Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Thoughts on Star Wars VII

Posted: 2015-12-19 in Reviews
Tags:
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Image Credit: starwars.com

Introduction

I saw Star Wars VII on Thursday night. I enjoyed the movie and was certainly entertained. However, the entire movie felt like a recycled menagerie of episodes IV, V, and VI.

It is clear that JJ Abrams is a fan and really wanted to respect and pay tribute to the original trilogy but I think he went too far.  Instead of paying respect to the original trilogy, he copied it.

I had very high expectations for this film. Many of them were fulfilled. What follows are the things that had me scratching my head during the film, interrupting my immersion in the experience. Also know that I have not read any of the books. I’m a huge Star Wars fan but have only seen the movies; that is my point of reference.

Spoilers follow, so if you have yet to see the movie and want to be surprised, do not proceed any further.

(more…)

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Kandle Light works on Nook

Posted: 2010-01-20 in Reviews

Got my Kandle in the mail today.  This is a nice reading light for the nook.  It has gotten rave reviews on Amazon from Kindle owners.  Consider me a happy Kandle/nook owner.

The Kandle is small and light.  It comes with batteries (CR2302) pre-installed and comes with an EXTRA set in the box; a very nice touch.

The Kandle fits securely on the nook and will not fall off with gentle shaking.  It will fly off if you shake it hard but I don’t foresee any violent shaking of my reading device while reading.

The Kandle provides more than enough light to read in complete darkness.  The two rotating arms allow you to customize the angle of the light to eliminate glare.

What more can I say.  It’s great.

The box and my nook (to show scale):

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Opening the box:

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Kandle closed:

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Attached to the nook:

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Side View:

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From the back:

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Arm open (the arm can open to 90 degrees):

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Total darkness; light on.  This picture does not do it justice.  The picture has a lot more glare than what is truly observed in real life:

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From the bottom; light on:

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Spare batteries and instructions:

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Review: Nook Update 1.1.0

Posted: 2009-12-22 in Reviews
Tags: ,

On Monday, 21 December 2009 Barnes & Noble began deploying the greatly anticipated version 1.1.0 update to the nook.  After my update downloaded, I posted screen shots of the update process.  This is my follow-up post after having used it for about 24 hours.

Summary:  

Improved:
  • Page turns are faster; now equivalent to Kindle 2.
  • Home button response is much faster.
  • Swipe-to-turn pages works VERY well!

No Change:
  • 24-hour time still not displaying in The Daily
  • “Formatting…” Still comes up when opening books; even the book you are currently reading
  • Cover flow is slightly smoother but there is still a lot of lag.
  • No way to delete the stupid & childish “Your Nook” by Dave Barry (located in The Daily)

Worse:

  • D-pad response in Look Up appears broken.  Does not follow commands properly.
  • Highlighting a paragraph is difficult due to D-pad lag and unresponsiveness. 
  • Notes properly submitted cannot be viewed unless you choose to edit. 

Suggested UI Improvements:
  • Disable Home Button when the keyboard is displayed. 
  • Intuitive D-Pad Behavior.
  • Descriptive Titles for Bookmarks.
  • Export highlights, notes and bookmarks.

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The nook is the sexy, yet aloof man/woman you can’t keep your eyes or hands off of but seldom treats you the way you deserve to be treated.  Don’t get me wrong, I really like my nook; but I don’t love it, yet.  Reading on the nook is a joy, just as it was on the Kindle.  However, in their current versions the Kindle is the superior machine even with its kludgy interface.  This is because when it comes to the “gee-whiz” stuff, the Kindle does what it says it will do and does so immediately, even if it is somewhat awkward.  The nook takes its own sweet time following your commands and often does not follow your commands to the letter.  This provides for a frustrating user experience.  I like the nook’s customization options and feel it really has a lot of potential.  Until the nook gets the basics down, it is going to continue to be the also-ran of eReaders.  I write this as a coach or teacher trying to help an athlete or student live up to his or her true potential.

Improved:

  • Page Turning:  Page turning is MUCH faster.  Before, when turning a page I had to wait for the page to refresh before I could continue reading.  Now, by the time my eyes shift from the bottom of the page to the top, the page has refreshed and I can continue reading in a very smooth process.  It’s now faster than reading a paper book and just as fast as the Kindle 2.

  • Home Button:  Pressing the home button provides an immediate response.  This is a welcome change to v1.0 which took close to a second to register.

  • Swipe-to-turn (STT):  STT has vastly improved.  This feature is awesome and I absolutely love it.  Under v1.0 I could not get STT to save my life.  Under v1.1 it works like a champ.  I don’t know if the improvement is due to the update, me learning the proper method, or a combination of the two.  However, here is the secret:  on page 59 of the nook user manual it clearly states in italicized text “Touch a spot on the touchscreen with your finger already moving sideways.”   I was erroneously touching and swiping, which was incorrect.  Your finger tip should basically do a “touch-and-go” similar to what pilots do when practicing repeated takeoffs and landings.  Your finger is in motion moving sideways, comes down, slides across the touchscreen, and lifts off.  Using this method under v1.1 I’ve had a 100% success rate.  The manual states that the slide can cover as little as 3/4 of an inch.  In my experience this is accurate.  It doesn’t matter where you do this on the touchscreen and your swipe does not have to be perfectly horizontal.  Right-to-Left turns to the next page; Left-to-Right turns to the previous page (just like with a real book).

No Change:

  • 24-hour time still not in The Daily:  Obviously not a major issue but if BN gives the user a preference, that preference should be reflected globally.  Hopefully v1.2 will fix it.

  • Formatting:  The “Formatting…” message still appears when opening a book you have opened previously.  Yes, this only takes a few seconds but it is akin to slow-loading webpage.  When I press a button on a digital device I expect immediate action, especially for something as simple as loading a text file which was previously formatted the last time I opened the book.  I would accept the “Formatting…” message under two circumstances:  1.  I’ve never opened the book before and 2. I changed the font in display preferences.

  • Coverflow:  Coverflow is not as choppy as it was under v1.0 but there is still significant lag between swiping my finger and the covers moving. The covers don’t move with my finger, they follow my finger as if a rubber band were attached between my finger and the covers.  After my finger has moved about 1/2 an inch, the covers follow.  Obviously, the Kindle does not have a touchscreen but my iPhone does.  My iPhone tracks my finger perfectly as do many Android powered touchscreen cellphones.  I know it is possible.  BN really, really needs to fix this.

  • Dave Barry’s “Your Nook”:  There is still no way to delete this piece of garbage from The Daily.  I have no desire to read it again.  Unfortunately, this was the very first thing I read on my nook.  It neither made me laugh nor bestowed any confidence in B&N.  The article along with the “pocket” dictionary, communicates a lack of professionalism and seriousness about the product.  Hopefully in the very near future users will be able to determine the feeds in The Daily and BN will see fit to provide a dictionary suitable for READERS.

Worse:

  • D-pad response:  Aggravating slow and unpredictable is how I would describe the responsiveness of the D-pad.  I hated the Kindle’s joystick but the nook’s D-pad is supremely worse.  It actually got worse after the update.  It is extremely slow to respond: tap, wait, wait, check to make sure it went the right direction, repeat.  It’s actually a lot faster to look up the word on my iphone BY TYPING IT.

  • Highlighting:  Also related to the D-pad.  Slow, unpredictable and frustrating.   You can’t highlight (accurately) across multiple pages.  If you want to highlight something at the bottom of the page, one would assume you could press the “up” arrow to go from the top to the bottom, unfortunately this is not the case.  You must tap all. the. way. down. ugh!

  • Notes:  Notes properly submitted cannot be viewed unless you choose to edit.  What a pain in the rear.  After getting through the process of highlighting a section, typing a note, and hitting submit I cannot view my notes on the screen.  I must choose to EDIT them if I want to view them.  This is contradictory to what both the manual and the touchscreen are telling me.

Suggested UI Improvements:

  • Disable Home Button when the keyboard is displayed.  When the keyboard is displayed, the nook “home” button should be disabled.  When typing quickly, it is too easy to press the home button instead of T, Y, or U (blame it on my fat fingers).  The home button should be re-enabled after the user presses “Submit” or “Cancel.”

  • Intuitive D-Pad Behavior.  When in the D-pad is present, pressing the “up” arrow should take you to the bottom of the page.  Once I’ve begun my selection, the highlight should continue to the next page.  Normal behavior, really.

  • Descriptive Titles for Bookmarks.  I’ve been bookmarking key entries in the user manual.  This is an example of the Title of one of my booksmrks:  14,OEBPS/13_reading.xhtml#point(/1/4/2/2/110/2/2/2/…  W T F?!!  Does anybody who is reading this have any clue whatsoever what this bookmark refers to?  Of course you don’t.  I made the bookmark and I don’t even know what it is pointing to.  Clearly it is reference point for the operating system.  However, I am not the operating system.  I am the user.  I need the bookmark to read “Key to making swipe-to-turn work” or some other human recognizeable text indicating where this bookmark is going to take me.

  • Export highlights, notes, and bookmarks.  The whole point of making highlights and notes is to add commentary or thoughts to what you are reading in context.  The assumption is that you will use your notes for something else (homework, a blog entry, a review, etc.).  If I’ve typed them once I don’t want to type them again.  I surely don’t want to have to go through every note and highlight using the D-pad (in its current form) to go back and transcribe all of my notes to another medium.  I’m sure all of this is located in an XHTML file somewhere on the nook.  We just need an easy way to access it.

Comments are welcome!  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Eight hours with the Nook

Posted: 2009-12-19 in Reviews
Tags: ,

Summary: 
  • The nook is a version 1.0 gadget; it’s not perfect and is not a Kindle killer (yet).
  • Page-turning and interface speed is slow compared to the Kindle and very slow compared to the iPhone.
  • Adding your own screensavers and wallpapers is easy and provides a great way to customize your device.
  • Ability to change the font is awesome.  My personal favorite is Helvetica neue.
  • Sub-par dictionary for a device intended for reading by adults.
Background:  My wife bought me a Kindle 2 for my birthday.  About two days later the nook was announced.  I purchased Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol and read the entire book on the  Kindle.  I really did not like the user interface.  It felt very kludgy to me.  I returned it and pre-ordered a nook.  I thought the touch screen and virtual keyboard would be a much better way to navigate than the Kindle’s joystick and dedicated keyboard.

My nook arrived today.  I’ve used it for about eight hours now.  Below are my initial thoughts.

Packaging:  Very nice; apple-like.  Packaging requires instructions to remove (seriously) and are included.

Screen: Just like the Kindle 2.  Clear, crisp, easy to read.

Software version: 1.0.0 (no update available yet)

Page-turning:   Slower than the Kindle; it’s noticeable too.  I like the page-turning buttons on the nook better.

Size:  The nook is smaller (height and width) than the Kindle but slightly thicker.  I actually prefer the extra thickness as it is easier to hold in your hand.

Touch Screen:  If you are an iPhone user like me, you are going to be disappointed.  The touch screen has a significant flash-to-bang lag.  I am hoping that a software update will fix it.  Neither my wife, nor I have been able to get the “swipe to turn the page” feature to work.

User Manual:  I had some trouble finding the user manual on the nook.  It is there but it is not in your Library.  It’s in your “My Documents” folder along with the nook tour.

Fonts:  You can change the font of EVERYTHING.  It is nice to read in Helvetica neue!

Dictionary: Merriam Webster’s POCKET dictionary (40,000 words).  WTF?  A Junior High School dictionary for an adult reading device.  The Kindle gives you The New Oxford American Dictionary (250,000 words).  Also, you can’t access the dictionary directly.  It is not in my library nor my documents.  If it resides somewhere else, please let me know.  Looking up a word beyond the third grade level will result with “Definition not found.”  Definitions for words such as newspapers, logo, resolution, Americans, and Republicans were not found by the dictionary.  Interestingly enough, a definition for Democrat was found.

Time:  You can select 12-hour or 24-hour time.  I prefer 24-hour time and set my nook accordingly.  Unfortunately, “The Daily” still shows the time in 12-hour time with AM/PM.

Storage: Of the 2GB on board, only 1.3GB is available for storage.  I purchased an 8GB Class 6 microSDHC card on amazon for $21.39. It’s not a “name-brand” but I can attest that it works very well and transfer speeds are fast! I’ve included the link if you’re interested.

Screensavers: Screensavers should be 600×800.  Screensavers go into the “My Screensavers” folder.  Screensaver images MUST reside in a sub-folder.  For example, you just can’t drop a bunch of pictures of your kids into the screensavers folder; you must create a sub-folder (I called mine “kids” and dropped the images into the subfolder). /nook/my screensavers/kids/(images here).

Wallpapers: Wallpapers should be 600×760 (accounts for the status bar on top). If you use a 600×800 wallpaper, it will scale down and you’ll get black bars on the sides.  Loading them is very easy.  Just drag and drop to the “My Wallpapers” folder.  No need to use sub-folders here.  Also, you do NOT need to change your color images to black and white.  Use your color images and the nook will display them in 16 shades of gray.

Calibre:  Using the donationware program Calibre (http://calibre-ebook.com/) I downloaded CNN for today and it was installed to “My Documents.”  Works great and is a nice way to get news onto the nook.  As of version 0.6.27, Calibre supports the nook but it shows up as a Sony eReader.  I’m hoping a future update to Calibre will fix it.

Two nooks, one account:  We are now a two nook family.  The lending feature seemed gimmicky to me so we decided to link both of our nooks to one account.  I actually created a new gmail account and set up filters to forward anything sent to both of our email addresses.  The nook does NOT have “Whispersync” like the Kindle.  So, we can both read the same book simultaneously and not have to worry about reading at the same pace.

I’ll update as I spend more time with my nook.  Post questions in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them.
I wrote this up for a friend a few months ago.  Thought some people may find value in it.

I’ve used both InvisibleShield and BodyGuardz.  I can safely recommend both without any hesitations.  However, my highest recommendation goes to BodyGuardz for the following reasons:

Comparisons:

1.  Price: BodyGuardz

    a.  BodyGuardz is $24.95 and includes two (2) shields.  http://www.bodyguardz.com/Apple_iPhone_3G_3G_S_p/iphone3g.htm

    b.  InvisibleShield is $24.95 and includes one (1) shield.  http://www.zagg.com/invisibleshield/apple-iphone-3g-cases-screen-protectors-covers-skins-shields.php

    c.  Both offer FREE USPS shipping.

2.  Warranty: BodyGuardz

    a.  BodyGuardz offers a lifetime warranty and will replace your shield no questions asked.  Per their website, when you purchase a BG shield you also receive your first replacement (the second included shield).  You could also use the second shield to protect a second iPhone.  If you need to replace, you’d have to wait for the replacement to arrive.  Replacements cost $4.95 to cover shipping and handling.

    b.  InvisibleShield offers lifetime warranty if your shield becomes torn, scratch or damaged.  They charge shipping and handling for the replacement.  I was unable to find out how much without actually ordering so I’m assuming it is about the same as BodyGuardz.

3.  Ease of Installation:  InvisibleShield

    a.  Both shields install in basically the same manner.  Pull the shield from the backing, spray with included application spray (probably just water), place shield on device, use included squeegee to remove excess spray, let dry for 12-24 hours.

    b.  InvisibleShield is more forgiving during installation.  After spraying the film, the IS will glide a little allowing you to slide it into position.  Invisible also has a better squeegee.  It is rubber with rounded corners and small edges for detail work.

    c.  BodyGuardz are not as forgiving.  I used a couple of pieces of scotch tape to hold the film above the phone, eyeballed the position, then laid it down.  Works well.  BodyGuardz sheild is a rounded rectangle made out of credit card material.  It does the job but I like the IS squeegee better.

4.  Template Cut Quality:  BodyGuardz

    a.  BodyGuardz come perfectly precut and ready for installation.  No perforations and the lines are perfect.

    b.  InvisibleShield does not fully cut out the camera, speaker, nor volume ports.  Prior to installing I used a toothpick to pin down the cut outs and pull them out of the template.  During this process there is a risk of stretching the film and the edges are not perfect.

5.  Durability:  Draw

    a.  Both of the shields do exactly what they claim they do: protect your device from scratches.  Even under extreme circumstances (nails, sandpaper, carkeys) both will keep your device looking flawless.  Based on how well you install the shields will determine how much lint will get underneath.  I’ve installed several of these and I always seem to get a corner or two that raises up slightly and collects lint.  Not a major deal but know it could be an issue.

6.  Feel:  Draw

    a.  InvisibleShield can be described as “tacky” or “slightly rubbery” or “grippy.”  Grip is definitely improved with InvisibleShield.

    b.  BodyGuardz feels as if nothing is on your phone.  It does not improve grip or mitigate against dropping your device.

    c.  Because neither degrade touch performance and this is such a personal preference, I’m calling this a draw.  However, for my gear that I take with me to Iraq, I use the InvisibleShield because of the grippiness.  My civilian gear gets BodyGuardz.

7.  Discounts:  BodyGuardz

    a.  BodyGuardz wins this one, hands down.  After purchasing ANY product from BodyGuardz.com you are registered in their Advantage program which awards you with a 20% discount on ALL future purchases.  I purchased my iPhone cover, then came back to buy the cover for the MacBook Pro at 20% off.  BodyGuardz also has a lot of sales.  You usually get 20% off of the sale price.

    b.  InvisibleShield will give you a 20% discount for buying multiple items in the SAME purchase.  No return customer discounts.

8.  Additional Notes

    a.  The MacBook Pro only comes with ONE (1) shield.  Recommend you do an iPhone install before attempting the MacBook Pro.  In some ways it is easier (bigger area, less extreme corners) and in other ways it is more difficult (more surface area, more ports to worry about lining up.  I have found that the MacBook covers are a “love’em or hate’em” product.  I love mine.  Others equate it to grandma’s couch with the plastic covering.  WHEN (not if) I sell my MacBook Pro, it will be in flawless condition because of the $40 cover I put on it.

    b.  Tools to have on hand when installing:  VERY CLEAN, DUST-FREE AREA (Critical), a microfiber cloth, wife’s hair dryer, scotch tape, saran wrap, toothpick, small tweezers.

        1)  Microfiber cloth: clean your device and help soak up excess application spray
        2)  Wife’s Hair Dryer:  used to dry your corners and help them set.
        3)  Scotch tape:  used to lift your shield into place
        4)  saran wrap:  THIS IS THE SECRET to getting the corners to lay down.  After your shield is starting to set, tightly wrap it in saran wrap to hold everything down in its place.  Use scotch tape to secure.  Let it sit wrapped in Saran Wrap (and turned off) over night.
        5)  Toothpick and small tweezers are nice to have in case lint or hair gets on your shield.  You might be able to pick it off.

    c.  Installing:  Patience, patience, patience.

        1)  You may want to do this when you are alone.  This is slow, detail work.  You don’t want anybody asking you questions or needing attention while you are doing this.
        2)  Clean your device!  It should pass a white-glove test.  If it is not clean, you will be sealing in the dirt with your new shield and it won’t look right.
        3)  Clean your work area!  Once you get your device clean, you don’t want your work area to get it dirty again.  The wet shields attract dust and lint so get rid of it.
        4)  Turn your device off during application and curing.
        5)  Don’t be afraid to lift and start over.  Just apply more spray if it is not right.  Once you get the shield positioned right, lift half off, spray and squeegee it down onto the device; repeat with the other half.  This will minimize bubbles.
        6)  It can take a few days for the shield to fully dry and become crystal clear.  Don’t expect it to be perfect in a few hours; its more like a few days.  With the MBP, it was more like a week and a half.

Iphone_saran_wrap