The Stochastic Game

Ramblings of General Geekery

Posts tagged with hardware

The iPad Turned 10

The iPad turned 10 a bit more than a week ago and I was somewhat shocked, although pleasantly surprised, to see the Apple blogosphere express their disillusion about ipadOS, led mostly by John Gruber’s piece:

The iPad at 10 is, to me, a grave disappointment. Not because it’s “bad”, because it’s not bad — it’s great even — but because great though it is in so many ways, overall it has fallen so far short of the grand potential it showed on day one.

That’s always been how I felt about Apple’s tablet, and tablets in general. The iPad Pro is an awesome piece of hardware – I carry mine around all the time and use it every day. But I use it only for a subset of the things I wish I could do on it.

The most maddening thing about its software is the sandboxing, and how you just don’t have access to the damn file-system. It’s gotten marginally less worse with the recent Files app, but it’s still vastly unusable.

The sad thing is that, as a result, even if you consider the iPad as a consumption device (something that “post-PC era” afficionados were always quick to “disprove”), it’s not even a good consumption device. It’s only good at consuming online media, like news and YouTube videos and Netflix series and such. If you buy, own, and store your own media, like buying music on Bandcamp, PDFs on DriveThruRPG, or comicbooks from (not so) indie publishers, the experience is worse in almost every way compared to the experience on your Mac or PC, because you have to go through uselessly complicated lengths to be able to get the files on your iPad before you can even consume them. Often, these PDF or comicbook reader apps have to implement their own (generally poorly made) network copy feature to be able to get your files.

My theory has long been that Dropbox would have never been so popular if it wasn’t for the iPad: during the early 2010s, Dropbox was pretty much the only way to get files in and out of your tablet, and many apps, from text editing to drawing, integrated Dropbox to that effect. Apple must have been kicking themselves that they couldn’t get iCloud to be used for that instead.

My new, more dire theory is that the iPad contributed to the soloification of the internet and the erosion of ownership. When consuming “rented” media from a handful of companies, like Spotify music and Comixology comics, is vastly easier to consuming owned media, like those bought directly from various content creators, the distributed nature of the internet dies a little.

So yes, I agree with John. The iPad is an awesome device. But it’s also a big disappointment.

Southpaw Keyboard

I was recently made aware of a group buy for a “Southpaw Full-Size” keyboard that has its numeric keypad section moved to the left-side of the keyboard:

Southpaw Keyboard

As a southpaw myself, I… just don’t get it.

I mean, sure, as a keyboard nerd, I get it – it’s a cool looking keyboard, it’s customized to someone’s needs, and, in the mechanical keyboard community, more form-factors are always welcome.

I just don’t get it that it’s marketed at left-handed people – or at least marketed as a “left-handed” keyboard. If anything, it should actually get marketed at right-handed people. See, most right-handed people prefer “tenkeyless” designs, since it keeps their mouse (which is on the right of the keyboard) closer to the the main part of the keyboard. This means they don’t have to move their right hand too much between typing and moving the cursor.

Now, left-handed people don’t get this problem – if we consider the proper left-handed people who put their mouse on the left instead of living a lie1. So getting a keyboard that puts the numeric keypad on the left does nothing much besides bringing a right-handed people problem to left-handed people! For right-handed people who are conflicted about standalone numeric keypads, however, this might be a good option to consider.

Either way, if you’re interested in this so-called “left-handed” keyboard, for whatever reason, head over to the group buy page, you still have a week or so to order.

  1. It’s estimated that almost half of the left-handed community is living a lie, using their mouse with their right hand. Most of the time this is because they have to share their computer with right-handed people. 

Is Bluetooth Even Working Correctly?

I’ve been critical of Bluetooth before. In my mind it’s nowhere near ready to be the default way we listen to music… but when my dear Bowers & Wilkins P5 headphones1 started exhibiting balance problems, the nice people from the support department offered, among different options, to replace them with a discounted Wireless P5 model.

I figured what the hell, let’s try this brave new world where everything has to run on batteries and on different versions of different protocols.

New headphones

Now you must realize that those are pretty much premium Bluetooth headphones. I got them at a 50% discount, but they otherwise sell for around $400. Even then, they’re much better that I expected. Barely heavier than the wired model, and with excellent battery life. I noted a few glitches in audio playback but I haven’t checked whether wireless was to blame, or whether it was the streaming or player app being at fault.

The thing that I was mostly wondering about was how it handles multiple devices. Our wireless speakers at home2 have a lot of trouble figuring out what phone (between mine and my wife’s) to play from. My headphones would typically – on a daily basis – switch between my phone (for music and podcasts) and my trusty, original Nexus 7 tablet (which I use to run Plex and watch TV shows on the go). I sure didn’t want to go through all the trouble we typically have to go through with the speakers.

Well I can report that it works fine, but not in the way you would expect.

I have no idea how or why, but my headphones just won’t connect automatically to any of those devices. I have to connect to them manually3, which is frankly fine by me since it takes slightly less time than untangling a cable4 and plugging it, especially on Android where you can do a lot more system automation than on iOS (on my Nexus 7 it basically takes me a swipe and a tap, whereas on iOS I don’t think there’s a way around going in the Settings apps manually).

However, the simple fact that I have no idea if this is a feature or a bug should tell you all you need to know about the state of Bluetooth.

  1. The first generation, not the new Series 2. I’ve had them for a few years. 

  2. A couple of JAMBOX'es, which seem to have been discontinued, since there’s not much on the Jawbone website

  3. “connect”, not “pair”. They stay paired with both devices. 

  4. I developped a slightly quicker/dirtier version of this technique over the years and my headphone cables pretty much never get tangled. 

Design For South Paws

Sarah Baird talks about what us left-handed people have put up with all our lives, and all the way back through history:

Day in and day out, though, the biggest hurdle faced by lefties isn’t discrimination — it’s mundane, basic functioning. Almost all facets of society, from ink pens to urban design, are crafted and structured to support, abet and cater to the right-handed majority. For lefties, functioning means a constant, conscious consideration of how they can reverse or modify their natural behavior in order to most effectively move around in the world.

The funny thing is that most of the time, I’m not even thinking about it. I’ll be, say, getting hot air blowing all over me from holding the vacuum-cleaner “the wrong way”, and not really realize that this wouldn’t happen if I was right-handed. It’s just like living in a world that’s slightly less well-designed.

Generally speaking, I’ve probably encountered less hurdles growing up in France than most North-American lefties: spiral notebooks were not used a lot (we had properly bound notebooks) and student chair/tablet combinations were pretty much inexistent.

The last time I really felt the pain of being part of a market minority was when I was shopping for a new computer mouse. Being a palm gripper, I ideally need a so-called “ergonomic” mouse. But those mice are only ever manufactured for right-handed people. The only left-handed ergonomic mouse that I’ve been able to find is the Razer Death-Adder Left-Handed Edition. Many people dislike Razer for their annoying configuration software but I figured I still needed to vote with my money. And, you know, I needed a mouse.


As expected, the configuration software is annoying, but the mouse is really nice.

The post-PC era

You can see this kind of headline all over the web these days, especially with Apple fanboy tech bloggers: the PC is dead, all hail tablets and smartphones. The argument is also made for video games consoles, who are supposedly on the way out to be replaced by, guess what, tablets and smartphones. Even Jeff Atwood is getting on the bandwagon.

I don’t disagree with the facts here: most indicators we have on the market right now show that, indeed, desktop and laptop computers have declining sales while mobile products have an ever-accelerating growth.


Some tech bloggers, however, are a bit too quick to equate opposing trends with replacement – in reality, people still own PCs and Macs, but complement them with mobile devices. As far as I know, there’s no evidence that anybody is actually getting rid of their laptops and desktop computers after buying an iPad… yet.