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Julie’s Gadget Diary – 08-19-11

Dear Gadget Diary,

Yesterday was chemo day. The treatments take about 5 hours, so I had to figure out something to take with me to keep me occupied and entertained for that whole time while sitting in a chair with an IV hooked up to the port in my chest.

I decided to kill 2 birds with one stone by taking my iPad 2 and the Crux360 keyboard case that I’ve been needing to  test. I ran around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to find the perfect back to carry it in and ended up going with the Waterfield Muzetto 10″. The iPad / Crux360 fit perfectly along with my iPhone 4, wallet, iPad AC adapter (just in case) and a few other odds and ends.

Nope, that’s not a laptop on my lap, it’s the iPad 2 in the Crux360. I’m not going to use this diary entry to review the Crux360… I’ll be doing that with a regular review very soon…

For those of you who roll their eyes when I talk about trying to use the iPad (or an Android tablet) as a laptop replacement, yesterday is a prime example of why I keep trying. Answering and sending emails for several hours would be less than fun without a physical keyboard. Also, tablets tend to have better battery life than a laptop, are lighter weight except when you stick them in a case that turns them into a laptop ;) More about that in the review.

I was able to knock my inbox down to a manageable level and do a little gadgeteer writing while getting juiced up with yummy Taxol and Herceptin.

During lunch time, I watched part of a lame movie via Netflix. It’s actually the first time I’ve used the app on my iPad to try to watch a movie. I was surprised that it played without any hiccups using the hospital’s free WiFi.

The nurse watching over my treatment saw the iPad and told me that her daughter had just won one recently and was very excited about it.

My iPad started out at 100% battery life when I left the house that morning at 7:30am, but by 1:30pm, it had dropped down to about 45%. I guess using Bluetooth and WiFi for 5 hours will do that. I’m not complaining though.

I did get bored checking my email after the 100th time, checking for new comments on the site, reading my RSS feeds, etc. I happened to notice that there was a person sitting with the person getting treatment next to me. I couldn’t see the patient, but her visitor had her back to me and on the floor I could see she had a bunch of embroidery floss spilling out of her purse. When the nurse came by to check on her, she commented about how neat what she was doing was. So me being my normal nosy self, I said “excuse me… I couldn’t help by overhear that you’re making something, can I ask what it is?” The girl turned got up and turned around and I saw that she had tied the colored floss around her thigh and was weaving a friendship bracelet, which looked really cool. I told her how neat it looked and she thanked me and went back to work. When my treatment finished, I gathered my things and was getting ready to leave she turned around again and told me she had made me a bracelet.

Isn’t it cool? That was so nice to make a total stranger (me) something like that. It had to have taken her at least 2 hours or longer to do it. I didn’t even get her name. That’s the 2nd time in the this last week that a total stranger has done something nice for me. This past Saturday, Jeanne and I went to Cracker Barrel for lunch and after the waitress took our order, she came back a few minutes later to tell us that an anonymous person was going to pay our bill. We have no idea who or why someone did that… Just goes to show you that there are nice people in the world who do things for no other reason than because it’s nice.

I did a good deed today when I had to go back to the Cancer Center for my Neulasta shot (white blood cell booster). I took a few iPad cases, screen cleaning cloths and styli for the nurse’s daughter who had won the iPad and also for the nurse who I had demo’d the Samsung tab to the week before (see my previous gadget diary entry) who had bought an iPad for her relative. Hopefully they will both enjoy the goodies.

Today I tried out a new wallet that I bought a few weeks ago. It’s the Urban Wallet from Bill’s Custom Cases.  I used it to carry my iPhone, money, credit cards and lipbalm. I’ll have a review of it soon too :) It worked well for me today, but I still have my own modular wallet project in the works. I hope to start on it this weekend. I stopped at Joann Fabrics for more more plastic canvas. Stop laughing… it’s just to prototype. I’ll probably end up making it from leather or canvas if I can actually create something decent.

Thoughts for today:

I take back all the times I’ve said that people are overrated. People can be wonderful. :) Just goes to show that you never know how something YOU do can impact someone else. So go out and be nice to someone right now. Even the littlest things can make a big difference.

The iPad makes a good companion when you have 5 hours to kill.

I’m feeling all crafty after seeing those friendship bracelets. I can’t wait to start on my wallet idea this weekend.

{ 17 comments… add one }

  • Smythe Richbourg August 20, 2011, 12:13 am

    Great info, and a nice touch at the end with the bracelet. Glad things are being managed and you’re feeling up to writing.

    I tell folks all the time to expect 10 hours of normal iPad use, and they always give me a doubtful eye, but even with the keyboard with hard internet use, you’re doing about that. I can’t think of the last time my MacBookPro left the house – or even the desk! I’m totally mobile with my iPad and iPhone, and occasionally schlep along a keyboard. Trekked into downtown this morning for brunch with that kit (in a bike pannier – wish we got more bike gadget stuff to review!), and never felt like “I wish I had my “real” computer.” The iPad is not, to those who seek out good productivity apps, merely a media consumption device – it’s a mobile workstation of the highest order!

    Oh, and we have that same sofa fabric on our couch in the den! Great minds think alike, I guess.

  • BJN August 20, 2011, 12:16 am

    You’re amazing! And yes, I’ll take your advice and try to enjoy people and do nice things as often as possible. Get well and thanks for sharing.

  • Andy Chen August 20, 2011, 12:37 am

    That was another great post. Thank you Julie

  • Chriszzz August 20, 2011, 2:26 am

    Hi Julie

    Great to see you still have so much energy and love for gadgets. You are truly THE Gadgeteer. I’ve been a long long time reader of your site, since day one, and still visit it on a almost daily basis. You’re an inspiration and I really wish you well. I’m sure you will be providing us with Gadget news and tips for many decades more to come.

    PS : I have an iPad 2 too, but till now, I’ve not really found a killer use for it, except as an entertainment device. Maybe that’s THE killer use for it.

  • James August 20, 2011, 3:10 am

    @Julie, great article, hope you get well soon.

    Hospital WiFi can be surprisingly good, especially if no one else is using it besides you. Even with low signal strength I’ve managed to get youtube working just fine on my netbook. Although, I don’t think I was in the same wing as the router either as the signal was strongest by the window. This of course may vary by hospital.

    Sure beats reading a book or watching TV all day when you got work piling up though.

    @Smythe Richbourg, the iPad is a great tablet but lets not exaggerate. The iPad is not intended as a mobile workstation.

    That the iPad can be useful at all for real work is great enough but describing it much beyond that leads to the reason for most criticism the iPad gets. Not because there is anything wrong with the iPad but because it gets so obviously over the top hyped by its fans that it distracts and confuses people to whether the iPad would actually be useful to them or not and makes people who know better feel that it’s insulting their intelligence.

    People just like ARM based tablets because of their low weight, general longer run times, and ease of use. However, tablets by nature are limited. The need for a physical keyboard for serious work being just one of the obvious limitations.

    Apple did great work with iOS, it’s the main reason the iPad became a success when all the previous tablets failed, but it’s still a OS originally designed for Smart Phones and isn’t capable of all the things that OSX can do. Ditto for Android versus Windows or Linux btw. Honeycomb gives a bit of edge to Android but it’s still has limitations.

    So while you can find an app for just about anything, few will be as useful as more powerful programs made for more powerful OS like OSX.

    The hardware performance is another factor. ARM based systems are more power efficient and use less power but they’re also less powerful. Even the next gen ARM systems are only now starting to rival even Netbook ATOM processors for CPU performance.

    Among other limitations common for ARM systems, like the processors are only 32bit, 64bit memory management is only starting to be introduced, they’re still 45-40nm, SSDs made for them are generally much slower than those used in 2.5″ drives.

    The iPad specifically lacks the usual ports and relies heavily on connections through the dock port, which also means you need to carry more accessories and that negates the normal weight savings.

    Though graphically, the original iPad had roughly about the same performance as an ATOM GPU, while the iPad 2 boosted that up to a max of 9 times. So graphics are its strongest feature now and the iPad 3 will take more advantage of that with a retina display.

    While the 10+ hours of actual use is totally real and great, rare even among other ARM tablets, but that’s only when new and the battery is not user replaceable.

    Problem being Lithium batteries degrade over time, even if you don’t use them, but degrade faster with heavy use.

    So depending on use you can expect it to drop to about half the usable time after a year or so, like Sasha from netbooknews reported his iPad dropped to 6+ hours after just 9 months, but Apple would want you to start thinking about the next iPad by then anyway, which for now will be right on time for the iPad 3.

    Though that isn’t just marketing, even though Apple does have a pretty short planned obsolescence for most of its products, but making such thin and light tablets also makes it harder to allow any user access to the innards of these tablets. Also the ARM market has a faster product cycle than the regular PC market. So not much different from say Nvidia coming out with a new Tegra every single year.

    Apple is also working on improving the iPad usability, like iOS 5 finally lets you use the iPad without a computer, but we’re still years away from really comparing a iPad to a real workstation of anywhere near the highest order.

  • Cathal Murray August 20, 2011, 5:35 am

    After reading your diary this morning east of the Alantic it makes getting up a lot easier. Keep up your writting!

  • Jordan August 20, 2011, 5:54 am

    Julie,

    Long time reader, first time poster.

    You rock, thank you to you and your staff for up keeping such a wonderful site! I have a list of my favorite items that I buy. It’s great to know there are so many others who appreciate the gadgets out there!

    Also I hope your treatments kick that cancers butt!

  • Rd August 20, 2011, 5:58 am

    Plenty of positive thoughts out here for u Julie!

  • Julius Seizure August 20, 2011, 6:32 am

    Impromptu acts of kindness are amazing – great Karma that just rolls forward through the world lifting everyone in its path.

    Stay strong, Julie. We’re all cheering for you.

  • RainyDayInterns August 20, 2011, 11:05 am

    Would be interested to know how you find the keyboard on the CRUX360.

    We have tried pretty much all of the iPad-size keyboard (Logitech, ZaggMate, Brando, etc…) and have found they were all potentially cramp-inducing for anything longer than an email and really not preferable to the virtual one on the tablet.

    However, the one we did like best was surprisingly the Brando unit:
    http://www.rainydaymagazine.com/RDM2011/Home/June/Week1/RDMHomeJun0211.htm#Brando_iPad2KeyboardCase

    The main reason is the tablet can be placed OVER the keyboard when not needed. The angle provided in that configuration was very comfortable for couch-based surfing :-)

  • 1000Acres August 20, 2011, 12:14 pm

    Great piece! Always valuable information and gives hope that there are still a few good people around. The iPad is perfect for the quick grab n’go. Evernote and DropBox allow quick access to files and note taking wherever you might be. And the best part is that the iPad can stay in my bag through airport security. Keep the faith, Julie. We are all thinking positive thoughts for you.

  • Ronald August 20, 2011, 1:06 pm

    Thanks for sharing your review plus your positive attitude.
    Keep up the good spirit!
    Many of us, including me, think of you.

    Greetings from Nederland
    Ronald

  • Robert Grenader August 20, 2011, 1:17 pm

    Be strong Julie, you will beat this. We all love you.

  • Bill Henderson August 20, 2011, 4:13 pm

    Thanks for the post, Julie. People really can be good and kind. I will bet the person who paid for your lunch felt better about it than even you did. Being nice can do that; to the giver as well as the receiver. Stay strong!
    Bill

  • Julie August 20, 2011, 5:04 pm

    @RainyDayInterns That Brando keyboard looks nice because you can turn the iPad into portrait mode… I have a couple issues with the Crux360. One is the key layout that causes me to sometimes hit an arrow key instead of a shift key and my other issue is that not all space bar presses get registered. I’m still testing it though, so more info will be in the full review…

  • Bryan August 21, 2011, 10:01 pm

    I’ve only recently discovered “the-gadgeteer” via Google News and just wanted to express a bit of gratitude for such a useful, and informative site Julie. :)

    Your passion for gadgets & technology shines through on these pages. (as does your strength & fortitude) My usual gadget stops fall in the lines of Engadget, Gizmodo, and the like, but I’ve now added your site to that list.

    Keep up the great work!

  • thsu August 25, 2011, 2:58 am

    @RainyDayInterns, did you know that most usb keyboards (that are not also hubs) work perfectly fine when connected to an iPad via the usb camera connection kit?

    Here’s a Das Keyboard connected to an iPad.
    http://www.daskeyboard.com/blog/?p=1309

    Here’s a KBC Poker 40% keyboard connected to an iPad.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5AN4QT9ZC94

    Alternately, you can always get a bluetooth keyboard designed for desktops. Apple’s version is pretty good, as it is compact while still retaining full sized keys.

    The downside, of course, is that you’ll have to juggle two devices while typing, which may be difficult to do at times, but the upside is that you get a good keyboard out of the deal.

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