It's Sean!

UK freelance journalist, author
and writer Sean McManus

Printed from www.sean.co.uk. © Sean McManus.
You are here: Home > Blog Home > Sean McManus's Writing blog: August 2011

Sean's Tech and Writing Blog

iPads to replace flight manuals for pilots on major US airlines

26 August 2011


When I was writing iPad for the Older and Wiser, I was surprised to see that Alaska Airlines was replacing its flight manuals with the iPad. Now, the Guardian reports that United and Continental are also going paperless thanks to the iPad, and American and Delta airlines are testing the technology.

There’s a lot of money at stake. The Guardian reports that switching from 38lbs of paper to adopt the 1.5lb iPad will save 326,000 gallons of jet fuel each year, and 16 million sheets of paper. There’s no announcement as to how many back injuries it will prevent, by avoiding the need to lug around all that paper. The investment should pay for itself in five years, with $5 million being invested in iPads and $1 million being saved each year, which is an admirably long term investment in an uncertain economy.

To make sure there’s a failsafe, the pilot and copilot will each have iPads, so that if one fails, the other should still be available. If both fail, then information can be radioed to the cockpit. Unless the radio fails, I guess.

I’m not sure how I feel about this move. Given the amount of documentation that accompanies a flight, I imagine an iPad could make it much easier to find important information quickly, and the backlight might make it easier to read in difficult circumstances. But there’s something reassuring about the fact that a book never crashes or runs out of juice. I’m a fan of the iPad, obviously, but you can’t beat paper for accessibility. That said, the Federal Aviation Administration in the US insists that extensive safety testing is carried out before the iPad is introduced in the cockpit, and I’m sure they are used to dealing with much more sensitive systems than the iPad.

Unless the iPads are locked down to prevent new apps being installed, pilots will need to resist the temptation to install games. Here’s hoping that the only angry birds the pilots see while flying the plane are through the cockpit window.

(The picture is a press photo from Alaska Airlines, showing a pilot using an iPad in the cockpit. This photo was issued in May 2011 when Alaska Airlines became the first airline to use adopt the iPad for flight documentation.)

Labels: ,


Bookmark and Share
Permanent link for this post.

0 comments

How will Steve Jobs resignation affect Apple?

25 August 2011


Steve Jobs (pictured right in 2010) has stepped down as CEO of Apple, but will continue to be chairman. While Apple argues it will make little difference to the company’s operations, the stock market disagrees. The BBC reports that Apple shares fell 5% in after-market trading on the Nasdaq, and fell 4.1% in the secondary listing on Frankfurt’s stock exchange. The BBC also implies that a 4.1% rise in the share price of HTC and 3.2% rise in Samsung’s share price are also related to Jobs stepping down.

Apple has a talented team, including British designer Jonathan Ive who led the design of the iPod and the iPad, so the company remains in a strong position to innovate and grow. But many people, including many shareholders, perhaps, believe that a lot of Apple’s vision has come from Jobs.

'Revolutionary' is a word that's overused in technology PR and journalism, but Apple really has transformed entire industries under Jobs' leadership. The company has completely transformed the music industry, to the extent that Apple is arguably the most powerful company in the business, making huge amounts of money from the hardware and being one of the leading retailers for downloadable music.

Apple ignored the conventional wisdom on how the mobile phone market worked, and changed the game there too. Before the iPhone, handsets were free and operators got most of the money. Now, many people are willing to pay for an iPhone, and a huge chunk of the money in the industry goes to Apple, for both the hardware and the apps on the phone.

Apple has also dramatically reinvented the software industry. The app store model has changed the way that people discover and buy software, and has also made them much more likely to do so. People who wouldn’t enter a software or games shop are happy to buy apps, and a whole industry of amateur app developers has grown up to create those apps, some of whom have become fantastically wealthy.

Apple has also led the way with tablets, inspiring lots of other companies to try to emulate the success of the iPad. Now it’s a huge success, it’s easy to forget that a lot of people didn’t understand the point of the iPad when it first came out. It was a big iPod, or a computer without a keyboard: it seemed to be neither one thing nor the other. I didn’t get it until I tried one, but when you try one, you see how easy it makes it to do the things you usually do with a computer, and how enchanting the whole experience is. I’m a huge fan of the device, so much so that I’ve written a book about the iPad.

Apple hasn’t always been first to market with its ideas. There were MP3 stores and software downloads before Apple, for example, and there were portable music players before the iPod (including the Rio, which I reviewed for Making Music in 1999, and which could store an amazing 30 minutes of music by default). But being first to market isn’t always the most important thing. Apple shows that you can take existing ideas and improve them, design elegant products, and customers will follow.

Jobs will stay on as chairman of the company, so it can continue to benefit from his vision and ideas. Freed up from the day to day responsibility for running the company, Jobs will be free to focus his energies purely on generating ideas and helping to direct strategy. For a company led by sometimes daring ideas, this could make Apple even stronger.

(Photo of Steve Jobs courtesy of Matt Yohe, via Wikimedia Commons).

Labels: , , , , ,


Bookmark and Share
Permanent link for this post.

0 comments

iPad for the Older and Wiser: book trailer

09 August 2011


Here's a short film my publisher has made to promote our book iPad for the Older and Wiser, which is coming out in September. The video starts with an introduction to the book, and then covers my five top tips for getting the most out of the iPad, especially picked for the Older and Wiser audience.

The video was made by the marketing and media team at the book's publisher, John Wiley & Sons, and they've done a fantastic job of creating this film. Hope you enjoy it! I didn't write a script for it, so I was improvising, which probably made it harder to edit. Next time, I'll definitely write a script.


Meanwhile, the book is going through the last stages of production. I've finished proofreading the pages and checking the index, so the next time I see it, it will be as a real printed edition. Exciting times!

You can order your copy now (it's an ideal Christmas gift for relatives with an iPad too!) to benefit from Amazon's pre-order price guarantee, which ensures you'll pay the lowest price Amazon offers from your order until the publication day. The book will also be available in all good bookshops.

Labels: , , ,


Bookmark and Share
Permanent link for this post.

0 comments

Five questions journalists should ask themselves following the Internet Explorer IQ hoax

04 August 2011


Yesterday, the BBC was among many news outlets that was fooled by a press announcement made by an organisation calling itself "Aptiquant", which claimed that people using the Internet Explorer web browser had lower IQs than those using other browsers. The announcement claimed the result was based on administering IQ tests online and then looking at the browser the test participant used. It was all utter cobblers.

As the developer behind it confessed, it was just a prank he set up to raise awareness of the problems Internet Explorer causes web developers. In that sense, it's not really a particularly well set-up prank, because the story attacks the users instead of the browser designers. And it doesn't make much logical sense either: I'd actually expect the average IQ of IE users to be lower than that of other browser users because IE is installed by default on most computers, and other browsers must be installed by a reasonably clued-up user. There's not necessarily a link between IQ and computer literacy, but a mass market browser that's installed by default is bound to represent the average web population, which would have an average IQ. I wouldn't be surprised if people using Safari, Chrome and so on had a higher average IQ between them, because they aren't representative of the general population, and are skewed towards those with more intellectually demanding jobs (IT, web design and so on).

Anyway, the BBC published a story announcing it was all a hoax. When putting together its story, the BBC consulted Professor David Spiegelhalter of Cambridge University's Statistical Laboratory, who said: "I believe these figures are implausibly low - and an insult to IE users." The implication in the BBC's follow-up story is that they did their job because they included his alternative view in the write-up.

But is that good enough? They had two sources: an unknown company that issued a press release claiming IE users are dim; and a respected statistical scientist who said he thought the data was "implausible". Instead of believing the scientist and spiking the story, the BBC believed the press release from a company it had never heard of. The company didn't even really exist, it turns out.

So here are some questions journalists and bloggers should be asking themselves following this hoax:
  • Does everyone have an equal right to coverage in my publication, or does the credibility of the source matter?
  • Is it more important to publish the truth, or to publish a balanced report?
  • What do I take responsibility for when I attach my byline to a story?
  • Does my publication have to cover everything, or can I spike stories I don't believe are substantiated?
  • Is this really news?
Feel free to leave your thoughts on this below. For tips on handling (legitimate) press releases, see my article Don't Believe the Hype. For tips on designing websites for a whole range of browsers, including the love-it-hate-it Internet Explorer, see my book Web Design in Easy Steps.

Labels: , ,


Bookmark and Share
Permanent link for this post.

0 comments

Dip into the blog archive

June 2005 | July 2005 | August 2005 | September 2005 | October 2005 | November 2005 | December 2005 | January 2006 | February 2006 | March 2006 | April 2006 | May 2006 | June 2006 | July 2006 | August 2006 | September 2006 | October 2006 | November 2006 | December 2006 | January 2007 | February 2007 | March 2007 | April 2007 | May 2007 | June 2007 | July 2007 | August 2007 | September 2007 | October 2007 | November 2007 | December 2007 | January 2008 | February 2008 | March 2008 | April 2008 | May 2008 | June 2008 | July 2008 | August 2008 | September 2008 | October 2008 | November 2008 | December 2008 | January 2009 | February 2009 | March 2009 | April 2009 | May 2009 | June 2009 | July 2009 | August 2009 | September 2009 | October 2009 | November 2009 | December 2009 | January 2010 | February 2010 | March 2010 | April 2010 | May 2010 | June 2010 | August 2010 | September 2010 | October 2010 | November 2010 | December 2010 | March 2011 | April 2011 | May 2011 | June 2011 | July 2011 | August 2011 | September 2011 | October 2011 | November 2011 | December 2011 | January 2012 | February 2012 | March 2012 | June 2012 | July 2012 | August 2012 | September 2012 | October 2012 | December 2012 | January 2013 | February 2013 | March 2013 | April 2013 | June 2013 | July 2013 | August 2013 | September 2013 | October 2013 | November 2013 | December 2013 | January 2014 | February 2014 | March 2014 | April 2014 | May 2014 | June 2014 | July 2014 | August 2014 | September 2014 | October 2014 | November 2014 | December 2014 | January 2015 | February 2015 | March 2015 | April 2015 | May 2015 | June 2015 | September 2015 | October 2015 | December 2015 | January 2016 | February 2016 | March 2016 | May 2016 | July 2016 | August 2016 | September 2016 | October 2016 | November 2016 | December 2016 | January 2017 | April 2017 | July 2017 | August 2017 | Top of this page | RSS

Books by Sean McManus

Scratch Programming in Easy 

Steps

Scratch Programming in Easy Steps

Raspberry Pi For Dummies

Raspberry Pi For Dummies

Learn to program with the Scratch programming language, widely used in schools and colleges.

Set up your Pi, master Linux, learn Scratch and Python, and create your own electronics projects.

Super Skills: How to 

Code

Super Skills: How to Code

Web Design in Easy Steps

Web Design in Easy Steps

Learn how to code with this great new book, which guides you through 10 easy lessons to build up your coding skills.

Learn the layout, design and navigation techniques that make a great website. Then build your own using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

More books

©Sean McManus. www.sean.co.uk.