Tag Archives: Apple

How Will the Apple Tablet iPad Change Our Kids’ Lives?

Photo by Jon Snyder/Wired.com.

Photo by Jon Snyder/Wired.com.

There has been much speculation about what Apple will be announcing today. Will it be a glorified book reader? An iPod Touch/iPhone on steroids? We will find out very quickly here, and then we can all envision how we could use the device. Will it help you at work? Will it be the perfect commuting partner? Will you use it as the mother of all television remotes? Consider this, though. How will it affect our children? How will they use the tablet?

If your children are anything like mine, they will want to play with it the moment it comes out of the box. They will be amazed at how large their favorite iPod Touch apps look on the larger screen. And the screen will be large enough that they can both play with it at once.

In our house, though, the Apple tablet will be used a great deal for education. I have a plethora of .pdf files to use for homeschooling that are just inconvenient to use on a desktop computer, or even on a laptop. On a tablet, the files could be sitting next to us at the table, just like a text book. The kids could mark up the pages as if they were writing in a workbook. We could watch videos from the internet or do interactive educational websites (I’m looking at you, BBC) without leaving our school table. When we go on a trip, we could bring our entire homeschool library with us. Of course, we’d have to have two tablets, since we have two children.

More than that, though, the tablet will completely integrate education and technology, allowing for easy access to e-textbooks and online teaching. In the regular education world, imagine if each desk had one of these tablets. No longer would students have to crane their necks or squint from the back row to read what is being written up on the board. It will automatically show up on their desk’s tablet. You wouldn’t need to take any notes, since it would all be emailed to you at the end of the class, or automatically beamed to your own personal electronic device.

Children will be designing their own apps from an early age. Since the tablet will be such a part of their lives, they won’t be intimidated by the technology. Since the larger tablet size will allow for more than one person to sit around it (but perhaps only two people), the children will probably design two player games. Or whole rooms of tablets can be instantly networked to allow for multiplayer games, or even educational activities like a group tour of the pyramids or Machu Picchu.

The possibilities are really endless, limited only by our imaginations. We shall see how the tablet really affects us, but children will instantly invite this technology into their lives. Watch how they use it, and you’ll learn new areas to develop. Inevitably, children invent new ways to use technology, so pay attention. You might learn something.

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Top 10 Features the Apple Tablet MUST Have (Revisited)

Photo by Rego Korosi; used under CC license

Photo by Rego Korosi; used under CC Attribution license

There has been, and surely will continue to be, a lot of speculation in these weeks leading up to the expected announcement of Apple’s tablet computer on January 27. This is the normal state of things, it seems, ever since the iPod’s original introduction in the fall of 2001, but in this case the murmuring has a higher pitch, due mostly to the fact that rumors of an Apple tablet have been circulating for years.

The problem with all this speculation, of course, is that it’s very easy for the hype to exceed the reality. So, in that vein, we at GeekDad would like to add our voice to the choir of excess hype, to fan the flames of overreaching expectations, and perhaps a few other metaphors, too. Here, then, is our list of features without which the Apple iSlate, or whatever it ends up being called, will be a huge disappointment:

10. BarTablet - Want to make a couple cocktails for friends but don’t know what you have the ingredients for? This app uses the integrated camera to scan your liquor cabinet and the contents of your fridge (for mixers, of course) and will list all the drinks you can make with what you have on hand. Also allows you to rate the drinks, so if you enjoy a nice amaretto sour but can’t stand fuzzy navels, it will tailor its recommendations thusly.

9. iMozart - The perfect application for a tablet computer, this would present you with a page of blank sheet music and allow you to sketch the notes you’d like to play. Tell it what instrument(s) you want to play the music, hook it up to some decent speakers, and listen to the mellifluous sounds of your creation.

8. Advanced anti-theft system - You think fingerprint scanners on laptops are pretty spiffy? Well, this tablet computer not only scans its users’ fingerprints, but, if an unauthorized finger touches it, will automatically activate the recovery system: It will take a picture of the person using it and automatically email the photo to its owner’s registered address; and it will send its GPS-determined coordinates to the owner for tracking purposes. Should the thief try to use the tablet’s built-in GPS navigation technology, he/she will be surreptitiously directed to the closest police station.

7. Immersive defect resolution - Can’t fix a problem with the tablet on your own and don’t have time to wait your turn at your local Apple store’s Genius Bar? Activate the special problem-solving app and stand still as the built-in laser digitizes your body and takes you into the computer, where a friendly program played by Bruce Boxleitner will help you track down and defeat the problem, played by David Warner.

6. Automatic Photoshopping - Are you about to have a conversation via webcam, but you haven’t shaved and look about 30 pounds heavier than you’d like to? No worries: the webcam in this little baby will tweak your transmitted image in real-time to make you look just right.

5. Lenticular screen - Put your Bluetooth earbuds in and watch your favorite movie on the tablet — anytime, anyplace! But you’re at work? No problem: switch it to Boss Mode before starting the video and the screen will look, when viewed from anywhere but head-on, like it’s showing whatever document you want it to.

4. Rock Band integration - Expert mode on drums too easy for you? Try iExpert mode, with your new tablet serving as a fifth drum pad.

3. Mind meld - Want to do a real brain dump? Just load up this app and press the side of your face to the tablet’s screen. Enable the voice option for 99 cents to hear Leonard Nimoy’s voice saying “Our minds are merging… our minds are one.”

2. Holographic help - Need guidance on how to use your brand new technological toy productivity tool? Just chant “Help me, Steve” three times and a fully-interactive holographic Steve Jobs will appear to offer assistance. Upgrade to the VIP edition and the holographic Steve will not require you to genuflect while he speaks.

1. Seriously - The Apple tablet must have a mode that makes it look and work  like the Enterprise control panels and PADDs on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Really, it must. Any tablet computer that doesn’t have such a feature represents a missed opportunity and is consequently fundamentally inadequate.

What features do you think the iSlate (if, again, that turns out to be the Apple tablet’s name) needs to have, lest it fail to be the greatest tablet since the Ten Commandments?

[This post originally ran on January 8th, but we had to re-run it because, well, IT ARRIVES TOMORROW!]

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The Drawer of Redundant Technology

The Drawer of Redundant Technology by Nathan Barry

The Drawer of Redundant Technology by Nathan Barry

At last the festivities are over, the decorations have been put away, the cards and tree have been recycled, and I can finally play with one of my presents to myself - a home cinema kit. That’s not what this post is about, but it does need a little bit of a backstory…

A few years back, before my days of being a dad, I spent all of my free time rebuilding our house. I planned out the wiring and buried all the speaker cables for a surround sound setup in the walls, with nice banana plug sockets on the ends. About halfway through the build, we somehow managed to get pregnant - no idea where we found the time or energy for that. The impending arrival of ‘Oops,’ as she was then known, changed many of the plans for the house and a home cinema kit was no longer a priority.

Fast forward back to now and Dulcie is old enough to appreciate a good movie (even if they do all feature Princesses and Faeries) and needs to hear them in glorious 5.1 Surround Sound right? So I find the right system on eBay - it has to be silver and slimline to match the decor, with small speakers as the room isn’t very big - and it all arrives just before Christmas. So first chance I get when the living room is de-christmased, I start to set it all up. Now where did I put those gold-plated banana plugs…?

Oh yes, I remember, they are tucked away in that special storage area that all GeekDad’s surely have for such things - I call mine The Drawer of Redundant Technology. Yours may be a cupboard, or a box tucked away in a wardrobe, or perhaps a shelf out in the garage - maybe even the whole garage!

Wherever and whatever yours is, it is the place where that outdated camera lives. It is the last resting place of superseded iPods. It is a nest of tangled (or possibly neatly coiled) cables and wires of all types. Power adaptors for long lost mobile phones, a vast array of digital media storage devices, knotted and broken Headphones or Earbuds, spare parts for things that you don’t even own anymore - they can all be found within.

The Contents of The Drawer of Redundant Technology by Nathan Barry

The Contents of The Drawer of Redundant Technology by Nathan Barry

Here’s just a few of the choice items that my drawer contains:

  • A mouse for a Mac Plus - the Mac Plus itself in now a Macquarium. I always thought how cool it would be to convert the mouse to hold the air pump for the tank, but I know I’ll never get round to it.
  • A six-CD changer magazine for my car - hasn’t been used for about 8 years, since I got my first iPod
  • That very same iPod - a 2nd gen 20GB model, complete with a 12v power adapter and an iTrip
  • A 5″ floppy disk
  • A Canon Powershot camera with a busted LCD screen and lens cover
  • Pieces of that lens cover
  • 3 Apple power adapters - 2 x Firewire and 1 USB
  • 2 kettle power leads and 3 figure 8s
  • A 32Mb compact flash card - in my 6MP Nikon D70s, that only about 10-15 photos. It can’t have been enough for the camera it came with either, because there’s also a whopping 128Mb one there too
  • An old HP RPN scientific calculator from my school days - I remember spending ages first learning Reverse Polish Notation, then programming the formula to solve quadratic equations into it
  • A Darth Vader rubber stamp
  • And, of course, those gold-plated banana plugs

I could go on, but I won’t. Suffice to say that it’s time for me to stop hoarding useless crap, and that goes for more than the Drawer of Redundant Technology too. My shed is full of leftover DIY materials, electric drills that packed up, rolls of carpet underlay that are slowly rotting away, offcuts of timber that are far too small to do anything useful with even if I did have the time. My wardrobe is full of T-shirts and trainers that I just don’t wear anymore and my bookshelves filled with tomes that have been read and need not be read again.

Enough is enough I say, and this is my New Year’s Resolution - to the recycling center with you all!

Have you got a fabulous stash of redundant technology? If so, we’d love to see it. Upload a photo to the GeekDad Flickr Pool and tag it ‘redundanttech’ and we’ll post them up later for all to see.


All I Wanted For Christmas Was An AppleTV

Image: Apple

Image: Apple

In my experience, when it comes to home media centers, there are two main camps and an outlier.  In the main camps are the uber-geeks who want to build everything from the ground up and those who go with a gaming console or one of a myriad of inexpensive devices that plugs in to a TV and plays files in a wide range of digital formats. And then there are the outliers, of which I am one: the AppleTV people. Santa dropped off another of Steve Jobs’ hobby boxes under our Christmas tree this year and I couldn’t be happier.

Those who scoff at the AppleTV as being a closed system or too simplistic are missing the point. You don’t typically pick up one of these things as a standalone media center; it would be next to useless compared to the alternatives. However, if you’re already reasonably committed to an Apple universe -in particular, use of iTunes for media management, iPod(s) and an Apple computer of some description- then the AppleTV isn’t taking the easy way out so much as an taking advantage of a well honed multimedia ecosphere. Everything just works (mostly), and that appeals to the systems design geek in me much more than constructing a box myself ever would. There’s also something inherently cool about buying a piece of hardware that has continually expanded its capabilities over the past few years through software updates instead of leaving early adopters behind with multiple new hardware iterations. And for someone without cable, the ability to buy and rent movies and TV shows on demand is extremely useful.

Sure, lack of format support can be frustrating (DivX? What’s DivX?), the hardware can only handle 720p, the devices run hotter than hell and the tiny standard hard drive sizes are laughable, but there are ways around all of these challenges. If I want to geek out for a while, I can fire up iStumbler and try to pinpoint what device is interfering with my wireless network and kicking one of the AppleTVs offline, or I can just relaunch iTunes and everything’s fine again. It’s not a perfect device, by any stretch of the imagination, but neither is an iPod and both reflect one of the more interesting paradoxes of our time: while our equipment is capable of supporting technical specs that were unheard of a decade ago, in many cases we are satisfied with audio or visual quality that’s subpar compared to what ten year old technology could pump out. It’s that whole bit about a library of any media that’s “good enough” to watch or listen to on demand trumping high definition versions that require space, time and/or effort. For the stuff I really care about seeing in full 1080p glory, the Star Treks and Planet Earths, we buy Blu-Ray copies. For everything else -and for virtually anything the kids care about- the AppleTV is good enough. And if the rumors that have been flying around about Apple offering subscription TV services pan out, it may be even get even better.

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