Tag Archive: ipad

It’s never too early to get your child started with computers.  They are a large part of everyday life and your toddler has the ability to learn very quickly.  The earlier they learn basic skills, the sooner they can learn more advanced skills that will help them in school and later in life.

The iPod touch 8 GB makes an excellent entry level platform for a young child around two years old. The touch interface is very intuitive and easy to grasp.  The interface is simply enough for your child to operate on their own but also complex enough that they will be learning useful concepts to apply to computers they encounter later in life.

One reason that you might NOT have given your child an iPod Touch already is that you are concerned about them dropping or throwing it.  You will certainly have to supervise your child, especially at first, to teach them how to do the things they want on the iPod and teach them the ground rules for using the iPod.  I would NOT suggest ever leaving them alone with the iPod but durability concerns can be mitigated with a case such the Tech21 iBand.  This case will go a LONG ways towards protecting the iPod from accidental drops on the floor.  If your child drops it on rocks(why are you letting them use it near rocks anyways?), all bets are off.  This case MIGHT even protect against a temper-tantrum toss but don’t count on it.  If they are getting frustrated with iPod, it’s time to give the device a time out.

What can your kid do with an ipod touch?

There are over 100,000 apps for the iPod/iPhone so finding the right ones can be daunting.  If you have any suggestions that I don’t list here, please feel free to comment down below and let me know.  Here is my short list to get you started though:

Letters A to Z – My son absolutely loves this $0.99 app.  He has been playing it for nearly a year on and off.  He was able to recite the alphabet at 2 years old and I’m not sure if it was entirely because of this app but I’m sure it didn’t hurt any.  The interface is incredibly simple to operate.  He simply touches the letter and the letter is spoken or if he touches the object next to the letter, the name of the object is spoken and a short animation of the object in action is played.  To this day, the frog animation still makes him smile.

The Dr. Seuss books by Oceanhouse Media – His favorite of this series has been Dr. Seuss’s ABC but he likes The Cat in the Hat as well.  These apps are fairly well crafted.  They have several levels of interactivity.  You can choose to “Read the Book” and just flip through it like a normal book and read it to your toddler or you can choose to “Read to Me” which reads the book aloud but your child will have to flip the pages manually.  The last option is “Auto Play” which will read the pages and flip the pages for your child.  These books last roughly 10 minutes each in auto play mode and can be handy if you just need a couple of minutes in a public place to get something done. These books vary in price but are cheaper than printed versions and have been far more useful since we take the iPod everywhere with us.

SpongeBob Square Pants tickler lite – This app is free and I somewhat regret spending the $1.99 to buy the full version of this app since it’s more complex and doesn’t actually enhance the experience any for a toddler.  Even if you find SpongeBob somewhat annoying(I happen to like him), this is actually an excellent little app.  This teaches your child new ways to interact with the iPod Touch.  You can shake the iPod and SpongeBob will jump up and down.  You can tilt the iPod and he’ll fall towards the edge of the screen.  You can touch the screen and make certain gestures on it that will invoke other responses from SpongeBob.  You will be amazed how quickly your child learns all the new ways to interact with the iPod because of this app.

Lastly, you can simply put music and videos on the device.  To put videos on it, you can either buy them from the iTunes store or rip DVDs from your own collection with a tool such as Mac the Ripper and convert them to iPod format with a tool such as Roxio Popcorn.  It takes a bit of time but the hours of entertainment are worth the effort.

Potential Drawbacks – Your child may grow up wondering why all other computers lack a touch screen.  Also, some parts of the interface may still be beyond your child’s comprehension.  They could accidentally delete an app from the home screen for instance but you can always restore it from iTunes later so that isn’t a huge concern.  Also, I would suggest NOT letting them operate the device while eating since it can get downright nasty and food could get stuck in the gap around the screen.

Why not an iPad?

Bigger is better, right?  Well, not always …  While the bigger screen is nice, it doesn’t really matter to your toddler. I would also be very hesitant handing my son a delicate $500 device. They don’t make an iBand case for it as of today so I think adequate protection would be a challenge.  Also, they are not nearly as portable so many of the times that you would have something small like an iPod Touch with you in a public place, an iPad would probably be sitting at home or worst yet, in the car.  Lastly, a heavier device such as the iPad is going to be more susceptible to damage from being dropper or thrown simply due to the law of gravity.

Next steps

Mattel Aquarius circa 1983

I personally think sticking a toddler in front of a modern computer is a bit overwhelming.  There is so much going on and there really isn’t a good way to “lock” the computer in a state where they can just start banging on the keyboard without concern.  For this reason, I would actually suggest an ancient computer if you have access to one.  I’ve been blogging a bit recently about my Mattel Aquarius.  I received it as a Christmas present when I was 5 years old but I think I could have benefited from having it even at a younger age.  I think it’s perfect for teaching letters and cause/effect such as “hit a key, letter shows up”.  You can even go into semi-advanced topics such as punching in a short BASIC program and showing your child how to start the program by typing “run” and stop it by hitting ctrl-c.  Many older systems from around 1977-1985 have excellent characteristics for teaching a young child about computers.  Some other suggestions would be a Commodore 64, Atari 800, IBM PC JR, Apple IIe and the TI 99.  Pretty much any old computer with built-in BASIC that boots straight to BASIC.  Most(all?) of the computers above can be had for under $50 or so and will hook directly to your TV.  You don’t have to feel bad if your child destroys it but it’s not likely to happen anyways since most of them were built like tanks.  If you buy an old computer such as one of these and teach your child about it, you’ll probably learn something yourself in the process.

Worms on the iPod/iPhone

Worms is one of the most original console games around.  If you haven’t played it before, skip the 3D versions and try out any of the large number of other 2D Worms ports from the Commodore 64 version all the way to the Sega Dreamcast, Nintendo DS and beyond.

Anyhow, I was surfing in the app store not finding Worms.  Then I looked around a bit on the web wondering if Worms would be ported soon.  I found a few shreds of hope.  Unfortunately one of the “shreds” of hope is over 2 years old already.  It’s a post here stating iPhone gaming – Worms on the way.  I’m not sure if that video up above is a fake or not but it sure looks like fun.  I’d love to see any updates on this subject.  Post some comments if you know anything or if you would also like to see Worms on the iPod/iPhone/iPad/iDevice.

My favorite iPod apps

I’ve owned an iPod touch for about four months now.  Already it is an indispensable piece of equipment that I use many, many times every day.  For years I resisted the lure of an iPod because I thought of it as a glorified mp3 player.  100% not true.  In fact I don’t have any mp3’s on mine at all.  Just some podcasts and a few awesome apps.  I have not bothered to jailbreak my device because I don’t think it is necessary.  I plan to get an Android phone this summer when the Supersonic comes out and I plan to root that for my extra-functional fix.  Here are a few of the apps that I use all the time and couldn’t live without now:

Logmein Ignition – The ultimate app for the iPhone/iPod.  This allows you to remotely log in to your desktop or laptop computer and control anything on the screen possible.  If you have multiple monitors, shake it to switch screens.  Your mouse pointer stays in the middle of the screen and you move your desktop behind it.  Use gestures to zoom in, zoom out, scroll and more.  Best part is that it caches your login and password so you can jump right into your desktop quickly.  Control your Mac or Windows machine with this app.  It’s $30 but worth every penny and it works with the free version of logmein.

WordPress – This app allows you to blog right from your iPhone or iPod.  It ties straight into your admin panel and lets you skip the login if you like.  Great for when an idea strikes you and you are nowhere near your computer.  You have to toggle a setting in the admin panel to set it up but that’s easy.

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars –  This game is a surprisingly good milepost in the series.  For a long time I judged it by the screen shots but it actually plays much better than you would think.  It has a good story and is well tweaked for the mobile platform.  Autosaves occur after every mission and you can put your iDevice to sleep in the middle of anything and when you come back, things will be as you left them.  It’s not nearly as involved as a ps2 or ps3 version but it’s a good little time killer when you have a few minutes.

Katamari Damacy – This game seems like a natural for this platform.  If you haven’t played it before, I strongly urge you to try it out.  If you have a ps2, do yourself a favor and grab the very first version of Katamari Damacy.  This game is simple in concept.  You roll a ball around an area and it gets larger as you roll over things.  The cubist art style makes the game more interesting and amusing.  I do wish you could switch between tilt controls and on-screen but other than that, this is one of my favorite console games so it’s nice to have it on the go.

O’Reilly books – The same O’Reilly books that are down at the bookstore for $20-$60/ea are available from the app store for $3-$5/ea.  I think that’s fair.  I’ve bought 3 of them so far and they are great.  For something like a programming language reference book these are especially nice since they are searchable and bookmarkable.  My only complaint is that in some of the books, the comments in the code samples get cut off for some reason.  Still, for $5 I’m not complaining at all.  It’s also nice to be able to fit a respectable O’Reilly library right in your pocket and always have it at your fingertips.

Speed Test – I use this app all the time.  It allows you to see how good (or bad) your internet connection is.  It also logs it along with a GPS coordinate.

FlowChat – IRC in my pocket.  If you thought IRC was dead and that twitter has taken it’s place, think again.  It’s live and kicking.  Most of the IRC networks I used to use in the 90’s are still there but irrelevant now in my opinion.  The server that seems to have the topics most interesting to me is Freenode.  If you jump on there, you’ll probably find me in #zipit.  I have not tried the competitor to Flowchat, Colloquy but I use Colloquy on my MacBook Pro and it works well on there so that might also be worth a look.

This list is by no means exhaustive but those are my top choices.  Honorable mentions go out to Twitteriffic, Kindle, Amazon, RingCentral, pTerm & Skype.  Please post in the comments if you have any cool apps that you can’t live without.

iTouched an iPad

I was out shopping with the family at the mall today and quickly ducked into the Mac Store (not the same as the Apple Store). There were only three people in the whole store and they were all clustered at the three iPads that were displayed in the middle of the store. There was an older woman, a store employee and an off-duty cop. About as diverse as it gets. The employee backed off and I picked up the one in the middle.

I was surprised at how heavy it was. I was expecting it to be much lighter. I noticed they were set atop these custom stands. My first act with the iPad was to set it flat on the table. To my surprise, the wifi signal didn’t even flinch. From all I’ve heard, I expected just looking at it to kill the signal strength. I’m guessing this is another over-sensationalized problem that isn’t quite as bad as it was made out to be.

Next I picked it back up and started thumbing around with the apps. I don’t care for how much space is wasted by the icons on the screen. It seems that you have the same amount of icon space as you would for an iPod Touch. I’m not sure if this is a setting or if there is some other reason but my initial though is that it looks stupid to have tiny little icons with tons of space around them.

After the initial shock of the tiny icons, I decided to press one of them. To my surprise a tiny-sized app popped up. Don’t ask me what I was expecting for apps that have not been updated for the iPad but this was certainly not it. I’ll be damned if I’m going to run around with a gigantic iPod Touch with a beautiful screen that can only display most of the apps I care about at the same size as my current iPod Touch. What about the 2x button you say? What a joke. I haven’t seen pixelation that bad since my Atari 2600. Sorry, until all the app providers are on board, that’s a major show stopper for me. I’m really surprised that so many people can overlook this issue.

When the iPad was first announced, I was ready to buy it immediately. It looked like the perfect little computer to have around the living room and kitchen. Now that I have seen it however, I still think it has a lot of potential but more so as a niche device. Maybe it would be perfect for a professional photographer proofing with his clients or for an elderly person who’s eyesight isn’t good enough for an iPod Touch. It will be interesting to see what niches the iPad carves for itself but at the current price, it’s going to be a hard sell for a lot of potential buyers. The bottom model is more expensive than most netbooks and the top model is nearly $1,000 if you have to pay tax or shipping.

When the price drops and Tech21 releases an iBand shock absorbing frame for it, I’ll take another look at it.

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