Saturday, September 1, 2012

Kindle "Paperwhite"? Wow

Thanks to TKC for alerting me to the Verge's rumor page about a supposed new Kindle with "Paperwhite" display. Apparently much whiter than previous E-ink models.

The screen's French says:

  • First screen paper-white
  • Marked contrast
  • High resolution
  • Integrated light
  • 8 weeks of battery life
  • (Even with the light on)

Len of TKC says that 1: he doubts it's real. 2: he doubts it's a good idea.

Regular readers will have an inkling (no pun intended) that I disagree on both counts. Nobody would make that up if it wasn't real. And quantum jumps in technology do happen occasionally even if they are not the norm, just look at the iPad 3, that was a 4X jump in resolution!

And more importantly, in my sweet, personal way, I have never been in the large camp which loves the e-ink Kindles' medium-grey background. In fact, I hate it. I've bought every Kindle ever published, almost, and I have had precious little use for them, only because of that little factor: that durned murky background. This is very emotional and subjective, but to me it feels like I have found the perfect girlfriend in all aspects, except in one: every hour she slaps me hard in the face for no reason...

In other words, for me the dark screen has simply been a deal-breaker, it's a single little thing which makes it practically unusable for me, and I've been heart-broken about it, because otherwise I love the Kindle. Its size and weight, and non-backlit screen makes it potentially a powerful alternative to tablets (which I also love) for long reading.

It's actually only recently that I asked Len if the Nook Touch with Glowlight had actually a lighter screen even with the light turned off, and he had to tell me no, it's the same as always. That almost killed the little flame of hope I had of seeing a non-backlit Kindle with a substantially improved contrast on the screen.

In less than a week, we'll know. The new Kindles will be announced on 6 Sep.
I am curious about, if it's true, how many regular e-ink Kindle readers will look at it (in real life) and continue to love their old grey screen, and how many will say: "well, what do you know, near-white really is better for reading than medium grey. My love for it was really projected love for the Kindle in general." (Just like people's love of paperbooks is in large part projected love for reading and stories.)
(By the way, make no mistake, the old E-ink background is not light grey, it is medium grey. This is easily confirmed in Photoshop in photos. And that is pretty durn dark for something you want to read off. Even if you flood lots of light on it, that light also lights up the surroundings, so the page never stands out.)

The higher resolution also sounds good. I have an iRiver Story HD ereader with high resolution screen (XGA, 768x1024px), and it is really beautiful. (Sadly the device itself suffers from poor design, interface-wise.) Because of the sixteen shades of grey on the E-ink Kindle screen, you don't really notice that the resolution is actually pretty low, 800x600px. But when you see higher resolution, it makes a difference.

I'm trying not to get too excited about this, because you never know how things work out, but the high rez and the big jump in contrast makes this sound like the kind of screen I have been dreaming of for reading for years. Fingers crossed all over.

Holding the tablet

Durn, almost all tablets still have the issue of how to hold them easily with one hand.  OK, for some, like the Nexus Seven, weight is no longer the problem, but the thin bezels are: it simply is not easy to handle them for any time without at some point touching the screen accidentally and click a link or forward a page. They need to solve this.

Friday, August 31, 2012

NetAtmo weather station

I got my NetAtmo weather station, so I updated the post.

Oberon purse

For stylish ladies who prefer a exceptional purse for their ereader or tablet rather than a cover for it.

... No, I have to admit my male ego couldn't handle that, but you can't deny that Oberon really have something special in their products.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


I finally got around to reading Stephen King's story "Ur", which was published when the Kindle 2 came out in 2009, and which revolves around a Kindle, a pink one even, and one with supernatural powers of course.

Actually when I bought it I didn't think about how King's stories usually involving a supernatural horror element, and I had read a third of the novella before I realized it. But despite me preferring either comedy or SF or at least some fantasy, I enjoyed the story from the beginning just the same.
I was never much into King, read a couple of his books man years ago and didn't get far in The Shining (all the characters seemed so unlikable) (Maybe I was not very invested in it, I found the book in a sharing-library in a hotel). But with Ur I found the story well crafted and entertaining, and I was interested in where it was going. Part of it was of course the Kindle aspect of it, but I even found myself rooting for the protagonist in the love-story aspect of it, which doesn't happen often.

It is weird with King, though, I wonder what happened. He was a huge promoter of the Kindle early on and he was one of the first to publish a story solely via the Net, and then suddenly with his latest book he says that it will only be published on paper, and anybody who wants to read it will "have to buy the actual book". I can't figure out what kind of trauma can lead to such a screeching 180-degree turn.
... Well, I found a quote with a bit more context:
"I love crime, I love mysteries, and I love ghosts. That combo made Hard Case Crime the perfect venue for this book, which is one of my favorites. I also loved the paperbacks I grew up with as a kid, and for that reason, we’re going to hold off on e-publishing this one for the time being. Joyland will be coming out in paperback, and folks who want to read it will have to buy the actual book." -Stephen King

That makes it sound less hard-nosed. "For the time being" might mean that the book will come out as ebook a year later or summin'. Maybe he is just saying that the temporary limitation to paperback is a sort of tribute to the old pulp fiction days.

TV on a Kindle??

Under the What Will They Think Of Next?! banner comes this hack, which makes TV programs into picture shows with subtitles, for the Kindle!

Cheaper phones coming

The phone maker that’s killing Apple in China arrives in the US, article.
Chinese handset vendor Yulong, better known as Coolpad, is venturing out from its home territory to try its fortune in the U.S., with a little help from MetroPCS. The prepaid, contract-free operator on Tuesday started selling Yulong’s Quattro 4G LTE Android smartphone for $149.

A $149 smartphone without contract!
And Nexus 7, a high-quality 7-inch tablet, is only $200.
And a Kindle is $79.
Wow. I can see things going the way of DVD players, where you can get one now for $25! The price of a decent meal.
It'll be interesting to see how and what Apple will do if that market appears soon. Can they sell as many premium phones and tablets in a market where you can get a competing product with 90% of the quality/features for 1/4th of the price?
Or maybe Apple will gain from the developments too, and can lower their prices similarly without losing the prestige. I guess $150 for an iPhone or iPad will still be seen as a premium price if an Android device is $40.

Watson, the super-Siri

Siri stumped? Call Watson, article.

Until now, Watson's tech has been too big to cram into a mobile device. All those smarts takes a room full of servers, an incredible amount of calculations and a thick wire into the electrical mains.
That's about to change. [...]
We're still several years off from Watson-on-the-go, but the possibilities are tantalizing.

That sounds really cool. You may be aware that Watson is the huge IBM computer which won Jeopardy, a very challenging task due to the complexities of English. Getting access to that would be quantum step up from Siri, with whom I'm barely on speaking terms.
What I don't get is: why wait until Watson can be stuffed into a phone? Why not just do like, well, Apple did with Siri, and lets us call him up on the web and let a big server answer? That should be doable within a short future.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

iPhone replica

If you think Samsung is inspired by the iPhone, take a gander at this! Hard to believe, but it's actually an Android phone! But it's painstakingly made, both hardware and interface, to be identical to an iPhone 4.
I wonder if Goophone will succeed in selling them. Even in China, Apple has succeeded in closing down copycats.

Personal weather station! (Updated again 3 Sep)

I really doubt any single person on Earth has an eagle's eye overview of what tablets will become able to do, or even just what they are already able to do! It's an amazingly wide spectrum, and with many of the uses being much, much more important than just another game.

NetAtmo for instance sells, of all things, personal weather stations! Indoors and outdoors, they connect to your wi-fi and can be monitored on your iPhone or iPad. Verra cool.

Not the least the indoors monitoring I find interesting. Since I work, play, and sleep at home, I want to make sure I don't accidentally, much less habitually, find myself in an environment with a bad CO2 concentration or other hurtful conditions.

I got it now. It's very cool. The hardware seems solid, and it comes with cable and even batteries! And plugs for US, Eu, and UK, good touch. (It is made in France, I am not sure if they have a US shipping station.)

I haven't put up the outdoors unit (the small one) yet, 'cuz I need a ladder first. (It's easy though, you just need a screw in a place with no direct sunlight.)

But it's kinda fascinating to follow the graphs of even the indoors unit. It even makes a graph for ambient noise! And it was nice to see that while you could clearly see the CO2 graph climb once I settled down in my bedroom, with windows cracked it never came above the first level of concern, 1000 PPM (parts per million). (They say the critical level is 2k. Over that you really should air out.)

Wikipedia says about CO2: "At very high concentrations (100 times atmospheric concentration, or greater), carbon dioxide can be toxic to animal life, so raising the concentration to 10,000 ppm (1%) or higher for several hours will eliminate pests such as whiteflies and spider mites in a greenhouse."

When you get the station, you go to their web site and get an app, and you plug in the station to your computer or iPhone and set it up with an account and log it onto your wifi. Not difficult.

The iPhone software is decent. I hope they'll make an iPad version, so they don't have to be so economical with space and information. (For example you have two different "pages" for the outdoors and the indoors station. And you have to tilt the iPhone between normal mode and showing graphs.)

The outdoors station apparently measures pollution and tells you what the main one is (low, and ozone in my case). And the app has a nice weather forecast too.

The indoors station has graphs for: Humidity, Pressure, CO2, and Sound Meter.
The outdoors station has graphs for: Temperature, Humidity.
Both have a bar (not graph) which I think is pollution. Pretty vaguely, they call it "air quality".

It's pretty interesting. For example how volatile conditions are. Last night like usual I had windows cracked half an inch (my windows have a secure lock in that position). I always keep all my internal doors open. And then I put a floor fan on the lowest setting (very low) in the doorway of the room opposite my bedroom, pointed at the bedroom door opening. It seems this changed the CO2 levels in the bedroom from over 800ppm to 600.

When I got up, I turned off the fan. And later I noticed the CO2 graph change instantly at that point. In only five minutes, it went from 600 up to 800!

Also I have found that even with just the half-inch openings at the windows, the current wind speed has a big influence. Low wind versus fresh wind made another 200 point difference in CO2 levels.

(My indoors unit is positioned close to my bedroom speakers, thus the 58 dB. I note that's still considered quiet! Much of the time it is under 40dB, which is nice.)

Below, the outdoors whether station. I borrowed a ladder from a neighbor and we put it up. It's designed to hang on a simple screw-head. We're looking due south, so you'll see that it is shaded from the sun most of the day. For early morning shade, I had fabricated a very professional metal sheet from a coke can, which I think will work nicely.

Monday, August 27, 2012


I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think interior decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves.
           -- Anna Quindlen

Ironic that the golden age of reading will happen without any actual books. (In the sense of bound paper.)

But then... much as the book has been the enabling device for reading, compared to digital, it is mostly a big bottleneck. Just go to rural Simbabwe and try to buy all your summer reading without a Net connection! 

How Paperbacks Transformed the Way Americans Read

How Paperbacks Transformed the Way Americans Read, article.
Here’s a little perspective: In 1939, gas cost 10 cents a gallon at the pump. A movie ticket set you back 20 cents. John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, the year’s bestselling hardcover book, was $2.75. For a nation suffering 20 percent unemployment, books were an impossible expense.But in just one day, Robert de Graff changed that. On June 19, 1939, the tall, dynamic entrepreneur took out a bold, full-page ad in The New York Times: OUT TODAY—THE NEW POCKET BOOKS THAT MAY TRANSFORM NEW YORK’S READING HABITS.

Very cool article.
Ebooks is just the latest cheaper technology, and the latest ogre "which will destroy the industry", as media moguls cry every few years. I think what they mean is "it will destroy my job!" Every new technology is disruptive and will wipe out jobs, and those without vision and mobility are in danger. But others get big opportunities, very big.

Ebooks can globally become a market which is at least twenty times bigger than paper books ever were!

Digging Deeper Into Digital Magazines

Digging Deeper Into Digital Magazines, article.
...if everything but text were stripped out of an issue of Wired, it would still be over 100MB in size, whereas using webpage technology, the size would hardly break 1MB.

Interestingly, most digital magazines, creating a problem for tablet users (and not a trivial one), are something like ten times as big, file-wise, as they needed to be if modern files were used, like HTML5, instead of the easy way, like PDF, a spacehog.
(I'd note that for such a mature format like PDF to be such a spacehog is just embarrassing for Adobe. The name is Portable Document Format for heaven's sake!)

The problem goes hand-in-hand with Apple apparently having decided to "earn on the swings what it loses on the merry-go-round", and charge shameless premiums on extra storage in iPads. Not to mention still having 64 GB as maximum. This is barely one week's worth of video usage for me (most bought at full price from the iTunes store I may add).

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Apps on Android need work

It's true what some say: even though Android hardware is getting good, as in Nexus 7 for example, apps need to come along too.

For example, I just tried my two favorite news reading apps (from the iPad) on the Nexus: FlipBoard and Zite. And frankly, they were just both terrible.

Zite had much too small text, even on largest setting. And I could simply not find a way to shift between sections. What looked like section headings at the top did not react. ... except when they sent me away to a browser for some reason. In contrast, the iPad version is gorgeously and logically designed.

And Flipboard suffered from odd headlines in its squares, which appeared nowhere in the sections. I googled one of them, and it turned out to be an old headline from 2010! Whu?? Further, in the article, the text, surprisingly, was way too large (and in an ugly font), with no immediate way to change it.

And oddly, the Nexus often is missing a Menu button. This used to be one of the three stable buttons on the front of an Android device (together with Home and Back), but on the Nexus, it's replaced by a running-app list button. Which I like, but a Menu button is even more important. (Sometimes it appears on the right, sometimes not.)

iOS is lacking a bit in interface conventions, but Android beats it by several horselengths in this area.

The hardware can make for excellent ereaders of devices like Nexus 7 and Note 5.2, but the apps really need to catch up.