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ATPM 16.08
August 2010



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Segments: Slices from the Macintosh Life

by Linus Ly,

Size Really Matters

One Christmas Day a few years ago, my wife surprised me with an iPod touch. For the next few months I was happy with it. It was a step up from my 10 GB iPod. All of a sudden, I not only could listen to music and podcasts but also was able to do e-mail and Web surfing, albeit not that comfortably because of the small screen size.

I took it to work and checked e-mail using the public library’s Wi-Fi. Coming home, before stepping inside I would check e-mail one more time. Then the battery started to lose charge too quickly, but I adapted by always having the charger with me. Next, Wi-Fi just stopped working, and no more e-mail or Web surfing for me.

I still used it for music, podcasts, and even some videos. I was able to add apps via the Mac laptop. Before the two-year anniversary, the iPod touch simply stopped charging and would not even turn back on. The local Mac shop, Tekserve, declared its logic board dead, too expensive to replace. My wife took it to an Apple Store and was told the same thing.

Any red-blooded consumer would go out and buy a new iPod touch or something similar. I wanted to, also, but I really wanted an iPod touch with a camera. I found that I often use my cell phone to take photos, mostly because I usually had it with me, but also because of its form factor. An iPod touch is about the same size as a cell phone and would make a decent camera. (I always use family plans that cost about the same as a single iPhone plan, so the iPhone is out of the question for me.) The big issue with the cell phone is that getting photos out of it is a painful process. I want something that I can hook up via USB to initiate the photo-transfer process.

As I went back to using my 10 GB iPod, I waited for the announcement of an iPod touch with a camera. Storage got bigger for the iPod touch, the Nano got a video camera, the iPhone 3GS was announced, etc., but no camera-enabled iPod touch. Oh yes, the iPad came out too, all Magical and Revolutionary, supposedly. When the iPhone 4 came out, I unreasonably thought that an iPod touch with camera would finally come out, and of course it didn’t. In my moment of despair, I settled for the iPad. After all, the iPad is just a larger version of the iPod touch, no?

As a former iPod touch owner, I don’t see anything magical or revolutionary about the iPad. The first iPhone was certainly revolutionary. The bigger screen is nice but not magical. The iPad sure is a larger version of the iPod touch. It is not necessarily a bad thing to be described as such. Size really matters, and whereas with the iPod touch I would curse the small screen as I surfed the Web, with the iPad I was a happy surfer. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that, even without Flash, most of the sites I frequent worked fine. Most of the apps I got for the iPod touch work great on the iPad, even when magnified two times to fit the larger screen. I even bought more apps directly from the iPad, something I never did with the tiny iPod touch screen.

My iPad bliss was short-lived. Soon enough, the Wi-Fi problem reared its ugly head. I heard about the issue but thought maybe since I’d waited a few months after the iPad debuted the problem would go away by then. It was a very frustrating problem. The iPad would not be able to remember the Wi-Fi password and would ask for it again and again. Sometimes it would take it and resume working again; other times it would accept the password but still could not load Web pages or fetch e-mail.

At some point, over-confident that I had the lengthy password memorized, I entered it incorrectly and the iPad simply did not ask for it any more but also was not able to connect to the Net. I had to reset the network settings and was again prompted for the password. Apple had a long list of things to try to fix the Wi-Fi memory loss, and most of them sounded useless. I actually tried the one about adjusting brightness to the max, but it didn’t do me any good. For all its capabilities that almost match a real computer’s, the iPad is still basically an Internet appliance. Without the ability to connect to the Net, its value diminishes.

Luckily, my discontent with the iPad was also short-lived. Along came the iOS 3.2 update for the iPad, and like magic Wi-Fi has worked constantly ever since. Now this is the way it should be. Enter the Wi-Fi password once and never have to worry about it again, unless of course the password is changed at the router or the iPad is restored.

Speaking of which, the iOS 3.2 update did not go smoothly, as the installer crashed. The iPad totally lost its mind and had to be restored. Good thing there was a good backup on the Mac, something created by the installer prior to updating the iPad to 3.2. Mere days before the update, I decided to sync my entire 8 GB iPhoto library to the iPad, so the restore process was painfully slow as there was much data to be copied.

Fortunately, the whole mess is now behind me, and I am again happily using the iPad. I still limit my use to e-mail and the Web. I bought Autodesk Sketchbook Pro hoping I would finally draw cartoons completely away from the pencil-and-paper method, but that has not happened. I also got a Chinese-teaching program in hope of getting my son interested in learning Chinese. Then I made the mistake of introducing my wife to a mahjong solitaire game. The iPod touch had the game before, but she was never interested in it because of the small size. With the iPad, she is hooked on the game, so now I need to compete with her, plus my son, for the use of the iPad. I wonder if iOS 4 for the iPad will fix my latest issue…

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Reader Comments (1)

Lee Bennett (ATPM Staff) · August 15, 2010 - 00:04 EST #1
Charles - The iPad simply isn't intended to be a phone any more than a laptop computer is. However, there's already an app you can put on an iPad and an iPhone to use the iPhone's camera wirelessly on the iPad via either Bluetooth or WiFi.

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