A Rumba with a Roomba
Verity puts her feet up
Stob Don't tell me. I've heard it already. You've got the iPadFever. Or Obsession for iPhone 4. Or iMac Mini Madness.
Apparently nearly everyone is contemplating dropping hundreds of not-as-big-as-they-were-once ones on an Apple product, and joining in the chorus of boring bores who bore on in boring detail about how lovely the internet looks on it. (Yes, I am looking at you Graham Linehan , because from you I expected so much better.)
At the risk of drawing the malic  malice of every fan-boi and -goil upon my head, I would like to make a radical and impertinent suggestion.
Why not buy a non-Apple gadget?
I come not to bury Apple, but to praise something else.
For much less than the price of an iPad, I have become a Roomba owner, and it is the best thing ever.
In case you don't know, a Roomba is a disk-shaped robot about the size of a 12" long-playing vinyl record (or, if you are too young to remember such things, about the size of a 30cm long-playing vinyl record). Here  is a short, unsatisfactory film of one in action (unsatisfactory both because of the dreadful singing, and the cat obscuring your view of the machine).
Its task in life, as you will have tumbled, it to trundle about on the floor vacuuming. It stores the dirt that it picks up in its tummy. When it becomes tired and hungry, it seeks out its charging point, and drives carefully onto it, like the Minis driving onto the coach in The Italian Job. It knows about stairs, and declines to fall down them. It adjusts its mowing height to accommodate both the pile of bedroom carpet and the tiles of the kitchen floor. It cleans under the sofa with equanimity, and it charges blithely into the gunge area behind the kitchen bin without flinching.
Ok, it is not perfect. It is jealous: thou shalt have no other gadget before it. I found this out the very first time I switched it on. It made straight for the Wii and grabbed the thin wire that connects the sensor bar, and tried to eat it. It wound it around its little, secondary brush, the one that looks like whiskers, and throttled to a halt. However, it was easily rescued and I like to think it learned its lesson, because we have had no repetition, although a couple of times I have caught it sniffing around the charging cable of my Palm Pre.
Anyway, since I got it, I have tried to infect everybody I can with my enthusiasm. Not without success. I even had my boss reconsidering his moving house plans, because the upper floor of his new place is segmented by steps. Should he build a series of Roomba ramps - the domestic robot equivalent of fish ladders - or should he just get four?
But I knew you would be a tougher nut to crack, you cynical old so-and-so. So I have worked 12 good-and-true reasons to follow Stob's lead and eschew Jobs'. Here we go.
A Roomba Dozen
1. To sit at home every day in a room with an ultra-clean floor, where one has contributed nothing at all to the effort of cleaning, is one of life's great unsung luxuries, like cold sausage sandwiches and not having to listen to Radio 1. You could get used to this.
2. The Roomba is uncritical. In the same way that satnav, unlike a human map reader, doesn't whinge at you if you miss a turn ('Oh, yeah, well done Verity, actually I didn't mean "the other right" back there'), so the Roomba refrains from passing comment on finding biscuit crumbs dating from the Blair administration.
Actually, that is not quite true. When it hits a particularly disgusting bit of carpet, it turns on a blue light on its back and does a spontaneous little dance. It doesn't so much berate you for your dirt as celebrate it.
3. You know how a hard disk defragmenter, scurrying around its sectors in a neat graphical display, is the most hypnotically fascinating thing to watch? Of course you do. Everybody in the whole world except the Microsoft Disk Defragmenter team  knows this. Well, a Roomba is even better. 'Ooh look, it's coming back again. It's coming back for that lump of dust. Here it comes... and it's dived under the chaise lounge instead. Why are you going under there, you stupid thing? Now it's making the funny thumping noise again. John, do come and look, it's making that thumping noise again.' The hours fly by.
4. It could give Goldie Hawn cuteness lessons (© Sir Barry Norman). It is like all the comedy robots in film and TV, only actually rather than theoretically amusing. Its shape suggests R2-D2, but its ability to speak suggests something else, I can't quite remember what. 'Error 12, Roomba stuck in excessive schmaltz. Danger Verity Stobinson!'
5. It can be programmed to start autonomously each day, so you can schedule it to prevent morning dallying on pain of hearing Roomba play its Stylophonic reveille and having bare toes bashed. This works better than you might think, although not as well as Thought for the Day.
6. A Proustian factor: it reminds me of my dear little tortoise that I owned as a child. Especially the part where you go round the garden/house looking for where it has gone to sleep. Like Terry, it is myopic. It can see a whole wall, and will slow down gracefully on approach. But it collides with a table leg or a darkly coloured bookcase at full pelt. Bonk. Also, its repeated hitting of certain objects with its shell recalls my erstwhile randy reptile's occasional misguided attempts at mating with my foot. If you ever wanted an indoor tortoise - and, deep down, who hasn't? - this is problem solved.
7. As you follow it round the flat, you become oppressed by the dirtiness of other surfaces compared to the cleanliness of the floor, and tend to engage in secondary dusting. After just a few weeks, I have brought two rooms of my flat up to NDL*, without conscious effort.
(*Near-Delia Level, a standard based on Delia Smith putting in six hours of housework per day, wearing Norwich City-themed rubber gloves.)
8. One time I thought I had shut it in while I went to the shops. But I had misaligned the virtual wall gadget that was supposed to confine it to an area cleared of obstacles, and it escaped. When I got home, I toured the flat in a state of alarm, remembering the time C's puppy got out and left Jennie Lees, Douglas Hurds and Spotted Richards in her Jimmy Cheweds. In the event - the reverse experience! It had carefully nudged the bathroom mats to one side, the better to give the lino a good brush, and had painstakingly hoovered (ironic verb, that) all the way round my clothes horse, without so much as a nibbled knicker.
9. It comes with a free paradox in every box. It is the answer to the riddle: what simultaneously sucks and doesn't? (Thanks to the boys at Reg Hardware  for this idea.)
10. 'But there was nothing to be seen on the ceiling, and nothing more than a discreditable amount of dust to be found under Miss Farrell's bed.' - Pawley's Peepholes, John Wyndham, 1951. In the event of an attack of intangible time-travelling tourists, I am now completely ready. Are you?
11. It doesn't connect with the Internet. No, seriously. How many getting-on-the-Net gadgets do you need? A spot audit shows I have an absurd four devices in this room with which I could browse the web right now, and several more around the flat if I charged batteries, swapped SIMs, got stuff out of cupboards etc. Enough already.
12. But, yes, Roomba does have a concealed serial port on its back, and a published API , and people do cruel things like fitting Bluetooth transmitters to them. I admit I feel 'meh' about this, especially after seeing this film  of what can be done. Still, it makes up my dozen.
He sleeps at my feet as I write, his charging light glowing a soothing amber. I wonder: if I wake him up, have we got time to do the kitchen again before beddy-byes?
Wait a moment, something's afoot on Facebook. Kevlin's just got a TV remote in the shape of a wand  that is controlled by gestures.
A wand, eh? I think we all know what that represents. Now, in order to dismiss Jonathan Woss, Kevlin will be obliged to go into a paroxysm of Malcolm Sargenting. Pah, a mere boy's toy. Who would want a thing like... but wait a moment. TV's run on infra-red. Roombas can consume infra-red commands. I have always wanted a familiar .
Verity Stob declares she has no relationship with Roomba makers iRobot, except as a pleased customer. Alternative robot vacuum cleaners are available,  and may well be better for all she knows.