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Zach LeBar

Zach LeBar is a freelance web and graphic designer. Billing himself as a web craftsman, he takes great pride in his work, giving time and attention to the details and nuance of what he builds. Zach also dabbles in the world of amateur photography, and has a passion for writing. He's written for Mac.AppStorm, Web.AppStorm, and is always yammering on over at his blog.

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“When you go out and about with just an iPad, you’re sending a message that you’re not going to contribute. You’re just there to consume.” – Paul Thurrott (October 6, 2010)

“That’s what we keep hearing about the iPad as the justification for all its purposeful limitations: it’s meant for consumption, we’re told, not creation….all of us comment on content, whether through email or across a Denny’s table. At one level or another, we all spread, react, remix, or create. Just not on the iPad.” – Jeff Jarvis (April 4, 2010)

“Today’s iPad, the one that I just bought, is just a demo of something that could be very nice and useful at some point in the future. Today it’s something to play with, not something to use. That’s the kind way to say it. The direct way: It’s a toy.” – Dave Winer (April 3, 2010)

Those are three big names in the world of tech pundits. You’ve probably heard of all of them. And that’s what they thought of the iPad when it was first introduced. You’ve probably heard similar things from colleagues and friends, on Twitter and in chat rooms. People seem polarized over this idea of “content creation”, and whether the iPad is capable of it. Is this an active piece of technology, or just a passive one?

I contend that it’s an active one, in fact I would say it’s revolutionary in the way content can be created on it. I think the issue is with the definition of content. Let me explain.

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It’s funny to look at the Web of today, and think back to it being a purely textual experience at its inception. Inline images came soon after, but today we’re so used to the wizbang of AJAX not to mention the stunning array of beauty that CSS offers. And once video hit the Web, there was really no turning back. Today sites like YouTube and Vimeo are among the most heavily trafficked sites on the Net.

But there’s a conflict between the video of the Web at large, and access to it via the mobile devices we’re using more and more. The bottom line is, they’re hampered by the limited bandwidth caps imposed by carriers and the reliance on a connection to the Internet in general. The iPad is arguably one of the best mediums for watching video – mobile or otherwise – but it doesn’t have a consistent connection to the Internet.

Enter Roadshow from Fetch Softworks. At its core, Roadshow is an app to cache local copies of videos from the Web. Pretty simple premise, right? It is, and Roadshow does a great job not complicating that. It’s simple and intuitive to use. And while it does have some inherent limitations, it also offers the potential for a solution to a fairly common problem: creating an Instapaper-style queue for video content.

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Photography is a form of art especially close to my heart. It’s something I enjoy immensely, and something that I’ve always thought would be perfectly suited to the iPad. There has always been a vibrant community surrounding iPhone photography, and some truly great apps have appeared to help with editing and organizing your photos.

But what about where the iPad’s concerned? The iPad 2 has a camera, but it isn’t of the same quality as the iPhone’s. There’s the optional Camera Connector Kit, to import photos from your camera via an SD card or a USB cable too. That’s really what we’re going to be focusing on today.

Unlike the iPhone, where it’s both the photo capture and photo editing device, the iPad really only excels at the one aspect: photo editing. I mean seriously, are you going to be waving a 10″ tablet device around, taking snapshots on vacation? No, didn’t think so.

Let’s dig into what the options are for editing and organizing photos on the iPad, and where iOS developers still have room to grow and improve.

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Ok, let’s be honest, right up front. While we all love our families, and can agree that children are truly wonderful gifts, no one wants to go on an extended road trip with a backseat full of little ones. If they’re especially young — let’s say newborn to 3 or 4 years old — the suggestions that follow may not work for you. I know I’d hesitate to hand over my $500 device to someone under 4 years old.

But for anyone older than that — how about we say the 5 and up crowd — the iPad could truly be a tired parent’s dream-come-true. There is an absolute wealth of kid-focused apps for the iPad. From honest games that’ll kill time and keep them occupied, to more educationally stimulating offerings, the App Store has you covered. Let’s dive in, and I’ll show you some of the best of the best.

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The iPad, it’s not a device for content creation, is it?

Ask many a tech pundit that question, and they’ll say, “No, it isn’t.” But, there’s a flaw in the opinion you’re receiving. You’re asking a writer if they can use the iPad to write professionally. That’s a little more specific a context than just “content” in general. Of course the writer’s answer will be “No”. They’re creations rely on words, on text, and it’s arguably easier to create text with a hardware keyboard than it is with a software one. Can it be done? Sure. I’ve written 1000+ word posts for iPad.AppStorm solely on my iPad. But it isn’t ideal.

The problem with the opinions of many a tech writer, is that they’re leaving out all of the other types of “content” we human beings can create. With its gorgeous 9.7” display, photographs look beautiful on the iPad, and there are some great photo development apps available. And while there’s nothing on par with Lightroom or Aperture currently, there’s nothing stopping someone from building an app of that caliber. Recently, with the introduction of iMovie for iPad and Garageband for iPad, we’ve seen just how wide open the possibilities are for the creation of a wide range of content.

Today we’re going to look at one of the stand-out apps in the art category. It’s another area that captured the imaginations of iPad users. With hardware this advanced, could someone finally create software that enabled an iPad to become the ultimate digital sketchbook? Autodesk has tried, bringing their legendary Sketchbook Pro franchise to iOS. Let’s see how well they’ve done.

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When the iPad was first introduced, it didn’t come with a weather app. Most people thought it was simply an oversight in the keynote presentation. Steve Jobs didn’t want to sacrifice precious time on what was certainly an auxiliary to the headlining features of the iPad.

Then the iPad shipped, and the official iOS Weather app was nowhere to be found. Fortunately, iPad owners didn’t have much to worry about. By the time the iPad went on sale, Apple’s legion of iOS developers were just itching to fill the void.

But eagerness alone doesn’t translate into quality. For the last 14 months, there haven’t been any real standout weather applications – except apps like Weather HD, a beautiful but less than practical source of information. A lot of the traditional standbys are there, ones from the big names in the weather industry. The apps they had were adequate, but far from compelling. Remember though, the App Store ecosystem is special because it puts independent developers on a level playing field with these bigger, more established companies.

Today I’m proud to present an app from an indie development team that takes a different, more aesthetic approach to presenting the weather on the iPad. Aelios, from Jilion. If you’re a fan of beautiful, useful apps, you’re really going to love this one.

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When any new technology is introduced, one of the more condescending pieces of criticism that is often leveled against it, is being accused of being a toy, a trifle to be fiddled with, not a tool to be taken seriously. I think that one especially hurts, particularly those of us who want to take the iPad seriously, who see the gleaming potential of these shiny new technologies. We see it as a tool for productivity as much as it is a toy for entertainment.

But to be a true tool, an asset for the working professional, you need the right software. And if you’re a writer, there’s nothing more important than a good word processor. The word processor as a genre has had a long and storied history in the realm of personal computing. It was one of the first categories of software to appear on PCs, it’s become the yardstick any new era of computing is measured against. Is there a competent word processor? Can “real” people get “real” work done on it? And the post-PC era is no different.

While many companies, Apple included, are migrating their desktop apps into a form for the iPad, some enterprising smaller businesses are seeing an opportunity. They’re looking to make a name by approaching the iPad for what it is: something new. The app is called Daedalus Touch. The developers are The Soulmen. And they’re rethinking the text editor.

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Throughout the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the iPad series, I’ve been subtly approaching things from the perspective of someone traveling for pleasure. Possibly an individual on a road trip, or maybe a family on a summer vacation.

But, there’s a large segment of the traveling population that isn’t exactly traveling for pleasure. They’re traveling for business.

Yup, I’m talking to you, weary road warrior. That guy who spends more time in airport terminals than in an office building. For you, advancements in technology have really been a godsend. The smaller and thinner and lighter the better, right? But you can’t sacrifice portability for power. And so for many, a laptop is really the only option. But before you drop $1000 on a shiny new MacBook Air or something, just hear me out. The iPad just might be perfect for you.

Let’s take a look at how to get down to business with the iPad.

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So there we have it. On June 6, 2011, Apple announced iOS 5.

Described as a “major release”, anyone who watched the coverage of the announcement would be hard-pressed to disagree. Over 200 new features, 1500 new APIs for developers to utilize. Apple’s answered many a critic with the 10 key features that they highlighted, even the ones glossed over made big splashes, namely WiFi syncing with iTunes and a new split-keyboard layout for the iPad. 

But, if you’re not a registered iOS developer, you don’t get access to all this new shiny goodness until this Fall. And, while Apple probably couldn’t have been more vague when it comes to a drop date for iOS 5, we can use the time we have to do what we pundits do best: speculate.

Now that we’ve all had time to mull over the announcements Apple made, let’s take a look at which ones still look great in the fresh light of the day after, and which ones are maybe a little more hype than substance.

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We’ve all been waiting for it, haven’t we? Even before the iPad became a reality, it was heralded as the publishing industry’s saving grace.

A large, touchscreen device being made by one of the hottest tech companies in the world. It captured the imagination of businesses and consumers alike. Perhaps this could finally take one of the last mainstays of the analog world into the next century.

No, I’m not talking about eBooks. Even though those were hotly anticipated as well, the iPad gave hope to a segment of the dead-tree industry that hadn’t had such a hope before: magazines.

Fast forward two years, and one iPad later, we finally have a major publishing industry playing by Apple’s rules. And, while those rules alone could be the subject of an article, we’ll simply say that Apple isn’t quite on the publisher’s side here. That aside, consumers are being given a beautiful experience.

Today we’re going to look at The New Yorker app for the iPad, and see just how successfully they’ve translated this legendary magazine into a new digital form.

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