iPad confusion: we’re not in Kansas anymore

First I have to say, most of this post (I assume) applies to the iPhone and iPod Touch as well as the iPad.

So today I had my first lover’s spat with the iPad. It was my fault, really. I keep falling into the trap of thinking of it like a computer. And because of that, I expect it to be able to do things like a computer can. But it can’t. Y’see, Steve Jobs thinks that users don’t want a file system. Of course the iPad has a file system; we just can’t see it. But with no file system, there’s apparently no concept of uploading and downloading files, which makes some basic things a challenge.

It all started this morning when I wanted to show a remote friend what a regular iPhone app looked like on the iPad, and how it looked zoomed. I snapped a couple of screenshots on the iPad; they got saved in with my photos. My friend and I converse on a forum mostly, and I can upload images from a browser to attach to forum posts. So that’s what I went to do. Only to find out the the Upload File browser feature is disabled in MobileSafari.

Well, I was at work with a few other computers sitting in front of me, so I knew if I could get the files onto another computer I could just write my post from that computer. But I’d left my iPad cable at home. My first thought was to gmail them to myself, but gmail’s web-based file attachment widget wouldn’t work either. But I have an iDisk! I could put them on there. I downloaded the iDisk app but as far as I can figure, it’s a read only experience. Somone suggested Dropbox, which reminded me that I have a ZumoDrive. Zumo had an app too. I downloaded that, and low and behold, it’d let me move a photo from the iPad to the Zumo drive. So I did. But for whatever reason the Zumo app resized the images on the fly. Argghhh! Then I remembered I’d signed up for a MobileMe account (an Apple cloud service that’s a total bloody rip-off). I could share the images to a MobileMe gallery, then open that gallery on another computer, view the images at full size, then save them to my desktop. Finally I was able to share the files with my friend.

What a pain. I subsequently figured out that if you use the iPad’s mail app you can mail files to yourself in a pinch. And there’s an app called Air Share (I think?) that sounds like exactly what I need for this kind of thing, but it was $10 and I’m a cheap SOB (hey, I have an iPad to pay off) so I’m going to keep looking for something cheaper/free. Maybe Dropbox will work better than ZumoDrive did.

Flash forward a bunch of hours.

Goodreads is giving away Jack London’s Call of the Wild in e-book format today. Well… I dunno if you’d call it giving away something when it’s public domain, but that’s another topic. Anyway, I navigated to the site in MobileSafari and tried to download the epub version. Guess what? The iPad can read ePub books, but it can’t download them. At least not from web sites. I kept getting an error saying MobileSafari couldn’t download that type of file.

Turns out, I had to download it on my PC, add it to my iTunes library, then sync the iPad with iTunes. That’s an incredibly stupid and convoluted way to have to do something. (Just to be clear, if you buy an ‘iBook’ from Apple, or a Kindle book from Amazon, you can get it directly on the iPad.)

The only reason I can figure that the up and download functionality of MobileSafari is nerfed is because up & downloading files implies that you’ll have a file system where those files live. To d/l a file, MobileSafari would have to ask “Where do you want me to put this?” and Jobs doesn’t want you to have a “where” place to put files. Images are ok; they go into a special bucket (\smiths iPad\Internal Storage\DCIM\100APPLE OMG a file system!) that shows up as Photos on your iPad desktop. But an epub, or a zip file? No no, we can’t have people dealing with that kind of thing. Save the users from themselves!

I still don’t get why MobileSafari doesn’t let me upload an image to a forum though.

Anyway like I said, this is my issue. I have to keep reminding myself that this *isn’t* a computer. It’s a media consumption device and a game machine. It’s a satellite device that really relies on a computer to be useful. The moral of the story is: don’t lose that cable!

I have to say, Android spoiled me. My Android phone really IS a computer. I can (with the help of apps) browse the file system, up and download files, add new browsers and basically do everything I can do on a computer.

Don’t misconstrue this lover’s spat. I still adore the iPad. I just need to remember its limitations and we’ll get along just fine.

I’m looking forward to having an Android tablet, though… 😉

5 thoughts on “iPad confusion: we’re not in Kansas anymore

  1. Apple kind of assumes you have a PC for these sort of tasks. The iPhone/Touch/iPad is sold as a standalone device, but not entirely.

    I’m with you on the Android devices actually being PCs. That’s MUCH more my preference. I like my iPod Touch just fine as a web-browsing computer-like appliance and I’ve considered getting an iPhone, but after a friend purchased a Nexus One– Android seems more liberating and complete.

    As for the iPad? I’d only want one if it replaced the functionality of a laptop.

  2. The more I use the iPad, the less I can see ever doing any kind of real work on it. At one point I was thinking of getting that keyboard-dock thing but it seems kind of pointless.

    It just isn’t a computer. It’s a PMP (personal media player)/e-reader/web browser/music player/gaming system. That’s still a lot of fun features in 1 device, but it just isn’t a computer. At least that’s what my experience has been so far. But note the *fun* in that sentence. It’s more a sophisticated toy than a tool. I don’t mean that dismissively… I take my toys very seriously. 🙂

  3. The I=PAD does not seem to be a practical music player tho. Its too big to lug around while jogging and in the home one already has other options and in the car one as mutlpurpose Sirius/XM, Cd player that one plugs a smaller handheld device in to. Just where the I-PAD is needed for music is foggy at best. Can you browse the web with it while your playing music?

  4. I think it’s hard to describe carrying a 24 oz device as “lugging” but I’ll agree it isn’t the ideal shape to carry while jogging.

    If your primary interest is playing music then there are certainly smaller devices that can do that for you. And pretty much everything the iPad can do, some other dedicated device can do better. But it’s the whole package that is appealing to me.

    I mean, you could say a laptop isn’t a practical music player for the same reasons, but most people still find it a benefit that they can listen to music while using their laptop, right?

  5. If it makes you feel any better, due to a conflict with my laptop’s built in webcam, I can’t plug my phone in if i have any pictures on it. So, I have found the flickr app and evernote to be VERY handy.

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