writing about tech

Tag: ipad

My 10 Second Review of Vainglory

Last night, I was in the middle of  very, very close Vainglory match when, to my horror, the screen froze – my iPad’s battery had finally given out. I ran upstairs, grabbed my iPhone, launched the app…and connected directly into the same match. Despite my nearly minute-long absence from the game, my team and I managed to squeak out a victory.

It was the most memorable moment I’ve had playing a video game in a long, long time.

More thoughts on Hearthstone, and why I hate to love it

Today, an Honest Game Trailer was released for Hearthstone, and it’s basically perfect.

I love and hate Hearthstone, depending on the day, the time of day, the phase of the moon, etc. It’s really, really fun, but also quickly devolves when I think about it too much. As you get higher in rank, it becomes distressingly clear that everyone is using some variant of some competitive deck they looked up online. “Oh good, another Warlock rush deck”, I mutter to myself, while resisting the urge to throw my iPad at the wall.

Sure, you have to fill in the blanks if you don’t have certain cards, but it’s really hard to shake the feeling that a CCG in the vein of Hearthstone falls apart in a world where you can just Google for a good deck and then smash that deck up against other people who have also Googled for a good deck. The arena helps mitigate this issue, but it’s also highly reliant on luck, and also isn’t “free” – you either pay for entry, or go back into the world of matched-play to earn the gold to play again.

When I want to play a card game on my iPhone or iPad, I find myself going back to Ascension, which is much less polished presentation-wise, and isn’t even really the same genre, but scratches much of the same itch, while being more fair and balanced than something like Hearthstone.

As much as I enjoy Hearthstone, it might be time for me to admit that CCGs just aren’t for me. Well, maybe after one last Arena run…

Quick Tip: Use an iPad adapter with your iPhone to charge much faster

This is one of those things that, as a nerd, I assume everyone knows, but the reality is quite the opposite. While your iPhone obviously came with a wall adapter, that wall charger doesn’t charge your phone as fast as possible, as it it is a 5-Watt adapter.  If you want to (roughly) double your  charging speed, use a 10-Watt or 12-Watt iPad adapter. It’s perfectly safe (at least as long as you use an official one), and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the difference in charging speed compared to what you get out-of-the-box.

 

My 10 Second Review of Hearthstone

Despite first being released on PCs, Hearthstone is, I believe, the inevitable result of tablet gaming.  I’ve long felt that tablets are an ideal medium for board and card games – I’m also hopelessly addicted to Ascension, for example –  and Blizzard embraced that by creating an incredibly-polished collectible card game that anyone can pick up and play.  The twist is that many of the rules would be incredibly complicated (if not impossible) to implement in a physical game, which I think is where tablet card games truly shine.  I can’t even imagine playing the physical version of the aforementioned Ascension, since there’s just so much to keep track of.

I would seriously recommend it to anyone who owns a tablet (especially now that it’s on Android), but I take no responsibility if you end up hopelessly addicted.  You have be warned.

(But seriously, it’s super-fun).

Today’s Apple Announcements: Spec Bumpin’ (and not much else)

Today’s Apple event was the most boring in recent memory. Hey, we bumped the specs! We bumped all the specs! Things are a little faster and thinner!

I wonder if the time for dedicated events for each and every device released should come to an end. Most of the announcements today could have been handled with a press release and promo video, which could then free up press events for major releases. Still, I guess that’s not really Apple’s style.

Oh well. At least Yosemite comes out today.

Choosing, or losing, my religion

There’s been a lot of talk about how the ecosystem wars are heading up; walls are getting taller and moats are getting deeper, as both Apple and Google work to ensure you invest so heavily in their products and services that leaving becomes an overly-painful proposition.  The question was posed on The Verge’s forums:

I’ve been an Apple guy thus far. But I am waiting to see what comes out of the Moto 360, Nexus 6 and Android Silver launch later this year. We all pretty much know what iPhone 6, iOS 8 and OSX is bringing to the table, so no mystery there.

If I don’t switch from Apple now, I am not sure I ever will, so I want to give Android a serious look before making the decision. I want to wait till December and see how things shake out in the platform wars.

Anybody else taking the wait and watch approach before making their next big tech purchase – smart phone, tablet, smart watch etc.?

With all of this going on, I’ve been pondering just how invested I am in my current daily driver setup.  I know I have absolutely no desire to use anything but OS X on my primary computing device – everything else is certainly up for grabs, though. This year I’ll probably continue to coast with the Nexus 5 and 7, unless this year’s iPad refresh is truly remarkable. I love iPad hardware, and iOS is…fine, but I just can’t justify $400-500 for something that’s a luxury for me at best. I need a PC, and I need a smartphone…but my tablet use cases are generally limited to “electronic reader and light gaming machine”, and the Nexus 7 is perfectly adequate for that. Of course, I occasionally find myself tempted by the fairly impressive iPad-exclusive tablet game line-up, FTL being a high-profile example. Since price is my primary concern, maybe I’ll look into a used retina Mini at some point.

Phone-wise, I’m really reluctant to buy any more OEM or carrier phones, which at this point limits me to basically Nexus devices, an iPhone, or a Windows Phone. Only Nexus devices satisfy my desire to own a phone at a reasonable price, though; if I get an iPhone or a Windows Phone on contract, then I feel like I’m just renting my device from the carrier. Still, depending on how compelling 2015’s hardware is, I could certainly see myself moving off of Android.

That’s 2015, though – after my bump from an HTC One to a Nexus 5, this year is basically a mobile tech holding pattern, with the possible exception of the Moto 360 – which, of course, would further invest me in the Android world.  Either way, the next couple of years are going to be pretty exciting, and there’s some small comfort in knowing that it’ll be pretty hard to go wrong, regardless of what side you end up coming down on.

Deprecated Post: Information Consumption + Exercise: Why the iPad is a vital part of my workout routine

Deprecated posts are where I revisit popular posts I made on other sites.  Depending on the amount of time that’s passed, some of what is written may no longer be relevant, but I believe much of what is covered in these posts is still worthy of discussion.

Given that I spent this morning’s stationary bike workout reading the news and playing a couple of tablet games, I figured it was time to re-share this post.  Some aspects have changed – I now use a Nexus 7 and not an iPad, and I use a different pair of Bluetooth headphones – but I think many of the core principles of the post are still relevant.  This is a precursor to an upcoming post about my current “fitness ecosystem”.

The following was originally posted on The Verge’s forums on July 27th, 2012.

 

iPad? Exercise? Huh?

I’ve always been overweight, and – ever since the iPhone 3G and the Wii – I’ve had a bit of an obsession with finding ways to combine technology with my personal fitness.

In April of 2010, the original iPad was a revelation for me – but likely not for the same reasons as most other early adopters. Where some people saw couch companions, or a gaming system, or a netbook replacement, or an eBooker reader, I instead saw another tool in my quest to get in better shape.

 

iPad? Exercise? Huh?

A month before the release of the first-generation iPad, I started a 2-year membership with LA Fitness. I had been debating purchasing home equipment, but decided I’d rather figure out whattype of equipment I wanted, and a gym membership was ideal for that. What wasn’t ideal, however, was using the actual equipment. Unfortunately, like many others, I found using treadmills and stationary bikes to be monotonous – to put it nicely. What I needed was something to distract my mind and help me lose track of time. What I needed was a tablet.

 

Why a tablet?

I think anyone who has used the internet for any significant amount of time has experienced the time-loss that inevitably occurs when you get drawn into something like Wikipedia or TV Tropes…you decide to quickly look-up an article about Batman comics and suddenly it’s 2 hours later, the sun is down, and you’re reading about health care in Poland. I’m sure there’s some science-y scientific science behind the phenomena, but that wasn’t what I cared about – what I cared about was using that effect to my advantage. Tablets are often called media consumption devices, but I would argue they could more accurately called information consumption devices. When my brain is busy consuming information, an hour can – and often does – pass by incredibly quickly.

Over the last couple of years, I have harnessed this technique and – in the process – refined and streamlined my personal workouts in several key ways. Most notably, after my LA Fitness membership expired a few months ago, I acquired a treadmill and a stationary bike for my personal use – not something everyone has room for, but I found that I was much more likely to stick to a routine if the equipment was readily and immediately available. As a bonus, this meant I could take advantage of my home WiFi, rather than having to awkwardly tether the iPad to my phone’s crappy signal while I was at the gym.

 

My Current Setup

I workout 6 days a week in the morning before work – alternating 3 days on the treadmill, and 3 days on the stationary bike. I stream music and other audio from the iPad to my Motorola S305Bluetooth headphones (my preferred workout music is the Trance/Progressive Station on Slacker Radio), and monitor my heart rate on my old iPhone 4 using a Wahoo Fitness ANT+ Dongle and Heart Rate Monitor. I really should, at some point, upgrade to a Bluetooth Heart Rate Monitor, but I feel no need to as long as the old one is working and I have my old iPhone. Waste not, want not – and God knows I waste enough on gadgets already.

iPhone 4 + ANT+ Dongle + S305 Headphones

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Treadmill

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Treadmill2_medium

 

Stationary Bike

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One thing you might notice is that the iPad covers up information like distance, speed, and time elapsed. I actually view this – particularly the third one – as a benefit, rather than a drawback. The less I know about how much time has gone by, the better. If there’s a timer for me to “accidentally” glance at, I almost certainly will – and as they say, the watched pot never boils. It’s bad enough that my heart rate monitor app is visible in the corner of my eye, feeding my valuable information, but also tempting me with knowledge of my elapsed time.

A question I hear often is whether or not I’m actually getting a good workout, considering I’m still able to use my iPad. I can confidently say: Yes. The apps I use for reading only require minimal input, and I use the HRM to guarantee I’m reaching my target heart rate – typically somewhere between 150 – 165 BPM.

 

Why the iPad? What about other tablets?

The simplest answer is that the iPad is the tablet I own, so it’s the tablet I use. Obviously, back in April of 2010, the iPad was really the only tablet that matched the qualifications I had: I needed it to be light, thin, and easy to use while working out. Over 2 years later, there are now obviously more options, but I opted to get the third-generation iPad for several reasons:

  • The retina display is unparalleled when it comes to reading on tablets.
  • The larger display and the 4:3 aspect ratio are also ideal for reading. I’ve never been a fan of widescreen aspect ratios on a tablet for this reason.
  • I was already invested in the iOS ecosystem, and knew the apps I wanted to use and how I wanted to use them.

At this point I’ve streamlined my usage to the following basic pattern: I start with Reeder so that I can catch up on my morning news. After Reeder comes Zite, which helps me catch on news I wouldn’t otherwise get in my regular RSS feeds. Finally, I finish up with Pocket, where I attempt to tackle my never-ending backlog of saved articles – mostly from Cracked.com. Occasionally I’ll also poke around in Flipboard, or jump into the Kindle app if I feel like reading a book. For some reason, though, catching up on news and various Internet articles seems to make the time go by faster than reading fiction. I guess that’s just how my brain works.

Obviously, there’s no reason you couldn’t use another type of tablet, especially given the recent (and deserved) popularity of the Nexus 7. Having not had personal experience, I can’t vouch for it one way or the other, though I’d think it might prove a bit more difficult to read on a smaller screen and to use smaller interface controls. Still, I’m sure it could be made to work well enough, especially if you’re part of the growing population of people that already own one.

 

What about movies, TV, or games?

While the primary use for my tablet was text-based consuming information, that’s not to say it’s the only strategy I tried. At various times I also used it to watch TV shows or movies and even play games with very simple control schemes. When it comes to TV and movies, the problem for me is that when I watch anything longer than 5 or 10 minutes, it’s too easy for me to subconsciously track the amount of time that’s gone by – which defeats the purpose of using information consumption to lose track of time. The problem playing games is simpler – there just aren’t that many games that are playable when you’re really exercising, and even for the games that are playable, they can be distracting enough that the overall quality of the workout suffers.

 

Do you really need the iPad?

Well, yes and no – despite writing an entire post about how I use an iPad to quickly pass the time while working out, I do also enjoy exercise just for the sake of exercise. I love riding my bike outdoors and going hiking. I’m also (very gradually) learning to enjoy running outdoors as well…of course, when outdoors, I have RunKeeper with me, because gadgets are a great and fun way to enhance outdoor workouts, too.

Unfortunately, back in reality, a busy work schedule combined with Tucson heat means that the simplest and most time-efficient exercise is almost always going to be preferable. When it comes to facing that reality, the iPad has proven to be an invaluable tool in that regard – there’s really nothing else like a tablet, at least not that I’ve found.

 

Closing Thoughts

Anyway, I would love to hear how you guys have incorporated technology into your fitness habits, whether it’s just listening to music or if you solely depend on the Wii or Kinect to get a solid workout – which I’ve done in the past myself, but that’s an entirely separate post. In addition, if you have any questions or suggestions about my current setup, or what I’ve tried in the past, etc. – I’d be glad to answer them.

Thanks for reading!

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