Saturday, October 15, 2011

Changes in the gaming book market

Mr Sfiligoi has enjoyed the revolution brought by the internet. Print on demand has been a major force for change, although he foresees a moment where it will be completely unnecessary thanks to the development of tablet computing. Of course, no revolution is without its victims and the stores where he bought his games as a teen have all closed down.
With 80 per cent of his sales coming from e-books in PDF format, Mr Sfiligoi looks forward to abandoning the print market completely in the “not so distant future”, predicting that tablets and e-readers becoming the de facto distribution channel for wargames.
“I have nothing against paper but the disadvantages of having to print and ship books are just too many for a one-man company to bear,” he says.

Read more about the one-man art and game biz in this article on my mainstream blog. 

Friday, October 14, 2011

Many tablets (tablets and education for the poor)

We don't hear about so many of them, but it seems that quite a few tablets have made it to market despite the bleak outlook. Amazon US has 831 results when one search simply on "tablets" (though surely many are variations), and this screenshot is from Amazon UK:

Two I'm interested in, Samsung Galaxy 7.7 and "Note", do not seem to be on the market yet. Especially the latter 5.2 inch device with super-high-rez screen seems promising as portable ereader. The iPhone 4(S) with similar screen is a surprisingly good ereader, but a bit on the wee side at 3.5 inches.

... BTW, I was recently shocked to see a 7-inch tablet for under 100 Pounds Sterling (150 dollars US), but now there is a 9-inch one for the same price. That's very early in the game. Of course it's Chinese discount quality, but still, pretty amazing, it does run Android apps.

I think it shows us that very soon tablets of decent quality will be cheap enough that the Digital Divide will be all but erased on this planet, and global education and communication will belong to the Third World also. Experience and experiments have shown that pretty uneducated children in poor countries speed up their education to a frankly uncanny degree when they get their hands on things like these. Even without instruction, they take to it like ducks to water.

And it's my personal belief that education barriers are much more important than food and health issues in holding back poor areas on the planet, since we've seen many times that people really start changing things themselves when they get the chance, and the changes are much more lasting than if they come from outside. (I have donated to

Talk to Siri

An early indicator that we may have something in the new iPhone 4S voice interface is that everybody is already naturally using its name, Siri, as if they'd been doing it for years.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

iOS 5 is out

After waiting all summer and half of fall, we can finally get the promising iOS Five. I'm downloading it right now (but it's big, will take a time to download and install) (707MB for an update to a handheld-device OS, wow. It couldn't even fit on a CD!).
[Update: the software was not kidding when it said it could take a while. Mine has been working on the update for over an hour now, and shows no sign of being anywhere close to being done. ... Update: I'm only succeeding the day after, and as seen below, apparently a Restore was necessary, though the updater did not inform me of it, and it's taking hours. Just so you know it might. ... Update: OK, done for my iPad. (Seems very nice.) Now I'm updating my iPhone 4, and it's doing a Restore too, so clearly iOS 5 is such a Deep update that a restore is necessary rather than just an an "on top" update.]

I'm interested in several things. The improvements to Safari is long-awaited and very welcome, tabs and Instapaper-like saving and formatting of articles.

Newsstand might be interesting. I'll be interested in seeing how many new publications will be available. Their talk about it was a bit odd: it "collects" the subscriptions you have on your iPad, as if we all have many (I do, but only in Zinio, which I doubt will be in NewsStand), and as if no new ones were added.

Wireless updating is cool, especially if iTunes can do it with podcasts, I haven't seen that mentioned, oddly enough.

iMessage is also long-awaited, why there has not been a good and simple text-messaging system for the iPad from the beginning is a puzzle. After all, the Mac has had iChat for a decade almost.

Swiping between apps might be very handy, faster than calling up the app strip.

Airplay mirroring should be great for gamers and for people making demos or slideshows on iPads.

And the iPhone 4(s) will be more valuable as a camera now that with iOS 5 you can use the volume button as a shutter button, and don't have to get past the lock screen and find the camera app before you can snap a photo.

My friend Yvonne tells me:
I was just watching the antics of people having download fever on all of the forums...!
There are people who have tried more than 50 downloads, one after the other, and are determined to keep going even though the forum administrators are telling them that apples servers have been " slammed" by the sheer number of attempted downloads on the same day.
I tried only 2, I was getting the same error codes as everyone else, checked the forums and realized the servers are swamped, so gave up for the day...!
I have actually downloaded it, according to the forum administrators advice to people getting error codes... Tomorrow, I have to plug in my iPad and press restore ( on iTunes), and it should load onto the iPad. The error codes are occurring when iTunes contacts apple for software verification, the apple servers cannot handle the volume, and accept only half the volume, and the rest get sent back error codes by the system. 
If you get an error code... Check out the info in this link...  

Fry looks at iPhone 4S

[Thanks to Timo]
iPhone 4S, Stephen Fry article.
Siri is the USP [Unique Selling Point] of the 4S, it is essentially Voice Control that really works. You talk to it, it talks back. [...] So good is the voice recognition that it is now built into all apps that use a keyboard. For the first time I’ve found that I can happily and accurately dictate texts and emails.

Given that all speech recognition software I've tried (on five different devices) have failed for me (too high a error rate to make it worthwhile), perhaps due to my Danish accent, I'm not all that optimistic. But if it's really that great for me too, I'll be delighted, of course. That will be a game-changer. Like it has already been for many, for example David Pogue, who has/had very bad tendonitis and couldn't work if it hadn't been for Dragon Naturally Speaking. (He is so enthusiastic about it that it was a sad surprise for me when it didn't really work for me.) (For many years it only ran on Windows machines, which forced him to use them next to his Macs.)

Fry also writes:
Believe me, there will be more than 500 books published in the next year which will claim to be able to teach you how to improve your business/profits/image/career by using the “Jobs example”. How he would have loathed that. [...]  the whole point is that copying someone who disdained copying anything would be the dumbest joke of all.

It's the funniest thing: the human mind absolutely refuses to believe that success or genius can't be copied. If you do things exactly like Steve Jobs, of course you will get the same success as Jobs, how can it be different?

The problem, I guess, is that truly original minds are less than one in a thousand, and those who can push ideas through so they work in the real world are one in a million.  So what is others to do? Well, everybody doesn't have to be a genius or world-changer, and if you do your own thing as well as you can, it's worthwhile. And in the beginning, there's nothing wrong with copying, and later with being inspired by others.

Steve Jobs owned 100 black turtlenecks

Steve Jobs owned 100 black turtlenecks, article.
He also came to like the idea of having a uniform for himself, both because of its daily convenience (the rationale he claimed) and its ability to convey a signature style. "So I asked Issey to make me some of his black turtlenecks that I liked, and he made me like a hundred of them." Jobs noticed my surprise when he told this story, so he showed them stacked up in the closet. "That's what I wear," he said. "I have enough to last for the rest of my life."

Wow. That is just so alien to me. I guess it explains the super-ultra-hyper-overdrive minimalism Apple has been into for several years. No colors or decoration here, please! I wonder if the candy-colored iMacs were a result of temporary insanity? (And maybe it's only while Steve were out sick that somebody managed to introduce a white iPhone as well as the black one.)

Really, to decide on ONE thing you're gonna wear for the rest of your life?
Convenience? How would it be less convenient to have for example the turtlenecks in four different colors, and just grabbing the top one in the morning, or the color you felt like wearing? Would not take any more time.
And personal uniform? Did he really think that nobody would recognize Steve Jobs if he should turn up in a white shirt? Everybody looking around, "hey, where's Steve? He's supposed to be here. And who is this guy in the white shirt? Call security."

I dunno. It's either so zen it's totally beyond my comprehension, or it's so stuck-minded that I can't believe it. Perhaps a combo.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Paper books and beauty

Laurie, a friend of mine is getting a Kindle, but is not a tech fan. She just sent me the following comment and dared me to publish it. :-)

I look forward to downloading classics on the Kindle.
But I will always love the feel of a book.
The same with watching a woman knitting during,  is for me,
watching a person holding a book reading.  It is deeply relaxing,
not the same as watching someone hold a technological device reading.
Yesterday we took a long drive in the Catskills,  a gorgeous warm Indian summer day.
We passed at one point an old farmhouse,  on the porch was a really old man sitting in the sun reading a book. It was very beautiful to me.

It's a viewpoint many people share, it has been one of the central objections heard all over, since the Kindle started getting popular. 
Me, I think the love one has for books is primarily for the content, the wonderful stories and wisdom we have read in the past, and that love is projected on the object. Sure, if one takes out the content from an ereader or tablet, all you have is plastic and metal, but similarly if you remove the content from a paper book, all you have is the remains of dead trees. 

As a side note, admittedly a paper book can be a beautiful object too. And I have a handful of those, special editions, they are wonderful. But most books are mediocre-looking, and I bought them for the stories or knowledge, not for the object. 
Some might make gadgets which are beautiful too. For me, the iPhone 4 is very beautiful, actually it's one of the main reasons I bought it, despite not having bought an iPhone prior to that. If' one's taste is different, well maybe somebody will make different-looking gadgets just as beautiful as a good book. Or one might put it in a case, there are quite a few cases on the market which are hand-made of wood and such, and very beautiful. 

(the vertical objects are cases, not books) 

Well, we will probably never get beyond the apparent schism that some people like myself have a greater affinity for technology than for nature (a book being made of natural materials, though you need machinery to do it), and for some people it's the opposite. I can understand the other one, in fact I have sometimes felt a little ashamed that I didn't have it in me to seek out the great Outdoors and be uplifted by it. But ah well, we are what we are. 

Some people feel that nature is warm and technology is cold. I can certainly see the viewpoint, but I don't feel the same way. Perhaps the reason I love technology is that it enhances (in some cases) human communication, and this makes me feel a Mind out there. Maybe others feel a Mind in nature. 
And of course there's a mind behind Everything, otherwise it wouldn't exist. 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

"Piracy is Progressive Taxation"

Piracy is Progressive Taxation, and Other Thoughts on the Evolution of Online Distribution, article by Tim O'Reilly.

One of the big factors which is holding back ebooks and other electronic media, is the widespread fear that "piracy" will instantly destroy a publisher's business unless he uses draconian and complex DRM (Digital Rights Management: copy protection). But interestingly, quite many of the most successful small publishing ventures, and at least one big one, O'Reilly, don't use any copy protection, and find that sharing is at worst a small irritation, and often will work as free promotion.