iPad just-slightly insufficiently futurey.

I got an iPad a few weeks ago, and it's really pretty amazing.

This is a big reversal, since I scoffed at those things when they came out. "Why would I want an iPhone that's too big to put in my pocket?" I thought they were useless and stupid, until I used one, and now I'm totally sold. It's an instant-on appliance with a real web browser and real mail reader on a real screen.

I will never use a laptop again.

The on-screen keyboard is mostly tolerable for typing short things (I can't quite touch-type on it, but sort of a six-fingered hybrid of touch-typing and hunt-and-peck works ok).

Here's what sucks, though. And, oddly, most of these are not the iPad's fault, per se.

First, the ssh client I use, "iSSH" completely fails with a Bluetooth keyboard. If you are in any iPad text field, the usual Emacs keybindings work with a real keyboard, including Ctrl-A, etc. However, when using iSSH, none of the chord keys work. This is just a bug in iSSH, but it's been around for a long time with no sign of a fix, judging from the fora. If the keyboard worked properly with iSSH, so that I could ssh in to a server and run a remote Emacs, I'd be able to accomplish just about everything I ever need to do remotely. But driving Emacs -- or even just typing HTML or shell commands -- using the on-screen keyboard is an exercise in self-abuse.

Second, network access in San Francisco fucking blows. Open wifi just doesn't exist here. Every square inch of this city is blanketed with 3 to 10 wifi networks, but they're always locked down. Knowing this, I got an iPad with a 3G card in self-defense, but even that has been remarkably unhelpful so far. Here's an example:

It's a nice day. I go and get some lunch and sit in Yerba Buena park and attempt to do my usual feed-reading ablutions. There are no unlocked wifi networks. (Today, even the "Metreon" network isn't showing up. Usually it's visible, but I haven't been able to connect to it for about two years. I assume that whoever was once responsible for it was sacked, and while the switches are still powered up, they don't actually have an uplink behind them any more. Just one of the many ways that mall is a walking corpse.)

So, after a dozen attempts, my feed reader is finally able to download my feeds over 3G. I'm able to read them, but can only see about one in ten inlined images. Trying to talk to people on AIM is an exercise in whack-a-mole; I have to hit "send" at least 5 times before the messages will go out. Finally, after about 30 minutes it says "your iPad must cool down before you can use it."

"Shiny black slab" was an attractive design choice, but it may not have been the best choice if you want the device to be able to function in the presence of sunlight. Sigh. This is a shame, because the screen is surprisingly readable when it's not suffering from i-sunstroke.

I spend a big chunk of my day in front of a computer, and it seemed like this device would make it easier for me to do that in places-that-are-not-my-house. So far, it has mostly failed at that due to the shitty municipal infrastructure. Mostly it has managed to just move me from my desk to my couch, and occasionally the cafe half a block away (one of the few places I know of that does have unlocked wifi).

But I don't want to sit inside a cafe all day, I want to sit in a park, and it has failed at that so far.

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Gram Rabbit

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