Narrow escape: a tale of consumer electronics

Everyone I know has an iPad, and with a long and not entirely pleasant trip ahead, it looks like the ideal companion for flights and airports: books, magazines and films, all with email and web-browsing. But first I must prepare myself for the mental torture of entering a shop and buying something, so I Google for advice on how to set up one of the devices.

The first thing I learn is that I can relax: you control the contraption in the same way as an iPhone. Fine, except I have never touched an iPhone. Anyway, you get it home and out of the box, it seems, and plug it into your computer. It then starts to do something to (or from) iTunes, though I neither have nor want anything to do with iTunes. I assume that the gizmo will play the MP3s I have gathered over the years rummaging around in the dustier and perhaps less law-abiding recesses of the Internet, though the emphasis seems to be Apple proprietory this and Apple proprietory that, with all ‘Apps’ of course, Apple-approved. Does the user own the product or vice-versa?

Plus, some idiot decided it would be really cool not to have a USB port. God forbid you besmirch the machine’s beauty by making it usable.

So I look through recommendations for alternatives, perhaps made by technology companies rather than a designer-label fashion house that wants to separate you from the life you keep on a 32GB thumb drive.

There’s a thing called the Samsung Galaxy, and another called the HP Touchpad, both of which seem pretty much the same. Still no proper USB port, though you can get adaptors. (This really does seem to be for aesthetic purposes. There was a demented soul on the old IceRed message board who planned to be circumcised because he thought it would look nice; it seems he’s now in tech design.)

I happen to go past a branch of Fortress, so I drop in and look around. There is a Samsung Galaxy thingy, clamped to a display base and encased in a bullet-proof glass cabinet. As I peer at it, one of Li Ka-shing’s socially inept, acne-ridden salespersons approaches me nervously. Go away. I hate shops. Hutchison retail outlets, packed to maximize revenue per square foot, give me claustrophobia and drive the staff who work in them into jittery wrecks like battery-chickens. The sales guy wants to say something but doesn’t know how to start. Clearly, one of us is going to have a panic attack and flee – it’s a question of who breaks first. As it happens, it’s me, and I find instant relief breathing in the fresh Des Voeux Road air in a soothing sea of 10,000 Mainland tourists.

I can probably get a cheap better-than-the-authentic ripoff iPad up at Shamshuipo. Do I need anything that badly? Or I could just admit defeat and enter the clean and spacious Apple palace at IFC and beg forgiveness for all those things I said and start being a trendy contributor to Steve Jobs’ estate.

Then again… This is about something to read on the plane. The latest Economist will be on the newsstands in a few hours. What was I thinking? (Though things may be quiet around here until Dragon Year.)

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17 Responses to Narrow escape: a tale of consumer electronics

  1. Wag says:

    They don’t sell them to old fogies. I forgot to tell you.

  2. RSG says:

    If you just want to read on the plane, save yourself some money and get an Amazone Kindle or other ebook reader–much easier on the eyes and wallet alike.

  3. Old Timer says:

    I would say forget the iPad and just get a lightweight laptop like the HP Pavilion DM1. Three USB ports, nine hours battery life with normal use, and 500gb memory. And cheaper than the iPAd.

  4. Nokia says:

    Us young fogies dont want one either ! Buy a kindle instead

  5. Joe Blow says:

    I haven’t read an Economist in ten years: do they still pin-point London as the centre of the Universe as we know it ?

  6. Sir Crispin says:

    Hemmers, you echo my sentiments exactly.

  7. Probably says:

    Hemmers old chap, have you ever heard of something (admittedly unfashionable – for this week anyway – so I can’t even begin to pretend that I’m at the cutting edge of technology and thus inherently of ultimate social interest to my colleagues by bragging about it at work or down the pub) called books ?

  8. Probably says:

    Here at Changi airport as I write, one can even buy a couple of Christopher Hitchens regurgitations for that other old fashioned thing called cash.

  9. Wag says:

    The real story today. Surely you must have something to reveal about British spooks forcing a Libyan on a plane in 2004. Good to know isn’t it that the Hong Kong secret police cooperate with Blighty.

  10. PropertyDeveloper says:

    To back up data from these untrustworthy-looking gadgets, I am often reduced to taking the card out. It’s all about control: unless I can SEE the music, books or films in Windows Explorer I feel taken unfair advantage of. Hemlock’s paranoia is in fact mostly justified: the best formats, those invariably used by the shameful sites he alludes to, namely .flac and .mkv, often won’t play “natively” on the trendiest devices.

    The Economist is actually mostly Americanocentric these days, with their $ very much in evidence. If you know where to go you can read it before it officially comes out, if you see what I mean.

    By judiciously beating a retreat — running away actually — you can avoid some of these salespersons, and even discreetly circle round to where you were before. But the manoeuvre may have to be repeated and the gap reduced, to avoid abruptly losing face when they realise they too can reverse direction.

  11. Walter De Havilland says:

    I love my iPad. The possibilities are endless with an abundance of apps. My old Mum has even got one.

  12. Jason90 says:

    With New York Times and Economist apps on my iPhone I am never short of reading material, and easier to read unsuspected in meetings than a broadsheet or a magazine.
    The apps probably even work on Android phones.
    I have been a willing Apple slave for 20 years – and regret, daily, not buying stock – but don’t see the need for an iPad – I have an iPhone to read and sometimes even make calls with, and an Apple laptop to actually do some work.
    The Kindle is great for reading books – far better than an iPad (which I have – a gift – but don’t use) – almost as easy on the eye as a book, but easier to carry than a stack of books, and the battery lasts for ever.
    Nice picture of Mitt Romney on the cover of this week’s Economist, for those of you still waiting for the paper copies to arrive….

  13. Billy says:

    You don’t need a computer to use an iPad, it can be used completely standalone and can be set up in 5 minutes. I’m sure the apple store would walk through the setup with you. My dad uses one and he’s 77.

  14. Sir Crispin says:

    Why do I find it hard to envision curling up on the sofa, with a good kindle? And what happens when you fall asleep and drop it on the floor?

  15. Iffy says:

    Kung hei fat choy and get a Kindle.

    * Sent from my iPad.

  16. Mid Levels Man (Retd.) says:

    Get the iPad. Order it online so youn don’t have to appear in the background of a few dozen tourist photos[1] or speak to acne ridden social inadequates[2]. Then you can spend a small fortune on a heap of indispensable accessories which you will never use.

    Toodle pip and all that.

    1) Yes. The are hordes of presumablyMainland tourists having their photos taken on the walkway to the ferry pier with the apple store as the backdrop, like it’s a shrine of some sort.

    2) except for on here, obviously.

  17. skreader says:

    Sir Crispin,

    I have a kindle w/ a nice cover that allows very easy one handed holding (great on the MTR). I’ve curled up on the couch and I often read it bed. I’ve even dropped it a couple of times & it was uninjured. It also has an advantage of not closing when propped up in front of me when I eat lunch (a problem w/ some paperbacks)

    I still keep buy & keep paperbacks though, because I don’t want to risk reading my kindle in the tub.

    But,if Jason90 is a slave to Apple, I feel like I’ve become a serf to Jeff Bezos. It’s fiendishly easy to buy a book.

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