Saturday, April 16, 2011

Yaaaay, Manage got updated!

I mentioned before that I have a To Do app that I really like, Manage.

Well, it got updated today, and some of the issues I mentioned in my post (and others I'd noticed but didn't mention) have been addressed! And the dev claims they'll be addressing some others in future updates!

Specifically from my previous post, the problem with moving items containing subtasks when rearranging a list has been fixed. Excellent. Also, for some reason it would only add new items to the beginning of a list, and now you can choose beginning or end.

In addition, they've added syncing with Toodledo, which I've never used but is apparently a very popular To Do website, as well as themes if you don't like their basic brown leather design. They are also working on improving the writing (which is functional but not as smooth as it could be) and making more items writable, such as the notes for different tasks and also subtasks (I think... specifically it says "fully scribbled task lists," which I assume/hope means scribbling subtasks since this is the only part of the list you have to type now).

If you want to write instead of type your To Dos, go spend the $2 on this app right now! With devs this responsive, I'm sure it will go from great to stellar in no time.

Friday, April 15, 2011

What addiction looks like

I see people ask all the time on forums - should I get an iPad? What would I do with it? What do you do with it? And it's kind of a hard question to answer in a way that conveys just how attached I've grown to the device in a short time. But I think the conversation I had with myself tonight offers a glimpse of how it manages to make itself mysteriously indispensable:

I'd packed for a road trip today, but decided at the last minute to leave in the morning due to thunderstorms. But I'd already put my backpack, with iPad in it, in my car trunk, and I decided I'd leave it there. No iPad this afternoon or evening, I could do that, right?

A couple hours ago I started baking a cake for my husband's birthday. This is when my inner dialogue began:

Me: Ooh, ooh, if we got the iPad out of the car we could play Pocket Frogs while the cake bakes! Or read the ebook we started the other day!

Me: Or we could leave it there and play the DS we haven't touched since buying the iPad. Or read a paper book, remember those?

Me: Fine. *pout*

*starts getting baking stuff together*

Me: Gee, if only we had the iPad out, we could listen to Pandora while baking....

Me: FINE, I will go out in the rain and get the damn iPad out of the car. Happy now?

Me: Yes. Oh! Oh! And we can write a blog entry about this while it's cooling!

Me: *eyeroll*

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

On my wish list

I am sure that as I use my iPad more, for a wider variety of tasks, I'll come up with quite a few features that I wish Apple would add.

Today's wish list item: Viewing more than one app at a time.

Now, I'm not holding my breath for this, really. After all, it took them years just to put true multitasking into iOS. They are clearly trying to create a new interface experience, getting away from the old desktop, window, and file system metaphors entirely. But y'know, sometimes it's really, really useful to see two things at once.

Last night, I was up late writing out some data collection plans on UPad. This morning, I wanted to email another grad student about them - it was really annoying to have to switch back and forth constantly just to get a list of dates from the (handwritten) notes typed into my email. It made me wish I'd just done my work on a plain paper notepad so that I could have it sitting next to my iPad to look at while I wrote the email.

Apple certainly wouldn't have to go back to old style windows entirely to make this happen. It seems that now that there's multitasking, it wouldn't be too hard to have an option to view two (or four) apps onscreen at once. No desktop or home screen behind them, just a simple split screen.

Interestingly, Apple has gotten a patent for what is basically a version of Spaces for a touch screen. While I really really do not see them taking the iPad back to the OS X desktop metaphor as shown in the patent drawings, it makes me hopeful that they are considering some way of viewing more than one app at once. It may not have made any sense for the iPhone or iPod Touch, but the iPad has enough screen real estate to at least offer the option.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Got a call from Best Buy today

I was in the middle of a nap when the phone rang. I was surprised to see that it wasn't my husband, it was some # I didn't know.

When I answered, it turned out to be a lady from the local Best Buy calling to tell me that my iPad 2 that I had reserved with them was in!

I laughed and told her that I'd bought my iPad from them over three weeks ago. Apparently somebody never crossed me off the list! Well, at least somebody will be getting their iPad today.

Monday, April 11, 2011

App Store account hacked

After I bought my iPad, I bought $50 in gift cards to the App Store, figuring that this was probably simpler than having dozens of $1-5 charges on my debit card. As of yesterday, I should have had around $20 left. I went to check my account, and instead found a balance of 90 cents.


I got on iTunes on my desktop to pull up my purchase history, and yesterday morning someone bought 13 apps for a total of $19.17, half of which are in Chinese (a language I don't even speak).


Since then, I have emailed Apple, who claim that the order is still processing but will be refunded once it's done (which might take up to five days). They also froze my account (I'd already changed my password, but I assume this is standard), which I have since gotten reinstated. So now I can download free apps again, at least, though I'm still waiting to get my gift card balance back before I can spend money again - not like I'm going to put my credit card info in there now! (I didn't have a card listed before, luckily.)

I also did a bit of research into how this might have happened. I haven't downloaded anything via iTunes on my computer since last May (and haven't spent money there since 2005); recently I have only logged in via the App Store on the iPad. I found this MetaFilter post and from there a huge thread on the Apple support forums with hundreds of people having the same or similar problems over the past few months.

There seem to be several flavors of scams going around, but two seem especially popular: In one, they target people with gift card balances and drain the gift card. In the other, they wipe the person's current information and put in a stolen credit card and new address, which they use to buy lots of chips in a poker app.

There's some speculation that some of the gift card drainings may be connected to the huge fiasco where gift cards were stolen and sold on TaoBao, a Chinese auction site. Some people later bought legitimate cards only to find that the number had already been used. But I'm not sure whether/how having my gift card # would allow someone to buy the apps on my account.

Another proposed source is that everyone who's been hacked was part of the big Gawker password hacking fiasco and simply used the same password on the app store. Now, I do have a Gawker account (which I've used like twice on Jezebel, ever), but according to this widget neither my username nor email address were included in the released database, so I don't think that's how they got it. (I honestly don't know whether my Gawker password was the same as my App Store password - I admit that I was using a password for the App Store that I use in other places, but I don't remember if I was using it there and I changed my Gawker password after this fiasco just in case.)

Possibly some other site where I happened to use the same password was hacked and I never heard about it? I read enough tech news that I doubt it, but if it was some small site somewhere it's possible.

Or is there an actual security issue with the App Store? Since this happened to me yesterday, several more people have posted on the Apple Support thread who had the exact same experience at the same time. Did we ALL have accounts on the same obscure website whose hacking went unmentioned in the media, and all happened to use the same email and password with Apple? We certainly all had iTunes/App Store accounts. I know that iTunes was recently patched due to a security issue that may have been contributing to similar cases a couple of months ago; I have to wonder if the App Store is going to get a similar update soon.

If I were only an iTunes user, this would be as simple as not using it anymore. Unfortunately, of course, the App Store is the ONLY place for me to buy the software that makes my $500+ iPad investment worthwhile (until an iPad 2 jailbreak happens). So I guess for now my best option is to continue using gift cards to keep my CC# safe, but only buy small denominations ($10 at a time, I suppose) and don't enter one until I'm ready to use at least a good chunk of the balance. My emails from Apple have been very nice, but some people in the thread report being told that their refund is will be a "one-time deal," which makes it sound like if you get hacked again, you're out of luck. So best to keep as little money in there as possible.

Amusingly, Apple's security in the case of such a breech is kind of... lacking. The only "security information" I had to give them to get my account unfrozen and my password reset consisted of: the address on the account, the order # of my last legitimate order OR the names of one of the apps on it, my first name, and my birthday. Someone who had hacked into my account would have had easy and immediate access to all of this information save the birthday, and who knows if that's in there somewhere if they know where to poke around. I made my account years ago, I don't remember every piece of data I gave them.

Here's hoping my gift card balance comes back soon, and whatever security leak is causing this gets patched up (whether it's with Apple or someone else).

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Top 10 iPad typing errors (that auto-correct often doesn't catch)

Overall, I'm fairly impressed with typing on the iPad and with the way autocorrect does its job without getting in the way (much). But I've noticed a few problems that crop up over and over again that constantly require me to use the little magnifying glass to position the cursor just so to fix. (Really, no arrow keys at all, Apple? Anywhere?)

1) Backspppppppppace - Back in the day, I used Linux, as did most people I knew at college. Today you use a strikethrough tag to show something you've "deleted" (but still want people to appreciate your cleverness read the original wording) - back then we typed ^H^H^H, which is how a command line types out "control-H," which was the same as a backspace. Today, I wonder if this may sometimes be replaced by ppppppp - as this is often what I accidentally type while trying to delete something on my iPad. The backspace key is shorter than my hands expect, and while autocorrect catches most instances of hit-the-key-next-to-the-right-one, randomly inserting ppppppppp in the middle of a (already misspelled) word confounds it.

2) Missingnthebspacecbar - Similarly, my fingers don't always make it all the way down to the space bar, and while once or twice autocorrect has correctly noticed a bottom-row letter between two valid words and replaced it with a space, it doesn't happen often. And I usually don't notice what I've done til several words later. (And honorable mention to the rarer times when I hit spacebar instead of a bottom-row letter.)

3) Captcha Is Case Sensitive, Damn It - The iPad's desire to capitalize the first letter of every line or form space can be annoying in many contexts, but usually harmless. I don't really care if my email address is capitalized or not, after all. It's smart enough, at least, to lay off when it comes to passwords. But then you hit a captcha - and if you're not paying close attention, you'll fail, because the first letter has been oh-so-helpfully capitalized against your will.

4) Unintentional. New. Sentences. - When I'm typing something long, like a blog entry, I slide my iPad down into the case's typing position and do my best to touch type. Aside from increasing many of these other errors, one particular habit I have on a real keyboard is hitting the spacebar with both thumbs at once. Unfortunately, the iPad registers both taps independently (I doubt it's ever truly simultaneous anyhow) and helpfully starts a new sentence for me. Now, I've heard others claim that "two spaces = period + space + capital letter" has been a major keystroke-saver for them, so I'm not going to claim it's an altogether bad idea. But until I manage to form new iPad-friendly typing habits it's. A bit. Of an annoyance to me personally (real typos left in there).

5) It's "its" this time, please - Before getting an iPad, I honestly hadn't noticed that "it's" really is a more common word than "its." However, about 90% of the time, when autocorrect changes the latter to the former, it's correct. In general, I've gotten quite used to rarely needing to actually hunt for the apostrophe because autocorrect does such a great job catching all my contractions. Unfortunately, the 10% of the time when I really do mean the possessive, and not "it is" or "it has," it still gets "fixed" and because I actually did type the right thing, I don't notice it til much later. And I am one of those sticklers for proper apostrophe use, so I find it rather embarrassing to look back at my writing and see that particular error.

6) Don't mind me, I'm just5608!( - I understand that sacrifices had to be made when designing the on-screen keyboard. Including numbers and symbols on the main screen would have take up too much real estate, and most people type mostly in letters. And so then you need an easy way to get to that number/symbol screen. I don't know what I'd suggest instead, honestly - but more often than I'd like to admit, my attempts to hit spacebar, shift, comma, or other keys nearby result in my letter keys suddenly changing into other things entirely and my words suddenly devolving into absolute gibberish.

7) Apparently fingernails aren't capacitative - I'm guessing this one gets us ladies more than the guys. On a real keyboard, if your nails are a little long, they'll still press down the key. Worst case, they slide into the space above the key as you hit it with the meat of your finger. On a touchscreen, though, anything but man-short nails can get in the way. Now, in the slid-down touch-typing position I mentioned before, this is less of a problem due to the angle. But if I've got my iPad propped up for viewing and am just typing a quick comment somewhere, my typing is accompanied by the constant clicking of my nails on the screen - and now and then the nail prevents the finger from hitting a letter. Sometimes the resulting skipped letter gets corrected, sometimes it stumps autocorrect.

8) Hardkore - This is a smaller, more specific issue than the others, but it's an amazingly common one for me. Apparently autocorrect recognizes "kore" as a word (but not "hardkore," as I just discovered). This means that my most common simple letter-replacement misspelling that does not get autofixed is when I hit the K rather than the M in the word "more." Which I seem to do all the freaking time.

9) "I am in the United States." - Therefore, I put my periods inside my quotes. Therefore, I want a capital letter after a period + quotation mark. After getting used to autocorrect capitalizing most of my sentences, it's always startling when it misses. There are plenty of other times I could use an auto-cap but don't get one - after the HTML tag plus dash in each of these list items for example. But I know autocorrect can't always read my mind. However, the ." is one of those situations that both comes up a lot, and seems like it should be a built-in rule given that this is standard US usage.

10) Using HTML *sucks* - This isn't a typo per se, but it is an annoyance of the iPad keyboard that interferes with my typing constantly. I am used to blithely sticking italics, bold, link, and image tags into my text as I type with little extra thought. However, the greater than and less than brackets on the iPad are hidden away not just on the number screen, but on the second screen of symbols that takes two taps to get to. So that's "tap tap < tap I tap tap > tap words to italicize tap tap < tap / tap I tap tap >" - and of course that's the minimum assuming you don't lose track of which screen you're in and have to tap extra times to switch screens some more.

Sure, for some things I can use a WYSIWYG editor to insert the tags automatically (I've previously noted that I appreciate this feature on BlogPress due to this problem), but for example many comment sections take tags but don't offer WYSIWYG, and on other sites it's quite a pain to change my account prefs back and forth depending on whether I'm on my iPad or a regular computer. So instead I find myself making more use of asterisks (which are still on screen 3) or CAPS for emphasis, feeling like I'm stuck in 1999 instead of on a state-of-the-art post-PC. Apple could make this a bit simpler by shortening the extra-long number screen key on the bottom left of the main page and thus making the #+= screen accessible with only one tap. Or perhaps a fourth screen with single-key HTML tags (and hey, maybe even arrow keys?) much like the appearance of Undo and Redo buttons?

I've only had my iPad for about three weeks, so in time my typing on it may adjust to make up for some of these issues. But all of these are prevalent enough for me right now that I encountered them multiple times while typing up this single blog entry. Did I miss any that particularly irk you?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad