Category Archives: General Musings

General Musings

Looking for a Surface Pro?

After my post about StaffPad and Surface Pro, I received an e-mail from an old blogging friend, ViolaJack. In her e-mail, she mentioned that Microsoft sells refurbished Surface Pros on eBay at a significant discount.

While I am always a little hesitant to buy expensive technology sight-unseen, there is no danger in purchasing a device from the legitimate Windows store on eBay. As of today (I cannot promise that these prices will contnue), you can buy a 128GB Surface Pro 3 with a keyboard for $850, which is a savings of $279. That makes a pretty expensive device quite a bit more affordable.

Personally, I would buy a new MacBook before a Surface Pro 3, but if I happen to win the lottery…(generally, you have to play to win). But if YOU are interested in a Surface Pro 3, particularly with the news of StaffPad (and maybe even MuseScore 2.0), you can't beat $850 for a new, refurbished Surface Pro 3. It is a beautful device with top-of-the-line hardware.

Five Years of iPad

It seems that April 3rd is considered the birthday of the iPad. I remember standing in line to buy my first iPad, at the Richfield, MN Best Buy, which is literally in the shadows of Best Buy Headquarters (I had a bad experience with Best Buy last fall, and I have not been in a Best Buy since). If you want to read about my first iPad, you can read this old post.

Since that April date, an iPad has been my main tool at school, thanks to a number of apps including forScore, unrealBook, Notion, and Keynote. In the past five years, I have personally owned four of the six models that have been released…the iPad 1, the iPad 2, the 4th Generation iPad, and just a couple of weeks ago, my iPad Air 2.

So much has happened in the past five years, including wireless mirroring. I remember how excited I was in the fall of 2011 to stream from iPad to a screen without wires. Now there are ten ways to do that!

Many of the technology blogs are celebrating the iPad today, while declaring that “tablets need to take the next step.”

I'm not sure what that next step is. Certainly, a larger iPad (the iPad Pro) would be a welcome addition, and there is always room for improvement in apps (ask any developer, they will quickly admit that they can and will improve their app over time). But as I work on this iPad Air 2, I'm not sure what else the hardware itself can do, and in fact, Apple has packaged more hardware in the last few generations of these devices than the accessory makers can take care of–example? Bluetooth MIDI. The device has been physically capable of this for more than two years, but iOS allowed for it last fall, and there are only a handful of accessories that can take advantage of it.

Sure, a true active stylus, such as the Microsoft Surface, would be a nice addition. That said, I wouldn't want to be tied to any stylus, either. But if you think back to the time where everyone complained about the iPad's lack of a USB Port–the combination of Bluetooth and Cloud computing has taken away much of the need for USB devices (including storage). The greatest flaw in the current iPad line is the existence of the 16GB iPad…no one should ever buy an iPad with only 16GB, and Apple should not be selling that device. Every iOS device should start with 32GB. Period.

By the way, until I can purchase the Zagg Rugged Case for my iPad Air 2, I am using a Finite case that I found on Amazon for $10 (the cost of a replacement screen for the Griffin Survivor cases that we use with our school 4th Generation iPads). My previous case for my iPad, the strange looking but extremely useful Gripcase, is not avaialble for the iPad Air 2. While the Zagg case appeals to me, this Finite case will last for some time.

Five years with the iPad…it is hard to believe it has been that long…but I can't imagine teaching without it. Although I am at a 1:1 where students often take their devices for granted (and some actually complain about the iPads), I wouldn't trade my iPad for any other device in my classroom.

Coming soon…the iPad Air 2 (to me)

I did it. Today I finally decided to order an iPad Air 2. I have been thinking about a new iPad for some time; and was waiting for Apple’s March announcment as well as T-Mobile’s announcement this past week.

I bought my 4th Generation iPad in the fall of 2012. I did so when the 3rd Generation iPad (introduced that March) was replaced by the 4th Generation. The 3rd Generation iPad had the retina screen, but still used the 30-pin cable, and often ran slower than the iPad 2. The 4th Generation featured a faster processor (the A6X, if memory serves), as well as the lightning adapter.

This iPad has served me well over two years–almost two and one half years. It has survived one broken screen (amazingly, the screen took all the damage), and has been my main tool on a daily basis. Without a doubt, I spend more time on an iPad each day than I do my iPhone or my old 2008 MacBook.

My iPad has been showing its age as of late, including a crash mid-presentation today in class. There was no explanation, the device shut down, the Apple logo appeared, and the device didn’t restart. I had to reboot the device (hold down the power and home buttons) and then everything was fine again. I think the memory-intensive apps that I use are simply starting to tax the capabilities of this iPad. And that’s okay–this device has had hours upon hours of use.

Two days ago, I saw that you could buy a 128GB iPad Air (1st Gen) for $549 from B&H. That was tempting. Today I noted that you can buy a cellular 128GB iPad Air 2 from Best Buy for $699.

Now that we are with T-Mobile, I wanted to own a cellular iPad. T-Mobile allows you to buy a 64GB iPad for $99 and 24 monthly (no interest) payments, or a 128GB iPad for $199 (plus tax for the whole device) and 24 payments. That makes the largest iPad affordable. So I called up T-Mobile, and asked if they would match Best Buy’s price. They wouldn’t, but did offer a $50 discount (making the downpayment $149 plus tax). And they also allowed me to take advantage of T-Mobile’s 200MB of Data free each month with no service contract (I orginally thought that I would buy the $10 monthly data matching plan, which would be 2.5GB per month for our phones–something I still may do in the future). To put this another way, if I simply give up drinking pop each month, the cost of the iPad is covered (and I will be on a better road to health).

I have been using an iPad Air 2 with my choirs this year, but the device is owned by the choir program and is used for classroom management (students scanning in and Casper Focus, primarily). Although the iPad Air 2 is noticeably lighter, smaller, and thinner (same size screen), I haven’t noticed any improvements in speed–but then again, I don’t use the memory-intensive apps on that iPad that I do on my “old” iPad.

At my presentations this year, I have been telling people with 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Generation iPads that it is time to move up; and I have told 4th Generation owners (like myself) that the time for us to upgrage is nearly here. I am now proving that with my own pocketbook.

I was also waiting to see if Apple would release an iPad Pro in March; now it seems unlikely that we would see such a device until the iPad refresh (likely October). I am also starting to think that an iPad Pro may not be “just” an iPad, but a type of “transformer” device. We will see what really comes out this coming fall.

Yes–I absolutely understand that a new iPad will be out in the fall, and that device will be slightly faster and likely have more RAM. There may be a better camera, and perhaps it will be even thinner. For owners of the iPad Air or iPad Air 2, there will be little need to upgrade. But for owners of older iPads, I am guessing that 64-bit programming will be required (it is now!), but required ALONE, for iOS 9, meaning that only the iPad Air, and iPad Mini 2 and newer will be able to run iOS 9 and future apps. This would mean that all owners of 4th Generation iPads (and earlier) would have to upgrade if they wanted to run any new apps or app updates. That’s a guess, but three years into 64-bit processing, doesn’t that seem likely? This fall, the 2nd Generation iPad will be nearly 5 years old (4 years, 7 months). The 4th Generation iPad will be 3 years old. The apps on those devices will keep working (like apps loaded on 1st Generation iPads, which are frozen at IOS 5).

It also stands to question: what is the realistic lifespan of an iPad? Two years seems to be the agreed-upon life of a phone. What is a fair life for a tablet? 4 years? 5 years? My MacBook turns 7 years old this November. What is the lifespan of a MacBook? Much of the answer lies in what you use your device for, and at what point the advancements in technology make the upgrade expense worthwhile. My MacBook is almost there in terms of improvements that I would gain by upgrading.

So, I am looking forward to working with my iPad Air 2, and the addition of Touch ID will be wonderful. It is amazing how many students will freely touch your personal device without asking. I am planning on puchasing the Zagg Rugged Keyboard case as soon as it is available–this looks like the iPad case I have always wanted. 128GB on my iPad will also be wonderful (I currently have 64GB). My current iPad will go to my father-in-law, who still uses my old iPad 2 daily. I am also interested to see how my use of an iPad will change when I have LTE available…all of my iPads have been wi-fi only to this point.

This also means that it is unlikely that I will buy the Apple Watch, at least in the early days. I am fearful that the 2nd Generation iPad watch will be an evolutionary jump, much like the iPad to iPad 2, and iPhone to iPhone 3G. When you pay that much for a watch (starting at $399 for my wrists, and my ideal combination is the $999 stainless steel combo), it simply can’t be replaced every year (or three). If you have an iPad 2, four and a half years later, you can still use it with most modern apps. Not so with the iPad 1. There is a reason I upgraded immediately from the iPad 1 to iPad 2, but waited until the 4th Generation iPad and now the iPad Air 2. I will likely do the same with the Apple Watch–wait until the next generation.

That said, Father’s Day is coming in June…

Would You Be Interested in Having Me Present in Your State?

One of the things I love to do is to present sessions on the use of technology in music education, with an eye towards the integration of technology into “traditional” music education. This past year, I spoke in Iowa, Illinois, Ohio, Texas, and Utah. All of these have been paid for out of my own pocket (although Iowa kindly offers a hotel room). I have been blessed with a school that allows me to use both my own personal days as well as to give me some additional days off to present at various conferences. I am at the limit of what I can personally afford to present, but I would love the opportunity to present in other states. Generally, this is the time of the year (through June) where proposals for music conferences are made.

If you would like me to present at your state music conference, I would encourage you to propose a session (or sessions) from me to your state conference committee. I can speak on any number of topics (although I am generally considered the “iPad Guy,” I can custom-create a presentation on just about any topic), and I am open to leading multiple sessions to justify the expense of bringing me to your state.

At this point, I am still not concerned about this aspect of my profession–supporting other teachers–being profitable, but I do need to break even. Generally, to speak at a conference (If someone else is recommending me), I would ask for transportation and hotel to be covered. You may have a music store or sponsor in your state that might be willing to pay for those expenses. If your state is in a warm climate, and your conference is in the winter, my wife may want to travel with me.

Right now, I am scheduled to speak at NAfME (two sessions) and WMEA in October, and the rest of my calendar is open. I will begin to apply for other sessions in the coming days.

If you are interested in having me speak, please feel free to recommend me to your state conference, and please e-mail me if you have any questions.

 

Ahhh…Spring Break

We have an early Spring Break this year, and this week is our break (my own kids, who go to a different district than the one I teach in, have break at the end of March). So far I have avoided doing anything school related, and even leave an auto-responder letting people know that if they e-mail, I will get back to them when school is back in session. I learned to turn off school e-mail on my personal devices at my last school, where parents would e-mail at 2:00 AM and expect an immediate response (yes, this behavior actually occured from several parents). So one of my personal rules is: if I am not at school (sick/staff development/leading development sessions/presenting/break), I do not check or respond to e-mail. In the summer I only check e-mail twice a month. If there is an emergency, the school knows how to contact me. But let's be honest…99.999% of what we receive cannot be labeled an emergency.

I also try to limit the amount of school work I do in the summer. Two years ago, I spent evenings (9pm-1am) in my “new” room, cataloging and scanning the choir library, and turning the room into a useable (for my standards) space. Last summer I didn't do much at all. I will typically try to come in for tech meetings (rare) and to help out with the iPad rollouts. But other than that…my job when I'm not at work is to be a husband and a dad.

My Spring Break has been spent (so far) putting the final touches on the basement we have been finishing since last year (we paused last April when the basement went over budget and we ran out of money). My goal has been for the basement to be ready for carpet by the end of this week…and I am going to make it–without even pulling an over-nighter to do so. It is strange to be on break when no one (other than our soon to be 3 year old) else is on break. I do have about 20 scores to get cleaned up for use at school (In digital format), and I may start on those soon (is the weekend before the end of a break still “break”.)

Chances are that if you are a music educator, you have a spring break ahead of you. Do yourself a favor…turn off your school e-mai, leave an auto-response message, and just get away from it all.

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