First thoughts on the iPad

I’ve had my Apple iPad for 48 hours now, and here are a few observations on what’s happened so far.

It’s extremely covetable. The only person outside of the family who’s seen it took about ten seconds to decide she wanted one. And she’s a completely IT-illiterate (but smart) mother of two, who wouldn’t know what the term “fanboi” meant even if you tried to explain it.

The bloggers who said “everyone in the family will want one” were right. Mrs R wants one of her own, seriously, as soon as possible. It’s exactly what she wants: a lightweight, portable device which will allow her to look things up online and service her emails. And before you say “she can do that on much cheaper devices”, she knows. But nothing else has ever appealed to her before as much as this. When it comes down to it, she doesn’t like computers, and never has, but everything else she’s ever accessed the net on (including, strangely, the iPhone) has seemed too much like a computer to her. For some reason the iPad doesn’t have that tech-awkwardness.

It’s missing some curiously basic functions. I needed to work out a sum too hard for my inbuilt mental arithmetic processor, the iPad was on the side, and instinctively grabbed it to use as an expensive calculator. Except it didn’t have one. When I investigated, there were several other functions which come as standard on an iPhone which don’t exist on the iPad, including share-price monitoring and a weather service. But it was the absence of a calculator which is the real oddity. Fortunately there are loads on the App Store, including free ones.

It’s great at just being what you want it to be. This is the hardest thing to get across to people, and it’s why it doesn’t matter that the iPad isn’t “multitasking”. You just pick it up, touch the icon representing what you want it to be, and that’s what the device then is. So far it’s been a (much used) games machine. A bedside telly. A digital photo frame. A web browser. An email terminal. A big Twitter display on the coffee table giving an alternative take on something we were watching on the telly. And obviously there’s a bunch more things it can (and will) be. In every case, it’s a joy to use, and does it as well as (or in many cases better than) a laptop computer. I haven’t used it to listen to music, read books or browse newspapers yet. It looks promising for all those too. For the money, it can be justified for just one or two of these functions, and it’s really not relevant if people buy it who’ll never use it for 90% of the main functions it offers. Imagine if a TV manufacturer offered an ultra-thin, portable telly with a crystal clear display which could seamlessly be switched between live TV, stored movies, iPlayer and YouTube. Would that be worth £500 on its own? You bet it would. I think it’s going to take a while, and perhaps the inevitable price reductions, for people to get this though. You don’t need to be embarrassed about all the things the iPad does which you won’t use.

New Panasonic Breadmakers launched

The Panasonic SD257WXC breadmaker can produce all these!

Stop Press: Full Panasonic SD 257 review – with video – now here.

My online review of Panasonic’s SD255 breadmaker has been one of the most widely-read pages on this site for the past three years. Now the Japanese electronics outfit has introduced a couple of replacement models, and although I’ve yet to get my hands on them, there are just a couple of small upgrades to the design. Anyway, here’s everything you ever wanted to know about the new Panasonic SD-257 WXC breadmaker.

Why I’m voting for Julian Huppert

For me, this has been the most interesting election campaign for many years – if not ever. The emergence of a third party nationally; having my house “moved” from a Tory stronghold into a constituency which could go any way; and having a son who’s old enough, at 9, to take a real interest in what’s going on …it’s all added up to a fascinating few weeks.

I’ve generally voted Labour in the past, and was happy to have done so, although Blair’s scary religious crusading would probably finally have pushed me away this time, if he’d still been around. But he isn’t, and I’m glad, because I believe we should vote for the constituency MP we want, and not have our vote swayed by national issues. In 2010, although Cameron gives me the creeps, I don’t have strong enough feelings either way for any of the party leaders to let that influence my decision, which will be based on the people we can actually vote for: the local candidates.

Firstly, I’m dismissing Nick Hillman, the Conservative candidate. He hasn’t been round canvassing (UPDATE: round here), his election literature has been bland to the extreme, and he wouldn’t answer the local and national issues at TheyWorkForYou’s job interview website (UPDATE: Nick has since explained why: see comments). I have no idea if that’s through laziness or whether Conservative candidates have been ordered not to get involved in initiatives which might commit them to something, but either way, cheerio Nick.

Much as I’ve found Old Holborn‘s campaigning extremely amusing, I think we should just say he’s done a great job raising the issues and leave it at that.

In Tony Juniper, Cambridge must have one of the Green Party’s strongest candidates anywhere. I like a lot of things he’s said, but I just get the impression that there’s too much of an extremist lurking in there for my liking.

Daniel Zeichner, for Labour, came to our road with his campaign team, and I appreciated the chance to speak to him. Some of his actions during the campaign have been a little odd though, and the policies he concentrates on in his campaign material are not the ones which concern me the most.

And then there’s Julian Huppert of the Liberal Democrats. Julian starts with a huge advantage, in my books, for having been the most serious opponent of the only local issue which has ever got me to join a campaigning group, and that’s the scandalous Cambridgeshire misGuided Busway. He’s also a scientist, and I think it’s imperative that we get more scientists and engineers into parliament. If Cambridge can’t send one, who can? Finally, although 2005 saw Cambridge return its first Liberal (Democrat) MP for almost 100 years, the MP, David Howarth, is considered to have done an excellent job. Although he’s standing down already, I’m happy that a LibDem MP can be as good for Cambridge as any other party.

So it’s Julian Huppert and the Liberal Democrats for me.

And lest we forget (and we shouldn’t), there’s a local council election going on too, and I’d already decided to vote to re-elect the excellent Stuart Newbold for the Independent Socialist Republic of Cherry Hinton.