New iPads? Who cares?

Actually, I do.

I am going to be purchasing the iPad Air 2 from T-Mobile, the first time I will have purchased a cellular version of the device.  T-Mobile allows you to finance the device interest free, even without a monthly data plan (which would be $10 for 2.5 GB per month).  My current iPad is the 4th generation iPad, and it is time to upgrade.  Why?

  1. Touch ID.  My new iPhone 6 has the Touch ID feature, and it is wonderful.  I was never a fan of using a passcode on my iPad, as I use it as my primary teaching device.  Believe it or not, when I’m teaching, I want to just “be” on my device and not have to fight a passcode.  Touch ID solves that issue for me (and many other users), and it works.
  2. Faster processor.  Apple’s charts showed that the iPad Air 2 is twice as fast as my 4th Generation iPad.  My rule of thumb–at least with these current devices–is a doubling of speed.  There will be a point (perhaps with the iPad Air 2) where we will no longer see such leaps of speed, but we’re not there yet.
  3. Faster graphics processor.  The iPad Air 2 is something to the effect of 10 times faster than my 4th Generation iPad.  Considering that so many of my music apps are graphics-heavy (PDF music readers, Notion, etc.), this will make a big difference.
  4. Anti-Glare Screen.  If you have ever performed on stage with an iPad, you will know why this is an attractive feature.
  5. More memory.  The top iPad starts at 128GB.  That is what I need.

There are other advances…it is thinner, has faster wi-fi, and a much better camera (which will help when using PhotoScore in NotateMe).

There are some things I didn’t like about the recent Apple announcement.  First, starting any device with 16GB is simply inexcusable these days…iPhone or iPad.  I dislike seeing schools buying the 16GB model.  Second, the fact the iPad Mini’s only advancement was the Touch ID button and the colors.  Last year, I liked that the iPad Mini was the same basic device as the iPad Air, just smaller.  Sure, the iPad Mini 3 will still be a good tablet, but it should have gotten an A8 or A8X processor like the iPhone 6 or iPad Air 2.  Finally, I dislike that Apple has kept the pre-64 bit iPads in the line-up.  All of those devices should have been put to pasture, just as the iPad 2 should have been last year (and then was quietly dismissed during the year).

If you have an iPad Air, you don’t need to update–unless you want to.  If you have the iPad Mini (2) with Retina Display, you don’t need to update–unless you want to.  If you have the iPad 2, 3rd Generation iPad, or 4th Generation iPad, it might be a good time to update.  It might be better to wait for a couple of months when Apple starts selling refurbished units.  If you have an iPad 1, it is time to move up.

The other thing to remember is that you can still get a decent amount of money for your used Apple equipment, even an iPad 1.

A Week with the iPhone 6

We have had our new iPhones over a week now. For the record, my wife and I moved from the iPhone 5, and my in-laws moved from the iPhone 5c. We're a few days away from AT&T's ETF fees, which will then be passed on to T-Mobile to reimburse; and our old phones have been sent to T-Mobile as a trade-in. Yes, you can sell your phone yourself, but we expected to only get $250 at best for our old iPhone 5 models, and my in-law's iPhone 5c models were still locked under contract. Easier just to trade them all in for just a few dollars less (this is the truth).

T-Mobile has offered decent coverage; yes, blazing fast LTE is limited to the metro area (my iPhone recorded a speed test of over 35 Mbps while on LTE in the Twin Cities area, which is faster than my 24 Mbps router at home, or the 11 Mbps LTE coverage near our house). Otherwise, we seem to have cell coverage–and no coverage–in the same areas that we experience with AT&T. But when you have that T-Mobile LTE…it is INCREDIBLY faster than AT&T (which incidentally scored 5 Mbps just a day before we moved to T-Mobile).

As for the devices, they are simply the nicest phones we have ever owned. I like the curved edges; I love Touch ID; Siri is much improved in iOS 8 (I find myself composing many e-mails through Siri); The larger screen of the iPhone 6 is practically bigger, not “terribly” bigger (we aren't 6 Plus people); The camera is great; and battery life is better than our iPhone 5 models. I have no issues with the new location of the power switch, and wi-fi calling has been fantastic (working in a school where there are places without cell service, but ubiqutious wi-fi). I know a lot of people were excited for the ability to use custom keyboards with iOS 8, but I don't have a single non-stock keyboard installed.

Even iOS 8 seems to work better on my iPhone 6 than on my iPad (4th Generation). This is iPad replacement year for me (supposedly, new models are going to be introduced on October 16), so that doesn't bother me too much, but I do hope that Apple irons out the bugs in iOS 8 soon for the sake of our 1:1 which is populated with all 4th Generation iPads.

Should YOU buy an iPhone 6? Well, if you are an iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad person, and you are up for a new phone, absolutely. If you have no allegiance, then (insert shocked sound), I don't think you can go wrong with any of the top-of-the-line Android phone, either. Here's the deal: you will find that you use your phone for specific tasks. This includes (for us) calls, FaceTime, texting, e-mail, social media (Twitter, Facebook), taking pictures, taking videos, and some games. In truth, Android does these things just as well as Apple's iOS. Two things start to influence you: the amount of money you have invested in the platform (e.g. apps, games, and accessories), and your familiarity with the operating system. The average user isn't going to be spending a lot of time messing around with individual settings on the iPhone or an Android device. So when it comes to phones, buy what makes you happy. I truly believe that.

But for our family, the iPhone 6 represents yet another layer of refinement and reliability from a device that was already a part of our lives. We're pretty happy with our purchase and our move to T-Mobile, even though it took us a week longer to get our devices than originally planned. We will hold on to our devices for two years and plan to look forward to our next iPhone purchase–the iPhone 7 (2016).

Revisiting the Apple TV (peer-to-peer AirPlay on iOS 8)

In October of 2011, Apple introduced wireless mirroring via AirPlay from an iPad (or iPhone, or iPod Touch) to an Apple TV. This functionality was later reproduced on computers (Mac or Windows) running programs such as Reflector, Air Server, X Mirage, or others. Working with an Apple TV resulted in a few negative consequences:

  1. Your connection was at the mercy of your wi-fi network. If your network was not set up properly with Apple's Bonjour Services enabled, your Apple TV didn't work. Additionally, if your network was slow or bogged down, your AirPlay connection would suffer (stutter, crash).
  2. You are always at the mercy of Apple's most recent movie releases that can be purchased in the iTunes store and played on a TV. Imagine my daily joy of teaching a freshman men's choir while Cameron Diaz's “Bad Teacher” was a daily selected movie.
  3. The Apple TV requires an HDMI to VGA adaper, most notably the Kanex ATV Pro.
  4. It became cheaper to install one of the “AirPlay” apps on a computer already connected to a projector than to purchase an Apple TV and Kanex ATV Pro.
  5. The Apple TV always mirrors an iPad in a 4:3 format (unless playing a movie), often adding an additional border that is not present if you connect your iPad to a projector directly with a cable.

With iOS 8, Apple quietly announced a new feature with the Apple TV…you can connect to an Apple TV without using a network. This is called peer-to-peer networking.

Apple recommends connecting your Apple TV to your network with an Ethernet cable, and then simply searching for your Apple TV as a separate device. Here's the trick: you need an iPad from 2012 (or later) and the latest version of the Apple TV (Ver. 3, Model A 1469), or newer (should the next version come out).

Many problems with Apple TVs and mirroring are directly connected to wi-fi networks. As a result, I literally couldn't wait to try mirroring without having to use a network. Today I purchased one of these new Apple TVs ($99 plus tax) and immediately went home and installed the device in our TV system, with the intent of bringing it to school (we had an existing 1st Generation Apple TV, so I simply unplugged it and plugged in the new Apple TV). I didn't have an ethernet connection available, so I used our guest wireless network to connect the new Apple TV. Updating the device to its latest software took about 30 minutes. Once that was finished, I looked for the Apple TV, and sure enough, it was present on the AirPlay menu. For the record, my iPad runs on our personal wireless network, so it is not using the same network connection as the Apple TV.

Everything works flawlessly. There is still a slight delay in audio/video, which should be expected. I love the idea that the Apple TV doesn't have to be hindered by a wi-fi network any longer. This really frees the teacher that loves their iPad, wants to project it at school, but has an anti-Apple IT department that will not authorize the Apple TV (or iPad) to connect to the district wireless. Furthermore, if your iPad is already connected to a network, your wi-fi connection on your iPad remains connected to the internet–I have tried to use Ad Hoc networks generated by my MacBook to mirror to Reflector in the past, losing my connection to the Internet. I see presenters across the country bringing along an Apple TV to be able to wirelessly project to their audiences (I will be doing this as well).

Was there anything special in the setup of the Apple TV? No. I choose to rename my AppleTV and to enable a password to connect to the device; but even this is unnecessary. The only thing you have to do is update the operating system of the Apple TV, and have a 2012 or later MacBook (yes, AirPlay works with later MacBooks), iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch running iOS 8.

There are still additional benefits for using a computer-based AirPlay program, such as the ability to project more than one device at a time (the Apple TV is a one-device-at-a-time device). But the ability to wirelessly project without needing a network is a wonderful addition–at a very affordable cost. Have you been waiting to wirelessly mirror? Here's your chance!

Note: My 1st generation Apple TV, which we use to watch movies from iTunes, Netflix, and from my Mac Mini (we use Mac Mini as a Entertainment Center with all of our audio and movies), will NOT allow peer-to-peer networking with a MacBook, iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch. Although the exterior of the device hasn't changed (a rather understated black box), the internals of the Apple TV have changed over time. Make sure to buy the 3rd Generation Apple TV, Model A 1469, or newer.

 

Attention Minnesota Residents!

This coming Tuesday night (9/30), at 7pm, we are going to hold an organization on-line meeting for a Minnesota Chapter of TI:ME. We will be using Google Hangouts as a platform, which only supports 10 participants. Chances are that the leadership group for the state chapter won't be larger than that; but what we can do is broadcast the meeting and then also offer a Today's Meet for anyone watching the meeting to provide feedback and interact with the video hangout.

If anyone knows a mass online meeting tool that would work better, please let me know.

What we have to determine is: who will be the ten voices in the room. I have received a few e-mails from teachers interested in forming a state chapter (this doesn't mean that anyone is particularly interested in leadership, but simply being involved). I will be contacting them directly. Some people may not be able to meet on Tuesday night but may still want to be involved. Incidentally, a Google Hangout can be published for later viewing as well.

The agenda for the meeting will be:

  1. Reviewing the National TI:ME Guidelines for forming a Chapter
  2. Discussion of Chapter boundaries (MN only? North Central?)
  3. Officially starting a Chapter
  4. Election of Officers, even if temporary
  5. Discussion of next steps (events, meetings, schedule, etc.)

For the record, I don't need to be an officer. I do have some things that I would like to see a state chapter do:

 

  • Create a blog that would post offerings from state members. We would ask all state members to post at least one blog on a topic of their choice at least once a year.
  • Offer Saturday training sessions at various locations across the state. The Perpich Center used to host and organize these. I would like to see both EdCamp versions (teachers teach teacher) and focused training versions (which would require a registration fee and paying presenters)
  • Work with the MMEA to help them with any technology needs–from helping find or filter MMEA Mid-Winter Conference sessions to any other needs they might have. One of the challenges is that TI:ME's National Conference has been linked to TMEA, which is the same weekend as MMEA every year.
  • Ultimately, become a state community of like-minded, technology-using music teachers that have a way to interact with each other.
Some may wonder why a TI:ME group makes sense for the state. Simply put, we have a lot of other organizations in the state. Those other organizations, by nature, all use technology and technology resources, and they support the use of technology in music education. At the same time, those existing groups have broader purposes and simply cannot focus directly on technology.

TI:ME was originally organized by members of NAMM with the purpose of encouraging teachers to develop programs where students could be trained for the skills that are needed in non-Classical music. In other words, they wanted an organization that would foster the skills needed for contemportary music and music production. As TI:ME has grown, it has also become a place where music teachers who use technology in more “traditional” settings can connect and support each other.

 

I am hoping that you will consider joining us in our efforts to form a state chapter! I hope that you will either be able to join us in the Google Hangout, or watch the Google Hangout and interact via Today's Meet. I will post connection information here (techinmusiced.com) on Tuesday night at 6:45pm.

VitalTuner

I was recently sent a promo code for a new app, VitalTuner. There are a huge number of tuning apps on the market, including popular choices such as ClearTune, TonalEnergy, iStrobosoft, and Teüna. It seems daring to enter a market that is already saturated, but Otreus has boldly entered the market with their new app, VitalTuner. The app is currenty $4.99, which is 20% off. The app promises no in-app purchases.

Included in the tuner:

  • Tuning modes (four of them) for different tuning situation (e.g. advanced, easy, stage, bright stage)
  • 100 tuning temperaments (including historical tunings)
  • 130 tunings for 40 instruments
  • Concert A Calibration
  • Concert Pitch Notation (see the actual pitch in musical notation)
  • Decibel and Peak meter
  • A universal app for iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch (iOS 7 or greater)

In all honesty, I don't have many uses for a tuner these days, as I have been so busy with teaching, family life, and arranging music. I haven't had much time to blog, or a chance to pull out my tuba and to see how this tuner works. I did, however, want to bring VitalTuner to your attention in the event that you are looking for a tuner or additional tuners. See the Otreus webpage for more informaton. As a reminder, a “traditional” Peterson strobe tuner is a $600 purchase (buy the Stretch tuner, and you are in the $800 range). For that kind of money, you could buy a $499 iPad and ALL of the tuning apps listed on this page, and still save money.

(Note: I have been told by a number of band directors that the iPad is as efficient and accurate of a tuning device as a Peterson strobe tuner; furthermore, if you want a Peterson strobe tuner on your iPad, purchase iStrobosoft HD, which is made by Peterson.)

Thank you to the folks at Otreus for the promotional code.

 

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