My 2012 VW Beetle with iPad Mini in dash. Pictured is the DashCMD app in speedometer mode.
Recently, VW announced the iBeetle in conjunction with Apple. Before this new integration was announced, I had a custom iPad Mini dock installed in the dash of my 2012 Beetle. From what I’ve read about the iBeetle, I think using the iPad Mini instead of the iBeetle’s iPhone integration results in a much better experience.
My 2012 Beetle
If you haven’t ever seen a 2012 or later VW Beetle on the inside, the dash is pretty stunning. The wraparound gloss of the car’s exterior color creates a very polished look to the interior. Instead of wood veneer or carbon fiber, the simple extension of the car’s exterior brought inside the car creates a more cohesive look. What is even more remarkable is the size of the standard stereo is almost exactly the size of an iPad Mini.
I mentioned the desire to integrate an iPad Mini into the dash with a friend and he suggested a custom body/stereo shop here in Portland, Musicar Northwest. They specialize in custom installations and Tom Miller was up to the challenge I threw at him.
iPad Mini dock that looked factory. Same black gloss as rest of the dash with small footprint.
iPad Mini needs to charge when connected
iPad Mini needs to supply audio through stereo aux connection and not use the Bluetooth signal. Need to reserve Bluetooth for my phone in case I need to make or receive a call.
iPad Mini needs to be removable and standard stereo needs to be accessible when not docked.
Tom hooked me up and within four days, had a complete integration complete. Here are the photos that show the process.
Factory 2012 VW Beetle stereo and original gloss trim
Acrylic parts custom made for iPad Mini dock
Dash taped and acrylic parts spaced correctly for iPad Mini to slide in from right
Final adjustments made before finalizing dock shape
iPad Mini dock assembled and primed
Dock installed. Factory stereo accessible through new dock.
Dash without iPad docked
iPad Mini docked in new custom dock.
After driving around with the iPad Mini integration, it really does change the entire driving experience. It is remarkable.
The apps I use primarily are:
Waze (for navigation). I tried Apple Maps and Google Maps and found Waze to be the most attractive and accurate when it comes to traffic patterns from day to day.
Music by Apple. The default music app is great to work with. The iPad landscape view works great and being able to view album art nearly full screen is attractive.
Podcasts by Apple. The redesigned podcast app is very easy to interact with with large touch targets and simple UI.
DashCommand (DashCMD) for engine readouts and additional gauges. In conjunction with a OBDII WiFi module that is connected to my car, this app reads all my engine and performance data and displays a series of gauges to display every element of my car’s operations and performance.
If you are not impressed with the factory iBeetle, you should take your Beetle to Musicar Northwest. You can check out their photo gallery of other work on their Facebook page.
Update 1 (April 20, 2013):
Jim Dalrymple writes, “This is cool.” and links to this article on The Loop! Web traffic to this article goes through the roof.
Update 2 (May 1, 2013):
Jim Dalrymple and Dan Benjamin discuss my iPad Mini dash on the Amplified Podcast. Listen Here. Skip to 46:10 if you want to hear just that segment.
Update 3 (May 3, 2013 morning):
Dan requested via Twitter that I call into Quit!, another 5by5 podcast to discuss the iPad Mini Dash.
Update 4 (May 3, 2013 afternoon):
I called into Quit! I cleared up how the Mini Dash came to be with the talents of Tom over at Musicar Northwest. Dan Benjamin and Danielle Moser chant “Do it. Do it. Do it,” to get me to make this a Kickstarter project. Listen Here.Skip to 1:16:00 if you want to hear just that segment.
Update 5 (May 4, 2013):
I meet up with Tom at Musicar Northwest and we are sourcing the cost for the parts. We are also determining how many car models we can initially launch for. I know there is demand to make this a Kickstarter yesterday, but please be patient. It will launch soon.
With all the rumors of an upcoming actual Apple TV that so many seem to desire, there are smaller changes to the current Apple TV that I wish Apple would include.
Wish #1. Custom Default Image / Home Screen
I have an Apple TV at home. The company I work for also has an Apple TV in the conference room. I’ve visited many offices where Apple TV is now the default hardware hooked up the projector. This is extremely convenient as AirPlay has done away with all the cords, dongles, and fussiness switching from one presenter to another. The only problem is, the default screen on the Apple TV features new movies to rent and options like “Music”, “TV Shows”, and “Hulu”. For home, this makes sense. In the work environment, a default home screen that featured a custom image to display while waiting for Airplay sources would serve the environment much better. This could be the company logo or even instructions on how to connect to the wireless network. Seeing that The Avengers is available to rent while the presenter is prepping AirPlay is distracting.
Wish #2. Upgrade to Buy from Rental
There have been countless times where I have rented a movie, instead of buying it, only to finish the movie and wish I had bought it. Now, I have already spent $4 or $5 on renting it and the purchase price is $10 – $20 on top of that. Then I deliberate in my head how many times I will actually end up watching it and usually just decide to rent it again if I feel like watching it. If however, at the end of watching it, there was an offer to buy it for the price of the movie minus what I already spent on renting it, I would gladly purchase the movie and add it to my collection.
Wish #3. Upgrade to HD from Standard
This is a more rare occurrence but I do have movies that I have purchased the SD version of them instead of the HD version. Sometimes this was due to the HD version not being available when I purchased them (Lord of the Rings trilogy) or I bought them on my iPhone where HD doesn’t matter. There have been times where I wished I could upgrade to HD from my SD version without paying for them all over again. Similar to the rental option above, I wish I could pay the difference.
Wish #4. Music Visualizer
iTunes on the Mac has a great visualizer. This is nice to display when the computer isn’t being used and a visual atmosphere is desired. The Apple TV comes with no such visualizer. It has a set of photo slideshow options but nothing as attractive as the music visualizers on the Mac. When using the Apple TV during a party to play music, the large HD screen seems to go to waste. It would be great to display some nice visualizers on the 60″ TV.
Wish #5. Universal Search
Apple TV comes with many options to view movies. iTunes, Netflix, Hulu, etc. Each “channel” comes with its own search. I have rented a movie on iTunes before only to find out later it was available on Netflix and I paid for it unnecessarily. It would be great to have a universal search on the Apple TV that listed all the “channels” that have that movie or tv show. For now, I rely on the app CanIStream.it for the iPhone.
My boys (ages 3, 7, 11) and I assembled the new Lego Palace Cinema set. It is part of the modular building series in the Creator line. Lego has released 8 or so of these buildings in this series. They are all three stories tall and snap together to make entire minifigure scale city blocks.
The Palace Cinema is styled after the TLC Chinese Theater in Hollywood. Although it is three stories tall, each story has high ceilings to create two tall stories. The first floor is for tickets and concessions while the second floor features the movie screen and the seats.
As my boys and I were building this set, I noticed the movie screen was about the size of an iPhone. I grabbed my old, 1st generation iPhone from my desk drawer and held it up to the interior. Sure enough, it was just the right size and with a little modifications, I could make it fit.
Our family lego collection isn’t organized like professional builders. All of our Lego pieces are in two big plastic bins. It took me a few hours to find all the pieces to create the holder for the iPhone. The notch in the left curtain is that I can press the home button on the iPhone to wake it up.
I found a 1×2 brick with a hole in the center for the cord to connect to the iPhone and plug in for recharging. I broke the piece in half and put it back together around the cord.
Once it was all assembled with the working screen, I loaded up the movie, “Lego: The Adventures of Clutch Powers” on the iPhone. It seems that it would be the perfect movie for the classic Lego minifigures to enjoy.
The best part of the whole project was when my boys started watching the movie playing inside the Lego set. I told them we could just put it up on our TV instead. They declined saying that it was more fun to watch it playing in the set.
When I was visiting Chicago in 2007, I visited the The McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum. Like many modern day museums, it was filled with rich, hands-on displays calling out to the visitor to interact.. One of the exhibits showcased a map of important sites across the U.S. on a large LCD screen. To explore this map, I put my finger on the surface and tried to ‘move’ the map around. Nothing happened. It took me a minute to realize four small arrow buttons on each side of the map for navigation. I chuckled with the realization that after months of using my new iPhone, I instinctively expected the map to work the same way. It has been three years and I haven’t been back to that museum. I don’t know if they ever changed the way that map worked, but I wonder if other users reached out and expected it to work the same way I did. The iPhone changed the way we thought about touchscreen interfaces.
Fast forward three years and enter the Apple iPad. Like the iPhone, it sports a touchscreen device. But it does a number of other things very well. So well that since its introduction, there has been much said about how it has set the bar for all tablet computers. No longer can tablets simply get away with the ‘port the desktop’ approach.
But I predict even a bigger shift. I think the traditional desktop computer experience will radically change to reflect the new paradigm forged by the iPad – and not by simply adding touchscreen capabilities (HP has tried that).
The following are five ways in which I predict the iPad will change desktop computing.
Everything on the iPad is fast. Launching an application. Working inside of an application. Pretty much everything. This is despite the fact that this device pales in comparison to my iMac based on processor speed and disk space. It seems counterintuitive. I mean, I think I understand why. I’ve read enough articles about swap disks and SSD, but it still seems magical and counter-intuitive. I feel my computer should be as fast, if not faster than my iPad. I understand if an application has to take some time to compress an HD video file, but there is no reason why an application should take any time at all to launch or complete simple tasks.
2 Who Needs a Desktop?
The iPad doesn’t have a desktop. Desktops, just like their real world counterparts, become cluttered and unusable. Instead of a desktop, the iPad has a home screen of applications and/or web links. This seems like a great replacement for the aging desktop metaphor. Having a home screen of apps just a press (click) away is empowering. This immediacy and jukebox like presentation also helps to promotes apps that I generally shy away from on my iMac like mini-games and utility apps. The dashboard has attempted to do this with widgets, but the workflow for the dashboard has never seemed quite right.
3 File System Management
I just want to get stuff done. Either pick up where I left off or launch a new application. The idea of exploring around in a file system as the default experience on a computer seems odd after using the iPad. Sure, managing hundreds of Pages documents will become unwieldy, but I’m sure they’ll figure something out like how the iPod is organized.
4. Never Having to Save
Working on files on the iPad is a joy. Never having to click, File>Save or hitting Command-S is liberating. The stress is removed and I just work. If I have to launch something else, I have no hesitation. When I return, there is my file, right where I left off.
5. App Store
I know there is a lot of controversy around Apple’s closed system of app approval, but navigating to one central place to both buy/download apps and upgrade existing apps makes app management a delight. No serial keys. No lost apps (if you accidentally delete an app, you can download a new copy for no charge). When you transfer to a new device, you can download again. For me, this is worth the controversy. A friend of mine just recently acquired a new smoking fast MacBook Pro. After his previous experience with an iPad, he commented that the new laptop was, “kind of boring.” Having that app store just a tap away opens up a world of possibilities whenever the computer starts to become stale.
Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference this summer barely mentions OS X Snow Leopard or any successor. I’m sure part of it has to do with the surging popularity of developers focused on the iPhone and iPad. But I think there is a bigger reason. I think Apple has realized that they changed expectations for computing. The next OS X version will not take its traditional inspiration from iTunes. Nope. This time it will be heavily influenced by the iPad.
They are lazy, Jobs says. They have all this potential to do interesting things but they just refuse to do it. They don’t do anything with the approaches that Apple is taking, like Carbon. Apple does not support Flash because it is so buggy, he says. Whenever a Mac crashes more often than not it’s because of Flash. No one will be using Flash, he says. The world is moving to HTML5.
This is what Steve Jobs reportedly said at an Apple employee-only town hall meeting. To anyone that is not a Mac geek or a web standards supporter, this may seem sudden and harsh. The world has been full of hope with each iPhone OS update that Flash support was just around the corner, like copy-and-paste. It will never come. And now with the upcoming iPad lacking the Flash plugin, the hope has no future. The reasons have more to do with the nature of web standards, but there is something to the phrase, “They are lazy.” Where does this come from and what was Steve Jobs specifically referring to?
Adobe and Apple have a contentious history. Over the past ten years, Adobe has continually dragged its feet, and has consequently been one or two steps behind Apple. When OS X was announced in the spring of 2000, Apple let the Mac community know that this was a huge change in direction for Apple and the Mac operating system. You would think that Adobe would have dropped everything and worked like mad creating an OS X compatible version of its flagship product, Photoshop. It wasn’t until two years later, even after Microsoft released a native OS X version of Office, did Adobe finally release Photoshop for OS X. During this time, Mac users had to run Photoshop in an OS 9 (classic) emulated environment. You could run it, but it paled in comparison to a Windows machine running Photoshop. Once they did release it for OS X, Adobe must have thought everything was cool, unaware that Apple would continue to innovate, demanding its partner software developers to keep up. In the summer of 2003, Apple announced its next generation computer the Power Mac G5, the first 64-bit PC. Adobe released a patch for the G5 but the speed benchmark scores weren’t as impressive as people would have hoped. In 2005, Apple announced transitioning to Intel based chips. It was a full six months before the computers were released, but Adobe didn’t have an Intel native version until April of 2007, almost two years after the announcement. During this time, Mac users who had Intel Macs ran most Adobe apps in Rosetta, the PowerPC emulator. When Apple released Macs with 64-bit Intel chips, Adobe seemed to have been caught off guard again, with 32-bit versions of the apps. Today, Photoshop still isn’t 64-bit on Macs.
As a Mac user, two things stood out during these relentless innovations from Apple. The first was how impressive and smooth most of these transitions were, with a majority of apps updated to the changing environment soon after each announcement. The second was how slow Adobe seemed to respond to each of these changes, slowing down adoption of new Apple hardware just to be Adobe optimized. But it wasn’t just the delay — when Adobe finally released an updated version, these releases were (and continue to be) plagued with problems.
Crash Prone. I have managed a creative team for the past ten years and during this transition, I have witnessed more lost work due to Photoshop, Fireworks, and Flash crashing than anything else by far. These crashes often happen after the application has locked up the computer for minutes at a time. It has been painful. This does not happen with other applications.
Adobe updater. Adobe has introduced its own convention for updating its apps. When you launch an Adobe app, it launches the Adobe updater just to check to see if there are any updates for any of the Adobe applications on your system, not just the app you launched. The updater is annoying because it runs in the background, hiding itself behind the other applications, while pausing the launch of the application you tried to start. It usually takes me a few seconds to realize why Fireworks isn’t loading up, so I click on the updater and about 90% of the time, it has something to do with a PDF print driver. The other 10% is for updates to the updater itself.
Flash panels. I know Adobe loves Flash but they often go overboard with their pushing of Flash “technology”. In the latest version of their Creative Suite, many of the applications now have menus which have been built with Flash. This is annoying for a few reasons: They are buggy. They do strange things. They don’t follow the conventions of the OS interface patterns.
Price. Their Creative Suite prices are ridiculous. I often purchase the Design Premium for members on my team and the price is $1,799. They even have the nerve to suggest that the total value of this package is over $4,000. Final Cut Studio, an impressive suite of professional applications offered by Apple, is $999. Microsoft Office, another suite of professional applications, is $399. Apple’s iWork is only $79. Adobe’s prices are ridiculous and often exceed the price of a new Mac.
Software installer. The entire OS X installation/upgrade usually takes between 1/2 hour to 1 hour at the most. CS4, Adobe’s creative suite took two attempts, and took over 3 hours.
Patches to bugs. My team uses Fireworks for most of our comping and application design. We had some serious debates this last year about needing to switch to Photoshop. The reason? Better features? More robust? No. The reasons was that Fireworks CS3 had a text alignment bug that almost rendered the application useless. Once you would save a file and open it back up, all the text in the design would shift down and to the right. Adobe eventually released a patch to this critical bug – 8 months later.
Bridge and Version Cue. It’s not even worth bringing up. If you haven’t tried them in a team environment, I have one word of advice. Don’t.
I wanted to applaud Steve Jobs when he said, “They are lazy.” I’ve been thinking it for the last ten years. They charge a lot of money for all of the pain they introduce. They should take a page from Apple’s playbook and pull a Snow Leopard – do not introduce any new features and just deliver a blazing fast, streamlined, crash-proof suite of products at a low, reasonable price.
In the next post, I’ll write about what is behind the phrase, “No one will be using Flash, he says. The world is moving to HTML5,” and what it means for the iPad. (uhm, nevermind. Steve Jobs did it for me.)
I’ve been traveling lately and have been struck by the pointless No Smoking lights in airplanes. I think we all know by now that smoking is not permitted. Seriously, are there still people out there that are unaware and likely to light a cigarette in flight? Not only is the light pointless, it is made even more so by staying lit the entire time. To me, this light is a waste of space and could be used for something far more useful.
The Turn Off Electronics Light
I think it would be great if airplanes replaced the No Smoking image with a Turn Off Electronics image. I often find myself listening to music only to be tapped on the shoulder by a stewardess asking me to turn it off. The reason why I missed the announcement? Because I was listening to music. If the light would flash when it was time to turn off electronics, in addition to the voice, it would be very useful.
When the iPhone first launched, it made sense to name one of the applications iPod. For most purchasers of the original iPhone, they had already owned or used an iPod and so the icon with the box and the scroll wheel made sense. “Oh, iPod… that is where I find my music and videos.” When the iPod touch was released, they changed the iPod app to separate Music and Videos applications. This makes sense as it would be odd to have an iPod app on your iPod. It also makes more sense as every other app on the iPhone, with the exception of one which I’ll get to later, is named after what the app does. Phone, Contacts, Weather, even Google Maps is just called Maps. If the iPhone had separate music and video applications, it would also reduce the clutter in the iPhone app as it has to cater to both.
If the video application was stand-alone, there would be one additional benefit. The separate YouTube application could be a view within the Videos application. I don’t know how many times I’ve been watching a movie or a video podcast and searched for the YouTube link only to remember I have to exit iPod and then click on the YouTube icon. Video is video. YouTube could still name it the YouTube view in Video and they could remove the odd icon for YouTube. The old TV is cute, but it doesn’t make me think of YouTube. It reminds me of old TV shows.
Other than iPod, there is one other app that is not named after its function. That is Safari. When competing against other browsers in the desktop space, Safari as a name makes sense and is cute. On a phone, it is confusing. Both the name and the icon make me think of a turn-by-turn directions application. If I have a mobile smartphone and I need to find out where to go, wouldn’t it make sense to click on the application called Safari with an icon that looks like a compass? Apple should change the icon to not look like a map or a compass and rename it Web.
I was surfing around on my AppleTV the other night and was inspired by the resume screen after choosing a movie. The resume screen is just one of those details that makes the Apple experience so nice. When you choose a movie that you previously didn’t finish, it blurs the exact frame you left off on and floats the “resume” and “start from the beginning” options over the top of the frame. This allows you to remember where you had left off but also separates the modal popup from the background in a simple, pleasing way.
AppleTV resume screen
Here is how you create a similar effect on the iPhone.
1. Screen capture the home screen on your iPhone. You do this by pressing down the powerbutton on the top of the iPhone and then click the home button.
2. Connect the iPhone with your computer. Find the screen capture photo and import it.
3. Use a photo editing app to add a good amount of Gausian blur.
Before and after blur effect
4. Add the blurred version back into iPhone (or however you do it on a PC) and sync it back with the iPhone.
5. Find it in your Photo library on your iPhone and set it as your new wallpaper.
It looks great when you receive a notification or an alert.
I think one of the problems for new Twitter users is taking the “What are you doing?” question too literally. Many first tweets are like, “Going to the store,” or “Waiting in line at Starbucks.” This problem is resolved when people start using a Twitter client when this question is often removed.