Better than a baby picture


In case readers want to get to the bottom line before actually reading, here are the major benefits of owning an iPad without the warmth and humor of the real review:

  • iPads are cat proof
  • People want to see your iPad
  • iPads are real computers
  • iPads are the most portable computers around
  • No boot time
  • iPads provide a paperless library
  • Crystal clear video

If I’m going to commit to a daily blog reviewing iPad apps, it makes sense to start with the iPad itself. At first, I planned to skip the iPad review because it felt like preaching to the choir. Who would read a blog on iPad apps if they didn’t already own and love their iPad? It would be like showing baby pictures, a ritual I dread because no baby will ever be cuter than mine, and mine is thirty years old with his own Facebook blog where he kvetches about every slander and injustice he suffers through, and, according to him there are many.

It reminds me of his mother, who divorced me for subjecting her to precisely the same sort of misdeeds and injustices that I was never aware I subjected….

Oh, wait, this is a blog about iPad apps and not a forum for kvetching about slanders and misdeeds my ex-wife accused me of thirty years ago when she left me penniless in the middle of my masters thesis, totally unaware and with no idea what happened….

There I go again. Enough about ex-wives and caustic children. This blog is about my iPad, which Carol, my current wife, says I love more than her, even though I’ve given her twenty five years and my iPad has only been in my life since the day Apple released the iPad and I waited by my front door to ambush the Fed Ex guy. In fact, I tracked it every day online for more than a week, hoping to see the phrase “in transit” change to “delivered,” even though I knew damn well Apple wasn’t going to release an iPad before launch date to anyone but David Letterman and the producers of Modern Family who got to play with theirs on TV while I could only watch with envy.

That last sentence may sound incomplete, but it’s not; it merely runs on (and on), but it reminds me, once again, that I want to blog about iPads and not wives, children and grammar. So before I get distracted again, let me tell you why I love my iPad.

The iPad is cat proof

Yes this blog is about my iPad. And occasionally about cats because Carol and I foster cats and it’s hard to type a blog with one cat sitting on my shoulder and and two more jockeying for position in my lap. And this leads me to my first praise of the iPad: It’s cat proof. That’s right. No matter how much they want to, a cat can’t jump on top of my iPad and walk across the keyboard leaving a message like “!jasx soy nsc pnvbfbfv” to replace a file name or the letter I’ve been furiously typing for half an hour.

This is because the iPad may be touch sensitive, but not catspaw sensitive. At the very least, cats can’t toggle the onscreen keyboard. Those of you who own cats will know this is a very cool thing, and if you don’t own an iPad, this fact alone should send you out to the Apple Store to get one now.

(Cynical readers might suspect this was a subliminal, product placement style endorsement for cat rescue, but I assure you this is a non-commercial blog.)

The iPad is better than baby pictures

This is actually the point I was going to make six paragraphs ago before my mention of baby pictures led me to digress about…Well, let’s not go there again.

The point I intended to make it that guys like me actually cringe when friends and family pull out the baby pictures. But when people see my iPad, they actually walk across the Starbucks, or Barnes and Noble, or wherever I happen to be pecking away, to see it.

“Is that an iPad?” they ask. “Why, yes, it is,” I tell them, and they actually want to see iBooks and the Kindle Reader, and how word processing works. And I don’t feel like I’m forcing to ooh and ah over my precious baby the way I did with pictures of my real precious baby.

And, best of all, the iPad doesn’t wake me up in the middle of the night for feeding (or, thirty years later, kvetching, with some justification, about the stupid thing his ex did with the kids today).

The most portable personal computer on the market

Here is the real selling point to me.

The iPad is a real computer, with an all day battery, that I can take anywhere without lugging around a power supply, backpack and all of the other gear that goes with a laptop. Think of it as a convenient computer, mp3 and video player, ereader and PDA that weighs a pound a half. My MacBook weighs five times that much without the power supply, back pack and all the crap that ends up in my backpack because I never remember to unload it.

I simply slip my iPad in the well on my car door, drive to wherever I want to hang, and carry it in in my hand. It’s lighter than most books. I think this feature, more than any other, is the one that makes laptop users look at me with envy.

Is this important? Absolutely. In the past, if I wanted to work offsite at Barnes and Noble or Starbucks, I had to drive in early before the crowds hit to find a table with an outlet. And I would need to find a table large enough to accommodate my 17 inch MacBook Pro and power supply, plus coffee and sandwich plate. And hopefully there would be a second chair for my backpack, which I needed for my laptop, headphones and all those cables.

This has become harder and harder, especially at Starbucks where they replace their tables with tinier tables every two or three years. So I would often have to set up on a small table, start working, and pray a larger table with an outlet opened up before my battery drained. Usually someone would bail from the better table, but then I would have to move all my crap from the smaller table to the better table, often in two or three trips.

And the whole time I would feel like everybody else in the cafe was watching me an judging me, like, “Is this guy OCD or what? I mean, he has a perfectly good table already and now he wants to upgrade. Who does he think he is? Adrian Monk?”

Now I can sit anywhere and stay there, judgment free. And I’ve been at the Starbucks I’m typing this at for more than two hours and I still have an eighty five percent charge on my battery.

Is the software as powerful as the software on my MacBook?

Not even close, but the apps are as powerful than those on my old Mac IIci. Since I’m mostly retired from the graphic design and Flash work I used to do, this serves me fine. And I have to say, the graphic apps I’ll be reviewing are sophisticated enough that I’m convinced Adobe could develop functional versions of Photoshop and Illustrator if Steve Jobs didn’t have his head so far up his apple about Flash that Adobe isn’t likely to give the iPad a second glance.

(I intend to post a blog about iPad and Flash in the near future because as a former Flash developer I’ve given the question a lot of thought. But just to give you the heads up, while I agree with the facts in Job’s open letter about Flash, my feeling is, let Flash run–at least on web browsers–and if it crashes or creates security holes, Adobe will be the ones who have to answer for the outrage.)

Instant access

The one thing I always hated about my desktops and laptops was boot time. I can’t jot notes to myself on paper, I lose it. So if I needed to jot a simple note, or look up a web site quickly, I would have to haunt out my laptop from under it’s desk, and, if it wasn’t already booted, wait for the computer to boot and then wait for the apps to load.

The iPad boots and loads in a instant. And I can keep it right by me or carry it into another room, or even into the bathroom. The iPad has practically become my third arm.

A paperless library

Last Christmas Carol and I debated whether or not to buy a Nook reader. I had always wanted a good eBook reader because our house is overflowing with books. I love books, sometimes read ten or twelve a month, and I hate to get rid of them. But they take up space, and if I bought any more I would have to get rid of some or start stacking them to create coffee and end tables, night stands, even a bed frame (which would be tough for a waterbed, and Carol has made it abundantly clear where I stand in the hierarchy of what would stay and what would go in our marriage–cats, house, waterbed, me. She would never admit this to herself, but I’m sure as hell not willing to put this to the test).

So we looked at the Nook, and the Kindle, but we couldn’t find it in our hearts to love either. There were lots of reasons, interface and reading screen size being the biggest, but they were just hard to commit to. I really wanted an ereader because I love ebooks but reading them on my iPhone is hard on my eyes, and reading them on my laptop is clumsier than reading a book.

Then Apple announced the iPad and I was sold before I saw one.

I am not an early adopter. I wait until PowerBook models are about to be discontinued to get them at the lowest price. I wait until the .1 or .2 versions of software to make sure the bugs are worked out and I frequently skip generations of software. Carol and I waited until after the 2008 elections to buy our iPhones (mainly because it was too expensive to buy out of our Sprint contracts) and I never bought an iPod because I kept waiting for the perfect generation that never arrived because the iPhone made it superfluous.

I ordered my iPad from Apple the day after it was announced. For once I was willing to put up with postdevelopment blues simply because it looked like the perfect ereader and the rest was a bonus. And Apple and Amazon didn’t let me down. I’m including Amazon because, unlike Barnes and Noble and eReader, they had fully functional iPad native Kindle versions at launch date.

Unlike other ereader devices, the iPad readers look just like ink on paper. I can adjust the type size to accommodate my aging eyes. The iPad weighs less than most books, and, best of all, my library doesn’t take up any more space in my house.

In addition, developers have already released a number of readers aimed at specific markets, including PDF readers for scientific and research documents. With time, I have no doubt the apps will be expanded to allow note taking and annotating, but that’s still a way off.

Crystal clear video

Watching video on the iPad is a joy. Carol and I had to spend a few days in Dallas without our Blu Ray player and I didn’t miss it (well, actually, I did miss it, but not as much as I would have otherwise). I can’t sleep in beds on the road (okay, I wouldn’t give up the waterbed even if Carol wanted to), so I stayed up late watching videos streamed from Netflix and digital copies of some of my Blu Ray disks until I was so tired I no longer noticed how uncomfortable the bed was.

The playback was remarkably smooth, the picture sharp with deep colors, and the sound playback through the headphones was far better than I expected. I hated watching movies on my iPhone on the road because the picture was so small and it was a pain holding the device at eye level. The iPad rested comfortably on my chest with no strain on my eyes.

In summary

Forget it. There’s no summary. If you need a summary, read the bullet points. I should have called this section “In forecast” because that’s what I really intend to do, but that seems like such a stupid subhead I chose to go with “In summary.”

I intend to make a commitment to review a new iPad app Monday through Friday for the next three months. After that, we’ll see if anybody’s reading and wants me to continue. Tomorrow, however, I intend to talk about the few improvements the iPad needs to make before it can grow past the baby with promise and into the child we’re all proud of.

Phillip T. Stephens Ontology Development

living metaphor

Location:Pitter Pat Ln,Austin,United States


About Phillip T Stephens

Phillip T. Stephens disappeared into the Bermuda Triangle twenty years before he was born, creating a time travel paradox so confusing it remains unspoken between physicists and sci-fi writers to this day. Follow @stephens_pt
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