Monday, May 31, 2010

Free Computer Recycling and Safe Monitor Disposal Toronto, Mississauga, Brampton

Free Computer Recycling and Safe Monitor Disposal Toronto, Mississauga, Brampton

I'm in the middle of cleaning out a bunch of computer junk so after a bit of googling I found Cubed IT, a company that does free computer pick-ups for recycling.

They pick up computers, monitors, printers, cabling, mice, etc. etc... Apparently there is a service charge for dealing with monitors, printers and UPS devices (anything that has an abundance of toxic materials to deal with).

I've just submitted a request to pick up 5 computers and a big old flatbed scanner. I'll report on how this works out. If you are in the GTA you should check out the site.

Dell Streak's Gorilla Glass screen: torture tested for your amusement (video) -- Engadget

Dell Streak's Gorilla Glass screen: torture tested for your amusement (video) -- Engadget

This is pretty amazing. I've got two tiny scratches on my ebookwise-1150 and it drives me nuts when I notice them while reading. This gorilla glass is beyond awesome. Click through to Engadget to watch the video.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

10 Ways to Save Computing Power | Wise Bread

10 Ways to Save Computing Power | Wise Bread: "Here are 10 easy fixes to protect your wallet without reducing your computer's capabilities."
  1. Upgrade
  2. Downsize
  3. Take a Nap
  4. Kill the Screen Saver
  5. Dim the Screen
  6. Nix the Extras
  7. Fight Phantom Power
  8. Minimize
  9. Monitor Energy Use
  10. Create a System

Saturday, May 29, 2010

New e-reader concept by Yanko vs. Readius

Nate the great at the The Digital Reader found this concept (ie cool photoshop work) by Yanko.

New e-reader concept | The Digital Reader

I came across this new e-reader from Yanko Designs. As you can see, it’s a flexible screen e-reader that rolls up into a tube when not in use.

It reminded me immediately of the (now defunct) Readius pocket eReader by Polymer Vision.
According to the feature page it had a 5" greyscale (16) e-Ink screen, 30 hour battery life, USB, 3G and bluetooth connectivity (supporting book and music downloads, RSS, and Email), and micro SD storage up to 8Gb. It runs an ARM11 400MHz processor. It weighed in at a shirt pocket-friendly 115g.

Unfortunately Polymer Vision went bankrupt before they could go to market. I haven't dug any deeper into their sad demise, but I'm sure someone must have bought up the designs and patents (and real working prototypes).

Friday, May 28, 2010

One Laptop per Child $75 tablet powered by Marvell, XO-3

ArsTechnica has a good article on the details behind the claims made by Nicholas Negroponte about a $75 OLPC tablet by 2011. I didn't realize how deep in a hole the One Laptop per Child project had dug for itself. The great part about the new non-exclusive partnerships (besides effectively helping 3rd world children) is that cheap tablet technology will be available on the North American market.

OLPC partners with Marvell, gets into tablet game with XO-3

Eken M003 - 8-inch Android tablet - $150 Cdn.

My original post about the Eken M003 listed the price as $230 US. While I still think its not the sexiest-looking tablet on the market I find myself a little more tempted, especially now that I can get one for $150 Cdn at

I also stated that the tablet runs Android 1.5. Apparently it runs 1.6 (Donut). Given the wide variety of phones and tablets out there running 1.6 there should be a few years of open source software support for this platform--even if there is no access to google market.

If your are looking for a semi-mobile internet device (SMID?) with a big screen this is the cheapest solution. I'm not crazy about using this as an e-reader; mostly because of the poor battery life, but also because of its unwieldy size and form-factor.

My biggest concern is that the battery life is pretty poor: Standby Time: 5 hours, Working Time: 3 hours.

P.S. The Eken M001 is now down to $115 Cdn (from $125 in April)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

OLPC promises $75 tablet for CES 2011 | The Digital Reader

OLPC promises $75 tablet for CES 2011 | The Digital Reader

Nicholas Negroponte has made some wild promises in the past, but the OLPC laptop project is still going strong. Considering the wild rush to market of cheap Android tablets this year I would not be surprised if Negroponte was on the mark this time.

One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) founder Nicholas Negroponte has promised to PCWorld that he would demo the XO-3 tablet prototype at CES 2011.
“At CES we will show a tablet that can be and will be used for children probably in the developed world,” Negroponte said Tuesday. “It will allow us to start testing many of the things that combine a laptop, an iPad and a Kindle.”

How Lost Should Have Ended - The Daily What

The Daily What: Animated GIF of the Day: How Lost Should Have Ended

Sometimes the simplest things can make you laugh out loud.

7" Android tablet $73 US! (Bulk rates may apply)

The floor is going to fall out of the cheap tablet market. With no 3G phone contract to mess up a good deal its going to be possible to get a decent 7" wi-fi tablet running a current version of Android (2.1, 2.2)  by the end of the year. If you're not all that interested in e-ink like me then this is very good news for someone looking for an e-reader with some bells and whistles.

The cheap tablets out there running Android 1.5 and 1.6 are going to be heavily discounted if they can't upgrade.

Shanzai: Cheapest iPad clone, costs USD 73!:

Shenzhen based manufacturer Caszh is soon going to unveil the cheapest iPad clone yet for just USD 73. The clone will be Android based and feature an ARM9 processor based @ 400MHz with a VIA 8505 chipset. You can expect a 7-inch resistive touchscreen, 128MB of RAM, 2GB of flash storage, Wi-Fi and a camera; however, offline video playback on it could be a disappointment.

Key Device Specs:
  • OS: Google Android
  • Display: 7-inch resistive touchscreen @ 800 x 480
  • Chipset: VIA 8505
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi
  • Camera: Yes (resolution not known)
  • Memory: 128MB DDR2
  • Storage: 2GB flash storage
  • Weight: 388 grams
  • Price: USD 73
  • Availability: June 2010.
Now, typically that’s the bulk rate which means we could see an enterprising import company gobble some of these up and bring them to the U.S. for around $100-$140. Still, not bad considering what you’ll get for the price.
Expect a June release in China and (hopefully) a stateside release sometime thereafter.
he clone will be Android based and feature an ARM9 processor based @ 400MHz with a VIA 8505 chipset. You can expect a 7-inch resistive touchscreen, 128MB of RAM, 2GB of flash storage, Wi-Fi and a camera; however, offline video playback on it could be a disappointment.

Read more at Jacky
Shenzhen based manufacturer Caszh is soon going to unveil the cheapest iPad clone yet for just USD 73. The clone will be Android based and feature an ARM9 processor based @ 400MHz with a VIA 8505 chipset. You can expect a 7-inch resistive touchscreen, 128MB of RAM, 2GB of flash storage, Wi-Fi and a camera; however, offline video playback on it could be a disappointment.

Read more at Jacky

Acer LumiRead e-reader - hit and miss

Acer, who apparently had declared that they were not going to enter the e-reader market, have come out with a kindle-clone. With the explosion of e-readers and tablets being pumped into the market this year there are going to be some winners and losers. I get a sense that this is going to be an overpriced loser. The barcode scanner is the clue - why not just use a camera and some software?

Acer announces LumiRead e-reader Wif, 3G, qwerty | The Digital Reader:
"It also comes with an ISBN scanner (I’m looking forward to when this gets hacked) so you can scan the ISBN of a book you’re interested in and Google it."

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

$100-$150 Android tablets due later this year

Looks like the market is working in overdrive to meet my requirements for a cheap e-reader for about $100 that can double as a wi-fi browser in a pinch.

VIA-powered $100-$150 Android tablets due 2H 2010 - SlashGear

Brown claims the first of the tablets will arrive in the US in the second half of 2010, with street prices of $100. It’s unclear which version of Android the devices will run; Gingerbread is due out in Q4 2010, but it’s more likely that the touchscreen slates will get Android 2.2 Froyo at best.
Engadget had a cynical take on the news of inexpensive tablets coming onto the market later this year

Shanzai shocker! VIA processors in $100 Android tablets later this year -- Engadget

Brace for a storm of craptablets: this week, Taiwanese semiconductor firm VIA said its processors will appear in a new slate of cheap Android tablets destined for the US in the second half of this year.

Dell Streak 5-inch Android tablet: only in UK for now

The Dell tablet will be marketed as "the ultimate portable tablet pc", but some see it as Dell's first crack at the smart-phone market. I can see this being a cool standalone e-reader and wi-fi web-browser so I hope it isn't packaged with an expensive 3G plan. It will be sold in the UK first, then the rest of Europe, then North America towards the end of the summer.

5 inch WVGA multi-touch screen
Android 1.6 to be upgraded to 2.2 asap
1GHZ Qualcomm Snapdragon CPU
3G, WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS
5MP camera
Micro SD cards slot

Dell Streak official: exclusive to O2 UK in early June -- Engadget
Dell Streak to hit UK in June | The Digital Reader

Check out Engadget's in-depth review of the prototype they received back in February. Lots of pictures and some videos (both of the gadget and taken by the gadget)
Dell Mini 5 / Streak prototype impressions -- Engadget

5 inches not enough?
Dell's 7-inch and 10-inch Streak tablets leaked! -- Engadget

Monday, May 24, 2010

7-inch "Novel" e-reader by Pandigital: Android, B&N eBookstore

Pandigital intros 7-inch Novel e-reader, nabs access to B&N eBookstore -- Engadget:

"Pandigital's best known for its hard, hard work in the game-changing digital photo frame world, but the company's feeling a bit froggy of late. It's latest leap is into the burgeoning e-reader market..."
 Its a bit pricey for me, but if it supports Android apps it would be a great way to get into the Android world w/o buying an expensive phone
  • 7-inch LCD -- full-color 800 x 600 touchscreen
  • WiFi 
  • 1GB internal memory, SD/MMC card slot
  • g-sensor
  • six hour rechargeable battery
  • $199.99

Friday, May 21, 2010

Eken M003 - 8-inch Android tablet - $230

For some reason the most popular blog post so far has been my note about the Eken M001 Android WIFI Tablet. It though its profile was close to what I was looking for in my next e-book reader. Unfortunately the battery life was a real problem. The price ($125 Cdn.), however, made it really tempting.

The Eken M003, the follow-up to the M001, solves one problem: at $236 US it is no longer tempting. It still has Android, but runs version 1.5 (Cupcake). This is not a good sign. I'm not sure if the bigger 8-inch touchscreen is a plus if I want to be able to read without having to hold it with two hands.

Its also butt-ugly.

If you are brave you can get one at Let me know how it works out.

Android MID shocker! Eken M003 gets 8-inch display, $230 price tag (video) -- Engadget:

Thursday, May 20, 2010

On How Many Times I Should Get Paid For a Book (By Readers) by John Scalzi

Old Man's WarJohn Scalzi joined the debate on "illegal" copies of books when he wrote this article in reaction to an article written by Randy Cohen of the New York Times. Randy, who writes an ethics column, considers it ethical to download a pirated e-book version of a book that you have already purchased.

John's view is that as a writer, he only sees money from a single purchase of a book. If he doesn't see any more money when the book is re-sold second hand he isn't too worried about a reader who, after buying the hardcover or paperback, makes free of any electronic versions out there. In fact, he suggests that a book should come with a registration code to pick up a free copy of the e-book from any of the major e-book stores.

He still believes that the people to make the pirated books are criminals; and purchasing a book does not give one the right to a pirate version of the audiobook (let alone the "movie based on the book"). I think he is taking a very sensible approach to the burgeoning e-book market: his interest is in his own welfare -- the more of his older work is available (after he's most likely wrung his last deserved dollar out of it) the more likely someone from this wider audience will purchase his new work.

On How Many Times I Should Get Paid For a Book (By Readers) - Whatever:

When John himself bought an e-book after buying and misplacing the dead-tree version...
"I pay the authors more than once, because I can and I think I should. However, I also put such actions in the ethical category of “morally praiseworthy but not morally obligatory” — that is, I believe my transactional responsibility to the author was fulfilled the first time I paid her. Additional payments to the author are optional, and indeed are sometimes transactionally difficult. If a book is out of print I may have no choice but to buy a used physical copy, for which an author gets nothing, or acquire an unauthorized electronic edition, which again gives nothing to the author."

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy - The girl who conquered the world - Laura Miller (Salon)

The girl who conquered the world - Laura Miller -

Miller's review of the Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson reminded me of just why I enjoyed the series.

My favorite part of "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" (after the scene where Lisbeth Salander triumphs over the court-appointed guardian who abused her) is the part where crusading journalist Mikael Blomkvist sets up, box by box, a research office in a little cabin on a remote Swedish island. My favorite part of "The Girl Who Played with Fire" (after the chapter where Salander infiltrates the bad guys' security system) is when she goes to Ikea to furnish her secret hideout and Larsson lists every last thing she buys there.

My reviews:

Woot : Sony Digital Reader Pocket Edition (PRS-300)

Today Woot is selling a Refurbished Sony Digital Reader Pocket Edition (PRS-300) for $109.99 + $5 shipping. Its about $35 cheaper than you can find elsewhere in the internets,

I visit the Woot site every once in a while even though I am in Canada. The ads that are written for their deal of the day are often very very funny and this one is no exception. Where else can you  read ad copy for an e-book reader that includes the phrase "poop in a chamber pot"?

Here's the entire ad:

Woot : One Day, One Deal (SM): "Looks Like We Got Ourselves a Pocket Reader

The book of the future is here! Let’s flip to the end and find out how humanity becomes extinct.

Time was, when someone saw you reading a book on a plane and asked “what’s it about?” you could say “oh, about three hundred and fifty pages,” and it would be hilarious. Sadly, Sony’s Pocket Edition Digital Reader puts an end to that era. Now you’ll have to say “oh, five hundred and twelve megs.” It’s not as funny.

That’s the only downside we can see, though. In every other way, electronic books represent a bold stride over the rotting carcasses of yesterday’s plant-matter paper volumes and into a brighter tomorrow. No more funky, damp, used bookstore smell in our carry-on luggage! We’re going digital! That’s assuming the future even has carry-on luggage. We wouldn’t be surprised if Star Trek style Transporters are just around the corner. After all, we’re reading e-books already."

Slender, lightweight, and easy to tote in your jacket pocket, purse or sporran, this Pocket Edition Digital Reader uses E Ink Vizplex technology for minimal eyestrain and maximal readability—even in direct sunlight, not that the typical Wooter needs to worry about such a thing.

Plus, with a Sony Digital Reader, no one can tell what you’re reading, so you don’t have to be embarrassed about being seen in public with a TWILIGHT novel, and you can stop making those blank dust jacket covers out of old grocery bags.

Of course there will always be those technophobic, progress-averse Luddites who’ll whine about how you never have to worry about battery life with an olde-fashioned book of pulped and bound tree flesh. But you know something, Grandpa? You never have to worry about a sewage clog when you poop in a chamber pot, either. Does that make it better than our fancy, newfangled indoor plumbing?

No, it most certainly does not.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Geek Alphabet

The Geek Alphabet from from "away team" to "zork".

The pictures are from Flickr licensed under Creative Commons.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Future of Publishing – A Writer’s View

The Future of Publishing – A Writer’s View
Kate Pullinger

An interesting article by an author experienced in the machinations of the publishing industry. She frankly discusses the growing pains the industry is going through as it moves into the digital age. She lists what she wants from publishers in the future.

Kate Pullinger is no Cory Doctorow--she's not enamoured with technology or free speech issues. She is first and foremost a writer; she wants to empower writers and that includes getting a decent wage for quality work.

E-Book Piracy and the iPad

Is the iPad Driving E-Book Piracy, and Does it Matter? | Gadget Lab |

Wired wrote an interesting article on how the iPad led to an increase in e-book piracy:

BitTorrent downloads grew by an average of 78% in the days after the iPad went on sale. Even so, the numbers were still tiny compared to the traffic in movies and music
E-book downloads on bitTorrent are miniscule. Compared to music and videos its practically non-existent. E-book piracy, however, has been around for about 15 years -- ever since scanners have been available.

"Original files come from those with enough time and patience to scan, OCR and proof-read the resulting files, but the majority of what you find are duplicates of these. Contrast this to music, where you pop a CD into your computer and wait a few minutes while it rips the tracks and downloads the metadata."
The rate at which unique e-books appeared increased proportionately with the decrease in scanner prices and the increase in OCR software effectiveness.

...then copying an entire book, even if protected by DRM, will be as simple as automating screenshots of pages and sending them to an OCR (optical character recognition) program.
DRM stripping software is already out there. OCR "scanning" of PDF files is still common, but as digital books become more common cracking and decryption will become more predominant, and OCR artifacts (mis-scanned 'typos', missing links, and even the '* * *' when a scene change occurs at the top of a page) will be a thing of the past.

If it causes a rise in book piracy, it is only because it is driving demand. The book industry should embrace this and give us what we want: cheap books, published day-and-date with their paper equivalents, along with all back-catalog titles made available. And preferably DRM-free.
Amen. DRM and lawsuits will be same same failure for eBooks as it has been for movies and music. Innovative marketing and a fair pricing will keep piracy in the shadows where it has an insignificant impact on sales. It may in fact increase demand by introducing a greater number of authours  wo a wider audience.

eBook Piracy ‘Surges’ After iPad Launch [TorrentFreak]

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Nebula Awards

The Nebula Awards: "are annual awards presented by Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America to celebrate excellence in science fiction and fantasy writing."

No surprise. The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi won the best novel. I'll add it to my reading list. From what little I've read the book is set in a world where the planet's bio-diversity has been seriously reduced due to corporate genetic manipulation and food becomes scarce? Does corporate greed force mankind to evolve?

I look forward to seeing how it compares to China Mieville's The City & The City: a world where two cities seemingly occupy the same space.
Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America

V Aliens Prefer Kindle - Kindle - Gizmodo

V Aliens Prefer Kindle - Kindle - Gizmodo

Hilarious. Sometimes product placement can be a chess game. And sometimes some doofus forgets to recharge the props on set.

7 inch TFT screen ebook reader - EB710

7 inch TFT screen ebook reader - EB710

This may still be vapour or only available in the far east, but I thought it looked pretty cool. No pricing yet. Not the software is Asian but the buttons are in English.

7-inch LCD (since when were those deemed fit for reading on?), Li Poalmer(2100mAH) battery, multimedia player(s) (jpg, avi,flv,h264, mp3/flac) , optional FM radio, USB 2.0, g-sensor, looks like like Android but not sure.

Supports ASCII/UNICODE TXT/DOC/PDB/HTML/PDF/FB2 etc.formats. (note that ePub not in list, nor is DRM mentioned)


Friday, May 14, 2010

Jim Butcher - Dresden 12 - Changes

Jim Butcher - The Dresden Files 12 - Changes

The Dresden Files series is alive and still fantastic. In Changes, we see some very big changes in Harry Dresden's life. Since it comes out in the first paragraph of the book it can't be considered a spoiler, but Harry finds out that he has a daughter and she is being held by the vampires of the Red Court.

Everything Harry does in the book is driven by his need to save his daughter's life. He is desperate and very angry. His ex-girlfriend Susan, the half-vampire and mother of his child, comes back into Harry's life with this good news/bad news scenario. Harry's friends come to his aid, and bargains are made to give Harry the power and knowledge he needs to defeat the Red Court.

Butcher is the master of the cliffhanger. Every chapter ends with either a smart-aleck remark by Harry or a suspenseful twist to the plot. I swear I can hear melodramatic duh-duh-duhhhh at the end of most chapters. As each chapter is relatively short I find myself stunned and stumbling from chapter to chapter as the plot rapidly unfolds and magic and action explodes at every turn. When I reluctantly had to put the book down (at a chapter's end) I eagerly anticipated when I could pick it up again.

The final climactic battle is topped off by a heart-wrenching final resolution. There were some big changes in the Dresden Files world in this book. I would have been quite happy, however, to not have to suffer Butcher's last cliffhanger.

With the next book, Side Jobs: Stories From the Dresden Files--due out October 2010,  not continuing the series arc, we'll probably have to wait until mid-to-late-2011 to pick up where Changes left off (book 13 will be titled Ghost).

Why iPad apps won't help magazines. - By Jacob Weisberg - Slate Magazine

Why iPad apps won't help magazines. - By Jacob Weisberg - Slate Magazine:

Once in a while Slate publishes a gem of an article. This article gets to the heart of whats dangerous about Apple and why desperate publishers of all stripes will be disappointed if they look to the App store to save their businesses.

With the ascendance of the iPad, aka "The Jesus Tablet," Apple's Lateran tendencies have grown ever more baroque. The arrival of the new device was shrouded in something better described as religious mystery than mere corporate secrecy. The spiritual leader, recently returned from near death, celebrated the birth of his "magical and revolutionary" gadget at a ceremony akin to a high mass, beneath a glowing Apple icon that must be approaching the crucifix as a universally recognized symbol.

In this metaphor, content publishers are like the halt and the lame who flock to Lourdes in search of a miraculous cure. The pilgrims' desperate hope is that Steve Jobs will restore their businesses to health by blessing them with "apps"—a new way for them to charge readers for content and revive full-page advertisements in electronic form. Burn me for saying so, but they're dreaming.

Be sure to click through to an except of Umberto Eco's article, The Holy War: Mac vs. DOS, from his column, La bustina di Minerva, in the Italian news weekly Espresso, September 30, 1994.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Do We Own the E-books We Buy?

Do We Own the E-books We Buy? | Technology | Smart Spending | Mainstreet

Seth Fiegerman at Mainstreet wrote a heavily industry-biased piece on the e-book phenomenon. Most of his story is drawn from the self-interest-driven comments of Frederic Haber.

“For the most part there is no real distinction between an e-book and a piece of software. When you buy either, what you are really paying for is a license to use the product, not to own it,” said Frederic Haber, the Vice President and General Counsel at the Copyright Clearance Center. “The seller is giving you access to this product, but at some point in the future they are entitled to take it back.”

I like the "for the most part" qualification. An eBook is not software. It is intellectual property and needs to be protected, but the rules for what happens after I buy a book is different from the rules associated with purchasing software for a single CPU.

After watching the music industry suffer billions in loses from digital piracy, publishers were weary the same would happen with digital books, and the only way to prevent it was to maintain tight control. Unfortunately this attempt hasn’t been able to stop the rise of e-book piracy. Though there aren’t any exact numbers available yet, industry insiders claim e-book piracy is “exploding.”

Essentially Habler is hinting that the same strong-arm and fear-mongering tactics that the music industry has been trying for the last while will be tried with the publishing industry. The thing to remember here is that it is the publishing industries that are looking to maximize their own profit and control the way music and the written word is distributed.

Haber, the VP of Copyright Clearance Center, speculates that we may one day. Instead of paying $9.99 as a flat price for an e-book, publishers may allow for different pricing models where customers pay less to have the book for a couple months, or to buy just a few chapters, and pay more to actually purchase the whole book and keep it forever. But this could be years away. In the meantime, consumers will have to ask themselves whether ownership is all it’s cracked up to be. Maybe it’s enough to just be able to enjoy reading a book once through and forfeit the rest.

I think I foresee a a future where the publisher takes 10% and the artist takes the lion's share. Piracy is frowned upon, but seen as a marketing cost rather than a dagger to the heart of profits.

There will be a big shakeup coming in the next decade or two in the publishing industry. Just as radio waned as the driving force in record sales, so will the less mass-media driven sales of the book industry change the way all media (music and movies) are packaged and sold.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

High price holds back ubiquity of e-readers | The Digital Reader

High price holds back ubiquity of e-readers | The Digital Reader

US consumers would pay just $5-$10 for an e-book, $2-$4 for a magazine and $5-$10 for a monthly newspaper subscription, the survey concluded.

In much of Europe, people were willing to pay higher prices, but in China and India respondents would pay no more than $3 for an e-book, $2 for a magazine and $2 for monthly newspaper access.

It sounds like Chinese and Indian respondents are more honest about what they are willing to pay.

There is great innovation right now in the way that books, magazines and newspapers are delivered electronically these days. I think there has to be a major change in the way published writing is packaged and monetized.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Profitable Long Form Journalism | Monday Note

Profitable Long Form Journalism | Monday Note

Frédéric Filloux, noticing that he is mostly using his iPad for reading long-ish text, ponders the future (2 years from now) of paper and digital publishing.
Compared to my computer, I realize I’m using the device in a different way. No mail (too clumsy), no writing, no twittering. Just reading stuff, the longer the better.

And I wonder: Can tablet computing be the missing link, the one that could rehabilitate (or rather introduce) long form reading in digital format — in a profitable way?
Worth a read as it has some interesting number crunching concerning the cost breakdown of paper and electronic publishing and predicts some interesting things for newspaper and magazine publishing.

e-books good for dyslexics

My iPhone has revolutionised my reading
Howard Hill -

... Dyslexia Society, where Sue Flohr, herself dyslexic, recounted how her iPhone had changed her life. She told me that many others share my experience reading books and the society is in talks with the government over making school textbooks available as eBooks.

Dyslexics have a hurdle to jump when trying to read. When they have control over the size and number of words on the screen they have active tools control the reading experience.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Brandon Sanderson - Mistborn 3 - The Hero of Ages

The Hero of Ages, final book of the Mistborn trilogy, satisfies all expectations following the first two books. All the questions left unanswered in books one and two are unambiguously answered in the last book. The resolution for each and every major and minor character is well planned and leaves us satisfied that just deserts are well meted out.

In the first book, The Final Empire the challenge was to defeat the Lord Ruler and free the skaa. Through the protagonist, Vin, we learn about the way magic works, and the structure of Empire society. Vin's teachers, friends and allies fill out the world view to some extent. A strong, satisfying ending to the book nevertheless leaves a greater peril. 

In the second book, The Well of Ascension, dealing with the Lord Ruler is small potatoes compared to the new challenges. Byzantine political manoeuvring, romance on the rocks, and a religious system with Vin as the messiah are bumps on the road to discovering why the Lord Ruler took up the power at the Well of Ascension. The mystery of the Well is solved, but then a dangerous evil is released into the world.

The final book, The Hero of Ages, is the culmination of all the adventures of Vin and her friends as well as the stories of legend that are at the root of all the problems. The true nature of magic is finally revealed, as well as the nature and purpose of the "monsters"--the koloss, kandra, and Inquisitors--introduced in the first two books. Vin and Elend travel with an army, finding clues left behind by the Lord Ruler while taking control of hidden caches of food and water. Spook, Breeze, the kandra Tensoon, and Sazed all play a role in uncovering the truth about the power manipulating people and events in a conscious plan to destroy the world.

The subject of religion, which I thought was both a little bit of comic relief and a reflection of the political dynamics of the world, turns out to be of much greater importance. The Terris Keeper Sazed, whose specialty is researching and remembering all of the long-lost religions of the world, starts the book as a bit of comic relief. In a good-natured but annoying way he goes from companion to companion offering religions to take up as a personal belief system. In the last book, we see a depressed Sazed (after the death of his beloved Tindwyl) setting aside religion after religion as "false" and consumed by a need to understand the prophecies and the purpose of religion, faith, gods, and the end of the world.

Sanderson is a meticulous writer. He designed a detailed system of magic that is fleshed out in greater detail in each successive book until we understand the source and nature of magic, the nature of the mist/ash environment. Sanderson is masterful in tying together everything from the earlier books to the final resolution. Everything that makes this world a unique Sanderson invention, the ash, the mist, the metals, the monsters, the different kinds of magic, the ancient legends and religions; they all are interrelated.

The surprises come fast and furious towards the end, leading to a bold world-changing ending. This is an immensely satisfying end to an original vision in the fantasy world. Its a shame that the such a well-designed world has been so soundly concluded. It would be a treat to read more works set in this world.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Google buys Canadian Bumptop Desktop

Google acquires the Canadian company for an estimated $35-$40M. They make a 3D-multitouch user interface using a desktop/3d-room metaphor (watch the video on YouTube).

Commercially availiable for both Windows and Mac, some believe that Bumptop will be built into Chrome OS, making it the ideal interface for a forthcoming Google tablet, or licensed to third party device makers. It may also be made available for Android. Others think the bag of patents they've purchased will protect Google from the inevitalbe Apple lawsuits.

I missed out on my chance to evaluate it myself. When I visited the site I found this message:
For the first week of May, we kept BumpTop Free available for download to give BumpTop fans one last chance to grab a copy. BumpTop is now no longer available for free download.

The Register

Ebookwise 1150 fades away

Nate at the Daily Reader comments on the silence surrounding the oldie but goody, Ebookwise 1150. My ebookwise is still my daily e-reader, but Nate's eb-1150 will probably last longer since he only takes it out of the box every once once in a while to see if its still working.

I happen to still have an 1150 in the original retail box. I pulled it out, and would you believe it was made in 2002? The hardware is 8 years old, and still being sold. Impressive.

I'm pretty sure mine was made in 2002 as well; the LCD screen looks a bit "aged" around the edges. I'm figure even with daily use it will still be working long after I get a new reader with all the fancy new features (like ePub support).

Friday, May 7, 2010

Keep track of what Kindle users are highlighting

You can keep track of what Kindle users are highlighting at the Amazon site at

Amazon organizes the data by all-time and heavily highlighted recently. All-time is self-explanatory, by the "recently" list is not explained in any detail on the site. Its probably because its still early days and they're being flexible with the number crunching until some some sort of pattern appears.

Most Highlighted of All Time

Heavily Highlighted Recently

Vintage LP: Huxley narrates Brave New World

Grab the mp3 files (side1 and side2) of the Vintage (1979) LP of Brave New World narrated by Aldous Huxley himself!

The hiss/pop of the original album enhances the atmosphere of the reading. Huxley's introduction alone is worth the download.

Originally from boingboing.

Also check out the Arthur C. Clarke album featuring Transit of Earth, The Star, and The Nine Billion Names of God.

RecordBrother, hosts files that "are here for your listening enjoyment all are from out of print non-reissued spoken word and audio gems from my own vinyl collection."

Thursday, May 6, 2010

14th Annual Webby Awards

14th Annual Webby Awards winners are now available. See the list of nominees & winners at Its a long list and many (most) award categories are of no interest to me. Yet its a great comprehensive jumping-off point to visit areas of the web you haven't stumbled upon yet ( didn't win anything).

At first glance there is nothing on the list that jumps out at me. I'm gonna look at -- it looks like a site that I should have visited already.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Canadian Prime Minister to enact a Canadian DMCA in six weeks

Michael Geist reports that Canadian Prime Minister Steven Harper promises to enact a Canadian version of the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act sometime in June. He is doing this despite any consensus within his inner circle, party, or the Canadian people. Harper is bowing to increasing pressure from the US.

Cory Doctorow reminds us of the overwhelming opposition to this same Conservative party position and the stupidity of being the first country to succumb to pressure from the US while an international treaty is in the works.

Speak out:
Write a paper letter to your Member of Parliament and send copies to the Prime Minister, Moore, Clement and Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff. No stamp is required - be sure to include your home address and send it to the House of Commons, Ottawa, ON, K1A 0A6.

Foxit Releases PDF Reader v3.3

I use Foxit for all my PDF-related needs. An example of the reason why is the new security features found in this new release.

Press Release:
Foxit, a leading provider of solutions for reading, editing, creating, organizing, securing PDF documents and eReader devices, announces the release of Foxit PDF Reader Version 3.3. The new Foxit Reader further enhances PDF document viewing security by implementing a Safe Mode feature.

In its continued efforts of providing safer, faster and more stable PDF software tools, Foxit addresses recent security concerns by releasing a new version of its popular Foxit Reader. This is a follow-up security improvement to the Foxit Reader release on April 2nd, 2010. Earlier this month, Foxit Reader adopted a warning message before running any executable command embedded in a PDF document. Version 3.3 adds a second level of security by giving the user an option for disabling all external commands. The new Trust Manager allows users to select a safe mode operation, once selected; no external commands will be executed by the Foxit Reader. The Trust Manager feature is easy-to-use and can be selected or deselected within the reader at the discretion of the reader.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Terry Pratchett vs Dr Who

SFX magazine’s guest editor, Sir Terry Pratchett himself, explains why Doctor Who is questionable SF.

He's not slagging off the venerable institution; he explains why he loves it to this day and still looks forward to the next episode.  He does explain, though, that the formulaic deus ex machina resolutions to most stories and the very nature of the god-like Doctor rules out claiming Dr Who as a staple of Science Fiction.

At the same time figuring out what pigeon hole to slot fiction in is far less important than simply enjoying it.

Read the article. The master is still the master even when he's blogging.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Top 10 Greatest Science Fiction Detective Novels Of All Time

Jane Anders posted her list of the Top 10 Greatest Science Fiction Detective Novels Of All Time at

  • A Philosophical Investigation by Philip Kerr
  • The Retrieval Artist novels by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
  • When Gravity Fails by George Alec Effinger
  • Tea From An Empty Cup by Pat Cadigan
  • The Automatic Detective by A. Lee Martinez
  • Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan
  • Gun, With Occasional Music by Jonathan Lethem
  • Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams
  • The Yiddish Policeman's Union by Michael Chabon
  • The Caves Of Steel by Isaac Asimov
I've read (and recommend) the books in bold and, after reading Ms. Anders's synopses I am eager to get my hands on Gun, With Occasional Music sometime in the near future.

I would include in the list:

Kiln People by David Brin
The Long ARM of Gil Hamilton by Larry Niven.
The Garret, P.I. series by Glen Cook
The Fragmented America & Barnum System stories by Ron Goulart
The Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde
The Nightside series by Simon R Green

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Kindle's v2.5 firmware upgrade & social networking

Kindle's v2.5 firmware upgrade in May will introduce some interesting new features that may play a part in how we read books in the future.

  • Share book passages with friends on Facebook and Twitter directly from your Kindle. 
  • Popular Highlights: See what the Kindle community thinks are the most interesting passages in the books you're reading. 
Variations on the book club appear all over the web in various formats. I am impressed by very well written and thoroughly researched reviews, even if they sometimes go over my head. I'd like to write quality in-depth reviews myself but they are beyond my ability and the time I'm willing to put into it. The quality or applicability of comments/reviews found on Amazon, in chat rooms, newsgroups, or forums range from excellent to execrable.

When reading on my ebookwise I often highlight words I'm not familiar with (or misspelled words for that matter), as well as passages that are either very good or very bad. When I'm done with the book the markup is never used for anything -- yet I continue to do it.

I think Amazon may have hit upon something here, tapping a body of knowledge that is not yet represented on the web. Readers, for the most part, can't be bothered with writing a review or commenting on a book. If the reading process itself can be modified to make it easy to share your impressions as you are reading we get two benefits: the "raw data" of passages that readers find interesting, and the impetus for people to work up the energy to express their opinions about a book.

Hopefully, if the experiment works, we can see a future where all readers on all devices can share their interesting passages. If anything, it can be a valuable resource for finding the good bits of the next potboiler or bodice ripper you plan on reading.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Whats wrong with Apple?

Why is Apple being such a jerk? With great power comes great arrogance.

Steve Jobs Threatens Theora Lawsuit: Steve Jobs replies to Hugo Roy's email questioning his position on Flash, HTML5, and H264, and Open Standards. Steve replies that he's getting ready to go after Theora for patent infringements.

Apple Raises E-Book Prices For Everyone: Apple announces that the price of all books have to end with .99 and that writers/publishers cannot sell their works cheaper anywhere else.  First, whats the deal with forcing everything as ninety-nine? Its arbitrary and petty to run a marketplace that way. Second, writers and publishers have already set price points to their own satisfaction. Why should Apple's whim force authours to raise their prices (really, who is gonna drop their prices), especially when the author is trying to get by by selling a short story of pamphlet for small change?

Apple wrong to kill seal hunt game: Apple rejected a seal hunting game for the iPhone. Its a variation on the whack-a-mole game. No baby seals are involved, and there is no blood. Apple rejected it because it contained objectionable material, yet they have deep hunting apps, as well as Grand Theft Auto.

Mark Fiore's iPhone App Approved: after being rejected by Apple for "ridiculing public figures". Apple screws up twice: for rejecting the app in the first place; and for approving the app after he wins the Pulitzer Prize (yet still rejects all other political satire for provided through the big newspapers Apple is in bed with)

I'm sure there are many more cases where sheer arrogance has supplanted common sense in Apple's bid to remain the anti-establishment company that cares. It may be the case that all this bad reportage is a result of Apple's success—its easy to hit a big target—but it may also be reporting on the seeds of self-destruction starting to germinate.