INDY: My Techno Bling

by Lorien E. Menhennett

ipad 2Back in January of this year, I wrote a post about things I was looking forward to in 2011. One of those things was an iPad 2. Had my circumstances (i.e., my marriage and living situation) not changed, perhaps I would have pre-ordered one as I suggested in that post. But things did change, in many ways, including financially. So throwing down $1,000 (or so, plus $25/month for a data plan) seemed impossible.

However, as I was wrapping my dad’s gift on Christmas Eve morning, suddenly I began channeling his “if-you-want-it-get-it” attitude. (It didn’t help that a good friend had just bought a new MacBook Pro, and we had only a few days ago been discussing our desire for iPads as well.) I put Dad’s gift down, hopped on my own MacBook Pro, and went to the store. I briefly – only briefly – considered having my iPad 2 to-be shipped to me, but then realized that I desperately wanted it then and there. So I reserved it for in-store pick-up. (And yes, I actually went to the Apple store on Christmas Eve. It was not nearly as bad as I expected, especially since I was only there to pick up, and set up, my new device.)

Because it is my family’s tradition to open our gifts on Christmas Eve, I had little time to play with my new (and very expensive) toy that day, other than to import some of my iPhone apps. One of “Santa’s” gifts to me happened to be a $50 iTunes store gift card, which definitely came in handy the next day – Christmas morning – as I researched, imported, and downloaded more apps for both work and play. (One of those apps – BE Write HD – I am using to write this very blog post!)

INDYSo, my dear bloggers, meet INDY: my iPad 2. INDY is a reference to a gene in Drosophila melanogaster (the fruit fly, about whom I have written much), which, when mutated, makes a fly live twice as long. I’m definitely hoping my iPad’s “genes” are good! (But I did buy AppleCare just in case.) The gene is called “INDY” in reference to a line from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” in which a person who is being taken to be buried yells out, “I‘m not dead yet!” (See the movie still on this page.) The name is a perfect confluence of my interests: words (and more specifically, acronyms), British humor, genetics, mutations, and Drosophila. I think it’s just darn cute, too.

While the device itself is also quite cute, it is also quite functional, given that there are literally hundreds of thousands of apps available to download. Those apps basically enable this little tablet to do much (though not all) of what a laptop can do, for much less than you’d pay for computer software. The most expensive app I bought (QuickOffice, $14.99) allows you to create and edit Word, Excel, and Powerpoint files. Compare that to $119.99 for Microsoft Office. I also bought a PDF reader app (iAnnotate, $9.99) which allows you to do many of the things that Adobe’s professional program does. This will save me on printing, because I can use my PubMed or Nature Reader apps to look up research articles, download them to my iPad, and then highlight, draw, or take notes on them. Pretty sweet. These apps will also come in handy for school, of course. As will my favorite flashcards app (flashcards++, $3.99), which lets me import flashcards that I’ve made online (I use and test myself with my iPad or iPhone. I’ve been using them on my iPhone, but many of the flashcards I’ve made have graphics or diagrams that are hard to see on the small screen. Having an iPad will make it easier to study, clearly!

Along with reading PDFs, I can also read magazines and books on my iPad. I’ve already downloaded a book I’ve had my eye on for some time – “Nature’s Robots: A History of Proteins” – through Amazon’s Kindle app (which also works on the iPad).

Then there are games. And more games. Many of them will run you only a buck or two, although I shelled out a whopping $4.99 for Riven, the sequel to the game Myst I played on my Mac desktop as a kid. (Again, compare to the list price of $29.99.) I’m also currently addicted to Bejewled ($0.99), which has a Tetris-like feel to it. I think that’s the most use I’ve gotten from a single dollar in a LOOONG time.

I’ve only scratched the surface of the apps and features available on the iPad. This is going to be fun …