Thursday, October 16, 2014

iPhone 6 or 6 Plus? Decisions, decisions...

Dave Hamilton has written a nice article based on solid testing, as to which of the new iPhones would be best for him.
It's a thoughtful article, and the result may surprise.

Thursday, October 9, 2014


Another of my favorite iPad desktops, no icons "in the wild", and Vanessa from the Phineas And Ferb Star Wars episode rocking up the wallpaper.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Finally a compact reading tablet, and economical too

As you know I have a very publicly been begging Amazon to make a compact tablet for reading and portability. A tablet which you can carry in a pocket and which is very easy to hold and read with one hand.

Well, dip me in rouge and call me pretty, they did it! It is the new fire HD six tablet (Video).
CNet article.
What I did not expect what is the they at the same time made it the cheapest tablet yet of good repute, under $100, which is amazing for quality tablet. (LEN EDGERLY on his show actually made of this specific wish and added it to my wish of a compact tablet so he might have been responsible for that!)
[To be frank I do recommend selecting the 16 GB model which adds $20, unless you really don't plan on downloading much video or software ]

It is 290 grams which is close to the HDX seven model. I wish it could be lighter, but for $99 you can't have everything. Maybe next year.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

An orderly desktop, and improvement in wallpaper function in iOS 8

I've always love an orderly and pretty desktop on my machines. I was happy the day when Apple finally permitted us to remove the disk and the Trash icons from the desktop, so I could have it totally icon-free. (And enjoy whatever art I'd chosen for the desktop so much more.)

Oh, by the way: THANK YOU, Apple, for getting back to the sensible format that wallpaper pictures now again (in iOS 8) do *not* have to cover the whole screen in both landscape and portrait position, resulting in a ridiculously small part of the image being used and poor image quality from such drastic cropping. Somebody has finally realized that that sad state of affairs is much worse than part of the screen not being covered by the image (which I like, it can make space for icons and gives an image a sort of wholeness, it's being framed).

For example this makes it much, much easier for me to make quality wallpaper screenshots from videos I like, because I get the content and the quality of the whole frame. (The one below is from American Dad.)

Monday, September 22, 2014

Real quickly about the i6+ (Updated)

I don't have time to write a review now... but I got the iPhone 6 Plus today, and set it up and played  with settings and such.

They didn't even mention the speaker... it's so loud and so good...

I don't regret selling the remains of both my grandmothers to get this. "Oh, if only I had more grandmothers to sell for this cause!!"

It doesn't even seem big to me, it seems just right.

It's so good it's almost depressing... what are they going to do next year? And next?

Aha! A critique point, found one! It's a bit slick, seems too easy to drop in the excitement.
But with Apple's leather case, it sites perfectly in the hand. Feels great.
A bit spendy  for such a simple object, but very soon there will be lots like it on eBay/Amazon for 10-15 bucks, don't fret.

Funny enough, while this is by far the best phone I've had, it's hard to say very much about it...

To me, the 5.5 screen is not Big, or even big progress (though it is), it is simply how it's supposed to be. For me it's the first time I'm getting the ease-of-use and enjoyment from a phone that I expected!
It's just right.

It even has the right size for me to use an eye-candy screensaver like Magic Window, on my bedside stand.

And of course, like predicted, it works nearly perfectly as a pocket ereader. It's a little hard to use one-handedly without it slipping when one uses the thumb to change pages. But this may be a matter of practice. Or I may make one of my non-patented strap-cases.

Subjectively, it's simply the current best possible in hand-held computers / communicators. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

My dreams of compact devices came true

... Sometimes it pays to make wishes. :-)
Apple comes out with *exactly* the phone/ereader I wanted, in iPhone 6 Plus. An amazing pocket ereader, although at a very premium price.

 And though none are called "pocket" by name, Amazon then comes out with not one, but *two* compact models at once. The Kindle Voyage is also a bit premium, the new flag ship model of the e-ink readers oozes quality all over, and it compacter and lighter in every measure, and the former model (Kindle Paperwhite, still being sold) is not ungainly by any means.

 And Amazon's new HD 6 model is smaller in every metric, durned cheap at $100, and it is a *full inch* narrower than the 7-inch HD and the HDX models, and this is the most important metric for how easy it is to hold. (It could have lost more weight, but that would make it more expensive.) I'd already ordered the Voyage (and of course the i6+), now I've also ordered the HD6. It'll be an embarrassment of riches of compactness for me this fall and winter.

I just can't figure out how Amazon managed to design and built the pocket-sized HD6 in the three-four weeks they had since I petitioned them...     :-)
 (Why they are so low key about both these breakthroughs: the pocket-sizedness and the $100 pricepoint. They are usually not shy.)

(Almost hand-sized. 280 grams, 30 grams lighter than 
an iPad mini, 100 grams heavier than a Kindle Voyage.)

... A couple years ago Nexus 7 broke the $200 barrier and made great waves, and now Amazon does it to the $100 barrier, it's astounding, seriously. Such a powerful tool for the price of an evening in town. A cheap town. And without any loss of brain cells or hearing either.

Finally, a big step up for dictation

To my surprise, the fresh iOS 8 (for iphones and iPads) includes a big improvement of dictation. (I'm surprised because... well, an example: the Mac had a voice, Fred, for years, since the early nineties, I think. And this voice was never improved upon until... I wanna say 2005 or so. The basic technologies improve slowly, generally.)

Dictation is now computed Live in the device, not sent off to a server in bits. The means it comes out as you are speaking, and fascinatingly, you can see it correcting itself as it hears more of what you are saying, and makes more sense of it.

And importantly: it's just better. I just had a text chat, and two long sentences were flawless. I don't think I have had even *one* long, flawless sentence before.
This will make it much more fun to dictate texts and emails.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Why did it take us so long to see the need?

John Martellaro writes.
Apple resisted the idea of a phablet for a long time and so did its customers. But times have changed, and we've moved on.[...] the iPhone grew in great power and complexity, people started to use iPhones not just as smart telephones but as portable Internet devices for all kinds of new services.

Well, personally I don't get this long cultural lag. For one thing, I've been writing articles here since the Note 1 came out, begging Apple to make a similar "bigphone" as I called it before the clumsy term "phablet" was invented.

For another thing: way back in 2007 (for heaven's sake), Jobs introduced the iPhone as *three* things, only one of which were a phone. (Why did they even call it a phone? It's a hand-computer). One of those was a web browser. And then when I tried web browsing on a 3.5-inch iPhone, I screamed in frustration. It was like digging a garden with a teaspoon. Most web sites were nigh impossible to use or read.
Who, I wonder, did not have the same experience?
In other words, how could it not be obvious to anybody that smartphones are/have been too small?

I must admit that for a while, this size category did not occur to me. But I did write in mid-2009: "I don't even like many regular web pages on my iPod touch, very often the screen is simply too small for it work well."
And when the Samsung Note1 5.2-inch came out, I yelled (and wrote) "Heureka", and not: "Booo, that's for geeks only..."

Image by me, from my 2011 article, saying:
"apart from the price, this is currently the portable ereader to have"

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Oops, it's official now! New Kindles and Fires (updated)

And just as I was going to bed after a hard evening watching Miyasaki films, our friend Len Edgerly announces that Amazon has, in conspiracy with a lot of journalists, sneaked out an announcement of new kindles.

I haven't even read it yet myself, but Len already has two articles out, one here, and then one here.

Well, it's undeniable that it's pretty amazing that you can now get a quality color tablet for just $100! Even if it is last year's model, basically.
There were already tablets in that price range, but they were, not to put too fine a tip on this: junk. Cheap plastic things, slow and unreliable. Amazon in contrast vary the amount of features to vary the price, but the quality you can trust.

And as to the Kindle Voyage, the reports are very positive.
I may just get one, as I do every time. At least I want to have the history of ereading, it's that important. And who knows, maybe *this* time is the one which has an e-ink Kindle pushing over a tablet as my hand-held reader of choice. (Though this time it also has the awesome iPhone 6 Plus to content with, it'll be a fearful battle.)

New Kindle PaperWhite flagship model coming

[Thanks to Ganesha Games]

There has been leaks on foreign Amazon sites which shows that a new Kindle Paperwhite is coming, called Kindle Voyage. It's roughly $50 more expensive than the current one, so it may be a new top model instead of a replacement.

It will be a bit smaller in all dimension, and a bit lighter, all good things.

It will have some pressure sensors in the bezel, so you don't have to move your thumb for each page change, something I think is good.

It has a bit higher screen resolution: 300 PPI. This sounds very high, but to me it seems that the present model with about 230 PPI (pixels per inch) does not look at all as sharp as an LCD screen with the same PPI. It may be because the pixels are composed of little physical plastic balls which move, and perhaps getting 100% of them to move perfectly is not attainable. In any case, I'm sorry to say that while the front light made the Kindle a LOT better, I've gone off it a bit again, since when I take it out, the screen just seems significantly less sharp and less even than the great HD LCD screens we have become used to since Apple introduced the Retina Display four years ago, and later put it in the iPad. So I mostly use a tablet. (Which are also much faster.)
(Sorry, Paperwhite fans, it's just a feeling. If it works for you, I'm only happy. Perceptions are very subjective.)

Monday, September 15, 2014

Watch ereader?

I wonder when there will be an ereader app for the Apple Watch?     :-)

I know, I know, it's tiny, the opposite of what I've been campaigning for. But this would not be for my main reading platform. It would mainly be for fun, actually.

And I actually know people who have been reading novels on cell phones *before* smartphones... display barely bigger than this, and much, much cruder in resolution.

Mockup by me. I might use
a bigger font, but it looks good.

Len reminded me of the perfect app for tiny screens: Spritz, one of several apps which show just one word at a time. It sounds odd, because professors with letters after their names have told us that it's important to read by seeing several words at once, preferably a whole line. Well, personally I consider this debunked, because the other method is remarkably workable. I could read 300 words a minute even without any training.

We just need the app on the watch, and then to have it integrated with the Kindle App, so all the popular ebooks are included.

Oh, and I also think another thing is important, a feature which didn't seem to be in any of those apps: the ability, if you miss something, to go back a few words, or to see a couple of lines together. It's easy to miss something if you come across an unfamiliar words, or just get distracted by something happening elsewhere. Or heck, if the reading just stimulate thought, it happens to me all the time, and I'm sure I can't be alone!

Samsung has actually already put Spritz on their Gear S smartwatch. Well done.

Wallpaper enthusiast (updated)

I love playing around with the Wallpaper on my machines. You know, it's the static background picture you see when nothing else is showing. It's the thing they for some reason usually call "screensaver" on films and TV shows.  :-)

One does not have to stick with the lovely but generic nature shots they supply with the machine. There are so many options. With my tablets, I often take screenshots when I'm watching videos. (On an iPad, it's the sleep button plus the home button. On Android it's supposed to be sleep button plus Volume Down, but it doesn't work on my 12-inch 4.04 system.)

Here are two I got recently from one of my favorite shows, Phineas And  Ferb (they have sub amazing visuals).
The top one especially fits so well as Lock Screen. I am not sure why, but it strikes me every time I wake up the tablet...

Lock screen:
By the way, the image, helicopter ride over the city, is a
homage to West Side Story, which opens so. A minute is
almost shot-for-shot the same, brilliant. 

Wallpaper, home screen:

Bron asked if I did not use my own photos or art for wallpaper. Sure, I do that too. Here are examples taken from what I happened to have downloaded to my new tablet:

Here are some autumn-leaves, slightly enhanced in the computer:

Here is one of the "frost flower series". Straight photo

This one is not mine, but kindly donated by TCGirl.

This one I took near Prague, model is Marketa.
(Actually I don't so often now have girls on my screens, I guess 16 years of running has satisfied me for a while!    :-)

Here are some of my most popular, Frost Flowers. Feel free to use personally.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Michael Hart, a Pioneer of E-Books, Dies at 64

Michael Hart, a Pioneer of E-Books and founder of, Dies at 64, article.

Not fresh news this, but he was an interesting character.
Over the next decade, working alone, Mr. Hart typed the Bill of Rights, the Constitution, the King James Bible and “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” into the project database, the first tentative steps in a revolution that would usher in what he liked to call the fifth information age, a world of e-books, hand-held electronic devices like the Nook and Kindle, and unprecedented individual access to texts on a vast array of Internet archives.
Today, Project Gutenberg lists more than 30,000 books in 60 languages

Friday, September 12, 2014

The time is 9:41, no more, no less! Or: *now* is the dawn of Internet-everywhere

So, after huge glitches in the streamed keynote speech, and a 40-minute delay in the pre-ordering schedule which had a couple million people foaming at the mouth, people can finally buy the wonderful new iPhone 6, and 6 Plus (my fave, regular readers will know why. Finally a perfect take-everywhere computer.)

Have you noticed that every picture of the iPhone 6 shows the time as 9:41?
Is this Apple micromanagement still surviving Steve Jobs? Or is it just simpler because they are all made with photoshop instead of taking an actual photo of the screen? (I could understand that, it's surprisingly hard coordinating the brightness of the screen with the ambient light, and handle reflections.)

I wonder why 9:41 exactly? Does it have a significance, or was it found to be the most aesthetic formation of number shapes, or was it random? [Update: Thanks to Ken for this answer.]

Aaaaanyway... Maybe it's me changing emotionally too, but I am surprised at how much I lust after this phone. I sound like my pal Laurie when the first one came out: "I want an iPhone, and I want it *now*!"
I was not very interested then, but it makes some sense, because as a photographer/videographer he zips around the country and the world every week, whereas as a webmaster (then) I work from home, and really only use email, not phones.

This one, though, due to the size, really makes the computing-device side of the "phone" come into its power for the first time. In fact, the usefulness and the attraction of this compared to the "mini-phones" of yesteryear is like night and day, to me anyway. We saw this already with the Samsung Note 1, the first "phablet" at 5.2-inches.

When Jobs introduced the iPhone 1, he said it was "a revolutionary Net device", showing a web browser on the phone. But browsing the web on a 4-inch screen is like doing athletics in a full knight's armour. Almost doable, but a royal pain in the but.
This, not 2007, is the real dawn of Internet-everywhere.

And it's a perfect portable ereader. (Hmm, did I say that before?) Web articles, books, magazines, documents, research... Keeewl.
(OK, except for the high price, that is. Which is why I recently called for the creation of a dedicated ereader in the size and form of this phone. It should not have a phone contract or a $700 price tag if you don't really need the phone part.)

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

iPhone 6 Plus with 5.5-inch display (updated)

[Watch the entertaining Apple Keynote releasing iPhone 6, Apple Pay, and the new Apple Watch.]

iPhone 6 Plus with 5.5-inch display announced starting at $299, article.

I want to thank my fans at Apple for answering my requests, by far the biggest of which the keen reader will have no trouble recalling: that the iPhone six came with a 5.5-inch display, making it a perfect portable ereader (and generally better for so many things)!

I wonder what kind of profit margin companies are getting on phones though. I just bought, as seen below, a wonderful high-class 12 inch tablet. And the 5.5 inch iPhone 6+ is over £250 ($400!) more expensive than that tablet! It is around £700 ($1000) with 64 GB storage! To me that it looks like ugly price gouging. I love apple and their products, but sometimes their pricing really leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.

Anyway, as I had expected, Apple did not want to disenfranchise their customers in tight jeans, so the phone comes in two sizes, the big ("phablet") iPhone 6 Plus, and the more regular-sized iPhone 6 (with a good-sized 4.7-inch display). I think those sizes are perfectly chosen.

The cameras are improved in various small ways, though the resolution is the same 8MP. The most important improvement is optical image stabilization to help with camera shake, really a must these days. But that is only on the 6 Plus. (I think that's one of the reasons it's slightly thicker (though still thinner, amazingly, than the iPhone 5s).
Oh, the autofocus is also faster, which is important.

The iPhone Four was the first iPhone I got genuinely interested in. iPhone 6 Plus is the second one. I expect it to be outstanding.

Our old ally Janet Tokerud has posted about why you should get the 6 Plus. In part:
5. 2-Column Landscape View in iOS 8. Not available on iPhone 6.
6. One device is better than 2. This is a mini mini iPad not just an iPhone but that too. 1 device to maintain and purchase. 1 cellular connection. You won’t need to lug your iPad mini or maxi around as much. Or you can sell/trade-in the mini.

I couldn’t agree more. Unless one really just needs a phone, or money is really tight, this is currently the king of hand-held Everything Machines. I haven’t been this excited since the iPad 1.

I’ve tried writing a book on an iPhone 4. Can be done, but it gets old. This one, no problem. Portable keyboard, and boom, you’re a mobile writer. I'm actually thinking of a book I want to write on this. Get out of your home/office and yourself, good for the creative juices. (I like a good simple text editor which saves in the cloud, like My Writing Spot.)

And it’s a great portable entertainment center too. Buy all ten seasons of Friends and never fear a waiting room again!
And it sure looks gorgeous. I did not think they could beat the iPhone 4/5. I bet that rounded, slim form, bigger, feels really good in the hand.