Tuesday, May 25, 2010

iPad Mania

When I first saw the announcement of Apple's iPad back in February, what flashed into my mind was a scene from the 1968 movie: "2001" where the astronauts are 'reading the newspaper' using an electronic device called a 'newspad'. I knew I had to have one, not only because people will be asking me about it, but I needed first-hand experiences of the iPad's value, both business and personal. OK, ok, for me, it's also a tax write-off!

SETTING EXPECTATIONS: An iPad is a VIEWER whose battery lasts TEN HOURS. It's NOT a 'computer' ie a laptop or netbook replacement. The 1.0 iPad is missing some things, however not only does it open other doors, Apple sold over ONE MILLION of them in the first 30 days -- and that's just in the USA! Net-net, I expect that most wanted features WILL be added.

Like laptops and netbooks, all iPads have WiFi wireless internet. In addition to the basic type, there's also a "3G" model which has both WiFi and 'always-on' cellular-based internet access for $30 per month. Both types have 16GB of solid-state 'disk' (aka SSD) storage (no rotating disk drives) and enhanced models come with 32GB or 64GB of SSD.

Since 3G iPads are scarce and I already have a MiFi 3G wireless router from Verizon, I chose the non-3G iPad, but with 32GB of SSD. iPad's have a very nice 'virtual' keyboard built-in, and I added a Mac wireless Bluetooth keyboard for experimentation (3 weeks later it's hardly been used).

As with iPhone, iPod, and iTouch, the iTunes software on your PC or Mac is the basis for adding content to the iPad, whether it be music, photos, or videos. I synchronized a bunch of family photos and took the iPad to Mother's Day dinner where Mary and Grandma Novak enjoyed them very much. Son Jeff used the iPad with the MiFi 3G to show GrandPa Novak about Facebook. I took this photo with my Blackberry phone, uploaded it to Facebook, and they were viewing it two minutes later.

Even the base models with 16GB, iPad requires about 3GB of overhead, so there's still a LOT of storage for music, electronic books (including FREE as well as Amazon Kindle purchases), and photos. But there's more -- a DVD movie can be "ripped" and sync'd, and only requires 1.3GB each (http://www.magicdvdripper.com/ $35). In addition to synchronizing via iTunes, iPads can get your own "cloud shared" files via DropBox (http://www.dropbox.com, first 2GB free). So who cares if there's no direct USB port on the iPad?

There are many free apps, but I've bought 4 which I find very useful:
1) GoodReader ($1) for viewing MS Word, Acrobat PDF, and many more types of files
2) Keynote ($10) which converts and displays PowerPoint presentations
3) iPad to VGA ($29) external video connector (iPad resolution is 1024x768).
4) LogMeIn Ignition ($30) which lets your iPad remotely control another computer.

Son Jeff the music teacher has already tried the iPad for turning sheet music pages while piano playing!

So there you have it. An ultra-light, ultra-thin content viewer with WiFi and/or 3G internet, useful applications, plenty of storage, and a battery which lasts 10 hours. Thumbs UP !

Problems playing videos

Ever tried to play a video on your computer, and while you could hear the sound, you couldn't see the picture? What your viewer/player software (such as Windows Media Player) is missing is a ‘codec’ – that’s a COmpression/DECompression algorithm your videos were originally encoded with. While you could spend time converting the videos to another format, it may be MUCH easier just to add additional CODECs to your machine.

Here are two free resources:

A) Safely download and install the KLite Mega CODEC collection from File Hippo:


B) Now go to the DIVX website and download their free package which includes a player and a video converter, but most importantly, an additional collection of CODECs which also can be used with other viewers such as the built-in Windows Media Player.


Full DIVX details here: http://www.divx.com/en/software/divx-plus

Between these two, you should be able to play your videos in Windows Media Player without having to spend lots of time converting files -- but THAT is the subject of another post!