Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Updates to Kindle, justification and a little bitchin'

The new Bookerly font; I like it, nice looking font. Though I find nothing striking about it. But I appreciate their work. (Oddly it was announced several weeks ago and I thought I already had it! But it seems it only came this week.
(My e-ink Kindle won't update, I guess they are doing it in waves, so I don't have Bookerly on that one yet.)

[Update later same day: The Kindle Voyage did begin an update by itself, while it was charging. But to my surprise, that contained changes to collections and family features, not the features talked about here. I guess they will come soon, maybe UK is a bit down the totem pole. There's no doubt that sending out an update costs money, particularly for those Kindles which are using the free (Amazon-funded) cell net connection instead of wifi.]

But it's true the Kindles have some odd holes. For example, on the Kindle Fire, there is simply too large steps between font sizes. I am simply missing a step between too-small and too-large. (The steps are big: one step shows only half as much text as the next smaller one. That is not subtle.) 
I have written to them about this several times over the years. At least it has been fixed now in the iOS apps, but not on the Kindle Fire. It is crazy to not be able to set a comfortable font size on the pioneering and world dominating e-reading device, one of which's primary advantages and selling points is that you can change font size! 

Almost as crazy is the lack of left-justification. For centuries good books have always had a loose right margin and hyphenation, but for eight years Kindle has not! Which apparently has finally been fixed now. 
But typically (they are run by different teams), apparently it has only been implemented on the B/W e-ink Kindles, which I've almost given up use because 1: they are still way too slow, and 2: the newer models don't have text to speech. 
The Kindle Fire has the best voice in the world, sometimes I almost forget it's not a human reading to me, I love it. 
It's a pity, because the Voyage model, though too expensive, is a nice device; best screen so far, best ergonomics so far, etc. But despite inclemental improvements over the years, it simply has not yet really beaten the downsides to e-ink, low contrast and slowness. 

But I wonder if passive screens really irritate the eyes so much less as some claim. Even when I want to read in a dark room, I use the Fire and use a black background. 

Still, I have all the many models of e-ink Kindles (seven?). Maybe it's like Neil Gaiman, he says he loves films which are "ambitious failures", for example All That Jazz. I love the ambition and the goals for the Kindles, and I hope they one day get them right. Contrasty screen whether one uses the front light or not (which does help a lot), and a lot faster. (Why are they still so slow? I've seen e-ink play video several years ago, so surely that can't be it. And processors have improved every year.)

Saturday, May 9, 2015

What do publishers know?

Newspapers want us to believe that they are truly objective.

Politicians want us to believe that they are truly working for the Greater Good of everybody.

And publishers want us to believe that they truly have special knowledge and power to select just the best and just the right books to publish, which makes a book selected by them a Good Book, and a book not selected a Wrong Book, naturally.

This of course make self-publishing suspect: if the book is good, why couldn't it find a publisher?  Good question, but let's consider some evidence:

  • Chicken Soup For the Soul, the publishing super-success, went through denials from publisher after publisher, month after month, until the authors in desperation collected 20,000 promises-to-buy.
  • Dune, one of the world's most famous and successful science fiction books, was rejected by sixteen publishers. The author's wife picked up the manuscript from the trash and convinced him to send it out again
  • And of course: Harry Potter, the best selling, ultra-super-duper successful and influential novel series of all time, went through rejections from about twenty publishers before it found one who could see its merit!

The conclusion is inescapable: publisher, despite... well what do they have going for them? Only their own word, I'd guess... have no more idea what is a good book or what will be successful than you or I do. They have money, but these days they don't even promote your book, you must do that yourself. They may or may not pay an advance. But on the other hand, most authors get less than 10 percent of the earnings of the book. If you self-publish, the lion's share of earnings is yours, as it should be.

Big-5 publishers neatly shoot off own foot

This analysis shows the results of the big five winning their hard fight to have higher ebook prices at Amazon. The results being: Lower sales and lower income for the big 5, and higher sales and income for self-publishers and independent authors!

Why would they do that? Well, apparently they are still so scared of ebooks (for some reason we can't see, other than Fear Of The Unknown) that they'll try to block the rise of them, even if the cost is shooting themselves in the foot, the hand, the gut, the eye... (they are actually earning more on ebooks

What we see from the graphs above is that all the reporting lately on the plateauing or decline in ebook adoption is certainly true for major publishers, whose numbers are being used as if they represent the broader market, but their daily unit sales are less than a third of the total market. Ebooks may be on the downward slope for them, but not for everyone else. ...

One final point that bears mentioning: Protecting the paper book trade will not help publishers. We know from their own accounting that ebooks are far more profitable. Any report showing a decline in ebooks and an increase in print means a net loss for the Big 5 and their authors.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

New iPad wallpaper

On my iPad as on my Mac, I like to have no icons at all on the desktop, just the clean wallpaper. (It too almost a decade before Apple made a OS which allowed me to do that, remove even the disk and the Trash icons.)

This is a screenshot from end titles of the wonderful animated TV show Daria (buy it now, it's super-cheap on Amazon). During the end titles they liked to feature the characters made up in very fanciful incarnations. This is Jodie Landon as Jimi Hendrix.

Normally I'm weary of text in art pictures, but then sometimes it can itself become a graphic element. Lo for examples all the shirts which have been made with text all over, like newspaper clippings for example.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Beautify your iPhone with a skull case

[Satire altert: ironic post.]
The hallmark of Apple has always been subtlety, simplicity, quiet beauty, and good taste. With this in mind, I finally found the perfect case for my iPhone.

I don't like to brag, but I've noticed that women often take an extra glance or two, and have to hide their admiring smiles behind a hand. It's really nice to be admired both for being Macho and for having a good sense of aesthetics.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Super-compact MacBook review. And Apple Watch review

Here is a nice review of the new super-compact and light MacBook.
Like other reviewers, he is surprised at the delight he gets from it. And it is not too low-powered for his use, something which worries some people.
[Update: some people really like the new flat keyboard, but others don't, some feel it is almost trending towards screen-typing. I like a good movement on a keyboard, so this has made me hesitate, I guess I'll have to try on in the real world.]

It's a damn tempting thing. I have always been a fan of efficiency, especially of technology which is simultaneously powerful and compact. For example, the number of compact-for-their-class cameras which I've bought over the decades... I just don't know.
So this is very tempting, although I have no immediate need for it. Every time I've gotten a new Apple device, it has been higher quality and more beautiful than the last (over twenty years, it's amazing), so I know I would love this. But then I've just ordered an Apple Watch, so... we'll see.

By the way, here's a great review of the Apple Watch.
Unusually, the arguably best option for me was also the cheapest! I have ordered the Sport version, which is lighter, being alu, and a Sports strap, which the above reviewer says is surprisingly luxurious, even if you disconsider the low price.
I got them in black and space grey. (Or is that Space Black? I've heard them both, and I'm not sure if there's a difference.)
It sounds like fun to me that the Watch can be used as a remote viewfinder and shutter trigger for the iPhone Six and Six Plus. So for example you can photograph in places where you can get a hand in but not your head. (For some uses it'd be practical to take off the watch to hold in the other hand.)

By the way, and more relevant to this blog: I am sure that in short order we will see more than one app which makes it possible to read on the Watch. Due to the tiny display, most of them will probably use the "speed reading" technology with which there are already several apps for the iPhone. It shows you one word at a time... Sounds doubtful, I know, but it's actually surprisingly natural if you're an experienced reader, and I can read 350 words per minute that way. Instapaper would be a good candidate, since it's popular, it takes in any web articles, and it already since recently has this speed-reading technology built in.
I hope for a Kindle app too. I'm not holding my breath, but you never know, they already have apps for a big number of platforms, and it would be good PR for them to say that you can read Kindle books from 55-inch screens down to 38-milimeter screens!
Oh, and if they do, I hope it can read aloud to you like the HDX can! If the processor and memory of this small device is up to it.

Am I psychic or what? The new update for Instapaper makes it Apple Watch-compatible! It's not clear if you can read on the screen, but it is clear that you can listen to it by text-to-speech. Very good.
I asked them if speed-reading would come, but they say the watch has to be changed first, because that would need the Instapaper app to loading content to the Watch's memory, and Apple does apparently not let apps use this rare resource on the watch, yet.
By the way, on one of the videos on Apple is showing a text coming in, and I think it contains enough text and is clear enough than it would not be totally ridiculous to actually read articles or maybe even books on the Watch in a pinch.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Why is Apple making a gold watch?

Why is Apple making a gold watch? article.

Perhaps the smartest article I've read regarding this particular mystery. (The major mystery being that at over ten grand for the cheapest one in gold, Apple is for the first time making "Veblen" products, meaning products which get their main value from perceptions, status, and a very high price.)

The gold watch will never make much money compared to the iPhone, but it will change Apple's brand forever (it's already the only tech company which could pull off something like this), and it will change the sales of the cheaper watches, perhaps a lot.
I hope Apple has been smart enough to make the insides upgradable, that will create a lot of happiness and goodwill from gold-watch-owners in the future.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

"You should buy the iPhone 6 Plus instead of the iPhone 6"

You should buy the iPhone 6 Plus instead of the iPhone 6, article 

I agree. It has a better camera, especially the anti-shake. And much better battery life, very important for busy people, just notice the absolutely HUGE market for phone extra-batteries and odd chargers. 

One thing that puzzles me is that the author says he bought a Kindle also because he finds the Six Plus a notch too small for Kindle reading. 
I don't get that because while I admit that I and many people would not want a smaller screen (though another group of "many people" actually read a lot on their smaller phones), I find, as I had predicted on this very site, the Six Plus to be just about the best pocketable ereader money can buy. (Not cheap, but then it's much more than just an ereader.)

This was confirmed by one of our best commenters, Ganesha Games, he told me: "I just got an iPhone Six Plus. It's the perfect ereader." 

It's not the best for everything of course. For complex layout or graphic rich text, you will want a bigger screen. And a bigger screen is good for many things, especially if you don't have to carry the device around much. BUT: for reading pure text, and for a portable reader (you can carry in a pocket or a small purse), the Six Plus is just amazing. It's light, the screen is sharp as heck, it has the best Kindle software anywere (it's actually better than Amazon's own Kindle Fire devices in some areas!). 

It's a very slick little fokker too, physically, easy to drop, so I recommend getting a rubber bumper. Or do like I do, put a simple loop of leather or fabric on the back to stick a few fingers through, for a remarkably better grip, almost totally effortless. You can use Velcro, or get a cheap bumper case with a back and use superglue. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

"Too many devices"?? No way

Hi friends, Just this morning I had a strange experience which may indicate that there is such a thing as “too many devices”!  Crazy as that sounds.

While in the wee wee room just after getting up, I hear a computer voice call out for Barry Moe, pretty loud, somewhere in the apartment. Never heard it before, no idea which it was or why. Spooky.

I would go nuts if I didn’t generally turn of most Notifications, and even totally silence some of my devices. But things change, and sometimes there’s a new Ghost.

Even when I had searched around and now had limited it to one side of my bedroom, that was limited help, because on my bedstand I discover that I have no less than *six* speakers or devices with speakers! (If we count single speakers, it’s ten of them.) (An iPhone, a landline phone, an iPod Classic in a speaker hub, a bluetooth speaker, Soundsticks II speakers, a Kindle HDX. I try regularly to cut it back to a minimum, I do!)

It turned out it was the silly bluetooth speaker (well, it’s otherwise quite good). And it wanted me to know that it had a “battery low” situation. Not Barry Moe, but “battery low” in a poor computer voice. Couldn’t somebody at least have recorded this so it was intelligible?  And what if it starts doing that in the middle of the night, and you have a job interview or test in the morning?

My friend B added some perspective: 
… a while back, I read a long article recounting the acclimatization of a Westerner settling in Japan. There was a whole section about all of the noises produced by everything over there, showing how the Japanese love their "smart" gadgets.

There was this one sound in particular that would eruct at the oddest times, and at any hour of the day or night, but he could never figure out what it was or where it came from. In the end, as a desperate measure to fend off the insanity slowly settling in I suppose, the guy had to resort to asking the landlord to help him find this tormenting ghost. Turned out to be the bathtub signaling it's readiness to serve and please its master... no sh*t.

Me, I would go insane -- I mean violent insane, far worse than my usual state, that is. I get pissed when the microwave loudly beeps four times when it's done because one beep at 1/10th the volume would largely suffice. Heck, just the thing going silent is enough to say it's done, wait at least 10 seconds before annoying the world!! I just don't get people who love such aggressions.

But the worst part is that, things being what they are, I have built internal filters (just like everyone else) to disregard the ruckus. Which makes the @#$%^!! bell necessary, because I don't notice the effing thing going quiet any more. And, lately, it seems that I'm starting to not notice the effing beeper either... making the beeper even more redundant or, God preserve us, making it insufficient?
-- B

Warm regards, Eolake

Monday, January 12, 2015

My personal library is smaller and bigger than ever

I am shifting my viewpoint on my ebook collection. I am seeing it less and less as books I have bought and are way behind on reading. This viewpoint just leads to ulcers. 
Instead I'm starting to see it as a "personal library". 
A library in the sense that most of the books in there, I have not read yet. 
And Personal in the sense that I have selected all the books, so each has a high likelihood of being of interest to me. 

What makes this possible is first and foremost that the books take up zero space. A Kindle or iPad with 1004 books is exactly as big and heavy (or small and light) as the same device with only 4 books. 
And secondarily, most books I get are way more affordable than their dead-tree counterparts. And of course there's over a million classics and others to get for free.  So now I'm getting a hundred books for a price I'd pay for maybe twenty or thirty books in the past. And I don't have to keep buying new cherry wood bookshelves and keep getting rid of books for space reasons.

It used to be that only the rich had a personal library. Now its available to any middle-class person. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Yohann, art tablet stand

Well, here is another premium iPad Stand, the Yohann, a German/Swiss/Italian product. Due to my love of simplicity and natural materials, I think I like this one even better.

It's the most beautiful tablet stand I've seen. Also it makes the iPad seem to 'float', and somehow makes the iPad more beautiful, is my feeling.

It may not look practical, but it's that too. It holds the iPad much better than one might expect, and all three positions are stable.

Mine, in cherry. With iPad Mini.

Bril idea for a way to have three positions.

I would hurry, because it's a hand-made product, stock is limited. 

Oh, and I have found that the W2 model, made for the first iPad Air, works perfectly with that one, but also with the new iPad Air 2, and with the iPad Mini (with the small exception that the most leaned-back position does not work with the Mini in landscape format). In fact it's exactly the width of the iPad Mini's short side, so you can see more of the pretty wood. 

I have not tried their glassfiber/plastic models, but with the super-glossy piano lacquer, they surely look really nice too, and at less than half the price.

Here are samples of their woods. 

The Cherry was lighter than I expected (though nice, expecially after I gave it extra furniture oil), so I'm getting a walnut also. (If you buy more than one, maybe you can convince them to send a photo before you commit. Say hi from me.)

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Large-tablet stand; Frameshift

The Frameshift stand is an unusual one. It is very simple in function, but very advanced in looks and design.
It costs nearly $100, and you can get stands with a similar function much cheaper, but there's no denying that it works well, it's compact and light when folded (made from high grade aluminum), and it just looks great. You can get it in silver, black, blue, and red. Again, the burgundy/cherry red is my favorite.

If the price difference is no problem for you, and you like this fancy aluminium-X, I say go for it.

This is seen from the back. The arm adjusts steplessly, so you can get any angle you want, with the tablet leaning against the other side of the X. It's for full sized tablets. It can almost hold an iPad Mini, but not well, the bottom rubber supports are just a few milimeters too far apart in portrait orientation. 

For smaller tablets and phones, the Frameshift Mini does better:

It looks rather different, but the principles are the same: simple, pretty, stepless angle, lightweight.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Kindle sleeves from Balbirnie Leather in Scotland

So, there I was looking for a nice sleeve for my new Kindle Voyage.
It turned out to be raining goodies, so in short order I had ordered four of them. I admit one could have been omitted, but that's as far as I'll go, hrmh.

I do it all for YOU, it's not like I WANT to buy these lovely things for myself!

Anyway, there are advantages to the simple sleeve for protection of your reader or tablet. Not the least that when reading, it does not add any weight, bulk, or hindrances.

I've long been looking for a leather shop with good and fast service. Small, but professional. I think I have found it in Balbirnie Leather

They made me this simple, beautiful pouch in real leather (you can smell the difference).
I get the feeling they can make you a sleeve for any tablet/reader in the world, they only need the dimensions after all.

[All pics are clickable for pleasant detail]
It is soft, simple, and lovely. Really nice quality leather. 
Even though they fit it exactly to the Kindle Voyage (There are only a couple milimeters difference from the Paperwhite), my non-patented strap still fits too. There is just enough friction to keep it in place while keeping it easy to take out the device. (This one is soft leather, fastened simply with Velcro, so I can remove it again. It works fine.) It is Pounds Sterling 19.50 (say $28), very reasonable for hand-craft like this. 

This one is an Inatech Compact Envelope in felt. It's also nice, and has the gimmick that when you pull on the leather strap, it helps slide out the device! This was 11 Pounds. 

This case is from Dockem Eu. It is slightly more polished than the Balbirnie sleeves, with rounded corners and filt lining (no worries, the B sleeves are plenty soft inside). But it's not real leather, and there's something to be said for minimalist aesthetic of the Balbirnies. Keep It Simple, Silly, as I say. This was less than ten Pounds, very cheap, despite the good quality. 

For my old Paperwhite I chose a different color, brown. They have several lovely colors to choose from. I always had a strong weakness (if that makes sense) for the deep, dark, burgundy red of the one I got for the Voyage. (Though they are interchangeable, the size difference is so small.)

Monday, November 17, 2014

My Kindle Voyage arrived on a Sunday, or what reader do you need?

One thing about Amazon: they sure work friggin hard. I got my K Voyage on Sunday, at seven in the evening!
Another delivery (to my mail box), also one they'd promised for next-day, I got after 22 at night. They deliver seven days a week, day and evening, one-day promised, if you have a Prime membership.

The Kindle Voyage: Well, I feel there is not so darn much to say. David Pogue basically says it all.

It's the best e-ink Kindle that they can make at the moment. (Apparently they can't make them much speedier, it's still feels much slower than any tablet.) And it's priced for it.

Do you need it?

I say: if you're happy with what you have, keep it.
If you have the money and want the best B/W reader you can get, get the Voyage.
If you want something more flexible and faster, with a great color screen, get the Kindle Fire HDX.
If you want the best mid-sized tablet, get a iPad Mini. That is a the best all-round ereader there is, it's easy to hold, and it has the perfect screen size to show both novels and web and magazines to their best advantage. And the second model is much cheaper now. Even the first one, without Retina display, is great, the display is plenty good, and it's cheaper yet.

If you want cheap, get the $69 Kindle.
If you want a cheap, compact tablet, get the Fire HD6. (Though it is really a $120 tablet, not 100, because you do need 16GB of RAM, really.)
If you want a B/W reader with front light, get the Kindle Paperwhite. Almost as good as the Voyage in most respects, and rather cheaper.

If you want a LOT of apps, get a non-Amazon tablet, like Nexus 7 or Galaxy Tab. They are good too.

If you want to read full page comics or magazines, get a 10-inch or a 12-inch tablet, that is currently the iPad Air 2 or the Samsung (some number, 9400 or such. Sigh, the Japanese and names...)

Friday, October 31, 2014

Homer art for iPad

In the series "Eolake's Wallpapers", here is a really beautiful drawing of Homer as a caveman stalking what seems like a prehistoric giant sloth.

As I said, I like no icons on the screen. The dozen apps I use the most, I can access quickly anyway by simply slide up with four fingers on the screen, revealing all the recently used apps.

So I can really enjoy nice art like this.

On the Retina Display iPads, you can take High Definition screenshots of your favorite videos. I find animated shows are outstanding in their quality and clarity.

By the way, it's very odd, some days the iOS lets me fit a whole screenshot on the screen like this, other days it will only let me show a much smaller part, thus usually leaving out important parts and making the image unsharp....