iPad Encounter

I finally got a chance to spend some time at a couple local Apple Stores to handle an iPad. I don’t mean to be so Zen about it, but given all of the noise from the fan boys and haters, Reality is not either good or bad, Reality is just reality. Case in point, my first thought was that the iPad was much heavier than I first expected. The fan boys might look at that and say that this is because the iPad is so solidly constructed and mostly battery (to support the 10-hour run time!). The haters might say, it’s just too heavy. I have to say that it is difficult to hold it with one hand for any extended period. But then it isn’t any heavier than your basic hardcover book.

Next surprise I encountered during my maiden voyage to iPad-land was that when I pulled up my blog on the iPad all of the videos worked. Cool. Then when I went to my course blog none of the videos worked. Not cool. So YouTube works but Viddler doesn’t? A few weeks ago I checked out the HTML5 beta on YouTube but I don’t think that changed anything. I’m guessing that YouTube has the horsepower to detect that you are browsing on an iPad and transcode the feed so that it streams video that’s playable on the iPad (and iPhone). Viddler on the iPad I didn’t even get the broken media lego block. Fail. I might have to move my course videos back to YouTube. Ack. I was checking out Blip.tv because their pro-account offers an encoding option that’s iPhone-friendly. More research on this is is going to be needed. Archive.org?

Next item I checked out was Google Docs. Apple and iPad-hater, Molly Wood, complained that Google docs doesn’t work on the iPad . Anticipating needing to have access to my data on multiple macs and the future iPad I’d moved whatever I could to Google Docs months ago and anywhere I had Internet I could access student work on their blogs and record their grade on my google docs spreadsheet. I never had to wonder which device had the most current version of my spreadsheet, for example. So, when I pulled up Google Docs on the iPad, I noticed that there was a mobile/desktop option at the bottom, so I selected desktop and pulled up a spreadsheet. The spreadsheet was editable, but it treated each cell like a “saveable” zone, so that you needed to save each cell edit individually (and there wasn’t any “File menu > save and close” option that is in the normal computer version). So that worked, albeit, in a clunky fashion. Text documents, however, didn’t appear to be editable. Damn. This is a problem. I’m not sure if that’s a safari thing or an Apple thing or a Google thing. Damn. Why would they disable text editing? BTW, it’s the same using Google Docs on the iPhone. Ack. May have to switch to using something like Evernote (assuming that note editing is permitted there). Plan B time.

On a recent MacBreak Weekly, John Gruber nailed it, saying that Apple needs to give more thought to workflow when it comes to working with documents that you want to work on without having to move the document/data from device to device. I have MobileMe’s iDisk, a Pogoplug connected to the 1.5TB drive and Google Docs and I always use Google Docs as much as possible. I use Google Docs because I’m not downloading or uploading anything, but working on the data directly from the cloud as if it were local, and it’s accessible from any Internet connected device. Many moons ago I tried using iDisk but just copying files back and forth was buggy and slow to the point where I’ve never copied/backed up my work folders to the iDisk. I also tried to use data stored on a Pogoplug like it was a local device, but then the performance of my brand new 27″ iMac slowed down to a crawl because any system call meant to browse the connected drives would include the pogoplug drive and I started getting the spinning-beach-ball-of-death, so that didn’t seem like much of a solution. I wouldn’t really mind copying the data off Internet-connected storage if there was an intelligent way to make sure that i was working with the most recent version, but I haven’t found a mac utility that really does document synchronization, comparing two directories and making sure that both directories have the most recent version of all files in the directory (that seemed to a very basic function when I was working in Windows/DOS). Anyway, having usable storage in the cloud would work. According to Gruber, the iPad versions of Pages, Keynote and Numbers use iTunes to copy documents back and forth from the home computer to the iPad, giving us a 2010 version of sneaker-net where copies are being made all over the place instead of having one copy in the cloud that all devices and editors can access and edit (a la Google Docs). I guess that must point out the difference of coming at this problem from the approach of a network-focused engineer versus someone just focused on having some access to their pretty document. Ugh. Much more study required on this item.

Speaking of Fan Boys, here’s iPad Saturday iJustine-style (I like it when her male friend says after much random dancing in line, “you can stop now”):