Saturday, July 03, 2010

Is the pad an ebook-reader replacement?

My pal Glenn Fleishman from TidBITS has some interesting comments on this podcast.
For example he is asked whether the Amazon Kindle and the iPad are really in the same market. At first I disagreed with his statement that the iPad is not really an ebook-reader replacement, because it did replace the Kindle for me. But then he explained, and I agree: the iPad is basically too heavy to be really practical, and for some people, it is needlessly complex and expensive, if they only want a book replacement. If the Kindle had a better and faster screen, I'd probably still use it. (I'd like to see comparison photos of the old Kindle DX and the new one, to see how big that asserted contrast improvement is.)

I don't care too much to read with a book on a table. Or in any position where I have to bend my neck to look down at it. Not comfortable for long periods. I prefer to be very much leaned back, half lying down, and have the "book" above/in front of me. The iPad is too heavy to do this for long. I can use it as much as I do partly due to a solution which is to big and clumsy for most people: a book holder, simple a big floor-stand which holds a book or ebook reader for you.

That being said, though, if they could make an iPad at half the weight I would not have any want at all for another e-reader. (I don't like sitting in the sun, so the screen visibility is no issue.)
And I'll bet the Kindle has not inspired as many nice cases as the iPad already has. (This is just one of several companies' products I've seen this week. There are also this and this.) (Man, get a load of the video on the Targus page! Talk about perky and enthusiastic! Like she just can hardly contain her pleasure at this lovely product! Well done.) (Almost overdone. I think I would mock her if she didn't turn me on so much.)

Glenn also wrote this article about using software to block distractions on the computer, something I touched on once. I think I even found the "Isolator" app that he used while writing this article.

How does Twitter pay the bills?

I've googled around a bit trying to find out how Twitter pay their bills, and how they intend to become profitable in the future (seeing as I can't imagine they are so now). But I haven't found anything except many other people asking the same question. Has anybody seen anything solid? It must be amazingly expensive to run such a super-popular service.

This is something I find highly amusing: on the wiki page for Twitter, it says:
"The Industry Standard has remarked that Twitter's long-term viability is limited by a lack of revenue..."

Only in the Internet age is an income considered optional for a business! Too friggin' funny. This is like saying: "Joe Blow's long-term health outlook is limited by his refusal to eat or drink anything".
The Financial Dictionary says: "When evaluating stocks, revenue growth serves as an indication of a company's health." 
But in the Internet age, it's apparently entirely incidental to the stock value! Nut city.

TTL sez:
How they plan to become profitable? By displaying ads, or rather sponsored tweets.
Mind you, this is all over the net. It was covered by pretty much every newspaper when it was announced in April.

Aha. After 40-something years, it finally bites me in the ass that I don't read news. Thanks, dude.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs: Our Time

Feedback noise

Here's a delightfully weird little thing:

On my new Windows computer, I played around with Dragon NaturallySpeaking (dictation software), and with Win7's built-in dictation feature.
At some point, the computer started making a sound-feedback, and an infernally loud screech developed within seconds. In desperation I plugged in a headset to stop it.

And now I can't unplug the headset without the feedback screech developing again! This is despite the speech recognition now being turned off, and the machine having been rebooted...

Any tips?

Update: Robb said:
You have an open microphone somewhere that's feeding back into the Dragon software. Kill (mute) the microphone and the feedback will disappear.

eolake said...
But Dragon is off. And the only mike is the one built into the iMac.
(I used a USB mic when testing Dragon, but that's unplugged.)

But you could be right though I don't understand it: I just now went and made a search for 'microphone' and found an "audio device" control panel. There were two active microphones in the panel, which I guess must be software items, not real things. I "deactivated" the one which seemed related to Dragon, and the problem is now gone. Thanks.

"Acquired by Amazon"

Contest reminder

Just to remind: "Children in Color" photo contest, deadline July 15. Early entries are few yet, but good, so get cracking!

[Updated] Jakob Nielsen Tests iPad and Kindle Reading Speeds

Jakob Nielsen Tests iPad and Kindle Reading Speeds, article.
Thanks to TidBITS, which comments:
Do you read faster or slower on a device like an iPad or Kindle, in comparison with a physical book? The overall answer, according to usability expert Jakob Nielsen, is about 5% to 10% slower (with the same comprehension of what was read). That's statistically significant, though not all that much slower. (We suspect it may have to do with years of familiarity with the form factor of the book.) More interesting was that on a 1 to 7 scale, users rated their satisfaction at 5.8 for the iPad, 5.7 for the Kindle, and 5.6 for the physical book, with the traditional PC trailing behind at only 3.6.

Update: Ganesha Games says:
This is so odd to me. Since I have the kindle, and then the iPad, my reading speed has increased by roughly 25%, with better comprehension (I read in English, which is a second language to me, so the in-built dictionaries and word search functions are a bliss).

The extreme portability of both devices also means I can read a lot when on trains, at the dentist's, in line at the post office or bank, and so on, and the availability of cheap or free reading materials have vastly increased the quantity of my reading.

But I've always been a heavy reader so maybe I'm out of the norm (a novel a week, plus a non-fiction book spread over maybe three weeks if it's heavy, plus rulebooks for games and reference materials/blogs/websites on a daily basis, and 7-8 comics a week are an average for me).

When I was a kid and teen, my father drove us to the library every Monday when it was open in the evening. And I remember that every week I would borrow and fully read about five to six books. Per week! Plus school reading. Of course, each book was not War And Peace, but still, now it seems rather extraordinary. 'Smatteroffact it must have been extraordinary, because I hardly remember seeing anybody but me and my father there in those evening hours.

I am probably also faster reading on the iPad, I haven't tried to measure it, but at least I now prefer it over reading on paper.

"Vortex" screensaver

Back in in my nineties day job using Windows '95, one of my favorite things of the OS was a screensaver, I think it was called Vortex, but I'm not sure. It froze an image of whatever you had on your screen, windows and all, and then it animated it with a sort of vortex which swirled around on the screen. It was beautiful, and I think it's amazing it could be done with a friggin' 486 computer.

I liked particularly to run it with the Gogh Starry Night painting, because the vortices fit well with those in the sky. Below is a screenshot (well, looks like several combined) of the screensaver running, which I made back then.

Hmm, I can see the screenshot is actually taken on my Mac back then, so this means it might be from 2000, and that I had managed to find a Mac OS 8 equivalent.
 Anyway, I'd be grateful if anybody can find such a screensaver for me, either for Mac OS X (Snow Leopard) or Windows (Win7).

Topless woman uses bare breasts to stop ATV noise feud

[Thanks to Louis]
Topless woman uses bare breasts to stop ATV noise feud, article.

Good for her.
People who will continually let their children be that noisy in public deserver all the gymnophobia they can scrape together.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Apple and the problematic signal bars

New Apple press release about the problematic mood-swinging signal bars in the iPhone 4. They actually say:
"Upon investigation, we were stunned to find that the formula we use to calculate how many bars of signal strength to display is totally wrong."

Formula? Formula!? How complex can it be? It's not like the strength of a signal is a multi-dimensional thing, it's a straightforward two-dimensional scale.
I think Apple will hear for this one for a while.

Update: top shelf tech journalist (stauch Apple supporter through decades) tweets: "Is it just me or does this Apple statement sound like an Onion article?" Yeah.

Update Bruce pointed to John the Fireball translating Apple's letter.
"Daring Fireball"? That's a site title so lame that it has to be "ironic". Yes, I'm putting quotes around "ironic" because I mean it ironically. Meaning I think it's one of those cases where the author claims irony to those who can see the lameness, while at the same time appeal without irony to those who think it's kewl.

More Mac/Win questions/comments

I'm used to, on the Mac, being able to "hide" an app, so all its windows disappear from the screen until you call it forth again. In Windows it seems you have to minimize or close every window manually, is this so?

Comment: MobileMe sucks. I have been paying for this (once called for ten years now, but gawd knows why!! I keep hoping that in the next year I am paying for, it will develop some useful features. And I started using the email address when it was free, so I sorta wanted to keep it when they started to charge money for it (is that even legal?).
Seriously, WTF? The free Dropbox service is way more useful than iDisk. Syncing has always been, and is still, confusing and buggy, and you risk deleting things on your computer instead of exporting them, and... what else is there? Practically fok-all, is what. I don't use the web hosting, and I don't like the comments from those who do.
This has cost me a grand now, I'm a total sucker. This is not one of the products Apple should be proud of.

Update: KC Aussie said...
I appreciate the Mobile Me may not be worth it to you Eolake, though for me it is worth the $99 per year.

I have been using MM since the beginning when it was .mac and free, just like you. I have an iMac, iPad, and iPhone, and what is invaluable to me is to be able to keep all my calendars in sync ... I see many clients every week ... sometimes I take an appt in front of my iMac, other times I am in my front hall (where my iPad lives during the day) rebooking a client, and other times I am out on the road and talking an appt on my iPhone. To have a single calendar on multiple devices which automagically syncs itself is to me, so amazing and so worth it.

Syncing of other things like Safari bookmarks and notes (with iOS 4) is helpful. Just which I could change that hard to read Markerfelt font in the notes.

I don't use the iDisk feature ... it seems clumsy and slow. I do use the mail feature and find my iPhone feature. I do use MM to host my website (which is really simple and integrated with iWeb).

I realize I could probably achieve much of the above for free using Google but I prefer to not share any data with them; I simply do not trust Google's privacy policies. So, a $99 private sync service is worth it to me.

Phone debate

Warning: lots of swear words in the video. Faintly amusing. Sort of.

It seems to me that this salesman, apart from being rude, can't distinguish between quantity of features and quality of features. For example, what matters it if a phone can do video chat over 3G if you can't get it to work most of the time and the quality is awful?

Actually I think that's the basic split between Apple lovers and Apple haters: the latter can't perceive differences in quality, they can only perceive differences in numbers.

[Updated] Windows Explorer in the nineties was good.

There's on thing I miss from when I used a Windoze machine in my day job in the nineties: Windows Explorer in Win95. It's still there, but I don't know how to make it give the view I found so very useful back then: it had two panes, each one showing a file system tree with flippy triangles, so you could easily oversee the entire file system on the left side, and also on the right side, and so you could move files from one side to the other. I think it's still the best file navigator I've tried, better than Apple's Finder (though the column view improved it).

This is shareware SpeedCommander, which approaches what I mean, even though it insists on separate panels for files, thus ending with four panels instead of two:

One thing though: I think that OS X has much better text rendering and anti-aliasing than Windows 7. Text generally looks better and is more readable.
(Funny enough, years ago tech guru Nicholas Negroponte migrated from Mac to Windows partly because Mac back then didn't have text anti-aliasing!)

On the other hand, I think the Start Button menu in Windows is immensely useful for quickly finding and launching apps and so on. I wonder why Apple never made anything similar, there simple is no simple and easy single entrance point in OS S. It's pretty stupid, to be frank. Well, you can put icons for everything in the Dock, but cripes, does that take up space. And with many, it's equally confusing; there are no sub-menus.

The iPhone is not a phone

I don't consider the iPhone a phone, I consider it a small tablet. In fact, from day one, I was wondering why Apple was calling it a phone, when phoning is clearly less than 15% of its capabilities even back then.
I guess it has to do with the popularity of telephoning, I never got that, I barely use it. But the general population surely do. In my town, the center does not have a single vidoe store, but it has six mobile phone stores next to each other!!

So anyway: for years I've been wondering: what did we do before the Internet?
Now I'm already starting to wonder: what did we do before tablets?
Example: I was talking to somebody about the speed of electric kettles.
I thought:  I'll bet anything there are several stop-watch applications for the iPhone. And what do you know, so there was. There was even a free one, which is excellent and very aesthetic.

So I could measure with ease how long it takes my electric kettle to boil two mugs of water. (1.42m.)

Obviously, the point is the bigger picture: this sort of thing will happen again and again and again, in so many areas we can't even imagine them.
(An example is an App which a friend showed me: if he hears a song, he holds his iPhone up and let it listen to it for a few seconds... and the app tells him which song it is, and where to get it!)

"What it's like to own an Apple product"

[Thanks to Jan]

"What it's like to own an Apple product", cartoon.

Quite funny.
It must be very exhausting to have that kind of attitude to your product ownership.

By the way, I bought an Apple "bumper" case for my iPh4. But I took it off again. It only protects the steel parts, the parts which don't need it. And it ruins the beautiful look of the phone.
But I did get a Zagg film for both sides. It protects the glass nicely against fingerprints and scratching, and gives it a bit of traction so it's less likely to slide around and fall off tables.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Windows shopping (updated)

I saw a big screenshot from a machine running Windows Seven, and I thought it looked very good, so I started considering getting an upgrade to my ol' Windows laptop I have for web site testing and occasional purposes. So I went to my friendly neighborhood PC World store, to go "Windows shopping".

On my way into the store, the Apple Laptops and other machines were closer, so I looked them over first, you just have to, it's such nice hardware.
A lot of interest in the iPad, I saw.

I got approached by a salesman, and I pulled myself away from the aluminium goodies, and asked to see a good high-end Windows machine. So we went and looked at those...

But man, the hardware, how it looked on all the Windows machines! I just couldn't bear it, they are so ugly. Even the most expensive machine they had (about £1100, $1600), a large Sony Vaio*, in its big, faux-silver-plastic majesty, just repelled me. I looked over all the various Wintel machines they had, both laptops and desktops, and none of them attracted me at all. Plasticky, button-y, thrown-together... there seemed to be no wholeness in the design considerations. (By the way, not all plastic is equally "plasticky"... Apple's entry-level MacBook (without the Pro) model is still white plastic, and it looks gorgeous. But then I'll bet that's a different grade of plastic.)

This is not an anti-Windows thing, like I said I very much liked the looks of the OS itself in most recent incarnation, and they say it's good to use. But unless I need the machine urgently, I want to find one where the hardware is equally pleasant to me.

Hmm... maybe I'll just combine 'em, and install Win7 on my iMac or get a MacBook Pro for it. Testers do say that due to the Intel chip, it runs as fast on Macs as it does on PCs.

Update: I did it. Just went to the shop and paid overprice for WinHomePremium, and installed it via the built-in "bootcamp" feature, on my iMac. (My secondary computer, I mainly use a MacPro.)  Went flawlessly, and took less than half an hour. So far I haven't used it much, but it looks very pretty on the big iMac screen, way better than olden-times Windows. And just this fact alone: the desktop is not strewn with friggin icons!! Gotta love that.  Just goes to show that they do listen... it only takes a couple of decades.

Update: I must say, the Win-terface is really improved.  It feels logical, and it's beautiful, the way the windows look and move and so on, I actually feel, for once, that Apple could learn something here, very little has changed in the OS X look at feel over these ten years.
It might be a little frivolous, but for example I like how, if I try to drag a window down so it collides with the Dock, sorry, the Task Bar, then there is a little, tastefully animated "explosion" bubble, which shows there's a conflict. And if I force the matter, I can push the window behind the Task Bar, but it gets blurry like the Task Bar is translucent. I might get tired of such cutenesses, I don't know, but right now they seem nice.
I like the way that windows corners buttons softly light up in different colors when you approach them. It's pretty and it tell you clearly what you're about to do. Apple's round buttons get a little cross in them, it's less clear, and sometimes the botton doesn't actually work even though the cross is activated, a clear flaw.
(No, I'll probably not change platform, I'm just amazed I can find so many things to like about the new Windows.)

BTW, the machine is nagging me to urgently buy some virus software. What do you recommend? 

* I can't find a picture of that model. Those I do find pictures of look better, but I'm not sure if that's just the picture.

The Scary Truth About Marriage

Joe found this amazingly cynical satire. Not sure whether to laugh or cry.

Microsoft Kills Kin

Microsoft Kills Kin, article.
(Rob Glaser commented: did they notify next of kin?)
Just six weeks after launch, Microsoft's Kin, the social phone we wanted to love, is dead. Microsoft is ending its short life, sources close to Microsoft tell us. [...]
The major reason? Sales. Microsoft never confirmed (or denied) that only 500 Kins were sold, but it's clear that the response has been completely underwhelming. 

Wow. Only six weeks after launch!  It must suck to be in the group for one of those MS (or anywhere) products which fall totally flat on their face. If it was a good product, that must be a hard blow, and if it was a bad product, the whole long experience must surely have blown.

Wow again, get a load of Kin's site. (In safari but not in firefox I get a very "MTV" intro video)  It's worse (form over content) than any of the incarnations of David Bowie's site over the years. (His site, by the way, is not loading at all for me recently... what's up with that, is he dead or what? David seemed, personally, to be the one big artist who understood really early on how important the Net is.)

Funny sidebar: Gizmodo says that MS marketed the Kin to "hipsters". This is one of those words who have major definitions which are virtually antonyms: one is a person who is very Cool and In, and another is a person with "a particularly strong sense of alienation from most established social activities and relationships." Heh. I'd like to see how Microsoft would try to market to the latter!
(By the way, I, and most of my friends I suspect, fit way better in the second definition than in the first.)

Also by the by: is the wayback machine not working anymore? I mean not actively archiving?  There doesn't seem to be any newish results.

Update: Ray said:
Here's a screen shot of Bowie's website.
The first time I tried to connect, it wouldn't load,
but a few minutes later, I got this.

(In my opinion, that text is way too small to consider well legible. His site has always been like that.) (Of course too-small text is a *very* wide-spread issue on the web. Thank goodness most of it can be enlarged.)

Pentax 645D Debuts in Japan again

So the Pentax 645D is real now.
I think it's a highly interesting camera. It seems to be really high quality, it's way cheaper than other medium format cameras, and I think it's the only of those which has been developed with landscape and art photography in mind, rather than advertising and product photography.
And from the looks of it, I have a feeling it's more ergonomic than those big pro cameras usually are.

Street photography shots

TCGirl found this collection of good street photos.

Shaving the kitty

[Thanks to Jim]

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A block for UK police searches

European Court rejects Home Office appeal, Section 44 found illegal, article.
In short, it's now again a little harder for a bobby to justify stopping and searching a photographer just because he doesn't like his face.

Minor disturbances

I live in a pretty quite neighborhood overall, which I like.
A couple of minor disturbances are 1: a dog which occasionally stands outside barking for hours. 2: the icecream van, coming every day, playing "Greensleeves" with some mechanical method which has forever ruined that nice song for me.
I have purchased poison for the dog and a bazooka for the van. But it occurs to me that sometimes even the most justified of actions can have unforeseen legal complications. But surely getting rid of these pests can't be amongst them?

Zeppellina revisited

I just revisited the art of an old friend and reader of this blog, Zeppelina. I think her stuff is marvelous. Very kinky, and yet very artful.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

5-year-old on 911 call

[Thanks to Henry]
I could do without the host, but this is a cool girl.

My tee-shirt and colors

I just talked to the owner of a beauty salon here in town. She has seen my acclaimed tee-shirt and wants it as uniform for herself and her staff, only she'd like it on orange.

I was not sure it could be done, the web site from the company who makes them for me is not exactly userfriendly.

But it can be done. You can also do it, and there are other colors to choose from too.

Go to:

... click on the black man.
... then click on the Yellow shirt.
... Then click on "Customize" on the right.

Then select your shirt color (orange for example) and your size on the left side. (The sizes are a little on the small side.)

Ihnatko iPhone review

Andy reviews the iPh4.
Hi rez pics samples here.
If a quick glance at the iPhone 4’s new features inspires initial cynicism, spending five days immersed in the actual device makes another impression entirely. For the first time since 2007, I feel as though the device I’m carrying isn’t merely an improved iPhone, but a truly new one.

"Apple of My Eye" - an iPhone 4 film

[Thanks to KC Aussie]
"Apple of My Eye" - a short-film shot and edited entirely on the iPhone 4.

Eizo: Pin-up Calendar 2010

[Thanks to Pi]
Eizo is a brand of medical supplies. This is their pin-up calendar. I really have mixed feelings about it.       :-)
Funny, I guess. But creepy. 

It must be the Ne Plus Ultra of revealing girlie pics.

The shoes are a quite funny ingredient.

Writing workshop still going

My writing workshop is still going.

Monday, June 28, 2010


A snail was mugged by a turtle. When the police asked him what happened, the snail said, 'I don't know. It all happened so fast'.

"Reading while sunbathing nude makes you well red."

podcasts auto d/l

Does anybody know an app which will let your iPhone/Pod/iPad check for and download new episodes of podcasts, without having to go 'round the desktop computer? I've heard they exists, but I can't find any.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Why wear socks with sandals? (Updated)

  1. Why not? 
  2. I'm a rebel.
  3. To not get so dirty feet. 
  4. I don't like to sweat into my sandals.
  5. I never sacrifice comfort for looks, especially not other people's ideas of looks. 
  6. I've inherited my father's overall handsomeness, but sadly also his crooked toes. (This is an additional reason these days, but I've done this all my life.)
  7. I like it. To me, it's the best of both worlds.
  8. It gives some people something to laugh at, making them feel better about themselves for a moment. It's an easy way to do a little charity. If those people were surrounded only by people who looked and dressed better than themselves, they'd feel bad, and I can't have that on my conscience. 

PS: I can't find the durn article now, but there was a an article which pointed out that nerds dress informally deliberately as a protest against the idea that such things as wearing a tie or not has any importance whatsoever in the world.
Nerds don't want to spend the time and energy to follow fashion demands, they consider it wasteful.

Anonymous said...
the socks are OK, but the CARPET!

eolake said...
Ah yes, that's the carpet from my local electronics store, a couple of days ago I was down to get an iPod classic, having decided it was a mistake to try to replace my old one with an iPod Touch, in that the touch has poorer ergonomics without physical buttons. (You can't control it without looking at, such as in a pocket or on the bedside table when in bed.)

Humor is your friend

[Thanks to Henry]
As teachers and parents everywhere have discovered (but usually not realized), if you don't make Humor your ally, it will be your enemy.

Our teacher asked us what our favorite animal was, and I said, "Fried chicken." She said I wasn't funny, but she couldn't have been right, everyone else in the class laughed.

My parents told me to always be truthful and honest, and I am. Fried chicken is my favorite animal. I told my dad what happened, and he said my teacher was probably a member of PETA. He said they love animals very much. I do, too. Especially chicken, pork and beef.

Anyway, my teacher sent me to the principal's office. I told him what happened, and he laughed, too. Then he told me not to do it again.

The next day in class my teacher asked me what my favorite live animal was. I told her it was chicken. She asked me why, just like she'd asked the other children. So I told her it was because you could make them into fried chicken. She sent me back to the principal's office again. He laughed, and told me not to do it again.

I don't understand. My parents taught me to be honest, but my teacher doesn't like it when I am. Today, my teacher asked us to tell her what famous person we admire most.

I told her, "Colonel Sanders." Guess where I am now...

Samsung hig-end compact

Samsung is treading where angels fear to go: the high-end compact camera market. But it seems that apart from a shortish zoom and no HD video, the Samsung EX1 is doing really well. It has a very good and fast lens, and a good sensor for a small-sensor camera. (I recommend reading a couple more reviews as they become available, Mike Reichman is sharp, but he has a tendency to be very enthusiastic about his newest toy.)

Barbie loves Woody

But which fresh girl doesn't?

(Notice on the lower right, it's actually the title of the toy.)