Friday, January 29, 2010

The Kindle Killer Isn't Very Killer

Before it was even released, the hype surrounding the iPad already helmed it a Kindle killer; whether or not it is, doesn’t really matter because it’s cool, so people will obviously buy it, and thus it will no doubt give Kindle a run for its money. My bet is Amazon is going to respond come summer with something that tries to one up the game.

Name aside, there are a number of reason why the iPad is a bit disappointing.

The biggest flaw for me is there is no USB. Let’s assume you just typed the great American novel and you’re ready to print it. You have two options: sync it or email it. The convenience of saving to a thumb drive is one to be missed. The least they could have done is put in an SD slot that lets you easily put your photos into it. Am I the only one who hates syncing photos on an iPod?

There’s also no HDMI out; sure, you can get an A/V adaptor to hook it up to your TV, but it would be so much easier if you didn’t have to.

You can only customize it if Apple says it’s okay. That really stinks. Every computer has limitations, but this thing is really locked down. You can only install the programs that it approves and change the actual appearance of it if they decide that it is okay to do.

I don’t use webcams often, but I like the feature. They’re dirt cheap to put on computers, so what gives Apple? If this is the bridge between a phone and computer, then why did you remove one feature that is on both?

Wanna upgrade? Wait for the next version to come out and buy a new one. That’s not the case with netbooks and computers; do you need more RAM? A better processor? Bigger hard drive? A screwdriver and a little common sense will probably be able to get the job done.

How about that 10 hour battery? That’s great until it begins to deteriorate, which all batteries quickly do. There’s no replaceable battery.

But Apple has a great commercial, and that’s why everyone, I’ll admit myself included, is lusting after this thing.

Before heading out to buy Apple’s sexiest new gadget, pause for a moment and look at your options.

There are two by Lenovo that should be worthy competitors.

The first is the Lenovo s10-3t; it’s the same price as the Apple, almost the same weight and size, it has a real keyboard built right in, USB and SD slots, and its hard drive is three times the size. It also has Windows 7, which means you can customize it all you want, or even put Linux on it should you desire to do so. The battery life isn’t 10 hours, true, but it should get you 5 to 6 by turning off the Wi-Fi, and if you want more then you can always buy a backup battery.
Even more impressive (but at a rumored twice the price) is the Lenovo Ideapad U1 hybrid, which is also a Windows 7 touch screen that splits apart into a Linux machine (complete with its own processor).
Both of these computers are better, in my opinion, than the iPad, but here I am, with the rest of the world checking out the iPad as if it’s a worthy companion. It’s funny how much hype for a product can actually make you desire a product that is less superior to its competitors.

Will it kill the Kindle? Certainly makes me wonder, and hope Amazon comes out with something to compete. But the Kindle does have one thing on the iPad (aside from a better screen), it’s ridiculously simple and doesn't require any subscription plan—that alone will save you $180 to $360 a year over the subscription plan that Apple has set up with AT&T; plus the Kindle is worldwide.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

J.D. Salinger, You Arrogant Jerk, R.I.P.

J.D. Salinger liked his women young and dumb; that’s the rumor anyway. I buy in to this; I think he liked to be in control, and it’s no surprise that they left him once they matured and wised up. And if you buy into the rumors, he also drank his own urine for a period of time.

That’s what I’ll remember most about him.

While most people fell head over heels for Holden or the Glass family, I was fascinated by his life, and the mystery that surrounded it.

That’s usually the case with fiction authors for me. I’d much prefer to read a biography on Shakespeare then any of his works—the same is true for just about anyone who writes fiction past or new. I’m always intrigued by how they write, why they write, and their own personal beliefs. Their plots mean little to me—it’s the near mathematical equations that went into each sentence—the gentle or harsh construction of words.

Salinger was among the last living writers of the Modernist period (actually, I wouldn't really group him here...his works sort of went beyond any literary group; he was just a group in himself). It’s no wonder really that he choose to live the way he did; his every struggle to find identity and make sense of it all was analyzed and scrutinized by every contemporary literature professor in the country; everyone wanted to know what went through that mind of his, and in the end he just couldn’t take it—not in life anyway.

I always sort of assumed he would burn himself alive with all of his unpublished works—this being the only way to be able to remain in control of his own death and what happened to his literary estate. It was kind of him to let life take it’s natural course.

In coming months and years a string of bitter trials is surely going to take place; trials between his relatives over who truly controls his literary estate and who can best handle his wishes (whatever his wishes are). Once he’s laid to rest, I’m sure each of his children will have their news exclusive telling their side of the story, and I bet his secret lovers have already scheduled their interviews as well. And now, as morbid as it is, I sit back eagerly to await the gossip that they reveal.

As of 1999, he was also rumored to have completed 15 books, which he kept locked in a safe somewhere; that was over 10 years ago, so there’s no telling how many more there could be. It’s going to be an interesting 20 years—the time it will take to get all his books finally published—assuming, of course, he didn’t burn them all before he died.

And Salinger, wherever you wound up, I hope at last you found whatever it was you were looking for.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Your Vote Is Requested

My wife has been nominated by PoppyTalk as one of their favorite photographers. Now she needs your help! Please take a few seconds (literally, a few seconds, as all you have to do is click a button and hit registration is required), and vote for her.

To vote, just go to this page and click "city lights photography" and then click vote. It's that simple! So please do it! Voting ends soon, so don't wait!

Below are a few of my favorite pictures by her. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Future (?) of Reading

With the Apple iSlate (?) schedule to come out at the end of the month, I digitally conceived what it may look like for the future of reading. Enjoy:

Friday, January 15, 2010

My beautiful wife is giving away a beautiful Diana camera (luckily, it's not the one I gave her when I proposed to her...this one is brand spanking new, and even comes with film!). Go to her blog or click the image below to find out more.


Monday, January 11, 2010

The Future of Magazines

I have long said the future of eReaders isn't in books as much as magazines; yes, I do like the idea of reading ebooks, because they're convenient, but I have not entirely replaced my reading with Kindle, and I don't suspect I will in my life.

Magazines are a different story; I hate the idea of having to throw away a magazine each week; it's a waste of paper and ink. But I also hate how they look on Kindle, and the general lack of good magazine subscriptions on Kindle.

If someone comes out with an electronic solution for magazines that actually works, than I'm more than willing and ready to ditch print magazines in favor of electronic ones.

Sports Illustrated demoed their version of what a magazine should look like, and it was so amazing it made me want to subscribe despite the fact that I hate sports. Take a look at the videos below and you'll get the idea:

Popular Science also demoed their vision; it's a longer video, but equally impressive.

Friday, January 8, 2010

My Favorite New Gadgets

Each January I get gadget lust the week of CES; it's not just because the gadgets are cool--it's because you really can see how the future and even human behavior is evolving is changing because of technology.

Some of my favorite gadgets this year?

I love the idea of the tablet; this year is supposed to be the year of the tablet; unfortunately most of the tablets look and act the same. Lenovo has a pretty impressive hybrid netbook that's screen completely detaches from it's frame; it's a great concept, but I'm not crazy about how it turns into a Linux computer when it's detached, and is Windows 7 when attached. I was more blown away by MSI's dual screen concept; the computer puts a full-size touch screen keyboard on one of the screens (see pictures below); this concept can really go a lot of different directions, so it's something I'll keep an eye on in coming months. I currently use a MSI netbook, and it's a solid startup company.

Another wicked cool concept at the trade show is the Light Touch Pico Projector; this computer projects a 10 inch touch screen computer onto a flat service. I could see this sort of thing (if the price is right) working in kitchens, coffee tables, or any place with limited space.

I will be honest, the next concept is honestly one of the dumbest things I've ever seen and I'd never buy it--but it's still crazy what they've done. It's a transparent laptop by Samsung.

Sony pulled a Chumby this year with it's Internet alarm clock (?). It's $200, which I think is about $150 too much, but it's still a glimpse into the clocks of the future.

eReaders, like tablets, offered a wide array of pretty unimpressive devices. All of them basically do the same things Amazon's Kindle has been doing for 2 years (aside from the obscenely overpriced color one). One that had promise was the Skiff. It's not exactly innovating, but it does seem to be the perfect solution for people who want to read newspapers and magazines electronically (it's a better size than other devices). I suspect it will lose interest when the price is announced--my guess is it will be 400 to 600, which is just too much for most consumers.

Microsoft usually does little to impress me (mostly because they announced things people have known about for months). xBox's Napal is kind of cool, but it's not like they haven't explained this concept before. The best from MS I've seen is the Arc Keyboard. It's not exactly revolutionary, but it's more stylist than anything else they did this year.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

It's the End of the Reference Desk as We know It, and I Feel Fine

Tech guru's say 2009 was the year of the netbook and 2010 will be the year of the tablet. I'm going to go one further and say it's the year of the Friendly Librarian, because the tablet may very well get rid of the most intimidating barrier of any library: the reference desk.

Much has been done in recent years to make the desk less scary to patrons who have questions; recent innovations include making desk more rounded, adding flowers, and removing the word reference in favor of the more trendier "Information Desk" (which presupposes people who come to the desk actually read signs, which any librarian can tell you simply is not true). The fact is, however, few things can be done to make people less afraid of going to the desk to ask a question, so with all the tablets coming out this year, perhaps it's time to consider if libraries really need a reference desk.

Why should patrons have to come to the desk? The modern library should be a place where librarians don't wait for people to come with questions, rather they roam the library looking for confused patrons aimlessly studying the shelves trying to make sense of that bizarre thing called Dewey.

Freescale claims it's going to have a stripped down tablet running either Google Chrome or Linux by summer that will sell for only $200--powerful enough to run an online book catalog remotely.  Lenovo and HP both have models in work in the 500 to 1000 range for people who need something more powerful and running Windows. If you really want to be cool you could go with the rumored Apple Tablet, but likely that will be nothing more than an overpriced, oversized, iPod touch.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Best TV Shows of the Decade

My final list; the best TV shows of the decade.

Arrested Development -- This was a horrible sitcom, but a fantastic comedy; the reason it never got big is it's just too hard to watch the episodes without starting from the beginning.

The Office -- I was a huge fan of the original series, and had doubts about this one, but it really grew into it's own; today I wouldn't even compare the two shows.

The West Wing -- I'll just pretend like the last season never happened, because all the ones that came before it were great.

Curb Your Enthusiasm -- An r-rated Seinfeld. It can be hit or miss each episode, but when it's a good episode it's on par with Seinfeld. And that Seinfeld plot this year was wonderful.

30 Rock -- It took awhile, but this show has really grown on me.

Mad Men -- This show is slow, yes, but it's also very well written. After this seasons ending, I can't wait for next year.

Band of Brothers -- I had reservations about putting miniseries on this list, because they're more like movies than TV shows. Still, I couldn't resist putting this on the list. By far one of the best things I've ever seen on TV period.

The Clone Wars -- I felt a little weird watching a cartoon as an adult, but it was Star Wars after all; despite the occasional juvenile nature of the series, it has pretty complex themes, and is quite well written.

Firefly -- Why, oh why, did they cancel this show so soon? It had so much left too tell.

Dexer -- Thank you, Netflix, to introducing me to this series.