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ATPM 17.05
May 2011


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by Mark Tennent,

All Abroad for iPad 2 Alternative

Did we queue up at the local Apple Store for an iPad 2? You must be joking! We lunched in Barfleur, on the Cotentin Peninsular, sitting alongside the harbour and enjoying the year’s first really hot sunny day to eat our assiette des fruits de mer washed down with a delicious bouteille de cider artesanal.

So what if it meant getting up at 5 AM to catch the fast cat ferry? Or the night before, French dockers decided to strike, meaning instead of the day trip to Caen and Ouistreham, we were rerouted to Cherbourg. We didn’t even worry when the downstairs toilet suddenly started to gush water uncontrollably at 9 PM the night before.

The following day, £350 unexpectedly appeared in my bank account, and I was handed a “Birthday Voucher” saying it was only to be used for an iPad. A quick ring around all the local Apple dealers showed we had chosen the best option. It had been either get up at 5 AM to join the queues at the Apple Store or snooze in comfort as we were whisked across the English Channel. The former with no guarantee of actually finding any iPads left to buy, whilst the latter meant conspicuous consumption in the restaurant followed by Carrefours, to top up with all the goodies English shops don’t sell. Such as unsweetened squash drinks and fizzy water with a lemon taste. Can’t people in Britain drink anything without a ton of sugar or aspartemin?

Our trip was also the anniversary of a year ago less one day when the sudden closure of a door in a wood burning stove left my index finger broken in two places. The painful year has seen my guitar playing shrink to zero and computer mice become hurtful things. A trackpad was the obvious answer and very good it is, too.

The Apple Magic Trackpad is about half the size of an A5 Wacom graphics table, connects via Bluetooth, and runs off two long-lasting AA batteries. Setup is simply turning it on, pairing in Bluetooth, and that’s it. A tiny green indicator light shows when it is turned on or off, its location becoming indistinguishable from the aluminium trackpad when the lamp turns off. I bet the Apple guys had fun with that trick.

A control panel lets you set all manner of ways to use the trackpad, which includes one-, two-, three-, and four-finger inputs and swipes. It is exactly the same as using a MacBook multi-gesture trackpad but larger. There is even a click function as two little rubber feet operate a microswitch by gentle pressure on the trackpad. This guy here sums it all up.

It didn’t take more than a moment or two to adapt to the trackpad. Anyone with experience of a modern Apple laptop, iPad, or iPhone will use it instinctively, and for Web browsing it is the easiest way to navigate. The Bluetooth range is longer than we could get across two rooms and a wall. This makes the trackpad ideal for controlling a Mac linked to a TV, for example, and at prices up to half that of Apple’s own, the trackpad can be bought from Amazon or eBay.

As for an iPad 2, that has been ordered from Apple’s online store with the hope that anticipation of getting it in a week or so time will not be sweeter than owning it.

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