August 20, 2017

Initial Impressions of the iPad 2

I finally received my iPad 2 a couple of days ago. I had ordered it back on March 11, 2011, the first day it was available. I had initially tried to pick one up at an Apple store, and after waiting in line almost two hours, they ran out of the model I wanted. So I went home to order it online. But by that point, there was already a two to three week wait! Mine came almost three weeks to the day after I ordered it. 

I’ve had an original model iPad since June of last year, right after they came out. So this is an upgrade for me. In addition to the iPad 2, I also bought the black leather Smart Cover. 

The original iPad was—and still is—amazing. Magical, as Apple likes to put it. For Apple to improve the iPad so dramatically over last year’s model is quite a feat. The iPad 2 is about one third thinner, several ounces lighter, and nearly twice as fast for most operations. Graphics can be as much as nine times faster. Then there are the additions of both front- and rear-facing cameras, FaceTime, and other features and software additions. 

While some of the reviews have indicated the iPad 2 is an evolutionary upgrade rather than a revolutionary upgrade (I would tend to agree), the improvements are still very significant, and I think make it worth upgrading if you’re a daily iPad user. 

The biggest improvement is the form factor. While the original iPad was relatively thin and portable, the iPad 2 is even more so, and you can readily tell the difference as soon as you pick it up. Thinness counts. Less weight means it’s easier to hold for longer periods without your hands tiring so quickly. The display, which is the same resolution as the original iPad, is even brighter and easier to use outdoors or other bright lighting conditions. 

Of course, the improved speed is a major benefit, too. You’ll notice the difference as soon as you open an app you’ve used regularly before. Browsing the Web with Safari is better than ever. Sites load more quickly, and the new iPad has enough memory to remember sites you’ve visited recently. I’m not a game player, but if you are, you’ll see some dramatic improvements in speed, especially related to game graphics. 

The cameras are a bit of a disappointment. They are relatively low resolution, not very good for still photography. My iPhone has a much better camera. They are very adequate, though, for video and FaceTime, for which they were primarily intended. 

The Smart Cover is more useful and practical than I expected. Even though it covers just the front of the iPad, it folds open in several different ways to hold the iPad at an angle, for easier typing or viewing, or removes completely with an easy pull. It fastens magnetically along the one side of the iPad, clicking perfectly into position as soon as the edges get close to each other. When the cover is closed, the iPad automatically turns off. Remove the cover, and the iPad is instantly on. Brilliant design. 

The iPad is one of the most valuable tools a motorcoach driver can use. I’ll be posting another article shortly on how I’m using the iPad, updated from my earlier article with apps I think are most helpful to a driver. 

(Written and posted from my iPad 2)

Apple to Release iOS 4.2.1 Today

Apple has announced they’re releasing iOS 4.2 today at 1 PM EDT. It will finally bring multi-tasking and folders to the iPad, as well as a few new features to the iPhone and iPod Touch. All three devices will finally be running the same version of the operating system.

I’ve been using beta versions of iOS 4.2 on my iPad for the last several weeks. While the first few betas were somewhat buggy (surprise, surprise), the final Gold Master iOS 4.2.1 that I’ve been running the last few days has been perfect so far. I expect to upgrade to the final release version later this afternoon (conveniently, I’m off work today). Highly recommended.

iPad for Drivers

I’m in love. About three weeks ago I received my long-awaited Apple iPad — the tablet computer you’ve heard so much about (unless you’ve been hiding under a rock). And it has already changed my life. It is an amazing tool, truly a “magical” experience, as Apple CEO Steve Jobs puts it.

Those who know me know I’m a gadget lover. So it’s no surprise that I was one of the first on the block with an iPad. Actually, my 90-year-old dad beat me to the iPad experience — he bought one a couple weeks after they were introduced to use as a book reader. I helped him set it up, and knew I had to have one, too.

So what’s so great about it? What does it do that my laptop or any other computer doesn’t do? Nothing. That’s the short answer. But the real answer is not WHAT it does, but HOW it does it. That’s what makes the iPad revolutionary and a life changing experience. I warn you — you touch one and play with it for 15 minutes — and you’ll have to have one.

The iPad has made my job more fun than anything, ever. Here are a few of the ways I use it on a daily basis.

Maps

The most valuable app for a driver comes built into the iPad — Maps. It’s based on Google Maps, which I’ve used for several years already on my laptop to plan my trip routes. Having a portable version that’s so readily available, literally at your fingertips, anytime, anywhere, is amazing. The iPad’s built-in GPS chip automatically locates you on the map, so within literally an instant of turning it on, you’re looking at a detailed map of exactly where you are right now. Switch to satellite view with another finger click, and you can see destination entrances, exits, bus parking, etc. Invaluable. Your laptop can do this, too, of course, but not this easily or quickly.

Traffic Reports

One of the apps I’ve begun to rely on on a daily basis is Inrix Traffic, a cool little app that displays traffic flows, construction areas, accidents, and more on top of a Google map. The map, using the iPad’s built-in GPS chip, scrolls as you drive, so you can see upcoming traffic situations ahead. Or you can zoom out before you start the trip and see where problem areas might lie long before you get there. When you do need to take a detour, Inrix Traffic or the Maps app (mentioned above) makes it extremely easy to see what your options are for a safe detour. Inrix Traffic is a free app but also offers a pro version for $10 annually that includes additional features such as traffic cameras. I’m still experimenting with that.

Web Browser, Email

You can do all your homework for your trip right on the iPad. Look up destinations’ websites for more information, parking links on eightwheels.com, and more. Virtually anything you’d look up on the Web with your laptop or desktop computer, you now have in your hands with the iPad. Check and respond to email, too, anytime you have a free minute. No more coming home from a trip and finding yourself dozens or hundreds of messages behind.

Entertainment

The iPad really shines here. It’s a great ebook reader, and if you like to read, this is the way to go. It supports iBooks, Apple’s new electronic bookstore, of course, with the most amazing interface ever on an electronic reader. It also supports Amazon’s Kindle app with over half a million books available, and Borders’ new ebooks app. You will never in your life be without something to read — and probably less expensively than ever before.

Games, oh my, the games … I’m not really a game player, it’s just not my thing. But once in a while I do enjoy it as an interesting diversion. There are already thousands of games available to play on the iPad (and it plays virtually all the games written for the iPhone, too). Most are amazingly cool, taking advantage of the hardware features of the iPad, such as knowing what orientation the iPad is in at all times. For instance, steer your car around a race track by holding and moving the iPad like a steering wheel. Lots of classic games, too — checkers, chess, and a great game of Scrabble.

Movies. I used to try and remember some of the better movies that my groups were watching while I drove, so I could check them out next time I wanted to rent or buy a movie. No more. For about $9/month, I have Netflix on my iPad, and can watch as many movies as I want, anytime I want (not while driving, of course LOL). What a relaxing way to spend some time while you’re waiting for the group.

Music. Can’t forget the music. The iPad is also an iPod (speak carefully when saying that out loud LOL). I have over 20 GB of music on my iPad, which is my complete music library. I can play it through the bus stereo system or listen privately on headphones, or in a pinch use the monaural speaker built into the iPad itself, which doesn’t sound bad for its diminutive size.

Productivity

The iPad is basically a very, very portable computer you operate with your fingertips. No mouse, no keyboard, no wires of any kind (except to charge it after 10 or 11 hours of use). That opens it up to all kinds of other productive uses. Like writing. This article was written and edited on my iPad, while sitting in a restaurant (Strokos, my favorite deli) in Manhattan, New York City. When I have a lot of text to enter, such as with this post, I use a bluetooth wireless keyboard for the text entry. But you can also use the on-screen keyboard built into the iPad. I’m still struggling to be able to type as efficiently with that as I can a real keyboard, so I carry the ultra thin Apple Bluetooth keyboard in my bag for times like this. Switch it on, it connects automatically, wirelessly, with the iPad, and I’m typing away.

And there is so much more. This post was going to be a quick, short post extolling the virtues of the iPad for a driver, but it lost the “short” part because when I get so excited about an outstanding product, I want to tell you everything about it. I’ll save the rest for future posts. I know this is full of superlatives, but I can’t leave them out — the iPad is truly a revolutionary product, as if it was designed just for a tour bus driver. Is it perfect? No, there’s always room for improvement. But for a first generation product, this is more than just a home run — it’s a grand slam, maybe even a 9th inning walk-off-the-field grand slam for Apple. And we’re the beneficiaries. Enjoy.

Eight of My Favorite iPhone Apps

WeatherBug Elite iPhone App

It’s been nearly a year since I last wrote about the iPhone. After almost 15 months of daily use, it’s become an indispensable part of my life. Here are just a few of the apps, a couple of which I’ve just come across recently, that I use nearly every day and would hate to ever again be without.

WeatherBug Elite — 99¢ (weather reports)
Simply the best weather app I’ve found — and there are lots of them. It has a really nice interface, very easy to read and understand, and all the important info you’ll likely need right on the opening screen. It’s shown in the photo above.

WorkLog — $4.99 (personal time clock)
Great app for tracking your work hours if you get paid by the hour and want to keep your own records. It has nice reporting and makes it easy to check that you’re getting paid for hours actually worked (or not overpaid, LOL).

Qik Video — $1.99 (video camera for older iPhones)
If you have the latest iPhone 3GS, you won’t need this … but if you have an older model, such as my iPhone 3G, this app gives you a pretty decent video camera for just two bucks! This is a relatively new app and works much better than I would have expected. Worth checking out.

Flashlight — FREE (turn your iPhone into a flashlight)
I’m amazed how often I use this. It’s one of the first apps I ever downloaded, it’s still regularly updated (although most of the newer features are of little or no use to me), and I still use this nearly every day! It’s great to find your way around a dark hotel room at night or look for something you dropped under a seat in a dark bus.

FlickTunes — 99¢ (iPod music controller)
I use my iPhone for its iPod features almost every day on my motorcoach to play background music. FlickTunes makes it easy to control the music while you’re driving without taking your eyes off the road; a simple finger swipe lets you pause or play the music or adjust the volume. Before I start the trip, I select what play list I want in the iPod settings, then after it begins playing, switch to FlickTunes, and I’m set for the trip.

AOL Radio — FREE (listen to radio stations across the country)
Part of my daily morning routine is listening to KYW1060, the local all-news station, for the latest news, weather and traffic reports for the day. This app lets me listen anywhere, anytime, as long as I have a cell phone signal!

Kindle — FREE (Amazon’s ebook reader for iPhone)
Before I had my Amazon Kindle (which I got this past Christmas), I had the Kindle app on my iPhone and began building my Kindle library. Now I use it mainly to read in bed at night; during the day I use the real Kindle. What’s cool, though, is how it keeps my reading synchronized, no matter which device I’m using — it goes to the last page read on whichever device was last used.

NoteMaster — $3.99 (note taking app)
I don’t take a lot of notes on my iPhone. But I do have some info I need readily available, and that may need updating occasionally. Apple includes a basic Notes app with the iPhone, but it’s a little too basic. NoteMaster syncs with Google Notes, so I can create notes either on my iPhone or my notebook computer and have them instantly available on the other — or any computer with online access. Some of my most used documents include a list of prescriptions for doctor visits, and a list of my hotel frequent-stay membership numbers. Lots of other uses, too.

Incidentally, I believe all of these also work on the iPod Touch, with the exception of Qik Video, since the iPod Touch has no camera.

Other apps I use nearly every day include many of those you probably already use, too: Clock, Calendar, Contacts, Messages, Calculator, Maps, Google, Voice Memos, and more …. I don’t know how I ever survived without my iPhone! If you’re not already an iPhone user, you might want to seriously consider it when it comes time for a new phone. Even though I had to jump ship from Verizon to AT&T, the iPhone made it more than worth my while.

Will the Apple iPad (available starting April 3rd, 2010) change things? You bet … but no one knows how just yet. I’ll likely replace my Amazon Kindle with an iPad in the near future, so stay tuned.

What are your favorite apps? Use the comments section below to respond to this article, or click the link to the forum discussion of this article.

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Garmin Announces New GPS for Truckers

Garmin recently announced the Garmin nüvi 465T GPS receiver, their first designed specifically for the trucking industry. But it should also be great for motorcoach drivers! It allows you to enter the length, width, height, and weight of your vehicle, and takes those factors into account in selecting routes to reach your destination. Garmin has updated their map data to take low overpasses, low weight bridges, truck restrictions, etc. into account when choosing routes. It’s also the first unit to include the National Truck and Trailer Services (NTTS) Breakdown Directory in addition to other trucking-related points of interest.

The nüvi 465T also includes some of Garmin’s newer features, including lane assist and speed limits. Plus it includes, at no additional [Read more…]