Wow, a new home! On, and there won’t be any new content.
Way to bury the lede.
Wow, a new home! On, and there won’t be any new content.
Way to bury the lede.
I never really thought I’d be a writer. In fact, for a long time, I thought I was going to end up being a physicist. Fast forward to freshman year in college when I realized that calculus wasn’t for me and I waved goodbye to my aspirations of a career in the hard sciences.
I didn’t immediately think, “Well then, I’ll just be a writer!” I had to pick a major, so I went with English. I graduated, started looking for careers and ended up in Higher Education (which is where I still work!). I never really thought of myself as a writer until I saw a post by Barb Dybwad on The Unofficial Apple Weblog. They were looking for bloggers (not writers) and since I had been blogging for awhile and I liked Apple stuff I figured why not apply.
I sent off an email and waited. I didn’t hear anything, so I figured that was that.
This was all 10 years ago, mind you, but I still remember seeing that email from Barb asking me to join up with TUAW. I did, and wrote this first post, and after a few years I ended up becoming the Lead Blogger at TUAW. I covered a couple of Macworlds for the site (that first Macworld I wrote something like 25 posts A DAY, which meant that I didn’t talk to anyone at the actual event), “starred” in a couple of videos, and wrote and wrote and wrote (my back of the envelope math shows that for the 3 years I was there I wrote 2.7 posts a day on average, or a little over 3000 posts).
More importantly TUAW gave me the opportunity to meet lots of people: fellow bloggers, writers, developers, and fans. So many people, in fact, that as I started listing them it grew so long that I decided not to include it with this post.
I left TUAW 7 years ago mostly because of AOL’s incompetence, so it came as only a mild shock to hear that AOL is shuttering the site and waving goodbye to all the talented folks who worked there. There’s some corporate speak saying that TUAW would be “rolled into” Engadget which means, I assume, the content will be absorbed into Engadget’s archives so they can still put advertising around it (and sip on that sweet, sweet SEO juice). A sad end to a fine site. A site that is directly responsible for the fact that I now honestly think of myself as a writer (though I still find it hard to believe that I’ve written books that you can buy in a bookstore! Sure, no one actually buys them, but they could and that’s what counts!).
Since today is the last day of publication for TUAW I wanted to thank everyone who read the site, anyone who was involved with it, and everyone I’ve met because of it. Writing for TUAW gave me my first taste of limited highly specific notierity (there was a time when I was recognized whenever I walked into an Apple Store), and my first realization that somewhere on the Internet there is someone who has nothing better to do than to tell you how whatever you’ve shared sucks (now I just go to Twitter for that).
You can read some more about my thoughts about TUAW in my farewell post (which used to have lot of lovely comments from readers wishing me well, but they seem to have been axed whenever TUAW changed commenting sytems. You can see why I have my doubts about the TUAW posts being around for the longhaul).
I have a podcast called Random Trek in which I discuss a random episode of Star Trek with a non-random guest. It is a hoot. You should listen to it.
You should also buy one of these nifty Random Trek t-shirts (available for a very limited time). Why? Because my little podcast could use the support, and I could use the ego boost of having more than 12 people want to wear a t-shirt promoting a project of mine (really, it is all about me).
Buy a shirt, damn it!
Also, if you haven't been listening to the podcast why not check out a few episodes. The most helpful review on iTunes raves:
Why wouldn't you listen?
As previously mentioned, I love my TiVo. I love it even more now that the Amazon Video app now supports streaming Prime video. And it snaps into HD pretty quickly (thought not quite as quickly as the Fire TV does).
Going through my closet I found the box for my beloved G4 Cube. Man, I remember ordering that computer like it was yesterday.
I really shouldn't have ordered it, since it was super expensive and I really couldn't afford it (thank goodness for credit cards). I did order it, though, and I was even so excited to get it that I had them hold it at the FedEx office so I could pick it up myself.
Here's the Steve Jobs announcement that got me to order it immediately:
All told it was a great computer, though probably more successful as an exercise in industrial design.
It sits on a shelf in our living room now, after a few years of faithful service and the box is now in our storage unit.
The Kindle Voyage is a sturdy little device, and it doesn't need a case. That being said, I'm very happy that I bought the unimaginatively named Amazon Protective Cover for Kindle Voyage (I have the "royal" cover, though I think I'll be giving that to Marisa and replacing it with a black cover).
I fell in love with this type of cover when I got one for my Kindle HDX (Amazon called those covers Origami covers, which is a far better name). It converts from a cover to a little stand, like so:
This solves one of the big problems I had with my Kindle: reading as I'm eating lunch. I used to prop the Kindle up against whatever was laying on my desk. Now I can just use the cover!
It is a little odd, I suppose, that the cover flips up and over inside of opening like a book. I actually like it because it makes me feel like an old time reporter opening my notebook to take some notes for some important story. That might just be me though.
There is one minor disappointment, though it is more of a failing with the Kindle's software. The Kindle DX (yes, I owned both) had an auto rotating screen. Turn the device on its side, and the screen would rotate. You could even turn it upside down and the text would rotate.
The Voyage doesn't auto rotate, but you can set it to Landscape Mode which is handy. Sadly, you can't rotate the screen 360 degrees. Why does this matter? While the cover is nice standing upright, you can lay it on another angle like so:
Which would be great if the screen wasn't upside down. Sad Panda.
That being said, I like the cover and I'd buy another one!
It seems the old tap on opposite corners of the Kindle screen to take a screenshot does work on the Voyage (though I found it for me a little finicky as compared to doing the same on the Paperwhite) so I thought I'd share some screenshots.
The home screen is pretty much the same:
There's a new Auto Brightness option that auto-adjusts the screen's brightness depending on the room's illumination. I have disabled it because I know better than my Kindle:
PagePress can be toggled on and off:
And you can set how much Feedback you want. Also, this is the first set of Kindle setting screens that uses a graphic (as far as I recall):
And you can also set the amount of press it takes to turn the page:
If you want to see any more screenshots just let me know in the comments or on Twitter.
Here's a look at the font options (which are unchanged):
A year ago I reviewed the Kindle Paperwhite for TechHive and I said:
I’d like to see Amazon bring back physical page forward and back buttons. Having dedicated buttons allow you to rest your finger on the button and press down when you need to turn the page, instead of moving a finger to tap on the screen. A minor detail, but one that would make for a more pleasant reading experience.
Amazon listened, kind of, with the Kindle Voyage. The Voyage doesn't have dedicated page buttons in the traditional sense, it has page turn areas either side of the screen. One is marked with a dot (page back) and the other is a line (page forward). Squeeze either and the Kindle buzzes to let you know and the page turns.
I love PagePress, though I will say that the first few times I used it I accidentally paged back by touching the screen when trying to squeeze the PagePress button. It isn't happening now that I've got the hang of it, but something to be aware of.
Now, this isn't a full review because other people have done that, but I will say that screen is great. Not being recessed makes a big difference (even though I didn't think it would), and the light seems a little more even than the Paperwhite 2.
The Voyage is without a doubt the best Kindle ever. You should buy one and use my link to do it.
Since this isn't a full review I asked folks on Twitter if they had any questions, and some did. Here they are:
I think this is a reference to Kindle Unlimited (Amazon's subscription library of ebooks). I haven't tried it, and Oyster doesn't work with the Voyage.
@blankbaby How fragile does it feel?— Jamelle Ghoulie (@jbouie) October 22, 2014
Not fragile at all! In fact, since the front is one solid surface it feels a little sturdier to me than the Paperwhite 2 (which wasn't a flimsy device itself!). I don't think a case is needed, but I do like the Amazon case that I bought.
@blankbaby Waste of money?— Dallas Brown (@kdbdallas) October 22, 2014
@blankbaby the biggest one is if it’s worth upgrading from a PW1….— Ron Ifferte (@rifferte) October 22, 2014
I think so. The screen is much better, and I didn't like the unevenness of the lighting on the Paperwhite 1. The Voyage (and the Paperwhite 2) doesn't have the same issue (and the screen is much better).
@blankbaby Is the new high res screen as great as it sounds (and how is the new flush screen)?— David Crooks (@drcrooks) October 22, 2014
Sometimes you should believe the hype, and that is the case with the Voyage's screen. It is great.
@blankbaby How does the typography compare to previous versions? Does it have auto-hyphenation? Anything fancy like widow/orphan prevention?— Benjamin Esham (@bdesham) October 22, 2014
The Voyage's software is nearly identical to that on the Paperwhite, which means the typography is the same as well. No cool auto-hyphenation or widow/orphan prevention.
@blankbaby is my paperwhite 2 a piece of shit now? Need I feel shame whilst using it?— Lex Friedman (@lexfri) October 22, 2014
Yes and yes.
@blankbaby lol. Tweetbit on the iPad doesn’t like custom keyboards. I asked for your impressions of the cover compared with the PaperWhite.— Phil Lee (@philrlee) October 22, 2014
I didn't have a cover on my Paperwhite, but I'm a fan of the origami cover for the Voyage.
@blankbaby does the vibration on page turn become annoying and can you switch it off?— Flow (@fjkraemer) October 22, 2014
I like the little buzz when you use PagePress, but you can turn it off (or make it even more buzzy).
@blankbaby How would you describe the responsiveness of the touch screen? How does the touchscreen feel to touch?— Harry Donovan (@qortex) October 22, 2014
It is just as responsive as the Paperwhite 2, which suited my needs. There is a slight lag when you press to select something, but page turns are quick (and that's what I'm doing most of the time on the Kindle.
Hey, I wrote another book! This one, as you might suspect from the title, is all about the Amazon Fire Phone.
The phone didn't get rave reviews from the tech press, but I think it is a pretty nifty device (I may be biased). It has a bunch of neat features, the OS is pretty clear and easy to use, and it makes getting your Amazon content (books, movies, and music) very simple. Also, can I tell you how much I love browsing the Kindle book store in a native app? Because I do (you can't do that on the iPhone because Amazon won't give Apple the 30% that they charge for in app purchasing).
Anyway, buy my book if you have a Fire Phone. Or if you want a Fire Phone. Or if you want to support my writing career. Or if you're bored. You know, just buy the dang book!
Note: Some people will wonder why I wrote a book about the Fire when my every day phone is an iPhone (a 6 plus to be precise). I wrote about why I really can't switch from an iPhone before but it boils down to: unlimited data and iMessages.
I don't know much about Darla Xavier's crossmorphic sensors, but color me intrigued.
Self configuring sensors sound like something out of science fiction, but it sounds like it is going to become a reality sooner or later. I can't wait!
I had this crazy idea: I should do a podcast in which I would be joined by a guest (a single guest) and discuss a random episode of Star Trek.
I know what you're thinking, "That doesn't sound too crazy." Well, here's the thing, if I'm best known for anything in the world of podcasts it is my silence. I'm not a naturally chatty person and since most of my podcasting appearances involve panel discussions I can sometimes fade into the background. The idea that I should host a podcast and be joined by only one other person seemed daunting to me (I thought the random Star Trek part was a pretty good idea right from the start).
I did what I do whenever I have a crazy idea: I told Marisa about. Since she has had at least three non-consecutive successful conversations with me about a variety of subjects she didn't think the idea was crazy. In fact, she encouraged me to do something about it.
That's the other thing about my crazy ideas: they usually stay ideas. I don't think I'm alone in this tendency. Sadly, for me, I'm also a classic over-thinker. I think about stuff for a long time before doing anything (you can ask Marisa about this too!).
Emboldened by Marisa's support of the idea I thought about it some more. I pondered who would be a good first guest for awhile and the answer became clear: Jason Snell.
Jason, in addition to being a huge Star Trek fan, is a doer. I figured if he was into the idea the likelihood of it actually becoming a thing would be greatly increased.
Jason did, in fact, like the idea and in turn motivated me to actually do something about it. I registered a domain, I got a Twitter account, and then I thought about it some more.
Now you can listen to the first episode (you totally should) and I'm very excited about the whole thing.
Look for new episodes of Random Trek every Thursday for the next 680 weeks or so (assuming there isn't a new Star Trek series released over the coming 13 years).
The invention of the browser tab radically changed the way I browse the Internet, mostly for the better. I now often have two or two browser windows open with upwards of 25 sites open.
One of the downsides of having multiple windows with multiple tabs open is that sometimes one of those sites starting playing music/sound and you have no idea which one is responsilble.
Chrome, my browser of choice, has recently added a little speaker icon to any tab that is currently playing audio. This makes me so happy that I should probably take a good look at my life. A small, small feature which has made my browsing much, much better.
Thanks, Google. You're still kinda creepy, but your Chrome team is doing good work!
If case you haven't used Manage Your Kindle before (and I'm willing to bet most Kindle users haven't) it allows you to delete ebooks, send them to particular Kindles and even download a book to your computer and transfer it to your Kindle via USB.
Here's what it used to look like (and still does in Chrome for me):
The design isn't very exciting, but that's not my main issue with the old MYK site. You couldn't perform actions on multiple books, so if you wanted to delete 3 books from your library you had to click on the drop down for each and then click delete. I don't have time for 6 clicks!
The new version makes that a thing of the past, and looks much nicer (at the moment I'm only seeing this in Safari):
A lovely gird of your book covers is displayed by default. Click on a book and it gets a little green check mark. Click on another one, and another check mark appears. Then you can click on one of the action buttons and have that action apply to all the selected items. Magic:
Amazon has also made it easier to find details about your Kindles by displaying all of your them along the top of the page. Clicking on one Kindle allows you to deregister it (if you want to have someone else use it with their Amazon account), your Kindle's email address (you did know you can email documents to your Kindle, right?), and the type and serial number.
It is also now much easier to turn off Special Offers (i.e. ads) on your Kindles that sport them, just by clicking a link and paying a few bucks:
Well done, Amazon!
I just ordered a physical book from Amazon (this one, if you must know) and above you'll see the clever thing Amazon did. Since they have the Kindle version of the book, Amazon appeals to my impatience and offers a one click way to download the free sample to my Kindle.
Over the last few weeks I've mulled over the options for my next smartphone. I pretty much settled on the Moto X as Scott McNulty's Top Next Smartphone for a number of reasons. I read the reviews, checked the specs, and even visited Best Buy to see how the Moto X felt in my hand. All of this research really got me to thinking about the series of choices which lead me outside an AT&T store in downtown Philadelphia a few Friday mornings ago waiting in line to buy my next phone: an iPhone 5s.
Conventional wisdom goes something like: once you've used an iPhone for a while you're locked in because of all those sweet, sweet apps you've bought. It is true that I've purchased a nontrivial number of apps of the years and I was loathed to "lose" that money.
Being a fairly logical fellow I figured I should take an inventory of which apps I actually used on a regular basis to make sure I wouldn't miss anything running with the Android. I was shocked at the answer. It would seem that I spend the vast amount of my time using my iPhone to surf the web, check email, and tweet.
That's pretty much it, and I accomplish most of that using either stock apps or free apps. All the other apps I've purchased are nice but I hardly ever use them.
I've used a number of Android devices over the years, and it wasn't a very pleasant experience. iOS and the iPhone were light years ahead in every aspect. This all changed when Google's latest Nexus 7 appeared in my life. The Nexus 7 showed me that Android has matured, and it is pretty darned good. For the first time ever I could imagine myself using an Android phone every day without wanting to claw my eyes out (or toss the phone into a nearby body of water).
Despite the non-suckitude of modern versions of Android I still bought an iPhone for one simple reason.
Over the last few weeks my lovely wife has had to navigate the choppy waters of my smartphone decision with me. She's sat quietly as I explained all the cool things the Moto X does, and my reservations about iOS 7 (most of which have evaporated now that I've spent time with iOS 7). She nodded her head and said she didn't really care what phone I used as long I was happy. Awww.
Then it happened. She was texting with her sister when she looked up at me and said, "Wait. If you get an Android phone will I be able to send you iMessages from my Mac and iPad?"
She was so sad at the thought of having to send me regular text messages, like a Visigoth, that I quickly realized that it wasn't the apps, or the design, of the lickablity of iOS that would keep me on the platform: it was how seamlessly iMessage had established itself as a critical way of keeping in touch with my wife that would keep me from switching.
I use iMessage countless times a day to text my wife random pictures, a random emoji of a little dancing lady, and sometimes to tell her important information. Of course I could still do these things from an Android phone but it wouldn't be as seamless, and I'd have to up my text messaging plan.
iMessage was the reason I bought myself an iPhone 5s, despite my wandering eye. Luckily, this is one sweet phone so it isn't as though this is a selfless act. Part of me, though, still yearns to try out an Android phone full time. Perhaps when Apple releases a version of iMessage for Android. I mean that's worked out so well for Blackberry.
I have something of a Kindle problem, so you can bet your hippy that I have the latest Kindle Paperwhite in my hot little hands.
The fine folks at Tech Hive asked me to review it, and review it I did. Check it out. And now I can write my Kindle off on my taxes, though since the government is shutdown at the moment I don't think we need to pay taxes.
That image is from my fancy new Kindle Paperwhite (yes, that's an affiliate link). How did I take it? It is pretty simple:
I did try this trick on a Kindle Touch, and it didn't seem to work.
I rarely venture forth from Center City Philadelphia, let alone the state of Pennsylaniva. However, circumstances conspired to force me to leave the Keystone state for a wedding over the weekend. As luck would have it Apple released iOS 6 with the banner Passbook feature mere days before I was to board my flight. Further proof of my luck: all four of my flights were on United, which is one of the few airlines who support Passbook at this moment (along with American Airlines and Lufthansa). How did it go?
Using Passbook isn't difficult, but there are a lot of steps you have to take to get your eTickets into it:
There you have it, you can use Passbook to get onto your plane (and yes, the actual ticket has a QR code, which I've blurred out in the picture above)!
Now that your eTickets are in Passbook an alert shows up on your lock screen a few hours before your flight's boarding time. Swipe the notification and the eTicket is displayed with a QR code (if you have a lock code enabled on your phone this process does not require it. The eTicket is displayed without having to enter your PIN or password). One nice touch is that when your iPhone is displaying the eTicket the screen brightness is automatically set to the highest level (I usually keep my screen at 33% brightness) and then goes back to your setting when the eTicket is dismissed (by swiping upwards).
At the airport the friendly TSA folks and gate representatives all have scanners waiting for you. Just hold your iPhone, which is displaying your ticket, up to the scanner and wait for the green light that proves you aren't a security risk (the first time I scanned my ticket the scanner turned red and beeped loudly. I slightly panicked until I realized I had an exit row seat and they had to ask me if I was OK with sitting there… which I was). And that's it, you just used your $500 iPhone to replace a 1 cent paper ticket. Yay, technology!
It seems to me that Passbook is a clever idea, but honestly having my eTicket with the QR code emailed to me (or just using the one displayed in the United app) would have been simpler. Once you get the ticket into Passbook it is a nice experience, but adding stuff to Passbook isn't intuitive. In fact, once I had my 2 tickets to CA in Passbook I didn't have the option to add anything else from within Passbook itself since the App Store button was no longer displayed.
While I agree with most of this article about Apple's awful, and slavish, devotion to mimicking real world artifacts in software this line stuck me as very odd:
How many iPhone users have ever actually seen a paper shredder in real life?
Are paper shredders really that exotic?
I'm a tech guy, but I really try and emulate the mindset of a non-technical person when I'm writing, since they are my audience. That's why I find this quick review of a Polaroid Android tablet from Piers Anthony's Newsletter so fascinating. Piers, a successful and prolific author, isn't technical at all but his wife bought a $100 tablet. He's using it now and likes it, but you can just read this thoughts yourself:
My Sony Reader expired just as I was about to read the foregoing novel. That gave my wife a pretext to shop for something she had had her eye on, and we got a Polaroid Android Tablet Computer on sale for a hundred dollars. As I like to put it, I'm an old codger from another century, and slow to catch on to newfangled dinguses, but I rather like this one. Its Adobe Reader handled the .pdf manuscript, oriented the page to be upright regardless of my orientation; sometimes as I let the device tilt the page would spin around to re-orient. I can show the pages as they are, in assorted type sizes, or have them reformat and wrap to remain always on the page. The print is beautiful, easy to read. But I am unable to jump to my place in the book, or to return directly to the beginning when I complete it. So I had to page backward through the 373 page manuscript, one page at a time. This gets old fast. It does hold my place if I keep it in ready mode, but loses it if I turn it all the way off to save power. It will play songs, and I can read with musical background; it seems to have a fair roster of popular songs to start with, and we added more. But it can be a federal case to make it stop playing, and we have not found out how to make it play our added songs. It acknowledges their presence, lists them, but won't actually play them, instead playing only its own songs; it seems to think they are on the Internet. Would it be too much to ask that you be able to play a listed song by clicking on it? Or that there be an On/Off switch? If there is a Hell for programmers, it may have an On/Off switch for the tortures they undergo—that doesn't work. It will handle WiFi, but as yet I have not caught up with that 21st century stuff. So it's a novel experience, and I like it despite its frustrations.
I don't know what I would use a tablet for if I didn't have Wi-Fi.
I love writing, but this profile of a financial blogger just sounds awful. Working all day in the text mines, looking for Fool's Gold:
Some of what he writes is air and sugar. Some of it is wrong or incomplete or misleading. But he delivers jolts of sharp, original insight often enough to hold the attention of a high-powered audience that includes economists like The Times columnist Paul Krugman and Wall Street heavies like the hedge-fund manager Douglas Kass and the bond investor Jeff Gundlach.
It is no secret that I'm a fan of Amazon, and of their Kindles more specifically. It is often assumed, for one reason or another, that if you like a company that means you can't be critical of anything that company does. This is probably most commonly seen amongst Apple aficionados (and I think that some of the Apple press do give the company a pretty wide berth on many, many issues) but the same can be said for any company.
Just because I like the Kindle Fire (I wrote a bestselling book about it too which you should totally buy) doesn't mean the product can't stand some improvement. My internet pal, and yours, Jason Snell makes some great points on Techhive:
The Kindle Fire is definitely a first effort. I’m reminded of the original Kindle, which was intriguing and yet horribly flawed. After a couple of iterations, Amazon got the Kindle in shape. It can do the same with the Kindle Fire, especially if it emphasizes its two strongest points: a small size and a low price. With some tweaks to the hardware (volume buttons!) and continued software refinements, including better support for multiple Amazon accounts, the Kindle Fire’s future can still be bright.
The Kindle Fire's biggest flaw, if you ask me, involves physical buttons but I don't miss the volume buttons as much as Jason does. The location of the power button, however, is just plain dumb. I long for a sliding button like Amazon had on the second and third generation e-ink Kindles (though the 4th gen Kindles switched to a normal pushy button, which I am not a fan of). Turning on/off or putting a device to sleep shouldn't be something you can do accidentally.
Specifically the fact that every eReader I've used (and I've used many) displays some sort of image when it is "sleeping." Amazon even sells Kindles that show ads when the device isn't being used.
Why not display the cover of the book currently being read on the device when it is sleeping? I love book covers, and I miss seeing them when I'm reading something, so why display them?
This would have to be an optional setting, though, because one of the great things about eReaders is that you can read super trashy novels in public and no one ever knows (not that I would do such a thing).
People who say they iPad doesn't get uncomfortably hot are living in denial.
I've had a simliar experience with my iPad 3 so far. The heat isn't really an issue, but it is noticable. Perhaps some units have some misappiled thermal paste or something (I don't even know if there is any thermal paste on the processor in the iPad, that's just a complete guess).
Anyway, I like my iPad 3 but I still like my Mac (and Kindle) more.
But George Lucas strikes me as a little sad in this great NY Times article about his retirement (of his own choosing). For example:
“Why would I make any more,” Lucas says of the “Star Wars” movies, “when everybody yells at you all the time and says what a terrible person you are?”
I know people give Lucas crap for endless fiddling with his movies, but I admire him for sticking to his vision (good or bad) and self-funding it.
Good on ya, George!