  • Audio for TV shows and movies on iPad optimized to sound louder and clearer
  • Podcast controls for playback speed and a 30 second rewind for iPad
  • Updated AT&T network indicator
  • Addresses bugs affecting battery life
  • Fixes an issue that occasionally caused audio to drop for outgoing calls

So there’s a new ipad coming out soon,, not apparently ipad3 but just ‘the new ipad’.   So next year when there is the next version what do we have?, the new ‘new ipad’ and the old ‘new ipad’, it seems a bit confusing, I wonder why not just ipad3 or ipad 2S if they really had to.

Another things that strikes me about the ipad is the figures they showed at the launch about the sales.  These showed that Apple shipped 15m ipads which was more than the number of HP PCs that were sold.  That seems to suggest to me that Apple see the ipad as being a mass-market tablet device.  But isn’t the price a bit of a barrier?  At that price I can see the Apple fans buying a new version each year, but if you’ve already got an ipad or ipad2 are you really going to be buying a new one quickly?   If Apple are looking at the PC market then the likely PC replacement cycle must be around 3-5 years I would have thought.  Will Apple really be able to encourage people to spend the price of a decent spec-laptop every couple of years?  I would wonder.

ipad iOS 5 screenshotI’ve been part of a few discussions this week about various aspects of mobile and tablet devices, from the institutional data security aspects through to the implications for website development and for helping library staff to support users using these types of devices.  So it was interesting to hear about another aspect, app collection management, blogged about here by Emily Clasper. 

It was good to see the thought processes about the requirements for buying and maintaining the apps set out so clearly.  And to read the conclusion that, ‘choosing content for the iPad was pretty much the same as developing any library collection’.   It’s reassuring to see that the standard tried and tested library acquisitions processes of  stock objectives, stock plans and stock policies still have relevance to digital devices and apps.

I do wonder though if there is a bit of a difference compared with other library selection processes.  In a lot of cases library material is being pre-selected by the library stock supply industry and presented to librarians for them to choose from, so there is some weeding out of unsuitable material.  There are tools to help stock selection that may not yet have caught up with a need to include apps. And finding apps can be a bit of a hit and miss affair.  

Apps can also be quite unreliable and prone to bugs, but you could say the same of computer games and many libraries have been happily lending them and using them for a long time.  But you do have to factor in time to update the apps at regular intervals.

I’d also wonder about the detail in some of the license conditions with some of the apps.  Tablets are pretty much expected to be ‘personal’ devices, so the license conditions on an app aren’t likely to cover their use on a shared device in the library.

Apple iOS 5.0.1 update screenshotSo the first update for iOS5 seems to be out, iOS 5.0.1, and it seemed a good chance to try out how the updates work now you don’t have to do them through being connected up to itunes on the PC.

The first sign that there was an update available was a message on screen and also a red icon on the corner of the Settings icon (the same as you see against the Apps icon whenever there is an update.  When you go into settings there’s a 1 against General and then against the Software Update setting under General.  Running the update seems pretty straightforward.  The screen goes blank and you get an Apple logo and a progress bar, once that completes it goes blank again then you get another Apple logo and progress bar.  Once completed it takes you to the ‘unlock’ screen.

All in all a pretty painless operation that took about five minutes.  It’s good that you don’t have to link it up to the PC but I do wonder about how you are supposed to back-out of it if it goes wrong.  How do you restore it?, from icloud somehow?

The process
Having read some of the problems that people have been having with their upgrades to iOS 5, it was with a bit of trepidation that I upgraded the ipad yesterday.  Particularly as I’d had a few problems when upgrading to iOS 4.3.5.   I fully expected it to take several hours with all manner of problems.  But actually it was pretty painless given the size of the upgrade.

After plugging the ipad into the laptop and running up itunes it needed an upgrade of itunes on the laptop to the latest version first, so that took a little bit of time.  And I hadn’t sync’d the ipad to the laptop recently so it had to do that, but once I got into the upgrade process the backup process seemed to take more time than doing the actually upgrade.  It seemed to take no more than an hour.  It may have been less but I’d got so used to the ipad restarting, going blank and doing it’s own thing that I didn’t realise that you had to finish the process off on the ipad.  The ipad went blank and nothing appeared on the laptop so it took me a while to work out that I needed to press the button on the ipad and then through several screens to finish the setup.  But the process seemed to run pretty smoothly for me on the whole.

The only problem I had in common with many people was the iCloud setup, but afterwards I was able to go back into it and configure that, although I’ve not yet had time to use it to backup the device.  There’s not much on the ipad so it’s within the free 5gb limit but I think I might wait to think about whether I want everything copied there.

But overall the upgrade went really smoothly, and pretty much all my downloaded apps worked fine afterwards.  This time I did the update on a faster network and from the laptop I’d originally setup the ipad from.  So maybe that was the difference.

iOS 5

ipad iOS 5 screenshot Having  completed the upgrade there are quite a few changes that are evident on the ipad.  Most obvious amongst them are the appearance of several new icons on the home page: Messages, Reminders and Newsstand, while the ipod icon has changed to a Music one.  [If you want to look through the iOS 5 features then they are detailed on the Apple site here]

Behind the scenes there are quite a few changes that I’ve noticed already.  So the Music section now defaults to displaying your music in albums.  I wondered idly whether that said something about the age of whoever decided that the album view would be the default.  If you’re used to buying music track-by-track then the album view probably isn’t the way you think of music.  It sounds a bit old-school, physical-format centric maybe?

Safari now has tabs which is great (and not before time to be honest) but there still seems to be a limit of 9 tabs, even though you still get the + sign it doesn’t seem to open any more tabs (for me anyway).  You can also tweet links from the browser as well as email them.

The Message feature I find a bit strange.  iOS 5 Messages iconIt lets you message iPhones, iPod touch and iPads, but nothing else.  Presumably because it links in with the Apple account.  At the same time as the iOS 5 integrates twitter support more completely (although the twitter app still doesn’t take advantage of the larger screen of the ipad), it isn’t all that obvious why Apple would introduce a new messaging feature in what is already a pretty crowded marketplace (with SMS, twitter and Google+ providing multiplatform support).  Making it available through iTunes might have been a good idea maybe?  I noticed also that even if you turn it off from the Settings then the icon still remains on the home page.

I gather that there are 200 new features in iOS 5 so it’s going to take a while to find them all out.   Amongst the General > Network settings is a VPN feature that I don’t remember before that looks like it could do with checking out to see whether it can be connected to the VPN.  It suggests to me a bit of thinking about the ipad as a device for business and what would be useful to make it easier to use for business.  Well, easier network browsing as an integral part of the ipad would be good to see in the longer term and some multiuser capability.

Overall, I’m pretty happy that the upgrade went OK, and there’s a host of new features to play with.  As a final thought, actually, that’s a new operating system version as a free upgrade, so that’s pretty good.

I was at the Future of Technology in Education conference on Friday.  Run by ULCC at Senate House in London, it was well attended with over 300 people there.  It was the first time I’d been to FOTE.  It had been recommended as a really good conference so I was interested to see what it was like (and it was a good chance to get out of the office and stop thinking about the new library website for a day).

Reflections on the day

It was a good conference and I’d hope to go again. I’ll probably blog later about my reflections on the content of the conference itself as there are a few thoughts about the way FOTE was run, that I found really interesting.  Firstly, it was pretty much paper-free, with the exception of the name badge which actually unfolded to reveal the conference agenda and details of the conference hashtags.   That was a really neat approach, no A4 printed out agendas or bulky bits of paperwork to carry around with you.   The only other bit of paper, a playing card for their ice-breaker game.

What was really novel was the creation of a set of FOTE mobile and web apps, for iphones, ipads, android and web.  FOTE ipad app screnshot
These had the delegate lists, agenda and details of the speakers, details of the conference location, sponsors, as well as several feeds for the FOTE blog, comments and twitter feeds.  They even include the delegate survey for the conference and the voting for one of the sessions.  I’m really very impressed with the thought that went into this approach.  It’s the first technology conference I’ve been to that seemed to have got to grips with understanding that as the audience was going to be coming armed with an array of ipads, laptops and smartphones, that giving them bits of paper to carry around wasn’t the right message. I wonder how the cost of creating the apps compares with the cost of printing out copies of various bits of paperwork or conference packs that people traditionally give out but it was a really impressive thing to do and it would be good to see it taken up by other tech conferences.

My second reflection was that when you got to the conference venue, the wifi access code and links to the various conference apps were up on posters and displayed with QR codes, making it really easy to link from a smartphone.  That was a good touch.   Conference wifi access was pretty good and reliable considering the number of devices in the conference, I suspect probably more wifi connected devices than delegates.

Final thought was about the twitterwall used for part of the conference sessions.  The transition from one tweet to another was eye-catching.  The previous tweet would clear, often with those letters falling down the screen, leaving just the letters that were in common with the next tweet, which would then appear.  It was a good visual effect although possibly a bit distracting from what was going on in that session maybe.

I do find it fascinating the way that different universities approach the wifi access issue for conference delegates.  ULCC had a separate conference wifi SSID and what seemed to be a daily access code.  But there seem to be a few different approaches.  Maybe something to blog about another time.

Following a comment on this blog by Nick Lewis on my quick thought about the Kindle I’ve been looking in more detail about how the pagination matches up on Kindle ebooks across three different devices, a PC, an ipad and an android phone.  Both the PC and ipad versions show both pages and locations, the android app just shows the locations.

I’ve only so far looked at three fairly new novels as most of the older material I’ve looked at didn’t seem to show page numbers at all.   In  all three cases the location will take you to the same place within the text, or at least to the page that contains that location. 

When it comes to pages the PC and ipad versions have the same numbers of pages but the content on each page isn’t exactly identical.  In the samples I tried it varied from a few lines difference, to several paragraphs or more.  Given the variations in screen size then it probably isn’t surprising (and I’ll check it against the Kindle itself to see if there is more variation).  But the variation means that to give an accurate reference you are not only going to have to specify that it is the Kindle version of the ebook, but also the device you are using to access it.

There are some other thoughts about citing kindle ebooks on the web on Booksprung for example that has an interesting discussion.  Our institutional Harvard referencing guidance (OU Harvard Guide to Referencing December 2010) has this to say

4.4       ebooks on ebook readers

The correct format for referencing an ebook used on an ebook reader (such as a Kindle reader) is: Author, A. (year of ebook publication) Title of Book [ebook], place of publication, publisher.


Matthews, D. J. (2010) What Cats Can Teach Us [ebook],London, Penguin.

In-text citation: (Matthews, 2010) or Matthews (2010) notes that…

As page numbers are not available on ebook readers, use the chapters instead for indicating the location of a quoted section:

In-text quotation: Matthews notes that ‘kittens are often delightful’ (2010, Chapter 6)

This suggests referring to a chapter rather than trying to find specific page numbers.  Although the Kindle at least now does now include page numbers the fact that they aren’t absolute and vary depending on your reader may mean that this is the best solution.

Owen Stephens (@ostephens) has just pointed out that you could use the percentage to provide a citation for exactly where you are referring to in the ebook. That is present in all the different types of Kindle apps I’ve tested.

Kindle screen I got to the end of one of my Kindle books the other day and it suddenly dawned on me that I’d read some of the book on an ipad, some on a PC, some on a phone and the rest on the Kindle device itself.  I had entirely taken it for granted that I could pick up from the page that I’d last read up to on another device.   I find it interesting that something like that, which would have been pretty much unthinkable a few years ago, now is commonplace.

I’m finding the range of Kindle reading applications to be really useful.  I’ve got them on a couple of PCs, an ipad and a phone so it makes it pretty easy to pick up something I’m reading as there’s rarely a time when I don’t have some form of electronic device with me.

It’s good that Amazon’s marketing people worked out that making it easy for people to access their content on as many devices as possible was the way to go.   It’s great that there aren’t limitations on which devices you can be reading it on.

Not that there aren’t a few tweaks to some of the Apps and tools that it would be good to see.  I’ve got my content on the Kindle arranged in themed folders so it would be good to pick that up some way on the other reading apps.  Also I know that as my ebook library grows I’m going to want better tools to search that ‘elibrary’.  So it would be good to be able to tag books and search for them (hmmm sounds suspiciously like cataloguing!).

I spent a load of time the other day updating the ipad to ios 4.3.5.   The new OS version had some security updatesipad screenshot and the ipad hadn’t been updated since I had first got it.  So it seemed like a sensible thing to do.  What I wasn’t prepared for was quite what a dispiriting experience it turned out to be.   I worked out that the upgrade had to be done with the ipad connected to a PC.  OK, so perhaps not quite what you’d expect from an internet connected device (and something that apparently will change with ios 5 with the PC Free feature).  But the device complained that it wasn’t connected to the same PC that it had originally been setup from and took an age to download the update files.  It seemed quite keen on giving you the option to reset it back to its original settings and less obviously give you the option to backup the device to the PC.

It seemed to me that there was an underlying assumption with the device that you were going to be wanting to synchronise what was on your PC with the ipad rather than taking stuff from the ipad to the PC. When I’m increasingly (and I doubt I’m alone) using the ipad as my main day to day device when on the move I’m more likely to want to push stuff from the ipad to the PC.  And using different PCs (work/home etc) is going to be normal, and I’m not necessarily going to want to sync everything across all the devices all the time.

Once the update had finally finished I then discovered that it had messed up all the ipad apps that I’d downloaded since I’d had the ipad. They would open for a second and then close. After a bit of browsing around various Apple forums I tried several different solutions, watching videos and reinstalling various apps.  I’ve ended up removing and reinstalling some of them and then frustratingly realising that the tweetdeck ipad app was no longer available to be reinstalled.

All in all not a particularly impressive experience, strangely reminiscent of early Windows updates that could be a bit hit and miss, and not something that you really expect from an Apple device at all.

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January 2021

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