Matt Carberry (kingpin248) wrote,
Matt Carberry

A most unexpected Christmas gift.

Christmas was unusual this year, in that we unwrapped the presents in the morning. Normally, my dad works midnight to noon, so we wait until he gets home to open everything. But this year, he worked noon to midnight, so we did things early. My family went all in on a single gift for me. Once I peeled away the shiny silver wrapper and opened the cardboard box, I was greeted with... iPad. (For those who might be curious, it's the 16GB, wi-fi only version.) My external reaction could be best described as thoughtful silence. My internal reaction was, "a computer? My computer works fine. I don't need a new one." I can't help but think that my visceral dislike of the piano/finger snapping commercial may have also played a role. (This one. And I'm not kidding when I say visceral dislike - every time that commercial comes on, the TV gets muted. That song got older much faster than "Hey, Soul Sister.") I waited at least fifteen minutes before peeling off the plastic, and there were at least five good minutes where I seriously considered asking if there was a gift receipt so I could return it. I promised to give it some time and a try to see if I would warm up to it; I was initially unhappy with the GPS I got two years ago, and now it's an important part of every trip I take.

I no longer want to return it, but I've got some gripes with the iPad - only some of which are Apple's fault. That second picture above shows what Apple passes off as an instruction manual. How do I work this thing? I did eventually find the user guide online. Later, I decided to put my pictures from the road trip onto the iPad. Once I did, it and iTunes optimize them not just once...but EVERY time I sync the two. If allowed to continue, every sync would be twenty-five minutes or more. I had to turn off the photo sync. And I would really appreciate some kind of method to attach a wi-fi antenna.

That last thing brings me to something that isn't Apple's fault at all. The iPad's functionality is severely limited without connection to the Internet. (In fact, broadband access is listed as a requirement for operation.) The problem is that my house doesn't have its own broadband Internet access. There is an unsecured network somewhere nearby (and there has been for years), and an antenna enables my laptop to connect and to sit on the desk or on my lap in bed. In order to get the iPad similarly connected, I have to place it in the windowsill, which isn't particularly comfortable for me. I mentioned this to my mom at dinner tonight, and she said it might make her more likely to get Optimum Online. I can understand her reluctance; she barely uses the Internet, and we had broadband at some time in the past (I think about ten years ago, while I was away at Cornell) and subsequently got rid of it. Here's the thing about it: for some reason, inexplicable to me, my mom still pays for an America Online account. If she canceled that, the net cost of changing over to broadband would be a few dollars a month in the first year, and not much more than that afterward. She might even be able to keep her e-mail address. And I have a wireless router presently sitting unused in storage, so that cost wouldn't be incurred.

The adjustment to the physical controls of the iPad isn't too bad; I've got the touch screen figured out, and I can handle the lack of a traditional keyboard. The bigger change is summed up in one of the phrases you hear in those commercials - "there's an app[lication] for that." I am so used to accessing most things over the Internet through the web browser. Now, most of those things have their own applications - which, having platform-specific design, are of much better quality. Now, it's just a matter of finding all the applications for stuff I want to use.

Regardless of how much I ultimately accept and integrate the iPad, I don't see it leading to a full-fledged conversion to the Cult of Steve Jobs, for two reasons. The first is that I have some applications that are specific to the PC, and I'm not sure running them on a Mac would even be possible (even if I were to reprogram them in a platform-neutral language like JavaScript.)* The second reason is dependence. Apple makes fine products, but the existence of the Genius Bar proves that they do break. If the iPad goes tits up, I have to bring it to them for repair. Contrast this to a problem I suffered with my Toshiba back in July. I don't remember the original symptoms; they might have included a consistent failure to properly recognize certain USB devices. I attempted a hard-drive format and clean OS install - and when that failed multiple times at the same point, I drove down to Best Buy, plopped down sixty dollars on a new hard drive, and my laptop was back up and running by the end of the night. And remember how I said I got the 16GB iPad? No way to raise that number. Bottom line - I will use the iPad. I'll almost certainly enjoy it. But I'm not abandoning Windows for my primary computer anytime soon.

(The repeated use of "application" throughout this post is entirely intentional. "APP" IS NOT A WORD!! STOP KILLING THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE!! GET OFF MY LAWN!! ::shaking fist::)

* Well, this is really just one application: the program I use to do the Z-Ratings. It's a QuickBASIC program I coded to compute the ratings and spit them out in HTML.

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