Friday, October 13, 2017

New Kindle features

Amazon has released a new Kindle model, the “All New Oasis”. It has a bigger screen, 7 inches, it is water-resistant (splash resistant), and it will play audible audiobooks over bluetooth speakers or earphones.

More importantly to myself, Amazon readers and apps finally feature a bold-level setting for the text, and something I’ve written about here and to Amazon more than once: finer gradations for text size. Finally. The jumps between text sizes were just way too crude.

Saturday, September 30, 2017


One of the early posts I made on was actually a book shelf with only a couple different ereaders on it. And if there is an argument here, I'm sorta on both sides of it. Books are much better to hold and have, but ebooks are much better to read and carry.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Open letter to Apple

Do me a favor: send this to Apple.

Please, make it so we can change the font size in Safari on iPad! 
It's been six years now...

Also, make it so we can see the *whole* of an image used as wallpaper on iPad, without croppping, even if it does not happen to have the exact proportions of the screen. 
(A bit of grey background showing at the sides never hurt anybody, but a portrait being cropped so half the face is missing...)

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Big iPad Pro

Please, Apple, do continue to make new models/varations of the the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. Please. It is an essential model in many ways.


(The same goes by the way for the "tower" (screen-less) Mac (currently cylindrical). The professional community needs them, and Apple needs the professional communituy.)

Saturday, December 31, 2016

iPad sound reflector amplifiers

iPad sound reflector amplifiers: I like these things, they really work in enhancing the sound and make it louder for you (about 10db, quite noticable) and quiter for the rest of the world.

There used to be one called SoundJaw, but it's not so easy to find now. But SoundBender is current.

These things do not stick very strongly to the device (works with various kinds of tablets), can be easily knocked off but also easily returned, and it may be seen as a bit expensive for a bit of plastic, but for what it does I find it reasonable, although you need two if you want stereo.

AudioAmp180 is an alternative which will work with the tablet in a (thinnish) case, that's not the case (no pun intended) with SoundBender.

I find them useful if: 1: the iPad needs help given the ambient noise. 2: You don't want to disturb others too much. 3: this includes if you play music/video late at night (or in church, haha).

Friday, December 30, 2016

About the Amazing Kindle

It is funny, but despite reading much more on tablets than Kindles due to their speed and flexibility, I own all major Kindle models ever released, and I still find myself drawn to them. I am not entirely sure why... now, a tablet is almost too amazing a device to fully comprehend, but a Kindle is just remarkable enough to be real durned amazing. I look at it and I think, or maybe rather feel: "a thin, light handheld device which can hold thousands of books at once, display book pages as clearly as a printed page, advance pages at the press of a button... this just blows my mind, even after nearly a decade."

 It's so wonderful that *not* owning one is out of the question. I don't understand people who can resist them, I suppose that either they have a paucity of imagination, or they have far more self-control than I have...

 If I have to be critical, what I still want is that the Kindle should be faster, the background should be white even without front-light, and they should have a pocket model. I don't understand why they have not brought out a model the size of the new large phones, it's such an obvious idea. But all that does not change the fact that the Kindle is an object which would make any mentally agile book lover in history cream his bagels if he could have imagined it.

Also, and I have mentioned this before both here and to Amazon: It's a flippin' oddity that the Kindles have such huge steps between font sizes. I can rarely find a size which pleases me (not on the Fire tablets either), and the programming to correct this should surely be trivial, other ereaders have had stepless adjustments for years. (And also adjustments of boldness of fonts and other things which can mean a lot for the comfort of the reader. Please Amazon, I will chip in if you can't afford to hire the extra programmer it might take...)

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Phones are taking over e-reading

I just saw a Kindle Unlimited ad which shows a woman reading a Kindle book... on a phone instead of an Amazon Kindle! The end of days must be nigh. Funny how after all these years, ebooks are moving to phones in a big manner. I don't believe it's because of the new big phones (though that's it in my case), I don't think enough people have them. So I wonder what happened and why it took so long. (Even is concentrating on phones these days.)

I didn't see it coming, because to my taste, a screen less than five inches is just not satisfactory for e-reading. But clearly I'm in the minority. It's just interesting to me that it took most of a decade for the general public to catch on.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Sanity arrives at Apple's iPad section

[Update: Oh no! This whole post is a mistake, Apple has NOT fixed the problem. I just overlooked (it's very late here) that I was looking at *screenshot* images, so they already had the black background built in! Sigh, the futile wait continues... will it take most of a decade to get fixed like it did in OSX?]

Sanity on the iPad screen. FINALLY! Somebody at Apple has finally kicked the benzos and fixed the long-standing wallpaper problem which was driving me nuts: the braindead situation that one could not fit the whole of an image on the screen of the iPad as wallpaper without cropping it, unless it happened to have exactly the same dimensions as the screen. Now we can. Thank you, sane person, and stay off the pills.
 (They also fixed the newer problem that wallpapers were made darker than the source image. Also thanks for that.)

 (See, a week ago this painting would have been cropped at both ends instead of simple being fit in with letterboxing.)

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Faster charging

(This may even work for Android devices, haven't tested.)

The 13-inch iPad Pro, wonderful as it is, unfortunately ships with a charger which i under-powered for the job. It takes a silly number of hours for it to charge this large tablet to full.

One can get faster results by buying a Macbook charger and an adapter, but at a price.

One thing I've found which helps a lot: when charging the iPad (or iPhone), instead of putting the device to sleep, turn it off fully.
This turns off the wireless services, the checking for email and such things. It may even make a difference in the way the charging itself works. In any case, it makes the charging gratifyingly faster.

BTW, I recommend the 13-inch iPad Pro. It's less portable of course, but if you have it in a stand, it makes a great difference to surfing, usability in general, reading of graphic-rich publications, and video. It's a pleasure. Before it came along, I wrote several times about how we needed a bigger "iPad Pro", and I was not wrong.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

iPad Mini 4

I held out from upgrading my iPad Mini when version 2 came out, with Retina (high-res) screen. I found that the screen on the first one was very good, good enough for almost any purpose. And this I still think is true.

But because I plan to use it more, I have now upgraded finally, to the iPad Mini 4. It's much faster, and of course it has the newest version of the Retina Display.

And that screen is just awesome. It's hard to "count the ways", but it is. And I have looked at computer screens daily for over two decades, and tablet screens since the very first iPad kickstarted the market six years ago. This really rocks. For example looking at a full page of a magazine or a comic on it is just a joy. The colors, the contrast, and as much detail as the best eyes can take in...

You can get cheaper tablets if you can stand them, sure. But:
A good way of saving some money on that iPad or iPhone for that lucky amongst your loved ones, is to buy a refurbished one ("refurbish"; to renovate inside and out). You can do so directly from Apple.
I've done so before and this time also, and honestly the experience is exactly like getting a new one. All new packaging and so on. And get this: the outer shell as well as the battery are *also* brand new, and it has a full guarantee. So in practice no difference, but you save maybe 25%.
Oh, and to save even more, Apple is usually still selling last year's model for a drastically reduced price. For example they now sell, brand-new, the iPad Mini 4 side-by-side with the iPad Mini 2. The price difference is substantial, much bigger, I think, than any tech difference (mainly the 4 is a bit faster).

Friday, December 2, 2016

Netflix now unplugged

I really like that with the new Netflix app for iOS you can download shows or movies and watch them later where you don't have any broadband connection.  (It is not permitted for all their materials, but a decent portion.)   OK, I could, and have done, do that with iTunes before, but getting my video appetite subdued that way gets costly quick.

 This is great for taking my iPad Mini to the cafe over lunch, pull out the keyboard and pretend I'm Iain M. Banks for a while, and then kick back with Arrested Development or Gilmore Girls over coffee.

And then read some articles in Pocket or Zinio on the 'pad, or continue my book in the Kindle app. Or audiobook in the Audible app.

Update: it seems downloaded films are SD (Standard Definition, old TV standard) rather than HD (High Definition), so if you watch them on a large device and plan to watch while you *do* have wifi, you'll get a slightly more detailed image by *not* downloading them before watching.
Me, I find the difference barely noticable, although more so with CGI movies (like Pixar's) where everything is so sharp and detailed.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Why write in cafes?

I was challenged by a commenter on the last post to explain why writing in a cafe helps some people to be productive. (I wrote most of a course in art in cafes once.)

My best take on it right now is that it helps your mind relax. At home or at office you're surrounded by a lot of objects and factors which are constant reminders of things daily duties and such, and that lowers your level of free attention. At home there are also too many opportunities for procrastination.

 And on the other hand if you were sitting in a hotel room (though this works for some people), the isolation and bland walls gives you too little stimulation, and your woolly subconscious start acting up and playing games with you.

I think the cafe or park or such places are a good in-between place where you're away from a lot of your stressors, and yet you have a bit of semi-interesting things and activities going on around you which you can look at while the mental wheels are free-spinning, but are not too hard to look away from when the machine works.

Photo by Jane Birkin

Friday, November 25, 2016

New portable keyboards, hurrah

It has been a disappointment to me (see this article and this article) how even years after the iPad became a fact, portable keyboards were still rare and not of good design. I kept buying them and dismissing them.

But again it's proven how *much* more popular smartphones are than tablets (sigh); after the 5.5-inch smartphone became popular (like the Samsung Note and iPhone 6+) it seems this market has really flowered: a quick search for Portable Keyboards yielded lots of results, and even better: they generelly have good reviews and very reasonable prices (less than half of what they cost a couple of years ago). And there are many shapes to choose between.

I've ordered one (EC, wireless for iOS, Android and Win) which when folded is admittedly thicker, but barely larger than the big iPhone! A big-phone screen is eminently usable for writing, even serious writing, and if the keyboard works as well as a classic one I have of similar size (the old Think Outside), it is very usable even for touch-typing (folded out it's close to Full Size). So with large pockets, look out, the writer is in town.

UPDATE: sadly it turns out that the keyboard below is a bit heavy in real life, and also it has that unfortunate/idiotic design where they have put an arrow key where you're used to hit the shift key...

(This is even the smaller iPhone.)

And of course what with modern smartphones having excellent still- and video cameras, it's a journalist-studio-in-a-pocket. Hell, it even includes the publishing- or broadcast studio!

I've had a love affair with writing in cafes since reading an article about it in 1992, years before I ever got a laptop!