Monday, May 31, 2010

My iPad is awesome

Usually when writing a blog post I try to come up with a witty pun on words to use as the title; sometimes they're funny, sometimes they're smutty, sometimes they're rubbish. But for this post I've decided to go with something that is simple and effective - because my iPad IS awesome.

I've been foaming at the mouth with desire for an iPad since they were first announced back in January, and just when I thought I was days away from getting my hands on one in April I then had to endure another month of buttock-clenching anticipation because of unexpectedly high demand for them in the U.S. (damn you yankees!).

But then, finally, on May 10th I was at last able to pre-order my iPad. I was a happy bunny, although the days between pre-ordering and actually getting it were quite frankly among the longest of my life … although maybe not quite as long as I'd initially thought they would be…

Y'see, last Wednesday I just happened to click the 'Track your order' button on the Apple website and it said that my order would be delivered on the 27th. Yes, the 27th, just as I'd been tol- Wait a sec! The 27th?! That's the day before the UK iPad launch! I almost EXPLODED with excitement, and subsequently went to bed very early in anticipation (it felt like Christmas Eve).

So on the 27th I got up early, raced into work, and sat at my desk pretending to be busy all the while keeping a beady eye fixed firmly down the stairs at the front door. And that's how I remained for about four hours. At one I headed out to lunch, walking through the backstreets of Hammersmith with said beady eye now on the lookout for the UPS delivery van.

I returned to the office an hour later: NOTHING.

I harumphed, and got back to work (ish). And then I heard the front door open: it was a man in brown. I raced downstairs, looked at the UPS guy and shouted "YOU'RE MY HERO!" (I'm not writing that for comic effect, I seriously did). He was obviously used to such insanity on this day and replied "yeah, I've heard that a lot today!" I almost hugged him. I almost gave him a KitKat, and lord knows I do not part with my KitKats easily.

The iPad arrives! (the envelope on top is a separate package containing the iPad case I also ordered)

I'd already made the decision that, as you need to connect your iPad to your iTunes to zip all your goodies across (music, video, apps, etc), I wasn't actually going to get it out in the office. Also, it would've been a massive distraction and I was WELL busy. And I didn't want all my colleagues getting their grubby finger marks all over it.

I did, however, tease myself because I'm naughty.


The excitement at having received my iPad the day before its actual launch was bittersweet, however, as while I would've loved to have shot home at warp speed to start playing with it, I actually had a prior engagement that evening - a family outing to see John Mayer in concert at Wembley Arena.

And so I boxed iPad up and headed off to meet the fam.


An aside:

John Mayer was very good.

The things that man can do with a guitar. Let's just say that Jessica Simpson and Jennifer Anniston are VERY lucky ladies.

Anyway, after dropping Sparky Ma and Pa home at quarter past midnight, I headed home. And while any sane man would've popped straight off to bed, I decided that I would CRACK OPEN MY iPAD!

Quite frankly because it would've been rude not to. And, of course, I even took the time to document it!

Notice how I framed this image to look a bit like the obelisk from 2001: A Space Odyssey (unintentionally).

I *heart* Apple packaging - it's so minimalistic and devoid of bulky stuff you've then got to throw out.

FINALLY - IT'S WITHIN MY GRASP! The iPad actually appears a bit smaller than you'd imagine it to be, but that's not a complaint - it feels so very right in your hand.

How perfect, minimalist, and so utterly right does the design of this thing look? It truly is like something off of Star Trek.

Zipping my stuff over. Within 15 minutes of getting it out of the box I'd popped some movies, music, photos, and apps (all the ones I'd listed in my earlier post) on my iPad. All my contacts, calendars, notes and settings synced seamlessly too.

Just for completists sake, here's the box for the case.

While I don't use a case for my iPhone now, I did think it was wise to use some form of protection for my iPad. I went with Apple's own case because I liked the design of it, and I figured they'd know better than anyone what's best for the gadget they created.

Some people have dismissed the iPad as being nothing more than an oversized iPod Touch, but I can say this: they clearly haven't used one. Yes, it uses Apple's iPhone OS, but it's so much more than just a bigger version of the iPhone/iPod Touch. I literally lost four hours to surfing the internet on it on Friday evening; websites I've been reading for years suddenly seemed new and exciting again as my fingers - not just one finger like I'd use on my iPhone - but all my fingers danced across that beautiful vibrant screen, hitting links, starting videos, zooming in on pictures - and the iPad kept up with the incredible pace of my discoveries, loading pages every bit as quickly as my iMac does.

The onscreen keyboard that pops up when you want to enter text is just brilliant, my initial hesitancy in tapping out words quickly giving way to touch-typing just as quickly and efficiently (for me, anyway) as I would if I were using a regular keyboard. Seriously, how long before Apple introduce a multitouch keyboard, or at the very least an app that lets me use my iPad as one?

Oh, and apps … lovely apps. I'm currently obsessed by this:

And, of course, all my existing iPhone apps work on the iPad too, either in an iPhone-sized window in the middle of the screen, or by using the double-pixel option that boosts them up to fill all the available space; admittedly when using this option they're not quite as gorgeous to look at as an iPad-specific app, but they're still perfectly usable.

I'll also be using my iPad to read my very first eBook (or as Apple call it, iBook) at some point, having downloaded my complimentary copy of Winnie-the-Pooh.

To sum up, then, I'm amazed by this device. Since I got it I've barely turned on my iMac (seriously, any comments I've left on blogs, Facebook, or Twitter over the last few days have all been done on my iPad), and I love that I can sit curled up on the sofa or in bed and reply to emails, surf the net, or play games.

But there is one slight downside…

…my iPhone feels *really* tiny and just a little bit clunky now.

Friday, May 21, 2010

A spooky coinky-dink

I've had Clubbie for the best part of 14 months now, give or take a few days and two weeks when it was in Mini hospital. If you ask me which of the three Minis I've owned is my favourite, 99 percent of the time I'll say Clubbie; it's a distinctive-looking little motor, every bit as enjoyable to own and drive as my previous ones, economical, and *gasp!* reasonably practical for a young chap around town such as myself.

The other one percent is reserved for my two previous Minis because they were awesome cars and I loved them to bits.

Giving up my Cooper S (known affectionately as 'Min' in real life, and often referred to as the Sparky Mobile here) last year was little bit tough, truth be told, although the feeling passed as soon as I sat in Clubbie for the first time as its owner. I'd promised myself that I wouldn't watch the guy who brought Clubbie down from Cheshire drive off up the road on his way back to the Midlands with my Cooper S, but I totally did. I'd had the car over five years - longer than any other car I've owned - and I was sad to see it go after so many years of faithful service.

I consoled myself by saying that because it was heading up north I'd likely never see it again.

And then yesterday morning I got the following text from Sparky Ma:

Number plate photoshopped out to protect the innocent, obviously.

I read it about three times before replying simply "yes!"

"It's parked in Tesco's car park," Sparky Ma fired back.

I was stunned. Surely this couldn't be true? A car I sold over a year ago to a dealership in Cheshire ending up not five minutes away from the very house where it used to live? Sparky Ma must've misread the number plate or something.

And then she sent me this.

And there was no denying it. It was my last car. Apparently it's the automotive equivalent of a homing pigeon.

The artist formerly known as the Sparky Mobile on November 14th, 2003 - the day I took delivery of it.

Seeing it again came as something of a shock. I was always surprised that I'd never seen my first Mini again after trading it in as I had, after all, just taken it back to the local dealer where I'd bought it in the first place. But no, not a hide nor hair in the seven years since I bid it adieu. Here, though, was a car I'd sold to a dealership almost 200 miles away. I couldn't stop staring at the photo, and I'm not ashamed to say that I felt a little bit wistful at the sight of it; not because I regret buying Clubbie - not at all! - but because this was my car; it was built to my spec, I paid for it, I looked forward to owning it from the day I put the deposit down in September 2003 and I loved it right up until the moment I traded it in for Clubbie in 2009. I still have a special place for it in my heart … and here it is again, but now it belongs to somebody else.

Do they treat it well, I wondered? Do they love owning it as much as I did? It looks clean and shiny - that's an indication that they look after it, right? Sparky Ma said that if she hadn't been in a rush she would've hung around for a while to see if she could meet the new owner. I would've loved that. I was content with the idea of never seeing it again, but now I know it's around I want to find out what it's been up to over the last year.

I might start hanging around Tesco's car park in the hope that I can recreate this photo from the day I headed to Cheshire to test drive Clubbie last year.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Oh, joy

Don't roll your eyes in disgust when I say this, but I'm going to talk about cars, OK? I said don't roll your eyes; especially not across the floor towards me - you know how that freaks me out. Put them back in and pay attention.

So yes, I'm going to talk about cars (I will, of course, do it in my usual wry style; failing that I'll pop a cock joke in at the end).

It all started when I was driving to work in Clubbie when a little red light flashed on to indicate that it needed a service. It proceeded to come on every day for the next five days I Immediately leapt into action and called the dealer to book it in, and was told they could do it two days later. Because I need to get to work, though, I said I would need a courtesy car. I was then told they could do it about four weeks later.


I was then told that my courtesy car would be a BMW 1-Series, a car I've always wanted to drive because quite frankly it's the next logical step if I ever feel I outgrow Minis.

And then, thinking about how I'd like to drive a 1-Series round for the entire day rather than just to and from work, I decided to take the day off, thus negating the actual need for a courtesy car to enable me to get to work.

Welcome to my brain.

Anyway, today comes (obviously) and I'm so excited that I get up really early, have a cup of tea, and shoot over to the dealers ASAP to get Clubbie in quickly and head off for some fun in the 1. The handover goes very quickly, and the guy says to me "your courtesy car is parked round the side of the building."

"Great!" I say, snatching the key off him and legging it out the door. Of course, being a BMW it doesn't actually have a key - rather a little plastic thing that looks like a spaceship that you need to dock with a slot in the dash. Basically just another excuse for me make spaceship noises as I fly it into an imaginary spacedock, then. And, of course, being well-versed with this keyless business now, there would obviously be no repeat of the embarrassing "how do you start the car?" incident from when I had a 5-Series a few years back.

So I head outside, round the corner and there - oh, (in finest Cockney-rhyming slang terms) you are having a giraffe.

Now, I've never driven a billboard before, especially one emblazoned with the word JOY in a rather uninspiring looking typeface, but while I momentarily thought about stepping back into the dealership and hoofing the key-thingy back at the chap who gave it to me while shouting "I WILL NOT DRIVE ANY FORM OF PROPAGANDA REGARDLESS OF HOW GOOD THE CAR IS OR HOW VERY MUCH I WANT TO DRIVE IT AND ENJOY IT!" the thought of then having to phone Sparky Ma and saying "I'm stranded in West Drayton, could you come and get me please?" meant that I just sucked it up, looked past the stickers, and got in the car.

The first thing that struck me was that the previous driver must've been a T-Rex or something, because the chair was all the way back and the steering wheel was right in my face. After sorting that out, I very gingerly set out.

Within a few minutes I felt very much at home in the 1-Series. One of the displays was identical to that found in Minis, which meant I understood exactly how little petrol they'd given me (14 miles worth - I could spit more), and while it was the least powerful engine in the range (a 1.6) it was pokey enough and actually quite rapid. Compared to the VW Golf I had last year when Clubbie was off the road, I'd actually say (in contrast to many of the car magazines that I've read) that I preferred the 1. Now admittedly it wasn't as big as the Golf - I'd actually say it was really no more spacious than Clubbie inside - and it had a curiously small glovebox and oddly-shaped rear doors, but the way it pootled around town was more involving and, well, fun. It also had very comfortable seats, with had the added bonus of a strange extendible thigh-supporting thingy - a bit like an automotive lazy-boy, I guess, but without the potential for flinging your legs in the air while you're doing 70mph on the M4.

Note strange extendible thigh-supporting thingy at the forward edge of the driver's seat; the passenger side one is RETRACTED. While I was playing around with it (while the car was parked, I hasten to add) I set it to its maximum reach, which pretty much lifted my feet clear of the pedals.

But while I thoroughly enjoyed the 1-Series, it only reinforced once more why I like Minis so much. For a car that's roughly the same size, around the same price, and with a similarly powerful engine as Clubbie, the 1 was remarkably different in character. Driving a Mini is a bit like having an enthusiastic terrier on the end of a lead - it's characterful, always darting about, and making you smile; you change gear quickly and often - like it's shouting "THIRD, NO WAIT, FOURTH, C'MON CHANGE!" The 1 felt more chilled out; I'd hit about 45mph on the motorway and it felt like some business dude in a suit kicking back and loosening his tie - "yeah, what, like, sixth gear? Yeah sixth, why not?"

So at the end of the day I was more than happy to have Clubbie back, clean, shiny, and fully serviced. They even added a bit of that stuff that makes your tyres look showroom fresh (or greasy, depending on your point of view).

And to top it all off, I finally got round to buying the new BMW iPhone cable that charges my iPhone 3GS while I drive. HAPPY. DAYS. INDEED.

Post over, and no cock jokes. I shall let you insert your own.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Mini me, you complete me

So it's that day. Well, actually it's rather late on that day because I got caught up doing other things earlier such as going to yoga, hoovering, taking a long relaxing soak in the tu-

Sorry, I digress.

Where was I? Ah, yes: it's that day - the day I crown the victor of THE OFFICIAL SPARKY TIM CUT OUT 'N KEEP ACTIONLESS FIGURE competition.

Let's not fanny about then, and crack on with the entries, eh?

Princess was first out of the starting gates with an adventure set in a jungle, and concluding with me chillaxing between satin sheets in a giant bed pondering what my next epic jaunt would be. Princess dressed this particular OFFICIAL SPARKY TIM CUT OUT 'N KEEP ACTIONLESS FIGURE in a mix of pink and yellow which, while retina-searingly vibrant and perfect for a walk-on spot in Sex and the City 2 (I'll give those leathery old hags a run for their money, just you watch me!), probably isn't the the most practical attire for a jungle hike.

BONUS POINTS: Nice use of additional points of articulation in the OFFICIAL SPARKY TIM CUT OUT 'N KEEP ACTIONLESS FIGURE.

Cyberpete decked his OFFICIAL SPARKY TIM CUT OUT 'N KEEP ACTIONLESS FIGURE in some sort of shimmering frock (much like Vina from Star Trek's original pilot episode, 'The Cage,' but without the awkward hump-back), and then set it to work helping him assemble a vast TV. Again, like Princess' entry, I'm not sure Pete fully thought out the practicalities of this choice of clothing; real Tim has some paint-splattered trackies ready for any DIY-type duties. Still, the TV is up and running and looks great, so I'll just shut the hell up.

BONUS POINTS: Quality enhancing of the original OFFICIAL SPARKY TIM CUT OUT 'N KEEP ACTIONLESS FIGURE with a unique facial image - a rather horrific photo that I'm not quite sure how Pete got his hands on. The end result looks a bit like something out of South Park, which pleases me.

MINUS POINTS: For lulling me into thinking he'd posed me next to a picture of Lauren Graham as Lorelai Gilmore, then shocking me with the revelation that it was actually Sandra Bullock in some god-awful rom-com. I would've been OK with Sandra Bullock circa Speed, or at a push, Speed 2: Cruise Control.

3. Inexplicable Device
Those poor, poor OFFICIAL SPARKY TIM CUT OUT 'N KEEP ACTIONLESS FIGURES. I dread to think how they've been mistreated by everyone's favourite Norwich-based witch. Still, in his attempt, IDV pandered to a) my ego, by adapting his first OFFICIAL SPARKY TIM CUT OUT 'N KEEP ACTIONLESS FIGURE with a physique I'm trying to work toward much like my own, and b) my love of Star Trek. Not only that, but the action is continuing in a third entry (note to self: this sentence needs rephrasing), where my scantily-clad duplicates and I are fending off hordes of advancing jelly babies, which is uncanny because I actually do *hate* jelly babies. Seriously, if you ever offer me a jelly baby, chances are I'll thump you and stamp on them. What weirdo had the idea to encourage people to eat small gelatin children!?

BONUS POINTS: You had me at the Star Trek uniform.

MINUS POINTS: I'm slightly freaked out by my duplicate with the tiny head. Strike that: I'm massively freaked out by it. It reminds me of the end scene of Beetlejuice.

4. Tara
For her entry in the OFFICIAL SPARKY TIM CUT OUT 'N KEEP ACTIONLESS FIGURE competition Tara decked me out in an orange and purple ensemble, and sent me off bungee jumping. Now, I'd love to actually be able to tell people that I've done a bungee jump, but the thought of tying an elastic band to my ankles and throwing myself off a platform just horrifies me, so Tara's actually done me a huge favour and saved me the hassle: good times! I'm loving the setting of this entry, the action shots, and quite frankly I just look awesomely chilled out and hardcore in the last photo where I've gathered up my shoelace bungee cord and am heading off home (undoubtedly to do more awesome things).

BONUS POINTS: Some nice, subtle folding of the OFFICIAL SPARKY TIM CUT OUT 'N KEEP ACTIONLESS FIGURE (seen here) adds some much-needed dimension to my cardboard self.

So I should adopt my best pouty thoughtful/pensive expression and choose a winner, eh? Well … no. I don't want to. They're all awesome, and it would be like picking which of your children you prefer - or asking Emperor Palpatine to pick his favourite Stormtrooper. Anyway, bless you all for entering and making this a fair-to-middling rousing success!

Monday, May 10, 2010

T-minus 18 days

The time I've been waiting for is almost upon us. Mark this date in your diaries, people: May 28th.

That's the day I'll be getting my iPad.

On Friday Apple announced the UK release date and pricing for their latest lust-worthy piece of tech, and today *finally* I was able to submit my pre-order. Seriously, Apple's really been playing like the beautiful girl who keeps teasing but won't put out with me on this one. Until now (insert Sid James-style "heh heh").

"So, Tim," I hear you all saying. "Which iPad are you going to get?"

Well, dear reader, I've decided to go for the 64gb wi-fi version. Wi-fi version - not the wi-fi + 3G? No. And, not because I have to explain myself to you anyway, but here's why: basically, I can't really envisage a time when I'd desperately need to jump on the tinternet on my iPad when I'm not in or near to a wi-fi zone. Even if I do I'll always have my iPhone with me, so it's kind of a moot point; I might as well save the extra £100 and spend it all on addictive apps instead (like Angry Birds on the iPhone, which I'm ridiculously obsessed with at the moment).


An aside:

I've actually already started compiling a list of iPad-specific apps I want:

Real Racing HD £5.99
Geometry Wars: Touch £5.99
Sketchbook Pro £4.99
Worms HD £2.99
Minigore HD £2.99

Look, it's the font from the iPhone notes app; no, I wasn't kidding - I've got a list on my iPhone and I just copied and pasted it here. To make it even sadder I've actually got some iTunes credit and the iPad apps are already available in the UK store. I think I might buy them IN ADVANCE.

As for the memory size, I've decided to splash out on the biggest one possible because why should you have a small one if you can have a big one?

To top it off the release date coincides with my last day at work before a planned week off, so I'll have plenty of time to get acquainted with my new toy. What's the betting I'll have worn the glass down to nothing in just a few days with all my multi-touch action?

I'm *so* excited.

You, me, 28th May. Kissy kissy sexy face.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Awesome things #1

Starbucks Doubleshot chilled espresso and milk IN A CAN. It's creamy, it's dreamy, it's a smidgeon more expensive than I think it should be, but I sense a new addiction forming regardless.

If you find me rolling around in a gutter with a rubber hose tied round my arm pouring one of these over my head, please get me help ASAP.

Monday, May 03, 2010

The post in which my childhood comes back to haunt me

At some point in the last few months or so (I'm literally *that* lazy that I can't be bothered to go back and find out exactly when) I happened to mention that I'd tried writing my own comic strip when I was a kid.

So exciting was the prospect of seeing these remarkable historical documents (think something along the lines of a finding a lost Mark Twain story) that one or two hundreds of you demanded I dig them out, scan them in, and post them for your reading pleasure. Unfortunately, I then revealed that I'd probably thrown them away at some point between popping zits and wondering what the hell was going on *down there* in the midst of my tumultuous teenage years.

I giveth, and I taketh away.

But then, just the other week, I popped over to see Sparky Ma and Pa, and Sparky Pa did that thing he occasionally does when he's been rummaging around in the loft for no apparent reason. He said "I found some things you might want to have a look through."

The last time he said this he handed me a load of old school books as if my Year 9 French class would still be of relevance to the me of 2010. Bless him, but it was not. Tres bon!

Anyway, this time around he dumped this folder in my hands literally just as I was about to flee walk out the door and said it actually had some stuff I should probably keep. Sighing loudly and tossing my head like an emo I said I'd take a quick look, despite the fact that the word 'IRELAND' was confusingly emblazoned across the front of the folder.

Turns out that it included my GCSE results, stuff from my work experience, and a handful of drawings done by teenage me. I won't tell you what they all were because some of them will serve me well when I'm going through a blogging creative dry spell and need some tat to post might make rather exciting blog posts in the future. And then I found them and my heart sunk because I knew I'd have to post them here: the complete set of Mits strips. Sparky Pa chuckled as he saw me wondering why the hell I hadn't destroyed them all those years ago looking at them. "Ha! You could put those on your blog," he said.

"Um, yeah," I replied, as if this was right up there with Bill Watterson finding a handful of lost Calvin and Hobbes strips.

So, without further, or indeed any, ado, I present to vous (damn, that Year 9 French DID come in handy!) the complete Mits!

So there you have it. An epic five-strip long blast of genius. As you can see, I never resolved Mits' story arc. Teenage me would probably have kept it light and fluffy with more carnivorous penguin and vegetarian polar bear gags, whereas if you asked me to devise a dénouement (geez, there I go again) for it now I'd probably go all dark and dystopian and just have a single panel showing a blood-covered icy vista and leave the reader to come to their own conclusions as to whether Mits escaped the cull.