Long Live The Tablet

I’m a computer nerd, I don’t deny this fact. People who know me don’t dispute this fact either.

Given how heavily I use my laptop & 3G modem commuting and how frequently I’m on a plane, I figured I could find a tablet useful. Since I’m not a foaming at the mouth sort of Apple fanboy (I usually wait until after 2nd or 3rd generation apple hardware is released), and I have personal and professional interests in Android, I researched both the iPad 2 and the Xoom.

Spec for spec, I found them comparable. Sure, neither have HD screens, but I have a HD A/V setup at home for that sort of media experience. The Xoom has expandable memory, which gets expensive when you bulking it up to 64GB. The Xoom has an LTE upgrade, which is very nice, but I don’t expect an LTE network in Ireland in the next 2 – 3 years. In the end, I realised the decision was down to the apps available. The iPad is slightly longer established, hence the better ecosystem of apps.

4 weeks ago, my iPad finally arrived, and it took a lot less time than that for me to become a convert. Sure, I don’t have the freedom of Android, but I’m happy with the better polished apps found in Apple’s app store.

I have specific use cases I wanted a tablet for:

Digital newspaper
These days, I mainly keep on top of current affairs through Twitter for breaking news and Google Reader for general interest stuff. I also have a subscription to the paper edition of Wired, but the delivery delays and mounting backlogs are becoming annoying. I intend to convert to the iPad edition of Wired and maybe even pick up a few more periodicals, if they also have iPad editions.
Media viewer
I’m a big multimedia consumer. I watch TV episodes to distract myself when commuting and I have a lot of DVD box sets I’ll watch over and over. I’ve used my laptop for this over the years, but it’s becoming more and more awkward to whip out my laptop and watch something while standing on a crowded train. Sure, having to sync content via iTunes is annoying, but I expect that to change over time. In the meantime, I’m more than happy with my combination of a media player and a network streaming app (for accessing my NAS when I’m at home). It turns out the Xoom doesn’t have any dedicated h.264 decoding hardware, so I’m definitely happy with the iPad 2 here.
Portable Internet Thingie
This is pretty self explanatory. I’m a computer geek. I use GMail and other web apps a lot. I also have a robust To Do list system, so it’s nice having a better way to maintain it other than fighting with the small screen on my iPhone.

What I didn’t expect:

Aperture photo organising
I expected to keep using my laptop for sorting and organising my digital photos in Aperture. Turns out, there is an iPad app which will bidirectionally sync Aperture projects to the iPad, so you can add metadata to your photos and then sync them back. Handy!
Semi decent SSH access
I got an SSH app, but dismissed it pretty quickly since the on screen keyboard is klunky and slow to type on. Turns out, it’s handy for quick one line things, like restarting that un-babysat daemon on my colo box, as I’m on a train, while Nagios is going crazy paging me about it.
The lack of a native Facebook app
There are a few third party apps, but the thought of paying for one just feels dirty. I used to only use it occasionally, since I have a lost of friends between Google Buzz and Twitter. For weeks later & I’m not missing Facebook at all. I don’t expect to deactivate my account anytime soon though, it’s still a handy, all else fails address book.

All in all, I’m glad I waited a year before getting a tablet. I’m an early adopter, but I’m not a bleeding edge early adopter.

Posted from Greystones, County Wicklow, Ireland.

Resolutions

After being neglected technically for a long time, in addition to not having much time to post here, I’ve finally gotten around doing a number of things like upgrading to WordPress 2.7, debugging and fixing comment posting (there was cruft in the DB), and fixing the XMLRPC hooks, which never really worked for me (hopefully should encourage me to post more).

Although I tend to use twitter for random small musings these days, I’m going to start publishing photos from Flickr, random technical things which I can’t find well documented, and the occasional personal update.

For now, things that have happened since my last update:

  • Settled quite well into the house now. I’m even used to spending 3 hours of commuting each day (DivX and a 3G modem are equall helpful with this)
  • I’ve become quite amazed at how dexterous the really iPhone is. OmniFocus, beejive IM and 1Password have made it a truely invaluable tool for me.
  • Ciara and I disappeared off to New York for 8 days in November for a much needed break. We had a lot of fun upstate in the country and running around NYC. Photos should appear sometime soon.

No Longer In A State of Flux…

I’ve bounced around a lot of places in the last few weeks.

In early April, I was in the Zurich office for a few days (and yes, they really do have a fireman’s pole, no I didn’t go down it), before going to Innsbrook, Austria for an internal work conference and finally Soelden, Austria for our annual ski trip. Thankfully, we left Soelden just in time.

After that trip, I was around Ireland for three weeks and doing various things, including a 24 hour trip to Kilkenny for Andrew‘s Stag Night (mischief and mayhem was appropriately documented) and a few weeks later, Ciara and I were in Barberstown, Kildare for Andrew’s wedding over the May bank holiday weekend.

A week later, I was on a plane again, this time to (sunny) San Francisco. I was back in the mothership for meetings and a well deserved top up of the company koolaid. Apart from working, I got up to many things such as taking a San Francisco Bay ferry tour in dense fog, catching up with people, and slowing resenting the 60 – 90 min commute each way from San Francisco to Silicon Valley (like the locals do).

I was also caught unprepared for one of SF’s biggest events, Bay to Breakers, which can only be described as a St Patricks Day Parade (floats, mass drinking, etc) colliding with Halloween (fancy dress costumes), but SF style fancy dress (think Rocky Horror) which masquerades as a 12km run across the city. Very strange and surreal, but quite entertaining.

I’m now back in Dublin since last weekend, with no plans to travel again (just) yet. Photos from my various recent travels should end up on Flickr soon, I just need to sit down and publish the good ones.

Random Mutterings

The last couple of weeks have been busy, both in work and personally. There’s nothing specifically newsworthy, there has just been a lot going on and not quite enough time to fit it all in. Things are starting to settle down now, so I’ve more time to do random things like (re)watch my West Wing DVD collection while the WGA strike continues.

I’ve also started to look at getting down to doing things I’ve always intended to do, but never had the time to do, such as setup Nagios monitoring of my servers, complete with SMS alerts through Clickatell, using a simple python script I’ve knocked together. I’ll post more details at another time, after I’ve actually got Nagios up and running…

I’ve also been occasionally dabbling with assorted software.

OmniFocus is the natural successor to kGTD, so I tried it out for a while. It’s very nice, but doesn’t suit my needs yet, mainly the ability to sync a single To Do list between 2+ Macs, without resorting to using a USB stick to store it on. According to the online forums, the next release will be aimed more at this use case. \o/

RTM is also nice, particular with the numerous ways in which one can interact with it. I might look at learning AppleScript and trying to make a script to sync certain tasks from kGTD/OmniFocus with RTM. Finally, I’ve been playing with last.fm through iScrobbler. iusethis.com is also a useful site for keeping track of the various OS X apps I use, it even has an RSS feed so I can see when there are new releases.

On the travel front, I haven’t really gone anywhere since Venice, which was 2 months ago. So, Ciara and I are off to explore Copenhagen this weekend, which I’m really looking forward to, since I’ve never been to any of the Nordic countries before. 🙂

Oh, and the new 32GB iPod Touch is rather tempting, perhaps I’ll get it the next time I’m in the US…

2008

So, Christmas the annual arbitrary numerical rollover day have been and gone. This week, I’ve been off work finally (I was oncall over Christmas week) for a full week for the first time in quite a while. I’ve been spending it lazying round, trying to recover from a cold I caught last week and working on little, annoying tasks I’ve been meaning to do for ages, but never got around to doing them until now.

I’ve never really been one for new years resolutions, but this year, I’m going to be more active and get more exercise. I’ve never really been a big fan of athletics, and I gave up swimming regularly a long time ago. :-/ I’m also going to try and get around to watching some of the classic movies I’ve always wanted to watch, but never actually did anything about it. Dr Strangelove is top of my list, especially since I bought it on DVD ages ago and I still haven’t watched it.

2007 was a busy year, both work wise and travel wise. I realised I took 21 flights, visited 4 different countries (many of them a few times over the year) and wandered around 13 cities and saw 7 US states during the year (and I had only been to California before). 2008 doesn’t look like with will be any quieter, Ciara and I are off to Copenhagen in early February. After that, who knows where I’ll end up.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been tinkering with a few techy things which I am planning on posting about here, but not now. Sometime soon, when it’s not 01:00

Photos

One thing I’ve been meaning to do for months is to organise and publish photos from various trips and outings that have been gathering since last February. Last week, I finally stopped putting it off and started sorteding and uploading the photos to flickr. This week, I’ll sort through my photos from New England, New York and San Francisco and try to publish them shortly. 

My photos from New York are particularly interesting, since I upgraded my camera kit with the purchase of an EOS 40D, which is immense fun to use, especially with my Sigma 10 – 20mm lens. 🙂 

General news: Work as usual. Ciara and I are off to Galway for a long weekend this weekend, since I’ve never had more than an hour there, so we’re going to properly explore it. 🙂

Earthquake

So, I’ve been in the US for almost 2 weeks now, so my trip is coming slowly winding up and I’ll be back home in Dublin by this time next week. Apart from work, I’ve been up to quite a few things:

I explored NYC for the first time, taking in numerous sights such as Central Park, the Guggenheim, 5th Ave, the Rockerfeller Centre, Empire State Buildings, Staten Island (and the ferry ride there and back) and many other things. I did regret foolishly walking the 71 blocks from the Guggenheim museum all the way back to my apartment on the Saturday, then I walked around the waterfront to Battery Park the very next day. My feet were sore for almost a week :-/ Thanks to a colleague, I was brough to a very interesting, themed bar, the Beauty Bar, which had wonderful decor inside.

In San Francisco, there are a few things I still haven’t done, so I try to do one or two more things each time I’m back. This visit, I plan on finally going to on a tour of Alcatraz and crossing over to see (and photograph) the views of the city from the Golden Gate Recreational Area. I’ve already managed to get to JapanTown on Sunday, where I had lots of fun wandering around shops and having some very good sushi for dinner.

Oh, and this evening I experienced my first (noticeable) earthquake, 5.6 Mw shake which only lasted 10 seconds. I didn’t even manage to get all the way to a doorway before it ended. :-/

Back, but for how long?

Arrived back from my holiday Sunday afternoon. Trip to New England was really, really good. I’ve lots of photos to prove it, they may even appear online soon. However, I’m almost out of time back in Dublin. I’m off on a business trip to New York and then San Francisco for almost 3 weeks on Wednesday.

I acquired a few toys in New England, primarily a handheld GPS (I tagged waypoints of the trip highlights, I’ll find something to do with them later) and another camera lens, the ultra wide-angle Sigma 10-20mm (which is so much fun to use :).

One interesting thing I’m doing for work on Monday is giving a 10 min talk to students in 3rd and 4th year CS in TCD about a career in IT, particularly in Google. It’s somewhat ironic, since I would never consider myself to have been a model student in college. 🙂

Proof Of Life

In case anyone is using posts over here to check if I’m alive, yes I’m alive. I’ve simply been neglecting this part of the internet.

So, what have I been up to over the last 2+ months? (yikes, it has been a while!). Mainly working, a little bit of travel to London for a few days back in early August, and not a whole lot else. I was over in London for a few days, mainly a visit to finally visit Mark in Oxford, and to visit Ikea and a decent Mexican restaurant.

Apartment is going very well. Essential household items such as dishes, bookcases, a clothes horse, a proper DVD player and of course a Budda Bag have all been acquired and thoroughly tested. I had to survive on a 3G modem for a few weeks while my Magnet DSL was setup, which is now powered by a shiny Soekris net5501. I’ve even gotten used to the challenging 5 minute commute to the office in the mornings…

I’ve slowly been working up uploading my vast collection of outstanding photos to flickr. I plan to upload them all before the end of this week, since I’m off with Ciara on a 2 week vacation, exploring New England by car and train. A Garmin GPS is on my list to acquire as I arrive, so I should have a detailed itinerary and accompanying photos after I return.

Now all I have to do is resist temptations such as Core 2 Duo Mac Mini, an iPod Touch, and of course, an EOS 40D while the US dollar is so low. *sigh*

Have GPS, Will Travel

I’ve been meaning to get a GPS device for years, so a few weeks ago I researched bluetooth options (since I wanted a device compatible with both MacOS X and PalmOS) and came across the GlobalSat BT-359 Bluetooth GPS Receiver, which is also available on Expansys.

Expansys eventually shipped it to me this week and I received it on Friday. Over the weekend, I’ve been looking at GPS mapping software for both MacOSX and PalmOS, and I’ve found some interesting tools already:

So far, I haven’t used my GPS for much, but I’ll probably try geocaching at some point. Until then, I’m going to keep using Google Maps, which has finally gotten geotagging data for Ireland (eg Porterhouses in Dublin), so it’s actually useful to me no matter where I am now. Yah 🙂