You can make me grow old, you can't make me grow up.
Saturday, June 11, 2011
Padding It Out
Two weeks ago, at my workplace's recognition luncheon, I was very surprised and flattered to find out I'd been nominated for an employee engagement award. Ballots were placed at each 8-person table for them to vote between the six nominees, and when the results were announced, I was stunned to discover I had tied with an awesome lady in Facilities Management who has been with the corporation for quite a while. We went up to the podium to shake hands with our CEO, and because Rhea got there first, Monica said she would get to take home the trophy and prize, and since they hadn't expected a tie, they would order another for me. However, since Rhea would be the one doing the ordering anyhow, she figured it made more sense for me to take them, saving her a delivery trip. I had no idea the prize was an iPad; I honestly thought it was a digital photo frame or a plaque or something.
I have a lot of admiration for a lot of Apple products; it's hard to believe that prior to the release of the first iMacs I thought they were destined for oblivion, like Commodore before them. That said, I couldn't imagine ever purchasing something like an iPad, but having had one for a couple weeks now, I would need a 12 step and a burly interventionist to give it up.
The particular version I have is the 16Gb wifi iPad 2. This means I have 'only' 16 gigabytes to store my apps, books, music, videos and photos. I also have decreased functionality if I am not within range of a wifi network; there is a 3G version that will let you access the internet like a smartphone, but obviously there is a monthly fee for that sort of access I have no interest in. At least, you know, not currently. Still, since free wifi is as close as the nearest Starbucks, Safeway, Edmonton Public Library or a host of other locations, it has not been that big of a deal so far, and even disconnected, the iPad is a remarkable tool.
Around the house, I can use it as a handheld web browser, which is great for looking things up on Wikipedia or iMDB. Some apps, like those from the Edmonton Journal, YouTube or The Weather Network let me see versions optimized for the iPad. I can also check my e-mail or post a comment to a blog.
A program called AirVideo lets me set up a server on my PC which allows me stream video direct to the iPad, converting formats on the fly with no noticeable slowdown. Being able to watch an episode of Archer while I peel potatoes in the kitchen is a real treat.
There are also several apps that allow you to read comics on the iPad, and this is a dangerous proposition. For example, I recently hauled out my Walt Simonson 'Thor' run, and greatly enjoyed going through this quarter-century old dead-tree collection before going to sleep each night. I have these comics stored 5 or 6 to a bag, and after finishing a bag, I have a natural opportunity to remind myself that I really should get to sleep, and after finishing a complete run, it is pretty unlikely that I will leave the warmth of my bed to go an excavate the longboxes full of comics in the basement. With the iPad, however, it is all to easy to stay up far too late reading, say, 60 issues of 'Y: The Last Man'; it's like eating peanuts.
Since the comics are stored on the iPad itself, I can read them on the go. I can also download a number of e-books and magazine subscriptions, but I haven't looked into that very much yet.
I took the iPad to the Arts Festival at the girls' school, and I have to say, it is an ideal thing to have with you in your travels. I took pictures and videos with the integrated camera, and played boardgames with Audrey and the girls between sessions. There are a surprising number of decent multiplayer games (like Multipong or Marble Mixer) that allowed all 4 of us to play at once, and even traditional boardgames like Risk, Settlers of Catan and Monopoly. Imagine playing Risk in a car or plane and not having to worry about losing pieces! The iPad version of Scrabble even lets you use an iPhone as a tray for your letter tiles.
I've been so busy having fun with the iPad that I have barely begun to scratch the surface in terms of productivity, but I took all my notes from our last team meeting at work with it, and I have also started to become more familiar with the calendar app.
Apple is kind of a mixed bag for me though; despite its popularity, I still feel that iTunes makes Windows Media Player look as though it was designed by gifted psychics from the future. However, after having purchased the wrong case for my iPad (not realizing that it was an iPad 2, since this is not written anywhere on the box or the device itself), Charlie at the Apple store in West Edmonton Mall had no problem exchanging it for a proper cover, even though I had lost the receipt.
The cover itself attached magnetically, doubles as a stand , has a microfibre interior that serves as a cleaning tool, and automatically turns the device on or off when it is opened or closed. It is one anti-grav unit away from being Star Trek technology, at least in my eyes.
A friend at work in IT asked me how I was enjoying the iPad, and I told him I would have a hard time giving it up just a week in, and that I was well on my way to becoming a fully robed and vested Macolyte. He nodded and said, "Yes, the iPad is definitely a gateway drug."
Sigh. Hooked like a fish. I should feel manipulated or something, but I'm just too busy enjoying myself with it to care.