Friday, December 19, 2014

Yohann, art tablet stand

Well, here is another premium iPad Stand, the Yohann, a German/Swiss/Italian product. Due to my love of simplicity and natural materials, I think I like this one even better.

It's the most beautiful tablet stand I've seen. Also it makes the iPad seem to 'float', and somehow makes the iPad more beautiful, is my feeling.

It may not look practical, but it's that too. It holds the iPad much better than one might expect, and all three positions are stable.

Mine, in cherry. With iPad Mini.

Bril idea for a way to have three positions.

I would hurry, because it's a hand-made product, stock is limited. 

Oh, and I have found that the W2 model, made for the first iPad Air, works perfectly with that one, but also with the new iPad Air 2, and with the iPad Mini (with the small exception that the most leaned-back position does not work with the Mini in landscape format). In fact it's exactly the width of the iPad Mini's short side, so you can see more of the pretty wood. 

I have not tried their glassfiber/plastic models, but with the super-glossy piano lacquer, they surely look really nice too, and at less than half the price.

Here are samples of their woods. 

The Cherry was lighter than I expected (though nice, expecially after I gave it extra furniture oil), so I'm getting a walnut also. (If you buy more than one, maybe you can convince them to send a photo before you commit. Say hi from me.)

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Large-tablet stand; Frameshift

The Frameshift stand is an unusual one. It is very simple in function, but very advanced in looks and design.
It costs nearly $100, and you can get stands with a similar function much cheaper, but there's no denying that it works well, it's compact and light when folded (made from high grade aluminum), and it just looks great. You can get it in silver, black, blue, and red. Again, the burgundy/cherry red is my favorite.

If the price difference is no problem for you, and you like this fancy aluminium-X, I say go for it.

This is seen from the back. The arm adjusts steplessly, so you can get any angle you want, with the tablet leaning against the other side of the X. It's for full sized tablets. It can almost hold an iPad Mini, but not well, the bottom rubber supports are just a few milimeters too far apart in portrait orientation. 

For smaller tablets and phones, the Frameshift Mini does better:

It looks rather different, but the principles are the same: simple, pretty, stepless angle, lightweight.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Kindle sleeves from Balbirnie Leather in Scotland

So, there I was looking for a nice sleeve for my new Kindle Voyage.
It turned out to be raining goodies, so in short order I had ordered four of them. I admit one could have been omitted, but that's as far as I'll go, hrmh.

I do it all for YOU, it's not like I WANT to buy these lovely things for myself!

Anyway, there are advantages to the simple sleeve for protection of your reader or tablet. Not the least that when reading, it does not add any weight, bulk, or hindrances.

I've long been looking for a leather shop with good and fast service. Small, but professional. I think I have found it in Balbirnie Leather

They made me this simple, beautiful pouch in real leather (you can smell the difference).
I get the feeling they can make you a sleeve for any tablet/reader in the world, they only need the dimensions after all.

[All pics are clickable for pleasant detail]
It is soft, simple, and lovely. Really nice quality leather. 
Even though they fit it exactly to the Kindle Voyage (There are only a couple milimeters difference from the Paperwhite), my non-patented strap still fits too. There is just enough friction to keep it in place while keeping it easy to take out the device. (This one is soft leather, fastened simply with Velcro, so I can remove it again. It works fine.) It is Pounds Sterling 19.50 (say $28), very reasonable for hand-craft like this. 

This one is an Inatech Compact Envelope in felt. It's also nice, and has the gimmick that when you pull on the leather strap, it helps slide out the device! This was 11 Pounds. 

This case is from Dockem Eu. It is slightly more polished than the Balbirnie sleeves, with rounded corners and filt lining (no worries, the B sleeves are plenty soft inside). But it's not real leather, and there's something to be said for minimalist aesthetic of the Balbirnies. Keep It Simple, Silly, as I say. This was less than ten Pounds, very cheap, despite the good quality. 

For my old Paperwhite I chose a different color, brown. They have several lovely colors to choose from. I always had a strong weakness (if that makes sense) for the deep, dark, burgundy red of the one I got for the Voyage. (Though they are interchangeable, the size difference is so small.)

Monday, November 17, 2014

My Kindle Voyage arrived on a Sunday, or what reader do you need?

One thing about Amazon: they sure work friggin hard. I got my K Voyage on Sunday, at seven in the evening!
Another delivery (to my mail box), also one they'd promised for next-day, I got after 22 at night. They deliver seven days a week, day and evening, one-day promised, if you have a Prime membership.

The Kindle Voyage: Well, I feel there is not so darn much to say. David Pogue basically says it all.

It's the best e-ink Kindle that they can make at the moment. (Apparently they can't make them much speedier, it's still feels much slower than any tablet.) And it's priced for it.

Do you need it?

I say: if you're happy with what you have, keep it.
If you have the money and want the best B/W reader you can get, get the Voyage.
If you want something more flexible and faster, with a great color screen, get the Kindle Fire HDX.
If you want the best mid-sized tablet, get a iPad Mini. That is a the best all-round ereader there is, it's easy to hold, and it has the perfect screen size to show both novels and web and magazines to their best advantage. And the second model is much cheaper now. Even the first one, without Retina display, is great, the display is plenty good, and it's cheaper yet.

If you want cheap, get the $69 Kindle.
If you want a cheap, compact tablet, get the Fire HD6. (Though it is really a $120 tablet, not 100, because you do need 16GB of RAM, really.)
If you want a B/W reader with front light, get the Kindle Paperwhite. Almost as good as the Voyage in most respects, and rather cheaper.

If you want a LOT of apps, get a non-Amazon tablet, like Nexus 7 or Galaxy Tab. They are good too.

If you want to read full page comics or magazines, get a 10-inch or a 12-inch tablet, that is currently the iPad Air 2 or the Samsung (some number, 9400 or such. Sigh, the Japanese and names...)

Friday, October 31, 2014

Homer art for iPad

In the series "Eolake's Wallpapers", here is a really beautiful drawing of Homer as a caveman stalking what seems like a prehistoric giant sloth.

As I said, I like no icons on the screen. The dozen apps I use the most, I can access quickly anyway by simply slide up with four fingers on the screen, revealing all the recently used apps.

So I can really enjoy nice art like this.

On the Retina Display iPads, you can take High Definition screenshots of your favorite videos. I find animated shows are outstanding in their quality and clarity.

By the way, it's very odd, some days the iOS lets me fit a whole screenshot on the screen like this, other days it will only let me show a much smaller part, thus usually leaving out important parts and making the image unsharp....

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A grip and a strap

I have improved my straps, and found a great substance (Sugru) for making grips, see this post on my main blog.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

iPhone 6 or 6 Plus? Decisions, decisions...

Dave Hamilton has written a nice article based on solid testing, as to which of the new iPhones would be best for him.
It's a thoughtful article, and the result may surprise.

Thursday, October 9, 2014


Another of my favorite iPad desktops, no icons "in the wild", and Vanessa from the Phineas And Ferb Star Wars episode rocking up the wallpaper.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Finally a compact reading tablet, and economical too

As you know I have a very publicly been begging Amazon to make a compact tablet for reading and portability. A tablet which you can carry in a pocket and which is very easy to hold and read with one hand.

Well, dip me in rouge and call me pretty, they did it! It is the new fire HD six tablet (Video).
CNet article.
What I did not expect what is the they at the same time made it the cheapest tablet yet of good repute, under $100, which is amazing for quality tablet. (LEN EDGERLY on his show actually made of this specific wish and added it to my wish of a compact tablet so he might have been responsible for that!)
[To be frank I do recommend selecting the 16 GB model which adds $20, unless you really don't plan on downloading much video or software ]

It is 290 grams which is close to the HDX seven model. I wish it could be lighter, but for $99 you can't have everything. Maybe next year.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

An orderly desktop, and improvement in wallpaper function in iOS 8

I've always love an orderly and pretty desktop on my machines. I was happy the day when Apple finally permitted us to remove the disk and the Trash icons from the desktop, so I could have it totally icon-free. (And enjoy whatever art I'd chosen for the desktop so much more.)

Oh, by the way: THANK YOU, Apple, for getting back to the sensible format that wallpaper pictures now again (in iOS 8) do *not* have to cover the whole screen in both landscape and portrait position, resulting in a ridiculously small part of the image being used and poor image quality from such drastic cropping. Somebody has finally realized that that sad state of affairs is much worse than part of the screen not being covered by the image (which I like, it can make space for icons and gives an image a sort of wholeness, it's being framed).

For example this makes it much, much easier for me to make quality wallpaper screenshots from videos I like, because I get the content and the quality of the whole frame. (The one below is from American Dad.)

Monday, September 22, 2014

Real quickly about the i6+ (Updated)

I don't have time to write a review now... but I got the iPhone 6 Plus today, and set it up and played  with settings and such.

They didn't even mention the speaker... it's so loud and so good...

I don't regret selling the remains of both my grandmothers to get this. "Oh, if only I had more grandmothers to sell for this cause!!"

It doesn't even seem big to me, it seems just right.

It's so good it's almost depressing... what are they going to do next year? And next?

Aha! A critique point, found one! It's a bit slick, seems too easy to drop in the excitement.
But with Apple's leather case, it sites perfectly in the hand. Feels great.
A bit spendy  for such a simple object, but very soon there will be lots like it on eBay/Amazon for 10-15 bucks, don't fret.

Funny enough, while this is by far the best phone I've had, it's hard to say very much about it...

To me, the 5.5 screen is not Big, or even big progress (though it is), it is simply how it's supposed to be. For me it's the first time I'm getting the ease-of-use and enjoyment from a phone that I expected!
It's just right.

It even has the right size for me to use an eye-candy screensaver like Magic Window, on my bedside stand.

And of course, like predicted, it works nearly perfectly as a pocket ereader. It's a little hard to use one-handedly without it slipping when one uses the thumb to change pages. But this may be a matter of practice. Or I may make one of my non-patented strap-cases.

Subjectively, it's simply the current best possible in hand-held computers / communicators. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

My dreams of compact devices came true

... Sometimes it pays to make wishes. :-)
Apple comes out with *exactly* the phone/ereader I wanted, in iPhone 6 Plus. An amazing pocket ereader, although at a very premium price.

 And though none are called "pocket" by name, Amazon then comes out with not one, but *two* compact models at once. The Kindle Voyage is also a bit premium, the new flag ship model of the e-ink readers oozes quality all over, and it compacter and lighter in every measure, and the former model (Kindle Paperwhite, still being sold) is not ungainly by any means.

 And Amazon's new HD 6 model is smaller in every metric, durned cheap at $100, and it is a *full inch* narrower than the 7-inch HD and the HDX models, and this is the most important metric for how easy it is to hold. (It could have lost more weight, but that would make it more expensive.) I'd already ordered the Voyage (and of course the i6+), now I've also ordered the HD6. It'll be an embarrassment of riches of compactness for me this fall and winter.

I just can't figure out how Amazon managed to design and built the pocket-sized HD6 in the three-four weeks they had since I petitioned them...     :-)
 (Why they are so low key about both these breakthroughs: the pocket-sizedness and the $100 pricepoint. They are usually not shy.)

(Almost hand-sized. 280 grams, 30 grams lighter than 
an iPad mini, 100 grams heavier than a Kindle Voyage.)

... A couple years ago Nexus 7 broke the $200 barrier and made great waves, and now Amazon does it to the $100 barrier, it's astounding, seriously. Such a powerful tool for the price of an evening in town. A cheap town. And without any loss of brain cells or hearing either.

Finally, a big step up for dictation

To my surprise, the fresh iOS 8 (for iphones and iPads) includes a big improvement of dictation. (I'm surprised because... well, an example: the Mac had a voice, Fred, for years, since the early nineties, I think. And this voice was never improved upon until... I wanna say 2005 or so. The basic technologies improve slowly, generally.)

Dictation is now computed Live in the device, not sent off to a server in bits. The means it comes out as you are speaking, and fascinatingly, you can see it correcting itself as it hears more of what you are saying, and makes more sense of it.

And importantly: it's just better. I just had a text chat, and two long sentences were flawless. I don't think I have had even *one* long, flawless sentence before.
This will make it much more fun to dictate texts and emails.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Why did it take us so long to see the need?

John Martellaro writes.
Apple resisted the idea of a phablet for a long time and so did its customers. But times have changed, and we've moved on.[...] the iPhone grew in great power and complexity, people started to use iPhones not just as smart telephones but as portable Internet devices for all kinds of new services.

Well, personally I don't get this long cultural lag. For one thing, I've been writing articles here since the Note 1 came out, begging Apple to make a similar "bigphone" as I called it before the clumsy term "phablet" was invented.

For another thing: way back in 2007 (for heaven's sake), Jobs introduced the iPhone as *three* things, only one of which were a phone. (Why did they even call it a phone? It's a hand-computer). One of those was a web browser. And then when I tried web browsing on a 3.5-inch iPhone, I screamed in frustration. It was like digging a garden with a teaspoon. Most web sites were nigh impossible to use or read.
Who, I wonder, did not have the same experience?
In other words, how could it not be obvious to anybody that smartphones are/have been too small?

I must admit that for a while, this size category did not occur to me. But I did write in mid-2009: "I don't even like many regular web pages on my iPod touch, very often the screen is simply too small for it work well."
And when the Samsung Note1 5.2-inch came out, I yelled (and wrote) "Heureka", and not: "Booo, that's for geeks only..."

Image by me, from my 2011 article, saying:
"apart from the price, this is currently the portable ereader to have"

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Oops, it's official now! New Kindles and Fires (updated)

And just as I was going to bed after a hard evening watching Miyasaki films, our friend Len Edgerly announces that Amazon has, in conspiracy with a lot of journalists, sneaked out an announcement of new kindles.

I haven't even read it yet myself, but Len already has two articles out, one here, and then one here.

Well, it's undeniable that it's pretty amazing that you can now get a quality color tablet for just $100! Even if it is last year's model, basically.
There were already tablets in that price range, but they were, not to put too fine a tip on this: junk. Cheap plastic things, slow and unreliable. Amazon in contrast vary the amount of features to vary the price, but the quality you can trust.

And as to the Kindle Voyage, the reports are very positive.
I may just get one, as I do every time. At least I want to have the history of ereading, it's that important. And who knows, maybe *this* time is the one which has an e-ink Kindle pushing over a tablet as my hand-held reader of choice. (Though this time it also has the awesome iPhone 6 Plus to content with, it'll be a fearful battle.)

New Kindle PaperWhite flagship model coming

[Thanks to Ganesha Games]

There has been leaks on foreign Amazon sites which shows that a new Kindle Paperwhite is coming, called Kindle Voyage. It's roughly $50 more expensive than the current one, so it may be a new top model instead of a replacement.

It will be a bit smaller in all dimension, and a bit lighter, all good things.

It will have some pressure sensors in the bezel, so you don't have to move your thumb for each page change, something I think is good.

It has a bit higher screen resolution: 300 PPI. This sounds very high, but to me it seems that the present model with about 230 PPI (pixels per inch) does not look at all as sharp as an LCD screen with the same PPI. It may be because the pixels are composed of little physical plastic balls which move, and perhaps getting 100% of them to move perfectly is not attainable. In any case, I'm sorry to say that while the front light made the Kindle a LOT better, I've gone off it a bit again, since when I take it out, the screen just seems significantly less sharp and less even than the great HD LCD screens we have become used to since Apple introduced the Retina Display four years ago, and later put it in the iPad. So I mostly use a tablet. (Which are also much faster.)
(Sorry, Paperwhite fans, it's just a feeling. If it works for you, I'm only happy. Perceptions are very subjective.)

Monday, September 15, 2014

Watch ereader?

I wonder when there will be an ereader app for the Apple Watch?     :-)

I know, I know, it's tiny, the opposite of what I've been campaigning for. But this would not be for my main reading platform. It would mainly be for fun, actually.

And I actually know people who have been reading novels on cell phones *before* smartphones... display barely bigger than this, and much, much cruder in resolution.

Mockup by me. I might use
a bigger font, but it looks good.

Len reminded me of the perfect app for tiny screens: Spritz, one of several apps which show just one word at a time. It sounds odd, because professors with letters after their names have told us that it's important to read by seeing several words at once, preferably a whole line. Well, personally I consider this debunked, because the other method is remarkably workable. I could read 300 words a minute even without any training.

We just need the app on the watch, and then to have it integrated with the Kindle App, so all the popular ebooks are included.

Oh, and I also think another thing is important, a feature which didn't seem to be in any of those apps: the ability, if you miss something, to go back a few words, or to see a couple of lines together. It's easy to miss something if you come across an unfamiliar words, or just get distracted by something happening elsewhere. Or heck, if the reading just stimulate thought, it happens to me all the time, and I'm sure I can't be alone!

Samsung has actually already put Spritz on their Gear S smartwatch. Well done.

Wallpaper enthusiast (updated)

I love playing around with the Wallpaper on my machines. You know, it's the static background picture you see when nothing else is showing. It's the thing they for some reason usually call "screensaver" on films and TV shows.  :-)

One does not have to stick with the lovely but generic nature shots they supply with the machine. There are so many options. With my tablets, I often take screenshots when I'm watching videos. (On an iPad, it's the sleep button plus the home button. On Android it's supposed to be sleep button plus Volume Down, but it doesn't work on my 12-inch 4.04 system.)

Here are two I got recently from one of my favorite shows, Phineas And  Ferb (they have sub amazing visuals).
The top one especially fits so well as Lock Screen. I am not sure why, but it strikes me every time I wake up the tablet...

Lock screen:
By the way, the image, helicopter ride over the city, is a
homage to West Side Story, which opens so. A minute is
almost shot-for-shot the same, brilliant. 

Wallpaper, home screen:

Bron asked if I did not use my own photos or art for wallpaper. Sure, I do that too. Here are examples taken from what I happened to have downloaded to my new tablet:

Here are some autumn-leaves, slightly enhanced in the computer:

Here is one of the "frost flower series". Straight photo

This one is not mine, but kindly donated by TCGirl.

This one I took near Prague, model is Marketa.
(Actually I don't so often now have girls on my screens, I guess 16 years of running has satisfied me for a while!    :-)

Here are some of my most popular, Frost Flowers. Feel free to use personally.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Michael Hart, a Pioneer of E-Books, Dies at 64

Michael Hart, a Pioneer of E-Books and founder of, Dies at 64, article.

Not fresh news this, but he was an interesting character.
Over the next decade, working alone, Mr. Hart typed the Bill of Rights, the Constitution, the King James Bible and “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” into the project database, the first tentative steps in a revolution that would usher in what he liked to call the fifth information age, a world of e-books, hand-held electronic devices like the Nook and Kindle, and unprecedented individual access to texts on a vast array of Internet archives.
Today, Project Gutenberg lists more than 30,000 books in 60 languages

Friday, September 12, 2014

The time is 9:41, no more, no less! Or: *now* is the dawn of Internet-everywhere

So, after huge glitches in the streamed keynote speech, and a 40-minute delay in the pre-ordering schedule which had a couple million people foaming at the mouth, people can finally buy the wonderful new iPhone 6, and 6 Plus (my fave, regular readers will know why. Finally a perfect take-everywhere computer.)

Have you noticed that every picture of the iPhone 6 shows the time as 9:41?
Is this Apple micromanagement still surviving Steve Jobs? Or is it just simpler because they are all made with photoshop instead of taking an actual photo of the screen? (I could understand that, it's surprisingly hard coordinating the brightness of the screen with the ambient light, and handle reflections.)

I wonder why 9:41 exactly? Does it have a significance, or was it found to be the most aesthetic formation of number shapes, or was it random? [Update: Thanks to Ken for this answer.]

Aaaaanyway... Maybe it's me changing emotionally too, but I am surprised at how much I lust after this phone. I sound like my pal Laurie when the first one came out: "I want an iPhone, and I want it *now*!"
I was not very interested then, but it makes some sense, because as a photographer/videographer he zips around the country and the world every week, whereas as a webmaster (then) I work from home, and really only use email, not phones.

This one, though, due to the size, really makes the computing-device side of the "phone" come into its power for the first time. In fact, the usefulness and the attraction of this compared to the "mini-phones" of yesteryear is like night and day, to me anyway. We saw this already with the Samsung Note 1, the first "phablet" at 5.2-inches.

When Jobs introduced the iPhone 1, he said it was "a revolutionary Net device", showing a web browser on the phone. But browsing the web on a 4-inch screen is like doing athletics in a full knight's armour. Almost doable, but a royal pain in the but.
This, not 2007, is the real dawn of Internet-everywhere.

And it's a perfect portable ereader. (Hmm, did I say that before?) Web articles, books, magazines, documents, research... Keeewl.
(OK, except for the high price, that is. Which is why I recently called for the creation of a dedicated ereader in the size and form of this phone. It should not have a phone contract or a $700 price tag if you don't really need the phone part.)

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

iPhone 6 Plus with 5.5-inch display (updated)

[Watch the entertaining Apple Keynote releasing iPhone 6, Apple Pay, and the new Apple Watch.]

iPhone 6 Plus with 5.5-inch display announced starting at $299, article.

I want to thank my fans at Apple for answering my requests, by far the biggest of which the keen reader will have no trouble recalling: that the iPhone six came with a 5.5-inch display, making it a perfect portable ereader (and generally better for so many things)!

I wonder what kind of profit margin companies are getting on phones though. I just bought, as seen below, a wonderful high-class 12 inch tablet. And the 5.5 inch iPhone 6+ is over £250 ($400!) more expensive than that tablet! It is around £700 ($1000) with 64 GB storage! To me that it looks like ugly price gouging. I love apple and their products, but sometimes their pricing really leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.

Anyway, as I had expected, Apple did not want to disenfranchise their customers in tight jeans, so the phone comes in two sizes, the big ("phablet") iPhone 6 Plus, and the more regular-sized iPhone 6 (with a good-sized 4.7-inch display). I think those sizes are perfectly chosen.

The cameras are improved in various small ways, though the resolution is the same 8MP. The most important improvement is optical image stabilization to help with camera shake, really a must these days. But that is only on the 6 Plus. (I think that's one of the reasons it's slightly thicker (though still thinner, amazingly, than the iPhone 5s).
Oh, the autofocus is also faster, which is important.

The iPhone Four was the first iPhone I got genuinely interested in. iPhone 6 Plus is the second one. I expect it to be outstanding.

Our old ally Janet Tokerud has posted about why you should get the 6 Plus. In part:
5. 2-Column Landscape View in iOS 8. Not available on iPhone 6.
6. One device is better than 2. This is a mini mini iPad not just an iPhone but that too. 1 device to maintain and purchase. 1 cellular connection. You won’t need to lug your iPad mini or maxi around as much. Or you can sell/trade-in the mini.

I couldn’t agree more. Unless one really just needs a phone, or money is really tight, this is currently the king of hand-held Everything Machines. I haven’t been this excited since the iPad 1.

I’ve tried writing a book on an iPhone 4. Can be done, but it gets old. This one, no problem. Portable keyboard, and boom, you’re a mobile writer. I'm actually thinking of a book I want to write on this. Get out of your home/office and yourself, good for the creative juices. (I like a good simple text editor which saves in the cloud, like My Writing Spot.)

And it’s a great portable entertainment center too. Buy all ten seasons of Friends and never fear a waiting room again!
And it sure looks gorgeous. I did not think they could beat the iPhone 4/5. I bet that rounded, slim form, bigger, feels really good in the hand.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The 12-inch reader/tablet is HERE!

The 12-inch tablet is here!
Reading comics on this device once again gives me that unexpected experience in digital media: it is not only as good as reading them on paper, it is better.

iPhone 5s, Kindle Fire 7, iPad Air, Samsung 12.2-inch

I've written several post begging, cajoling, pleading, threatening, trying to bribe, manufacturers, especially Apple, for making a larger tablet, for reading art books, text books, comics, and anything more complex than pure text books with small illustrations.

OK, Samsung came first. But so far the news is very very good: I have been testing it for my most important apps in these areas for the last two hours since I got it, and there have so far been no major bugs, in fact it's been a pleasure... finally, the 12-inch tablet is here!

Photo: Engadget

Wow. I'm creaming my... bagels, I'm creaming my sauce, I'm creaming my coffee, I love this.

Magazine pages in Zinio, art books in Google Books, and comics in Comixology... in all of them I can now with more or less ease, and for the first time, read a full page with illustration and texts without zooming in. 

[Ping: Apple, this is the challenge of the year for you, not that durn online watch or whatever it is people are waiting for. This will be important for many more reasons than just reading. Not the least in productivity.]

The Samsung Galaxy Note 12.2-inch tablet does not even feel very big or heavy. It is only as big and heavy as an iPad Air would be if it was a 12-inch device. And it is only a hair thicker. It is beautiful.
[Oh, and by a miracle, it fits in my big Flote tablet floor stand. It fits exactly, it could not have been one milimeter wider! Huh.]

And the screen... almost exactly the same number of pixels as my Apple 30-inch Cinema Display! At 12 inches, this is one seriously high-resolution device, trust me. (I just wish my eyes were like they were when I was a kid, again. But even with middle-aged eyes, this thing is booootiful.)
[Update hours later: I have often mentioned my dislike of the buggy Android OS. Well, either they have pulled off a miracle with version 4.04, or with this device, or I have become mentally more tech-friendly or something. But I've been using this thing now for hours, and there has not been a bug worth mentioning. Using the tablet is smooth, and the bigger screen, like always, enhances the experience. It's actually almost as fun as using the iPad the first time. Maybe not, but I'm having so much fun playing with, setting up, and using this tablet that it's already well past my bed time. After all the disappointments in the past, I would never have thought that could happen with an Android device.]

Reading comics on this device once again gives me that unexpected experience in digital media: it is not only as good as reading them on paper, it is better. If you need you can still zoom in instead of straining your eyes. You don't need to arrange for good light on the page, the tablet takes care of that. The colors are better, a good screen has a far better color range (gamut) than normal print, better even than high-end print. And even the sharpness is better than print.

And even here, early in the game of such devices, it's not very expensive, it's roughly the same as the (smaller) iPad costs.
(I would have preferred a large iPad since Android has bugged me before, but so far things seem to be going really well with this one, maybe Google or Samsung has upped their game considerably.)

I'll say e-reading and "tabletting" is coming of age.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

A simple strap can boost your comfort when reading

Most ereaders and tablets are a bit too big to hold comfortably in one hand for any length of time. But after some experimentation, I've found an easy DYI way of helping this, and even an economical way of buying a similar solution.

I’ve been making straps for my own devices. A simple loop of leather or whatever, measured tight to four fingers of your own hand, and super-glued to a thin and light case for the device. (Many good cases are under $12 these days, so even if you have to cut off the front to make it practical, it’s little loss.)

Another option is to buy the TFY Universal Hand Strap, which I found on eBay. It seems to be made by a small company in Hong Kong, and the quality is good.
It is a solid-sized hand strap (a bit overkill for cell phones, I find), padded really well, with velcro on the underside, and a corresponding slap of female velcro to put on your device. (It’s easy to buy Velcro if you want to use it on more devices.)

I recommend mounting the strap near a side of the tablet, so you can use your thumb to change pages.

Cases with straps I’ve seen are shown with the whole hand trapped behind the tablet, and the wrist turned in an awkward position. But if you make the fit tight so you don’t have to use constant muscle tension to keep it in place, and your thumb is free on the front, it can be comfortable, actually more comfortable than holding a paper book of similar weight.

Here is my Kindle Fire HDX used with a strap,
showing how easily I can use my thumb for
one-handed use.
(The bumps are Sound Jaw to direct the sound front.)
I can easily hold the tablet in any position even
with no muscle strain whatsoever. 

This is the TFY Universal Hand Strap, a good product.  
This a Nokia 1520 6-inch phone (great e-reader), with a cheap plastic
half-shell and a home-made leather strap (2mm x 25mm) super-glued
to the back.

This is a cheap shell case for iPad Mini (with front cut off),
with a home-made fabric strap super-glued to it.
Notice it's set towards the side, as the all are except the Nokia
because it's not wide at all. This is so your thumb can reach around to the front.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Why are tablets/ereaders so important?

Sometimes I feel quite lonely in my feeling of just how gosh-durn important ebooks and devices are. Sometimes it seems that many still haven't gotten above the level of "an iPad is just a bigger iPod Touch". (That's total hogwash. Years ago I ditched my iPod Touch two minutes after trying to read web pages on it. But my iPad I use for everything, every day.)

I am not joking in the header when I say it's the most important thing to happen to reading since Gutenberg.

So.. why?
Because they are doing to long-form text and to long form video what the World Wide Web did to very short text and very short videos. Expand it, democratize it, take it to everybody, both as audience and as creators.

And that is damn important, because long form video and long form texts are our main carriers of knowledge and beauty, and so they are the main instruments for our mental and spiritual growth.

That may sound hyperbolic, but in the long run, decades, I really believe it to be true. I can feel it deep in my bones, and the logic is there too.

New devices soon

Very soon we will have new iPhones, then new iPads, then new Kindles and Kindle Fires. I can't wait. For some reason it feels like it has been soooo long this time. How long do I still have to read my books on a screen with a mere 324 pixels per inch?! How long do I have to suffer!?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Endorsement of the Fire Phone

"I am not embarrassed to say that it still seems like a good idea to have changed from the elegant iPhone 5s to this scrappy little new device." 

- Len Edgerly of The Kindle Chronicles about his new Amazon Fire Phone

I just thought that was a typically charming, inscrutable, and funny comment from Len.
As to the Fire Phone... it seems to me that Amazon needed a phone, but were out of ideas for a Unique Selling Point. It seems if not a desperate, then at least an oddly lateral business move to have the phone's major feature be an expensively developed technology to let the phone know where your noggin is at. A feature which nobody, not even Amazon, knows what it may be good for some day besides a cool demo to your friends.

I'd hoped Amazon had done more to make the phone a good ereader. Especially a bigger screen is important. I've been riding that hobby horse to death for a long time, but these days I'm not alone anymore. Just today, the MacObserver once more jumps in there.
The idea that we could function these days with a 3.5 inch smartphone display seems entirely ridiculous. It was only relatively recently that Apple, with the iPhone 5, switched to a 4 inch display and stayed there with the iPhone 5c/5s. Many think Apple waited too long, and I agree.
Along the way, we smartphone customers started doing so much more. We navigate with Google maps in a sunlit car going 65 mph. We watch Netflix in the doctor's waiting room — or read a Kindle book. We take fantastic photos and want to appreciate them right away. We monitor the local weather with Doppler radar. We do online shopping and banking. And we can even create modest text documents. All that requires serious screen real estate

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Use your tablet as a magnifier

I bought the wonderful little Mikey Digital microphone. Nice, but like usually happens with small gadgets, the manual which comes with them is very tiny and with small text, which is no friend to middle-aged eyes.
With good light I could just about read it, but it was not pleasant.
Then I got an idea: use my iPad for magnification. (First I tried my iPhone, but like I say often, the screen is too small.     :-)

You simply, in good light, put or hold the little text by the iPad's back camera. Filling the whole screen, it's very easy to read indeed!
Depending on the position of things, you can just read it like that, or you can take photos for reading in a more comfortable position. (It's fully legal to photograph texts if it's for personal use only.)

You can see how small it is. And if you click on the pic,
you can also see how big and clear the text is!
(It takes decent light and a little practice with the focus
to get clear photos of such close-ups.)

A good ereader device also does audiobooks and text-to-speech

[You'll notice this does not include Amazon's current e-ink devices. They will have to do something about that if they want to stay competitive.]

I love audiobooks. I have consumed hundreds of them, I’m sure. (Maybe forty books by Terry Pratchett alone.)

Two kinds don’t work: too complex books, where you have to stop and think all the time. And too easy books, where you can read it much faster.

But those in the middle, it frees the body and the hands etc to do tasks, go for walks. Or the opposite, really relax. I always have issues with relaxing, so I cherish being able to go from super-relax to sleep mode by just hitting a button, instead of taking off my glasses, putting in a bookmark, turning off the light, turning over, and trying to get my brain relax from the tasks of running the eyes and enterpreting letters and sentences.

By now I almost consider audiobooks to be about the same as books read by text-to-speech, because of the Kindle Fire HDX, which is so good at this that I sometimes forget it's not a human reading to me.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Another example of iPad cases which are both good and cheap

[Example are for iPad, but you can find similarly good and cheap cases for Amazon Kindles, for example here and here. Really, it's a cornucopia!]

[Many products are made of "PU leather", which is made from the lower layers of skin (suede) and covered with polyurethane (advanced plastic products). They may be in some aspects superior to real leather, feel good, and often so close to real leather than even experts can have a hard time telling them apart.]

Finding these cheap and good cases have given me a new collectors habit (and a lot cheaper than cameras from eBay).

It gets wilder than last reported, by the way; yesterday I found a full, new, functional iPad case for *three* Pounds (five bucks! With free shipping! How does anybody make money on this?? I pay twice that for a pizza.

A different one, but one of my newest favorites, this croc pattern one. It's only ten bucks (six Sterling). A couple of years ago I paid six times as much for similar cases.
... Maybe some won't like the croc pattern, but seen abstractly (without thinking of $15,000 handbags) it is simply a beautiful pattern. (Most of the colors are too bright though, this goes for almost all the cases I've found. But they usually have some subtler ones too.)

And I wish you could see/feel the inside lining: like velour, rich, deep black, and soft. And the stand function works perfectly on it in any position, without the thick, ungainly ridges many cases/stands have. I don't know how they did that.
And like most cases today, it works with the magnetic closure, turns of the iPad when you close it, and vice-versa.

The iPad Air has a secondary little microphone on the back, which picks up background noise in order to counter-process it out when you're voice- or video-chatting. (And maybe it works opposite when filming.) And the case makers even made a hole for this too! And like the others, it's perfectly fitted over the mike.
Great function, good feel, aesthetics, pretty slim and light weight, and dead cheap, all in one package.

Comes in nine colors. They call this "blue"

The beautiful lining, with good friction for the stand function.

You can vary the angle as you like.
(For me the first iPad was "the birth of the ebook".)

Excellent simplicity.

[By the way, the pictures were taken indoors, hand-held, with my iPhone. Durn good quality, don't you think? Try double-clicking on the one above. It's better than most work I did with film cameras back in the day.]

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Good Night, Sweet Prince Paper

It's a bizarre thing, and a day I wouldn't have thought would come. But I think I have to say:

Good-bye to paperbooks.

It's sad, because I still love them, I'll bet I'll still have some around til my deathbed in fifty years if I live to be a hundred. (Predicting fifty years ahead? What a fool. This very post shows how I couldn't even predict five years ahead.)

But I just can't read them anymore. In the last years before the iPad came, I was reading markedly fewer, just because of the web. And I actually don't think I have finished one single one since my first iPad in May 2010! (As long time readers will recall, I loved the Kindle, but had great trouble with the grey screen, until the Paperwhite arrived.)

Recently, a very unusual occurrence these days, I wanted a book (On Photography by Susan Sontag), and it was not available in ebook format... So I bought a paperbook.

And I started reading it. Or I tried. First I had to arrange a lamp so lots of light hit the page. Then I had to position my body in just the right shape and place and distance from the lamp for the page to be well lit and not shaded by anything else. Then I had to squint and do the trombone thing, to try and find a good reading distance, because like with many books, it was printed in a font a bit smaller than I'd have set on a Kindle or tablet. Finally, believe it or not, most paperbooks actually have less clear text than we get on a current tablet screen! This is true except for a few very expensively printed books.

So I read a few pages in a couple of days. And now it's been a couple of weeks, and I have to face: I probably won't finish it. Not until I can get it as an ebook.

There's a turnout for the books, eh?

Friday, July 18, 2014

Cases are now cheaper, and some are excellent too

(I care more about getting quality stuff which I can enjoy for years, than about getting the cheapest I can find. But when the two meet, so much the better!)
[Examples are for iPad, but you can find similarly good and cheap cases for Amazon Kindles, for example here and here.]

The good news is that along with tablets and ereaders getting much cheaper, so are cases, in the last year or two.
The "bad" news is that not all of them are great, you are still advised to read a few reviews before pressing Buy.

See this pretty case for example:

... Just from the picture and description and price, what's not to like?
But then when you check the reviews:

"This is the worst iPad case I have ever seen, covers the screen,can't see the home button, cover is to big, sleep magnet does not work, only good thing about this is the pen at least that works. Complete waste of money, it also smells of cheap plastic."

"Not the best case as it doesn't fit well especially around the home button which the cut out area doesn't seem big enough for. Makes it difficult to press home button. Also the magnetic catch on cover is. It strong enough so the sleep function didn't work. Colour nice and pen ok."

"Very flimsy case and auto lock function does not work as stated and case does not lie flush with iPad."

So... maybe skip this one. 
On the other hand, some are making quality at low prices, for example a new English company called JammyLizard (for some obscure reason) has me all agaga. They prices are rock bottom (cheaper at Amazon UK than at their own site), and yet they are some of the best cases I have tried. 

I own and love their Horizon case

It is precision-built, very light-weight (200 grams), looks good, and it cost only eight Pounds Sterling! (Say 12 bucks). 

These are not yet on Amazon USA, but it's easy to buy from Amazon UK, you can even use the login you're used to. And shipping is cheap these days too, and with these prices you may not even have to pay import tax! (At least not if you only buy one at a time.) 

I could not resist, I have also bought their "[faux] Leather Ultra Slim Full Body Smart Case": 

It looks and feel even better than the Horizon, and is about as cheap.
Only downsize I see so far is that it's about 400 grams.
JammyLizard also makes a wide variety of phone cases at similar prices.