Posts Tagged ‘ companion device ’

iPad Redux

To bring you up to speed from my last article, I did indeed preorder the iPad, and had it delivered by UPS on release day, 3 April 2010.  I ordered the 58GB memory model, and it was wifi only.  I also ordered the rubberized folio cover that Apple was offering at the time.  I immediately started using it – and it has been a constant companion device for me.

The problem I was trying to solve with the iPad was the limitations imposed by Laptops and netbooks when used in a general purpose note taking scenario.  Those limitations included, weight, low battery life, and the costs of task switching.  Using my laptop computer in the past for meetings – I found many times that the effort involved in disconnecting the machine from the wired secure network, moving it to a meeting room and lugging the power adapter and mouse along with it – caused me to defer to paper and pencil more often than not.   My initial reaction with the iPad was that its lightweight and legalpad-like form factor would make me keep it with me more than I ever did with laptops/netbooks – and I wasn’t wrong.  I completely gave up taking laptops or pen/pencil and paper into meetings.  Couple that with solid state flash memory, and long battery life due to limited power consumption when actively using it, and it fit perfectly into my vision of such a device.

Most of the software on it is free, and I have sprung for a few items that were not.   I did buy Numbers and Pages – but I don’t use them that much to have justified the cost (spreadsheets do come in handy from time to time).  I bought SketchBook Pro – and I use that quite a bit more, and I also bought WritePad – and have dabbled a bit with handwriting recognition — basically keeps the carpel-tunnel at bay by allowing me to switch between typing and writing.

Free iPad software I have used the hell out of: CJournal – a system that is a people oriented log and todo list manager,  and iThoughtsHD – a mind mapping system, who’s output files are compatible with ‘FreeMind‘ – which I also have loaded on all of my other workstations.  Others include PCCalc Lite (a scientific calculator), Biorythm (plots biorythms), SSH Terminal – for connecting to my systems remotely via SSH, and a few programming language related items – cbmHandBasic (C64 Basic emulator), Luna (Lua scripting language),  and iSkeme (a Schema implementation).  Having used the software over the past year and 3/4, I’ve more recently come to the conclusion that I need a better means of managing multiple projects and todo lists — the complexity of projects, both personal and work related, caused the CJournal software to show it’s limitations.  As a result I found ‘Get It Done 3.0’ – while free, a more full featured project ‘todo’ list manager than CJournal.  I will continue to use CJournal for what it excels at, logging meetings and phone calls with contacts – but the project management will be done in the new app.

My usage pattern has been split about 2/3 productivity, and 1/3 entertainment.  I have my full music library loaded on it – and I often use it at work with over-ear noise cancellation headphones to bring peace to my cubicle world.  The wifi connectivity is perfect for me – I already have cell phone with a data plan – so I knew if I were really out and about, I would use the phone to find directions or whatever else I would do truely mobile.  The iPad form factor doesn’t lend itself to truely mobile use – which is fine by me.  I really see the iPad as a highly portable laptop replacement for when I’m on the go – in meetings etc – and it has lived up to that perfectly.  While I don’t use it to write novels, I am looking at expanding my repetoire to capture ideas related to larger writing projects when I get the idea – and may not be in front of my workstation or laptop to capture it.

To that end, I’m now experimenting with two writing programs on the iPad that my initial evaluation leads me to believe are best in class: Werdsmith and A Novel Idea.  Werdsmith is designed primarily to capture your words – and even includes a project model keyed to the number of words you expect to write – so it can track your progress.  ‘A Novel Idea’ is more full featured, and is really designed not so much to actually write the whole enchilada, but instead to capture key aspects, such as characters, locations, scenes, and tie them together with a given project (novel).  Right now I’m leaning towards ‘A Novel Idea’ for my purposes – but Werdsmith’s tracking mechanism also makes me take pause.

Another key aspect of the iPad is it’s ability to hold reading and reference material.  This not only serves an entertainment purpose for those times when I have enforced downtime (such as waiting for the bus), but also allows me to keep a library of technical reference documents to have at my fingertips in meetings and other locales where I don’t have access to my workstation.  My younger colleagues tell me they don’t ‘get’ the iPad form factor – since you can do all the same things on the iPhone etc.  My point to them is, ‘wait a few years’.  At some point they are going to get old and need glasses, and reading text on an iPhone for any length of time beyond the length of an SMS message will be downright painful in a font that allows them to actually see it.

So here is my scorecard for the iPad:

  • Overall – B
  • Ease of use  – A
  • End user programmable – D
  • Availability of useful software – A
  • Readability – A
  • Portability/weight – B
  • Battery life – A

I’m so happy now with the iPad, that I didn’t feel the need to upgrade to the iPad2.  My one drawback is the iPad does not have the facilities to do any self contained development/scripting.  The result is spending $100 to gain access to the iPhone/iPad SDK program, and having an external machine capable of doing the development.  It is definitely not a general purpose computer from the user’s perspective.  I’ll talk about that more in a future installment.