Sunday, December 30, 2012

An important aspect of tablets

Tablets: smaller, lighter, simpler.
But also: much easier to use. It strikes me that a very big part of the "post-PC" revolution is a brave, big, and pretty successful attempt to make computing much easier. It'll get better yet. But already iPad are being used by toddlers and octogenarians much more widely than PCs/Macs ever were.

Apple already attempted that with the Mac, of course, and they went far, as evidenced by the wide imitation. But it only went so far. For example, on a Mac even to this day, to install an app, you have to go through a process of queries and decisions and other steps, and after, you have to delete the left-over files and mounted virtual disks...

On the iPad, it's one-click process. What a difference!
(Apple has realized that, and have imitated it pretty well with the newish App Store for Mac.)

Geeks tend not to like to lose control. They like to fiddle whit things themselves. I can sympathize with that. But 98% of people have very real issues with computers. Many, many people are just lost once just one thing go wrong, and they then typically have to wait until a more knowledgable family member or friend can come by, to get their email to work again or whatnot.  All this is not necessary, should not be.

Friday, December 28, 2012

TV engineering, and What Apple Does Different

Here's an illustration of What Apple Does Different.
I just got a new TV. A 3D model.*
It's a Samsung. And it's a top model, costing almost three times as much as the cheapest 3D models now.
And here's the rub, which rubs me the wrong way: how do they place this big screen (46") on the stand? There are many ways to do that, and seriously, it's not a hard problem. But they did a really poor job in my opinion. The TV hangs on the stand, held up by only two little plastic tabs, about two milimeters thick. I have no doubt that if somebody bumps into the TV, and not even all that hard either, it is going to crash to the floor.

At the top, one of the two thin plastic tabs. It is 8x9 millimeters, the size of a pinkie nail! (Click for large image)

Samsung is a huuuuge company, and has been making TVs for ages. It is simply inexcusable to present such a poor mount on a premium product.  If the person responsible had a mind, it could have been solved by simply making the tabs out of metal. It's not like that would make a huge difference in cost!

And this is one of the main things which makes us fans love Apple's products, especially since the millennium, when Jobs and Ive took it in hand: attention to detail, and a strong desire to put out the highest possible quality, in every detail. You would never, never, never, never ever see Apple put a big screen on a stand with two small fragile plastic tabs.

*I finally caved when I realized it was the perfect xmas present for meself. Not sure how important it will be for me in the long run, but it's fun, especially with the right movie, like Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs. That movie was just made to be seen in 3D. (Though it's also highly entertaining in 2D.)

Basics still omitted in reading apps

Update: the zoom function does work in the alternative iPad browser iCab. But how many even know it exists?

I'm amazed that nearly three years after the iPad's introduction, we still have apps which miss basics.
Apple's Safari for iPad still does not have any way to enlarge text! Other iPad browsers have had that for years now.
(It does now have the Reader function, but that only works on 75% of pages which need it.)

And the otherwise interesting Google Play Books Reader, which lets you buy and read books in PDF formatting, which gives access to many books which are a lot of work to break down into ereader formats so the publisher hasn't done it. Many books about fine arts creation for example. But: it has a glaring omission: it has no zoom function! I just can't believe this, a zoom function is essential for any app which reads PDF, because those pages often have tiny text in columns. I mean, even the Kindle 3 had a zoom function for PDFs. And the web version of the Google Play books do have it, so they know it's a good idea. (Sadly the web version does not 'play' well with Safari/iPad, you can't move around on a page you have zoomed into, it just goes to next page instead!)

Please, Google, give the Play Book app for iPad a zoom function!
(For scanned-pages PDF books. You can change the text size in ordinary ebooks, ePub, fortunately.)

Just look at this page. I can just read it without any zoom function, but it's really not that pleasant for middle-aged eyes.
And if you try on a smaller, 7-inch reader, forget it.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Writing in cafés

[Thanks to TTL]

I've sometimes talked about mobile writing, as I have a fondness for writing in cafés. And generally I consider the lightest gear to be the most desirable for this, like a Macbook Air or an iPad Mini with a USB keyboard.

But: there's something to say for the no-compromise approach. And this fellow likes his screen real estate, so durnit, he brings his 27-inch iMac with him! There's no stopping him, he can do 3D graphics work, web design, photoshopping, you name it. Rock on.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Two fun tablet stands


It looks to me like TwoHands (apart from being more "grown-up") is more flexible re tablet size. Though I'm not sure how the monkey works. It looks like it's not quite as flexible re width as the other one, but they state that it can hold large tablets horizontally or vertically, and small tablets horizontally. Maybe the arms bend. 

Note that both can give different angles depending on how high you place the grip. (You slide the whole thing up or down.) 

New low price levels for tablets

Wow, that went fast! I was in my local PC store last night, and looked over their tablets. They had about five different brands on display (no iPads, they used to have those prominently, I'm guessing they're sold out), and all of them were at or under £200! (Which means similar numbers in $ in the US, or slightly above). This was Nexus, and Samsung Galaxy, as well as a couple of less known brands.

This is impressive, it was only a few months ago the Nexus Seven broke all rules by being a quality 7-inch tablet and selling for only 200. (Well, that's disregarding the Kindle Fire, but that's a crippled tablet unless you hack it.) And now suddenly they all are at this level, which is not far from half of the typical price half a year ago.

To be sure this is a bit ahead of the natural price development, since Amazon and Google has started a real price war by selling their tablets at cost, not making a cent on them unless the customer spends money in their store on the tablet.

Apple is actually the only brand I know of which is not knuckling under, so far holding the iPad Mini at over 300. But they have a unique and uniquely beloved interface and digital wares ecosystem, so they still manage to be around the number 1 tablet on the market.

It has to be tough for brands like Samsung, they are already losing money on big TVs, now the time has come for tablets too? But they can't just stand their ground, the battle is on for future market share, and 'everything' is at stake.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Walmart offer

It seems Walmart is having a good in-store offer on iPads and iPhones.

Nexus 10, and using text-to-speech

Update: It's a bit startling, but I realize that if push came to shove, and the Kindle for iPad app got text-to-speech, I might just be able to make do with only the iPad Mini for everything! Virtually. It's perfect for all kinds of reading, and the backlight would be less of an issue if it could read aloud most books. 

Google Nexus 10 Tablet: First Impressions, article.

It seems everybody is as impressed with this one as they were by the Nexus Seven. Boiled down, I'd say that it sounds like hardware-wise, it's as good as the iPad, and the Android interface is improving. And it's cheaper than the iPad, maybe $80 cheaper. (Google is selling it at cost, hoping it'll be a loss leader for future market share.)

The one downfall might be that too few apps are still optimized for tablets and don't utilize the large screen. I'm actually amazed, we've had Android tablets for a couple of years now, what's taking the developers so long? iPad apps came in like an avalanche when it came out.

I was curious about Android tablets for a while, and I have a couple. But I don't know that I'll buy any more, because while they are not bad devices, I'm not as comfortable with them as iOS and iOS apps, and I like iTunes video market better, where I can buy instead of renting (I hate renting since I often don't finish things at once).

I am really comfortable with the two iPad sizes and their features, and with my Kindle Paperwhite for long reading. It will take a killer feature to get me to really want something else.

I actually have the Kindle Fire HD because of such a killer feature: it reads Kindle books aloud for me, and it does a great job, much better than the Kindle 3 (Kindle Keyboard). It's great for when you need to do something else at the same time, walking or working. Or relaxing, I find I can relax much more lying fully down in a near-dark room listening to a book than I can when I need light and to hold a device up, and to focus my eyes and brain on reading and decoding letters.

I saw two young reviewers reviewing the Fire HD on YouTube, and they hopped right past the text-to-speech feature with the comment that it was probably only good for when you didn't know how to pronounce a word... Such a lack of vision!

I really hope good text-to-speech will come to the Kindle app for iPad, and to other iPad apps.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Think Superfluous

This in the newest Simpsons episode. It must be very fresh.
I think it's pretty spot on. The iPad Fourth Generation is (apart from the camera upgrade) only a speed bump, and naming it "fourth generation" is almost like Apple saying to us: "See? Aren't you glad we dropped the numbers for different generations? You'd go crazy trying to keep track of them."

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Mini keyboard-case

TCGirl found this keyboard case for the iPad Mini. I haven't tried it, and it's doubtful if anybody can touch-type on such a size, but it has many high reviews and it amazingly cheap.

I have this AmazonBasics bluetooth keyboard. It's light, pretty good, reasonably priced. Full size. Nicely simple.
And the travel stand is great. Works with any tablet almost, or phones, and fills nothing in a bag or pocket.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Surface review

An iPad Lover’s Take On The Surface With Windows RT, review.

With all that up-and-running, I immediately headed to the Windows Store (the virtual one with apps, not the physical one with Surfaces) to get some apps. Total nightmare. In the ten days I’ve been using the Surface, that Store has either been down or completely unresponsive a large percentage of the time. It just hangs and hangs and hangs, seemingly forever. I restart, re-open and some things work, then it hangs again. I’ve been trying to download one app for days — still no luck. I’m sick of restarting. And the back-button just isn’t working. Joy.
Of course, that doesn’t even speak to a lack of apps in said store — which, let’s be honest, is the real problem.

My local PC store told me that here in UK also, the Microsoft Surface tablet is only sold in MS stores. Good luck with that, MS! (He also said some computers with Win8 were coming, but probably not before xmas.)

Altogether, Win8 and the tablet seem to be off to a godawfully poor start. Of course MS is famous for doing that, but then get it better, and take over completely (Windows was no good until version 3). But it has been a looong time since they did so, and one has to wonder if they are simply way too far behind in the race this time along. Particularly the great lack of interest from even the large app developers is a very, very bad sign. iPhone/iPad was besieged by developers even before it was *possible* to develop for the platform. ("Web apps," said Steve Jobs, "do that, they're great".)

Books on paper: for when nothing else works

I have come to see paper books as a sort of emergency solution. There are big drawbacks to them, they are very expensive and takes many months to make, you can't change the font size, they are big and heavy, bringing more than a couple is very impractical, they are vulnerable and don't wear or age well, you can't look up words in them or connect to online encyclopaedias, they have to be transported several times to reach the reader...

But: if a person does not have the money or the skills, or for some reason the desire to own an ereading device, a paper book is still a way you can get this valuable content to him, so hurrah for them!

The New Minimalist

Is Digitization Enabling Minimalism for a New Generation?, article.
Let’s imagine I took every e-book in my Kindle library and converted it into a physical book, and then took half the stuff we watch on Netflix and converted those films and shows into DVDs (let’s assume the other half are rentals we wouldn’t keep), and then printed out my years of archived photos (less than most people have, but enough) and stuck them into albums. Just how minimalist would we really be then?

Yep. I would call myself a minimalist, though not a radical one. And yet, in the years between getting Comfortable economically and being able to get my stuff digitally (roughly the naughties decade), my big lust for good books and visuals still made me assemble, heck I dunno, a couple thousand books and disks. I had to keep buying book boxes (not cheap considering my cherry-wood minimalist good taste), I have them in every room.

I have actually weeded out the collection at least three times, but it appears that I'm now close to the level where the rest is hard for me to get rid of. Even if I know that at least 90% of it I won't ever read or watch again in that form, I'm too attached to it.

But it'll change, there's no hurry. As I get more digital in my habits, I can feel my feelings for the physical objects slowly change in the direction of them being just simply that, physical objects. My DVD of Blues Brothers is just a plastic disc and paper cover, it's not the movie I love so. It's faster, though not cheaper, to find and watch it from iTunes than to locate it in my collection.
Books mostly, I can barely stand reading anything on paper now. I still buy blu-ray discs, though I'm not exactly sure why. But an HD movie is such a big download.

But anyway, it's amazing to think that these days you need just a chair and table and a bed, and for all your communication and entertainment and education needs... well, basically an iPad! Wow. Heaven for students and minimalists.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The new wild west

Why the Daily Failed, or the new wild west of Net magazines, a post on my main blog.

iPad 2 vs 1, get a 2

I've been saying that I don't find that the difference between the iPad 2's screen and the 3's Retina display is all that important, except cosmetically. I stand by that, but one thing I hadn't noticed until today is how big a step forward the iPad 2's screen was compared to the iPad 1's.

I don't recall anybody writing about that, and I don't know how Apple did it, especially since the have the same size pixels. But compared to the second generation, the iPad 1's screen is just sort of grainy and muddy. It has an odd tri-color shimmer to it, like the pixels are visible somehow.  The second generation has a beautiful, smooth clear rendition, the grain effect is totally gone. It's just much better to look at, even though the amount of detail is the same.

Combine that with the lighter weight, the better camera, and the higher speed, my advice is: when buying a used iPad, only consider the first generation if you can get it much cheaper than an iPad 2. (There are even quite a few apps now which only run on iPad 2 or later.)

It's amazing how fast this development is going. The iPad still feels like a new tool to me, but already the first generation is basically outdated.

I wonder what they're going to do for iPad 5? (The fourth gen is basically a speed bump.)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

News Corp. Shutters The Daily iPad App

News Corp. Shutters The Daily iPad App, article.

The app was initially hampered by technical problems, but The Daily’s key issue was a conceptual one. While the app boasted lots of digital bells and whistles, in the end it was very much a general interest newspaper that seemed to be geared toward people who didn’t really like newspapers. You can’t make that work no matter what kind of platform you use.

I am not exactly sure what he means by that. But I agree inasmuch as the app/newspaper The Daily didn't appeal to me at all from the beginning. I would have bet ten to one that it wouldn't survive. (But I couldn't find any takers.    :-)

Dunno if I am the right judge though, since I have very little interest in newspapers. I have honestly tried to read them from time to time, but apart from the tech sections almost nothing seemed interesting to me. I'm not interested in politics and I'm not interested in sports, or in car crashes, or all that stuff. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

iPad with USB keyboard!

Once again you can use your iPad with a full USB keyboard. (My old video is here.)
You need an Apple USB adapter of course, but here's the new thing: you simply plug in an Unpowered USB hub between the iPad and the keyboard.
For example the excellent keyboard on the Alphasmart Neo can be used.

Just ignore the "device not supported" message the iPad gives you.
(I've not tested if this works with the new Lightning connectors on iPad 4 and Mini. You need a different Apple adapter for them of course.)

Friday, November 30, 2012

MS bungling it again?

Microsoft Introduces ... The Horse & Buggy Era, article.

Admittedly MacObserver can be quite blatantly anti-MS, but there's some point to it. I read recently that a market researcher hung out for two hours in a shopping centre by an Apple store and a Microsoft store. In those two hours, the Apple store sold an impressive eleven iPads, and the MS store sold zero Surface tablets. Zero! That's not a good number, unless you're a mathematician.

Bruce said:
Microsoft has a tough job ahead of them, that's for sure.
One rationale for buying Windows for the home has been, "It's what they use at work." If Microsoft can convince IT departments of big companies to use Windows tablets, then they may have a chance.
All of the stuff that I could care less about on a tablet, like SAMBA and Active Directory, might help Microsoft by making their tablets more attractive to IT departments.

 Eolake said...
Yes, their biggest chance must be to leverage their stronghold, enterprise. I was just thinking that, when reading this article.
Microsoft's nightmare scenario is actually starting to take hold. 

... Although, as they point out, Bring Your Own Device is getting big, so it's not the nineties anymore.

Barclays Bank in the UK just bought over 8,000 iPads, apparently on demand from employees! Not Kansas anymore either.

Thoughts on the newest Chromebook

The Google Chromebook is out in a new version, and the price is only $250, less than an iPad Mini. And David Pogue likes it a lot.
The Chromebook concept takes some getting used to: It’s exclusively for online activities. Web, e-mail, YouTube, and apps like Google Drive (free, online word processor, spreadsheet and slide show programs). The laptop has no moving parts: no fan, no DVD drive, not even a hard drive. It’s silent and fast, as long as you don’t try to do two things at once (video playback and music playback, for example).

I must say, if the keyboard is good, it makes a lot of sense as portable typewriter. It's as light as a Mabook Air, but much cheaper. It holds no data on its own, so that and the price makes it less of a worry re it getting stolen.

And of course, unlike me (I have a trillion email accounts and use an email app), a surprising number of people, even very pro and geeky people, only use Gmail and they use it from the Gmail web site, so this handles that too.

And again, unlike me who needs a computer for web site design and photoshopping, it actually does 95% of what people do these days, email, web, and whap apps (Office etc) can be done in a web browser.

I hate to give Google their due, but Apple has p'd me off by getting a patent on rounded rectangles! :-) (Is this the beginning of a turning tide for Apple?)

A private reviewer on Flickr discussion group for Alphasmart devices writes:
There are many web posts that say the Chromebook is useless without a network connection, but that's not really so. Enable offline documents and you can write on the go without a network connection. You can't log into the Chromebook without a network connection, but you can log in and "sleep" the system. It wakes up still logged in.

That is good. A net connection is still far from ubiquitous or very reliable, and it would be irritating to be totally helpless if you don't have it, and you're inspired to write.

Pogue writes that the keyboard is "carefully modeled on the Macbook Air's", and that's no joke, I would have sworn I was looking at a Macbook Air keyboard. Samsung really has no shame, or they took it literally when Picasso said "great artists steal". One can understand Apple/Jobs' wounded ego re their creations getting ripped off.

Bruce said:

Google has another operating system which is more popular than ChromeOS. It is being put on laptops without Google's help. These laptops are less expensive and can do more than the Chromebook. 
Imagine what could happen if Google put some time and energy into Android netbooks.

Apple patents

Many feel the patent system is out of control. And I can see why. Apple has been granted a patent on the ebook page turn grapic. And apparently also on rectangles with rounded corners. Which is amazing, because way back when the Mac was being developed in the early eighties, one of the ways Steve Jobs convinced his designers that the graphic interface should have rectangles with rounded corners in it, was to take them for a walk and show them that this form was everywhere...

I like this parody. The soft-spoken, yet intense and convincing cadence with which he talks is so ingrained in Apple promotional videos, not the least when Jonathan Ive talks, and I must admit I'm getting a bit sick of it. It feels like they want to convince everybody that every single new product they come out with is not just "insanely great" (in Jobs' famous phrasing), but will change the very foundations of civilization for the better.

I like Apple and I love many of their products, and there's no doubt that they've changed technology, but no single entity should have total power. Too much of a good thing is... well, Liberace.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Introducing “Take Control Live: Working with Your iPad”

Introducing “Take Control Live: Working with Your iPad”, article.

Many, many people want to know to what degree they can work with only an iPad, no laptop. But it's a big and complex subject, and changing fast.

TidBITS/Take Control Books have something new: webinars on the subject.
They are not free, but I find that TidBITS delivers. (If not, I'll refund you.)

Barnes & Noble DRM Fails with Expired Credit Card

Barnes & Noble DRM Fails with Expired Credit Card, article.
Yet another reason why DRM is wrong. When a Barnes & Noble customer tried to download a previously paid-for book, an error message appeared, stating that the download had failed because the credit card on file had expired. As the cool kids say, “Epic fail.”

MacObserver starts ebook articles

Everything About eBooks & eReaders, Pt 1: Introduction.

The big Apple-centered web site MacObserver is starting this series covering all the basics of ebooks and ereaders. Seeing as how their bread is probably buttered thicker by postings of iPhone rumors, I think this is an excellent move for them, and I'm personally looking forward to the future articles in the series.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Publisher 'Future' selling $1 million per month in tablet magazine

Publisher 'Future' selling $1 million per month in tablet magazine, article.

“Around 90 percent of our digital edition sales are to new customers and 40 percent are outside our core UK and US markets." [...]
Future digital revenue grew 30 percent in the last year to £20.6 million, 18 percent of the total, which nevertheless declined by three percent. Cost savings and this digital growth have helped return the publisher from an £18 million annual loss to a £1 million profit.

If you look at both the paragraphs above, those are remarkable statements. Nobody has been sure whether anybody would ever really make a good business on publications on ereaders/tablets, but this shows that it's definitely possible.

Ninety percent of sales are to new customers! That's spectacular. This shows that the big promise of the World Wide Web was not an idle one.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Kindle, five years

Happy fifth birthday, Kindle!

The first Kindle was much criticised for being ugly, for the odd keyboard, and not the least for the very big page buttons on the sides, which were all too easy to hit by mistake.

But most of this was corrected already by the second generation. And it can't be argued that the Kindle and Amazon's aggressive ebook market has been the midwife to the e-book revolution, a market which is already now over one third of the whole book markets in many sectors and is still growing.

From my viewpoint, the dark background of the e-paper screen was a problem, so the new Kindle Paperwhite with frontlight was the one which really made the Kindle come into its own for me. I use my iPads, both sizes, for reading of articles, particularly those with links and pictures in them, but for long articles and books, nothing in text form beats the Kindle Paperwhite, I lurv it. It's not perfect, the frontlight can be improved yet more in evenness and such, but for me it's the best device yet for long form reading, including paperbooks.

And the iPad Mini has really filled the hole of a very portable iOS device for ereading. So I think I will nominate 2012 as the year the ereaders broke through!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Photo from iPad Mini are bad in low(ish) light

(I protest, unusually, against Apple spelling Mini with a lowercase M. Really, we need some indication as to which words are proper names.)

This is a photo from my iPad Mini. Two-handed, it's is easy to hold still, thus the picture is sharp despite the slow 1/15 second shutter speed. (And top aperture, 2.4.)

But: notice how grainy and unsharp it is, folks. And this is despite the low ISO setting of 250! Even pocket cameras have delivered better results at ISO 800 for the last few years. In other words: The Mini has a very small camera with a very tiny sensor, meaning it's not good in low light. This of course is the price for the wonderful slimness of the Mini, but you need to take it into consideration if you think that the Mini can replace your pocket camera. It can't, unless it's only for snapshots for the web. (It's just 5 megapixels too.)

Original here (click on Download to get full size.)


Bruce said...
I downloaded the photo and looked at it full size. It's not too bad for grain. Are you sure you are not looking at it oversize on your monitor?

Eolake said...
Well, Blogger scales it down from 5MP to 2MP, that makes the grain and unsharpness much less visible.
But of course few web images are bigger than 2MP. And in better light it'll be better.
Original here. (Click on Download to get full size.)

I was just a little shocked to see image degradation at only ISO 250, to the degree that normally is only seen at maybe 1600.
It's a good camera for the size, but it *is* a very little camera indeed. Just think: it fits in a space a quarter the size of a thimble!

iPad mini: It’s a Productivity Tool, Too

iPad mini: It’s a Productivity Tool, Too, article.

The expert panel were all leaning towards the iPad mini being perfect for consumption, but less so for creation.
Whilst there is no doubt regarding the consumption capabilities, I did find myself disagreeing with the iPad mini not being suitable for creation. After all, this is now my portable device of choice to handle all my writing and podcasting commitments. Of course, there are some minor obstacles that need to be overcome but with a little planning, these obstacles will cease to be relevant.

We are many people who wonder when and to what degree we can have an iPad, or even a Mini, take over from our laptop. This article has some interesting data. Amongst them, and this has surprisingly been my own experience as well, is that more or less all along the way, if you can do it on a regular iPad, you can also do it on a Mini. The author says that even video editing is basically the same experience.
I don't know how Apple did it, the screen is at most one inch bigger than most tablets of the 7-inch class, yet it feels somehow less cramped.

Especially considering how acidly dismissive Steve Jobs was regarding the usability of smaller tablets, I dare say that the Mini is a great positive surprise for many people.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Mini rocks (updated)

All right, just got my iPad Mini! (Took two weeks more than I'd thought, here in the UK.)

Early impression: it rocks!

Some reviewers say that the lack for full Retina resolution is visible, though not a big drawback. Well, to my eyes (and I think that with glasses they are not below average) I have a hard time telling the difference at all. When I hold the two devices next to each other, and make a font much smaller than I'd be reading it anyway, there's a marginal difference, OK. But you have to look for it, to my eyes. The screen is better than the one from iPad 2, clearly crisper, and better colors.

One reviewer mentioned that some buttons got too small to be useful, for example the bookmark buttons in Safari. Again, not to me, I can use them as easily as on a full iPad. (I don't have small hands, they fit my 6.4/194cm frame).

We will see at length how it goes with using it as an ereader in bed, if holding it one-handed is a problem in any way.

But so far, full marks. It's totally useful, and it goes in the side-pocket on my cargo pants (After cell phones and iPods appeared, I've never bought any pants without side pockets), and I barely notice I carry it.

To me, the iPhone (and iPod Touch) has always been a huge compromise for web surfing and reading. Barely useable at all. But the iPad Mini, now that is an outstanding mobile device!


Yes, it's really a pleasure to use, it just is. It is like one gets 98% of the full iPad in a package of half the size and weight. Kewl.
(Of course there are still many uses for the full iPad, especially less mobile use. And I still want an 15-inch "iPad Super" at some point, for bigger applications, art books, comics, etc.)

I opted for the longer procedure of setting it up as a new iPad, instead of just filling it with all I have on my iPad 3, even though I've been careful to weed out the junk on that one as time went on, because I won't be needing all the same apps and such. But it also meant I had to select all the apps to install in iTunes on my Mac, and then arrange them in folders on the iPad like I prefer.

I found some of my old (and newer) photos to import to the Mini, for wallpapers. Man, photos look great on it! Maybe even a tad better than on the iPad 3! I think it has just slightly blacker blacks.

I wish you could get the iPad in grey. White is overwhelming for the picture on the screen, and black is "underwhelming", and can make the shadows of photos look weak. For exhibitions, I always went with grey frames, both for photos and paintings.

One of my night photos (taken with the Sony RX100 pocket camera*) as wallpaper on the Mini. (I liked that the sky gives a clear space for the few icons I like to have "in the wild".)

*The Sony RX100 is a sort of great fit with the Mini, because with that camera also, it's like one gets 98% of the quality and functionality of a full sized camera, but in a package which slips into a breast-pocket!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Out of Touch: E-reading isn’t reading.

Out of Touch: E-reading isn’t reading, article.
Nothing is more suspect today than the book’s continued identity of being “at hand.” The spines, gatherings, threads, boards, and folds that once gave a book its shapeliness, that fit it to our hands, are being supplanted by the increasingly fine strata of new reading devices, integrated into vast woven systems of connection. If books are essentially vertebral, contributing to our sense of human uniqueness that depends upon bodily uprightness, digital texts are more like invertebrates, subject to the laws of horizontal gene transfer and nonlocal regeneration. Like jellyfish or hydra polyps, they always elude our grasp in some fundamental sense. 

That's the danger of academia: getting the ability to write in long and flowery terms about stuff you don't have a clue about.

More poetry:
“Instead of pressing to turn the page, we now swipe…The more my body does, however, the less my mind does. 

But the body has to do more work turning the page of a physical book than the mere tap on an ebook. So now you're actually counter-arguing yourself, dear author.

Update: here's a new article which makes well fun of the aforementioned article.

Braille ereaders?

I got interested in the idea of a "Braille e-reader", in other words a Braille reader which does not print on paper, but instead have a "screen" with little pins popping up (barely) on the surface to make the braille letters. You would just feed in an electronic text, the first page would show, the blind person reads it, presses a button, and the next page turns up.
It should not be too hard to make, methinks. But all I've seen is machines printing on paper. Does this "ereader" exist, anybody knows?

... Further googling:
Engadget hopes it's not far away.
The displays exists, of a sort, but: "Because of the complexity of producing a reliable display that will cope with daily wear and tear, these displays are expensive. Usually, only 40 or 80 braille cells are displayed."

Another thing of course is that now we have text-to-speech, and the latest iteration in the Kindle Fire HD is actually really good, I read whole books with it.

This is a mock-up, not real.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Cloud Player, hurrah

I finally bought a downloadable song from Amazon, playing about with my Galaxy Note.
So I got an email congratulating me on the next great stage of my life: now I have Amazon Cloud Player!
Wow. Now, instead of having all my music in my hand or pocket, they sit in "the Cloud" thousands of miles away, and I download them when I want to use them. Or I try and try, if the connection is poor. Or I give up, if I don't have a connection, and so no music.
I'm actually not sure what the great advantage is, and why everybody is pushing so hard for this.

Spell checkers advance?

I was looking up a Kindle book on Amazon, and I had typed in "Mocke..." when my iPad's auto-complete suggested "Mockenhaupt", which was actually the name of the author I was looking for! (Brian Mockenhaupt, interviewed on TKC.)

I wonder if the auto-complete software have new ways of working, where it is getting word lists from much wider and fresher sources than the built-in lists they traditionally have? I wonder how that works. They can't just scour web pages willy-nilly, they'd get all kinds of junk and "misspelligs", as it were.

Hmmm... it seems not, because it does not work now when I try it again. Perhaps it only got the suggestion because I had actually a minute before typed "mockenhaupt", and the iPad had unhelpfully replaced it with two other words, so I had to start again.

But still, this is quite intelligent programming. "If he rejects the words our auto-complete gave him and starts typing again with the same letters, let's look at what he typed last time and give him that as a suggestion, even if the word is not in our word list/dictionary." Very smart.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Vanessa wallpaper (Phineas And Ferb)

Here's my newest favorite iPad wallpaper. A scene from the wonderfully funny Phineas And Ferb show, featuring the daughter of the Evil Scientist, Vanessa.

(Click for large)

The art in this show is just amazing, especially in HD.

Oh, and it seem the newest iPad system is smarter about wallpapers, fitting them better to the space available instead of always cropping them ruthlessly.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Kobo, no direct sales

Apparently Kobo has decided to not sell their own devices on their own site.
Who made that suicidal decision? That's like having a big store on a main street, and when people get out their wallet, telling them they have to somebody else's store on the other site of town to actually buy the product. WTF? as the youngsters say today.

The first rule of business is so obvious it's probably not even written down anywhere: When people are trying to give you money for your product, don't get in their way! 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Laziness Made Virtue

Apple Pays $21 Million to License Swiss Clock Design for iOS, article.
Apple paid US$21 million to license a clock design from Swiss rail operator SBB that the Cupertino company had improperly used as part of iOS 6...

Holy mama.
(Sticks up hand, jumping on seat) Hey! Can I design a clock face, too, please? I'll do it for one million less!

Having said that, it is a striking clock design, designed by Hans Hilfiker in 1944. It proves again that KISS works. Keep It Sweet and Simple. Otherwise known as Laziness Made Virtue.

It's what I've always done on my own sites. As much out of laziness and lack of skills as out of my love of simple designs. But it has the unforeseen advantage these days that the sites, unlike many web sites, work well on smaller hand-held devices.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

eReader commercials

See a handful of interesting eReader commercials.

It seems LCD screens are taking over. But then most people read articles, not books.

I'm fascinated by the change-over from paper to digital publishing. Many people are too much technophobes to read on a screen. But:  sheer economics may force their hands, as more and more magazines and book publishers fold, or go digital-only. It's very expensive to publish on paper.

Buy often, buy EARLY

Just a little advice to newbies:
If there's a just-announced new hot device that you really want, especially from Apple or Amazon, ORDER EARLY.

The pattern is something like:
1) Ordering within a couple of hours after ordering is opened: a few days delivery time.
2) Ordering the next day: two weeks delivery time.
3) Ordering a month later: four weeks delivery time.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Amazon listens!

OMG! Complaining works! Only a couple of days after I bitch about the unsolicited ads taking space up on the Kindle Fire's home page, Amazon comes out with a software update which changes this!*     :-)

From this page:
The software update will include:
[...] A setting so customers can control whether or not personalized recommendations appear below the carousel on the device homepage.

Excellent. I guess it goes to show that it's harder to sneak things by the modern audiences. The loudness of bloggers helps too, I'm sure. Freedom of speech rock, seriously.

I dunno, though, I think I will have to be very careful with this awesome power... imagine I suggested an iPad made out of chocolate, and Apple actually built one, and went bankrupt! Ooooh, the responsibility. Apple! Listen! I am not serious about a chocolate iPad! It would make me sick, too big. Make it a chocolate iPhone instead, just the right size for a snack. Oh, and it should cost no more than $199, please.

There is also an update to the Paperwhite.
It includes improved fonts, again removal of ads on the home page (though I'm not sure I remember seeing any) (Aha, that's because I use List View. In cover view, the ads were there!), and better handling of samples. Finally, after five years, the device will recognize how far you've read into the sample and set the purchased book after that, and will also delete the old sample after you buy the book. I guess this must have been surprisingly hard to implement, because it's been one of the obvious weaknesses since Kindle One, and I guess a reason many people have not used samples, too much bother.

No matter what size I look at, I can't see any difference in the fonts after the update. It must be quite subtle changes. But I guess you can't blame Amazon for promoting it anyway, every little bit helps. (In the photos, the left Paperwhite is updated.)

What I do see though, is the difference in samples. My UK-bought Paperwhite has a slightly more uneven display compared to my US-bought one, but on the other hand it's noticeably brighter, and has a cooler tint. Maybe I'll start using that one as my main one.

Wow, you can really see on these picture how uneven the light is, compared to a good LCD display. It is much more apparent in the photos for some reason, they don't look this bad in life, but you sort of feel it anyway, and it shows there's room for improvement in this technology yet. Not to take anything away from Amazon's excellent accomplishment in developing this amazing lighting method, which is the best anybody has done yet, I believe. It's a big step up from anything we had before.

(You can't photograph the displays this close to each other, of course, but I had the Kindles next to each other in the same photo, and removed the broad black part from the middle later, to get better comparison.)

*But weirdly, it doesn't replace the ads with anything, like Favorites, now the space is just wasted, black space. Let's hope they were just in a hurry, and next update will allow something useful to occupy this space. 'Cuz I couldn't find any setting to remedy this.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Surface/iPad spoof

Non-official Surface ad/iPad spoof.
(Warning: loud music.)

Now, if the Surface and Win8 actually has just a third of all that zest, it may be a very interesting system!!

"iPad mini gives you most of an iPad at half the size"

Here is MacWorld's very thorough and informative iPad Mini review. It has a lot of comparison data to the other iPad models and Apple devices.

The result is a device that—far more than the Mac mini, or even the old iPod mini—gives you nearly everything of its non-mini namesake in a smaller package.
But calling it “just a smaller iPad” glosses over much of what makes the iPad mini unique.

iPad Mini is even thinner than the iPad

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

iPad camera test

Somebody has compared the camera on the iPad Mini with the one in the iPad 4.

It's hardly an extensive test, but it is clear that the Mini's camera is more wide-angled (in the video they call it "wider aperture", which is nonsense, the viewing angle is decided not by the aperture, but the focal length versus the sensor size). It seems to have a yellow tint, though that may vary. And it seems to be less sharp.

Both the wide-angled-ness and the lesser resolution is surely a result of trying to fit a camera into the ridiculously thin iPad Mini (wide-angle lenses are generally shorter), and of course the price, lesser than that of an iPhone.

All in all, for web journalism, the Mini's camera is probably good enough, but for serious photography, better get a recent iPhone, or even better, a real camera like the big-sensored Sony RX100. Which despite its pocket-size you can use hand-held in the dead of night, as I did here:

The price for the Kindle's low price

The big funnel towards purchases

When Jeff Bezos says that Amazon "only wants to make money when the customer is using the device, not when they buy it", this sounds of course like it's unadulterated good news for the buyer. But there's no such thing as a free lunch, and Amazon has to make up the loss (development costs etc) somehow.

Well, on the lower third of the Kindle Fire HD's home page, where on the earlier model was Favorites, is now (on mine at least) appearing a feature called "customers also bought", showing items similar to the one you have on top in the carousel. (For instance, books by the same author.)

This can be handy, but upon reflection, what is this? This is pure advertising. These are ads. We notice it less because it's not labeled as such, and it's not paid for by a third party. But it's nevertheless just ads, appearing in a premium space (a third of the home page!), and could be very useful to me. (Maybe there's a way to get the Favorites back, but none is apparent.)

And it feels a bit disingenuous to me, because I am in the UK and bought the UK model, which costs a bit more, presumably partly because you have no option of paying more for an ad-free model, so the assumption is that you don't get ads.

Frankly I prefer Apple's business model, where I pay a bit more up front, but the interface is made for my benefit, not as one big funnel to guide me to more purchases.

I am trying to install another Launcher app from the Android store, but so far installing apps is slow going, many of them just don't seem to want to download. And most customer won't even be aware that they can install anything which is not in Amazon's own store (which of course does not have any alternative launchers or web browsers). (Oddly, I had the same problem early on with the Android store (Google Play Store) with my first android device, the Dell Streak. Changing wireless network has no effect.)

Trying to find a way to replace Please Also Buy, I found this: the bottom part of the screen, Amazon has replaced the Favorites section—essentially a place to “pin” favorite apps—with a questionable “recommendations” area that dynamically offers choices in the Amazon online store based on the item that is currently selected in the carousel. Many, myself included, will find this crass bit of marketing—which you cannot turn off—to be annoying. (Favorites are still available via a star icon in the lower right of the screen.) In fact, it find it almost reprehensible: I get that the Kindle Fire HD is inexpensive, but this makes it feel cheap.

Monday, November 5, 2012

iPad mini review, the Verge

iPad mini review, article.

KF HD as browser

Kindle Fire HD is a good ereader device. Particularly, like I've repeated, the text-to-speech quality.
But it's not a great all-round Android device. It's limited and confusing.
I've set it to accept "other" sources of apps, and it seems to work. But for some reason downloads/installations from the PlayGoogle app store seem to take hours.

And I have to do something. See here, I had to look up something on Wikipedia, and this is the view I get in Silk, the Amazon browser:

I'm sorry, that's unreadable. And the crime is that there is no "reader" function in the browser that I can see, to format the text better, as with Instapaper or Apple's Safari "Reader" function. There is not even any function to change the text size. Very poor show.
(Oddly, it also took Apple yeeeears to give such functions to the iPhone and iPad browser. What's up with this? Do all developers have 30/20 vision?) Desktop browsers could change text size since the beginning, and it's way more needed on small devices.

I found a Wikipedia app, that should help at least with that site (which needs to reconsider their formatting). I'm also trying to install the Dolphin Browser, which apparently allows changing of text size.

Oh, and by the way, it seems the view on the Kindle Fire HD does not even rotate!* (Which can make reading easier when lines are long). At least not when using a web browser. Again, quite poor show. Rotating views have been standard for yonks and yonks.

But again, it's a good ereader, if you like backlit screens. And it's probably a good shopping window for Amazon, though I haven't really used that. And the screen and the speakers are good.

*My bad. I had looked all through the settings and couldn't find anything about the rotation. 
Well, after nigh 20 years of web use, I *still* sometimes forget to just google something. I think my brain is frozen. Turns out when you swipe down from the top to get the most-used settings, rotation lock is there. I may have clicked it accidentally. 
My only defence is that Android icons are usually quite tiny, especially on a high-res display. I just hadn't seen it. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Please enable text-to-speech

An Open Letter To Hachette Digital publishers

Dear Hachette Digital, 

I recently bought over a dozen Iain Banks books all at once, in Kindle format. (They are all books I have already bought once and have on my book shelves.) 

I am looking forward to re-reading them all. 
But to my big disappointment, these books have Kindle's text-to-speech disabled. 

I much prefer real audiobooks (so please hurry with Iain (M) Banks audiobooks also), but when I can't get these, text-to-speech is a big blessing for me, allowing me to read much more without undue stress to my eyes, which already are strained by screen work 24/7.

So please, won't you change the text-to-speech setting on Iain Banks Kindle books to Enabled? I'd be thankful indeed. 

Yours, Eolake Stobblehouse

The dangers of platform lock-in

The dangers of platform lock-in, article.

This was rather a specialized situation, but nevertheless, arguably, an ebook did get broken and inaccessible because it was limited to iOS.

It's a mixed up situation. I guess all customers want open platforms. Why would anybody want to be limited to one company's hardware? But most companies who thinks they have a chance want to shoot for the lock-in and then a monopoly, because it's a licence to print money, just see Microsoft, they are still earning billions every year because they won the platform wars of the nineties, and their system came to be seen as "standard" and others as "non-standard" and thus risky.
It's not really a meritorious way of earning the extra money, but it's a tiny minority indeed of humans who will turn down free money, so humanity has to change at depth before we get rid of that situation, is my guess.

Friday, November 2, 2012

He broke Google Reader!

This guy wants to follow more blogs/feeds than his computer can handle! A couple of thousand he wants to read, and apparently does. I am astounded.

I think I read quite more than most people. I know that my home has more books than almost any other home I've been in. And these days blogs/sites/feeds is a lot of that too. But when I got up to a few dozen feeds in Google Reader (read via other apps on my iPad), I found I never got around to most of them.

Now I use FeedMyInbox to make sure I don't miss my favorites. And that's about a dozen I guess.

And I don't even work as many hours as most people. So I can't really figure how anybody can follow more than a couple dozen feeds, and still have time to work, socialize, relax, see some movies, and read more important stuff like books.
(I consider books "more important" because books (fiction and nonfiction) are often reflective of the world, trying to expand perspective and knowledge, while very few blogs are, they mostly just consists of news bits of temporal character, and opinions.)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Front lit LCD display coming

I'm eagerly watching the screen developments, since it seems to me we have a lot of improvements yet to see over the next decade, in ease of reading, power use, etc.
For example a high-contrast, front-lit full-color display would be heaven. Best of both worlds.

The new display from Japan Display hardly seems high-contrast or high-color yet, but it is very low-power*, and it is front-lit, so it may point the way.

*It uses a tiny amount of static RAM in each pixel to hold the image so the pixel does not need to get a signal many times per second.  Very clever.

iPad 4 rage?

I hear that there is a quite a lot of upset bloggers etc complaining about the iPad 4 coming just half a year after the iPad 3.

If the iPad 4 had a haptic display which could fold out to become 17 inches, and could show 3D movies, and I had just bought an iPad 3, maybe I would be disappointed. But it would still not be Apple's fault. They never promised anybody it would be one year between models.

No, it's basically just a processor upgrade and sharper video chat camera.  I would even question the wisdom of giving it a new name, because nobody will be likely to tell the difference without careful testing of app speed or if video chat is vital to them.

I did not waste one second even considering getting an iPad 4, since the 3 is working perfectly for me. What's the deal?

Kindle Fire HD screensavers

[Note: I tend to mix things together in one post, so maybe this has not become clear enough: I am glad I made the extra investment in the Kindle Fire HD. The text-to-speech voice is really good, and it makes for the best machine-voice reading experiences I have had yet.]

I like the Kindle Fire HD's screensavers. All are details of culture and media, and all are pleasant and artful.
There's only about a dozen though, if it were me I'd have put in over 50. It's not hard for a good photographer to make such pictures, and it's a good thing if the customer does not get tired of the same pics. Many people got very tired of the drawings of old authors on the early Kindles.
They also ought to make it easy to put in your own pictures, I haven't yet seen a setting for this.

Love the books, but of course the cameras are my favorite! 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Nuances of complexity

You know companies which makes everything complex? Well, Nuance is one of them. It's the publisher, at least in Europe, of Dragon Dictate for Mac.

I have paid for this now at least five times over the years (including for Windows earlier), and it still works like crap for me.
The reason I upgraded today is I was called on the phone and asked if I was happy with the product. I said no, and perhaps it was my Danish accent. Well, she exuberantly told me that many accents were now supported, included Danish.

I looked it up and did manage to find a web page where Danish was listed (albeit as "Denmark"), amongst many other languages. It was not clear if it supported the language or the accent, or both. But I took a chance.

After a long buggy ride, I managed to pay (I paid ten bucks more, because the special offer email the lady sent me demanded a bank transfer(!), which even went to a company I never heard of.)
And I tried to install. Well, what do you know. Doesn't work unless you have Lion, OS X 10.7. This was not clear anywhen during the procedure, of course.

Well, I installed it on my iMac, which does have Mountain Lion.
And setting it up, there were only half a dozen dialects, all English, no other languages.
I looked through all menus and settings, no languages mentioned anywhere.
And even after training I still get lots of errors in everything I dictate, on average two mistakes per sentence, effectively nullifying any gain you get.

So I try to find Nuance's support. Big surprise: first you have to try to find the answer yourself. Then you have to log in to contact them!
And then the login they gave me didn't work. I reset it, and it still doesn't work.

I'll just have to write off this one too as money wasted, because I'm becoming convinced that 1) I have to pay extra to be able to dictate in Danish (which I don't want to do anyway), and 2) it does not support English with Danish accent, despite what the lady said.

"Doan, apostrophe, tee"

I have started to listen to my Daria books on the Kindle Fire HD. Much better.
It's amazing how much quality difference there is in these applications, text-to-speech. For example the reader in the Kindle 3 does not know to make a pause when there's a full stop. Oh man.

And the Blio app, which is the only one for the iPad I have found which will read ebooks aloud (do you know another?), is acceptable, but flawed. For example, guess how it pronounces the word "don't"... come on, guess. It pronounces it "doan, apostrophe, tee". Holy mama, what a flaw. "Don't" must be one of the most common words in the language. (Not a word? Mmm, "contraption"? Something like that.)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Analysts Disappointed in Apple’s $8.2 Billion Q4 2012 Profit

Analysts Disappointed in Apple’s $8.2 Billion Q4 2012 Profit, article.
Apple has reported record profits for nearly all of its products for its fourth quarter 2012 time period. With revenues of $36 billion and net profits of $8.2 billion ($8.67 per diluted share), the company’s profits are up 23.9 percent compared to the year-ago quarter.

Profits are up 24%, and they are disappointed... In other words, the world is insane, and the stock market more so.

Monday, October 29, 2012

You don't own your ebooks

Why Amazon is within its rights to remove access to your Kindle books, article.
Barnes & Noble “reserves the right to modify or discontinue the offering of any Digital Content at any time”. Apple’s terms and conditions state that “You acknowledge that iTunes is selling you a license to use the content made available through the iBookstore”
Non of these terms state that you actually own the content at all. In each case the content remains the property of the supplier.
Providers like Amazon, Apple and Barnes & Noble have structured their licences like this to protect themselves. If there is a catastrophic site failure that makes access to your books impossible, then you could sue for the return of your property. They would be liable.

I just think they then should be legally obligated to make this clear to the customer. The button should not say "buy", it should say "rent" or "lease", and it should be made clear up front that your content can disappear anytime, and you can't do sh*t about it.

I think maybe this may make prices look different. $15 for a book you own, okay. $15 for renting a book...?

Another thing is, why shouldn't they be liable for loss of content? They do promise the customer that his/her content is always available in the cloud! If that's not a solid promise, shouldn't they be required to state up front: "this promise may be void in case our server breaks down or something..."

Voice of the Fire

The subject is taken from Alan Moore's novel (surprisingly called Voice of the Fire). Don't take this as a recommendation, because I found this the least readable of Moore's works. After three chapters I still had no clue whatsoever what it was about, so I gave up.

The voice of the Fire can also refer to the voice of Amazon's Kindle Fire HD, though, and that one I do recommend. Mostly for the text-to-speech feature. It just feels like a three or four-generation jump since the K3. The most human voice I've yet heard from a machine available in the popular market.

Btw, Amazon is starting to play hard-ball, haha!

They have a point, technically. Though I think that most people will have to be forced to compare the two tablets very closely indeed to notice the difference in the screen. And the iPad Mini is a lot thinner and much lighter, and can do a lot more than the KF, which basically is just a window into Amazon's online store. You can't even shop in the regular Android app store, you're restricted to Amazon's app selection.

But it doesn't hurt that somebody is putting the screw to Apple, finally. Humility has never been their strongest point, anything which may help them to see that they may not be perfect might help.

Anyway, here is another view on the iPad Mini's price. Basically they say it's affordable, and also Amazon and Google are making zip when selling theirs.

TCG said:

That's sad! I wonder how long they can continue doing that! :-(

Yes, that's what this writer says too.

Amazon, and one assumes Google too, are betting on more-sales and later content sales will more than make up for the lost profit on the hardware. Whether that will work is anybody's guess. There are so many factors. We were told, for example, that Apple makes very little money on iTunes (this was back when it only sold music), but that iPod sales made well up for it.

TCG said:

when their "window of opportunity" runs out, then we'll ALL be sitting around w/shit that might as well be a WAY FANCY coaster, fer crying out loud! :-( 

Well... I think that the only risk, and that's a very small one, is that Amazon for example would go completely bust and go away. It won't, it'd be bought up.
And even if it did, you'd still have those books you had downloaded on a Kindle. OK that will only work for some years, but still it's not exactly a high-risk scenario.

In other words, I don't think there's anything *really* to fear or hate, I am only campaigning on general principles of truth and openness.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

We need a one-hand grip

(On Nexus 7. Only the middle part is the grip,
the outer pads are an earlier solution.)
I invented a one-hand grip for medium-sized tablets. It works OK, but it could be better. It tends to loosen a little bit, with a corresponding loosening of the security of one's grip.

With all the brilliant entrepreneurs out there, will somebody please invent a one-hand grip for tablets? (Something which will let the thumb tap the screen when ereading.) You might become a millionaire!

The trick is that ideally it should fold flat (or be detachable) when not in use, so as not to add significantly to the bulk of the tablet. But surely it can be done. Yeah??

... Hmmm, one alternative way might be a simple strap which you can glue to the back, and which you just slide your fingers under/into...
Update: I have experimented with this now, and I think that even somebody with my large hands will want a strap on each side of the back, because you need to have the strap past the second knuckle for it to feel like a secure grip. And still for this to be the main "grip" at the device without the thumb involved... I'm not sure it'll work all that well.

There are several products like the "Padlette", but they don't let you get your thumb to the screen to tap to advance to the next page when e-reading, which is part of how I think about "one-handed". (OK, unlike a phone you can't really operate a tablet with just the thumb, but I am thinking in e-reading terms here, we just need to be able to tap with the thumb near the edge.)

I think we need something to curl the fingers around near the edge.

Amazon Prime in the UK, Pratchett and Banks

Like I've reported before, the Kindle Fire in combination with a Prime membership does not come with a lot of free films in the UK, unlike in the US.

But it does come with the free library. Amazon mailed to me:

Amazon Prime
Prime members can choose from over 200,000 books to read for free on their Kindle from the Kindle Owners' Lending Library - as frequently as a book a month, with no due dates. If you haven't tried Prime, your Kindle Fire automatically comes with a free month of Amazon Prime.  Learn more

I'll probably forget to use it, because I already have a bunch of books on my Kindle I haven't read yet.
That includes a purchase a few days ago of over a dozen Iain Banks titles which I want to read again, and which not yet are on audiobook, sadly.

I was very disappointed to find out that the great majority of these books come with text-to-speech disabled though. What a pity. I've ordered the Kindle Fire because the TTS voice is a huge step up from the Kindle 3, and I had looked forward to rest my eyes and back while reading my old favorite Iain Banks books. Well, at least there are two of them where it is enabled. Maybe a couple more will have come on audiobook once I've finished those.

And of course it helps that the Kindle Paperwhite has made long-form reading easier on my eyes. I'm currently reading Banks' Excession this way, while reading Terry Pratchett's new non-discworld book Dodger (real durn good) on audiobook.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Kindles at Waterstones

Big UK bookstore chain Waterstones is now selling Kindles!
Many are wondering why, especially since the CEO in the past has talked about Amazon like it was the Devil in a shark's form. He says he still thinks they are "a formidable competitor" and "really good at mailing books" (meow!!), but they just have to sell the best ereader to serve their public, and that's the Kindle.

I can't see they get much out of it though, surely the margin is razor-thin, and I hear they don't get any affiliate fee for books sold through the device. Which would have been a fair deal, even on a reduced basis, I think Amazon would get many more bookstores to sell Kindles if this was the case.

They have cancelled an earlier deal with Sony Readers. I'm sure this model was not to fault! She could hold my Kindle any time.

By the way, I was surfing on my iPad, and I wanted to see if the Kindle was already in stock at Waterstones. But their web site went to Mobile Mode and showed only books:

What's worse: there was no way to shift to full browser mode! Really stupid.

So I went and installed the excellent alternative-culture browser iCab for iPad, and in settings I told it to represent itself as Safari for Mac instead of a mobile browser. Problem solved:

Sigh, I have to get a Kindle Fire HD, because the text-to-speech is much better than before, and dang Amazon has left it (and any audio) out of the e-ink Kindle models altogether! Lord knows I don't need one more tablet, but currently it's the only way to get my Kindle books read to me when I want that. (Lord, I wish I had a few dozen customers which were as good as I am a customer for Amazon. Apart from all the other things I buy from them, I have almost every Kindle ever made!)

Tablet-cameras wanted

I think we need small tablets combined with much better cameras.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Windows 8 vs "noobs"

N00bs vs Windows 8: We lock six people in a room with new OS, article.

I think none of the essential interface designers at Microsoft have studied their Jakob Nielsen. From my own studies of his work, I'll summarize one of the most important rules of user-interface:

-- The buttons/links to important features have to be easy to find. The more important the feature, the more obvious the link/button should be. --

It's just shocking that about all the testers (of various ages and backgrounds) had big problems finding their way back to the single most important screen in the interface: the tiles interface (once called Metro, now confusingly called "Windows 8"...), which is the main navigation center (like the home screen on an iPad). That's like building a car which has the steering wheel hidden under the passenger's seat.

I started reading about these problems over half a year ago: "where is the start button, why did they remove the start button?", everybody said. In all that time, why haven't they done anything about it?

Most of the testers also had problems finding items (as important ones as the Office apps) which were off-screen, because the scroll bar is very hard to see. Unfortunately this is something the iPad also suffers from. The scroll bar in menus is very subtle indeed, and worse, if you ain't touching the menu, it doesn't even show! Sometimes this makes it impossible to notice that there is more items outside the menu.

It reminds me of DVD/blu-ray disk interfaces: very often, it's nearly impossible to tell which of the many elements on the screen is currently highlit. Talk about basic.
I think that many modern designers have forgotten that design serves purpose.