Dad's iPad is toddler's new favorite toy

All set to usher in a new era of tablet computing in my life, I picked up an iPad on launch day in April. The plan was for it to be mine for at least a year, but that plan went out the window about 30 seconds after my 17-month-old son got his hands on it.

The Web is full of stories about how big a hit the iPad has been with toddlers, as well of plenty of YouTube videos showing 18-month-olds masterfully interacting with this seemingly sophisticated device. Perhaps most gratifying, near-miracle breakthroughs with autistic children are being reported. There's no great mystery as to why this is: A large, interactive touch screen is simply the most intuitive input method that exists in today's technology.

While he's not quite ready for Twitter, here are some of my son's favorite apps, most of which have free demo versions. Just search the app title in iTunes to download:

  • "FirstWords: Deluxe" ($4.99): This app features 147 words (including pictures and sounds) with the letters spread out as tiles that your little one must put in order. It teaches the alphabet, spelling, pronunciation and word association all at the same time.
  • "Wheels on the Bus HD" and "Itsy Bitsy Spider HD" ($1.99 each): Both interactive songbooks, these apps visually tell the story of the classic nursery rhymes and even let you record you own voice to sing along.
  • "Letters A to Z for the iPad" ($0.99) and "Interactive Alphabet ABC Flash Cards" ($2.99): Each of these apps provides a fun way to learn the alphabet and gives interactive examples of words for each letter.
  • "Sound Touch" ($2.99): 312 pictures and accompanying sounds are broken up into six different categories controlled by simple taps. I can personally vouch for this app keeping your toddler busy for a very long time.
  • This list just scratches the surface of all that's out there, but it's a good place to start. If you are on the fence about letting your toddler utilize the iPad, keep in mind that their education won't consist of heavy textbooks or keyboards and mice. The iPad and devices like it are the future of learning -- why not start them young? Now onto our question this week:

    Question. My question regards the slowing down of my 5-year-old Dell desktop, running Windows XP. I have done all the obvious things, defragged, cleaned the disk, my spyware/malware and virus checkers are up to date and I have uninstalled programs no longer in use. I suspect the slowdown may be a result of the start up file and the fact that I may have too many programs in it. But when I look at the file, I am at a loss as to what I can delete from it, or conversely, which files at a minimum are necessary.

    Betts, Fripp Island

    Answer. This is a common issue for XP users -- an otherwise healthy computer seems to slow down over time. Although any number of things could be causing it, a good place to begin is checking to see what is launching when the computer is first booted. Go to your Startup folder and remove anything you don't want. It is located in C:\Documents and Settings\username\Start Menu\Progams\Startup.

    Next use the system configuration utility to get a closer look at what is going on during startup. Click on the Start menu and then "Run..." Type "msconfig" (without quotes) at a command prompt to launch this utility. Once opened, click on the Startup tab. Uncheck any obvious programs you see that you don't want to launch at startup. For those items that you are unsure about, expand the Command column width so you can see the actual file name that is being launched. A quick Google search of that file name with the ".exe" extension should give you an idea of what it is and is doing on your system.

    Just to be sure, for any items you're not positive about, uncheck one of them at a time and restart. If Windows boots and runs normally, you know you are in the clear.

    Morgan Bonner is Pre-Press Manager and a systems administrator for the Packet and Gazette.