Appreciating the Mac

It’s been on my mind to get my MacMini which was running Sierra backed up to a bootable SSD so that I could finally update to Mojave. I’m running an older version of InDesign and didn’t want to take the chance of screwing it up. Previous attempts using SuperDuper had produced back-ups that would not boot. Not due to any problem with SuperDuper but a hardware incompatibility in the chipset of my back-up drive. I found an external Samsung SSD which would reportedly boot and after backing up found that yes, it does indeed serve well as a bootable drive. So, with back-up made I made the jump to Mojave.

I don’t recall now what the changes were from Sierra to High Sierra but the jump from Sierra to Mojave has been nice. Nothing too crazy but nice enhancements and, as a bonus, my older version InDesign still works. I really don’t use the Mac for much more than iTunes, general file serving and the occasional InDesign project but having spent more than the usual amount of time with it the past few days I still really appreciate it this OS. If it were not for iOS I’d still happily use my Mac everyday.

Optimizing rural internet: Using a Mac’s Internet Sharing with satellite and cellular for a more unified experience

Like most rural residents I don’t have many internet choices but I’m lucky to have more than just satellite. I’m also in an area covered by various 4G/LTE options. I’ve just made a change to how I’ve got things set-up and I think it might be useful to others in similar situations.

Okay, first, here are my sources of internet:
1. Hughes Net, 10GB plan with 50GB from 2am-8am
2. Sprint LTE on iPhone, unlimited with 50GB of tethering
3. Sprint LTE on iPad, unlimited with 10GB of tethering

Generally, due to device synching, iCloud back-ups, background processes, my 10GB of Hughes Net is gone within just 3 to 4 days. Their 4th and 5th gen plans basically run at about 20 to 30mb download which isn’t bad but there’s always a bit of latency so it rarely seems fast in day-to-day use. Best use is app updates/file downloads. But streaming Apple Music is usually decent. Streaming movies is hit or miss even with plenty of available data. One the allotment is gone then they say they throttle you down to 2-3mbit and that seems about right. I can still sometimes stream music okay and even sometimes video but with degradation of quality and buffering. In short, it works but it’s never great.

Day to day, I have a Mac Mini, 2 HomePods, AppleTV, various HomeKit devices. Everything accesses the internet through an AirPort Extreme via the Satellite modem. The HomeKit devices work very well regardless of my data status. Apple TV works great with my local iTunes library. And as stated above, streaming is dodgy but often sorta works. In this set-up my iPhone and iPad are off on their own and very fast with the Sprint LTE. No latency and 15-20mbit make for a very nice experience. But, because they are on their own connections, AirPlay to the AppleTV has limitations such as no great audio pumped to the HomePods while watching anything via AirPlay. Also, if I’m streaming music or a podcast via device I can’t send its audio to HomePods. Sometimes I can start it on the LTE device then switch it to the wireless network and it will play fine to HomePods. Eventually the audio might start to cut-out though. Depends on which way the wind is blowing and if I’ve said the magic words correctly.

So, for $130/month I’ve got two services that mostly sorta work but sort of in their own separate silo based on the different source.

Yesterday a friend mentioned that his parents had dropped satellite and switched to an unlimited hot-spot device with Sprint and that it was working pretty well. My Hughes Net commitment is up at the end of this month so I could switch. Currently they no longer appear to offer the unlimited standalone hotspot but they do offer a 100GB plan for the same as what I pay Hughes Net so that got me thinking about a switch. But they have a 10 device limit (with my HomeKit devices I have more than this) on the hotspot so that got me thinking about how well it work if at all via a share through an AirPort, Express or Extreme. After a bit of reading and experimenting this is what I’ve come up with and I’m pretty excited.

  1. I may not need the standalone hotspot device at all.
  2. I’ve rearranged my network such that the Mac is now sharing internet from wireless to Ethernet which goes to the AirPort Extreme which then shares via it’s own network.
  3. In day to day stuff I can just let the Mac access the wireless Hughes Net modem and this shares out the slower but relatively stable connection. The Mac will always connect to this network by default if no other is available.
  4. If I want to stream NetFlix or Apple Music, or anything else that requires the reliable higher speed I simply switch the Mac over to the iPhone’s hotspot with just a couple clicks in the menu bar. With no extra work it is now sharing LTE over the AirPort network and I can connect to that network with my iPad or stream video as desired from any app installed on the AppleTV or from iPad to AppleTV or whatever. It’s seamless and allows for using the HomePods for audio when watching video. When I leave on errands with the phone the Mac automatically defaults to Hughes Net so HomeKit stuff still works while I’m gone and I can access devices as needed while away.

To summarize, with this new arrangement with the Mac as the internet sharing hub, I feel as though I have the best of both worlds and a more unified internet experience. I’ll finally start using and enjoying the 50GB of Sprint LTE tethering on the phone which I was not using before. (Sidenote: I’d tried tethering the AppleTV to the iPhone for Netflix and Prime Video but the downside was that I could not stream audio to HomePods as they were on the other network and also tethering meant manually logging in to the iPhone hotspot each time which was a pain in the rear and often failed at least once).

Improved Blog Posting from the Notes App with Shortcuts

This past October I posted about blogging from the Notes app
In that example I was just sending my post straight to the WordPress Share Sheet which works fine too.

I generally use iA Writer for blogging but it’s also nice to be able to post from Notes. That said, I’d also like to have a copy of all my posts as text files. Enter Shortcuts! I’ve made a shortcut that will post to WordPress but also makes a text file that I can save into the appropriate blog folder in my iA Writer documents.

With the shortcut I’ve also added a step for making rich text from markdown which allows for me to write in markdown.

Only four steps!

Trip Cost Estimate Shortcut

I don’t travel much but I’d recently pondered the idea of a road trip and wondered about the cost. In just a minute or two with the help of Apple Maps I had it figured out. But it occurred to me that this would be the perfect use case for a Shortcut so I put this together:
Trip Cost Estimate

It asks for you to choose from your Contacts for an address or to enter an address manually. Then it will ask for your car’s estimated MGP then the cost of gas per gallon. Siri will then read you the results and offer you the option to share the text with a link to the map in Apple Maps which can be shared to Apple Notes or any other text app with a Share Sheet extension.

Hey Siri on new AirPods is Fantastic

I’m just going to say up front that I am a big fan Hey Siri generally, but it’s especially nice when accessed via AirPods and HomePods too. The first version of AirPods were excellent and I ordered them the minute they were available, aesthetics be damned. People joked about how they looked but I wore them out in my small rural town without hesitation because these little white buds were the future (and honestly, I just don’t care much about what people think of me). I wore them on errands, walks, all the time. The one thing I hoped for with the next version was Hey Siri and we got it.

It’s been a week and I just want to praise these great little things that are now even better. I mean, you know, before I had to lift my finger up and double tap. I almost sprained my finger every time! Wink. But really, as easy as that was, I have to say that this IS an improvement. Just as with the HomePod, speaking out Hey Siri and getting a nearly instant response is pretty fantastic and less error prone. In fact, while I’d occasionally have misses with my double taps (worse in winter with hoods and hats in the way), the new AirPods have picked up every single request.

A bonus is that Siri on my iPad, my main device, is now useful again. Before the HomePod always picked up “Hey Siri” which was fine for most things. And while activating the Siri button on the 2018 iPad Pro isn’t difficult I found that I used Siri less without the Home Button activation. Yet another bonus, with the AirPods connected to my iPad I can use Hey Siri even while enjoying music on the HomePods or watching a movie with loud audio through the HomePods. The mics on the AirPods are excellent and audio just above a whisper will do the trick. And in the hierarchy of Hey Siri devices they seem to rule above the HomePod which is what I want when I’m actively using them.

Two+ years in with AirPods, a year with HomePod, and Hey Siri still seems like science fiction to me. I use it constantly and still crack a smile half of the time. I’m used to it but still surprised, comfortable but still delighted. We’re not yet at Star Trek Enterprise voice interactions but I’ll happily use what we have.

My favorite daily interactions with AirPods and HomePods are the usual things I suspect most people use (assuming they’re in the habit of using it at all):

• Controlling home kit devices. This is an all the time thing for lights, plugs, checking the temp in or outside.
• Adding reminders, especially shopping list items. But I do all reminders with Siri.
• Adding calendar events. I can’t think of the last time I’ve done this with a keyboard.
• Sending texts while walking.
• Initiating knowledge/image/web searches.
• Searching my own photos.
• Getting the weather forecast.
• Controlling playback of music and podcasts.
• Maps/Local business calls/open/hours info.

Probably the only remaining roadblock is my own mind. For certain tasks I find that I still tend to work visually, for example, choosing music. I’m just not great at remembering albums names though requesting a couple of frequent playlists and artists is something I do. Also, I’d like to get better at composing vocally. I’ve been using a screen and keyboard so long that dictating anything beyond a sentence or two really requires a different kind of process though it’s fun to try. But for the list of quick short tasks above, is a real pleasure to use.

Apple’s Latest iPad Tutorials

A couple weeks ago Apple published some fun new iPad Pro videos highlighting various apps and tasks. Very well done and, as a bonus, the films were made entirely on the iPad. A couple days after posting the series they followed up by posting a neat behind the scenes video explaining what apps were used in making the series. The behind the scenes video was also made entirely with iPad Pro.

I wish they’d do several of these every month. And, while I’m making wishes, I wish they’d do a monthly series highlighting a professional of some kind that uses the iPad as their primary device.

A new way to create a presentation with iPad Pro:

A new way to take notes with iPad Pro:

A new way to go paperless with iPad Pro:

A new way to host your own podcast with iPad Pro:

A new way to design your space with iPad Pro:

Behind the scenes:

 

Voices of the Ozarks

This is a new project I’m working on with my local rural library. The idea is pretty straight forward: We ask library patrons to share a bit of their life story with us. We record for 1 to 2 hours and then do a bit of minimal editing to remove long pauses. We write up a summary then post as a podcast and burn a CD for sharing the old fashioned way: check-out from the library.

Over the years I’ve had a couple of short-lived podcasts. Never anything that lasted for very long. Every so often I get the itch to start another but I’ve never been clear in what I’d want to say. I have interests I like to share but I often feel satisfied with my on-again-off-again, though somewhat steady, blogging. Even that is done as much for me as anyone. I don’t have, or care to grow, an audience. I just occasionally like to write and if someone finds it and enjoys it or finds it helpful then that’s a bonus. And, thinking about podcasts, well, there are many thousands available covering a vast array of topics. As much as anything I think my interest was in editing and the technical process, I particularly wanted to have a go at using Ferrite on the iPad. Which brings me back to this current project.

It occurred to me several months ago that what might be an interesting and useful project would be the dusting off of an old and not so original idea: the gathering of other people’s stories, particularly the elders in our community. I’ve done this in the past, creating mini-documentary videos of my grandparents made for the family to enjoy and have.

This new project would be different as it would be audio only and it would be interviews with strangers. But still, each would be an abbreviated documentary of that person’s life in this area. While the podcast and YouTube ecosystems are full of young people’s voices (which is great of course), I think older folks are often left behind.

When I mentioned the idea to the head of our local-regional library system she was very supportive. We’d previously talked about possible projects that the library could host and this fit in very well.

After a few months of prepping a few things we finally started the sign-up of interviewees. Last week we had our first recording session and it went very well. Our recording set-up was very simple. A current gen iPad and a Shure MV5 microphone. I recorded using the Voice Memos app then shared via AirDrop to my iPad Pro for editing in Ferrite.

I spent the evening editing with Ferrite and it was a very smooth process. I learned a good bit about editing with the app and the end product is pretty great I think. It took a little longer than I expected but I’ve no doubt the next go will run more smoothly and quickly. There are steps in the process, namely removing gaps in speaking, that I did manually at first. I was aware that their was an easier way but I wanted to practice a bit with manipulating the clips manually. After a bit of that I moved onto the easier method.

Ferrite has two built in actions that are very fast. When a clip is selected just tap “Strip Silence”. There are a couple possible adjustments for that action. The result is that one large clip with gaps is cut up into many clips and the silence removed between speaking. It works very great.

This is followed by “Tighten” which is performed while the audio is all still selected from the previous action. It removes all of the new gaps that were created when the clip was cut-up, essentially it pushes them all together again. I started with a recording of about an hour and 18 minutes. By the time I was finished I was down to 55 minutes. The trick of course is removing the unnecessary bits but producing something that sounds unedited. Ferrite made that fairly easy and the final result has a very natural sound. I put together a folksy sounding 17 second intro/outro clip in GarageBand and then imported it into the Ferrite project.

Then I gave it a final listen through to type a summary/show notes with timestamps. As I wrote the show notes I made a few last edits to the audio. Finally, as a last step I added my meta data and artwork, all in Ferrite and again, very easy. Exported and uploaded to the server. The final result: Voices of the Ozarks – Phyllis Fencl.

I’ll soon submit it to Apple’s Podcast directory. Until then it can be added manually via this feed: http://ozarkregional.org/blog/?feed=podcast

All in all a very enjoyable first recording and editing session. I’m looking forward to hearing and sharing more of these stories.

2018 iPad Pro: The review scene and bigger picture context

As I write this we’re about two weeks in since the new iPads were delivered and there are reviews everywhere and most of them say the same thing which I can sum up as “fast and powerful but limited by iOS and the lack of professional apps”. I’d like to offer a counter to those reviews and the half-baked argument they make to cover-up their own lack of effort and knowledge. But first just a few words, not about iOS or the professional app ecosystem, but about the new iPads.

By way of introduction let me say that I don’t use an iPad as my primary computer because it is the most powerful computer I own (though it is). I use the iPad because it enables me to do the work I need to do (as does the Mac) and because I find it the most delightful computer I’ve ever used. I have said this about the iPad Air as well as my previous iPad Pro and I’ll say it again about this new iPad. This is the best computer I’ve ever owned. As tech goes, the 2018 iPad Pro is a stunner in every way. By itself or attached to the Keyboard Folio with the Pencil, this is a beautifully designed computer that is so much fun to use.

I’ll discuss in order of impact as to how it feels in my use. I’ll start with the Keyboard Folio because I use the iPad attached to a keyboard at least 60% of the time.

The new folio is a much more stable experience than the previous Smart Keyboard. With the Smart Keyboard there was always the feeling and the chance that it could tip or flop backward or, more likely, forward. Even so I used it all the time because I appreciated the proximity of my hands to the screen. Also, I really liked the feel if the keys.

The new Smart Folio Keyboard is so much better because while the keys are the same, the solid base and new magnetic back attachment means the iPad is now very stable even in the lap. I feel completely safe using it knowing that it will not flip or flop. In fact, it feels as stable as a traditional laptop. With this design the only thing I feel I’m missing is the back-light and top row of media control keys. And those are big misses to be sure, but even so the experience is still excellent. I really like the sound and feel of this keyboard, more than any other keyboard I can remember using. It’s a personal preference and some might dislike it.

Another aspect of the new keyboard is the much easier set-up and the new available angle. I can go from closed to typing with less effort. For the tablet experience I can remove the case all together with little effort or fold the keyboard all the way back. Both are very nice. With the keyboard folded back it has a nice grippy feel as the magnet is strong enough to hold it solidly in place but with a flick of my fingers I can easily drop it down for use in the keyboard position.

A last note about the keyboard is just how satisfying the feel of the magnets are. Closing it up results in a subtle but nice click which can be felt and heard. Seating the iPad in either of the two slots also has a satisfying feel and click which affirms the sturdiness of the new configuration.

Then there is the tablet itself. If I had to summarize the difference between the new design of the 2018 iPad Pro compared to the previous it is this: the 2018 feels solid and compact while at the same time lighter and thinner. As much as I enjoyed using the 2017 iPad Pro as a tablet, hand-held with no case, this one is even better in the hand. It feels very solid and yet impossibly thin given its other dimensions. Of course it’s very fast but so was the 2017 version. Even my iPad Air 2 is still fast with apps appearing nearly instantly.

Face Id is better on the iPad than the iPhone though it is excellent on both. The only failures I’ve had have been the result of covering the camera while holding it as a tablet. In those cases correction is quick and easy. When attached to the keyboard I simply tap the space bar twice and I’m good to go with no delay.

The Pencil is so much more convenient! The new combined inductive charging and magnetic storage method is vastly better than the previous. And, like the case, the magnetic connection provides a satisfying click as the Pencil is securely pulled into its place.

The last feature that is not at all new to the iPad but which I really rely on is LTE. My first two iPads had cellular but I then skipped it with the following two purchases. My reasoning was that between tethering and my home internet I would not need built in cellular. In practice my satellite internet is too slow. Tethering to the iPhone is faster but often fails the first few attempts to connect and too often my iPad would sleep and loose it’s connection or I might walk away with the phone and have to reconnect upon returning. In other words, it feels fiddly. Having the always on LTE is so much better. The iPad antennas provide a signal that is equal to or better than the phone and so my connection is always strong. Going forward any new iPad I purchase will have cellular because the experience is just too good to pass up.

Lastly, let’s talk about iOS and the app ecosystem. With iOS 9 I began the shift to iPad as my preferred computer. This was solidified further with the release of the multitasking features in iOS 11 and improved with iOS 12. Much has been made in recent weeks about the missing features of iOS. I won’t argue against facts. It’s true that iOS does not support mice or trackpads or accessing files stored on attached hard drives. It’s true that it’s missing certain Apple pro apps such as Logic or Final Cut Pro. As of this writing these things are true.

That said, the echo chamber of tech reviewers is stale and, even worse, misleading. It seems to me that many of these reviewers have not used iPads enough to know what is possible with iOS or the app ecosystem. Or, if they do, they are deliberately leaving out important information which counters their preferred narrative.

For example, yes, it’s true that I cannot plug in a usb drive and access files unless they are media files recognized by the Photos app, namely videos and images. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that most reviewers mentioning the lack of file access on hard drives also consider themselves power users. That’s certainly what they imply or state. In this picture of professionals working in an office setting, it’s to be expected that they have access to a network and nearby computers. Using an app such as FileBrowser or Documents they can easily access their files in such an office setting. I myself have a MacMini that I use as a media/file server and it’s not uncommon for me to need access to older project files. In just a few seconds and a couple taps I have access to all of the files on my Mac or any hard drives attached to the Mac. I can open files from the Mac, copy them to my iPad’s local storage or save/export any of my local files back to the Mac.

If tech reviewers are going to position themselves as advanced power users, shouldn’t they be more aware of the many apps available which allow for access to any local file attached to a nearby networked computer? A part of being a professional user is being aware of the available tools, in this case, apps. But many “professional” reviewers seem to be largely unaware of what’s available on the App Store. That’s their shortcoming not the iPad’s. Take for example the many reviewers who mentioned the lack of Final Cut Pro. Are they unaware of LumaFusion? Apparently so. It’s #2 in the Photo & Video category with almost 5,000 ratings and an average of 4.8 stars.

Apple cannot and will not provide all of the needed software for their devices. That’s why third party app developers exist. From the well known giants such as Microsoft or Adobe to fantastic (though sometimes less known) developers such as Serif (the makers of the Affinity suite of apps, one of which is #1 in the Photo & Video category), Readdle, Omni, just to name a few. If reviewers are going to ding the platform because it is missing essential professional apps or app types then they should know that those apps are indeed missing. It is my contention that they would rather have something to complain about because that’s the in-thing to do with Apple these days. It get’s clicks. Meanwhile, the people who are actually using iPads know about these apps and use them every day.

I’ll round this out with what might seem an odd comparison. In recent years Apple has become quite large as a company (both in financial resources and employee base) and as they have increased in size so too have expectations that they are all powerful. At the same time many of their products are offered at higher prices. iPhones at $1,500!? iPads for $1,800?!? Outrageous. And so now there is the narrative of the “Apple premium”. One result is that reviewers feel they can and should hold Apple to a higher standard. I get that. But at the same time the reviewers themselves should be held to a higher standard. Critique is fine but it should be fully informed and thoughtful. Mostly I see cheap repetition in reviews.

Apple does charge a premium. But you know what else Apple does that is not mentioned in the reviews? Apple has gone to extraordinary lengths to become an excellent environmental citizen. To my knowledge no other company has come even close to what Apple has achieved. This is worth something and it has to be paid for by everyone including consumers. Along the same lines, few reviewers mention the fact that Apple devices get new OS updates for many years, far longer than those in competing systems. So yes, if one purchases a top of the line device they can expect that it it will continue to receive updates and function well for 4 to 5 years or more. These are not throw away devices to be tossed aside after two years.

While I don’t use it often I still have a 2012 MacMini that stays on 24/7 as a file and media server. I occasionally use it for InDesign projects as well. It still has plenty of power and runs the latest macOS. I will be able to use my iPhone X for at least another 3-4 years if I choose to do so. The 2018 iPad should serve me well for at least 3 to 5 years. I’m still using an iPad Air 2 introduced in 2014. It’s 4 years old and I expect I’ll get another two years, possibly more from it. While I greatly prefer the larger screen of the iPad Pro the Air 2 could be my only iPad because it still functions very well. Apps open up nearly instantly and rarely do I see a slow-down when I’m using it.

Rarely do reviewers mention the longevity of Apple devices and this is an oversight. Their reviews are incomplete without this bigger picture.

One last bit. In reviewing Apple products and the bigger picture, I’d suggest that reviewers should at least mention the value added by Today at Apple. This isn’t just a sales gimmick being offered up by Apple. It’s a real offering that requires real resources and it’s offered to Apple customers for free. If I lived near an Apple Store I know I’d take advantage of the program. Aside from this excellent post at MacStories I’ve barely seen mention of the program in any of the Apple Press and that’s a disservice to their readers.

The 2018 iPad Pro

Well, as expected Apple announced The 2018 iPad Pro and what a doozy. I don’t have much to say other than this computer is going to fly. Heck, the current iPad Pro from 2017 flies! Add in the new Pencil and Keyboard Folio and yeah, it’s quite a package. Will be a nice upgrade. I ordered one and am expecting it tomorrow.

Most if the reviews that have come in say a similar thing: the hardware is exceptional and incredibly fast but is being held back by iOS. The specific things being mentioned the most: lack of access to files on attached drives, lack of mouse/trackpad/cursor,  lack of a desktop class browser, and lack of Apple’s own professional apps such as Final Cut Pro.

My take? These features will all come in the next year or two. At that time the reviewers complaining that the iPad is not up to snuff will find something else to complain about. I’m not trying to suggest that these are not real limitations, they are. But the blanket pronouncements by these reviewers that a small handful of missing features is stopping the iPad Pro (or just iPads) from being useful for many pro users is absurd. As one of these users I do not need to attach a drive as I do all of my file work via iCloud. No doubt some users need this missing feature, but not I and not all. The real point I’d make is that many reviewers do a great job reviewing from what they want for themselves but don’t seem to be able to write about the bigger picture. Why not also say in such a review that the iPad Pro might be excellent for many people, just not those that need feature “a” or feature “b”.

A last word about the hardware. The numbers indicate that the 2018 iPad Pro is about as fast as the top of the line Mac Book Pros. Damn.

The iPad has grown up from a mobile device to a mobile computer

My Color Classic and iPad Pro as imaged by an iPhone 7+.

The beginning of Apple’s iPad story
In 2010 Apple initially positioned the iPad as a middle device between the iPhone and a laptop. The message was that it was a friendly, easy to use device for email, web browsing, Facebook, games, videos. As Steve Jobs demonstrated on stage, it was a casual device meant to be used by anyone lounging about their home. Sure, Apple offered up the Keyboard Dock and Pages so it could also be used for word processing but that was secondary.

I can tell you that for many in my family it became their beloved (sometimes first and only) computer. But for them, mostly non-techies, it was, literally, just a bigger than iPhone screen. They knew it was a computer and yet it was not intimidating. It was a computer without seeming too much like a computer and given those characteristics it’s not surprising that it was especially popular with the very young and with elderly. At least, that was the case in my family. They’re all still happily using iPads though most have since updated at least once or twice.

This was Apple’s opening story for the iPad and it was a simple one: An easy to use computer that didn’t seem too computery that would be a great second purchase for its iPhone customers. It was obvious to everyone that the iPad was, in many ways, a larger iPhone and it ran a mobile operating system.

From Apple’s perspective this was all well and good. For awhile.

For the first two to three years the iPad sold very, very well. And then it didn’t. Sales fell off and the media and Wall Street needed an answer Apple couldn’t provide. It was a mystery. And so many stories were told about why the iPad was no longer selling as well. From my own anecdotal experience I can simply say that iPads are solid, long-lived devices that perform well for causal use. If the primary consumers of iPads were non-tech iPhone users it would make sense that they would hold onto them for awhile. Non-techies do not purchase new computers every year. They hold on to them for 3 or 4 or even 5 years if they are still working.

Searching and finding a new iPad identity
The problem with a device intended for a general audience is that they buy the device then settle down with it. They want familiar and easy. They don’t read tech blogs and obsess over the latest and greatest hardware or os features. It’s just a device for them. So, while Apple was certainly still selling a lot of iPads they had passed the peak. Apple itself seemed to struggle with the purpose and identity of the iPad for awhile and only recently seemed to have gotten their footing.

It would seem that as Apple grew the power of the tech inside the iPad, namely the A-series of processors, they needed to begin expanding the intended user-base to include those that would benefit from the investment in faster processors, specifically, technically proficient computer users. The identity of the casual non-computer based on a simplified mobile operating system needed to shift. The iPad needed to become a computer. But Apple needed to strike a balance between it’s current, non-techie base and this new group of users. Too much complexity would be a problem for the established base, too few power features would be a problem for techies.

And so, in a constant tug of tension, Apple has been slowly iterating, layering new features into iOS that will enable power users to use the iPad as a computer while not overwhelming those that are used to its simplicity. And this is where we begin to see the emergence of the oft repeated variation of “you can’t do work with an iPad, they’re only good for browsing the web and watching YouTube.” Regardless of the constant repetition of the “can’t do real work on the iPad“ meme, the identity of iPad as a computer was beginning to emerge and this was not lost on users such as myself that wanted to believe.

In 2010, as today, I made my living as a freelance web and graphic designer. For me the iPad really was just a simple and casual browsing device. I bought the very first and loved it for the tasks as Apple had in mind. Though this was a device more for my parents and grandparents than myself, I nevertheless persisted in searching for apps that would let me edit the html and css of my websites or post to my blog. Surprisingly I found a few and they sorta did the job but for the first few years there was no chance the iPad could be my working computer. But I still loved the form factor and made use of it almost daily.

Slowly but surely Apple pushed forward the power of the hardware and the feature set up the os and in the fall of 2015 they released the first iPad Pros alongside of iOS 9. This was an important milestone for both hardware and software. It moved the device forward as Apple began telling the story of the iPad as a computer. With iOS 9 Apple introduced split screen apps and slowly a group of computer users began to take notice. It was easy to see an increase in podcasts and posts about people trying to switch. I think such stories go back to the beginning of iPad but there seems to have been a very noticeable up-tick in just the past three or four years.

And while the following year was a slow one with very few iPad features released in iOS 10 there was a noticeable hum of anticipation coming from a growing community of users that made the iPad their work computer. 2016 saw the release of a 9.7” iPad followed in 2017 by new 12.9” and 10.5” iPads Pro. More importantly, we saw the release of iOS 11 with many new iPad “pro” features and a renewed focus on new creative apps such as Affinity Photo.

It’s worth noting too that as Apple pushed forward with iOS and it’s own apps such as the iWork apps, iMovie and Garage Band, important third party apps were released as well. From well known productivity suites such as Microsoft Office to creative apps such as Procreate, Pixelmator and Graphic. The ecosystem of useful, computery apps was slowly but steadily growing. Of course there’s still more to do, especially with iOS, but Apple hasn’t left much room for doubt. We may not know the details of iOS 13 or any point releases before but we can be certain that new features, computery features, will continue to come.

In recent months there’s been a lot of anticipation and excitement around the rumored announcement of new iPads Pro. I think it says something that most of this excitement emanated from what is now an arguably larger community of users that consider the iPad their primary computer. On October 30 Apple held an event in which it did announce newest iteration of the iPad Pro and it seems now that there is finally a critical mass of acknowledgement that iOS and the iPad have indeed crossed a threshold. We humans like to argue and so I have no doubt that there will continue to be debate but the iPad as a computer is no longer a question.

It’s true that the form is, essentially, the same as the iPad of 2010. It is simply a touchscreen glass front side with an aluminum back and all the usual things that make a computer a computer on the inside: processor, graphics card, storage media, RAM, etc. Were you to see the original iPad and the newest iPad Pro sitting next to each other from across a room you might easily assume they were the same device were it not for the size difference. This is the fundamental beauty of the iPad, that it has emerged, after eight years, with it’s form intact but with its mission expanded.

Apple’s iPad Pro webpage

While the original iPad had more in common with an iPhone than a laptop, it’s now true that the iPad, especially the iPad Pro, is revealed as a computer that is what it’s user needs it to be. Imagine these scenarios with an iPad, sometimes hand held with a Pencil other times attached to a keyboard: a student sketching the differences between Monarch and Viceroy butterflies; a grandparent watching a slideshow of anniversary images; a business owner creating an annual report; a non-profit communications staffer editing a video; an author writing a novel. The iPad, in form and function, empowers it’s user to do what needs to be done. It’s simplicity allows it to be more. But do not doubt that it is a computer.