Wednesday, 3 February 2010
iPad, iPad, on the iShore
Well, it is finally here - at the end of January, Apple revealed their long long long awaited tablet to the world. Let's forget all the jokes about the name. I reckon Apple knew what they were doing on that one anyway - there's no such things as bad publicity, right ?
I followed the event on the web, and was pleased to see that according to the official Apple website page, VoiceOver is included. As is white on black, mono audio, and full screen zoom. "Ooooh," sez me.
At the moment my everyday computing machine for email, blogging, arsebook sorry facebook, and the like is a much abused MSI Wind U100 with Snow Leopard shoehorned onto it. This poor little beast has really got the crap kicked out of it by me over the last (nearly) year. It was last year's Valentines Day present from my fiance, and it's had Otto the guide dog chuck a huge solid rubber dog toy onto it - which caused a kernel panic of epic proportions and knocked the RAM out of it's slot, it's been knocked off the arm of the sofa twice - the result was weird screen issue which causes blue lines on the screen up near where the volume control on the menu bar is, and sometimes the w and space keys don't work due to the toast and Marmite debris caught under them. I wanted a netbook, but I didn't want Windows. Or any variant of Linux like Ubuntu, or Jolicloud (my opinion is that screen readers for Linux are arse gravy of the stinkiest sort, namely because I've had no success with them and distrust them as a result). I wanted a netbook with a Mac OS on it. My other computers are macs - the Mac Mini media server, the iMac Garageband machine in the studio, and the Macbook Pro that does dual duty as a bedroom media player linked to an lcd, and my performance machine for one of the bands I'm in. Also, I want my MobileMe files to be shared between my machines. I've got an iPhone 3GS too.
I've tried using my netbook as a performance machine but it just can't cope, despite the fact that all it does is play out pre made backing tracks through itunes or very occasionally Garageband. And much as it is cute to run Snow Leopard on it, the machine is not exactly happy about it, and often using VoiceOver on it is painfully slow in the extreme. The advantages of this machine over the Macbook Pro however are a very bright screen, and a small form factor. I've already got enough shite in my bag on a rehearsal night without adding a 15" Macbook to it. And said macbook is starting to show worrying signs of getting old - it's a 2006 model and it's already had to have a new battery, and a new charger as the last one melted. Sometimes now it refuses to charge, reports vague untrue battery levels and will die without warning (despite many PRAM resets). I'm not thrilled but it's been run hard and often put away wet, to coin a phrase.
So I'm looking for a Mac solution to replace the netbook and back me up in a pinch if the macbook pro throws a wobbler. So is the iPad it ?
Well, potentially. It's small, accessible to me, simple to use and the lack of multitasking could actually be a bonus if all you're doing is playing out backings. No background processes to hog memory. I am finding that the "touch it to select it" idea of the iPhone OS appeals to me more and more as a visually impaired person. I imagine this could have alot to do with the fact that my useful remaining vision works best at a short distance from the object I am looking at, too short a distance to comfortably use a conventional keyboard at the same time. I prefer to get closer than to zoom, as on the iPhone at least, if one were to zoom in enough for me to see the content at a distance, you'd only get one letter on the screen at a time. But the iPad with its bigger screen, well, that's a different matter.
The only sticking point for me is currently no Garageband on the iPad. But there are 140,000 apps for the iphone, and if Apple don't make an iPad version of GB, a third party will come up with a solution that does just as well. There are a few iphone accessories for musicians that may transfer well to the pad, and make me part with even more money.
The only real dilemma is 3g or not 3g ? I know I don't need more than 16GB because all my media (other than performance stuff, which 16GB would be fine for) lives on a mac mini running the Orb server. The iphone version of Orb Live will work on the ipad, and I anticipate an ipad centric version anyway. I have very little media on the iphone 3gs itself - it's all streamed if I want it. So there is no question of whether I need the 16GB, 32GB, or 64GB ipad (or "light, regular or heavy" as the jokers titter).
I have an unlimited data plan with O2 for my iphone, which I use now and again. Mostly it's used during car journeys when I either don't want to talk to my travel companions or am sat in the back of a car and can't hear what they're talking about in the front, or can't get a word in edgeways (which is every time I get in the car with Darryl and his mum). One the one hand I could tether my iphone to my ipad (so far there's nothing to indicate this couldn't be done) for £10 a month - but that does rather feel like a bit of a black eye considering I'm paying for unlimited data already on the iphone itself. I don't imagine O2 will let iphone 3gs owners suddenly tether their ipads to their iphones for free - nice idea, never gonna happen. And if I did tether I doubt I'll find a data plan for the ipad - or indeed a mifi like device - from anyone else which is less than £10 for 3GB and on only a 30 day contract. But you never know.
I've also considered becoming a Fon member (http://www.fon.com/en/info/whatsFon), which is something I may do anyway, but Fon won't help me whilst I'm speeding along in a car, needing some web action.
But for those times, the iphone would suffice just as it does now. The other option is to jailbreak my iphone and do some tethering trickery there, because the word seems to be that unless you're taking the piss with how much data you're sucking down with an illicitly tethered iphone, O2 are unlikely to even notice you. But I'm not keen on jailbreaking on many levels. I like actually Apple's closed app store system for the iphone and ipad. It means the potentially malicious or troublesome crap is filtered out before one gets a chance to install it.
What I'd really like is an iphone compatible tethering option (or a mifi third device option) which is genuinely pay as you go, i.e. you get one, and you put credit on it which lasts until you use it up, and then if you want some more you buy some. I would take an age to use up, say, 3GB - certainly longer than a month. From what I can tell, 3's mifi device is near it. If you buy the version with 3GB added in from the start, it states the data is only valid for three months. I can't seem to find anything yet that says how any of the other top ups are valid for.
However I've got a while to decide whether I'm going for a 3g ipad or not, and to be honest the decision may be more down the price of the ipad itself than anything else.
Before I knew the ipad was about to be born, I was saving up to put a bath in the en suite bathroom upstairs. Oh well. I'd rather have glass and aluminium than white acrylic. :)