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But can it replace paper? iPad in business

But can it replace paper? iPad in business

iPad

Before the iPad came out, lots of people argued that it was just an underpowered net book that would be another Apple flop, rather like the Newton, or a marketing-only success powered by the willingness of the Apple fanbois [sic] to buy anything with the Apple logo on it. After all, wasn’t it just an oversized iPod Touch?

More than 3 million sales later, the iPad, with an associated boost to Mac sales, has propelled Apple to #3 computer manufacturer in the world. The argumentative continue to argue that it can’t replace a desktop and is reconciled to being an expensive toy for the selfish. However, in real life iPads are making their way into business.

Almost the first thing people ask me when they see my iPad in a meeting is “can it really replace paper?” 1 That’s my favourite question, because it was my main reason for buying it in the first place.

A little context. Every since I stepped into corporate life in the UK, I’ve been faced with swathes of attachments that have to be printed off before meetings. Most of the papers have no life beyond the meeting. This is not a public sector waste issue. It was exactly the same in the private sector, and it was exactly the same working for an arts organisation. It’s also the same for a host of voluntary organisations and charities I’ve been involved with. It is a facet of the wired age: the more we use our computers, the more we produce documents, and the only way we know how to use them is by printing them off.

Of course, most of us are gradually learning to read our emails on-screen, read PDFs on screen, and make as many notes as we can directly onto the computer. While we’re at our desks. Away from our desks, it’s a different matter. A laptop is fine for working on the train, and ok for working at home. But take one into a meeting, and the picture changes. Some companies have, of course, so embraced digocracy that all meeting rooms are equipped with specially designed tables to keep laptops out of sight but fully active, with good protocols for sharing data and switching from one laptop to another for the main screen. But this is unusual, and, the last time I was in such a meeting room, we mainly used paper and the person tasked with presenting struggled to get their laptop hooked up.

In a directors’ meeting, putting up a laptop is like putting up a barrier. People can’t tell whether you are looking at your documents, doing your emails, playing solitaire, or a mixture of all three. In a full Board meeting, putting up a laptop (unless you’re doing a presentation) is a gross breach of etiquette. In a one to one meeting, it’s just plain weird.

I used to use a PalmPilot — back in the days of the Palm V whose battery went on and on, and the form fitted neatly and simply into a jacket pocket. For some reason, the market dictated that Palms had to go into colour, become fatter like iPaqs, and have shorter and shorter battery life. Eventually I gave up.

The PalmPilot was great for taking notes, though it did annoy some people who assumed I was playing solitaire. But it was no good for reading documents. Just too small, and not widely compatible. For some reason the iPhone never bothered with handwriting recognition, which I’ve always felt was a missed opportunity. It’s great for reading emails and websites in corridors, and for quickly grabbing information, but if you use it in a meeting more generally people again believe you are doing email. Many boards ban mobile phones altogether. And rightly.

So, the iPad. The form is big enough to read documents. Use something like Penultimate 2, and you can write notes as you go. How good? Very good. I’ve been using the iPad for all meetings for which I’ve received electronic documents since the day it arrived. No-one has yet accused me of typing out my emails (lack of a physical keyboard a real boon for that), and, as people can see over your shoulder, they know you aren’t playing games. Unless you are of course, in which case you might as well take a Sudoku book into the meeting. But don’t expect to keep your job long in that case.

There are a few issues that seem like they might be troubling, but aren’t. And there are a couple of things that could do with resolving.

First off, battery life is really, really good. Unless you use a bluetooth keyboard, which drains it rather more quickly, the iPad really is good for ten hours. Long enough even for the most exhausting meetings. Second, glare from the screen is nowhere near the problem you might imagine. You can reposition the iPad as much as you like, and no-one really minds. If you keep moving a laptop, people ask if you’re alright.

On the down-side, Word compatibility is not 100%. The big issue is when people send you Word documents that have other documents embedded. The iPad can’t read these in Mail: it just replaces the embedded document with a file name. Not at all helpful. The result is that you have to manually save each of the files on a lap/desktop before hand and either email them to yourself or drag them across on something like Files HD. This is cumbersome and annoying. I’ve actually just had to ask the person who sends me these documents to send them as separate attachments. This isn’t really a big issue, as they are the only person I’ve ever met who does do this. But it’s nonetheless not full compatibility.

Also, if you’ve got documents in an older version of Apple’s own iWork, the iPad’s iWork won’t open them. That’s right. It happily imports Word, PowerPoint and Excel (though you can read these in Mail without importing them into anything else), but it insists you buy the up to date version of Apple’s own software if you want to read your iWork files.To me, that’s a bit cheap and un-Apple like. Never mind.

The other slight gripe is that if you shell out for the VGA adaptor, you discover that (just like the iPhone), it only displays from particular apps. YouTube, Keynote, probably a couple of others. But you can’t put up an email, a web-page, or (for example) an egg-timer. That’s a bit cheap, too.

All in all, I’ve worked out that I will save more than twice the cost of the iPad in the first year by not printing stuff out. I won’t gain all the benefit of that, as work won’t contribute to the iPad costs (and it shouldn’t). But I’ll certainly get a lot of benefit: even voluntary organisations that pay mileage would baulk at reimbursing for the cost of paper and toner.

Verdict: a Winner.

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Just in case you are wondering, I still work for the NHS, and I bought the iPad myself. No public money went into the funding of this article
  2. best with one of those cheap spongy stylii that you can get for a couple of quid
A personal obsession: the Nikon 500mm Reflex

A personal obsession: the Nikon 500mm Reflex

Eyelashes

Eyelashes

The Nikon 500mm Reflex is my personal photographic obsession. I don’t know anyone else who owns one. I’ve never met anyone who owns one (though I’ve met several people who used to own one). They stopped making them years ago, and it’s easy to see why: they are murder to focus, murder to keep steady enough to shoot with, and it’s impossible to build one with auto-focus.
Perhaps I should explain a little, if you’re not a photographer. Or, if you like, you could just click on the pictures. Conventional lenses are made of a tube with one lens after the other, in decreasing size from the front to the back, which capture the light and focus it into the camera. In the old days, lenses were ‘prime’ lenses, which meant they had just one focal length, which governs the magnification. These days, most lenses you see around are zoom lenses, which vary their focal length. Zoom lenses are bigger than the comparable prime lenses, though the convenience usually cancels out the weight issue for most people. The longer the focal length (and therefore the greater the magnification), the physically longer the lens. Also, in order to get enough light through to auto-focus and take pictures in ordinary conditions, the larger the front lens. By the time you are at 200mm, your lens may well be 25cm long and 77mm at the front. At 300mm, your lens might well be a couple of feet long (note the change of units). At 500mm or 600mm you are dragging round a monster, which needs both hands to lift, comes in its own case, and costs as much as a small car.
Enter the reflecting, mirror or catadiatropic lens. Also known as the Newtonian lens. The mirror lens has a curved mirror instead of the main light gathering lens. The result is, at 500mm focal length, it’s only about 15cm long, although the barrel is quite fat — 9cm across, in fact. It’s incredibly light for its focal length. There are some compromises, though. You have a fixed aperture — typically f8. If you want a larger aperture, you have to have a fatter lens. If you want f2.8 (my astronomical telescope is an f2.8 500mm lens) then you’re getting back towards the size of a conventional lens. The other thing is, no autofocus. Autofocus works on light polarity, and a circular mirror completely messes this up. Actually, there is a way of autofocus without using polarity, but it isn’t as good, and nobody has ever bothered on a commercial production camera to implement it with a mirror lens. Just to be confusing, Nikon refer to their catadiatropic lenses as ‘reflex’, just to confuse you with ‘single lens reflex’ camera.
So, back to the 500mm Reflex. I used to have a 400 or 300mm mirror lens (I forget which) when I shot with manual focus Olympus OM1 cameras on film. Those were the days. After I moved over to digital, I spent almost a year trying to track down a mirror lens on eBay at a price I could reasonably afford. Naturally, when one finally came along, three did.
The inital result was disastrous. In those days I was shooting on a Nikon D2X, a camera which used an APS-C or ‘DX’ size sensor. These are very common in digital SLR cameras, but they effectively multiply the focal length by 1.5 compared to traditional 35mm SLR cameras. On traditional 35mm, the rule of thumb is that you need to have a shutter speed of 1/the focal length. So, if your focal length was 500, you would want 1/500 as the shutter speed. That’s pretty fast. Multiplying the focal length up, you’d actually need 1/750, except cameras don’t do that, so you’re stuck with 1/1000. Remember that the aperture is f8? If you’re a photographer you have probably spotted that 1/1000 at f8 is going to require either a very high ISO (plenty of noise on a D2X) or huge swathes of light. If you’re not a photographer, take my word for it: it’s very hard to find enough light to do that. In the gallery below you can see a couple of shot from Caracas, inside the tropics, in spring. And even they were hard to get.
Eventually I moved onto a D3, which is a ‘full-frame’ (ie, the same as 35mm film) sensor, with an ISO that goes up to 6400 without much noise, or 25600 at a pinch. ISO 25600 means you can essentially shoot in near darkness with a normal lens. At ISO 3200, the 500mm is back in business.
Next problem, though. Old fashioned manual cameras have a number of refinements to help you focus. Matte screens and split focusing screens were standard for years and years. They’re hard to come by for auto-focus cameras, though. Even though the D3 has interchangeable focusing screen, I’ve yet to find a split screen available for it. Probably because nobody else is foolish enough to be trying to focus a 500mm Reflex lens with one.
So. Back to my obsession. When I shoot for work, I just pack whatever lens I need, and leave it at that. When I’m shooting for pleasure, though, very often my hand goes wandering to the 500mm Reflex. It has peculiar qualities that draw me to it. First the elusiveness — I know that two thirds of all  my pictures, no matter how hard I try to focus them, will be out of focus when I finally look at them at full resolution. Not a little bit soft, such as could be fixed with FocusMagic, but heart-breakingly out of focus. Then there’s the care required to get any shot at all. The D3 shoots at up to 11 frames a second. Unlike point-and-shoot cameras, there’s no wait between pressing the shutter release and the picture being taken. Its CAM 3500 autofocus motors whip most lenses into sharp focus in a fraction of a second. But not the 500mm Reflex. You cannot ‘spray and pray’ with this lens. Each shot must be carefully set up. And that’s the other thing. Don’t expect to stand somewhere nice and zoom the camera until the shot is nicely framed. The only way to change the framing is to walk. And, with a 500mm lens, you have to walk a long way before it changes much at all.
And there’s always the question of light. Even on ISO 6400, you still need a lot of light to get the 1/500 shutter speed required. Any less, and you’re really asking for trouble.
That’s the elusiveness of it. Some photographer gravitate to Holgas, with their weirdly uncorrected lenses. For me, I wrestle with the Reflex. But there’s also the peculiar optical qualities. First, the out of focus highlights. On a conventional lens, they are blurred discs, droplets of light. On a catadiatropic lens, they are small rings. Then there’s the differential focus. On most lenses, you never have quite enough differential focus, even with the aperture wide open. On a 500mm lens, there’s always almost too much. Things which are a centimetre apart ten metres away are differentially in and out of focus. That’s one reason why it’s so hard to focus the lens — it’s hard to even see whether it’s quite in focus, and even harder to adjust. And then there’s the extraordinary foreshortening and closeness of a really powerful optical system. Look at the shot at the top of this page. That was taken from about three metres away. The entire frame was filled with an eye, part of a nose, and eyelashes. If you can hold the camera steady enough, it focuses close in — down to 1.5 metres, which is way close on a lens so powerful. This is the lens used at the start of Crocodile Dundee II, when the soon to be dead journalist is photographing drug dealers from a mountain side. You can be a long, long way off, and everything is close.
Anyway, enough of my obsession. Have a look at the pictures. My database tells me I’ve taken 987 pictures with this lens. But that’s just the ones that made it back to the house. If you count the ones I deleted, it’s probably more like 3,000. Below are some of my favourites. Enjoy.
How do you find new music?

How do you find new music?

The White Lies gig at Kerrang! Radio

The White Lies gig at Kerrang! Radio

I used to work with Pippa Rimmer, a former music journalist and now head of comms for a major UK charity. We called Pippa “Doctor Pop”. Not only did she know the answer to any question about popular music but, if you just hummed a couple of bars of something, she could tell you what it was called, who recorded it, when it was recorded, and what the critical reception was. I still correspond with Pippa on FaceBook occasionally. But not having Pippa around made me look for other ways to discover new music.

There’s a Simpsons episode where the family decide to do some singing. It’s only after about the third song that Lisa points out that they only know the theme tunes of advertisements. And, then, there’s the moment in the Blues Brothers where Jake and Elwood realise that the only Country and Western song they know is “theme from the TV Show Rawhide” (they later also come up with Stand by your man). Music is so ubiquitous in our society 1 that you can easily get your fill of it without ever making a conscious decision to listen.

However, given that a very large number of us are now iPod-equipped (or iPhone, or iPad, or Zune… right… etc), the opportunities to programme your own soundtrack for your life are beyond anything that could have been imagined in, say, the 1980s. Speaking of the ’80s, do you remember the Sony Walkman? The little cassette player with the orange foam headphone pads? Of course, most of us that had anything had some kind of knock-off imitation Walkman. Do you remember car cassette players? My last car had one, one of the last, probably. They were notorious for heating up your tapes, chewing them, and spitting them out. But if you put a tape in, you would probably listen to all of it. Self DJ-ing wasn’t something the technology would support.

Back at the tag-end of the ’80s I rather rudely remarked to someone I was visiting that I could spot when they stopped buying music (I’ve learned to stop saying things like that now). Their LP collection (remember them?) went as far as ABBA greatest hits. To be fair, they pointed out that they had only bought the ABBA greatest hits recently. Someone else proudly showed me their collection of Paul Simon, going right the way from The Sounds of Silence, as Simon and Garfunkel, to Graceland.

I don’t know how those people would have responded to today’s self-mix opportunities. Would they be listening to the same old same old, or would they be exploring new tunes? If they would, how would they do it?

Here’s an insight: a couple of years ago, shared with my brother-in-law, I bought about 600 CDs from someone who was selling their entire collection. Actually, I bought them from his wife, and did check carefully that they hadn’t just split up and this was her revenge. Apparently they were moving to a smaller house. There may have been a sports car in there as well somehow. Anyway, the original ad was styled “600 CDs bands like Alanis Morisette, Dire Straits, Bob Dylan”. I got back to them and suggested that Alanis Morisette, Dire Straits and Bob Dylan didn’t really constitute a single genre, and perhaps she’d like to list them. Probably as well that I did. 95% were heavy metal bands, so not a bit like Alanis, Straits or Dylan. My nephew is still working his way through all of them. What we found, when we finally got them home, was that for each artist there was a complete back catalogue and a greatest-hits album. Who would buy a greatest-hits album if they already owned the full albums in the same format? By this we deduced that he had consistently bought greatest-hits albums and then back filled with all the albums referenced on them. There were no greatest-hits albums without complete back catalogues, so he was either someone who carefully selected the artists first, or he someone gave away or got rid of the greatest-hits albums he didn’t like, or, possibly, wasn’t especially fussy.

Then there’s always the radio. Radios are great in cars, but stuff you hear on the wireless doesn’t always transfer to CD or MP3 in quite the same way. Because popular music stations want your automatic tuner to home in on them, they like everything pumped up loud, which means a signal chain full of multi-band compressors and limiters. This is great when you’re driving in your car, because it means that all of the engine noise, the road noise and that rattle that you’ve been meaning to get looked at are drowned out in a constant sound with a dynamic range of about 3db. On your hi-fi at home, or your MP3 player in quiet place, anything that compressed is going to get quite monotonous. I made that mistake with Girls Aloud (no disrespect to them): Sound of the Underground sounded fine on the car radio (I was doing some advertising on Heart FM at the time, and needed to listen… that’s my excuse). But the CD version was compressed within an inch of its life. I incidentally made the same mistake later with Atomic Kitten (not much more disrespect to them than to Girls Aloud). If you want to hear the difference, listen on Amazon or iTunes to the previews of the Bangles original version of Eternal Flame and the Atomic Kitten version. See what I’m saying?

So, where do you go for new music?

This is my top ten list:

  1. Use Shazam to tag anything you hear that you like. 2 Tag stuff from the TV, from the radio, in Starbucks. As long as it’s an available recording, and there’s not too much noise of people clinking cups or TV voiceover, and Shazam will find it. Incidentally, you can also use this to discover if someone has plagiarised a section from something else.
  2. Be not afraid to ask. Everyone knows someone a bit like Pippa Rimmer. Probably not in the same league, but, generally, if you hear something you like, there’s someone you know who’ll know what it is.
  3. Barely recommended: search for the lyrics online. This often doesn’t work, because you frequently don’t quite hear the lyrics the artist is singing. Most famous example: the man who thought that Bob Dylan’s Blowing in the Wind contained the lyrics “the ants are my friends, they’re blowing in the wind”. Also, you may not find the original 1992 version of what you wanted, but some version covered by a band of teenagers that you’ve never heard of.
  4. Try Midomi (now SoundHound). SoundHound is another app that works a bit different from Shazam. You hum a couple of bars of the song, and it works it out for you. Not cast iron, and it doesn’t work with recorded full-band tracks, only with single melody lines. Still, it can work for you.
  5. Go to free gigs. Kerrang! Radio (see top picture) does free gigs every couple of weeks, which you can get onto if you bother to ring them up. Seeing a band live tells you a lot more about whether you’re going to like them than just catching their hit song on radio. Do you remember the Stranglers Golden Brown in the 1980s? Did you ever buy a Stranglers album in the hope of hearing more music like that? If so, you were probably disappointed. Other radio stations also do free stuff. Plus it’s not that hard to get free or cut price tickets to up and coming bands. Quite a relief if you’ve ever shelled out £80 to see a guitar hero band from the 1970s on their absolutely-last-ever-reunion-farewell-gig (tickets also available for next tour).
  6. Movies. Even really bad films tend to have quite a few decent tracks on the sound track. This is probably because it’s a lot cheaper for the film-makers to buy rights to use pretty good music than to actually get their minds round making good films. You can stay to the end for the credits, or just check the soundtrack album on Amazon or iTunes.
  7. Speaking of Amazon or iTunes, the preview function means you really can discover if the song you want is the one you think it is. Or the version you think it is. Sometimes the cover version is better than the original, frequently not. Previews (pre-listens?) will help you sort it out.
  8. Backfill? The backfill technique adopted by the former owner of my shared heavy metal collection was onto quite a good thing. You like a sound, hear the track. You like the track, consider the greatest hits album. You like the hits album, backfill the rest. With iTunes (no, I don’t have shares in it) you can infill the albums that you partially have. iTunes also has a function to explore an artist.
  9. Free music. iTunes has a free track every week, Amazon occasionally gives you free music, although you’re stuck with having to select it yourself. I’ve downloaded about 100 iTunes free tracks since they started about three or four years ago. A lot of them are firmly switched off on my system, but a couple of the bands I’ve gone on to see live and buy the album.
  10. Only if absolutely desperate, believe the Amazon recommends or iTunes Genius recommendations. When we first got onto Amazon, we bought three or four CDs on this basis. Disaster! Based on our purchasing choices, we were presented with recommendations for four teenage-female-singer-songwriters from London. No disrespect to any of them, but this was, in the words of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, truly music to slit your wrists to. Well, at least you can preview the recommendations before you actually buy them. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.

So, that’s me. What are your techniques?

Footnotes:

Show 2 footnotes

  1. I stole that line from somewhere else. There’s a lot of things which are ‘ubiquitous’ in our society
  2. Shazam is a free iPhone/iPad app that listens to about thirty seconds of music and then tells you what it is. It also allows you to immediately buy it from iTunes, which is probably where Shazam makes its money
My top ten apps for iPad

My top ten apps for iPad

FlipBook on the iPadWe’re three months in to the iPad world. My top ten apps for iPad are not the same ones they would have been just a month in. And certainly not what they would have been a week in. But some have survived remarkably well. Others less so.

By the way, I’m including a couple of non-apps which are iPad optimised websites. Just so you know.

#1 Overall best app: Flipboard

I’ve blogged about Flipboard before. Flipboard is the iPhone’s killer app, turning the confusing world of Facebook and the terse world of Twitter into a beautifully laid out magazine just for you. There’s other stuff on there as well, but that’s just other people’s magazines.

#2 Most promising app: WritePad

Were you horrified that there was no handwriting recognition on the iPad? If we could have it on the PalmPilot, even if you had to learn a slightly different alphabet, then why not on the iPad? WritePad to the rescue. The character recognition doesn’t always manage to figure out what I wrote (in common with my teachers when I was at school), but it’s hugely promising, and proves that the iPad could do it. My prediction: expect handwriting recognition in Apple’s one year-on update.

#3 Daily workhorse: Penultimate

Before handwriting recognition quite gets there, I find I use Penultimate, a simply paged drawing app that lets you scrawl notes and read them back afterwards, is something I use every day. Adobe Ideas has a better drawing and writing interface, but the lack of a page and notebook structure makes it less useful.

#4 Best game: Orbital

Orbital is great on the iPhone, and my first reaction to it on the iPad was: hey, this is just in higher resolution. I wanted a better game! But, for sitting on the sofa wiling away the hours that will never come back, this is the best deproductivity app of them all: beautiful, mesmerising, and sufficiently linked to some kind of real physics that you might kid yourself you’re learning something (though, seriously, you aren’t).

# 5 Best iPad optimised website: TVCatchup

This is also the worst named app. It’s a website (maybe UK only?) that — only on the iPad — lets you watch all of the FreeView channels. It works great on 3G, as well as WiFi. But why, when you can only watch the shows which are on right now, is it called TVCatchup? iPlayer will almost without a doubt be great eventually, but right now it has too few programmes, and doesn’t offer live streaming.

#6 Best reader app: Files HD

iBooks is a great app. And so is Kindle for iPad. And so is Free Books. I’m tempted to give this slot to iBooks, but I’m going to give it to Files HD instead, because it’s just more useful. My main justification for buying the iPad was that, every week, I used to print off up to a hundred sheets of paper for meetings, most of which went into recycling straight after the meeting. With the iPad, I just drag them onto Files HD, and I have them with me. Word, Excel, other common formats. Problem solved. Unlike taking a laptop into a meeting, it doesn’t create a barrier, or give people the suspicion that you are, in fact, writing your emails. And, yes, although I paid for the iPad and work pays for the printing, the total cost of using the iPad really is cheaper within one year than printing paper, even after you’ve factored in use of electricity.

#7 Best Mac enhancement: Air Display

Sorry Wintel users, I have no idea if this works on Windows. Air Display turns the iPad into a touch sensitive extension screen for your Mac. The experience isn’t quite as smooth as the Wacom Cintiq, but the Cintiq even in its smallest form is more expensive than the most expensive iPad. It isn’t pressure sensitive (though, on the Cintiq, that was never the most important thing), and you’d be better off plugging the iPad into the Mac — although it runs on WiFi, it’s a bit of a battery drainer if not wired to a power supply of some kind. You can also use this for controlling presentations, but, for me, it gives me the on screen Photoshop editing which you need for good cut outs that was the main purpose in using a Cintiq, back at my old job.

#8 Best musician’s app: forScore

The iPad instantly attracted a lot of music based applications. The lovingly crafted Korg iElectribe gave you a classic (but still cheesy) high-end drum machine. AC-7 Pro and others allow you to use the iPad as an external controller for Logic and other digital audio workstations. There’s a slew of playable instruments, and even a complete software Mellotron, if you want to play the introduction to Stairway to Heaven the way it was done on stage. AmpliTube, from modelling heavy-weights IK Multimedia, gives you a collection of modelled amps and stomp-boxes which you can use on stage via IK’s iRig connector. However, the problem with all of these is, although they are very cleverly done, they aren’t as good as the real thing. The iElectribe isn’t as good as a hardware drum machine, the AC-7 Pro isn’t as good as a Mackie Controller, the Mellotron isn’t a Mellotron. If you decide to use the AmpliTube on stage, remember that you’re tying up a piece of kit that costs potentially as much as a Roland VG-99, and certainly more than a Boss GT-10, but is less robust and has fewer features. forScore — which is my pick — isn’t a music app at all in the sense of these others. It doesn’t sequence, process notes, produce a tone, or allow you to play something. Rather, it’s a way of displaying PDF or other scores, so that you can quickly flick them over. It’s more convenient than a sheaf full of papers, and vastly more convenient than a songbook which never seems to want to open at the right page and stay open. It does something on the iPad better than the physical equivalent. A winner.

#9 Best productivity suite: Apple iWork

Out the very first day the iPad appeared, Apple’s own Pages, Numbers and Keynote are gorgeous and functional. Why only number 9? Well, there’s some pretty good competition, they don’t do stuff on the iPad that you can’t do on a laptop, and, seriously, you want to put an extension keyboard on if you are going to use them to their potential. The iPad’s own soft keyboard is great for short emails and notes, but if you want to write a long report or, heaven help you, a novel, then you need to add on a keyboard. Likewise, you’ll want the VGA adaptor if you intend to use the iPad for presentations, unless you have a compatible WiFi projector.

#10 Wildcard app: Caster

I’m putting Caster in as my wildcard app, because I’ve only played with it and not used it seriously. I was astonished on the iPhone not to be able to find an all-in-one podcasting app. Well, now there’s Caster, and it’s both iPad and iPhone. Essentially, this handles most of the tasks you would you do when preparing and uploading a podcast, from documenting, recording, editing through to uploading. I say most because, although it has a Normalize filter and a Silencer filter, it doesn’t have an audio compressor (just in case you’re confused, that isn’t the same as the compression used to upload as an MP3, which it does do). If you don’t know what an audio compressor is, or is for, then you will surely be happy with Caster.

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