Thoughts on the iPad

I have been using my iPad since I bought it in Sydney mid-July and on the whole I love it. The next version of it may have new, great features and competitors will be bringing other touch pad devices, but I don’t regret getting an iPad now.

Getting 3G edition was definitely worth it, even with the extra £10 a month. I’m rarely cut off when I travel now, and I used the 3G feature a lot when I was in Australia (cheaper getting a local pay-as-you-go sim than paying for hotel wireless). I’m using it now while I’m away in Glasgow – it’s much lighter than having to carry a MacBook pro around! Its also great that the iPad switches on instantly.

I mainly use my iPad for work, as well as surfing and email, and it’s a good device for reading. I use the Kindle app for reading since it syncs with other devices well and it has most of the features that I need. Amazon’s store is better than Apple’s at the moment. iBooks is also very good and is better for books with colour, it’s perhaps a little bit slicker too. Stanza is a decent app and deals with pdfs pretty well.

I’ve been trying to setup up my iPad to help me get organized at work and to take notes at meetings. A combination of the calendar, Nozbe (project based task manager), and Evernote (note based organizer) is proving to work pretty well for me. I am using Nozbe because it has Evernote integration, it’s easy to use, and its project based approach works for me. I’m planning to use the iPad to present my lectures this year and I’ve bought the VGA adaptor – on the whole this seems to work well with several apps, however there can be some problems with some PowerPoint slides.

One of the key issues for iPad is a lack of file system – so apps can’t share files very easily. In Pages for example you have to sync with your computer or email your documents in order to enable another app to open these files. I like the approach of Goodreader which which allows you to manage files locally after downloading from cloud storage such as Dropbox – though you can’t edit in Goodreader. I’ve tried all the main office apps and they all have at least one serious limitation for me. Docs To Go has quite a lot of features but I had problems with Dropbox integration. The iPad is excellent for social networking and has some great games – if I ever had time to play them properly. Angry Birds, Osmos, and Monkey Island are 3 of the best.

Things that I don’t like about the iPad? I really hate going to websites that have Flash and I can’t see the content – HTML 5 may eventually dominate but not for a while! Apple and Adobe need to come to some arrangement! The screen can reflect a bit much at times and isn’t so good in bright light. You really need a cover for it and these usually have to be taken off to use with the keyboard dock. The lack of a shared local or remote file system makes it hard work to use several apps (or devices) with the same document. I also don’t think it’s particularly fair having to have a separate data contract for an iPhone and an iPad when you have both devices – being able to share data allocation would be great. It would be great if more apps were allowed to use the VGA adaptor, especially for streaming video and showing browser pages.

On the whole I’ve been using the iPad so much that my MacBook is rarely on these days – though this will change once I get back into my programming and paper writing.

XNA Expert workshop

A good session to attend to help your imagine cup 2009 Games entry…
This message from Liam at Microsoft:

Register for January 14 Live Session with Microsoft Experts

Join us for an interactive Live Session on Wednesday, January 14, 2009 (Thursday, January 15 in some regions)! In this hour-long, interactive session, Sean Jenkin will discuss how to develop a Windows or Xbox 360 based game using XNA Game Studio, even if you have never programmed a game before. During this session, you will learn about XNA Game Studio and how to get going on an Imagine Cup-inspired game in less than 30 minutes. We’ll dive into code and talk about ideas for getting started on your game!

Sean Jenkin is currently a development lead at Microsoft and part of the XNA Community Team. For the past year, he has been developing the Xbox Live Community Games system and the XNA Creators Club web site at http://creators.xna.com. Prior to the XNA team, he worked at Microsoft Game Studios helping to develop, test and publish games such as Gears of War, Project Gotham Racing, Viva Piñata, Kameo and a number of other Xbox and Windows titles.

Each Live Session is held twice, with the same material presented both times. Select the time below that is most convenient for you, and follow the directions to register with your Windows Live ID. Once you have registered, you will receive an email with information on how to download the free software you’ll need to access Live Sessions. We recommend you download this software several hours in advance to avoid technical difficulties during the session.

Live Session times:

January 14, 8pm PST Live Session (What time is this in my region?)

Games of 2008

I’m posting James’ suggestions from our internal games club site to get the ball rolling:

Another year has almost passed and there’s been a shed load of great games, especially in the last few months. So whats everyones’ game or games of the year?

For me it has to be Fallout 3. I’ve already sunk about 20 hours into it (which may not seem like much but given a PhD student doesn’t have that much time to play games, is actually a lot of time) and absolutely loving it in the same way I loved and got immersed in Oblivion. Even though some people have complained about bugs and glitches, I’ve had a relatively flawless and enjoyable experience with it. The world is also rather stunning graphically, despite it having the 16 million shades of grey and brown palette (like Gears), but then again a post-apocalyptic world wouldn’t exactly be a festival of rainbow colouring.

Runner up for me would be Rock Band, having enjoyed a ton of fun alcohol-fuelled nights of it during the summer, and no doubt will be playing more it and Rock Band 2 over Christmas/new year. Unfortunately I haven’t had time to try Mirrors Edge / Fable 2 / CoD5 yet so can’t comment on these – they’re all on the Christmas to-do list though!

This week’s game dev. talk

At our Monday’s games development group this week James Burke will be spending 10 or 15 minutes showing us how to get started with programming the wiimote for Xbox 360 games. James has programmed a few different games with XNA, 2d, 3d, webcam and wiimote so he has a fair bit of experience in making games.

There will also be an opportunity for you to be able to help out with his research on the night – more will be revealed in D075 at 5pm. New (enthusiastic game developer) members always welcome.