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Technology musings.

Technology, Writing

The iPad is here!

The iPad arrived by UPS at about 2 PM yesterday so I have had nearly a day to play with it.  If you don’t want to read the whole review then I can just sum this up with one thought – If you don’t have one get to an Apple Store and buy one.

Why? Well here is why I think so.

The Hardware

What can I say. This is a typical Apple Inc. product. Well built, aesthetically beautiful, and feels great to hold and use.  The new A4 processor is very snappy and seems to be able to handle any application or task I throw at it.  The display is bright and colors are vibrant.  The touch screen works just like an iPhone/iPod touch and is sensitive and responsive.

  • Hardware Pro’s
    • Very well built – all aluminum and glass with a few buttons for volume control, home screen, sleep, and sound mute.
    • Typical Apple design – beautiful and minimal
    • Fast processor and 64GB of storage (avail in smaller storage sizes) handle every task thrown at it
    • Display is bright and colors “pop” – it is really beautiful
    • Touch screen is sensitive and works very nicely
    • Speaker is reasonably loud and sounds decent
    • Battery life seems great. I believe the 10 hour use estimates.
  • Hardware Con’s
    • Heavier than expected.  It’s fine for holding in a lap or resting on a table but I wouldn’t want to hold on to this thing for extended periods while reading a book or watching a video.  I haven’t tried reading books in bed with it yet but I can imagine I would not want to do this while laying back – it is quite a bit heavier than my Kindle
    • No Camera!  I’m still scratching my head about this. This device is clearly capable of some great video chat and other video/photo applications.
    • The display is really glossy so it is quite reflective and is not usable in direct sunlight or bright lights for video (books seem to fare much better)
    • The iPad requires a LOT of power to charge.  While plugged into the USB port on the front of my Mac Pro (running Windows 7 at the time) the display indicated “Not Charging” while syncing.  Using the included power adapter charges the device however.  I often like to charge my devices from a laptop when traveling so I don’t need to carry lots of power adapters – it looks like this is NOT possible with the iPad for many.

Operating System

The OS on the iPad is the iPhone OS version 3.2.  For the most part it works as you would expect – like a large iPod Touch.  There are some new User Interface (UI) elements that take advantage of the larger display.  iPhone features/apps often start with a larger Index screen that slides to the left as you make selections – the iPad approaches this with a two pane approach – showing the index on the left part of the screen while the “content” area is displayed to the right.  There are also some new pop-up type menus that appear in some apps which seems efficient for navigating.  The on screen keyboard has changed a bit from the iPhone – it is definitely MUCH easier to type on than the iPhone/iPod touch.

  • OS Pro’s
    • iPhone OS will be familiar to many
    • New UI elements and features take advantage of larger screen
  • OS Con’s
    • No multi-tasking! This device has plenty of speed and multi-tasking would be quite useful.  Maybe in OS 4.0?

Included Applications

The iPad comes with a few applications (apps).  These include “Calendar”, “Contacts”, “Notes”, “Maps”, “Videos”, “You Tube”, “iTunes”, “App Store”, “Safari”, “Mail”, “Photos”, and “iPod”.  It is notable that these apps for the most part are not just up-sized versions of their iPhone counterparts and in some cases they have completely new UIs for the larger display form factor.  The UIs for the iTunes and App Store applications behave much more like iTunes on the desktop.  Mail has a multi-pane UI that makes it much easier to move around and manage e-mail.  Contacts looks to be a different application with an address book metaphor.    I was able to sync Mail, Contacts and Calendar with my Google Apps Premier hosted account without a problem.  The larger form factor and keyboard certainly make e-mail a pleasure to do on the iPad.  The iPod app has a new UI that clearly takes advantage of the screen real estate and feels more like desktop iTunes.  The version of the Safari browser on the iPad is very fast – it was able to download and render pages over an 802.11n network quickly and moving around pages is effortless. Safari on the iPad is a fantastic browsing experience.

  • Included Apps Pro’s
    • New designs take advantage of screen real estate and faster processor
    • Stable and fast
  • Included Apps Con’s
    • No Adobe Flash support in Safari. Maybe time will make this irrelevant but as of now there is a lot of content on the web in Flash and it can’t be viewed on the iPad!

Downloadable Applications

The App Store is already full of applications for the iPad.  Developers have had access to the SDK (Software Developer’s Kit) for 3.2 for about 6 weeks and many have been frantically writing and porting apps to take advantage of the iPad.  Apple has released version of iWork (Pages, Numbers, and Keynote) for $9.99 each – I have purchased all 3 but have yet to try them.  Apple has also released iBooks for free – iBooks looks to be a great book reader application – the color and UI are visually beautiful and the store is full of free books from Project Gutenberg.  Books can be purchased in iBooks and the collection seems to be fairly extensive though not as extensive as Amazon’s Kindle library (for now).  Viewing books on the iPad is a joy though I can’t really imagine holding this device by hand to read a book for extended periods because of its weight.  There is a good selection of 3rd party applications available for the iPad and this is sure to grow rapidly.  Of course all existing iPhone apps seems to work on the iPad though the experience of running them in a small window or through pixel doubling seems quaint after seeing native iPad versions of applications.  One item of note is that I had a fair number of crashes with 3rd party applications – certainly way more than with the iPhone.  Of course this is most likely due to the fact that the iPad has only been available for a day and the majority of developers didn’t have access to a device on which to test their code – they relied on the less than perfect iPad simulator in the SDK.

  • Downloadable Apps Pro’s
    • Apple apps seem polished and stable
    • 3rd party apps are showing innovative uses for the new screen real estate and OS features
  • Downloadable Apps Con’s
    • iPad apps seemed to be priced a fair bit higher than their iPhone counterparts.  $0.99 apps are popular on the iPhone whereas apps seem to be more like $4.99/$9.99 for the iPad.  Time will tell how this all shakes out. I certainly don’t begrudge developers from trying to make money from their hard work so if higher prices mean more quality apps then I am all for it.
    • A number of magazines have come out with interactive versions, including Time, Men’s Health,Popular Science etc. They seem to be pricing these at $4.99 per issue which seems a bit too high in my opinion.
    • Stability of the early apps seems to be less than stellar. I had quite a few crashes in some apps.  I’m sure this is because developer’s did not have access to an iPad during development and bet we will be seeing lots of updates in the coming days to fix the crash problems.

Must have apps

I found a few apps which are “Must Have” apps for me. These include (in no particular order):

  • iBooks – Free – and there are lots of free books to get started with. This one is a no-brainer.
  • iWork (Pages, Numbers, Keynote) – $9.99 each but seem quite worth it
  • ABC Player – Free – Great UI and ability to watch ABC television shows – crashes occasionally
  • Netflix – Free – I haven’t tried this yet as I don’t have Netflix but I think this will push me to subscribe
  • Kindle – Free – I already have quite a bit of Kindle content so this is a must have.  One caveat though is that this seems to only work for books as of now – Kindle magazine subscriptions did not appear in this app for me.
  • Diner Dash: Grilling Green – $4.99 – Fun and addictive game that is nice to use with a touch UI
  • Flight Control HD – $4.99 – another addictive fun game
  • BigOven iPad Pro – $4.99 – a great recipe app (There is a free Lite version too)
  • X-Plane – $9.99 – slick flight simulator makes use of the accelerometers
  • GotoMeeting – Free – Great if you use Gotomeeting for on-line screen sharing/meetings
  • Harbor Master HD – Free – addictive fun game
  • Tap Tap Radiation – Free – fun game – though it costs to buy more songs
  • The Weather Channel Max for iPad – Free – great access to weather channel resources
  • USA Today for iPad – Free – nicely done app for reading USA Today content
  • AP News – Free – nice news app
  • IMDb Movies & TV – Free – access to IMDb movie database – great for resolving those movie time debates over who an actor is
  • Evernote – Free – I use Evernote on my iPhones/Macs/PCs so this was a no-brainer.
  • Pandora – Free – great streaming music app
  • Dragon Dictation – Free – nice mobile port of the Dragon voice recognition software


The bottom line for me is that the iPad is a great device.  Overall I don’t view it as a “laptop replacement”  though I can certainly see plenty of occasions where taking only the iPad on a trip would be feasible. I think for many people who are not regular computer users the iPad will be “just enough” of a device to browse the web, access e-mail and other content on a regular basis.

  • Some things that surprised me
    • The display is really colorful and beautiful.  I expected it to look great but I was really blown away by the colors and clarity of the display.
    • Watching video content on the iPad is a pleasure.  A lot of this is due to the beautiful display but the size is just right too. I see myself watching lots of video content on the iPad.
    • There are lots of apps available on day one that take advantage of the form factor and UI.
    • Web browsing on this form factor and using touch gestures is quite nice.
  • Some things that disappointed me
    • This thing really needs a camera. Enough said.
    • The weight. The iPad is heavier than I expected and I don’t think I will be able to use it in some of the ways I use my Kindle for reading books. I am sure I will figure out how to use it effectively but I will probably be keeping my Kindle for bed time reading.
    • The lack of charging the iPad from laptop USB ports. I will have to carry the charger on trips. Not a huge deal but on international trips its nice to use the laptop to charge most/all of my USB devices.
    • The glossy display is very reflective and picks up fingerprints like crazy
    • While videos are beautiful on the display it is a 4:3 aspect ratio display so widescreen content will either be letterboxed or chopped at the sides
    • Still no Adobe flash support in Safari. I expcted this but it was still a disappointment to see some sites render with missing content.
    • Third party apps seem to be crashing much more than I am used to. I’m sure this will be resolved quickly now that developers have access to the actual iPad hardware.

Ultimately I think its important to think of what the iPad is capable of and what the future holds for devices like it. Slate/Pad devices really have the potential to transform the way we do computing and use the net on a casual or mobile basis.  I am not as excited about what the iPad means today as I am for what it’s potential is for changing the way people will access content, entertain themselves and get work done.  I’m off to dig into the new SDK and Ansca Mobile’s Corona development tools…..

Technology, Videos

SLCC 2009 Healthcare Track Videos

Below are the videos of some of the health care track sessions at the Second Life Community Convention 2009:

  1. Second Life Health Resources Tour and Challenges/Solutions to using SL for Healthcare
  2. Clinical Studies in SL
  3. Outreach and Support in SL
  4. Accessibility to and Benefits of SL
  5. The Virtual Helping Hands Team and Max the Virtual Guide Dog Demonstrate Accessibility

The audio/video quality varies from session to session depending on the venue and available AV equipment on a given day but hopefully these will be useful to folks who couldn’t make it to SLCC 2009.  Hopefully this will encourage you to join us for SLCC 2010!