Saturday, December 28, 2013

iPad mini retina vs iPad Air

iPad mini retina vs iPad Air, comparison.

After the biggest iPad got smaller and lighter, and the Mini got the Retina display, choosing has become harder. This article attempts a bit of perspective.

Friday, December 27, 2013

An Apple Geek’s Week with Amazon’s Kindle Fire HDX

An Apple Geek’s Week with Amazon’s Kindle Fire HDX, article.

Good article, comparing the iPad Mini with the KF HDX 7-inch.

It's so hard to make good gear decisions and make clear reviews. Even with something as simple as a hammer, how Good it is depends on the job to be done, differences in exemplars, how you hold it, how big or strong you are, your experience, etc. And of course a tablet is a million times more complex, so...

I have a Kindle HDX just for one thing really: so far it's the only machine which will read out loud my Kindle books. And it does it in the best quality I have heard, sometimes I actually catch myself in thinking of the "person" who is reading aloud, so close has it come now.
But to illustrate my point, there is always something, durnit. Sometimes the Kindle will start to turn the pages faster than the speed at which it is reading, so I lose my place. Ot is will simply stop reading (for some reason always after a full stop). It has not happened often with bought Kindle books, but it has happened a lot with homemade Kindle books, collected from fanfiction found on the web. It is really irritating. I managed to remove some of it by emailing (for conversion) a .docx format file instead of a .txt file. It's clear that there are some hidden codes in there which are doing havoc with the Kindle, but which ones? I can't even see them.

Also, just trying something as simple as to install an alternative browser (like Chrome) on the Kindle Fire is a loooong excercise in frustration. Some people, like above reviewer, can't even access the Google Play Store. For some reason I can. And I can install Chrome. Or rather, it tells me it is installed, but it's not, can't find it anywhere. And one file of another app just downloaded. I had to figure out that there must be a Download folder somewhere... but do you think Amazon has made it easy to find that? If so, congratulations on your trust. I tend to be a happy little trust machine myself, but even I am suspecting that Amazon has done all in its power that the KF is only being used in exactly the ways Amazon wants, and none else. And most of those ways is sooner or later leading to your next Amazon purchase.
Granted, it is more stable than other Android tablets I have tried, but it is very limiting for people who want a tablet rather than an Amazon Window/reader/player.

With such complex things, "your mileage may vary" is a gross understatement.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Daylight bulbs are better for E-ink screen reading

For those who read on a Kindle without front-light (non-Paperwhite, that is), you may find it easier to read it if you replace the bulb in your favorite reading lamp with a DAYLIGHT spectrum bulb. At least I find it so. Very clear difference.

You get them in the modern energy-saving flavor, so you will also save 75% on the electricity.

As to why this would be so, it makes sense to me that when one uses *all* the light receptors in the eye to their full capability, one gets a clearer image. Like a camera sensor, different receptors are sensitive to different colors of light.

Additional advantages is that your indoors photos may look better, and if you don’t get all that much sunlight on your face in the winter-time, then having daylight-spectrum indoors lamps may actually lift your mood.

More info.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Kindle Fire's super-display with "quantum dots"

Kindle Fire HDX 7, iPad mini & Nexus 7 display shootout has a winner, article.

The iPad Mini's display, surprisingly, loses because of a low color gamut! (How many colors it can show.) Strange, because when iPad three came out, it was clear to the eye that it had a rather larger color gamut than the iPad 2. Red was much deeper, for example.

The winner is the Kindle Fire HDX.
Soneira notes it’s the first tablet display to use “Quantum Dots,” a technology he says is going to “revolutionize LCDs for the next 5+ years.”

Surprisingly (as it were), I am not surprised!
When I got my new KF HDX, I was really surprised at how much better it was. I don't think it's explainable by resolution (for one thing, I have middle-aged eyes), so I guess that "Quantum Dots" thing is it. I'll have to look it up.
But it struck me how amazingly crisp the new Kindle display is. It is really beautiful. I think it has to be seen to be appreciated. It is just like text and images are etched in there. Beautiful, and a well done to Amazon's engineers.

Also, the KF's text-to-speech, which I have praised, is even better now. Probably many small things are improved, but one big thing is for sure: there are now several voices to choose from, I love that. The original is good, but I think I may like one or two of the others even better.
These voices are not cheap to produce, so for Amazon to just include them as a free extra is great.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Apple's over-minimalism

Here's a short exchange from this post.

M Johnston wrote:
“Apple has been getting into the habit of obscuring functionality for the sake of aesthetics, and that’s not good design. So let’s hope that this is a short-lived trend.”

I answered:
I couldn’t agree more, I have thought that myself more than once. It’s really frustrating that they can’t see the wrongness of it.
In fact, the whole idea of iOS7’s design is “well, now people have gotten used to smartphones, we don’t need to show what’s a button anymore.”

The trend is not new. In the old OS, there used to be lines in the top of the active window. Those were grip lines. Up through the early stages of OSX, these got more and more line pinstripes, and eventually disappeared totally.

And how about mice with a cord so short it can’t reach around a small laptop!? But it sure looks more tidy!

I think Ive and Jobs are/were over-infatuated with minimalism, at least a little bit. I’m a minimalist myself (I keep my desktop totally free 80% of the time), but it’s important to know where to stop. Where you hurt functionality is the limit.

I refined the design of my web sites (made it all myself) for years (it only took years because I have no real training as designer). But then I couldn't go further without getting "fancy", and "fancy" hurt things like readability or navigation. There are quite narrow limits on the web because of all the different devices it needs to work on. So I just stopped, my artistic sense would just have to bite its metaphorical tongue, because it had reached a hard limit.
It's not regrettable, much. Form must follow function. Fine art is only free where there is no real function.

An example. How would you ever know that you 
can tap in those areas to go to the playing app? I suppose the title is meant to be the button, but it's just quite hard to hit it, both on the iPhone and iPad.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Terry P cheaper in the UK

My UK (or European perhaps?) readers may be interested to know that Sainsburys eBookStore is selling Terry Pratchett books cheaper than Amazon.

If you don't know Terry Pratchett, you are really missing out. I'm currently re-reading most of his books for about the third time. (Oh, take no notice of the garish covers. Terry told me that the publisher says they sell, but I never cared for their super-saturated colors much.) (Another note: his first two books are amongst my least favorites. Neither the story nor the humor is as sharp as it became in the witches books or the Watch (city guards) books.)

Ooh, I just thought of a funny coinkidink: I first discovered Pratchett when I lived in Edinburgh in 2000-2001. And it was in Sainsburys supermarket of all places!
(Well to be exact (and to increase the brackets count (!) in this post), the very first one I read was his very first, years earlier, but like I said, the first two did not catch my interest and I still think they are weaker (along with other books featuring Rincewind the wizard).)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Flote tablet holder

I'm still pleased with my gen-1 Flote.
And I think I'll get the table model too.

Funny enough, today I got the iPad Air. It is definetely a better "presence" than previous generations. (Compare it to the first one, man!) Prettier, lighter, good to hold.
But: I think for it to really become a one-hand device for reading/browsing at length, it still needs to be about 150-200 grams lighter. So stands like the Flote are still very relevant.

Not to mention that rumors about both Samsung and Apple coming up next year with 13-inch tablets are thickening, hurrah! (If we are lucky, they'll just fit in the current models.)
[I think that when we some day have a 13-inch reader at 250 grams, we have finally the perfect reader machine.]

Look at this: finally an iPad who can hold all my favorite episodes of Phineas And Ferb:

Over 100 Gigs free!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Open letter to Amazon

I have sent this to

I love Amazon and its philosophy. I must have bought over $10,000 worth of books and films over the years, starting in 1998 in Denmark.

I think though that in a few ways, Amazon is irritating the customer without gaining anything. For example, the e-ink Kindles should be able to read ePub. It’s obvious, they just should. It would make it "The eReader" instead of “an ereader”. And they would not loose any sales, they would gain some, I believe.

Similarly, the hobbling of the Kindle Fire so it’s simply an Amazon purchase and play terminal is a mistake. There is no reason it could not be a full-fledged Amazon tablet. It would sell a lot more, and of course many of those customers might buy on Amazon where they might not have, before.
I’d love to have the new, big, light-weight KF HDX 9-inch. But it simply can’t do the things I want it to do.

Warm regards, Eolake


I see it as the one weakness or downside to Bezos/Amazon: he is playing the Only One game. As in the film highlander (in low, dramatic voice): "There can be only One!!"
What's the fun of wiping out all your competitors? Who will you have to play with then?

"iPad Pro" (updated)

27 Oct 2013

Hey, here's a prediction. It came to me in a flash:

in 2014, Apple will come out with a bigger iPad, probably 13-inch. It will be named "iPad Pro". It will probably have a keyboard designed especially for it (maybe a keyboard-case, but that doesn't feel very "Apple", perhaps because such a thing is subject very much to taste).

It will be marketed at content creators.
But it will be great for many other things, like reading graphic rich books and mags. And most apps will be only better with more space to play in.

I think they'll be able to keep the weight down to under that of the first iPad, 1.6 pounds.

They will push what I have written about before: that you can do photos and videos with the same device that you write on, and send it from there too (and keep your content in the cloud). It's a full, portable content creation and distribution machine which fits in your normal bag, you can leave the camera and the video camera and laptop at home. (Hopefully the camera will be good, at least as good as the one on the iPhone 5S.)

Quote from this article:
While the A7 is a big deal from a hardware standpoint, it translates into value for consumers at the software level. The A7 is a desktop class processor that can run desktop class applications on the iPad. This is a big deal. [...]

The new Garageband can support up to 32 tracks of audio for input and editing. It can also process desktop class effects on those tracks essentially creating a powerful mobile recording and editing studio on your iPad.

32 tracks?! Can you see the growing need for bigger screens?

Kindle Fire, lighter than Air

It's a bit shocking: the bigger Kindle Fire HDX is not only cheaper, but actually lighter than the iPad Air! (Though 0.8 inches smaller screen.) (I disconsider the higher screen resolution. Are you gonna use a loupe with your tablet? Over 300PPI it stops mattering.)

Instead of aluminium, they went with something like I'd hope Apple would go for: a strong, but lighter substance. I think carbon fibre would be great.
Amazon uses: "created a unique magnesium unibody from a single piece of machined magnesium and a blend of glass and nylon—the same material used in high-performance race cars."

Now, if it weren't for the damnable bugginess that Android always gives me, and the fact that the Kindle Fire is severely hobbled as a tablet to serve mainly as a shopping device for Amazon, I'd consider it a very strong competition for the iPad.
But heck, here in the UK I can't even buy videos from Amazon on the KF!* Nobody knows why, but they just refer to LoveFilm, a Netflix-like service which I've used since the millennium, but like Netflix has a very limited range of films available online (as opposed to rented via disk). And many, many apps cannot be installed on the KF. A few which are not in their own store can, but only with clumsy sidesteps.

I think this hobbled condition is a mistake on Amazon's side. Even though the iPad can do it all, I still buy on it as much from Amazon as I ever did.
So what if a few geeks buy it just to get a cheap Android Tablet? They don't lose money on it. And who knows, maybe the geeks may even be charmed into Amazon's service via the device.

*In fairness, I have been unable to buy or even rent videos on any Android device. They just won't play. Their support (Google Play Store) was unable to help me. One of the reasons I'm weary of Android despite really wanting to like it.
OK, my Nexus 7 just totally died on me. But two days ago I went through eleven software updates to my Samsung Galaxy Note (Apple has the kindness to bundle the updates), and it occurred to me that maybe it would play purchased video now. Lo and behold, it does! (Of course this is just a 5.2 screen, great for reading, a bit limited for video. Well, great for video on the road.)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Cloud, wireless, and unreliability

I wonder why everybody is pushing The Cloud so hard? I see advantages, but no dramatic ones, none which really make up for the fact that the Net and the Cloud are still simply too unreliable, and often too slow.
For example, for two days I've been trying to get on with watching Community, which I bought on iTunes over my Apple TV box. But all I'm getting is "iTunes is currently not available, try later". This is simply not good enough.

Is it just another method of locking us in? I guess it that much harder to change to a Windows machine (imagining anybody would want to), if all your files are sitting in Apple's iCloud.

I have similar feelings with wireless communications, bluetooth and wifi. In all my experiences, they are simply not reliable, not by a long shot. A couple of years ago, I finally gave up and put in an Ethernet cable for my main Mac. I've not had a connection problem since on that machine!
I use bluetooth as little as I can, but I have to use wifi with my iPads. And I have connection problems so often, you dunno. Recently I bought five TV episodes, and it took a full 24 hours to download them!! That's ridiculous.

In case you think it's because of a bad ISP, I don't think so, because I have two for redundancy, two different companies, two different technologies, cable and ADSL. And still I get so many dropouts.

Sure, I see an equally ridiculous ten wifi networks in this apartment building!! But the technology is still not mature, after all these years, if this should cause so many problems. I mean, it's not like it wasn't predictable that it would become popular, since wifi has been pushed even more than the Cloud, and even longer.

Additional notes on Android

Look how beautiful it is. I really wanted it to work.
Once again, below, I complained about Android. Well, here's a fresh story from today of what I mean. If it just happened occasionally, I might live with it, but it is typical. And it's the same over all the Android devices I have, a handful.

OK, for one thing, the Galaxy Note I have... love the size and the screen... does not have any hardware button for Menu, like most devices have... And often the software does not have any menu button either. So often I'm stuck if I suspect there are options in the menus I'd want.

For another thing: I've been downloading video to the Note via dropbox. (At first I wanted to do side-loading via USB, but the device did not turn up on the computer, and I don't have good experiences with custom software made by a hardware manufacturor for its devices.) Dropbox worked fine, after I established that it can play .MP4 files, but not the other kinds of files I have.

I got a handful downloaded. Then it stopped doing it. Well, it pretended to do it, but it only lasted a second, and the file didn't turn up on the SD card. And here's one of the typical bits: there was no error message or any other way of knowing that something did not happen, or what was wrong. (Update: I was wrong, there was a message, but it was small, appeared at the top of the screen, and disappeared after a second or two, so I hadn't seen it.)

I thought maybe the card was full, I could not remember how large it was. So I bought a File Manager. But as for "size", it only gave me the total MB of the files on the card, not the total capacity. Again, typical.
I had to shut it down and open it to find out that the card was 32GB, lots and lots of space left.
But it still won't download anymore. (I'm on Wifi, no limits.)
Oh, by the way, I can't find any way to save to internal memory. The other options from Export (and why is it called Export instead of Download?) are weird options called Allshare, Bluetooth, email, Gmail, Messaging, wifi, and Youtube. I tried youtube as an experiment. Nothing happened.

I'm sure with help and time, I could figure this out eventually. But right now my patience is at its end. And my point was not to get help with this problem (though a tip with good certainty would not go amiss), my point was just to illustrate why I don't use Android, despite having really tried and really wanting a 5-inch phone. It's simply that things like this happen all the time. It's a second-rate system, and it simply does not work well, seems to me. Like Granny Weatherwax says: "I can't be having with it."
I really wish it were otherwise, I'd love to have the great choice of devices.

I honestly don't understand the gleeful reports from a couple of reporters like Andy Ihnatko, who are so happy having gone to Android. Maybe they've been really lucky. Or maybe they like to fiddle with things to make them work, I dunno.

Update: I was just thinking: weeeell, the thing I really need to work is the Kindle app. maybe I'm just letting my frustrations run away with me. Let's try reading on it again. So I fired up the Kindle app. It had been updated (with features which had been on the iPad for ages). I tried downloading a recent book. Failure. Red exclamation mark. (No explanation or tips.) I tried another. Failure. I tried a third one. Failure.
This has never happened on any of my Apple or Amazon tablets. No, it seems to be not just me.

Update: I finally found out how to expell the sim card adapter which was stuck in the Note, and put in an inactive card. And now, the device would let me update the software. (What's up with wanting that card? I don't even let it use it for data.) And for the whole evening, I've been updating software. On the System software alone, I'm now on the tenth download-install-reboot cycle, and I don't know when I'll be done! But the upside is that now Kindle works properly, and there are signs I can download videos again, we'll see.

I can see I am not alone in frustration. Graphics like these are real easy to find:

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Wow, iPad Air and Mac Pro (updated)

Apple Keynote speech 22 Oct 2013.

(Funny how they still call them "keynotes", even though they for years haven't had a expo to be keynote for.     :-)
(Yes, I use emoticons, even in articles. Some serious writers consider this childish. But I've often been too serious in my life, it's not a trap I want to spend too much time in!)

I think that was a very impressive event.

The new iPad not only comes in my favorite metal color, "Space Grey" (space has a color?), but it is now significantly more powerful.

And incredibly (seriously), they have made it also significantly smaller/thinner, and most important: They have decreased the weight from 1.4 pounds to just one pound! That's a drop of almost 30%.

This is a spectacular achievement, I can't imagine how many man hours must have gone into that. It's the one thing that has always been the weakest point of the full sized iPad: it was too heavy. It's great on a stand, or if you can rest your hands on something, but for reading it bed for example, it was pretty distressing, and I think the main reason the iPad Mini does so well. In fact, for years this has been my number One wish for the iPad: much lower weight. I am much looking forward to experiencing the difference this weight reduction makes. I suspect it may make me take out the full sized iPad more often, instead of the Mini.

Talking about the iPad Mini, I think it's the same size and weight, but they have managed to squeeze in the more power-hungry, but desperately-wanted Retina Display. Many, many people have waited for this. (I thought the present one was not at all bad. After all it had rather higher pixel resolution than the iPad 1! But we get so used to new levels so very quickly, don't we?)

Another thing which struck a note with me: the upcoming Mac Pro (December). I don't know all the technical terms which were flying through the air like confetti, but it sounds like it will be spectacular powerhouse. And much smaller than the previous model (which admittedly is huge). But mostly again: it is even more quiet!

This is damn impressive. Back when I had a PowerMac G5 (ca. 2004), they had worked hard to make the cooling really good and quiet. And yet, when stressed this machine got so loud I just couldn't stand to work with it. (I'm pretty sensitive to noise.)
Then when the Intel based Macs came, bravo! That Mac Pro was "lightyears" more quiet. The difference was like night and day. That may be my favorite feature of a Mac of all time.
And now: the next model will be even more quiet than that. They've reduced the noise in idle state from about 27db down to 12db. A huge jump. For all intents and purposes, this is not just quiet, this is silent. I can't believe it, I'd have been impressed if they'd just managed to keep the same level. Well done Apple.
(I have an environment monitor in my bedroom, and even when I think the room is pretty near silent, it measures as over 30db...)

I think Apple deserves big kudos for focusing not just on the spectacular features which demo well, but working very hard on the deep characteristics which really matter: power efficiency, battery life, low noise, more effective use of memory, and so on.

OK, admittedly I have been an Apple fan since about 1995. But I say like David Pogue said many years ago: It is not Apple I am a fan of, it's elegance. If somebody does it more elegantly, I go to them. I haven't yet. (I've bought several Android devices and a couple of PC laptops, because they had beautiful hardware. But they all suffer from the software: it just lets me down, repeatedly.)
But near the end of the keynote, Tim Cook said that their competitors would be happy and proud to be able to present even one of the products Apple announced today. And you know what, I think he's right. I really think they are in a class of their own.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Kvetch kvetch, iPhone 5S oddities

[Sorry, bitter post.]

I just got my iPhone 5S. My really nice UPS man even came around twice to make sure I got it today!

And that's in vain, because it only takes "nano SIM" cards. Come on, Apple, that's ridiculous. You couldn't find the two milimeters more to make it so everybody didnt have to get a new card... again! What will iPhone 6 take? Nano-super-mini cards?

And worse, the thing doesn't even work at all without that card. All my Android devices can at least do that, meaning no phone calls, but wifi and everything else works. So I can use my Galaxy Note as an ereader without paying one more monthly fee. Again: Come on, Apple, you can do better.

Yes, I have written about this on Apple's feedback line. (I really hope they read those and consider them.)

Update 22 Oct: it gets better: even the new iPad Air uses a Nano SIM card! You would think that on an iPad they could find a milimeter more.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Undisturbed reading, app proposal

I forget if I ever wrote about an idea I brought up during my interview in The Kindle Chronicles.

For people who like to read, and read on a Kindle Fire, or iPad or other tablet, and find it hard to concentrate when email and Plants Vs Zombies becon just a tap away, one migh make software which could set a "Concentrate Time".

For example, one might set it so that during the next hour, it would be impossible to get out of the reading app and do anything else.

It would surely be wise to make an emergency escape hatch (such as when one feels that either one gets to topple pigs' houses, or it's back to heroin). It could be a minute's wait until one could get out. Or it could be a little task to be executed before being allowed. Just something which would introduce a bit of a barrier, so our mental enertia would help us stay in our reading session.

I think it would be easier to do on Android, since on iPad, for better and worse, it's near impossible to do anything with an app which affects the system or other apps. It's good for the system's health, but bad for flexibility. (When recording a ringtone on my iPhone, the app can't get it to the right place to be used by the phone, I have to plug it in to a computer with iTunes to do the right steps to do that. This is called "sandboxing", each app has its own little protected playground.) So I guess Apple would have to make this function if it is to appear on the iPad. And I doubt they will, because the iPad is not basically a reading machine.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

A note on the 2013 Kindle Paperwhite

I got my 2013 Paperwhite.
Should you upgrade?

We don't know if the software changes will come to the earlier model or not, so I won't comment on them.
But the page is whiter... very slightly. Barely noticable. The same is true of sharpness, contrast, page flipping speed...
The most noticable change for me is the brighter and more even front light. The unevenness did bother me a little before.

The slider for quick moving through the book is fantastic. I wonder why this is the first time it's appeared on an e-ink model? Have they been too slow? And the fact that it happens in a small window so you always have your present page anchored outside it is genius.

Altogether, if the 2012 model works fine for you, don't bother. If you don't have any ereader, this is a good time to get one. The Paperwhite is good for undisturbed long reading. (If you like shorter reading, and games and email, a tablet might be the ticket.) If you like the first one, and you like to always have the best, go for it.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

That Samsung smart-watch (Galaxy Gear)

OK, so the first serious smartwatch is here.
It is getting very mixed reviews. Some say the interface is really good, but the design and heft are much reviled.
In any case, it's a start, and I guess further developments and model are inevitable.

Given though that the screen necessarily is even smaller than that on a normal cell phone, I don't expect to get much reading done on watches ever!  

It has been said that the ad ows a lot to an older Apple commercial:

... But I don't know. Like David Pogue said; you can't keep a good idea down. It's OK to fight for your copyright to the exact details of your work, but if broader ideas get tied up one by one, creativity will stall over time.

Monday, October 7, 2013

The New World of Abundance

Open letter to Len Edgerly (Kindle Chronicles):

I feel your, uhm, pain regarding having fifty books waiting on the Kindle, and yet looking at new book sources.

I think we need to change our mind-set. From the old Scarcity mindset, where a book was something rare and precious which had to be guarded and savored.

... To the new mindset of Abundance, where the world presents within easy reach and cheaply ten thousand times as many books as we could possibly read in a lifetime.

It’s a new world, where there should be no shame in “owning” 7,000 ebooks which may or may not ever be read, or in reading 40% of one, and 8% of another.

Warm regards, Eolake

Friday, October 4, 2013

Siri's voice actor

It's unbelievable how mainstream Apple products have become. The voice actress for Siri (the original, not even the present one, apparently), interviewed by CNN!!?

All you can read for ten bucks per month (updated)

So finally the "Netflix" model is appearing for real in the ebooks arena.
One which seems really promising is Oyster Books.

So far it's only per invitation, so if you're interested, write your address in now, and wait. My invite came a few weeks after I signed on.

Unfortunately it's only US so far. So if really interested and not in the US, you have to use a trusting US friend's credit card and address. (Or one of those service which provide such. I haven't tried them.)

Their app is on iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. And supposedly Android too at some point in the future. They say they don't have any specific plans for it, but I think it would be pretty silly to ignore half of the market.

I think this is a pretty amazing development. I'm very curious how they make it make any profit, given that most publishers don't tend to let their books go for a pittance.
But they have a good selection: over 100,000 books, and not only old out-of-copyright books. I have started re-reading Zen And The Art of Mortorcycle Maintenance, which I had intended for a while to do.
(OK, I admit I don't know how many modern and significant books they have, I've only looked enough that it may just be a dozen.)

The iPhone app seems nice so far. A selection of fonts and background colors.

What does this mean for ebook publishing? Will it boost readership and business, or will it take the bread from the starving mouths of poor authors? I have no idea. Except it feels like a good thing, definitely for readers, and what's good for readers tend to be good for authors too.

As a member, I have one invitation left. First come, first served. 

Monday, September 30, 2013

Pad/phones as camera remote controls

Here's a relatively new game: Pad/phones as camera remote controls.

I made this self portrait holding the camera in my left hand, and controlling it with my right hand on the iPad (out of frame, mounted on a floor stand). (I had to use a 2-second self-timer, to get time to get my right arm down.)
I am in my favorite reading spot, propped up on my space foam bed, with the iPad hands-free. Damn relaxing.

This is of course just the merest beginning, there are many vistas of use, for example shooting birds without spooking them, and so on.

Sony RX100M2. Edited in Photoshop to make it sepia and give the background more blur (and darkening it). Click for big pic.

Sony's iOS app "Playmemories" is quite limited yet. You have no control over, well basically anything on the camera, except the zoom. It would be great if you could, for example, touch the screen to focus there, and of course control aperture/shutter speed, ISO... It may come.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

iPad five rumors, case (updated)

It seems the iPad 5 will be slimmer, smaller, and lighter (over 50 grams lighter, and that's only the back cover!).  I like that. I'd hoped it, but it barely seemed possible.
I also like the darker color (probably "Space Grey" like the iPhone 5S).

If you have no interest, just listen to her voice. Such a nice voice.

The 5 will also surely be faster than the 4. Which is faster than the iPad 3 I have. So, just one more good feature, and I'm surely going to get one.

One problem: the thinness leaves hardly any space for the camera, which makes the sensor smaller, which hurts the quality a lot. The iPad 5 will be roughly as thin as the iPad Mini. That is amazing, but look at how it has hurt the image quality of the camera in the iPad Mini.
I think Apple's usual hardcore minimalism is to blame for them not making a bump on the back to fit a bigger camera. Considering what a great camera they have in the iPhone 5S, imagine what a fantastic one they could make with, say, 50% more space! Then the ipad could truly be a multi-media production machine, for journalism for example. You could write an interview on it, and photograph and video your subjects with the same machine, for easy insertion into your story!

Friday, September 27, 2013


Many, many designers (who "tend to have excellent eyesight" as usability guru Jakob Nielsen says) need to wise up about readability. For example, in my judgment, most web sites have too small text. I have to set up the default size quite a bit in my browsers (incredibly, you still can't change that in Safari on iPad), and even then I often have to enlarge it further on individual sites. And with glasses, my eyesight is not all that bad, probably average. 

Readability of course also includes contrast. See for example this example from iOS 7 on my iPad: 

See the word "downloading" on the right? Nope, me neither, well hardly. 

A similar issue: I have set the text to Bold in Settings, but the icons in iOS 7 are still very small, very low contrast, and very thin-stroked. That's the thing with Apple, mostly they do great, but sometimes they will really let form get the upper hand on function. 
Fortunately, sometimes they fix it later. The last version of iTunes (app on Mac/Windows) had all-grey, low contrast buttons and text, but with the present version it's back to being well visible, colors and better contrast and so on. 

I admit these are not easy things to balance. I've built many web sites, and when designing apps and web sites, one has to account for the whole spectrum of eyesight levels, and often a big spectrum of screen sizes and qualities too. So if you want to keep readability on the big majority of all that, you are very, very restricted as a designer, and I can see how that is frustrating, all your education and inventiveness gone down the sink, or a lot of it anyway. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

New Kindle Fires

Amazon today announces new Kindle Fires. Sharper screens, faster processors, and best of all: much lighter than last year's models. The new 7-inch model is only 300 grams (10.5 oz), like the iPad Mini. This is a big factor in usability.

And a model similar to the previous 7-inc HD model is now selling for $139. That is really amazing. It's only a few years ago that the first stoneage Kindle with black-and-grey screen was $400!

In a move I had not expected, given Amazon's tendency to keep the functionality of the Kindle Fires pretty much to buying Amazon content, they briefly mention that the new KFs have a "built-in OfficeSuite". Huh? Let's hope this signals an opening up of the capabilities of these tablets, which after all can do anything a regular Android tablet can do, except where Amazon has blocked it.

There's also a new support system which may seem a bit spooky to some. Press the "Mayday" button and a live person in video pops up, and can control your tablet! He/she can't see you though. But it's cool, and we'll see if Amazon can keep up with their ambition that all such requests shall be answered within 15 seconds. Very ambitious scheme.

I'm just a little disappointed that even after two years, here in the UK we still don't have any free videos with our prime membership like they do in the US. What is the big hurdle there? It's not like all videos are free, you just need a few thousands which don't suck too hard, and a few recent ones.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

A way around the wallpaper-sizing issue on iPad

This is not the first time Apple has let oddities in an OS regarding wallpaper. (In OS X, for many years, you couldn't use a portrait-oriented image if it was taller than the screen, it would show up cropped. You just couldn't scale it down. This was finally fixed a couple of years ago.)
This fix unfortunately demands a bit of knowledge of an image-editing app. But I made big images of a pleasant, low-contrast pattern, and put the desired image in the middle of it. This will let the essential part of the image show up in full on the iPad.
They are bigger than Blogger lets me post (max 1600px), but you can get four of them I have made, here.)

It's important that the bigger image is roughly square, since iOS wants both dimensions to fit within the screen.

It actually was like this in early versions of iOS, then it was fixed in iOS 5 or 6, and I was so happy.

The pattern is one I made myself with a pattern/texture plugin for photoshop, in the early days of OS X. It was called Terrazo from Xaostools and was wonderful. It made repeating and tiling patterns based on any graphic, and the ways you could repeat them were manyfold. I don't think it works anymore. I really wish I knew of a similar app/plugin.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

iOS feedback (usability flaws in iOS 7)

I've just sent this to Apple feedback:

I generally like iOS 7, but:

For example, windows of folders only show 9 icons until you scroll (and there’s only a microscopic hint that you *can* scroll. Not a scroll bar or an arrow, just the three tiny dots at the bottom). There’s lots of space between icons and lots of space outside the window, but you can’t change any of it!
That's sinful wast of space. There could easily be at least twice as many icons in a window.
Perhaps the iPad version was behind, and this is partly just a port of the iPhone interface (there are exactly nine icons in those windows on the phone). I noticed that all the previews we saw were shown on iPhones, not iPads. I guess that'd be a good sign, because then it's likely it was not on purpose and will be fixed soon.

And how about a Special Mode for advanced users where you *can* change the size of windows, maybe even icons too? Maybe have two windows open at once? Maybe even two apps?  Imagine the uproar if you couldn't do those things on the Mac. The iPad is the Post-PC device, isn't it? It shouldn't have such tight limits on its capabilities.

Also in menu windows, if you can scroll (if there is more content than is seen), it *should be clearly indicated*. There still is none, except if you somehow figure out maybe you can scroll and try it, there's an aneamic tiny line on the right which moves when you move your finger. I'll bet many don't even notice it, and it disappears when you no longer scroll. Why?

I heard Jon Ive says that now people know how to use a touch-interface, it has freed the designers tremendously from having to show how to do stuff (like indicate what's a button and what's not). Well, there's truth in there, but I recommend having a talk with Jakob Nielsen. There are still millions of users who are insecure about touch interfaces, and billions more who haven't even used one yet.

Why does iOS now refuse to set a desktop image at the size I prefer? It blows it up until it's all blurry and only the center of the image is shown. It is *not necessary* that all the screen is covered at all times. In fact, I like it when there's space outside the image for icons.

Oh, and regarding the new idea with very thin, very small, and very light-colored text and buttons... It's aesthetic, but I wonder if your beta test group contains anybody over the age of 45? It's a bit overdone, is what I'm saying. Some of it is nigh invisible, like the buttons in Safari. (Oh, just found a tip to make the very thin font bold.)

I'm sorry, don't mean to sound bitter, in general, iOS is way better than the alternatives. But interface irritants really rub me the wrong way.

Look at this: There could easily be space for many more icons, making scrolling unnecessary in many cases. You know that many people will quickly have 100+ apps in one folder, that'll make for a lot of scrolling.

Otherwise I generally like the new interface.
(This was one of the lucky images where just the center enough, and sharp enough, to function well as wallpaper. (Of course it's Isabella from Phineas And Ferb.))

Friday, September 20, 2013

Get your Pocket articles read out loud with Reedeo

Finally, a good text-to-speech app for iOS!
(Now, the main things missing is text-to-speech in the iPad Kindle app. (And a 5.2-inch iPhone* and a 13-inch iPad, but that's a horse of another hue.))

Reedeo will read aloud, well, article from the popular article-collector app, Pocket (formerly Read It Later). It works very simply, and well. And it's just two bucks.

(On Android by the way, it's unnecessary, because the Android Pocket app already has text-to-speech.)

*I have just written a letter to Apple about this issue (on their feedback page). I told them as truth is, that I can't see myself buying any new iPhones if the screen is smaller than 5 inches. It's a huge usability difference.

By the way, I think Samsung it it just right with the 5.2-inch screen on the first Galaxy Note. I also have an HTC One with a 4.8 screen. You'd think that would be almost the same, but the 5.2 screen has far better readability.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Is digital art publishing finally happening?

Where's the artistry in digital art publishing?, article.

I am happy to see somebody finally, in mainstream media, talk about digital art publishing.

I don't really agree with the article that digital art books need to do anything very fancy to become successful, like comparing different versions of a painting or whatnot. Look at regular ebooks: 50 Shades or Wool certainly didn't have to do anything technically unusual to become hugely successful! I think there are just a few things slowing down the take-off of the market of art books:
  1. Like the article says, the snobbery about books on paper is much more so in the so-refined world of art lovers and art dealers. But this will change as times change. 
  2. Money. Art books were never very lucrative. But then here is where digital can really help: there's no need to pay for thick paper, expensive six-color printing, and expensive shipping. Art books will gain even more here than regular books. 
  3. A good tablet. I've written about this before: the iPad 3 or 4 with the high-resolution screen is almost good enough for art books (and comics, and text books). But not quite. I believe we need a 13-inch, light-weight iPad to really enjoy graphically heavy books. And I'm looking forward to getting it. 
  4. A mental change about image size. They must look to comic books, where high resolution is becoming the norm now. You can zoom in and admire individual panels, and they look great. A comic book is often over 200MB, whereas the few art books which exist now are usually one tenth of that. 

By the way, you can certainly display a digital art book on you coffeetable! You just open the book on an iPad, and put the iPad on a stand! You can even collect your favorite art and show it as a slideshow, paperbooks can't do that. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

iPhones 5C and 5S (updated more than once)

At first look, the new iPhones did not impress. It seemed like the 5C only had a plastic case, colors, and a slightly cheaper price to show. And that the 5S only had fingerprint lock.

But I am now watching the keynote, and I have to admit that while most changes are evolutionary, there are many of them, and many sound really nice. A lot of good refinements. For instance the camera on the 5S seems better in low light and has other interesting features. And the quality is really nice, see images here. If one is super-critical, there's a slight graininess in the sky, but see especially the pool picture, that is perfect colors and skin tones, and of course all the pics are sharp.

The flash on the 5S changes its own color temperature (mixes two small LCDs, one daylight, one warm, to taste) to match the background, that’s damn impressive. Why has nobody done this before?
The processor on the 5S is also much faster, though since I'm no gamer, I don't really know how I need that?... :)

iPhone 5 left me pretty cold, but I may warm up to this one. (Though that may just be the gold color. :)
... Actually I'm kind of sick of the White on my last phone, so I may go for the grey version, that's nice also.

Of course if it had only been a 5-inch phone like I want, then five wild bulls could not keep me from it. (Hello Apple: a 5-inch screen is much better than a 4-incher for reading, web, and video. Wake up!)

Yes, I like gold. And while full gold color would be crass on a phone, I think the "champagne" gold they chose for the iPhone is just a nice, warm metal color. 

In contrast, like has happened before with iPods, sadly I don't like any of the colors of the 5C! This is sad, because otherwise I quite like it. And I knew Apple could make something good of plastic if they returned to it. And it's strong, coated plastic, almost impossible to scratch it. 

(Maaaaybe the green one. Not sure.)

When will they learn that good colors are deep and rich? They did it right in one generation of iPods, I think it was gen5, the one with video camera. Look how cheap the colors above look compared to those below. 

See also here. Those are a good selection of colors! Nice, rich colors. Compare the wonderful deep red with the odd, washed-out "red" on the iPhone. The iPhone is more "salmon" than red. I know some cartoon characters who would call "gaaaaay!". (But those are just cartoon characters, what do they know?)

(By the way, I like the EarSkinz. The earpod (or earbud) sits better.)

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Amazon Announces New Kindle Paperwhite

Amazon Announces New Kindle Paperwhite, TidBITS article.
First, the obvious upgrades. The new Paperwhite retains the 6-inch screen of the previous model but features a new display technology with higher contrast. Additionally, the processor is 25 percent faster for peppier book opening and page turning, and the touch grid is 19 percent tighter, for better response to touches. Also, the built-in light has been improved to reduce eyestrain.

There are also some new software things, some are good. I haven't heard if they will arrive on the first KPW.

I've already ordered this (same price as before), but only because I'm a fanatic. Otherwise I'd wait for the reviews. Because, listen, things like "higher contrast" we have heard before, and I have never been able to tell the difference!
But if the light really is more even and the contrast and sharpness noticable better, it will certainly be worth for people who use the KPW a lot.

I like the feature where you can browse the book in a window so you don't loose your place. It's been one of the weaknesses of Kindle and other ereaders that loosing one's place is way too easy.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Duo-screen reader concept

Even with eInk, many book lovers still find that e-books are incapable of replicating the experience of reading a book made of paper. 
Industrial designer Fabrice Dubuy has created a concept for an alternative version of e-book readers and tablets like the Kindle and the iPad—featuring two eInk screens instead of one, the “TwistBook” mimics the structure of paper books by “splitting” open in the middle. 

I'll eat my iRiver Reader if this one is produced and becomes a hit.

Imagine if paperbooks had not existed, only screen readers. And then somebody comes up and says: "Hey, great idea! How about *two* screens next to each other, and they fold!"
"Why? You can only read one screen at a time."

And it'll be harder to hold with one hand. And probably twice as heavy.

The only upside I can see is to display illustrations or notes on one page. But that could be done on a single big page too, and that would be a much more flexible device. (They could call it an... iSlate!)

(By the way, there has been a product like this before. It failed, it was too expensive and heavy. But one of the screens was color, so it had some kinda merit.)

Also it won't even faintly feel like a paperbook. It will only have one small design aspect in common with it, "opening like a book" (an aspect which was forced upon the book because of the one-time print aspect of paper).

Everybody now: "It's the content, Silly!"

... I may be wrong. Maybe this will be a hit. And maybe they will "do a Gillette" and in two years introduce one with three screens. And a couple of years beyond that...

Sunday, August 18, 2013

How-to: Have your iOS device read text for you

How-to: Have your iOS device read text for you, article.

Highly useful article. Still not as good as if apps could tap into text-to-speech like in Android, for example, in Voiceover mode (which you have to use for ebooks), you can't change the voice, and the default voice rubs me the wrong way, I don't think it's pleasant.

In the other mode you can select between different voices, some which are much better. But you can only get text read if you select it first, and selecting text on a tablet is a bee-atch.
Still, better than nothing.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Sunday, August 4, 2013

2013 Nexus 7 Review

This sounds wonderful. But I don't know that I once again will be lured into buying one more Android device, only to be disappointed at that system's bugginess and clumsiness.
(And one has to wonder if it is not very deliberate that they, like last year, announce this thing near the end of a long year without any new, exciting iPads or Kindle Fires...)

But one thing for sure: price difference between a 16GB model and a 32GB one: only 40 dollars! Apple, are you listening? Your 100 dollars is just opportunism, I'm sorry.

Amazon, don't be disingenuous

I like Amazon a lot, in most ways. But I don't like their Win-All-Or-Die attitude to business, and I don't like how they are sometimes too comfortable with leaning against the borders of disingenuousness (dishonesty).

One example was last big event, where they carefully avoided telling us that the new, lower prices of Kindles were only for the ad-supported varieties. Another one I just saw today, see this message from Amazon:

... Particularly the language "Please ensure that your device is connected to Wi-Fi to receive your content" is almost dishonest. "Ensure" tells us that we must do this, otherwise we won't get the content. But my Kindle is a wifi and 3G Kindle. I paid extra for this, and Amazon knows full well exactly which one I have.

They are apparently trying to get people weaned off using the 3G (cell phone network) in order to cut down their own bills. That in itself is OK, but virtually lying to people to get them to do this? That is not okay. They may waste collectedly a lot of time for people who may have better things to do, and they may make many people anxious about getting their content, if they are not experts on the technology.

If people paid for their 3G model, Amazon must deliver what they promised, delivery wherever there is coverage, and not try to weasel out of it. This promise has been at the heart of the Kindle experience which was promised so beautifully and so loudly in their commercials.

The message could be turned completely honest and straightforward if the sentence was changed to: "You may receive your content faster if your device has wi-fi turned on."

Thursday, August 1, 2013

iOS 7, coming this fall

This looks nice. And as always, Apple talks a good game. Very good indeed, they have the gift of the golden gab.

I'm a little in doubt, though, apart from a fresher look color- and design-wise (and apart from the control center which I like), how big a difference will this really make in daily use? It seems to me that while the translucency and backgrounds moving behind icons when you turn the phone look great, it's mostly iCandy, as it were.

Will things actually be improved and fixed? Will there be text-to-speech for applications, like on Android? Will the nightmare of trying to select text be handled?

Also, when does it come to the iPad? You'll notice they only talk about the phone. Will it be like iOS4, where the system only came to the iPad months later?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

New Nexus Seven

We've all passed a lot of water since the debut of Google's Nexus Seven, but when it came out (it feels much longer than just a year) it was almost revolutionary: a seven-inch Android tablet in good quality, with full features, and at a startlingly low price. And now it has been upgraded.

Me, I now prefer an iPad Mini, or a Kindle Paperwhite, or a Kindle Fire HD, for various reasons, including finding Android to be clumsy and buggy, but if one really wants a 7-inch Android tablet, I think the new Nexus is surely a good bet. It seems to have been upgraded and improved all over the range, included acquiring a back camera and the highest screen resolution in the class (full HD. My eyes can't follow once PPI gets above 200*, but if you want 323PPI, here it is).
I doubt one will find better for the money. (Though admittedly competition in this area is sharp a glass shards, so they are pretty much all good and cheap, overlooking the OS.)

*I'm using both my iPad 3 and my iPad 2, and I have to say that I don't notice the huge difference in screen resolution. Oh, I can see it if required to, but in practical use... And that's despite that anybody these days daring to release a tablet with only a 132PPI resolution would be laughed out of the market.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


1DollarScan may be a solution where you have (or buy) a book or more that you don't need to keep (seems it's destroyed in the process), but would like to have as ebook.
The service comes in several levels, here is pricing info. The most basic scan for books is a dollar per 100 pages, which seems pretty cheap. OCR (real text), angle correction, and other quality options are extra.

I know that many people, myself included, find it genuinely difficult to read paperbooks after getting used to ebooks (some even get headaches). So if there are books you just must read, but nobody has digitized them yet, this might be a solution.
Getting your whole library, if you're a bookworm, scanned in good quality might cost a pretty penny though.

I asked them:

I suppose the customer always is the one to ship the book (if you don’t have it)?

The customer is ALWAYS the one to send in the book. Even if the book is a book that we have scanned before, we will still scan it. Every single book is scanned. When customers order from online bookstores, the physical book bypasses the user and goes directly to us. Sometimes this is good for users in other countries if they can find a seller in the U.S. then they save a lot on shipping and we deliver the file digitally into their account. So we have many users from other countries using this service. 

We typically deliver a PDF. We can do other formats, but it's usually a special operation to do that.

Are the scans real, searchable text?

If the customer adds OCR by request, then the scan is searchable. The quality of the OCR depends on a few things, like the quality of the book, language, fancy font, etc. (if they ask us to do angle correction on the file after or scan 
at 600 DPI it's a lot better).  But the average book is fairly accurate. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

The phone wars.


Apple should lead the move to DRM-free ebooks

Apple should lead the move to DRM-free ebooks, article.
But above all, what should matter to Apple is that ending ebook DRM would be good for consumers. It would lead to true competition among ebook retailers, since any retailer could sell books that could be read on different devices, just as any bookstore can sell dead-tree books that anyone can read. We would be able to choose the device we want to use to read a new book. We wouldn’t have to worry about being able to access our digital libraries in the future.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

PCWorld Exits Print, and the Era of Computer Magazines Ends

PCWorld Exits Print, and the Era of Computer Magazines Ends, article.
The news isn’t shocking. In fact, it’s sort of a shock it didn’t happen several years ago. After slightly more than thirty years in print, PCWorld magazine is ceasing publication, effective with the current issue, to focus on its website and digital editions.

PCWorld! Hot dang.

I've been noticing in recent years how magazine kiosks and book stores in town have been giving more and more space to candy and greeting cards (what's with the Brits and greeting cards?? They are everywhere), and less and less to magazines.

I guess in a few years, if you just can't stand using the web or a tablet, you'll just have to go without your magazines! And considering that for many people, magazines have been the only thing they read, something is going to give.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Cheap Kindle Fire now

If you want to save a bit of money on a Kindle Fire HD, now is the time. They are marked down now, and highly likely rumors have it that new models are coming in fall, with higher screen resolution. But unless they have other important upgraded features, I don't think that is essential. They are already nicely HD, and I think one has to be quite critical to notice any difference.
Buy in USA. --- Buy in UK.

I like the Fire HD more than I'd expected. Granted, it's sadly crippled as an Android device, but it's a good reader. And like I've mentioned, the text-to-speech feature is wonderful, I use it all the time, it's good to give my middle-aged eyes some rest from all the screens. It can read aloud to you from Kindle books, or from web articles in apps like Pocket (Read It Later). And the voice is a quantum leap better than previous ones.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Siri's new voice.

iOS's Siri voice is new in iOS 7 (upcoming). Sounds good to me. I hope this forecasts a good text-to-speech function in iOS devices, hopefully easily available to app developers. My eyes seem to be stressed (start to itch/burn a couple times a day), perhaps from years of computer use, and I've come to love audiobooks, and the excellent text-to-speech in the Kindle Fire HD. (It was the only reason I bought the KFHD, but it has easily been worth it for me.)

Monday, June 17, 2013

Marvin reader app for iOS

Marvin, a new ereader app for iOS is very interesting.

See, here we have the typical problem. Marvin, of course, like other independent app, can't read books with DRM, meaning all the wonderful books I have bought from Kindle and Kobo can't be used with this wonderful app. What a waste, just because of paranoia!

Marvin lets you select between a gazillion different colors for text and background. I don't see who wants iridescent green on bright orange, but fortunately also has many variations of nice off-whites for the background and very dark blue or brown for the text, or vice versa. Things like this shames the Kindle and eBook apps, with their over-simplistic interfaces, apparently designed to not confuse three-year-olds. 

Besides this and many other nice options for layout, it also is the only reader I know of besides Kindle which can provide you with an Overview of a book and its characters. For better and for worse, this does not have to be made for a book, the app does it automatically.

It also has friendly relationships with Dropbox, Wikipedia, and other good things on the Net.

I'm almost surprised it does not have text-to-speech. The iPad's own voice is only connected to disability and therefore not great, and I only know a couple of apps for iOS with text-to-speech, and only one is an ereader app, and none of them are cause for any celebrations. I'd guess it's hard to make and expensive to acquire. But: they manage on Android, my Instapaper app InstaFetch has a wonderful text-to-speech capability. (And of course the reader on Kindle Fire HD is fantastic, I use it continually, in rare cases I even prefer it an actual audiobook!)

Saturday, June 15, 2013

iPhone it is

OK, I've given up and gone back to my iPhone. Android's foibles just kept catching in my craw. Ugh.
A typical one: Apparently there is no way to turn off the HTC One! Normally when you hold down the sleep button, Off is an option. But no, the only one is restart. And nowhere in the limited settings HTC has on this thing did I find any way to turn it off.

In the past year or two, some Android and PC laptop makers have caught up with Apple in making beautiful hardware. It's probably harder to make usable software, so I'm not holding my breath.

Update: Thanks to Craniac:

I got it to work now, shutting it down. The difference was I hadn't unlocked the screen! (I'm not sure why you can reboot it, but not shut it down, without unlocking it.)

On other devices I have, it's very clear when the screen is locked, on the HTC One, it's just a small lock icon in the bottom row along with the other icons there.

About cheap subscriptions

I think there's a facet of the digital-publication revolution which few publishers have really realized yet: the power of cheap subscriptions.

Sure, everybody knows that cheaper brings more sales. But is it enough to make up for the lower price though? Well, the thing is in digital, the floor is the floor, since additional sales do not come with additional expenses in printing, distribution, etc.

There is a handful of subscriptions (photo mags, magazines for artists, money publications...) which I keep around despite the fact that I rarely have the time to read them. I do so because I just like them, I like having them if I ever feel like reading them, and because the price is low enough that it doesn't bother me.

Obviously that will vary from person to person and from time to time. For me at the moment, if a subscription is $20 per month, it better deliver and I better take advantage of it, otherwise it's ouddi. But if it's only $5 per month, I may just keep it around indefinitely.

I think this can be a gold mine for publishers.
A good way of doing it without feeling you're giving away the farm is to do it with bulk rebates. Say a monthly subscription is $20. Some will then make  the quarterly $50 or even $55. I say: make it $40, or even $35! And the yearly may be under $100, that's a big savings.  This will be a very attractive offer, and will make you a mint in loyal subscribers.

Office Arrives on iPhone — Too Little, Too Late?

Office Arrives on iPhone — Too Little, Too Late?, article.  And here.
Microsoft Office is finally available for iOS, but prepare for disappointment. It's only for the iPhone, and the app requires an Office 365 subscription, which starts at $60 a year. In addition to those limitations, the apps are bare bones, lacking many seemingly basic features: you can't undo actions or change fonts in Word, nor can you add slides or create new documents in PowerPoint.

I'm sorry, those limitations are so ridiculous that calling this "Office" (and charging 60 bucks a year for it) is indefensible. There are already apps which are much better, way cheaper, and run on iPad. (Office documents on a 4-inch phone, gimme a break.)

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Apple: We have 20 percent of the U.S. ebook market

Apple: We have 20 percent of the U.S. ebook market, article.
Most estimates had placed Apple’s U.S. ebook market share at around 10 percent, with Amazon’s Kindle at 50 to 60 percent and Barnes & Noble’s Nook at 25 percent. But Moerer said the iBookstore’s market share was 20 percent in the first few months after the iBookstore’s launch, Publishers Weekly reports,  and is about 20 percent now.

If true, this is quite the surprise to me and I'm sure most other commentators. Amazon's bookstore is much larger and seems more relevant, and true to Amazon's goal, it is indeed very handy for me that I can read my Kindle books on virtually any screen device I own. This can't be said for Apple's iBooks. Hell, it won't be until the next OS upgrade that you even can read iBooks books on Apple's own Mac, three and a half years after the first iPad! A failure of grand proportions.

The iBooks store, apart from initiating software which makes sophisticated enhanced text books (which can only be sold via iBooks!) does not seem to most of us to have been doing anything much, or gotten much attention, it's just been sitting there like a wallflower at a school dance.
If the 20% number is true, I will guess this is simply due to the great popularity of the iPad, and a lot of those customers using the iBooks store by default, perhaps not even being aware that there are plenty other book reading apps for the iPad. Beyond the Kindle app, there is the Nook app and the Kobo app, and a plethora of independent apps.

Normally I like it when Apple succeeds, but they are not the underdog anymore, and the fact is that despite them using "the standard format" ePub, due to DRM and lack of apps on other platforms, their books are much more locked down than Amazon's Kindle books are. This is stupid. Apple did a very smart thing when the other executives convinced Jobs, who was adamantly against it, to make iPod and iTunes work with Windows. They should remember this.

Of course the only right thing for society is to make books DRM-free, so there is no big literacy disaster if Apple or Amazon goes down one day.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Apple, power savings, and iOS 7 goodies

(See keynote below.) Apple is doing a lot of work in hardware, in the OS, and in apps to reduce power usage. And I must say I'm pretty impressed. For example if you keep a little eye on what your machine is doing (via for example the Activity Monitor utility/app), you will often discover that some app or apps, very often web browsers, are sitting in the background, not even being used, and just draining the power, completely uselessly.

So one of Apple's really intelligent inventions in upcoming OS "Mavericks" (they've given up on big cats) is that if an app is using a lot of CPU power, and you cover the app with another app (you don't even have to put it in the background), CPU usage immediately drops! Hurrah!!
There are also developments in more effective memory usage.

Frankly things like this are desperately needed. I have what was the top of the line Mac Pro four years ago, and I bought it with oodles and oodles of RAM, and yet it is often slowing down, stalling, or running up against memory walls.

Oh, by the way, one of the cool things coming up in iOS 7: multitasking for all apps, not just a select few. They are carefully managed still so as not to drain the handheld device's limited resources, but it should improve things. For example I've noticed that only a couple of Apple's own apps are currently allowed to download anything while in the background, other apps are stopped doing it after ten seconds or so of being put in the background.

There's also a new control panel which I really like: you just slide up from the bottom, and it's there, and includes loudness, brightness, airplane mode, and a few more things.  Here it is:

... I'm a bit more doubtful about the translucency which dominates iOS 7... but we'll see how it goes. Maybe it does add a bit of color and feeling of context, without distracting.

Apple keynote, iOS 7 and hardware

Update: photo of the upcoming Mac Pro. Click to enlarge. Damn, that's hot, I get technolust. 

Apple has just finished the keynote for the 2013 Developers' Conference. I really liked it, it actually rekindled my enthusiasm for Apple products, which had been flattening out a little.

A MacBook Air 13" with 12 hours battery life (apparently not with Retina Display?). a beautiful and exciting new iOS. (Finally after all these years getting rid of those photograpic icons. They are not icons, folks, they are photos.) Preview of the upcoming Mac Pro. Like I predicted, they went overboard with radical design and compactness! (It's only ten inches tall.) But the specs sound amazing. I just hope it is quiet! Please! (The colossal step down in noise from the G5 to Intel Macs was a lifesaver for me, seriously. I hope they have not endangered that by the compactness of the next Mac Pro.)

... But then I may go for another kind of machine next time. An iMac or laptop easily handles normal "pro" stuff these days, the Mac Pro is for people who edit cinema movies and such stuff.

I'm guessing sales of current Mac Pros are already in the toilet, since they release such a dramatic preview.

... Aha, they are doing something about cooling. Cool.
Weeeeell, they said this too about the PowerMac G5, and that thing was not quiet, lemme tell you. Fingers crossed.