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iPad
Introduction.

I have a son and a grandson who both  have  high function autism and this led me to become interested in autism. It just so happened that many of the more modern computer programs written for autism and general education are based on the ipad  tablet.  I had wondered if an iPad might be useful for my nine year old grandson, as the app store contained 887 app's covering autism.  
My first problem was that I knew nothing about the ipad, so I decided to buy  one for my youngest grandson and one for myself, so that I could answer the inevitable questions.  

First impressions.

For myself I bought the latest ipad, with the retina screen.  The unit looks  extremely well .engineered, from the outside. And has a quality feel about it.  There was no manual, or instructions, just a little card pointing out where the outside controls were.  So I know where the on off switch is and if I press it a screen appears … for a few seconds … then it switches itself off again !.  With hindsight this now seems logical, but it would have helped if one didn’t have to learn the hard way !.  OK, so I now know I also have to use the slide lock ‘switch’ every time I switch on.  

What is an ipad  supposed to be ?.

Turing’s idea of a computer was an all purpose machine that could be programmed to do anything, and generally this is how computers have developed.  If we look at a typical windows PC, laptop machine , or an Android tablet with a post 4.01  (Ice cream) operating system designers have progressively made computers more capable,  whilst costing less.    I have a strong feeling that the ipad was designed by the bean counters although you get lots of new gizmo’s, like two cameras, GPS, speech etc,  they have removed much of the functionality of a tablet.  forcing you to buy their app’s, their music, their  videos etc and making it difficult as possible to use material from other sources.  This may be great for Apple but very frustrating for anyone who has never been on the Apple path before  and cannot easily transfer data, music, etc from their existing computers to ipad.
Another problem is that Apple has for some unknown reason decided to  rename everything and after a week I still don’t understand  what they are talking about, so maybe it was a good thing there wasn’t  a manual to further confuse me.
After playing with one for less than a week, I have come to the impression that it is a toy for well heeled yuppies,  who don’t know any better.   

Inputs and Outputs.

Apart from a docking socket and an earphone socket, that is your lot !.  However for an extra £24 Apple will sell you a camera connection kit, or if you are not a banker you can get a clone from EBAY for £2.99.  Ipad will give you a warning that it does not recognise the clone  …  just ignore it, as mine works fine.  The camera connect kit will give you a USB socket and two SD card sockets, standard and micro.  If you  plug an SD card in the adapter containing . jpeg images, the images will automatically be displayed under the  “Photo’s” icon,  I tried the same with music files and failed !.  
The camera connection kit adaptor also has a USB socket, which is intended for connection to a digital camera for picture download. I tried several flash drives in it and ipad rejected them saying  they drew too much current.(Ipad detects this as drawing  over 20mA), So it lookslike SD cards …  or nothing.  










Incidentally the  SD card was a tight fit, but there are diagrams printed on the top of the adapter to make sure that you insert the card correctly. The cable used with the adaptor is the standard one supplied with the charger (it also works as a data cable).
Ipad does of course have Bluetooth which apparently is only intended to work with a Bluetooth keyboard, but it would not pair with any of mine !. Apparently there have been lots of complaints about this.  Unfortunately this rules out any possibility of file transfer using Bluetooth with the basic machine.
I did manage to send emails to the ipad with music attachments, which showed up on the received emails OK …  but there seems to be no way of otherwise saving them in the Music folder, or playing them on the IPAD (as bought).  If you want music then you have to buy it from itunes and the same goes for books … I think.  
Ipad does have an app for viewing  youtube video’s (I knew there must be something the bloody thing could do !).   But it appears there is no way of saving them. I got around this problem by purchasing an app called IcabMobile  which does  allow you to download and store the files in the app, but not in the ipad folders. The problem I found, was getting them back out again, because with  ipad no-one believes in help files, or instructions. ‘Intuitive’ is a word yet to be invented at Apple.
Everything I tried to do was an up-hill job and I was beginning to despair that I would ever find some answers. Maybe a nine year old can sort it all out !.   

Conclusions.  

I was lured into considering the ipad because of the availability of the ipad autism applications. On reflection, I think I made a mistake in going that route.  Yes, the device will get a child interested in ‘computing’, but what then?.  I feel pretty sure not that if my grandson get’s hooked on computing then he will very quickly grow out of the  ipad and it will have to be replaced by a laptop, which is far more suited for any serious long term educational purposes.   Maybe he can use the ipad  as a door stop, or something.
Although I also bought myself the latest ipad, that was also a mistake and I should either have purchased an Android (post Ice cream), or possibly waited until Microsoft Surface comes out with Windows 8 (last ha;lf of 2012). At least then you have all of the normal inputs and outputs we have come to expect to give us the functionality we require. It would also be a far cheaper way in the long run.  For example, to print with the ipad you need an ‘air printer’  (Ipad could not detect my wireless Cannon printer), which is going to be yet another capital expenditure  on top of the expected daily demand for more games, more app’s, more music, more video’s etc, the camera connection kit and a protective case. The ipad may be a ‘cool’ desirable ‘must have’ … to keep up with the rest of the kids (including adult ones) , but I hope that it does not take long for my grand children to want to stop playing with toys, wise up and get serious !.  




Notes.

I have managed to download photo’s from the ipad to a PC, using an app called “Handbrake” and the supplied charger / data cable.  Looks as if video might work as well, MP4 etc..

03 August 2012.

Ipad has a forward looking camera of adequate resolution  and the ipad screen is more than adequate for the presentation of position data … so what is missing ?.  I have not yet checked either ipad camera for IR response, but I suspect it is usable ( for the eyeball project). Ipad’s are common and just about ‘affordable’, when the cast is amortised across other tasks.  Unfortunately, ‘designed in’ lack of connectivity in ipad rules it out for any serious consideration.  WI-Fi is crippled, Bluetooth does not work on mine, there is no USB socket and the one on the camera adapter has been crippled with a 20mA limitation for the USB socket, even the SD card option is read only. Now compare Ipad with Nexus 7 with the Jelly Bean operating system, at a fraction of the price … it looks as if Apple have designed the ipad into extinction.  A good example of “All that glitters isn’t gold !”. So for serious applications such as education, medicine, research, data collection etc., do we go Android,  or Microsoft Surface and Windows 8 ?.  I have watched Apple since the Wozniak garage days and am wondering exactly when the Corporation decided that they knew better than the customer !.  So for me, the ipad is out for any serious application, which makes me sad because I have just spent £800 odd pounds on an entertainment toy !.