Technology... is a queer thing. It brings you great gifts with one hand, and it stabs you in the back with the other. ~C.P. Snow, New York Times, 15 March 1971

Friday, August 31, 2012

Phone Blogging: Chosing a Device that Fits Your Needs (2 of 4)

I sit writing this on my Kindle Fire, sitting in the evening sun in a hammock, as my huskies play around me. Later this evening, I will open it on my iPhone, sitting on the couch, without doing anything to transfer it between devices, and post it using an app on my phone. Technology allows blogging without a computer, and in settings a computer is not suited for.

Before we can begin blogging on the go, we must first chose a device, or several devices that fit our needs. Here, the Boy Scout Motto, "Be prepared!" applies. Obviously, you need to have whatever device you will need, with the necessary apps or settings prepared, before you need it. If you see the perfect picture for your blog and have no camera, it's too late. If you need to write something down and can't see your screen in the sun, it might be too late by the time you can get in the shade. Think through your potential needs and the available options before heading out. The right device can make or break a post.

Of course, each generation of device adds improvements to features, speed, and what applications will run on them. And cost of course. If you can afford the newest generation, it will mean less headaches and more productivity, but older devices will do most things you need. What multimedia capabilities and quality you desire will be the breaking point on older devices.

The main question in relation to devices is, why choose which range. Obviously, a desktop computer isn't portable, so isn't helpful for mobile writing. But if you don't need portable but need more speed, computing power, and longevity, a desktop of some type is your answer. For portable, you're looking for a laptop, a netbook, a tablet (like older Windows based stylus based tablets from companies like Gateway, iPads, Galaxy Tabs, Playbooks, and other newer tablets, or later book readers that support apps like the Kindle Fire or later Nooks), or a hand held device like a pocket organizer (older Palm devices and they're competitors), a media player (like an iPod touch or a competing portable MP3 and similar format players that support apps), or a smart phone that does both and more like the iPhone, Blackberry, Android, and Microsoft based devices running Windows CE, Pocket PC, Windows Mobile, or Windows Phone.

Laptops are the largest, in size, in power, and in general use. It is the most flexible in use, but also is larger than the other options and harder to use on the fly, as it works best on your lap or a surface where you can use both hands. Also, any cameras it may have are designed for video chat, so can't really be used for taking videos or pictures of your surroundings, but can for video posts of you talking. Laptops are best used when you have a smaller device for on the fly writing and picture taking, then find a coffee shop or restuarant to polish things up and do actual blog posting. Short of a desktop keyboard, laptops have the largest and best keyboards, making writing easier, in the right setting. Another consideration is most laptop and netbook screens are unreadable in sunlight, often even in indirect sunlight if it's too bright. This is also true of older tablets and other devices. If you want to write in the sun, you'll want a different device than a laptop, at least until you get inside.

Think of a netbook as a small laptop. Both the screen and keyboard is smaller, there is no CD or DVD drive, and a netbook has a lot less power. A netbook will run any software a laptop or desktop will, unless the software requires more resources like memory or processor speed than the netbook can handle. It is primarily designed for Internet application (net meaning Internet, book meaning book sized), so it will work great for blogging, if you can handle the small screen and keyboard. However, it still works best on a surface like your leg or a table, and has the same issues as a laptop in the sun. Choose a netbook if you want the function of a laptop, but need something smaller, more portable, or cheaper. I recommend trying one out in a store first, as the screen can be constricting or hard to read for some people, and the small keyboard doesn't work well for large hands.

Like with all ranges of products I'm discussing here, choosing a brand or model of tablet would require a post by itself. If you choose to go with a tablet, research the various options as each one works best for certain people. The first question, then, is do you want or need a tablet. Older tablets, and some newer tablets, are essentially laptops with no keyboard, or a keyboard that swivels behind, to give both options. These use either a stylus or a touch screen with a image of a keyboard in place of the traditional mouse and keyboard. They are like a netbook with a bigger screen in place of a keyboard, essentially. Most newer tablets are essentially large smart phones or related devices, giving you the advantage of a larger screen, but the portability and specialization of the smaller devices. Either type is more portable than a laptop and more usable without a surface to place them on than a laptop or a netbook. A bit less portable than smaller devices, the tablet is easier to type on and has more screen real estate. The book readers like the Kindle and Nook are a bit more limited than other tablets, as they are designed for a certain function and other applications, like those relevant to mobile blogging, are secondary.

Smaller devices vary a lot, and too much discussion id beyond the scope if this post. Smart phones typically have the most features and support more apps than some other types. They also allow Internet connectivity without needing access to a wireless network, through the cell network, which most other devices don't. They also typically have better cameras and microphones, for multimedia creation, from pictures to videos to voice or video posts. Media players have historically had the same shortcomings for blogging that book readers do, but that has changed recently. Many media players, like the iPod Touch, are basically smart phones without the cell network and with less powerful hardware (including the camera if it has one). They are of course cheaper than a smart phone. Pocket organizers are typically very good for writing but lacking to various degrees in multimedia and connectivity. Often they require syncing to a laptop or desktop and posting from there. Most modern smart phoned will do everything the other types of devices will do, but cost considerably more.

Each type of device has it's advantages and disadvantages. In my opinion, the best combination for blogging is a smart phone for portable blogging and note taking on the fly and most multimedia creation, a tablet for composition and text editing of phone composed text, and a laptop for fine polishing, formatting, and multimedia editing.

Bethany Kennedy
IT Professional

Next: A discussion of various blogging platforms and their pros and cons.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Phone Blogging: Making Due With Smaller (1 of 4)

Blogging can be challenging without considering technology. How often do you have an idea to write about but forget it before you can write it down? How often do you start writing then have to stop when you're in the middle? How often do you lose steam and have troubles getting your writing flowing again? How often do you just not have ideas when you need to or want to write? This issues are present for anyone who writes, be it blogging, magazine articles, newspaper articles, short stories, novels, how to books, travel books, school papers, poetry, or private journal or diary entries. There is a long history of writers carrying small notebooks or journals with them, keeping a journal beside their bed, doing whatever it takes to be able to write or jot down notes whenever and wherever the Muse takes them.

This still holds true today, but with laptops, netbooks, tablets, and smart phones, there are more options for the inspired writer. The fact that many of these now have decent if not amazing cameras, wireless Internet capabilities, and apps to make writing and multimedia more accessible and full featured opens up whole new worlds.

But how do you get started? What device, what blotting platform, what apps do you use? Though some things I will discuss in the following posts will help any inspired writer, and many of the ideas, platforms, and apps are available on other devices, in this article, I will primarily discuss blogging from Apple IOS devices, the iPhone and its sisters the iPod Touch and iPad.

I will address the subject of mobile blogging in the next three posts. The first will discuss choice of devices and function and use of each type. The second will discuss some blogging platforms and the pros and cons of each. The third will discuss some apps on mobile devices, the pros on cons of each, and some strategies for effective phone blogging.

Bethany Kennedy
IT Professional