Archive for Tech

The Cord Has Been Cut

Earlier this month, I received an email from DirecTV thanking me for my 11 years as a customer.

Today, I called DirecTV and suspended my account.

I first talked about cutting the cord back in November, but I’ve dragged my feet since then. Some of my favorite shows were just winding down, the kids still watched a lot of television, and I was generally uncertain of how going solely online would work.

Then a friend sent me a Roku box for Xmas. After a little bit of experimenting, I finally disconnected the DirecTV receiver and replaced it with the Roku box to see if we missed having DirecTV at all.

So far it’s not been a problem. I started to turn on the local news before remembering it was gone, so I instead visited the websites for the local TV and newspapers and got the same information (and even some of the news video). My wife wanted to watch Castle and another network show, but she just went upstairs and watched them on our iMac. Even the kids haven’t been bothered by it at all, as they’re enjoying seeking out new movies and replaying their old favorites on Netflix.

Here’s another bonus: the kids love the Roku box. The remote is so simple our four-year-old daughter who can’t even read can navigate to Netflix and find the Scooby-Doo and Bugs Bunny covers in the Recently Watched section and watch them when she feels like it. The rest of the time her older brothers help her read other covers that catch her eye.

The first real snag came with tennis for the Wife. She doesn’t watch all the time, but she does like to catch the major tournaments. The Australian Open started this week and she worried she’d have to miss out. Then I learned ESPN3 carries streaming video from the tournament and is available on the Xbox 360. A few minutes of installing later, I had the first matches playing for her. Problem solved.

The Roku is now the key component of our entertainment center, streaming video from Netflix and Amazon Video On Demand. I’ve only used the latter once to check out the free pilot of FX’s Lights Out, but it worked well enough I intend to use it to catch my must-see shows like Breaking Bad and Sons of Anarchy. We used DirecTV’s streaming music from time to time, but have now replaced that with a Pandora channel on the Roku. We like Pandora even better for its customization options, and the Roku’s optical audio output still allows us to pipe the music straight to our stereo.

We’ve started to experiment with other channels, too. I can play a slideshow from my Flickr photostream, we get instant weather from a dedicated Weather Underground channel, and I discovered a UFC channel for purchasing live events. I’ve dipped into Crunchy Roll to browse Japanese television shows (Samurai dramas? Hells yes!), and CHOW taught us how to avoid looking like idiots at the sushi bar. There are sports channels, foreign channels, a chop-socky channel I’ll need to find, and a lot more.

I see two slight changes in our future: an over-the-air antenna and an upgrade to our broadband setup. The OTA antenna would be for the convenience of locals and network shows, but it isn’t a priority. My broadband connection is cable, though, and I’ve reduced the speed to save some money. It works fine for the most part, but getting some of that speed back may let us stream HD more consistently. I’m going to start by replacing my ancient wireless router with a newer, high-speed box to make sure it isn’t our bottleneck, but even if I both buy a router and bump up the speed of my package, I come out well ahead by dumping DirecTV.

Our viewing habits have changed already, too. Instead of surfing the same dozen channels over and over again and settling on whatever looked the least painful to watch, we’re finding movies and documentaries that we missed out on when they first aired or first hit theaters.

What? Programming that we actually want to watch instead of just settling for? Who’d have thunk it!

I’ve got six months to go back to DirecTV and get my original plan back, as well as continue with my free DVR service. Right now, though, I don’t see it happening.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

1,000 Paying Fans

Piracy is inevitable. There have been bootlegs and mix tapes as long as there has been recording equipment, and the digital age has made it easier than ever to share illegal content all over the world. It’s also a lot easier to track, which leads me to wonder if piracy is any more prevalent than it’s ever been or if it’s just a lot more obvious.

Either way, it becomes an even larger problem for creators. Bands that seem wildly popular have been dropped by their labels because their albums don’t sell, and now the same thing is starting to happen to writers. It’s one thing to see a couple thousand seeds for a book on a torrent site, but it’s a whole ‘nother matter to look at a royalty statement and learn the book is still in the hole. (Side note: I haven’t had this experience directly, but I’ve seen it happen to others.) It’s really frustrating when a fan talks about how much they just love the book they ganked from a torrent site, then are shocked because the writer isn’t being published anymore.

But again, this is inevitable. It doesn’t matter how they justify it to themselves, pirates are going to continue downloading their free books, consequences be damned. And here’s the other thing: there’s not a damn thing you can do about it. It doesn’t matter what kind of security or encryption is put on these things, it’ll be cracked in a week. Smack those people upside the head and move on. We have to put up with them just like we do people who will only borrow the book from friends & family, or who will wait until it shows up in remainder bins or on used book store shelves.

I ignore torrent sites. I know Werewolves: Call of the Wild was out there, and I’m sure The Pack: Winter Kill is on several sites right now, too. I’m not going to lose sleep over it. Chances are most of those people wouldn’t buy it anyway, and I’d be shocked if more than half of the pirates ever got around to actually reading it. I also ignore them because I don’t want to lose the product. If the now-canceled Terriers were to suddenly go viral on a torrent site, I’ll lose my shit.

It’s just not worth the heartache.

Remember, 1,000 True Fans can support a creator, but it also means 1,000 Paying Fans. Lost your job but just have to read the latest Keene novel? Gotta have The Sixth Gun but you got hit buy a bus and don’t have insurance? Fine, I understand the temptation to make the mouse clicks. Just remember, if you want to read the sequel, go back and actually pay for the book when you do have the money.

If you like a creator’s work, support it.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Bring Back Space Heroes

Take a one-way trip to Mars? Now that’s balls.

That’s exactly what’s missing from our current space program: big, hairy balls. We worry about costs, about safety, about how people are going to get along. Meanwhile there are plenty of volunteers ready to be strapped in and blasted into space. Sure, they know they could die, but they’re willing to take the risk because they know it needs to be done.

Think about the old days. Neil Armstrong, Alan Shepard, Buzz Aldrin, Yuri Gagarin… These guys didn’t let their mortality stop them. Even the atmosphere-bound guys like Chuck Yeager accepted there was a chance the only way they’d return to the ground was in a flaming ball of wreckage. Time was these guys were the heroes and role models. Kids wanted to grow up and be blasted into space, too.

Now kids want to be Hannah Montana.

Of course, it might help if the space program were a little sexier. If you’ve got the money, you can fly across the ocean in first-class luxury. Cars and planes are loaded up with all the latest technology, and smartphones have become disposable toys. Meanwhile, my iPod touch probably has more computing power than what’s under the Space Shuttle’s dashboard. If private jets are souped-up Ferraris, the Space Shuttle is a ’70s-era woody station wagon held together with duct tape and Bondo.

You want to bring back space heroes? Build that Mars ship. Show them something new. You can’t tell me anything we build now isn’t going to be light years beyond the tin cans we put up in the ’60s.

You want to bring back space heroes? Let them break new boundaries and brave new frontiers. Give these heroes a reason to put those big, hairy balls to use.

You want to bring back space heroes? Stop talking about it and do it. Stop sweating every little detail, because they only way we’re really going to know if something’s going to work is to try it.

Load ’em up, strap ’em in, light the fire.

Let’s rock.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

The iPad as a Mobile Writing Platform

I’ve come to enjoy writing in Pages on my Mac, and using the Pages app on the iPad is proving to be just as capable. Enough people have asked how I like it that I thought I’d just go ahead and write up what I’ve done to turn it into a great system for writing on the road.

First, let’s talk about the on-screen keyboard. While it’s not near as bad as some would expect, it does have its quirks. When typing in landscape mode, the key sizes and spacing are not far off from a standard keyboard, and just as with the iPhone, the predictive typing and auto-correction helps smooth most typos. The downside for full-fingered typists, however, is the rearrangement of some of the keys, most notably dropping the exclamation point down to the comma key and having the apostrophe as a sort of sub-key of the comma (hold the comma key and swipe up to get an apostrophe). I still haven’t quite gotten used to it, but at the same time, it hasn’t really slowed me down, especially for short works or outlines.

I found an easy solution in adding a Bluetooth keyboard. This gives me finer cursor control and text selection with the shift and arrow keys, and it leaves me more screen real estate for typing. Even carrying both the iPad and the keyboard, I have less bulk and weight than a laptop and I still get the benefit of longer battery life.

There may be other writing and text-editing apps available, but again, I’ve found the Pages app works quite well. Most of the basic formatting, like numbering and indenting, has made it to the app, and it can export to PDF and Word docs as well as to the native Pages format.

Two ways the app could be almost perfect: 1) More flexibility in exporting apps (such as to Dropbox, below); 2) Add support for comments. My editor at Evileye Books makes extensive use of the comments features in Pages and Preview on the Mac, and he’s getting me addicted. It would be so much easier if those comments also showed up in the Pages app, even if it was through something like an icon placeholder if not having them on-screen at all times.

To get files to the iPad, as well as to keep them in sync on other devices, Dropbox is a must. I have their software installed on my desktop, my laptop, my iPod touch, my iPad, and now my shiny, new, Android-powered smartphone. Put a file in a Dropbox folder and it’s uploaded to the Dropbox server, where it is then pushed out to every device subscribed to the account. I can even access my files from any browser, or use it to share files with other people. The Dropbox app can open and read Word docs, PDFs, and Pages files, and it can send files right to the Pages app for editing.

Dropbox’s single, most important selling point is it helps ensure I have the most current copy of a document available at all times. No more comparing time stamps, copying across a network, and no more juggling thumb drives and hoping they don’t suddenly crap out. If Pages could export back to Dropbox directly, the system would be bulletproof.

My next must-have app is Evernote. There are competitors like Simplenote, but whatever the final solution, they help keep my notes synchronized across my various devices. I still brainstorm best with a pencil and paper (so the Moleskine still goes with the iPad), but important notes get dropped into Evernote for easy access. Evernote makes it easy to keep notes for different projects sorted, and the tagging makes it easy to find them. I can also take photos and drop them into Evernote, and there’s a voice note feature I have yet to take advantage of.

I have the Kindle app loaded on all of my portable devices, too. While it’s nice to have as a distraction or for inspiration, I also have a free Kindle edition of The New Oxford American Dictionary on hand for when I don’t have an Internet connection and searching Google isn’t an option.

And that about sums it up. I have email and my address book, of course, but the smartphone handles most of that. Same for Twitter, Facebook, and WordPress apps, but I don’t consider those must-haves for the actual process of writing. Google Earth and Maps can be helpful at times, and I’ve got things like a first aid reference, a how-to guide, and a drink mix app for occasional use as well. I have yet to use the Dragon Dictation app for more than just tinkering and testing, but I can see how it might be useful at times, too.

Lately I’ve been all about keeping it Spartan. The core tools are the true necessities; the rest are just flashy apps and distractions. I spend all day multi-tasking on my desktop and laptop, so it’s nice to have a pared-down device with just one app holding my focus on the screen. I’ve come to enjoy editing and proofing on the iPad as well. Using it like a tablet closely mimics editing on paper, and it feels more relaxing than sitting at a desk or keyboard. Again, if I could add comments to documents, it would be almost perfect.

Finally, I love the portability. I carry a lot of extra gear in my laptop backpack for work, and I can drop the iPad into my karate backpack without adding significant weight or bulk (I keep karate notes in Evernote as well). I can drop the iPad into a messenger bag, with or without the keyboard, and haul it to a convention or on a short trip with no problem. Hell, I can even drop both the iPad and the keyboard into a saddle bag on my motorcycle and really travel light.

Time was I thought I’d never be able to do without a laptop. Now I feel like I’m just using the laptop out of habit. I’m not quite ready to give it up, but if I had to, I bet I would get along just fine.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Time to Knuckle Down

It’s been a hell of a day.

It started with a crashed server at work. It took a turn for the better this evening when I burned through two more steps of my karate review process, leaving me only sparring and ju ju undo to complete to earn Ikkyu, or first-degree brown belt.

Then it ramped up again when I got some good news from Evileye Books, which I hope to share with you in the coming weeks. It means more work, but that’s a good thing.

Now I’m all amped up and need to burn off some energy.

A belated song of the day:

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

The Digital Craze

The digital publishing market has just exploded over the last couple of months. I’ve hardly worn the newness off my iPad and now we’ve got Barnes & Noble entering the e-reading app fray, Borders about to drop their Kobo ereader (which Wired is already calling a possible Kindle killer), and even a new device called the enTourage eDGe (their ridiculous use of caps) that looks something like a Kindle strapped to an iPad.

It doesn’t stop there. Amazon may keep their sales figures quiet, but it’s clear they’re enjoying a fair amount of success and it was only a matter of time before Barnes & Noble responded with their own e-publishing arm. Realistically they’re more digital distributor than digital publisher (individual authors and small presses like Evileye are technically the publishers), but that line gets fuzzier when they sign exclusive authors.

Now I wonder how long before Barnes & Noble — maybe even Borders — jump into the POD market, too. It appears Amazon will be the first with an official Android reading app, though, and as the first to understand the store is the real killer feature, they’re just going to keep pushing the envelope. You don’t stay the leader by waiting to see what the other guy is going to do next.

Which reminds me of the Sony Digital Reader. There are several ideological and some technical advantages to being open, but it just doesn’t have the convenience of Amazon’s WhisperSync. Sure, my wife’s a bit bummed she can’t loan a book to her mother or her sister, but to her it’s hardly even a nuisance as it’s far outweighed by the system’s advantages. (It also doesn’t help that, in my experience, the Sony reader is slower on refreshes and somewhat awkward to navigate.)

This eDGe thing is technically interesting, though it strikes me as more prototype than product at the moment. Here’s their intro video:

They obviously have the best of both worlds in mind. However, why do I care about being able to scribble on the eInk display if I’ve got the tablet right next to it? In watching the usage, it doesn’t appear it has an accelerometer, and the interface seems slow compared to the iPad’s (which to me suggests it will be underpowered). For my taste, a touchscreen has to be instantly responsive to be worthwhile (a test the Nook also failed). Ommus called it ugly, but what really bothers me is you can’t use a simple protective sleeve on it and hope to flip it open, and when it is flipped so the screens are back-to-back, you’re always going to have one screen face-down when you put it down. How rugged are the surfaces of their screens?

I don’t know. I’m sure this is more subjective opinion than objective, but I really don’t see the need to carry a two-in-one device. I’d be content to carry one device that nails it’s job than something that, for the moment at least, may be playing catch-up in two categories. Battery life and outdoor reading are the only real advantages of eInk, and the iPad’s battery life is long enough to make the eInk advantage negligible. So now I’m paying the same price for what may be an inferior device just so I can read outside? No, probably not.

I’m sure there are more in development, and we have yet to see what some of the iPad competitors will bring to the table. Anything with a reading app — be it Kindle, B&N eReader, or something like Stanza — is now an e-reading device. Battery life is getting longer, processors are getting smaller and faster, storage is getting cheaper (or is effectively replaced by cloud storage in Kindle’s case), and displays won’t be far behind.

We can call it a craze for now, but I’m thinking soon this will be the status quo. I still don’t believe they’ll replace paper anytime soon, but I do see a future where paper books become more about collectibility and nostalgia. They’ll be to the next generation what vinyl records are to us.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

The Kindle: Five Months Later

I bought the Wife a Kindle for Xmas last year, and it occurred to me I never followed up on the original blog post to see how the Kindle stands up to long-term use.

The short version? She still loves it. She now has 80 books on it (including mine, of course), she’s skinned it, and she uses it daily.

She’s gone back to a paperback book exactly once in that time, and only then because she didn’t feel like repurchasing a book she already owned. She’s read in bed, in the kitchen, on the couch, and outside, and she hardly ever has to charge it. It was weird seeing the sort of screen saver image on it all the time, but we’ve gotten used to it. Initial concerns over the contrast, eye strain, and so on have all proven non-issues.

She’s also found it’s easier to read than dead tree editions. Even modest mass market paperback begins to feel heavy after a time, and so does the Kindle. However, she’s found she can lay the Kindle flat on the table and keep reading. That’s just not going to happen with a book, and even if it did lay flat, on many pages you have to deal with reading around the curvature of the page into the spine. Bookmarking and navigating through books is a snap, and with Amazon’s setup she’s able to delete and re-download titles at will.

Most of all, she likes not having to wait for hardcover new releases to hit paperback and not having to pay hardcover price for them. At the rate she reads, the savings becomes well worth the investment, with or without the convenience of instant delivery and having less clutter on the bookshelves.

I recently got my hands on an iPad, and I look forward to comparing the experience. I first intended to use the native iBooks app, but I’ve actually been impressed with the Kindle app instead. I started by downloading my book for free, as I’d already purchased it for my iPod touch. Just for kicks, I downloaded it to my MacBook as well, and as you can see from yesterday’s post, I loaded it up on all three devices. Even cooler? The other devices recognized where I had left off on the iPod touch and asked if I wanted to jump to the same page. That’s a nice bonus for someone who hast to share a Kindle and wants to read a book on a mobile device or computer when the other person has the Kindle.

I think it’s high time I checked out some of Victor Gischler’s work, so I’ll be starting there. His books Gun Monkeys and Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse: A Novel are both available on the Kindle and should make fine reading on the plane during a trip next month. Incidentally, Go-Go Girls is available on iBooks, as is Vampire a Go-Go, each for the same price as on the Kindle, but again, the wider availability of devices gives the Kindle app the edge and the general functionality appears to be the same. Being able to control the screen brightness from within the app is a nice feature of iBooks, but I’m not sure (yet) that it’s going to be a killer feature.

In any event, the continued fear of digital books from some readers amazes me. I’ll admit it’s counter-intuitive, but I think digital reading is now at least as convenient and comfortable as paper books, if not moreso. People are snapping them up, and now even Borders has jumped on the bandwagon with their own reader. As someone who continued to buy paperbacks while the Wife went digital, I’m now looking forward to trying it myself with both books and comics.

I’m sure I’ll ramble on about it again in the future.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Photo Friday: Going Mobile

I decided to inject a little marketing into this week’s Photo Friday.

Whatever youve got, there we are.

Whatever you've got, there we are.

Thanks to the magic that is Amazon Kindle, you can get a copy of The Pack: Winter Kill on most mobile devices. Here we’ve got a MacBook Pro, an iPad, an iPod touch, and my wife’s Kindle. If my particular BlackBerry had been supported, I’d have slipped it into the picture, too.

I did a simple photo setup on this one: I arranged the devices, used an old curtain for a backdrop, and bounced the flash off the ceiling. I could probably have used another light source on the touch and the Kindle to brighten them both up, but I didn’t have anything available. (I’d buy some more lighting rigs, but I wouldn’t use them near enough to justify the expense.)

Of course, if you’d rather carry around a few slices of dead tree than a collection of bits, there’s still the paperback edition! All you have to do is order it from Amazon or Barnes & Noble, take this form to your local retailer, or just wait a few days until I get my bookstore up and running (from which you’ll be able to buy a signed copy direct from my office, ooh ahh).

Okay, pimping and photography done. I need  some sleep after last night’s boilermaker outing kept me up ’til the wee hours of this morning.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

The Un-Zen of Computers

I can’t count the number of people who either beg me for computer help or tell me I should be fixing computers as a side job. Truth be told, I could probably keep busy at it, and bring in a few bucks.

But I’d be miserable.

When someone hands me a computer, they’re not just handing me a chunk of metal, they’re handing me their headache. Sure, I may have a better idea of how to soothe that headache, but it’s a headache for me nonetheless. That computer is just as slow, just as broken, just as virus-riddled for me as it is for them.

People compare computer repair to automotive repair, but this is a bad analogy. Most of the time, the problem with an automobile is mechanical: the mechanic swaps the brakes, replaces the alternator, maybe rebuilds the transmission, and the car’s ready to go. If it were truly like computer repair, the mechanic would swap the brakes and they’d fly apart in a week. He’d replace the alternator, and the battery would stop holding a charge. He’d rebuild the tranny, and third gear would be inexplicably missing. See, when we take out some viruses, they sometimes take part of the system with them. Or they just won’t go away and we have to reinstall from scratch, which is like tearing everything out from under the hood and replacing it all just to fix a funny noise.

There may be Zen in motorcycle engine repair, but there’s nothing Zen about computer repair. There are things that work just fine on one computer, but refuse to work on an identical system because one file you’ll never find got corrupted. It becomes a time suck because you have to reboot every time you try something, and you have to sit and wait for system updates and virus scans to finish (which the user often couldn’t be bothered with). Troubleshooting isn’t detective work, it’s searching Google and praying some poor bastard smarter than you already ran into the problem and found a solution.

Then comes dealing with the human element. Sure, most of them are thrilled their computer’s fixed and are happy to write a check, but every so often you get the assholes. They tell you to go ahead and reinstall Windows and assure you there’s nothing on the system they need, then flip out because junior’s graduation pics were on there. They get the computer back and threaten to throw it out the window because it’s still slow. They expect you to work miracles with their eight-year-old piece of shit and threaten to tell everyone they know that you don’t know what you’re doing.

I deal with enough of that in my day job. Why would I want to invite that into my personal time?

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

The Future of Publishing

A great video for those of you living in fear of digital publishing:

Like it or not, digital publishing is here to stay. The movie and music industries went through it, and now it’s our turn.

Adapt or die.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Why Enhanced E-books Will Rock for Students

Penguin has put together a video demonstrating a collection of possible apps for Apple’s iPad and similar tablet devices with touch input and e-book capability. This is very cool stuff:

Once again, I think devices like the iPad will be the best way to go 1:1 with students rather than laptops or netbooks. The simple interface can be manipulated by all age groups, even before the required development for mice and keyboards. They may not be cheaper than netbooks, but they’ll be easier to manage, deploy, and replace, and that may make up for the cost.

We haven’t preordered an iPad at the school I work for yet, but we’d like to see one in action soon.

(For a previous post with a longer rant on why tablet e-books are going to rock, click here.)

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Hate the Name, Want the iPad

Back on Christmas Eve, I blogged about the things I’d like my comics to do in the future.

Yesterday, Apple gave us the iPad, and I believe it’s only a matter of time before our comics will do all that. The examples in the keynote made it clear that the days of static pages are over. I don’t think there’s any reason to go fully animated for comics (that’s what cartoons are for), but creators will be able to take advantage of slick transitions and other effects that can really enhance the reading — or even the entire storytelling — experience. Guys like comiXology have their app zooming and panning around a comic, but that’s just scratching the surface.

I’m not convinced this will replace the Wife’s beloved Kindle, mostly because I’m not convinced the iPad will be as comfortable to read for long periods (the iPad is backlit, the Kindle is not) or as easy to read outdoors. The Kindle is also cheaper and, at least for the moment, has a much larger selection of books available. (The Kindle DX, however, is toast. The newspaper and magazine outlets wanted a bigger tablet, but they also wanted color, and the DX just doesn’t cut it.)

I wonder, too, what it will do for short prose fiction. If magazines and newspapers are going to go all out developing for this thing, why not anthology magazines or fiction websites? Grab something like the new Crimefactory zine and read it on the go, just like you might for the Kindle. With the iPad, editors could also post video interviews and other extras you may be able to post to the web but you just can’t do on a Kindle.

I don’t see the iPad replacing my laptop (or desktop, for that matter), but I can see it being a great supplement. I love my iPod touch, but I still can’t edit docs on it. With Pages available for the iPad, I can easily use it to edit files, or even create in a pinch while on the road. I’d have to play with the keyboard dock and/or a Bluetooth keyboard to give any real thought to long-form creation on it, such as writing an entire novel, but the real problem is I need the multitasking to be truly functional on it.

That said, the multitasking isn’t a deal killer. I don’t need multitasking on the road, or if I’m lugging it around at a convention. I can prop it up on a table and let it display artwork all day on a 10-hour battery, or hand it to an editor and let him flip through art or page samples. I can also hold and use it like a clipboard with little effort while walking around a con floor or waiting in line somewhere. These would be unwieldy at best with a laptop, even a netbook.

Kiss netbooks goodbye, for that matter. For $100 or so more, I’d much rather have an iPad. Netbooks are underpowered, for the most part, and you’re still wrestling with a laptop form factor only tinier. True multitasking would bog down the iPad, just as it does most netbooks. If I didn’t have a MacBook at work, I’d purchase an iPad for myself and use it as the supplement to my iMac rather than spending double or more on a full-size laptop. I’d much rather carry the iPad on a plane, too. Laptops are a tight fit on those trays, especially if you’re a larger person or if the guy in front of you leans his seat back.

As an educator, I’d much rather put an iPad in the hands of my students in a 1:1 environment. Why?

  1. The cost is less than half of a MacBook and they will be far easier to manage (based on existing iPod/iPhone deployment tools, anyway)
  2. With textbook deals coming, students will be able to carry and read all their books on it
  3. It’s set up for annotation and in-classroom note taking
  4. It will have all the current features of the iPod touch, such as classroom response, apps, iTunesU, and so on
  5. The lack of multitasking keeps students on task (in theory)
  6. Schools will still have labs for multimedia work and things like yearbook and business classes, so heavy-duty composition can be done there

Some say printing may be an issue, but I say no. Just ten years ago, Palm wanted every student to have a Palm device and beam their papers, etc., to the teacher via infrared. If the iPad will dump files to a server store for the teacher, that’s all they need, and is more efficient. This saves on paper (not to mention toner, which, believe me, is a huge expense for a school district), and is less junk for the teacher to haul home to grade.

Our coaches will kill for sports statistic apps on one of these. They carry it along the sidelines and tap a player’s name to tweak their stats. Little to no typing would be required if it’s handled right. Heck, with the right app and programming, they’d have quick access to plays, replays, and field/court diagrams.

As for some of the other criticisms, I think people are being a bit harsh.

Take the bezel, for example. Yeah, it’s pretty big, but given the size of the thing your thumbs will have to overlap the screen to hold it properly, and you’d have a lot of accidental input. Saying you won’t buy this thing because of the bezel is like saying you wouldn’t sleep with Shakira because she has small tits.

No camera? Yeah, kinda sucks. But Apple’s not stupid, so I think there’s a reason for this. I decided to test out a theory and set my MacBook Pro in my lap so the screen would approximate where I’d hold the iPad. I fired up the Photo Booth app, and the following is the first picture I took while holding the screen in a way I can read the display.

Talk about negative space...

Talk about negative space...

Tilt the display so I can see my whole face, and parts of the screen start looking dim. I wouldn’t be able to see the person talking to me very well.

That was taken holding the screen in landscape mode. I turned it on its side and tried again. This one’s a little better…

I can see my brain!

I can see my brain!

…but you can see right up my nose. It’s not exactly the most flattering angle in general. So why include a camera if the only way you can use it is to hold it straight out in front of you? Users would be bitching about their arms getting tired in no time. Yeah, it would work on a dock, but you know most people aren’t going to be buying docks.

A camera on the back wouldn’t be much better. Something that big would be unwieldy to aim, and probably introduce more shake than you’d want with what would amount to a cell phone camera. Again, it would be an opening to more gripes than compliments. You want a tiny, portable camera off your phone? Try a Flip or an iPod nano. Or a real camera like an Elph.

Then there’s the name. The jokes are already all over the Internet, but MadTV already covered this one for us:

“Vaginal firewall protection” indeed. Smooth, Mr Jobs. Tablet or Slate, with or without an i in front of them, would have been much better.

Next there’s the AT&T thing… Even Hitler’s not happy about that one. But can you blame him? We couldn’t get decent AT&T coverage where I live if our lives depended on it. You would think Apple learned their lesson with all the iPhone complaints. But hey, at least they found people a cheaper data plan. Dump a USB cellular modem and the iPad pays for itself in about a year and a half.

Another reason I think this thing is going to do well is the interface. I’ve played with an iPod touch for a while now, and it still amazes me how easy it is to use. I taught the Midget to use it in all of ten seconds, and he in turn taught the Squirt — who was four at the time — how to do the same thing. With no input from me, they were switching apps and playing games like pros. Even my three-year-old daughter effortlessly dumps pygmies off the island in Pocket God, then creates more so she can do it again.

The interface is what killed previous generations of tablets, whether we’re talking about the Newton or the round of tablets the PC industry tried to foist on us around 2000-2002. (They tried to foist them off on the education sector, anyway.) They were unwieldy, heavy, buggy, and in many cases you had to have a stylus, which itself was just an afterthought bolted on to Windows. Handwriting recognition may have been huge in its day, but you had to learn your way around its idiosyncrasies, especially when they revamped the input alphabet like Palm did. Handwriting recognition was just too inconsistent from user to user, but anyone can learn to swipe.

That said, I’m still intrigued by Microsoft’s Surface. It shows they’ve put a lot more thought into touch technology, and if they integrate the touch features into their new tablet devices, I may be willing to give it a second glance. It’s just tough to be positive after the horrible (IMHO) WinMo interface on most of their mobile devices. (5 minutes with a Sprint Mogul was enough to ensure I’d never go anywhere near one again, and I just needed to make a phone call.)

I know there’s probably going to be a better version out within six months of releasing this one. I know I’m paying into a closed system. But damn it, I want one of these.

Pass the Apple Kool-Aid.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.