Apple Everywhere

Jailbreaking the iPad, a Sleepy Power Mac G5, and Lego iPad Stands

- 2010.08.05 - Tip Jar

Busy, busy, busy. School starts August 26, and my iPad seems to be working okay again. At any rate, I'm using CourseSmart, so if my home button does go AWOL, I'll have my Pismo PowerBook as a backup. Or possibly the clamshell iBook, if I can get it a new battery and AirPort card . . . that would be a fashion statement! Or the PowerBook 180, once I have a USB floppy drive to ensure I can transfer files easily, and a battery or two to keep me mobile.

Of course, I enjoy being who I am, so that's not really a problem for me. Besides, my Macs, no matter how old, always seem to make people take a second look at their boring Windows laptops.

After which they rarely use their laptops in my presence again. Hmm....

Anyway, a lot of interesting things have been happening to me lately, faster than I can write them down, so I've decided to compile them for your enjoyment.

Jailbreaking the iPad

That new web-based jailbreak? I wouldn't recommend it.

I tried it on my iPad, just to see what it would be like, and I didn't find anything remotely useful (to me - but you might enjoy "novelty" apps) in Cydia. And it bricked my iPad.

Fortunately, I was able to restore my iPad, but that was at 11:39 p.m. (I use my iPad as my alarm clock . . . yup, one of my genius moments right there). Given the choice between a working iPad and a restrictions-free iPad, I'll choose the one that works, thank you.

Also, it appears the jailbreak is part of a larger PDF exploit that constitutes a major security flaw for iOS. I expect Apple will have a fix for that in the near future. Good riddance.

Diagnosing a Sleepy Power Mac G5

Remember my campus' lone PowerPC Mac, a 2.5 GHz dual Power Mac G5 (not a Quad, as I had previously assumed)? Well, it's been feeling sleepy lately, and that's not good. I found out about the problem from one of my friends at college, who informed me that the G5 was going to sleep randomly.

G5 cooling systemI checked out the G5, which had been working perfectly up until now, and found no glaring hardware malfunctions or the like. After reading up on the problem, I found out it might be dust buildup somewhere in the "wind tunnel", as I like to call the G5's air circulation system. I wasn't able to get back to the G5, but my friend is going back to DMACC this week to check up on it. Hopefully he can observe it a little more closely than I did.

I really hope it's just dust and not a dying CPU or faulty heat sensor. That G5 is the only macho computer left at DMACC - even the Mac Pro doesn't seem to have quite the manly essence that the G5 has (it's a high speed/high heat/revved-up fan thing - sort of like watching an F-16 go supersonic or listening to the sound of a 1960's Ford Mustang [or Ford Falcon, to LEM readers in Australia]).

Textbooks . . . without the 'book' part

This year marks my first experiment with e-textbooks. Instead of relying on the as-of-yet nonexistent eFollett app, I'm going to try CourseSmart, regardless of the issues other users have encountered. I'm fully expecting CourseSmart to release version 2 of its Textbooks iPad app, which will hopefully resolve most of the problems version 1 has.

At any rate, here's some interesting info for you: e-textbooks will save you big. I'm talking huge. I'm talking mega huge!!!

Okay, now that the manic used car dealer is out of my head - the savings that e-textbooks offer are great news for college students. I've noticed a major price reduction from printed to electronic format books, but it took shopping around a little bit to make me realize the full extent of it. Here's an example, using my environmental science textbook's prices to illustrate.

  • textbook
    • new: $132
    • used: $99
    • rent: $59
  • e-textbook (same book as above)
    • SmartCourse 180-day subscription: $56

If you were planning on renting textbooks, you're not exactly saving huge, but if you've already got an iPad, you might as well put it to good use . . . saving your back and your wallet.

One problem with SmartCourse currently is that it requires an Internet connection to work . . . which could be a bummer at DMACC, considering our campus-wide WiFi is only okay at best. On bad days (like yesterday), there is no WiFi access to speak of. Of course, my MiFi will be accompanying me to college this semester as a backup (hopefully my earlier experience with Boone's 3G not working was just a fluke).

Lego iPad Stands

My youngest brother is quite creative with Danish building-blocks, just as I used to be, and since he was feeling up to a challenge, I tested his real-world building skills with a simple request: build me a Lego® stand for my iPad.

In my second iPad review, I mentioned that the iPad case was perfect for use on my night stand. Well, after a few months, my iPad case has lost some of its original tightness, allowing my iPad to sag down just a little when stood upright. This sets the center of gravity forward, which makes my iPad easier to knock over. Because of this, I've been trying to come up with a DIY case for a little while, and Lego seemed like the cheapest (and most personal) option.

I have two stands, one based on the stand in this YouTube video and the other based on the "minimal Lego iPad stand".

The first is my mobile stand, as it is easier to take with me. The second is my stationary stand, and it has been significantly modified from its minimalist original concept. My brother beefed it up and lowered its center of gravity, increasing its stability and allowing it to be used with my iPad case.

The best part of this whole thing is that I got a very stable, usable stand (my mobile stand holds my iPad at just the right angle, roughly 45°, for use with my Bluetooth keyboard; at this angle, glare is reduced and the angle is perfect for viewing and occasional touching) for practically nothing. LEM

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Austin Leeds is a Mac and iPad user - and a college student in Iowa.

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