Why Does My iPad Suddenly Take Forever to Sync?

When I set up my iPad, I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly it synced with iTunes, even though I had already purchased quite a few apps.  For the next few days, synching was fast and easy, taking only a few minutes each time.

Then, suddenly and for no apparent reason, syncing started taking forever.  By that I mean forever.  Hours.

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This is where my iPad now lives.  After this message appears for 30 minutes or so, it will very slowly begin the backup process, after which things will move along at the pace of frozen molasses.

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It takes hours for the backup process to be completed,
once it finally starts.

Why?  Why, I say!  I can think of no reason why it suddenly takes hours to sync my iPad.

Very frustrating.

A Business User’s Toolbox for the iPad

This is Part 1 of a continuing series.

image As I noted on iPaday, one of the things I am focusing on is the best and most efficient way to insert my iPad into my work flow.  As a full fledged member of the rat race, who works in a corporate environment run on Microsoft Office and Exchange, this is not the easiest thing to do.

A Brief Rant

Let me get a major gripe out of the way and then we’ll move on.  Apple, seriously, there’s no good reason why our documents have to be kidnapped from the bowels of our iPads by third party apps.  The iPad is plenty powerful enough to support some sort of file system that allows us to access, manipulate and save documents directly.  If for some incomprehensible reason this is not the case, then give me 8 hours of battery life instead on 10.  Or 6.  The other 2-4 hours are wasted trying to get around these needless limitations anyway.

iPads need a vastly improved system for  managing documents.

Apple claims to seek acceptance in the corporate arena, but unless document management becomes a lot easier, it simply will not happen.  This, along with the absence of a camera or two, is the best hope for the forthcoming HP Slate.

But since Apple makes it hard, let’s do it the hard way.

Email

Email via Exchange works great on the iPad, right out of the box.  I, for one, am really glad Apple did not implement the universal inbox.  Those of us with real jobs don’t want to blend our work and personal email.  If Apple does implement a universal inbox, I deeply hope it does so as an option only.

Receiving corporate email on an iPad, even with attachments,  is easy and pleasing.  Sending email with attachments is needlessly burdensome, however, since there is no way to attach a document from within the email application.  You have to start from within Pages or whatever app holds the attachment you want to send.  Again, why?

Document Management

Once you get an email with a Word document attached, it’s a little awkward, but manageable, to open the attachment in Pages, edit it, and then export it as a Word document and email it back.  Tracked changes do not appear on the imported document, and there is no similar feature in Pages.  Apple really needs to figure out a way to view and create tracked changes (or the equivalent) in order to ensure that corporate users think of the iPad as more Word-like and less Google Docs (ugh) like.

Accessing documents is a common annoyance on the iPad.  There is no sane way to move documents to and from your iPad, so you have to patch together a group of apps to end-run around Apple’s insanity.

Here are the ones I’m using, which taken together, work pretty well.

Windows on an iPad?

The first app in my arsenal is Desktop Connect.  It is an elegant and easy to configure app that allows you to access and use your Windows desktop via your iPad.

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See Live Writer, right there on my iPad.  Cool, huh?

Desktop Connect is surprisingly snappy and very useable.  One way I have used it is to view Word documents with tracked changes, by opening Word and then the document I want to review.

Seeding and Seeing the Cloud

While Desktop Connect is handy for running desktop apps and viewing documents that reside on your desktop, it it not a solution for moving documents between your desktop, the cloud and your iPad.

The next app I rely on, for both document access and general backup, is SugarSync.  I’ve been pretty carefree about backing up my data, and so I decided to solve two problems with one good app.  I now have most of my documents, photos and MP3s backed up to SugarSync, which seems to have the best price ($150 a year for 100 GB; $250 a year for 250 GB) and the best iPad app.

Via the SugarSync iPad app, I can access, view and manage my files on my iPad.  The access part works perfectly.  To get a document from SugarSync onto your  iPad requires that you email it to yourself (again there is no reason it has to be that hard).  You can email documents natively from within the SugarSync app, however, so this is not quite as burdensome as it sounds.

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Here’s the way a folder looks in the SugarSync app.  Very nicely done

Document Retrieval

For retrieving documents from my email accounts and my Dropbox and Google Docs accounts, I use GoodReader, which is a very useful app and one of the few, at a very reasonable 99 cents, that isn’t overpriced.

You can easily configure GoodReader to connect to your various accounts, as well as to your desktop via WiFi, after which it is simple to move documents to your iPad, as needed.  Getting them back is another unnecessarily roundabout journey.  Essentially you have to email the revised document to yourself and then get it back to its original location from there.

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See how nicely GoodReader shows the attachments to emails in my Gmail inbox?  Downloading them to my iPad is a one-click process.

Paging all Tech Gurus

GoodReader is preconfigured to work with many email and cloud services, including Dropbox, Mobile.me and Box.net.  I have not yet figured out, but badly need to know, how to configure GoodReader to connect with and access my SugarSync files.  Anybody want to help a brother with this?

Virtual Flash Drive

Finally, I use Air Sharing HD as a alternate way to move files to and from my desktop.  Ultimately, I may resort to a single app for this and cloud access, but for now I’m still experimenting like a Freshman at college.


Here’s the way my iPad looks in Windows Explorer via Air Sharing HD.  It’s simple to drag files back and forth.

Conclusion

It’s a patchwork solution to a problem that, frankly, shouldn’t exist.  But these are some well designed apps, that make the iPad much more useful in a business environment.

I’ll have more later.  In the meantime, what other apps and advice do you have for the business user?

NetNewsWire: an iPad Savior?

I’m now well into my 3rd day as an active iPad user.  Overall, the experience has been very positive, but there have been a few challenges.

The first and most important has been finding a rock solid and reliable RSS feed reader.  I use and very much like Google Reader for my desktop RSS feed reader.  In fact, because the large, large majority of my online content is accessed and managed via my feed reader, it is fair to say that Google Reader is my online control center.

But I do not like the way Google Reader- the regular or the mobile version- works on the iPad.  I don’t know the cause (and I don’t really care), but the pages just don’t display and refresh as crisply as they do on a desktop.  All of this sent me into a state of panic, given that an iPad without an elegant RSS feed reader would be of very little use to me.

So I did what any good nerd should do- I sent out an SOS via Twitter.

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Lots of my friends immediately suggested NetNewsWire.  I’ve been hearing my buddy Dave rave about this Mac-only program for a long time, so I decided to fork over $10 and give it a try.

It was instantaneously clear to me that NetNewsWire is a vast improvement over Google Reader on the iPad.  And since it (supposedly, but see below) syncs with Google Reader, it became not only my default RSS feed reader on my iPad, but also my most used app.

Here’s what I like about it, and some things that I really don’t like.

I Like:

1. The layout and feel of the app is superb.  I love the way my Google Reader folders appear and expand.  It just feels natural and intuitive.

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2. I love the way I can click on a feed link and the web page loads right there in the app (this is the only thing keeping idiotic partial feeds in my reading list).  It’s a better implemented version of the “Preview” feature that Better GReader adds to Google Reader.  Why doesn’t Google add this stuff the the native app?  Thank goodness for Gina Trapani, but why does she have to come along and organize Google’s apps?

3. I like the way the app handles sharing. Click an icon and you can immediately email, send to Twitter or save to Instapaper (but see item D below).

I Want the Developer to Fix:

A. The Google Reader Sync doesn’t work very well.  I compared Google Reader on my desktop and NetNewsWire on my iPad, side by side.  The sync wasn’t just delayed, it seemed sort of random.  Refreshing the feeds didn’t help.  This needs to be fixed.

B. Why do read items and starred items appear in the list along with unread items?  I really, really don’t like this.  There should be an option to display only unread items.  For that matter, are there any options at all?  I couldn’t find a settings (or the equivalent) menu.

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The blue dots are the unread items.  Read and starred items are also displayed.  Why?

C.  I don’t like having to confirm that I want to mark an entire list as read.  Why isn’t there an option to mark items as read immediately, without the confirmation?  This isn’t a huge deal, but it would make my reading go faster, and fast is good.

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D.  I wish the sharing feature allowed sharing at more locations.  Even more, I wish I could configure a standard intro before the shared item, the way I add “Interesting:” before items I share via Google Reader.

E. Finally, I wish I could select my URL shortener.  TinyURL works fine, but I use Bit.ly for everything else, and would rather be consistent.  I don’t live and die by Bit.ly’s stat tracking features, but I have gotten used to them.

Overall, I like NetNewsWire.  In fact, it largely saved the iPad experience for me.  It may even overtake Things as the Mac-only app I’d most like to use on my Windows computers.

But it could be better, and for $10 I expect the developers to get right on it.

WordPress & iPad: a Pretty Good Combo

One of the first iPad apps I downloaded was the new, iPad optimized version of WordPress.  While only time and blog posts will tell how often I do it, I can tell you that it is very easy to configure and use the WordPress app on an iPad.

Photos and links will continue to be a problem, until someone comes up with a better way to create links on an iPad.  The photo insert tool within the app seems to be pretty straight forward, but since the iPad doesn’t have a camera, you’d have to import photos to use them.  I suppose I should try a screen cap.

I added a screen cap of the app interface, and sadly it seems the app still adds photos to the end of a post, and only then when published. I suspect it will also be sideways (it was, and I couldn’t even fix it with Live Writer).

I also had a mild lockup, that required me to close and reopen the app. This happens after previewing a post, and seems to be caused by the categories and tags overlapping the text box. I’ll attempt another screen cap.

It’s not perfect, but it’s good enough. And I suspect it will only get better.

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The interface, including the keyboard, works well.  Photos
are still a huge issue, as they get added to the end of the post,
sideways and far too big (I resized these via Live Writer).

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Notice the jumbled words.  The categories and tags are
on top of the text box.

The iPad Has Landed

As I’ve mentioned about a hundred times, I ordered my iPad the first minute Apple started taking preorders.  Today is the day, and at 4:32 p.m. a very busy UPS driver delivered my iPad to my front door.

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I’m setting it up now, and will have more coverage over the next few days.  I’m going to be paying especially close attention to how the iPad does for corporate users, who rely on Microsoft Exchange, Word and other business oriented applications.

Stay tuned.  Right now, I’ve got some fun to do.

If you need an immediate iPad fix, check out the Houston area iPad discussion at Twitter.

iTunes: Apple’s Fly in the Ointment

itunessuxI’ve been excited about the approach of iPaday since I ordered my iPad the first minute Apple started taking orders.  I’ll find good uses for it either way, but until today I wondered if my iPad would be the evolved replacement for an iPod Touch and a Kindle, or something more revolutionary.

I hoped it would be something revolutionary, and based on the videos Apple released today, it looks like it will.  I think there’s a lot of controlled hype going on right now (for example, I think some of the unit figures being tossed around are beyond absurd), but I also think these videos demonstrate that the iPad is going to be big.

Really big.

The primary goal of the iPad is undoubtedly to expand Apple’s growing stranglehold on the content distribution pipeline beyond music, and further into video and, in a bold and perhaps killing first strike, books.  I also think there is hope in Cupertino that the iPad will serve as a roadmap to Macs.  After watching the iPad videos, I considered, for probably the twentieth time, whether I should overpay for hardware and accept a crappy OS in the name of convergence, under the Apple banner.

image There is no denying that all of the Apple hysteria makes even the most logical eyes prone to view the world in shades of green.

I could learn to live with OS X, even though I find it utterly unintuitive and far harder to use than Windows 7.  Plus, I’m convinced that Apple will eventually merge the iPhone OS and the Mac OS, in a final offensive in the three party war for tech domination being waged by Apple, Microsoft and Google.  At that point, Macs may actually become as elegant as some wrongly insist they are now.

But I can’t yet take the plunge.  Not because of the overpriced hardware.  Not even because the deficiencies in OS X.

Because Apple insists that iTunes serve as the control panel, storefront and traffic cop for all hardware and associated content.  For anyone other than the casual music fan, iTunes sucks.

Trying to manage a big music library via iTunes is like trying to build a house out of sand.  A little bit looks good, but it all falls apart when you try to scale.  It’s bloated, slow, feature deficient and just plain ugly.

itunessucks In fact, iTunes needs to be completely scrapped and rewritten from the ground up.  I realize that many of the limitations that burden iTunes are intentional limitations designed to maintain and expand Apple’s stranglehold on the content distribution channel.  I don’t like this one little bit, but I’m not naive enough to think it will change.

But there are a hundred much needed improvements that could and should be made, without giving up control of the content pipeline.

I wish someone would email Steve Jobs and tell him to get on it.  Then maybe I’d go all in.

Biggest iPad App? Safari, in a Webslide

We’re less than a week away from getting our hands on the much-awaited Apple iPad.  As iPaday approaches, more and more details about the iPad experience are emerging.  Many are speculating on what apps will be the most useful.

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I already know.  Safari, which will return us to that most useful jungle: the world wild web.

Yes, I love my iPhone.  But let’s be honest.  Surfing the web on the iPhone sucks.  Epicly.  That’s why good developers are making a fortune (99 cents at a time) writing apps that use the network to deliver content in a more accessible and manageable form.  By that, I mean as far away from Safari as possible.

I estimate my success rate when trying to accomplish anything substantial on an iPhone via the native web (i.e., in a browser on a regular web site) at around 10%.  Most of the time, I either find another way to access what I’m looking for (such as a dedicated app or a laptop), or I just give up.  I have talked to many others who admit to similar experiences.

The biggest difference between our iPhones and our iPads will be that the larger screen size will allow us to actually use the web.

Need an example?  Here’s one of many: corporate email.  I have expressed frustration for years about the insane degree to which my company’s IT department hobbles (my word) my iPhone experience in the name of security (their word).  I actually considered making Outlook Web Access my default method of reading email on my iPhone, but the screen is just too small.

That won’t be a problem on an iPad.  Yes, I think it is important and good that the iPad will support Microsoft Exchange.  But I think it’s even better that I will have another option should I find my iPad excessively hobbled in the name of security.

April 3, 2010 is not just iPaday- it’s the day the web becomes useful again.

I can’t wait.