To upgrade or not to upgrade

We have an iPad but not an iPad 2. Do you recommend upgrading or do the new features not justify the cost? — Sarah

For me, the answer is no.* We own an original iPad. I’ve been contemplating getting another for my own personal use. Ours is for the family, which means every time I pick it up, I find jelly or some such on it. I’d really rather have my own. That being said, I’m holding out for an iPad 3.

I’ve spent time with the iPad 2 and it’s a very impressive device. Much lighter than the original, and noticeably snappier. Unfortunately other than that, there wasn’t much that I’d place in the “have to have” category if we’re talking upgrade. I’m sure FaceTime is nice, but I have it on my phone and have used it maybe twice.

Now, if you don’t have a tablet at all, of course, go iPad 2. As far as an upgrade though, it just wasn’t compelling enough for me.

*I guess it also depends on what kind of person you are when it comes to technology. You wouldn’t know it by the amount of Apple techno-crap I own, but I’m not usually the “gotta-have-it-on-launch-day guy.” I usually buy the most expensive computer I can and then use it for four or five years. I never upgrade software if I don’t have to. I get a new iPhone every couple of years, but usually don’t feel the itch to upgrade yearly. Overall, I’d say I’m very patient when it comes to buying new technology. Some people aren’t like that, so factor your personality into your upgrade decision.

Excellence

Steve Jobs changed the world. I don’t think that can be effectively argued against. The products Apple has introduced in its history have revolutionized the way we create, communicate, and consume.

Every bit of that change was because of an undying pursuit of excellence. That pursuit means attention to every detail. That pursuit means skipping shortcuts. That pursuit means having a vision for how great things can be. That pursuit means focusing on what’s best for the customer, even if they don’t know it’s best yet.

Apple has always had a laser focus on creating the best user experience. “Everything just works” has been their mantra. In an industry of over-complicated products and techno-babble, Apple’s approach is a breath of fresh air. Many have tried the same approach, but cut too many corners to make it work.

People ask me a lot why I use Apple products so much. I’ve never been one to evangelize for the company. If you don’t want to use the products, then don’t. It doesn’t effect me. But I know a lot of people that try them, and like them for the same reason I do. They get out of the way. I don’t spend my day tripping over clunky user interfaces or software that constantly crashes. My computers and phones get out of my way and allow me to do what I need to do.

In my case that thing I need to do is creating. I have no trouble admitting that my business would not exist in its current form if not for Apple. Because I don’t spend my days dealing with tech issues, I am able to create more than a single person should really be able to. Because of that I can provide for my family and create work that my clients love. I spend my days doing the same thing Apple does. I think about the people involved. I try to make their experience perfect. I obsess over detail. This year I had some stickers made and I apply them to the box of every printed job that goes out. They read: “Designed and printed with an obsession for detail.”

Jobs’ legacy is excellence.

It’s the excellence of Apple’s products.

It’s the excellence of the things we create with those products.

What a legacy to leave.

Steve Jobs 1955-2011

Streaks

My friend, John, recommended an iPhone app called Streaks (iTunes link) for tracking repeating tasks. John seems to be just as obsessive as I am about organizing information and tracking results.

Streaks is a very simple app designed to let you set up calendars for any number of activities. Then you just check off the days when you actually accomplish an activity and it tracks it all for you. If your brain works anything like mine (and for that, I’m truly sorry) then seeing those Xs stack up actually provides a nice motivation to keep a streak alive.

UPDATE:
I just discovered the perfect use for Streaks. It’s is a great mileage tracker. Just click the calendar anytime you go somewhere so that day is checked off. Then touch and hold down on a day and it gives you a place to leave a note. Just put in the mileage and who you saw and you’re set.

The fear of quiet

Peter Bregman returned his iPad. It turns out it was too good. It allowed for every waking second to be taken up with “either creating or consuming.” I’ve noticed this since we got one too. The iPad is usually by my side, and given a spare second, I’ll check on any number of things it does for me. It’s probably pretty ridiculous to watch.

It’s made me realize something I’ve struggled with for a while is quiet. I don’t like quiet. Bregman makes the great point that quiet is where creativity comes from. It’s that lack of noise that causes our mind to wander and ideas to begin to well up from that hidden spring of creativity at its center. As a man who makes his living being creative, that should be pretty important to me.

And yet, I hate the quiet. When there is no noise, I can hear the voices of self doubt. You’re really not very good, they say. You’ve thought of your last great idea. You really are a terrible husband and dad. Your failures will drag them down with you. You’re a hack and the world will realize it one day.

So I surround myself with noise. In my office I have my work. If that is not enough I have iTunes, Netflix, Hulu, my iPhone and iPad. Twitter, Facebook and Google Reader keep my mind dancing. Oh look, I can buy comic books on my iPad. Sorry, got distracted there for a second.

Because of technology I have access to thousands of noise streams that drown out my doubts and fears. But with that, I’m also smothering my own creativity, rest and even the ways God is quietly pushing me.

I’m literally drowning my soul in entertainment.

Anatomy of an iPhone launch

Prior to Announcement:
Small leaks begin to paint the picture of what the iPhone will be.
Internet Reaction:
Holy crap! This thing will do everything ever. MUST HAVE NOW!

Immediately After Announcement:
Jobs unveils the latest iPhone to an adoring crowd.
Internet Reaction:
Why doesn’t it do everything we thought it would? WHY STEVE, WHY?!

Pre-orders Begin:
The iPhone is finally available for pre-order. The demand promptly causes AT&T’s servers to curl up in the fetal position and cry themselves to death.
Internet Reaction:
All the critics who think it doesn’t do enough secretly ding their credit cards for $200. Apple sells hundreds of thousands of phones that won’t even be available for a week or two.

Launch Day:
Apple manufactures millions of iPhones and not surprisingly a few problems pop up with the initial batch. Despite this, and the negative news coverage of the problems, people still line up for days to get their hands on one.
Internet Reaction:
THE IPHONE IS CURSED, DON’T BUY ONE! IT HAS SPOTS! YOU CAN’T USE IT IF YOU ARE LEFT HANDED! OH THE HUMANITY!

Two Weeks After Launch Day:
Apple has sold millions of iPhones in record time and their stock soars to new heights.
Internet Reaction:
99% of the new iPhone owners love the gadget more than their own children.

What should be our takeaway from this yearly process? The internet should just shut up and enjoy its new iPhone.

iPad UI oddity

Apple has designed this amazing calendar app for the iPad. It looks just like a nice, well-designed desk calendar. And yet, to move forward in the calendar, I have to push an arrow button? Why not make it exactly like the iBooks app where I can turn pages by swiping my finger across the edge? iBooks has trained me to do that and it’s exactly what I try every time I’m using the calendar. Odd they didn’t implement that. I wonder what the reason is.

New software

I’m incredibly picky about software I buy. It has to be well designed, easy to use and simple. I’m usually not looking for programs that will do everything under the sun. Those tend to become too bloated and hard to figure out. I want ones that do exactly what I want, when I want with no hiccups. I don’t often add new software to what I use daily but with the purchase of the new iMac I decided to try some new things.

Photography Post Production

I added Photo Mechanic on recommendation from my friend Zack. The user friendliness isn’t as high on the list as I’d like, but it does what I need it to. And that is to cut my photo editing time down. It allows me to preview all the photos I take from a shoot almost instantly. I can then very quickly sort them and grab only the usable ones. Then I import that smaller subset into Aperture for actual editing. Not only does this cut down time spent sorting, it also limits the number of photos I’m dragging into Aperture. That means a smaller library which in turn means much needed speed for Aperture, which is a resource hog.

Writing

I also started using Storyist for some of my writing. I decided to get more serious about writing some of the story ideas I’ve been jotting down for years. Storyist also has some usability quirks I’m not a fan of, but after a few nights of writing, I’ve learned my way around relatively well. It handles all the heavy lifting when it comes to formatting the manuscript so I can focus on research and writing. It also has great ways of tracking things like characters and locations which is easy to refer back to. This is essential. I’m two chapters in and I’ve already spent hours researching things (like the French word for hospital for instance) and it’s nice to have a centralized location to keep all this.

I wanted to be able to sync my Storyist files between my various computers so I can work on it anywhere. For that I’m using Dropbox. I just saved the Storyist file to Dropbox and now it syncs across all my machines. And here’s hoping for a Storyist app for the iPad sooner rather than later.

Is being complex a great strategy?

I guess if you are targeting computer geeks who get all hot and bothered over system utilities then “complex” might be a good marketing strategy. However, I think most people buying Macs are doing it because they don’t even know what a system utility is. I know I don’t. So is calling your software complex really a good strategy for targeting the Apple market?