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With the launch of the store at Pottermore.com, it’s now possible to get digital versions of all seven Harry Potter novels.

Pottermore Shop

I own all of the audiobooks twice over, and several of the printed books, but the eBooks represent something new: the chance to read the British version of the novels. Alas, due to insanely complicated—and stupid—international publication rights and restrictions, and my credit card’s USA billing address, the Pottermore.com store did not want to allow me to buy the UK version of the books.

Here’s how I bought them anyway. (You can do the same for the audiobooks, too.) Read the rest of this entry (383 words) »

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iPads 1, 2, 3

by Michael Alderete on 4/13/2012

So I bought a first-generation iPad, Rochelle got an iPad 2 as a “spousal patience” present, and we both got “the new iPad (3rd generation)” when it came out in March.

Obviously if we’re still buying them, we must like them. But, how about some details? What do we use them for? Why is the iPad useful, or cool? Here are a few thoughts, in no particular order:

  • The retina display is amazing. Truly spectacular. Once you’ve used it, you will find it hard to go back to any other screen. Indeed, I used my original iPad less and less as I got more used to the retina display on my iPhone 4. I am already reading far more than I have in months, due to the crisp perfection of text on the screen. Both Apple’s iBooks and Amazon.com’s Kindle app are great for reading. When I can’t get DRM-free ebooks I tend to shop at Amazon.com first, simply for the selection, even though I probably prefer the UI for iBooks, marginally.

    It’s not just text that’s spectacular on the screen, either. I’ve…uh, checked out some of the comic book apps on the new screen, and it’s pretty much as good as holding a printed book. Spectacular. I’ve only used the Comics app from comiXology and the Dark Horse Comics app, but both have really delivered incredible on-screen quality.

  • The original iPad was really heavy, for a device you’re going to hold in a reading or viewing position for long stretches of time. Reading a book, watching a movie, browsing the web—all great “lean back” activities on the iPad, but the weight, it was a killer. The new iPad is a little heavier than the iPad 2, but quite a bit less weight than the original. It’s still not light enough, but it’s an improvement.

  • The new iPad does not get hot. No matter what you’ve read. It does get slightly warmer in a particular spot than the earlier models, but barely. You have to want to feel it to notice it.

  • The new iPad does indeed take almost twice as long to charge. On the one hand, the battery has almost twice the capacity, so this is not a surprise. On the other hand, it’s a genuine limitation, in that it becomes much more important to remember to plug it in to charge overnight if you’re planning on using it heavily the next day.

  • I used two iPads during March Madness, using the March Madness On Demand app to watch three games at once. Watching March Madness in my living room on the TV and two iPads The quality of the video, if not as good as my HDTV, was as good as my old standard definition TV set. Kind of amazing.

  • The Netflix app is even better than that. Damn near HDTV quality. The combination of Netflix streaming for under $10/month and an iPad may let you kiss a $100+/month cable bill goodbye. (We haven’t subscribed to cable in 4+ years.) That’ll pay for an iPad right there, in less than a year.

  • Rochelle is the master of replacing cable with iPad apps to watch her shows. Here’s a list to the apps she uses regularly:

    When we want to watch something that’s not available from those services (Justified, The Walking Dead), it’s not hard to justify renting or purchasing in the iTunes Store, given that we don’t spend anything on cable. Not available there, either? Patience is a virtue…we wait for it to be on Netflix’s regular old disc service.

So, nutshell, worth it? As an upgrade from the original iPad, absolutely. The first generation iPad was interesting, even compelling as a vision of the future of computing, but for most people, I think it was easy to say “I’m going to wait for the version where they work out the bugs”.

That wait is over. I don’t know what will come in future generations of the iPad, beyond more processing power and more storage, but this third-generation hardware is “fully baked”. The high definition screen delivers an experience that you do have to see and touch to fully appreciate, but once you do, you’ll want it, too.

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“Just a Big iPod Touch”

by Michael Alderete on 12/21/2010 · 5 comments

When the iPad debuted, the witticism was that it was “just a big iPod touch.” This week Motorola echoed this by saying it’s “like a giant iPhone.”

This is about as stupid as saying a swimming pool is like a giant bathtub.

Read the rest of this entry (243 words) »

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Which iPod Should I Buy, 2010 Edition

by Michael Alderete on 12/8/2010

Two years in the making, or just two years late. At long last I’ve updated the article describing recommended devices for listening to audiobooks:

Which iPod Should I Buy for Listening to Audiobooks

Hopefully this will be useful to you during your holiday shopping! (And come back for my Recommended Audiobooks when you find a new toy under the tree for yourself, that’s getting a huge update soon.)

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Four quick iPad thoughts

by Michael Alderete on 1/28/2010

I just watched the full video from yesterday’s introduction of the Apple iPad, and had a few thoughts.

  1. If you have seen other Apple product introductions, the format is familiar, and they are never less than well executed. Of the intros I’ve seen, nothing has come close to the introduction of the iPhone. (I saw the original Mac intro years too late to fully appreciate its true impact.) But what the introduction of the iPad may have lacked in shock and awe, it made up for in the completeness of the story. The iPhone was on stage by itself, just the software that came on the phone. The iPad arrives with an entire ecosystem, of new and existing applications, third party developers, accessories, etc.

    People who were expecting to get the stomach drop of excitement that the iPhone intro produced (at least in me) were certainly disappointed. But that’s misplaced, the iPad is a far more advanced product and story than the iPhone was when introduced. It’s like the difference between the excitement of crushing hard on someone new, versus the comfort and trust and love that comes after many years of marriage. One’s more exciting, but the other is richer and more fulfilling.

  2. Another disappointment, or fear, that people have expressed is the lack of “openness” or “freedom.” I’ve got a different word for that concept: “complexity.” You can call that spin if you like, but I’ve spent 20+ years showing people how to use computers, and they’ve never been easy to use. Even today, 25 years after the concept of clicking and double-clicking hit the mass market, I see people confuse the two, and that is the most trivial of examples. It’s easy to come up with dozens more serious.

    What Apple is doing, first with the iPhone and now with the iPad, is offering a new model for computing, one that allows more direct interaction with objects on the screen, while at the same time simplifying away huge amounts of complexity, things that most people will never care about.

    Those of us who are “computer sophisticates” think those things are important, but when the iPad arrives, and normal people love them, and rave about the user interface, and buy them by the millions, we’ll see what’s really important, and it’s not the “freedom” to fuck around in the file system, or the “openness” to go out onto the Wild Internet and download and install random software.

    Try this exercise: every time you hear an expert say the iPad isn’t open, change “open” to “complicated.” Every time they write the iPad is “locked down” subsitute “simplified.” When the gurus get detailed about “important” three letter acronyms or random tech talk, hear “blah blah blah,” because that’s all it matters.

    Gruber put it best, it’s the arrival of the automatic transmission for computers. Those of us who are enthusiasts and experts will have access to manual transmissions for decades — regular computers are not going away. But for those folks who only care about getting to their destination, it just got a lot easier.

    Update: Here are some terrific articles that tackle this topic in depth, and in different, complementary ways:

  3. If you want to really understand this, and get an idea of just how much Apple is leading by example, watch the segment where Phil Schiller demonstrates the iPad versions of the iWork suite (a word processor, a spreadsheet, and a presentation tool). Apple has completely re-thought the way that you interact with these tools, and except for the on screen virtual keyboard, it surpasses the desktop experience in every way. Really quite extraordinary, it was here that I got genuinely excited about what is new in the iPad, and what it means. A small taste of The Future.

  4. Scott Forstall offered developers a big incentive to build apps specifically for the iPad: separate, prominent placement in the iPad App Store. The phrase “a new gold rush” was used. Is that sound in the distance the clatter of Android and web OS and Blackberry phones being dropped by developers? Maybe not, but Apple is certainly building tremendous momentum for their platform. Competitors will not be catching up for years.

At $500, the iPad will be $100 cheaper than the original iPhone I lined up to buy. I may not line up for an iPad, but I’ll certainly be buying one. Yes, the 2nd generation will be even better. That’s always true. So what. I don’t think the iPad is the grand slam home run I wrote that the iPhone was, but it’s most definitely a hit that will score runs. I want one.

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