Separation anxiety: An evening without an iPad

Today TechCrunch posted a really stupid article called Why Im Craigslisting My iPads. It isn’t timely (we saw many similar articles in April) and the author clearly had no idea what an iPad was when he bought it. Basically he was looking for a laptop replacement, and the iPad isn’t one, except in edge cases.

Anyway, after reading that piece, it seemed like a good time for another (mostly) pro-iPad post.

The other day Apple released a minor upgrade to the iPad’s OS. It was supposed to address wireless connectivity problems a few people were having, as well as some other minor fixes. Thursday night I decided to install the update.

Here’s the non-pro-iPad part of the post. My iPad can take *forever* to backup. Some google-research indicates that this is a semi-common problem for Windows 64-bit users and depends on what apps you have on your iPad. In my case I suspect it’s Wired’s app with its 800 megs of data. I’m not sure why this is but it might have to do with the number of files. My iPad backup directories take up about 1 gig of space but contain 18,000 files… no sub-directories. That’s 18,000 files in a single directory. That can’t be efficient.

Anyway, for whatever the reason it can take hours for me to backup the iPad. My solution has been just to not back it up. That sounds crazy but it isn’t. I don’t back it up but I do sync it (which takes just a few minutes). So I have all my apps and music and data synced to my computer. Backing up seems redundant to me. If my iPad crashes and gets wiped during a repair then yes, I’ll have to redo all my settings by hand, but then I can just sync all the apps, music, ebooks, data and everything else back over from the PC.

Except part of installing this new update was a mandatory backup first. Bleh. I started it at 7:30 pm and when I went to bed that night around midnight, it was still backing up. So Thursday night I couldn’t use my iPad.

And I was *lost* without it!! I really hadn’t realized how often I pick up my iPad in a typical evening until I didn’t have it available. Sure my books and stuff were on it so when I went to bed I couldn’t read, but even before then. When I’m playing on the Xbox or PS3 I have the iPad handy to check gamefaqs or just to look up random things that pop into my head, or to check in on twitter. When I’m sitting at the PC and waiting for something to complete, I flip on the iPad to poke at a game or something. When we’re in the kitchen cooking something new, the iPad is there with a recipe on it (though that wasn’t a problem Thursday evening).

The point is, the iPad has become a natural part of my lifestyle and one I use constantly. I use it first thing in the morning when I get up, and normally the last thing I do before going to sleep is read on it. I use it at lunchtime at the office. I use it during meetings at the office. I use it while preparing meals, while watching TV, while playing games. It is a constant companion and I find I carry it from room to room with me.

I wanted a tablet for a long, long time and now I finally have one and it really is everything I’d hoped it would be and more. And this isn’t Apple fanboyism… I bought an iPad because it was the first good tablet that hit the market. I’m still very excited about the possibility of a good Android tablet hitting the market, since I enjoy the more open environment of Android (which is why I have a Droid, not an iPhone…I had a choice when it came to phones).

That TechCrunch author missed the point when he bought an iPad as a laptop replacement. That’s not where the device shines. The iPad (or, presumably any tablet) as a computing device fits into the cracks and crevices of your life. As an entertainment device, it’s kind of its own thing. A super-sized iPod Touch? That’s not entirely inaccurate, but don’t downplay the super-sized. Would you rather watch a 13″ TV or a 52″ home theater? Bigger is better. I tried to read on my Droid Thursday night and while I could do it, the experience was significantly less pleasant than reading on the iPad. Of course you can get a Kindle or a Nook for reading, but then you lose out on all the other things the iPad can do.

I won’t be putting my iPad on Craigslist (at least not until after I get another tablet) and if mine was stolen or destroyed today I’d be at the store tomorrow trying to replace it. It’s as vital a part of my lifestyle now as my TV and PC are. Sure I could live without it, but I’d very much prefer not to have to.

[Edits for Meghan and Petter… *grumbles*]

A weekend with the iPad

My work weeks are hectic these days, so even though I bought my iPad last Monday, I never got to put my feet up and spend an hour or two just *using* it until Friday night. But all weekend I’ve been using it a lot. I’ve now identified my likes and dislikes, at least so far. Let’s start with the bad:

Things I don’t like:

  • No Flash: There’s no way around it; this is a pain in the ass if you watch online video from a lot of places. Apple has YouTube covered via a dedicated app that launches when you click a YouTube link from the browser, but you’re out of luck with most other sites. And I don’t see this situation improving because…
  • …Apple is the new Evil Empire. The iPhone/iPad/Touch ecosystem is a closed one and is getting closed-er by the minute. I won’t rehash the brouhaha they unleashed with the iPhone OS 4.0 SDK here, but what they’re doing sucks. I’m not a fan of Flash either, but sites use it and I want to use those sites. The users are the ones getting hurt most in the fight between Apple and Adobe
  • No exposed file system. See previous post

Things I thought would really bug me but don’t:

  • No multi-tasking. Aside from music apps (ie, Pandora), not having multi-tasking hasn’t really bothered me. Going from mail to browser to mail again, for instance, feels no slower than it does on my Droid (which does have multi-tasking). The fact that the apps are closing and opening rather then backgrounding and foregrounding is more or less a non-issue to me. At least so far.
  • Copy & Paste. Remember when Apple made a big deal about this? The first time I experienced it was a real WTF moment, but after using it a bit, I don’t mind it at all. Here’s how it works. So you want to copy a chunk of text from a web page to save for later. You tap-hold on the text you want to copy. A ‘magnifier’ pops up with a cursor in it; since normally iPhone OS doesn’t have any kind of pointer on screen, this is needed to select a specific letter. So by moving your finger with the magnifier up, you place the cursor. When you let up you get a pop-up menu. Type Select and you get the word you were on pre-selected with handles at top left and bottom right. You can then drag out these handles to grow the selection. Once you have your selection, you tap a Copy button, then switch to wherever you want to paste it. Tap there and a Paste button pops up. Tap that to paste your text. It works in practice a lot faster than it sounds and using the mouse on my PC feels kind of clumsy now. Weird.

Stuff I like:
I don’t have a list for this. I like everything else. I’m loving the experience of using this device. The screen is so crisp and clear that in contrast my desktop monitor seems fuzzy. It isn’t (it has a higher res than the iPad) but since the iPad is hand held I just naturally place it in the ‘sweet spot’ of my failing vision. Younger eyed souls with 20-20 vision probably won’t get this effect but for me, reading the web is better on the iPad than on any other device I own, by orders of magnitude. The iPad feels fun, too. I can lay on the couch, or in bed, and jump from reading a website to reading a comic to playing a game to watching a tv show to looking something up to drawing a doodle all without putting down the device in my hands. The iPad is fast at switching tasks; sometimes I hop back and forth like a madman. Other times I just settle in to enjoy one feature. Yesterday Angela was having a lie down and watching Netflix. I flopped down next to her on the bed, looked over at what she was watching. The iPad screen has great viewing angles; I could see the picture perfectly. Next thing I know, we’d layed there and watched an hour-long documentary on prehistoric beasts on the iPad. It sounds silly I know; we have a 52″ tv in the living room that we could’ve gone and watched it on. But it was the spontaneity of just watching it without any kind of planning that I enjoyed.

That spontaneity is key but I’m still having trouble articulating it. When I’m looking for something to do, I grab the iPad and find something to do on it. Pre-iPad, I’d decide what I wanted to do then go fetch the appropriate tool to do that thing. If that makes sense…

All in all, I’m loving the iPad and at the same time, I’m finding it really hard to put into words why I’m loving it. I love it so much that we went out yesterday and got Angela one; it just seemed unfair that I had this amazing device and she didn’t. So we eat Raman for the next few months… it’s worth it to me and (it seems) to her too. That all said, it’s hard answering people who say that a netbook or a laptop can do everything it can. Because they can. But the iPad just feels good to use in a way that none of my netbooks or laptops do.

So should you buy one? No. Or more accurately, I’m not about to try to convince anyone to buy one. Future versions (and competitors) will be cheaper, faster and more capable. The smart move is to wait. On the other hand, if you’ve been considering getting an iPad and think you want one, then I certainly wouldn’t dissuade you, as long as you want it primarily to consume media. This isn’t a content producing tool. This is a content consuming tool. Yes, you can absolutely produce content on it in a pinch, but that isn’t its strength and it isn’t going to replace your work laptop. At least not this revision.

Never fear, I’m not planning any more posts on this hardware for a while (though I might cover some of the games I’ve been playing on it). I’m not really interested in comments telling me why the iPad sucks and a netbook is better. If that’s true for you, that’s great. No one is asking you to buy an iPad. I have a netbook and I have an iPad. For ME, the iPad is a much nicer experience; your situation is most certainly different from mine.

As for comments telling me that Apple is vile… I completely agree. I hate what they’re doing. But my days of protesting are long behind me; I leave furthering the Cause to the younger generation. I’m going to use the tools that best make my life easier/more enjoyable, even if those tools are produced by a company I detest. I’ve been waiting for a tablet like this for *years* and a good one finally exists. Life is good and I’m going to keep fiddling and let others stop Rome from burning.

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… 😉

iPad ownership: How’d I wind up here?

You can catch up on my iPad journey here. It takes me through Monday morning. By that time I’d ordered an iPad online and was prepared to wait for the April 12th ship date. Then I got to work and my co-worker had his and was showing it off. It didn’t take long for April 12th to seem far, far in the future. I called the local Apple Store and they had iPads in stock.

At lunch, said co-worker (who is a HUGE Apple fan) and I headed to the store. It took jumping through some strange hoops but I walked out with my iPad (and not one but TWO Apple credit accounts…don’t ask). He dealt with the Apple sales staff, I just signed things. It’s like being in a hostile foreign country, going into one of those stores. If you bring a native guide it’s much easier to get around.

It’s been interesting watching the hype-wave crest, and break, and now as the hype runs back into the sea the backlash is coming on strong. One of the most frequent criticisms I see is “It’s just a giant iPhone.” Well first of all, it doesn’t make calls so it’d be more accurate to says it’s just a giant iPod Touch. Now I don’t have an iPod Touch so I can’t really comment on that. But let’s say for the sake of argument that it’s true. What’s wrong with it being a giant iPod Touch?

If I was running a single core PC with on-board graphics and a 15″ VGA screen, and I said “Woohoo! I just bought an i7 system with that new GeForce 480 GPU and a 24″ 1600×1200 monitor!” no one would reply with “But it’s just a giant pc” would they? No, because better resolution, bigger screen, faster processor… those upgrades are great! And as far as I can tell, the iPad is an iPod Touch with better resolution, a bigger screen and a faster processor. So how’s that a bad thing?

*shrug*

I justified my early adoption with my ITWorld blog. The iPad is such a phenomenom, for good or evil, that I felt like I needed to know the truth behind the device. I wasn’t really sure what to expect; I hate Apple products. I’m an ex-Apple fanboy and no one is as bitter as an ex-fanboy. Dude, I had a G4 Cube. I spent nearly $4,000 on the first “TiBook” laptop….that’s how much of a fanboy I was. I was torn between hoping I enjoyed the iPad, and hoping I’d hate it so I could rip it to shreds in the public eye.

I never expected to fall head over heels in love with the damned thing. But I have. And I’m still trying to quantify why. It has a lot to do with how damned pretty it is; the screen is stunning and feels downright soothing to my eyes. Ironically the lower-than-my-PC resolution might be part of that. 1024×768 but crisp and clear with apps intended for that resolution. (OMG, is the iPad the Jitterbug of computing devices!?) And a lot of it is how comfortable it is to use. I can slouch to my heart’s content. Use it sitting back with my feet on the desk, or slung out on the couch, or laying in bed. Yeah, I could do all this with a netbook too, but netbooks are awkward and slow. The iPad is snappy and easy to hold (if a tad heavy). I highly suggest the ‘binder’ case that Apple sells. It gives you more holding options and doubles as a stand. And there’s the “new to the App Store” factor for me. There’s a lot of cool apps for this thing.

Now in my defense, for *years* I’ve wanted a tablet. Essentially since watching Star Trek: The Next Generation. But until now they’ve all sucked. Angela got me a netbook that converts into a tablet for Christmas and although I tried desperately to love it, I just didn’t. It was slow and not at all responsive to touch and I constantly had to recalibrate the screen. It’s a sweet little netbook, but not a very good tablet. Her heart was in the right place and it killed me that I didn’t love it, but there ya go…

So then I was waiting for the Android tablets. I’m still waiting for those. I can absolutely see having 2 tablets because I AM that much of a geek. I love my Droid smartphone. I love that Android is open. I love that these soon-to-arrive Android tablets have 1080P displays and are powered by the super snappy Tegra 2 chip (rumored to be powering the Nintendo 3DS as well). But those are the future. The few Android based tablets that have come out: devices like the enTourage eDGe (their caps) or the Camangi Webstation, just haven’t reviewed very well. Nope, wait for the Tegra and Android 2.1 if you want an Android tablet.

But the iPad was here now, and yeah, I got caught up in the hype, and had a way to justify buying early, and, shame on me, Apple was offering interest-free credit. I haven’t done anything truly fiscally irresponsible in years; the time just seemed right. 🙂

Now I just need the weekend to get here so I can *really* play with the thing. I sucked it up and installed iTunes *shudder* which I hate even more now than I did the last time I tried it, but the iPad really expects to be syncing to something, for whatever reason. So that was Monday evening shot, getting that done. Last night I tried to download a big app (the digital edition of The Elements) and found that the only system slower than The Playstation Network is The Apple Store (this was on my Windows machine so I can’t blame the iPad) and sorted through all my music deciding which of it/how much of it to sync to the iPad. And tonight of course I’m writing this blog post.

But I sneak in moments of iPad time whenever I can. During lunch at work, right before bed, in the 10 free minutes I find while waiting for dinner. I carry the damned thing everywhere with me.

The question is, once I have LOTS of time to spend with it, will I still love it or will I start to see its flaws? That remains to be seen. Stay tuned!

What a gaffe!

Yesterday this was posted at “The Unofficial Apple Weblog”:

If you’re feeling overwhelmed from the onslaught of YouTube forwards, newsreader headlines, Miniclip games and software demos we tirelessly blog for you, Procrastinatr just might be your solution. Even though it’s only a 0.8b version, this handy little app can help you make molehills out of mountains and start managing your time again.

Turns out, the app in question was a piece of malware!! A few hours later the post was amended:

TUAW readers: I sincerely apologize for the damage that Procrastinatr did to iCal. I didn’t notice any discrepancies in my calendar after trying this out (as almost all of my calendars are synced from Google Calendar), but please know that I have learned my lesson, and I will take much better care in the future before posting anything like this again.

I’d love to totally hack on the guy since TUAW is part of the Weblogs, Inc. Network family of blogs and I dislike that group. But working for a news publication, I see how hard everyone pushes to be first to announce any little bit of news, or in this case a new product. Best coverage doesn’t seem to be as important as First coverage. I don’t understand this attitude… most web surfers have their favorite sites to visit…they’re not constantly rotating through sites to see which one gets the story up five minutes ahead of the others. *shrug* But I’m just a reader…how should I know what readers want?

Anyway, this frantic scramble to publish first leads to problems like this one. How much trust has this person lost now? I know I won’t be first to try any software TUAW links to in the future!

AcidSearch

Since I bought my new iMac I’ve been spending almost all my time in OS X “Tiger”. I even shelled out $100 for a .Mac account so I could sync bookmarks and mail accounts and stuff between my 3 active Macs.

Then I found out that .Mac only syncs Safari bookmarks. Doh! But I’m kind of liking Safari 2.0, especially the quick and easy RSS reading.

But I really hated losing Firefox’s cool “Find at you type” feature. So I went back to the ‘fox (not a bad thing, mind you…its an excellent browser).

Then today, I stumbled upon AcidSearch. This is a little ‘plug in’ for Safari that gives you mega-super-duper search options from the search bar, AND the ‘find-as-you-type’ feature I’d been missing out on.

So far it seems to work great. And better yet, its freeware. Check it out, Mac users!

Apple’s Jobs says company will support Podcasts

Apple’s Jobs says company will support Podcasts
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Apple Computer Inc. (AAPL.O: Quote, Profile, Research) will support and organize podcasts in the next version of its iTunes and iPod software, the company said on Monday.
read the rest…

Sweet, even though I’ve already shelled out $20 for iPodderX. But its a little flakey. In fact, every client I’ve used has been a little flakey. This news kind of lends legitamacy to Podcasting, and hopefully Apple will do it right.

radioShark

Check this out! I want one!
radioShark is essentially Tivo for your radio. Hook it up to your Mac and set it to record Car Talk (or whatever) every week, then dump it to your iPod for listening to at your leisure!

Newsreader news

Because I’m nothing if not fickle, I’ve stopped using AmphetaDesk as my newsreader. Yes, I know I raved about it, and I still think its pretty sweet software, and works across operating systems to boot.

But now I’ve become a NewNewsWire Lite fan. Its Mac OS X only though. But its still free, and it offers both a traditional 3-pane view of your feeds as well as a ‘pop-up’ listing from the dock, a la Slashdock (which is also a great free OS X newsreader, but isn’t really conducive to casual browsing of feeds).

Actually this isn’t as strange a reversal as it might seem, as I liked NetNewsWire a lot when I first tried it, but it costs a fair amount of coin ($40). I never noticed the free “lite” version before (scroll all the way down the page). Thanks to Elaine for pointing it out…

NetNewsWire Lite
(Click for full-sized image)