It’s raining through my iPad – An Interface to the Clouds

ipad in case with keyboard
Probably due to abuse from our 3 and six year olds, two keys on the external keyboard broke, so we don't even bother charging it anymore. Worth repairing? Maybe?

Are you considering an iPad®? They’re pretty dope. My partner Rivka got a refurbished one a couple of years ago for around $300.00, including a case with a keyboard – and man does it get some use. It’s main occupations are Facebook, Online Newspapers and Magazines and Netflix. But Rivka has also used the iPad to record meetings and music rehearsals as well as for journaling, and is now reading notes for Temple of Wow homemade skin care lotion.

What’s the difference between an iPad and a laptop? First of all, here’s an article which does a nice concise job of differentiating between tablet, iPad, netbook and laptop.

Briefly, a laptop is a full fledged computer (just like a desktop, but smaller – and hotter), while a tablet (of which iPad is a type) was designed as an interface to the internet. There are plenty of tasks you would do on a computer which wouldn’t require an internet connection (writing a book, recording or editing a movie or song, editing a photo). There are very few applications for which an iPad (or other tablet) wouldn’t require (or at least strongly desire) access to the net.

Let’s take a high level (like from far away) overview of what what computing consists of.

  • Hardware
  • Data
  • Interface
  • Network

Hardware are the physical devices: computers, modems, screens, keypads, cables (wires), etc….
Data is the words, pictures, videos, music, names and numbers, emails, etc….
Interfaces* are the means by which you interact with (view, edit, delete) the data.
Network is the system through which different devices (computers, iPads, etc) interconnect.

* Interfaces come in two broad categories, hardware (screen, keyboard, mouse, screen reader) which provide a physical interface and software, which are the applications/programs (email, music player, picture viewer, word processor) the provide a virtual interface to the data.

Remington Rand punched card
There's a really great article on the IBM site about this history of these cards, dating back to the late 1800s.

If you hang around computer people long enough, you will hear about the punch cards – literally made of cardboard – that used to be used to store data (and the room-sized computers it took to perform simple procedures that any modern cell phone can do.)

Here’s the thing, though. The current method of storing data hasn’t really changed in principle from those data-storing punch cards. Just as it took physical space to store those cardboard cards, and you had to have back up copies and try and keep them out of the rain, the same goes for today’s hard drives. The word we use to describe a computers data-holding capacity is divided into two types: Memory, which is the amount of information that can be accessed at the same time. Memory is kind of like the amount of stuff that can be on your desk at once, like if you were making a collage. Storage is the amount of items that fit in the the virtual File Cabinets, and one of the trade-offs for that sleek, affordable iPad is that there might not be much storage capacity in it. Tablets like the iPad were designed as a user-friendly interface to the internet for content as well as storage.

It's raining through my iPad!
It's raining through my iPad!

The iPad is mostly designed as an interface to “The Cloud”. Actually it can connect to a whole bunch of different “clouds”, so it’s more like an interface to the sky. What’a a Cloud? There’s no such thing as the cloud. It’s someone else’s computer. Basically The Cloud is just a clever branding term to sell wireless subscriptions to really sophisticated, secure, backed-up computer systems run by companies like Apple, Google, Dropbox, Microsoft and more.

There is some “local storage” in iPads, and the local storage capacity can make a significant difference in user experience. You can’t see into a cloud. Anything you need to see or hear must be in your devices memory at least at the time at which you are seeing it. When music and movies stream, a certain amount of the data contained in the stream is downloaded to the device, then erased to make room for the next bits of the stream. If you are considering a purchase, definitely check out this really informative article for help determining which iPad model might make the most sense for you.  The author, Rene Richie shares, for example, that with an iPad mini 2, the 16 GB model was $269 or $16.81 per gigabyte, while the 32 GB model was $319 or $9.97 per gigabyte! Rene also recommends the following local storage based on types of use:

  • If you use a lot of cloud services you may be able to eek the most out of 16 GB.
  • If you use a fair amount of cloud services you should be okay with 32 GB or 64 GB.
  • If you don't use the cloud, you'll want to stick with 128 GB or 256 GB.

The, “if you don’t use the cloud” option doesn’t make much sense to me, as computers and hard drives are now ubiquitous enough that everybody pretty much knows that all important data should be backed up, right? Have you actually _not_ lost a years worth of original photos yet? Whether it’s your own “cloud”, set up as part of a home network, or a service, you want to have spare copies of at least some of your data.

Let’s look at some of the various types of data you might be dealing with:

Video, Music & Sound files*:

  • Video files take up a lot of storage space. A full length movie might be 3 Gigabytes. 5 Gig is the total capacity of the free iCloud account.
  • For and iPad, anything that was purchased through iTunes is automatically stored in the “iTunes Cloud”
  • Other sound files like ones you record yourself or download from the world wide web, you will probably want to store copies of on iCloud, Dropbox, Google Drive, etc….


  • Images are another memory hungry type of file.
  • If you (pay for and) use iPhoto Library, the full size files are kept “on the cloud”, small version are kept locally for you to view and share.

Applications & Application Data:

  • Applications - the programs that are the virtual interfaces to your data, actually _are_ also data themselves.
  • Applications like Google Maps and Facebook will also build up large amounts of data _about_ how you are using them, this can facilitate your use of the applications, but it also takes up a lot of space


Contacts and Email:

  • If you are using a Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail or even AOL email address, your emails are already on the cloud. They are stored as data on the computer network of the company who’s name appears after the @ in your email address.
  • Contacts are automatically synced with Apples iCloud, and are not likely to make a large dent in memory either locally or on the cloud. Learn more here.

* a file is the format by which most of your data is stored, database is the other

negative resistance illustration from wikipedia
Path of least resistance
My suggestion would be that although there are a few highly-regraded players in the Cloud field, it will be easiest to implement iCloud with iPad as the service and hardware were developed with each other in mind. The free 5 gigabytes storage Apple gives you for your account will barely be enough for one device, let alone more than one device, but for only $.99 a month – that’s $12 a year – you get 50 Gig, so that’s almost definitely worth it (and should be plenty.) Apple rates here.

If you do want to be diligent and compare options, here’s a link to a walk through comparison of the top Cloud providers, as and here is a table-comparison.

I'll leave you with one more link, to a great tutorial on managing the local storage on your iPad.

Photo sources:,,