Questions from around the Thanksgiving dinner table:
Q: I updated my iPad to the newest operating system, but now I can't lock my screen, so it bounces around all over the place.
A: Yeah, the updated software hides the screen lock function. Tap the home key twice -- that's the button near the bottom of the iPad -- now at the bottom of the display, swipe your finger from left to right.
Ta-da. Now you can lock your screen's orientation again, just like old times. And you'll find the play and pause buttons for the iPad's music and video player, too.
The old screen lock now does just one thing: Mute the audio. I guess Apple figured more people wanted quick access to the mute function than quick access to the screen lock.
Q: What do you use your iPad for? Why didn't you get a real computer?
A: I like to make music with my iPad, and the iTunes App Store is full of cheap software I can use to make my own songs. It's a giant iPhone without the phone but with a nice screen. There are a ton of useful apps, including those that make the iPhone indespensible for so many people: Finding a nearby route for running or walking; stargazing, by holding the iPad up to the night sky till the constellation on your screen matches the constellation in the sky, then touching the screen to learn about what you're seeing (Try doing that with your laptop). I wouldn't recommend it for a lot of people, because you can get a souped-up Windows laptop for less than the price of the top-of-the-line iPad. Having a real computer for real work and an iPad for real fun is like having an oven and microwave: One is great for baking a turkey; one is better for heating up leftovers.
Q: I'm stuck. I need to find a gift for a geek, but I don't want to spend a lot of money.
A: An oldie but goodie is the WowWee Femisapien Humanoid Robot, $58 at amazon.com. Teach it some dance movies by moving it's body to the left, then the right, and it replay the moves by itself. Your friend can teach it how to kiss your friend's face, and if your friend hold its hands just right, Femisapien turns into a very graceful slow dance partner, following your friend's lead. OK, it can't speak and it can't fetch your slippers, but for less than $60, Femisapien is a pretty remarkable entertainer. Go to YouTube and search for Femisapien for a demonstration. If you buy the robot as a present, write on the gift card, "After you open this, google 'hidden functions.' "
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