Saturday, September 04, 2010

Mighty Bright light

Another funny koinkidink: Ray just mentioned, under the desk post, that a light for the keyboard might be nice. And a reviewer of my new Mighty Bright lamps said that's one thing he's using it for. I don't need it, but his keyboard is on a keyboard shelf and badly lit in the evenings.

They are originally made for (and for some reason still only promoted for) use by musicians for their sheet music, but they have many uses. They are very small and very light (they hardly add weight to a Kindle or a paper book), they have a neutral light color, and since it's an LED lamp, it uses very little battery. You can twist it to any position you like, nice construction.

They won't, you know, compete with the sun, but I think they can be handy in a blackout, so I have bought three, and I keep one on my desk for the odd occasion when I have to sign a check in the evening or summin'.

The grip on the naked Kindle is not so dang secure, which is why I put soft tape around it. Didn't help much, but a little strip of velcro did. (I went looking for actual rubber tape, which surely must exist somewhere, but people went blank when I asked for it.)

I think it has just sufficient light to help with a book in a typical room, and to give the little extra. The one I link to above is not available in the UK, but it has two "super" LEDs, so perhaps it has more light. [Update: my mistake, they are on A-UK.]

Shooting to a Theme

Shooting to a Theme, tOP article.

I think he's right, selecting a theme does get you going.
And what's more, I think it'll surely work well in many other media too, painting, writing, music, whatnot.

Ray's clouds (updated/expanded)

Ray has sent me some nice cloud photos he took yesterday, and allowed me to post them here.

Vancouver Bay

Update: by funny coincidence, my friend Zeppelina just now sent this evening's sunset in Glasgow, very impressive:

They look great on my screens.

An empty desk

I'm honestly not really sure about what to say about Einstein's thought here. (Except that it's a nicely witty retort.) But two thoughts occurred to me about the photo: if the purpose was to show a neat and pretty computer desk, a bluetooth keyboard would have been even better. (I try to avoid bluetooth, it seems so buggy to me.) Which is probably why Apple is pushing bluetooth so much, it looks neater.
And secondly: I think I rapidly would become tired of the lamp reflecting in the glass table top. Like, within 90 seconds.

(I would also have used a different desktop image than Apple's over-used starfield, but hey well.)

I'm fanatical about keeping my virtual desktop totally clean, to enjoy the images I have there better. But funny enough, I'm less so about my real desktop. I'm working after all, and if I put for example my pens and my reading glasses in a drawer, that's so many more times I'll have to open and close drawers. 
But actually, I guess there is only on it what needs to be. Except for a camera or two for decoration and inspiration. But once you have the non-matching but high-performance keyboard and trackballs and their cables, and the books under the screens to elevate them, making it look totally neat is pretty much a lost cause anyway.  
[Thanks to Naeem]

Wide Angle Camera Phone Lenses

Dippence tipped me off on (or perhaps just promoted) these cool attachment lenses for practically any camera-phone (they attach magnetically). There's a fish-eye, and a combined wide/macro.

They look very cute/fun and even high quality, and for a surprisingly low price. Almost too low to be as good quality as they seem, but heck, fun is fun.

One should note that such lenses of course does not replace the phone's existing lens, it modifies it. This means that the end result can't be quite as high quality optically as the lens on its own, but then with today's optics it does not need to be very much lower either.

The reason is that lenses are very precise and complex, and if you add something to a lens, it has to be painstakingly attuned to and produced for exactly that lens to not reduce the quality. Nikon for example has a zoom lens and tele lens with dedicated teleconverters which deliver virtually the same quality as the naked lenses, but this is an unusual achievement. 

Friday, September 03, 2010

Pros and cons of working from home

Pros and cons of working from home.

Russia in color, a century ago

[Thanks to Ian P]

Russia in color, a century ago, picture article.

Wow, talk about a time when color photography was rare! There was not even any color film a century ago. This was insanely tricky work.

I really like the Boston Globe's work in reversing the idea that news photos on the web must be really tiny, for the lowest common denominator. Their feature The Big Picture is very popular. (Odd I haven't heard of any imitators.)

Business and loved ones

This was something that occurred to me, and I'm surprised that I can't remember ever reading/hearing any philosophy about it:

I wonder if it isn't generally a bad idea to go into business with somebody you have a close relationship with (family, lover, friend)?
It just seems to me that sooner or later there's almost bound to be a decision where what's good for business will hurt the relationship, and vice versa. And there's just no easy way out of that.

I'm sure there are many examples of it working for many years, but I think that the percentage where it has had no detrimental effect at all on either the business or the relationship is pretty small.

Thursday, September 02, 2010


We don't have an iPorsche yet, but how about an iMercedes? (Actually called iBusiness.)

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

A dinosaur

From the Barnes and Noble debacle (they can't sell ebooks to overseas), it's becoming clear to me that the book publishing industry is letting old ideas of national markets strangle the ebook market for themselves. Which is one of the best indicators I've seen that it's not going to be these guys who will be the big players in the e-publishing market in this century.

Seth Godin said something similar: new things will be the new publishing. And it will not be done by the same people.

Indeed. It would be like a 40-year-old boxing champion trying to take up bicycle racing. To old, too slow, much too different a game.

Oh durn dammit whuzzat?

[Thanks to Kirk]

I can't believe these guys. I think they are really Peter Parker and Matt Murdock.

Not the least the jumps from 1:09 to 1:14. Man, even at fifteen I would have killed myself just thinking about it. How the hell does he land so precisely?
And how do they not break all their bones learning how to do this?

Philocalist rightly point out that, as often, by clicking on the youtube logo you can see it in HD if your machine and connection can handle it.

"In Defense of Books"

In Defense of Books, outstanding article.

The author, Michael Hyatt, is talking about books in any form, paper, audio, or ebooks.
The argument is that "sustained arguments" or long stories, "books" are a linchpin in civilization, and perhaps even something without which civilization may fail, or fail sooner.
I agree very much.

Since about seven I have been a voracious reader. One of the oddest views in the world to me (though one I'll have to get used to as ebooks advance) is a home without book shelves. To me it's like a home without a sink or a bed. Where do they keep their books?

The article makes the point that more successful people tend to read more. (Although work certainly is an important factor!) TV takes this place in other homes. The question is, do you merely wish for entertainment all the time, or do you have a craving for knew knowledge and new thoughts? To expand your mind and your skills?

Apple music event

I just watched Steve Jobs' "keynote" speech, streamed live today (impressively). As usual, I enjoyed it very much.

Funny, though, Steve really loved that they had made the iPod Shuffle, the Nano, and the Apple TV much smaller yet. But I feel none of these products needed to become smaller. Have you ever seen anybody lift up the coin-sized iPod Shuffle and say: "man, I really wish this thing was smaller and lighter"... ?

And the Apple TV is for a shelf. Not bad it's much smaller, but not really something I ever wished for either.
(Update: Tonya Engst: "I predict for Apple September 2011 iPods so small that you wear them as contact lenses. Of course, they'll come in different colors!")

And he just got past saying about the Shuffle that "people missed the buttons" on the last model, and then he proudly announces that they have removed the buttons from the Nano!

All right, it makes more sense on that one, because it has a touch screen now. But on an iPod, I really like having buttons, because (like Mr. Jobs actually pointed out) you can operate it without looking at it (in a pocket or on my bedside table for ebook reading). I use an iPod classic instead of the Touch for this reason.

... Which makes me worried, because he did not mention the Classic at all! Are they going to stop making it? What about those with big collections, and those who like the buttons?
Seems they are still selling it at least. Still the same capacity though. Not that I need any more, but I know there are people who have like ten iPods just for the space they need.

Gotta admit though that technically the new Touch is very impressive, and even more so considering that price. From $229. Dang.
Similarly the prices of the new Shuffle and the Apple TV are just insanely cheap. Apple is going all out in the consumer market.
(Ugh, I see now that the price for Apple TV is the same in Pounds Sterling as in dollars, however...) (See here. Yes, why do we never have deals like the free NetFlix streaming they get in the US? Seriously.)

FaceBook and parties

I get this allergic reaction whenever I visit FaceBook for some reason.
I guess it's the same reason I dislike parties: there's no content. There's no depth, no thought. There is just a big, noise time-sponge.

Blonnestijn card designs

Blonnestijn card designs.

I long had a weakness for artistic enterpretations of symbols. Flat designs.
I think these are very good (albeit pretty morbid many of them).

B&N follow-up (updated)

Following up on this, a kind friend allowed me to use her US credit card in the B&N ebook store. But check this: I filled out all data, and successfully bought an issue of WSJ for a buck to test it, and it all went fine, until the moment I tried to download it. Then I was told there was "an issue" with the payment.
Then a bit later I got an email from them which said that I had to be physically present in the US to buy their ebooks!

What the heck kind of law or rule requires such draconian measures?
(Like my friend says: "What if I were traveling overseas and wanted a book to read?")

And how come Amazon has no trouble selling me books, electronic or otherwise? Even with a UK or Danish credit card. (I bought my first Kindle ebook on October 21, 2009, well before they had a UK Kindle store.)

B&N tells me in an email:
We must comply with copyright rules governing the sale and use of digital content. These rules currently require that all eBook purchases from our website be made within the United States and U.S. Territories (or Canada). Although we are investigating options that will help safeguard author and publisher rights while making eBooks available for purchase outside the above-named areas, only customers physically located in the U.S. and Canada are able to purchase eBooks on the Barnes & Noble website at this time.
Please accept our sincere apologies for any inconvenience this may cause.

OK then.
I wonder why it would be different for Amazon though. Maybe they bar books on an individual basis, and B&N doesn't have the resources for that yet?

Further, I have never heard of a book store refusing to sell a book to a customer in another country before. Amazon surely never has, I have bought hundreds of books, CDs, and DVDs from their US store since the nineties. 

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Apple's struggle for a TV rental service

Apple's struggle for a TV rental service, article.
Apple believes it can deliver the same, or higher, revenues to TV networks and studios by offering 48 hour TV show rentals for US$0.99 as they currently get through TV show sales on iTunes.

I think that's a great idea. I haven't seen a TV rental service before, but a buck would be a decent price. Shouldn't be more.
I can rent films over my cable service, but the prices are crazy, so I never do it. I suspect most feel that way.

Vincent Laforet shows gear

Vincent Laforet shows gear he used in Italy for shooting a TV pilot.
He has built a professional filming gear assembly based on a semi-professional DSLR not really meant for video, the Canon 7D.

(It's available in real HD on Vimeo, click on their logo.)

The GoPro Hero camera he uses is pretty amazing. Full HD in the size of half a pack of cigarettes, and totally rugged.

Decorative apps?

I have a nice aquarium app. But the scenery does not change, so it gets old. Does anybody know any other decorative iPad apps? Like slowly changing (visually) clocks? Or an updated satellite view of your area? Or a high-rez photo of a famous plaza, updated every five minutes? Or... there should be many, many possibilities.

Kobo eReader

Kobo eReader. I had not even heard of this one. Seems it's connected with Borders.

It seems slower than Kindle 3. But it has a couple of points which I think is better interface. It has a big rubber control pad. Kindle still has the buttons on the side. They are smaller now, but it's still hard to handle it without clicking them accidentally. Not great. And I like the Kobo's fast way of changing text size (even though it should have more than five sizes).

The textured-rubber back is also a good idea. (Review.) That and the rather button-free front should make it easier to hold than either the Kindle or iPad.

Would you give your right arm to have this left arm?

This Terminator-worthy prosthetic arm is apparently a real historic one.
Though the Science Museum site claims it's a right arm, so I'm not sure we can trust them.

My dad used to define the right arm as "it's the one where the thumb points to the left".

The limits of chess?

Do you know, has anybody made this experiment? If you pit two identical chess computers against each other for many games, how will it turn out? Will they win half-half, will they tie, or will white usually win  because it has the first move?

The usual territorialism

I've been trying out Barnes And Nobles' ebook software for the iPad, and so I got a promo email from them. And they have a bunch of free ebooks, including Dante's Inferno. "Kool," I thought, "let's get that". So I clicked on it, and they wanted my credit card for any future use. I did not get miffed about that, I actually thought it was a clever idea for building up an eventually-paying audience.

What miffed me though, was that after I had filled out all my detail over two pages, then I was told that I could not get the free ebook because I am not a resident of the USA!

Apart from this being the usual publishing territorialism which should have died when the Berlin wall fell, at the very least they could have told me up front that their shop is only open to US customers. Why does nobody do this?

Long form journalism

If you like reading longer articles (for example on a handheld device), here are two good twitter resources: Longform and Longreads. (If you don't use twitter, there is
(Thanks to this article by Mallary Jean Tenore, linked to a couple days ago.)

Cup cosy for hot beverages

Cup cosy for hot beverages, Etsy.

Oldey-timey computer ads

[Thanks to Joe]

Oldey-timey computer ads.

ViewSonic's new Android-based ViewPad

ViewSonic's new Android-based ViewPad. Is it a huge phone or a tiny tablet?
I'm not sure. But it might be a good ebook reader. Not bigger than a Kindle, but full-color and full-contrast screen.
Anyway, it'll be interesting to see what kinds of tablets will come out in the next year or two, now that Apple has broken the popularity ice. 

Monday, August 30, 2010

Art books??

In this excellent discussion about the cultural migration from paper to ebooks, Engst and Ihnatko agree that all books pretty much eventually will be ebooks. Except art books. They laughed hardily at something like Adam Hughes best-selling Cover To Cover being viewed on the Kindle.

And that idea is indeed laughable. But it instantly becomes less laughable if you think about it on an iPad instead. Not great, but not laughable.

In fact, all we need, and we'll get it within a few years at most, is a tablet which weighs no more than the iPad, but has twice the screen area, and somewhat higher resolution, then you have a perfect vehicle for almost any art you could ever put in a book anyway. And the technology is already there.

I only own two art books with pages too large to show (in full at least) on such a screen: Little Nemo In Slumberland, and Acme Novelty Library*. But both of these are very exceptional.  And though you could not fit their pages on such a tablet, you could certainly easily read them and enjoy them.

Of course the bandwidth and storage demands for such books will be a few orders of magnitude bigger than with text, but 'eck, if we can handle films, we can handle high-rez art too. 

Maybe over the years I'm moving towards the paper/book/packaging-less home? I have nice book shelves, and they would look great if they had leather books on them which were all color-matched... But they are not.

* Both are stunning books by the way. And I can't believe that ANL is only about twenny bucks now.
Little Nemo is huge. It's over twice the size of any book I've ever owned. The reason is that it was originally (a century ago) drawn and printed for Sunday papers, a full page, and they've kept this size.

Rid of mags

Wow, I finally pulled myself together to get rid of the magazines (photo mags, film mags, Wired, and such) which have piled up here during the eight years I've lived here. Many of them not even read. Gawd, what a bulk. The sheer combined weight was such that I had to go down five times with the big black bags.

I've not quite decided what to do with the comics. Maybe I'll just hold on to them a while yet. Because it's not bad stuff, there's a lot of really good picks in there. If in a few years it seems I will actually never read them again, then I'll give them away to an orphanage or something.

How the game works

How you do well in one area is not necessarily how you do well in another area.

A young woman was walking down the street when she encountered a homeless man with a scraggly beard, unkempt hair, and who was wearing shabby clothes and holding out a cup. "Spare some change, please?" he asked. The cup was only about 1/3 full.

Feeling sorry for him, she pulled out her wallet, took out a few bills and handed them to the man. "Here," she said. "Buy yourself some new clothes."

"Thank you," the homeless man replied.

The next day, the girl was walking down the same street when she encountered the same man, but this time he was wearing a fine suit and polished shoes, was clean-shaven and his hair was washed and combed neatly. He was holding out an empty cup.

"How's it going?" the girl asked.

"Not so good," the man said.

"But you look really nice," the girl commented.

"True," the man replied, "But I haven't made a cent all day!"

Battle of the boxes

Quite funny, even if you're only vaguely interested in the subject.

If you would like a more scientific comparison (which includes more brands too), there's a new one here.

Milo, the virtual boy

[Thanks to Tommy]

At least the boy seems to be one of the most realistic CGI humans I've seen.

How Technology Is Renewing Attention to Long-form Journalism

How Technology Is Renewing Attention to Long-form Journalism, article.

Articles on Kindle

If anybody has a Kindle and is wondering how to get web articles onto it easily, Instapaper can do it, and in highly readable format too. Unlike the iPad, there's no app on it which will update it automatically with new articles, but you can mail a collection of articles to your Kindle from the Instapaper extras page (or it can do it automatically every day or weekly). It will even put them in a magazine format so there will be an index page, very clever programming.

Spell checkers are not organizsed

I wrote an email containing the word "organized", and the spell checker in my email app flagged it and insisted that it's spelled "organised". What the heck, I did as it told me.

Then I copied some text from it into a blog post at my unknown spiritual blog, and the spell checker in the browser flagged the word and insisted that it is spelled "organized".

Isn't this typical of the world, even if you try to be as correct and obedient as you can, you still can't do it right, because the authorities don't even agree.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Glenn Z tee-shirts

Glenn Z tee-shirts. Many, many wonderful ones.
His store

(The art is pretty much too good to be on tee-shirts.)

Free admission

I missed a photo a few years ago. They were changing the sign over the pub The Brass Cat, and a guy on a ladder was standing just so his butt was covering the BR...


Stuff, article.
Do you own stuff, or does the stuff own you?

A better reading experience

I am finding to my surprise that:

E-reading is not just as good as paper reading, it is better. 
By removing several small niggles about reading, e-reading has rekindled my enthusiasm about reading. 

(I wonder if Amazon saw this phenomenon coming when they named the Kindle at first.)

This is the first time I've experienced real fresh desire for reading more, rather than the act of reading being a burden I had to carry to get the meessage/story.
And this is just the start, the devices (e-readers as well as small tablets) will continue to improve their screens, weight, speed, and usability.

Dave said:
No it isn't. Besides, audio books are the way to go if you're into abandoning paper books. With the Kindle or iPad you're still using your eyes like a sucker. I prefer paper books to electronic, but I'd rather lay back in the dark and put on an audio book and relax. Depending on who is reading it. Right now I'm listening to Stephen Fry.

eolake said...
I love audio books, I'd hate to tell you how much money I've spent on them (like a sucker).

If it's a very engrossing book, it's great. If it's not always equally interesting, with text reading you can vary the speed and depth with which you're reading. For instance in Moby Dick, the loooong lists of scary white things, or of species of whales, in audio I think "oh gawd, how long does this go on...". I could skip, but then you don't know what you might miss in the text.

And of course, few books are in audio in the first place, sadly.