This week marks my first time contributing to the Tecca WWIN (What We’re Into Now). I gushed about the Series 7 Gamer I just bought (more on this later) and made a sad face about The Closer finale, but I forgot to mention the fiction I’ve been reading.
This is a particular crime since my whole short fiction reading setup is very tech-influenced. I read way more now that I have a good device and good apps to make it all possible.
Just a year ago I was complaining about how it was still an annoying multi-step process to get short fiction from my favorite magazines onto my mobile device of choice. Back then it was my eReader. These days I read on a tablet, but only because none of my eInk eReaders has the versatility I need for what I do.
The tablet I use everyday is a 7-inch Galaxy Tab, which is the perfect size for tableting, according to me. The two apps I use to grab short fiction are the official Google Reader app and Pocket (used to be Read It Later). Sometimes I have to use the browser.
Many of the online magazines I read have RSS feeds, so I subscribe to them in Google Reader. Every month I go to the Fiction folder, find the stories I want to read, then Share them to Pocket. Even if the RSS feed doesn’t have the whole story, it doesn’t matter. Pocket goes to the source link and pulls the webpage into their app.
For the magazines without an RSS feed, I go to the browser. Same deal there. I find the stories I like, then Share them to Pocket.
Pocket is awesome. It pulls in and saves all the links I share to it, then has the full text waiting for me to read whenever I want. It automatically caches everything offline, so if I’m on a plane or on the subway I can still read my stuff.
I used to use Readability, but that app went wonky on me too much and also wasn’t reliable with the offline cache.
Pocket makes reading a bit easier on the eyes by offering some control over background colors and font size. Settings aren’t as robust as eReader apps like Nook or Kindle, sadly.
So, you ask, why can’t I do this on my eReader? It’s not that I can’t, I just don’t like the options available for eInk eReaders.
Most of the services available for saving web pages (which is where these stories reside) exist for the Kindle. There’s Instapaper, which I used for a while, and now there’s a new Chrome extension for Kindle that works similarly to Pocket. Problem is, I much prefer Nook to Kindle.
The reason I can’t get stuff automatically sent to Nook is entirely Barnes & Noble’s fault. For whatever reason, they don’t feel the need to create a WhisperSync-like system where you can easy send stuff to the Nook via email or syncing to a cloud service. Instapaper does have a way to download your saved pages as an EPUB file for Nook, but then you have to transfer it yourself. An extra step.
It would be worth taking if Instapaper’s formatting wasn’t extremely odd. What I like about Pocket is that it gives you text or the actual layout of the web page. Nothing janky.
Instapaper might be better at this now, I don’t know, it’s been a while.
Still, being able to click once and know that the story I want to read will be where I want to read it is a big thing for me.
Several online magazines have started creating eBook versions for people with eReaders, and I think that is awesome. Some will deliver to Kindles automatically, but not Nooks. This has something to do with how ridiculously hard it is for a magazine to get into Amazon and Barnes & Noble’s newsstands. And perhaps it’s prohibitively expensive, too.
Once again, the eBook sellers are putting barriers between me and the stuff I want to read, thus costing both themselves and content creators money. All by making stuff far more complex than it needs to be.
Anyway, this got me to wondering how other fiction lovers read stories from their favorite online magazines? Do you get the eBook versions, save them to your phone/tablet/eReader some other way, or just read on a computer?
- I should point out here that I only bother to do this with magazines I really, really like. If I come across your zine and it has no RSS feed and has no track record with me, I skip it. Shorter: Magazines, get an RSS feed. It’s 2012. Come on. [↩]
In my preparation for the BlogHer conference (which was awesome!), I wanted to put together several ways to share my contact information with the people I would meet. I have traditional paper business cards, of course. But since I’m a digital geek girl, I also poked into my contact card on my phone and looked into ways I could share it. I assumed that there would be an easy, straightforward way to do this. Sadly for us all, I was wrong.
Sharing contact information via a smartphone is one of those things that many people assume is a basic, standard task. Going all the way back to the days of Palm Pilot supremacy and the rise of BlackBerry, the ability to “beam” your info to another person was a nice and expected perk of having a mobile, business-focused device. I remember that the process didn’t always work on the first try, but it was there and was easy.
Fast forward to now. Last week I went into my Android phone’s contacts, found my contact card, hit the Menu button and tapped “Send My Contact Info.” The menu that came up informed me that I could send via MMS, Mail, or Bluetooth. You might think: oh, that sounds reasonable. Let me explain why it’s not.
MMS is multimedia text messaging; thus, I’d send my contact info as a vCard attachment to an SMS. Not all phones/services support MMS. I use Google Voice for texting. It does not support MMS. So I can’t use that.
The Mail option is what I wanted… except Mail does not indicate the Gmail app, it indicates the Mail app for non-Gmail accounts. I don’t have any accounts set up there because I use Gmail on my Android phone. In order to send via my Gmail account, I would have to set up that account in the Mail app then set it to not notify me when messages come in because Gmail is already doing so. Convoluted? Yes.
Bluetooth is what people meant by “beaming” in the past, but connecting to another phone via Bluetooth isn’t always straightforward. Try doing it in a conference hallway when you’re on the way to the next panel and the person you want to send to doesn’t know how the Bluetooth works on their phone. Not ideal.
So really, my phone offered little in the way of easy or viable options. Why?
The heart of the problem lies with Android. Apparently, there is no native option for sending contact or vCard data in the OS at all. How is my phone able to do so? It’s all down to the HTC Sense user interface skin. Android skins do more than just change the way icons look and offer fancy widgets, they also provide deep interface functions which are sometimes fixes for things Android doesn’t provide.
Who should I shake my fist at more, Android for not having a native contact sharing function or HTC for not realizing people might want to share contacts via their Gmail accounts? I’m inclined to be a little angrier at HTC.
That’s because I also happen to have a Samsung phone. I don’t use it as a phone, only as a MID/PDA. It connects to Wi-Fi just fine, so I could send my contact info from that device. I checked, and lo Samsung’s TouchWiz UI does realize that users might want to send via Gmail and offers that option. My problem is solved.
That doesn’t solve the overall issue though, does it? It also doesn’t help if I’m not near a free Wi-Fi signal. And my HTC phone is my main device; I want to be able to share from there. That’s when I started to look for alternatives.
I’ll share what I found so far in another post. Right now I’d like to know: how do you share digital contact information from your phone? Is it easier on iOS or webOS? Have you found the perfect app for the purpose? Let me know in the comments.
- This is what I gleaned via research and appears to be true at least up until Android 2.2. Some forum threads suggest that this function is available in Gingerbread (2.3), but I have not had a chance to check this myself. [↩]
Apropos of my post earlier, I got my hands on Dell’s Streak today for a few minutes. Really looking forward to seeing what this phone is capable of when we review it.
Many moons ago I reviewed a little product called the Archos 5 Internet Tablet, one of the first Android devices I’d ever played with for any length of time. It was a bit like an Android phone except without the phone part, and it was great for watching video and reading books, webpages, etc. Essentially it was a PDA, but that’s an old-fashioned term that went out with the 90s! These days such things are called tablets. Or iPod touch.
Anyway, I quite liked the Archos 5, though it was early days with Android tablets and it was hard to make out what real use it would be. I think we got a bit caught up in how it wasn’t a phone instead of thinking of it as an updated and awesome PDA-like thing. That’s how I came to think of it, and that’s why I liked it.
But, alas, the tablet had to go back and I sought solace in other Android devices. I’m a fan of the Motorola Droid and I’m really starting to dig the HTC Evo 4G. But in all honesty, the phone I really want is an Archos 5 Internet Tablet you can make calls from. So imagine my excitement when we heard about the Dell Streak at CES this year. And now it’s finally got a release date (end of July) and a price ($499).
I did not get to touch the Streak myself, alas, but I know its roughly the same size as the Archos 5 as it has a 5-inch screen and looks pretty thin. 5 inches seems huge for a phone, I know, but honestly what I want is a small tablet that happens to make calls. The Evo 4G is a pretty massive phone, and that mans I can view web pages, read my RSS feeds, and watch video on a reasonably-sized screen. The Streak will hopefully give me all that and more.
You can’t see, but I’m bouncing up and down right now just thinking about it.
The price is a bit steep, yes. $499 is about what the least expensive iPad costs. But that iPad doesn’t have 3G. Plus, that’s only for the unlocked version of the device. Through the carrier (AT&T) it will be less, we just don’t know how much less yet. Still, I’ll be buying the unlocked one, anyway, since I have no intention of switching to AT&T.
Hopefully we’ll get the Streak in for review well before the launch date. Then guess who’s going to lobby to do the review?
While I was looking for a picture of my version of the AlphaSmart for yesterday’s post I came across a post touting the superiority of the Neo (that’s what they’re calling AlphaSmarts these days) over netbooks. To say I was shocked is an understatement. In these times when netbooks flow from the heavens like water, why in the world would anyone still use an AlphaSmart? I was doubly surprised to discover that this guy is an SF writer (he went to Viable Paradice). Thinking on it, I’ve probably met him. But that’s neither here nor there, my main shock remains: AlphaSmart over netbook? No wai!
He even has the same netbook I do, a Samsung NC10. Yet he still feels that the portability and usability of an AlphaSmart is far, far better. He also cites battery longevity. Though I’ll agree that years of battery life is better than a few hours, ever since I got my NC10 I haven’t felt chained to an outlet. (It’s the 7+ hours of battery life, I love it, so.) And while it is great to have a machine that allows you to concentrate on just one thing, writing, the device is just a little too unitasking for me.
One of the reasons I stopped using my AlphaSmart is that it was crap for editing. Sure, it would allow you to get some words down on the screen and drive forward. However, you certainly can’t edit really well on that thing, or go back through what you’ve written and try to take stock in a meaningful way. And only seeing 4 lines of text at a time felt like far too little. You can’t edit already-existing text. And if you’ve typed a major chunk of your novel on the thing, good luck trying to get a sense of the structure.
Not that Marko claimed the Neo could do any of these things. These were just my reasons for giving the machine up. I needed a gadget that would allow me to do all of my writing tasks, from the first draft through to the editing stage, that was easy to carry, light, and had a reasonably-sized screen. Aftre I accomplished that with my Eee PC, my next goal was a netbok with long battery life so I wouldn’t have to worry about outlets. And here were are.
Having read through his whole review, though, do you think that the Neo has enough advantages over a netbook to justify putting the latter aside?
I was rummaging through my closet looking for something when I came across an old Sony Discman bag from when I was a teenager. This bag was specially designed to hold the CD player, my prized possession for many years, plus some CDs and those crappy headphones everyone I knew worse. Of course, that all went to the garbage heap the decade before that last one. I vaguely remembered what I’d shoved in the bag since then, and opening confirmed it: My MiniDisc player and all of my minidiscs.
What’s a minidisc, you might ask? It was the best thing since CDs, my friends, and I believe I bought my first one in the year 2000, ten years ago. The one in the bag was my second, as the first was either lost or stolen (can’t remember which). I loved this gadget to death and eschewed all others, including MP3 players.
Minidiscs were more awesome than the MP3 players out at that time. And even after the iPod came out it was still a while before I decided that an MP3 player would suit me better. Apparently I couldn’t bear to give up my beloved player, though.
Did you know you can still buy minidisc players? Weird.
I put the bag back in the closet on top of my Alphasmart, another device I couldn’t live without for a long time. It was my proto-netbook, though I was always yearning to do more with it. Still, it was a great writing companion. You typed whatever into the Alphasmart — which could hold quite a bit of text — then transferred it to your computer via the PS/2 keyboard port. No, it wasn’t perfect, and USB connectivity would have been more useful (that was the second generation), but it allowed me to carry around a device with full-sized keys that I could write on whenever I had some time, yet didn’t kill my back with heaviness. Like I said, proto-netbook.
Next to the Alphasmart sits another bag with my N64 in it along with all of my games. I looked inside about a month ago and found my old Neuros MP3 player. Loved that thing, too…. until it broke. (After a year. It was pretty crap.) But yes, it’s still in there. Right next to my (now non-working) HP Jornada 545 PDA. Though that lasted much, much longer than a year — I believe it finally gave up the ghost in 2007.
Yes, I have trouble letting go.
I know I should get rid of all that stuff. After all, I obviously don’t use it, anymore. I have a new MP3 player, a netbook, and I don’t play console games much anymore. But every time I come across them I feel a wave of affection. At one time or another in the last decade, my digital life revolved around these devices. They were awesome, in their day, and just tossing them out (or even sending them to be recycled at Gazelle.com) doesn’t seem quite right. I’m sure I’ll feel differently if I’m ever forced to move, but for now the closet remains their home.
What about you, what gadgets do you still have around your house even though they’re no longer working or obselete? Why did you love/like them when you used them and what tech replaced them in your heart?
K. T. Bradford
If code is poetry, then CSS is The Iliad. In the original Greek.
I write about and review mobile technology, which means I get to spend the day steeped in laptops, smartphones, tablets, eReaders, and other things that go beep. Lest you question my status as a ChicGeek, I'll proudly claim an unabashed love for netbooks, Linux, science fiction, and curly hair products. You can find my new reviews and articles on Digital Trends and Techlicious.com.