Entries in ipad (9)


Hacking a Tom Bihn Field Journal Notebook for a 9.7" iPad

Tom Bihn makes some really nice travel bags, backpacks, and briefcase/messenger-style bags. I previously wrote about their Large Cafe Bag and taking my Aeronaut 45 to New Zealand and Australia, and have always thought their Field Journal Notebook was groovy. But I've gone almost completely digital and don't need to carry around paper, pencils, and pens anymore. What I do carry with me almost everywhere is an iPad, and I currently have the 9.7" iPad Pro, with the Smart Keyboard cover. As I've come to use the iPad more and more, and a laptop less and less, I realized that what I really could use was a case/bag that was just big enough to for the iPad, my phone, wallet, keys, and few other little odds and ends. Essentially, rather than taking a laptop with me, much of what I need (for meetings, email, surfing) could be contained in a super-small minimalist bag.

This is where the Field Journal Notebook (FJN) came back into play. I've seen threads on the Tom Bihn forums where people have put their iPad Minis in their FJN (see here and here), but if you look at the dimensions of the FJN, it's just a shade larger than a regular iPad. One of the threads showed that an iPad Air would fit in a FJN that had been "gutted", with the 3-ring binder and paper removed, and I realized that this actually fits my needs perfectly. I don't need the paper, but I do want to carry an iPad (9.7" version).

So I ordered a FJN, and confirmed that once the binder is removed, a 9.7" iPad Pro with a Smart Keyboard will fit. But if you remove the binder, the FJN loses some of it's rigidity and also the back panel is exposed (i.e., it's not "finished" to be an exposed surface. It would be great to retain the plastic backing without the binder rings. I'd just need to find some flexible, yet still relatively stiff, plastic that could be cut to size. A trip to my local Bed Bath and Beyond yielded the perfect solution: a plastic cutting board, sold in a package of four for $8 (after a 20% BBB coupon).

I also removed the seams between a couple of the pencil/phone slots, so that an iPhone 6 Plus would fit, as well as a small lipstick-sized USB battery. In addiion, you might notice that this strap is a bit wider than the one that comes with the FJN; this one came from another laptop bag I had laying around the house.


Cool, but I'd never use them...

I'm generally interested in the intersection of technology, academics, and productivity. Here are a couple of things that have caught my attention, but that I'd probably never use them since I'm lucky enough not to have to take a lot of notes at this point in my life. But if I were a student again, I'd probably give one of these a shot:

1. Livescribe 3 - The newest pen from Livescribe is really groovy in that it connects via bluetooth to an iOS device like an iPad or iPhone and brings in hand-written notes in real time. I've read that the app isn't quite up to snuff yet, but the general idea of it is pretty cool.

2. Evernote/Moleskine Smart Notebook - Here's the "low-tech" approach to getting your handwritten notes onto your device that doesn't require any expensive hardware (if you already have a smartphone). As an Evernote user, anything that pipes content into their awesome app is welcomed.


If you wait long enough, sometimes you can stop waiting

A little more than 6 months ago, I posted about some things I was waiting for. Here's an update, as things have started to fall into place:

1. & 2. Summer vacation and a trip to Europe. We had a nice summer, but didn't get out of the country. I don't want to jinx things, but things are starting to come together for summer 2014 that might satisfy both of these.

3. The Fuji 10-24mm f/4 lens. This still hasn't been officially announced, let alone released. Although it's on Fuji's lens roadmap, at this point there's nothing solid on its arrival. Rumors say it is going to be big and expensive. For now, the excellent 14mm f/2.8 will "have to do." Update: At $1000, I haven't pulled the trigger, although it looks like an awesome lens. I'm also interested in the recently announced 56mm f/1.2. That will be great for my concert photography, but it's another $1000. Sigh...Update #2: It's not a heavy as I feared.

4. My F-Stop Gatekeepers finally arrived, but until today there was no word on the final piece from my order from the spring: the rain cover for my Loka. Heard today that it was finally shipping. I'll believe it when it arrives. Update: the rain cover arrived. After about 8 months, my order is now complete.

5. And on the same day #4 shipped, the iPad Air was released. I have my hands on one, and am looking forward to putting it through its paces. I just purchased my first movie on iTunes (I have downloaded TV shows and music before), and will be posting about that in the future.

So, what "stuff" is still on my list? That's a good question. I'd like to get a Hiscox guitar case at some point, and an octave mandolin would be fun. But for now, I'm pretty satiated (and I need to start saving for #1-2)!


"These are a few of my favorite things" #3 - AirPlay + Apple TV etc.

So this isn't one thing, but instead a system of interconnected gizmos:

At the heart of the system is the Apple TV, which can stream content from Netflix, Hulu, and dowload TV shows and movies from iTunes. But more importantly, it can receive content from your iPhone, iPad, and Mac (assuming that Mac is relatively new, running OS 10.8 "Mountain Lion") via Airplay and play it back on your TV. This means that anything that's on your Apple phone, tablet, or computer can be easily sent to a large display.* Also in the mix is my Denon receiver, which is also Airplay enabled, along with a series of Airport Express units connected to speakers in each room. So music from any of these devices can be piped directly into the stereo or any room in the house. Along with a big music library and Spotify subscription, this means you can listen to whatever you want, wherever you want.

*I can report that AirPlay is awesome for teaching (especially seminar classes) since you can project PDFs to the overhead projector in a classroom...


Travel photography gear, recap

We’ve been back from Europe for almost a week, and I’ve had time to reflect on how my photography and computing gear performed. Before the trip I mused about the gear I was planning on bringing here and here.

Atlas at the Archeological Museum in Naples (50mm lens on a Nikon D90; click to embiggen).Across the three weeks I took more than 2200 photos (about 30GB). My 64GB iPad had enough storage for all the pictures, but that’s with a minimal amount of movies/music loaded (although a lot of apps). For a longer trip, storage would be a problem. My planned strategy of uploading photos from the iPad to Dropbox worked okay when there was a good internet connection, but took a long time (i.e., had to let it upload overnight). Given the limited internet access in some of the smaller hotels and B&Bs, it would be a problem if I had to rely on this. But overall I didn’t miss having a laptop at all. Traveling with the iPad is great.

Processing photos on the iPad was better than I expected (all of the the photos posted in my albums from this trip were done on the iPad). I used the Snapseed app for the majority of the editing, although iPhoto was useful for some touch-ups since Snapseed doesn’t have a clone tool. My only complaint about Snapseed is a minor gripe about the black and white conversion tool, compared to Silver Efex (both Snapseed and Silver Efex are made by Nik): the filters in Snapseed aren’t adjustable like they are in Silver Efex. They are either on or off, and can’t be tweaked. But other than that, I’m really happy with the quality of the edits from Snapseed. 

The view from Hohensalzburg Castle, Salzburg, Austria (Tokina 11-16mm on a Nikon D90; click to embiggen).

In terms of lenses, the Tokina 11-16mm was used a lot on my D90. Other than the distortion and proneness to flaring, this is a perfect lens for the sort of travel photography I do. My guess is that 50-65% of my best pictures from the trip were with this lens. The second most used lens, at least in Amsterdam, was the 50mm f/1.4, although I ended up not using it wide open that much. But it was a good length for photographing the cyclists and architectural details around the city. I really only used the 105mm micro at the Amsterdam Botanical Gardens and Zoo, but it was great for that day. I’m wondering if a good combination/compromise would have been to pick up the Nikon 60mm f/2.8 macro and leave both the 50mm and 105mm lenses at home, but that $550 was probably better spent elsewhere. As anticipated, I only used the 10.5mm fisheye for a few shots. 

At the World Press Photo show at Oude Kerk in Amsterdam (Fuji x100; click to embiggen).The only time I really needed telephoto reach was on the Amalfi Coast leg of the trip; I was lucky to have access to the 18-105 lens that originally came with my D90, and is now on Jen’s camera. I ended up borrowing it from her a lot. It’s making me rethink not having a zoom lens to travel with. Maybe pairing the 11-16mm with a 24-70mm f/2.8 would be a good (but heavy) combination.

I used the Fuji x100 a good deal in Amsterdam, when I was traveling by myself and had plenty of time and flexibility to walk around to get the shots I wanted (especially since I was on my feet a lot, so it was refreshing to carry a minimal amount of gear from for a few hours a day). But in Italy I shot almost exclusively with my D90 given the range of the Tokina 11-16mm and Nikon 18-105mm combo.


Travel photography gear, part 2

I made a brief trip to Washington DC last week to give a talk, but it also gave me a chance to beta-test some of my camera gear plans for my upcoming trip to Europe (see here for previous musings on this topic). Some thoughts about the following stuff I had in tow along with observations about workflow (Fuji X100, Nikon WC-E68 adaptor, iPad): 

  • I spent some time playing with zone focusing on the X100. This seems like it will work pretty well for unobtrusive and candid street photography.
  • Click to enlarge; Fuji X100 In my previous sessions with the X100 I almost exclusively used the optical viewfinder, which I like very much. But since I had time to visit the US Botanic Garden, I figured it would be a good opportunity to test the macro mode and electronic viewfinder. I've been torn about whether I should bring the big/heavy 105mm macro lens for my Nikon to Europe, for taking pictures of flowers and other details, but maybe I can get by with the X100's macro mode instead. It's not bad.
  • Given that at f/2 the X100 maxes out at a 1/1000 second shutter speed, the built in neutral density filter is a lifesaver. Thanks to a recent firmware update, the RAW button can be reprogrammed, and I've set mine to toggle the ND filter.
  • A few days before the trip I received a Nikon WC-E68 wide angle adapter that screws on the X100 lens with a 49mm-46mm step down ring and the Fuji hood adapter/ring. The Fuji WCL-X100 adapter was just announced (although won't be available for a couple of months) and it's relatively pricey although I'd be tempted to get one if it was wider (relative to a fullframe sensor, the X100 has a field of view similar to a 35mm lens; with the WCL-X100 it would be similar to 28mm, and with the WC-E68 it's akin to the field of view from a 24mm lens). From the samples I've seen online, the Nikon adapter lens works pretty well if the X100 is stopped down to f/8 or smaller. Based on the handful of shots I took between f/8 and f/16, it seems fine for my purposes (and the $40 price on ebay); although I'm not a pixel peeper, I did notice that it flared a bit shooting into the. If it had better performance wide open, I'd be tempted to leave my Tokina 11-16mm home, but for low light the Tokina + Nikon D90 that I'm planning on bringing will probably serve me better even though it will be heavy.
  • If I had an unlimited budget my travel kit would be the X100 and a Fujil X-Pro1 with the three lenses that are currently available (18mm f/2, 35mm f1.4, 60mm f/2.4 macro). The 18mm lens isn't quite wide enough for my liking, but if Fuji comes out with the 14mm lens that is listed in their X-series lens roadmap it would be ideal, assuming it performs well. I'll start saving now...
Click to enlarge; Fuji X100, converted with Nik Silver Effex Pro.
  • What about keeping it simple and traveling with just the X100? It's tempting. Creatively, I think it would be great and not too limiting. I'd love to be able to shoot wider, especially in Europe, but the Nikon WC-E68 will get me into that range, assuming I can stop down to f/11 or so. And the sensor and image quality are good enough that I could crop in for details when necessary. My main worry is the reliability of the X100. I haven't had any problems with it, but the camera-geeks on the interwebs keep talking about "sticky aperture blade syndrome" where the lens gets stuck wide open so you can only shoot at f/2. I'm not sure how widespread the problem is, or if this is some form of internet hysteria, but I'd hate to be on vacation for a few weeks and have the lens on my X100 fail without a backup camera. Another reason the X100 + X-Pro1 combo would be ideal! But for now, I think I'll lug the D90 along so that I can choose between the full Nikon system and the X100, depending on that day's planned adventures.
  • Using the camera connection kit, I uploaded pictures to my iPad. Any (or all) originals (as RAW files) as well as edited images (in Snapseed, iPhoto, PhotoForge...I still don't have a preferred editor yet) can be uploaded to Dropbox via WiFi (or cellular connection, but I won't have that in Europe). My Dropbox doesn't have enough storage to copy every single image over (I have about 30GB free, so this would be okay for a shorter trip), but I'll backup the very best on the cloud, and then keep the originals on the memory cards. And I am planning on clearing as much room on my iPad as I can for storing photos (i.e., sorry...the movies will have to go!).
  • As an aside (but related to video on the iPad), streaming Netfilx over the cellular connection worked pretty well, as long as the connection was strong. When I was on the train it dropped a few times, but overall it was very functional.
  • Black and white conversion with Snapseed is pretty good, although it doesn't offer all the same options as Silver Effex Pro (even they are both Nik products). I need to play with the other programs I have (i.e., iPhoto etc) to see which have the best control when converting one's images (filters, contrast, structure).

Things I like: The Fretboard Journal + iPad

Much like chocolate and peanut butter coming together in tasty goodness, two of my favorite things are joining forces: The Fretboard Journal is coming to the iPad. I'm looking forward to getting my hands on the app; it will make faculty meetings bearable.

Update: This never really materialized, at least for those of us who already subscribe to the hard copy of the journal (i.e., the iPad subscription is separate). Very disappointing.


New iPad + Apple TV

As an early adopter of the original iPad two years ago, I was interested in the announcements of the new iPad (i.e., iPad 3) and updated Apple TV. The Apple TV is interesting to me, not because I stream a lot of movies to our television (although the interface for movies and music looks like an improvement over our Mac Mini running directly to our TV), but because of its ability to take video from an iPad (and Mac, if I'm understanding some third party software) and wirelessly display it on a bigger screen. To me, this is the future of lectures (at college). No more laptops running to the project thru a VGA cable. Instead, being untethered and able to broadcast the lecture wirelessly to the projector. How cool would that be?

The new iPad is attractive because of its improved display, faster data connection, and the growing number of photo editing apps (although I'm disappointed it didn't get more memory...128GB would have been awesome). I've started traveling without a laptop recently (to conferences, and also on our 10-day trip to Hawaii last year), and I'm interested in being able to keep things light while on the go but still being able to process and post photos. I'm thinking that the iPad, along with a Hyperdrive, will be a good system for my upcoming trip to Europe.


Day 5 - My new best friend = the "go bar deck"

Day 5: Today might have been the most interesting day so far. I’ve been looking forward to doing the bracing of the top, and today we got to beginning doing that. From the pictures and description, it might not sound like a lot was accomplished but it was actually a really busy day. 

The bracing for the top and back is made with small pieces of very stiff spruce (mostly; the back has one piece of cedar in the design we’re using). The back is radiused, meaning you put a slight arch into it in both directions, so each brace must be carefully shaped to include that curve, so that when they are glued to the back it will be pulled into that radius.

The center back brace was glued into place with the “go bar deck,” which is a frame with a floor and ceiling (one is flat and the other is radiused), just smaller in height than a series of fiberglass sticks (made from the same material as kite poles). Right now it’s a bit oversized; we'll shave that down later and then install three braces that intersect with this brace and run the width of the back.

In addition to beginning to brace the back, we also did the bracing on the top. Most of us (at least those building steel string guitars) used a variation of the traditional Martin X-bracing system. Thanks to my iPad, I was able to quickly able to bring up a picture of the interior of a prewar Martin similar to the design I’m building, so I copied that as best I could. The bracing for the top was also glued on using the go bar deck, and in the next few days we’ll begin shaping the bracing.

In between glueing bracing to the back and top, we continued doing some work on the neck, this time trimming down the “tongue” that will be inserted into the body. Anytime you take a bandsaw to the neck it’s traumatic, but with some careful measuring (“measure twice, cut once” evolved into “measure five times, cut once” for some of us) it all ended up okay.

In the shop by 8am, home at 6:45 or so (although the last 45 minutes or so a few of us hung out chatting while others finished up the day’s tasks). Looking forward to bending sides and binding tomorrow!