It Shouldn’t Take The ‘Crazy Ones’. It Should Be Everyone

This whole iPad isn’t thing.

I wish I saved the blog post I wrote back on my Wordpress account in 2012 about my previous computer purchase. I spent some time praising the joy of owning a retina MacBookPro and I remember typing, “this might be the last laptop I will own”.

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This thinking came from all the power and versatility of the device I typed the review on at the time, it was spec’ed with the highest custom options available (about $28,000 HKD at the time). I felt I wouldn’t need another Apple laptop ever again. It felt that powerful in use.

Since that time however, Apple have tried to prove my now half decade old assertion correct. My 2012 purchase still feels greatly justified against the newest iterations of the rMBP. Everything after 2015 feels like a bigger than normal compromise one would want to make with an Apple product. Normally the balance in new features against the removal of the old ones works itself out. These newest devices haven’t had their “balancing” work itself out still and Apple won’t save face by adding back some legacy just to make it easier

Clearly Apple think they’re on the right path with their laptops. Who am I to argue? Seriously though, the MacBook Pro’s are a no-go for me

What else then could I upgrade to instead? I figured the iMac, (I know not a portable) actually was the next most appropriate because the price to performance ratio was much better and I’d only need one bloody dongle to move forward judging by the peripherals I own and the legacy ports still available to the iMac.

The October Event

The 2018 iMac update didn’t come as many presumed it would, Apple updated other we were crowing about and consequently the prices on those devices rose, just like with the MacBook Pro’s. This gave me reason to be concerned; that Apple is going to do this with the iMac line. Time will tell on that front.

The iPad was also updated and judging the product from the event’s marketing, it was supposed to be faster than any current laptop (around 92% to be exact) on the market and be a replacement for a laptop.

My laptop has been off the market since 2015 so I did some mental calculations that made an iPad Pro purchase seem like the logical choice in terms of its low price (relative to what’s available and what I paid six years ago for my main machine).

Ironically those “relatives” allowed me to sidestep the conversation people were having about the increased price of the new iPads because my personal circumstances gave me different criteria to compare against. The cost of computing for me, actually got cheaper, by a third.

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A 2012 MacBook Pro at $28,000 divided by 6 years of ownership equals to $4,666 per year. Using that as my baseline a $18,000 purchase (the 1TB iPad Pro* including pencil, stand, keyboard, 4TB WiFi hard drive) over 6 years would come out at $3,000 per year.

I think it’s reasonable, not just for me, but for anyone, it’s prudent to think longer term for computing purchase and it’s not out of the question to realise an iPad can be still be useful after 4 years. Heck the current iPad mini still sold by Apple hasn’t seen an update since September 2015. Apple seem to think so to. Again who am I to argue? :-)

I think I need to make another assertion :-p – “I can keep this iPad as my main machine for the next four years at least”.

The big conversation online however is whether an iPad can replace a laptop. This conversation was held previously for laptops replacing desktops and look what happened, nobody cares now.

At the moment people care again about going from laptop to tablet, while others clearly see the power of the alternative in an iPad.

What do I do on a laptop that CAN be done on an iPad?

Two things slowed my 6 year old laptop down, editing video with Final Cut Pro and browsing Reddit.

Those two things CAN and are being replaced as Jonathan Morrison recently illustrated to his large audience and Henny Tha Bizness has been showing how he works on an iPad since before this year’s conversation about whether creative work is possible on the iPad really kicked into gear.

Apart from some asides (Xcode), there really is no excuse or argument against not seeing a large subset of non-traditional (pilots, medical staff and sports tacticians) and traditional professionals (photographers, video and drawing artists) alike, using the iPad Pro in some sophisticated ways. People are proving it today, not later when iOS 13 supposedly will fix everything wrong with the iPad.

I’ve already edited my next YouTube video with an iPad and it was faster than I thought. Of course because the hardware is enabling me more than my laptop can but in addition, the capability of Luma Fusion in this case for manipulating said video is also making possible.

The desktop to laptop transition was an easy one because the UI paradigms and desktop metaphors kinda stayed the same across all the platforms during that time.

This next transition from laptop to tablet requires not only newer UI workflows, but pioneering, creative minds that say ‘yes’ in the face of a chorus of ‘no’ or ‘not yet’.

I’m saying yes, and my bank account agrees with me.

*As a general purchasing rule I believe buying the very most is the wisest thing to do when making an Apple purchase. It grants you longevity while using the computer and removes any performance doubts if you had skimped on an upgrade.

Hurdles of Live-Streaming with a DJI Drone on Periscope

Having owned a DJI Mavic since December 2016, it think it's valuable to share my perspective on what it takes to learn how to pilot a flying robot with cutting blades, across one of the most densely populated parts of the world.

I'm in a unique position, in so much as being one of the very few live-stream broadcasters in Hong Kong showing the sights and sounds.

I live-stream on the Periscope platform. Most live-streams are a private broadcast for patreons, and once a month, I also share a public scope with non-paying viewers. For those interested in knowing more, click the link. There is also a schedule at the top of the page.

I also make and upload some drone videos on to my YouTube channel.

I wish I could solely make videos for the YouTube platform as it's much easier than live-streaming on Periscope. All I need to do is select a location free of signal and legal interference. This isn't anything to do with the in-built option of streaming on YouTube with the DJI Go software, it's down to the fact that live-streaming with a drone on Periscope has so much more to set up behind the scenes in order to pilot it.

No native solution for Periscopers. Need to use RTMP to set up a drone as a seperate device.

No native solution for Periscopers. Need to use RTMP to set up a drone as a seperate device.

Things to Consider Before Flying Using Periscope.

  1. Location function is turned off. Viewers can't follow you along on the map that's normally provided in periscopes and the viewers end up constantly asking pilots where they are flying*.
  2. You need two (iOS) devices. I have to create a hotspot from one iPhone to another iPhone to be able to stream on Periscope (actually I don't need to hotspot, I just need 2 unlimited data connections you know?!). I have a spare iPad, but as others have reported to me, hotspotting to iPads doesn't work. Luckily I have a second iPhone paid for by my patreons**.
  3. The DJI Go app doesn't natively support Periscope. If it did, I'd need only one phone. So now I'm looking at two screens (if piloting alone) while a dangerous flying robot with spinning blades is hovering over Hong Kong. The current solution I feel is basically a quick fix.
  4. Periscope Producer (PP) requires more bandwidth by default. Normal scopes broadcast at 380p. PP needs at least 960x540, so more cell bandwidth is required. Luckily I have unlimited LTE in Hong Kong. You're out of luck if you're on a plan with a GB limit.

These four items I hope, are simplified by Periscope at some point, however their hard-on for 360 VR Periscopes know no bounds and the development team I'm repeatedly told, is small. I am going to assume technical changes will be coming later rather than sooner. Phone calls to DJI are certainly required. Kayvon the co-founder of Periscope has never even flown a Mavic on his own platform. I wish he would do, and then realise how ridiculous the current solution is.

So why do I live-stream on Periscope then?. It's just live-streaming is so attractive, and I have overcome these hurdles in spite of Periscope's attitude towards drone broadcasts. I continue to stream because of the engagement factor, it's a massive incentive to narrate and engage with an audience. This is why it's mostly a paid affair. Should this extra work be given away for free?

Other things to consider.

  1. I need near perfect signal to stream. Another Periscoper "Penguinsix" with his YouTube channel, created a short video to display the actual signal strength from an iPhone. I've learnt for Periscope broadcasts with a drone, that I need a minimum of -90 to ensure no stuttering is present during a scope. Anything above that might not even work!
  2. Legal issues. I'm not allowed within 50 meters of a structure or a building, flying at night is a no no as well.
  3. Hong Kong is extremely dense. Signals from wifi, radio signals, metal, satellite TV, other GPS devices, interference from buildings, it goes on and on. Even with Ocusync and a signal booster, signal strength is going to be severely limited in and around Hong Kong. So far I can get around 400-500 metres in a given direction near the city when I'm lucky. Over open fields and water, I can get 2km.
  4. Don't forget mother nature! A pilot needs good weather and low wind speed. 

"I am one with the force, the force is with me".

I'm still learning how to stream with enough signal ( the '-90' required simply to enable periscope transmissions). It's my biggest obstacle that I can't pre-plan for. I'm learning only through trial and error; taking notes of signal strength in and around the city as I travel. It's slowly becoming a sixth sense. It's a different intuitive mind map aside from just knowing where to just fly a drone legally. 

Hong Kong itself is almost an island city state, I'm lucky with open areas to fly over busy shipping lanes, near city structures, islands, massive religious statues (two Buddha statues exist), abandoned villages, peninsulas, bays, mountain peaks and open fields. I want to fly all over it using Periscope if I can. It's still the best live-streaming platform for showing the world, Hong Kong.

My hope is that people find these brief technical descriptions useful for flying near a city while using Periscope. I also hope there is a better understanding between viewers, and those who create 'drone scopes' because of the amount of technical knowledge required just to provide another form of entertainment that can be dismissed away by tapping an 'X'.

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* Periscopes made with drones need 'Periscope Producer', but 360 periscopes, regular periscopes get the option of including location. Periscope have responded to requests that 'most' scopes are inside a studio and don't need the location option. The big deal behind this however is discoverability is lowered dramatically. So spend thousands on technology only to be penalised in the process. The most mobile type of a Periscope live-stream ironically doesn't feature the ability to know to viewers where they are.

** The Phantom 4 required one smartphone to broadcast. Location was also available, so on some technical levels, live-streaming with a drone on Periscope has retarded.

"Look Wendy I Can Fly"!

It was the iPhone's 10th birthday this month. It's astonishing it's been ten years since it was originally unveiled! Time has flown by. Ten years seems like a good way to think back to the state of my 'personal computing' from 2007.

I had a Mac laptop, as I do now, the tiny for its time 12" PowerBook connected to some monitor, a Nintendo DS Lite and some Nokia phone I don't care fondly enough for (it had WAP). I also had home wifi.

In 2007 wherever I went, the PowerBook went with me, and I travelled to where there was WiFi. It seems brutal for a workflow and unbelievable that that was how I operated casually in the computing world only ten years.

I want to sing a little praise in this blog post for the iPhone's most useful feature as I put my new website design through its paces. That is the always on connection to an LTE network and the Personal Hotspot function.

We use to 'dial into' the Internet, today it's ever present. Always on Internet is something we generally take for granted now. Anybody born into the world today won't even think about the Internet, just like children in the 80s readily accepted television. I do remember being astonished when my parents mentioned their lives before microwaves and televisions. 

I was astonished with the introduction of the first iPhone (the way Steve Jobs presented the iPhone helped). That January keynote was one to remember if you were able to watch it live, I saw myself being able to use the future that I had seen on 'Star Trek' ten years prior. I could see it, but certainly not feel it like I do today! Wait for the kids who wonder what we did prior to the ubiquity of the Internet and the smartphone.

In 2007 I really couldn't envision a 2017 Jonathan.

I'm reminded at work almost every time I can access anything I want, specifically 'YouTube' when my 4-5 year old students get annoyed with the load times as they don't understand the nuance between the screen of a TV and a smartphone. I'm fine with the load times. SIDE NOTE: I'm beginning to see what a 'generational divide' is.

I'm reminded at home when I realise how easy it is to tether my laptop to my iPhone, along with an iPad, and a second backup iPhone. It's the utility of both the mobile connection and the phone combined. I have all four devices running and operating on my own wifi network generated by a device smaller than a video cassette! For others with the iPhone SE, a cassette tape! The wifi is also faster than the wifi I had ten years ago!*

My favourite reminder is to have fired up something like Periscope, Twitter, download some updates all simultaneously on my various devices. It's a little thing personal to me I know. I am just still able to marvel at this ability. Credit goes to the countless developers and engineers on both the network side and the device to make it happen. Everything complex and computer related is interwoven into the radio frequencies surrounding us. It's easy to forget the progress we've made and along with all the hidden difficulty.

We've all heard that story about the computing power of a smartphone today is more powerful than what we had when we went to the moon. It's true, but it isn't a metric we can personally measure the progress of and compare against. I'm sure you have your own story about how your life has changed in the last ten years since the iPhone was shown off. Share it in the comments if you want.

I think back ten years to scoff at what I could do then compared to today. Now I look forward to see what we will have over the next ten years.

*My apartment in HK is old, cable or some wired internet service with a wireless router is pointless so that is why everything is run off the mobile.