Tech Talk 5 – Clever Title!

I was excited when the iPad was released. This seemed like a device that would allow me to go on the road without my laptop, and still have a reasonably sized screen for doing work, reading and writing email, surfing the web, and watching my shows. It would also be a huge advantage in terms of books. I am not just a TV addict. I go on the road with 4-20 paper books also. That is a cumbersome load. (We will pick this thread back up in the books/podcasts edition.)

After the initial wave of ravenous excitement died down, I went into the store to play with them. I do like the Apple stores, but my biggest complaint with them is that you cannot try out the devices in anything remotely like real world circumstances. Very few people spend their time computing standing up at a high bench. Even fewer people use their iPads standing up with the device laid out flat on a high table. But at least you can get your hands on the devices and check them out. I was concerned about not having a keyboard, but found that I could actually type wicked fast on the iPad and was able to use 8-10 fingers to type instead of the 4-6 I use on the traditional keyboard. But I did recognize that it was unlikely I would duplicate those speeds while seated, or in any other position besides standing with the device laid out flat on a table of appropriate height.

I was very disappointed with the hard disk capacity of the first wave of iPads. As much freedom as the device offered, the limitations of how much data it could carry were significant. (Research what that was 30 GB?). Looking into work-arounds, I discovered that there really were not any. There was no way to hook a first Gen iPad into an external storage drive for the purposes of data/content management. You had to either purchase new material on the iPad through the iTunes store (or other online vendor) or move content to and from the device from your computer over the USB connector. If you do maintain your own server, I imagine that you could access that server on the iPad over the web, but the device did not have any kind of file management system that would allow you to move content around that way – you would have to have your iTunes library active on the server and move content via iTunes.

The iPad 2 does have a bigger drive, but still not really big enough (for my needs) to be the only computer I take on the road. They did release an adapter cord, Apple 30 pin connector to female USB receptor, and many of us thought that this would be the ticket. I envisioned getting the iPad2, the usb connector, and a small, rugged, highly portable, 1TB storage drive that takes power from the host device instead of a separate power cord. That would allow me to go on the road with a minimal setup for at least 3 months without needing another storage drive or computer (except for iPad software and security updates, but we will revisit that aspect in just a bit).

1 TB is also imperfect for me, but it beats the heck out of 30 or 120 GB. But, early reports revealed two key problems: the iPad does not have enough power to be able to also supply power to such a device, and the file management system was still non-existent even when using a powered external drive over the USB connector. The connector was released as a means to move pictures from digital cameras to the iPad. In that scenario, you use iPhoto to access the drive. That file system is built into iPhoto – similar to how there is some file management built into iTunes that allows you to move data through the iTunes interface. But something like the “Finder” in Apple or “Windows Explorer” in Microsoft just isn’t there on the iPad.