Category Archives: Electronics

iWow 3D

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To be fair, I was skeptical of this device when I ordered it. It’s certainly something that I would like to work as promised but I haven’t found anything that really does the trick thus far. However, given how easy Amazon makes returns, I was willing to take the risk; it’s tough to find great new stuff without taking a few chances. So, I added it to my cart and hoped for the best.

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When I pulled it out of the box, I couldn’t help thinking it looked like a manta ray. The device plugs into the 30-pin connector on your iPod/Touch/iPad and claims to dramatically improve the sound you’re getting through your headphones. Here is what the manufacturer says:

“Hear What You’ve Been Missing
SRS iWOW 3D dynamically locates audio cues buried deep down in existing recorded or streamed multimedia content to restore sonic fidelity to audio files, ensuring the user experiences music, videos, and games with renewed clarity and detail–the way the artist originally intended.”

Plug it into your Apple music player of choice, plug your headphones/earbuds into it, and you’re ready to go. Although it is a hardware solution, a free app is available in the App Store that claims to offer further enhancements. Just search on SRS iWow.

Hardware

The tail that you plug your earbuds/headphones into seems rugged enough but the body of the manta seems more delicate. The plastic that encases the electronics feels thin and the seam between the halves looks and feels like it would be easy to pop apart. The massive cyclopean circle you see on the face of the body is an on/off switch that lights up when activated, which brings me to my next complaint.

Let’s take a hypothetical example. Say a guy had a few Amazon certificates that he had been saving and was intrigued enough to want to order the manta. He doesn’t talk to his wife about it, he just orders it and calls it good. Several days later, it arrives. He plugs everything together and waits for evening because he likes to listen to music in bed, while dozing off to sleep. Bed time arrives. The lights are off and he grabs his iPod Touch, pops his Monster Turbine earbuds in, and turns the Touch on. Immediately, a glow fills the room. The circle is a homing beacon of some sort. It makes E.T.’s finger look like match light in the darkness. It illuminates with a brightness that feels like it is tanning his panicked face. If you have a Kindle (see Kindle review below…seriously, you should get one) but haven’t purchased a lighted case yet, this baby will light up your reading surface just fine. It’s at the point where the hypothetical wife, who has no issue with the Kindle light, opens her eyes and says, “What in the hell is that? Why do you have a flashlight in bed?”

OK, there is some hyperbole here, but not as much as you might expect. That little bastard is bright.

As mentioned, that circle serves as an on/off button. This leads us to my next complaint. With iWow Premium iTunes plugin (or the Bongiovi DPS plugin), you have the ability to compare the enhanced sounds with the standard iTunes output by toggling the software on and off. Not so with this bad boy. When you turn it off, it actually dis-enhances the sound to such a degree that toggling the device on and off convinces that the enhancement sounds 1000% better. (Sorry for the made up word but unenhance suggests that it does nothing.) The fact is that the sound coming through while the gadget is off is so notably bad, and the volume so low, that you decide you have just found nirvana. You won’t believe how much better the music sounds with the manta activated. Before you get all excited, though, listen to music for a few seconds with the manta turned off. Then, disconnect the manta, plug your earbuds into the standard stereo out jack of your player, and listen again. You will, again, be surprised at how much better things sound. It would probably be over the top to suggest that the manufacturer knowingly uses the circuitry in an off state to completely butcher the music, but it is a brilliant way to make users believe they have stumbled onto a hella good gadget.

Next off, we have the fact that the manta takes over the 30-pin connector AND blocks the headphone jack. This means:

  • You can’t conveniently compare the outputs
  • You can’t charge your player while using the iWow 3D

While using the iWow, I did not notice a significant battery drain, which actually surprised me a bit. Given the retina-searing, hallogen-beating lamp on it, I expected the battery gauge to visibly drop while I watched it. (Slight hyperbole warning).

But, back to the sound. Does the iWow make the music sound better? Yes. Does it enhance the music in any way, providing more depth, clarity, and detail? I don’t think so. Maybe there would be a marked improvement with stock earbuds but with the earbuds I use (see reviews elsewhere on this site), the music just sounded louder. It might have kicked up the treble a little bit but I could not confidently say that the music had opened up in any way.

Software

Unfortunately, I can’t provide screenshots from the app because you have to have the manta plugged in to reach most of the functionality and mine is packed up and ready for return to Amazon (spoiler alert). I can tell you that it offers music trivia, a link to the SRS blog, and a link to the SRS site.

With the device plugged in, you can:

  • Toggle the software on and off
  • Tailor the software for different environments
    • Headphones
    • Speakers
    • Car
  • Advanced settings
    • Wide Surround
    • Deep Bass
    • High Treble

None of the settings really seemed to alter the music that much. With eyes closed, I don’t believe you would quickly differentiate between the different software settings.

As I write this, the iWow 3D has six reviews on Amazon. All give it 5/5. It may be that I’m just a tone deaf dipshit, but I don’t think so. If those users compare the output by just toggling the iWow on and off via the hardware button, they will absolutely be impressed. The problem is that the resulting sound when the iWow is turned off is NOTHING like the sound you get through the headphone jack. A little more testing might change their mind. As always, your mileage may vary. If you have experience with the iWow (positive or negative), please feel free to post.

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Don’t Want No Nekkid Kindle

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Actually, this title is a bit misleading. Reading with the Kindle 3 au naturel is a very comfortable and pleasant way to read. The weight and size of the Kindle 3 make it quite easy to read one-handed, even while lying down. Given the choice, I probably prefer reading on the Kindle without a cover. However, I’m a bit protective of my gadgets and I try to keep them in good shape. Our iPod Touches all have BodyGuardz or Invisible Shields (my BlackBerry was in service for three years and fell off a moving car once–when I retired it for the iPhone 4, it was still in immaculate condition thanks to the BodyGuardz cover).

So, despite enjoying the Kindle in its native state, I decided I wanted to be more careful with it. It can take days to go through all the available accessories on Amazon and it is a bit overwhelming/frustrating. The variety of styles, colors, and materials borders on mind-numbing. After hours of looking through page after page and reading scores of reviews, I concluded that a light would be useful. I looked at the Mighty Bright, the M-Edge e-Luminator, and the Kandle but didn’t want ANOTHER thing to carry around. A case that had a light and would protect my precious Kindle while it’s stuffed in my computer bag seemed like the best alternative.

Apparently, I’m cheap about accessories because the thought of dishing out $60 for a case to protect a $139 device really chapped my a$$. But, the thought of tossing a naked Kindle into my computer bag and then jamming it into an airplane cargo bin is just too frightening. Since Target carries the Amazon case, I decided to get it there so I could return it if I didn’t like it.

The case has a nice pebbled leather exterior with an elastic strap to hold it shut, a groove for the strap, and a leather tab on the strap to make it easier to grab. Although I’m a little concerned about the strap losing its tension, so far so good. When you fold the cover back, the strap can be used to hold it tight against the back of the Kindle, making it a little more convenient to hold. The inside of the cover has a soft microfiber that will certainly help protect against scratches. The interior spine has two metal tabs that are used to lock the Kindle into the case and to provide power for the light. Because I’m concerned about those metal tabs beginning to carve out the soft plastic of the Kindle, I leave the Kindle in the cover all the time. It’s a little disappointing but reading with the cover on makes it feel more like a book.

The light pulls out from the upper right corner of the back. It has a plastic edge that can be a little tricky to grab with your thumb but it’s not too bad. The light consists of three LED’s that shine onto the front of the Kindle. The light degrades a bit as you move down the page but even the bottom is bright enough for me to read. There are a number of things about this case that make it very nice:

  • The LED’s illuminate the front of the Kindle but that’s about it. If you read in bed and aren’t sleeping alone, your partner will hardly even notice it.
  • The light is powered by the Kindle battery, so there is no issue with remembering to charge something else.
  • Because it’s powered by the Kindle battery, if you fall asleep while reading, the light will go off when the Kindle goes into sleep mode.

So far, using the light for 5-6 hours/week hasn’t put an appreciable dent in the battery life.

If you’re in the market for a case and would like the benefit of an integrated light, there isn’t much competition for the Amazon cover with light. It’s a high quality case and the pull out light is extremely convenient without being a battery killer. Check it out.


The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Kindle

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Let’s get this out right away… I love books: the smell, the look, the feel. A new book is always a treasure. A bookstore is a magical place with so much potential for knowledge or challenge or excitement. I am bibliophile and proud of it; most of my books look as if they’ve never been read, even after I have finished them.

When the first Kindle arrived, I could not have been more underwhelmed. The size, shape and placement of the page buttons was horrible, leading to frequent accidental page turning. The clunky design of the thing made it look like they were channeling the creators of the Commodore 64. The e ink was ok but page refreshes were slow. In short, I had no interest in ever getting one of the things. A good friend had one of the originals and rarely used it. After losing it on a business trip, he had concluded that he wouldn’t bother replacing it. That is, until his daughter bought a Kindle 3 with her babysitting money. Now, he reads constantly and, I’m willing to bet, if he were to lose the new Kindle, he would order a replacement that same day.

Having never seen the Kindle 3, I was no more interested in it than the previous generations. I had gotten to the point where I used the Kindle app on my Touch to read while out and about. It wasn’t great but it was a way of wasting time while waiting for a haircut or an oil change. When I was able to move from a BlackBerry to the iPhone 4, my time spent reading in the Kindle app began to increase substantially. The retina display is so crisp and clean that the reading experience was much improved. It seemed to me that with the retina display, I had found a reading solution that obviated the need for a Kindle, a Nook, or any of the other e-reader variants.

Then, Christmas morning, I found myself the owner of a shiny new Kindle 3. It was so small and light. The screen was so sharp and responsive. Although I did decide to buy a case (which we’ll talk about later), reading with a naked Kindle 3 is a delight. The whole experience shocked me; I couldn’t believe how much I liked this little device. There is no question that I am reading more now than I have read in a very long time.

Hardware

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The Kindle 3 is 7.5” x 4.8” x 0.335” and weighs 8.5 ounces. With that, you get a 6” diagonal E Ink Pearl screen. They claim that it is 21% smaller and 17% lighter and I believe it. The screen is the same size as the original but offers better contrast and faster page changes. To me, the delay now is less than you would get turning a physical page. Put me down as one who is drinking the E Ink Kool-Aid. I occasionally get eye strain while working on the computer or reading on the iPhone. After having ready 8-10 books over the last six weeks, I have not experienced a single instance of eye strain while reading on the Kindle.

The placement for the page turn buttons is much better. Accidental page flipping is greatly reduced over the original but the shape and location of the new buttons makes for very convenient page turning regardless of how you hold the unit–assuming you hold it more or less like a book. The keyboard buttons have a nice feel but, despite being a former BlackBerry thumb-typing whiz, I typically type with my index finger on this device. The shape of the buttons and the greater separation between buttons just doesn’t work for me to try thumb-typing.

The wi-fi was very fast and easy to setup. If you can setup the wi-fi on your smart phone or Touch, you’ll have no problem with the Kindle. I can’t speak about the 3G because I do not have that version. When I first received it, I decided I was going to return it and upgrade to the 3G version. Amazon was more than helpful and I quickly had it all boxed up and ready to go. A friend then pointed out that with space for 3500 books, it seems unlikely that I would get caught without any books while traveling. Figuring that the extra $50 would be better spent on books, I decided to stick with the wi-fi only version. Besides, I was already in lust and didn’t want to be without it for 3-4 days. Although he is correct and I certainly should have no issues with keeping enough books on the Kindle for travel, I have twice found myself in the position of wanting to look up a book while having no access to wi-fi. In retrospect, I might have gone with the 3G version but it’s only a minor annoyance and I doubt I will have many regrets. Keep in mind that you also have free access to all AT&T Wi-fi Hotspots, so you still have wi-fi options while out and about.

The 5-way controller is probably the weakest link for me. Placement is fine but the active edge for moving the cursor is quite thin. If you have a tendency to fat finger things, you may buy a few books accidentally; whenever you look up a book, the BUY button is active. It wouldn’t be difficult to buy a book while trying to get to the links for downloading a sample or to look at the reviews. Luckily, upon buying a book, you are presented with a page that includes a link for returning an accidental purchase.

The MENU button provides a context aware menu for next actions. Press the button once to activate the menu. Press it a second time to close the menu. Examples of the menus available are shown below:

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The BACK button acts like the back button on a browser; it returns you to the previous screen.

The HOME button will take you to the first screen of your book listing, whether you are currently in a book, shopping, or in one of the other book listing screens.

The SYM button provides access to special characters. Press the button to activate the menu, press again to close it. While the menu is open, the 5-way controller allows you to navigate among the options and the center button of the controller allows you to select the character to appear next. Please note that you must be in a context in which the Kindle is expecting input for the SYM key to do anything. If you’re reading and hit the SYM key, nothing happens. The result of pressing the SYM key is shown below:

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The text key (represented by Aa) provides a variety of options. You can change the font size, the typeface, the line spacing, the number of words/line, and the rotation. You can also activate Text-to-Speech if the publisher allows it. See below:

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The three typeface options are shown below:

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The Text-to-Speech isn’t too bad. The reader has some inflection and it sounds fairly normal. You get the indicators of synthetic speech but it’s actually better than I expected, sounding better than the typical computerized voice that you would hear on your computer or on a child’s toy.

When you attach the Kindle to your computer, it mounts as a USB drive. Once mounted, you can drag documents or MP3 files to it (or take them off). If you purchase something or elect to install an archived item on the device (archived means any purchases that are in your library at the Kindle store but which are not currently installed on your Kindle), you don’t need the computer; it will happen via Whispernet (wi-fi). As you can see, the directory structure is quite straightforward and you should have no problem deciding which directory to drag the item into:

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Along the bottom you have:

  • a volume control switch
  • a headphone jack
  • the USB connection
  • the on/off switch.

The on/off switch is very low profile and it’s not uncommon to think you have turned it on or off without actually accomplishing the task. To avoid this problem, there is a green light under the switch that lights up for a moment when you have activated it on or off. The same light acts as a charging indicator while you are plugged into a wall outlet or a computer. It will be yellow while charging and green when fully charged.

Finally, the battery life… Mine hasn’t sat long enough to determine how long the battery lasts when not using the Kindle. I consistently get a week+ on the battery while reading daily.

Software

As mentioned earlier, the Home screen is where you will find the Samples and purchases. Ten books fit on a page, so you will get as many screens as it takes to display all of your titles. The previous and next page buttons are used to move between Home screens and the 5-way controller is used to navigate within a screen and to select a title for reading.

Home Screen

If you refer back to the first screenshot under the MENU button, you’ll see a shot of the Home screen. Note that there is a string of dots under each title. The length of that string indicates the relative length of that book. As you progress through a book, bold dots will indicate your current position within that book.

The Home screen allows you to change how your books are sorted. You can sort by:

  • Most recent first
  • Title
  • Author
  • Collections

Collections

Collections provide a way of combining like books (like a folder for books). If you refer back again to the Home screen under the MENU button discussion, you’ll see that there is an option to create a collection. Once you have created a collection, you are free to add as many books to that collection as you wish. A book can belong to more than one collection. To add a book to a collection, navigate to that book, then press the 5-way controller to the right. You will get a number of different options, as shown below:

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Be careful, if you press the 5-way controller to the left, rather than to the right, you will get the option to delete that book from the device. This will remove it from the Kindle but the book will still be available in your archive.

Search

To begin searching, just start typing. Next, use the 5-way controller to move over to the search context. You’ll find five options:

  • My items
  • Store
  • Google
  • Wikipedia
  • Dictionary

The Kindle would never be my chosen web surfing device but the browser works well enough for simple needs. As a research tool while reading, it provides a level of capabilities with which I can live. The results of the search (if searching My Items) presents each document containing your search text, as well as the number of times the text appears in that document:

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Dictionary

As seen above, you can search for dictionary entries by keying in a word. While reading a book, you can get the definition by using the 5-way controller to navigate to the beginning of that word. A short definition will be presented right away. If you want a more detailed definition, hit the return key to be presented with a more complete display from the dictionary. There are actually two dictionaries provided on the Kindle. The default is the New Oxford American Dictionary. Also selectable as your dictionary of choice is the Oxford Dictionary of English. An example of the short and long dictionary options is shown below:

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Highlighting/Notes/Social Networking

The Kindle allows you to create bookmarks, highlight text, and take notes. Any highlighting that you do or notes that you take, will appear in a file called My Clippings.txt. The file is visible in your Home screen for review on the Kindle. You can also copy the notes from your Kindle onto your PC or Mac by attaching the Kindle to your computer and then copying or dragging the file out of the Documents folder. Any highlighted text will appear in the file, fully annotated, like this:

==========
The College Solution: A Guide for Everyone Looking for the Right School at the Right Price, (Lynn O’Shaughnessy)
– Highlight Loc. 215-16 | Added on Tuesday, February 15, 2011, 07:34 AM

While popular media has loudly touted the increased competition for admissions to our nation’s top colleges, the truth is, for many students, getting in isn’t the problem. It’s how to pay for college once you do get in.
==========

You also have the option to see what others have highlighted in the book. If you have “Popular Highlights” turned on in the settings, you will see a light underline for highlighted text, with an indicator showing how many people highlighted that passage.

To highlight text, you use the 5-way controller to the beginning of the passage, then push the center button. Use the controller to continue highlighting the desired text. When you have the text highlighted, you have two options. If you press enter, the text will be highlighted and added to My Clippings. If you press ALT and Enter, you have the option to send that highlighted text as a Tweet or as a posting on Facebook (assuming you have setup your account within Settings). To link the Kindle to your Twitter or Facebook account, press the Menu button, then select Settings. Press the Next Page button and then navigate to the Social Networks option.

Graphics

If a page has an image, it will display as a normal part of the page, as you would expect. Although the e ink screen is quite nice, it’s quite possible that the table or image will be too small to read. Use the 5-way controller to move the cursor to the image. When you get to the image, a graphic will appear in the center of the image that looks like a magnifying glass with a + sign at its center. Click the center square of the 5-way controller and the image will enlarge to fill the entire screen. The BACK key will return you to the original page. The below images come from: The One-Page Project Manager for Execution

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Formats

The Kindle 3 supports the following content:

  • Kindle (AZW)
  • TXT
  • PDF
  • Audible (AA, AAX)
  • MP3
  • Unprotected MOBI
  • PRC

By using the Whispernet service and the myname@free.kindle.com, you can have Amazon convert the following content types to Kindle format:

  • HTML
  • Doc
  • TXT
  • RTF
  • JPEG
  • GIF
  • PNG
  • BMP

The service is free as long as you use wi-fi and the free e-mail address. The document will arrive within 5-15 minutes and you will get an e-mail at your registered e-mail address letting you know that the document is available.

Although the Kindle 3 supports PDF, you may decide that you want to convert PDF files via the free service. If you copy a PDF file to your Kindle, you will be able to read it but you will not have the same options under the Text button. You lose the ability to change:

  • Typeface
  • Font size
  • Line spacing
  • Words/line
  • Text-to-Speech

You instead get the options to:

  • Fit-to-screen (150%, 200%, 300%, actual size)
  • Contrast (lightest, lighter, default, darker, darkest)
  • Screen rotation

Converted files seem to get the same capabilities as purchased Kindle documents.

You can also download documents from the browser on the Kindle. Supported formats are:

  • Kindle (AZW, AZW1)
  • MOBI
  • PRC
  • TXT

Along with books, you can also read periodicals and blogs to which you have subscribed. This is not a feature that I have tested.

Experimental

As an MP3 player, the Kindle 3 is OK. I heard some unexpected crackling but it wasn’t bad. If you don’t already have a player, it will work. Personally, I prefer to keep my music on my Touch and reserve my Kindle for documents.

I mentioned that the Text-to-Speech is pretty decent. It isn’t something I care to use at this point but my limited experience with it suggests that the voice is quite clear and should do the job if you cannot see the text or you just prefer to be read to. You won’t be getting James Earl Jones but you aren’t getting the full-on computer voice either. Just keep in mind that not all books permit the Text-to-Speech option. If you’re looking at the Kindle version of a book in the store, it will tell you whether or not the publisher is permitting Text-to-Speech.

The browser on the Kindle 3 is Webkit based, so it is more capable and faster than in previous versions. Below you will find a screenshot showing the default bookmarked sites, as well as a glance at IMDB.

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It doesn’t have the pretty colors of a Nook Color but, as I said, I’m drinking the E Ink Kool-Aid.

Whispernet

I have to say that I’m quite impressed with how well the synch process goes. Even if you’re buying from the Amazon web page on your computer (or getting a sample), the transfer is quite fast.

More importantly, it’s quite useful. As an example, I was out with a friend the other night. We were talking about a book that I was reading on my Kindle. The Kindle was at home so I pulled out my iPhone, downloaded the book from the archives, and opened it to the page I had been reading. Within a few minutes (we don’t have 3G here, we are stuck with the lousy AT&T Edge) I was able to show him the passage we had been discussing. It worked without a hitch (except, as mentioned, the shitty Edge network).

Shortcuts

Here are a few of the shortcuts I’ve found while playing with the Kindle 3:

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Rant

There is no question that I love my Kindle and already see it as an indispensable tool. However, there are still a few things that piss me off.

Pricing

Before I got my Kindle 3, pricing for ebooks was pretty good. Unfortunately, Apple really screwed the pooch when they released iBooks. When Apple agreed to the “Agency Model” pricing scheme set forth by publishers, Amazon lost the ability to set prices as it had when it was a benevolent dictatorship. It may well be that some books are cheaper now but I’m not seeing it. Here are several examples:

While traveling one day, and before getting my Kindle, I decided I would use the Kindle app on my iPhone to buy something to read. A friend had highly recommended The Lion’s Game by Nelson Demille. Expecting an inexpensive book, I found the book and was shocked to find the price set at $12.99. This is a book that was released in September, 2000 and it has apparently had a good run. The Amazon discounted paperback price is $10.19. What the hell? The publishers had argued that by letting them set prices, they would have the flexibility to make older books cheaper, while trying to capture a little extra revenue on the newer books. If this is an example, I’m missing it. Clearly, I’m an idiot but I fully expected the ebook version of a 10 year old book to be somewhere between $5 and $8.

Similarly, Altar of Eden by James Rollins was recently released in paperback format. The discounted Amazon price for the paperback is $8.29. The Kindle price is $8.99. You can pick the same book up at Sam’s Club for $6.49. I understand that Sam’s savagely discounts books but I again expected the price of the Kindle version to be somewhere between the Sam’s price and the paperback price. Unlike the price of The Lion’s Game, this one is new enough and the price close enough to the paperback that I might still be persuaded to pick it up.

Finally, yesterday I was looking at The 4% Universe by Richard Panek. Hardback price is $14.30. Paperback price is $10.85. Kindle price is $12.87. Again, I say, What The Hell? The book looks very interesting but the price turns me away.

Certainly, there is a convenience factor here. I don’t have to carry a bunch of books, nor do I have even more books clogging up my already overstuffed bookcases. The ability to synch between devices is also very nice. The other day, I wanted to show a book I was reading to a friend. I didn’t have my Kindle but had my iPhone. After launching the Kindle app, I was able to download the book from the archives to my iPhone and show him the passage where I was currently reading. Also very convenient.

What I don’t have is a tangible product that I can resell, give away, or loan. I have already purchased several e-books at $9.99 that I regret buying. Too late… That horse is out of the barn, the publisher has my money, and I have no way to recoup any of the money that I paid. With a physical book I would have the option to return it, sell it as a used book, or donate it. It seems to me that publishers are milking the ebook side of things, which is unfortunate.

If I find a book that I want to recommend to friends, they are compelled to buy it (or get it from a library) for themselves, rather than borrowing my copy. Ultimately, as more and more ebooks are sold, the publishers are putting themselves in a position where they are losing fewer sales to libraries and used book stores. Making older books available at a cheaper price is a way of recognizing this and appealing more to the avid readers who liked to share their books with friends and family. The beauty of an ebook is that, over time, the cost of a sale continues to decline. Publishers no longer have to worry about shelf space in a bookstore, so they can make more books available longer, rather than having to make the tough decision to take books out of print to reduce their printing, storage, and distribution costs. We, as readers should see some of that benefit. There are ways to crack the DRM and do whatever you want with the book but I would prefer to take the high road on this matter and ensure that the author gets his/her cut.

Here are a few more brief examples:

  • The Millenium trilogy books by Stieg Larsson are very popular. Although I have access to the paperbacks from a friend, I realized one day that
    The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played with Fire were available for the Kindle for $5. At that price point, it was a no-brainer; I picked them both up. However, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest is selling for $9.99. That book remains on my wish list.
  • I have a friend who has been raving about Edward Rutherfurd’s New York for months. It doesn’t look like my kind of book but I have never heard such praise for a novel. He told me to get it for the Kindle. If I don’t like it, he will reimburse me for the cost. I told him that if the book cost more than $9.99 I would not buy it, despite his generous offer. When I checked, I found that it was also available for $5. Again, that was a no-brainer and it now waits for me on my Kindle.
  • Kindle samples are huge for me. If a book looks remotely interesting, I will download the sample. As time allows, I will pull up a sample and give it my full attention (much more attention than I would likely give the book while browsing in a bookstore). If I like the book, regardless of the subject matter, I will seriously consider buying it. An example of this is Chelsea Handler’s My Horizontal Life. After downloading the sample, I read it to my wife. We both laughed so hard that I immediately looked it up. When I saw it was $5, boom, another purchase. Will the rest of the book be as funny as that first section? I have no idea, but I’m willing to take that risk for $5.

So, here is my heuristic for purchasing e-books:

  • Is the cost greater than $9.99? If so, there has to be an extremely compelling need for the book. Otherwise…no purchase.
  • Is the cost between $7.00 and $9.99? If so, I will seriously consider buying the book but I might need a little time, research and thought.
  • Is the cost $5.00 or less? If so, and I’m interested in the book, it may very well be an impulse buy. At $5 or under, I am willing to take chances for an e-book that I probably would not take even for a similarly priced paperback.

Lending

In the previous section, I said that I cannot loan books. That is no longer completely true. If the publisher permits, you are now able to loan a book ONE TIME to someone. They get the book for 14 days and then the book reverts back to you. While they have the book, you cannot read it. The time limit makes perfect sense. The restriction that prevents you from also reading the book at the same time makes sense. Why can we loan a book only once? Believe it or not, I have more than one friend who likes to read the same books as I do. I have more than one friend who is using a Kindle or Kindle app to read books. As it stands right now, I have to decide which friend gets my coveted loaner and which ones are screwed. It seems to me that a number between 3 and 5 is more reasonable. A few friends can share a book but the limitation acknowledges that, over time, a book will degrade and at some point will be falling apart and no longer desirable as a loaner. If we’re going to get tagged these higher prices for ebooks, we should have more flexibility with what we can do with those books, short of breaking the law.

What are your thoughts on e-book readers and e-book costs? If you’re willing to share your opinion, I would appreciate it.


DIR-825 and SharePort

If you have the D-Link DIR-825 and are trying to get the SharePort to work, there has been a recent update. Thanks very much to Nikolay for the information. I’m happy with the Airport Extreme but his info may be useful for you. Although you can find the comment at this link, here is the post:

“Not sure when you tried to install the SHareport drivers for MAC but now they are available… over the Christmas (Dec.2010) holiday I installed the drivers for the Mac — downloaded the drivers from the D-Link support web site / the site for DIR-825 and was able to even use TimeMachine on the MAC with the USB drive connected on the router…..The link to the MAC is 802.11n Next I need to figure out the Shareport with my Ubuntu Linux desktop PC. Good luck;”

So, here is hoping that Nikolay’s finding will help you as well.


Updates

Various Updates


Ultimate Ears 5vi

The link to the previous post is here. After spending more time with the 5vi, I like them very much. Contrary to my original intentions, I really haven’t played much with the foam. Even after weeks of use, the silicone tips continue to feel like small acorns jammed into my ears; they don’t annoy me as much as they originally did but it still isn’t terribly pleasant.

Magic TrackPad

The link to the previous post is here. There is no question, the Magic TrackPad, combined with BetterTouchTool, has become a huge time-saver for me. Not once since my original posting have I missed my old faithful Logitech MX Revolution. Here are my favorites:

  • Four finger slide left or right to bring up the app switcher, then two fingers left or right to select the app, then four finger tap to activate. Standard drivers.
  • Three finger tap to send ⌘R, primarily for refreshing websites. BetterTouchTools.
  • TipSwipe Left Finger Left to send ⌘⇧[. With three fingers on the pad, slide the left-most finger to the left a bit. This moves me left one tab. BetterTouchTool.
  • TipSwipe Left Finger Right to send ⌘⇧]. With three fingers on the pad, slide the left-most finger to the right a bit. This moves me right one tab. BetterTouchTool.
  • Five Finger Tap to show the desktop. This is one command that I’ve missed from Windows and BetterTouchTools makes it easy to bring to the Mac.

Magic TrackPad for Windows

Go here for instructions on how to extract the Apple Magic TrackPad Windows drivers from the BootCamp installer that Apple provides here: 32-bit or 64-bit.

The instructions will tell you to find the Bootcamp3135* folders. You can ignore the #Bootcamp3135* folders. I have to say that this did not work with my POS Dell Latitude D620. It proves nothing, though, since the Dell was able to locate my Mac on Bluetooth but could not discover the Magic TrackPad OR my Plantronics Voyager Pro headset.

Magic TrackPad for Ubuntu

In VMware Fusion, the Magic TrackPad works just fine as a standard trackpad. Two fingers to scroll in FireFox also works. Here is information on pairing with Ubuntu. Since I’m using Fusion, I did not have to do any pairing. Here is another page that includes a link to patches (it’s in the main body of posting).

Airport Extreme

The link to the previous post is here. There have been no complaints from the family about web access since installing the Airport Extreme. It does provide more reliable iTunes streaming to our Airport Express, which is about as far from the router as you can get in our house. By more reliable, I mean that we don’t get the cut-outs and buffering lags that we would get in nearly every song using the DIR-825. Unfortunately, as anticipated, it has NOT resolved my problem with losing my Internet connection. It’s no longer a daily event (more like every 2-3 days), but it still happens. The issue is that my Internet connection will just disappear. Adium stays connected but web traffic completely disappears, as does the Mail connection to my ISP’s e-mail. If I have VMware Fusion running Ubuntu, it retains its connection. This has been happening since I upgraded to Snow Leopard. Based on feedback on the Apple forum I have tried:

  • Changing my DNS server to OpenDNS or Google
  • Flushing the DNS cache
  • Renewing DHCP

Only a reboot resolves the issue. This seems not to happen with the MBP’s in the house but they aren’t on all the time like the iMac, so I guess I’m not surprised.

Sharing USB Drive with Windows

As mentioned in the original posting, connecting a USB drive to the DIR-825 was pointless. The software that D-Link provides for OS X was worthless. Going back to the original developer version helped make the drive recognizable but it still couldn’t be used reliably. Files of any size bigger than a few hundred KB would time out. The good news is that sharing the USB drive with Windows from the Airport Extreme was extremely easy and seems to be quite reliable so far.

  1. Go into the Airport Utility and find the IP address for the Airport Extreme.
  2. Go to the Windows machine and run Windows Explorer.
  3. From Windows Explorer, go to Tools->Map Network Drive.
  4. Select an unused drive letter.
  5. In the “Folder” field enter \\IP_address\USB drive name. Example \\192.16.8.0.1\My_HD.
  6. Check Reconnect at logon if desired.

Magic Trackpad

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Let’s get this right out in the open…try as I might, I can find no magical properties in this device. Food left on it does not stay preserved for an unnaturally long time. Razor blades placed under it do not resharpen themselves (Google “pyramid power”). Rubbing it produces no Genie. Offering sacrifices to it seemed to have no impact at all, except in neighbor relations since my neighbor is now missing his prized goat. However, in a pinch, it might serve quite nicely as a kitchen chopper; just remember that it does have a glass surface so you don’t want to go all Ninja Chef with it.

The box is quite small. In it you will find the non-magical trackpad, a small manual, some other paperwork. Two non-rechargeable batteries are included in the unit. The manual was totally unnecessary but it covers all the basics. The most useful component, aside from the trackpad itself, is the bottom of the box, which shows the various gestures available.

When you pair the thing with your Mac, it will realize that a software update is required to get the trackpad drivers. This was a quick process that, I believe, also required a restart. Prior to the restart, the trackpad worked fine as a mouse but the two/three/four finger actions were not functional. Once the drivers are installed, System Preferences will include a new entry for Trackpad.

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This is where you set the attributes for the trackpad. As you hover the cursor over the settings, that setting will highlight and a how-to video for that setting will play, showing you how it works (in the shot above, the Rotate feature is highlighted).

All the gestures work as advertised. It responds just as quickly and accurately as the trackpad on a MacBook Pro. The button click can be managed two ways. The default is mechanical. The two feet on the front bottom of the device are buttons that will register the click or you can set the device to allow Tap to Click. I’ve read complaints about the button click but, so far, it has worked quite well for me, especially from near the center of the trackpad. Get too close to the bottom edge and more effort is required to activate the buttons (not a great deal more but the difference is noticeable). The multi-finger gestures are the reason I wanted this thing. The two finger scroll and three finger page back/forward are much more intuitive, responsive, and efficient than performing similar actions with a mouse.

My biggest beef is the application switch feature. Four fingers to bring up the app switcher works just fine. The problem is that the cursor does not automatically go to the switcher window. If your cursor was in the lower corner of the screen when you activated the switcher, it will still be there and you’ll have to navigate up to the window to choose the app you want. Having said that, you can use the arrow keys to move among the app options, so it isn’t a deal killer. I’ve also read complaints about click and drag but I’ve had no issues. I tend to use one finger to select and then slide another finger to move the object and this works quite well. If you find yourself running out of real estate with the finger that is moving, it seems to work well to switch which finger is stationary and which one is moving and the action continues without missing a beat. (Addendum, it was pointed out to me that you can use four fingers to activate the switcher, two fingers to navigate the switcher window, then a four finger tap to activate your app of choice. Thanks, jfm429!)

I have an image of Ubuntu in Fusion that I play with a bit. Without any Fusion update, the trackpad works just fine as a mouse and the two finger scroll works. The more advanced features do not work. Although I would like to report the results with a Windows image, my XP image got corrupted by viruses and I ended up deleting it. There is an additional download required for Boot Camp to activate more of the features for Windows. It seems to be a Boot Camp specific update and is not something you can run on your Windows PC to make use of the trackpad. In very limited testing, my Dell Latitude D620 did not find the trackpad. It found my iMac, my wife’s laptop (upstairs), and my BlackBerry. No sign of the Magic Trackpad. I tried turning off the bluetooth on the iMac to see if it had some exclusive hold on the trackpad and this did not resolve things. So, I don’t expect it to work with Windows (XP, anyway) yet.

Is it worth it? For me, yes. On those occasions when I could get my mits on my wife’s MBP, I lusted hard for her trackpad and the multi-touch gestures. Having that ability now with my iMac makes me much less interested in getting my own MBP (which is great because I can’t afford it). If you have limited real estate and you’re jonesing for the multi-touch features, I highly recommend the Magic Trackpad. As a comparision, I find it much more useful, intuitive, and responsive than the Magic Mouse, which I absolutely hate to use.

This is not a Bamboo. You can use the surface to draw, just like you can a trackpad, and you have a large surface to work with, but it won’t have the erase or multi-button features that you get with a Bamboo. If you’re looking for those features, invest your money with Wacom. I was really interested in trying Inklet but it appears that it needs to be updated to recognize the Magic Trackpad as a trackpad. It’s a shame because it looks like a nice alternative to the Bamboo if your needs are simple and the handwriting recognition would be fun, especially if it works as expected with their Pogo Sketch. If you want to extend the abilities beyond what Apple offers, look up the Better Touch Tool. Very limited testing suggests that it will work quite nicely. I set a three finger tap to ⌘R so that I could easily reload web pages without navigating or heading to the keyboard.


Airport Extreme 2.4 vs. 5.0

After seeing that there have been a number of searches for Airport Extreme comparisons between the 2.4GHz and 5.0 GHz modes, I decided to augment the original table with iStumbler readings at 5GHz also. This is only for the Airport Extreme. With the DIR-825, the 5.0 GHz band was useless in rooms 5, 6, 7 so we turned it off. Those who are interested can interpret the results for themselves (or feel free to post your thoughts below).

As a follow-up, we have been using the Airport Extreme for two weeks now and I have been very pleased. The USB drive share has worked very well and I haven’t experienced any of the other weird symptoms that we had with the DIR-825. The weirdest symptom was that most days my iMac would lose its connection with the Internet and I would have to reboot. I tried changing the DNS from my ISP to OpenDNS to Google DNS (along with a variety of other things at the promptings of folks on the Apple forums). So far, with the Airport Extreme pointing only at my ISP DNS, the problem has not resurfaced. I’m not prepared to conclude that the problem is gone but it has certainly been nice not to have to deal with it for the past few weeks.

Also, after switching the MBP back to 5.0 GHz, it has been very responsive. Seeing how much better it works than the DLink, I’m going to leave it on and see how things go. If I start getting complaints, I’ll switch back and post here.

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