Archived Story

That new iPad gadget is pretty spiffy

Published 9:31am Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Column: Pothole Prairie

So now your friend has an iPad, or your uncle, or your kid, or that techie guy at work has one, and now you are wondering what’s the deal. What’s the appeal of these electronic tablets?

Well, to steal how Steve Jobs described it: It’s not a lean-forward device, like a desktop computer. It’s a lean-back device, like a book.

Who wants to come home and sit at a desk staring at a monitor, which is what many people have to do all day anyway? For that matter, even firing up the laptop computer can be unwieldy. With an iPad or any e-tablet, it is quick to merely do what you need to do and get back to what you were doing before.

Take Facebook. My wife likes to follow Facebook but usually a little bit now and a little bit then. Why fire up a full computer for just a brief check? Smartphones sometimes have limitations, and, besides, the screens are small. The e-tablets have more capability than a phone, yet are quick to use like a phone.

Santa Claus was kind to the Engstroms and gave us a new iPad 2. In fact, I wrote this column on the device last night. Here are some of my suggestions, if you get one:

• Keep in mind this is the future. You have not purchased a computer device like the ones to which you are accustomed. It navigates differently than Macintosh-based laptops and desktops. The company that brought us the mouse is now taking us past that contraption.

• Sync it up with a laptop or desktop computer that has iTunes. That is what it is asking you to do at the start when you see these funky symbols. If you don’t have an iTunes account, just go ahead and get one. In the world of Apple, it gets used for more than just your tunes.

• Turn it off and turn it back on again if something isn’t working right. Our first download on the device seemed to be taking ridiculously forever, making me really worried about my purchase, but once it had a chance to start up on its own under the new setup, it worked like a charm. Everything has been flawless since.

• Search the Internet to learn what the various icons mean on the applications for email, browser and the like. You might get the download and archive icons mixed up, like I did, send an email into disappear-forever land.

• Upgrade the operating system to iOS5. It probably has been in that box in the store for a time, so updating software is typical.

• Use iCloud. Apple might be late to cloud computing, but this is better than other companies’ attempts at it. Your files, whether it is music, writing, videos, apps, are all available to you on all your devices — automatically. For example, with with Google Docs, I have to upload Microsoft Word file to Google Docs, where it exists as this clunky, web-based mimic of Microsoft Word. With this column, I merely saved it and shut off my iPad. Then later I opened it on my laptop, as if the multiple devices were the same computer in the first place. Cool, huh?

• Download the application called Evernote. It is free. It is an intuitive word processing program that also can take voice notes, quickie photos and more.

• Download Facebook. It doesn’t just come on the thing. Your Facebook experience will be improved. And your Facebook-loving spouse will thank you.

• Download the app Find iPhone. Yes, it says iPhone, but it works for the iPad, too. If I misplace the iPad, I can log onto my iCloud account at and it will show me where it is on a map.

• Play some music out loud. It has some nice little speakers for a tablet. I was impressed.

• Get the app Dropbox. Everybody else does. If you put a file in Dropbox, you can retrieve from any computer anywhere via the Internet. Handy.

I am really looking forward to checking out Apple TV. I can’t imagine Apple doing TV in the way that we know it. I do imagine they will make TV better for the viewer. One of my guesses is that, because Apple TV is web-based, I eventually will be better able to watch sports teams I can’t watch presently. I wish I could watch Iowa State sports, but I don’t want to pay for a huge cable package that requires me to reserve gobs of my time on a couch to get the most for my investment. I just want a simple a la carte, watch-when-I-feel-like-it-and-where-I-feel-like-it setup.

And why should anyone ever have to TiVo anything? Apple TV, I bet, would let you watch your show even if it wasn’t exactly at the start time without have to mess with difficult remote control buttons.

And I imagine I will have access to Apple TV on my iPad. So how cool is that?

I love where technology is taking us. Don’t you?


Tribune Managing Editor Tim Engstrom’s column appears every Tuesday.