iPad: Tidbits, Tips, and Quick Reviews

The first app I downloaded was iBooks, and I bought a copy of Robert B. Parker’s new Jesse Stone novel Split Image. (Regrettably, my favorite mystery author passed away in January.) I noticed that after I downloaded a few more books from the Gutenberg project (“Free Books” at the botom of the iBookstore page), that there’s apparently no way to reorganize the books on the bookshelf. Note the icons at the top right where you can display your library by the bookshelf or a listing. On the listing page, one can display (but not sort) by titles, authors, and categories. If anyone has figured out how to sort, let me know.

The next thing I did, roughly, was to use the apps tab in iTunes to rearrange the apps. I chose to create a new iPad when activated rather than import all my iPhone apps. That’s because my iPhone had become a dumping ground for a lot of free, reviewed, and experimental apps that I didn’t want on my iPad. My pages are 1) Home, 2) News & Weather, 3) Communications, 4) Science, art & cooking, 5) Utilities.

My iPad Home Page

My Current Home Page

Next, I went about checking if the few apps I elected to keep on the iPad had new versions that took advantage of the larger screen. appshopper.com is listing over 3,200 apps that are new or tuned specifically for the iPad. Many developers have come out with a new, perhaps free, update that avoids pixel doubling and utilizes the full screen. These included: Art Authority, Admit One, PCalc, NPR, USA Today, The Weather Channel, and Bento. The PCalc update looks fabulous on the iPad. I use it because it’s the best all around scientific calculator that supports RPN entry mode. There is a full screen, iPad version of Star Walk, but I haven’t downloaded it yet.

I noted that the New York Times app for the iPad is an Editors choice subset of the newspaper. The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) app is merely an attempt to either get you into a full subscription or register for limited content. I’m guessing the latter will result in a pitch to sign up for full access.

Then I started downloading some new apps: Kindle, Zinio, Pages, Keynote, Netflix, Good Reader (to download and view PDF and other files) and iChocolate2 (chocolate recipes). I started watching a movie on Netflix under “Watch Instantly” and it fired up and ran without a hitch. Developing an app for the iPad (and soon the iPhone) was a very, very smart move by Netflix. It’s a terrific app.  On the other hand, the ABC app for viewing selected ABC TV shows crashes within a few seconds of use.  I don’t recommend the current version.

It was easy to find technical books on Java, my wife’s specialty, at Amazon via the Kindle app. However, a casual search of the iBookstore, didn’t reveal textbooks or computer technical books. I’m still looking.

I found reading a book on the iPad to be fairly pleasant, provided I kept the backlight low. I’ve only seen a real Kindle once, and briefly, but I agree with Dave Hamilton. The overall utility of the iPad is so great that one can give up the superb screen of the real Kindle in trade.

Chess Pro has not yet been updated for iPad, but looks decent when pixel doubled. I downloaded Chess-Wise which is designed for the full iPad screen. Both apps, at the highest strength, will challenge any player below an Expert rating. I haven’t tried t Chess Pro because the price is somewhat high and because if I want a really, really strong Chess program to teach me a thing or two, I use Sigma 6.1.6 HIARCS 12 on my MacBook Pro.

I tried to view the Pages, Keynote, and Number tutorials on Apple’s Website, but, for the first time I can recall, Apple’s server(s) were so slammed, I couldn’t view them straight through. I was curious about the comment in the tutorial that one could move a Keynote presentation from a Mac to the iPad, but the specific technique wasn’t discussed. I finally figured out how to e-mail a Keynote preso from my Mac to an account on the iPad. Then, on the iPad, in e-mail, touch the attachment. It will launch and diaplay. Tap the center to show a button in the upper right, “Open in Keynote.” That will save your Keynote presentation in the library on the iPad. Of course, to get one out of the iPad, just mail it to an account on your Mac.

If Apple’s iPad is going to become more mainstream and business-like for content creators, at some point, Apple needs, I believe, to include AFP file sharing with the iPad.

Over the weekend, I saw Jeff Gamet’s article on the iPad manual. At first, all I did was to save a reference (icon) to it on the desktop, as Safari always allows one to do. (Touch the “+” symbol at the top of Safari, then select “Add to Home Screen.”) Later, Jeff told me about “Good Reader” that allows one to actually download and view .TXT, .PDF, .DOC, .HTML, iWork ‘08/09 files and a few others. So now my iPad PDF manual resides in Good Reader, a fabulous app for US$0.99.

I used Speed Test to test my iPad’s network speed on Wi-Fi and got 12 Mbps. The Wi-Fi iPad suports Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n. The MacBook Pro, on Ethernet, got about 21 Mbps with Speedtest.net to a similar server in Denver — which is the best I ever get. My AirPort Extreme is set up for 802.11n (802.11b/g) compatibility.

42 minutes of an HD TV show uses up about 1.4 GB, so I wouldn’t want to keep an entire season of a TV show on the iPad. Instead, I have a few favorite movies and episode or two of some favorite TV shows, right now, just for experimentation and fun. I’m glad I got the 64 GB version so I’ll have plenty of room for growth.

My overall impression of the iPad is that it’s a great computer, and it’s only going to get better from there. It’s perfect for moving about the house, browsing, checking the IMDB when watching a movie, reading books, taking notes, and watching TV or a movie somewhere other than my office. The only downside I noticed was, when sitting outside on a sunny Sunday, the screen is impossible to see outdoors. This is an indoor device.

Also, the iPad cannot yet replace my MBP for everyday work at the Mac Observer. Skype for iPhone is in an indeterminate state for iPad, leaving one unsure about the chat room capability. There’s no BBEdit or graphics manipulation tools. Cross app file manipulation is rare and awkward. It’s just not yet a complete content creation tool — though it may get there in 12-18 months.

Even so, I have a complete and total nerd-crush on my iPad. This is the future, and I’d suggest getting on the iPad flight 101 to the future very, very soon.