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Living with my IPad – literally!

I have had my IPad for 4 weeks or so and during that time it has hardly left my side – my wife is threatening to sue me for adultery, citing my IPad as co-respondent – I have promised to attend counselling sessions!

But, seriously though (really – I was only joking – sort of) what are my views on this amazing piece of kit after having used it in real life situations over the past few weeks?

Well, first off I am still convinced that it will, eventually, change the small net book computing market. It is comfortable to use and for emailing and web surfing there is no equal. Some web sites have not been fully optimised for the IPad – I am not just talking about the absence of Flash which, admittedly, can be annoying at times – but as time progresses this will improve (this, after all is still version 1).

What does take a bit of getting used to is the lack of any accessible file structure per-se. There are numerous applications which allow you to have a quasi windows – explorer experience but via your laptop which to me somehow misses the point.

However, the application market place is a wonderful resource and there are excellent applications that enable easy working with Microsoft Office files. Best of these is Documents To Go which enables easy synchronisation with DropBox and Google Docs.

Additionally there are some great notetaking applications available – I like using Note Taking HD which enables note taking by writing with your finger on the screen – a bit strange at first but you quickly get used to it. Notes can then be emailed in PDF format. The best application is Evernote which enables synchronisation between all my computers and my Iphone.

I have even made Skype calls using the IPad. Video calls are not possible but the sound quality for voice calls is excellent. I won’t embarrass a well known commentator with whom I was speaking the other day – he didn’t realise that the IPad had a microphone!

Using it in meetings is an interesting experience – it usually ends up with people spending more time talking about and looking at the IPad than the main subject of the meeting.

So my verdict – very definitely 10/10.

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My New IPad – I love it!

I have at last received my new Ipad and I make no apologies for being very excited. As soon as I heard about the launch of Apple’s latest technological marvel, I just had to have it and have been waiting impatiently until the opportunity finally arose and I could lay my hands on one.

After some clever manouvering I was able to order one from the States and waited with ever increasing anticipation until it was delivered today. I even tracked its progress via the DHL web site and am only too grateful that I managed to avoid the Icelandic Volcanic disruption (as I re-read this, I realize how sad this sounds. I really ought to get out more!)

So what are my first impressions of this technological super star? Well to begin with it was certainly worth the wait. Anyone who has an Iphone will appreciate the superb design and tactile experience it provides (as well as being able to make a phone call – which is almost secondary). Imagine, if you will, that canvas multiplied 6 times and you begin to get the Ipad.

But, of course, it is much more than a larger Iphone. The design of the ipad specific applications are a pleasure to behold and more are becoming available on a daily basis. The crispness of the screen for viewing photographs and other graphics is superb.

The new ibook application takes e-book reading to a new level with its replica book interface and page turning graphics. Interestingly, the Kindle application is also available on the ipad – so I can choose which device to use when reading my Kindle e-books.

An indulgence maybe, but it does mean that if I am traveling I no longer need to take my Kindle and my computer – I could manage with the ipad on its own.

Will the Ipad replace the lap top – probably not in the short term. Although I am typing this blog using the ipad keyboard accessory – every time I reach out to touch the screen, instead of using a mouse, I feel like Tom Cruise in Minority Report – I am not certain how easy it would be to work on a spread sheet. I will have to give that a try.

Will the Ipad replace my net book – almost certainly as I will be able to carry out virtually all of my Cloud Computing requirements in a much enhanced user experience mode. The email and writing abilities are easy to use and practical.

Is the Ipad the amazing new paradigm shift that will change the face of modern day mobile computing – the jury is still out on that, but it is definitely a start. I wonder if Apple will produce a desktop touch screen version… that would be interesting!

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My computer doesn’t understand me (sob!)

Back in the distant past of the late 90’s, I experimented with using voice dictation software. This was meant to be the next great thing – imagine, dictating directly to the computer, just print out and you’re done. No need for secretaries, cut down on your overheads and your away. Simples!

Except, of course, it wasn’t. The act of talking s..l..o..w..ley and clearly was tiresome. Correcting all the misspelling and gobbleygook took forever and by the time you had something anywhere ready to send out as a letter, the day had gone and you wondered why you bothered. Needles to say the experiment was soon abandoned.

Interestingly, with the advent of the Iphone, there are a number of voice activation packages which I have been trying, together with the phone’s own built-in software. What is apparent is that after all these years, I can’t see a major improvement to the results.

The three apps I have been playing with are:
Dragon Dictate Interestingly, this is the same software that I used in the 90’s now upgraded for the iphone. I must confess that I had limited success with this and one of its drawbacks, apart from its accuracy (or lack of) is the requirement to copy and paste the final message into your text or email application. All time-consuming.

Vlingo I had more success with this and, as with most of these apps, the more you use it the better they get. The nice touch about this app is that by giving the command “email” the programme enters the dictation directly into the email application without the need to copy and paste. The accuracy is not bad and I shall persevere with this.

Dial2Do This is not an Iphone application as such but a hands free aid to use when driving. The web site enables you to set up your contacts (you can import these from Google mail, Outlook etc) and configure the services you want to use. You can set up email, twitter and text plus a few others so by dialing Dial2Do and saying “text” or “email” for example, you can dictate a message which is sent without any further intervention. Depending on your phone connection at the time, the accuracy is not bad and its very useful for those occasions when you remember something you should have sent just as you have left the office.

There was a wonderful moment in one of the original Star Trek films when our intrepid heroes travelled back in time to 1980’s San Francisco (as one does) and Scotty was trying to work on a 1980’s PC by talking to it. He was quite dismissive when it was pointed out that he had to use a keyboard and mouse.

With the advancements in all things IT, it is interesting that voice activation is not quite there yet – in the end, in this instance, the old ways are often the best.

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Kindle (Part 2) – Function over form?

I had an interesting meeting with David Terrar discussing all things Cloud, gadgets and generally putting the world to rights. I happened to mention my new Kindle and that my wife, who is a self-confessed bookaholic, said she would never use one.

There is no substitute, she says, for the feel and smell of a new book and all that it evokes and reading from an e-book just doesn’t offer an equivalent experience. In this, of course (as with most things!) she is right – but it started me thinking about the way we adapt to technology and how what is important at one point in time, changes its emphasis as we embrace the current trend.

Take the LP for example. Those of us of a certain age will have fond memories of the experience of bringing home a new record – not just for the music inside the sleeve, but for the enjoyment of the sleeve itself and the write ups on the back.

With the advent of the CD, we felt that it was a poor substitute for the LP. But what the CD provided for the first time was that our music collection had become portable. Yes, a decision had to be made as to what music was going to be taken on a long journey but, nevertheless a music selection could be brought with you.

And then came the Ipod. The tactile experience of music buying disappeared entirely but what replaced it was the total portability the Ipod provided. It was no longer a question of what music you chose for a journey – you took the whole collection!

Will the same happen with the ebook? I wonder if the ability to take your whole reading collection with you on holiday or – in the case of the Kindle – the ability to choose a book and immediately download it will prove that function over form will win the day?