Monday, July 5, 2010

A New Toy - iPad

When the iPad was announced, students and teachers in the school were asking me would I get one and my standard answer was "probably ........ but I'm not sure why"

I was having dinner with a past pupil a few weeks ago and he told me he was heading to the states so I asked him to do some shopping on my behalf. So here I sit blogging on an iPad. Still not sure why I have bought it other than a bit of self indulgence but I have no regrets, it is a very cool device.

I remember when the first iPhone came out there were only an handful of applications and no app store. It was a very limited device compared to the current iPhone and the growing range of Android devices snapping at Apple heels. This new iPad has a similar feel about it and I expect it will only get better as new versions are developed.

For example I only seem to be able to put in plain text for this piece as the toolbars I normally have available don't work on an iPad. One I really want as well is to be able to edit Google Docs but the interface on the iPad is the same as for the iPhone. On a device this size and this powerful it seems silly that I can't edit Google Docs. I have played with Pages and it is very good indeed. It would be nice to have a common file system for the various applications but I can live with that limitation for now and I'll email stuff to myself as needed so I can print etc. I'm not a big fan of flash but there is a lot of it out there and I'd prefer to be able to access it. Perhaps we will need to wait for Android tablets to get these kind of things.

I installed a nice application for writing code but it has the problem that getting code off the iPad and onto the server. I normally download a file, make changes and then put it back. The iPad doesn't really allow for moving files on and off easily. The application I installed takes a rather extraordinary step of installing a webserver on the iPad. To get files on or off the iPad for this app I have to go to another computer, fire up a web browser, put in the address of the web server running on the iPad which then allows me to download files from or upload files to the iPad. Much too convoluted for regular use.

I had a look at a couple of FTP applications but ran into a similar problem. I would be able to get files off the server to the iPad and vice versa with little problem but I can't then edit the files with the applications I would like to use. One FTP program did include a basic editor which might do and I'll check it out again to see if it will meet my needs.

Einstein once asked a student to write slowly on the board as he was a slow thinker. I'm no Einstein but I share the sentiment when it comes to typing. I'm not a very fast typist but that's ok as I don't think all that fast. I find though that I can type on the iPad about as fast as I normally type. I had thought I'd want to get the external keyboard but I'm not sure now I'll have a need for it.

The apps that work well on the iPhone are even better on the iPad. Things like VNC, email, web browsing, Stanza, Twitter etc. are nothing short of georgeous. Downloaded the Kindle app and bought a book and it seems promising too. YouTube and films look terrific. The iPad is in its element when you are consuming content rather than trying to create it.

Nonetheless a promising start and I'm looking forward to iOS 4 when it comes out. Most of all I hope the army of app developers find better ways to cope with the limitations Apple enforce.