Jan. 27th, 2010

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I think Stryck was right -- this is probably both the at-work cold and con-crud cold. While I made it to work yesterday, today I woke up with my head about three-feet-thick and barely able to think. Uuuuuuugh. I'm still curled up under the blankets on my hot-rock here at the lair. This plus a nice heavy dose of NyQuil put me in a nicely free-associating state of mind for watching the usual Stevesmas (aka the 2nd day of Geeksmas) presentation this morning.

Will I get an iPad? Well, yeah, you know me. Gadget and all that. Will it be all-that? Probably not. But will I have an actual use for it? I currently have a 17"MBP (personal), 15"MBP (work) and an iPhone 3Gs. The work one never leaves the office. The 17" gets shuttled between the shop, the living room and the bedroom. The iPhone is constantly on me. So where would a tablet fit in?

The iPhone is a browsing-only device. Sure, I have my SSH, VPN and desktop-remote packages on it that let me do actual work during an emergency when my laptop isn't on me, but it's a total pain in the tail. The only time the phone is really useful is for looking up and reading data. Unless it's time-critical or an emergency, I put off any real input-related stuff until I can get to where my laptop is. Also, while it's nifty to play movies and browse the web on the iphone, the screen size is a real limitation. It's handy while killing a few moments waiting in the car or similar times when it's the only device on me.

The laptop is my do-everything station. It's got more power than any desktop I've previously owned. And, while it's light and not too much a burden for all it can do, it's still a hefty chunk to haul around. I tend to only use it at the shop or at home; I don't carry it with me going out and about. Sometimes it'll be in the car while I'm in transit between sites, but it's downright onerous to pull up onto the lap while parked; I put up with the phone's limitations instead.

This leaves me with a bit of a hole in my computing life. I want something super-easily portable, yet doesn't suck for input. Something with a bigger screen than a phone but not a whopper like my 17". To solve this for the last few years I've tried netbooks and sub-notebooks; so far none of them has stuck. I ended up selling the little Dell Mini9 hackintosh I made, even. The keyboard just hurt to use and the display and speed just sucked. I had my hopes up for the CrunchPad but it kind of went down in intra-company political flames. Other attempts for a 'plunk down on the couch and use it' tablet have never really come through with an interface I've liked.

My hopes are up for the iPad, then. The magic combo for me is the size of the screen, speed of the processor, 3G availability and a keyboard (dock or bluetooth) when I want it. It could easily live on the upper shelf of my little work van and be pulled out when I want to kill time or look something up (parked, of course). A small slip-case would make it as easy to carry as my Kindle for 'bringing everywhere' like I don't with my laptop. And the decent/fun UI means it'd be worth fussing with just sitting around on the couch instead of squint-poking at the iPhone. Add in that it'll be part of the 'ecosystem' I've already chosen so all my existing data/apps are already there... sure, I'll get one.

On the hobby side, it looks like it'd be a nice tool to go with photography; kind of a Digital Photo Wallet++. Paired with the WiFi grips on my dSLRs it could be downright handy as a remote display. This brings to mind a number of app-writing possibilities I'll have to talk to Revar about.

My only real complaint has to do with "work vs. play". If I'm just playing around, the iphone is fine. The moment I have to do real work I end up fighting one major thing: lack of multitasking. I need to open an Excel sheet, copy an IP address out of there, take it over to an SSH session, run a few commands, paste the output into a remote-desktop session, then go back and update an email about it all. Having to re-open/re-start each app for each little step sucks... especially with SSH sessions dropped. The iPad will have the same problem as it doesn't multitask either. Sure, on-duty stuff at work will be a little easier on an iPad than an iPhone, but for truly complex actions I'll still need to have the laptop about. Luckily I'm only on-duty one week out of every four.

The big unknown will be gaming. I don't game on my laptop nor on my phone; that's left for the console systems. Will having a tablet-device will change my gaming habits? Time will tell.

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