Saturday, November 12, 2011

Macross Frontier - Aimo Tori no Hito (piano)

Macross Frontier - Aimo Tori no Hito (piano).
I played it pretty clean except for one tiny bobble.

Friday, October 28, 2011

HP Touchpad and Android

Thanks to a buddy who works at HP I recently snagged one of those HP Touchpad 16GB for $99 (or about $121 after tax and shipping). The hardware is pretty nice to hold and feels pretty solid. It's a tad thicker and heavier than my iPad 2. I like the rounded corners.

16GB (about 12.3GB free out of the box)
9.7" 1024X768 IPS screen
1.2ghz Qualcomm Snapdragon S3 APQ8060, dual-core ARM
Qualcomm Adreno 220 core GPU
1 GB ram
micro usb

Here are some benchmarks. As you can see the hardware is rather top notch. Apparently you can overclock to 1.5ghz but I didn't try. There is no dedicated GPS so turn by turn is out. Map applications though work ok with using wifi for location.


I picked up the HP Touchpad Custom Fit Case (about $20) and the Splash Masque Clear Screen Protectors ($10 for 3). The screen protector isn't bad. It's the usual static cling type application and is pretty clear. Installation went pretty well with my usual "clean room" procedures (steam up the bathroom, make sure screen is completely clean, use long strips of scotch tape to go over entire screen to lift off any dust/lint, use smaller pieces of tape to help lift and re-position as you dial in the alignment). The case is HEAVY and adds some noticeable bulk but it does feel good in the hands. The cover looks like a smart cover but it is actually pretty dumb since it just flops around with nothing to keep the cover closed. Keep that in mind if you plan to toss this thing into a bag. Also, it uses a bit of velcro to put it in the 2 different stand modes. The cover does flip all the way around to the back for when you want to hold it. Compared to my iPad 2 with powersupport screen protector and the iCarbons on the back this thing feels like it's from the stone age with all the weight and bulk. At least it looks nice. It feels odd that I'm spending almost 30% of the cost of the tablet on accessories.

- First thing you want to do after charging and setting up your hp account is go update your webos to the latest version. It is 3.04 as of this writing. Also, make sure you update your apps especially the hp app catalog.
- After that it is time to start side loading some stuff if you really want to play with webos. Here are some great instructions on how to get preware installed which is basically a catalog of homebrew apps.
This also takes care of installing the novacom driver which is required later when we get to the android stuff. Make sure you reboot after you get preware installed and before you launch it for the first time otherwise it will continue to hang. After a reboot preware seems to run just fine. The only things I was really interested in were the file manager Internalz Pro and pReader native alpha (epub reader) both which you can install using preware. Fyi, pReader native was quite buggy and performance wasn't that great though a lot better than the pReader in the official app store. There is a lot of things to try in preware if you want to really dig into webos but I didn't really explore that much.
- I found the browser to be adequate but sluggish. It's nowhere near as nice as safari on iPad 2. It does do flash...Yeah!!!! But flash video playback is poor at best hitching every few seconds.....Boooo!!!! (issue was consistent on multiple sites I tried). I could actually stream music using the subsonic web interface. Even video worked but the hitching was really annoying.
- I installed the Amazon Kindle app and messed with it a bit. It's ok.
- I found the actual OS and UI nice and smooth but the apps all around pale in comparison to iOS apps. If you stick with just webos I guess you would still get your $100 worth out of it....barely.

Android (2.3.7)
- So I had enough of webos and I figure it was time to install Android which is the main reason to own a touchpad. There is a really good guide here:
- You can ignore step 1 and all the stuff about installing novacom since you already did that.
- I went ahead and installed gApps to get the android marketplace on there all in one shot. The file you want from here:
is CyanogenMod 7 20110828 md5: 1647897d8ac3efb04723d2ad2c361a3f
So the files you want in \cminstall on your touchpad are:

Don't rename them or do anything but copy them as is to \cminstall.
And with the latest alpha all apps show up in the marketplace just fine.
- Step 10 make sure you wait a while until the usb connection is good and solid. Mine did the connect disconnect dance for a bit before it settled down.
- In the future if you ever need to update cyanogenmod follow these instructions:
I've tested that out and it works fine.
- Now you can dual boot between webos and android anytime you want. Cyanogenmod also mounts the hp media shared part of the storage as a fake sd card. This is great because any media you put on there (it looks just like a usb drive when connected to a pc) is accessible from either OS.
- Post install I had 10.3GB free so the install only used up around 2GB.
- At this point I started going app install crazy and moving installed apps to the fake sd card. You have 1.5GB of internal storage so it wasn't entirely necessary.
I did this and android crashed HARD and rebooted but got stuck on the blue circle screen. Then, I had to force a shut down (hold down power then hold down home key for 10 sec). After that my fake sd card would no longer mount. So yeah, move only your largest apps to the sd card if you plan to install a ton of apps. To fix it I had to boot back to webos, fire up Internalz, delete some files out of .android_secure folder before I could get android to mount the sd card again.
- The good news is most apps seem to work quite well. Almost every single google app works just fine including gmail, google+, google voice, google maps, google books, google translate, google reader, google earth, google music, etc. Everything syncs nicely with my google account. What didn't work for me was google docs. Youtube works in full screen mode (landscape) but has issues in portrait.
- The big things that still don't work properly is the camera and microphone. The microphone records what sounds like a very slow talking version of what you say.
- Other apps that worked just fine:
Aldiko (nice epub reader)
Dolphin Browser
Fluent News
PocketCloud VNC
Netflix (runs great!)
subsonic (even video which uses flash works pretty well)
Wow Armory
Advanced Task Killer
Battery Widget (Geekyouup)
Amazon app store
adobe reader
amazon mp3 music player
plex (still no air video but not bad)

Some games I tried:
All versions of Angry Birds
CK Zombie (3d)
Dungeon Defenders: Second wave (3d)
Seven Stars (3d)
Death Worm
Raging Thunder Lite (3d)
Stair Dismount (3d)
Robon Defender
Asteroid Defense
Galaxy Wars tower defense
Grave Defense
Medieval Castle defense
NExus Defense
AI Factory games (reversi, checkers, chess, four in a line, sudoku)
help out (rush hour type game that actually scales properly)
Tanagram Moment

Some apps that don't work:
Anything that uses the camera or mic
bing (won't let me install from app store - item is not available on your carrier)
asphalt 5
Asteroid Defense 2 (graphical glitches)

- 3D performance was pretty acceptable already on this alpha build. The games are definitely playable.
- Overall app compatibility seems very good so far. The android market app likes to crash now and then but it's not that big of a deal.
- Battery life still isn't the greatest.
- You might also want to disable mobile data (settings, wireless & networks, mobile networks, uncheck data enabled). This helps wifi to stay connected after coming out of sleep.
- The touchpad is very picky about chargers. I have mono price USB chargers rated for 2A (works great with iPad 2) and my iPad 2 charger also rated at 2A and none of them will charge the touchpad. In android it says it is charging but it still drains over time even while sleeping. Webos gives a warning. It might be worth picking up a couple of extra ones at amazon for $12.22 each. Here is a very informative discussion on why this is the case and some modding info.

Overall I'm very impressed with the touchpad especially with android on it. For a $100 it is a fantastic value no matter how you look at it. The components are top notch and performance (especially video and 3d) are already good enough in the current cyanogenmod alpha build. It is already stable enough for everyday use. The browser in android is better and faster than webos. The flash support is definitely better in android. You get 2 OS's to play with for one low price. Hopefully when ICS source gets released we'll see a port of that too. I guess I'll be cancelling that Kindle Fire preorder. Even at current ebay prices of around $200 this might be more worth it than a Fire. If you ignore price though I still think the iPad 2 is a MUCH better tablet.

Highly recommended.

UPDATE: 12/2/2011
Alpha 3 is released:
I went ahead and did the old acmeinstaller method to update because I noticed there was a new boot loader and a new clockworkmod recovery out.  I didn't think it would be wise to try and update clockworkmod recovery using the clockworkmod method.  Everything installed smoothly.  Hopefully this fixes the sleep of death which seems to happen quite often (won't come out of sleep and must do a hard reset).

UPDATE: 5/9/2014
So I dug up the old HP Touchpad today and decided to update it.  I ended up installing kitkat 4.4.2 on it and it runs pretty well for 3 yr old hardware.  Even the camera and mic work now.  I think bluetooth does too but I haven't tested it yet.  Netflix works for the most part but seems to have some graphic corruption for the first 15 sec or so on starting a video.

The main guide:

another guide with some additional info:

latest jcsullins rom:

Since I was coming from cm9 I did the whole backup and copy to pc (using root file explorer and smb map), uninstall android, boot to webos, erase usb, installed the touch recovery (very nice) and moboot (this step is acmeinstaller5), repartittion (I have the 16gb one) (steps from here on out are installed through clockwork recovery install zip function), install the latest jcsullins snapshot (data media build), install gapps.

I recommend watching the related youtube videos as they add some details not covered in the written guides.

It all went very smoothly, and I highly recommend doing it you still use the hp touchpad.

I only dug it up since it's really my only "real" ish android machine besides the mk808.

update: Additional fixes:
Reflash A6 firmware to fix sleep battery drain issue:
I used method 1 which is further down in the post.

Add flash support back in:

Monday, October 17, 2011

iOS 5

I decided to skip the iPhone 4S. You can read about my reasons here.
  • The upgrades went fairly smooth for the 2 iPhone 4 32GB and one iPad 2 64GB. One of the iPhones was updated on a Mac and the other two on a pc. Upgrades took forever (think hours) since all our devices are nearly full. It does a full backup, a factory reset, flashes the new os, a restore, and then syncs back all you apps, music, videos, photos, etc. plus the update itself is over 700MB download. I'm still running into some syncing issues especially with the calendar and contacts with outlook. I've tried some of the things listed here:
    It would work for a while but then the conflicts and errors would come back. It's annoying but not a show stopper. I'm still looking for a solid fix.
  • There are now a ton and slightly confusing sync/iCloud/backup solutions. If you enable iCloud backup it will no longer backup to your pc through itunes. I wish there was an option to backup to both. If you turn on wireless itunes sync (you must do it on the device summary in itunes while you the device is connected) it seems to always sync over wifi even when you have it connected to usb. It's convenient but a bit slower. What's also nice is the sync happens in the background so you can continue to use your device while it syncs. Contacts and calendars get a bit more complex. I currently sync through itunes with outlook for contacts, notes, and calendars. You can also sync these through iCloud. Once you install the windows iCloud control panel:
    You can also sync outlook to iCloud . It seems like you would get some redundant syncing with all these methods having devices sync both through itunes wifi sync and iCloud all against outlook. I wonder if it would be better to disable calendar and contacts syncing through itunes and do it only through iCloud. You can force a wifi sync through settings|general.
  • Notes syncing is also less than ideal. Once I turned on icloud notes sync I had to create a email address. This creates a new account in the notes app which is separate than the account where I was syncing with gmail which was also separate what was only on my iphone, which is also separate than what was synced with outlook. I couldn't find a way to just say sync all the notes I have across all accounts to iCloud. I know, I should probably just stick to using evernote instead but sometimes I just want to fire up notes quickly and jot something down. Even more confusing is if I'm in the all notes view and I create a new note it ended up in the gmail account vs the iCoud account. I can't even seem to specify I want my iCloud account to be the default for newly created notes when in the all note view.
  • UPDATE: So here's what I did to get everything to sync using iCloud as much as possible to share data between my macbook pro, a windows 7 x64 desktop with outlook, iphone 4, and ipad 2.
    • win 7: setup outlook with the account that was created when I turned on notes syncing on the iphone icloud. You'll need to setup the servers manually and click on the advance settings. I also set incoming to ssl (and use the right port!) and outgoing to auto (ssl didn't work for me). Here are the icloud mail settings:
      I don't really plan to use my email for anything really except to enable syncing.
      I disable calendar and contact syncing in itunes (I still left notes outlook syncing on).
      Enable wifi sync in itunes.
      In the icloud control panel I enabled contacts and calendar syncing with outlook. This creates a new icloud section in outlook for contacts and calendar.
    • On the iphone and ipad I enabled all iclould syncing options.
    • Mac: Update iPhoto and enable all icloud syncing options. Fire up the mail app and setup your new email. This way you can get to notes. Contacts and calendar should should sync with address book and iCal.
    • This in theory should let you make changes anywhere in any of those devices and then sync across all devices using icloud.
  • is quite nice and lets you not only view but edit most of your icloud data (contacts, calendars). Find my iphone is also here but notes is missing. You have to fire up the email app with the email you created when you turned on icloud notes. Yeah, overall notes is a complete mess and is anything but simple or "just works."
  • Photo stream actually works quite nicely especially on windows. The windows iCloud control panel lets you choose a download and upload directory. It's clean and simple just the way I like it. On the mac it syncs with iPhoto which is ok if you like iPhoto (which I don't).
  • Apple ID strategy: I have one main apple ID that I share among all my apple devices so you can share itunes purchases like apps. The problem is when you also use it for iCloud. You can in fact use a different apple id for iCloud vs the store on the same device. Also, it makes since to use different apple id's in certain cases. So every device uses the main apple ID that is used for all purchases for the store. I use the same apple ID for iCloud on my iPhone 4, the iPad 2 (since I use it the most), and my macbook pro. This way I can share photos, documents, contacts, calendars, etc among all my devices. It would make no sense for my wife to share my apple ID for her iCloud which would mix up contacts, calendars, documents, photo streams, etc. She uses her own apple ID for iCloud on her iPhone 4 and macbook pro yet continues to use the main apple ID that the purchases are on on both of her devices. This also helps get by the 5gb free space limit used for backups. I could NOT backup both my iphone and ipad (both nearly full) within the 5gb. Once I toggled off backing up certain apps that contain a lot of user data like good reader (pdf's, videos, etc) I was able to get it to all fit.
    The one drawback is this splits up find my iphone because it's tied to the iCloud apple id. The new find my friends app though works well enough.
  • The reader feature is nice in safari. Just realize it doesn't work on every web page, only the ones it thinks are articles. When it is on a compatible page a reader button will appear in the address bar.
  • You can 4 finger swipe on the iPad to swap between running apps. You can also 4 finger swipe up to bring up the task bar. I love the tab browsing.
  • Wife's visual voice mail got wiped out again but after entering the password it was re-enabled.
  • 1password required re-entering the master password to get dropbox syncing working again.
  • iSub cache was wiped out after the upgrade.
  • You can't put newsstand into a folder because it acts more like a special folder than an actual app. I found a few magazines that were actually a bit cheaper than zinio and nook. Just keep in mind these are actual individual apps that meet certain specifications to appear in newsstand. That means you are tied to iOS devices only. With zinio and nook you have broader device support. Right now I still really like the nook for the pricing and selection. I just wish it had push notifications for when new issues arrive (or at least an email). The lack of free trial issues in newsstand is rather annoying. It should be a requirement for every magazine in newsstand to offer at least a free preview of 10 pages or so.
  • I like the new usage view in settings especially the apps sorted in the amount of space each is using.
iOS 5 brings a lot of new features but IMO quite a bit of complexity too if you have a lot of devices and platforms. Notes is a mess but the rest I like. It's definitely a lot of functionality for free so I can't complain too much.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Game of Thrones Theme (Piano)

Game of Thrones Theme on Piano. This theme song (of the BEST TV SHOW EVER!) really got stuck in my head. I play it a bit slower and as usual there are a couple of mistakes.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


So I'm really digging google+ so far which seems like it could be a nice replacement for facebook, twitter, and maybe even some blogging. I'm going to try to post smaller reviews and thoughts now in google+ and probably only write a blog post for bigger reviews/articles.

You can find me here:

I've also added it to the Links section on the right.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Zalman Microphone Zm-Mic1

My mic settings:

- So I've been using the xbox 360 wireless headset with the PC wireless adapter for teamspeak and ventrilo during World of Warcraft raids. It works ok but sometimes I don't want something on my ear during a long play session. Also, the 360 wireless headset is a bit glitchy sometimes and requires frequent power cycles to clear up static that occurs once in awhile. The nice part about this being just a mic and not a full headset is I still have all the game sounds + voice coming from my pc speakers (adjust your master volume in Wow to balance game sounds against voice. Titan panel is a good mod that lets you get to volume adjustments quickly). This way I have nothing on my ears.
- You can clip this mic to your shirt or do what I do. I just swing it around my neck and let it hang near the top of my chest/near my neck. I use a little tape to tape the mic to it's own cord so the mic end points up toward my mouth when it's hanging.
- It's pretty sensitive and I actually had to turn off my mic gain boost to zero otherwise it would distort.
- Everybody says I sound quite a bit better on vent now with this mic vs what I was using before.
- The cable is really long.

Highly recommended. At $13 it really is amazing and performs great. If you have an environment where you can use your PC speakers this is a great setup.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

iPad 2 (black 64GB WIFI only)

So this is the first tablet I've owned (I don't even own a netbook). My kids have been begging for one since last Christmas after playing with one their cousin brought over while visiting. I told them I would consider getting one when the iPad 2 came out and besides they had quite a bit of Christmas and birthday money saved up. I figure I would buy one for the family to see how they (ok mostly me) would use it.

On release day I swung by the apple store after work around 5:45 and they had already cut the line off saying they were sold out. It was the same story at best buy. I'm not much of a line waiter so I just ordered one online. Estimated ship date was April 1st. I got it on march 31st around a week earlier than the original estimate. I decided to go with the the black 64gb wifi only model. I already have a virgin mobile mifi so I figure I would use that if I need 3G. Sure, I lose gps but I think I can live with that while saving $130.

- iPad is heavier than expected. If you hold it with one hand pinching one edge your hand will get tired. It works better if you wrap your hand around the back or just use two hands. I'm sure it's pretty light compared to other tablets and the iPad 1 but for a first time tablet user it still feels heavier than it should be.
- Coming from the retina display on the iPhone 4 the 1024x768 does feel pretty low res in comparison. This isn't such a big deal for games and movies but it is pretty noticeable while trying to view tiny text without zooming in first. Other than that the IPS screen is still very nice.
- I can typically touch type at around 80 wpm without errors. My first mistake was trying to touch type in landscape mode. It's just not realistically possible. The keys are way too cramped and without any feedback it's just not possible to type without looking at the keys. I've now modified the way I type to using 2-3 fingers on each hand for a speedier hunt and peck method. It seems to work pretty well and is much faster than only using your thumbs on an iPhone. Still, I wouldn't want to use the touch keyboard for writing really long articles. Good thing any standard bluetooth keyboard works just fine like the logitech pro media board I have. My original plan was to write this entire review on the iPad. I ended up only writing about half of it using Pages. It wasn't an overly horrible experience but I much rather use a keyboard for typing articles of this length.
- The battery life seems very good in the few days I've used it. We aren't just talking surfing or video watching here. Even with heavy gaming the battery holds up incredibly well
- Yeah the iPad has two cameras now but man are they BAD and I mean really bad. The front one for facetime is about what you would expect but the back one takes mostly horrible photos. Almost any interior shot (excluding except maybe a professional lit studio) comes out incredibly noisy. The size of the CCD used must be incredibly small. Talk about cutting corners. I've read that the camera was really more designed for shooting video, and the 720p video it produces isn't half bad. Just don't ever take any still shots of anything you remotely care about. The iPhone 4 back camera is about 1000X times better.
- The apple dock connector is a little harder to plug into. The area around it is rather tapered. I guess that's the price you pay for thin.
- Movies encoded using Handbrake and the iPad preset look fantastic. File size for a typical movie is around 1.2GB.
- The mute/orientation lock switch is a bit interesting. If all of a sudden none of your apps have any sound it's probably because at some point you had the switch set to control mute in your settings. You mute the ipad and then later switched it to orientation lock. Now the ipad is muted even though there is no indication it is actually muted (like when you adjust volume). Just change the setting so the switch goes back to controlling mute to unmute the device and everything should be back to normal. Also, I noticed holding the down volume button accelerates really quickly and will quickly go to 0 volume in like .25 seconds. Not sure if I like that (I guess it's another quick way to "mute") but that's just the way it is.
- Facetime: It works quite well on the iPad. In the settings|facetime you can associate one or more emails which you would use to call the iPad. This is very similar to the mac osx app. If you want to call an iPhone just use the phone #. If you want to call an ipad, ipod touch, or mac you use the email associated with that device. If you have more than one device associated to the same email then all devices ring. Example: I have my iPad and macbook pro on the same facetime email. When I call it from my iPhone both the iPad and the mbp (if I have the facetime app running that is) rings. It all just works how you would expect it. Both cameras on the iPad work just fine for facetime and don't look nearly as bad as when taking still photos. The iPad even rings when the smart cover is closed and the iPad is sleeping. It's suggested though that each non iPhone iOS device has at least one unique email associated with it. Otherwise, I wasn't able to call my mbp from the iPad when they both shared the same email address. By adding another unique email to each iOS device gets around that issue.

- Here is a small sampling of apps that I found interesting. I'm mostly omitting any apps I've previously mentioned in my iPhone reviews since you can read about them there.
- What's great about app purchases is you can install and reinstall them on as many iOS devices as you want after only buying the app a single time. As long as you use the same apple id/itunes account you should be fine. Granted, only up to 5 pc's can be authorized for content but as far as iOS apps is concerned it's pretty much unlimited. I can buy an app once and run it on my two iphone 4's and my iPad 2.
- The kids love this thing. Besides the games there are some nice children books like Alice and How to train your dragon.
- iSub and Air Video have very nice iPad interfaces. Air Video over local wifi looks fantastic.
- Tried the Daily (first 2 weeks are free). It's pretty much fluff. I will NOT be subscribing.
- I love all the news/social network aggregators that format it into a nice magazine layout like Zite, hitpad, taptu, and flipboard. Zite has to be hands down my favorite though flipboard is nice too. It's pretty amazing how well it can create a customized magazine based on your twitter, google reader, and delicious accounts. On top of that it has thumbs up/down to continue to train it.
- I love reading magazines on this thing. Zinio is pretty good though I wish it had more magazines (and better prices on some of them). I couldn't quite pin down why I hated reading a magazine on a pc but I finally figured it out. It's a combination of the form factor, how you hold it similar to a real magazine, portrait vs landscape, touch interface, and flipping pages instead of just scrolling down with your mouse. It's a combination of all these things that makes magazine reading amazing on the iPad. No more dead tree magazine subscriptions for me. Get it on the iPad or I'm not renewing (I'm looking at you MaximumPC!). What kind of sucks is the nook color has all the magazines I like and at very reasonable prices. The problem is those only work on the actual nook color hardware and not on the iPad nook app. What is up with that?
- For reading novels I still prefer my iPhone (stanza ftw). I usually read right before going to sleep so e-ink is right out. I just find the iPhone much more comfortable to read on especially when lying in bed. I don't mind flipping pages more often. It really doesn't bother me.
- Goodreader does an amazing jobs with PDF's plus dropbox integration.
- Vevo is a nice app for watching music videos.
- I've only briefly messed with Garage Band but it seems pretty darn impressive for $5.
- Pages is a nice word processor. It needs native dropbox support but I guess dropdav works. isn't bad though for sharing your documents.
- There are a ton of remote desktop apps. Logmein is still my default for general use but there are some interesting new high performance ones that are actually fast enough for gaming. Everyair seems to show the most potential so far.
- I love games that are universal apps like Rage HD and Infinity Blade. For 3D games it makes perfect since. For the most part it's just rendering out at a higher resolution and moving some controls around. For 2D games I can kind of understand why there are usually 2 separate versions since it usually requires a different set of art assets (where is tiny wings HD!!??!!). It's games like modern combat 2 HD from gameloft that cheese me off. It's like paying extra just for unlocking a higher resolution setting in a PC game. It's just WRONG!
- UPDATE (4/21/2011): Comics - Stanza (my favorite ebook reader) now supports CBR files. It's fast and works pretty well but no double tap to zoom. Comicflow isn't bad but I prefer Bookman. Both are free. I find bookman's thumbnail view, bookshelf, and organization better. The overall UI is just a lot more polished. Comixology engine powers their own Comics app, DC comics, and Marvel. They each have slightly different comics available and marvel requires a separate account from the others but the app works pretty much exactly the same on all 3. It has a neat panel flow mode that works well for the iPhone. I didn't bother trying comic zeal since it was $8.
- Atomix Magazine - $.99 in app purchase per issue. Produced by Area 5 (co-op guys). It has a pretty slick interface and well written content.

- Power: My existing cheap eBay USB chargers seem to work fine. Unfortunately, my computer USB ports don't seem to want to properly charge the iPad. I get the dreaded "not charging." This was with the usb ports on the back coming directly off the motherboard. I did some reading and testing and apparently it is getting power but with the screen on there isn't enough juice to actually get a charge going. Instead, you break even holding battery levels at about even. If you put the iPad to sleep it actually does charge albeit more slowly (I did confirm this is the case). Apparently motherboard manufacturers have released drivers to up the power to the USB ports so it charges iPads properly (I have not tested this). I also have this issue with the cheap no name car charger that I use for my iPhone. Mobile usb battery packs like my Just Mobile Gum Pro work fine though.
UPDATE: Asus AI Charger works great even on my gigabyte motherboard. Now it charges the iPad just fine even while in use.
- Camera Connection Kit:
The camera adapter is interesting. I first tried my 64gb USB key drive. It complained about not having enough power. Next, I tried a 2gb sd card which works fine. I had this idea about how maybe you can use sd cards to store additional movies which you can load onto the iPad while in the field without the need of a computer or iTunes. Putting some m4v files converted with handbrake into the root of the sd card didn't work. Next, I tried to fake it by recreating the same directory structure my canon camera uses (DCIM directory) and renamed the extension to mov and added a thm thumbnail file (apparently you don't need to do this step. The key is the DCIM directory). This actually worked letting me import the entire movie file into the photo app. All of this seems rather convoluted and clunky and probably not worth the trouble. The camera adapter is really rather limited. It only works with the camera app and it only let's you import photos or movies into that app. There was no way to get them into the video app. So theoretically you can swap movies from an sd card as long you have some working space but it seems more trouble than it is worth. It's too bad you can't view media directly off the sd card. Also, the photo app doesn't resume video where you left off. I found out the best use of these adapters isn't so much importing photos from your own camera but others. I was recently at the in laws and my wife wanted a copy of all the photos her dad took. Normally this would require powering up a laptop. Now, I just pop in their sd card into the iPad and import the photos she was interested in.

HDMI Adapter
- Works with iPhone 4 and iPad 2. The low level mirroring only works on the iPad though (not the iPhone).
- It doesn't scale the image. So unless the app natively supports 1080p (like the video app and some games) you are going to get some black borders (this includes most games). There are exceptions like Chopper 2. I was able to use my iPhone 4 as the controls, playing it on my iPad 2 which is hooked up to my HDTV using the HDMI adapter. It's all pretty amazing actually.

- Real Racing 2 HD is suppose to get 1080p output support soon too though that patch hasn't hit yet. For now, mirroring works ok. Update (4/21/2011): The update is out now that supports 1080p output. I'm going to have to try this soon.
- Infinity Blade doesn't look half bad on a 52" HDTV:

Protecting your iPad 2 (making it slightly more child resistant)
- I decided to go without a case this time to keep the iPad as light and thin as possible. Instead I went with a screen protector ($30), carbon fiber back ($20), smart cover ($40 <- obscene apple tax), and a sleeve ($12) for travel. That's over $100 spent on just protecting the iPad! My kids are actually very good with electronics. They were taught to "respect the electronics" before they could walk! But a little protection sure can't hurt when your kids are handling a $700 "toy."
- Smart Cover: For the most part I really like the smart cover. The auto aligning magnets really work well. As a stand it's ok. There is only one angle in landscape, you really can't prop it up in portrait, and the keyboard stand mode flops around a bit too much to use on your lap. The magnetic on/off switch is nice though blackberry has had this for ages. Now, if only apple would add a dedicated indicator led. The switch kind of reminds me of a refrigerator door light.

Notice how difusse the light reflections are:

- $30 and you only get 1. I decided to go with the anti-glare this time instead of the crystal since the iPad lower resolution screen is minimally impacted by the slight loss in clarity with an anti-glare film (Don't get me wrong. You can barely tell it's there. It's still very clear just not as completely transparent as the crystal). Also, I just love the feel of the anti-glare and it does an amazing job of hiding finger prints.
- $30 for 1 shot is pretty darn pricey. You want to make sure you do a good job installing it. Here is how I got a pretty much perfect install.
1) Start by trying to create your own "clean room." I used the master bathroom and closed all the doors. Run the shower on hot and steam up the room. As the steam cools it pulls all the dust out of the air. Make sure you turn off any central AC/Heating too. Clean the surface you are going to work on and wash your hands.
2) I cleaned the iPad surface with a slightly damp paper towel using highly diluted vinegar and water solution. This helps make sure you remove all finger prints and oils. I next went over it with just a very slightly damp paper towel using only water this time. Wipe it dry with a fresh paper towel. Then, wipe it down with a lint free cloth. You might also want to clean the outside of the film a bit after taking it out of the packaging since the outside of the film might have lint/dust that could drop on top of the ipad during installation.
3) This step is key. Take long strips of scotch tape and stick it over the surface of the iPad and peel it off. Repeat this until you've covered the entire surface of the iPad. This acts like a lint remover and does an excellent job of removing every last spec of dust or lint. Tape is cheap. Your screen protector isn't. Use several strips of tape and be thorough!
4) Now you've got a completely clean iPad in your "clean room." Just follow the instructions from the site on how to apply it (go watch their video). It took me about 3 tries to get the alignment just right. Then it was just a matter of working out the air bubbles. Since none of the air bubbles were the dust/lint kind they were pretty easy to work out. If you did get a piece of dust or lint stuck underneath the screen protector, just use a piece of scotch tape to lift it off either from the iPad or from the film depending on where the dust is stuck.

Botched this corner with a tiny fold:

- $20 for back only. I wanted to keep the size and weight of the iPad 2 but also wanted to protect the back from scratches. Carbon Fiber seemed like the way to go. It's thin and light and gives it a nice texture too. I also like the look.
- The instruction video is excellent. I pretty much nailed the alignment but the corners are a bit tricky. You only need about 2 seconds of low heat from a hair dryer to soften up the film (DO NOT overheat!). I suggest you use your entire palm to press down on the corner and then smooth it out with your finger. If you use only your finger it's harder to get a nice smooth looking corner.
- The adhesive seems very strong. I'm not too worried about it peeling. You can also remove it without leaving a residue. Once removed though it cannot be reapplied.
- It works great with the smart cover. The magnets feel just as strong as it did without the iCarbons.

- $12 on amazon.
- Finally, I wanted a sleeve to use when I travel with the iPad. I love the case logic sleeves that I use with the 13" MBP so I figure I'd just go with a similar one. It's not specifically designed for iPad but it fits pretty well if a tad on the roomy side.
- I like the small zipper pouch which is perfect for holding the hdmi, camera adapters, and the charger.

Just three years ago I was pretty much anti-apple with zero apple products. I was a die hard pc user. Now I have two iPhone 4's, two mac book pro's, and now an iPad 2. There are still a ton of things about Apple that I hate like: app approval process, walled garden - can't side load apps without jail breaking, no storage expansion, apple tax (though a tad less so with the iPad), battery replacement (btw it's $100 for the iPad), stupid flat out greedy subscription policy, etc. But man do they make some nice hardware. The apps are second to none not just in quantity but in quality. I think you would be hard pressed to find as many polished and just plain useful apps on any other platform. Add to that the incredible performance iPad 2 has even compared to the mighty Tegra 2. iOS is going to lead in gaming for the foreseeable future IMO.

I came into this not sure exactly how much use I would find in a tablet. In the end I've been pleasantly surprised. Most of the family is using it quite a bit on a daily basis (the wife still doesn't get it. I'm working on it....). I love using it for web browsing, catching up on news, reading a magazine, or maybe even a comic book (though I really don't read comics but it sure is nice on the iPad). For consuming content it's great and this new form factor really does change things up. Have I drank too much of the kool aid? Am I caught in a reality distortion field? Maybe just a tad. I like to think I still look at tech objectively with an open mind and give credit where credit is due without preconceived biases or prejudice. I think it comes down to do the merits of the products outweigh all the evil (and lets face it all big corporations are evil! :P). The iPad is just one really impressive experience. It's the total package. I haven't been this excited about a new toy in a LONG time (stares over at the Nintendo 3DS which I haven't touched much since the the first night I had it with two new unopened games).

Highly recommended.