Sunday, April 18, 2010

We Are Explorers [2]

Blogger is being weird, so I'll narrate the pictures from this post.

On Saturday, my dad and I went to Mitchell Caverns in Essex, CA. The first photo shows where we stopped for gas; Ludlow, CA (there's nothing there!)

After Ludlow, we drove straight to the caverns and you can see how beautiful the landscape looked from up on the mountain. Before the tour, we wandered around the desert a little, and I managed to see a Horned Lizard from the car - it sat patiently while I took a bunch of photos of it.

It's hard to photograph well inside the cave without a tripod, but most of these came out alright (I'm not really happy with most of them, but they get the idea across).

Finally, we stopped to look at some interesting rock formations, and at the Kelso Dunes for a few minutes to snap a photo.

We Are Explorers


Friday, April 9, 2010

A Week with my iPad

        While I’m trying not to gush too much over my iPad, after using it for the week I’m already beginning to see why it was created in the first place. There are several kinds of people in the computer world - those who have desktops and laptops, those who have laptops and smartphones, and those who have desktops and smartphones. One can argue that I have a netbook, but after over a year with my Wind, I realized that it served only one primary purpose for me: taking notes. The reason why I bought it and used it was specifically to take notes in class and to write papers on. I rarely used it for serious browsing, especially after I got my iPhone and Mac Mini.
        What I’ve come to realize is that I really enjoy using my 32” screen to browse the internet, watch movies, chat, etc., and that my sound system is the best possible experience for listening to music and watching movies too. My netbook was really just a means to take some computing with me on the go - computing that couldn’t possibly be done on my iPhone. What the iPad does for me, however, is enable me to enjoy the internet, video content, and productivity on a mobile scale, but with more panache and sophistication than my netbook ever could.
        I organized my iPad’s homescreen with the apps I use the most. And what’s great is that I really am using them far more often than I expected. What’s great is that there are 4 other pages of apps that I’ve been using with regularity too. In contrast, I have 5 pages of apps on my iPhone, only about 50% of which ever get used. You might say that it’s the “new shiny” factor, but over the past week I haven’t drained my iPhone’s battery once (and I haven’t been ABLE to drain my iPad’s battery). My favorite apps thus far have been:

SktechBook Pro: I got my Pogo Sketch stylus the other day, and have been doing some drawing using SketchBook Pro. I’m still learning with this interface, but here are some things I’ve managed to produce in a very short amount of time

We Rule: this casual strategy game is basically a kingdom simulator - build houses, farms, buildings, etc., and plant crops to make money to add to your kingdom. There’s social interaction so I can visit my sister’s and mom’s kingdoms, and we can do various tasks for each other with our different businesses. The game takes place in real-time, so you have to wait for those crops to grow for an hour or more (depending on the crop up to a day). It’s a good mix of gameplay and waiting so that I don’t spend hours on it at a time, but I check it a dozen times a day or so.

Netflix: It’s Netflix, on my iPad...All of the streaming content I can consume is there for me anytime I have an internet connection. Yes, this is totally possible on my netbook, but the screen on the iPad is so much nicer than anything my netbook can produce that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed viewing video content. Even, to some extent, over my actual TV, because holding the iPad in front of me in bed is a wonderful experience.

PacMan: I just bought PacMan last night, but what’s so great about it is that the app re-creates the table-top experience of the arcade cabinets almost perfectly. The joystick works really well; just swipe your finger in the direction you want to move PacMan and he goes. I actually think I got a higher score on the iPad than I’ve ever gotten in an arcade/console.

GodFinger: From the same company that makes WeRule, GodFinger is the same concept on a more global scale. You get this little planet with little followers and perform miracles for them (making it rain, bringing sunshine, etc), and give them places to live and work and enjoy themselves. The goal is to have a productive and peaceful planet. Sort of like a little ant farm with cartoon people in it. This is another real-time game, where events happen whether or not you’re actually playing. I don’t like this quite as much as WeRule because it’s a little more frantic, but the concept is so novel I’ll keep it for a while.

So there you go, the hardware is fantastic; see more on that at, but the software is really making the iPad shine to me. Next week I’ll get a better chance to try some school work with it by taking some notes in class with a keyboard and also test its potential as an educational aide.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The New and Improved Johnny

Now with 4 less teeth!

Had my wisdom teeth out literally 30 mins ago...I didn't want to be put out so right now my lip is super numb and I can't really feel my jaw, but the pain isn't absolutely horrible, really just a lot of pressure.
Everything went well as far as I can tell, the top two teeth came out without any problems whatsoever, and the lower two had to be cut in half before she could pull them out.  The reason being that apparently wisdom teeth have little fish hooks on the bottom of them to keep them in place - crazy.  Also crazy - apparently tetracycline gives you black bands around your teeth which is why they don't give it to kids anymore.  I have a couple of stitches on each of the lower teeth and that's it.  I feel mostly fine and am in good spirits at any rate.

Also, got my Pogo Sketch Stylus for my iPad, so I have something to occupy myself with while I recover.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Paradigm Shift: An iPad Review

The day finally arrived. April 3, 2010 marked the release date of Apple's latest device, the iPad.  Yes, I ordered one, I was really excited at the prospect of a true touch-screen based computer with an interface truly designed for touch.  Yes, the iPad runs the same operating system as the iPhone and the iPod touch (with some enhancements).  But more on that soon.
To begin with, the pictures. At around 10:30 am I received my delivery from UPS.  I immediately cut open the packaging and low and behold:

My iPad lay nestled snugly inside a perfectly sized cardboard box.

Opening the shrinkwrap and taking the lid off of the box I was immediately presented with my first glimpse of a real iPad:

The device itself felt delicate coming out of the box.  A large slab of aluminum and glass, it does feel like holding a work of art.  The attention to detail, from the feel of the few buttons on the top and sides, to the glossy plastic Apple logo on the back (in order to allow wireless signal through the otherwise solid aluminum back), the look of the iPad mirrors that of the MacBook and MacBook Pros.

The complete contents of the box; a small power adapter, usb cord, and the iPad itself.

Let me say, the iPad is smaller than I expected, but feels very big in terms of its transparency while using it.  Here is the iPad next to my MSI Wind, the netbook computer I bought a little over a year ago.

As you can see, the screen of the iPad is just little smaller than my Wind's screen (disregard brightness as the Wind has it's screen turned all the way down). But what's amazing is that the iPad is only as thick as the lid portion of the netbook.  An entire computer crammed into the space that a notebook needs for just its screen.

What about usability?  I've been using the iPad for a couple of days now, and the first thing I have to say is that a full-size touchscreen interface is far and away more intuitive than I could have ever expected.  I enjoy using the keyboard on the device and while I can't crank out the 80 words or so per minute I can do on a regular keyboard, my typing is considerably faster than when I type on my iPhone's screen (touch typing actually works!).

The built in browser is fantastic.  As other reviews on the internet have mentioned, the nicest aspect of the iPad is that when you use it, the interface disappears.  Today was the first day in a very long time that I didn't jump on my desktop first thing in the morning.  Usually I check news sites and Twitter via my iPhone or my Mac Mini, but today I found myself literally sitting on a couch and just browsing to my daily websites.  Touching a web browser is quickly becoming my preferred method of browsing.  While I like my iPhone for quick information, I'm not jumping for joy at the prospect of true browsing (that job has been made easier by dedicated apps for my favorite websites).  On the iPad, the need for specific apps for the blogs I read all the time (i.e., Engadget, TUAW, Lifehacker, etc.) is completely eliminated because the browser is just full-size all the time.  Pages render beautifully and I find myself trying to think of new sites to go to just to see how they look.

Beyond the browser I'm finding myself playing around with dozens of apps and marveling at how great they all look on this screen.  Yes, many computer have a higher resolution screen than the iPad, but the richness and range of colors on this screen make it easily one of the nicest I've ever seen.  So far I've used the Netflix app the most.  The ability to hold this tiny tablet and watch movies and tv instantly in bed has been really great.  I have a nice size TV in my room and love watching video on it, but when I'm lying back it's really great to just have this tiny 1.5lb device resting on my legs, generating no heat, and with a great speaker (it has bass!).  Other notable apps so far have been TWiTPad for viewing This Week in Tech (a technology news show), Twitteriffic, Pages - Apple's full featured word processor, New York Times and USA Today both have great newspaper apps, Words with Friends HD (Scrabble clone), Harbor Master (Ship navigation game), and SketchBook Pro.  This last one is probably the most interesting one of them all because the feature-set matches that of a $200+ graphics program on a desktop, but was only $8 for my iPad.  I'm still waiting for the delivery of my Pogo Sketch stylus so that I can do some serious drawing on my iPad, but as you'll see below, with Starry Night by Van Gogh as my inspiration, a finger can have some pretty fun results. (I spent maybe 15 minutes or so doodling with it)

I've had the iPad for 2 days, and quite honestly I already am seeing this as a complete replacement for my netbook, which I only use for a couple of things anyway; browsing, taking a small amount of notes for a class, and watching some Netflix movies.
Oh, and the battery life has been phenomenal.  I used it from 9 am this morning until now almost nonstop and still have over 50% battery.
Apple has a great device here, and I'm thrilled.