Apple iPad case, pleasantly surprised

I bought the Apple iPad case on the Thursday before my iPad arrival Friday two weeks ago. My original plan, after much research on the Internet, was (and still is) to get the Case-mate’s Nylon Flip case for everyday transportation and some kind of silicon case for when I take it to the gym. However, since the Case-mate case is out of stock then and still is now, I had to make do with the Apple case.

My expectation of the case was no. Especially after watching the video announcement of the iPad. The style is less elegant than some of the cases out there on the market, especially in Apple’s standard. And it looks pretty thick on the video.

However, once I opened the box at home and put my iPad in, I was very surprised by how thin the material really is. The case fits around the iPad like a second skin and provides good protect against general everyday use and scratches. The more grippy material also makes holding the iPad feel more secure.

There are a few downside to this case. First, dust collect around the edges of the screen, making the gorgeous iPad screen looks like it hasn’t been cleaned in weeks. The tight fit that makes it way better than other very thick cases out there, also means it is very difficult to take off. I much prefer to use the iPad ‘naked’ in the apartment when I don’t have to protect it from the environment. But taking the case off requires considerable force and create the potential of damaging the iPad every time I take it out.

I certainly don’t feel the $40 I spent on the case is wasted but I still think a two cases solution will be more effective for my usage. Now if only Case-mate produces more Nylon Flip Case…

Photography gears for 2010

It’s only been 10 hours into 2010 and I’m already planning my photography purchases for the year. Here are my list thus far:

  • Kata E-702 Camera Raincover – I wish I had this last couple of weeks during the snow days so I could be out taking photos even in the middle of a snow storm.
  • Pelican Case 1510 & Lid Organizer 1519 – I have accumulated enough photography gears (2 bodies with battery grip, 5 lenses, 2 flash lights, 4 filters, 8 CF cards, etc.) to the point where camera bags are not the best way of storing them. This case will be perfect for storage and the carry-on luggage size means I can take all my gears on vacation if I need to without having to check-in.
  • Pelican Compact Flash memory card case – Having all my CF cards (well 4 of them at least) organized in a single box is infinitely better than trying to find them among all the bag pockets.
  • Brno White Balance lens cap – For the situation where mixed lighting will really play hell with the auto white balance on the camera.
  • Apple Aperture – I feel that finally I’ve grown beyond iPhoto capability, especially with my recent interest in HDR. Right now I’m hoping Apple will update Aperture in 2010, otherwise I’d pick Lightroom instead.

Extending iPhone battery life

Since my first iPhone, I’ve never had any issue with its battery life. As long as I get access to the charger by the end of the work day the battery life on the iPhone 2G or 3G have been perfectly adequate. That is until I started working on a project down in Atlanta and my weekly commute now extends to around 6-8 hours, depending on flight delays.

I began looking for battery extender for my iPhone. Initially I wanted a battery extender that can charge the iPhone 3G and 3GS, as well as possibly the Kindle. This means the ability to attach different cables to the battery. Also the ‘green’ side of me wanted a solar charging battery so that it’d be possible to charge the battery up using solar energy alone.

Unfortunately after perusing iLounge’s extensive list of battery extender reviews, it was pretty obvious that there weren’t any battery out there that would satisfy my initial list of requirements. The closest one is the IceTECH Solar i9005. With its large solar panel, large battery capacity (2500 mAh), and large collection of connector tips, it would be ideal. The only issue is it doesn’t currently support the iPhone 3GS, as Apple in its infinite wisdom has changed something with regard to charging on the 3GS.

So the search was back to regular battery extender. There are plenty of options out there but none of them really excite me. At least not at the price they are charging for. That is until I came across MonoPrice’s iPhone backup battery. With a rather large capacity (2200 mAh *) and very affordable price (~$15, depending on quantity purchased), it is perfect.

It arrived two weeks ago and I have so far used it twice. From about 10-15% charge in the iPhone, it would take about two hours to fully charge the phone from the backup battery. During that time, I was able to continue to use the iPhone with podcast playing in the background while online twittering and browsing. The only thing that is annoying is the ‘cyclon’-like blue LEDs in the front which move from left to right during the charging process (both from main to battery, and battery to phone). They are very bright and very distracting while using the phone with the battery attached, especially in a dark backseat of a taxi! To charge the backup battery, simply plug the iPhone cable to the bottom of the battery and charge it just like the phone. Unfortunately the battery does not pass the data through to the phone so you can’t sync with iTunes while charging both the phone and the battery.

But overall, the MonoPrice iPhone backup battery is priced just right and perform as advertised. High recommended if you are looking for a simple backup battery for your iPhone.

* For comparison, iPhone 3G battery capacity is 1150 mAh which means the MonoPrice battery can potentially charge the iPhone from 10-15% charge to full twice!

UITableView scrolling performance gotcha

After a few months of .NET reporting/SSIS development work, I’m back to an iPhone project this week. One enhancement I added yesterday was a better formatted table section title in a UITableView. Before, the section title is either a bunch of unformatted (also incorrectly by locale) dates (e.g. 2009-09-30), or times (e.g. 14:58) straight from the data source. The enhancement/bug fix is to format the date or time to be locale aware so the title would either be “Wed Sep, 30 2009” or “2:58 PM” if you are in the US.

Pretty straightforward I thought, and after a couple of trips to NSDateFormatter and use the output in UITableView’s titleForHeaderInSection:section method, it was all working very well in the simulator. That was until I put the app onto my iPhone for some real in-device testing.

The scrolling performance in the table was horrible! My first thought was that it had to do with the background view I added to the custom table cell view for colouring the table cell background. But after nearly an hour of debugging through the code I still couldn’t find anything wrong.

Turns out that the titleForHeaderInSection:section method is not just called once per controller instantiation. It is called once per table cell display!

Once I moved the code to format the section title into viewDidLoad and cached a copy of the nicely formatted titles in an array, the scrolling is back to normal speed.

How safe do you feel?

Most people I know do not have any plan to backup their data. Somehow they put their trust to a piece of 3.5″ glass disc, spinning at 5400 times a second or more with a sharp metal spike fraction of a hair above it. Me? I like to spread my risk and backup my data, especially after suffering a total data lost about 12 years ago. As Alex Lindsay from the PixelCorps often says on podcasts, “Unless the data is stored in 3 different places, it doesn’t exist”. This may sound over the top but with all the online file sharing or storage services available it is actually pretty easy to have decent backup strategy with minimum cost. To achieve comprehensive backup coverage, it would definitely cost a few dollars.

Like computer security, any backup strategy should be constructed in layers. This applies to both time, location, and accessibility. Let me use my backup strategy as an example.

Continue reading “How safe do you feel?”

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