A couple of months back my wife and I were lucky to be able to get a couple of iPad 2s. Opinions differ wildly on how useful a tablet is. Can it replace a computer (no it cannot, not in my opinion), is it good for anything (many things), etc, etc, ad nauseam.
For those photographers out there in the digital world and to a degree just people who own a tablet (iPad or other) that does not have a card slot, I decided to throw together a post of “How do I post pictures to the web” (for a blog/personal/site/sharing/backups/etc). Also some ideas of how to expand storage on your tablet that doesn’t have a built in card slot.
A while back I decided that having only a 16GB iPad 2 was a bit of a limitation. Not a severe one, but on the occasional long trip to the in-laws, vacation, etc having only 16GB of storage space can be kind of limiting. Especially with two young children who sometimes want to watch (or need to be distracted by) a movie on Mommy or Daddy’s iPad. Once you figure in Apps, there is only maybe 10GB of storage on either iPad give or take a bit. That works out to maybe 10hrs of video…which sounds like a lot, until you figure 3-4 movies for the kids (for ANY kind of variety), a couple of movies or shows for Mom or Dad for something we want to watch…and suddenly you are out of space. Fine for a weekend away, not so fine with no internet connection and a week away from home.
Then my next “conundrum” was that the only way for my wife to blog, at least easy way to, was to lug her 17″ laptop with her to load the pictures from her E-PL1 and then up to the internet. No card slot on the iPad (thanks for that Apple).
So I decided to look for a way to expand storage. Seeing as how I am huge in to IT (its literally what I do for a living) it only took me a short while to settle on getting a used mobile hot spot. Internet access on the go isn’t a huge deal for us, and is expensive (I am NOT paying ~$50 a month just for the couple of times a year I am parted from the internet for more than a day or two straight, and pre-paid mobile access tends to not be very good, or has very tiny data limits). So I didn’t really care about the actual network, just about the hot spot features (WLAN, card slot, GPS, etc). I settled on a Sprint Overdrive for a couple of reasons. It supports up to 5 concurrent connections over 802.11b/g WLAN, WPA-2 encyption, has a micro SD card slot (max 16GB cards) and has a built in GPS. Best of all, used ones can be found on Ebay for $40 (cheap = good).
My next issue was that my wife’s camera uses SD cards, not micro SD cards. No problem since most micro SD cards come with an SD card adapter. However, fast micro SD cards are blisteringly expensive, and it is almost impossible to find anything faster than class 6, where as it is easy and cheap to get class 10 SD cards. So the hunt was on for a cheap SD to micro SD adapter. Yes, that is right, SD to micro SD. I found one through the following website Dealextreme.com. It is basically an SD card holder with a ribbon cable and dummy micro SD stub on the end of the cable. It works great as micro SD and SD are pin compatible, just a miniaturized version.
Then it was on to the software end of things. The only reliable and decent application for iPads is File Browser, at the time of this writing a $3.99 app. Sadly not free, but it is very robust. The application allows you to connect to an SMB/CIFS network share on your local network, and the Sprint Overdrive has an SMB server baked in using the micro SD card slot for storage. You can transfer files too and from your iPad using the program and also stream music and videos. It isn’t blazing fast, but it will manage around 1MB/sec, more than enough to stream even HD video and not too painful to transfer images.
That out-of-the-way the next step is getting the pictures from your iPad to the internet. There are a few ways to do this, but I chose to use Adobe and their Photoshop Express app (free). Through Adobe Photoshop website you can create an account with up to 2GB of online storage. Plenty for backups of some key images or for blogging, web use, etc with some maintenance periodically.
For the non-photographically inclined, or for those that want other uses, you can, as I mentioned before, use the Overdrive or another hotspot with a card slot to stream music and video to your tablet if you don’t have a card slot. The overdrive will stream a couple of standard definition video streams without a hiccup using File Browser (I haven’t tried more than 2 SD video streams, but it should have the bit rate to manage 3 or 4 concurrent ones). The Overdrive also has a GPS that is very accurate. If it has an internet connection it will automatically map your location using Google maps, Yahoo, Mapquest, BING and I think one other one. If you don’t it’ll still give you Latitude and Longitude coordinates to 4 decimal places and will tell you how many satellites it managed to connect to (with 6 satellites it saw on my back deck it plotted my location to within about 5m accurately). With no internet connection you can use a regular old paper map, or download an offline mapping application like Gaia Maps. The SD to micro SD adapter is also useful for those who do have a card slot, but that is only Micro SD and they want to use full size SD cards in their camera. Its convoluted, but I bet if you looked, you could find a CF to micro SD or CF to SD and then use that in the micro SD card slot if you camera uses CF cards and you don’t want to use an SD to CF converter.
So here are the images and some quicky overviews.
SD card, SD to micro SD card adapter and Sprint Overdrive with card slot cover open. The Overdrive is about 3.2×3.2in and .75in thick and weighs about 6oz. Note, the hotspot has a vinyl skin on it, it’s normally glossy black with a Sprint log on the top.
SD card in converter and converter in hotspot.
In the File Browser application viewing the contents of the SD card. On the left hand side you see a “Remote Files” column. This is the name/IP address of the file server you are connecting to. You can configure this on the Sprint Overdrive using the device’s admin tool, as well as security, view GPS coordinates and a number of other options.
Once you click on an image it’ll bring it up to view and, if you want to copy it to your iPad you just hit copy, navigate to the local folder File Browser has created and hit Copy Here to copy it locally. If you want to copy it to your “Camera Roll” on the iPad, which means the image is accessible to any application on the iPad (crucial for uploading it to the web) when viewing an image on the upper left hit the drop down and “Copy to iPad Camera roll” is an option. With movies and other files, such as music and books, media can be streamed by clicking on the file, or if you want to copy it locally click on the blue and white greater than icon on the right of the file to select copy and then go to the File Browser local folder and hit Copy Here. Again, off the Overdrive it isn’t blindingly fast, only about 1MB/sec in an uncluttered wireless environment, or about 10 minutes for a full SD movie to copy. A faster network hard drive attached to my router on my local network copies at about 1.1MB/sec (about 4.5MB/sec wirelessly to my wife’s laptop, about the same over the Cat 5e Gigabit network I have) and my home file server does about the same 1.1MB/sec, so its a limitation of either the iPad, or probably a combo of that and the File Browser application itself since the file server will hit 115MB/sec average transfer speeds over wire, or 10MB/sec wirelessly. The Overdrive will write to the micro SD/SD card at about 1.3MBsec connecting wirelessly through my wife’s laptop (which has an average speed of 9MB/sec down and 4.5MB/sec up with its 150Mbps 802.11n connection to the home network).
Next, Photoshop Express application. When you first pull it up you have a colorful background and 4 options along the bottom, click Online. For your first time create the account and then using a flash enabled tablet (curses Apple!) log in on line to the account to set it up. There may be a way in PS Express application to create albums and set permissions, but I haven’t found how to. So you need to create any albums and their permissions through the website, and that portion requires flash to do it. Once this is done using the PS Express app login online using your account information.
Once logged in, then select the share icon on the bottom right to actually upload photos. Then select the intuitively named “Select Photo” icon in the middle of the screen.
It’ll bring up a blank screen with a listing on the right hand side of all of the pictures in your iPad’s Camera Roll. Select the photo your want to upload and you get this screen. Then select the PS Express icon on the bottom left (not the Facebook icon in the same area).
On the left side you’ll see all of your albums and your library pop-up. If you don’t want to have to manage the files online (requiring Flash a no-no on the iPad) then you need to have created a public Album already, then just select that album, and hit Share. Depending on the size of the photo it’ll take 4-15s to upload, click Sharing progress to see if it is chewing on it or not.
Once you are done you can click on the Online icon on the bottom to bring up your library and albums for everything you’ve upload to check to make sure they made it. It is also the default screen once you’ve logged in initially. Make sure it is there, and then you are on to the Photoshop website.
When you create your account it will give you the option of selecting what URL you’d like to use for your gallery. It’ll appear as http://_______.photoshop.com, just choose something that is memorable to you and not used already. So navigate to this, if you choose a public album you’ll see a screen a bit like the one above, if it is set as private then you’ll need to login first. Then select the album the pictures are in (no flash needed).
Click the image you want, and in the case of an iPad double touch to get the Save Image or Copy option, and select copy. That’ll copy the URL to the image. Now head off to whatever webpage, Blog admin tool, etc you have and paste in the URL and you now have a brand spanking new image up on your website, blog, facebook, etc. Do this for each image.
So sure, this isn’t the fastest, easiest thing in the world. It’s a far cry from slapping the memory card from your camera in to your desktop/laptop’s card reader or hooking the USB cable up, and if you wanted to you could just buy the camera connection kit for your iPad and skip the step of buying a hot spot and needing to deal with a paid 3rd party app to then copy it. However, the camera connection kit (new) it is about the same price (less than $50 total not including memory card price) as this other hardware, is bulkily attached to the dock connector on your iPad, which makes it poor for streaming anything for any length of time. Even if you go with the camera connection kit, this will give you an idea of some of the steps you go through to post pictures to the web (there are a few other programs out there other than PS Express that will allow you to upload pictures to their hosting service, I believe Shutterfly has one, I think there is an app or two for Picassa, etc, most are paid apps though).
A tablet is not a great productivity tool, but it can be used as such in a basic way. They are, as of now, with what they have on tap, a great media consumption tool and great for certain types of casual and even a bit more in depth video game playing. With the right knowledge and a little perserverance they can be a productivity tool though and they do allow you, if your needs are limited, to leave much larger, heavier and more power consuming hardware at home.
It’s a longer more drawn out process to go through. However, if you are trying to travel with a minimum of gear, but still want to post images and a netbook isn’t your cup of tea, or doesn’t do other things that you want it to (its isn’t as portable or small as a tablet, doesn’t have a touch interface, etc) then this is a good guide on how to leave your laptop/netbook at home, but still get your images up on the web while on the road, or on site. PS Express supports a few basic photo manipulation tools, and for a small cost adds a few others ($2.99 I think adds noise reduction tool and a few others) to tweak your photos before uploading.