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What I want from the iPad

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ipad Yesterday I had lunch with a friend and we got in to a discussion about the upcoming Apple iPad. He considers it to be an expensive toy while I see it as something that could become the command center for your entire house. He was quick to point out that as great as my idea may sound, that’s not the types of applications that are currently being developed. While I can’t entirely disagree with him, I’d like to point out that when gMail first hit the street, there was plenty of talk about how little functionality it had.

I won’t lie, I’m strongly considering getting an iPad. But before I do, I think it’s smart to consider a few questions before dropping the cash;

  • Is it just a fancy toy?
  • Am I just an Apple FanBoy who has to have the new shiny gadget?
  • What do I expect to use it for?

I can pretty easily answer ‘no’ to the first two questions, but it’s that third question that gets me. What DO I expect to use it for? Well, let’s see…

The Ultimate Universal Remote
Remember the Logitech Harmony remote control? You plug it in to your computer, set up a profile with all the electronics you own, download the codes to your remote and you now had buttons for “Watch TV”, “Watch a DVD”, “Play XBox Games”, etc. Well, let’s take that to the next level. Imagine a central online database of all electronic devices with an IR receiver. Menu driven selections for picking your TV brand, then model, type in the first couple letters of the model number and an auto-complete list of matches shows up for you to select from. Once all your devices are stored, control them through a simple graphic interface. TV, Stereo, lights, disco ball… anything with a remote should be in there.

Yeah, I know this isn’t going to happen immediately. But tell me that wouldn’t be a kick-ass app.

Mobile Movies
I am currently loving my Netflix subscription and the ability to stream movies directly to my TV through my xBox. But there are definitely times when being able to watch a movie away from the house would be freakin’ sweet. For example, my recent 7 hour layover at an airport in Dallas. iPad + headphones + internet connection = a way less stressed traveler. Of course it would also be nice to download movies to it for watching in spots with no internet access.

Yeah, I know I could watch movies on my iPhone. But tell me it wouldn’t be nicer to watch them on a decent sized screen without having to lug around a laptop.

Web Browsing on the Couch
My Google Reader account usually hovers at about 500 articles to read. Kicking back on the couch and scrolling through some of the many RSS feeds and getting caught up on news and blogs sounds pretty great to me. “You could do that on your iPhone”, you say. I could, but honestly, the screen size on the iPhone keeps me from using it for reading any more than I absolutely have to.

Writing/Reading Emails
This could really fall in to the previous category, I know. But, when listing activities I would use it for, this one is a biggie. I read a fair amount of emails from my iPhone already. I think the extra screen real estate on the iPad would be very helpful. Plus, I’ve heard that the iPad will support the Dvorak keyboard layout. This would make me a very happy camper.

Of course, with the good, there is also the bad… Huffington Post had an article a while back talking about the 13 things you NEED to know about the iPad. Some of the things they pointed out are definitely issues. Some, however, I think people are complaining just for the sake of complaining. I agree 100% that the lack of multitasking functionality is tragic. If there is a single deal-breaker to be found, that’s likely the one. But the fact that there is no camera or GPS, to me, I don’t really see that as an issue. I don’t usually leave the house without my iPhone which has both of those features, so not having them in this device certainly won’t stop me from buying.

I would love to tell you that I’ll be waiting for the second generation of iPads to hit the market before I dive in. But I likely won’t. I’ll probably hold out for a couple months… but then it’ll happen. Somebody will have one and let me test it out. My eyes will glaze over, my credit card will fall out of my wallet and before you know it my order will be placed.

How about you? You planning on getting an iPad? Leave a comment and tell me why… or why not.

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The most expensive RSS feed I read

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I’m currently following about 60 RSS feeds. Some belong to friends’ blogs, some are news, some are just for entertainment and then there’s a large group that have to do with electronics. In the electronics category, several of them end up talking about newly available gadgets. Seriously, it’s like they know my weak spot.

ThinkGeek with their endless parade of geeky toys, DigitalPhotographyReviews with camera and lens reviews, gizmodo and techcrunch with every bleeding-edge gadget about to hit the market… All of these have the potential to cost me thousands with their eye candy. But, when all is said and done it is The Unofficial Apple Weblog that costs me the most money.

How is that possible, you ask. Camera equipment is so expensive. New gadgets cost a fortune. How is it that all others are trumped by TUAW? 3 simple words: iPhone App Store. Every day when I check Google Reader there is a fresh stream of new apps being reviewed. It’s rare that in a batch of 10 new posts there isn’t at least one app that I want to try out. Sure, these apps only cost a buck here or two bucks there, maybe even five bucks every now and again. But, that is the brilliance in the pricing. “Hey”, I say to myself, “it’s only $2.99.” Zap. There goes three more bucks. “ohhh”, I say, “it’s only $1.99″ Blamo. Another two bucks.

Rinse. Repeat.

Let’s just have a look at some recent posts, shall we?

Feb 23 – Waypoints. Takes your GPS coordinates and records them and allows you to display them on Google map. Nice timing, TUAW. I’m going on a road trip in a few days. This looks like fun. Zing. $2.99

Feb 17 – Colorsplash. What’s that you say? You know I’m a sucker for cool photo apps on my iPhone so you’ll post yet another one that looks like fun? Okie Dokie. Zing. $1.99

Feb 17 – Lux Deluxe. Not content to keep all the fun to yourself, you send me a link to Wired Magazine’s top 10 iPhone games. Hey, thanks for that! Zing. $8.00

That’s just the past week. I could go on and on. But, to save myself the agony, I’ll quit there. But I think you see my point.

It’s too late for me, but safe yourself. Stay clear of this handy RSS feed with solid reviews and day-to-day information about Apple. They are the source of all that’s evil, I tell you. Either that or it’s just a really handy resource for iPhone apps. Curses!

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Twitter Automation

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It’s no secret that Twitter is wildly popular these days. People all over the world are using Twitter to stay in touch with dozens/hundreds/thousands of people at a time. But the social aspect of Twitter is only one aspect of it’s power. Using Twitter for automation has the potential to be just as powerful and a huge time saver.

Earlier today Mike sent me a link to an article talking about using Twitter for some really cool projects like a gadget that reminds you to water your plant or the ability to tell your house what to do via Twitter using some home automation gadgets from x10. My first thought was “hey, cool.” That was quickly followed by “Darn you, Mike!”

This evening I wanted to see if there would be a way for me to use what I had learned in the article to enhance a project that I already have up and running. The first thing that came to mind was the Photo-a-Week project I put together on Flickr. The way it works currently is, if you want to join you need to give me your email address, I add it to a database and then once a week you receive an email letting you know the topic for the upcoming week. After a little bit of research and roughly 8 lines of code, there is now an automated Twitter element that makes the entire process way easier. Here’s what I did:

1. Created a new Twitter account called @PhotoAWeek
2. Updated the PHP script that sends the weekly emails to also send an update to Twitter with all the pertinent information.

OK, that’s it. Simple, yes. Time saver, yes. Just the tip of the iceberg, most definitely.

This is a really basic example of a way to automate a process using Twitter. I’m really interested to see what other ways people are using Twitter to automate projects and processes. If you know of any links to articles on the topic, please leave them for me in a comment.

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My new favorite toy, the xShot

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I have to say a very big THANK YOU to JustJulie for introducing me to the xShot for the first time back at BlogWorld. Sadly for me, I totally forgot about it until a few weeks back when we were at Beer & Blog and she had it with her again. Once I got my hands on it, I didn’t want to give it back. So, of course I ordered one the next day. Now, I’m hooked!

The xShot is telescoping stick that attaches to the bottom of your camera. Set the timer on your camera for a few seconds, extend the xShot, press the shutter button and hold the camera out in front of yourself… CLICK. You are now part of the action rather than just being behind the camera.

I took my new xShot with me to the Twestival event the other night and took a bunch of shots with it that you can check out on flickr. The bartender even got in on the action, borrowing it to snap a shot of herself.

If you want to get your own xShot, they cost about 30 bucks and if click here to buy one, I’ll make a couple bucks, too. :)

Here are a few shots taken with the xShot. Once you get yours, upload it to flickr and tag it with xShot.

Kri, Bob, SarahSonny, John, Sean
John, Kri
Sarah, John