August 8, 2010

iPad - a few months in

i had some draft notes kicking around in the queue for a little while that i’ve been meaning to get out. i’m surprised by how much things have changed over the past few months with this device and how my views towards it have shifted. since i seem get asked on a pretty regular basis which apps / etc. i find to be the most useful, i thought i’d dust up some of my notes on the platform.

i initially purchased the iPad specifically for media consumption, primarily research papers, news, and books. i had no desire to make this replace my laptop (which is my desktop, btb). rather, it was intended primarily a means for me to catch up on my reading backlog when i’m offline and to eliminate all of the academic / work papers that i have chewing up trees. that it plays video and has a kick-ass web browser was a huge plus. but this looked to be the un-kindle for me. since then i’ve found myself re-evaluating a number of elements of my workflow to see if i could incorporate the use of the device in a portable manner more efficiently. it’s getting progressively better, but it’s certainly not a laptop replacement for me by any stretch.

interaction with the cloud

this part of the ipad sucks. there’s no notion of being able to attach to local storage or effectively use an application with network based storage, unless of course this function exists within the application and in the cloud. the sync of docs between keynote and pages and the filesystem on your computer is abysmal and seems like a horrible afterthought on the part of apple. they did a half-assed implementation for integrating with the iWork site and in the most recent release they added webdav functionality . this is certainly a welcome addition, but it’s a rather tedious means of interacting with the device.

i can certainly appreciate apple’s desire to eliminate the notion of a filesystem from the device, but this limits its laptop replacement utility for quick edits, etc. considerably. i now have to plan on how i’ll get the docs and very consciously plan the edit / review flow if i want to use the device for content creation. this doesn’t quite put me where i need to be for a lot of my travel. this has relegated the device to text editing and presentation. useful, yes. sustainable as a work flow? no.

utility computing device (for lack of a better term)

we have a room in the back of our house which is intended to be a library, but is effectively a mud room / storage area / library. we had put an old laptop back there to facilitate catching up on email, writing quick docs /notes, etc on the main level in the house as opposed to lurking in the office. we’ve since shoved the laptop aside and put a keyboard stand/charger in that location. the notion of being able to handle a lot of this quick stuff from the iPad is increasingly the knee-jerk reaction. however. there are a lot of times where you just want a real keyboard. to address this, we ended up getting one of those ipad keyboard docs. it does a pretty darn good job. i fire up simplenote and away i go. i can push the resulting output into something more durable when i get to a real computer.

it turns out that the simplenote workflow is deceptively elegant, particularly when i coupled it with the associated simplenote sync capabilities that are provided by cefstat’s simplenote.el tools for emacs. these and a little bit of org-mode happiness have given me a wicked amount of productivity when i’m waiting for things and when i’m crammed in a little seat on the airplane. (a work condition i deal with, with alarming frequency.)

news / rss / etc.

news

i’m surprised by how pathetic the news situation is on the ipad. the nytimes editors choice app seems to radically miss the mark it doesn’t provide much in terms of interesting interaction with the web site. the content is limited to the, well, editors choice. the reading experience is however, rather pleasant. for content, however, it’s a lot easier to just go to the site.

rss

rss might be the salvation for news content on the web on the ipad. i’m frankly shocked by how awesome the rss readers are on the ipad. i use google reader to to read my rss feeds from my workstation/laptop, and reeder for the ipad has to be the slickest interface i’ve seen to date for rss reading on the ipad. it’s fast, it’s engaging and works great offline. however, there have to be about a half-dozen or so extraordinarily compelling rss readers for the platform. this seems to be an area of considerable innovation.

twitter

while on the whole i’m largely ambivalent about twitter, i’ve found that i’m really impressed with the “official” twitter application for the ipad. this was tweetie for the iphone. with the integration that they’ve provided and the ability to drive pretty much any twitter feature from the ipad itself, color me massively impressed.

magazines

zinio - this app has been consistently improving over the past couple of months. i’m a huge economist fan and more and more articles have been enabled with the text view readily available. it used to be simple graphic snapshots of the magazine pages which were impressively rendered and readable. however, now it’s taking the form of a more dynamic electronic magazine.

wired - i’m so massively disappointed and frustrated with the pricing on their application that i’m just going to let the subscription lapse until they fix it. i am of the impression that a good chunk of this is outside of their control with the manner in which apple handles in-app purchases, making subscriptions a total pain in the ass and/or unworkable, but shelling out more than i’d ever pay for the magazine is beyond the pale.

runners world - i’m equally frustrated with their pricing and their model, but to be fair they don’t bill themselves as a technology rag, so i’m surprisingly willing to cut them some slack.

** ny review of books** - seriously, i need a proxy for instapaper for these guys.

instapaper - if one was looking for a succinct reason to purchase an ipad, this is quite possibly it. this is a labor of love and it shows. i’ll grant you there are a couple of annoying nits with the app (i’d rather that the trash can wasn’t the archive metaphor, i’d like to be able to actually delete an article from my history/queue which wasn’t worth keeping around, etc.) but in terms of being able to enjoy long form online content, this is the app. this deserves a spot in your dock. period.

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