multitasking & efficient use of resources

Lukas Mathis wrote recently on his blog Ignore the Code about multitasking and what that means for humans versus computers. He made one point that resonated with me:

“The fact that the iPad only lets me see one app at a time often does not help me focus. Instead, it forces me to switch between apps constantly, thus preventing me from focusing on my task. Every time I have to deal with the iPad’s task switching, I’m interrupted.”

I noticed this when I was using the iPad at the last two conferences I attended. It was great for focusing my attention on the speaker and content, because I had to leave the note-taking app and open the Twitter app if I wanted to check on the back channel chatter. However, it was frustrating for that same reason, as it also meant that if I wanted to toss out a pithy quote from the presentation, it meant taking a chance on missing something important while I switched programs.

When I’ve had a laptop or netbook with me for note-taking, switching between programs was a simple keystroke that took a fraction of a second and barely any of my mental focus, and more often than not I could have Twitter and my note-taking program open side-by-side. While I was using only one resource at a time, by being able to switch between them quickly, I could “multi-task” efficiently.

Thankfully, I don’t often have need to do this on a mobile device like the iPad or my Android phone, so right now this isn’t a problem for me. However, if these types of interfaces become the new standard for computing, someone will need to find a way to allow for multiple screens running multiple programs that can be moved between with the flick of a finger. Otherwise, we will have even more problems focusing on the task at hand.

trying out the iPad

I have borrowed an iPad from work to take notes on at ER&L next week. So far I’m learning that I can’t touch type on it, so I’ll have my head down a lot. Also, the screen is very sensitive, so I’m making typos when my fingers get too close. Will be needing to hone my hovering skills.

I’m also bringing my laptop, so I can switch to that if this gets frustrating.

custom recipe file for iPhone/iPod

Use your Google Notebook and the free Gnotes app to cull together a custom recipe box on your iPhone or iPod Touch.

I’ve been playing with a iPod Touch from work for the past few weeks. One of the first things I did was dig around for interesting and useful free apps that don’t require constant 3G connections to work effectively. One thing I knew I needed was a functional note-taking tool that would sync the notes with my computer(s), and that’s how I stumbled upon Gnotes.

Basically, this application syncs with your Google Notebook and pulls the text of the notes to the iPod/iPhone. The first thing I did with it was type out the words to some choral pieces I needed to memorize, and after I got comfortable with the interface, I began thinking of other things I could do with it.

One of the apps I first searched for was something to collect, store, and display recipes I wanted to use. There are plenty of free and pay apps for recipe collections, but I didn’t want fifty bajillion recipes to sort through, and I don’t have a wireless router at home, so I needed something that could be used offline. Then it hit me — why not use my Google Notebook for this, too?

It works well, and I have the ingredients list with me for last minute grocery shopping. Here’s how it looks on the iPod Touch:

recipes with Gnotes screen 1recipes with Gnotes screen 2

One down side to this versus using a printout or paper note card is that you can’t see the whole recipe in one screen, so you’ll need to make sure you scroll down far enough to have everything visible you need for that step in the process. You also might want to edit the recipe instructions to include the amount of each ingredient (if it isn’t like that already) within the text, to avoid scrolling up and down each time to check for quantity.

switching teams

No, not that team!

This evening, I placed an order through the Apple Education Store for a brand-new 20-inch 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo iMac with iWork ’08 preinstalled. I have been eying this thing for months as a replacement for my Compaq Presario R3000 laptop. The old girl is still chugging along, but her memory is failing and she can’t keep up with all the apps I need to run at the same time.

I decided to go for a desktop since that’s really what I need at home now. The Presario worked okay as both my desktop and portable laptop, but it’s heavy, and the keyboard isn’t comfortable for long-term use. A Macbook would be lighter, but the keyboard thing would still be an issue. And, since I have a laptop at work, I won’t need to have something to cover the portability thing. In any case, I mainly needed it for work-related things such as taking notes at conferences and staying connected to work while on the road.

I waffled for a while between getting a Windows machine or getting a Mac, but in the end I decided that I’d get more bang for my buck with a Mac. I’m sure there will be a few applications I’ll miss from my PC, but from what I understand, there are more and more equivalent or better applications to do the same thing on a Mac, plus there’s the whole Parallels thing if I want to bother with it.

I’m not going to get rid of the ol’ Presario anytime soon, either. I’m pretty sure it will take me a while to transfer all my important files, and I may just turn her into my dedicated music server, depending on whether or not my external hard drive containing all my tunes will work with the iMac or not.

reviews update

It’s been a while since I posted an update here of what I’ve been writing over at Blogcritics.org. Between moving and the holidays, I’ve fallen far behind on many things, not to mention writing (or even writing about writing, as the case may be). Here are the handful of recent reviews:

  • Guinness – The 250-Year Quest for the Perfect Pint by Bill Yenne

    Yenne has written an engaging book that is accessible even to the pedestrian beer drinker. His research is thorough, and the bibliography at the end of the book has a few titles that caught my eye as potential future reads. [more]

  • Carole King – Welcome To My Living Room

    The film quality and editing rides the line between a PBS TV concert and a big-screen hyper-reality, with long cuts and minimal camera movement. In the end, it has more of an “I was at a concert” feel than the audio recording from a different show, mainly because of the aforementioned between song banter that was left in the video and removed from the CD. [more]

  • Leiana – No Going Back

    The skatepunk sound found on Leiana’s second full-length, No Going Back, feels as comfortable to me as an old pair of jeans, and I think most of that has to do with the distorted crunch of Chuck Treece’s guitar riffs and the straight-ahead drumming. It’s a little bit retro, while remaining modern and fresh. [more]

  • Macally BTCUP for iPod

    Over the years, I have purchased a variety of FM transmitters in the hopes that they will transfer the sound from my digital devices to my car stereo better than cassette adapters. In general, I have not spent more than $30-40 on these devices, and in the end, I was unsatisfied with them. Recently, I was given the opportunity to test Macally’s BTCUP for iPod, and I was suitably impressed with the device. [more]