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Posted by: Bob Cozzi
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Published: 18 Apr 2011
Revised: 11 Jun 2015 - 2626 days ago
Last viewed on: 15 Aug 2022 (66445 views) 

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Using TN5250 with the iPad 2 Published by: Bob Cozzi on 18 Apr 2011 view comments

Is the iPad 2 Right for You

Recently I received an iPad 2. You know, the device that's selling as fast as they can ship them from China. I was very excited when the original iPad came out until I looked as the specs (something I'm guessing most people do not bother doing). After reviewing the iPad "1" and its1024x768 screen at 10.2 inches it should have pixels the size of M&Ms. I'm way over 40 so clear, crisp letters are important to me. The other showstoppers were that it had no SD memory card slot, no USB adapter and no camera for Skype. So I passed on it.

So when the iPad 2 came out I thought surely Apple must have resolved some of its shortcomings, right? They did. They added a "camera" (two of them actually) and while nothing else from my punch list was taken care of, I thought I'd give it a try.

The iPad 2 is basically the same as the iPad 1 except for the addition of front/back facing "cameras" and the introduction of the A5 chip, which is a dual core version of the A4 used on the iPad 1. Beyond that, from a user experience, they are identical. Oh, and I put "camera" in quotes because I haven't seen a camera of such low quality used in the last 5+ years in anything other than freebies/give-aways at conventions and tradeshows.

First, the Camera: At first glance it looked like they did it right. A front a back facing camera was going to help with Skype calls, and their new FaceTime software (which does similar things).  But after using it for a few seconds, I began to think the camera on my iPad 2 was defective. Every FaceTime or Skype call I made showed me as a red silhouette. So I tried the camera on the back of the iPad, it too had very poor performance in normal room lighting. So this means the camera only be used in a very, very well lit room or out doors in sunlight. But, read the next paragraph about the display screen.

Second, the screen; The iPad 2 is good for one thing, watching movies at arm's length. Beyond that they should be embarrassed about it. I know I am. The Amazon Kindle ads are correct; you cannot see the iPad screen when you're outside--in rain or shine, there's too much glare. This is an indoor-use only device in my opinion (well, you can use it outside, you're just unlikely to be able to actually see what's on the screen).

Even if you could see the screen outside, the resolution on the 10.2 inch screen isn't good enough; its too grainy. So while reading books, such as the IBM manuals and web pages is okay, long duration reading such as a novel or other book is going to be challenging to some.

Quite an irony, huh? The camera effectively requires very brightly lit areas/subjects such as sunlit subjects, but the screen cannot be seen in the very light requirements for the cameras.

Apple also introduced the "magic cover" an iPad cover that doubles as a stand. It is very clever, while it works as a passable stand and not very good at being a cover. Why? What is a cover for? It is used to keep dust, marks and other things off the iPad screen, right? It turns out that the tacky material used on the magic cover to keep the iPad from slipping (when used as a stand) actually leaves marks on the iPad screen when its used as a cover. This means that if you use the magic cover, marks and smudges will magically appear on the iPad when the cover is removed, but it is "Designed by Apple" so you've got that going for you.

I don't get Apple's obsession for "glass". I mean, you can't read the iPad screen in any kind of normal outdoor light or in a brightly lit room; the thing acts like a mirror for every light source. Why not use an antiglare coating? I suppose if everyone buys the thing anyway, there's no incentive.

The IBM i and RPG Connection to iPad

Apple used to use System/38's and probably AS/400's although I have no direct knowledge of them using it, I believe they moved to the AS/400 in the late 1980s. But between then and now, they moved to SAP and off the IBM i platform.

For me, the first thing I did was download the free version of Mochasoft TN5250 for iPad. I also own a small Apple Bluetooth keyboard that I connected to make typing easier. To my surprise, it worked nearly perfect. I was able to bring up my Power7 box Sign On screen, go into PDM, load up SEU, and anything else I needed.  A photo I took using my iPhone and posted on Twitter (@bobcozzi) shows the PDM screen and keyboard:

My initial thought was, the heck with a MacBook Air or some kind of under-powered NetBook, an iPad with the MochaSoft TN5250 App is all I needed for quick access to the box.

Perfection was soon be greeted by frustration, however. Upon pressing the F3 key the screen didn't react. I tried again, nothing; then tried F5, F12 (you know, typically end-user actions) then I emailed Mochasoft's tech support, and they responded literally within minutes. Here's what they said (I'll paraphrase for your enjoyment)  "Apple does not allow Function key access in iOS applications, it's not us, it's them."

What! Apple does not allow software developers to access function keys in their apps? Why? It seems as if they (i.e. Apple) thinks that changing screen brightness, audio levels, and playing video is more important. That is, those Fn buttons that we've all had on our keyboards for 30+ years, well Apple has unilaterally decided that they are no longer useful and they've appropriated them for system-use only. One more nail in the Apple keyboard coffin (they changed their keyboard layout to the chiclet-style of the old IBM PC Jr (it failed when IBM did it) moving away from the most loved, IBM ThinkPad/Selectric keyboards. But if you're a two-finger typist, that is you don't know how to type, you will probably like the Apple keyboard.

My suggestion to MochaSoft, cheat. Make some kind of Control key combination that does the Fn key thing. They've already don't something like this for the "pro" version of their iOS app. The pro version (which is a bit pricey at $29.95, but considering the shallow market for a 5250 emulator on iPad, its just about right) has soft Fn keys that pop up and are easy to access. Their free version of this app does have the on-screen Fn key support like they do in their Windows and Mac versions. For example "F5=Refresh" displayed at the bottom of the screen automatically turns into a push button that will evoke that key.

The Bottom Line

Should you buy an iPad? Well, it depends. If you're an executive, absolutely, you'll be surprised how well it works in an office environment for an Executive level employee. If you're an RPG developer who is also a road warrior, its probably a valid purchase decision. It also improves on your iPhone or blackberry battery life. Because you tend to use the iPad and its larger screen for things like email, twitter, facebook, linkedIn, etc., you use your phone less for these tasks and more for what it is, a phone. So now my iPhone lasts for days instead of just one day.

For most people, if you want to be impressed, I would wait for the next turn of the crank on iPad. A better screen, a legitimate camera and hopefully an SD card slot built-in, along with either a USB or that new faster port would be beneficial too.



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