Apple Everywhere

On the Road with a Pismo and an iPad, Part 2

- 2010.07.12 - Tip Jar

Day Two

I'd like to start this out with a big old' "Hi y'all!" to all the LEM readers in Arkansas, and especially De Queen. I used to think Iowa was rural, but compared to some of the places we've been in Arkansas, Iowa is practically bustling. Of course, Iowa has nothing on Arkansas when it comes to natural beauty and friendly folk (we're still a little uncomfortable with people pulling onto the shoulder to let us pass, though). We're pretty religious ourselves, so it was a great encouragement to see a land filled with churches, Bible verses and quotes on advertisements for grocery stores, restaurants, used car lots, etc. (you'd never see that in Iowa), and people who seemed to have a gracious respect for their fellow man.

Due to some adverse conditions (I won't go into detail, but the rolling hills of Iowa are nothing compared to the rolling hills of Arkansas, and my youngest sister was not feeling well for a while), I was not able to write a detailed log of my latest tech exploits - not that there was much to report. Like central Iowa, these heavily wooded areas of western Arkansas lack 3G coverage, so the MiFi was down for most of the day.

The iPad had a little episode in the morning, but operated trouble-free for the rest of the day (and it was turned on most of that time). The Pismo ended up helping us plan our route into Huntsville, running Google Maps more smoothly than I thought it would.

Before we get too far into Day Three, I'd better start writing about it.

Day Three

Friday, July 9, 10:27 a.m. We've just passed the Texas border. Once we hit New Boston, I'll try out the MiFi again. Both the Pismo and the iPad got a full charge last night - the Pismo is at 95% now and the iPad is at 89%. Now (10:31 a.m.) in New Boston. MiFi online, getting five bars of 3G.

12:10 p.m. The MiFi has been working well. It hasn't been on the entire time - I've used it mostly in short spurts. I have it set to shut itself down after 10 minutes idle time to preserve battery life. Pismo hasn't been restarted in a while, so I will restart it now (12:13 p.m.). Pismo back up and running (12:16 p.m. - the reboot only took about a minute, but shutting it down took a while). Loving the Mac startup sound. Batteries at 91%.

I found a cool game for iPad (which is still working great - just waiting for the jinx to kick in) last night. Osmos is a . . . well, to be honest, I don't know exactly what it is. You're a single-celled organism, trying to complete certain small objectives ("Become the biggest," "Become huge," "Absorb the [quantity] [weird thing(s)]"), except that the objectives are much more difficult than they sound - because you can be eaten by larger organisms, either sentient or non-sentient. Classical physics, orbital mechanics, and other factors come into play, making the whole game entertaining and very challenging. I played it a little last night and some more this morning, but I haven't played it much while we're driving - Texas is too beautiful to ignore!

12:26 p.m. On a side note, the Phillips GoGear Vibe 4 GB we're using for music has not been charged since we left Stratford - and it's still going strong at roughly 50%. My oldest sister is using a Phillips GoGear 2 GB to listen to the radio (she, my oldest brother, and I are all country radio fans). To those of you in Iowa, my favorite station is 96.9 FM KIAQ (Clarion/Fort Dodge).

3:37 p.m. Lunch was interesting. After dodging our way through Henderson, TX, we did battle with a few Black Widow spiders (which were cleverly hiding under the picnic table we were about to eat at), watched helplessly as a semi-truck squeezed around our parked van, and then continued towards Huntsville. Passing through the Davy Crockett National Forest left the MiFi high and dry without reception. My iPad is still working properly. (Ever get to the point where you want something to malfunction? No? Me neither!) MiFi working again in Huntsville (4:30 p.m.)

Sam Houston statue5:14 p.m. Visited the Sam Houston statue in Huntsville. The thing is huge - 67' tall standing on a 10' base. Standing at its base, you can't look directly up at it without also looking at the sun (at least during the time of day we were there).

A lot of fuss is being made about the iPad overheating. Well, out here in Texas, in the blazing sun, in 90°F and higher weather, the iPad ran fine. Granted, it was only out for a few minutes, but still, it was in its case, fully exposed to the heat. We'll have to see how it performs on the USS Texas.

Day Four

Saturday, July 10, 11:10 a.m. On our way to Houston! The MiFi's battery ran out last night, but it charged overnight, so it's good again this morning. Due to the incompetent WiFi setup at our motel, I ended up using the MiFi last night instead of the free WiFi. I'm convinced I've had a lucky break with my MiFi - the MB counter is not working, so I've gone over my 100 MB limit, but I haven't been charged more! Still, the 10-day package I purchased will expire on the 13th, so I'll have to purchase more. I wonder if the MB counter will start working then.

MiFi Overview

A few more technical notes about the MiFi: I did a little reading about the MiFi line (which currently consists of the 23xx and the 2200 - which we have - on Wikipedia, and I found that the 2200 supposedly contains a built-in GPS, but the Virgin model seems to lack it. Hmmm.

Also, my apologies to those who opted for those carriers with the 23xx - those recalls must really sting. The 2200 has been fully FCC certified and works wonderfully; it gets a little hot while in use, but it cools down fast (and that faux brushed aluminum top helps keep it cooler than the black units in direct sunlight).

You can plug the 2200 into any computer to charge it (though it will shut off the WiFi for the duration of the time you've got it plugged into the computer), but I haven't figured out how to get it working as a wireless modem with the Pismo. G3 'Book users, rejoice - it's officially compatible with PowerPC Macs running OS X 10.3.9 or higher.

So far, the MiFi has proven to be a great addition to the fleet (it's technically mine - my parents bought it, but my credit card is giving it service,since I'm usually the one using it). I would definitely recommend MiFi to those who want inexpensive 3G on demand while traveling (outside of the hollers).

Day Five

Sunday, July 11, 10:32 a.m. After some early difficulties, my parents and the Pismo have finally come to an understanding, and, as our local map doesn't cover Galveston Island, the Pismo - aided by the MiFi - is serving as our mapping device.

To ensure Mom doesn't accidentally close the browser, etc., I've downloaded iCab 4.7 and have it set to Kiosk Mode, which turns my Pismo into a browser kiosk until I unlock it. It's working quite well.

Before we left Iowa, I got the feeling we would need an ethernet cable for some reason, so I unplugged the iMac from the router and brought its ethernet cable along. Last night, we stayed at a motel without WiFi - it did, however, have ethernet access in every room, provided you paid the $10 deposit for one of their ethernet cables. Needless to say, we didn't do that!

Connecting the Pismo to the ethernet, I let Mom and Dad borrow it for the night to use Google Maps. My brothers and I stayed in a room too far away for the Pismo to share its connection with us, so I used the iPad with the MiFi. While this setup was interesting, I would really like to purchase an AirPort Express in the future - that way, both the iPad and the Pismo could be used wirelessly.

I'm currently typing this on my iPad and Apple Wireless Keyboard (referred to hereafter as the AWK), using Pages instead of my preferred QuickOffice Connect to avoid wasting the MiFi's 300 MB plan.

11:29 a.m. My iPad has now officially gone three days without the home button acting up. Strange. Perhaps it's like the Xbox 360, where heat will melt broken connectors back into place. At any rate, I've just found that PowerBook Medic offers iPad repair parts, including the frequently-broken retaining clips, so I'm considering the DIY way (plus, since batteries are available on PBM as well, I might not have to give my iPad up when its battery goes flat). It's sort of a source of pride for me to say I have one of the first 300,000 iPads.

11:38 a.m. The Pismo's screen has noticeably dimmed since I bought it in 2008. It needs a new backlight, but I'd really like to replace the whole display and bezel at once, due to the loose hinges. A set of rubber feet might be cool, too - the originals are long gone. The matte screen might be better in daylight than the iPad's glossy screen, but the latter's bright backlight makes it better for outdoor use at present.

Day Six

Monday, July 12, 8:08 a.m. Sorry about the half-day lapse. We went to Galveston beach and got a set of bad sunburns. I couldn't write at all after that. This morning I'm feeling better.

The Pismo got to serve as an access point for the iPad last night, beaming WiFi from my parents' room into our new room, located much closer to their room. It works great, and the fact that it can only serve one device at a time is a particularly sneaky way to avoid leeches.

Well, off to NASA. I'll probably be writing with the Pismo today (easier to use in the van). My iPad's home button is still working trouble-free for the fourth day in a row (jinx!). LEM

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

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