30 July 2010

Lòng Người Ngại Núi E Sông

Đường đi khó
Không khó vì ngăn sông cách núi
Mà khó vì lòng người ngại núi e sôn

From the Vietnamese heroic song Đường Chúng Ta Đi, the words roughly mean

The road we travel is not difficult because of the mountain or the river but because of our lack of spirit.

As I work toward my goal of getting into better shape through running, I often thought of the song.  Lots of time I lack the spirit to start the run.  I would make excuses - the weather is too hot, I did not get enough sleep, there is not enough time, etc.  Then once into the run I would feel discouraged just thinking about the distance to be covered.  My modest goal of 8 km (5 miles) or one hour seems too ambitious at times.

This past Sunday I took part in the Queens Half-Marathon.  It was the first time I ran in a race since seriously getting back into running.  Up to then I ran alone and afterward calculated the distance I covered.  In the Half-Marathon, there were official time, water stations, and of course, other runners.  I only expected myself to finish the 13.1 miles (21 km) but it was still good to be running with others.  I actually reached Mile #5 in the first hour, just like during my normal run.  I may even edged past two hours for Mile #10, but by then my spirit already broke.  Somehow the trip back from Meadow Lake over the L.I.E. seemed so long.  My legs were not that tired.  I could still pump air to the lung and not out of breath.  But I just did not have the will to run again.  Maybe it was the heat.  I ended up walking from Mile #10 to Mile #11.  A good helping of water spray helped revitalizing me into finishing the race, even though the spray was too much and my sneakers and socks were soaked.  I managed to sprint to the finish line just for the camera.

16 July 2010

Two Weeks With Padge

It has been two weeks since I bought the iPad. For a while, I was happy downloading apps from the Apps Store, free and paid. It is so easy to get apps! I went through a similar experience before when I got hooked on the iTunes Music Store. Ninety-cent a pop, almost every song I could think of. I had an iTouch before but the tiny screen did not entice me to buy apps and such right off of it. Instead, I bought everything for the iTouch via iTunes on the PowerBook.

Size really matters with the iPad. I bought a few apps even though most of them cost more than the typical 99-cent iPhone app. Of course I would buy from the Apps Store, directly from the iPad, only when it has a WiFi connection. (My iPad has 3G but I am not ready to spend more money on it.). The iPad is an Internet appliance, is it too much to ask that its Net connection is reliable? Apparently it was. I heard about the WiFi issue with the iPad before but decided to take a chance with it. And lost. While WiFi worked, it worked sporadically. Somehow it couldn't remember the long password and often asked for it. At some point I was confident that I got the long password memorized and entered it, but alas some character was wrong and the connection couldn't be made. I had to reset network settings to at least be prompted for the password again, otherwise nothing would work. I thought I figured it out by always making sure under Preferences to have WiFi connected first, but that didn't do it either. The list of suggestions as provided by Apple was pretty pathetic. I felt like I was dealing with a Windoze machine. I thought about returning the iPad. Best Buy has a decent 14-day period during which I could have exchanged the thing or return it, I thought.

Luckily, I didn't have to travel down that road. iPad OS 3.2.1 came out a day before Day 14 arrived. The installation was not smooth, as the iPad froze during the process. I had to reboot it then wait for the OS to be restored, then my various apps, music, and photo. Some two hours later the iPad was functional again and boy, does that WiFi fly! All is well in Apple Land again!

06 July 2010

A Few Hours With Padge

Today, I actually had a little more time to spend with my iPad. Before I went further, I just named it "Padge" so it will be referred as such going forward. How the name comes about I will explain in due time.

I took Padge to work but did not take it out of my briefcase at all. I am amazed by those people who play with their 'Pad on the subway. What would they do if someone try to rob them? Or just snatch it and run away? Perhaps at the last possible second as the subway doors close? I didn't even take it out at work, but transferred it to a stringed plastic bag to take it out at lunch time. I used it at a public atrium. Hmm, how safe is that free, public Internet service? I guess there's only so much caution one can have in life. I sent two email and one of them, interestingly enough, is about Padge itself.

There's nothing like actually having a device to find out more about it. Without reading the flimsy doc, I didn't know that there was a power button at the top of the 'Pad. Or that there are volume controls on the right edge. I knew about the lock to prevent screen orientation, but not these other buttons. All along I had Padge in the book-jacket case the wrong way, in a way. The right side of the Pad should be exposed for the orientation toggle and the volume controls exposed.

I continue to be pleasantly surprised how well Padge can handle web sites. How good is a web experience when there is no Flash? Very good, as far as my limited usage is concerned. Google Docs work fine, although I couldn't find the Search field/button. I'm sure it's out there. BillHighway.com, with its unattractive run-of-the-mill VBScript interface, worked fine. Facebook runs fine, too, but of course the Flash games don't load. Size really matters. I recall too well how painful it was to surf on the iPod touch.

I thought the onscreen keyboard would be hard to use but again that was just a bad vibe I carried over from my usage with the iPod touch. There's plenty of screen real estate so the keyboard does not take up most of the screen like on the touch or iPhone. Some day I may even try to write a blog post on Padge. I may not have to get a Bluetooth keyboard after all. I already spent a big chunk of money on Padge any saving would be good.

As I played around with Padge, I discovered that there was a Cellular Plan setting. It seems I can sign up with AT&T's data plan should I fork over my credit card number. Hmm, maybe it's just the software, i.e. WiFi and 3G models have the same software loaded. Or maybe I got a 3G Pad for the price of a WiFi model? Being a pack rat, I still have the original iPad box and the receipt from Best Buy. The box says WiFi + 3G and the receipt agrees. Rats, I didn't spend $820+ but a tad more than that. Oh, well, Padge is data-ready so perhaps some month I will splurge and sign up for a data plan.

So I have a 3G-ready iPad, not just WiFi. I was going to refer to the iPad as just "Pad" but now that it has 3G, I decided to sort of stick "3G" to the end of "Pad". "3" flipped vertically looks like the letter "E", so if I simply switch "3" and "G" before tacking it to the end of "Pad", we have... Padge. Does Madonna have an iPad 3G? Would it be referred to as Madge's Padge?

04 July 2010

Magical and Revolutionary Temptation

I gave in to temptation. I don't plan to buy any books to read on it, or movies to watch on it. The public library is doing a fine job of providing me books and movies, all free. Yet I'm now an iPad owner. Yup, 64-GB and WiFi only. I was considering the 3G model but I feared that with round-the-clock Internet access I won't get much else done in my life. The monthly fee does not help then the news of the security breach on AT&T's server killed the idea.

I actually went to my local Best Buy on Friday morning to try to buy it. There was only one iPad left in the whole store, ONE! Just a WiFi, 32-GB model. I took a few moments to mull it over, then some woman came to the salesman and eagerly bought it. I should have left the matter alone. Instead, in the evening I went to the Best Buy at Broadway and Houston Street to ask about their availability. They only had 64-GB models, for both 3G and WiFi. This time I acted fast and moments later walked out of the store an iPad owner, another lemming in Steve Job's Field of Distorted Reality...

Is it really magical and revolutionary? I cannot tell yet, having only synced the MacBook's old content from the dead iPod Touch to it. Old apps made for the smaller screens of iPhone and iTouch can be viewed at 2x magnification and are surprisingly not bad at all. No pixelation here! With more room both on the laptop (200+ vs. the old laptop's 75 or whatever) and the iPad (64 GB vs. the dead iTouch's 16), I plan to add more of my music CD and subscribe to more podcasts, maybe even some video-based ones.

I sure wish the background photo is something else though. Those nice streaking lines in the sky may look nice to some people, but one of the streaks briefly got me worried that it was a crack on the pristine screen. I simply rotated the thing to confirm that it was not a crack, whew!

With the Pad, I plan to do much web-surfing and emailing, perhaps more frequent blogging, once I get the Bluetooth keyboard. I don't plan to totally abandon the MacBook Pro with regards to Facebook. I know people who only interact with Facebook via their iDevice and totally miss out on a lot of what FB has to offer, warts and all. Besides, Wordscraper does not work on the Pad anyway. I wonder if there is some FB word games that has human interaction and does not require Flash... In a related note, I was pleasantly surprised that dailymile.com's route-creating routine worked fine on the Pad, albeit somewhat cumbersome as the screen is not big enough.

Here are some unboxing photos. When I can get the Pad from my son's cold, stubby fingers, I may make a short video with it.