- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Two weeks in with the iPad 2 from Apple Inc., and I’m still quite happy. And you, if you didn’t order early, might be out of luck still, since delays are reportedly still with us. (Earlier this week, some 500 Radio Shack stores, reportedly, got some to sell.)

The shortages, aggravated by parts problems after Japan’s March 11 earthquake and tsunami, may be with us for a while. But the iPad 2 is worth the wait. Buying a good, used original iPad isn’t a bad alternative, either.

Once you’ve been “tabletized,” what else should you do? Well, getting applications is always a good thing, and many of these are either free or very low-cost. There’s even a book for that.

“Best iPad Apps: The Guide for Discriminating Downloaders,” by Peter Meyers (O’Reilly Media, $21.99) is a good introduction and overview of the field. In its 234 pages, plus a six-page index, you’ll find recommendations, solid ones, for work-related apps, games, stuff for musicians, designers and so forth. In many categories, runners-up and honorable mentions are awarded.

Now, any book of reviews, which, essentially, Mr. Meyers‘ book is, must, by necessity, be a subjective one. I happen to find that most of his suggestions are ones I would endorse, and, thanks in part to his work, I found a few programs that were quite indispensable. For example, public speakers will enjoy Teleprompt+, which turns the iPad’s screen into a teleprompter. Text scrolls quite nicely, and you can vary the speed and other effects. At $9.99, it costs far less than the professional models often seen in Washington.

And that’s the big plus of this book. Mr. Meyers has done a lot of research, and his topic list is comprehensive — the aforementioned work and play, music and design, plus shopping, science, travel, education, kid’s programs, maps and still more. The book is highly readable and highly necessary.

Of course, other things will come in handy as well for the new iPad. I’m waiting for a good screen protector, the plastic film that covers the screen to keep out dust, dirt and fingerprints. Yes, the Smart Cover from Apple helps loads, but a totally unscratched and unmarred screen is important — especially when you’re ready to sell your iPad 2 in order to afford iPad 3 more easily. One maker has promised a sample, and you’ll read my test results here.

The “TimeCommand,” a $99 bedside clock-and-dock for the iPad and iPhone from Stem Innovation of Florida, is an interesting idea: Dock your iPad to take advantage of both recharging as well as music playing and morning wakeup. Use AA batteries as a backup to make sure you’re up with the early risers, and you’re (supposedly) good to go. You can even connect a bedside lamp to the device’s electrical cord and wake up to light in the morning.

In very limited testing so far, I like the concept, but implementation is a bit tricky. The dock connection itself is mounted on a spring-backed hinge-like piece that requires a bit of dexterity to master. Along with scratches to an iPad or iPhone possible, the frustration level here could be high. I’m not giving up yet, but it’s an inauspicious start.

What I’m hoping to see more of is devices such as the TimeConnect, but perhaps with a regular FM radio built in. I’d like to charge my tablet computer overnight but also wake up to WTOP-FM, not something from my iTunes library.

The good news, in my opinion, is that such devices and other innovations are coming, with the pace bound to accelerate. ZeroChroma, a firm in Sykesville, Md. (www.zerochroma.com) is promising an iPad 2 case that will double as a stand, with the easel part rotating for portrait or landscape display. If that product works as well as the firm’s iPhone 4 case ($44.95), it’ll be worth the price.

One thing about great tech products, in my view, is that they spur innovative products from other makers. I believe the jury is in on that matter when it comes to the iPad: There’s innovation a-plenty.

Email mkellner@washingtontimes.com