Thursday, November 3, 2011

Typing into the future

Hey everybody, this is a test blog post which is also sort of a product review. It has been a while since I last wrote, and so as to not give the indication that I've given up on blogging, I thought I'd write a little something here. I recently sold my laptop, which was instrumental in writing my thesis as it allowed me the freedom to move around and get comfortable to write, and allowed me the structure and formatting capabilities of Microsoft Word. However, in the time since I finished the major writing portion of that, I've found myself using that particular piece of equipment much less than I otherwise would. Since I already had an iPad, I found myself reaching for that almost every single time I wanted to do a particular task in computing. Also, since my iPad has a longer battery life and is extremely small and light, it just made sense that if I was keeping one thing, it should be that. There was one small caveat to this decision though, and it was evident while I was making it. If I decided to go without a laptop, if I wanted to type while being majorly mobile, I would have to make due with typing on the screen keyboard of the iPad. While I have never had as much of a problem with this as other people, typing out longer things presents a two-fold problem. Firstly, the screen is virtual and so you must be paying rapt attention to the position of your hands at all times. Secondly, since the keyboard is on the screen, you must necessarily lose some screen space in order to type with it. When typing shorter messages, or replying to emails, or performing searches this was perfectly fine and actually quite convenient. No extra space for a keyboard was required, and the addition of a split keyboard when typing with thumbs in iOS 5 was a further excellent step and is something I use quite often. However, I do still enjoy writing longer documents and in these cases having some kind of keyboard is quite useful. I do not see any reason, though, to broadly state that a permanent physical keyboard is an effective use of space or mechanical function. There is no reason in the age of low power bluetooth devices, for any two pieces of equipment to be connected, unless there is a shortage of electrical power. For the time being at least, I don't consider myself to be lacking electricity in any way, and so this is not important to me. What I do realize is the next huge shift in computing, however, is the incorporation of touch into all of our devices. The idea of using a laptop trackpad to navigate our screens is just as laughable as the idea of using our hands on a mouse, if not more so. There is so much more our hands are capable of than using such an implement to manipulate objects on a computer screen. Personally, with about an hours use of a keyboard with no trackpad on my iPad, I will very likely never buy a computer with a trackpad on it again. If I do, the screen with still be touch (Dell is selling these true laptops with high-resolution 15" touch screens right now for about $100 more than non-touch screens). This is most likely a move by Dell to test the waters of such devices to precede the launch of Windows 8, which is in development right now and can be tested out at Microsoft Developers' Website. I have also put this operating system to the test, and it is very touch based. With that in mind, the launch in 2012 of this new touch-centric operating system will probably be joined with several different makers releasing touch laptops and tablets of their own running Windows 8. Presumably Dell is simply testing the waters with this launch and nothing will come of it, but I honestly believe that touch is the future, and that using a mouse on the computer will be phased out in the next few years.

Now, on to the actual topic at hand, now that I have written about its virtues. The keyboard and case which I bought is made by Belkin, a well-known iDevice case and accessory maker, and is called the Folio Case with Keyboard for iPad 2. It retails for $99 on the Belkin website, and I found it for $95 on Amazon. I am so far very impressed with it, and if you are interested in purchasing an iPad instead of a laptop but still want a keyboard, this works quite nicely. The only slight downsides I have found with it, which may not be a problem for non-power users, is that making custom commands which are not available would be nice. For one, I would very much like to be able to use multitasking via shortcut rather than either using the home button it has built in, or using gestures on the screen. Other than that, most every typical iPad function is considered here, and the case itself is very compact and protects both the keyboard and pad from anything external, as well as keeping them separate so as not to scratch the screen. I can't comment of yet as to the battery life of the keyboard, which charges via USB, but keyboards tend to be very low power so I expect a full day or two of battery even during a day of typing. It should be noted that this whole assemblage takes up no more space than would a MacBook Air, and is quite a bit cheaper than that, with a longer battery. I hope this has helped those of you in this market, and that you will be enlightened to what I think is really the future of not just mobile computing, but computing in general! Thanks, and I hope to get back to you all very soon!