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.