On the Topic of Technology…

4 05 2010

May 4, 2010

(Forward to the Next Post in the Series)

Today’s post seems slightly off topic from previous posts, but maybe there is a hidden message.

I have in my basement an ancient Commodore Amiga 1000 computer which first hit the market in 1985.  At the time of its initial release the computer offered an earth shattering feature set: 7.14MHz Motorola 65000 CPU, 4096 colors, stereo sound, speech synthesis, and preemptive multitasking.  It’s true that the computer is rather tame by comparison with current computers, 25 years after the initial introduction of the Amiga 1000.  Before Commodore’s eventual demise, I was very much a fan of their product line.

So, why bring up ancient history about a 25 year old computer from a long ago defunct computer company?  This past Saturday I stopped into one of the electronic stores on my way home from an OakTable planning meeting, with the intention of buying one of the Apple iPad devices.  From a personal finance position, I planned to consider the purchase as an educational expenditure, not much different from the justification that I use to spend a portion of my income on various books and magazines.  Let’s see… $500 USD for a unit with 16GB or $700 USD for a unit with 64GB – I figured that I would probably need to buy the $700 unit if I planned to do anything useful with the device since it cannot be upgraded at a later time.  An expensive learning exercise, no doubt, but I already have a dozen or so newspaper, magazine, and Internet articles sitting on my desk at work about the iPad, most of which have been brought to me by others in the company who were curious about the iPad.

Back to the story – as I was walking toward the iPads in the electronics store I walked past 8 netbooks that were running Windows 7 Starter Edition.  The most expensive netbook offered a 1.66GHz Intel Atom processor (with hyperthreading support), 1GB of memory, 250GB hard drive, 10.2 inch LCD, an 11 hour battery, built-in web camera, and weighed 2.5 pounds – for $400 USD (I later determined that the same netbook is available online for $360).  I found that it was interesting that the netbook was able to cold boot in about 35 seconds, and resume from sleep mode in about 2 seconds.  After a couple of minutes experimenting with the netbooks I wandered over to the Apple display.  On the way I started wondering what I would do with the iPad, since I own a decent 3 year old laptop with a high-resolution 17 inch LCD.  I found one of the unoccupied iPads at the Apple display counter and started experimenting with it.

Wow, neat visual effects, jumping from the main screen into the mapping application.  OK, now how do I switch back to the main screen and pull up a web browser?  The iPad does not offer multitasking, even though that 25 year old Amiga 1000 computer sitting in my basement does?  True, but I knew that before entering the store.  After hopelessly pressing on the screen to find the hidden “close” button for the mapping application, I found a button on the frame that surrounded the screen – surprisingly, that button closed the mapping application.  Interesting, apparently no button on the main screen to open a web browser (the feature was probably disabled on the display unit), but there is a button for YouTube.  Wow, neat visual effects when pointing at YouTube.  What should I search for?  How about “Oracle”.  I brought up the onscreen keyboard, set the unit down on the display counter so that I could effectively type on the screen, and found that this motion caused the screen to rotate 90 degrees.  Neat visual effect… it was about this time that I noticed that the iPad screen was also roughly 10 inches measured diagonally, much like those netbooks that I passed on the way over to the Apple display.

The iPad played the selected YouTube video without problem, and did I mention the neat visual effects.  I started thinking again about how I would use the iPad.  I could use it to watch videos, as long as the videos were not Flash based.  My broadband connection has either a 5GB or 6GB monthly maximum transfer limit as it is provided by a cell phone company, of course I could easily hit that limit if the iPad was only used to watch videos.  All I have to do is plug the USB modem into the USB port on the iPAD… of course I mean plug the USB modem into the CradlePoint wireless router – there are no USB ports on the iPad.  I could use it for viewing the Oracle documentation, assuming that the Adobe’s Acrobat Reader format is not banned from the iPad.  While I don’t think that it will ever be possible to run a copy of Oracle Database on an iPad, I could use it to look up information on Metalink (My Oracle Support)… on second thought, who made the decision to build the new Metalink site using Flash – didn’t that person consult Steve Jobs?  I started to wonder again why I was planning to buy one of these iPads – for my purposes the only thing that it really had going for it was the neat visual effects, the mapping application, and the semi-portability (I have to drag along the CradlePoint router and external antenna).

I wandered back over to the netbooks.  Let’s see, these miniature sized computers offer four times as much storage space as the most expensive iPad, check; 66% faster CPU than the most expensive iPad, check; keyboard does not rotate 90 degrees when placed on the table, check; same screen size as the iPad, check; same weight as the iPad, check; multiple (3) USB ports, check; no fingerprints on the screen/case, check; 11 hour battery life, check; built-in web cam (probably coming to the iPads in December), check; able to visit the Flash enabled My Oracle Support site, check; able to run most of the software that I own, check; most expensive unit is $100 cheaper than the least expensive iPad, check; able to watch most video formats, with the notable exception of MPEG2 (as recorded by a Tivo), check; able to multitask just like the 25 year old Amiga, check; able to run Oracle Database – certainly that can’t be possible on a netbook, right?

So, I walked out of the store with a bag in hand, mission accomplished.  That certainly is a strange looking iPad – how did Apple manage to sell a million of them in a month?  Forward progress still means moving forward, right?

Using 40% of the 1GB of memory, just sitting idle.

I thought about installing Oracle on the little device, but as you can see, the books were just too heavy.

It is far too small, too limited of a device to support Oracle Database 11g R2.

Definitely, the hard copies are far too heavy.

This blog article is not intended to imply that the technology of the iPad is behind that of the 25 year old Commodore Amiga due to the iPad’s lack of multitasking.  This blog article is not intended to insult the owners of the 1 million iPads that were sold in the last month, even those that ended up in a blender or were smashed on the concrete as demonstrations of the rugged design of the iPads.  This blog article is not intended to point out how limited an iPad might be to someone wanting to perform serious work on the iPad – if you consider navigating the Flash enabled My Oracle Support site serious work.  No, this blog article is intended to point out that it is hard to install Oracle Database on a device without a physical keyboard.  See, the blog article was on topic after all.  🙂

I think that humor somehow found its way into this blog article.  I wonder if this article about the iPad will end up on my desk with the other assorted iPad articles?