Blogging from the iPad

Steve Jobs while introducing the iPad in San F...
Image via Wikipedia

A few things have changed since I last covered blogging from the iPad. Both the BlogPress and WordPress apps have received multiple updates. There is also a new app called Blogsy, which has some interesting media integrations.

The three apps share some common features:

Here are some additional features of the tools:

Blogsy

Blogsy has support for posting to WordPress, Blogger, and Posterous. While Blogsy may not support as many networks as BlogPress, they do have support for the big ones.

Blogsy has some interesting gesture support. Horizontal swipes will switch between editing and preview modes, which makes the lack of live editing slightly less annoying.

Blogsy departs from the more traditional UI shared between WordPress and BlogPress in that it does not show all the previous posts on the main screen. In order to view and edit earlier posts or drafts, you select the gear icon next to the current post, which brings up a selection dialog. This has the advantage of giving more space for the editor, as you likely don’t need to switch between posts frequently.

Blogsy does offer some of the same HTML and formatting options as WordPress and BlogPress, but these are presented as a toolbar on the screen, and not on the keyboard or in a menu. While text cannot be entered while in preview mode, these styles can be applied in preview mode, which is actually quite helpful.

When connected to the network, Blogsy also has rich media integration. Blogsy can use Flickr, Picasa, YouTube, Google Image Search, or the iPad photos app to insert media into your posts. Blogsy also has a built in web browser from which you can drag links into your post.

Key summary:

  • Modern UI
  • Rich media support
  • Easy link dragging
  • WordPress support
  • Blogger support
  • Posterous support

BlogPress

Unlike Blogsy and WordPress, I can’t seem to find any preview functionality in BlogPress. When I initially reviewed some of the blog apps for iOS, BlogPress seemed more stable than WordPress. There does not seem to be many additional features added to BlogPress, and the functionality is relatively basic.

Where BlogPress excels is in support for a variety of blog platforms. BlogPress can post to WordPress, Blogger, MSN Live Spaces, MovableType, TypePad, LiveJournal, Drupal, Joomla, Tumblr, SquareSpace, and My Opera.

Support for HTML tags are accessible through a drop down menu, which while accessible when using a Bluetooth keyboard, remains awkward.

Media support is limited to images or video from your device.

  • Basic UI
  • Limited media support (upload from device)
  • Extensive platform support
  • WordPress
  • Blogger
  • MSN Live Spaces (which shut down in 2011)
  • MovableType
  • TypePad
  • LiveJournal
  • Drupal
  • Joomla
  • Tumblr
  • SquareSpace
  • My Opera

WordPress

If you’re using WordPress, there are several compelling reasons to use this app. As the name indicates, this app focuses exclusively on WordPress features. In addition to blog entries, this app also provides comment management and static page support. While there is also a stats page, which presumably mirrors the functionality of the stats page in the WordPress dashboard, I have been unable to get it working.

One of the things that the WordPress app does well is the post preview. If your iPad has an active data connection, it renders your post using the theme from your blog. If you are out of data coverage, it renders in a much more limited preview.

The WordPress app also provides an extra row of keys to the keyboard, which has several common HTML elements, such as list tags. This is a useful addition, but is inaccessible if you are using a Bluetooth keyboard.

Like BlogPress, media support is limited to photos and video uploaded from your device.

Key features

  • Only supports WordPress.com and self-hosted WordPress blogs
  • Limited UI
  • Limited media support (upload from device)
  • Comment moderation
  • WordPress stats view

Summary

Each of these apps have particular strengths. For those who wish to manage their comments on a WordPress blog, the WordPress app has some useful features. However, if you use a more niche blog platform, you may have to settle for BlogPress. Overall, I like the new challenger, Blogsy. It has a cleaner, modern interface. The Blogsy developers seem to have considered the application’s usability, focusing on the best way to make an ideal workflow, and not pushing for a more basic level of functionality.

Steve Jobs: In Memoriam

Steve Jobs at the WWDC 07
Image via Wikipedia

Steve Jobs passed away October 5, 2011. It came as no great shock, as he stepped down earlier this summer due to terminal illness. It came as no great shock, but with a great deal of somber reflection. Steve Jobs helped us Think Different.

In my youth, I never really had much exposure to Apple Computer. The first 19 years of my life were spent with PCs. I ran with DOS 3.3, then later Windows 95. By the time Windows 98 was released, I was running Linux, probably RedHat, SuSE and later Debian. Macintosh was easy to make fun of back then. After all, where was the command line? Why did their computers have a single mouse button? I had heard that the memory management was behind the times. If an application crashed, it could take down the whole system. These were the days of Classic Macintosh, right around the time of the first great transition from the Motorola 68K processors to ARM.

The phrase “Think Different” certainly applied to Macintosh, but it wasn’t really clear why being different was a good thing. Then Steve Jobs returned to Apple, and everything changed.

The iMac and the first iBooks were colourful machines, bringing life and energy back to the dull beige of computing. One of my friends at the University of Waterloo had one of the Blueberry iBooks, and introduced me to the first beta releases of Mac OS X. Built upon the technologies of NeXT, it showed a new way forward in computing, which combined the power of a Unix kernel with the graphics of the Mac interface.

Under Steve Jobs’ leadership, Apple launched several new innovations in computing. The Mac Cube was largely seen as a failure today, but its heritage lives on in the Mac Mini, a smaller device.

During this time, Apple drove changes in technology. The iMac G3 was the first computer to drop PS/2 ports and floppy drives in favour of CD drives, USB and FireWire ports. The MacBook Air has continued this transition by removing not only the DVD drives, but also removing the ethernet ports from its most recent models.

Apple has continued to innovate, bringing iTunes, the iPod and the iPhone to computing. With Steve Jobs at the helm, Apple continued to redefine the way we think about computing.

Steve Jobs also changed the way people think about presenting great ideas. His keynotes are famous for what is known as the Reality Distortion Field. Apple’s presentation software is named Keynote because it was designed for his keynote speeches, which were carefully practiced stories around a product release.

Steve Jobs popularized a narrative form of presentation, backed up by slides containing images and short words or phrases he used to emphasize key points of his story, rather than paragraphs of text to be read aloud. Steve brought charisma to the role of CEO.

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes.

The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.

About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They invent. They imagine. They heal. They explore. They create. They inspire. They push the human race forward.

Maybe they have to be crazy.

How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art? Or sit in silence and hear a song that’s never been written? Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels?

We make tools for these kinds of people.

While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Steve, you changed the world. Because you were different, the world is a better place. You will not be forgotten.

Kindle Fire: What Amazon Got Right

Kindle Fire
Image by Dekuwa via Flickr

Amazon’s recent launch of the Kindle Fire, priced at $199, and the entry of the low-end Kindle at $79 is a very interesting strategy.

When Apple launched the iPad in 2010, it built upon the architecture and infrastructure of the iPhone, which launched in 2007. Even the iPhone built upon the success of the iTunes infrastructure which supported earlier iPod models. Amazon is likewise dealing from a position of strength, building upon the technology of the Kindle ereaders, and Amazon’s existing delivery and hosting infrastructure.

Amazon ships much more than just Kindle books. The Amazon MP3 store has been an iTunes competitor for several years now, and was the first to offer music without Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology. Amazon now also offers instant movie downloads as rentals or purchases, as well as Android application sales. Amazon offers a comprehensive alternative to the Apple iTunes infrastructure, and the Kindle Fire is another key part of this strategy.

The next key step of the Kindle Fire’s introduction is how Amazon differentiates this new tablet from the iPad. Like several other tablet manufacturers, Amazon is launching a smaller 7 inch tablet. While this form factor is not unique (the BlackBerry PlayBook, the Samsung Galaxy Tab, and the HTC Flyer all fit this size), Amazon has also cut the price point for the Kindle Fire. At $200, it is clear that Amazon is entering the low-end of the space, not directly competing against Apple at the moment.

When you consider the HP Touchpad fire sale in August, where a drastic price cut finally saw another tablet outselling the iPad, there is clearly a market for a lower-end tablet. One where Apple isn’t actively targeting.

If Amazon can successfully lay claim to this part of the market, you can expect to see future attempts at Amazon launching into the higher upscale market that the iPad now claims. One thing is for certain, Apple is watching Amazon very closely.

Amazon may have a razor-thin margin on the Kindle Fire, but the important thing to note is that it will drive sales to the Amazon store, where the real money is made. Just as Apple takes a 30% cut on sales on the Apple App Store, I expect Amazon will take a healthy cut off anything sold through their online store, while at the same time depriving the Apple economy of sales.

Amazon sent a clear message to other tablet manufacturers: This time, amateur hour really is over.