Monday, December 3, 2018

On Switching From an iPad Pro and a MacBook to a Pixelbook

Fraser Speirs (tweet):

When Google Drive launched in 2012, we started making more use of it and Google Docs. In the six years since, we have really gone all-in on these apps. I was never a huge fan of web-based software but we started with one particular project where we cut so much time and effort out of the process that I couldn’t help but get interested.


Fast forward to 2018 and virtually all of the work I do at school is now in Google Docs. I don’t think I’ve created anything new outside Google Docs for a couple of years now.


My school runs on GSuite but we usually access it through iPads. What I have found, though, is that the GSuite iOS apps are not very good. They lack important (and sometimes basic) functionality found in the web version of GSuite and they take a long time to adopt iOS platform features.


The point, though, is that GSuite is so powerful and so much at the heart of everything I do at school that if you asked me to decide between giving up GSuite and giving up iPad, I’m afraid iPad has to go. It is for this reason that I have been vocally advocating that Apple make iOS Safari as close to a “desktop class” browser as it can be.

Zac Cichy:

Why does Apple get called out for how poorly G Suite works on iOS, and not Google for making sub-par iOS apps?

Foad Afshari:

It is oftentimes said to be Apple’s problem versus the users’ problem. What if I like to use iOS and G Suite? Why do I as a user have to suffer for it?

Keith Edwards:

Why does everyone accept that you can’t set default apps on iOS? Why am I given a worse experience for a premium product because I choose to use apps outside of apples services ecosystem and how it is legal to not provide an option to switch?

Update (2018-12-27): See also: Hacker News.

6 Comments RSS · Twitter

Sören Nils Kuklau

The word "privacy" doesn't appear a single time in Fraser's post, which is troubling given that he's talking about trusting Google with his students' data.

Instead, Fraser points out how "cheap" Chromebooks are. Which isn't surprising, given that Google's business model isn't focused on making profits from hardware sales.

Students' parents aren't really given a choice; if you don't consent, your kid doesn't get to use the teacher's software, which opens them up to bullying.

(Germany is facing a similarly worrying problem, where teachers have started creating WhatsApp with their students for homework purposes.)

I do sympathize with the idea that Apple hasn't done enough to push the iPad in recent years, and also with the reality that school budgets are tight, making Apple relatively unappealing.

I do not, however, look forward to a reality that is worse than the 1990s: where previously, we "merely" locked students into a platform (be it the Mac, Windows + Office, or even Adobe's tools), we now on top of that also donate our data (and that of our peers, without their consent) wholesale.

I use GSuite at work and have problems with it on Safari for Mac. Every day Gmail gets stuck in the wrong fixed scroll position, tabs reload when I switch back to them, occasionally my mouse cursor turns into a spinning beachball that can only be fixed by quitting and relaunching the browser.

I don’t know whether the issue is with Safari or GSuite. But “desktop-class Safari” may not be the only solution needed for the iPad. (Although it would definitely be an improvement.)

@Sören Nils Kuklau

In practice you have to backup your students' data, which means you have to share it with somebody. Moreover, when you get right down to it, most backup services will delegate either to Amazon, Google (via GCloud) or Microsoft.

This even holds if you set up your own server, unless it's a physical box you bought which you locate in a premises you own; which is simple not feasible for the average teacher.

I see no evidence that Google is any worse than most other companies when it comes to privacy: indeed, across the valley, Facebook seems to be the worst. Apple is unique, but they now price their lineup as luxury brands, instead of premium quality, and even with European school funding it's not practical to buy Apple hardware.

With regard to WhatsApp, to day WhatsApp uses point-to-point encryption, and while Facebook begun to nibble at at that, at present it's the safest easiest way to communicate with classes which have a mix of Android and iOS devices. It's certainly safer than SMS, Google Chat, Skype, Viber and most of the other options students might use. I hear people rave about Telegram, but I don't see anyone systematically ensuring that the binary on the Android/iOS app-store is compiled from the open source (cf the recent NPM hack).

For a mixed Android/iOS environment, with mixed Windows/macOS PCs at home for homework, GSuite is the best option.

Sören Nils Kuklau

With regard to WhatsApp, to day WhatsApp uses point-to-point encryption

It’s not the message contents; those are indeed fairly secure.

It’s the contacts. You’re donating a social graph to Facebook without your peers opting in or necessarily even knowing about it. (For example, if your phone address book contains your dentist and plumber, you’ve just given those to Facebook.)

I don’t disagree that GSuite is a good option. Fraser does make good points. I merely propose that an elephant in the room is being ignored.

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