iPad

When you reach a certain age, the question “what would you like for your birthday” becomes more or less meaningless. Being an adult with disposable income, you can easily buy all the things you “need” (like new external hard drive for backups, new fancy mouse, etc..) and all the reasonably priced things you “sort of want” (eg. half the stuff featured at /r/ShutUpAndTakeMyMoney). The only stuff that you won’t impulse-buy are expensive, luxury items – such as an iPad for example.

Personally, I don’t really need an iPad. I have a desktop that is fairly good at running video games, a laptop that is pretty good at being a laptop and letting me launch vim and write blog entries while away from my desk, and an iPhone that is my mobile internet platform. There is just no reason why I would need a tablet computer at this moment, other than it just being a cool toy. There are a lot of people out there that use these devices as laptop substitutes, but I don’t think I could do that. You see, I’m not a consumer – I’m a creator. I make content. I blog, I tinker and I program. If I’m sitting at a computer, chances are I’m not just goofing off watching Youtubes but actually engaging in the process of content creation. This is also why I get cranky if you insist on interrupting me. But I digress.

An iPad is not really a good creation platform. Not yet at least. It is a device made almost exclusively for consumption. It works great as an e-book reader, a mobile a web browser, RSS reader, internet video watching device and etc. But not something you would use to make things. Typing on touch screen sucks and lack of a real file system makes storing and moving around your content rather difficult and limited. Locked ecosystem means you can’t easily create executables or scripts. It is more or less a toy. And a rather expensive one at that. But, I still kinda wanted one for consumption related purposes.

This year I basically told everyone to give me money, and promptly blew all of it on a purely consumer-driven device. And you know what? It was money well spent.

Brand Spanking New iPad

Brand Spanking New iPad

Isn’t an iPad just a big iPhone though? Well, it is, and it isn’t. Because of it’s size, the device actually supports a wider range of touch gestures than the phone and feels more like one of these “future of user interfaces” videos. The twitter app for example uses a full range of motions – two finger swipes, pinch motions and etc. It really does feel like playing with a deck of cards that’s trapped under the glass. It works very well.

I’m quite impressed with the Retina display. I think I tweeted about it a few times, but the image quality on the device is quite amazing. Very crisp and sharp. I was comparing it to the display on my MBP and my 23″ ASUS monitor and found them both fuzzier. If anything, the device is worth buying just for the display alone.

I’m also quite impressed with the battery life. I got on Wednesday, and even though I used it quite extensively (watched bunch of videos every evening, reddited and tweeted from it during the day) I didn’t have to charge it until Sunday evening – and even then it still had 30% of charge left. I could have probably gotten another day out of it. Maybe I’m using it wrong – don’t know. I haven’t really played games on it or used skype extensively which are the things that tend to drain my iPhone battery the most.

Another shot

Another shot

It’s rather fast, responsive and works great for internet browsing, twitter/facebook and as a dedicated Alien Blue device. I’ve been messing around with it for a few days now and I must say it makes a good addition to my assortment of computing devices. I might have not needed one, but now that I have it, I really like the seamless mobile access to the web. Let me give you a use case to give you an idea of what I’m talking about.

Let’s say I’m sitting on the couch watching a movie and suddenly remembered I needed to do something on the interwebs. I could use my phone which is in my pocket, but might need to fill out a web form or two, and the tiny screen will make that into a chore. I could also grab my laptop and for the purpose of this exercise let’s say it is sitting somewhere within my reach. Still, I have to grab it, crack it open, log in, navigate to where I need to go, and etc. And if the laptop happens to be off, I might need to wait a few minutes for it to boot.

The iPad is a nice device that fills the niche in-between. It is perfect for situations where you need something with a bigger screen than the iPhone, but don’t necessarily need to boot a full-blown general purpose operating system. Just grab it, peel the cover off and go.

And yes, I invested in one of them smart cover things:

Smart Cover

Smart Cover

It works quite well. If you roll it up into a triangle stand, and put the device on a flat surface typing is actually not half bad. When you are not using it as a stand you can fold it in half, and lay it flat against the back where it provides an extra friction grip surface.

Before you correct me, let me mention that there do seem to be ways to actually make stuff on iPad. There is a handful of apps that actually make it into a little bit more than a convenient web browser wrapped in shiny plastic:

  • Diet Coda – is a web design suite designed for the platform. While I haven’t used it, it looks pretty interesting. Tad on the expensive side as far as apps go, but it might be worth while.
  • Paper – is an amazing little drawing app, though to unlock it’s full potential you really need a stylus.
  • Photoshop Touch – which gives you a large chunk of functionality of the real thing on your handheld device.

Still, there are not many, and without a mouse and a keyboard your creativity tends to be stranded and these apps are not nearly as powerful as their desktop equivalents. Well, except maybe Paper which seems to be designed specifically for this type of a device. I’m kinda tempted to buy a cheapo stylus to see if I can sketch and/or take hard written notes on it. To tell you the truth, something like the iPad, Paper app and a stylus was all I wanted when I was still in school – an elegant, seamless way to digitize my class notes. But I digress.

What other apps are there that let you be creative and productive on the iPad? Are you an iPad owner? What are the must-have apps, and/or tips and tricks I should know about? Let me know in the comments.

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10 Responses to iPad

  1. Garrick UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more. I pre-ordered the new iPad (iPad 3, JesusPad, whatever) the day they were announced and love it. To be fair, this is my second iPad, I had a 1st Gen 64gb model which I sold to fund the new one.There are plenty of things I still run to my overpowered laptop for, but whenever I can get away with it, I use the iPad instead.
    The retina screen is amazing, and makes every other screen I look at seem sub-par. I can’t wait for these high resolution screens to be the norm on all computing devices.

    As for creative apps, Sketchbook Pro is great if you like drawing, although has a much steeper learning curve than Paper.
    I do much of my writing in Elements which is a plain-text, Dropbox connected, markdown editor.
    If I need to do any word processing that needs additional formatting for school, I use Apples Pages app.
    I use Prompt if I need to SSH into my home computer or server, and the most excellent Screens VNC client for screen sharing (has saved my ass a few times).
    The WordPress app is pretty decent, although I still write most everything in Elements and then copy and paste into WordPress for blogging.
    The whole Apple iLife and iWork suite of apps that are available for iPad are top notch (Pages, Numbers, Keynote, iPhoto, Garage Band, and iMovie). There are very few apps better for what they are designed for.

    Glad to see you have joined the club. We can now start chanting “One of us, one of us…”

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  2. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Google Chrome Linux Terminalist says:

    @ Garrick:

    I actually had this crazy idea to get the Keynote app, see if I can make it reliably run my ppt files, get the VGA connector and use the device for my lectures. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem like there is a presentation clicker that the Keynote supports on iPad. :( Still, I may check it out.

    Oh, and I will definitely check out Elements – thanks for the tip.

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  3. IceBrain PORTUGAL Mozilla Firefox Linux Terminalist says:

    See, your comment is a great example why I don’t particularly want an iPad (though I wouldn’t refuse if someone offered me one :D). I would want to write a Python script that somehow captured the clicker’s input and translate it into a Keynote command, or any other of the hundreds of small automations I did to my laptop and desktop.

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  4. Garrick UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    @ Luke Maciak:
    Don’t quote me, but I think the Keynote Remote app for the JesusPho…er…iPhone will control the iPad app as well.

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  5. Victoria Netscape Navigator Mac OS says:

    I am writing this on my iPad :) I owned the 1st one (a present from benevolent boss) and I bought the 2nd one as soon as it came out. I never thought I’d use it as extensively as I do.

    Love gaming experience like Sudoku and Zuma and Plants vs Zombies. Desktop doesn’t even come close to touch device for that. I read on iPad too so I gave my old eInk device to my mom. Browsing the net, checking emails – yep. But I do not work on iPad despite having Textastic – which is great (has ssh and ftp and what not).

    What is also amazing is Dropbox – I don’t remember when I used itunes for anything.

    One of the drawbacks is using passwords – I have 1password set up on my machines but still even logging into app is rather complicated with any decent password. Othen than that and Flash I love iPad experience and I’ll be getting retina one at some point (I fell so hard for the retina MBP with ’75% less glare’ :) and I’m not even an Apple aficionado).

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  6. Gothmog UNITED STATES Google Chrome Windows Terminalist says:

    Welcome to the fold, Luke! I became the apple/iPad admin for my shop a couple of months ago (on top of my other responsibilites, sigh) and just got an iPad 3 two weeks ago.
    I gotta say, I agree with you- it fills the gap between phone and laptop QUITE well.
    I use it to take notes in Penultimate/Evernote in meetings, browse Reddit with Alien Blue and remote into work systems with ‘Jump’.

    Moreso- I’ve been enjoying GAMES on it- it’s kind of shocking.
    Draw Something- this game is a blast with the extra real-estate
    Plague Inc- Beating the game as a fungus is HARD. Damn fungi.
    NS Hex- fun turned based tile placement strategy
    Kard Combat- iOS reskin of ‘Spectromancer’, made by the creator of Magic the Gathering
    Kingdom Rush- beautiful and HARD tower defense game
    SoulCalibur- it’s amazing to me I’m holding a Dreamcast in my hands when playing this
    Pinball Arcade- my wife and I have been playing ‘Medeval Madness’ and ‘Tales of Arabian Nights’ like crazy. The fighting over highest score has been fierce!

    Of course, none of them are very deep… I don’t think they make deep games on the iPad.

    I’ve played TOO MANY games of Battleship (ugh) with my 5 year old. What’s more, he’s watched 3+ hours or Transformer toy reviews using the Youtube client. I’m amazed how quickly he took to the touch interface. I can’t tell if it’s superior apple design or just that he’s 6 and learning interfaces is easy when you’re young. I mean, I learn that kind of stuff no problem, but that’s part of my job. My wife has had a trickier time of it.

    I’ve found that Comic Zeal is a brilliantly designed comic reader. I’ve been enjoying Transmetropolitan, Fables and Powers-

    There ARE drawbacks- but not many of them hold up once you jail break the device. Have you jailbroken yours yet, Luke? The nerd in me gets a special thrill BENDING a device to my will, instead of being forced to dance to Apples tune.

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  7. Peter GERMANY Safari Mac OS says:

    Most of the good apps have been mentioned so far, but here are a few more:
    Timeli, a calendar for long events. While the standard calendar app works well, especially the synchronization to other devices, it skeumorphic shit, just like contacts app.
    Kingdom Rush is a nice tower defense game. (Also playable for free as Flash game.)
    Also, I like the TED app for watching the videos; you can even download them and watch offline.

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  8. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    @ IceBrain:

    Very true. It’s a great little toy, but comes with serious limitations.

    @ Garrick:

    Yeah, I think I have heard that somewhere else too. The question is: do I really want to stand in front of my class controlling an iPad with an iPhone? By that I mean, the phone is a bit bulky as a clicker… Plus it does not have a built-in laser pointer, whereas most of the clickers I have used so far do. I might need to test this further.

    @ Victoria:

    Yeah, the lack of flash kinda blows. I’m annoyed that I can’t watch my Escapist videos (zero punctuation, etc..) on the device without shelling out cash for their vip club or whatever it’s called. :(

    @ Gothmog:

    I have not jailbroken it yet. I’m sort of afraid that I will Jail-brick it instead. Cause that has happened to me before – I have bricked quite a few appliances just by doing updates. Latest casualty was a Barracuda SSLVPN which essentially self-updates. It has a button that you press, it downloads a firmware upgrade, applies it and reboots.

    I had a Barracuda tech on the line with me, logged into the box remotely, I had him do a once-over on all the settings to make sure I don’t have any problem-features switched on. He assured me all was fine and I should go ahead and update. Box went down so hard it wouldn’t even boot.

    Later I was told I have somehow found a one-in-a-million bug that the developers did not even think was possible to trigger. That’s sort of my luck. So I’m always hesitant to jailbreak new devices. :P

    @ Peter:

    I love Kingdom Rush! Thanks for the suggestions.

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  9. Gothmog UNITED STATES Google Chrome Windows Terminalist says:

    Honestly, jailbreaking the iPad was super-easy & painless. I used the ‘absinthe’ tool and it was as easy as plugging it in and rebooting & wiping the iPad (make sure you back up the iPad before jailbreakage)

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  10. Lucia CANADA Netscape Navigator Mac OS says:

    @ Gothmog:

    Have you had any experience upgrading your iPad after jailbreak? I feel the same as most that it sucks with all the apple induced limitations on the iPad, but I still want it for all it’s functionality. Jailbreak solves that problem nicely and it’s easy to do, but upgrading looks a pain unless your willing to lose data. (My iPhone4′s iOS is so old, I can’t update most apps due to incompatibility issues – 3/4 way through FFIII and unwilling to risk all my hard earned levels and gear!)

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