Ipad Road Warrior

2 months ago my Macbook Pro finally bit the dust after four years. I guess it’s to be expected but it did it at the worst time, a few days before I left town. I went out to the local Mac store and talked to one of the local “geniuses” who told me it was $400 just to send it in and have it looked at. Needless to say I decided against that and instead took it to Sector 67 and let the peeps there gut it for parts.

I needed something relatively quick so I went out to Best Buy and bought an Asus Zenbook for around $1000. It’s a nice little unit much like the Macbook Air and I was super happy. Well that was until a few days ago when the battery decided to fritz out. It was stuck at 68% charge and it wouldn’t charge any higher. If you unplugged the laptop it would immediately power off meaning it wasn’t holding a charge. I called up Asus and talked to a tech support person and after 20 minutes on the phone he decided I needed to ship it back to them. He said it was going to take 2 to 3 weeks for them to fix the laptop however their RMA system was down so he asked me if I could call back another time.

So now I’m really not a happy camper. I took the laptop back to Best Buy where I bought it and they said they couldn’t take it back but that they could ship it to Asus for me. This was at least more helpful than Asus and their broken RMA system. First they wanted me to take it home and reset it back to its default to make sure this wasn’t an operating system issue. So I took it home for the night and reset the system wiping out days of work I had spent setting it up to do development. This didn’t fix the problem so the following day I took it back to Best Buy and they shipped it off to Asus.

So here I am without a laptop and about to head out of town for weeks at a time over the next 6 weeks. What’s a software guy to do?

Well I have this Ipad, so maybe it’s time to figure out if I can use this thing to be productive. I did a bunch of research on the web and talked to one of the resident super Apple geeks at Sector 67 and here’s what I’ve come up with.

First you can’t write lots of text on an Ipad without a keyboard. So I quickly ordered a Logitech blue tooth keyboard from Amazon. It actually works quite well and I’m typing this entry on it right now.

Next I did some research on apps and what I was going to need to be successful with this ipad productivity endeavor. The app I’m using to write this is called Elements. This is an app that is good at text entry and supports markdown, a pseudo html notation format.

Elements, like the other apps I’m going to get to, all use dropbox as one of the places where they store files. I was already using dropbox since I needed a cloud storage space for files when moving between my computers at home and my computer at Sector 67 as well as my laptop. If you’re not using dropbox you should look into it. It’s free for small amounts of storage and I’m also using it with git for source code control.

In the past I’ve done most of my source code control in Perforce which we used at Sonic Foundry. Perforce also has a free installation of their server for personal use. The problem is that once you go beyond a couple people it gets relatively expensive. It doesn’t work well for people who are working disconnected and I needed a solution where I can connect from a linux box as well as a windows box. Lastly I needed something that would let me interconnect across the interwebs without having to setup and expose a whole server. Thus I chose git as my new scc solution. I know I could use github with a private account but for now using git with dropbox does the trick. Here’s a really good article on how to do it if you’re interested.

OK so now I’ve got the ability to write blog entries using Elements and have them stored on dropbox. When I bought my Ipad I bought the wireless version as I really didn’t want to have to subscribe to another phone plan. These days you can usually find wireless wherever you are but occasionally that’s not true. It’s especially not true when you are staying in a casino playing poker. Well that’s not 100% accurate. You can find wireless in most casinos. It will just cost you $10-$15 a day for what is usually a pretty crappy connection.

Last time I was in Council Bluffs Pdub and I were both in need of an internet connection and I finally decided to give AT&T; the extra $20 a month to turn my iphone into a personal wireless hotspot. Although I find it ridiculous that they’re charging me extra for something my phone already does, the convenience and cost savings over paying a casino or hotel a daily fee is worth it. It’s come in handy a number of times where the wireless available in airports, hotels and other places has been pay only or just plain non-existent. It also makes for good times when other people see your network available to their phones or laptops when you’re in a restaurant or bar.

So now I should be able to take this content, convert it to html in Elements and paste it into the editor on blogspot. I’ve already uploaded a picture of me writing this on the front porch, from my Iphone to dropbox to see if I can get a picture in here as well.

Since we’ve covered blog postings on the fly this seems like a good stopping point. The next entry is going to be about working with code and servers from the Ipad.

Update: Getting the picture onto blogger was a bit of a hassle. Getting it on my ipad from my iphone was no big deal. I simply copied it up to dropbox from my iphone and then copied it down from dropbox to my ipad. Both times I just used the dropbox app. The problem was there is no way to upload it from the ipad to blogger using the web interface. I’m planning to switch all my blogging to WordPress so I guess I could’ve just given up for now.

Instead after googling around I found that there is another app out there called BlogPress that interfaces directly with blogger. Once I loaded it up I had no problem getting the picture up. However, I clicked on the photo and saw that it’s being hosted at BlogPressApp.com with some advertising and such. If I had known that was all it was going to do I could have shoved the photo on one of my public sites myself and then linked to it. It also completely munged up the formatting of my previous text for this entry. I won’t be using this app after I get switched over.

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