Thursday, 23 September 2010

iPad - it's Getting Better; even stronger

Not everything that you read in a blog is always quite what it seems. My last post was completely written on the iPad, and most of it was actually written whilst in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, but unfortunately I didn't quite finish it before I left, so it only got completed and published after I had returned to the UK and then back to Switzerland. By which time my iPad had just about become a new appendage, and it was already quite hard to remember life pre-iPad.

This entry is 100% bought to you from Zurich, now three weeks after my original adventure to the CambridgeSide Apple Store in Cambridge, MA, where I made the purchase. As I had hoped, I did return to Boston, this time to the Boylston St. Apple Store (awesome shop) and I duly purchased the Apple case, the camera connection kit and the Compass iPad stand.

Since returning from the US, I've also acquired a few more apps. Like the iPhone, the full power of the iPad cannot be realized by just the built-in apps, no matter how good they are. There are a few more games (I'm very much a casual gamer, and enjoy Sudoku, Mahjong and other puzzle and patience type games). In addition there are some business type apps (expenses, brainstorming, mind mapping and project management) some calculators and converters, some music apps, and some utilities, including Camera, Voice Recorder, and apps that link back to the MBP and iMac. Then there are a few Social Networking clients and some Business document managers. Finally there are some travel related apps.

It would be very easy to start to behave like a child in a sweet shop and download a vast number of apparently useful apps (at huge expense), but previous experience with the iPhone has taught me that less can sometimes mean more. The fact that iOS 3.2 doesn't support folders makes it less desirable to clutter up the device with a load of rarely used apps.

I have occasionally hinted that the the Apple Harvest abroad has a number of technical issues to overcome, most specifically, a lack of consistent and permanently connected broadband or wireless network. I'm delighted to report that the accumulation of gadgets and widgets over the last couple of months has really paid off.

The picture below shows the Apple Harvest road warrior set-up. Most of the components in the photo have been reviewed in the blog. Whilst still not ideal, this is a fully functional mobile office, which in theory could be operational anywhere where you can get a 3G signal, and mains electricity. The latter is only required for periods longer than about 3 hours! From the left we have my portable sound dock and iPhone charger, whilst a standard dock serves to charge my iPhone 4. Centre stage is the 15inch MacBook Pro (2007) on an X-stand with wireless keyboard and magic trackpad for input. On the right is the iPad on the Compass stand, and hiding behind is the Zoom 3G Wireless travel router. There's also a permanent connection to my Eye-TV device which is rigged up to a small aerial which lives on the balcony, which at least gives me some live TV in the mornings and evenings.

Apple Harvest Road Office
The Apple Harvest - Mobile Office

During the day, I'm on site at the bank where I'm contracting and until the iPad came along I used to drag the MBP into the office each day. These days the laptop stays in the "Pent-room" where I'm based and I just carry the iPad, stand and Zoom router into the office. Although I take in the USB charger, it's superfluous, and is more likely to be used to charge one of the iPhones.  The new arrangement is more convenient all round, taking up less room on my desk at work, saving me the hassle of unplugging the MBP and attachments each morning and setting it back up again each night, and I've noticed that the aches in my shoulder have eased up considerably now I take a messenger bag with me each morning rather than a thumping great rucksack.

I really only want access to mail, occasional access to the internet (surfing the internet in a corporate banking environment is somewhat restricted as you may guess) and the ability to jot down thoughts and ideas and do occasional sums. The iPad is perfect for this, and the addition of iWork allows me to work on documents, spreadsheets and presentations which I mange through I don't even bother taking the wireless keyboard with me, as the on-screen keyboard is perfectly adequate for my meagre needs.

If anyone reading this had any doubts about whether an iPad could serve as an occasional laptop replacement, be reassured that it is perfectly up to the job. Despite the loving care and attention I have paid to my Hackintosh I'm not sure how much of a future it really has. Compared to the iPad it is clumsy and hard to use. It does have a webcam built in and allows me to use video with iChat or Skype, and it does run Eye-TV but everything else has a counterpart on the iPad. I have managed to link my iPhone camera to the iPad via Bluetooth using the Camera for iPad app, and there are reports of people using webcams with the camera connection kit, so even video may not be beyond the bounds of possibility. Sadly streaming TV is only realistically possible if you have a sensible download allowance on your mobile broadband - my 7Gb (split across two providers) is barely adequate without for my use as it is.

So there you have it. Three weeks on and I'm more in love with the iPad than ever. I remember the thrill of getting my first Mac - the MBP mentioned in these columns, and subsequently getting the 27inch iMac. The iPad experience is right up there, and I can't see it fading any time soon! Buy one!! Today !!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, 19 September 2010

iPad at The Apple Harvest - Well Worth the Wait

This posting of the Apple Harvest is brought to you as autumn hits the forests of New England, where I'm currently on vacation, and the maple trees lap up their final intake of water before winter sets in. The colours aren't quite like they are in the picture books and postcards, but the reds and yellows are beginning to take over from the greenery of the summer foliage.

Last week I finally succumbed to the little voices in my head which have been nagging at me since April and the official launch of the iPad. The 64Gb WiFi model that I'm writing this piece on was nearly £150 cheaper in Boston than in the UK. In fact, it would have been cheaper to buy one in Zurich than in the UK. With the prospect of 20% VAT in the new year, the decision to buy one was pretty much made for me.

No doubt Apple will be announcing the 2nd generation iPads before too long, but I really couldn't wait any longer, and even though the idea of the Retinal display and addition of camera are enticing, they weren't enough to dissuade me from this purchase. You see, the iPad is everything I hoped it would be, and more. In my posting early this year I outlined my ideas of what the iPad could realistically be used for. That view has already been confirmed in just a few days. And so much more.

There is no question that the iPad is a beautiful piece of kit. It looks good, it feels good, and it is great to use. The worst thing about it is that my iPhone 4 now feels so small in comparison, although I really wouldn't want to have to lug the iPad around for use as a phone. (Actually it's really not fair to use the word lug in the same sentence as iPad. I have to lug my 15 inch MBP around, whereas I can slip the iPad into my bag and not really notice it.)

I would never have realistically considered writing a blog entry of any substance on my iPhone (despite having the BlogPress software installed), but on the iPad, even just with the on-screen keyboard, and with no case or stand, it seems perfectly natural.

Having free WiFi in the hotel (Woodward's Resort in Lincoln) is a real bonus as I'm not constantly checking on my usage - something I'll need to consider carefully when I get back to Zurich in a few days time. But being connected permanently is not a necessity as the extra screen space simply allows you to be able to do more than on an iPhone.

I've taken over 500 photos over the last few days and getting them transferred from camera to MBP to iPad has been a doodle. The iPad is a much better vehicle for showing them off than the MBP, and I love the Origami slideshow theme.

Initial syncing of the iPad to the MBP did take a while, but I think trying to install my entire iTunes library was not the most sensible approach. Just because I could physically fit the whole 47Gb on the iPad was not the best justification for actually doing so!

I was also pleased that a number of my favourite iPhone apps also scaled up immediately to the iPad. There are still a few that I'm hoping will get the necessary makeover, but plenty of alternatives are available in the meantime. It's good that in the main, prices have been kept down or upgraded versions are available at no extra cost. I particularly like the implementation of the PressReader app which I have used on the Mac and iPhone to read my offline copies of UK papers for some years. Finally the iPad provides the perfect vehicle for this activity, and the app performs faultlessly - which has not always been the case with its counterparts on the other devices.

Specific purchases (including free apps) in the first 24 hours of ownership included all three elements of the iWork suite, Battery HD Pro, Accu Weather, Clock Pro HD, Friendly - Facebook Browser, Things for iPad, and Plants vs. Zombies. That should be enough to keep me occupied at Boston Logan for three hours followed by a six hour flight back to the UK!

I'll be back in Boston in a few days and intend to buy the Apple Case and Camera connection kit (also considerably cheaper than in the UK!). In the next entry, I'll provide an update on using the iPad back in my Swiss base - a slightly more hostile environment than the one I'm in currently - at least for gadgets!!

Posted using BlogPress from my iPad