SEPTEMBER 2011 (Green Tomatoes)

October 22, 2011

 

 

Because I won my iPad, I was probably much less savvy when I got my iPad about the capabilities of iPads than are most new iPad owners.  Between the time I learned I had won the device and when it was delivered, besides paying more attention to the print and TV ads for iPads that were then running, I did some basic research on-line and visited an electronics store a couple of times to look at iPad accessories. (I knew I was going to need to buy at least a case and a keyboard.)  But I didn’t go through the deliberation process that most purchasers of iPads are likely to go through before making their purchase, researching various iPad features and capabilities first, to see if it is worth it to them to buy one.

I didn’t even know that my iPad had a camera, until after I got it home after having it “set up” at the Apple store, and started to play with the device off-line.  (The original iPad didn’t have a camera, but the iPad II, which is what I have, does have one.)  Trying out the camera (I took just a couple of face-shots of myself–and thumb-shots) and exploring the pre-installed Notes app, which included trying out the pop-up keyboard, were basically all I could do with my new iPad off-line, until I had connected it to a WiFi network and installed some other apps with off-line functionality, and downloaded some digitalized content.

The next day, I visited the local public library, that provides free WiFi access and, after using the iPad to register the device itself and to register for an iTunes account, I started to install and download. Besides iBooks, for downloading books to read off-line, I installed several apps that would give me access to the iPad versions of the various news and current-events websites I commonly visited on computers and on my cell-phone.  These included apps for Vancouver’s Sun and Province newspapers, and for the Canadian national newspaper, The Globe and Mail.  I also installed the news apps for CBC (the Canadian, national, publicly-funded, broadcaster) and CTV (a Canadian, national, private, television network).  In addition, although it had never previously been one of my regular news sources, because I happened to come across its app while browsing in the AppsStore and because it was often mentioned on American television, I installed the app for The Huffington Post, the American on-line newspaper, that also can be downloaded for free on iPads for off-line reading.  While browsing, I also lucked upon a free app for the NFB (Canada’s National Film Board), that enables iPad users to borrow films from the NFB’s on-line library, and downloaded that.  (Probably, a similar service has been available to owners of regular computers for some time; but when I’ve used computers on-line in the past–usually public computers that give you only an hour or two, or at work–I generally haven’t had the time to look at films.  My cell-phone can’t handle films, even very short ones, although some fancier phones may have the capacity.)  During this early period, I also installed the word-processing app, Pages; but it wasn’t until I purchased a keyboard, at the end of September, that I really started to use Pages.  (I did try, early on, to create a résumé using Pages and the pop-up keyboard, and decided that, for the time being, I’d stick with public computers, with real keyboards, for résumés.)  And, yes, Janice, I do remember downloading the Skype app, and you helping me try it out (you even washed your hair for the occasion); but, after trying it a few times, I put Skype on the back-burner, to be used only if I got WiFi access at home–and for new hairdos.

Using the apps I’d installed that were for downloading, as well as downloading through iTunes, in those first couple of weeks, I was able to get some interesting content onto my iPad that I could use off-line.  I, of course, downloaded for off-line reading current issues of various newspapers.  (It was nice to get the Globe and Mail, which I usually bought at least on weekends, for free–at least for the first month.)  I also downloaded a couple of free digital books using iBooks, including Pride and Prejudice and Animal Farm, classics that would be worth revisiting at some point and that I could now use at least to experiment with iBooks.  (Many classics, that are no longer under copy-write protection, can be downloaded for free using iBooks.)  Turning to music, my most exciting discovery was the free musical podcasts of the NPR (National Public Radio), the American counterpart of the CBC’s radio division. Among the NPR podcasts I downloaded was a 2009, full-length, concert by Joan Baez at the Newport Folk Festival, and even a three-song “mini-concert” by Adele, including her recent hit, “Chasing Pavements.”  The first film from the NFB that I downloaded was the ten-minute NFB classic, “A Chairy Tale,” a 1957 collaboration between Norman McLaren and Claude Jutra, that combines live-action with various animation techniques.  (It’s the film about a chair that refuses to be sat upon by a very young Claude Jutra–who went on to direct feature films, including Mon Oncle Antoine.)

I appreciated having ready access to all of this content, and saving myself a few bucks on newspapers; however, at this early stage, I wasn’t thrilled by my new iPad, as I was to be later on–even before getting WiFi at home.  In fact, I was even starting to wonder if all the time it took me to figure out how to use my iPad, and to install and download, and to read all those digital newspapers, was really worth it.  If I had the money to buy one, I doubted that I would have done so.

The problem was that, initially, I related to my iPad as basically just a ‘consumer’.  That is to say, virtually all the apps I installed over those first few weeks were for gaining access to material available on-line that was created by others.  I acknowledge I did have a great deal of choice, even as a very frugal consumer, regarding the material I would access, and I enjoyed much of it.  But I was starting to feel overwhelmed by all of this digital content created by others.  If I’d done more research initially–and perhaps if I’d been less strongly influenced by all the marketing for iPads that was being done, at least in Canada, during the summer (the iPad II had come out only recently)–I would have known that there were other ways of relating to an iPad, that were more appropriate to my needs.  (The iPad marketing I remember from the summer mostly put the iPad user in the role of consumer, using iBooks, watching videos, and so on.  The fall marketing campaign has put greater emphasis on educational and creative uses of iPads.)

The first inkling I had that I could become a ‘producer’ with this device, and not just the ‘consumer’ I had been up to that point, was on Labour Day (September 5), when the public libraries were all closed, and I visited a neighbourhood coffee-shop that offered ‘free’ WiFi, so that I could use my iPad on-line that day.  After I’d been there for a short time, doing more installing and downloading, a man in his late-fifties or early-sixties, who looked like he wore a business suit to work although today he was dressed in jeans and a casual jacket, approached me.  He commented on my iPad and then pulled out his own from a pocket inside his jacket and, without me inviting him, sat down beside me.

My mistake was telling him that my iPad was virtually brand new, to which he responded that he had owned his iPad since the original version first came out.  (I was pretty certain he had bought his and hadn’t resorted to a contest.  I never did tell him I won mine.)  He then asked me what apps I had installed to date and, after my short overview, he launched himself into a run-down of dozens of apps he had on his iPad–not only naming the apps and describing their basic functions but also opening up many of them on his iPad to show me how they worked.  In the guise of offering suggestions about apps I could install on my new iPad, he was just showing off.  He had all the news and current-events apps I had, plus many, many, more of that ilk.  Also, oddly, several (at least a half-dozen) of the apps he suggested related to time management and personal organization.  Although it’s possible it was because he led a very hectic life that this was such a high priority to him, as his lecture proceeded, I concluded it was more because he was obsessed with organization, and with control.

Despite most of his suggestions being of no interest to me, a couple of them were interesting–and one, in particular, was more than just interesting.  This guy from the coffee-shop introduced me to Noteshelf, an app that can be used to create customized digital ‘notebooks’, with many of the basic characteristics of the paper notebooks used usually by school kids, but in a digital form.  (This app is probably very popular among students who used iPads in their educational programs.)  What was most interesting to me about Noteshelf was that, in his demonstration of it, he selected a red colored ‘pen’ from the wide assortment of digitalized coloured felt-pens available in the app and then, using his Pogo stylus, created a freehand, wavy, line across the page–sort of like this:

It was only a simple, freehand, coloured line, but I was thoroughly delighted.  This simple line made me realize, for the first time, that, with my iPad, I could create and not be just a consumer of other people’s work.  I commented to the coffee-shop iPad expert that maybe I would use the app to make some Christmas cards this year (in the past, I commonly made my own Christmas cards), and he seemed to think I was joking–although I wasn’t.

Within the next couple of days, I had installed Noteshelf, bought myself a stylus (not essential for drawing on an iPad, but it’s useful for certain strokes), and done some experimenting.  But, once I started trying to create ‘art’ using my iPad, I could see that the possibilities for creating interesting images using Noteshelf are very limited–unless you’re really, really, into doodling.  When I was once again on-line, I used the search word ‘art’ in the AppsStore to see if there were any dedicated graphics arts apps available that provide more sophisticated tools for creating graphic art using the iPad.  I came across ArtStudio, that costs only $2.99, and that is packed with as many tools as good graphics programs for regular computers–that I recall, from many years ago when I was interested in such matters, costing a whole lot more than $2.99. (Perhaps that’s no longer the case.)

Maybe the Apple marketing people had it right. It’s people like the guy from the coffee-shop who will predominate among the initial purchasers of relatively expensive, novel, gadgets, like iPads (and iPad IIs), if only because they have sufficient money to buy them.  Such people are likely to be more interested in relating to iPads as ‘consumers’ than as ‘producers’.  The artists, the students, and the contest winners, come later.

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