Separation anxiety: An evening without an iPad

Today TechCrunch posted a really stupid article called Why I�m 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*]

Print is dead (to me)

So I bought an iPad back in April. I believe tomorrow is my 2 month iPad anniversary.

I love the thing. In principal I hate how closed iTunes is, but in practice I never find myself longing for something I can’t get. Basically I focus on what the iPad can do, and don’t worry about what it can’t. The iPad was additive with regards to my life…I didn’t sacrifice anything for it. I didn’t trade in my laptop or my netbook for the iPad, so yeah, I focus on what it can do today, while we wait for the Android competition to heat up. I’m looking forward to using the tablet that is better than the iPad, whenever and from whomever it comes.

Anyway, one of the things I use it for every day is reading books. I have iBooks (Apple’s books), Kindle and Barnes & Noble book readers on there. Right now I’m chewing through Storm Front, the first Harry Dresden book (which I got for free from B&N via a promotion). Before that it was For The Win and before that a couple of Riverworld books.

I’m looking at the stack of print books sitting next to my bedside table and find myself not wanting to open them up. I’m thinking about re-purchasing these books in e-book format. I’m that taken by reading on the iPad (I’m sure I’d feel the same about the Kindle or Nook, too).

My eyes aren’t that good. I really need to get new glasses but my job doesn’t offer vision coverage and I never seem to have the extra couple hundred $$ that it’ll cost me. With the iPad, I bump up the font. If I’m out and about and don’t have any glasses with me, I bump it up really huge. When I’m reading in bed at the end of the day, I wear my not-really-strong-enough glasses and bump the font up a medium amount. And turn the brightness on the iPad way down.

Since I always have the iPad handy, I always have my book handy. I really like that. And I always have the web handy in the event I want to quickly look something up. And I never lose my place.

I love my books but now I’m feeling this weird conflict. I don’t want to give up my shelves and shelves of books. Or the smell of an older book. And yet, I don’t really want to go back to reading tiny print on paper, either.

Same goes for magazines. I haven’t opened a print magazine since I got the iPad. I read articles on the web now.

It’s really a strange feeling. Like my world has shifted a tiny bit.

GodFinger (iPad, coming soon to iPhone/iPod Touch)

[At the time of this writing, GodFinger for iPhone/iPod Touch is available in some places but not others. You can find out if it’s available at your app store here.]

GodFinger is an odd mash-up of casual game, Populous and a splash of social gaming. The idea here is that you rule over a small 2D world. Kind of a cute Flatland place. When you start the game you’ll find a fairly barren world with a few people wondering aimlessly, and clouds and sun drifting overhead. Your job is to bend the people to your will and modify the world to suit your whims.

Luckily you have a GodFinger! By touching and ‘charging’ a cloud or the sun, you can call down rain or sunshine. Doing so causes vegetation to sprout up and these little people to start worshipping you. You can also terraform the planet, raising and lowering land to form mountains and lakes. If you cause it to rain a lot in one area a jungle will slowly form. Avoid raining on an area, and apply plenty of sun, and soon you’ll have a desert. This is all mostly for fun, although if you create a lake your followers can fish out of it, and gain a trickle of energy that way.

All of these actions costs you mana, one of 3 resources. Mana recharges over time, and your mana pool increases as you level up. The mana limitation means GodFinger is a ‘short session’ game; the kind of thing you’ll play for a few minutes, several times a day. There is a totem on your world that you can order followers to worship at, and this will increase your mana recharge rate somewhat, but running out of Mana is the normal cause for a sesion to end.

The next resource is gold. You have a starting pool of gold which you’ll use to buy some buildings. Buying a building just lays a foundation; you then drop some followers onto it and they’ll complete the structure over time. In order to earn gold from the building, it’ll need workers (again, drop followers onto it) and some kind of power source. Power comes from sun, rain or lightning, and you call each of these down from the heavens, spending your mana to do so.

The last resource is Awe. You get this by spending real-world cash, or building it up via leveling and generally playing the game. I’ve yet to feel any need to buy Awe. You can spend Awe on gold, automatic building completion and other ‘miracles.’

So now you have some buildings staffed by followers and you’ve used your mana to power up the buildings. It’s time to sit back and relax for a while. The buildings will produce stacks of gold. Tap on these to collect them. Leave them laying around too long and they’ll rust away. As your followers work, they lose energy, and finally will just shut down from exhaustion.

As a mostly benevolent GodFinger, you can refresh your followers in several ways. You can build them tents to rest in. Tents require no power but take a while to work their magic. Alternatively you can build fountains for your followers to drink from. These need to be powered by rain, but they revive your followers much more swiftly. These little guys and gals love to drink, farting and belching constantly while they do so.

Almost everything you do in GodFinger earns you experience. Using a power, collecting gold, sometimes even from growing an unusual plant… experience comes in at a slow but steady pace. As you level up you unlock new & improved buildings, more potent powers, more followers and your world even grows.

As for the social aspect, if you have friends playing you can add their worlds to your universe. You can zoom out of your planet until you can see others. Interactions between friends’ planets are fairly spartan. You can “Enchant” one of their followers and once your friend accepts the enchantment you’ll get a trickle of gold from them. And once a day you can send a (pre-set) gift to a single friend. And that’s about the extent of the social stuff at this point. Basically if you don’t have any friends playing, don’t worry that you’re missing out.

GodFinger is free to play (aside from optionally purchasing Awe). I actually think the developers misjudged things here. There are a few inconspicuous ads in various parts of the game, and presumably they make some money from those, but I just see no reason to buy Awe, which I assume is intended to be the main revenue stream.

GodFinger is a lot of fun to play for a while. I’m currently level 26 (of 50) and sadly I’ve more or less run out of content. I have every building unlocked and I’ve got more gold than I know what to do with. As I keep leveling my powers will grow stronger but I’m not convinced I need them to be stronger.

I’d like to think the devs will keep adding content, but presumably that would depend on a solid revenue stream. Maybe I’m an anomaly and other people are buying lots of Awe. I hope so.

Still, free is free and it’s well worth a download, even if you ultimately decide it isn’t for you. Just messing around with your planet, creating floods and deserts and seeing what you can get to grow, can be fun.

We Rule mutterings (iPad)

So I’ve been playing We Rule on the iPad (also for iPhone/iPod Touch) for a little while now. It’s definitely one of those social games that draw so much ire, but as I’ve said previously I don’t find these games nearly as annoying when they’re not spamming me and my friends constantly. We Rule runs on the Plus+ social network which is (as far as I know) *just* for games.

This isn’t meant as a ‘review’ really, just some thoughts on what I wish the game has that it doesn’t (or if it does, I’ve missed it).

So you start with a plot of land and some money. You’ll start by planting crops, a la Farmville. And different crops have different seed costs, growing time, and payoff. Annoyingly crops will wither once they’ve ripened if you don’t harvest them quickly enough. That makes growing crops an issue for me since I, y’know, have a real job to go to and I can’t just stop in the middle of the day, dig out my iPad, log into We Rule and harvest. This system probably works a lot better on the iPhone since you’ve always got that and can harvest on the fly while zoning out in a meeting or something.

Luckily there’s a crop that takes a full day to ripen and I just plant those at the same time every day. Even luckilier 🙂 you can quickly get past crop growing and start building shops and houses. Houses collect a tiny bit of rent every so often but the rent doesn’t spoil, and shops are used to produce goods and again, these don’t spoil.

Then there’s the social aspect. Once you have some friends you can visit their kingdoms and place orders in their shops, and vice versa. I’ve never noted amounts but my expectation is that you earn more gold and experience by doing this than by just letting your shops produce for yourself.

And that’s it. Earn gold and experience to spend on better shops or more land so you can earn more gold and experience. You can, if you like, also spend gold on stuff like trees and roads and decorate/layout your kingdom, just for fun.

It’s a nice basis but I want a game like this that does MORE. For instance all these little shops just create items out of thin air. I’d love some more complexity to that system. Give me mines and forests to harvest materials in. And then let me trade materials with my friends. I have a vast forest nearby and my friend has mountains rich with ore…let us trade resources we have plenty of for those we are lacking.

And of course me being me, I’d like a military aspect too, but I think that’s way out of scope. There’s nothing ‘bad’ you can do to a friend in We Rule and I think that’s very much intentional and core to the goals of the developers. Make it all very friendly.

But how about population happiness? Make those parks and ponds and stuff impact your villagers, keeping them content.

Can you have a “social game” and give it this much complexity, or is the simplicity part of the appeal? We Rule is either a very simple game, or the nuances of it are totally escaping me. If the latter is the case, I’m sure someone will correct me. 🙂

Aurora Feint 3 Review (iPad)

“Gather your friends and enter the ever expanding massively-multiplayer RPG world of fantasy, mystery and magic.”

Sounds good, right? That’s part of the description of Aurora Feint 3 (for the iPad) on the iTunes store. I couldn’t download it fast enough; that description was right up my ally.

And, it turns out, totally inaccurate.

Basically, Aurora Feint 3 is, at its core, a “match-3” game. You have your game board and your tiles, and you have to get 3 of the same tile in a row in order to make them disappear. In a new twist that does a great job of taking advantage of the platform, you can only move your tiles horizontally, but you can rotate the iPad and what used to be up<–>down is now left<–>right. But gravity changes too, so your tiles will fall to fill any gaps. It’s a neat play mechanic that puts a fresh spin on the match-3 genre.

When tiles disappear the ones above them start to glow, and if they then form a match via falling into now vacant spots, you’ll get a Chain. In order to do this, you need a good amount of tiles on-screen, but if the board fills up you die. Rows of tiles constantly bubble up from below, but you can pull them up faster via a 2-finger swipe if you need more material to work with. Getting Chains is key to combat (see below) so you’re constantly in a balancing act between having enough tiles to get Chains and having so many that the board fills up. It’s quite a challenge.

So what about the RPG meta-game? When you first start playing, you’re matching tiles to build up your health. Every match gives you a bit more health. After a while of this you’ll enter combat against an NPC enemy. You have no control over when this happens.

Combat starts with a fresh board of tiles. Now making matches does damage to the enemy, and Chains do bonus damage. At the same time the enemy is doing damage to you, but you never see his board. The only real direct interaction with the enemy is via his nicely drawn artwork, including his sword that will flash right before he’s about to attack. If you can make a match immediately after his sword flashes you can mitigate some of the damage he’d otherwise do to you.

If you beat your enemy you’ll get some experience, and eventually will gain levels which will give you a longer health bar. After a battle you go back to playing to gain health (healing yourself). You continue to do that until the next random battle.

And that’s the game. Oh, there’s a button that is supposed to let you call for help from friends during a battle, but no one I know is playing so…

If you die in a battle you’ll be prompted to fork over some real-life cash to keep playing. Otherwise the battle ends, and you get no experience. The enemies ramp up in difficulty pretty quickly and since you get no experience when you lose a battle it’s easy to get frustrated from losing over and over (remember, there’s no way to choose your next battle, so no way to take on easier foes in order to gain levels), making that $$ transaction look more appealing.

Aurora Feint 3 is free but requires you to create an account with them in order to play. You have to be online to play in spite of the fact that you’re fighting NPC enemies. They have no posted privacy policy, which means that once you sign up they’re free to sell your email address to email mass-marketers (aka spammers).

I can’t recommend this game. It’s free in the sense of you not having to give them cash, but not in the sense that you’re giving them your personal information for reselling. The game is also balanced to frustrate in order to get you to spend money on Continues.

It’s funny, if I’m in an arcade feeding quarters into a machine and die and am prompted to pump in a few more coins to continue, that feels ok. But on a machine I own it just feels really scammy. You might not feel the same way.

The shame of it is, the production values of Aurora Feint 3 are really good. They’ve got beautiful artwork, creepy sounds (during battle) and a very solid core puzzle-game mechanic.

This would be a wonderful $5-$10 single-player puzzle game. But between the request for your personal data, the requirement to be online all the time, and the difficulty curve designed to get you to pay out money as you play, as it stands now Aurora Feint 3 is just a missed opportunity.

Aurora Feint 3 Trailer from Aurora Feint on Vimeo.

Social gaming: I am a traitor to the cause!

In the past I’ve been very critical of Social Games. I don’t like them because they’re spammy. I don’t like them because they’re hardly games. And I don’t like them because they’re scammy.

But recently I’ve been coming around. It turns out the truth is more that I don’t like Facebook games; the fact that most Facebook games are Social Games is almost a coincidence.

I’ve been playing two Social Games. The first is Pocket Empires on the Droid (or any Android device). I’m way too early in the game to review it, but here’s a look at it from Android and Me. They call it an MMO; I’m calling it a Social Game; maybe it’s both. I’m still building up my city (building/upgrading takes place in real time) and haven’t really started heading out to do battle, nor have I found any allies yet. It just *feels* like a Social Game though; you buy gems for $$, then spend gems on perks to speed up your advancement through the game. You have to check in on and off through the day to make sure everyone is on track and you aren’t wasting build time.

The game is definitely still a work in progress, and I’m not even sure I’ll like it over the long haul, but for now its fun.

The other title I’ve been playing is GodFinger. This is a quirky little game for the iPad (and soon I think, the iPhone/Touch) that has you running a world. It has a whiff of Populous to it, and yes, some very Farmville-ish aspects too. Your early actions mostly involve positioning clouds and the sun and using your mana to bring down rain, lightning or sunshine. The world below responds accordingly (lightning is basically a “Smite” spell). As you gain levels you gain followers, and you can put them to work building and working farms, which generate gold. But the little dudes get worn out, so you have to provide areas for them to rest and recharge.

You have to log into the game to pick up the gold they produce, or to drag them from their work place to a nice soothing fountain or warm campfire to recharge.

As to the Social stuff, once you get your friends to play you can go visit their planets and “enchant” some of their followers, which earns you some exp and a trickle of gold. You can name your followers after your friends, which gets them some small bonus. A co-worker invited me to play the game and we find ourselves sitting side-by-side, checking in with our silly little people a couple times during the day.

In this one, you buy Awe for real $$ and can spend it on various powerups or on in-game gold. The game spams you and your friends, but since it runs on a ‘closed’ iPhone/Touch/iPad social network (called Plus+) devoted to games, the spam doesn’t seem bothersome (and you can turn it off easily enough). You can also send notifications to Twitter (which I’ve been doing) or Facebook just to help get the word out on the game. So while you could spam Facebook with it, that isn’t really the point here.

Anyway, here’s a review at IGN that I felt was pretty accurate.

I’ve whined and whinged a lot about how busy I am these days; I’m plodding away at FF XIII but I’m still under 20 hours there. I’ve been getting in an hour or so of EVE each week. And that’s all my gaming, except for these little ‘hop in, play for 3-5 minutes and hop out’ Social Games. And I’m finding they’re great stress relievers and work well as ‘rewards’ for myself when I deserve a break in the day.

They’re Social Games (I guess… maybe my definitions are just screwy) but they’re fun. The decision making still boils down to resource management, with real-world time one of those resources. But they still feel more like real games to me than Vampire/Mafia Wars. GodFinger, in particular, is a quirky delight, but that has as much to do with presentation as mechanics.

At first I felt…y’know, DIRTY, for playing these games. But I’m not seeing an evil side to them, they way I do with Facebook games. Costs are all pretty upfront, there’s no “Take this survey and win Awe” stuff going on (though there IS a “look at this ad and get a free Awe” feature in Godfinger, but that’s as far as it goes. Open the ad, then close it again) and no one is getting spammed or scammed.

We’ll see how long they hold my interest. I have to admit, I’ve considered buying some Awe in Godfinger… 🙂

If anyone happens to be on Plus+, you can friend me there. My username is pasmith

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 (\smith�s 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?


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!