Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The iPad Made Me Do It

Serra San Bruno, Calabria, January 11, 2011

Every now and then you get surprised by things that have a bigger impact on you than you expected.

For years I had the simplest cell phones, the less to worry about if I lost them or they broke. Then I got an iPhone and was jolted into another state. I could do a lot of the things I’d previously only been able to do with a desktop or laptop computer on a device small enough to fit in my shirt pocket.

I heard about the iPad, of course. My son-in-law, who is on top of all of this stuff, ordered one before they were even released. Friends and clients started showing up at meetings with them. Photographers started using them as a platform for showing work. That intrigued me.

My friend Walt Taylor even got one and raved about it. But Walt does that about a lot of things, like the time all he could talk about was the cleansing value of blanched okra. That was a fad I was happy to see pass quickly, if you’ll pardon the pun.

I thought about getting an iPad, but just couldn’t seem to justify it. I was waiting for evidence that the iPad could be a substitute for a traveling laptop.

All was resolved when my wife gave me an iPad for Christmas. I didn’t want to seem too geeky that day. But you can be sure that as soon as the crowds cleared and the dust was swept under the carpet I was playing with it.

It’s a marvelous thing to play with, if that’s what you want to do. I had to prove some utility though, and I’m happy to say that since Christmas I’ve demonstrated to myself that it can be a viable tool.

A quick audit:

The iPad does most everything that an iPhone does except that it’s neither a phone nor a camera. But I don’t think its dimensions lend themselves to being either. (Famous last words.)

The image quality on the screen is spectacular, every bit as good as you may have heard. It’s crisp, rich and bright. Still imagery and video look terrific on it. Even the speakers are decent.

The keyboard’s surprisingly good, though I’m not sure whoever designed it realized how much some of us use apostrophes and how much of a pain it is to flip between keyboards to access one. (It is a little disconcerting to not have a mouse, especially when you’re typing more than a few lines. My stubby fingers keep bumping the screen and moving the cursor to places I don’t want it to be.

Apples’ Pages application is no Microsoft Word. But it reads Word files, allows you to edit in its own proprietary format and exports files back to you in Word format.

With an application called PrintCentral I can print anything from the iPad to any of any networked printer. The newest version of the iPad operating system enables printing directly to certain kinds of wireless printers. But you probably have to have bought your printer in the last two weeks for it to be compatible.

The Safari browser is as fast my whatever network you’re using. (I don’t have the 3G version of iPad.) I can listen to iTunes radio or any of hundreds of radio stations on TuneIn Radio.

The killer apps, so far:

FlipBoard. If you grew up on magazines, FlipBoard is an aggregator of social media, print media and broadcasters with a visual interface that’s very magazine-like. Very nice.

My second guilty pleasure is iSpy. iSpy’s an aggregator of live cams, the perfect thing for those of us with insatiable appetites for live visual imagery of the world around us. At one glance, I can watch:

  • Surfers at Waikiki.
  • Researchers working in the snow along the Wales Strait in Canada’s Northwest Territory.
  • People shopping at an outdoor market in Kiev.
  • Cruise ships going in and out of the port of Hobart, Tasmania.
  • Kids ice skating in Tofte, Norway.
  • Tourists in Times Square.
  • Waves crashing against the quay in Banff, Scotland
  • Edinburgh Castle.
  • Sunbathers on the beaches near Melbourne, Australia.
  • A bird’s eye view of Istanbul.
  • The harbor entrance at Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts.
  • The surf at the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
  • Traffic in Dubai.
  • Ship traffic in the Hiroshima harbor.
  • Street scenes in villages across the United Kingdom, Europe and Asia.

These are just a few of the choices. You can even control the view of some of the cameras remotely from your iPad. Is that cool, or what? I captured the picture above of the Calabrian village of Serra San Bruno (Southern Italy) this morning just before the sun rose there.

They really should have called this thing the “Window.”

Oma, on the Sea of Japan, January 11, 2011


  1. Welcome to the club Chris! Glad to have you aboard. :-)

  2. Wow! I've been generally thinking about getting one, and wondered if I'd like one. I keep asking everyone, "so what's the deal? are they good? bad?" You're selling me on it! I wondered if you could print, so you've answered that. Sounds like it'd be nice on the road. The images look awesome! Enjoy!

  3. The images ARE awesome. Bob gave me one for my birthday and I have much more learning to do. I need to investigate iSpy.....since I think I'm a peeping thomasina. Thanks, Chris, for broadening my knowledge.

  4. This iSpy app is a kind of Big Brother, always one eye on everywhere, isnt'it? :)