May 07, 2010
Windows XP on an iPad? I declare!
What you're seeing in the picture to the right is lots of folks' worst nightmare: Windows XP on an iPad. The real thing and fully functional. How is this possible? With a VNC client (I use VNC Viewer). The iPad is not really running Windows XP, of course; it's just running a piece of software that lets you view, control and use Macs, Linux boxes and, yes, PCs.
What is VNC all about and what can you do with it? Well, VNC stands for "Virtual Network Computing." The technology goes way back and was initially developed at the Olivetti Research Laboratory in the UK. It is now administered by a company by the name of RealVNC. In essence, by running a VNC server on a platform and a VNC client on another, the client (in this case my iPad with a VNC app) can remotely control and use any server.
With VNC on my iPad I can connect into any of the Macs, PCs and Linux computers in my home or office and use them. All I have to do is connect to their IP address, type in a password, and the screen appears. I can operate Windows XP on my Acer netbook, use Fedora 10 on my Linux box, and connect to my iMac27. So if I am lounging in my favorite easy chair and feel like checking my mail in my main iMac Mail account from my iPad, I can. If I want to play a quick game of Shisen-Sho on my Linux box from my iPad, I can. And if I want to do some stuff on my Acer netbook, I can. Oh, and if I really need to check a website that insists on Flash, I can. That's because with VNC, I see on my iPad exactly what the server computer does, including Flash.
How well does VNC work? That depends on your expectations. Since you're viewing another machine through the iPad's 1024 x 768 pixel screen, you have to pan around or zoom in to work with a server that has much higher resolution, like my iMac27's 2560 x 1440 pixel. And moving the cursor around also takes some getting used to. But it all works, not just certain programs. The wireless connection is fast enough to browse and do some real work. It's not blindingly fast, of course, so if you run video, the video, depending on the resolution, runs slow. It does run, though, even 1080p, albeit more like a slide show.
Does this only work within your own network, or over the Internet? It does work over the Internet, but it requires some extra configuring of your router and perhaps the firewall of your computer. It's not magic at all, you just set up a virtual server port on your access point as you would for a myriad of popular online games. If you do that, you then can use your iPad to access and control your Mac, PC or Linux box from anywhere in the world.
This is something that's really much more than a technology demonstration. If there's stuff you need to do on other computers, you can do it through your iPad no matter where you are. You can set up connections for multiple computers, so connecting to one is just a click away. Once connected, you can bring up the iPad keyboard anytime, and there's even a way to do left and right mouse clicks and scrolling within apps. The VNC Viewer for iPad costs US$9.99, a total bargain.
May 04, 2010
Magazine publishing on the iPad
I spent some time comparing different approaches to magazine publishing on the iPad. Given the amount of hype about the iPad being the savior of publishing, I am surprised there is not an iMagazine app or some such. I mean, Apple could take the lead here yet again, creating the iTunes of the magazine world.
As is, everyone's doing their own thing, with Zinio, of course, having the lead with its hundreds of electronic titles. Problem is, they're not doing a thing different for the iPad. The PDF versions are faithful 1:1 equivalents of the print mags and it all works well, though a slight lag until each new page snaps into focus is annoying. And I am NOT willing to fill out long, cumbersome forms with address and credit card info to subscribe to a mag when it should all be 1-click.
Time Magazine rolls their own, for now at the absurdly high price of $4.95 per issue. Their approach is sort of a hybrid between PDF and web design and totally new stuff. It's very innovative, but takes some time getting used to. On the other hand, there really is no need to simply transform print to screen, even if it's print retrofitted with electronic stuff (links, video, forms, etc.).
So Time is experimenting. Pictures that may be tiny in a magazine due to space constraints can be large, with text below it and you need to scroll down. When you zoom in to make text readable, pictures don't necessarily zoom with it; they don't need to. And how cool is it to have a full-page portrait of Lady Gaga or Bill Clinton and when you rotate to landscape, it becomes flawless high-definition video and they speak to you.
The iPad brings us another step closer to electronic publishing, a big one. But for now, no one is taking the definite lead. With the iBooks app and iBook store still a million miles behind Amazon, Apple probably has its hands full with filling in the many blanks, and an iMag app and store may not come to pass anytime soon, or ever. So Zinio and others have a window of opportunity, but it'll take more than selling individual mags for US$4.95 (Time) or making people put up with lag and an antediluvian 20th century style signup (Zinio).