Times being what they are, I sometimes accept payment in "kit" instead of actual money. That is why your perpetually impoverished narrator has access to an iPad and an HP netbook, along with an aging but still-groovy desktop workstation.
Although everyone says the tablets are taking over
, I almost never use the iPad.
This machine has only two uses: As a gaming machine and as a book reader. When it comes to games -- well, maybe my gaming days are over. Even the latest iteration of Angry Birds is a bore.
I enjoy reading books on the tablet, but I do not love getting the books onto the effing device.
"Just send it to yourself via email!" people tell me. Yeah. Right. Look, the books I read tend to be hefty PDFs from the Internet Archive or Scribd or some similar source. When I'm on my desktop, sending these books via Yahoo mail can be a long, tedious process -- especially on a night when the network is, for some reason, slow. Then you have to load the books onto the iPad's book reading program, which is an even greater irritation. You have to do each book individually; there's no batch command. Last time I tried to get five pdfs onto the iPad, the whole business took more than twenty minutes.
Getting books onto that underpowered, much-reviled netbook is a whole lot easier. I have a huge library of books (all nicely cataloged according to subject matter) on one of the hard drives on my desktop system. With a few swipes of a mouse, I drag and drop the books I want to "portable-ize" onto a jump drive. In just a couple of minutes, I can sweep dozens, hundreds of books onto one small external drive that fits right into my pocket. (That's where stuff belongs: The pocket, not the Cloud.)
Boom. That's it. Good to go.
You can snap that tiny jump drive into any USB port on any real
computer (yes, the netbook, slow though it may be, counts as a real computer) and you have a whole library with you at Starbucks or on the bus.
That's the big problem with iWorld: The people who designed those devices are so fucking insistent on making money from their apps that they won't allow you to transfer files in a normal fashion. I can't stand the iPad's operating system. It allows you no control.
Tablets are for fools who like to pay money. The iPeople love to tell you: "There's an app for that!" Well, in the world of real computing, there's also an app for everything and anything you might want to do -- and you don't have to pay for the app
. In just about every category you can think of, there's a good free app
available to PC users. Even if you want to learn about something as complex as 3D modelling, you
can grab hold of a fine program like Blender without paying a dime.
I haven't quite finished my discussion of the problems involved with reading books on the tablet. On a purely physical level, the iPad should win out in this category, since the lack of a keyboard makes the device easier to hold in a comfortable position. But the iBooks app sucks
when it comes to displaying PDFs, because you can't zoom in.
In the world of real
computing, we have the all-time killer app for people who like to read books: The Scientific and Technical Documentation Utitlity
(STDU), which works for epub, mobi, comic book formats, PDFs, and just about anything else you can toss at it. It's free.
it with people who say that PCs are only for people who do "power computing" and "content creation." That's bullshit. Tablets won't allow you to do all sorts of stuff which no-one would classify as "power computing." For example, I like to cut and paste the day's most interesting news stories into one Word document file and then listen to that file via a text-to-speech reader. I got into this habit back in the days of Windows 95. Think about it: The iPad cannot easily do that which a Windows 95 computer could do
Oh -- and don't get me started on the lousy web browsing experience in iWorld. If you switch back and forth between tabs, the page reloads each time. And it is often nearly impossible to scroll down the page using the touch screen without activating some link that you did not intend to hit. The browser often conks out for no reason. Nobody knows why; I've researched the matter online.
Writing blog posts? Forget it. Writing is just barely tolerable on that tiny underpowered netbook. It's impossible
on an iPad.
I'm not a Luddite. I like the idea of a tablet that I can put in my pocket -- something that can keep a charge for a full day. But please give me a portable device that works more like a real computer. I want a USB outlet that works normally. I need an OS that allows me to see precisely where the files go. I need scroll bars so I can go through a web page without activating things I don't want to activate.
Tablet makers: There is no need to reinvent the computer. Just make the old computers smaller.