Posted by: David | November 25, 2011

The Gadgetization of Dave

Sure, my job is “computer guy”, but as geeks go I’m something of a Luddite. I think it’s healthy skepticism, nothing more. In the nearly 4 years since undertaking this blog (and it could use a good undertaker, no?) there have been very few posts mentioning work, technology, or other serious geekery. Still in Drafts is a post from a couple years back entitled “Operating System”. So boring it put itself to sleep. The idea was to try to explain to the layperson (you?) just what the hell a computer operating system is, so as to differentiate it from other ghosts on the screen, like documents, icons, applications etcetera. Thanks in part to Apple, laypeople now have a better sense of apps and icons and other such thingys.

The boredom-enhanced draft post was inspired by a presentation I gave at work wherein I wanted to show my community of users ways to increase efficiency with their computer usage. Mostly it was a bunch of keyboard shortcuts. But I was pretty sure that they’d need to have some notion of what an operating system was, so I attempted to present that. Trouble is that if an operating system is any good, you don’t notice it. It’s like air. It’s all around us, holds up 450 ton jetliners full of passengers, but it’s otherwise ignored. And today’s operating systems like Windows 7, Mac OS 10.7 and Ubuntu 11 are quite good, so they vanish. But I digress … well maybe not, since I haven’t gotten to the actual topic yet.

So I resisted owning a cell phone until my wife got us both Motorola Razr flip-phones from the Verizon store back in ought-six, with a 2-year plan. Cell coverage is somewhat spotty where we live, but the novelty never wore off of flipping open the phone, and not saying ‘ENERGIZE’ (Star Trek reference- so yes, nerd genes at work), but rather saying “Call Friend mobile” (where Friend = name of actual friend) and the phone says back “Friend, mobile, calling …” followed by ringing sound. I still think that’s pretty cool. My new iPhone does that too. Of course. Pfffft. BT dubbs*, it fades out the tunes you’re listening to when a call comes in, and fades them back in when call ends. Duh.

We’d been ‘eligible’ for new ‘devices’ since 2008. Since then I’d been watching various friends getting their Blackberries, Droids, and iPhones, and assured myself that I didn’t want to become one of those folks constantly poking their devices in lieu of conversation with actual humans at the lunch table. Then there was the fact that our home is located in a cellular ‘dead zone’. And a smart phone would require a data plan, raising the monthly bill significantly. Besides, the Motorola Razr V3 was and still is a darn good phone. Blah blah blah …

Now I’ve got my nerd on. One morning last month, online with a Verizon rep’s chat-session help, I ordered the iPhone 4, Otterbox case, 2G data plan with free FedEX overnight. Excited! The iPhone seemed to be the phone liked best by broadest cross-section of people. As previously posted, I had to drive a few miles north to activate the iPhone, but since then, it’s been a real pleasure to own. It’s got a decent (5 megapixel) camera, holds music, etc.

You probably know all this since you have probably owned of these already for, probably, 3 years? Whatever. I’m slow. Probably.

The iPad’s photo of me and the iPhone, which is looking at the iPad with its front camera.

The other night I was on Amazon ordering a replacement part for an Oreck vacuum cleaner we got from the town dump, and I threw a Kindle Fire in my cart. On impulse. Remember I’d borrowed an iPad from work a while ago? Well I did, and I’ve got it again, along with an assignment to explore its potential as a viable device in our environment (small liberal arts college), this after my impulse Kindle purchase. The Kindle won’t arrive for a few days, but in the meantime I’ve been busy with the iPhone and iPad. Have yet to buy any apps, but have installed lots of free ones. With iBooks on the iPad, I downloaded the teaser sample of the current Stephen King novel, and as predicted, the 80 pages sucked me in enough to spend $15 on the ebook. But there was a choice to make. Get the iBook version from iTunes, or go with the Kindle version? The iBook reader interface is a little nicer, but it was sort of a no brainer. I got the Kindle version of 11/22/63. I’ll probably still be reading it when the Kindle Fire arrives next week since it’s almost 900 pages. Whatever. I’m slow. Remember? Duh.

This is the iBook app, native to the iPad. Its graphical interface animates page turning to look like a paper book.

Finally, if you have any thoughts on iPads and their use in education, please share them. (Have you seen iTunesU? OMG!) As I read Stephen King’s latest in the Kindle reader app on the iPad, if I need to look up a word, I touch the word and a little box pops up on the bottom of the page with a dictionary definition and links to Google and Wikipedia. Handy! Plus, when the Kindle Fire arrives, and I finish 11/22/63 on it, the ending will be that much better. 😀


*BT dubbs = BTW, which is text message abbreviation for ‘by the way’, where the W is replaced by the even cuter “dubbs”. Awesome, huh? Thanks Alicia!


  1. My son is a systems architect for Denver Public schools and on the side does development for other school systems. iPads are being adopted right and left by local schools and school systems around here for in-class work and as a replacement for textbooks (they are loaned, sold, or given to students) to take home. Teachers are using them for all sorts of administrative tasks like taking roll, tracking grades, and having access to the school’s student roster when they are on hall or playground duty (security checks: Does this person belong here?). The possible uses are limited only by the imagination, and by every indication, iPads are going to be huge in schools.

    Hi Pied, thanks for that information! I would like to know what your son might think of tablets in the college and university environment. As a media delivery device the iPad is a joy to use. The operating system (iOS 5) is versatile, powerful, and practically invisible. Hopefully the devices are appropriately “green” too, since they seem destined to proliferate in huge quantities.

  2. I am thinking really hard about getting a Kindle Fire. PLEASE give us another gadget themed entry when you test yours out, k? Lookiee here, the Luddite has fans eagerly awaiting gadget reviews!!

    Sure will Maleesha. What made me go with the iPhone was the cross-section of folks directly observed to be ‘in love’ with their devices. And at the supermarket a week or so ago I heard an older male cashier glowingly describe his Kindle Fire to a much younger bagger. That might have been the tipping point for me.

  3. As homeschoolers, we try to find ways to integrate the iPads (more with free apps than paid apps) but haven’t jumped in with both feet. I think it would be helpful for someone to sit with a Kindle and an iPad together BEFORE a purchase is made.

    I have found it difficult to “create” on the tablet. It just isn’t easy. It is easy to “see” but difficult to make.

    Thanks electrician+, that observation is one I’ve heard from students who own iPads and other tablets. They like them for viewing and reading but not for writing their papers and assignments. Perhaps the tablet format has some further evolutionary steps to attain, or has yet to find its proper niche. We’ll see.

    Soon I’ll have the borrowed iPad and the purchased Kindle side by each. For to compare. And so I shall …

  4. V nice gadgets. I wouldn’t mind them but my sons would mock me for buying into the “Apple” products.

    Q: Is graphical really a word?

    Well allow me to mock you for buying into the “Microsoft” products. Unless of course you’re an Ubuntu user, in which case I retract all mockage.

    Yes, graphical is a word. Perhaps a slightly inflated word.

    • You are correct, sir. Graphical is indeed a word, but still sounds a bit awkward to me. I tend to be awkward though, so it could be my brain is just wired up a bit on the wonky side.

      Don’t even!

      Not even … ing.”

  5. The worst about these technoogies is that they seem to fill the language with new words that make sense only to people who have used the technology they refer to. Now your whole text is just a string of brand names, and since I have never had a cell phone and do not know how to use one because the very word PING rubs me the wrong way so that I cannot learn what it is or what it is for — I SCANNED your text for text fragments that seemed to be free of iPad, iPib, iPat, iPum.

    However, these people come up with nice verbs and they pick up a new verb so fast that it can only mean they will imitate and pick up anything they see in massive use. For instance, until the day before yesterday, a new program used to be “launched”. The day before yesterday, suddenly, the verb “roll out” popped up, and a few nanaseconds later all over the globe everybody had picked it up.

    Now, if you said that a new feature will be launched tomorrow, there would be silence while many heads would turn to see what that was..

    Yeah, sorry. I knew that this post would not be your cup of tea. As you may have read, I was reluctantly pulled into the cell phone world. In this rural setting even the snazzy iPhone doesn’t work all that well. You get used to many interrupted phone calls.

    Maybe you’ll be interested to know that this recent dive into gadgets was partly caused by a work assignment. The Apple tablet computer (iPad) has been loaned to me so that I may explore whether it might be a useful technology in our environment. Apparently a number of colleges and universities have made the a priori judgment that there MUST be a use for these nifty gadgets. I spoke with one of my counterparts at such an institution and was told that in their case the decision to purchase iPads was precipitated by a large technology-targeted gift to the school. And the decision to go in the Apple direction was not made by IT folks. At this point I find one steadily compelling factor with the tablets. They are very nice for reading text, viewing video, or listening to audio. Many colleges and universities have already begun to film or record lectures for a variety of reasons. The tablet computer is a nice, and potentially economical way to view this media.

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