Tag Archives: keyboard

iPad Vs. Netbook: Does a Physical Keyboard Really Matter?

While his email is original, the question from community member “Tamloo” is an all-too-familiar one for me (unedited):

Hey Chris, I have been a really big fan of yous over the past couple of years. You are one of the main sources I get my technology news from. One thing I really like about you is that yes, you can be an “Apple Fanboy” at sometimes, but for the most part, you do reviews fairly and over a wide range of products and software. Unlike other tech reviews, you don’t just focus on one specific platform or company.

Well, the main reason why I am emailing you is because I recently purchased an Asus Netbook computer last year. It worked great for traveling since I travel very frequently; however I accidentally dropped my computer one week after the warranty expired and the screen completely shattered (huge crack down the middle, and I can’t see a thing on the screen). Sadly, during these rough economic times, I don’t know what kind of small-easy-to-use computer I could invest in at the moment.

Right now, all I have to use when I travel is my new iPhone4 (which I have grew to love over a month). I have not been much of an Apple fan, however I think it is actually coming out of me at the moment just like WilsonTech1 has lately. My main dilemma is what kind of computer should I get? Right now, I am extremely happy with my iPhone, and I am considering getting an iPad. But I don’t know if it is worth getting since I don’t know if the price is really right to me. If I get an iPad, I will most likely be getting the original as seeing the price has been dropped.

Now, the thing I like about a netbook is that it has a physical keyboard, but watching you videos, you state that the virtual keyboard isn’t that bad on the iPad. Is that really true? I like the iPhone’s keyboard and find it easy to use and normally don’t miss a key when typing. But does the iPad’s keyboard have that same easy and fluent functionality and can I type fast enough to have it replace a netbook?

What is your stance on this, should I go the extra $200 and buy an iPad or would a new netbook be worth it? Thanks for your opinion.

I appreciate that you’re asking for my opinion, but I can’t really tell you what to buy. It’s your money, and you need to be the one who makes the decision that works best for you. I’m only here to provide a good amount of perspective; I really have no horse in this race.

What I find most uplifting about the phrasing of your question is how you’re referring to an iPad as a computer — which it absolutely is. Few people have made this distinction, but I can tell you that the iPad can certainly do more than my first “home computer” could. The iPad is a computer.

Now, on to the crux of your quandary.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always found super-compact notebook / netbook computers to have super-scrunched, unusable-for-anything-but-infant-hand keyboards — and this flat fact, to me, defeats the purpose of having a keyboard in the first place. If your WPM on an average netbook is half of what it is on a standard keyboard, I’d be shocked.

So, are you in love with the keyboard, or merely the idea of the keyboard?

If the lack of a physical keyboard is what’s keeping you from buying an iPad, rest assured that there are countless iPad cases that accommodate workable keyboards that couple with the iPad (AND iPhone) via Bluetooth. You could also pick up an Apple Wireless Keyboard and use that in a similar fashion.

Moreover, iOS typo correction kicks the shot out of anything I’ve ever seen as a default in Windows (outright, third-party tools notwithstanding). Doesn’t that count for something in relation to keyboarding?

So, if that doesn’t help you decide, you should also be considering battery life. I’ve yet to find a single netbook computer that came close to 10-hour battery life after any amount of usage. You’d be lucky to find one that lasted 5 hours when doing nothing. If you’re never more than three hours from an electrical outlet, this may be less of an issue for you.

I think you may be better off comparing the iPad against other tablet computers (no, not Tablet PCs). There are quite a few Android devices on the market that weigh in at the same price point as a netbook, although you’re more than likely sacrificing quality if you go that direction – not just in terms of construction, but in absolute hardware features (resistive screen, no multi-touch, et al).

You can always save money — but at what cost?

It’s this phrase alone that continues to poke holes in the “too expensive” theory. Ask any owner of a faulty product how much more they would have paid to have something that just worked.

Either way, if you’re looking to save money on your impending purchase, we have a coupon site for you to use that includes savings on Apple computers.

iRig and AmpliTube Rock You


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This is a guest post written by Imei Hsu.

My first band was an all-girl band that didn’t need a keyboardist (my first musical instrument of choice), just a second electric guitarist and substitute bass player. Instead of passing me over for the audition, they stuck a guitar in my hands, handed me a lyric sheet with chord progressions, and asked me to give it a go. I did, and I got the part. Good thing I knew a few standard chords on the guitar. Songwriting and practice times used to take forever, mostly because we had to haul in our own equipment (including quarter-inch cables, stomp pedals, mics and mic stands, and speakers that almost weighed as much as I did). We scratched notes on paper, made rudimentary recordings, and we didn’t even have a video camera between us. What’s a girl rocker to do? If I could, I’d climb into a time machine with iRig and AmpliTube for iPad and iPhone, and rock the living daylights out those girls.

IKMultiMedia sells an impressive family of software instruments designed for the modern musician. It takes bulky components and hacked pieces of hardware strung together with miles of chords, and streamlines your set up to not only be less cumbersome, but also less painful to the consumer’s wallet.

Ben of Ben Union spent just fifteen minutes in my art loft in Seattle playing with the iRig and Amplitube on my iPhone4 (also available on iPad), and in moments, he was playing sweet licks and grooves with very minimal set up, and no gigantor speakers and amplifiers to carry. We ran sound through my Bose speaker, and compared it to the Fender Vibrochamp amp (which I rescued from a garbage dump, and once scraped off a dried frog that had taken shelter in the back and ended up getting fried onto the metal parts). Amplitube is the mobile app of the moment for the modern guitarist and composer, allowing users to create, process, record, and amplify music seamlessly, without the burden of carting around heavy, sometimes fragile, and often expensive equipment. Users can plug in a set of headphones or external speakers into the iRig, insert the ⅛-inch plug to the iPhone, and plug a ¼-inch cable from the guitar to a port on other end.

The latest version of the killer app, AmpliTube 3, ramps user’s experience with the following elements:

  • 160 pieces of gear, more than double the amount of other packages
  • 51 individual stompboxes and effects
  • 31 amplifier preamp & power sections
  • 46 speaker cabinet models
  • 15 high end stage and studio mics
  • 17 post amp rack effects
  • Open architecture, so users can add more packages as you need them, like AmpliTube Fender™ and Ampeg® SVX
  • Drag and drop features, so you can locate your components where you want it

Additionally, AmpliTube 3 boasts the proprietary VRM™ (Volumetric Response Modeling) technology, allowing users to add ultra-accurate rotating speaker effects, free dual mic placement plus room ambiance and response. Translation: ever wanted to sound like you were in a different-sized room, with a variety of vintage sounds and effects at the touch of your finger on a screen? If you are a guitar, bassist, drummer, or vocalist, you should be waving your hands wildly by now, shouting, “I want!” I know Ben was having a blast with AmpliTube, and he had not even explored all the settings!

While most of the app world is not accustomed to the cost of applications for music creation, any musician would tell you that the price of this app and hardware are well worth it. With nothing to wear out, and upgrades and additions available, this is a system no modern musician can afford to pass up, unless s/he is willing to be passed by.

B. Imei Hsu is a nurse psychotherapist, Bellydance and Bollywood dance artist, musician and vocalist, and coach for artful businesses. She creates content for her own businesses, including Hips For Hire, as well as content for other blogs, including Psycho Nurse on Lockergnome. You can drop in on her art loft in the Old Rainier Brewery in Seattle, WA, where she lives and plays with her iPad loving cat, Charles-Monet, by tuning in at Ustream.tv.

How to Learn to Play Piano

Learning to play the piano isn’t as hard as you used to think it is, thanks to Synthesia. Synthesia is a game that can help you learn how to play the piano using falling notes. Synthesia comes with over 100 songs which are in the MIDI format. If you want to learn a song that isn’t included, do a simple search for the song title (or artist) with the tag MIDI added to it. You’ll be surprised to find millions – and millions – of hits. You can also get some great suggestions on the website forums.

If you have a piano or keyboard connected to your computer (via USB, MIDI cables or an adapter), Synthesia will read from it and score your playing. Choose what parts of a song you want to practice and let the app play the rest, allowing you to focus on your personal goal. You can enable musical notation for any song in your repertoire or leave it off and just enjoy the falling notes.

During melody practice, Synthesia will wait for you to play the correct note before it moves on. You will see what notes are coming next right on the lighted keyboard, allowing you to find difficult chords and combinations faster.

Challenge your friends and compete against some of the best players out there using Synthesia’s online scoreboard. You can also capture your favorite renditions and upload them to your YouTube channel, as MisterMoes has done above.

How to Carry a Keyboard in Your Pocket


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If you’re someone who wants a physical keyboard to use with your device, you might want to look at the Magic-Pro ProMini. It’s a full keyboard with a touchpad that actually rotates and works in either direction. It’s one of the only pieces of hardware that’s able to do that. It connects by way of a 2.4 GHz wireless network and will fit in your pocket!

The ProMini is a 3-in-1 multimedia wireless keyboard, which has a full keyboard (including function keys), a TouchPad and a laser pointer. It has a built-in rechargeable lithium-ion battery. It has a range of up to about 90 feet, and boasts backlit LED lights to help you see in poor lighting environments.

This little keyboard is a great addition to any device. I gotta say… it really is cool. You can lounge in bed and use it to control all of your media without having to get up or move around much. Heck, you can even use it to help you tweet while you’re sitting in a meeting and don’t want to LOOK like you’re tweeting on your phone.

If you know of other (similar) cool devices, let me know about them. I love testing out and featuring new things here in our community.

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iPad Keyboard Dock Review


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I am definitely enjoying my iPad, even though I’ve only had it for a few days now. The main problem I’m having, though, is trying to type on the device. When in Landscape mode, it’s seriously difficult to type with my thumbs (or even all ten digits!). In Portrait mode, it’s a little easier to use my thumbs. However, the virtual keyboard is so large that I can’t go very fast. To solve this problem, I bought myself the iPad Keyboard Dock from Apple.

This keyboard, by the way, is pretty much the same as the wireless keyboard that I use on my Mac Pro. I love that particular keyboard. It allows me to type faster than I ever have before… seriously! It really is excellent.

In the little bit of time I’ve used this keyboard dock for my iPad, I’ve been really happy with it. I can plug my audio speakers into the back of it if I wanted. I’d like to find a form-fitting protector for the back of the iPad so that it’s not so exposed when it’s sitting in the dock.

Using the keyboard is very simple. It has all of the normal keys you would expect. There is a search key and even a brightness key. I really appreciate that, so that I don’t have to migrate through the iPad itself to adjust the screen brightness. You’ll also find a button that will automatically open a photo slideshow. It can’t get any easier than that.

There’s a blank function key at the top. I’m not really sure what that’s for… perhaps to help me get past a bout of writer’s block? You can mute the iPad by touching the volume down control on the built-in iPod controls.

As I already said, I’m really happy with this keyboard dock. It looks good, it works well and it lets me type properly again.

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Is This a Real Piano?


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I can’t leave my office for two minutes without having to worry about Wicket or Pixie rolling out my new piano and playing with it! It’s a roll-up piano, and it has some excellent sounds. I can’t blame them, really. It’s a lot of fun, and so easy to use!

This little piano comes with a full-size MIDI keyboard, and has five different octaves. There are 100 different tones, AND 100 different background rhythms! It has 34 pre-loaded demo songs to help you get going. Of course, the included instruction book will help with that, as well.

It runs off of regular AC power, or a few batteries. There’s a carrying case to make it easy for you to take it with you wherever you go. The piano has built-in speakers and volume control. However, it also has a headphone jack so that you can play to your heart’s content without disturbing others.

Never worry again about how or where you’ll practice. At only 8 total pounds, it’s almost as portable as your iPhone.

61 Standard Keys Full Size MIDI Keyboard , 5 Octaves, 100 Tone Reportoire, 100 Background Rhythms, 34 Demo Songs
[awsbullet:rollup piano]

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How to Learn How to Type


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When I first started typing, my speed was about one word per minute – and it was on a typewriter. Back then, personal computers didn’t exist, and neither did electric typewriters. Later in life, I had to unlearn poor habits that I had learned in the course of teaching myself how to type. These days, I type around 100 wpm, which isn’t too bad. If you don’t type properly, there’s really no reason you shouldn’t learn. In this day and age of computers everywhere, you really need to be able to type properly – and quickly. The worst part will be unlearning your bad habits!

If you want to learn how to type, you don’t need to spend any money. You only need a computer and Internet access, and the knowledge that this website exists! typingweb is a free online typing tutor. Upon completing the Typing Test 5 times you will be given the option to create a printable TypingWeb Certificate of Completion containing your average score for the last 5 tests completed. There is support for all different types of keyboards and languages, as well as tutorials on mastering 10-key typing!

See what I’m telling you? There’s no reason in the World you shouldn’t be taking advantage of this site and the opportunities it can give you. As they say on the website itself: How can the Internet grow if it takes an hour to type an email?. Truer words were never typed!

If typingweb isn’t what you’re looking for, check out the old standby – Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing. You can use these Broderbund coupons to purchase Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing Platinum for only $19.99:

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How Much Do You Use Your Mouse and Keyboard?


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I bet you’re someone who uses a mouse and keyboard. Do you know how often you click your mouse or enter keystrokes? You could probably guess, but it’s not likely something you’ll do on your own. You may want to measure yourself against your friends, to see who is essentially doing more. In essence – you can take your computer pulse!

WhatPulse helps you discover and track your keyboard
and mouse usage. Track your usage history, compete against friends, or team up with your friends to compete against others. Do you feel that you could have moved your hands, keystroke by keystroke, across the globe twice today? Are you interested in finding out just how much you type a day? Sign up, download the client, and start tracking yourself now!

You run it in the background, where it syncs with your online account. It lets you see how many times you click your mouse, and how many keystrokes you enter. You can break it down by location, country, and many other types of measurements. It even tells you how many times you’ve moved your mouse!

You can set up your own teams if you wish. There’s one team right now, called the Dutch Power Cows, that is at the top of the heap. I’m thinking there needs to be a Geeks team, don’t you? We would so pwn the board, since that’s what we do!

WhatPulse is compatible with Windows, Mac and Linux, so you have no excuse not to check your pulse!

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Dvorak Vs. Qwerty

Kevin L. has been typing up a storm:

Hey Chris, I’ve been a fan of yours ever since you were on Call for Help. I used to love that station, and wish they still had a station that had enthusiastic tech, help, news, and a lot of fun mixed in. Although, these days I rarely watch TV. I do, however, watch a ton of YouTube videos by you and the Tinkernut guy.

Recently, I was researching the Dvorak keyboard layout. I learned that it was developed for comfort and speed. The standard of our English keyboards (Qwerty) was designed so that typewriters wouldn’t get jammed — almost a century and a half ago. A lot of uber-geeks out there think that Dvorak is a simpler and faster method for typing.

I was wondering if you had ever tried or given any thought to using Dvorak? I would think this would make a great video. It might make an even greater poll. But this can also be used to prank your unsuspecting friends (not that I would do something so sinister). Thank you for entertaining and informing us geeks.

Despite having friends who swear by Dvorak, I haven’t felt the need to switch it up. If only because it’s not quite standard — and I can’t imagine the frustration of walking up to a Qwerty keyboard and having to shift mental gears. Not to mention, I don’t feel like I’m a slow typer at 100+ WPM (on a good day).

I’d be interested in hearing from the community on this one.

What do You use for a KVM Switch?


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Let’s say that you have a PC, but you don’t have a monitor, keyboard or mouse plugged into it. However, you do have a notebook computer sitting there with Windows on it, as well. You could use that notebook to run the PC with a KVM switch!

Not only are you saving energy by not running another monitor, you’re also saving space by not having another keyboard and mouse. Using a KVM switch is highly recommended for better productivity. You can use one keyboard, one mouse and one monitor for two different machines! I don’t think there’s an easier way to be efficient.

This is ideal for people who own a laptop and an older desktop PC and wish to keep using both for various functions or applications. The KVM features an on-screen toolbar with multiple functions such as file transfer, desktop image scaling and others. The built-in file transfer utility lets the user transfer files, presentations, business information and create backup copies between both computers or from external USB storage devices.

What’s interesting about this particular KVM is that it has an extra USB port built in. That allows you to plug in an external hard drive if you should need to! This is easy to use, and will allow you a ton of new-found freedom when managing your life. Keep and transfer files much faster using the IOGear Laptop KVM. All you need is open USB ports and Windows PCs and you’re ready to roll.

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