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.