by Rob Gregory Browne

If you believe Wikipedia—and I generally do—the first Thanksgiving or harvest festival was held by the Spanish on September 8, 1565 in Saint Augustine, Florida.

Who knew?

It wasn’t until the 20th century that the November observance became customary, and the fourth Thursday wasn’t written in stone until Franklin Roosevelt made it a national holiday in hopes of giving the country an economic boost.

Maybe he was thinking of all the things he’d be able to get dirt cheap on Black Friday.  

So do we blame him for the crowds?

But I’m not here to talk about Thanksgiving.  I only threw that in because my wife said I should, considering tomorrow is the big day.  I’m becoming increasingly convinced that she should be the one writing these posts—but that’s not something we’ll get into right now.

What I want to talk about is something you might be able to buy on Black Friday at a reduced price.  So if you loathe technology, now’s the time to his the door marked EXIT.


I have always been a gear slut. When I was younger and trying to figure out how to build my own recording studio, I was the first guy in line for the latest gear, sometimes spending more money than I should have.

I don’t know why on earth my dear wife allowed me to do that, but I suppose she must have loved me or something and wanted to see her insane husband happy, even if it meant dipping into the savings account.

I was the same way with computers.  I bought my first one back before hard drives even existed and have bought a couple new ones every couple years.  I think I’m on my fifth or sixth laptop as we speak, and thinking about getting a new one.

But for some reason, there’s one piece of hardware I didn’t jump on when it first came out.  While the technosphere and the world were all abuzz about the iPad, my response was meh.

I have an iMac that I love.  I have an iPhone that I love.  And I have to admit that the iPad is a gorgeous piece of hardware.  But while I can put up with the limitations of the iPhone—because it’s a phone, for crissakes—it seemed to me that the iPad was nothing but a giant iPhone and didn’t attract me.

Had Apple put OSX on the iPad, I would have been first in line.  I think OSX is one of the finest operating systems going.  It’s elegant, runs apps beautifully, is virus-free, and is a great and robust experience for the user.

Unfortunately, Apple chose to use the iPhone operating system for their pad, and that makes it extremely limited in what it can do and how it can be used.  So, again, it didn’t attract me.

Now, if all you want is a device that allows you to surf the web, watch some movies, send a few emails, then the iPad is a great device, if you’re willing to except the fact that a large number of websites will not be viewable, because iPads don’t play Flash.  You also have to forego any kind of file system, and there are limited ports on the thing.

The iPad isn’t the first tablet to show up in the marketplace, of course.  But like the iPod, it’s the first of its kind to capture the imagination of the buying public.  Apple’s products may not be the best or most powerful devices you can buy, but the company does do two things very well:  1) make stuff look pretty; and 2) convince people they have to have it.

The iPad is also ideally suited to people who are new to computing.  Especially older people who are still trying to figure out how to adapt to the 21st Century in a rapidly changing world.

And thanks to competition of the marketplace, the iPad isn’t the only touchscreen tablet that will be available this Christmas season.  There are a number of competitors for the iPad, with more to come next year.  And the great thing about this new crop of computer tablets is that they run on Google’s Android operating system, which is open source.  And because it’s open source, it’s not under Apple’s draconian restrictions and anyone who can write code can create new and powerful versions of the operating system—and the applications that go along with it—which opens a whole new world of possibilities for these devices.

While I’m not all that attracted to the iPad, I have seen a couple of new tablets that I find very compelling.  So before you make the plunge into Apple territory, I consider looking at these alternatives.  You may find them more suitable to your needs.

First up is the Archos 70 Internet Tablet, which retails at a considerably lower price than the lowest priced iPad, coming in at $275:



Next we have the Samsung Galaxy Tab, which retails at around $600:



And this is only what’s available now.  The future will bring even more.  Of course, we could wait forever for the least expensive, most powerful device to come along, but at the rate technology changes, anything you buy today is obsolete tomorrow, so if you’re interested, you might as well take the plunge.  

Despite the beauty of these products, I’m still left wondering if I would be able to find a use for them. I have a netbook, which I love, and it allows me to not only browse the web, watch movies, etc., but to write on it as well, a task I know is not that easy with these devices.

But then I see myself lying in bed with one of these things, watching a movie or reading a book and suddenly the possibilities seem endless…

And being the technonut I am, I’m bound to have one in my hands before the year is out.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

22 thoughts on “Goodies

  1. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Rob

    All this technology largely passes me by, I have to admit, although I can tell you all about the new four-channel wireless receivers I just bought for my studio flash gear, if you like…?

    We met someone earlier this year who'd just imported – at vast expense – one of the early iPads. He told me it would "change my life" but couldn't quite explain how…

    And what's your wife's name? I feel we're getting to know her so well that we really should be properly introduced ;-]

  2. Donna Kuyper

    Last Sunday's LAT business section did a review of the tablets. Dell Streak, Augen, Maylong and Samsung, but they liked the iPad the best. Their conclusion was that it's "still not a must-have." But I wouldn't give it back to Santa.

    Most people I know are waiting for early next year, for the new iPad, unless they need something now.

    Do you already have a Kindle?

  3. Karen in Ohio

    After our previous discussion of e-book readers it strikes me that these Internet devices are beginning to morph with the e-readers. You could read any format on one of the handheld tablets. The e-readers can access the Internet, as well, among other things.

    What to do, what to do.

  4. Debbie

    Rob, is this a subtle hint to your wife? <grin> Between the compliments, the Thanksgiving inclusion, the mention of Black Friday, the addition of specific electronic gadgetry that you might like to acquire on said day…I think we've been hoodwinked into reading personal marketing. 😀 Hey, is that like reading your grocery list? Cool!

  5. Cornelia Read

    An iPad can't play Flash? That's so dumb… I'm not compelled to buy a tablet yet. But they're getting cooler all the time.

    Hope you have an amazingly wonderful Thanksgiving!

  6. Alafair Burke

    I love my iPad but it definitely doesn't replace anything. It's just another way to ensure I'm connected to something at all times, which is precisely why I SHOULD hate it.

  7. Robert Gregory Browne

    Zoe, her name is Leila. Like the Hawaiian lei. I normally don't mention her name because I asked her a few years back if she minded and she said she'd prefer that I didn't. Now, she says it's fine and honestly can't remember telling me that.

    I had lunch with the director of the Kiss Her Goodbye pilot a couple months back and he told me the iPad was a life changer also. But he had a very practical use for it — reading scripts.

  8. Robert Gregory Browne

    Donna, I saw that article and it's what prompted me to do this post. Considering the tablets they looked at, I'm not surprised they preferred the iPad—although many people are raving about the Samsung.

    As I said, my only real objection to the iPad is that it uses the iPhone operating system. I'd love it if someone could come up with a way to put OSX on it, but it probably doesn't have enough CPU or memory to handle it.

  9. Robert Gregory Browne

    Debbie, my wife and I don't do subtle. I just mention I'm thinking about buying something and then buy it. She does the same. Sometimes we don't bother with a consultation. Only with the big ticket items.

    The great thing about Leila is that she is very good at managing our money and has taught me to be frugal, which I appreciate, because I used to be one of those kind of guys who would grab and spend without thinking about it until I was stone broke.

  10. Robert Gregory Browne

    Cornelia, there's no practical reason why the iPad doesn't do Flash. Apple claims it compromises the stability of the product, but I think the truth is that Apple and Adobe don't get along and this is Apple's way of saying fuck you. Just a guess.

    Flash works find on my iMac and Leila's Macbook Pro, yet they're as stable as ever….

  11. Robert Gregory Browne

    Alafair, I was just saying the other day how it must really suck to be a business person with a cell phone (which would be all of them) who can be reached wherever he or she goes. It's impossible to unplug these days, and that can be very dangerous to our mental health, I think.

  12. Dudley Forster

    Robert – Are we long lost brothers? So nice to reply to a fellow tech-head. The first computer I programmed was an IBM 360 at Gonzaga University for a high school honors class in FORTRAN. One of the jobs I had in college was programming for the archeology department at the U of Idaho. All this was on punch cards. My first PC was a Commodore 64.

    As for the iPad I just don’t see a use for it. I have an iPhone and I love it. I have a netbook and a laptop. I would like to get a Mac just to play around with it to really learn OSX. It can also run Windows 7 so it could be useful in my business. However, my major motivation for getting a Mac was to run Scrivener. Now there’s a Windows version and I’m using the beta to write my NaNo novel and I love it. I know a lot of iPad users like it for its portability, but the iPhone OS sucks as a computer OS. I know it’s pretty and easy to use but the lack of a file system and no USB ports handicap it. It is not the best ereader either. There are a lot of tech editorials and blogs saying the backlit screen is hard on the eyes. If you want something portable and are a Mac fan get one of the new Air books.

    I don’t think any of the current tablet PCs are ready for primetime. I’m sure the success of the iPad is going to force competitors to develop good alternative solutions. BTW Samsung is also working a deal to bring their 4 ½ inch screen phone to the US on ATT. It is running Android 2.2. When you get your tablet let us know what you think about it.

  13. Robert Gregory Browne

    Dudley, I've looked at the 11-inch Macbook Air and it's a very pretty little netbook, but for the price I could get three Windows netbooks and Hackintosh them if I didn't want to go Windows 7 (although I think 7 is a fine operating system–Microsoft finally got it right).

    As for tablets, I'm probably going to go with the Archos 70. It seems like the biggest bang for the buck, has a more manageable 7 inch screen (as opposed to the iPad's 10-inch) and runs Android 2.2. Unfortunately, it's currently sold out (with an exception) and there's no telling when new units will be available. In fact, it seems to be so popular that one retailer is selling what stock they have left for close to a hundred bucks above list.

    I honestly can't wait to see what the hacking crowd does with these Android models. I expect to be amazed.

  14. PK the Bookeemonster

    Techie? I met my husband at a software/gaming store where I was assistant manager. 🙂 We have two computers each (box and laptop), the phones, gaming systems, etc. Though I am more of an info junkie and he is more of a gaming junkie. 🙂
    This year, however, I don't need anything. Last year, I received the Kindle and I'm a happy camper. I will be getting Steve-the-Nonreader a gadget thingy to measure the speed of shots fired from a gun. He's also passionate about guns and shoots competitvely so I maybe have a shot (no pun intended) that this will be a gift that goes over well. He's made me return things that he didn't like or weren't up to par. If this fails, he gets cash wrapped individually from now.
    Not shopping on Black Friday. No freakin' way.

  15. Kagey

    I'm always on my smart phone, which happens to be a Palm Pre. I'm waiting for the new version of its OS, Web OS 2.0, to come out because that will be Flash-enabled. You don't realize how many websites use it until you're trying to open it on your phone and can't see the thing you're looking for because it is Flash-run. Sigh.
    Now, a tablet that ran Web OS 2.0. That I would look into.

  16. KDJames

    The muzzle velocity of The Wonder Dog is "faster than you can take it away from him."

    I've never seen an iPad in real life, but looking at that picture of Jobs holding it, it seems almost as big as my MacBook. I love my MacBook. I have a plain old cell phone with which I can make phone calls and send text messages. Pretty sure I can also receive phone calls, but I tend to ignore that function. Honestly, that's all the portability and connectivity I need in my life right now.

    Although… I am sort of kind of hoping someone gives me an e-reader for Christmas. Mostly because then I can just sit back and be grateful and won't have to decide which one to buy. 😉

    Hope your holiday gift season is filled with all the techo-geeky stuff you love, Rob. And Happy Thanksgiving to all here who will be celebrating that event! I might be around to comment if I'm not comatose from cooking/eating/cleaning up. Or overcome by the phenomenon of four consecutive days off from work.

  17. Dave Ebright

    I have an iPad & a Kindle. My iPad doesn't get that much use, though I did get the optional keyboard, so that's a plus. Kindle is the better e-reader. St Augustine is my awesome hometown, though I missed that 1st Thanksgiving somehow. Check out for a spin around the 'ancient city'.

  18. Reine

    I prefer the iPad. I find it easiest to read. Nook and Kindle not nearly as sharp. Kindle, I find hard to use because of its buttons and wheel. iPad, as well as other Mac products has the most adaptive technology. I've used PC's and Macs at work and school for years and find the Mac far superior and easier to use than Windows. MacBook Air would be nice, but the iPad is a pad, after all, and that makes it more useful to me. Too bad, though, about Flash.

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