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. [↩]
As you may have seen if you’re following my Twitter, Facebook, or Tumblr, I’m doing a regular column for Book Country now. (By the way, Book Country is an excellent hangout for genre writers. Not just SF/F, but mystery, romance, etc. Get critiques, get writing advice, meet new people, it’s pretty awesome.) The column will focus on tech for writers and how to find the best tools so you can just focus on achieving wordcount.
One of the topics I plan to cover in the near future is good gadgets for writers. Not laptops — those get their own posts — but the other pieces of tech we find useful. For instance, I have a LiveScribe Echo Smartpen, a fabulous pen device that records what I write and digitizes it. It can also record audio while you write and sync it up with what you were writing at the time.
I find it very useful for crit sessions. I don’t have to write down everything a person said, but I can jot down a one or two word note, click it later, and hear their exact words on why my characterization felt flat. It’s also useful for journalists and students (for obvious reasons). One day I’ll write a full review.
So far I’ve got a short list of my favorite gadgets, but I wanted to throw the question out to my fiction writing friends. Are there any gadgets or pieces of tech that you’ve found helpful to have as a writer beyond your computer or cell phone? Things that either help you when writing or researching or even keeping your sanity when dealing with the business end of writing (taxes, promotion). Tell me about them in the comments. Don’t forget to tell me why you find them useful to you.
I’ve had people I work with ask me this or utter similar things in my presence a lot lately. Perhaps because I keep pushing the issue. Or perhaps I just notice it more given my feelings on such things of late. It happened again today and spurred me into blogging mode. Because I started to wonder: who does use MP3 players these days?
I see people on the subway using them all the time. Not just iPods, either, though of course they dominate. I still use a dedicated player, myself, though I use a phone for podcasts. I have been assuming that mostly it’s these kinds of folks:
- People who can’t afford a smart phone.
- People who don’t want a smart phone.
- Kids whose parents don’t want to give them something expensive they’ll break or lose.
- People who just want devices that do one thing and do it well, not five things that the device isn’t terribly good at.
I feel like this encompasses a large number of people, but again I am assuming. So I’m taking an informal poll. An anecdotal census, as it were. Who out there still uses an MP3 player? Why do you still have/want one? If you’re a parent, would you give your child or tween an MP3 player or just go right for the smart phone?
Feel free to tell me that I’m completely bonkers and no one buys these things anymore unless they’re iPod Touches.
The eReaders keep on coming, and this week we got in the Kobo Reader and the Pandigital Novel, both of which I get to review since I am the eReader queen over at Laptop. This is in no way a burden, since I’m really into the category and can’t wait to find the perfect eReader at the perfect price.
If you check out some of the reviews I’ve done in the past they all have pretty much the same structure. We cover Design, User Interface, Reading Experience, Content, Connectivity (if available), Performance, and Special Features. In this way we cover most of the bases, but as I poke around other sites and talk to more people about eReaders, I’ve discovered that there are details people look for that I don’t usually cover.
For example, someone once told me they didn’t like Sony’s readers because their line spacing is too close together and you can’t adjust it. Same goes for spacing between words and letters (there are technical terms for this that I don’t know, can anyone help me out?) and for margins on many other eReaders. Some of these elements are dictated by the eBook file itself, but I think some can be controlled by the device. I’ve never taken particular note of this, but for some it’s a make or break aspect.
That got me wondering if there are any other aspects of the eReader experience that I’m not covering in reviews because I don’t notice them as much. I also wonder whether I should spend more space on some sections over others. Obviously I need to turn to the Internet, where answers to all questions lie.
What do you think I should include in eReader reviews that I don’t already? Which aspects of the ones we have feel less important to you, as eBook consumers?
A few months ago I started using Scrivener as a writing tool because I was going to review it for Laptop. In order to try it I had to borrow one of our MacBook Pros because the program is only for OS X, not Windows. This normally would have been enough to keep me from caring, but all of the writers I know who use the program absolutely love it and would never give it up for anything. This program is so good that several friends have actually switched to Mac just to use it.
Now that I’ve used Scrivener I can definitely say that it’s great and I love using it. (A fuller review will come, as soon as the story I was writing it for is taken off hold.) I don’t know that I would switch to a Mac for it. I like my netbook, for one thing. And I don’t have money to spend on a $1,000+ computer for just one purpose.
There is another alternative, though. You could always turn a netbook into a Mac.
How, you ask? Hackintoshing! This age-old process of fiddling with OS X until it will install on a non-Apple system wasn’t invented for netbooks, but has definitely found a slew of new adherents in the past couple of years. And since Apple is determined not to give the people what they want, the people will have to get it themselves.
Used to be that Hackintoshing required a lot of dedication, forum-lurking, and some soldering skills. But a new website called MyMacNetbook aims to make the process a bit less opaque. Right now there are a few step-by-step guides for some systems, but the real goodies lurk in the compatitility chart. This is where you’ll find a long list of netbooks and the hardware features that work with OS X out of the box. You’ll note that the MSI Wind is about the perfect hackintoshing netbook.
Writers who’re jonesing for some Scrivener but don’t have the money for a Mac but do have the money for a netbook, this is your best bet. And if you’re a Mac lover who longs for the portability of the 10-inch form factor, now you don’t have to pine (or settle for an iPad). Many of the netbooks that work without too much fiddling are older, so you can probably find them at a deep discount these days.
Barbie is a Computer Engineer and I’m covering a toy convention — has the world turned upside down!? Not quite. Not yet, anyway.
Thanks to all of you who answered my call (and a bunch of other techy, geeky, engineer-y women out there) Mattel was so overwhelmed with votes for Barbie as Computer Engineer that they made her alongside the historic 125th career: News Anchor. I think computer techs are far more awesome than news people, unless that newsperson is Rachel Maddow. But I digress.
Computer Engineer Barbie comes with a laptop, smartphone, Bluetooth headset and a fancy bag to carry her laptop in. Awesome, right? No pink cable, though. Boo. Her shirt has binary code on it, though!
Over at LAPTOP’s blog we’re asking folks to tell us what notebook you think Barbie is carrying. To write that post I had to research pink laptops. And I discovered that there’s such a thing as the Pink Laptop Blog. Yes.
Anyway, I will get a chance to see this doll in person soon as I’m covering ToyFair for the magazine. Usually we go there in search of tech toys but I think a profile of this Barbie is in order, don’t you? I’m actually looking forward to the fair a lot. I still love toys and I’m looking forward to seeing what crazy shapes USB drives are coming in this year.
Before the official announcement of Apple’s iPad several different names were floated for the tablet including iTablet and iSlate. In the many months between the latest rounds of rumors (started in early 2009) and the actual announcement, the likelihood of iPad being the final name was hotly debated and often dismissed by people who were already saying it reminded them of maxipads. When the announcement came down nearly everyone I know either braced themselves for or gleefully awaited the feminine hygiene jokes to come.
However, a small minority of people I encountered didn’t understand why iPad immediately brought to mind maxipads. They pointed out that people use words like mousepad and notepad and even the phrase pad of paper every day without devolving into absorbancy jokes. So why is iPad funny? Having given this far, far too much thought, I’ve been able to identify three key reasons why I think it’s happening.
- As the MADtv skit showed, it’s long been funny to put the little i in front of words to make fun of Apple’s naming conventions. Sure, Apple has been very successful in branding the iProducts, and that’s part of why the jokes work. iPad seems like it should be a joke even though it’s not.
- Pad is a weak word. Just say it out loud: paaaaaad. That long a doesn’t help. Most other iProducts have pretty strong words after the little i. Pod, Mac, Work, Life. They have plosives and hard K sounds and short vowels. Pad needs words associated with it that sound strong or right in order to blend seamlessly into the vocabulary. Mousepad, Trackpad, Notepad, even CrunchPad. And though women refer to Always and etc. as just pads most of the time, that’s shorthand. The full word is Maxipad. There are just some words in English that sound somewhat weak on their own, and Pad is one of them. A weak word like this cannot support the little i, therefore the name (regardless of the jokes) just doesn’t feel strong or desirable.
- Regardless of the many other uses of the term pad, most of the time when someone asks for a pad they’re asking for a maxipad unless in context it makes far more sense that they’re asking for a pad of paper. Other than that, how many times have you used the word pad all by itself in normal conversation in a non-specialized context? The little i is not the most important aspect of iPad, it’s so ubiquitous and familiar that, even as we say it, our minds and tongues are gliding right over it to the real word on the other side: Phone, Pod, Mac, Life, Work. That is the whole point of the little i. Therefore, the iPad is just basically Pad, and pads bring very few specific images to most American minds, and one of the prominent ones happens to be maxipads.
So there you have it. This is why I think the iPad name instantly became the butt of jokes or at least disappointment. Apple has some strong reasons for choosing iPad I am sure. I’m also sure they have some smart branding people whose job it is to think about these things. Maybe they had an off day? Maybe they’re all men. Maybe they thought that eventually people would stop tittering and just accept it, because none of the alternatives worked for whatever reason.
In the end, it doesn’t matter much. They’ve gone with iPad and have to stick with it. And we’ll have to live with it. As others have pointed out, the Wii encountered much the same reception upon release and, lo these many years later, we’ve all gotten used to it (or over it) and happily use them all the time. I’m sure the same will happen with the iPad. Still, I’m longing for a decal that I can stick on the back to turn my iPad into a maxiPad.
- i.e. it doesn’t count if your workplace uses something called a pad for everyday workplace operations. It also doesn’t count if you roleplay Star Trek on a regular basis. [↩]
With the revelation of Apple’s tablet moniker, I’m left to wonder why it is that beautiful tablets are getting such unfortunate names.
Was iSlate not sexy enough? Did iTablet not occur to anyone? One thing is for sure, there probably weren’t too many women involved in the development of that tablet, as they would have pointed out the consequences long ago.
Which moniker do you think is worse, JooJoo or iPad? Vote in the poll below (you may have to click the permalink, depending on where you’re reading this). If you’re a comedian, you should probably choose which one is best for you.
Which tablet name is worse?
- iPad (59%, 20 Votes)
- JooJoo (41%, 14 Votes)
Total Voters: 34
On a related note, kudos to MADtv for making what is likely the very first iPad joke over two years ago:
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.