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Should I get an Apple iPad?

by Cal Doval published Aug 30, 2012 11:45 AM, last modified Oct 15, 2013 11:40 AM
It really depends on your business and personal needs.

Here's what you'll be able to do:

Read email
Browse the web
Read books (PDFs, iBooks, Kindle, etc)
Read magazines (Zinio, etc)
Read newspapers (various Newspaper apps)
Take notes (e.g. Evernote, but please don't put sensitive information here, as Evernote stores it in the cloud)
Read/browse files on cloud services such as Dropbox, Box.Net, iCloud etc. (caveat: no sensitive work-related files should be stored here! see below)
Logon to systems with SSH (e.g. the "Farm" compute cluster)
Do basic math calculations (e.g. Wolfram Alpha), run specialized applications
Run an ever-expanding list of other interesting applications....

What you won't be able to/shouldn't do:

Print (unless you get an AirPrint-capable HP Printer)
Browse websites with Flash
Keep local copies of files with personally identifiable information (PII) [see InfoSec policy]

Explanation:

iPads and other tablet computers offer a compelling, highly-portable instant-on computing experience. There's a lot to like about this, and industry analysts talk about the "post-PC" era. With that in mind, please be aware of the following:
iPads are extremely easy to steal/lose, and very easy to break into. Passwords/passcodes offer very little protection from determined crackers. Specifically, we cannot make an iPad/tablet exempt from the reporting requirements of SB1384, except under the following conditions:
1. The iPad is encrypted
2. The iPad must accept the security policies CRU has put into place for mobile devices, including setting a passcode.
These two things allow us to reliably remote wipe the device upon notice of loss/theft. The passcode is not intended to keep out a determined attacker indefinitely, but only to allow us enough time to remote wipe the device.
This is obviously not perfect, but it's the best we can do while keeping a minimal impact to your computing experience.

Recommendations:

If you are going to buy an iPad and want to connect it to the CA&ES Exchange servers, make an appointment with us to do so. Please keep in mind that the only support CRU provides for personally owned devices is connection to your Calendar/Inbox on Exchange. We will provide full support for iPads purchased with CA&ES Dean's Office (Center, Institute) funds.
If you have any intention of using 3G in another country, go with AT&T which uses the international GSM protocol. Verizon uses CDMA, which is extremely difficult to find in other countries (you probably won't).

Cloud Data Storage:

In order to access files, iPads tend to store data in the cloud. By "cloud" I mean specific services such as GoogleDocs, Box.Net, Dropbox, Apple's iCloud service, or other providers.
CRU will provide limited support for folks requesting the use of DropBox, as follows:
1. CRU has an automatic software install package that will install DropBox on your laptop or workstation (for the iPad app, you must install it yourself from Apple’s App Store).
2. CRU will not provide support on the configuration or setup of your DropBox account or files.
3. Storage of files with Restricted Personal Information is not allowed by UC Policy. In particular, this violates the CA&ES Dean’s Office Information Security Policy, located here: http://computing.caes.ucdavis.edu/computing-policies/information-security-policy
Dean’s Office employees are, in general, responsible for any files removed from CA&ES data storage infrastructure (i.e. the servers and storage area network (SAN) maintained by CRU)
4. Files should only be stored on official UC Davis Box accounts. IET provides support for Box, but Restricted Personal Information is not allowed on the UC Davis Box account; for this reason, this service is unavailable to the UCD Medical Center.
5. Files stored on DropBox are controlled by the Dropbox user account, and therefore cannot be backed up or recovered in any way by CRU. Clients using DropBox are responsible for their own backups and recovery of files stored on DropBox.
6. For the same reason, CRU cannot provide any technical support to resolve issues with files stored on DropBox.
Note that DropBox has admitted that they have access to and will freely provide decryption keys to your data under subpoena. This means that:
Dropbox can read your files stored on their service at any time
Law enforcement of any nation can read your files stored on Dropbox at any time

Recommendation:

Clients that take information off CA&ES servers and workstations assume complete responsibility for the proper distribution, backup, and recovery of those files (as with USB keys and other portable storage media).

Installing Apps:

At this time, there are no known instances of malware in Apple's curated AppStore (the same is not true of Google's Android store, not to mention the third-party Android stores). Therefore, we have no reason at this time to restrict app installation on your iPad, provided that:
You do not jailbreak iOS (this immediately opens remote root access to your iOS device!)
You associate your iOS device with a personal credit card, rather than a University one
The last point requires further explanation. Basically, apps will be a mixture of business/personal, and by policy the University should not be paying for personal apps. Hence, in order to install them, you will need a personal account with Apple.
Secondly, and more importantly, several applications now offer "in-App" purchases. This means that even though you are using a "free" application, clicking once in the wrong spot will cause you to purchase something (such as a new feature, or the "feature" of removing annoying in-app ads). There have been several reported cases of parents finding hundreds of dollars of charges from their children playing a "free" game with "in-App" purchases.

Requirement:

Taken together, in order to adhere to University policy, we must have iOS devices (iPhones, iPads) associated with personal accounts and personal credit cards.
With all that out of the way, we're sure you'll find your iPad/tablet device to be very handy.
Enjoy!

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Where:

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The goal of the Computing Resources Unit is to provide the best possible customer service, application development, and technology infrastructure to support the business needs of the Dean’s Office and the College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences and its departments.