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Lakeshore
An author of no particular popularity

Jay Lake
Date: 2010-05-03 05:59
Subject: [tech] iPad 3G, the good stuff, and a few questions
Security: Public
Tags:ipad, personal, tech
So Apple, via the Genius bar in the Portland Pioneer Place Apple Store, has made good on my iPad 3G hardware issues. As previously mentioned, both the sync problem and the misreported memory allocation turned out to be a bad USB cable. And yes, I know how unlikely that sounds, but so far it's been demonstrably true. I was lazy when I got the iPad and simply used my existing, identical iPhone USB cable which was already right in front of me, but it's been around a while and the head was slightly crimped. Component swaps from least-to-most-expensive are Troubleshooting 101, but chemo brain never thought to try it.

As mentioned before, it was a hardware issue with a side of user error. Just not an iPad 3G hardware issue. Also, my thanks to the Genius bar and the very thoughtful lady there who figured this out rather quickly and utterly refrained from in any way telling me what an idiot I was. It must have been tempting...

So Sunday, as my brain was fogged and messy from chemo stress except for the analytical part (which is why I can often blog extensively but not write fiction, for those of you who wonder about that) I pursued the AT&T issue. That is ongoing, and I got a callback yesterday which I will pursue that may shed some further light. I did work with the credit card company to get the address reset so I could turn on the data plan, but have not yet had a chance to work with any of the location-aware services that provides.

I also installed a number of apps. Wolfram Alpha is strange and wondrous, and I will need to spend some time learning how to use it. I'm experimenting with direct apps that do what I'd normally do on a browser on my MacBook Pro, such as the WordPress client and iWiki for Wikipedia access. The browser on my MacBook Pro is essentially a Swiss Army knife tool, that does a zillion things depending on the Web page and data source. The iPad 3G is not-so-gently directing me to a right-tool-for-the-right-job approach via dedicated apps that are easier to use than the Safari implementation on the iPhone/iPad OS.

Philosophically, this trend to specialized apps seems like a step back to me, but functionally there's some very nice stuff happening. This isn't precisely the "walled garden" issue that so many folks are complaining about it, it's more an aspect of the way the OS works in the first place, but I think they're related. I'll hold a firm opinion in abeyance until I've spent a lot more time with it.

Where it does seem to point to is the idea that the iPad is a computer for people who don't want to deal with computers. It is literally a one-button computer, though that's a bit of a disingenuous assertion given the role of the virtual keyboard. Giving people who are not interested in doinking with technology access to Wikipedia or whatever via a dedicated app is a lot friendlier than making them figure out URLs and signing up for accounts via Web interfaces. There's a completely different paradigm lurking just below the surface, and I'm only beginning to appreciate it.

The apps which have been fully iPadicized, like the address book, are quite impressive. Right now I'm especially enamored of the calendar. I know some people have been dismissive of the extensive book metaphor used in those apps, but by golly it works and it works well. See above about the paradigm. Also, I downloaded iBooks and put Green on my bookshelf, which was gratifying if perhaps a bit pointless.

Overall, the iPad impresses the hell out of me. And I'm not all that easily impressed about stuff like this. It's facile to say this is a giant iPod Touch, and in many essential aspects that's true, but the assertion utterly misses the point. This really is a different experience, in ways both straightforward and intangible. I'll be weeks and months understanding and exploring it, and doubtless I'll wind up with some rather different opinions and observations along the way.

As for the not-good, I could complain about the lack of multitasking, but release 4.x of the iPhone/iPad OS is on the way, so I won't bother until I see what's changed. It's not crippling, just mildly annoying, and I'll deal for now. My biggest issue with usability and functionality continues to be the way Safari is implemented. This is as much due to the way I use the browser on the MacBook Pro as anything, so I am somewhat barking up the wrong tree to complain, but the lack of tabbed browsing really does cripple Safari for me.

In the mornings before I go to work I read about 75 Web sites. That's how I build my daily Link Salad posts, and my equivalent of taking a morning newspaper. I have them organized into six groups in my Bookmarks bar, and I can load each group with a single click, then work my way quickly through the tabs. Safari simply doesn't support this. So instead of six clicks and some quick tabbing to get through my morning read, on the iPad 3G I have to do 75 clicks.

Um, no.

I've tried the Atomic browser, which supports browser tabs, but it doesn't seem to support single-click loading of bookmark sets, which is what I really need. So one of my biggest hopes for the iPad 3G, which was to use it for my morning browse-and-blog, remains void for now.

Per my comments above, I may be complaining about not being able to hammer a nail with a screwdriver. I don't think this is what Safari on the iPhone/iPad OS is for. This issue impairs the iPad 3G's value to me somewhat, but I doubt it matters to 95%+ of the users out there. So I'll wait and see if my paradigm shifts.

More to come as I use the device and learn more over time.

But for no, one other thing. How the heck to see xkcd's mouseover in Safari on the iPad 3G?

Post A Comment | 17 Comments | | Link






blitheringpooks
User: blitheringpooks
Date: 2010-05-03 13:07 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I have been edging towards an iTouch to replace my iPod, but the iPad is looking so intriguing... though too large to use as an audio device, so apples and oranges.

How is the lack of flash impacting things on the iPad?
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2010-05-03 13:16 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
though too large to use as an audio device, so apples and oranges.

If you mean too large in the "carry it like a Walkman" sense, yes, but it functions perfectly well as an iPod.

How is the lack of flash impacting things on the iPad?

For me, not at all, but I ignore 99% of Flash on my browser anyway. I'm not really the right person to ask that of.
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gvdub
User: gvdub
Date: 2010-05-03 13:26 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I'd consider using something like NetNewsWire or other RSS reader for those of your daily sites that have RSS feeds. Much more like a newspaper. Plus the new version of NNW supports Google Reader, so you can set up your reading list with Google Reader, then simply sync it to NNW.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2010-05-03 13:30 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
You know, I have never really gotten the hang of RSS. I think I need to spend a couple of hours with someone who's really on top of it.
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(no subject) - (Anonymous)
Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2010-05-03 13:39 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Well, that's why I have them in six groups. I don't *want* 75 tabs. My largest group is about 25 tabs, and that's actually pretty annoying already.
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David D. Levine
User: davidlevine
Date: 2010-05-03 19:15 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Try bloglines.com as an RSS reader. It does basically what Google Reader does but without Google's baggage. (It has Bloglines baggage instead, of course, but as Bloglines is a very small company its baggage is not as heavy.)

One of the cool things about Bloglines is its "Subscribe with Bloglines" bookmarklet, which is very good at finding RSS feeds on pages that don't make them obvious. I actually use this bookmarklet to find RSS feed URLs which I then turn into LiveJournal syndicated accounts.

Because, to be completely truthful, I haven't logged into Bloglines in I don't know how long; the RSS feeds I really care about are incorporated into my LJ Friends page. Not that this would work for the number of feeds Jay follows.

Jay, if you want an RSS primer, feel free to pick my brain the next time we see each other IRL.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2010-05-03 19:23 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I hope to be at Fireside tomorrow, so maybe we can chat there. Of course, you how I've been about making it there...
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Max Kaehn: Hack
User: slothman
Date: 2010-05-03 17:59 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Hack
I quite like Google Reader as an RSS aggregator. It allows me to group multiple RSS feeds in folders so I can just put all the SF authors I follow (other than the ones on LiveJournal) in one, all my comics in another, etc. It helps a lot that Firefox will notice when a site has an RSS feed and will put the RSS icon in the URL bar, so I can just click on it and have Firefox add it to my Reader.

I think janetl is not unreasonable in her wish to play it safe, but thus far I haven’t seen privacy issues beyond the bad start to Buzz, and I suspect Google are going to learn from that and be more cautious in future. My experience of Reader is that other people can only see items you’ve explicitly marked shared, and you choose whether or not they can comment on them.
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Autopope
User: autopope
Date: 2010-05-03 13:34 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I hate NewNewsWire on the iPhone -- I read so many RSS feeds via Google Reader that it basically barfs and dies on my 3G rather than loading anything. You might get further with an iPhone 3GS or iPad (more memory) but take this as a warning.

However, I've had good results from RssRunner; not as visually flashy, but much faster and much more servicable.
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Stephanie C. Leary
User: sleary
Date: 2010-05-03 15:08 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
The performance is much better on the iPad (of course, I have the wifi version, so: salt, grain). The app itself is one of the best designs I've seen.
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Autopope
User: autopope
Date: 2010-05-03 13:32 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Strong suggestion?

If you haven't already done so, you might want to go grab a copy of Documents To Go Premium. The current version (3.2) added decent Google Docs and Dropbox support for hosting files, so it's a shedload easier to sync Word documents than iWork (as long as you've got a Dropbox or Google Docs account). And the next release, already pre-announced, will be a free upgrade that adds proper iPad screen scaling.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2010-05-03 13:34 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Chemo brain failed to mention it. Already using it in conjunction with DropBox, per a recommendation you made on your blog recently. Thank you!
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Peter Hollo
User: frogworth
Date: 2010-05-03 13:34 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Stupid question, but have you tried tapping the image?
I noticed, with my very brief play with an iPad a couple of weeks back, that with mouseover menus the first tap will trigger the mouseover event (the menu opening) but not send it as a click on the link until you tap a second time.

Oh wait. Scratch that. It's not a javascript onmouseover at all, it's just the title text in the image tag. You'll have to view it somewhere like here instead I guess!
Damn internets.
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ubiquitous_a: drhorrible-shoulderdance
User: ubiquitous_a
Date: 2010-05-03 13:59 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:drhorrible-shoulderdance
But for no, one other thing. How the heck to see xkcd's mouseover in Safari on the iPad 3G?

Well.....perhaps not so surprisingly, there's an app for that. :) Or rather, *apps*. There are several free ones in the app store, though I don't think there are any yet specifically for the iPad.

I like a couple of them for various reasons, but this one in particular is great because it allows you to download and store a cartoon on your iPod Touch/iPad (so you don't need to be connected to view them later, unlike all of the others which do require that you're connected to see anything at all), and it shows you the mouseover text by just touching down on the comic for a bit (which some of the others don't do).

http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/xkcd/id303688284?mt=8

I would try a few of them though (just search using "xkcd") and see how you like the various options. They're all free, at least, so go crazy! :)
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2010-05-03 14:00 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Hah! Talk about specialized apps. The walled garden bears peculiar fruit indeed.
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ubiquitous_a: drhorrible-shoulderdance
User: ubiquitous_a
Date: 2010-05-03 15:01 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:drhorrible-shoulderdance
Indeed. :)

I have to admit, I'd be tempted to try my hand at creating an app of some kind or another, were it not for the fact that apparently you have to have a Mac to do so.

Because I have an iPod Touch, and therefore am limited in connectivity, I personally like the apps that retain information (like articles, and photos) that can be viewed when WiFi isn't available. The Huffington Post and MSNBC apps have that feature, which is pretty cool.
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ubiquitous_a: bridget-karaoke
User: ubiquitous_a
Date: 2010-05-03 15:29 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:bridget-karaoke
Oh, and by the way....speaking of xkcd, have you seen this?

http://www.vimeo.com/7151435
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