30Mar '11

What’s on my iPad 2

I remember the first blog I ever subscribed to, and the article that brought me there: it was What’s on my Nokia 3650 by Russell Beattie.  The 3650 was a strange Nokia Series 60 / Symbian smartphone with a round number pad, and although it was weird and wacky it was also wonderful – for the first time since my beloved Psion 5 had been stolen, I had a decent pocketable computer (sort-of), and I was over the moon.  A few days after I bought it, I jetted off to Brussels on my first ever business trip, and let me tell you, I felt like I was the man.  Sad really!  Of course, I never got  around to doing my own What’s-on-my-3650 post or any other sort of blog back then… so I’m making it up for it now.  But some background first:

On Friday morning I joined the queue outside the Apple Store at Meadowhall, Sheffield.  I knew that some die-hard Apple fanboys (like @appleboyy ) had been there since the night before, but I figured that arriving around midday would be safe.  But then I heard reports the queue was growing, and so I set off much earlier, and joined the waiting congregation at 8:30 am.  I was about number 30 in the line, and we all joked about how crazy we were.  Apple brought round free drinks regularly, and everything was very jovial.

I should mention that there was nowhere to wait inside the main shopping area, so were were lined up in a fire-escape corridor; the concrete floor quickly became very cold and when my wife arrived with a McD’s breakfast I nipped down to Argos to get a fold-up chair which made it a bit more bearable.  Fast Forward to 3pm and there’s easily 500 people, queuing down the corridor and snaking round the car park.  Apple started giving out tickets from the front of the queue onwards, and once you had your ticket(s), you were (barring transactional problems) guaranteed your iPad(s).  I chose a 64GB 3G (for me, bien sûr) and a 16GB 3G for Nim.  Eventually I got to my turn, and there was a hiccup with the transaction which was a bit scary (my bank card was chosen for a random check so I had to prove my ID) but it worked out ok, and I left the store, iPads in hand.

I won’t comment here on the hardware itself as it’s been done to death.  I will mention though that I’m unhappy with the price and performance of the (admittedly cool) smartcover.  It’s just too expensive to give zero protection for the back.  I still bought one though!  Otherwise, I’m keeping my £££ investment safe in a neoprene pouch… from Poundland!

So… What’s on my iPad?

  • Dropbox –  Dropbox is a very important part of my online and iPad experience.  It will be interesting to see whether Amazon CloudDrive usurps it, but for now – I have all my accumulated eBooks – mostly in PDF format – in a folder in my Dropbox.  The iPad client lets you cache selected files locally, so once it’s been downloaded, you can view at any time.  The built-in PDF reader is perfectly good but you can open a file in an external reader like Stanza or iBooks.  This is the primary reason I bought an iPad – no more lugging big O’Reilly books back and forth between Sheffield and London.  Once Safari Books (re)releases it’s iPad app, I’ll probably subscribe to that for this same purpose.
  • GoTasks – I have a number of Google Tasks lists which I work from each day.  Bizarrely, Google don’t provide an API to access Tasks, so the fact this app exists at all is unexpected; but that it works so brilliantly, and is so totally *free*, is astonishing.
  • CHMate Lite – Dropbox can’t read .chm files natively but it will open them just fine in this app.  There’s a paid-for version as well but I don’t need it’s extra features.
  • Mocha VNC Lite – I’ll probably buy a better VNC client before too long but this will do for now.  I *wish* there were a NX client for iPad, since I use that far more than VNC, but I don’t think anyone’s working on that.
  • iSSH – perfect for connecting to text-based terminals.  I’ve used this since the early days of my iPhone 3G.   It’s supposed to have VNC support as well but I’ve never used that.
  • OliveTree Bible Reader – Chosen because of its great support for NT Greek – It has options for NA27 with Mounce-Koivisto Morphology or the Friberg Analytical Morphology and Lexicon; I chose the latter since I already had a paper copy of the former.  Next time somebody wants to buy me an extravagant birthday present I want to add the full ten-volume TDNT – having the full Kittel on a mobile device, all searchable and linked to the text – will be incredible.   I should give mention as well to the outstanding work of the Society of Biblical Literature who make available a completely free Greek NT text which can be added to OliveTree (and probably others).  Unlike the NA27 options, this one comes with a full critical aparatus!  And if this is all Greek to you, then take it from me – this is the stuff of dreams for armchair theologians :-)
  • Stanza – I’ve read several books on the iPhone version of this during my long journeys, and I’m looking forward to doing the same on my iPad’s bigger screen
  • iBooks – Still not decided whether I prefer Stanza or iBooks.
  • GarageBand – Discussed in detail all over the net, but well worth £2.99
  • Keynote I actually bought this last year when I got to play with one of Sky’s brand new iPads just after launch day.  It’s cool, but I’ve not really used it yet.
  • Sky News – the launch of this was a massive deal at Sky and I can understand why.  It’s polished and beautiful and although it’s not my preferred format for news consumption (I’d rather read an article in three seconds than watch a video in three minutes), I can see that for many people, this is News Heaven.
  • Sky+ – I currently work for the team at Sky which provides the API this app calls to, so I have a vested interest in this, and it’s a great app.  I do think screen estate could be used better, but to see what’s on when, and best of all to be able to schedule a remote recording right from the app, is real sci-fi stuff if you ask me.  Well, I’d rather have a flying car, but it’s a start!
  • Guardian Eyewitness – photo-journalism looks incredible on the iPad screen.  It’s not an app I use every day, but when I think to fire it up, I’m always impressed.  And I’m more impressed by The Guardian’s open attitude to APIs and data sharing.  I like The Guardian :-)
  • Amazon Windowshop – a pretty client for Amazon, but doesn’t quite feel right to me.  Can’t put my finger on it (well, I can, that’s kind of the point) but maybe it’ll grow on me.
  • Comic Zeal 4 – Again, I’ve used this on iPhone before but the constant scrolling and zooming made it pretty painful.  Some people say you still need to scroll on the iPad, but for me, it’s perfect for everything I’ve thrown at it.  I’ve rediscovered long-forgotten treasures from my youth (like 2000AD – I didn’t realise that some of the stranger stuff in there like D.R. and Quinch came from the pen of Alan Moore!) and found some great new material to read too.  (Although to be fair, a lot of the discovery of new comics has come instead from the Comixology app which I have on my iPhone)
  • XKCD HD – There are a few different readers for the XKCD webcomic, which seems to basically sum up my life in IT, and this app is the one I’m playing with at the moment.  I can’t see a way of marking a particular comic as a favourite, so if that’s not possible, I’ll try one of the others.
  • Dead Space HD – A guilty pleasure, this. It’s a great showcase of the iPad 2’s abilities (indeed it was specifically updated a couple of days ago) and although it was fun on the iPhone, on the iPad it’s perfect.  The storyline is very immersive and it’s challenging without being too tough.
  • Grand Theft Auto Chinatown Wars HD Lite – A free trial of game that currently has me a bit confused.  It seems to be a murder simulator.  Now I’ve nothing against hacking off virtual limbs from monsters on an abandoned spaceship, but this game – whilst technically brilliant in many ways, and with an engaging if morally inept storyline – had me running down helpless civilians for fun.  At least in Red Dead Redemption (my favourite game ever, from the same publisher) you can choose to be honourable.  Not sure if I’ll keep this one…
  • TapTap Radiation – My daughter Keziah is literally one of the top players in the world on TapTap Revenge for iPhone/IPT.  She plays it all the time, and her fingers are a blur over those tiny blobs – I can’t begin to keep up with them.  Radiation is the iPad version, and although it’s prettier, it’s not as much fun.
  • Alien Blue HD – After the effective demise of Digg, Reddit is now my go-to web community for pretty much everything.  Alien Blue is a great client for Reddit and it keeps getting better.  I am WastedTruth on Reddit, by the way…
  • Friendly Facebook – I’m not a massive facebook fan to be honest, but given the choice of pixel-doubling the office iPhone app or using the web site via Safari, this is probably the best way to use it on an iPad.
  • SkySafari – This was available a year or so ago in a free one-day sale and I grabbed it then and it’s stayed free for me through very numerous updates.  It’s a planetarium/observation planning program which has hundreds of features that I barely understand, but I know I can use it to find something worth looking at in the sky whenever I pull out the telescope I bought my wife (honest!) for Christmas a few years ago…

Phew! I’ll update the list in a few weeks and see what’s been added and removed….

bye for now



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