April 23, 2010 - Phil Hodgen

iPad Road Report from Riyadh – connectivity and software

The quest for using an iPad as a laptop replacement continues in Riyadh.

I’m doing this on my MacBook.  That tells you something.

Problem Number 1 — Connectivity

I have the wifi only iPad, and I can’t get access:

  • There is only ethernet in my hotel room, not wifi;
  • Starbucks downstairs in the shopping center will give you one hour of free wifi in exchange for buying a coffee.  But in order to activate the wifi session you need a Saudi mobile number.  They send a text message to you with a secret password.  The login system borks when I provide my U.S. mobile number.
  • In theory there is wifi in the hotel lobby, which I can use because I bought the overpriced internet service.  (Why do expensive hotels charge for internet, while cheap hotels have free internet?)  I will try that tomorrow.

But essentially I have a connectivity problem that makes my iPad useless to me.

Wait. It gets worse.  I have ordered up the 3G iPad, which should arrive when I get back home at the end of the month.  But data roaming on my iPhone costs $19.97 per megabyte.  The last time I did this I ended up with a $1,400 mobile phone bill.

In order to make the iPad useful, I am going to do what my friend Gerry Riskin (follow him on Twitter; he is @riskin) does — he has a little wifi router that he plugs into the hotel ethernet.  Then he has blazing wifi in his room.  That will have to wait until I return home.

I’m going to use the 3G iPad in the U.S. because the $30/month data charge is cheaper than the alternatives.  For my international travel, I think I’m stuck with using wifi or going bankrupt.  So wifi it is.

Problem Number 2 — software

Plain and simple — you can’t do any decent editing of a big document on the iPad.  I’m finishing up an ebook that I’ve modestly titled “The Complete U.S. Income Tax Guide to RRSPs” and that relegated me to the MacBook.  Sometimes you can use a shovel.  Sometimes you need a bulldozer.

Second software problem:  MarsEdit.  It doesn’t exist on the iPad yet.  I want it.  I’m warming up my Paypal account to reward @danielpunkass when he releases the iPad version of this marvelous blogging software.

So far, then

So far, the iPad has not been useful.  But I’m hoping that I can get myself to Steve Rubel’s position, where about 80% of his home computing life is in the iPad.  I’m new at this.  Most of the things I need to do can be handled by the iPad, either now or later as the software develops.