Friday, April 16, 2010

The Pad

So I broke down and bought the iPad. Many people have asked whether the iPad is worth buying. The short answer: It will be.

There are many many iPad reviews out there on the web so what can I add? It wins as an entertainment device. My favorite apps so far: Netflix (streaming looks great), Instapaper, The Weather Channel (TWC Max+) and of course MLB. Oddly enough no built-in calculator but the Wolfram Alpha app is pretty cheap now and there is the free Pcalc Lite.

Books look much prettier on the iPad than the Kindle but for reading for a long stretch I prefer the Kindle. Feels more comfortable on my middle-aged eyes.

Based on some suggestions from my Twitter followers, I bought the iAnnotate PDF app which offers some great mark-up tools from PDF. But it is really difficult to move files to the app. I still haven’t figured out how to do it on Northwestern’s network. The next version of iAnnotate should make it easier to move files but Apple really needs a standard way for applications to share documents so I can download from Safari into programs like iAnnotate.

I hope Google optimizes their docs for the iPad. I’d love to be able to edit them.

Supposedly multitasking comes in the fall. But right now I can run two tasks at a time by running one of them on my iPhone. Don’t laugh--I can now stream baseball games while surfing the web.

To make it a reasonable laptop replacement to take on trips, we’ll need someone to write a full-featured latex app including an editor along the lines of winedt. Would be considerable work but it could be done. I’d pay $50 for it. Also the iPad will need someway to connect to a projector.

I just have too many gadgets now: iPhone, iPad, Kindle and a laptop. I could imagine wanting to travel with all of them but at some point that just gets ridiculous. I keep hoping one day we’ll have one gadget to rule them all but I guess a device that fits in my pocket with a big screen and keyboard was just not meant to be.


  1. Unfortunately, with Apple's developer policies, you're highly unlikely to see a LaTeX app, as that would require an interpreter, which is expressly forbidden by the terms of service.

  2. It's harder on the eyes than a Kindle, but how does it compare to a standard laptop or desktop screen? Is it easier to read than those?

  3. Apple sells a video adapter for the iPad already.

    And I can't see why you'd need an interpreter to have a LaTeX editing app. TeX itself can be (maybe should be) understood as an interpreter, but you could always handle the actual TeX'ing part remotely, which would probably have advantages in battery life and App size. Hmm...

    And it's an open secret that some of the game apps have imbedded interpreters (often Lua). It's not exactly clear where Apple wants to draw lines here, but my intuition is that you could get a TeX interpreter through, because the TeX interpreter isn't driving the App UI, and therefore, you can't use the interpreter to host third party apps.

  4. Does a stylus come with the PDF annotate app? In other words, is it actually natural to pull up a PDF and take notes on it? In general, is there any easy way to take notes (say, in a meeting)? I've been wondering about this very thing with regards to the iPad...

  5. I believe you can already play a keynote slideshow on a projector with the VGA adapter:

    The ipad (at least as of now) doesn't enable mirroring of whatever is on the screen, so the adapter is only useful for a limited number of applications. Still, once a web browser and a PDF viewer is added to that list, you'll probably have most bases covered.

    As for LaTex, there's just no way Apple's newly updated developer policy (referenced above) applies. When you compile LaTex, LaTex is not being used to produce an application, merely a PDF document. While it's still irritatingly unclear what, exactly, Apple is actually banning with their new policy, they definitely are not banning "interpreters" in all forms. Are apps no longer allowed to render webpages from HTML?

  6. Lance, I hope that you at least got these things for free from Apple. :)

    I personally will wait for Google's version of ipad. Nexus is, IMHO, much better than iphone.
    (Android needs much better applications, i.e. it is behind iphone which is doing better with respect to applications, but considering what Nexus one is capable of (1 GHz!) and more flexibility for developers I expect things to change soon.)

    By the way, have heard about this:

    Just imagine this combined with Android! :)

  7. What about this?

  8. Regarding giving presentations on the iPad. Yes the is a VGA out adapter, but it only works with limited applications. There is a slideshow option, but I was not sure how that would work, so I bought their Keynote app.

    ( I am not sure when they will change this, but I hope they add this functionality for pdf viewers. BTW, I like Goodreader: nice interface, easy file transfer but no annotation, yet)

    However, the keynote app does not accept pdf files (or keynote files pre-keynote'09). But it does seem to accept any powerpoint file. How screwy is that!

    I gave my first presentation on the iPad yesterday. It worked great, after the initial trouble of getting the presentation on there.

  9. I am not an early adopter of gadgets, but around 7 or 8 years ago, I bought a tablet PC by Toshiba. I used it for 5 or 6 years. During this time, just the cost of the saved paper paid for the additional cost of it. I easily consumed 1 or 2 notepads for my scracth work. Of course feeling of environment benefit was priceless. The additional utility of storing all the scratch work and searching it later was an additional bonus. Or doing research over the phone with a remote collaborator using shared white-board became a bit more realistic. Giving a white-board talk when only projector was present came handy many times.

    Well, to close the paragraph, I bought Lenovo tablet and a Gateway tablet after that, and looking to buy my 4th tablet now.

  10. Kamal, I was waiting for a Mac tablet, but it looks now like that will never happen. Part of the reason I like Macs is that it is so easy to run so much software, without having to deal with Linux or Windows headaches. With the iPad, Apple has given up a lot of what makes Macs attractive to an academic.

  11. winedt ? hahhaahah ... who on earth is using this ?

    We go emacs of course! There's no better editor out there, emacs is the way.

  12. If you are a Tetris/Drop7 fan, check out DropZap for the iPad and iPhone. It's free for a limited time.

    There's also a web version:

  13. New tablets allow both natural multitouch and as well as pen. The combo is a real deal.

    Besides some few ounces of extra weight, and few hundred additional dollars, these tablets asks for no compromise from the users.

    You could use them as a natural laptop, and enjoy all those additional utilities which normal laptop is not capable.

    To me a tablet feels like an ideal machine for theoreticians. If I have to keep only one modern gadget and give up all others, I will just keep a tablet. With voice based IMs (such as office communicator, or skype), I now even feel lazy to pick my phone.

  14. Kamal, would love to know what app you use for remote collaboration on a virtual whiteboard...

  15. It doesn't even have multitasking? It seems that the iPad is a perverse experiment and a practical joke: To determine the worst possible product that Apple can successfully promote with its marketing machine.

  16. Have a look at this:

  17. What's the benefit of this over a laptop? I'm just not seeing it - it's too big to put in your pocket so you need to carry a bag ANYWAY, and the only benefit over a smartphone is the size. Everybody has a phone and a computer so what role does this thing fill?

  18. I'm also curious about if there is any way to write notes, as you would with a pencil on the iPad. It would seem to me that the lines you can trace with a finger are too thick (and the Pogo stylus pen also looks like it draws thick lines). I currently use a Lenovo tablet and like using it for handwritten notes.

  19. These days Live meeting. In the past I have used Net Meeting and there was also an open source alternative, whose name I forgot. Sometimes even sharing the desktop, and opening a journal page works fine too, together with a phone connection.