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As the personal computing era draws closer and closer to an end, people are re-evaluating their computing needs and trying to get by with just a tablet. As a result, more and more are choosing to leave their personal computer behind in favor of what tablets like the iPad have to offer.
That does not mean that everything is perfect. There are still some challenges that could keep you going back to your old computer from time to time just to get things done. If you are looking to put off a computer upgrade a little longer, or leave your personal computer days behind you all together, then the following tips to get over some of those hurdles may be useful to you.
Browsing the internet
While the iPad may be considered a great way to surf the internet, there are still several sites that you simply cannot access. While the number of these sites is getting smaller and smaller, they are still out there. And if one of them happens to be a site that you go to regularly, then giving up your computer in favor of an iPad may not be an option.
Adobe Flash support – Among the most notable of sites that are iPad challenged are those that still rely onAdobe Flash. Keep in mind that with Flash, there is more to consider than just video. There are a growing number of ‘virtual’ browsers in the app store that can access sites that require the Flash plugin. Photon Flash Player for iPad ($4.99 iPad), VirtualBrowser for Firefox ($5.99 iPad) and Puffin Web Browser ($2.99 Universal) are a few such examples. Each of these products will connect your iPad to a browser in the cloud that is capable of running Flash sites. While by no means a perfect solution, it does work in a pinch, provided you have access to a fast enough internet connection.
Mobile-only sites – While not technically a limitation of the iPad, some sites go so far as to treat the iPad as a mobile device and present an alternate, often times lesser experience to mobile Safari. You may be able to turn this off by viewing the “full site” instead of the mobile site, but not all sites offer this switch. Neither Apple’s mobile Safari web browser, nor Google’s own Chrome browser for iOS, allow users to change what is known as their user-agent setting. Alternate browsers like Mercury (Free Universal), iCab ($1.99 Universal) andAtomic ($1.99 Universal) do allow users to change their user-agent setting. This is the piece of information that is sent to a website indicating the device type and browser being used by the user. By telling the website that you are a desktop computer rather than a mobile device, you can sometimes gain access to all of the features and functionality lacking in the mobile version of the site.
Managing your entire photo library is still much easier when using a personal computer. If your primary or only device is the iPad, then you have to be a little more decisive on where and for how long you want to keep your photos.
Offloading photos – To offload photos from your digital cameras — assuming you still use a digital camera — to your iPad you can use Apple’s iPad Camera Connection Kit ($29.00 Apple Store) for older devices that still have a 30-pin connector, or either the Lightning to USB Camera Adapter ($29 Apple Store) or the Lightning to SD Card Camera Reader ($29 Apple Store) for newer devices. Newer cameras like the Canon S110 and the SX280 even support Wi-Fi access directly to devices like the iPad. With each of these options, the goal is to get your digital photos into the Camera Roll so you can manage them from your iPad.
Printing photos – One way to offload your photos from your iPad is to go old school and keep them in photo albums. If you prefer to pick you photos up personally you can send your selected prints to Walgreens (FreeiPad), CVS (Free iPad), or one of the many affiliates associated with LifePics (Free Universal). Otherwise you can have your printed photos shipped to you directly by using online services like Shutterfly (Free iPad),Snapfish (Free Universal), or PostalPix (Free iPhone). From $0.15 to about $0.35 per 4×6 print, each of these photo processing services have an app that the iPad can use to select and order prints just as easy if not easier than from your computer.
Long-term file storage
Let’s face it: at 128GB, even the top-of-the-line iPad is still just a glorified USB memory stick when it comes to the amount of storage it has. Many entry-level laptops are having similar storage limitations by utilizing smaller, but faster solid-state drives. So looking for external storage that accessible over the network is becoming more and more common.
Traditional cloud-based storage – One of the great new features that cloud-based storage products have all started offering is the ability to automatically offload your photos from your iOS device into their storage service. DropBox, Amazon Cloud Drive and Google+ all offer such features. The problem is that this eats into your total free space. With an average of not much more than 16GB of free storage to start off with, prices between $0.05 and $0.10 per gigabyte per month for additional online storage can get expensive when you start talking in terabytes not gigabytes. One terabyte of online storage can cost you anywhere from $600 to $1,000 per year. Owning a one-terabyte hard drive outright costs you one-tenth that amount.
Personal cloud-based storage – The more cost-effective alternative is to create a cloud-based storage solution at home. The makers of Drobo have created a home based network storage product called Transporter that can be accessed over the internet. With it you can add a hard drive to your home network and access your files on your iPad from virtually anywhere. Other personal cloud storage products like the Western Digital My Cloud, LaCie CloudBox, D-Link ShareCenter, Seagate Central and Polkast on ZyXEL also exist and offer similar features. This can help drive your storage costs down to a onetime price of just $0.03 to $0.08 per gigabyte. Once in place you can transfer all of your files off of your personal computer and start accessing them remotely.
Accessing and viewing files
Each of the traditional and personal cloud storage options above do have apps that allow the iPad to access files stored on your home network or remotely over the internet. There are other options, however, that can bring a combination of services into view from a single app’s perspective.
File managers – One of my go-to apps when it comes to file access has always been GoodReader ($4.99 iPad). With it I can view files from a variety of different online storage products, transfer files from one place to another, upload and download files to and from my device. Other alternatives like Documents by Readdle (Free Universal) and iFiles ($3.99 Universal) also exist. All three are very capable at accessing and managing your files and any one them will become a necessary utility as you leave your personal computing days behind you.
Personal media library – In addition to photos, Amazon, Google and Apple all have products in place to store your personally owned media library online. If you would rather store and access your media library from your home-based cloud system, you can. nPlayer ($4.99 Universal) has become one of the better apps for accessing media files over your home network. With it you can choose which media file or files from your personal library you want to download and playback when you are not attached to the network.