Why l Won’t Buy an iPad 2

iPad2 CartoonBecause Apple censor. All right, I don’t care much either way if they want to reject apps with sexual content, but when they disallowed political satire it became both personal and a matter of principle. They may have relented in the most celebrated case, but until the policy is changed explicitly they can insert the iPad 2 in landscape orientation.

Otherwise, it’s a fine device. In particular I like the cover. Seriously. It protects the screen in transit, then it converts to a stand. Apple design cuteness at its best.

The original was not at all feature-rich, the better to focus attention on the core concept. Now, again in typical Apple fashion, they add just a well-chosen few at a time so that each seems a choice delicacy. It finally has cameras and a gyroscope. Not the rather decent camera of the iPhone 4 though, and nor does it get its high-resolution display. There are real if fairly small improvements to its thickness and weight, but the only truly substantial change is a faster, dual-core processor.

So this is, if you like, the iPad 3GS; most of what the last version lacked is fixed, but cool cover aside (which is an accessory anyway) there are no show-stopping innovations. This is the iPad released just to keep up with the burgeoning crop of Android competitors. It doesn’t blow them away – that will have to wait for the next release – but it undermines their most obvious advantages.

So you want to wait for that next release, or go with one of these rivals? To answer this question, you must ask yourself why you need a tablet.

And the answer of course is that you don’t need a tablet. Don’t be ridiculous. These iPad things are computers with all the parts you might do real work with actually removed. Get a grip, it’s a leisure device. A media consumption appliance. A toy.

The question is, which is the best toy?

Right now, I’d say the rivals are well in the lead. And it’s not about hardware (though we’ll get back to that). It’s more about freedom. Though Apple stuff is beautifully done, it is done with rather controlling ends in mind. Some say they are reinventing the publishing industry, and that may be true. I’m just not so happy about them wanting a 30% cut of it.


Murdoch Takes On Apple

Present CartoonRupert Murdoch seems to have finally embraced the 21st Century. Where before he’d stuck all his newspapers’ content behind paywalls, now he’s launched an iPad-only publication, The Daily. It’s great to see a dinosaur in motion.

One problem: It’s crap. By all accounts the user interface is guilty of the worst sin an iPad app can commit: unresponsiveness. People are going to go “Wow, eye candy!” at first, then realise it’s actually a drag to use and drift away.

So what the hell is he doing? I mean, apart from keeping all their subscription money.

He knows that with News International’s backing, this is going to be the most talked-about iPad publication yet. He knows that just about everyone is going to say “but it’s crap.” He also knows that the uninitiated – which despite the iPad’s success is still the vast majority of people – will widely understand this as “newspapers on the iPad are crap.”

It’s a turd delivered in a pretty package, a deliberate spoiling tactic to damage the image of the new medium, and the people who will suffer are of course the actual pioneers. So he fends off the online threat to his empire for that little bit longer.

Well played.

Humour Technology

Some days I Even Like Microsoft

Why the hell is insomnia the opposite of sleeping in?

Sorry, I am wrecked because in the last three days I’ve repaired three different laptops. The thing is, they each took more than a day to fix. Not a lot of sleep was had, is basically what I’m saying here. If you’re reading this it means I did by some miracle manage to get up on Wednesday morning. If you’re not reading this, come and wake me quick.

There They Are, Fixed

Of the three, by far the most tricky was a friend’s Mac – an iBook G4 1.33GHz, for those of you who care. Apple are rightly famed for design simplicity, but that applies to the outside only. They seem deliberately hard to repair. Probably so that you’ll have to take it to Apple’s specialists, who are trained to raise their eyebrows and explain to you how much better off you’d be with a new one. Take the hard drive; this is a disk that spends most of its time spinning at several thousand revs a minute, and so is the part of a computer most likely to fail. Usually therefore it’s fairly easy to take out. Even a crappy laptop from the likes of say Compaq has only about six screws to undo. On a Thinkpad it can be just one, and with a Toughbook you simply open a latch. This iBook?

You have to take the entire feckin’ thing apart.

But it wasn’t the hard drive this time. In another sure sign that Jonathan Ive leaves the insides to his secretary, the little circuit board for Airport (Apple’s cute name for Wi-Fi) is mounted in such a way that it can – and given enough time, will – work its way lose. That doesn’t just mean you lose your wireless sometimes, it means that you have a short circuit. So at unpredictable intervals, the computer crashes┬╣. It took me two days just to work out what was going on here.

The Wi-Fi card on Mac laptops is often just under the keyboard like the RAM. On this particular one however it’s buried right in the heart – just alongside that hard drive. If you want to repair it, you basically have to reduce the machine to its constituent minerals. Which is no fun. I’m an artist, I do have a reasonably delicate touch, but inside this iBook I felt like a gorilla doing the Japanese tea ceremony. It’s finicky and delicate, featuring the lovely innovation of sockets that attach to the circuit board far more weakly than they do to the plugs that go into them. So it is not merely probable but nearly inevitable that in the process of trying to unplug a tiny cable you’ll pull the socket clean off. To repair this, you have to do a soldering job right on the motherboard, on components barely big enough to see.

I actually used a needle for a soldering iron. It took longer to fix this than it did to repair the original problem.

To help prevent the Wi-Fi card working loose again I needed something to pad out the clamp holding it, make the grip tighter. So I found a nice pale grey piece of card, cut neatly rounded corners, got a pen and wrote “iPad”.

Because Apple design is all about attention to detail.

  1. Oh I’m sorry, Macs don’t crash. They have a “kernel panic”, which sounds more like a reaction you might have to peanuts.
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