Using iPad with Linux and for academic work a plan

Some impressions while using iPad for academic work

I have been using ipad with my fedora powered five year old notebook and I think it is working well even without iTunes as long as I can get my get my notebook connected with my iPad over wifi. My laptop does not have bluetooth, but I found that with a combination of goodreader app and local wifi and using several WebDAV servers and with services like Dropbox and Evernote I can read pdfs, transfer files and pictures and sync with web services and write short blog posts. For accessing the iTunes store I can work directly from iPad.

I use iPad mostly for academic and PDF reading, music and video access and for that i tend to integrate services like Dropbox, WebDAV servers, local wifi, and PDF readers in the iPad. So far for me this is sufficient to get my work done. I will not replace my notebook with a device like ipad but will continue to use it as a supplementary device that stays with me wherever I go. I am going go use my notebook for academic writing, data analysis, complex editing and programming jobs, use plaintext and markdown format as much as possible to use with implementation like simplenote or Evernote or plain email for pushing stuff to my blog or keep bookmarks in got-project like solutions.

With a wide range of web apps already available for iPad, it is not really necessary to rely only on the app store, and possibly a more sensible idea is to roll out one’s own web app to host and use for iPad. The steps of writing a web app for ipad is not that difficult and now there are excellent tutorials and books available throughout web that enables anyone with some interest and even limited knowledge in HTML, JavaScript and CSS to pull in stuff from all over web and use them gainfully. Increasingly newer web apps are being made available and some of them are as good as any native app.

An interesting example of a really useful web app in the context of academic paper writing and reading is the wizfolio web app. I use Mendeley for my reference management and was looking for if there might be a Mendeley app to work with in iPad, I could not find one, but instead discovered wizfolio that can play very nicely with both Mendeley and web based collection of scholarly literature so that if needed I can transfer my reference lists over web from my Mendeley database and wizfolio and sync with documents. I have completely brought all my PDF collections to web services and use iPad to read and annotate my PDFs. I use the really nice iannotate iPad app for reading and marking up my PDFs and then transfer the notes over email of wifi to my notebook for integrating with my word processor programme.

Thus a combination of file management apps like goodreader, PDF annotators or readers like iannotate (but in fact any free PDF reading app even goodreader will do), WebDAV services (for example but something like Dropbox will do as well), syncing files through local wifi or through these various other services and using wizfolio it is quite possible to develop a work plan of building and referring to your PDF collection and reading them distraction free while working on an important piece of work on your notebook computer and syncing the files over web. In fact what may even be really useful is to write the paper in plain text with perhaps latex or markdown format and then using software like pandoc to convert the markdown file to word processors. That way, with the lightweight device such as iPad, one can carry one’s entire library with one as one moves, and can start darting or writing papers or reports virtually anywhere as long as one is connected to the web. Again, depends on circumstances. A web app that I’d be personally interested to see is a web based implementation of R statistical programming language that will enable anyone to load data from a website or database and run stats and graphics on the web directly from one’s iPad without really “installing” anything like app for that matter.


5 thoughts on “Using iPad with Linux and for academic work a plan

  1. I was drawn to your posting because I have a 100% Linux household and am about to get an iPad as a gift. Whereas with my android phone, it’s just a case of copying/synching the right files over to the right folders, I understood that things are a little tougher with the iPad.

    Do you find the solutions you have in place a little kludgy, or is it smooth sailing once you’ve set them up? I was hoping to use Dropbox, but now am wondering what the advantage of using Evernote as well is.


    • Hi Dzof,

      Thanks for commenting on the blog post. I think ipad works remarkably well with linux and if you can set up stuff (and most people who use linux regularly know how to do stuff, at least networking wise), you can use ipad very gainfully. In fact, over the last three weeks, I have increasingly become used to a new and fun way of doing very serious work. I figured out that you really do not _need_ itunes or anything like that to transfer files between ipad and your computer. You also do not need to unnecessarily jailbreak your ipad if you do not want to. Straight out of the box, you _may_ need itunes to set it up (again, if the ipad comes with some native apps like itunes etc already set up, you do not need itunes). I found to work well with ipad, I needed the following programmes and apps:

      1) I needed access to dropbox (dropbox works well with linux) 2) An app called GoodReader (you really need this app because this is a very good file manager and pdf reader etc. Very powerful app 3) You need an access to a webdav server. You can use your school’s webdav server if you have one, or else use one of the myriad free services around (I use works perfectly) 4) Learn to use plain text for your work (thus markdown, restructured text, latex etc work very well with ipad and with web based services like scribtex, you do not need rich text formatting for writing on the web at all)

      One transfers files in mainly three ways:

      1) Push through email 2) Push using wifi from your home computer to ipad. Use the ipad as a webdav folder and push files through wifi. Works like a charm.

      Because I mainly use ipad as a viewer app, and to consume information rather than writing stuff on it, it has served me very well so far. Real easy and smooth.

      So, best wishes on your ipad,

      You’ll have real fun and a lifestyle changing experience. Please let me know.

      Best, Arin


      • :-), that’s well said, Dzof, but hopefully at the end of the week you’ll have some real insights as to how the thing syncs with life. It’d be great if you can share your experiences.

        Best, Arin

        “There’s a crack in everything, it’s how the light gets in.” (Leonard Cohen)


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