No More iPad


About 2 months ago I sold my iPad mini. I didn't think to write anything about it, but I came across an article I wrote last year when I switched to the mini from the iPad 3. I was pretty sold on the idea and it really was nice for a few months, but a couple things happened.

I started driving to work most every day instead of bike commuting- and hence the weight of my Macbook became a non-issue, meaning I can, and do bring it with me most every day.

I had owned the iPad 2 and promptly upgraded to the 3 for the Retina display and used it happily for writing, listening to music, reading, occasional games and some light design work. Though there have been numerous articles by folks that are able to use the iPad as their primary device, I never felt like it could really keep up with my Mac for anything but reading. I've never felt it was as-good at most things as my Mac. Coincidentally, early last year around the same time that I picked up the mini, I also upgraded to the 13" Retina Macbook Pro.

By the holidays of last year, I was bringing the iPad and the Macbook with me, but found myself seldom using the iPad for anything but listening to music. Before long, I signed up for iTunes match and found that I actually preferred to use my iPhone for music as I've still got a grandfathered unlimited data plan.

I bought Emily a Kindle Paperwhite late last summer and noticed that it was pretty slick. I read a few chapters on it and started thinking I'd like one of my own.

The finishing piece that pushed me over the edge was the iPhone 5S. It is so dang fast and makes the first generation mini feel like a dog. It took me a few months to make the decision, but after a two week trial not using it, I put it on eBay and got a great price for it. I used the proceeds to contribute to the savings for a camera and a Kindle Paperwhite.

I really enjoyed using it, but I grew out of it. I've always had the idea that it's unwise to hang on to gear that you don't use. I'm just glad I realized it while the mini was still worth something.


Goodbye Google Reader

Like many others, perhaps like you, I’m trying to figure out what to use as a replacement for Google Reader. I’ve used it for a few years as a way to keep up with the many authors, photographers and tech sites that I enjoy. In the past 2 years, I’ve begun to use an app called Reeder that adopted the Google Reader API, but gave me the content in a much more visually appealing fashion.

It works well on iPhone, iPad and my Macbook. I’ve used the actual Google webview at work as I can’t install software on my work machine for banking and investment compliance reasons. It’s been a pretty good solution thus far, but the Google Reader API was the engine driving all of this.

Since the news broke last Wednesday, there have been so many conversations about the future of RSS and of all the apps and services that have come to depend on this free service that Google is shutting down.

I tried out a few different alternatives over the weekend and I've found a few important things to consider in replacing it.

  1. It would be really nice if I could use apps which are familiar. For this to work, would require a replacement for the Google Reader API. This would probaly be the option with the least amount of friction for most folks. The only piece that would be missing is a web view for times when viewing on your own device isn’t possible.

  2. There are already some alternative apps for reading RSS feeds, but they use their own backend for pulling in content. The issue here is that Google has built a pretty amazing and efficient way to pull in all of the stuff you want to see and keep track of what’s new. When you use other systems, they ‘get’ the content for you, but there is no cental record of read status.

I’ve been trying out Feedly for a few days and it shows some definite promise. They're working on a replacement for the Google Reader API called Normandy. I really like the web view, but it is dependant on a Browser extension. That doesn’t work for me as I can’t install extensions at work. The apps are clean and show good visual design, but are perhaps a bit overkill compared to my RSS readers like Byword and NetNewsWire.

I’ll update as I continue working through this stuff. In the meantime, Google Reader will keep working until July 1st.

If you subscribe to this site via RSS, just keep watching here and I'll give you some alternatives. If not, you can follow me on Twitter or sign up to have posts delivered to your inboxdaily.

Switching from iPad to iPad mini

A couple weeks ago I was selling some stuff on eBay and thought I'd just take a look to see what I could get for my iPad 3. I was intrigued by the iPad mini from the announcement, but wasn't dissatisfied with my Retina display model. I'd read a bunch of reviews and it seemed clear that folks who are generally more discerning about the display and fonts and such were choosing to move to the smaller model.

I made the switch.

I primarily use mine as a reading device with some occasional games, writing and web browsing. Though I haven't really written it or said much about it, the bigger iPad seemed too big from day one. I overlooked it because the functionality was so good, but now that there is a version that is half the weight and 30% smaller it seems ridiculous not to switch. Because of the weight and size it wasn't great holding it while using it for any length of time. I found myself propping up the old one up or using the Smart Cover to stand it on a table surface most of the time. I had kind of been considering a Kindle paperwhite for more long-form or book reading, but not anymore.

There is one observation that I haven't read elsewhere. People have mentioned that it's awkward to hold the larger iPad in one hand, but I think the reason is balance. The weight on it isn't balanced to the average hand size. All the extra weight acts as a much larger lever on your grip, making it feel a bit unsteady in your hand. The smaller mini, has the wieght of a book, or a Kindle. There is a reason that the Kindle sells so well. It really is a great form factor.

In terms of the display, I do miss the Retina quality, but not so much that I'm regretting making the switch. I was disappointed that none of the accesories were transferable. Dock, Camera connection kit, Waterfield Case and Smart Cover. All were sold with the old one. There isn't a dock for any device with a Lightning connector and I wasn't really using the camera kit. I'm still debating about a sleeve case.

I bought the Smart Cover and it really is a better design than the model for the full size iPad. They've redesigned the connection point so that it doesn't scratch the iPad, and is much more secure. I had the old Smart Cover pull off and give me a scare a couple times as I was relying on it more than I should've. Also, did I mention scratching? My only real disappointment is that it isn't available in black leather. I went with the dark gray poly as it's the closest. Black is my favorite.

I kind of knew I was ready when I found myself recommending the mini to 3 different friends. Pretty happy about the switch!

Favorites list for 2012

It's only the second year I've written up a favorites list, but I have done it before, so I'll call it my 2nd annual danhawk.com favorites list.

1. Sony NEX 5N

If you visit my site even somewhat regularly, you already know that I use and love the Sony NEX 5N. I've owned a couple of film cameras and a couple of nice point-and-shoot camera over the years, but this is the first one that I've really loved to use. I really like the way that Sony approaches the feel and the overall direction for the NEX system. I've posted my own review and a bit about the lenses in the system. As I'm learning, a lot of the actual quality in fine photography is in the lenses, so number two has to be...

2. Sony E Mount 50mm F/1.8 OSS

I really love this lens. The Sony 50mm 1.8 more consistenly produces amazing images than any other lens I've tried. I've made it no secret that I'm strongly considering the new 35mm f/1.8, but the more I use this 50, the less I feel like giving it up.

3. iPhone 5

Looking through last year's list, I see that the 4S was on the list. It now feels like a pretty minor upgrade when compared to the jump forward in the iPhone 5. As always changes to the iPhone are incremental, but they did a couple things that were pretty big this year. Bigger Screen and thinner body. These changes make a lot of difference to me and make the iPhone 5 even nicer to use.

4. Retina iPad

There has been a lot of action this year with Retina screens, but the one that has been important to me is the New iPad (3). I've had a iPhone 4 since the day it was released and it was certainly nice, but the retina display on the New iPad is a game changer. My primary uses for it are reading and writing and the Retina display does this better than any other screen that I've seen.

5. iOS apps Darksky and Byword

As you can see from my last two favorites, I really like iOS devices. Part of what makes them so useful are the great apps that are available.


Byword is a writing app which is available on iPad, iPhone and on the Mac (which I'm using to write this post btw). One of the best features is the syncing between devices using either iCloud or Dropbox. I use Dropbox as it allows me access the files from just about anywhere. The other big thing is that it is really distraction free. It is just a screen with text. Simple. Markdown is supported which is great for drafting things that are intended for the internet.


Living in Portland means that being aware of when it will rain is pretty important. Darksky is the perfect app if you live in the Northwest. It answers one basic question: Is it going to rain soon? I use this every day, often 4-5 times.

6. Squarespace

In August of this year I moved my site to Squarespace. It was on Wordpress.com before, but it just wasn't a great fit. Though the service was free, I had to pay to use my own domain and they started placing ads on my higher traffic posts. I decided it was time for a switch and that I was willing to pay a little to get what I wanted.

Squarespace is easy to use, looks great and they are incredibly responsive to support requests. They have a graphic system for building your site, a bunch of great templates, and their committment to keeping your site up even through acts of God is impressive.

7. Lightroom 4

I hit a spot this year with photography where iPhoto just wasn't cutting it anymore. Lightroom is the real deal. You can read more about why I use it here

8. Levi's Jeans

Last year, right at Christmas time I made a decision. Levi's are the only Jeans that I will wear going forward. They are the Gold Standard. I've had so many pairs of other jeans that have worn out in weird places, shrunk too much, lost color too quickly, or had the belt loops rip off. It's hard to go wrong with 501s, but my wife found the 569 style and they fit me perfectly. 2 pairs, and they both pretty much look brand new.

9. Reading long books with my sons

This year we read 4 Harry Potter books, The Hobbit and a couple books from the Chronicles of Narnia. Awesome! Lord of the Rings next? A lot of these have been driven by their desire to see the movies. I simply made it a rule that we had to read the book first.

10. Music and Movie


John Mayer, Born & Raised- iTunes or the Actual Disc. I've been a long-time John Mayer fan. I own every album of his available and this is a really great addition. The quality songwriting, hooks and guitar work are all familiar, but there is a soul to this one that is new. It sounds like he has been studying The Eagles, and Neil Young as it has a 70's California Country vibe. My favorite track is probably A Face to Call Home. Go listen to this one end to end. I'm pretty sure you won't be disappointed.


I think I'm gonna have to go with Looper. Here is a trailer. I was just blown away by the completeness and originality of the story. There are certainly familiar storytelling elements and thematic elements that are common to time-travel based movies, but everything feels more raw. It is less sci-fi and more gangster. Less technical and more nuanced. Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are fantastic.

Of course the best things from this year are not things at all, but experiences, opportunities to grow, and of course, family. I'm a pretty lucky guy in that respect. My Kids are healthy, intelligent and happy. My wife and I are more in love than ever and it continues to surprise me how our love continues to grow and mature year after year.

I'm also thankful that so many of you follow what I'm doing here. I really love both photography and writing and when I look back over the year, I'm surprised at the growth, contemplative about what I could have done better, and proud of what I made.

Thanks for paying attention!

Gmail 2.0 for iPhone and iPad

If you are a Gmail user with an iPhone or iPad, you should download the new native Gmail 2.0 for iOS. It has a really nice visual design and does a couple things better than the native iOS Mail app.

Just like the standard web version of Gmail on the desktop, there is a dedicated Archive button right on each message. One of my biggest frustrations with Apple Mail is that when I want to archive a message (which I've already automatically tagged with a filter when it arrived), I have to choose the "move" navigation and then sort through folders to choose the folder/tag that this message already has already been given on Gmail's servers.

Threaded messages are displayed the same way they are on the Gmail web interface. I'm so used to this as it allows me to just view the whole thing in one fell swoop instead of opening each individual message separately to find the content I'm looking for.

Search is awesome. I'm not sure why the Apple mail app can't seem to actually search the Gmail server, but it can't. I easily pulled up a receipt from almost 3 years ago that I've never been able to retrieve using the native Mail app. I love this.

The push notifications are solid and I'm now using it for all my Gmail accounts.