All posts by Donny Yankellow

In the real world Donny Yankellow is a full time art teacher, freelance artist/illustrator, and is a father. He has written for MyMac.com and BrightHub.com and is the author/illustrator of the best selling childrens iBook/eBook "Looking for a Dinosaur." Donny's degree is in Visual Communications and he holds his certification in K-12 Art Education. His hobbies (besides Mac and Apple stuff) include soccer, animation, and reading anything written by Stephen King.

The last missing iPad feature: pressure sensitivity

Every time a new iPad (or any Apple device) is released, people ask, “What can Apple do better?” This often happens within 30 seconds of the new product announcement. With the iPad people are usually expecting a thinner and lighter device, a better camera, a faster processor, and possibly better speakers. Nothing too spectacular or unusual.

However, there is one feature that would take the iPad to the next level: Pressure sensitivity.

That’s right, I said pressure sensitivity. This feature that would sell more iPads than ever before. Why? Many artists, like myself, would love a pressure-sensitive iPad. Imagine being able to use your finger or a stylus while painting just like you would a pencil or paint brush. The mark charges based on how hard, or how soft, you press down. I would preorder an iPad with pressure sensitivity even if I had just bought the last model (I usually skip a revision or two).

Sure, there are a number of styluses that try to bring pressure sensitivity to the iPad, but I have yet to try one that really works. There are also many fantastic art programs like Paper that are great without pressure sensitivity. However, imagine how much better a painting could be if you could have true pressure sensitivity. I’ve seen some incredible artwork created with the iPad, and I can only imagine how pressure sensitivity would improve the results.

madewithpaper
Art created by Brian Taylor using the Paper app for iPad

Artists would not be the only users to benefit from adding pressure sensitivity. I’m sure there could be incredible elements of pressure sensitivity added to games. Perhaps the speed of a car is based on how hard your press the gas pedal, or the strength of a laser beam is determined by how hard you press. The possibilities are endless for games and other apps. What about a children’s app that teaches writing and the written result is based on the pressure the child pushes down? A music or sound app could have tempo controlled by pressure. I could go on and on.

There is a reason Wacom sells so many tablets. Artists love them and the best part is pressure sensitivity when drawing – it is the closest thing to drawing or painting on paper that you can get while working on the computer.

Many people think 3D would be a great feature in a future iPad. Forget 3D, it is overrated in my opinion. Bring on the pressure sensitivity!

Holiday Gift Guide 2012: Creativity and Digital Artist Edition

When I am not writing I am an art teacher and an illustrator, and I am always looking for cool toys to help me with my artwork. Here’s a few that I have tried that could make great gifts for the creative person in your family.

Wacom Input Tablets

One of the best investments I ever made was buying a Wacom drawing tablet for my computer. It beats drawing with a mouse or touchpad any day.

Wacom makes a large range of tablets to fit any budget. There are the cheaper Bamboo series tablets (featured above) and the more expensive Intuos tablets. The three main differences in the tablets are: cost, size, and how many levels of pressure sensitivity a device has. The more levels you have the more realistic the pen tool is.

All of the Wacom tablets come with great software bundled with them too. I have tried both lines of tablets, and while there is a definite difference in the more expensive Intuos line, the Bamboo line works great for those on a budget.

Wacom Cintiq

On the same note as above (and if money is no object) you could get the Wacom Cintiq as a present. The Cintiq is a tablet and monitor all rolled into one and starts at $999 for the 12″ model and $1,999 for the 24″ model. Unfortunately, I have yet to own one of these, but I would love to have one. The Cintiq makes drawing with a tablet even more realistic by mimicking the act of drawing on paper. Any digital artist would love this. Imagine a bigger iPad with a touch sensitive display and you have a Cintiq.

Wacom Bamboo Stylus

Speaking of iPads and Wacom, drawing on a tablet like an iPad is a lot of fun. Personally, I think you can achieve better results while using a stylus. Wacom makes the best styluses I have tried with their Bamboo Stylus line. I have tried a bunch and the weight of these styluses with the feel of the drawing nib make the Wacom line my choice. There are several different ones to choose from starting at $29.99. They are a bit pricier than many styluses, but you truly get what you pay for here.

Autodesk Sketchbook Pro 6

To go along with that drawing tablet you might want to gift some drawing software. There are a bunch to choose from out there, but my current go to drawing program is Sketchbook Pro 6 by Autodesk. It retails for $59 and is available for the Mac (via the Mac App Store) and Windows.

Sketchbook Pro 6 does a great job of mimicking natural media on the computer and packs a ton of tools and features in one package. With that said, what I really like is that the program is not trying to be more than a drawing and paint program. There are no photo editing tools and no animation tools. It is strictly for drawing and painting on your computer.

Autodesk Sketchbook Pro for Mobile

If you want to give a less expensive drawing program but one that is as good as Sketchbook Pro 6 why not give the mobile version of the program? The mobile version leaves off the number and is just Sketchbook Pro. It is available in tablet and phone apps for both Android and iOS. The tablet version is $4.99 and the phone version is $1.99. Both, like the desktop counterpart, are great natural media drawing programs.

I use have both versions and I like being able to use the same program across platforms. It allows for projects to be compatible across devices and the interface, while different, is familiar. You can gift the apps to a person through the corresponding stores, or just buy a gift card for the corresponding App Store (links for both versions on both operating systems can be found at the above link for Pro 6).

A Pencil Sharpener (?)

Here’s one final hard-to-find item. When I say hard to find I mean it. I could only find this in the Great Britain eBay store for about $65 in US currency. When I bought this pencil sharpener – yes, I said pencil sharpener – back in college about twenty years ago I think I paid under $15. However, if you are buying for the person who has everything and don’t mind spending over $60 for a pencil sharpener (hand powered by the way), you might want to look into the Staedtler Mars Rotary Sharpener. It is the best pencil sharpener I have ever used and I still use it to this day.

I remember seeing a classmate using it in art class and I had to have one. It feeds the pencil into the sharpener as you turn the handle and it gives a great sharp point. I know it sounds crazy, but like I said if you need a crazy gift and want to spend the money this is great. Is it worth $60, maybe not, but I thought I’d throw it out there.

So there you have it, my gift guide for the creativity people on your gift list this holiday season. Happy Holidays!

 

Buyer’s Guide: iPad mini vs. Leapfrog LeapPad for your preschooler

This holiday season many parents will be purchasing the LeapPad 2 from Leapfrog for their children. For those who don’t know what the LeapPad is, it is Leapfrog’s iPad/tablet device for kids. It costs $100 and the original LeapPad was a top-selling toy last holiday season. In fact, you could not find them in the stores.

You might wonder why I’m comparing a iPad mini and not an iPod Touch or a full iPad. Those are great options too, but for the purpose of this article I am discussing the iPad mini since it is comparable in size to the LeapPad and, in my opinion, a great sized tablet for a preschooler.

As a father whose child has the original LeapPad I would argue that the iPad mini is a better option. Yes, it is a lot morning money (starting at $329), but my opinion is it comes with much more value. In this article, I’ll tell you why.

Price comparison (including content and games)

Game cartridges for the LeapPad are about $24.99 (unless you find a deal). If you buy nine cartridges, the price difference would come close to price of the iPad mini, but most games for the iPad mini are free or 99 cents. Some games can be more expensive, but the most I’ve seen a kids app cost is $6.99 for a Disney interactive book. Therefore, once you reach that $329 price for the games and LeapPad the game pricing becomes a better deal on the iPad mini.

You can also download apps for the LeapPad, but it is more difficult and the apps are much more expensive (usually $4.99 or more – and the good games are even higher). Personally, I’d prefer to take my chances on a 99 cent app that might not get much playtime instead of $24.99.

LeapPad 2 (image from www.leappad.com)

More games are available on the iOS platform

The amount of great games on the iPad mini far exceeds the games for the LeapPad. Yes, there is a lot of junk for the iPad, but there are a lot of gems too. There are far more apps based on characters your child might know like Disney characters, PBS kids characters, and Nick Jr. characters. Plus, there are tons of great apps without these characters like those by Shoe the Goose or Duck Duck Moose. You could buy most, if not all of the apps by these two companies for the price of a single LeapPad app.

iOS offers more non-game content as well

Overall, the iPad mini just has more content available for it besides the games. You can load it with video and music from your iTunes library. You can also fill it with children’s books from the iBookstore. You can stream content to it from apps like Disney Junior or PBS Kids or Netflix (if you have a membership). Video content is available for the LeapPad and interactive books, but they generally cost more money and there are not as many available as there are for the iPad.

Future-proofing your purchase

The iPad mini will grow with your child. As your child gets older the iPad mini has a range of apps that are for the older child. The iPad can also double as a computer for word processing and other tasks if you hold onto it long enough. The iPad also has a great camera if your child is into photography. The LeapPad has a camera too, but it does not compete with the one on the iPad mini.

By the way, did I mention you will get more use out of the iPad mini than a LeapPad 2? Why not claim the iPad when your child isn’t using it? Surf the internet, read books, play game, etc. in your spare time; take advantage of having the iPad mini in the house.

Conclusion

Now, this may seem like LeapPad bashing, but it is not meant to be. Leapfrog is a great company and they make great educational products. My son loves his TAG reader and the LeapPad is a great product for the right family. I personally think it sparked the trend of making kid-specific Android tablets that are popping up all over the place.

However, when it comes to the LeapPad or the iPad Mini, I think the mini gives you much more for your money and will provide more fun and productivity than the LeapPad.

Holiday Gift Guide 2012: iOS Edition

Some  of the most popular gifts this holiday season will be the iPad, iPad mini, iPod Touch, and the iPhone 5. What if you want to get a cool accessory to go with that iOS device you are giving? Or what if you are giving a gift to someone who already has one of these devices? Sure, you can get them a case, or a screen protector, but what about something different?

Here are a few items you might want to consider ranging from the inexpensive to the not-so-inexpensive.

Toddy Gear Smart Cloth

The Toddy Gear Smart Cloth is one of the best – no, scratch that – the best screen wipe for an iOS device I have tried. I have two of them. iOS screens are constantly being covered in fingerprints and other “gunk” and these cloths are great for cleaning that off the screen.

They are basically a wipe that has one side for cleaning and one side for polishing. No cleaners are needed (I will occasionally dampen mine for a better cleaning). If they get dirty you can throw them in the wash. They start at $9.99 and come in various patterns and sizes. These are well worth the money.

IPEVO PadPillow

Another great gift for the iPad user is the IPEVO PadPillow. What is a Pad Pillow? It is a wedge shape pillow that lets you prop up your iPad like an easel. It can be used on your lap, on the floor, or on a table. I love this pillow and it has changes the way I use my iPad. It comes in a variety of colors and at well worth the $34 it retails for.

Gelaskins

If you are like me you are not a fan of cases unless they have a purpose (for example a case that doubles as an easel). I hate the bulk and weight they add to a device, especially my iPad. As a result my current iPad and iPhone do not have cases. Instead of a case they have a Gelaskin on the back to protect it from scratches and give it some decoration at the same time.

Gelaskins are heavy-duty adhesive skins that go on the back of your device (and front in the case of the iPhone, although I only covered the back). You can choose from numerous designs on the website or you can upload a photo and really personalize your skin. The phone version is $14.95 and the price goes up from their as the device gets larger. The iPad version is $29.95. Non-Apple devices are supported also. You even get a wallpaper file emailed to you for your device.

AirStash

Do you know someone who has a full iPad or iPod and can’t afford to upgrade to the next sized device? You might want to consider getting that person the AirStash (starts at $149.99) by Maxell. The AirStash looks like a USB flash drive and comes with an 8 or 16GB memory card. On the memory card you can store movies, photos, documents, etc that can stream to your iOS device and back through its own wireless network. This works great for streaming video. You use the free AirStash app, and it is compatible with other apps also. It can also stream to multiple devices (think road trip with kids in the back seat and multiple iPods!).

Griffin Cinemaseat

Speaking of road trips, if you know someone who travels with kids in the backseat the Griffin Cinemaseat is a must. It works with the iPad and an iPad mini model is also available now too. It is simply a case with a velcro strap that straps around the headrest of the car seat letting the person behind it watch video on the iPad. This system is less permanent than other headrest systems, is easier to install, and costs less money at $39.99 ($24.99 on Griffin’s website as of this writing).

So there you have it. Five gifts for the iOS user that aren’t something you may have thought of (like that new iPhone case). Happy Holidays!

Free Disney apps for iOS and your toddler

As I mentioned in my last article, Tablets and your pre-schooler: Is it a good idea?, I will be doing an ongoing series about apps for the preschool age student available for iOS devices. These articles will cover apps that are played with constantly in my house and that are educational (no Angry Birds suggestions here).

To start this series I am going to discuss several Disney apps which are fantastic and free. Yes, I said free. Free apps are nothing new, but the quality of these free apps from Disney makes them must haves and easily something I would have expected a cost of $4.99 or more. These apps are also universal, so they will work on your iPhone, iPod, and iPad natively.

Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Road Rally

If your preschooler is a fan of the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse TV show, this app is a must have. It takes the “Road Rally” episode and turns it into an interactive app full of activities mixed with video from the show.

My son’s favorite part if when you have to yell into the iPad for several activities. For examples, when Pete is riding his bike you yell “Go Pete Go!” to make him go. The name and description of the app suggest there are more of these apps from Disney coming. Hopefully they will be free, but I suspect this might be the free “taste” and the next app will have a cost.

Jake’s Never Land Pirate School

Jake’s Never Land Pirate School is another app that gets a lot of play time in my house. My son is a big Jake fan and in Pirate School you go through four classes (each with multiple levels) in pirate school. Your child (or you) can learn how to sail Bucky, play different instruments with Sharky and Bones, search for treasures with Jake and Cubby, and fly with Izzy and Scully. (If your child likes Jake those names will have meaning.)

After each activity your child has to dig for doubloons in the sand before time runs out. On completion of all the activities your child will receive a Never Land pirate certificate.

Disney Fairies Fashion Boutique

Disney Fairies Fashion Boutique is an app for the Tinkerbell fan in your house. This is not played in my house but it appears to be another great app that should be charged for but is not.

In this game, your child becomes the “owner” of a fairy clothing boutique and designs outfits for the fairies.

WATCH Disney Junior

I can’t write this article without mentioning this app. Through the WATCH Disney Junior app your child can watch select episodes from Disney Junior shows like Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Doc McStuffins, Jake and the Never Land Pirates, Jungle Junction and more.

If you are a customer of Xfinity (formerly Comcast) or Midcontinent Communications you gain access to the live channel and more current episodes. The app started as Comcast/Xfinity only, so I am hoping more providers join the group (in my case Verison FIOS would be nice). Even if you aren’t a customer of those two providers this app has great free episodes. (For older children similar apps are available for the Disney Channel and Disney XD.)

While I don’t recommend letting your preschooler play on your iOS device 24 hours a day apps like these can be fun and educational. I always find the apps with familiar characters are the ones that get the most play time in my house. Plus, who doesn’t like free stuff?

Coming up next time: Great PBSkids apps for iOS.

Tablets and your pre-schooler: Is it a good idea?

While writing here at Techerator I plan on covering a lot of tops related to the Mac and iOS. After all, that is what I know when it comes to technology. Part of those articles will include a series about iOS apps for the preschooler and toddler. Basically these articles will be recommending apps that have been a hit in my house. However, before I get to those articles I wanted to write an article about the benefits (and downsides) of letting your preschooler use a tablet or phone or similar device.

Tablets for kids are popping up all over the place. There is the Leapfrog LeapPad (now in its second-generation version). There is a new kids-only tablet from Toys “R” Us. Tablets are hitting the kids market and hitting it fast.

There will be many people out there that will say a kid should go nowhere near a tablet device. There are also many people out there who say a young child should not be watching television (don’t get me started on this one). I disagree on both counts. In moderation, and with parent supervision,using a tablet can be educational for a young child – not to mention fun.

There are apps that teach writing, reading, and arithmetic. There are apps that teach patterns and spacial reasoning. There are apps for the artist child. In many cases these apps are reinforcing what a child will be learning in school. In other cases the app might be teaching the child something new and giving him/her a head start.

My son loves playing games that are based on his favorite characters like Dinosaur Train and Clifford the Big Red Dog or Team Umizoomi.  We also read books on the iPad and there are a lot of fantastic interactive book apps out there. Through these apps he is having fun learning. He is also learning how to type and learning how to use a tablet device, which I think will be the future in schools over laptops (but that is another story).

Don’t get me wrong, too much use of a tablet is not good. In fact we limit usage heavily in my house. My son is on the iPad no more than 20 minutes per week. I also don’t let him play any apps except the educational games (some are based on characters and others are not).

The bottom line is that there is definitely a place for tablets and preschoolers, and if you monitor a child’s usage it can be a great learning tool.

How to create a slideshow on your iPad

The iPad has many uses and one its features is presenting slideshows of your photos. In fact, slideshows look fabulous on the iPad. How do you create a slideshow on the iPad? You can create slideshows through the built-in Photos app or using a third-party app.

Adding photos to your iPad

Whether using Apple’s Photos app or a third-party app, you must have the photos you plan to use on your iPad. You can load photos from a memory card using the Camera Connection Kit sold by Apple, or you can load them through iPhoto and iTunes.

To load photos using iPhoto you need to have an album in iPhoto with the photos you want to add to your iPad. Next,with you iPad connected to the computer, go to iTunes and select your iPad in the devices list on the left. Choose the “Photos” tab and click the options that allow you to load photos from specific albums. Choose the specific album (or albums) you want to load onto your iPad.

For the purpose of making a slideshow it is a good idea to have the album specifically assigned for your slideshow. It should not contain any other photos in it. You can use another album for that.

Now you are ready to make your slideshow.

Making a slideshow with the built-in Photos app

Let’s start with the easiest and quickest method based on the idea that you loaded your photos through iPhoto. After synching your photos, open the Photos app on your iPad. The photos will be grouped into an album with the same name as the one you created in iPhoto. Open that album.

On the top right of the screen you will notice a “Slideshow” button. Tap this button and another window will open. In this window you can set basic setting for the slideshow such as a theme. Pick your settings and play the slideshow.

If you aren’t loading your photos through iPhoto, but are loading from your camera the process is just as easy. Instead of making and loading a playlist through iPhoto you make the album in the Photos app. However, you do need at least iOS 5 installed on your iPad. Earlier versions of iOS do not allow you to create albums on the iPad.

Next, open the Photos app on your iPad. Find the photos you want to use and tap the curved arrow in the top right of the screen. Tap all of the photos you want in the slideshow. Now tap the “Add To” button and choose “New Album.” Enter a name for the album and these photos will now be in that album.

To create the slideshow, go to the album and follow the same steps laid out above for playing a slideshow in the Photos app.

One important note is that you are not creating any specific slideshow file when you follow these methods outlined above. You are only using the Photos app to play a select group of photos in a slideshow. To actually create a slideshow file you will need to use one of several apps available in the App Store.

Creating slideshows in a third-party app

If you do a search for “Slideshow” in the iPad App Store you will be presented with numerous apps that can create a slideshow for you. Each one will have different features and you will have to read the features and the reviews and decide which one might work for you.

You can also consider using Keynote to create slideshows, which another great option on the iPad. It is a lot more complicated than using the method of using the Photos app, but it does give you more control. You can choose transitions on a per photo basis, add music if you want, and export it from the iPad to your Mac.

Whichever app you choose to use, you will still need to load photos to the Photos app using one of the methods described above. All of these types of apps access the photos  stored in your Photos app.

Now you have several options for creating slideshows on your iPad. If you have a preferred technique or app for creating slideshows leave a comment below!

How to update your Apple iOS device to iOS 6

Recently, Apple released iOS 6 for iPods, iPads, and iPhones. Apple has stated that it comes packed with over two hundred new features. So how do you get this update onto your device? It is actually very easy to do.

First you need to determine if your device is compatible with the update. iOS 6 is compatible with:

  • Phone 3GS and newer
  • 2nd generation iPad and newer
  • 4th generation iPod Touch and newer

You also must have a wireless internet connection and/or be connected to iTunes on your computer to install the update.

How to update via wireless

First, make sure you are plugged into a power source. Next, open the Settings app on your device. The app might actually have a red one on the icon indicating an update is available. Tap “General” and then tap “Software Update.”

You should see a screen telling you there is an update available with a button to install the update. Tap that update button and wait. The update will download and install. It will probably take a while, so you should probably go run an errand and come back in about an hour.

Once the update is finished the device will reboot and you will go through a mini set up to get up and running in iOS 6. Make sure you have your iCloud information available, if you use iCloud (you can also skip these steps).

How to update via iTunes

Start by connecting your device to the computer (which needs an internet connection). If you aren’t prompted to install an update you can manually initiate it. Click you device in the Library and go to the Info tab for the device. There will be a “Check for Updates” button on this screen. Click that and if your device is compatible you will be told an update is available.

Go through the steps and, just like above, this will take about an hour (your time may vary depending on internet connection speeds). Once finished, the device will reboot and you will go through the same procedure mentioned above.

Conclusion

So should you update? That is up to you. If you have an older device you might want to search the internet for reports on how your device works after the update. Some older devices might have issues – even though Apple has said it is compatible. Also, depending on your device, you won’t get all of the new features.

Personally, I update my devices. I like having the latest and greatest (or not so greatest) new features. You, on the other hand, may be happy with the way your device works and it does everything you want it to do. Either way, now you know how to get your device up to date with iOS 6.