Saturday, January 12, 2013

Techno grappling for Boaters - how to set up an iPad for cruising.

Yes I am still alive, albeit barely sane, but I’ve been too busy to post anything.

It all started when our daughter Claire bought a (hardly) used iPad from a friend and gave it to Kath for Christmas. There’s a blessing in disguise. Kath loves her web browsing and her on line embroidery classes and her on line genealogy, but she would never claim to be a tecchie, so muggins gets the job of sorting out all the bits that don’t work.  In particular I have to get her iPad ship shape for cruising.  We can’t go cruising until everything is set up to work, or Kath will get cabin fever.

In the old days, I was a bit of an IT whizz kid.  I worked in IT for over ten years.  What I didn’t know about MSDOS wasn’t worth knowing.  At Lotus 123 I was the master. Relational databases and query languages held no fears for me and I could even do a bit of hardware fixing. But now, like car engines, it’s all changed so much, myold knowledge and expertise isn’t worth the space it takes up in my brain.  I thought the idea of iPads was supposed to be that they are simple and intuitive.  All I can say is I hope we never get Parkinsons disease ‘cos it seems that a mere flick of the finger can send the gubbins off into unknown areas from which there is little chance of escape.

Our main aim for iPad boat cruising of course is to get set up for 3G connectivity and get email going.  Luckily Kath’s iPad has a sim card port.  Well that’s solved that you may say.  Unless you have looked at 3G tariffs lately.  The man in the 3 store was very nice.  Too nice.  All we wanted was one answer, not twenty seven. Should we get a contract with a free MiFi gubbins (more of that in a minute), should we get a PAYG 12 months x1Gb or 4x 3 months, or etc etc.

This MiFi idea is good.  A single gubbins connects to the 3g network and then sets up a mini wifi hotspot that any of your laptops, iPads, smartphones can share. I looked it up on Canal World Forums and a number of boaters seem to be using them successfully.  So K and I can browse on separate devices at the same time using one 3g connection which can be put where we can get the best signal.  We don’t have to sit near the window or whatever to keep the signal.  We’ll get one of them when we can work our way through the tariff maze.  If you live on a boat full time, the choice is simpler, but if you are using it for a few weeks here and a few days there, you need to be more careful about not paying for data when you don’t need it.

Anyway back to the wretched lovely iPad. We have worked out how to install Kath’s Genealogy app which takes her data from our PC programme. If Herbie looks to be sitting low in the water, it’s because Kath has all her ancestors with her. We have worked out how to download and store all her podcasts from the National Archives weekly talks. We have even worked out how to download and store all her embroidery PDFs. This might not seem a great feat, but nothing on an iPad tells you what to do.  There are precious few menus and help screens and you just have to wander about through the maze poking and prodding at the screen until you find something that looks like it might be the thing to do.  Then if you get it a bit wrong  you can never remember how you got to that screen so you can go back and try again.  I love it.

Setting up the email was the best bit.  The setup path was surprisingly clear and simple. Apart from the fact that it didn’t work.  It would be OK if we were using Gmail or Hotmail, but we like to keep our proper POP/IMAP/SMTP mail on Virgin Media cos that’s our ISP at home and we only want one email system thank you very much.  Going to the Virgin Media help pages was a waste of time because they specifically state that they can’t be bothered to mess about with people who have iPads, well words to that effect anyway.  Eventually, after midnight last night, I found a page from some kind soul who had worked out the problem for himself and posted a solution.  I can’t explain it all now but suffice to say that it involves totally ignoring all the advice from Apple and Virgin Media and entering the mail server by a back door route via Microsoft Exchange!  Don’t ask me how it works.  It just does. Clever guy.  Our inbox now has a thousand, well  twenty, emails entitled Test, Another test, Test 3, Maybe It’ll Work This Time,  etc.

Meanwhile Kath is besotted with her iPad  She sat in bed the other night using it to watch a missed episode of Pointless.  What more can I say!


Lorna said...

Leo No2 said...


If you would like to pop down the road to the Wey at a mutually convenient time I'd be happy to show you my setup. It's a T-Mobile pointer device connected to an external and removable aerial on the roof - I've never not managed to get a 3G signal and can connect my iPad (Mini) and Apple Mac PC to it with no problem at all. I have the Pointer on a monthly contact (£15) which gives me 15gb (or it may be 5gb) - you can have the same device on a PAYG but the data is limited to 1gb a month.


Halfie said...

No photo? Never mind, a thousand words paints a picture ... nice one!

Adam said...

Don't be afraid to negotiate with 3 if you want a MiFi. When we upgraded from the old dongle, Adrian told them on the phone that the offered tariffs were all too much, and indicated how much we'd like to pay. They agreed.

Sarah said...

I buy a 3, three gb, three month sim via Amazon from Prepaymania for about £11. I wouldn't think you could get much cheaper than that and I've never had any trouble setting it up. It's always lasted the full three months, and apart from the local glitch last summer, usually find enough of a signal for blogging and browsing.

Julie said...

Can we have a link from the 'kind soul' because I can't get my e-mail on my iphone - it's an old (very old) freeserve account.
Thank you