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  • 19 December, 2009

    OCD geekness.

    posted by Pablo Defendini at 7:15 pm permalink

    I just spent the last hour and a half coming up with the nicest, cleanest, most organized cable management solution I could muster, and I think I did a decent job. Check out the rest of the images on Flickr.

  • 18 December, 2009

    Smart.

    posted by Pablo Defendini at 3:34 pm permalink

    I’m not a huge fan of Michael Hyatt’s, generally speaking. I don’t think he’s often as smart as everyone thinks (I’m also aware that this is probably an unfair bias of mine, a symptom of my ingrained dislike of anything to do with superstition and deism). I’m happy to be proven wrong, on occasion, and today’s the day. Hyatt has posted a fantastic piece on his blog regarding the future of publishing (what, that old bag again?) which I think is spot-fucking-on, from intro to last paragraph. His bullet points below, but please do yourself a favour and check out the full post for Hyatt’s thoughts:

    The line between newspapers, magazines, and books is about to become blurred.

    Publishers will need to envision multimedia content from the beginning.

    Consumer expectations are going to skyrocket.

    The cost of producing digital books will get more expensive.

    Digital content creation and distribution will become our primary focus.

    People will be reading more than ever.

    It’s really a shame that none of the big six publishers seem to have this kind of clear-eyed, forward-looking leadership, and are more interested in whining and moaning about how their business model is under attack (um, yeah, it’s under attack because it’s not sustainable. It actually never was. Now get over it and find a new one).

  • 16 December, 2009

    Readers by Author

    posted by Pablo Defendini at 12:24 pm permalink

    This is brilliant, and hilarious. My faves:

    Ayn Rand

    Workaholics seeking validation.

    Michael Crichton

    Doctors who went to third-tier medical schools.

    John Grisham

    Doctors who went to medical schools in the Dominican Republic. (NB: That would be my dad. I don’t think he would’a been into Grisham. Regardless: AW SNAP)

    Hunter S Thompson

    That kid in your philosophy class with the stupid tattoo.

    Gabriel Garcia Marquez

    Men who can’t lie but will instead be silent if they know you don’t want to hear the truth. (Sadly, this is probably me.)

  • 11 December, 2009

    Some nook notes.

    posted by Pablo Defendini at 12:59 pm permalink

    nookSo I got my hands on a nook the other day, and boy, have I got some notes. The short version, for the lazy, is that in general, I think I feel the same way about the nook as I do about the Kindle, the Sony, and any other eInk-based device: it’s the equivalent of a 13″ b&w tube set in the 50′s, a decent product that’s hindered by sub-standard tech and so-so industrial design. 2010 will see your nook, and raise you a colour OLED or LCD display. In any case, geeky comments beyond. Feel free to chime in with questions, corrections or comments.

    Random first impressions on unboxing
    I am officially getting tired of the word “nook”. It’s hard to not make it sound dirty. (…and @evilrooster chimes in via Twitter: “It won’t help your view of the nook to know that the Dutch verb “neuken” means “to fuck/screw”, will it? Thought not.” Sigh. Naming FAIL)
    You can add your own wallpapers and screensavers (without resorting to hacking your device, that is…). Nice touch.
    USB cables for nook and Kindle are interchangeable. Well done. (Not so for the Sony. The irony? Sony actually has the standard mini-USB connector. WTF, universe?)
    Both Kindle and nook have a simple, straightforward (visible) file structure on mounting as a connected volume on a Mac. Once more: the Sony, not so much. Guess it makes sense since it’s the one that’s tied the closest to a desktop client.

    Hardware
    The hardware is nicely designed. My first thought was : “Hey, someone actually hired an industrial designer to design an eBook Reader! Cool!” It’s much better designed than the Kindle 2, and comparable to the Sony. Sony feels heavier and more solid, since it’s metal. The nook feels friendlier and sleeker.
    It’s thicker than Kindle, which is a good thing for holding in the hand (I think. On the other hand, the Sony is the thinnest of the bunch, and feels really great, especially when held in landscape mode).
    Paging buttons are nicely done. They’re under the plastic, so they’re seamless. Sharp, solid click. Button layout is much, much, much better/simpler than Kindle’s or Sony’s. Would be nice if you could invert them, like on gaming controlers.

    The Sony (and I should clarify that by Sony I mean the Sony PRS 6oo) is still my favourite design. Feels solid as hell, you don’t feel like you need to handle it gingerly, like you do with the Kindle and the nook. Plus, its slightly smaller size makes a huge difference in terms of being able to quickly stick it in a jacket pocket or the back pocket of a pair of jeans.

    I haven’t found any teardowns yet. But given the speed issues, I’m thinking there’s a very underpowered processor inside this puppy. haven’t found any teardowns yet. But given the speed issues, I’m thinking there’s a very underpowered processor inside this puppy. This wiki will probably prove useful.

    Formats
    nook: EPUB, PDB, PDF, JPG, GIF, PNG, BMP, MP3. Absolutely not manuscript-friendly, sadly. You have to convert a DOC, TXT, or RTF file into an EPUB or a PDF.
    Kindle: AZW, PRC, PDF, TXT, JPG, GIF, PNG, BMP, MP3
    Sony: EPUB, PDF, TXT, JPG, GIF, PNG, BMP, MP3

    Software
    The touchscreen-controls-eInk scheme seems to work well, in theory, and after an hour or so of use.

    From Walt Mossberg’s review:

    “Also, when the touch screen is dark, it can be swiped to turn pages instead of using the physical page-turning buttons at the sides of the main screen.”

    Nice, but I hadn’t stumbled upon this usage, I keep trying to avoid the touchscreen while reading, so as to not accidentally turn it back on.

    However….
    The nook feels damn slow. In reality, its eInk display is probably not much slower than the Kindle (except after more than, say 10-15 min of inactivity. Then it seems to take a while to ramp back up), but the relative sharpness and responsiveness of the LCD touchscreen really makes the eInk display feel pokey and laggy.

    In addition, having actions on the snappier LCD affect events on the laggy eInk display creates an odd dissonance. Like a co-worker said to me, it’s like when you hear your own voice on a delay as you’re speaking, you get to a point where you can’t talk over it….

    This might just take getting used to, like the iPhone keyboard did, but I doubt it. Where with the iPhone I was learning how to use something which is fast and responsive, this feels more like learning to live with a handicap.

    Speaking of keyboards and the iPhone: The interface for the LCD is also damn slow and blunt-feeling. Being used to the iPhone’s responsiveness, again, the nook’s UI feels too tiny and half-baked.

    Ironically, it’s not a question of scale: the hit areas are comparable (or in some cases larger) than the iPhone’s, it’s just that the visual feedback you get isn’t as smooth or snappy—transitional animations take time to load, highlights and other indicators are too brief, and other, lag-related UI tics

    Needless to say, combine the lag with the dissonance mentioned above, and typing is a bit of a disjointed activity.

    From David Pogue’s review:

    “Often, you tap some button on the color strip — and nothing happens. You wait for the Nook to respond, but there’s no progress bar, no hourglass, no indication that the Nook “heard” you. So you tap again — but now you’ve just triggered a second command that you didn’t want.”

    (I had this experience as well. Mighty frustrating.)

    This can all be fixed with a software update, which has been promised soon, though—as in before the year is out (I think), so we’ll see.

    The UI is trying really hard to ape Apple’s (in a good way), but it’s nowhere near as thought out.

    The default typeface for reading text, Amasis, is well-suited to the task: thick and wide, it makes the nook read much more clearly than the Kindle or the Sony (at smaller type sizes). Also includes Helvetica Neue for sans-serif reading. I like Helvetica Neue. Large type size isn’t large enough for people who actually need large print. Looks to be around 11 or 12 pt—which is about standard text size for most printed books.

    Reading
    The slowness of the nook is a big, big minus factor here. But it’s actually not the refresh rate–that’s tolerable and comparable to the Kindle’s—it’s the lag before the screen actually reacts at all. It’s really annoying and conducive to spacing out between page loads. That said, as mentioned before, the nook and the Kindle 2 have similar page refresh rates. The Sony has a faster refresh rate (these are anecdotal/experiential side-by-side measurements, not timed, mind), and, coupled with a snappier UI, makes for the best reading experience. The Sony in landscape mode remains my favourite for reading, in terms of form factor (haven’t read much on the Kindle 2 in landscape mode, though)

    Desktop Client
    Available for Mac & PC. No Linux love. Having to authenticate every single book the first time I open it is a major pain in the ass.

    Mobile Client
    Available for iPhone and Blackberry. No Android for you! Doesn’t seem to feature any connectivity to nook for now (no syncing of last place read across devices like Kindle on iPhone, etc)

    Shopping
    First book I tried to download was The Eye of the World. No confirmation on device or via email, but the book did download. Second purchase I made was confirmed via email and on the device. Download notice pops up as a pane in the middle of the screen (as long as you’re not in the middle of reading a book, I hope), which is nice, since Kindle is kinda quiet about when it’s downloading stuff. Very painless, and the color LCD here works nicely: color covers, and a few main choices (Buy, Subscribe, Get free sample, Wishlist, View)

    In-Store Experience
    Went to B&N Union Square, NYC. The nook picks up a branded B&N WiFi network, but not much else happens to indicate anything special.

    I know that the eInk screen is the bottleneck in terms of speed, and WiFi at B&N shouldn’t really be that much faster than WiFi at home (if at all), but the irrational consumer in me half-expected to experience better speeds at the ‘mothership’.

    Finding a book by Kim Stanley Robinson on the nook took (ugh.) me as long as it took my companion to deliberate and choose three or four trade paperbacks and mass markets.

    I finally approached the slick, white, nook counter, where the one kid at the counter really had a hard time demoing the nook due to its slowness and tried to tell me that the Special Offers & Articles section at the bottom of the device’s Shop home screen were the in-store special offers (they’re not, they load when accessing the store through my connection at home as well).

    Upon further questioning, he told me that the in-store software (as well as speed bumps and additional features) would be forthcoming in a software update due out very soon (he was non-committal on a date, but talked about weeks).

    I really did get a feeling of Ship-at-All-Costs-itis. B&N will quickly get their act together, I’m sure, but I don’t think this is a very successful launch.

    Lending

    TK

    Conclusions
    In general, I think I feel the same way about the nook as I do about the Kindle, the Sony, and any other eInk-based device: it’s the equivalent of a 13″ b&w tube set in the 50′s, a decent product that’s hindered by sub-standard tech and so-so industrial design. I’m gonna give the nook another go-round once B&N gets their act together and pushes out that software update. In the meantime, I’m back to reading on my Sony. Anyone else wanna chime in with questions, corrections or comments?

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