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My hunt for the right iPad model: Too small, too big, and just right



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Nine years ago it was easy to pick out an iPad as there was just one model to choose from with your only option being how much storage you desired. You had a total of three choices.

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  • Apple iPad Pro (11-inch, Wi-Fi, 512GB, Space Gray) at Amazon
  • Apple iPad Pro (12.9-inch, Wi-Fi, 64GB, Silver) at Amazon
  • Apple iPad Air (10.5-inch, Wi-Fi, 64GB, Space Gray) at Amazon
  • Apple iPad (Wi-Fi, 32GB, Space Gray) at Amazon
  • Apple iPad Mini (Wi-Fi, 32GB, Gold) at Amazon

Today, there are five current models, finish options, storage capacity options, and LTE (carrier options here too) or Wi-FI options so it’s a bit overwhelming trying to figure out the right one for you. This leaves you with 68 possible models to choose from in 2019. So you can understand why it took me three purchases to get to the right model for me.

Also: iPhone, iPad, and Mac buyer’s guide: August 2019 edition 

The current lineup that makes up these 68 options includes the iPad, iPad Air, iPad Mini, iPad Pro 11, and iPad Pro 12.8. There are perfectly capable older models still available too so if you want to save some money you can look at sites like Swappa for some good options.

While I use a Microsoft Surface Pro 6 as my daily work computer for my consulting engineering business, I do not find it to be the best tablet option even though it is perfectly capable of serving in that capacity. Tablets haven’t been a necessity for me, but I do find that the iPad helps me work more efficiently by taking away the redundancy of handwritten notes, adding search capability to my notes, and providing me fast and easily readable access to data.

Too small: iPad Mini 5

I bought the iPad Pro 10.5 in 2017, but then sold it to my oldest daughter as I found the Google Pixelbook to meet my home computing and ZDNet writing needs better at the time. The Pixelbook is indeed a great computing platform, but Android apps are still pretty terrible and it’s just not a very good tablet for portable use. The Pixel Slate is a nice piece of hardware, but suffers from the same terrible Android apps.

The iPad Mini was one of my favorite iPads so when I saw the new iPad Mini 5 released in March I ordered a Wi-Fi 64GB model in the hope that it would be a more portable note taking and iOS app device. I used it for some note taking, but it wasn’t very convenient to carry around the Pencil and I couldn’t comfortably take many notes on the 7.9 inch display.

I have a Galaxy Note 9 with an S Pen and find that to offer nearly the same experience as the iPad Mini with a stylus that is always ready and available in the phone. I eventually just ended up using the iPad Mini 5 to watch some video content on my commute and business travel and even those experiences were compromised by the small size of this iPad.

Too big: 2017 iPad Pro 12.9

A long-time Twitter follower and MoTR podcast listener offered Kevin and me a chance to buy his mint condition iPad Pro 12.9 before he put it up for sale to the public on Swappa. I’ve never used a 12.9 iPad and his offer of one with LTE and a whopping 512GB of internal storage was just too much for me to pass up, especially after feeling cramped on the iPad Mini 5.

The iPad Pro 12.9 arrived and when I opened the box I almost fell off my chair laughing at how ridiculously large the tablet was, particularly when held in my hands. Kevin mentioned that was his reaction to his older large iPad at first too, but with use he said he came to love it and used it as his main computing device for more than a year. Thus, I figured I would give it a shot because it certainly was a very nice piece of hardware.

The first thing I did after charging up this large iPad was install the iOS 13/iPad OS beta that adds a ton of capability to the iPad, particularly to the larger sized Pro version of the iPad. I wanted to test out the split view, side view, desktop Safari experience, and more to see if this large iPad Pro could replace the Chromebook as my primary home/writing computer.

iOS 13 works very well on this large iPad and I loved the ability to quickly swipe in and out of open apps on the large screen. I was also able to easily work in two apps at the same time, side-by-side. This is something I definitely could not do on the smaller iPad Mini.

I bought a Logitech case and keyboard for this big iPad Pro and it worked well in a desktop setup, but was way too big and chunky for carrying around the office to use on a frequent basis. It was almost too big to fit into my bike backpack pocket for commuting and took up nearly the entire small train table in front of me so that the person across from me had no table space.

After two weeks, I just could not use a device as big as the iPad Pro 12.9 in any other environment than set up as a laptop/desktop computer in my office. I didn’t get the chance to test it out on a flight, but can’t imagine it fitting very well on my coach tray so off to Swappa went the iPad Pro 12.9.

Just right: 2018 iPad Pro 11

While I understand that the 2018 iPad Pro 12.9 is a tiny bit smaller than the 2017 model, it’s still too big. My search then came down to the iPad Air or the iPad Pro 11 and for this decision I created a spreadsheet with different storage options and purchase options from the Apple Store and Swappa. I ruled out a LTE model since I already pay for service on two SIMs and don’t need another monthly service charge for wireless service.

My next decision was in regards to storage capacity. I think all Pro level iPads should start at 128GB, but Apple likes to only provide minimal storage and then charge excessively for increasing internal capacity. I watch movies and TV shows while commuting and traveling, but also don’t mind moving this content on and off the tablet. I don’t install many apps, I do not play games, and I never use the camera on a tablet except for video calling. Thus, I quickly decided to go with the minimal 64GB option on whatever iPad I decided upon.

The final choice was whether I wanted an iPad Air or Pro 11. The iPad Air is hundreds less than the iPad Pro 11 and I could also use my existing first generation Apple Pencil with it. While the iPad Air is the reasonable choice, it still has the old school look and feel with bigger bezels and a physical home button and I wanted a more modern tablet. I also have some issues with the skin on my thumbs so prefer the Face ID solution.

The iPad Pro offers Face ID, minimal bezels (for a tablet), standard USB-C port for charging, and a better Apple Pencil solution with wireless charging and magnetic attachment to the tablet itself. Thus, I decided to go with the iPad Pro 11.

I also bought a brand new sealed one on Swappa since Washington State charges nearly 10% for sales tax and the one on Swappa was already priced $50 less than the Apple Store. So, with tax, I ended up saving more than $100 buying it this way. I did buy the Apple Pencil 2 and a Smart Cover from Apple directly.

The iPad Pro 11 has now been in my hands for a week and I am loving it. It is the perfect size for commuting, use around the office, flying on planes, carrying around my house, and using as my home computer. The Google Pixel Slate review device died on me the day before the iPad Pro 11 arrived so it truly has been serving as my home computer. I wrote this article on the iPad with a connection to an old Microsoft Wedge keyboard I had lying around. My next search is to find the perfect external keyboard to increase its utility.

iPad OS, iOS 13 beta, is running well on the iPad Pro 11 and I am not feeling the squeeze when compared to the much larger iPad Pro 12.9. Apple offers a plethora of options for tablet buyers today and I hope you are able to find your perfect match in less time than I did.

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Facebook will pay $650 million to settle class action suit centered on Illinois privacy law – TechCrunch



Facebook was ordered to pay $650 million Friday for running afoul of an Illinois law designed to protect the state’s residents from invasive privacy practices.

That law, the Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA), is a powerful state measure that’s tripped up tech companies in recent years. The suit against Facebook was first filed in 2015, alleging that Facebook’s practice of tagging people in photos using facial recognition without their consent violated state law.

Indeed, 1.6 million Illinois residents will receive at least $345 under the final settlement ruling in California federal court. The final number is $100 million higher than the $550 million Facebook proposed in 2020, which a judge deemed inadequate. Facebook disabled the automatic facial recognition tagging features in 2019, making it opt-in instead and addressing some of the privacy criticisms echoed by the Illinois class action suit.

A cluster of lawsuits accused Microsoft, Google and Amazon of breaking the same law last year after Illinois residents’ faces were used to train their facial recognition systems without explicit consent.

The Illinois privacy law has tangled up some of tech’s giants, but BIPA has even more potential to impact smaller companies with questionable privacy practices. The controversial facial recognition software company Clearview AI now faces its own BIPA-based class action lawsuit in the state after the company failed to dodge the suit by pushing it out of state courts.

A $650 million settlement would be enough to crush any normal company, though Facebook can brush it off much like it did with the FTC’s record-setting $5 billion penalty in 2019. But the Illinois law isn’t without teeth. For Clearview, it was enough to make the company pull out of business in the state altogether.

The law can’t punish a behemoth like Facebook in the same way, but it is one piece in a regulatory puzzle that poses an increasing threat to the way tech’s data brokers have done business for years. With regulators at the federal, state and legislative level proposing aggressive measures to rein in tech, the landmark Illinois law provides a compelling framework that other states could copy and paste. And if big tech thinks navigating federal oversight will be a nightmare, a patchwork of aggressive state laws governing how tech companies do business on a state-by-state basis is an alternate regulatory future that could prove even less palatable.


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Twitter rolls out vaccine misinformation warning labels and a strike-based system for violations – TechCrunch



Twitter announced Monday that it would begin injecting new labels into users’ timelines to push back against misinformation that could disrupt the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines. The labels, which will also appear as pop-up messages in the retweet window, are the company’s latest product experiment designed to shape behavior on the platform for the better.

The company will attach notices to tweeted misinformation warning users that the content “may be misleading” and linking out to vetted public health information. These initial vaccine misinformation sweeps, which begin today, will be conducted by human moderators at Twitter and not automated moderation systems.

Twitter says the goal is to use these initial determinations to train its AI systems so that down the road a blend of human and automated efforts will scan the site for vaccine misinformation. The latest misinformation measure will target tweets in English before expanding.

Twitter also introduced a new strike system for violations of its pandemic-related rules. The new system is modeled after a set of consequences it implemented for voter suppression and voting-related misinformation. Within that framework, a user with two or three “strikes” faces a 12-hour account lockout. With four violations, they lose account access for one week, with permanent suspension looming after five strikes.

Twitter introduced its first pandemic-specific policies a year ago, banning tweets promoting false treatment or prevention claims along with any content that could put people at higher risk of spreading COVID-19. In December, Twitter added new rules focused on popular vaccine conspiracy theories and announced that warning labels were on the way.

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Facebook launches BARS, a TikTok-like app for creating and sharing raps – TechCrunch



Facebook’s internal R&D group, NPE Team, is today launching its next experimental app, called BARS. The app makes it possible for rappers to create and share their raps using professionally created beats, and is the NPE Team’s second launch in the music space following its recent public debut of music video app Collab.

While Collab focuses on making music with others online, BARS is instead aimed at would-be rappers looking to create and share their own videos. In the app, users will select from any of the hundreds of professionally created beats, then write their own lyrics and record a video. BARS can also automatically suggest rhymes as you’re writing out lyrics, and offers different audio and visual filters to accompany videos as well as an autotune feature.

There’s also a “Challenge mode” available, where you can freestyle with auto-suggested word cues, which has more of a game-like element to it. The experience is designed to be accommodating to people who just want to have fun with rap, similar to something like Smule’s AutoRap, perhaps, which also offers beats for users’ own recordings.

Image Credits: Facebook

The videos themselves can be up to 60 seconds in length and can then be saved to your Camera Roll or shared out on other social media platforms.

Like NPE’s Collab, the pandemic played a role in BARS’ creation. The pandemic shut down access to live music and places where rappers could experiment, explains NPE Team member DJ Iyler, who also ghostwrites hip-hop songs under the alias “D-Lucks.”

“I know access to high-priced recording studios and production equipment can be limited for aspiring rappers. On top of that, the global pandemic shut down live performances where we often create and share our work,” he says.

BARS was built with a team of aspiring rappers, and today launched into a closed beta.

Image Credits: Facebook

Despite the focus on music, and rap in particular, the new app in a way can be seen as yet another attempt by Facebook to develop a TikTok competitor — at least in this content category.

TikTok has already become a launchpad for up-and-coming musicians, including rappers; it has helped rappers test their verses, is favored by many beatmakers and is even influencing what sort of music is being made. Diss tracks have also become a hugely popular format on TikTok, mainly as a way for influencers to stir up drama and chase views. In other words, there’s already a large social community around rap on TikTok, and Facebook wants to shift some of that attention back its way.

The app also resembles TikTok in terms of its user interface. It’s a two-tabbed vertical video interface — in its case, it has  “Featured” and “New” feeds instead of TikTok’s “Following” and “For You.” And BARS places the engagement buttons on the lower-right corner of the screen with the creator name on the lower-left, just like TikTok.

However, in place of hearts for favoriting videos, your taps on a video give it “Fire” — a fire emoji keeps track. You can tap “Fire” as many times as you want, too. But because there’s (annoyingly) no tap-to-pause feature, you may accidentally “fire” a video when you were looking for a way to stop its playback. To advance in BARS, you swipe vertically, but the interface is lacking an obvious “Follow” button to track your favorite creators. It’s hidden under the top-right three-dot menu.

The app is seeded with content from NPE Team members, which includes other aspiring rappers, former music producers and publishers.

Currently, the BARS beta is live on the iOS App Store in the U.S., and is opening its waitlist. Facebook says it will open access to BARS invites in batches, starting in the U.S. Updates and news about invites, meanwhile, will be announced on Instagram.

Facebook’s recent launches from its experimental apps division include Collab and collage maker, among others. Not all apps stick around. If they fail to gain traction, Facebook shuts them down — as it did last year with the Pinterest-like video app Hobbi.

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