C&W 2010 Part 2 (sort of): Conferencing with an iPad

As I mentioned in this post a couple weeks ago, I decided that I was going to try to not take my laptop but just my iPad with me to the Computers and Writing Conference at Purdue.  I will admit that this was a bit of a “stunt,” mainly because I had about four or five back-up plans if something didn’t go right, and the truth of the matter is I probably could have gone to the conference with no computer and been fine by borrowing, using the hardware/software set-ups in presentation rooms, etc.  Stunt or not though, it was an interesting experiment, and there were a couple of interesting iPad moments.

Before I left for Purdue, I printed out my two talks– good ol’-fashioned paper, which I probably would have been using with or without a laptop, though I thought about going for the truly unnecessarily repetitive and redundant by bringing my laptop to project my presentations and my iPad to read from my script/notes. As I mentioned before, I prepared my Keynote presentations on my iPad itself to avoid the “translation” problems of converting a desktop presentation– basically, the desktop version of Keynote is just different enough from the iPad version to screw up fonts, some graphics, builds, etc.  Better to skip that hassle and just start with the iPad in the first place.

Both of the Keynote shows I put together were fairly simple, but not uncomfortably so– in other words, I ultimately didn’t feel like I was “lacking in power” by just using the iPad version of Keynote.  My shows had “builds” and graphics and the like, and the presentation I did about YouTube included about 8 minutes worth of video.  The “trick” to including the photos and the video I discovered through a little trial and error was to put together an album of photos and video I wanted to use for my presentations together on my desktop first and then uploaded it to the iPad, making note to check the box for including both photos and videos onto my album.  From there, building the presentation with videos and photos was easy.

I had heard the day before my presentation that some people were having “issues” with connecting their iPads to the projectors at the conference, but I did not find that to be the case at all.  Basically, I just plugged in my iPad Dock Connector to VGA Adapter and I was good to go– well, good to go for my Keynote presentations and a few other functions.  The reviews of this product on the Apple web site are accurate in that this adapter allows you to project Keynote presentations (and it’s not quite as nice as the dual monitor mode you get with a laptop), it’ll project photos/slide shows, and I think it’ll project movies (I haven’t tried it on anything long that I’ve ripped yet), and that’s it.  It is not a “mirror mode” device that projects whatever it is you see on the iPad onto a projector.  This lack of capability disappointed me after I bought it, but for my purposes generally and at this conference, it was not a big deal.

For all of my other basic “computing needs” while at the conference, the iPad worked fine.  I never had any wifi problems (though I heard that some folks with iPad did have problems connecting to the Purdue network), email and basic web surfing were fine, etc., etc.  There was only one time where the lack of Flash was a problem, and that was looking at some videos that Alexis Hart’s sixth grade niece had done– not exactly mission critical stuff.  And I was even able to open that with CloudBrowse, though it is slow and probably not worth it for most Flash applications.

And of course, the iPad was a pretty good conversation piece– not as much with people curious about what it’s “like” but more with people who have one and who want to know what I was doing with mine (and vice-versa).  There were quite a few people sporting iPads at this conference, too.  I ran into Kathy Yancey and we talked for a good 45 minutes, her mostly asking me questions about this or that piece of software.  It was interesting to me because we were coming at the device quite differently.  She admitted to coming at all this from a Windoze sort of background, and she wanted to know where the manual was; me, I always just “play” with stuff, and while the iPad is different, it is close enough to the Apple nomenclature to be pretty easy for me to pick up on quickly.  I think the iPad is one of those things that doesn’t really need any explanation; Kathy thought it would be good if I did a workshop on what worked well.  I’m not sure who is right, but if someone wants to bring me in as they iPad expert….

Anyway, on the whole, the iPad lived up to its “netbook-like” potential for travel for me.  It’s lighter and smaller, and with a kick-ass battery life. It’s not great for updating my WordPress blog or for doing anything too complicated, but for everything else, a thumbs up.

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