Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Travel Light

One of the more notable features of our recent Tasmanian excursion has to do with what I did not take with me. As in, for the first time since I put my hands on the original Eee PC, back in early 2008, I went on holiday without a PC.
In case your heart missed a beat reading that last paragraph, allow me to clarify: I took my iPad and its accompanying Bluetooth keyboard instead. Coupled with the transition from SLR to the Sony RX-100 compact camera, my back was elated with the change. But was the iPad good enough?

Obviously, an iPad cannot do everything a proper PC can do. The question is whether it can do everything I want to do with a computer while I’m away travelling; the answer is a “yes, but” type of an answer. So here goes – here are my iPad travel gripes:
The thing that bothered me the most is the iPad’s inability to provide me with what I consider to be a safe browsing environment. On a PC I can use tools such as Ghostery and Disconnect.me to protect me from tracking, AdBlock to stop ads, and NoScript to control java code. The iPad’s arsenal is limited: The Ghostery app is crude and will not handle complicated java code; other browsers, such as Mercury, offer an ad blocker but are still fairly limited; and that’s it.
The second problem is that not all websites function as well as they do on a proper PC. Take, for example, Blogger, the platform on which this blog is written. There is a Blogger app for the iPad but it’s pretty bad. The iPad’s Safari browser coughs a lot when I use it for working blogger.com out, so I had to try my way with multiple browsers. Eventually, but perhaps to no one’s surprise, Google’s own Chrome browser was found the best for Blogger. It’s still not perfect, though; posting a photo that is uploaded from the iPad itself seems impossible, and regular tasks such as highlighting text to create a link are only possible using the external Bluetooth keyboard.
Of course, Blogger is just a mirror into an otherwise pervasive problem. I can come up with plenty of properly hair raising scenarios in which the lack of a proper browser can have lethal consequences.
The third problem only bothered me upon my return. As I took my camera’s 16GB memory card and copied its contents over to my PC, I realised I was only a few photos away from filling the memory card up! As we know, copying the contents of a memory card to an iPad is not that trivial an affair. At the time I packed for the journey it did not occur to me Tasmania will be as photogenic as it turned out to be, otherwise I would have packed an extra SD card. Newer cameras offer wifi, which could have solved the problem just as well.

Anyway, that is it. Other than the above issues, the iPad performed very well, thank you very much. It offered me all the connectivity I needed as well as entertaining me, all in a very compact and light package. Even my Kindle was left home, its long lasting battery deemed not as crucial, beaten as it was by the backlit iPad when it comes to night time reading.
Back home with my PC, I could not avoid thinking how clunky this machine is. And I was referring to a Mac Air.

Image by Ambra Galassi, Creative Commons licence

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