iPad interface quirk: scrolling frames lack scrollbars

The other day, my friend Geoff reported an iPad fail: an inability to scroll within a frame for a hotel login page, and similarly an inability to scroll in a Google Reader frame.

Geoff’s as expert as they come, with computers in general and with Apple products too. He waited in line to get his iPad. But he couldn’t figure out how to scroll these frames: scrolling by dragging a finger just scrolled the overall page, not the frame.

The solution is simple: scroll with two fingers in parallel, within the frame.

This is actually documented in the iPad user guide, which is bookmarked in Safari on iPad. One of the perils of a device this easy to use is that nobody reads the manual!

The interface is still quirky: no visible scroll bars even suggest that content overflows the frame. This does save screen real estate, precious on a 9.7″ screen. But it can definitely lead to overlooking content, if you don’t know that there even is anything to scroll.

Wanted: Serial console for iPad

The one thing I might still need my laptop for, on even a short business trip, would be to use it as a serial console for a headless system. I do that with some frequency, still, and a surprising number of sites just don’t have a handy serial terminal.

I’d pay good money for the ability to use my iPad as a serial console, via a null modem and a terminal app as good as iSSH.

iPad: first few days with my fluffy computer

Despite its sleek shape and glossy screen, I can’t help but think of my iPad as a “fluffy computer.”

Fluffy as in lots of chrome. UI effects that go beyond the necessary. A slick, packaged experience as comfortable and unnecessary as a pillow-top bed in a top-end hotel.

Fluffy as in distracting. I long for the day when iPads, or other tablets, are commonplace. That way I can get work done instead of discussing how I might or might not get work done with the iPad.

Fluffy as in what can I do with this thing? It’s obviously the greatest computer in the world for reading the Internet while on the couch, and an excellent if pricey replacement for both portable DVD players and eBooks like the Kindle. But it’s not clear to me, yet, what I can do with an iPad that I can’t do with anything else.

Like others, I’ve begun to notice that my iPhone now feels like a miniaturized light-on-features iPad rather than the pad feeling like an overgrown iPhone. That’s a good sign. But if replacing portable DVD players and eBooks, and replacing laptops for light business trips is the sum total of its use, it’s not going to be more than a niche player. I’m going to prefer it to laptops for short business trips, but if I’m on the road long enough I’ll probably need to bring a “real” computer with me.

Most of all, though, the iPad is fluffy as in clouds. All of my contact and calendar data comes over the Internet, from Mobile Me and my work’s Exchange server. The mail lives at Google and on Exchange, too. It’s a great platform for blogging to WordPress, but saving local drafts doesn’t count for a whole lot. Evernote works well, though I wish that there was a way to use and sync VoodooPad from the iPad.

GoodReader, 1Password, WebEx, YouTube, Maps — everything on the pad relies on, or at least syncs via, the cloud.

I’m not yet sure what the real “killer app” for the iPad will be, but I’m pretty sure it too will rely on network services.

iPad Killer App: Library Books part 1

Purchasing books is nice, but I like going to my library and borrowing books. I know that the Seattle Public Library lends books electronically via OverDrive in the ePub format the iPad uses, but can these books be read on the iPad?

It is, eventually, possible to do this. The Mac documentation is a bit sparse, and you do need some Unix comfort to get it done.

First I tried to simply download and extract the book. This didn’t work: the DRM that OverDrive uses to enforce library return dates isn’t compatible with iBooks.

By this point I was obsessed. A little poking around revealed that the ADEPT DRM used by OverDrive has been cracked.
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