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    Thoughts on the iPad

    So I’ve had the iPad for three weeks now and I guess its time to provide my thoughts.  To put it simply and short in the words of Kaizumi-san (Vice President of Tokyo Electron Information Systems) “Mmm, big iPod.”  And as far as the device itself, that sums it up.  The key device differences are the bigger screen, better speakers, REALLY long battery life, faster performance, and a screen orientation lock.  The battery life is amazing!  One tester watched video for 11 hours.  I find that I don’t need to charge for several days.  And while these hardware features are cool, I think the platform and the apps are what really make the device shine.

    Video: Youtube, Netflix streaming, Movies, ABC streaming, EyeTV, AirVideo, and I’ve heard rumors of Hulu coming soon make this device a great way to enjoy lots of video content.  We only have one TV in the house, so I commonly prop it up in my office or in bed and watch a little TV or a movie.

    Books: I’m not a huge reader, but the Apple iBooks are amazing.  Its easy to read and the page turn eye candy is awesome.  Search, highlighting, and inline word definitions make you wonder why anyone would still use paper books.  And you don’t even need a night light.

    Documents: With the iWork suite, I can open and edit any Powerpoint, Word, or Excel file sent to me.  I’m currently using the Numbers app to track my workout program and I just take it to my workout like I would a piece of paper.  But unlike a piece of paper, it is charting and calculating my progress as I enter the data.  And with the proper attachment, you can hook this thing to a projector and run your presentation without a laptop.

    Photos: Its a lot more fun to share photos with the iPad than the iPhone.  They are actually at a reasonable size to see all the wonderful detail of the photo.  Plus, it has the ability to run beautiful slideshows and act as a digital picture frame.

    Notes: There are so many apps for this purpose and they all work great.  Evernote, Notes, Penultimate, Adobe ideas, Remember the Milk, etc.  Some allow syncing and others allow handwriting.  And if you feel the need, Pogo makes a stylus for the iPhone/iPad that really makes handwritten notes a snap.

    Calendar, Contacts, Email: I find I use these apps much more often than I ever did on the iPhone, because they are much easier to navigate with the bigger screen.  It’s also nice that I have them all synced with my work, Amy, and my personal info all together in one simple interface.

    News: I love reading RSS feeds on the NewsRack app.  It syncs with my Google reader account, so if I read an item on the iPad, it gets marked as read when I get to my computer.

    Games: The games are SOO much more fun on the iPad.  RealRacingHD, NOVA, and Labyrinth are my favorites, but there are many more.  There are a lot of fun interactions with each of these games with the multitouch and accelerometers.

    Things I’m Excited About:

    • I love coming home in the evening and plopping myself down in the hammock on my back porch and catching up with news, emails, weather, facebook, and maybe a little gaming while Brodie runs around and does his business.
    • I love the Bible apps.  With the Logos app, I can compare translations, read commentaries, define and compare Greek and Hebrew, and perform detailed searches.  It’s nice as a tool in the class room when I am teaching as well as when I’m simply reading along during a lesson.
    • I’m excited about the app called Square.  It is a free app and when you sign up, they send you a free credit card reader that works with the iPad.  You then create all your products in the catalog and whether or not to include sales tax and then you simply check people out on the spot.  They swipe their card, sign their name on the touch screen, an email recipe gets sent to me and them, and the funds get transferred into my account.  All they take is a percentage of the sales.  I’ll be using it at my art show in May for anyone who would like to buy a photo or two.
    • I met with a potential website client the other day and instead of taking a notebook or a laptop, I just took the iPad.  I showed them past work and took notes and it went very smooth and the client enjoyed the interaction and the ease of sharing.
    • The next thing I am considering trying is a remote control app.  I had the thought that I might be able to throw the iPad into a sling bag, take my bike to a coffee shop, and connect to my computer at the house.  Its possible, that I then could do pretty much anything like develop web sites, edit photos in photoshop, and pretty much anything else I do normally on my computer.  I wouldn’t need a power cord or anything.  Just the 1.5 pound iPad.  I’ll let you know how that goes soon.
    • At my job at Tokyo Electron, I now simply bring the iPad to meetings.  It syncs with my outlook calendar and emails and the full Safari web browser works with all our web based applications, so the only part of my job I can’t do on it is run a Java IDE development environment.

    Common Questions and Comments:

    • Are you disappointed that it doesn’t have a camera? I think a rear facing camera would be silly on this device, but the next generation will have a forward facing camera for video chats, which will be nice.
    • It really needs a USB port. Really?  Why?  No one has been able to give me a good answer after I pose that question.  You can get card readers and the keyboard is bluetooth and any data you want to move should be moved via the network interface.
    • It gets bad finger prints. Yes, but you can’t really see them when the device is on, so it doesn’t bother me.
    • Is the keyboard hard to use? It takes some practice, but I say no.  Besides you can always hook up the bluetooth keyboard.
    • What about printing? It will be coming in the new OS this summer, but in the mean time, you can just place it on a copier :-)
    • What about flash? I couldn’t care less.  As a web developer,  I agree with Steve.  Flash is no longer necessary and is a dieing technology.  There are SOO much better ways of presenting web materials these days.  My advice to Adobe:  Focus on what you are good at, Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, and Premiere, and leave the web alone.

    Complaints: My only complaint is that running iPhone apps in supersize mode is rather clunky and pixelated.  I see this feature simply as a means to get you by until your favorite app releases an iPad version.

    Final Thoughts: Its only been out for three weeks, so I can hardly imagine what it will be like in a year or two when app developers keep pumping out amazing new apps.  I’d love to see colleges use it instead of textbooks and I’d love to see companies like Tokyo Electron use it for documentation and manuals for Field Engineers.

    Thanks for reading, now go buy one :-)

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    Yeah, I know.  The blog has been a bit quite lately.  The past two weeks were a complete whirlwind.  Most of the stuff keeping me busy was family and friends related, but I did crank out two website builds in record time.  I have also been avoiding taking any pictures in anticipation of my new camera.  Now that it has arrived (after waiting for two months), I have plans for a lot of new Austin photos.  Stay tuned.  I should be back into the groove soon.

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    Embracing Meta Data

    I love things to be organized and it’s time I finally make the effort. In 2000, I started taking digital images and created an organizational structure that I have been using ever since. I used a folder structure by camera, year, and then by event. This structure worked for me until my library reached 80,000+ images. The problem came when someone asked me for all my pictures of Austin. I realized at that point that I would have to do something if I wanted to maintain any kind of portfolio.

    After discovering tagging structures like the one used in delicious, I came to the conclusion that this was the only way to go. Folder structures are quickly becoming useless. The only way to organize large quantities of data is to use meta data. Unlike most options, meta data lives inside each file and is therefore completely platform independent.

    Adding meta data to 80,000+ files may seem impossible, but adobe bridge makes the process somewhat manageable. In bridge, you can create a set of keywords that you commonly use and then add them by checking the box next to the keyword. Here is a quick little video on how to use meta data in Bridge. (

    As I complete the project, I hope to be blogging and posting a much stronger portfolio than I’ve shown in the past. I don’t think I have a lack of quality work, but simply a lack of ways to find it.

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    Post Bench

    Bench Build

    My dad tore down his fence and hauled all the posts to my house.  I used a couple of them on other projects and then came up with this idea.  This design would actually be quite simple and easy if the posts were new, but these posts were in the ground for 30 years.  It took a lot of powerful clamps and a lot of sanding with 36 grit paper to get it looking half way decent.  The posts are joined with half inch dowls and a whole lot of wood glue.  The white stripe was Amy’s idea to give it a more modern look.

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    Cement Pot

    After seeing the prices at some of these landscape places, I decided to try to make my own planting containers.  Amy helped me by drawing up the design in CAD to get all the angles so I wouldn’t have to spend a lot of time calculating them.  I like math and all, but I wanted the thickness of the concrete to taper for strength which introduces a lot more angles and I was anxious to get started. The project ended up being a little trickier than I expected.  I spent a lot of time making the mold real nice and smooth to make it release from the cement after setting, but all my efforts were in vain.  I expected the cement to expand when it hardened, but didn’t realize the full impact on my mold.  Two of the inner sides could not be removed with out cutting and prying.  I have a couple of solutions, but haven’t made the effort to rebuild the mold.  It doesn’t look big in the pictures, but it is a foot and a half tall and weighs well over 170 pounds.

    The process is to mix and pour the cement into the mold and pack the cement while pouring to avoid air pockets.  At the bottom of the pot, use a pipe to make the drain hole.  Let it sit and dry for a couple of days.  Remove the mold fill in any gaps or rough areas with mortar.  Stain with concrete stain of your choice and then seal with a clear coat.

    Cement Pot MoldCement Pot RawCement Pot Broken MoldCement Pot Finished


    • 2.5 80 lb bags of crack resistent Quikcrete
    • liquid Quikcrete for patching
    • concrete stain
    • plywood
    • screws
    • short pipe 1.5 inches in diameter

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    Mainstreet Model Homes

    Occasionally I get the opportunity to take photos for Mainstreet Homes.  These are some of my favorites from this years Best Product Design entries.  Thanks to my awesome friend Rachel, I used a 16-35mm f2.8 L for this shoot.  It made the shoot go so much smoother to have the extra wide angle without the distortion.  I think I just might have to invest in one for myself.

    Thaxton Place ExteriorThaxton Place Living RoomThaxton Place KitchenThaxton Place Master BathThaxton Place Master Bedroom

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    Sales Pitch for Wood Fired Coffee

    If you haven’t heard of Summermoon’s Wood Fired Coffee then you are missing out!  Some great friends of mine have started up a coffee roasting business and a coffee shop here in Austin and the coffee is fantastic!  On the outskirts of Austin, they have built a coffee roaster where they hand roast the coffee over a wood burning fire.  No electricity involved.

    Texenza Coffee had recently bought up all the Seattle’s Best coffee locations in the Austin area and Wood Fired Coffee wanted the chance to be the coffee supplier.  If they are successful, it will be a perfect fit.  Texenza is named as a reference to an essence of Texas, but they currently brew coffee roasted in the northwest.  Wood Fired Coffee would like to bring a little more Texas to Texenza.

    The Wood Makes It GoodTexas Pride with Every CupRich and Bold Independent HistoryWood fired and Handcrafted to PerfectionA Family Owned Central Texas Original

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    Elm Stump Seating

    Stump Seating

    Thanks to hurricane Ike, my Dad lost an elm tree in his yard. The tree was a good 18 inches in diameter, so I ask for some of the wood to make stump seating. I know I could buy stump seating from West Elm and other furniture companies, but these logs have a story. You will also quickly learn that I have a big problem paying for something I can do myself. I’m not sure if that’s because I’m crafty or just cheap. Either way, I have a lot of homemade things around the house.

    There isn’t much to this project. I simply peeled the bark off with a chisel and used an old craftsman belt sander with 36 grit sandpaper to sand it down. And then I finished it with about 5 coats of exterior use poly-urethane and sanding lightly with 200 grit paper between coats.


    • External Use Poly-urethane

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    Efficient Web Design Using Web 2.0

    Well, I’ve been changing my web design approach lately and I thought I’d share.  There are a LOT of really great web 2.0 and social networking sites out on the web these days.  And if you haven’t really jumped on board, you are probably thinking the exact same thing I did before I jumped in.  You’re thinking, “How could I possibly find the time to update all these sites, keep my website fresh and still have a life?”  Well, my solution is to never duplicate information.  Instead of having photos, blogs, bios and bookmarks scattered all across the internet, I picked a tool for each and linked them all together.  Here is what I currently use:

    • Flickr – Photo/Video storage with fantastic APIs
    • Delicious – Online social bookmarking
    • Facebook – Micro-Blogging and social network
    • WordPress – Blogging engine

    You can also add Twitter into the mix and set it up to replace your Facebook status, but for now I’m keeping it simple.  Now for a little more detail into how I linked all these sites together to minimize duplicate data.

    In Facebook, you can import data from all your favorite sites from the page where your “wall” lives.  Find the down arrow on the right, underneath the tabs for Wall, Info, Photos, etc. and select Import.  Just add your favorite sites, and they will stream right onto your wall and out to all your friends.

    In WordPress, I used a plugin called “WordPress Flickr Manager” from  It handles all the Flickr imports and coding for you and was very easy to install.   WordPress has many other widgets for diplaying other social media, but I am sticking with Flickr for my purpose.

    On my website, I used a fantastic little PHP include called SimplePie.  Since all of the mentioned sites have an RSS feed, you can use SimplePie to display them as HTML anywhere in your site and make it look however you want.  You could use fancy APIs, but why go to the trouble if all you want to do is show the latest information from each?  To separate the different sets of photos, I used Flickr’s tagging.

    And to make all this even less cumbersome, there are several ways to integrate these sites with your devices.  Each of these sites have a great iPhone application for updating on the go.  Flickr has an uploadr application to make adding and resizing photos as simple as drag and drop, and Delicious has an easy to use Firefox plugin to make bookmarking your favorite sites just a simple click away.

    If you have found this useful, or have ideas of your own, let me know by either leaving a comment or sending me a message through my website.  I’d love to hear from you.

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    Logo Design for Logo Design

    I always wanted to try my hand at logo design, but I had always avoided it.  I’ve learned over the years that logo design is probably the most critical asset to a company.  I would put it right up there with a great business plan.  A good logo provides a memorable image of the company and people do judge a book by its cover when it comes to marketing.  I just didn’t know if I possessed the level of creative ability needed and my illustrator skills were a bit lacking compared to my Photoshop skills.  But hey, isn’t that the purpose of Google?  You don’t need training on everything you ever want to do.  You simply need some common sense abilities and some good Google-Foo.

    When I was approached about doing a logo, I decided to through out my lack of confidence and just do it.  I’m glad I did, because I came up with a great logo and built some skills along the way.

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