Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: iPad Impressions

362 Responses

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  • giovanni tiso,

    My point is, typing was a skill you learnt solely for the purpose of interfacing with your computer. It's a skill that we have to learn because of the limitations of the interface.

    No. Really, it isn't. It's nice we have GUIs which mean we no longer have to ask the computer to do things in words, but one of the main functions of a computer is writing. And okay, you don't need a lot of it for browsing or tweeting, so maybe you can get by with a touch screen keyboard. But a lot of my browsing does actually involve a lot of writing. Being on PAS, for one thing.

    ETA

    Things like most people only use a very small subset of the total English language, and have a distinctive grammar and phrasing style. So a device can learn it's owner's writing patterns to make autocompletion a far more powerful too

    God, that sounds like an absolute nightmare. And all of my posts on PAS would start with "I'm originally from Italy, and..."

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    Bearing in mind of course that in the US, the Kindle's connectivity is free. So you're not paying for data, but you can only use that connection to buy books from Amazon.

    But if you're at home connected through your wireless router when you buy a Kindle title you're on the same boat as an American consumer? That's pretty flash. I mean I can't envisage absolutely having to buy a book while I'm on the bus.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Damn. Everyone tells me I really should try Flipboard, but there's now a queue for them to set people up with their Twitter and Facebook accounts.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22843 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole,

    I think lack of keyboard on a machine is an indication about how we've failed to communicate properly with our machines. It's somewhat bizarre that we learn a special skill simply to convert our thoughts to letters on a computer when we can all talk fine

    And you've never had problems understanding spoken word from another person, right? Or had difficulty being understood?
    Computers simply don't work the same way our brains do. They're pretty shit at pattern recognition, which is what understanding speech is all about, and even highly-specialised software such as Dragon is imperfect. It's also limited to a handful of Latin-alphabet languages: English, French, German and Italian. So if you're from South America, or most of Africa, or Asia, you're not going to have much luck talking to your computer. An iPad also doesn't have the guts to run dictation software at any level of performance (Dragon for Windows requires a 1GHz processor and 512MB RAM, as a bare minimum, and I doubt the Mac version is much different). So no keyboard, no built-in USB ports and no hope in hell of running dictation software.

    The failing is that we don't understand the human brain well enough to create computers that can mimic its capabilities in anything like a portable form, plus the physical limitations in how we do try that imitation. Hell, the state-of-the-art is the size of a basketball court and about equal to half of 10% of a mouse's cognitive processing capability. Keep that in mind when you say that we've failed in how we communicate with computers.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    No. Really, it isn't. It's nice we have GUIs which mean we no longer have to ask the computer to do things in words, but one of the main functions of a computer is writing.

    But we're talking about ipads today. Which isn't primarily a instrument for writing. Which doesn't come with a keyboard and this is an issue people have with the machine.

    The keyboard is simply an interface with the machine and given the nature and likely purposes of an ipad, a different primary interface might be more useful.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • jeremy gray,

    I don't think that apple will be taking a slice of the kindle app profits - all the money goes through amazon. Kindle also has a (free) android app, which again works by buying through amazon.com. The actual app seems to simply show you the files it finds on the linked amazon account.

    point chev • Since Apr 2008 • 44 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    Keep that in mind when you say that we've failed in how we communicate with computers.

    That was three paragraphs making my point - we've failed to build an effective interface with the computing systems that we use, hence the keyboard.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • SteveH,

    (Dragon for Windows requires a 1GHz processor and 512MB RAM, as a bare minimum, and I doubt the Mac version is much different). So no keyboard, no built-in USB ports and no hope in hell of running dictation software.

    The iPad has a 1GHz processor, though only 256MB RAM. So it's not that far off. And Android phones of similar spec do voice recognition for search. The hardware is not the problem. The problem is that the accuracy of voice recognition is not high enough for general use.

    Since Sep 2009 • 444 posts Report Reply

  • HORansome,

    Actually, rather than buy software to make iPad compatible videos, can I recommend Handbrake? It's free and works wonderfully.

    Tāmaki Makaurau • Since Sep 2008 • 441 posts Report Reply

  • Patrick Xavier,

    I gotta say, I'm still trying to get my head around the paradigm shift, but I'd be perfectly happy if the only iPad app I had was Instapaper. My lord, I thought that was good on the iPhone, but on the iPad it works as it was probably first intended. Awesome.

    Since Nov 2006 • 49 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole,

    Kyle, the point is that the keyboard is "an effective interface with the computing systems we use". It's about as effective as we're likely to get within my lifetime, unless someone makes some seriously astounding breakthrough in neural network design and programming.

    Take away the keyboard, ignore voice, and what's left?

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • SteveH,

    My point is, typing was a skill you learnt solely for the purpose of interfacing with your computer. It's a skill that we have to learn because of the limitations of the interface.

    It's worth remembering that plenty of people were typing before computers came along. Many authors preferred typewriters to pens. A keyboard is a very good interface for getting words from the brain to the page. Nothing better has come along in the nearly 150 years since they were invented.

    Since Sep 2009 • 444 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole,

    The iPad has a 1GHz processor, though only 256MB RAM. So it's not that far off. And Android phones of similar spec do voice recognition for search. The hardware is not the problem. The problem is that the accuracy of voice recognition is not high enough for general use.

    Recognising a couple of words (and that poorly enough, from what I've seen, even with the artificial manner of speaking one adopts when talking to a telephone's internal directory) and searching a predefined list is a far, far cry from working with general dictation. Even at 100wpm, which is quite a lot slower than most people talk, that's still a lot of looking-up and comparing.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • SteveH,

    Recognising a couple of words (and that poorly enough, from what I've seen, even with the artificial manner of speaking one adopts when talking to a telephone's internal directory) and searching a predefined list is a far, far cry from working with general dictation. Even at 100wpm, which is quite a lot slower than most people talk, that's still a lot of looking-up and comparing.

    If you're saying speech recognition isn't generally good enough then I agree totally and have made that point a couple of times already. If you're saying that the only issue is that it's not possible on the iPad then I don't necessarily agree. Even if the hardware is not powerful enough it could still be done by off-loading the work to a server elsewhere (I believe that's how Android does it).

    Since Sep 2009 • 444 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Kyle, the point is that the keyboard is "an effective interface with the computing systems we use". It's about as effective as we're likely to get within my lifetime, unless someone makes some seriously astounding breakthrough in neural network design and programming

    The point there is that while the keyboard is a very useful way of entering text, it's not a great means of interacting with the computer for many other purposes. That's why we have computer mice.

    Now we're just starting to discover what multi-touch is really good for -- browsing and resizing images and maps, for one thing.

    Personally, I'm impatient for a decent virtual DJ app to turn up for iPad. The ones released so far all have too many shortcomings for me.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22843 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole,

    Steve, I'm saying that not only is the accuracy insufficient to the task there's also inadequate power in the iPad (and pretty much anything else that's not a general-purpose computer, including the vast majority of netbooks, nettops, and tablets) to do it even if accuracy was 99.99%
    Handing a few words off to a remote server is still a huge step away from transcribing even 30 seconds'-worth of speech.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Handing a few words off to a remote server is still a huge step away from transcribing even 30 seconds'-worth of speech.

    I agree, mostly. And I'd rather type than have to vocalise every thought. I'm not sure I could do it if I had to speak every damn word.

    But basic vocal commands are a different matter. I quite like the idea of saying "iPad: Shut up!" if the occasion demands.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22843 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    Kyle, the point is that the keyboard is "an effective interface with the computing systems we use". It's about as effective as we're likely to get within my lifetime,

    It's not really effective. It's just that we've become very good at using them. I spent a term in 3rd form learning to touch type as my high school option. Was probably the most useful thing I learnt at school. But is there any other single physical skill with no other purposes that we have to invest so much in to be good at?

    Keyboard skills do not transfer to anything else - it's a skill with one purpose - human-computer/typewriter interface. If you learn to ride a bicycle you have learnt skills that transfer onto other things - riding a motorbike, balance etc. The only further application of typing is OOS.

    It's a relatively difficult skill, and even less sensibly the layout of the keys is stuck in a legacy system designed to slow down typing to make typewriters work, rather than speed up typing to make computers work. If you choose to go to a more efficient layout of keyboard, you have to retrain yourself to use that.

    It requires this large object to be attached to the computer, except sometimes they come as part of the computer, except these latter computers are supposed to be the ones that we carry around everywhere.

    A keyboard is a very good interface for getting words from the brain to the page.

    OK, you're still thinking about typing out text, which you're unlikely to use an ipad to do much of. Turn the camera on, hit record. Or the microphone. You're now interfacing with the machine. Move your finger around the screen, you're interfacing with the machine.

    If you want to write a book, unless you've got voice recognition going well, keyboard is your tool. That's not what we're doing however. PAS is a public interaction space, and yet the interaction uses the same method of interface as if we were to write novels to each other.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Mark Thomas,

    Do you know if north and south are planning to make an app for android? Or, you know, a website?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 317 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole,

    PAS is a public interaction space, and yet the interaction uses the same method of interface as if we were to write novels to each other.

    You obviously haven't paid too much attention to the length of some of the posts and comments that litter PAS :P

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    But we're talking about ipads today. Which isn't primarily a instrument for writing. Which doesn't come with a keyboard and this is an issue people have with the machine.

    That's fine, but if somebody comes here and says "the iPad is the future", then I'm going to have to go back to "the future doesn't have a keyboard? FU, future". It seems to me that it's more likely, with a little less pomp, to be a future. More specifically, the future of portable devices, sitting somewhere between a smartphone and a laptop, or a digital photo frame and a potted plant. Hopefully the former.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Martin Lindberg,

    PAS is a public interaction space, and yet the interaction uses the same method of interface as if we were to write novels to each other.

    Something I'm pretty grateful for. Should typing only be used for books?

    Stockholm • Since Jul 2009 • 802 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic,

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5439 posts Report Reply

  • David Hood,

    God, that sounds like an absolute nightmare. And all of my posts on PAS would start with "I'm originally from Italy, and..."

    But if you'd typed "I'm or" and it figured 'You've started a sentence with I'm, this is the second word and starts with or, so based on your previous writing, I'll suggest originally as the word you would like me to autocomplete by pressing tab. And if the sentence starts with "I'm originally" there are only a few words you have ever used, and from is the most likely, so I'll over that as the next completion. And once we have "I'm originally from " there is only one word you have ever used next, so I'll offer that. All of which gets overridden if you actually keep typing.
    Most contemporary spell-checkers are context sensitive- weighting results based on the grammar of the sentence and the point you are at in it. The next logical step is weighting by prior use. It's a bit like the assisted aim that console games get (compared to P.C. versions).

    Dunedin • Since May 2007 • 1445 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Do you know if north and south are planning to make an app for android? Or, you know, a website?

    I'll ask -- we'll talk to one of their people on the show this week.

    But a website is a cost centre, both to build and maintain, and it's hard for a monthly magazine to maintain the kind of traffic that would make advertising a viable source of income.

    The iPad app is a front-end for $6.49 purchases of the digital version of the magazine, which is mostly generated straight out of their production system, so in theory it wouldn't have to be more than a modest success to make money.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22843 posts Report Reply

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