Mac 911 and the summer vacation

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Just when I think I’ve got this summer-vacation-and-technology thing down, new lessons present themselves. Take this last week, for example, during which I learned:

My iPhone 3GS hates humidity. I spent an uncharacteristically muggy week near Newport Beach, California and it drove my iPhone nuts. The right side of the display (when in portrait mode) became either completely unresponsive (meaning I could tap icons along the right side of the Home screen with no results) or confused (typing the letter O on the keyboard produced a P or I and tapping Delete did either nothing or triggered the key multiple times). Once I moved to drier climes and let the iPhone breath for a few minutes it became its responsive old self.

To work around these liabilities I turned the iPhone on its side when I needed to type something, thus putting the “dead zone” at the top of the screen (thank you iPhone 3.0 software update) and used the Search screen to launch applications that couldn’t be opened by touch (ditto on the 3.0 thanks).

But that iPhone is darned useful. And it is because it’s a drag to drag a laptop around the house to find the sweet spot for the neighbor’s generously unprotected Wi-Fi network. Because Garmin wants subscription dollars to display congestion information when the iPhone’s Maps app offers it for free. Because, unlike my Garmin Nuvi, my iPhone didn’t demand that I get aboard a dagnabbed ferry to cross a tiny sliver of water when I could easily avoid the trip by driving an extra mile. Because Oakley’s free Surf Report lets you know that, spectacular though the Wedge’s freakishly giant waves may be to observe, they’re not the kind of thing you want to put your daughter in.

Demographics favor a tablet. This was an extended family vacation and the most senior member of our clan is Lew, who will become a centenarian in December. As you might imagine, his eyes aren’t what they used to be and he’s confined to reading the paper with a magnifying bar and can read only large-type books. He started one morning by saying “What about this Kindle thing? I hear you can change the size of the print. Would that be something I could use?”

“Absolutely,” I replied. “The Kindle DX, in particular, would be great for you because the larger screen lets you see more of the page.”

“What about the Internet? I can’t operate a computer but maybe this could make it easy for me to look at things on the Internet.”

“That’s not something the Kindle does, but there are rumors that Apple may release a tablet computer that operates like an iPhone. If that’s true, there are sure to be some developers who understand that this kind of technology could benefit not only technophiles, but seniors as well.”

Taking your kid kayaking is more rewarding than Disneyland. Trust me on this one, her memory of first paddling her father around Newport Bay is going to stick with her far longer than the 20-minute wait for Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.

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