7 days with an iPad (and only an iPad)

Can Apple's tablet replace all other computing devices for a solid week?

By  Cloud Computing, I'll try it

With my hardware needs settled, I knew the first part of this challenge was going to be easy, since a lot of what I do in my personal computing is already done on the iPad. For instance, I check my Gmail account pretty regularly using the native Google app, as well as Google News for work.

For news and information, I decided to splurge on the paywall version of the New York Times app when it first came out, a decision I am still pondering. The apps for CNN, Politico, my local newspaper, NPR, and TED round out the news apps, and I just use Wundermap exclusively for weather information because it's the coolest and most data-rich weather app I have found to date. I realize that this is a lot of news apps, but make no mistake, the one thing the iPad does very well is let me consume content, and I like to consume.

It's not all rosy, however. My financial institution has a decent iOS app, though it's optimized for the iPhone. Still, I can check my accounts, shift money around, and use my bank's online bill paying tool, so it does the job. But it's the in financial arena that I encountered the first limitation on the iPad, though to be honest I knew it would happen. The reason I still keep a Windows VM around is solely to run Quicken and manage one client account that uses huge Word documents that OpenOffice.org and LibreOffice still can't handle very well. There is no Quicken app for iOS, and Mint.com has nowhere near the features I need to manage my bills and business accounts. For reasons I cannot fathom, Quicken and Mint.com don't talk to each other, either, so any input I did on Mint.com from the iPad would have to be duplicated. So, for this week at least, I did the finances on Saturday and did the next week's finances on Sunday.

I don't have a lot of onboard music, preferring instead to use the Rhapsody app to stream the online music provider's music. Rhapsody is a lot like the recently hyped Spotify that launched in the U.S. after much success in Europe -- only Rhapsody is better, giving me a lot more info on tracks and artists and a nice three-device subscription that lets my kids tap into the service from their devices, too.

So, for Sunday, my needs were set: music, news, email, and weather. It was a light day of computing, as I spent a lot of time in the yard and taking my youngest to camp. In all, a great start to the week, but I was worried about what the next day would bring. Could I get real work done on the iPad?


Monday: It's not nice to fool with Mother Nature

Any trepidations and temptations I might have felt to sidestep the challenge and just work on a PC were immediately destroyed about half an hour after I sat down to work Monday morning, when a massive storm blew into town with 81 mile per hour winds that blew down trees, signs, and power connections for about 55,000 people.

Including me.

My DSL router is plugged into the uninterruptible power supply, so I knew I had about six hours of WiFi available before I would have to switch the iPad over to a 3G connection. I was glad for it, because cellular service in the river valley where I live can be sketchy indoors.

Using the iPad's screen as a makeshift flashlight (how handy is that?), I gathered up my tablet, keyboard, and coffee and made my way out of my pitch-black basement office to the dining room table. It wasn't much better, given the gloom of the storm outside, and I found myself wishing for back-lit keys. Any temptation to quit were put out of my mind, because what I had before me was it for productivity on Monday.

I have the Pages app, the word processor part of the iWorks suite, and it's okay. But, seeing as I usually write in an Emacs text editor on Linux, I find it rather top-heavy with features. So I tried iA Writer, a beautiful, cut-to-the-chase editor for the iPad that lets writers do the thing they do best: write.

iA Writer offers a simple interface to get ideas on paper

iA Writer is a fantastic app, letting me concentrate on the words on the screen without distracting me with little gadgets and gizmos. The iPad's onboard spellcheck took care of most of my spelling mistakes, though it could freak out a bit when I typed esoteric technical jargon.

Interfacing with the ITworld back-end to post Monday's blog entry was seamless in Safari; posting some other articles to a client's WordPress site was also extremely easy, thanks to the iOS WordPress app.

The power came back on four hours later (we were lucky -- my neighbors across the street would be living without electricity for three more days), but I was already well on my way working on the iPad.

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