Homage to the iPad, Steve Jobs and the latest, greatest apps

Call this my encomium to Steve Jobs, a couple of weeks late, the confessions of a late-middle-aged techno-geek, some musings of a retiree with too much time on his hands, or simply a slow news week.

Nearly two years ago,when I started writing in the space, the first piece I did was about the joys of reading books on a Kindle, the electronic reader pioneered by Amazon. That joy has not waned. In fact, since then, with the acquisition of an iPad and the installation of the Kindle app for the iPad, the experience is even better.

For that we have to thank Mr. Jobs, and I, along with countless others, offer up a great big “Thank you Steve” for leaving the world a richer place than it was when you arrived.

I don’t know that developing the iBook, the iPhone, the iPad, the iPod and iTunes will get you a Nobel Peace Prize, but it might make you more useful than some of the recipients of that award.

No doubt you’ve read list after list of the best apps for the iPhone and the iPad. And no doubt, if you’re a regular reader of this column, you know I’m a sucker for lists. And now you’ve probably figured out there’s a list coming.

You’re right.

Here is, more or less, a list of yours truly’s favorite iPad apps. It will be a short list. I’ll confine it to apps that have what I think would be a universal appeal

There is, of course, the aforementioned Kindle app for iPad. It’s better than the original Kindle in most respects. It’s easier to turn pages, for example, and it gives the reader more information. It tells you page numbers, for example, instead of just a percentage of the book you’ve read. You can read in either landscape or portrait configuration.

It is much easier, however, to shop in the Kindle store on the original Kindle. Not even Apple can do everything better than anyone else. The bottom line is I think it really does improve the book reading experience and, as a result, I read more. That’s a good thing.

Speaking of the reading experience. I remember way back in J-school, when we’d sit around in communication theory classes and navel gaze. One day, we were told, there would be devices that deliver news electronically. It would be only the news we want and were interested in, and nothing else. We all would become our own news editors. We couldn’t imagine what such a thing would look like.

Software that will do that very thing has been around for a few years now. I don’t know when the first news aggregator came along, but it’s been awhile. But the best one I’ve ever found is an iPad app called Zite. It does exactly what the professor with his head in the clouds said would happen. Quite simply, it gives you a menu of several dozen broad topics. Pick as many or as few as you want. If the things that interest you aren’t on the list, type them in. Zite then crawls all over the Web and compiles the best of whatever it can find about the topics you’ve picked.

The interface is clean and as well-presented as the best magazines online. What’s more, it will get better the more you use it. This morning, for example, I was reading a piece about skyscrapers in the future that will be self-sufficient (one of the topics I picked was architecture). When I was finished, Zite asked me if I wanted to see more stories in the future about energy, architects mentioned in the story, conservation or skyscrapers. By saying yes or no to those questions Zite learns a little bit more about what I like and dislike and over time it will tailor itself to become more and more relevant to my interests.

And finally, there’s Star Walk. I’ll have to admit I just got it and haven’t used it. But all the reviews are positive. It’s for people like me who are jealous of people who can go out at night and point out every star and constellation in the night sky. All I know is the Big Dipper and the North Star. Now, I just point my iPad at the sky and Star Walk supposedly will tell me everything I see. Now that’s my kind of astronomy.

It’s getting dark. I’m heading outside with my iPad.

Denny Herzog is the retired executive editor of The Daily Sentinel. Email him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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