Apple Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil for iPad Pro. Essential, Or Just Expensive Add Ons To Boost Apple’s Coffers?

As part of the continuing journey, from computer to tablet, Apple’s 10.5″ iPad Pro in particular, today, I thought I would share my experience of the main peripherals designed exclusively for the iPad Pro:

Apple’s Smart Keyboard and of course the Apple Pencil.

Disclaimer: This entire post, was created on the iPad Pro, in split screen, using the new iOS 11, drag and drop, from Safari (for the Apple links contained in the piece) on one side and the official WordPress App, on the other side of the screen, in a 50/50 split view, as shown in the screen shot below:

Several screen shots were taken then inserted into the WordPress piece, prior to publishing the finished article.

If you look closely in the smallest split screen image (bottom left hand corner), you will see the space between the text, where I left room for the screenshot image to be placed. All on an iPad Pro, using `Drag ‘n’ Drop, between Safari (for links) and the Photos App for the Screenshot. Clever huh?

Can’t be productive on an iPad Pro? Think again.

I have touched on my first impressions of using these devices in earlier pieces, but thought that they deserved a more detailed article, covering whether or not you really need them.

Here in the U.K, the Apple Smart Keyboard 10.5″, will set you back a tidy £159.00 and the Apple Pencil, adds an additional £89.00 to your potential purchase.

The iPad Pro 10.5″ starts at £619.00 for the base WiFi model, with 64GB of storage and comes in Silver, Gold, or Rose Gold, with white bezels around the display, or Space Grey if you want black bezels surrounding your display.

I went for the Black bezels of the Space Grey model. It is in my opinion, the nicest looking and more importantly, the one which offers me the least eye strain / distraction when working.

You can purchase the iPad Pro direct from Apple at the following link:

https://www.apple.com/uk/ipad-pro/

Here are the direct links to Apple Store for the Smart Keyboard for 10.5″ iPad Pro and the Apple Pencil:

https://www.apple.com/uk/shop/product/MPTL2B/A/smart-keyboard-for-105%E2%80%91inch-ipad-pro-british-english?fnode=37

https://www.apple.com/uk/shop/product/MK0C2/apple-pencil?fnode=37

If you opt for the base line iPad Pro @£619, the Smart Keyboard @£159 and the Pencil @£89, you’re talking about spending a whopping £867.00. Minimum. If you want a model with higher storage, that figure rises very quickly.

So, as you can see, the Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil are not cheap add ons. They are both beautifully made, as is normal for Apple products, so their overall quality can’t really be questioned, but, do you really need them?

If you’ve read I my earlier articles, I hope that they have conveyed, that the move from using a computer, to using an iPad Pro, as potentially, your only computer like device, is actually easier than I first thought.

If you haven’t read them, you can find the first one, which asks the question “Is It Time To Kill The Mac?”, here:

https://deecees.wordpress.com/2018/05/28/apple-is-it-time-to-kill-the-mac/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

My iPad Pro, first impressions, here:

https://deecees.wordpress.com/2018/05/31/apples-ipad-pro-10-5-first-impressions/

My initial experience / decisions behind “Giving up a laptop, for an iPad Pro”, here:

https://deecees.wordpress.com/2018/06/05/giving-up-a-laptop-for-an-ipad-pro/

And, finally, adapting your workflow with new Apps, here:

https://deecees.wordpress.com/2018/06/07/raw-editing-on-an-ipad-pro/

Now, these are quite lengthy posts, so get yourself a cuppa and make yourself comfy before setting out on the ‘big read’.

All caught up?

Cool.

So, the Smart Keyboard and that Pencil. Essential, or, Expensive dust gatherers made only to take more cash from your wallet?

The short answer is, they are really expensive, but it really does all depend on what you plan on doing with your iPad Pro.

For me, they are essential. I blog, I keyword, I tag, I do a lot of written stuff, despite my main task being image editing on the go. It is surprising how much I actually write. In fact, I think I have written more since getting the iPad Pro, than I have written previously on the MacBook Pro (which has now been sold) in months.

Writing on the Smart Keyboard, is initially an odd experience. The keys don’t have the ‘usual’ mechanical feel that we have all come to recognise and feel familiar with. This has been documented in many reviews, which pretty much all say, they hate typing on the Smart Keyboard.

I can’t really comment on how other people feel about the thing that they are typing on. Each to their own and all that, but I do think too many people write reviews, without spending enough time with the thing that they are meant to be reviewing.

This is why, I have ‘subconsciously’, decided to do an almost ‘running commentary’ on how my transition from computer to iPad Pro is going. I didn’t plan on doing it this way, but things have changed a bit, as some things, become crystal clear to me, during my own transition to iPad Pro:

People are too set in their ways.

People give up far too easily.

People are lazy.

The reviews that I have read, and I have read a lot about the iPad Pro, are mostly click bait, sensationalist, early as possible, blah, blah, blah pieces, which do make some important points, but never suggest how to get around any problems they may have encountered.

My take is, having researched the hardware and looked at hope the ‘market’ is likely to go, transitioning to a more efficient and light weight on the go solution, is better started sooner, rather than later.

So, reviews of the Smart Keyboard, usually include comments or findings like: “you can’t seriously type on a Smart Keyboard for extended periods”, or, “I found the experience strange, not what I was used to, so reverted back to using my MacBook”.

That last comment “I found it strange, so reverted back to using my MacBook”, really does say it all. People give up too easily.

When I started using the Smart Keyboard, yes it felt strange. It was a slightly different typing experience to the one I have become familiar with. It’s not a bad experience, it’s just different.

All the posts I have written after the initial Is It Time To Kill The Mac, have been written on the iPad Pro with the Smart Keyboard.

Now, I am no speed typist and I am no touch typist. I’m old school and mostly need to look at where my fingers are going instead of what is appearing on screen, which is why there are often mistakes to be corrected at a later date.

But, these blog posts, have not been short. They have I hope, been informative and useful, with enough information / experience in them to help inform your own choice, should you be wondering about making the transition.

It’s all too easy, for people, to buy something, review it after 5 minutes of use and do the expected “nice device, but stick with your laptop for serious work”. They then sell the gear on or return it to their sponsors and move onto to to the next ‘click bait’ piece in the never ending pursuit of trying to further their online presence.

But, when you fork out your own money and decide to document your own experience of transitioning from what we currently call a computer, to the next evolution of what a computer is, you aren’t going to win friends or increase your online presence in any way. Especially when your experience, is different to the 5 minute user experience of loud and shouty, self promoters out there.

I’m not affiliated with, sponsored by or work for any of the companies, I do reviews or blog pieces about. I hope my reviews cover the main things people care about, when thinking of splurging their own hard earned cash on something.

I never try to get too bogged down with technical stuff. Depending on the product I am reviewing, there may be no significant reference to the technical stuff, because in my opinion, it really doesn’t matter. It’s how we use it that is most important.

The Smart Keyboard, is different. It has a strange fabric covering, which is water repellent and stain proof, over the upper layer (the bit with the keys on it). The underside, which when folded up, lies against the display of the iPad Pro, is the usual, lovely, velvety, Micro fibre-y inside covering anyone familiar with other Apple cover, case linings, will be know and love. It feels great.

Is that water repellent or stain proof? I have absolutely no idea, I can’t find anything which says definitively, one way or the other.

As for being ‘Smart’, I haven’t found anything the keyboard does beyond being a keyboard. It doesn’t make coffee, close curtains etc, but it does allow you to type on the iPad Pro, with the entire 10.5″ display available for content being worked on.

Typing, takes a little time to adjust to the physical key sizes. Each key is slightly smaller than on a traditional keyboard, but has quite a bit of space between them to help reduce mis-hits. A consequence of this space decision, is that the normally larger keys, like Return, Shift and Caps Lock etc. Are smaller then they would be on a normal sized keyboard, so when starting out, missing them altogether is quite normal, but, with regular use, the typing on the Smart Keyboard, I find to be perfectly easy and mostly accurate (human error allowing).

The key press is soft, but has enough travel to let you know that a key press has been registered. It lacks the same mechanical feel, but you get a mechanical feedback, which feels quite satisfying.

After over a weeks use, I find no problem using the Smart Keyboard and enjoy using it exclusively, to write everything I want to write. The iPad Pro and Smart Keyboard, I find the perfect carry everywhere companion.

This brings me back to what I was touching on earlier. People generally speaking, are resilient to change. We become too familiar in the ways we do things, so when something revolutionary comes along, there are always the early adopters (usually me), who see the possibilities on offer as the future road map. After a few years, a larger amount of people have followed suit until finally, everybody has one.

I remember when Apple launched the iPhone back in 2007. I was one of the few, who stood outside the O2 store and paid, with real money, for an iPhone. My friends and family, not to mention complete strangers, thought I was absolutely mad.

You see back in 2007, everybody was used to getting ‘free’ phones with their network contracts, not realising that they were actually paying for their phones, as they paid their monthly contracts. So, actually paying up front for a mobile phone, was completely alien.

I was mocked. The iPhone was mocked, but by the time the iPhone 3G came out a few months later, where I was given a free upgrade for being an early adopter, a friend wanted to borrow my old (a few months) original iPhone. He loved it and when his contract was duke for renewal, he grabbed his first iPhone the 3Gs.

And year after year, smartphones became more widespread, to the extent that now, everybody has one. If you see someone using a phone with a physical keyboard, it looks like something from the dark ages.

As I have stated in a previous article, I honestly feel that the time has arrived, in regards computers and how we regard what a computer is, just as it did with smartphones and digital cameras before it.

A rather brief and overly generalised trip, down memory lane. . .

A computer originally, was a huge mechanical device with engravings and clockwork mechanisms. They were then developed for more electrical operations with components that would fill and entire home. They then became smaller and would instead only fill an entire floor of a typical sized home. They shrank even more and became cabinet sized, then finally became the desktop sized models we all grew up with and now regard as ‘a computer’.

Apple changed that dynamic with the Mac, where they created essentially, the model for the all in one desktop. Removing the separates being connected by wires, to a single device that sat entirely on your desk.

Then of course came the shrunken embodiment of that all in one, known as a laptop, which sat in your lap, or on your desk. As capable as a desktop, but with a trackball, eventually trackpad, that required a certain amount of adapting to if you were used to using a mouse.

The iPad Pro, is that next obvious step of the evolution. An all in one, which you can use in your hand, on your lap or on your desk. You can use a physical keyboard or a touch keyboard, you can physically touch the screen with your finger, similar to using a trackpad, or you can touch and point the screen more accurately, with the Pencil.

It’s all just a matter of perception. The iPad Pro, with the Smart Keyboard is, as I am finding out, just as capable, if not more so, than a stand alone laptop. But, it is up to each and every person to evaluate their own needs for what they want to be able to achieve. The Smart Keyboard lets me work productively on my writing projects and the Pencil allows me to edit my images, accurately and quickly, something which can’t be done on a laptop without an additional graphics tablet and stylus.

Natural progressions, along the computer’s evolutionary timeline.

But, I digress. . .

This is the important bit about deciding whether or not you really need the Smart Keyboard. If you are planning on doing a lot of work, with documents etc. The answer is a resounding yes, you will benefit from buying the Smart Keyboard.

“But I could buy a Bluetooth one cheaper”!

Yes you could, but, that’s just another thing that needs to be charged and connected etc. When you want to get on and work. The Smart Keyboard is powered from the iPad itself and never needs charged, so potentially one less thing to carry and worry about when out and about on the go.

If you only ever type a bit, or infrequently, the on screen keyboard will probably suffice in the majority of cases, so you should save your £159.00 and use the onscreen keyboard or buy a cheap and cheerful Bluetooth keyboard for those rare occasions you do need a bit more room to work with onscreen.

If you do not type that often or prefer using the onscreen keyboard, there is absolutely no point in buying the Smart Keyboard. If you want the official Apple add on, buy the standard Smart Cover for £49.00, which comes in a variety of fantastic colours, to suit your own personality.

https://www.apple.com/uk/shop/product/MRFG2/smart-cover-for-105%E2%80%91inch-ipad-pro-lemonade?fnode=37

As for the Apple Pencil, this is a really easy one. If you edit video, images, draw, design or create art electronically, the Apple Pencil is a MUST HAVE ITEM. It is phenomenal. It’s awesome and it is so much fun to use.

The increased refresh rate on the second generation iPad Pro, combined with the new laminated display, makes for an instant response on screen when using the Pencil. It is as close to drawing on paper that you can currently get.

I’ve used the Pen on the Surface Pro 4, which was excellent, but in a direct comparison, the Pencil’s weight, shape and responsiveness, just has that extra ‘zing’ in use, which in my opinion, makes the Apple Pencil, the best stylus experience around.

If you prefer or need more accurate control onscreen, than a finger tap can achieve, the Apple Pencil, is a must have device. The increased resolution of the 10.5″ (as well as the existing resolution of the 12.9″), when editing curves / sliders etc. on images or when accurate pin point accuracy is required for video edits, the Pencil gives you that improved accuracy.

If you take notes, or screen shots, use the built in camera and want to add some hand written / drawn ‘effect’ onto your work, the Pencil is a must.

If all you want the iPad Pro for is reading, web surfing, eMail and other non creative, in the conventional sense, tasks, save your money and buy a non Pro version of the iPad.

https://www.apple.com/uk/ipad-9.7/

If you get the 2018 model, which now supports the Pencil, should you every feel a drawing or artistic ambition in the future, you could always grab a Pencil later on and make use of the Pencil compatibility.

I know this has piece has gone off on a few tangents in places, but I hope it basically conveys the user experience I am having and in some way, hope you can relate to it.

So, going back to the original question: Smart Keyboard and Pencil, are they ‘essential or just expensive add ons to boost Apple’s coffers?’

For me personally, they are essential and both are great to use.

Depending on what you intend to do with your iPad Pro, you need to weigh up the cost to the benefit each product will bring you.

If you’re one of those people who just want it because they are the latest and greatest Apple currently has to offer, but really know that they will never be used, buy the Smart Cover for £49.00 and give the £199.00 price difference saved, to a good cause.

If however, you know you’re going to be image or video editing and writing, I would say that both, are essential add ons, which really do, open up the diverse capabilities and productivity options, the iPad Pro offers.

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Apple HomePod: A Quick Update. . .

I’ve been running the Apple HomePod for a few weeks now, so I thought I should probably give you all a quick update about how life with a HomePod is working out.

This will be quite a brief update, because with each day, I fall in love with the HomePod that little bit more. It still sounds as sumptuous as it did when I first set it up.

The biggest gripe from other reviewers, Siri, does pretty much exactly what I want her to do, when I ask her to do it, from telling me who is singing on a track selected for me, to setting reminders to make sure I don’t forget to be somewhere are a certain time.

She is way more useful than I ever found Alexa on Amazon Echo to be, despite not being as ‘smart’ (apparently).

Things haven’t been plain sailing. I find having to go into the Home App, to configure HomePod, is a bit of a pain, but not a deal breaker. Apple should really should have made a dedicated HomePod App, just like they did for the Apple Watch, but I guess, I can see where they are coming from since HomePod is for the Home.

Other than that, I am absolutely loving HomePod and Beats 1. I listen pretty much every day and have discovered some really great new artists, which I have now added to my Apple Music library.

With the most recent iOS 11.4 update, Apple released AirPlay 2, which now allows 2 HomePod to be set up in different rooms or, in the same room as a stereo pair. I have to admit, I am quite keen on trying that out, but in all honesty, the sound separation on HomePod is so good, I’m not sure two working together would be significantly better.

Ok, who am I trying to kid? I want another one to set up in a stereo pair. I think it will sound incredible and when I can justify another one, I’ll definitely be picking another one up.

I love music, it’s what makes life worth living, without it, life would be a really dull place to have to live. HomePod is for Music lovers and the combination of HomePod, Beats 1 and an Apple Music subscription, really is, a Music lover’s dream.

If you haven’t listened to a HomePod yet, you should try to. You might never listen to Music the same way ever again.

‘E.O. Line’ vs Super Fast Broadband. A Reality Check. . . Here’s A D.I.Y Solution

Here in the U.K, broadband provision is pretty well catered for. Virtually everybody offers “Super Fast” Broadband, promising that old chest nut “UP TO” XXX speeds. Each charges accordingly, some with up front costs, others with nothing to pay up front.

What none of these providers mention, however, is that if you are one of the millions, who happen to have an E.O. Line (exchange only line), then the promise of Super Fast Fibre broadband, with speeds of up to 100Mbps, is a pipe dream.

People on E.O lines, can get the fastest ‘old’ tech broadband the exchange which serves their particular line, is equipped with.

Now, in more urban areas, this may well be “up to” 20Mbps, but in more rural areas, like where I live, my local exchange offers “up to 8Mbps”. Officially, the providers state “up to” 19.5Mbps (for P.R reasons), but the hardware in the exchange is only capable of providing up to 8 Mbps.

What’s really frustrating, is that my local exchange was upgraded to Fibre almost 2 and a half years ago, yet still, to this day, very few people in my particular village can take advantage of the Fibre ‘advantage’, since most, if not all, the properties in the village, are served by?

E.O. lines. . .

So, what can a person do, if they find themselves in the exact same situation as me?

I have a Netflix subscription and an Amazon Prime subscription. I no longer watch ‘normal’ TV, since there is hardly ever anything to watch, or at best, once or twice a year, where something might be on that I would want to watch. So, my entire entertainment need, is provided by online providers. This is more commonly known as ‘streaming’.

But, how can you stream media on only up to 8Mbps?

Realistically, if streaming, you can’t really do much of anything else online, while you are streaming. If you do, the buffering starts and the playing of the thing you’re streaming starts to become annoying.

As it stands, the telephone service provider, has ZERO plans to ‘realign’ E.O lines from the exchange connections, into street Cabinets, where they can then be connected to the new Fibre enabled hardware in the exchange.

I’m going to go off at a bit of a tangent here, but please bear with me.

Recently, I watched a brilliant short film, made by the very talented journalist Lesley Riddoch and excellent film maker, Phantom Power Films, called “Nation”, which, amongst many other excellent achievements the Faroe Islands has to be proud of, talks briefly, about how the Faroe Islands despite their diminutive size, being spread out over 18 north Atlantic islands, have developed the worlds fastest broadband. The Faroe Islands, only has a population of @50,000 people to rely upon, but has risen up and become phenomenally successful in their many endeavours. Their Super Fast Broadband, serves all 18 islands and 80 Miles beyond the coasts of the Faroe Islands.

I’m about 500 feet away, (straight line distance is less) from my Fibre enabled exchange, and can’t get Fibre services, here on the mainland U.K.

Please watch the video below, it is truly inspirational:

So, what can a person in a situation like me do?

Ditch your provider. . .

You what? I hear you cry.

I’ll say it again. Ditch your current provider.

“But what do you do for broadband?” You may be thinking.

The answer, is to go mobile. . .4G Mobile. In your home!

Inspired by the solution the Faroese came up with for their High Speed Broadband challenges, I too looked for a Huawei solution, should one exist, and found the B310 4G Home WiFi Router, amongst many others, which appeared to offer exactly what I thought I might need.

Here is a screen shot from the SpeedTest App, of my BT Broadband on a very good day:

What is really crazy, is that, despite having a Fibre enabled exchange, with no means of accessing that service, Mobile phone providers, like BT, EE, Vodafone and O2, all have 4G networks operating in and covering my area (WooHoo!!), unfortunately, only EE has taken the step to offer a home based 4G WiFi router solution. But, it is quite expensive.

A few years ago, we did experience a period where the broadband was extremely poor, virtually non existent, during the exchanges’ Fibre upgrade, so I did grab a mobile WiFi Hotspot made by Alcatel on EE, at that time, which worked great. The only downside, was it didn’t hold a battery charge too well and kept powering off when there was one ‘activity’ on the connection, which is great when you’re out and about, it helps preserve your Data allowance, but I figured out fairly quickly, that it wouldn’t solve a long term issue.

At that point, nobody was making 4G Home WiFi routers. But as I should know only too well, technology, never stops evolving.

Now, EE, does operate the fastest 4G Network here in the U.K. BT own EE now, so you would think that BT would be able to offer a similar home based solution?

You’d be wrong.

B.T offer no 4G based service provision for home users. (You what??) Exactly.

The thing about 4G Data services, is this: Mobile phone networks don’t make money from calls or texts any more, so the only way they can really cash in, is on Data use.

And they make hoards of the stuff, from Data use.

If you want a contracted plan, EE offer an 18 Month 100GB or 200GB per month Data Allowance, for £45.00 or £60.00 respectively. If you would prefer not to be tied down for 18 months, you can opt for a 30 Day rolling contract at the same prices, but there is a £99.99 up front charge for the 4G Home router, that is of course, locked to the EE Network. So, if you find the EE service isn’t quite up to scratch, tough. You can’t use the £99.99 router you just bought with another SIM on another network.

EE do offer the home router on PAYG, but it costs £129.99 and Data allowances for PAYG are more expensive.

So, what do you do?

The answer, is buy a stand alone 4G WiFi router by yourself. It is unlocked to any Network, so, if a Network operator has a special offer on Data in any particular month, you can grab a SIM from them, pop it in, start your device and off you go.

Okay, some of you may be thinking, that sounds like a lot of hassle and to be fair, compared to just sitting on your arse and having line rental and broadband provision taken out of your bank account automatically each month, every month, forever, you’d be absolutely right.

It is a bit more involved than a contracted service.

But, it could potentially save you money, not to mention save you the frustration at paying the same as someone on Fibre pays. They get up to 100Mbps for the same money, more or less, that you’re paying for your up to 8Mbps service you currently have to endure.

Vodafone, who get awful customer service reviews, is a network I have never had anything to do with. But, they do offer a pay as a you go Data plan of 50GB per month, for £30.

EE with their rolling or fixed contract, do offer greater data allowances, but for more money. If you use the data allowance, fine, but if you don’t, you’re paying for Data, that disappears at the end of each month.

On EE pay as you go Data allowances, 30GB is as much as you can get, for £44, but is valid for 90 days (any Data allowance on EE over 6GB is valid for 90 days once activated).

O2, don’t really offer anything that I would describe as being viable for potentially ‘Home’ use. The biggest amount of Data allowance they offer, is 20GB, which is valid for 12 months from activation, but costs £75.

What I decided to try out, is a ‘skimpers’ route:

I bought an almost new HUAWEI B310 4G WiFi home router, for under £40 I found on eBay. I then searched for Preloaded 4G Data SIM and found one from Vodafone with 50GB preloaded, for £19.99. Both arrived yesterday.

A quick download of the HUAWEI HiLink App, popped the SIM card in and I was connected to the Vodafone Network on WiFi, via 4G, with 50GB Data allowance to use over the next 30 days.

So, for under £60, I now have a 4G home router and 50GB of 4G data, at my disposal.

Obviously, the first thing to do is a speed test, so I did a speed test. Whilst not great for 4G speeds, compared to the up to 8Mbps BT give me, it was a revelation. Everything just popped onto screen in the browser. Apps, downloaded in a ‘normal’ fashion instead of seemingly taking ages for a tiny file.

Why?

Because, on my current UP TO 8Mbps service, not being too far away from the exchange, on a good day, no rain or wind, I usually get @5.5 – 6.1 Mbps download speeds and never get anything over 256 Kbps upload speed.

If it’s a bit windy or raining, that can drop to 0.1Mbps download. The main line from the exchange, is in a very bad way and can actually be held in your hand at some points along its path to my property. It really sags in places, where it is no more than 5 – 6 feet off the ground, so when the weather is bad, it flaps around all over the place. This creates noise on the line, which reduces your connection speed.

On Vodafone 4G, with 3 bars of signal, I am currently enjoying 19- 28 Mbps speeds download and over 14 – 20 Mbps upload speeds.

Don’t believe me?

While the 4G speeds, may not sound blistering by some standards, my property, is situated in woodland, with very high trees all around. There really isn’t much room for a signal to get through, so enjoying anything over 10Mbps is a luxury I have long been denied.

The two screen shots above of the respective speed tests, were carried on out this very iPad Pro, within minutes of each other, today and inserted into this blog piece, using the WordPress App, on the iPad Pro.

As you can see, the 4G route, is almost 4 times faster than the BT route. The BT speed test screen shot, showing 6.95Mbps, is extremely rare. The usual connection rate is normally @5.3 – 5.6 on average (on clear days with no wind or rain) or from 0.2Mbps – 3.6Mbps when the weather conditions are more ‘in keeping with’ traditional U.K weather (windy and wet).

Disclaimer: Some may say that there is obviously a fault on the line. I would agree, but BT keep assuring me the line is operating within expected parameters. They wouldn’t comment on the being able to hold the actual phone line in your hand further down the line nearer the exchange outside.

I know it’s going to work out a bit more expensive (probably in the short term) because I am using this new found speed, to upload my huge image library onto Cloud services, as part of my transition from computer based workflow, to the ultra portable and immensely capable iPad Pro. But, being free to buy whatever Data allowance I may need, means I can adapt the spending to suit me and to just keep funding a bloated corporation, who cares not one jot, about improving the services for it’s customers.

The honest truth is, I don’t care if it is more expensive. Because, I object to the likes of BT, charging me for Broadband, which is a decade old speed wise but at current rates. I object to the likes of BT charging me line rental, for a line that isn’t fit for purpose and which can’t utilise their Fibre enabled services.

My current line rental and broadband package, costs me @£45 per month, for which I get dubious and unreliable service, with speeds fluctuating to the extent, that using the Internet is a chore.

That’s £45 per month, every month, every year. That is £540.00 a year being paid, for what is in effect, a poor, bordering on useless and unreliable service. Being a rural exchange, BT have exclusivity over service provision, although things on that front may now have changed, but, there is little point exploring the alternative fixed line providers avenue, since the main line to the house, will in all likelihood, be the same line that is in place now.

Convenience, makes us lazy and laziness, costs us money. Rather than look into alternatives, the majority of people will just ‘stick with what we have’, without looking at the alternatives on offer. Month after month and year after year, I have been waiting for BT to realign the EO line that is causing the problem, but it looks like they never will. In the meantime, BT are perfectly happy to just keep taking my money, month after month after month.

Technology, as we all know, is an ever changing beast. What is current now, is outdated in a few weeks, if not sooner. The pace of change, is quite staggering. So, with that in mind, I started to explore alternative routes to obtain a decent and reliable broadband solution. . .

Now, I have the choice of going 4G. At home.

This option is currently the only option, for many people living in boats or converted canal barges. With the housing crisis as it is in the U.K, where short term lets are the reality for millions of people, a mobile option, which you can quite literally take wherever you go, without the hassle of ending or transferring contracts with fixed line providers, means an easy, if slightly less convenient, route for millions to follow.

Sure, it takes a little  bit more fiddling to get up and running, but once set up, it’s a hassle free as anything else.

For the first time in 8 years at this property, I am in control of my broadband, not a slave to be exploited by BT and their couldn’t give a damn mentality.

If I want a stronger signal on 4G, I could connect a couple of external SAM antennae to the back of the HUAWEI B310, which I might try out, just to see how much (if any) they improve the speed. They are relatively inexpensive, so won’t make too much of a dent.

Though, in fairness, I doubt they would help increase the speed on Vodafone that much, since Vodafone, haven’t rolled out the 4G+ (LTE Advanced) technology yet, so the signal I get from them, is on the pretty much original 4G standard, which would likely top out at @32Mbps. With the distance I am away from the Transmitter, I doubt it would get much faster, but at under £20, it might be worth a try, just for curiosity’s sake.

In the meantime, I am now tentatively enjoying, what I would call, a reasonable speed for modern requirements. We will no doubt have some awful weather soon enough, so I’ll see how the 4G signals and speeds hold up during the more normal bad weather, before going all in.

My current contract with BT expires in mid July, so I have allowed myself a few weeks to explore all the network providers 4G service offerings through a variety of weather conditions (hopefully) and then I can make the ultimate decision, to leave BT and their antiquated broadband, for good.

RAW Editing? On an iPad Pro?

If you’ve been reading this blog over the last few days, you will know that I have decided to transition from using my MacBook Pro retina 13″ for my on the go editing needs, to using the second generation 10.5″ iPad Pro.

One of the questions, or statements, that often gets thrown around by the die hard Photo editing computer users out there, is that you can’t edit RAW files on an iOS device and to be fair, in some respects, they are correct. Well sort of. . .

Apple introduced a limited support for RAW files from hundreds of digital cameras back in iOS 10, which was significantly improved in the most recent iOS 11 release. But, actually harnessing the full range of tools to use the iOS 11 (built in system wide RAW developer) capabilities, are still a bit limited.

What puts a lot of people off using iOS devices, like the iPad Pro, as their main go to device for image editing, is the belief that the iPad Pro isn’t capable enough. The truth however, as I have detailed in previous posts, is that the current range of iPad Pro, are more than capable and according to Benchmark tests, often equal or in most cases, beat, what would be described as ‘pro’ level laptops.

I’m going to take a quick trip down memory lane. . .

If I saw the word, Aperture, photographers, will instantly think of the f-stop setting on a lens and then they will slowly remember than excellent piece of Software Apple, used to produce, which offered Library capabilities, combined with some truly unique RAW editing capabilities, not found in competing products. I absolutely loved using Aperture and was surprised how sad I was when Apple, retired it to the land of “we’ve had your money, but we can’t be bothered with the software any more”.

Aperture users, around the world had no choice. Apple had surrendered the RAW editing ground to Adobe and their Lightroom offering.

Aperture, was dead. . .

Or was it?

The gentleman, in charge of the development and engineering for Aperture, at Apple, was a chap called Nick Bhatt, who after leaving Apple, started his own software development company called “Gentlemen Coders”.

Bear with me here, you might be wondering what all this has to do with processing RAW files on an iOS device like the iPad Pro?

Gentlemen Coders, have released an Application, available for both macOS and iOS, called RAW Power, which can be purchased from the Mac App Store for £13.99 GBP or downloaded from the iOS App Store for free, with limited functionality, or unlocked with full features, for just £4.99.

The macOS desktop version is discussed in the video below, hosted by Photo Joseph and the man himself, Nik Bhatt:

In short, RAW Power, brings the editing power of Aperture (updated and enhanced) back from the grave, which for anyone out there like me, who misses Aperture and what could be done using it, RAW Power is an exciting prospect.

RAW Power, is available to buy from the Mac App Store and the iOS App Store and I am keen to try it out on the iPad Pro as an advanced editing tool which can be accessed from within iOS default Photos App.

Find more great Photography content by Photo Joseph, on his YouTube channel at the address below:

https://www.youtube.com/user/jlinaschke

And, you can find our more about RAW Power at the official Gentlmen Coders Web Site here:

https://gentlemencoders.com

I for one am really grateful that Nik Bhatt, has continued to develop a newer and more updated version of the software, we as photographers, once relied on so heavily. I am eager to see how I can include this incredible powerful RAW editor into my new iPad Pro / Cloud based workflow.

Below, you will find an introduction to RAW Power for iOS:

More helpful guides and information, is available from Gentlemen Coders, dedicated YouTube channel at the following address:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC7l78rOzFxaHG-e5AT-MGWQ/feed

A big thank you, to Photo Joseph and Nik Bhatt (a.k.a. Gentlemen Coders) in particular, for their inspiration and hard work, both of which I hope are making me a better, more efficient photographer and story teller.

Please support both Photo Joseph and Gentlemen Coders, by subscribing to their channels and if you can, purchase their products.

Giving Up A Laptop, For An iPad Pro?

As any readers of this blog will know, I recently took delivery of Apple’s iPad Pro 10.5″, complete with the Apple Smart Keyboard and the Apple Pencil. My first impressions piece, posted just the other day, was I hope, informative.

I’ve read many articles and watched several videos, of people who have “given up their DSLR and switched to mirror less” or “Ditched my Full Frame for Micro Four Thirds” type stories, which have generated a lot of hate from dedicated Full Frame/ DSLR users and a lot of love from the mirror less / Micro Four Thirds communities.

Deciding to switch from using a laptop, in favour of the latest Pad Pro, is actually much the same as when I gave up my bulky and heavy Full Frame DSLR gear, in favour of at first, the Fuji X series cameras and then finally, transitioning fully, to the excellent Panasonic Lumix GX8.

As my previous two posts have indicated, the latest iPad Pro, is as far as benchmarking goes, equal to, or better than, the usual Intel Core ‘i’ CPU / GPU combos found in many popular and often very expensive laptops. Apple MacBook Pro 13″ Retinas included.

So, the a question has been playing in my mind for some time, why carry a larger heavier item about, when, just like my DSLR to Micro Four Thirds switch, there is a lighter and more capable offering available, which is just as good, given you adapt to the some limitations, that scaling down, might bring with it?

In short, physically, the iPad Pro 10.5″ True Tone display, is the nicest display I have ever looked at on any device. Bar none. It refreshes at up to 120Hz (think of it as 120 frames per second), so animations, gestures, scrolling just everything looks sharper, smoother and crisper. It is a stunning display.

And, it covers the full P3 colour spectrum.

While this might be a cause for Adobe RGB editors to start spitting out their porridge, for the majority of photographers, who shoot in sRGB, the P3 gamut covers the entire sRGB spectrum, plus a bit more, so when you edit on this display, what you see is what you get. It is stunning.

No laptop offerings from Apple (or anyone else that I’ve found), has a laptop, with the same quality of display. Even if there was a laptop candidate with the same P3 Gamut, it lacks the 120Hz refresh rate, touch input and stylus capabilities. Just as Wacom created the Cintiq for image editors, the iPad Pro is a portable version of the Cintiq. It may not be as big or heavy, but it is PORTABLE and unlike the Wacom Cintiq, it has a fully capable computer built inside as well.

So, that pretty much brings you up to speed, on the background and hardware related reasons I’ve decided to transition to iPad Pro from my MacBook Pro 13″ Retina. The previous posts, go into a bit more detail of my experience so far, so, have a look at them if you think you might be interested.

But, for this update, I am looking at some of the Apps I have been trying out on the iPad Pro, with a view to transferring my workflow, to a more Cloud base process and how doing things on an IPad Pro, isn’t actually that different to how we do things on desktops / laptops, at the present time. It’s all just a matter of perception and some creative name changing.

I must say, that I have not set out to make this a long article, but, I am now adding this paragraph because as it turns out, it has turned into quite a long piece. I’ve tried to keep it short, but by trying to give as much essential information as I can, while trying to stick to the basics, it has turned out longer than I first thought, so apologies before hand, but hopefully you’ll find it helpful. Oh, just for the record, this entire piece was written on my iPad Pro with the Smart KeyBoard, so, you see, you can be productive on a smaller device (with the right accessories).

Any iPhone or current iPad user, already knows that there are millions of Apps in the App Store, so finding the right ones for your specific needs will differ to mine. But, for the basics, I have chosen what I think are the most suitable and most capable for my purposes.

It would be far too easy to have your iPad bogged down with screen after screen full of Apps, covering loads of different capabilities, but personally, I have decided to try to keep my iPad Pro, relatively free from clutter and set it up, at least initially, more for productivity. Well, that’s the plan for now.

Because this is a completely new way of working and interacting, with all new Apps to work out and try to refine down to a productive workflow, having loads of games or other distractions on the iPad Pro is best kept to an absolute minimum.

Of course, once I am satisfied that the iPad Pro, has the software available to be an all in one go to device, I will increase the App count to compliment every aspect of my life. But until then, I am being deliberately ‘mean’ on Apps.

I use the absolutely fantastic, Panasonic Lumix GX8. I love this camera and have written quite extensively on this blog about it. In short, for me, it’s the almost ‘perfect’ camera.

The first ‘third party’ App to download, is the Panasonic Image App, which allows control over select models of camera, from the iPad (or iPhone) via the Bluetooth or WiFi connection between camera and iPad.

The GX8, being equipped with built in WiFi, makes transferring files to the iPad Pro an absolute breeze. Just activate the WiFi on camera (Touch function on the Touchscreen) and connect your iPad Pro WiFi to the GX8 produced network. No additional dongles or adapters to plug in, no removal of SD cards etc. Just as few touchscreen touches on both devices and iPad Pro and Lumix GX8 are talking happily with each other.

You can control the GX8, remotely via the iPad Pro, or, just transfer your images over to the Camera Roll on your iPad. The remote operation, is great for a number of different scenarios, including time lapse and stop motion to name a couple, but having a 10.5″ retina P3 full gamut display to view your images on before taking them, really does make fine tuning your composition a whole lot easier (especially if your eyes are starting to get a bit older).

Obviously, depending on how many images are being transferred, the time it takes to transfer, varies, but it is fast. Panasonic, do provide options to either transfer ‘select’ images or a Bulk transfer option, so you have control over pretty much everything.

Having ensured the GX8, iPad and Panasonic App, were all getting along famously, the next option was to look for some serious image editing Apps.

Now, despite my hatred of subscription models, I do have an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription, so Lightroom CC was always going to be my ‘virtual catalogue’ App. Photoshop Fix and numerous other Apps are available to Creative Cloud members, through the Creative Cloud ‘Launcher’ App. I haven’t really had time to go through them all, but there is a wide choice available, for both stills and video makers out there.

Lightroom CC, is the newer, ‘touch friendly’ version of the classic desktop Lightroom application, that many will know and either love/hate. There is a difference though. Lightroom ‘Classic’ CC as it is now called, uses the traditional operating system hierarchical structure for your image library (catalogue).

Having looked around for reliable Cloud storage options, I received an eMail from Adobe, saying “Thanks for downloading Lightroom CC” and they very generously offered me 1TB of Cloud Storage, linked to my current Creative Cloud account, for just £4.99 extra per month, instead of the usual £9.99 with a Lightroom CC subscription.

So, I accepted the updated storage offer and now have to work out how to get my over half a Terabyte of images, up to the cloud. It is going to entail a severe level off image culling on my part. Anything that just doesn’t meet the grade, will now have to be removed. It’s something I’ve been meaning to do for a very long time and let’s be honest, I think most of us have quite a few images in our libraries, which are just too much trouble to try and ‘sort one day’, but always found a way of never getting round to it. Well, now really is the time, since I am taking a proactive approach to my digital photography and where technology is leading us.

Anyhoo, back to the Apps. Lightroom CC, looks very different to Lightroom Classic CC (original Lightroom). The traditional drive> folder> file method of building your library, has been resigned to where it really belongs (don’t hate yet, hear me out), in favour of Albums.

The old way of accessing and arranging your files, sorry, let’s call it the ‘traditional way’ of doing things, allowed for significant amounts of interoperability (ooh big word) between different applications. So, for example in Lightroom, you could select a file or files to edit in another third party application, like On1 Photo Raw, from inside Lightroom. The image could be edited in On1 Photo Raw and once finished, a copy would be saved inside your Lightroom library.

While many out there, will say that you can’t do this on an iPad Pro, they are right. You can’t. On1 haven’t made an iPad App available yet and I haven’t heard anything to suggest they will. But, what is being overlooked and a simple change of perspective will provide an ‘ah-ha’ moment, is that in modern parlance, ‘edit image in’ is the same as SHARING an image, on the iPad Pro.

Think about it. No really, think about it.

From within Lightroom, you right click and select Edit Image In and then select On1 Photo Raw (for example, other ‘plug in editor’ options will be available), and then what happens? On1 Photo Raw Application, launches and imports a copy of the selected image, once you select what kind of image you want to work on. You have literally just SHARED that image from Lightroom, to On1 Photo Raw.

Once you’re finished editing your image in On1, you save that image and On1 Photo Raw, guess what? Go on. . .On1 Photo Raw, then SHARES the file you were editing, with Lightroom and creates an edited copy within your Lightroom library. Lightroom and On1 Photo Raw have just shared an image.

This, is no different to sharing an image between the Camera Roll on iPad and Lightroom CC on iPad.

When importing your images, in Lightroom CC, select the images you want to import and then importantly, create an Album to import the images into and the files imported will appear in your gallery view, as an Album. The more Albums you create, the more will be visible in the Gallery view on Lightroom CC. It does make sense. A Gallery is where imagery is displayed and inside your gallery, you have albums of images (think of albums as Collections in Lightroom Classic CC).

Albums, are no different to Folders. They just have a different name, but essentially, perform the exact same job. So in short, in modern parlance, Folders are now Albums.

Now, I’m not going to go into each and every function of each individual App. I really haven’t been using them enough on the iPad Pro, which, I’ve only had since Thursday (delivery was meant to be Wednesday, but they went astray and arrived a day late), so this is really just my first impressions of the Apps I’m planning to use for image editing / storing (in conjunction with the cloud) and create with.

So, Lightroom CC is different to Lightroom Classic CC, albeit really just in names only. Behind the scenes, iOS is filing your files within the given storage structure of each App, which can only be accessed directly within and shared by, each individual App.

This is no different to a desktop system. If for example, I wanted to select an image I knew was in my Lightroom Classic CC Library and edit in On1 Photo Raw, I know I can do it from within Lightroom Classic CC, but On1 Photo Raw also operates a standalone Application so, I should be able to open On1 Raw and import the image I want to edit, from the Lightroom Library? Good luck with that one, because you can’t do it in reverse, as your Lightroom Library is protected, which, in modern parlance is known as being ‘sandboxed’. External applications can’t access your Lightroom Library, but from within Lightroom, you can access external applications.

This is exactly the same as on iOS devices like the iPad. For security reasons, every single application is sandboxed, so that the developer can not access your data held within other applications, unless you, choose to share the data (image in this case) from, within one application.

Now, while this might get the hardcore traditionalists yelling “you can’t arrange your own files” at their computer screens, you can, just not in the way you are used to doing it on a computer. And, this makes perfect sense, for a system that is being designed for touch input. Fingers aren’t as pointy as a cursor on the screen, but are much faster to use than a traditional mouse and keyboard.

Inside each App, there is an option to Share (think Export in Lightroom Classic CC). So, Share is essentially a touch version of export. Inside the Share options, you can instantly send your image to multiple destinations, including Save Image, which on iOS devices saves the edited file to the Camera Roll on your device.

If you have iCloud Photo Library activated, that image is instantly uploaded to your iCloud Photos Library, which makes it available across all your devices and Mac computer.

Lightroom CC, will upload your Albums to Adobe Creative Cloud once imported. Any edits you make, will be saved to Creative Cloud and just like iCloud Photo Library, will be available across any device you have Lightroom CC installed on, complete with the edits you have made.

For those who say that Lightroom CC isn’t as advanced as Lightroom Classic CC, you are correct. Not all functionality has been transferred. Yet.

Lightroom CC is a version 1 application and you have to remember that when Adobe launched the first version of Lightroom, ten years ago, it didn’t even have a Cropping tool built in.

As a direct comparison, Lightroom CC, is way more advanced than the first version of Lightroom Classic CC was upon release, so looking at how far Lightroom Classic CC has come since release, Lightroom CC will soon catch up and surpass the older version it will replace.

Lightroom CC, runs quickly and smoothly. It doesn’t have all the baggage of 32-bit and 64-bit Mac / Windows variants to carry around with it. It has been designed, from the ground up to run on 64-bit iOS, which means further development of new features and updates, will be quicker, since it is being written for just one operating system.

For the most needed editing options, Lightroom CC has it covered and some more on top, but, if you want full features, there are additional Adobe Apps available to Creative Cloud Subscribers, like Photoshop Fix etc. Photoshop isn’t currently being carried over as a complete single App, so Adobe have broken things down into set Apps for doing set edits on images and videos. Open Creative Cloud App and click More Apps to find them. They can be launched from within Creative Cloud or obtained and downloaded via Creative Cloud embedded links to the App Store.

If you require and all in one stand alone editor, the highest regarded App is Affinity Photo by Serif (costs £19.99 one off payment). This is a very powerful pro level image editor and completely different to anything Adobe has to offer.

While Adobe, are offering Photoshop edit Apps for certain types of editing, Affinity Photo, contains all the tools inside of Affinity Photo, where they are called ‘Personas’.

So, from inside Affinity Photo, the default upon opening is the basic image editing persona, where you can correct most of the things you would want to change on an image. For creating more complex imagery, like composites, where you require blending of images, liquify features, selection tools etc, you have Personas for each activity, where depending on what has been a selected, the Tools change accordingly to the Persona selected.

Once you have selected a Persona, the Tools change according to the default Persona, but inside each persona, there are dedicated ‘Studios’, where dedicated editing options are made available. It does sound complicated, but once you start to get used to the changes (especially if you are used to using Photoshop), the logic of their layout choices, starts to make a lot of sense.

Fortunately, there are huge Help resources with Affinity Photo, with videos to help get you familiarised with the App. It can be a little unsettling, but after watching the videos a couple of times, or taking your time to study what is being explained in the help tutorials, things start to become more familiar.

As I said, I’ve only been using it on and off for a couple of days, so, still have a lot to learn, but it’s pretty intuitive once you start to become a bit more familiar with how Serif has set it up.

Time will tell, but Affinity Photo in the limited time I have been using it, is a definite keeper of an App. There are vast numbers of additional more advanced tutorial videos available either via YouTube or on Affinity Photo’s Web Site (Help Section). Spending some time and patience, just as we had to do when starting out with Photoshop or any other image editing software, when we opened it up for the fist time, which is why in my previous two blog posts, I suggest the sooner you start the transition to the new way of doing things, the better placed you will be when those who don’t start now, to take advantage of the opportunities to maximise your output, while every body else is playing catch up.

The Photography business is going towards instant delivery, instant edits, hybrid (stills mixed with video and audio) products, which are all centred on the Touch Screen devices of the future. We are already there to some extent, with the expansion of interactive publications, which contain still images and moving images in one article or title. The days of flat images on paper, are well and truly on their last legs. Just ask any printed daily newspaper editor for proof. Circulation has sunk, as their offerings are more and more moving towards Digital version dominance.

Here in the U.K, The Independent, was the first national broadsheet to scrap print altogether in favour of an entirely online presence. The others will have no choice, but to follow suit. The next generation of newspaper readers, are being raised with iPads and smartphones. Traditional computers have zero interest to them as they aren’t mobile enough. Why carry a hefty laptop with you, when a super powerful tablet can do everything you could possibly want?

This is the generation who were raised with instant content, super fast web speeds and instant snap a pic then share with the world within seconds. It’s time to start smelling the coffee if you want to remain competitive and successful.

This is the generation who will want hybrid images of their weddings, birthdays etc, so we as Photographers, have to get on board now, before we end up going the same way as Kodak.

This generation maybe be able to do all these things on their touch devices now, but these touch devices will never produce the image quality of a proper camera with top glass on the front and that, is why we must transition before pro photography is resigned to history.

ProCreate, (no, not that procreate, get your mind out of the gutter) is a, I was going to say sketching App, but it is so much more. This is a fully fledged pro level artistic beast, which offers basic digital sketch features, through to creating advanced digital art and then merging them with real images or HYBRID imagery. Again, there is a bit of a steep learning curve, if you are unfamiliar with sketch Apps, but at £9.99, it is an absolute bargain and one I am really excited about getting more into.

This has already become quite a long post, which wasn’t my intention, but the Apps are an important element here. In fact, they are the more important element. The iPad Pro hardware has the oomph to do anything you could possibly want without breaking a sweat, but it’s the Apps that are available, that will determine if you can actually make one your go to device.

With the offerings Adobe currently has on offer, with regular updates apparently being the norm, Serif’s absolutely stunning Affinity Photo, even with the learning curve required and ProCreate for doing some artistic elements, a photographer on the go, could quite easily, make an iPad Pro there go to device.

With additional Apps, like Google’s SnapSpeed and the very powerful Pixelmator, most editing requirements can be met on the iPad Pro.

Now there are caveats to this, because it all depends on your own workflow requirements. If for example, you batch process a huge number of images at a time, I have yet to find a way to accomplish a batch of images. I’m not saying that it isn’t possible (yet), it’s just I haven’t delved deep enough into the Apps I have installed so far.

What has helped tremendously, is the two add ons I purchased for the iPad Pro. Apple’s Smart Keyboard and Pencil, are absolutely a must, if you want to increase your productivity on the iPad Pro. The Smart Keyboard on the 10.5″ is a perfect size for me to be typing away quite happily.

My Aunt, by comparison, has the first gen 9.7″ iPad Pro and while it is a nice device, her Smart Keyboard, is just too ‘tight’ for comfortable manoeuvring. That little extra width on the new improved 10.5, really does make all the difference.

Editing with the Apple Pencil, is an absolute joy. Pinching to zoom on your image with fast and accurate brush adjustments, allows for super demanding edits. Although it has only been a few days that I’ve been using the iPad Pro, I haven’t been left feeling it was a mistake. It may have taken me time to find the setting I wanted to adjust, but that’s par for the course with any new software you use. Adobe do it one way, SnapSpeed does it another and Serif with Affinity Photo, do it in their own particular way.

I have been using the iPad Pro, mostly at home with just a couple of ventures out and about, but I have deliberately been avoiding going anywhere near my 27″ iMac, or MacBook Pro, whenever I find myself temporarily stumped, as reverting to a Mac, is just a simple solution. The idea, is to see if the iPad Pro, can be used exclusively and so far, I haven’t needed to do anything, that I can’t do on an iPad Pro.

FTP uploads were a concern, but the image library I use, have an iPad friendly FTP client built in to the Web Based upload page, which have tried out a couple of transfers, works like a charm, so there shouldn’t be any issue if you need to upload via FTP.

Once I have become more familiar with each App’s own ‘way’ and discovered or programmed an efficient workflow into my muscle memory, I see no reason why I’d need a laptop or desktop for that matter ever again.

As I have said in me previous two articles, I honestly feel that tablets are the future of computing and most definitely the solution for mobile productivity. Combined with the data transfer speeds we enjoy today, along with 5G just around the corner, speeds are just going to keep getting better.

Cloud storage is very affordable. Apple for example, offer 2TB of iCloud storage for just £6.99 per month. Now I know that works out at roughly the cost of a 2TB hard drive each year, but the Cloud does back up your data and has redundant back ups in place too, to ensure the data is pretty much impossible to loose.

If you had a local solution, you would need the 2TB hard drive for your library and a second 2TB as a backup. If one drive fails, which lets face it, happens more than we would like, there’s additional cost and time involved in making a new back up of your entire library.

I know that cloud storage isn’t infallible and there is always the worry of data loss, but it is no worse than that of a local solution. It’s probably less likely to happen, since the servers being used are industrial strength hardware and not the cheaper ‘consumer class’ that is traditionally used by us mere mortals.

This process is not easy and there is a learning curve, especially when it comes to the different software options you will be using, but, to be honest, it hasn’t been as hard as I first thought it would be.

In a few more weeks, I should be fairly proficient as I become more settled into the new operating environment I am using. Sure, the display on the iPad Pro is smaller, but that’s no different than going from a 27″ desktop to using a 13″ or 15″ laptop. The higher the resolution, the more onscreen real estate you have to play with and with HDR capable displays on both iPad Pro sizes, there’s room to spare when editing. Images look stunning on these things and the battery life is excellent and beats any more capable laptops.

Only you can decide which is right for you, but I would urge you to try one of these iPad Pro models out. I know it’s a relatively expensive outlay initially, but, if you find that it replaces your laptop, reduces travel costs due to less weight and encourages you to use it more, it is the way content is going to be created, distributed and consumed in the future.

As I mentioned earlier, I use Lumix GX8 which has built in WiFi. Combined with the Panasonic Image App, I can remote operate my GX8 and shoot untethered, straight from the iPad Pro. I can either save the file to iPad Pro or on the camera and transfer later. I can tell you, I used to make fun of people using the iPad as a camera, but using it as a remote screen / capture device, is incredible.

The full P3 colour Gamut, the Retina display and the 120Hz refresh rate, makes it an absolute joy to use. Using the iPad Pro as a remote viewer, also means I have removed a couple of extra bits of kit out of my bag, reducing the weight of my gear even more than just replacing the laptop.

My neck, shoulders and elbows, appreciate every ounce that has been lost as a result of down sizing. Micro four thirds, with iPad Pro and some top Apps, really does bring a powerful studio to a small bag set up.

There is no way I will ever go back to a large DSLR kit and in time, I can see my entire on the go work kit, fitting into one compact bag, that I can carry all day, without noticing, allowing me to venture out and go places a larger kit either, makes you think twice about, or puts you off going altogether.

Finally, I would just add, that having bought the WiFi only model, this was deliberate as my iPhone has a nice Data allowance and can be used as a WiFi hotspot on the go, uploading to the Creative Cloud, is quick and painless. I just set it to sync when I’m driving to and from destinations, so by the time I get home, my images are safely stored on Creative Cloud and instantly available on any device I have Creative Cloud App installed on.

Apple’s iPad Pro 10.5”, First Impressions. . .

Back in late 2015, when Apple launched the jumbo sized 12.9″ iPad Pro.

It was huge.

Massive in fact.

A first for the iPad, the iPad Pro, featured a stylus, which Apple called the Pencil and the iPad Pro, was upgrade to incorporating 4, yes a 4 stereo speaker system. It sounded really good and looked great.

In the spring of 2016, a few months after the initial iPAd Pro launch, Apple revealed a new 9.7″ derivation, which along with the 4 speakers and Pencil compatibility, introduced us to the True Tone Display. It was clever stuff. An almost full P3 spectrum display, which auto adjusted the colour tone, based on the ambient light in which the iPad Pro was being used in.

The smaller iPad Pro, didn’t have the same innards as the 12.9″, being equipped with a measly 2GB RAM and a slightly slower clock rate, but that display was lovely.

The True Tone display of the smaller derivative, did put quite a few noses out of joint, especially for those who purchased the ultra expensive 12.9″ version, so, in 2017 when Apple launched the second generation versions, they sort of made amends. Both new versions were equipped with 4GB RAM a full P3 True Tone Display and pretty much ran at the same CPU / GPU clock rate.

The smaller version, 9.7″ was dumped and improved with the launch of the reduced bezel 10.5″ while the 12.9″, kept the exact same form factor as the previous generation.

Both new models were also equipped with a ProMotion Display.

ProMotion?

Yeah. Apple have to give a name to everything.

Displays, generally run at 60Hz, or as some people refer to it a 60 frames per minute rate. ProMotion, increased that frame rate to 120 (or 120Hz), which makes for faster and smoother interaction and most significantly, absolutely minimal lag when using the Apple Pencil on the display.

The first generation displays had a slight gap between the display and the top glass, so this time round, Apple, really went all out, with fully laminated displays, which removed the gap between the display and the glass, which feels almost like you are writing on paper with the pencil now.

The displays on the latest generation of iPad Pro are amazing. The colours pop and the clarity is stunning. Apple really are just showing off with these devices now.

Most importantly, the new iPad Pro have been outfitted with a 6 core CPU and a 12 core GPU. These things are designed for power users and in some benchmark results, actually out perform Apple own top end MacBook Pro 13″ and the lower end Intel Core i5 based 15″ models. For under half the price. It wipes the floor with the MacBooks.

So, what are Apple thinking of here?

Why would Apple, make their iPad Pro more powerful than a MacBook Pro laptop or any other Windows based laptop?

The answer is simple.

I’m guessing that Apple, are showing you that the Mac will soon be dead and the iPad is essentially the new Mac. The iPad Pro, really is a highly capable device.

So, the 10.5″ iPad Pro? What is it like?

In short? Absolutely brilliant.

It’s fast. Very fast.

The display is an absolute joy to use. It’s brighter, more colour accurate and that small increase in a size over the original 9.7″ format, is a welcome upgrade. Side by side with the 12.9″, the larger iPad Pro is a phenomenal beast, but a beast it is.

I would have loved a 12.9″ for main use at home, but for carrying about with me, day to day, the 12.9″ is just a bit on the awkward size. The 10.5″ by comparison, is perfect for actually doing real time stuff and just the right size for consuming pointless games or spending hours watching cats on YouTube.

The Smart KeyBoard, is a very expensive addition at @£150.00 and the Apple Pencil is another expensive add on, but when combined with the iPad Pro, make the iPad Pro and altogether more capable device.

I will do a full review a bit later, but my first impressions are good all round. The increased size of the Smart Keyboard, over the original 9.7″ Smart Keyboard, gives just that little bit more room to be able to type much more freely and nowhere near as cramped as the previous one. The keys, do take a little getting used to, since there is apparently no physical key mechanism beneath that water resistant fabric. Speaking of which, I haven’t tested with liquid, but, the ‘feel’ when typing, does a give a certain assurance that any desktop or lap based spillage, will not be a problem for this little keyboard.

Being a Smart Keyboard, there isn’t really anything ‘Smart’ about it, other than it is powered via the iPad battery through a magnetic connection. The magnets are strong and there is little chance the Smart Keyboard will fall off without a good amount of help.

I have read other reviews where the reviewer has complained about the lack of keyboard short cut keys, but when attached to the iPad Pro, the Varley bottom of the display, changes to a ‘quick type’ area, which gives word prompts as you type. A simple flick of a finger up to the screen to select the chosen word, saves time actually typing.

To the side of the ‘word offerings’ there are shortcuts for Bold, Italic, Underline on the right of prompt bar and on the left, there are forward backward arrow keys and a media addition key, at least in the Word Press app I’m using at the moment.

The Smart Keyboard, may not offer the fastest tying experience, but not being a perfect typist, I have absolutely no problem after a small period of adjustment and am typing away quite happily, with little problem.

The Apple Pencil, is phenomenal and is a must have item for anyone using the iPad Pro. The lack of trackpad on the Smart Keyboard, when compared to the likes of the Microsoft Surface Pro, does initially make you stop and think. This is purely a human thing. When the iPAd Pro and the Smart Keyboard are being used together, the brain sees a screen and a keyboard and mine at least expected it to act like a laptop. Unlike the Surface Pro, which is essentially a laptop with some touch screen capabilities and pen input, but, little dedicated tablet functionality (which is more down to the operating system, Windows 10 that’s being run on it. Windows 8, as everyone and their dog must know by now, was a tablet centred operating system, which sank like a brick when Microsoft launched it).

The iPad Pro, is a tablet first and foremost. The ‘laptop’ like capabilities, are more a convenience for those unwilling to go whole hog, into a tablet future.

The quad speaker system, is impressive from such a thin and light piece of kit. Whilst missing the heft of a subwoofer, the speakers in the iPad Pro, produce enough low end to make the overall sound clean and very listenable, instead of the usual ‘tinny’ sounds most often associated with mobile devices.

The second generation Touch I.D, unfortunately, still houses a physical Home Button, but works quickly and accurately. My being used to the iPhone 7 / 8 Home Button (or lack of a physical button) arrangement, does feel like a step back in some respects, but it is quicker than the Touch I.D on every previous iPad offering of any flavour.

The two cameras have been significantly upgraded and now house the same cameras as those found on the iPhone 7: front facing 7 mega pixel ‘FaceTime’ on the display side and a 12 Mega Pixel, optically stabilised, True Tone Flash equipped unit on the rear of the device.

Many have questioned why Apple should have equipped the iPad Pro with such high quality cameras and the obvious answer is ‘because they could’. The more logical answer, is that iOS 11 features a Document Scanning capability, so the 12 Mega Pixel rear camera, ensures a high quality copy is being recorded.

The rear camera also records Live Photo’s which thanks to the improved grunt of the iPAd Pro’s innards, can be edited and shared with minimal fuss or ‘virtual sweat’.

This actually brings me to a point in hand. The iPad Pro is so powerful, that even after almost 11 months since first being launched, even the more pro orientated Apps, really aren’t stressing the hardware out. Apple have clearly built this for the foreseeable future and with WWDC just around the corner, iOS 12, I feel, will bring some incredible new features, which will expand the capabilities of the iPad Pro even more.

As I said earlier, it is early days and having been so used to my MacBook Pro 13″ Retina, I do have some adjustments to make, but in the short time I have been using this new combination, I can see no reason why anybody would be left wanting for an all in one mobile solution.

What I can says, is that having been used to the larger 13″ Retina display, you might think that I would find it a little difficult adjusting to a smaller 10.5″ display, but the reality is, I actually prefer the smaller display. I think this is probably due to my liking of the MacBook Air 11″ laptop. I absolutely loved the form factor of that little computer, but the processing and graphics capabilities of the 10.5″ iPad Pro, combined with the stunning display on the 10.5″, leaves the little Core i5 equipped MacBook Air, in the dust.

Now, all I need to do, is acquire some additional apps for image editing and try those out for my full review, but already, I can see this iPad Pro being my go to device. The True Tone display auto adjusting to suit the the ambient light, is such a relief on the eyes, that I really am starting to quite dislike the cold blueness on the MacBook Pro and even the 120fps screen refresh rate, makes the retina MacBook Pro display, look a little paltry by comparison.

My previous post, ‘Apple, Is It Time To Kill The Mac?’, were personal musings, based on the evidence that is already out there and theorising about it.

Now, having got the hardware in my own hands and trying it out first hand, not just playing with it in a shop, I think the future is absolutely clear.

I know change is hard to accept and it usually comes around, when we’re set in our own ways and have perfected the way we do things, to the point it becomes almost second nature. The same thing happened with Cameras, when photographers were reluctant to move from film to digital.

The early adopters found out the shortfalls, adapted their workflow to accommodate, so that when the digital technology was up to the standards of and then moved beyond the standards and quality of 35mm film, they were already to go and take full advantage of the latest tech.

Those who held out, were gradually forced into joining the Digital revolution, once film stocks had been cut and then eventually, the production of the films they relied on stopped, they had only two choices: adapt or retire.

Computer users are pretty much in the same place now, as film photographers were in with the Digital cameras. Digital cameras, hung around for a few years, incremental update after incremental update, until Canon, launched the EOS 10D, a 6.3 Mega Pixel beast, that had excellent image quality and high ISO capabilities (for the time), which beat all the rivals. This, was the camera that made me switch to Digital, full time and I loved the EOS 10D. My trusted 35mm Film camera was resigned to ‘occasional use’ until it just became a dust gatherer, since the EOS 10D outperformed it in every way.

Now, computer users are in the same boat. The current generation of iPad Pro, are in my opinion, the EOS 10D moment for computer users. These are the Tablets that will change everything now. They are more capable CPU / GPU wise than most current laptops, and the software isn’t yet taking full advantage of the power they have to offer.

So, the choices for computer users is pretty straight forward. Do you stick with the dying format you’re used to, know your way around and feel comfortable with? Or, do you take the plunge and start using the iPad Pro now? Is it time to start your transition away from the antiquated desktop / laptop formats? A resounding yes!

When I got my Canon EOS 10D, the clear and present danger to film cameras at the time, I was blown away by the output the camera gave me, (some of my EOS 10D shots are still amongst my favourites ever taken), the iPad Pro is the clear and present danger to the old ways of doing things and ‘traditional’ computers.

It really is. There are no bones about it. The future is set and Apple’s iPad Pro, is going to redefine what a computer is and how we interact with and create on one.

So, just as Apple did back in 1984 with the “Think Different” campaign, it really is time to start thinking differently once more. The sooner you do, the quicker you’ll be able to utilise the software that will inevitabley follow.

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, Adobe are already rewriting Lightroom for a Tablet future. Photoshop and their other offerings will follow suit. Serif have shown what can be done with the super powerful Affinity Photo iPad version of their desktop Application of the same name.

Sure, you could wait until things ‘develop’ a bit more, but at the current rate of development, Tablets are the way to go. The best Tablets, are iPad Pro. Cloud storage is the way to go. Together, they really are an unstoppable combination.

Do you want to see into the future? Look below. It’s right in front of your eyes.

The writing’s on the wall.

Apple, Is It Time To Kill The Mac?

There have been many articles over the years, either asking if, or declaring that, the Mac is dead. Most cause great amounts of hate from Mac users, but please save any hating until you’ve read and hopefully thought about what is being suggested, in this blog.

In November 2017, Apple released a promotional video, for their latest iPad Pro, called “iPad Pro – What’s a Computer?”. You can watch the video below:

It features a young girl, going about here busy day, doing lots of clever stuff, on here iPad Pro. Now, there are many questions raised in the promo video, like why is she tearing around a city unsupervised? or, How did she get up that tree?. But, the closing line, speaks volumes and gives us the answer to this blog article’s particular question.

The little girl’s neighbour, asks “what’re you doing on your computer?”, to which the girl responds, “What’s a computer?”.

This ad, really does, in my opinion, show clearer than ever, where Apple sees the future, but before we get there, there are some other small slices of evidence, which support the “what’s a computer?” question.

Stay with me on this. . .

When Apple announced the HomePod, it was made very clear, that HomePod was reinventing how we listen to music in the home. Hence the name, HOMEPOD. Think of it as an iPod for your Home. Apple HomePod, runs an Apple A8 CPU and a version of iOS 11. The last update was 2.36GB in size. That’s a lot of software for one little speaker.

I have a HomePod and listen to it daily, throughout the day. It is an exceptional feat of engineering and it sounds fantastic. I love my HomePod.

What has this got to do with the “What’s a Computer?” promo video, I hear you ask?

Simply put, the HomePod, can only be set up using an iOS device. (Yeah, so what? I hear you say.)

The HomePod can only be set up using either an iPad or an iPhone. In your home. (Yeah, you said that already. So what?).

Ask yourself this: why would a home based device, not be allowed to be set up, using a home based computer, like an iMac, Mac Mini, Mac Pro or a mobile computer like the MacBook, MacBook Pro or MacBook Air lines?

Answers on a postcard to. . .no seriously, why do you think this is? It’s not that Mac’s are incapable of doing it, with the correct programming. It’s because Apple doesn’t want them to do it. So, there is only one logical conclusion to make. . .

But, before we get there, consider this.

Apple launched the Apple Watch. The Apple Watch is an iOS dedicated device. It runs a version of iOS.

AppleTV, Apple’s home based entertainment system, evolved into an iOS running device. Apple TV is easier to set up with an iOS device. An iOS device can be used to control your Apple TV.

Last Autumn, Apple, released a huge upgrade to their mobile operating system iOS, specifically for the iPad, which brought many significant new features and capabilities, like a sudo file system, Drag ‘n’ Drop, split screen and advanced multitasking, a more advanced Dock (more like the Dock on a Mac), advanced hand writing recognition and one, which is often overlooked, that actually speaks volumes, Document Scanning capabilities (hence the higher quality cameras the iPad Pro line in particular, was equipped with). Document scanning, removes the physical need for a standalone or all in one, desktop scanner.

Suddenly, that desktop you sit at, is going to have a bit more free space on it.

“Ah decluttering, isn’t it great?”

Let’s keep going. . .

A few years ago, Apple introduced the Launchpad on Mac OS X, which was an icon based Application launcher, very much in line with the home screen on iOS. Many Mac users, hated this and hailed it as an irrelevance.

Except, it wasn’t.

It was the first stage in the changing of perception, Apple, needed to implement, to start weaning Mac users away (sub consciously) from the old conventional file system based way of doing things and onto the more ‘acceptable’ iOS way of launching things.

Things further evolved with macOS High Sierra, when Apple implemented the new APFS file system, for Solid State based storage drives. A complete overhaul of the operating system’s core file system. It’s basic structure.

APFS, is how iOS devices have stored data, since it was first introduced in iOS 10.3. One year later, SSD based Macs, by default were transitioned over to the APFS file system.

Why is this significant?

Because eventually, all Mac and iOS Apps, will be unified and will run equally well on both systems. Two outwardly different operating systems, but at core level, identical. Obviously, iOS is far more advanced than macOS, due to the touch input recognition and capabilities. macOS can understand the TrackPad inputs and gestures, but the entire screen experience found on iOS devices, leaves the TrackPad experiences, wanting.

What this means, is that developers who make Apps for macOS, are having to change their coding for the APFS file system, so that their Apps, when Apple chooses to allow it, will run on iOS devices as well as Macs.

I would be a bit surprised if Apple announced at this years WWDC, the unification of Apps, but it might well happen. Personally, I feel that under Tim Cook, Apple are more likely to adopt the unification of Apps at WWDC in 2019, allowing them a bit more time to transition end users over to their way of thinking.

I would much rather Apple just got on with it and announced it this year, so that developers could get on the fast track and get the Apps sorted out by Autumn, when the new versions of iOS and macOS (potentially just Apple OS?) are released.

With the latest generation of iPad Pro, I will be doing a review of the iPad Pro 10.5, Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil, next week (I’ve taken the plunge and ordered all three, which should arrive to me on Wednesday), Apple have equipped it with some serious levels of grunt. iPad Pro is a very powerful device.

Apple gave the iPad Pro, the A10X Fusion chip, with 6 CPU cores ( 3 Performance Cores and 3 Energy efficient Cores), gave all iPad Pro 4GB RAM and upped the standard level of SSD storage (64GB is now the base storage level). They also introduced a 120MHz refresh rate display called ProMotion, which improves the experience for drawing, image editing, video editing etc, by giving creative users, a display which is far superior to anything on offer from a conventional Mac.

The A10X in some benchmark results, out performed Intel’s mobile i5 series of CPUs and even some variants of the mobile Intel Core i7 CPU, by quite significant margins. It is clear, that Apple are aiming the iPad Pro at mobile computers (more commonly called laptops).

Apple’s biggest selling lines of computer are? Go on guess. . .

Laptops.

Apple sells more MacBooks (Pro and Air included) than they sell desktops. They have since before Steve Jobs, sadly passed away. Steve Jobs, when announcing the changing of the Apple Computers name to just Apple, stated that Apple “was a mobile devices company”. The future path was set.

Apple’s current iPad Pro, outperform in benchmark tests, Apple’s own more expensive line of MacBook Pro laptops.

Now, anyone who has used Apple products, will know first hand, that Apple has never shied away from making radical decisions and implementing the changes needed as a result of these decisions.

Removing Floppy Drives, before everybody else did, in favour of CD Drives and then DVD drives.

Removing DVD drives altogether.

Adding WiFi and bluetooth as connection methods, before everybody else followed suit.

The first to introduce USB ports.

The removal of the head phone jack on a portable music playing device (iPhone 7) which caused all sorts of harrumphing around the globe.

One of their biggest changes? Abandoning PowerPC CPU in favour of Intel CPU, a complete change in architecture and new software code, yet despite this, Apple have increased in popularity and have become the biggest company on the globe.

None of these decisions, has had a negative effect on Apple. They just keep going from strength to strength, as people find workarounds, or adapt to the new way of doing things.

Apple’s introduction of HomeKit, was a huge step in Smart Home Tech development, all Smart Gadgets in your Home, being controlled via your iOS devices. Not Macs. iOS devices, for control of your home.

So, what’s next?

The biggest radical decision ever. . .

Apple will kill off Mac computers. Not totally, but for non professional users, the Mac will just be too expensive to justify the cost.

Before you start hating on me, take a look at the iMac Pro. Apple has never felt the need for a Pro version of the iMac before, so why now?

When Apple revealed the newest Mac Pro in 2013, there were oohs and ahhhhh galore, but it wasn’t a modular system which allowed for easy upgrade. Any upgrades where essentially expensive Thunderbolt based externals, which meant lots of wires and extra desk space for them. So, just last year Apple revealed the iMac Pro and just look at the price of it! Add a few custom options and then look at the price again!

It is a beautiful machine, but lets face it, well beyond the budgets of mere mortals. The iMac Pro, is aimed squarely at businesses with mega budgets who need and can afford the latest mega powerful machines.

The standard lines, as is usual, have seen minor internal upgrades, but remain pretty stagnant by new design, new features / capability standards, while the iPad Pro range has been developed and engineered to outperform Apple’s own MacBook Pro series of laptops.

I’ll say that again. Apple, are now making iPads, that are more powerful than their more expensive laptops.

Is the future starting to reveal itself to you yet?

Adobe, stopped making their pro software available to buy, instead, taking on a subscription model, which alienated a large number of their customers (me included), but eventually, as Adobe started to scale their offerings more, an affordable package was made available to photographers, which included Lightroom and Photoshop.

More recently, Adobe launched a different type of Lightroom, which took the Lightroom CC moniker and replaced the original Lightroom CC offering, which then became Lightroom Classic CC. the new Lightroom CC, runs on iPad and has Pencil capabilities on the iPad Pro.

Lightroom CC, syncs your Lightroom image library across all your devices, which have Lightroom CC installed, using Adobes’ own AI servers. All corrections are carried forward to whatever device you run Lightroom CC on. Hmmmm. That’s a bit clever.

Is the future revealing itself any clearer yet?

Before we are ready to accept the inevitable and it is inevitable, we end users, need to be re-eductaed. We need to learn the newest, more efficient ways of doing things. That’s why, having been iPad free for many years, I have purchased an iPad Pro 10.5, with Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil. I am going to have to start developing a new workflow for my image editing, that doesn’t depend on the old “desktop and multiple drives” model.

The new model, will be based entirely on Cloud storage. Now, while some may balk at that prospect, I was one of them until just recently, it makes perfect sense, especially for photographers.

Cloud storage, is constantly backing itself up, so in the event of their drives failing, there’s always a backup to hand to restore from. In the unlikely, but possible event, that fails too, there are redundant backups in place to ensure the backups are backed up too. Even redundant backups have their own redundant backups in place, so the chances of ever loosing your images or data, are much less than having local storage, which is subject to power failures, corruption, drive failures to name a few.

The minor disadvantage and which is why I am starting this process now, is that I have hundreds upon hundreds of gigabytes worth of images (almost a Terabyte), which will take an absolute age to upload to a cloud service, especially on my ultra crap high speed broadband, but better to start sooner, rather than later.

With virtually all cameras having WiFI built in, transferring images has never been easier. No more connecting up and importing the old physical way. The data just flows from Camera to iPad and then up to the Cloud. Minimal fuss, a faster, almost instant sharing and delivery to your clients.

But I digress.

The way things are going, we won’t need hefty desktops to do heavy processing for us. The iPad Pro can edit and render 12 minutes of 4K video footage, faster than a retina MacBook Pro with Core i5 and 8GB RAM can (so can an iPhone 6s Plus).

With connection speeds and ever increasing bandwidth being made available, we will eventually be able to edit content on our mobile devices and get the servers’ processing power, to do the heavy lifting, before it packages it up and sends it back to our devices within minutes. Cloud processing.

There will be no need for a powerful desktop in your home.

Which, brings me back to Apple’s HomePod.

Apple’s HomePod, the smart speaker for your home environment, can only be set up via an iOS device.

Apple are already telling you that computers, as we currently quantify them, are a thing of the past (for most people). The iPad Pro “What’s a computer?” promo, makes it crystal clear where the future lies.

So, “what IS a computer?”

Apple have already told you.

It’s time to accept the inevitable and start to adapt to newer and different ways of doing things. Adobe with Lightroom CC, currently offered as an alternative to, but inevitably, replacing Lightroom Classic CC, are showing you where it’s going. . .Online and in the Cloud.

Affinity Photo has gone from Mac App, to a fully fledged iPad App.

The writing has started to appear on the wall. It’s about time you started reading it.

As I said earlier, I have an iPad Pro 10.5, Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil arriving on Wednesday. Personally, the 12.9″ iPad Pro is awesome, but too large to be comfortably carried around as a portable solution for me. I always loved the original size of the iPad, and just being a little bigger, with 20% extra screen real estate over the 9.7″, I think will suit me just fine.

I’m starting my workflow’s transitional journey, which will take time, but the sooner you start yours, the sooner you will be ready for that inevitable day: your Mac dies, or is just too slow to be useful, and there is no longer one available to buy to replace it.

So, what is a computer? It’s whatever allows you to do what you want to do, but not necessarily in the same way you’re used to doing it

Apple HomePod. . .Experience The Music

I wrote recently about Apple’s little ‘smart’ speaker and asked if, in my opinion, it was the dud that most reviewers are saying it is. In short, I decided that HomePod, despite the stupid name, is a fantastic device, as you can see below:

IMG_0499

When playing, the glass touchpad on top of HomePod displays Volume up and down icons (+ -)

So, why are you writing about it again then? You might well ask. . .

Because, having spent more time listening to HomePod (Beats 1 and various different tracks / playlists / artists) virtually every waking minute of every day since my last piece, something really hit me. . .

I’m loving music again and it has everything to do with HomePod’s amazing sound.

I’m not going to get bogged down with the superficial of how ‘smart’ the A.I is. Siri is Siri, she does what she’s programmed to do and does it mostly well, but like on other devices, not always 100% accurate (see Nakhane below). What is important about a speaker, is the sound, so with that in mind, here are my real feelings about HomePod:

I have a pretty varied taste in music, from classical all the way through industrial metal on to EDM / Trance, synth pop  and beyond to the likes of R&B, Funk, Disco.

I really don’t care what genre of music it may fall into, if I like something, I play it. I’ll play new stuff (Beats 1 is great for discovering new music, as well as Siri recommendations “hey Siri, play something you think I’ll like”, has helped me discover loads of new artists / bands, that I would likely never have heard.

IMG_0500

When Siri is activated, the glass touchpad displays a multicoloured dot which changes during Siri Activity

A recent discovery is Nakhane (Siri pronounced it Nak-hane instead of how it actually sounds Na-khané – Apple get some work done correcting pronunciation please?) but WOW! What a find Nakhane is.

Nakhane has an incredible voice and his powerful lyrics, based on the experiences of his religious faith, clashing with his sexuality as a gay man, in the face of the discrimination targeted at him by society, are put to catchy outside influences, mixed with traditional African beats and rhythms, creating a deep and powerful mix of pop, dance and ballad throughout what is, an absorbing and rewarding album.

I absolutely love “Clairvoyent” and “Interloper” with it’s Goldfrapp “Strict-Machine”-esque thumping electro beat running through it, but the entire “You Will Not Die” album is from start to finish, a wonderful and emotional, sonic experience.

The point is, I have tried playing almost every imaginable genre of music through HomePod and I have absolutely fallen in love with music again. I simply forgot how good speakers will do that to you, instead, just accepting mediocre or ok sound quality from a variety of devices / sources, whilst gradually reducing the amount of time I spent listening to actual music to the point of only listening to occasional tracks.

HomePod has changed that. And thank goodness. . .

The soundscape, the separation, the ambience and the emotion flood through you and transport you to a more serene, intimate place where imagination and hope thrive and the daily grind gets slowly squeezed from your body and mind, one second at a time, until finally, you are a much better version of yourself, than the one that started the listening process.

Without music, life is unimaginable. So, why do we settle for mediocre sound quality? Price?

If you can afford one, the HomePod is an absolute gem of a sound system (there are quite a few on eBay, so look around and you could save yourself a few quid under the £319.00 retail price), or just say stuff it and go into your nearest store and cough up the £319.00. It will likely be the best £319.00 you will ever spend. It really is that good.

The HomePod bass is unbelievable. Really, it is a feat of engineering that such a small unit, can produce so many different genres and ranges of bass with ease and ZERO distortion.

Drums on the HomePod, sound like drums. Every instrument is distinct, precise and defined, without being isolated from the soundscape it is a part of. This could be getting played in the room with you. In fact whatever you’re listening to, could be being performed right there in the room you are listening to it in. The sound is really that all encompassing and all from a minuscule, just short of 7″ tall, speaker??? It’s obscene! (that’s really good).

The following contains descriptions about physical and emotional responses to the listening experience, which some may find ‘odd’ for a guy to be talking about, but I don’t just listen to music, I feel the music I listen to, through a range of responses from shivers down the spine, to goosebumps, through joy, happiness, feeling melancholy, the hurt and the pain and all the way through to love and joy again.

Music is emotive. And so it should be.

Some examples:

I was listening to Rumer the other evening. . .OMG! It was like she was singing to me personally, right there. That incredible voice, making the hair on the back of my neck stand up whilst melting all my troubles away. It was an incredible and an utterly beautiful experience.

Try some Carpenter’s, if you dare. Karen’s voice will wash all over you and force you into submission. Her heartfelt emotion will fill every cell of your being and consciousness. Each vocal nuance pulling on your heartstrings. The sense of loss, anxiety and despair displayed through each weakened vocal retreat.

Karen Carpenter, could be right there, singing just for you. The tragic loss, more telling and heart breaking than when first hearing she had died so young.  “This Masquerade” is a thoroughly sumptuous and sensual affair.

Roy Orbison and the Travelling Wilbury’s “Not Alone Anymore”, sounds even more haunting with each vibrato in Orbison’s delicately placed tones, knowing that he died shortly after recording such a wonderful song. The sense of loss while listening is palpable. Roy Orbison, was huge. A true legend.

Pink Floyd, Bach, Peter Gabriel, Kate Bush, Beethoven, Annie Lennox, Aretha Franklin, Chopin, Sky (Rameau’s “Gavotte and Variations” on Sky II is particularly impressive), Mozart, Gary Numan’s “Savage (Songs From A Broken World), Kraftwerk’s “`The Mix”, Solar Stone’s “Rain Stars Eternal” or “Pure”, Adele’s “25”, Prince, Etta James, Lionel Ritchie, Christopher Cross, Michael Jackson, Heatwave, Imagination, Stevie Wonder, Years and Years, London Grammar (goosebump time throughout), ELO, Marilyn Manson’s “Antichrist Superstar” (and others), to name just a few artists, all sound utterly brilliant through HomePod.

It really does adapt to whatever style of music you’re into. U2, Simple Minds, Lorde “Buzzcut Season” awesome, Lissie, Låpsley’s “Painter (Valentine)”, if you’re familiar with Låpsley’s style and vocal overlays, it’s just an incredible experience. I won’t spoil the surprise by telling you. Just lie down, close your eyes and listen to it on HomePod and let it take you over. If this song doesn’t produce at least one physical response when listening, you might just as well be dead. It is a truly complex and magical song. I won’t give anything more away. Just cherish the listening experience. . .

Just as an aside, I first heard Låpsley’s “Painter” while travelling down the M1 listening to Annie Mac’s show and Annie played this song. I literally had to pull into the next motorway services and buy a copy of this unique song. It had an instant effect. I absolutely love this song. It is unlike anything I had ever heard before. It is the only song that has quite literally, stopped me in my tracks.

Listen and enjoy it on your HomePod (which sounds way better than the system in my car).

Hallway Swimmers, Kygo (sounds awesome) and Avicii (now sadly gone) bring a whole new dimension to their work when listened to through HomePod. I could go on and on and on, but there are far too many artists to mention in what was meant to be a short follow up blog post, but I hope you get the point. I have a very varied taste in music and HomePod handles absolutely everything with beautiful precision and dynamics. It really is that good.

This is what music should be about. It should make us all feel things and get you in touch with your emotions, from happy through sad, to depressing and beyond into joy, love, pain, hurt, heartache and loss. All the facets of life encapsulated into a 4 minute long song, through sound, where the singer opens their inner most feelings and confessions, just to you, to share. Beautiful sound. Music. . .The thing that makes you feel.

The better the sound quality, the more intimate and personal the experience. HomePod delivers, where so many fail miserably. HomePod is my go to device.

Television? No thanks, I’d rather pop HomePod on. It’s a much more rewarding experience all round. Echo? No thanks. Alexa is great, but the sound is just terrible by comparison.

Give me HomePod. A small, compact, cleverly designed little bundle of surprises. I absolutely love it and think this could be the most important device Apple have ever released. This really is a massive break through in sound engineering and it only costs £319.00??? This as far as I am concerned, really is the bargain of the century and definitely Apple’s most intimate product release.

Will a single HomePod compete with a set of £15K speakers and a top amp? Probably not, but not by much and when you can pair two HomePod together (when Apple launch stereo pairing later in the year) for a fraction of the cost of your £15K speakers, I’d rather have two HomePod and over £14K to spend on something else, like a few nice holidays.

But, as I said earlier, if you can afford a HomePod, just do it. Once you hear the sound that emanates (or thunders out, depending on genre and volume level) from that humble little cylinder, the price will disappear from your psyche.

It was worth it.

It is worth it.

How could I have done without this for so long? Will be the question running through your mind, but is quickly removed from thought, as the sound of another of your favourite songs, fills your senses and transports you to a different place and time, stirring memories of times gone bye, whilst filling you with a fresh sense of being. . .

HomePod will reignite that musical passion. You will fall in love again, with music:

It will make you laugh. . .

It will make you cry. . .

It will make you happy. . .

It will make you sad. . .

If you’re feeling down, it will cheer you up. . .

If you’re feeling melancholy, it will put things in perspective. . .

It wil strengthen relationships. . .

It may even bring about the next generation. . .

It is your friend when you are alone. . .

It is the centre of attention at a party, but never in the way . .

It’s what you get married to. . .

It’s what is played when loved ones have passed on. . .

It’s always with you. . .

It can always be relied upon. . .

Music is our friend.

Music is our most intimate friend that helps us get through life. . .

Treat music with the respect it deserves and play it through an amazing sounding speaker. It will reward you more than you ever thought possible.

Apple’s HomePod? A friend for life.

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Apple’s HomePod. . .A True Musical Experience

Apple’s HomePod: Is It The Dud Reviewers Say It Is?

As an Amazon Echo user, I’m all in when it comes to the personal A.I assistant thing. So, when Apple revealed, at WWDC 2017 (that’s ages ago folks), an almost “one more thing” moment towards the end of the keynote, Phil Schiller, took to the stage to give a sneak peak at Apple’s new smart speaker. . .HomePod.

My first thought was, “what a stupid name”, why not just call it Pod, Sounds or Beats?

Then a video played to reveal everything about HomePod. And. . .

It looked amazing. I haven’t included any pictures, there are so many going around and I think everybody already knows what HomePod looks like. It’s lovely.

The official launch of December 2017, came and went. The HomePod eventually going on sale in early February 2018.

I’ve yet to see a video review or read a written review, where the reviewer gives a nod to the HomePod. They all rave about the sound quality, but when it comes to the smart A.I assistant, Siri, they all pretty much say the same thing. . .

“Awful”, “Seriously lacking” or even go as far as “dumbest smart speaker ever”.

Recent reports have stated that Apple have reduced production levels on the HomePod, due to lower than expected sales. So, it would appear, all is not good for Apple’s HomePod. . .and at £319.00, it is an expensive dumb speaker. . .or is it?

I’ve had my HomePod for just over a week and I can state without doubt, that HomePod is an incredible feat of engineering. The sound space created by HomePod, is without doubt, the best sound from such a small speaker.

It is incredible. Full stop.

It sounds awesome. Full stop.

It is brilliant. Full stop.

What about Siri?

Siri, as any iOS device user or Apple Watch user can testify, is Siri. She’s snarky with attitude, but generally very helpful at the things she is programmed to do well. I love having Siri talk to me on my Apple Watch Series 3. It makes my Apple Watch an entirely new device.

On HomePod, Siri does what Apple told everyone Siri would do. Siri is your personal musicologist, who will provide information and suggestions based on what she knows you might like.

Siri does it well, most of the time. Fortunately, despite my Scottish accent, I have never had a problem with Siri. As long as I have a decent Wi-Fi / mobile connection, Siri usually gets what I ask right 98 – 99% of the time.

Is Siri as accurate or ‘smart’ as Alexa, Cortana or Google Now? It depends on what device you are using Siri on, but as far as smart speakers go, Siri is NOT up to the same array of tasks. But. . .

Siri wasn’t designed to be as smart. . .YET!

It’s this simple fact that other reviewers conveniently overlook. What Siri is designed to do, namely be your musicologist with some other more basic capabilities thrown in for good measure, she does very well.

People complaining that Siri can’t do what she does on the iPhone, is frankly stupid. Would you ask a smart speaker for directions to a location when the speaker can’t show you a map or offer accurate directions for you to follow?

No of course not.

So, why criticise Siri for having more music / sound related functionality over functionality for directions etc?

My Amazon Echo and Echo Dots are good devices. Alexa can do a lot of useful things, thanks to Amazon opening up Alexa to third parties for development. But, with all the revelations about Data at Facebook and the abuse of data from SCL, Cambridge Analytica etc. the question of what Amazon is doing with your voice recordings, suddenly seems to matter.

Apple’s record on privacy is significantly better than most.

HomePod, is at present a very good device. The sound is fantastic, something which can’t be said about the majority of other so called smart speakers and Siri is competent at what she is programmed to do.

But. . .you knew there would be at least one! But. . .

HomePod can only get better. . .

Apple will eventually increase Siri capabilities on HomePod. That much us a given. I’ve seen reports that Apple have dedicated more engineers and programmers to Siri than any other department. Whether true or not is another matter, but Apple know that Siri has to get better. And she will.

Consider for a moment, Apple TV. . .

When Apple launched Apple TV, way back in 2007, (yes it really was that long ago), Apple TV (originally was meant to be called iTV, but the U.K broadcaster of the same name had something to say about that, so it became Apple TV), was called a “hobby product”.

At launch, Apple TV could do some things, but not the same as early online streaming devices / services. It basically allowed you to stream the contents of your iTunes library to a Television screen. For the pleasure of this “hobby product” set aside @£400 (depending on storage size you opted for).

Sales were relatively poor, but I bought two of them. One for the living room and one for my bedroom. I loved the first gen Apple TV. It was a glimpse of the future. . .

And look at Apple TV now. . .

You get a tiny black box, which you can rent through, buy through, stream through. It’s super fast and offers 4K and full HD content (depending on the model you opt for). You get Siri integrated into it and, it’s way more affordable than the original Apple TV.

HomePod is likely going to go the same way as the original Apple TV. With one major difference:

Hardware.

HomePod is a super technical engineering feat. The technology and algorithms being used, are incredibly complex. The speaker tech alone, is usually only found on top end speakers, which run into the “you need another mortgage to afford them” bracket.

Beam forming and spacial awareness is incredible and clever. This tiny little speaker (under 7 inches in height), can analyse the room it’s placed in and alter the output to provide you with the best sound for the acoustics of that particular room.

If you move the HomePod into a different spot or into an entirely different room, when switched on, HomePod reanalyses the surroundings, because, thanks to a built in accelerometer, HomePod knows it’s been moved and so needs to reassess it’s surroundings.

This is super intelligent design and no other speakers in the same price point, offer such advanced capabilities. So, who’s a dumb speaker now then?

Having got the hardware absolutely right in HomePod, Apple have an incredible foundation upon which to build and as anyone knows, having a solid foundation is the most important aspect of anything you build on top of it.

So, with updates in the software, which will naturally be coming, Apple will extend the functionality of the ‘minor’ component of this incredible device. . .Siri, enhancing her abilities and usability over time.

When extra features, like stereo pairing and AirPlay 2 arrive later in the year, HomePod is going to wipe the floor with virtually all other smart speakers. One sounds awesome, two working together, will sound totally amazing.

By comparison, your current smart speaker will just continue to sound quite good. You won’t be able to pair two together and the constant listening in the background will start to make you very wary when random ads start being shouted out at you in response to conversations you may be having in the room your smart speaker is positioned in. It’s bad enough when I’m watching a film in a darkened room, to suddenly have Alexa shout out. . .

“I’m sorry, I can’t quite help you with that”, is more than a little unsettling.

One thing none of the current smart speakers can do, is improve their overall sound quality. Once the hardware has shipped, it can’t be changed, so whatever sound you’re getting at the moment, is the best you’re ever going to get from that particular device, regardless of how ‘smart’ the built in A.I is.

Inevitably, replacements are going to be needed as listening demands increase. The more you listen to your streamed music, the sound quality really does start to mean a lot more than the ‘smartness’ of  the A.I assistant.

Here, I think Apple have got it absolutely right. If you make an investment in a great speaker and amp set up, the software (firmware) running on it can always be improved and that is where Apple’s focus will be for HomePod.

As it is, I no longer listen to Music through my Echos. They sound terrible compared to HomePod. I already have an Apple Music subscription since it saves me money. I usually buy at least 2 albums a month on average, so a £9.99 per month unlimited music subscription service allows me to listen to whatever I want, whenever I want and if Apple decide to offer lossless streaming (highly rumoured to be coming), HomePod will sound unbelievably impressive. The Echos? Probably don’t have the processing power to handle lossless content.

HomePod, however, thanks to that super powerful Apple A8 CPU inside, will eat lossless data rates for breakfast, while still leaving plenty room for lunch and dinner.

If you look at video streaming, it went from SD (standard definition) to HD (high def 720p) to FHD (Full High Definition 1080p) now through to full 4K UHD (Ultra High Definition).

Audio streaming has been going the same way, but the hardware has been the limiting factor. Without a decent amp and speakers to make use of the available data, 128Kbps streams sound no different to 256Kbps, but when played on decent speakers, 256, sound significantly better. So when lossless streaming (think of it as the 4K of audio) arrives, only a decent speaker and amp system will be able to deliver the full soundscape that lossless provides.

HomePod will be able to deliver. The competition? Not so much.

In addition to Apple Music streaming 45+ Million songs to every subscriber, Apple do also offer Radio stations, through Apple Music (or iTunes on a computer, no subscription required), like their flagship Beats 1.

Matt Wilkinson’s Mon- Fri 11a.m. time slot (U.K time) has become a favourite of mine. I love his style of broadcasting and his musical choices are really good.

Following on from Matt, Mon – Fri, @2 p.m is Julie Adenuga who like Matt, offers a relaxed and natural style. Zane Lowe (Mon- The @5 p.m) continues with his flagship 3 hour stint of musical revelations to complete a solid 9 hr set up for regular daily listeners.

Beats 1 sounds awesome on HomePod, with great production values. It really is the standard by which all radio stations should be compared.

So, to round up. Is HomePod the dud that everyone thinks it is?

No it most definitely is not a dud.

When you look at the roadmap that will inevitably be followed. Lossless streaming will be coming sooner, rather than later. Apple, I think, understand that, which is why they have played the waiting game and have designed HomePod with the best future proofing tech that is currently available, for what is to come.

Short sightedness in this now, now, NOW, materialistic, western society, pitches one thing against another, in the simplest headline grabbing (clickbait) way they possibly can.

A headline like “Apple’s new HomePod is a DUD”, will get more attention than “Apple’s new HomePod leaves all others in the dirt”, because controversy it seems, draws attention at the cost of honest assessments of what is being reviewed.

Is Siri as smart as Alexa on the smart speaker? No.

Does HomePod sound much better than Echo? Absolutely, without a shadow of a doubt.

Would you use Echo, Google Home etc. as your primary home sound system? No way, it doesn’t sound good enough.

Would you use HomePad as a primary sound system? Absolutely. It sounds incredible and will only get batter as the system matures.

So, if music is important to you, which should you consider?

Me personally? I bought a HomePod out of curiosity. I wanted to know if it really was as bad as people were making on and what I’ve found is I love it.

HomePod is an incredible device and I look forward to how the system evolves over time. It is already a good system and does what Apple says it does. In time, it will become the premium system that all others will be compared against. Amazon and Google speaker offerings are not the targets here. . .

Look what happened to Motorola and Nokia (amongst others) when Apple launched the original iPhone, it was criticised, ridiculed and written off as an disappointing novelty. . .

Now look at the iPhone.

Where are Nokia and Motorola etc?

HomePod is the iPhone moment for premium audio. . .just you wait and see.

Sonos, Bose and B&O, to name a few, should all start to feel more than a little worried. . .

 

 

 

Panasonic LUMIX: Creativity Beyond Borders

I just found Panasonic’s latest video online at their dedicated Panasonic LUMIX YouTube channel and thought I’d like to share it with you.

It’s called The Creators:

It runs for 3 minutes and 10 seconds, where not one word is spoken. There isn’t a need for words. I think this is a beautiful short film, which captures the spirit of creativity and production perfectly. The message is both clear and very poignant:

Creativity Beyond Borders.

Panasonic LUMIX dedicated YouTube channel can be found by clicking the link below:

Panasonic LUMIX Video

There are many more inspirational videos to watch at the LUMIX link above. So please check it out and subscribe to their channel, so you can keep up to date with or learn all about the latest Panasonic LUMIX Cameras.

If you’re new here, I’ve written a few reviews of different cameras, but have fallen in love with my favourite camera ever, the Panasonic LUMIX GX8. I love shooting with the GX8. It is an awesome camera.

The Creators video above, is just a reminder that it takes so much more than one person and a camera / lens to capture a beautiful scene. It takes all the hard work of everyone who designed, tweaked, programmed, built and perfected the hardware we photographers rely on to capture that one moment. Without them, we couldn’t do what we do.

So, inspired by The Creators video, I would like to say thank you to Panasonic LUMIX and all of your incredible team, for caring so much and making great cameras and lenses that make my photography so much fun.