20 January 2011

Cyberspace February 2011

I confess that I bought an Apple iPad. Several things drove this, but two things stand out: instant on, and portability. “Instant on” was really important because the use-cases I imagined for the iPad involved note taking and immediate access to information. Waking up any laptop from sleep, even with a solid state drive, was too slow for me. I wanted something that was as fast to “turn on” as a pen and paper. I'd previously experimented with using a netbook as a notetaker but, frankly, it wasn't as slick as I'd hoped.  

I had tried photographing my notes using my, ahem, iPhone and sending them to Evernote, which does a great job of text recognition. While this was quite successful it had too many moving parts for long term use, and while other iPhone applications can recognize text without Evernote, they all suffered from that same problem. So typing my notes seemed to be the way to go, and the iPad seemed a better option than a notebook. Typing on the iPad is just ok, provided you have a case to prop it up (I like the Apple, ahem, case), and it’s possible to get reasonable speed provided you rely on auto-correct and proof it later. Even better is the case with a Bluetooth keyboard from Think Geek.

Portability was the other key point - the iPad is easy to carry to meetings and in a small brief case. It travels well too, and I travel a lot.  Last year I travelled overseas with my Dell 10" Mini, and that worked quite well, but it stayed in the apartment while I used my iPhone with its GPS and French apps (the Metro app is outstanding). However, I've just been to Japan and took everything - iPod Classic 160, iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry and Dell. At least I only needed one charger (the Dell, and charged the others off it), but I found my old dual band phone didn't work at all due to Japan’s complex mobile system.

It turns out that I can’t live with just the iPad. Some web sites just don't render fully on it, and if you're trying to book your next accommodation then that is a big deal. However, sitting around the dinner table looking at Google Maps or Earth was a pleasure. It was also easy to pass around for others to look at while we were in a cafe, unlike a laptop. Checking out my partner’s photos from her new Canon 7D using the camera dongle was also a nice experience, although the Dell was just as good (but clunky to get out in a cafe).

I'm even writing this article in a hospital room while my daughter sleeps - tapping the glass is almost silent. However,switching between my text editor and a web browser would be tedious compared to a PC. But this isn’t a PC, so that's ok. I can type and sync my notes across all my desktops, iPhone, BlackBerry and iPad in Evernote or Dropbox.

While the iPad is a business tool for me, it’s not a bad way to watch a podcast or movie on a plane, or read the paper on the bus. My daughter tells me that Facebook is pretty good on it too. And on that topic, Facebook now provides your name, address and phone number (if you've entered them) to third party application vendors. You can block that, but should you have to?

OneNote app for iPhone & iPod Touch

The OneNote app is now available on the iTunes store, but only in the USA at the time of writing. It's a good start for avid OneNote users, but lacks search and the ability to file notes. Synching to SkyDrive works well, although the servers are overloaded and returning error 400 to many users. However, you can't limit synch to just wifi, so watch your mobile account!