The iPad Goes to Alaska


I have covered my usage of the iPad quite a bit as I find I use it more than I thought I would. One of the ways I use the iPad is with a portable keyboard for those times when it’s not necessary to bring a laptop but a need to write a lot presents itself. Fellow podcast buddy Matt Miller recently took a one day trip to Alaska, and since he had no need to bring a laptop he found the iPad with a keyboard to be the perfect solution.

I admit it’s a bit scary to see that Matt’s kit for the trip is exactly like my own kit for similar situations. He brought the iPad in the Apple (s aapl) case, a Stowaway Bluetooth folding keyboard and the Sprint (s s) Overdrive. He shot a video of the kit in action which is worth viewing if you wonder how useful such a rig can be. It’s impressive that while there was no Sprint 4G coverage in Ketchikan, Alaska, Matt found good 3G signal for getting his work done.

I suspect that some will chime in and say that having to carry three gadgets is too much work compared to bringing a 3G-enabled netbook. That outlook overlooks the fact that sometimes you don’t need a full laptop, so it’s important to understand that this kit can be used in a pinch. It’s got that 10+ hour battery life, too.

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I could not get my Stowaway Sierra to pair with my Ipad, it found the keyboard and presented the pairing ID to type on the keyboard but then no luck, any tips?

Brian Goodwin

Luscious is right….

When it comes to devices… KISS (Keep it Simple Stupid). Let’s not let our love of innovation and new gadgets delude us into thinking that the IPAD will prove productive for more than a few specialized applications (I have a different brand of MUCH faster tablet computer with GPS that I use for navigation software to fly a private plane…beat that for productive tablet use!). Nonetheless, tablet lover though I am….every owner I know of the IPAD has accomplished near zero productive WORK with it so far. Sure they have played games, read an Ebook, organized their cat’s Facebook page…..but about zero actual REAL work. It’s a fun toy but in a productivity challenge it gets crushed by netbooks in every objective measurement….for less money.


What that suggests is that the iPad owners you know have specific work that demands more computing power than the iPad provides, which says as much or more about the work they do as it does about the capabilities of the iPad. The definition of “real” work will be different for different users; I certainly have no problem using my iPad for real work.


^^^ Scott,

I’m in the netbook camp as I like to use USB keys and copy pics from camera to USB keys for backup. The iPad is lacking here for me.

Anyway, that’s beside the point. I have a question I’d like to ask – how do you find working on files and getting them on/off the iPad? I have used DropBox on my Touch and found that it works but is just, well, kludgy and awkward. I’m very surprised Apple didn’t set something elegant up to complement the iWorks apps. My company won’t let us install iTunes on work PCs so, when using my netbook, I can do work using USB keys. How would I do this on an iPad? Not a loaded question, I’m genuinely interested – if the Gen 2 version had a front-facing webcam I would be tempted to get one.

James Kendrick

I am using SugarSync to do that very thing. The iPad version of SS is integrated with iWork apps and other third party apps. Works well for me.


@thenikjones: I’ve just started using the iPad Dropbox app, and I find it to be a reasonably good solution so far, although to be fair all I’ve done with it is move PDF files into GoodReader. I wish that it preserved the filename in the transfer, instead of assigning a random string of digits, but that’s my only complaint.


@ G00BER,

Wow, that’s gotta be the craziest stuff I’ve read all week!

I don’t care how magical the iPad is, I still have no use for one.. sorry =)


More proof that you don’t need no stinking netbook/notebook computer most of the time.

Steve was right on this one like he is most of the time.

The iPad is truly magical. One million owners strong and growing. Demand still exceeds supply. Apple just gets mobile computing while the big PC makers seem to be suffering from fog-on-the-brain syndrome.

Also, don’t forget the unbelievable low price of the iPad.
Maybe one day soon there will only be two types of people, those that have an iPad and those that want one.


That’s not true. They’ve had some bombs. Most recently the MacBook Air and the AppleTV. What sets Steve Jobs apart from the rest is the ability to throw all the chips on the table and take a big risk. The bigger the risk the bigger the reward.

Hopefully HP’s big gamble pays of with Palm and we’ll see those that use iphone OS and those that use webOS. Like Miller and Bud or Coke and Pepsi. Choice is always nice.


Agreed. There will be Android tablets as well, of course, but it seems like everyone is making an Android tablet, which suggests that we’re setting up for another race-to-the-bottom situation where the only distinguishing characteristic is price. That’s a market no one wants to stay in for very long. (There are one or two genuinely innovative Android tablet designs, like the Adam, but I’m increasingly skeptical that they’ll ever come to market.) WebOS, on the other hand, could develop into a premium tablet that competes for high-end user experience with the iPad, and the resulting innovation will be good for everyone.


I love my iPad and try to use it for some of my work, but Luscious makes some very valid points regarding the setup featured in this article and mobility. I’m not so sure that an iPad is the best device for this type of work, especially if you need those additional devices just to do it.

Could you keep up in a 4th gen Prius racing in the Grand Prix? Maybe, but you’d have to modify the heck of out it. If competitive racing was your job, why would you go out and buy a Prius in the first place?


You can argue all you like that you don’t need a full laptop, but the fact that both of you guys are using external keyboards on the go seems to make it clear to me that a netbook would be the far more elegant solution to take.

Let me put that into perspective. You guys carry a smartphone around, the overdrive, the iPad AND your fold-up keyboard – that’s four devices! I can head out the door with just a two-device setup and run laps around both of you in productivity and up-time. I don’t need any case, don’t have junk in my pockets, I don’t lose any connectivity, I am not weighed down and yet can still have both hands free when I need to.

In it’s bare form the iPad seems so deficient that it MUST have accessories to perform and compete, yet the more gadgets you add, the more ridiculous your setups are beginning to look. You’re pushing the limit to the point that you lose focus – I’m betting the iPad, overdrive and keyboard together weigh the same, if not more, than a netbook? Take the trouble to weigh all that gear, and convince me it’s easier to carry three items than one?

When the emphasis is mobility, two devices beats four. When the emphasis is productivity, netbooks trump slates. Sure, it’s nice to talk about what the iPad “can” do when you add gear to it – just don’t forget to mention that there are more simple solutions out there that work better.


Netbook: 3 Pounds
iPad + Bluetooth keyboard + overdrive: 2.2 pounds

Not to mention that you don’t need the keyboard for many tasks, so you can take off 6 ounces of the 2.2 pounds when you don’t need it. And a 3G iPad gets rid of the need for the overdrive plus it saves 30 bucks a month.

And it’s not about number of devices. It’s about weight, volume, and flexibility.


Actually, netbooks sold today weight 2.6 lbs (Toshiba NB305 and HP 5102). While I haven’t weighed either the overdrive or separate keyboard, I would still rather carry one device with me than juggle three at the same time.

As for the iPad 3G, that costs how much? $629. Ouch!

I applaud your tenacity in arguing in favor of the device, but for many users the iPad simply falls short.


I’ve asked you this before, but I want to know: have you used an iPad first-hand?


There’s also the 60 dollars a month versus 30 dollars a month thing. You know. Just 720 dollars over a two year contract.

James Kendrick

Luscious — As I respond every time you make this claim– the iPad CAN be used with an external keyboard (a plus) but as the other commenter stated it works fine without one. The claim you make (repeatedly) that the iPad MUST have accessories to be productive is just plain wrong.

The Overdrive does not NEED to be carried, the iPad works on WiFi just fine. I carry mine, and I know Matt carries his, in case there is a 4G network available. This is getting more likely all the time, and since the Overdrive is tiny and weighs almost nothing it’s better to have it for those cases than to leave it at home.

I am not (once again) stating that your netbook setup is not good for you, it obviously is. I am also not stating (nor have I ever) that others would be better off with my iPad setup. I am stating for a fact that it’s nice to be able to be productive when just carrying the iPad along. I don’t always have a netbook/laptop with me, and it’s nice I can be productive when I do have the iPad with me. That’s all I’m saying, and all I have ever said.

It’s not about rigid requirements to be productive, it’s about the flexibility the iPad offers. An unexpected opportunity to get some work done can be handled just fine by the iPad. The ability to use it with other gadgets only makes it more flexible. That’s all I’m saying.


That’s fine James. But you gotta realize there’s more than one way to skin a cat. That’s all I’m saying.


Actually, Luscious, it’s not. What you’re saying is that your preferred way to skin this cat is inherently better than the one that James is demonstrating, and implying that anyone who chooses to perform the task this way is at best uninformed, if not actually stupid. And you make that argument every time there’s an iPad post. We get it. You don’t like the iPad. Can we move on, please?


I’ve been using the on screen keyboard and it works flawlessly. I rarely make a mistake and I don’t really look at the keyboard. I only wish you could re map the keyboard so more often used keys could be brought up as opposed to clicking the alternate keyboard all the time.

Like all things Apple you’ve got to love the instant on as opposed to pulling a Windows box out of hibernation.

Really all you need is a 3G iPad. Done.

Oh and “S” it is totally about the reducing the number and the weight. It’s about being able jump on in an instant and stop in an instant.

I used a mini10v running Snow Leopard and have to balance on my knee to type and hope I didn’t knock the broadband card out of place. Not something you could wip out and work and walk then put away. The iPad 3G is the new way of getting things done. The WiFi version is pointless not sure why Apple even offered separate option other than to make the starting price $499.

Pulling out a keyboard, firing up a MiFi on top of your computing device is not ultra portability. It’s masochism.


Just to be masochistic, I setup my broadband card & mini10v hackintosh as a hotspot to the iPad fired up maps and went for a drive. It stutters while attempting to do triangulation and it occasionally asked me to make a figure 8 motion to reset the compass. Not what I call convienient. If your getting an iPad get one with 3G. If your road tripping you could buy a month service then cancel, it’s well worth the extra $130.

Chris K

Generally, I carry a Mifi because it’s a better solution than draining the battery of my smartphone just to keep my netbook running. (I also don’t travel with a BT keyboard at the moment.)

As for the netbook vs. iPad argument, well, I’ve used both, and the iPad’s weaknesses, while obvious, are more than made up for by a few things:

Higher resolution screen.
Faster wake-up time. While a sleeping netbook wakes up quickly, and a hibernating netbook wakes up quickly enough (especially when you use an SSD,) they’re just a little shy of instant.
Better portability. I hate to admit it, but thin actually does matter. I can carry the iPad around far more easily than I can carry a netbook.
Keyboard. (This one’s a little loaded…) The EeePC keyboards SUCK in terms of layout. The iPad keyboard sucks in terms of tactile response, as it has NONE. It turns out that the layout matters more to me than the feedback, though, as I was able to touch-type on a landscape-mode iPad right away. This becomes even more significant when I can choose to carry an even better keyboard if I want. While I can do that with a netbook, I’m still carrying the built-in keyboard, so I’m now ADDING bulk for usability.

Sadly, most netbooks are little more than cheap laptops in every sense of the word. The ultra-portable market hasn’t had a high-quality product with decent ergonomics since the pricepoint dipped below $1500.

Mark Horgan

I agree with you. Having to setup devices in confined spaces is awkward and time consuming. When out I try and bring as few devices as possible and try and go for as much integration in my laptop as I can. For example I have a 500GB hard drive rather than carrying around a 2nd external hard drive. I don’t have integrated 3G, though tethering is probably less hassle than swapping a SIM card between devices.

Ben Brooks

Great kit, I have been using mine with a MiFi and no keyboard. I have found that I can get pretty good speed out of the on-screen keyboard. Enough speed that I don’t feel the need to carry an bluetooth keyboard with me.


I use almost the same kit except using the MiFi and the smaller Think Outside BT keyboard. This is a nice set up for on the road; which I am most of my work days, from place to place. The ability to use OneNote without having to boot up my Acer Ferarri is great, especially for small edits or creating simple list with OneNote. I am still thinking of getting the Sprint OverDrive even though here in California we don’t have 4G, but when available I can be ready. My MiFi 30 days is coming up so try g to decide.

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