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Boxing clever

So the ipad 2 was announced yesterday ...

There are two points to note about the new iPad.

Firstly, there's nothing revolutionary here — but a lot of minor irritants in the first generation iPad have been sanded smooth. It's a bit lighter, and now weighs as much as a 300-page hardcover novel: that's surprisingly important, as the predecessor weighed about as much as a giant doorstep book, and was just too damn heavy to hold in your hand for lengthy periods. They've replaced the inadequate old book-style case (a dirt magnet with sharp edges and a lid that flopped open, incompatible with docks — including the keyboard dock) with a genuinely elegant cover system held in place by magnets. And they've bumped the CPU and GPU performance significantly: no hardware teardowns yet, but it looks like they've gone from a single-core ARM Cortex A8 with 256Mb of RAM and a PowerVR SGX 535 GPU (same performance as the Intel GMA500, if I remember correctly) with a dual-core ARM Cortex A9, an unknown amount of RAM (probably 512Mb), and a GPU that's claimed to provide nine times the rendering throughput. That's going to make it a much snappier machine in everyday use.

Secondly, it's all about the hardware/software synergy.

For starters, iOS 4.3 uses a faster Javascript renderer — double the speed on the same hardware. But that's trivial. Every new feature of the iPad 2 seems linked to a piece of software that makes use of it.

The front and rear video cameras on the iPad 2 (which appear to match those on the iPhone 4) are supported by FaceTime, Photo Booth, and the on-iPad port of iMovie. (Yes, it's a lightweight 720p video shooting and editing platform — all in one.) There's an HDMI-out dongle, so you can mirror the iPad's screen on an HD television — potentially very useful for presentations and guerilla media production. You probably wouldn't want to film and edit a serious video using the iPad's built-in camera, but the SD-card reader should let you work with an HD camcorder. If iMovie on iPad is as good as iMovie on OSX, this is going to revolutionize video blogging.

There's a port of GarageBand, with multitouch keyboard, drum, and guitar instruments. And there's an accelerometer in the iPad 2 to provide velocity sensitive feedback — hit the drums harder and they sound louder. Compared to the mouse-driven interface of GarageBand on Mac, this is a jaw-dropping improvement on usability: there are some categories of software that multitouch is going to completely revolutionise, and making music looks like it's going to be one of them.

There's a new release of iTunes, and you can now stream audio and video from your home iTunes library to your iOS devices. Side-effect: you don't need as much storage on the iPad — unless you're going away from home without a laptop or iTunes host, you don't need to keep your music and videos on board the device.

iOS 4.3 enables tethering on iPhone 4, effectively turning it into a Mifi-like wireless router. (So if you've got an iPhone 4 you don't need an iPad with 3G.) This is old news to those of us outside the USA (I'm in the UK; British cellcos have permitted iPhone 4 tethering pretty much since launch) but bespeaks a shifting balance of power between AT&T/Verizon and Apple, to Apple's benefit.

There's no one thing about the iPad 2 that makes it a must-have upgrade over the iPad 1, but the sum of the parts offers a whole slew of benefits. Apple are going to sell a freightload of these things. And then in 6 or 12 months (once they can get part yields they can sell at an existing marketing price point rather than for $BIGNUM) they're going to roll out the iPad 3 with a quadrupled pixel-count and force everyone to upgrade again.

iPad 2 is the iPhone 3GS midlife kicker to the iPad 1's iPhone 3G.

146 Comments

1:

In total agreement. I haven't run anything yet on my iPad that makes me wish I had more RAM or computation power yet so I'm going to hold off upgrading until the next one. As you said, that'll likely have double the pixel density (and perhaps also optional 4G networking?) If GarageBand doesn't work on the original iPad though, I will be sorely tempted. The original iPad has an accelerometer, just not a gyroscope. I don't know which they were using to simulate velocity. (The coolest feature for me is actually the cover, but it's not worth buying a new iPad just for that.)

BTW, I suspect the cameras match spec with the iPod touch rather than iPhone 4. If the iPad rear camera took 5MP stills, I'd have expected someone to have blogged about it by now.

2:

Actually, I can think of one obvious place I'd like more RAM: Safari browsing. When you get to eight or nine open tabs in Safari, it's quite obviously dropping the last-recently-viewed one out of memory and then going to the internet to reload it when you try to view it. This is ... occasionally annoying.

3:

I haven't run anything yet on my iPad that makes me wish I had more RAM or computation power yet

Loading an entire novel into one of the word processors for the iPad checks that tickbox for me. (I recognize that this is not a common requirement :)

And I suspect the next generation of game ports to the iPad are going to demand the beefier CPU/GPU pairing -- ports of stuff like NWN or Dragon Age: Origins might be workable, ditto World of Warcraft.

4:

1. Evolutionary is good at this stage - you don't want to annoy last years customers.

2. Wonder if the full iTunes library access will work in combination with 'Back To My Mac' - I know there are third party solutions to this anyway, but they're often browser based / not seamlessly integrated???

If it did (and worked well) I expect they would have mentioned it - as is, there was nothing on mobile.me at all.

5:

I write mostly short stories, for now. Since the only story I've sold so far I wrote entirely on my iPad, I'm wondering if I should write on my iPad more. :)

I have wondered though how large a document I can edit before the iPad falls over. This is good to know. Thanks.

Again, in total agreement about video games. For me, not being able to run them might be a feature. I may be more productive pining from afar.

I wouldn't be surprised if some new music composition or audio editing app will need the beefier CPU. That's probably when I upgrade. Like I said, I hope that the next iPad will be out by then. My initial impression when I got iPad 1 was that as much as I like it, iPad 3 will blow everyone away.

6:

Funny how I can't help thinking this one could bear the title of your previous post... :)

7:

I am loving this new ipad release though personally i'll probably give it a miss and save for ipad3. I like the analogy between iphone3g and iphone3gs, i have the latter and im never going back to anything that isnt a top of the line smartphone. But i do hope that ipad3 will be more revolutionary than iphone4, 4 just felt like a 3.5gs rather than a new paradigm shift

8:

What SD card reader?

9:

I can't help thinking Apple took a page from Microsoft's book with the iPad. Release a version 1, which is essentially a polished beta build. Then wait until version 2 (or service pack 1 if you will) and do it the way it should have been done from the start.

10:

Revolutionary is for new products, evolutionary is for existing products. Existing iPad owners will probably want to wait until iPad 3 but this new update keeps the product advancing and interesting to new customers. The same has generally held true for the iPod and iPhone.

Todd: The camera connection kit has an SD card reader that plugs into the dock port.

11:

The dock-connector-to-SD adapter dongle Apple released at the same time as the USB-to-dock adapter, back with the original iPad.

12:

I'll get to try one out fairly soon; my mother will finally be getting one after my brother and I told her to wait for the new one. I'll get to help her set it up.

I'm still leaning toward an iPod Touch with bluetooth keyboard, particularly now that I know (thanks to Charlie mentioning them) that there are word processing apps for it. And I'd like to try out Amplitube on it for my electric guitar. Does more than my old Digitech signal processor and a hell of a lot more portable.

Basically, I just like the idea of 'computer' that fits in my pocket.

13:

Grandparents. They. Will. Buy. Tons.
I'm buying one next week and will be recommending to my folks that they buy one. Having literally just walked my parents through reinstalling skype and making a video call with the web cam and a telephone, if Facetime works as smoothly as I've heard, every single grandparent more than a couple of hours away is going to buy one. My daughter will love it and my folks will love it.

Yes, incremental - and I hope they stay on the yearly design cycle. That being said, a coworker sold his $600 ipad for $550 the day before the announce. So he's gotten to use it for a year, for $50.

14:

Exactly. My mother wants one to be able to use Skype and see my year-old nephew in New York -we're in Colorado. And to load it up with pictures of him.

Charlie @11, or whoever might know: Any idea if the camera adapter will work with an adapter for other memory cards? That is; use the camera adapter with the USB port, with a compact flash adapter plugged into that.

15:

Watching yesterday's keynote was a bit like watching a dialectical synthesis of the Microsoft/Apple wars of the 90s. Back then, Mac could hold up its design aesthetic and ease of use, and Microsoft's answer was 'Yes, but what are you going to use it for? We have all the software.' Now Apple has both the design aesthetic and the utility. I thought Photo Booth was a bit silly, but it was a very nice tech demo, and a very nice emotional dagger aimed at Parents/Grandparents everywhere.

What got me was the video after that, where Apple put up examples of all the things people were using iPads for, which they hadn't planned on. The segment that really hit home was the mother whose autistic son could use the iPad, on his own, to play and learn. I have a learning-challenged nephew, and something like the iPad could really help. Yes, it's pure Apple propaganda, but it shows the way Apple thinks, and how it thinks more widely and more deeply than any other tablet company. Not only did they show the cool tech toy, they showed 'you can't get this anywhere else' uses for that tech toy right after, with the promise of unimaginably cool things to follow.

All the other tablet makers, at best, are showing potential platforms. They're like the perpetual Desktop Linux demo: even if it looks great and works well (and it never seems to work quite as well as it should), you eventually have to ask 'what are you going to use it for?' And right now, they don't have an answer that's remotely as good as Apple's. Playbook? You can't even do mail and calendaring without an accompanying blackberry. Xoom? It's still waiting on the Flash Player to render its own home page. HP's WebOS based tablet? Months away. Galaxy Tab? I'd like to see, or even read about, someone using it in the wild the way people use an iPad. (Not to say that they don't, but there's almost no buzz in the corners of the Internet that I pay attention to.)

16:

According to the iOS info page (apple.com/ios) looks like the 4.3 tethering requires a tethering plan from AT&T/Verizon (in the US...). I'm sure the tethering plan will be an additional price equal to the price of buying a block of data usage from said carrier.

Having said that, I would still end up saving $$ since I wouldn't pay the markup between the Wifi and Wifi+3G models.

17:

The main problem with the tethering plan (at least on AT&T) is that to enable HotSpot capabilities on your iPhone, you have to give up your unlimited data plan, if you happen to be grandfathered into that plan.

To be fair, I use nowhere near the 2GB/month data limit right now (not least because I'm working at home and traveling a lot less than I used to), but the idea of losing it makes my teeth grind, even if I'd probably save money by swapping to a more usage-based bill. But it's the principle of the thing.

18:

With AT&T, at least, you have to pay for the data plan, and pay for them to let you tether. Paying for tethering gets you no additional data. All it gets you is a profile that says your phone is allowed to tether.

19:

Yes but assuming I purchased the tethering functionality, would I lose my unlimited iPhone data plan? That's the hang-up.

That and can you turn tethering on and off as easily as you can the 3G functionality on an iPad, ideally from within the iPhone itself (hit an on/off switch, confirm hotspot tethering active for the next month, and go).

20:

This.

I think of the iPad as a coffee table computer. Despite Charlie's use of the thing outside of the home, I still think of all tablet computing devices as essentially home bound. In my mind, if it doesn't have a keyboard, then a paperback form factor is required, but if it's big enough to have a keyboard, then the keyboard shouldn't be a separate piece of kit.

21:

I still can't take a bite, what with that nasty, engorged iTunes worm at the core of the ecosystem.

And iTunes isn't just an issue for snooty geeks. A friend of the family -- a 76 year old woman -- asked me recently about getting an iPad. While she would likely be pretty delighted with it, I think, she doesn't have and isn't too keen on getting an OSX or Windows-running computer on which to install iTunes. She's mostly interested in using it as an e-reader anyhow, so I'll probably suggest a Nook Color. Even the iPad2 would be a little heavy for her, I think.

Honeycomb seems to me much more a tablet OS than iOS for iPad -- much better app switching and better general screen real estate utilization. iPad obviously has a huge advantage in slick, tablet-optimized apps. But I think Apple is going to have to release iPad3 sooner than they might like; by the end of the year, there will be a sufficient number of iPad-quality apps for Honeycomb tablets -- with these tablets pulling away from iPad2 in terms of neato hardware whizbangery -- such as to start putting a serious dent in iPad2 sales.

22:

I carry my iPad in a small purse-sized case; it also holds a pair of BT headphones, some cables, cleaning stuff, a stand, and some accessories for it. (It's the incase Travel Kit Plus.)

All told, it's smaller than a hardcover book, which is what I usually have in my book bag, and the strap-handle means I can carry it around by itself pretty easily. I'm happy with it.

23:

Love the characterization of iTunes. I don't think it's that bad, but I do think the application's somewhat oversubscribed.

We still don't know what's happening with Apple's MobileMe services. You cannot buy it any longer, though you can sign up for a 60 day 'Trial Service'. Presumably Apple is going to better support 'cloud computing' on its products, and soon.

But here is the problem with the iPad or any other independent gadget device: backups and recovery. Kindle neatly sidesteps this problem by allowing you to download and sync all of your content from Amazon, either via Whispernet or via WiFi. However, you aren't creating large amounts of it locally (just notes), and ebooks are pretty small. Try to sync a full 64 GB on an iPad over the net; you now have a problem.

The alternative would be allowing a USB connection to a mass storage device or data duplication to a similarly large flash memory device. Now I want to see you ensure that your 76-year-old family friend remembers to do her backups. At least with an iTunes-tethered iOS device, you can get a device backup, and then a backup of that backup. (My wife has multiple backups of her iPhone, and she's a Windows user.)

I'd argue that the cloud storage for a media-heavy device like an iPad doesn't exist yet. Its competitors, like the Xoom, also require a full-fledged computer to do backups and upgrades. Ditto the Windows7 phone (and the first upgrade on that didn't go so well).

At some point someone is going to come out with a tablet or smart phone that is fully cloud-based, but I don't think Apple's in any danger of being caught at a serious competitive disadvantage on it. iTunes can be nasty, but I have a BlackBerry from work, and the data sync/upgrade portions of its infrastructure are just as annoying.

24:

Sean, my thoughts of the ipad as a home bound device is only partially attributable to the accessories (or rather the existance of the accessories). It has much more to do with the ability to get work done with the device and that it's form factor is not good for travel (again (and is why I stated it) despite Charlies experiences). This is, of course, simply my view. A netbook, for me, is a MUCH better proposition. I have everything in a single unit (excepting the power cables/brick if they're needed).
The iPad is not geared toward getting work done (again, to pre-empt any ill will, this is my view and not "The Reality") as it mainly excels at doing things the iPhone does, only a little better considering the larger screen.
In a pinch it can work (as Charlie demonstrated), but hardly the right device for the task.

25:

I've largely been ignoring the various ads for iPads I see in catalogues and similar at present, mostly because the cost is too damn high (here in Australia, you're looking at around $400 for the lowest level of content) and because I just don't know what I'd use it for. My "ooh shiny" money is currently earmarked for another games console - probably a PS3, because then I can retire the PS2, and still be able to play my PS2 games. I think the other thing which makes me reluctant to switch to an i-anything is the irritation of having to convert a large part of my music library from .wma to .mp3 at least - sure, it's not difficult (delete the .wma copy, rip a new copy as .mp3) but it's time-consuming, fiddly, and annoying.

26:

"The alternative would be allowing a USB connection to a mass storage device or data duplication to a similarly large flash memory device. Now I want to see you ensure that your 76-year-old family friend remembers to do her backups. At least with an iTunes-tethered iOS device, you can get a device backup, and then a backup of that backup. (My wife has multiple backups of her iPhone, and she's a Windows user.)"

The point of bringing up "iTunes and the case of the old lady" is that the iTunes lock-in is a barrier to her getting such a device in the first place, as opposed to something that updates OTA. In other words, the iTunes lock-in can be problematic beyond it annoying Linux users who hate it. iTunes is absolutely required for all iPad firmware updates, yes? For that matter, a 7" Android tablet would make more sense for her in that -- when a computer was available to her -- one could mount the tablet as a mass storage device and just drop some files on it for her, without having to screw with iTunes.

As for me, sign into an Android tablet with my Google credentials -- everything is ready to go; application purchases are tied to one's Google account, etc.. And I just dump what media I want on the device from my main Linux box. Don't need to make "backups." Don't need to "synch" with a desktop application.

"...the Xoom, also require a full-fledged computer to do backups and upgrades."

Firmware updates/patches/upgrades are OTA.

27:

I believe that, on Winders at least, iTunes will convert WMA on import. If it doesn't, there are programs that will.

28:

Re:"My "ooh shiny" money is currently earmarked for another games console - probably a PS3, because then I can retire the PS2, and still be able to play my PS2 games"

You're way too late for that.
Only the first PS3 models were backwards compatible, the newer ones aren't.

29:

But, darn you Google, having a hard time justifying any sort of tablet since that Cr-48 arrived on the porch -- enables the doing of work, no Bluetooth keyboard required.

30:

First two models, actually -- the first one had hardware emulation, the second one had software emulation. Although I'm not sure that the latest firmware supports it on any model?

31:

@26

Let me see if I understand this.

You're proposing that you wouldn't recommend a tablet which is iTunes locked to your family friend, presumably because either a) iTunes is too complex, or b) the cost of a computer with iTunes (purely as a device management application) is too expensive when you add it onto the tab. I can understand 'b', but, at that point, there are no solutions on the market yet. Everything requires a 'host' computer for backups/upgrades.

If you're standing on 'a', then I suggest no such animal exists which is significantly better/easier than iTunes for syncing music/photos/other stuff. Certainly neither Zune nor the BlackBerry device manager, both of which I have some experience with, were any better than iTunes. Different, perhaps, but not better. I'm not aware of any OTA devices which have sufficient ease of use, sufficient data transparency, and sufficient data mobility, beyond low end devices like a Kindle, and again, I will wager that nobody is going to get there before Apple with enough of a 'first mover' advantage to make serious inroads on Apple's iPad before they respond in kind.

As for iPad incompatibility with linux, you have my sympathy (I spend 6-8 hours a day dealing with linux, though purely as a server environment, with a bit of Solaris, BSD, and other random stuff thrown in for flavor), but that's a whole different kettle of fish than 'what's easiest for a non-computer-savvy-person'. I kept my mother on Macs throughout the 90s, despite Apple being in deep trouble, because I could support her from 1000 miles away, with my eyes shut, even if I was using some weird combination of Windows, OS/2, and linux for my personal computers, and loads of Solaris, AIX, and, God help me, OSF/1 at work.

We're to the point where Apple is making most of their corporate revenue on devices which aren't running iTunes. If anything, I expect Apple to untie iOS from iTunes, supporting it from some descendent of MobleMe, and syncing to a TimeCapsule-like device running over wireless or a Thunderbolt port for personal backups and recovery, before anyone else manages something like that end-to-end. OTA firmware updates without that level of local recovery are hard.

What I don't expect this posited untethered tablet to be is free. Google's services are 'free' because you're being sold to Google's ad buyers as a product. I don't expect Apple to be altruistic about these sorts of things (though it would be nice if they could live up to, say, Twitter's level of corporate not-evil-ness when faced with search warrants and attached gag orders), I do expect them to understand which side of the revenue stream they're on.

32:

If the Xoom is fully OTA, then I'll give it that.

33:

Of course the difference is that apple are releasing hardware not software. You can't pull stuff like that with hardware for very long before there's a backlash, even with apple fanbois

34:

"You're proposing that you wouldn't recommend a tablet which is iTunes locked to your family friend, presumably because either a) iTunes is too complex, or b) the cost of a computer with iTunes (purely as a device management application) is too expensive when you add it onto the tab. I can understand 'b',..."

'b', correct.

"...but, at that point, there are no solutions on the market yet. Everything requires a 'host' computer for backups/upgrades."

Contacts, settings, and app downloads are backed up to Google's servers. Get a new Android device, log in, and apps installed via the Android Market are restored. Contacts and settings are all there, as are call and SMS records if you use Google Voice. Application data is a problem, though. That might be addressed in Honeycomb. Not sure.

"If the Xoom is fully OTA, then I'll give it that."

Updates are OTA. Xoom is a stock Honeycomb device, so 3.x updates should arrive in timely fashion. No other computer is absolutely required. Android devices have a mass storage mode, if you need to move files to and from another computer. No iTunes or Zune-type device manager is required.

A discussion of the merits of APPL and GOOG's respective revenue models might be a bit far afield from the original post, and I've probably come close enough to annoying our host as it is.

35:

And my earlier point about Honeycomb tablets cutting into iPad2's sales was not so much about iTunes lock-in. My assumption is that Honeycomb-optimized apps will be good enough in quality and quantity that, coupled with some really fancy Android tablet hardware well before iPad3 is slated to be released (including nvidia quad-core, perhaps? and some games that show it off?), Android tablets could gain quite a bit of share -- more than they might have had Apple packed a little more hardware beef in this iPad2 device.

36:

Watch out for that: the PS3 is notoriously terrible at backwards compatibility. Research first! :D

37:

Meg, aside from the "not that backwards compatible" issues discussed elsewhere, my biggest issue with the PS3 is "lack of PS3 games I know I want to play" (mostly role-playing, and it will take years to replay my PS1 and 2 games). I'd check compatibility and catalogue that appeals before going "oh shiney".

38:

Anecdata, as far as Android/Honeycomb tabs go - at MWC, LG were complaining that they'd had three of their 3D Touch fondleslabs nicked off the stand and it was only lunchtime on day one:-)

iOS 4.3 enables tethering on iPhone 4, effectively turning it into a Mifi-like wireless router.

Not this again. Do people have some sort of multiple-NAT fetish? A port-forwarding kink? A twisted delight in poor battery endurance due to running both the cellular and WLAN radios?

My Nokia E71 just presented a Hayes modem interface when you plugged in the USB cable, whatever you plugged it into - wintel, linux x86, mac os, probably VXWorks on a surface-to-air missile control unit, an abacus - and (in KDE4.4) NetworkManager detected it. Before that you just wvdialled it with a basically stock config file (provide the APN details and set the baudrate to 7.2Mbps). No concurrent radio use, no additional NAT, no bullshit.

I am regularly horrified by the profusion of "tethering apps" that require some sort of janky client, usually windoze only, on the PC. Yuk. Don't want to know. Just present the modem interface to the USB port, thank you.

Now, I do quite like some of the MiFi devices, but I think the operators miss a trick by not linking them to a business class connectivity product - point a /29 at the thing (and a v6 /56 block), have it automatically VPN into the company network, put an * server on it that hooks into either their hosted SIP or your office PBX. They already have a little file server in there that serves stuff off the SD card. They should integrate it with dropbox/jungledisk/whatever.

39:

iTunes is, indeed, shit.

I'm shortly going to set-up $ELDERLY_RELATIVE with the spare iPad I bought in the US, because at age 86-ish they're finding a proper Mac a bit hard to deal with. Luckily their spouse has an iMac, so I'll (a) create an account for them on th Mac, (b) create an App Store account for them, and (c) provision the iPad from the iMac, by prior agreement. Rather than register an eighty-something's credit card with an online store (someone who has NEVER used the Internet for purchases and who is scared of it) I'll use iTunes store gift cards for the necessary (Pages, BBC iPlayer). But it's all a horrible mess that should be a lot easier. After all, the iOS UI is really brilliant for people with cognitive or learning issues (young, old, or illness-impaired) -- but before you can get to use it, someone has to run the gauntlet of the rat's nest of functionality that is the app store.

40:

I'm told that none of the iPad devices have an USB port.
WTF?

41:

They have a dock connector -- a superset of USB, along with audio, composite video, HDMI, and Other Stuff. USB adapters are available.

42:

Suddenly though, iPad 1 is affordable if (like me) you weren't convinced it was value for money at last week's price. I tried to buy a 32gb Wifi only iPad 1 today in Sydney CBD and only the Apple store had them (sample size of 4 shops, Grace Bros (or is Meyers now? I get confused), JB-HiFi * 2). One sales guy said he'd sold 8 32gb Wifi only iPads today. $579 AUD (~360 GBP) must be the right price for the techno-curious.

Be interesting to see the break down of v1 vs v2 sold this year.

I also had a play with the Galaxy Tab 7" in the shops, gotta say it was fun, and neat, but it's a humongous phone. If it was 350 I'd've bought it.

(also, I'm not inclined to buy a disposable device with a SIM, i'd rather get a portable device that I can tether all My Stuff to (to which I can tether).

43:

"Get a new Android device, log in, and apps installed via the Android Market are restored."

As someone who spent six months on the help lines for the Nexus One, I have to stick in a modifier here. PURCHASED programs are normally restored unless something has gone VERY wrong, but free programs aren't always restored if you get a new device or have a hard reset--that's why I always recommended that users go to the list of installed programs and write down what they'd installed just to make sure they were covered.

44:

I don't know if it'll happen in iPad3, or perhaps ever, but the one thing that the iPad is crying out for is the Thunderbolt port: 10 watts of power in (enough to charge the battery, same as the AC wall adaptor for the iPad), and two 10 Gb/s channels out, which would handle any reasonable (or even unreasonable) amount of video and data streaming onto and off of the machine.

Given how long it takes to sync 64 GB of data over USB 2.0, they certainly need something.

I don't think it's a coincidence that the iPad takes a 10W AC power adaptor, and that Thunderbolt provides 10W of bus power.

45:

got an Ipod for the mrs, had to install itunes..
it sat and chugged and whirred and converted every single bloody noise on my pc into a itunes noise.
grrrrrrr. it got deleted, ' sorry duck, that softwares going to have to go on your laptop, its not compatible with my pc'
what would be wrong with just drag n drop?
me no likey

46:

"After all, the iOS UI is really brilliant for people with cognitive or learning issues (young, old, or illness-impaired)..."

Beats Honeycomb in those cases hands down. No doubt about it. And there are of course a ton of superb tablet-specific applications. Makes the iTunes situation all the more frustrating.

47:

46 is @ 39. Sorry, thought I hit "reply."

48:

Went to the local Apple store this morning, talked to a kid there, and got an answer to my question @14:

No, you can't use a flash drive, or adapter with the USB/dock connector for an iPad, or use it as an external disk drive, like with my iPod Classic--hadn't realized that's the only model you can do that with.

49:

It sounds nice enough. I still haven't found a compelling reason to buy a tablet computer.

50:

I have no doubt that Apple succeeded in creating the most state of the art UIs several times. But this has always come at the price of debilitatingly crippled connectivity, interoperability and self-determination. Proprietary hardware interfaces, AppleTalk, EFI, iTunes/Store, even BootCamp the way they are implemented never served another purpose.

Maybe I'm a little old-fashioned, but I think that if I paid for a device it is mine to own and modify in whichever way I want. If a manufacturer tries to sabotage this freedom at all turns I have no love for them. I realise that if I modify the software I will void my warranty (on the software) and that I obviously cannot expect customer support for the modified system. I still hate it if they try to preclude any personal modifications. If you are happy with the system as it is, that's fine with me, but why should I not be able to do as I please?

Apple isn't alone in this, all the games consoles try to put you on a similar leash, but I think it's safe to say that Apple pioneered that field.

As it is I deeply distrust their motives. They are in the business of making money, not philantropy, but the methods strongly remind me of feudalistic systems, where noone ever fully owned anything, but your fiefdom was granted by your lord and for it you owed continuous homage and fealty. Even they way that many Apple owners behave is strongly reminiscent of this system.

While I don't doubt the fact that Apple systems have many advantages I'll still always remain a little suspicious.

Quidquid id est timeo danaos et dona ferentes.

51:

Thats IT then! I'll wait for Mark 3.

My own experience of conversation with a sales Child in the Newcastle Upon Tyne Apple ... Store/Box whatever .. was that their local sales conversation experience had been that the most frequent customer query on ipad One was 'does it have a usb drive input behind some sort of cunningly concealed flap ? And that, when they were told that no amount of banging the Device against a counter would make such a cunningly concealed flap flip open was, ' Well will the next model have a usb/flash/external HUGE drive input ? '

The sales infant was Hopeful that the customers Wish Upon a Star would be fulfilled .. so obvious a NEED eh wot ?

Oh well Maybe next model as may be the fulfillment of the general ? Wish for usb input ... and a Retina Screen ?

52:

andyf writes: "what would be wrong with just drag n drop?"

File management is the #1 basic computer skill that computer novices have difficulty managing. That's why modern tools today like the ipad and google docs completely avoid the direct file system.

53:

Bandwidth costs energy in both processing cycles and electrical terms. More electrical transitions per second means more power dissipation. iPad devices and tablets in general are very power-constrained and adding Thunderbolt capability to such a device would result in reduced battery endurance or it would have to be paid for, so to speak, in reduced computational capability.

54:

Andrew @52:

You're being sarcastic, right? It's sometimes hard to tell these days, with aforementioned homage and fealty and whatnot.

56:

"I still hate it if they try to preclude any personal modifications. If you are happy with the system as it is, that's fine with me, but why should I not be able to do as I please?

Apple isn't alone in this, all the games consoles try to put you on a similar leash, but I think it's safe to say that Apple pioneered that field."

Clearly you have forgotten Sony, who refused to bulk sell Betamax tapes to companies who wished to sell porn which resulted in VHS becoming the tape of choice in that industry and which was one of three major factors that lead to Betamax losing it's position as the standard for home video; who refused to allow non-console minidisc devices to both record and play back digital input and output, while marketing data minidiscs that could not be used for sound recordings, and while refusing to produce software to allow any of those devices to be integrated with Apple computers (which may be why they were so blindsided by the possibility that iTunes and the iPod might topple the Walkman brand); who put software on their CD's that surreptitiously forced you to use Sony software for playback on your computer, called home to report every time you played a song released by Sony, and installed a rootkit on computers running Windows; and who released their e-book systems in such a way that anyone not using the Sony e-book sales system would have to go down the road and over the hill to put books on their player in a readable format--once again, refusing to release software to allow Apple computers to use the device until years after product launch.

I have no idea why Sony has been so reluctant to make it easy to use their peripherals with Apple products--maybe Sony thinks that Apple pissed in their Wheaties at some point--but I'd say there's no way Apple takes the "first to screw around with how the consumer will use the product" title away from Sony.

57:

I've spent more time (both professionally and personally) than I care to remember talking middle age men and women through the idea of a hierarchical filesystem. And some of them never really grasp it...

58:

Bruce @56:

Sony - Apple, well obviously birds of a feather don't always flock together. I agree S is even more dubious than A. Strangely Sony did pay the price several times but still never learned. Apple never had to pay for their transgressions against the consumer, probably because of that strange sense of loyalty they appear to be able to instill in their customers. Sad as it is, it doesn't seem to matter either way.

59:

Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien.

Look at this explanation (stolenquoted from http://www.linternaute.com/):
A trop vouloir en faire, on finit par vicier ce qui ├ętait bien. On doit donc se contenter du bien et non vouloir encore mieux.

I hope my french isn't yet bad enough to have completely mistranslated:

By trying (alt: If one wished to do) too much, one ends up s(p)oiling that which is good. One is therefore obliged to be content with what is good and not strive (alt: wish) for what is even better.

Well, I don't think this a good interpretation.

IIRC "le mieux" is not the same as "meilleur" or even "mieux". The first means "the best". My french is far from good, let alone le meilleur, but my take on Voltaire's quote is:

The Best (alt: The Perfect) is the enemy of the Good.

This is what Apple failed to deliver: They had great UI designers, extremely good hardware designers, a very good OS (after they realised BSD was the way to go). They could have made perfect (alt: the best) computer systems. Instead the created (hardly extensible except for commercial operations) UIs for the terminally stupid, hardware bound to the One Ring, and an OS that is Orc from Elf. They settled for "good" (and no doubt they're good enough).

This is what has come from it: Systems with hardware capabilities that not even a hacker can use (USB mass storage, UMTS & GSM connectivity, GPX tracking, ...), no OSsoftware (or even freeware), rigourous control over whatever software can be installed or even content be viewed, and stores where content providers aren't even allowed to participate in if the fail to give away at least a third of what they earn to Apple, most likely more than 80% of what they make overall.

That shouldn't make me a malcontent, and no one should have expected any better. I don't have to be happy with it either.

60:

And then there's the number of times I've been asked to restore files (I work as a backup/recovery sysadmin - TSM, if you must know) that, as it turns out, were inadvertently dragged and dropped somewhere they didn't belong (said dragging and dropping resulting in them moving the whole fricken folder without realising it.)

Oh, and the 3+ TB filestore at $CLIENT[$JOB[-2]] that would have taken weeks, if not months, to fully restore if the system went belly up - they had way too many files, and that would have caused Issues come restoration time. (A very large number of very small files is the pathological case for any backup system. See also: maildir ... I'd hate to back one of those things up if there were any significant number of users. But I digress.)

There has to be a better way to manage data (spreadsheets, text documents, that sort of thing) than the traditional filesystem (and I'm not talking about databases; that's a round hole, and this problem is a square peg.) I don't think this is a solved problem, even if you look at the way tablets handle it - because the latter just doesn't scale across multiple systems and end users.

Getting back onto the original subject of the post: the iPad 2 looks vaguely interesting, and it's starting to reach a point where I'd be willing to fork over a few readies for it. Not quite there yet, though. Maybe the iPad 3. We'll see. But market wise, I think Apple will sell an imperial buttload of them before the next update (and I think the next update will be a massive jump, if the rumblings on the various rumour sites are even close to accurate.)

61:

#52 - Because graphical file manglers (sic) and the perverse insistance of "$being on $place $mass_public_transit" on not investing 10 hours on "basic training in $OS" make it hard, rather than because it is actually difficult to understand.

I've explained a RAM disc to more people than I care to count in terms of a man with, say 10 books and a desk that can only hold 4 of them at any given time. This takes 10 minutes, and none of them have ever (at least admitted to) making the mistake of thinking a RAM disc was stable after power off again!

62:

IMO the "elephant in the room" here is the softco who's headline OS had massive insecurities in it for rootkits to exploit.

63:

Para 3 - I see where you're coming from, but up until the current generation, games consoles have all been genuinely plug and play, plug media into socket, turn machine on, play game. Why should Company2 make their games compatible with Company1's h/w, or vice versa?

64:

I think you misunderstand the role of computing in society. Most people don't want to use computers as computing devices any more than most people want to learn how to service their own car; they just want it to work.

The PC market is about 10% of the human-user computer market -- the other 90% is cellphones and dedicated devices such as games consoles -- which in turn is 10% of the total embedded market (the engine management system in your car, bits of your TV and household radio, every cash register in every shop you visit, and so on).

The point of the iPad is not to provide a general purpose computer for the likes of you or me but to provide a tool for people too busy, impaired, or uninterested to spend time learning how a computer works. From the perspective of making a tool, being locked-down and curated is good -- less chance of someone slipping malware into the app store, for example (as has happened with Android).

If you want a real computer from Apple, you need to get a Mac. At which point you've got root on a UNIX workstation with a nice GUI, plenty of open source software, and X11 if you want backward compatability. It'll even run Ubuntu or Windows 7 on the bare metal, if you want to. But from Apple-the-corporation's perspective, making kick-ass UNIX workstations was never going to drive their share price through the roof or make them anything other than a niche player. Hence the iOS range, and the "post-computer devices" line they're pushing.

65:

"... the most frequent customer query on ipad One was 'does it have a usb drive input behind some sort of cunningly concealed flap ?"

No, because flaps break off and features that a lot of users don't need add unnecessary cost and weight to devices.

For users that need such a feature, Apple sells an adaptor that will let you attach USB devices such as thumb drives, hard drives, digital cameras and other iDevices and suck files off them (there's another adaptor that does the same thing for SD/MMC cards).

What your poor sales infant was supposed to say in answer to the question "can I connect a usb flash drive" is "certainly madam, all you need is this $40 sales commission boosting accessory", instead he screwed up the sale due to being insufficiently trained with the product he was selling.

66:

(Former PFY here myself)

Personally I do think we're starting to see a better class of user - there does seem to be a visible difference between those who were at uni >1998-2000 and those who were there before networked university rooms became ubiquitous.

Of course that doesn't preclude something new coming along and rendering them all entirely useless again.

As for the iPad (or similar), I suspect that my primary use case would be as a replacement/compliment to the book/paper/magazine/ipod I used to carry when I was commuting an hour a day. As I'm walking everywhere at the moment, I really cannot justify one on any grounds greater than it being a shiny new geektoy...

67:

Didn't read my comment that ARCHAEOPTERYX was replying to? Where the answer I got was "No, you can't do that." At least according to the saleskid I talked to.

To be fair he was reasonably helpful, and answered our questions. He was the youngest of the dozen or so salespeople--he early 20s, the rest mid-30s-40s.

I did find a mention on the Apple discussion boards that Windows7 will read it as an external device, and you have to burrow through it to find the files you want. But not running Win7, I won't be finding out.

I guess I'll be trying things out in a couple weeks. Hope I don't break it.

68:

I would say that a USB socket is standard enough that not having one built in feels odd. The Camera Connection kit--either USB or SD card reader that plugs into the docking connector--is half-and-half. Add-on card readers are a commonplace.

Assuming the iPad is otherwise a useful tool for photographers, there are obvious advantages to having these things built-in. Perhaps there's an iPad for Photographers somewhere in the works--more RAM and USB built-in--but the idea doesn't feel right to me.

69:

@57:

"I've spent more time (both professionally and personally) than I care to remember talking middle age men and women through the idea of a hierarchical filesystem. And some of them never really grasp it..."

Horribly true. It's amazing how people with very similar backgrounds can be totally different when it comes to using any sort of technology.

My partner is the youngest of three sisters. She's got a Cambridge First in Engineering and Computer Science, has programmed in a dozen languages, worked on everything from databases to graphics device drivers to compilers. She can pretty much make a computer do anything she wants.

The oldest sister doesn't care how computers work and can't program, but uses computers efficiently as tools in both her professional and personal life. She happily shares files and printers across her home network and knows what she's doing well enough to ensure that anything sensitive is secure against her son's friends when they come round for a LAN party.

The middle sister has several hundred files in one directory *five* levels down from "My Documents" because that's where the company that last upgraded her computer put the stuff off her old machine. Every time she logs in she religiously clicks down five levels to get there. She doesn't understand that the web browser and Word are applications, they're just "the computer". She finds the Win/XP interface "too complicated". We've just about persuaded her that her next machine should be a Mac, but really the ideal system for her would be a black box that read her mind and Did The Right Thing.

70:

Huh. The middle sister may be better off with an iPad, assuming it can do the job for her. Even in Windows, a few toolbar placements would probably help.

Or maybe not -- one of the problems she might run into is that she knows how to do things now, and changing anything -- even if it makes things shorter -- would mean she doesn't know how to do things.

71:


The idea would be that the - much weight reduced - Generation the Second device would have a usb socket into which you could plug, say, one of several memory sticks that would hold a selection of movies or music that would while away the Commute ..no faffy fiddly ' Apple sells an adapter that will let you attach SUB devices such as thumb drives, hard drives, digital cameras and other iDevices and suck files off them (there's another adaptor that does the same thing for SD/MMC cards). ' just a socket into which you plug ... whatever.

A - breakable ? Cover for the usb socket. Don't see why it should be so vulnerable - but a cover for the usb socket is not really required, but does provide an explanation for why such a simple usb interface appears not to be present ... along the lines of .. SO obvious a Need, it must be concealed somewhere or other.

72:

You mentioned in a previous post traveling with a Kindle 3. I am curious to hear your take on that (am posting from one).

73:

You can post from a Kindle 3? (Rubs eyes in amazement ...)

I think it's an excellent Mobipocket format ebook reader -- suspiciously good: I suspect Amazon may be selling them below manufacturing cost to build market share ("give away the razor but sell them the blades"). It's not as tightly tied to Amazon as I was at first afraid, and works beautifully with Calibre. The leather case with backlight is overpriced, much too heavy (weighs as much as the reader, costs 50% the price of the reader!), and beautiful despite the above objections. I'd be happier if someone would make an ultralightweight plastic clip-on face-plate cover that can clip to the back when not in use and includes a front-light, but it's good as it is.

Main problem is it's nowhere near flexible enough to replace a full-on tablet such as the iPad (or iPhone for that matter).

If you want to do is read novels while on the hoof, it's the best device I've yet met. But it's pretty much a one-trick pony. (And don't talk to me about jailbreaking it and installing Ubuntu -- I know it's possible, but is it sensible?)

74:

Charlie @73: "But it's pretty much a one-trick pony."
That may be true, but Kindle 3 apparently includes a WebKit based browser and WIFI and 3G networking capabilities.

75:

Yes, but actually browsing with it is ... well, it's a rather Special™ experience.

76:

Meg,

the PS3 dropped PS2 compatibility several years ago. Good luck getting an early PS3 that will play some of your PS2 games via emulation, and making it work.

77:

It is unlikely that there are any yield problems with the parts going into the iPad. They're almost certainly made on a conventional process that has already been shaken out thoroughly by the foundry. Any price drops will have little to do with changes to the manufacturing cost.

[Just my opinion, having worked for a fabless semiconductor company; I don't have any inside information.]

78:

Eric, I'm prognosticating that the rumoured 9.7" retina display (roughly 2000x1500 pixel count) didn't show up on the iPad 2 because they can't reliably produce such a display yet. Not that there are problems with the yield of any components in the actual shipping product.

79:

Yes, posting from a Kindle is possible now that it has wi-fi and the browser supports Javascript. Of course, with that keyboard, typing more than a twitter-length post gets old fast, which is why I'm back at my PowerBook.

Sadly, much of the Web is not optimized for a six-inch grayscale screen that you pan and zoom with a five-way button.
:)

That said, though, it frees me from my desk for casual keeping up with contents on 10-15 bookmarked sites. Not all of them can be fitted equally well in portrait mode, but reading your blog is perfectly fuss-free. So is, say, the mobile edition of BBC News.

Mine is not (yet?) jailbroken, never mind Ubuntu, and it's not quite the poor man's iPad that I'd like. Still, the Javascript support, which seems pretty solid, opens some possibilities given the proper backend.

Now if only Amazon wouldn't cripple it with sillyness like not allowing the browser to open a file:///...

80:

I recently saw one running a spreadsheet/graphing calculator app - quite cool to watch your y = (x2)*3 + c or whatever gradually render across the funny little e-ink display:-)

81:

Alex @80: "...gradually render across the funny little e-ink display:-)"

And here I was thinking that getting reacquainted with nineties processing power was something none of us could see in any positive light ;-)

This is the reason that for the moment I have given up on the smartphone/pad idea: Even with Android they are too inflexible and WAY too slow. And I miss the desktop real estate and the keyboard. For my (mobile) purposes I am much better off with a combination of a really small cellphone (MB-1200) that doesn't even have a camera and an X201 if I want to get something done.

82:

This response can go in the, Sigh, Hey Ho AND LACK A DAY SECTION FOR Those of US who actually prefer to read HARDBACK tm BOOKS. .... I do wonder whether someone or other might have registered HARDBACK ! as an..address ? ..in the Magical World of T$e INTERNET tm ... this last is just TOO OBVIOUS tm and must have been TAKEN tm as an ADDRESS tm ..if it seems to be OBVIOUS tm to me then it must have been TAKEN tm Eh Wot tm ?

I wonder whether or not Apple has registered 'Retina Display ' as some sort of trade mark /web address ?


'BOOKS ' ..is too obvious isn't it?

83:


I regard it as being Perfectly Obvious tm that anything that is labeled as " SMART " is in fact no such thing!

84:

Although Mr Jobs did have a go at "making kick-ass UNIX workstations " outside, and came back and is doing it. Curious how reality adapts itself to him.

85:

When there's a way to take 40 boxes of hardbacks, and condense them down to something approximately the size and weight of a small stack of postage stamps, then reinflate them on the other side after the move, let me know. Until then, everything I buy until I know I'm not moving for the next fifteen years will be electronic, unless it's something that doesn't lend itself well to e-format ('coffee table' books, certain reference books, and so forth).

86:

All you folks predicting that the Honeycomb singularity is going to take over the tablet market are missing one big point. People - that is most people, not the geeks who would love to have a tablet with a CLI - don't have a fig for the statistics that might make the hardware slightly better on paper. The iPad works, and it works like computers are going to work in the future. Without tweaking, without overclocking or any of that other nonsense that people associate with the computer savvy set these days.

Computers that get out of the way are the future. Not the ones that demand your attention and distract from what they should be doing. And that is entertaining or getting the job done. The iPad isn't there yet. But it's WAY ahead of anything that any other company has or proposes at this point. Because the geek bullet points don't count. And the more time passes, the less they are going to count.

87:

Eric: yup, you nailed it.

iPads are not "computers for the rest of us". They're computers for everybody else -- including folks who don't currently use computers because they're too difficult.

Some time soon I'm going to try and set up an elderly relative with an iPad: a relative who is not dumb, but who has never really been a computer user -- and who, in their late eighties, finds a full-scale Macbook just too damn complicated to learn from scratch. I am hopeful that the iPad environment is uncluttered and simple enough to make basic tasks such as reading and replying to email manageable.

Note: this is someone who finds a preconfigured Mac too daunting and complex. Sticking a Windows 7 box -- or Ubuntu -- in front of them would be silly; same basic problem. Modern computers are too damn complex for people who haven't grown up with them or grown up with their predecessors (learning new stuff as it was added over the years), or who have cognitive impairment due to age or illness.

88:

Now, I got an Android phone for Christmas, and one of the first things I did was to download PDAnet, because I have discovered that at an Econolodge, public wireless is free and has a good signal even in Room 12099 way out past the parking lot. In a fancy resort in oh, say, Palm Springs, wireless can cost up to $20 a day with a suck signal unless you're bedding down in the lobby. I plan to circumvent that this year (just watch, now that they _know_ how to cope with this, they will decide to do their wireless right for a change. Not that I'd complain about it. Will see what happens when we go to Las Vegas in a couple of weeks, I mean besides spending a lot of time playing penny Keno on a machine because another one has already sucked down the twenty I've allotted for that day). And will have to do email after 7 pm, because then the minutes are all free (and I will learn Skype, honest, but don't know if that would affect the minutes used internet browser). Be that as it may, I don't need an Apple product to do this.

Oh, and sorry about using up everyone's parentheses ration for the day.

89:

Eric @86, (Charlie @87):

I believe you are correct in the assessment that for the broad majority the "it just works" approach (uugh, where did I hear that before?) is going to work out just fine. I don't think it necessarily means that I'm not allowed to be root on my system.

Let me explain:

Some relatives of mine are difficult to label as computer savvy or not. They could (about a decade ago already) handle an in-car-navigation system just fine that would make me throw a tantrum at regular intervals (=every time). They can program a TV with a user interface that is sufficiently execrable for me to never have picked up the remote again after the first four tries. ASOASF. Which is to say I can't blame their impatience.

These same people never truly picked up on the concept of a filesystem (similar disabilities have been mentioned here before in other comments). Worse, but only for MY sanity, I was never able to explain to them that some software and data is local to their workstation, some is not.

Fifteen years ago I thought the smart thing to do was to set them up with an MSWindows system. The following years were a pain. Every couple of weeks they would inadvertently change some settings which would require local support to change back. Every couple of months they ruined their system completely (malware, settings so deeply disrupted it was easier to set up afresh than to recover ...). I thought it couldn't get any worse, so at some point instead of setting up another MS system I installed debian with a KDE3 desktop at the time (I think). A couple of years of relative quiet followed. Every 5-6 months they would run into some problem, but those were easily fixed without a re-installation. Then, at their request (some people had told them Apple systems were super-intuitive and that even the worst lusers would easily find their way around in them), and at great cost, we bought them the then top-of-the-line MacBook Pro, Christmas 2009. What a waste. They continued to use the by then very old debian 1024x768, AMD Athlon 800Mhz, 512MB system, because they were simply too confused with the new one. I wasn't much help because I can't talk people through problems I'm not familiar with and the people that had recommended Apple in the first place (obviously) couldn't be bothered, either.

Early 3Q last year I bought them a nice regular desktop tower, i7, 16G RAM, 128MB SSD, nice graphics card (I don't recall which one except that it certainly was NVidia because their linux drivers always work reliably and dual link) and a 30" display. Installed debian squeeze, put four icons on the panel (browser, openoffice writer, filemanager, back-to-desktop). Disabled all desktop effects except for fade-in and fade-out. Disabled multiple desktops (moving things are confusing). Disabled them to go any place but their /home/user directory in the browser. Disabled the application launcher.

This kind of setup would never work for me. But they are VERY happy with it. I can, and they could, if they ever wanted to, be root. But they can't accidentally destroy things, except for those they themselves created and not even that because they are backed up for a week every hour. They can't change settings. They can't do anything they don't need to do.

It took me too long to figure out that not only did they not need to be able to do everything on their system, they didn't want to. And whenever they accidentally did, it was most likely detrimental to perceived usability. That doesn't mean that I shouldn't be able to do everything. I was, after all, able to set up a highly personalized system that is failsafe for them but that I could still completely disable by making the wrong choices.

I think you can have it all: A system where you shut yourself out of accidental mishandling but retain full control over your device. Only when something like MSWindows (before v7), that forced you to do everything and its dog with the wrong privileges, has prevailed for much too long, will people perceive freedom as a danger.

90:

Your system does not scale from the aspect of user support. Apple's does.

This doesn't mean there's no market for 'you get root on your device'. Apple's selling more Macs than ever, and I expect they'll continue to do so for some time. But it does seem to indicate there's a big market for 'mostly foolproof computing'. Lion seems to take it one step further for people who want (or need) that sort of thing.

I will say that the concept of iOS-like desktops for people like my mother, who still doesn't get a hierarchical file system despite using computers since the early 90s, seems like a Godsend.

91:
Computers that get out of the way are the future. Not the ones that demand your attention and distract from what they should be doing. And that is entertaining or getting the job done.

And that's why I can just insert my USB drive into one of these things and go with my own Latex programs and fi- oh, wait, the iPad and similar mac products can't do that.

Note, btw, that everyone slings that old bromide about "computers that get out of the way . . ." around. Attempting to appropriate it for your system of choice is like Libertarians trying to appropriate the word "freedom" for their own use and to distribute as they see fit. Not gonna happen.

92:
I will say that the concept of iOS-like desktops for people like my mother, who still doesn't get a hierarchical file system despite using computers since the early 90s, seems like a Godsend.

I always take these claims that people "don't get" hierarchical file systems with a huge block of salt. If you ask your mother where she keeps her q-tips, and she say in the bathroom on the bottom cupboard on the top shelf to the left, then I'd say she's got a pretty good idea of what a hierarchical file system is :-)

What is more plausible is that a lot of people don't get how to move their files around in the hierarchy. But that's a different problem.

93:

scent @92:

Seconded.

What I still don't have a clear opinion about: How on earth would they be able to handle multiple devices with humongously difficult UIs, but still not understand that for different purposes the same device can utilize different interfaces?

94:

And that's why I can just insert my USB drive into one of these things and go with my own Latex programs and fi- oh, wait, the iPad and similar mac products can't do that.

The Mac can do that. Getting root is part of the deal when you buy a Mac. (Having to use it is another matter.)

The iPad can't.

Because the iPad is not a Mac.

It's an entirely different user interface with a different use case that just happens to sit on top of a fork of the same OS kernel on a different CPU family.

95:

Saying 'how can people not understand a hierarchical file system if they understand where their Q-tips are' is like not understanding how someone can't do basic auto maintenance. Or, for that matter, do more electrical work than change a light bulb, if that.

Regardless of whether or not they should be able to do it, they don't. It may be a lack of time, lack of interest, or lack of capacity. My mother has no interest in computers other than the absolute bare necessity to keep her business afloat. It costs her time, because even though she acknowledges that, for example, a good billing system would save her a lot of time and effort, she's quite convinced that she's unable to master it. If I lived close enough to home, I might think of trying to help her out. At this point, I'm content to just keep her going with the way she is now, and anything that can simplify things, I'll take.

Now, as Our Host is fond of saying, remember that people like my mother are the vast majority of the consumer base. They have no interest in knowing how their computer works, they want it to 'just work'. The closer a device comes to 'just working', the better it will do, even if on a feature-for-feature basis, it is not 'the best' device on the market. This is where the iPad (and iPad2) are going to make a killing. It doesn't matter if a Xoom tablet is faster, has more RAM, more pixels, or so forth. Until the Xoom, or HP's WebOS device, is as close to 'good' as the various Android phones are to the iPhone, Apple will own the market.

This can apply to techies as well. I own an iPhone, which I am extremely happy with. For the most part it 'just works', and since I don't pay myself to do tech support, I'm willing to live without the hassle of jailbreaks, etc. I have a couple of Macs, and they work just fine for me. If I want to screw around with root on complex computing environments, that's what the day job is for. Similarly, I didn't really understand how internal combustion engines worked until I got a motorcycle, because you don't need to know that if you own a car unless you choose to do your own maintenance. My Prius is not all that far from an iPhone on wheels; it's not a car, it's a driving appliance.

96:

I relate a lot of this discussion back to the one about what cars. And driving might be like in 50 years.

When I was a teen in the late 60s and early 70s here in the US there was a large population of people who derided anyone with a car who couldn't dismantle and put back together the engine in less than a day. Muscle cars were all the rage. These folks still exist but in vanishing small numbers. And everyone I knew either had a timing light and dwell meter, knew how to use one, or at least knew what they were and that they had to be serviced every 10k miles or so.

Cars today last 200k miles instead of 50k. You change the oil every 3k to 6k instead of every 2k. And many automatic transmissions are sealed with a service light that trips at 100k miles. And how many of us still even gave those timing ligts and dwell meters?

Most people want to use a car to get somewhere with as little fuss as possible. And they now can buy computers for similar reasons.

97:

David L. @96:

Isn't this just the point?

I think 50k miles is impressive for a regular car seeing everyday use. The 200k miles engine that wasn't completely rebuilt (steel sleeves and all) I've yet to see. The one that gets you 250hp out of 1000cc I've seen in Europe. Won't last more than 75kKm, though.

98:

erald @97:

The engine is not the car. Though it wouldn't surprise me if, as cars get more and more complex, the either have a slight reduction in long term reliability, or they become more deliberately recyclable on the assumption that, if you own the vehicle, you'll be able to sell it (on final termination) a higher price than you can get now, assuming it's properly screwed together to be easily recycled. In the mean time, newer vehicles are, comparatively speaking, more luxurious, more reliable, have much nicer gadgets, and are safer.

Walking it back to Apple for a moment: Macs have, historically, tended to have longer useful lives than contemporary PCs. You can still people complaining about the drop of PowerPC support for 10.6 despite the last PowerPC Mac model being released in October of 2005. (And I still have friends with PowerPC Macs trundling along on 10.5.) One of the nice things about their current model is that they have only become more recyclable, without an apparent loss in this durability. My iMac has a lot of glass and aluminum in it, both very recyclable, far moreso than the previous desktops and monitors I've owned. It also uses less power, is quieter, faster, and all around a nicer computer.

99:
And that's why I can just insert my USB drive into one of these things and go with my own Latex programs and fi- oh, wait, the iPad and similar mac products can't do that.

The Mac can do that. Getting root is part of the deal when you buy a Mac. (Having to use it is another matter.)

The iPad can't.

Because the iPad is not a Mac.

It's an entirely different user interface with a different use case that just happens to sit on top of a fork of the same OS kernel on a different CPU family.

Using "Mac" for "Apple" is an Americanism, I suppose. But all right, the iPad and similar Apple products have this problem. Come to that my daughter had a problem a few years back where she had a file on her iPod that had been deleted on her computer and that she wanted to put back. She couldn't do it (I don't know if this sort of thing has changed in the intervening time.)

Oh, we got lots of guff about purchasing through the iTunes store and some sort of "insurance" yadda, yadda. But we were told essentially that if you want to go from computer to iPod, okay, but if you want to go from iPod to computer, well, you can't do that. According to the good folks at Apple, that is. What actually happened was that I was able with a bit of ingenuity and the right online help to get that file back onto her computer and into iTunes. And it was a royal pain to do so - much more so than is the case with transferring files from a USB stick.

So don't tell me about how products like the iPad "get out of the way". For some tasks they maybe do, but for others they most definitely do not. And one of the very common tasks I do - as well as a lot of other people I know - is carry files around on a flash drive so they're easily accessible on a different computer. And for this, you are most definitely assured that your Apple product is going to deliberately stand in the way. So it goes.

100:

There are a couple of different ways to get a file from an iPod/iPad/iPhone onto a Mac. The legitimate way is that you can transfer purchased items from the iDevice to the Mac.

There are also third-party products which can transfer songs/movies/etc. from iPods to the Mac. They all work by reverse engineering the database on the iDevice.

101:
Saying 'how can people not understand a hierarchical file system if they understand where their Q-tips are' is like not understanding how someone can't do basic auto maintenance. Or, for that matter, do more electrical work than change a light bulb, if that.

Regardless of whether or not they should be able to do it, they don't.

No, that's not what I said, and I'd appreciate it if you actually responded to what I wrote.

I said, no, your mother obviously does understand hierarchical file systems. I just gave a very concrete everyday example. So don't try to tell me that she doesn't.

Now, it's possible (and it's certainly been my experience) that when she says she doesn't understand the system what she means is that she doesn't know how to do the basic file manipulations, like dragging a file from one folder to another or copy/paste or moving a file from one folder outside to a larger containing folder, that sort of thing. Or that she doesn't understand why folders A, B, C go into the larger folder D and not E or F (which is on a par with someone not understanding why the sciency books have call numbers in the 500's when using the Dewey decimal system, rather than in the 700's or 200's.) But she does understand it.

Another possibility - I've seen this one a lot too - is that people can be just plain "oppositional", to use a polite word. They appear to actively enjoy not understanding some trivial but necessary bit of arcana, saying with some perverse pride that "it's all beyond me." My mother is like that when logging onto the intertubes; the system I set up for her at home is actually simpler than the library's antiquated system. But she claims that she "can't understand" these newer computers and would rather go for clicking through (ironically enough) a set of nested folders on machines that from the color schemes look as if they're running Win95.

If using something like an iPad is necessary to trick your mother into using the computer, fine. But don't kid yourself or try to tell others that she doesn't know about file hierarchies. Not if she can say that she put the fancy chopsticks in the kitchen because they're associated with eating, and in particular in the cutlery drawer because they're a utensil, and in the back because they're not used very often.

102:
When I was a teen in the late 60s and early 70s here in the US there was a large population of people who derided anyone with a car who couldn't dismantle and put back together the engine in less than a day. Muscle cars were all the rage.

This doesn't have a lot of explanatory power unless you tell us what tasks on the computer you think are of comparable difficulty and annoyance as, say, gapping your plugs and testing for compression. And off-hand, I really can't think of any that fall into that difficulty class, even ten years ago.

So what sort of computer maintenance would nominate as being of such difficulty as say, dismantling and putting an engine back together again that these iPad users are spared?

103:
There are a couple of different ways to get a file from an iPod/iPad/iPhone onto a Mac. The legitimate way is that you can transfer purchased items from the iDevice to the Mac.

So that if I have a store-bought CD that I have it is somehow "illegitimate" for me to put it into iTunes or download it onto an iPod? Well, that's one method to get to "a computer that gets out of the way."

There are also third-party products which can transfer songs/movies/etc. from iPods to the Mac. They all work by reverse engineering the database on the iDevice.

Yeppers. And which - as I pointed out already - are anything but transparent to the user. The very opposite of a computer "that gets out of the way." Personally, if I have a USB stick, I just want to slot it in without thinking about it. If I have to go through a bunch of rigmorale just because the machine I'm using happens to be an iPad, well, it's not doing the job as advertised.

104:

@102

My mother might understand the concept of 'thing inside another thing inside another thing' just fine. She does not understand 'why Firefox dumps stuff here, and Safari here', or 'Why is AOL's mail slow' and how to change and (important here) fix the defaults after they're modified once to all look in the right place. She doesn't understand why moving something can break something else. In short, she can understand the concept, but she doesn't sufficiently understand the rules of the implementation to use it and, most importantly, to be flexible enough to extend the base concepts in order to work her way out of a problem without being terrified of breaking it worse.

Doesn't much matter if it's because she cannot, or be cause she will not. What matters is that after planning for a one hour tutorial (with me, or the nice people down at the 'Genius Bar'), she's suddenly exhausted and crabby fifteen minutes after starting it, and soon finds other things to do. So, I state, without reservation, that she doesn't understand hierarchical file systems, if in a practical, rather than an abstract, sense, and that is all that matters here. (Don't get me started on file ownership, group ownership, read, write, and execute permissions, sticky bits, and extended ACLs, or all the other little things than can go wrong and need fixing.)' Mind, this is on a Mac, where things like file ownerships, sticky bits, and extended ACLs are hidden as far from ordinary users as possible. You can go on at length about how 'people really do get it, they just don't know it' or 'they're being oppositional', but in a practical world, my mother doesn't want to try to figure out why AOL stashes its attachments in the linen closet when she'd really rather they get put in the cupboard, and keeps putting them back in the linen closet after it's upgraded.

While we're at it, would you care explain, concisely, where a single 'left click' will suffice, compared to a double, compared to requiring a right click (or ctrl-click if you have a one button mouse on a Mac)? Again, the concept is simple, 'Click the mouse.' The implementation is inconsistent and confusing to the uninitiated. If it becomes less so for some of it, that's fine, but it is not necessarily a given.

I repeat my earlier point: most people are not interested in learning the details any more than the bare minimum needed to accomplish what they need to do, as compared to what they want to do. The older I get, the more sympathetic I become to this view. Apple, by catering to this view as much as possible, are killing their competitors in this market segment, even if it means a certain amount of annoyance for users like me.

105:

@103

So what sort of computer maintenance would nominate as being of such difficulty as say, dismantling and putting an engine back together again that these iPad users are spared?

Malware removal can require burning a computer down to the firmware and reinstalling, and isn't uncommon on Windows machines.

Full compromise of the OS from visiting a page with a malicious ad banner, which is a bit like hitting an invisible curb, breaking your axle and having someone swipe your wallet from the glove box. Now explain to someone why they should use Netscape with flash turned off, NoScript and Adblock turned on, and all the privacy settings cranked up to eleven. Then explain to them how to disable them on a case-by-case basis so they can do their electronic banking.

(Not kidding about this one. A guy I play Warcraft with, who himself is a very smart programmer who works on similarly complex MMOs, had his PC infected by malware in an ad banner on a warcraft logging support site, and subsequently had his account stolen and had to burn and reinstall the box from the ground because it had been r00ted. So that one cost him time and money.)

For a normal (windows) PC, we'll start with filesystem defragmentation, recovery of non-journaled filesystems in case of zero-warning shutdowns or OS crashes, Display Driver Hell (common on PCs with people I play Warcraft with, and notorious with X on unix and linux variants), backups (you automatically get them with iOS to the host computer), and, at the 'make sure to set the parking brake' level, automatic progress saving inside applications.

This isn't to say that iOS is perfect; it isn't. It's that the target aperture is a lot smaller, and from the user's viewpoint, there's less going on to go wrong.

106:

scentofviolets @ 102

"So what sort of computer maintenance would nominate as being of such difficulty as say, dismantling and putting an engine back together again that these iPad users are spared?"

It's the mindset. Folks who thought everyone should know how to overhaul an engine gave/give very different advice about buying a car than many people needed.

And the people who think everyone should know how to update drivers, add memory, replace the hard drive, etc... tend have opinions about which computer many people should buy that doesn't really address the desires of the purchaser. And to be honest many people would find it easier to overhaul a car engine than build a computer. Similar difficulty. Different skill sets.

My wife spends about 99% of her computer usage reading email, surfing the internet, skype, and remotely working from home (an hour or two a week) via a VPN into her office Windows machine. She commutes from Texas to North Carolina weekly and an iPad with a Bluetooth keyboard is getting serious attention from us mainly due to it's simplicity, size, and weight. And yes I could put together a Linux, Mac, or Win laptop for her configured anyway we want. She has one of those now. But she wants an small commuter sedan or coupe, not a muscle car.

107:

erald @ 97:

"I think 50k miles is impressive for a regular car seeing everyday use. The 200k miles engine that wasn't completely rebuilt (steel sleeves and all) I've yet to see. The one that gets you 250hp out of 1000cc I've seen in Europe. Won't last more than 75kKm, though."

I'm driving a 96 explorer with 150K. Should last another 50K if I want to keep driving it. (I don't put many miles on it and it's hand to be able to pull a trailer now and again as I work on my house.) We clunkered a 95 Explorer with 250K miles. The engine was fine and the car could have gone another 30K to 50K but $4500USD was too much to turn down.

My daughter bought a 2002 Mazda last August with 200K miles and all original parts under the hood. We just replaced the spark plugs and will do the timing belt RSN. My son just bought a 2004 Honda with 135K miles. Doing the timing belt as we speak. Both of these cars should get to 300K with reasonable maintenance.

Now back in the early 70s my first car was a 62 Buick with 80K miles and it was definitely on its last year or two. Next was a Plymoth Fury with 50K miles. Had it for 4 years. Both were considered at the end of their useful life.

Back to computers. People expect to buy a computer and use it for years with simple maintenance. Maybe not us Geeks to inhabit this blog and similar sites but most people. You know, the NORMAL ones.

108:

Come to that my daughter had a problem a few years back where she had a file on her iPod that had been deleted on her computer and that she wanted to put back. She couldn't do it

Blame the RIAA.

You may recall the lawsuits that flew in the late 1990s when the first vendor of mp3 players got sued into a smoking hole in the ground by the RIAA?

The reason you can't (easily) copy MP3s off an iPod is that Apple's lawyers cut a deal with the music studios and the RIAA; in return for not ending up in the middle of some gigantic lawsuits, Apple agreed to make it very difficult to use an iPod as a sneakernet file sharing appliance.

Your problem here is essentially one created by lawyers.

109:

David L / erald
Erm - Land-Rover "Defender"
PROVIDED you do the scheduled maintenance ...
Just changed the engine/differentials oils on mine, at 120 000 miles.

110:

Re 92, 95, 101, 102 and 104 - can I suggest that part of the problem is that the lady instanced doesn't know (or possibly understand) that "the box of Q-tips...beach house" is a hierarchical file system for physical objects rather than logical ones?

Of course, the problem gets worse when we start considering the people who think they're power users but really aren't. I am, at best, a power user when it comes to Windoze.
For instance, my sister and her friend accused me of "not speaking English to them" when I suggested starting 'Task Manager' on a Windoze box to see if an application had died part-way through start-up. Said sis was once highly grateful to me when Wurd crashed on her about 90% through editting a thesis that had been e-mailed to her as her work, and I told her to use File Manager to look in C:\...\$username...\olk66 for something with a similar filename, and she found it with all by the last 2 edits saved.

111:

Skoda Octavia TDi - Mine's on 100k with nothing more than scheduled maintenance, consumables, and an alternator drive pulley. I know several people (all taxi drivers) who've managed 400k to 500k miles from them, and several more who've had that sort of mileage from PSA cars with the XUDT series TDis.

112:

Mind you, here's a "gotcha" that I didn't know about. Running XP, I moved a sub-tree, to eliminate a redundant level, and the directories in the subtree reverted themselves from "details view" to "thumbnails view". Ordinarily, the only thing I use thumbnails for is directories with mostly graphics files in them.

113:

Another possibility - I've seen this one a lot too - is that people can be just plain "oppositional", to use a polite word. They appear to actively enjoy not understanding some trivial but necessary bit of arcana, saying with some perverse pride that "it's all beyond me."

For instance, my sister and her friend accused me of "not speaking English to them" when I suggested starting 'Task Manager' on a Windoze box to see if an application had died part-way through start-up.

It's a drug-seeking strategy. Throw a crabby and forget everything, and support personnel (for some values of support personnel) will eventually come and do your job.

There is a real need for fundamental research on how we got into this fix. I really don't think CRAP (Control, Restrictions, and Punishment pace David Berlind) is a solution - it's very often the problem, as seen above regarding iTunes. I think it's partly horrible Microsoft products, partly the legacy of geek arrogance and mystification, and partly a culture of learning refusal. It was until quite recently considered a marker of status that you "didn't know anything about computers", didn't have one on your desk. After all, if status can be partly defined as the range of things servants do for you, incompetence is a mark of social status.

Also, "just works" should be banned. It's a toxic marketing concept. People will buy all sorts of things on the promise that they "just work" and then spend hours and hours suffering them, while ferociously refusing to bin them and do it right because they..."just work", or the advertising said so. Further, expecting things to "just work" is the antithesis of learning. There is no culture of responsibility - people keep buying the same crap from the same people and getting bitten.

I wonder if something like Friedrich Hundertwasser's ideas about designing buildings to keep people engaged, fit, and slightly uncomfortable is needed. What would software look like if the design ethic was centred on LEARNING? I am regularly amazed by the number of people who work daily with MS desktops and know nothing, but nothing, about them or how to do basic tasks like, say, add line numbers to a block of text in MS Word.

114:

Yep - which view type is usually 'this directory and all items within it'. You moved which parent directory your stuff was in, and ended up with a different bunch of settings coming down from above.

(I mostly prefer details view from root down, thumbnails only for specific items.)

115:

What would software look like if the design ethic was centred on LEARNING?

It'd look like a UNIX CLI circa 1992. Maybe BSD4.3. (Designed by CS grad students as they went along ...)

This is not, in my opinion, a bad thing -- I periodically have a bout of nostalgia for an environment like, say, Mark Williams Corporation Coherent circa 1994: no X11, no MIME attachments, no World Wide Web, but a great little toolkit for Getting Things Done and you could cram the whole thing -- OS environment and documentation and dev tools -- into a 20Mb (not a misprint for Gb) hard disk, and it would run screamingly fast on a 66MHz 486 with 32Mb of RAM.

However, it requires the users to learn and remember commands, to know how to type, to be able to read and understand textual messages, and to be willing to learn how to problem-solve. Proficient use requires scripting at some level -- be it troff macros or awk/sed/bash scripting. And there is no non-abstract interface -- it's all about names and incantations, there's no concrete metaphor, no desktop with files on it, nothing you can touch with a mouse pointer or a finger. Some people simply can't cope with abstraction at any level -- the same folks who did badly in algebra at high school. And they are ill-served by a CLI, almost by definition.

I am now having a further nostalgia trip for Linux on the Psion 5MX. Shoot me now ...

116:

Short question, long answer.

My preference is to have the default for directories that only contain other directories, thumbnails for directories that mostly contain graphics files (any sort of graphics, inc movies), and what Windoze insists on calling "details" view for directories that primarily contain "applications files", which can be documents, spreadsheets, databases, program code...

My point is that when you move something, you are changing the pointer associations in the FAT, and all other properties should remain as set, because there is no need to change them.

117:

Ref #113 Para 2 (quote from me) and It's a drug-seeking strategy. Throw a crabby and forget everything, and support personnel (for some values of support personnel) will eventually come and do your job.

I was right there in the same room. The "drug seeking" approach is surely to ask the person who's saying "just do $this" how to do $this, or ask that person to do $this for you in that case.

118:
My mother might understand the concept of 'thing inside another thing inside another thing' just fine. She does not understand 'why Firefox dumps stuff here, and Safari here', or 'Why is AOL's mail slow' and how to change and (important here) fix the defaults after they're modified once to all look in the right place.

!?!?! My daughter doesn't know any of this stuff, she has a Windoze laptop/PC and she has never had any problems doing what she wants to do, which mail and music and movies, plus Facebook and some standard editing tools.

For that matter, I don't know why Firefox works the way it does either . . . and I was in the IT biz until the late 90's. Nor do I ever especially notice the lack. This strikes me as specious.

Doesn't much matter if it's because she cannot, or be cause she will not.

It actually matters quite a bit, especially since topic under discussion was "computers that get out of your way". That's nothing more than an advertising slogan and a pernicious one at that.

What matters is that after planning for a one hour tutorial (with me, or the nice people down at the 'Genius Bar'), she's suddenly exhausted and crabby fifteen minutes after starting it, and soon finds other things to do.

Then the fault lies with your mother, not anyone else. Well, perhaps the person teaching her, if they insist on drilling her on information she will need maybe once every couple of years.

Again, if my daughter has no problem - and no need for any of the stuff you're talking about - why does your mother?

119:
So what sort of computer maintenance would nominate as being of such difficulty as say, dismantling and putting an engine back together again that these iPad users are spared?


Malware removal can require burning a computer down to the firmware and reinstalling, and isn't uncommon on Windows machines.

That's it? That's your big bugaboo? Your "isn't uncommon" is AFAIK for most people a once every couple of years occurrence at best. And on the computer I'm typing this on, I've had exactly one even halfway serious malware problem. Which took me maybe a half hour to fix. That's once in six years.

This is really reaching here, imho. And if that's the most serious complaint you can muster . . .

120:
For a normal (windows) PC, we'll start with filesystem defragmentation, recovery of non-journaled filesystems in case of zero-warning shutdowns or OS crashes, Display Driver Hell (common on PCs with people I play Warcraft with, and notorious with X on unix and linux variants), backups (you automatically get them with iOS to the host computer), and, at the 'make sure to set the parking brake' level, automatic progress saving inside applications.

I thought this deserved a separate post: may I suggest that the people Ellis knows who play Warcraft with, and people like his mother (or my daughter, or her mother) who just want "the computer to get out of the way" are largely nonintersecting sets.

You can't switch back and forth as convenient to your argument, you can't talk about display driver hell for gamers as justification for little old ladies or little girls who just want to get on Facebook or email their grandkids.

121:
"So what sort of computer maintenance would nominate as being of such difficulty as say, dismantling and putting an engine back together again that these iPad users are spared?"

It's the mindset. Folks who thought everyone should know how to overhaul an engine gave/give very different advice about buying a car than many people needed.

This is nonresponsive.

122:
The reason you can't (easily) copy MP3s off an iPod is that Apple's lawyers cut a deal with the music studios and the RIAA; in return for not ending up in the middle of some gigantic lawsuits, Apple agreed to make it very difficult to use an iPod as a sneakernet file sharing appliance.


Your problem here is essentially one created by lawyers.

Certainly. As I found out reading other's comments on how to get those files off my daughter's iPod.

But it doesn't matter why the computer isn't "getting out of the way"; the fact of the matter is that in this case it isn't - a far cry from that rah rah advertising hype.

123:

scentofviolets @121:

"So what sort of computer maintenance would nominate as being of such difficulty as say, dismantling and putting an engine back together again that these iPad users are spared?"

It's the mindset. Folks who thought everyone should know how to overhaul an engine gave/give very different advice about buying a car than many people needed.

This is nonresponsive.
-------------------------------
I guess I could say the same about the question. My point was about autos and computers have gone through periods where bit fiddlers and their equivalent dominated the marketplace. Products evolve and bit fiddling is needed less and less. And most consumers prefer it. Yes they don't like it when their device no longer "just works" but they really really like it when it does. I don't miss manual or automatic chokes on cars. I don't miss tires that last only 10K miles. I don't miss dealing with generators vs. alternators on cars and having the battery die because the engine was idling too long. I don't miss futzing with video driver installs as a separate step JUST TO SETUP a Dell computer back to factory settings. I don't miss having to set BIOS settings because I upgraded memory or swapped out a disk drive. I don't miss changing the points and setting the timing and dwell on my car.

My point is most people want a computer to do certain things. If it does them without "opening the hood" in most situations at a reasonable price (TO THEM) they'll live with a lot of limitations bit fiddlers find unacceptable. And in many cases the bit fiddlers will deride the none bit fiddlers as being ignorant.

As to the entire hierarchical file system debate. There are certain people who can't deal with the abstraction it represents. They maybe can deal with similar physical systems but not abstract ones. And these people never ever succeed in computer oriented careers (well except maybe sales or marketing) and leave them early if they go into them by mistake. Therefore the people in the computer industry tend to be surrounded by people who get the abstraction and find dealing with people who don't get it "odd".

124:
"So what sort of computer maintenance would nominate as being of such difficulty as say, dismantling and putting an engine back together again that these iPad users are spared?"


It's the mindset. Folks who thought everyone should know how to overhaul an engine gave/give very different advice about buying a car than many people needed.

This is nonresponsive.
-------------------------------
I guess I could say the same about the question. My point was about autos and computers have gone through periods where bit fiddlers and their equivalent dominated the marketplace. Products evolve and bit fiddling is needed less and less. And most consumers prefer it.

My question was entirely on-point. Your analogy is worthless unless you can tie specific fiddly bits in cars to specific fiddly bits in computers.

So if working on your computer analogizes to, say, pulling out an old 4-speed tranny and rebuilding (my Dad was/is a mechanic and I too hail from the late 60's/early 70's when it comes to automobiles) it, then yeah, you have a good point. If, otoh, working on your computer is more like refilling the windshield wiper fluid reservoir, well, not so much.

That's why my question and your answering it with specific details is important.

I don't miss futzing with video driver installs as a separate step JUST TO SETUP a Dell computer back to factory settings. I don't miss having to set BIOS settings because I upgraded memory or swapped out a disk drive. I don't miss changing the points and setting the timing and dwell on my car.

Blink. How many people do this with their Windoze computing devices anyway? In my experience, not very many. Now, maybe back in 1998 (or earlier) you may have had a point. But from oh, say, 2005 on, not so much. IMHO, of course.

In fact, the biggest problem most people seem to have when buying new computers (I just went through this when my daughter got a 2010 laptop running Win7) is removing all the horrible crap (I don't swear often, but yeah, there was a crapload of crap) that comes pre-installed these days. And that's not an Apple/everybody else sort of issue.

My point is most people want a computer to do certain things. If it does them without "opening the hood" in most situations at a reasonable price (TO THEM) they'll live with a lot of limitations bit fiddlers find unacceptable. And in many cases the bit fiddlers will deride the none bit fiddlers as being ignorant.

That may be the case - it's almost certainly true in mine, for example. But I don't seem to have any problems with using Windoze machines with just that attitude, and I don't find Apple products superior in this regard. Quite the contrary - as I initially pointed out, I find the fact that you can't simply plug in a generic USB drive into an iPad to be a severe handicap which requires a degree of work-around I'm simply not willing to put up with any more. (Yes, I actually checked out the iPad as a possible Shiny! for myself at the local Apple store - chuckles all around from the impossibly young sales staff at my naivete regarding the mysteries of synching. And that, in and of itself was a deal-killer right there. No matter how Shiny! the machine was otherwise.)

125:

/rant

Charlie, some people couldn`t cope with literacy. And earlier, some people couldn`t cope with agriculture. Most of those people went extinct, so why do we need to cater for those who can`t cope with abstraction? Bloody hell, coping with abstraction is what being human is all about.

/rant off

8-)

126:

Anatoly, what do you propose we should do with them instead? That's the question.

(Education will take care of the problem -- mostly -- over the next couple of generations. But in the meantime we're stuck with them. I do not consider extermination to be a reasonable option, so we need to find some way of tackling the problem. And we probably can't tackle it through primary legislation because you can't legislate to change peoples' way of thinking.)

127:

We could at least try not to pretend that a "black box" type software\hardware is something desirable for general use. A wheelchair is only appropriate if you don`t have legs. If you are too lazy to use your legs, you deserve to be kicked.

128:

erald @55

The "Apple blocks Opera" story is pretty wilful misrepresentation of what actually happens.

IF you have enabled Parental Controls, THEN you (as administrator/parent) have the option to restrict what apps may be downloaded from the App Store by age category. Using the parental controls to block unsuitable content from being viewed in Safari is pretty pointless if the minor in question is able to simply download and install an alternative browser that doesn't respect the Parental Control settings.

129:

scentofviolets @ 124:

"That may be the case - it's almost certainly true in mine, for example. But I don't seem to have any problems with using Windoze machines with just that attitude, and I don't find Apple products superior in this regard. Quite the contrary - as I initially pointed out, I find the fact that you can't simply plug in a generic USB drive into an iPad to be a severe handicap which requires a degree of work-around I'm simply not willing to put up with any more. (Yes, I actually checked out the iPad as a possible Shiny! for myself at the local Apple store - chuckles all around from the impossibly young sales staff at my naivete regarding the mysteries of synching. And that, in and of itself was a deal-killer right there. No matter how Shiny! the machine was otherwise.)"

OK. Here's how I read your statements. You want to treat an iPad as a COMPUTER. I, and I think Charlie and many others, want to treat it as a device. Windows PCs and Macs are definitely computers. So are most things with a keyboard and display on them. But that's the point of all of this. An iPad is NOT a general purpose computer. It's a device for doing lots of interesting things but not everything or even close to everything a general purpose computer can do. And I'm fine with that.

As to drivers and what not. Yes Win, Mac, and Linux are all much easier to deal with than they were 10 or more years ago. Much easier. But much easier doesn't equate to no effort. And the iPad (and iPhones and Android things to some degree) are much closer to no effort than a general purpose computer. Which puts them into a category that many more people will want. I'm likely to get an iPad v2 but it will NOT replace my desktop with its dual 20" displays, 2 TB of storage, etc... It will be my mobile device doing what it does.

Getting back to cars. I knew folks back in the 60s who ere in their 60s or older who would NOT buy a car with an automatic transmission because it took away some of their control over the car. And many of them would not use 2nd gear on a 3 speed column shift manual transmission because it was useless. You used 1st to get going then drove in 3rd. I see a lot of the same thought process here.

And if you want a tablet with a USB port that allows you do insert a USB drive for more storage, by all means go get one. But at the end of the day most people will not care.

130:

Dude, I can't change the oil in my car. Does that mean I shouldn't be allowed to drive?

(NB: I've never owned a dwelling with a garage, so every automobile I've ever driven has been parked on the street. Which makes tinkering and taking things apart somewhat unfeasible. If I did live in a country where the average dwelling is less than 75 years old -- hence designed with automobile ownership in mind -- I might have tried to learn, back before cars turned into clusters of computers rolling in loose formation.

But then, I've never bothered trying to rewire my house, either. (Again: building codes hereabouts require you to employ a certified electrician to do that stuff, and I'm not enthusiastic about playing with 415 volt three-phase -- or regular 230 volt household mains -- without training.)

Computers are clearly in the same category: complex consumer products that are easier to use than they are to maintain. And 90% of computer users do just that. After all, hacking your mobile phone is far and away a minority pursuit, and phones constitute the vast majority of the consumer computer market -- these odd gizmos with keyboards and big screens are a tiny corner of things.

131:

Computers are my tools. I make my living from them. They are my equivalent of a woodworker's tools, and I need to know them as well as a woodworker might in order to make furniture. If scentofviolets really wants to know what I consider serious computer work, it's taking a couple of blade chassis with assorted blades, a high availability mixed storage unit (NAS and SAN), a trunked 10GigE network environment with HA firewalls and load balancers, and turning it into a fully stacked, PIN compliant e-commerce system, complete with dynamically generated content, appropriate backend database with assorted middleware, full backups and disaster recovery, a content management system that your average non-IT person can use to load up content, appropriate monitoring and notification of failures, and linked to whatever corporate inventory and management databases and applications reside outside the immediate system. It's not something you do yourself. You do it with a team of people, and while some people on the team could potentially learn any given piece of it, human limitations ensure they probably won't learn it all.

It's the equivalent of starting with a stack of very nice, pre-treated lumber, paint, varnish, accessories, fabric, stuffing, springs and everything else, and putting together a house full of furniture, or building a racing car from off the shelf parts.

Most people just want to sit on the couch. At one point I would have (and did) think less of them for it. Now I understand them. Sometimes I just want to sit on the couch, too. Maybe work in a little recliner while I'm at it.

132:

There are still lots of people who aren't literate. Many of them have learned to get by without reading. A lot of areas in the US (don't know about other countries) have volunteers who teach people to read and write without embarrassing them. I know Pat Wrede volunteers.

133:
OK. Here's how I read your statements. You want to treat an iPad as a COMPUTER. I, and I think Charlie and many others, want to treat it as a device. Windows PCs and Macs are definitely computers. So are most things with a keyboard and display on them. But that's the point of all of this. An iPad is NOT a general purpose computer.

OK, here's how I read your statements. You want to pigeonhole me as someone who is insisting that the iPad serve as some sort of general purpose computer.

Well, no, I'm not. Especially since other tablets will most definitely let you plug in memory[1].

See, the deal is, with my little 8 GB cruzer is immanently portable (Here's a little something in re a conversation about flash memory that occured here last year in December.) If my laptop or tablet or computer crashes, I can simply borrow someone elses if I am making a presentation. In fact, I don't even need to have the requisite editing app on the substitute device if I have to make a few last-minute changes; it's all on the stick.

It's the same thing for swapping files of all sorts. If I happen to have a 4 GB animation on my drive and someone wants a copy of it right there, all I have to do is plug my it in and directly transfer the file. No muss, no fuss. This appears to be a fairly common practice, even with my daughter's set (she has an iTouch but routinely does direct file swaps with her friends using hers and their memory sticks.)

Given their capabilities, their size, and their affordability, why would you assume that these sorts of memory devices are just for computers? Especially since - as I noted above and which I'm sure you were already aware of - other tablets, not to be mistaken for "real computers" any more than the iPad is, also let you use USB drives?

[1]I'd actually be interested in the chain of inferences that lead from "this person wants to use flash memory on a tablet" to "this person wants to treat a tablet like a computer."

134:

If enough customers feel like you, Apple's sales will decline and perhaps Apple will revisit IOS file transfer.

135:

Dude, I can't change the oil in my car. Does that mean I shouldn't be allowed to drive?

Would you (for values of "you" that include getting Feorag to do it because she has better eyesight) be able to check and adjust coolant, screenwash and oil levels, and tyre pressures? If so, then there's no need for you to be able to service the car yourself, but I'd suggest learning basic diagnostics (eg, if "manual trans" and "engine revs rise without road speed rising" then "clutch is probably slipping"). I also post on a car make website, and it's not that unusual to get posts saying "My Check Engine Light (CEL) is on. What is wrong?" and it's very tempting to just reply "look, they're golden, not crystal!"

136:

Partly through having been thinking about my borrowed work ipad (due to be dragged from my cold dead hands in a couple of months) I pulled Neal Stephenson's _In The Beginning Was The Command Line_ out last week and re-skimmed it. It holds up remarkably well given that it's about 10 years old, and anyone who's done any thinking about user interfaces, and hasn't yet read it, should do so ASAP.

Shorter: we are the Morlocks.

137:

PS - I forgot to say about the utility of the ipad for handicapped kids. A mate's daughter has some severe physical handicaps and a learning difficulty: she's been trialling a robust case and a custom set-up for the ipad, and it works brilliantly. It's helping her to communicate in a new and better way.

138:

I'm interested to know how much technology you use in your life that you personally know the ins-and-outs of? Ever: taken antibiotics? flown in a plane? serviced a car? walked on tarmac? eaten a banana (the technology here includes the breeding, farming, transport)? etc etc

The reality is that everybody has an understanding limited to Black Box Level for >99% of the technology they utilise. It's not feasible to suggest anything else, it's a waste of time for me to learn exactly how a computer works (my knowledge of how the hardware and software of any computer works is strictly layman) because I never have to utilise that knowledge. If my computer does something odd I take it to the guys in IT support who fix it.

To stay an expert at something requires that you study it constantly ( it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place ), if i want to be an expert in computers i'd likely have to ease off learning something else.

Personally I find the statement from competent IT people that the rest of us should learn sounds as feasible (and sensible) as a doctor demanding people should know how to treat themselves

139:

That's the conceptual (sideways or even backward) leap I'm trying to make in deciding whether or not to buy the new iPad (I don't have an old one). I'm used to working with real computers, which this is not, for familiar values of "computer." I have a Mac, used to have a PC, and my work involves crawling around the guts of Cisco and/or Juniper router configurations.

But a living room full of old Macs and PCs from which I need to harvest old emails, pix, etc., really drives home how little I need all my shiny electronic toys to be "real computers".

So I'm cool with giving up the idea of an iPad having to be a "real" computer, in exchange for mobility and being able to use it for capturing audio, video, etc.

But I'd like it to be enough like a "real" computer that I can use it to display my photos, art collection and art reference library (mostly .pdfs), which means porting over about 30 GBytes of files. Can I do that without going through the chokepoints of iTunes or the Photo app?

As the iPad is really a s00per-d00per iPod Touch, that kind of answers the question. Can I do the above easily with my iPod? No.

Apparently there's 3rd-party software to let you do this, though.

140:

Why not consider a long-term easy solution? Get a PogoPlug (dead-simple NAS drive that supports USB storage devices and iDevices), copy your files onto a USB hard drive or thumb drive, plug it into the PogoPlug, then either look at them on the iPad via WiFi or 3G or transfer them to the internal ram disk on the iPad? If I get an iPad that's what I'll do so I don't have to worry about the 16/32/64GB storage question. If you want something that fits in your pocket instead of your tabletop then look at the AirStash, which is a USB device with WiFi connectivity built in that takes SD cards up to 32GB in size and that not only understands iDevices but should (if I'm reading the product info correctly) work with Windows and Linux as well?

141:

Thanks! I'll see if I can find one here. Maybe Mediamarkt carries them.

142:

scentofviolets @ 133:

"[1]I'd actually be interested in the chain of inferences that lead from "this person wants to use flash memory on a tablet" to "this person wants to treat a tablet like a computer."

To me, in what I consider my reasonable opinion, you are into "using a computer" if you want to manipulate "files".

This device is targeted at people who want to read email, look at pictures, watch movies, pay their MasterCard bill, etc... The target market doesn't give a hoot about files or similar.

Now many of us who might buy an iPad or similar might still want to deal with "files" but we are not the target market.

And this is what the iTunes issue is all about. It is about letting people deal with music, apps, movies, podcasts, etc... Now many from the geek side of the universe can say that iTunes is a bloated pig or worse but that's an issue of implementation. It's function is hide the issues of files and storage details from the user.

143:

Charlie Stross @ 126:

Anatoly, what do you propose we should do with them instead? That's the question.

(Education will take care of the problem -- mostly -- over the next couple of generations. But in the meantime we're stuck with them. I do not consider extermination to be a reasonable option, so we need to find some way of tackling the problem. And we probably can't tackle it through primary legislation because you can't legislate to change peoples' way of thinking.)

I don't know about this. I think like many technologies over the last 200 years, we are still in the development phase of computing devices and what skills are needed to use them. Skills that were considered mandatory over the last century but are no longer needed for 99.999% of the users and most can't deal with anymore are things like dialing a phone (a rotary model), starting a car with a choke, starting a car with a crank, defrosting a fridge, changing a flat tire (these are VERY rare these days compared to the past), taking a chicken from walking around to soup, keeping the coal furnace going, over hauling a small gas engine (these are likely to vanish in a few years), etc...

At least in the more developed countries.

And I have a strong feeling that dealing with a hierarchical file system may be one of these issues. It will be hidden under many layers of abstraction and people will find things by asking for "that receipt from Lowes a year or so ago on the same day I bought the new phone." No one but us true nerds will be navigating the file system.

IMNERHO

144:

Hierarchical filesystems don't scale well to the number of files and number of attributes that people want to search for them with. For instance, the hard disk on my laptop has well over a million files on it, in tens of thousands of directories, and I'm not doing anything fancy like live-blogging would make the problem of finding the right file several orders of magnitude worse. Most of the time I don't look for things topdown, I run a search for filename (when it's relatively simple) or content. That's especially true when the files contain complex data like images. My photo library has about 4500 photos in it, and I am backlogged on scanning in about another couple of thousand negatives and slides from Before Digital. Trying to find a particular image by file path alone is a lost cause.

145:

Tagging/keywording is your friend.

I've got over 100k images in my Aperture library (my few hundred pre-digital slides are insignificant in comparison). A combination of keywording and smart albums enables me to find the pictures I want easily. I dread having to do so with a hierarchical system.

146:

Ok, this isn't going to help everyone equally, but perhaps if you could interrogate (not update, just read) the FAT with a DBMS?

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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on March 3, 2011 10:44 AM.

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