Posts Tagged ‘apple’

So yesterday Apple held a media event to introduce the new iPhone 5. For those of us following the rumours, the announcement was pretty much as expected. The new model is officially called “iPhone 5” not the “new iPhone” à la iPad. The screen has been increased to 4 inches. It includes LTE fast network access. It has a faster processor and better camera. It includes a new Panorama feature for wide view photos.

Now, the Android cynics amongst you will note, quite rightly, that these features have been available on Android for some time. As Tim Cook took great pains to stress though, it’s the first time these have been available on the Apple ecosystem. It’s also a testimony to Apple’s strength in the market that two weeks ago, Fido announced the activation of its LTE network. I am left with the impression though that Apple was playing catch up rather than being the innovator it used to be.

Until a week ago, I was using an iPhone 4. However, I became frustrated waiting on my Fido phone being eligible for an upgrade and I REALLY wanted to check out Siri. So just over a week ago, I bought an iPhone 4S, knowing that it would likely be returned within the 14 day window to be replaced by an iPhone 5. The upgrade from iPhone 4 to iPhone 4S or 5 is a nice jump. Having said that, it won’t be the end of the world if Apple won’t take back my iPhone 4S.

I’ve really enjoyed my time with Siri. It may be because she’s still a novelty to me, and after a week it’s not worn off yet. I’ve used her mainly to set timers and alarms, and also to send the odd text message. She seems to understand my Scottish accent most of the time. There will be a few days between returning the iPhone 4S and having Siri on my iPad with iOS 6. I’m actually really going to miss her. What I find her useful for is reminders and checking calendar events. It is definitely quicker to tell Siri to set an alarm than to navigate through the app. I’m undecided if it’s quicker to type a text message than to have Siri send it. It’s possibly quicker if she gets it right first time, which happens maybe 50% of the time. Maybe she’ll get better as she gets to know me.

Once again, Scott Forstall demonstrated iOS 6 during this keynote. I have to ask myself how many times Apple can demonstrate the same things over and over and over. To my knowledge, this is the third time that iOS 6 has been demoed. By now we all know that the new Maps application is cool; that Siri is now a sports and cinema fan; and that you can now open apps via Siri.

That is not to say iOS 6 does not add a lot of extra functionality which is most welcome. Personally, I’m looking forward most to the Do Not Disturb function which allows your phone to remain silent and the screen blank if you do not want to be disturbed. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been woken by friends in different time zones posting a Facebook status update. I’m also looking forward to local search being available for Siri in Canada. For the moment, Siri is unable to find restaurants: she replies “Sorry, I can’t look for places in Canada.” It should be noted though that iOS 6’s extra functionality is very restricted geographically. This site shows just how few countries can benefit from it. This is rather disappointing from Apple who has generally impressed me with how broadly international its coverage was.

All in all, the iPhone 5 and iOS 6 upgrade are nice, and very welcome. They are not setting my world alight as the original iPhone did.

So, I now have both an Android Nexus 7 and an Apple iPad. Many of the apps I have on both, so here's a rundown of them. (NB iTunes links are for the Canadian store). All apps are free unless otherwise specified.

On Both

e-Reading
Kindle (Apple iTunes, Google Play): Amazon's app for accessing their e-book content. This is one of the first apps I downloaded.

Kobo (Apple iTunes, Google Play): the app to access Kobo ebooks. The tablet version includes Kobo Pulse, Kobo's interactive e-reading community.

GoodReads (Apple iTunes, Google Play): GoodReads is the social network for readers on which I am very active. I also use it to keep track of my reading. Feel free to check out my profile.

Zinio (Apple iTunes, Google Play): Zinio is the app and content provider I use for magazines. Although I have it on both the Nexus and iPad, the iPad's larger 10 inch Retina display screen makes reading magazines an absolute joy. That is one type of reading I much prefer to do on my tablet than my eInk e-reader.

Overdrive Media Console (Apple iTunes, Google Play): Overdrive is the app used to access Overdrive's large library of ebooks for lending. Not every library is connected to this, but I am fortunate that the local library BAnQ is a part. Generally, I prefer to side load the books to my Kobo, but at a pinch, I can access them via Overdrive. For those of you with Macs: note that the Nexus 7 is not recognised by Adobe Digital Editions, meaning the Overdrive app is the only way I've found so far to read library books on the device.

Social Networking
I use the standard apps to access the usual social networking sites:

Facebook (Apple iTunes, Google Play) this is the official Facebook app. It does what it says on the can.

Twitter (Apple iTunes, Google Play): again, I use the official Twitter app. I hear there are better ones out there, but again this does the job, no fuss.

Flipboard (Apple iTunes, Google Play): this is your social network feeds presented in a magazine-like format. It's quite fun and very nicely done.

Skype (Apple iTunes, Google Play): I occasionally use Skype to make calls, but not very often. It's nice to have it available though.

Music and Cinema
Rdio (Apple iTunes, Google Play) : App is free, but requires a subscription for the streaming music service. Since subscribing to this, I almost never buy music now. Music quality is fine on both devices. It's particularly fun on the Nexus where you can use Google Voice to say "Listen to Somebody by Reba McEntire" (yes, I'm a Reba fan) and it will hook into Rdio and start playing the song.

Cineplex Mobile (Apple iTunes, Google Play): Most of the cinemas near me are now Cineplex chain cinemas, so this is a really useful app for me to check movie times and book tickets. I'm hoping that with the release of iO6 and Passbook this may be even more useful avoiding printing my tickets at all.

IMDb (Apple iTunes, Google Play): This is a valuable resource for cinephiles like me – on the tablets – iPad in particular – it is just such a joy to browse – full-screen trailers and hi-res images.

Netflix (Apple iTunes, Google Play) Access to streaming media via subscription. I really enjoy watching Netflix on the iPad, although I've not yet tried on the Nexus' smaller screen.

Utilities
STM (Apple iTunes, Google Play): This is the official app for the Montreal public transport system. On my iPhone it's probably one of the apps I use most frequently to check bus times. On the Nexus it's been superseded by Google Now, which brings up my local bus times before I even ask.

1Password Pro (Apple iTunes $14.99, Google Play – reader only): this is the app I use to manage my passwords. I have a full version on my iMac and it syncs seamlessly between my iPhone, iPad and now Nexus. NB, the Android version is read only. I did have to get a Dropbox account to manage the synchronisation.

BBC News (Apple iTunes, Google Play): I tend to get most of my news from browsing the BBC News site at my iMac but sometimes it's good to be able to catch up on the iPad or Nexus.

These are the apps I have installed on both the iPad and Nexus, and are the ones I use on a very regular basis. There are a few I have on the Nexus that are not on the iOS and vice versa

On the Nexus 7

Beautiful Widgets (Google Play, $2.59) This app allows for some fun personalisation of the device.

SmoothSync for Cloud Contacts (Google Play, $3.68): This, together with SmoothSync for Cloud Calendar (Google Play, $2.63) allows me to synchronise my iCloud contacts and calendar with my Nexus. It works beautifully.

On the iPad

Utilities
Bento (Apple iTunes, $4.99): This app hooks into Bento, the database program I use on my Mac. Its not being available on Android is rather a deal breaker for me to switch to an Android phone.

TV Stations
None of these apps is available yet for the Nexus. It should be noted that most Android apps are still geared towards phones rather than tablets; I imagine that will change in the coming months. I often enjoy curling up on the sofa with my iPad to catch up on shows I've missed. Now if only HBO Go would come to Canada…

CTV (Apple iTunes Streaming media from CTV.

CityTV )Apple iTunes): Streaming media from CityTV.

BBC iPlayer Apple iTunes): Streaming media from Auntie. Requires a subscription.

Global (Apple iTunes): Streaming media from GlobalTV.

CBC TV (Apple iTunes): Streaming media from CBC TV.

Games
I have not downloaded any games to the Nexus, although I appreciate it has the oomph for them. I have too many on my iPhone/iPad to mention. Here are my favourites. NB I accept no responsibility for time lost playing these games

Where's My Water? (Apple iTunes, $0.99) Guide the water past the obstacles to Swampy's shower. Highly addictive.

Cut the Rope (Apple iTunes, $1.99) Cut the rope at the right time to guide the candy to the little green monster.

Beyond Ynth (Apple iTunes $2.99): Guide Ynth around the obstacles to collect crystals. I lost weeks of time on this.

Boxed in 3 (Apple iTunes, $0.99) Move boxes around to clear the exit. Surprisingly difficult and addictive.

So there you have it, a look around the apps on my Nexus and iPad. Many of them are the usual suspects, but all of them I have used and still use on a regular basis. Enjoy.

Odds and Ends

Posted: October 1, 2011 in Miscellaneous
Tags: , , , , , ,

I thought I would write a short entry today about a few thoughts that have occurred to me.

First, Pottermore announced yesterday on its blog that it is extending the beta process for another month, new registrants will have to wait weeks or even months for their welcome emails granting them access to the site, and that the Pottermore store selling Harry Potter ebooks and audiobooks will not open until mid 2012.  None of this comes as a surprise to those of us in the beta program, who have borne witness to the numerous downtimes and the notorious Purple Screen of Death.  Indeed, it's probably the sensible – if only – decision the Pottermore site managers could make.  It is very disappointing though.  The site itself is fun and interesting when you actually get on, and of course, I was anxious to be able to add the Harry Potter ebooks to my collection.  

Speaking of ebooks, I realised over the last couple of days just how much more enjoyable I find long form reading on my Kindle rather than my iPad, my iPhone or my iMac.  In all fairness, I should add that reading magazines is a delight on the iPad. The books I borrowed from the local library were not compatible with my Kindle, so I had to read on my iPad.  In the end I struggled with it too much and returned the book.  I am now back to reading on my Kindle and loving it.  In terms of weight, the Kindle is much more comfortable to hold for long periods than the iPad. The Kindle (now called Kindle Keyboard) weighs in at 8.7 ounces plus 1.8 ounces for the cover.  The iPad (I have the original one) is 1.6 pounds plus a cover.  I have two kitties who like to be petted while I read and it's very uncomfortable to hold the iPad one-handed for a long while.  As I have mentioned before, eInk is much more comfortable on the eyes.   Over at Bit101.com there is an interesting macro photo comparison of the screens:

Kindle

iPad

iPad

My next reading challenge is some fantasy not written in English.  As I am in Quebec, I have been looking to find Anne Robillard's Les Chevaliers d'Emeraude in ebook format.  I was finally able to find book one on Archambault's website.  It will be interesting to see if I find reading fantasy as enjoyable and understandable when it's not written in my native language.  I have read French translations of American/British fantasy works before, and do prefer them in their original English.  

Odds and Ends

Posted: October 1, 2011 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , ,

I thought I would write a short entry today about a few thoughts that have occurred to me.

First, Pottermore announced yesterday on its blog that it is extending the beta process for another month, new registrants will have to wait weeks or even months for their welcome emails granting them access to the site, and that the Pottermore store selling Harry Potter ebooks and audiobooks will not open until mid 2012.  None of this comes as a surprise to those of us in the beta program, who have borne witness to the numerous downtimes and the notorious Purple Screen of Death.  Indeed, it's probably the sensible – if only – decision the Pottermore site managers could make.  It is very disappointing though.  The site itself is fun and interesting when you actually get on, and of course, I was anxious to be able to add the Harry Potter ebooks to my collection.  

Speaking of ebooks, I realised over the last couple of days just how much more enjoyable I find long form reading on my Kindle rather than my iPad, my iPhone or my iMac.  In all fairness, I should add that reading magazines is a delight on the iPad. The books I borrowed from the local library were not compatible with my Kindle, so I had to read on my iPad.  In the end I struggled with it too much and returned the book.  I am now back to reading on my Kindle and loving it.  In terms of weight, the Kindle is much more comfortable to hold for long periods than the iPad. The Kindle (now called Kindle Keyboard) weighs in at 8.7 ounces plus 1.8 ounces for the cover.  The iPad (I have the original one) is 1.6 pounds plus a cover.  I have two kitties who like to be petted while I read and it's very uncomfortable to hold the iPad one-handed for a long while.  As I have mentioned before, eInk is much more comfortable on the eyes.   Over at Bit101.com there is an interesting macro photo comparison of the screens:

Kindle

iPad

iPad

My next reading challenge is some fantasy not written in English.  As I am in Quebec, I have been looking to find Anne Robillard's Les Chevaliers d'Emeraude in ebook format.  I was finally able to find book one on Archambault's website.  It will be interesting to see if I find reading fantasy as enjoyable and understandable when it's not written in my native language.  I have read French translations of American/British fantasy works before, and do prefer them in their original English.  

Amazon recently announced a press conference to take place tomorrow, September 28th.  It is widely expected to introduce the Kindle Fire, Amazon's long expected entry into the tablet market.

As per Time, the specs are: based on Android 2.1, but modified to the point of being unrecognizable, Siegler reports. The software will emphasize Amazon's own digital content—movies, TV shows, music, e-books and the Amazon Appstore—with a carousel view of all content on top and pinned app icons on the bottom. The idea is to make content purchases and consumption as simple as possible.

In terms of hardware: According to Ryan Block at gdgt, Amazon's tablet will look a lot like Research in Motion's Blackberry Playbook tablet—a 7-inch slab with sharp corners. That's because Amazon reportedly hired manufacturer Quanta, which designed the Playbook, to "shortcut" the Kindle Fire's development process.

Naturally, everything is speculation until Jeff Bezos gets up on stage and introduces the new product.  Many believe that it will be the first tablet offering to be a serious competitor to Apple's iPad.  Rumour suggests Amazon will be pricing this most aggressively – below cost at $250-$300.  That is half the price of the lowest spec iPad.  Equally importantly, it is considered a serious competitor because of the content that Amazon can provide.  In addition to the ebooks, Amazon provides the Amazon Android App Store, audiobooks, and video on demand.  Naturally, the new Kindle Fire will be setup to access all of this media content.  None of the other tablet providers could come close to matching Apple's content provision until now.

Now, to my comment as to why I personally am unlikely to purchase this new Kindle Fire.   First, I am not based in the US.  This means much of the content is unavailable to me at this point.  Secondly, for the several years, I have been hooked up into iTunes, and more recently, Apple TV for my digital media content. Now, I imagine it would be reasonably simple to transfer my existing content to the tablet, but like many users, transferring 10 years' worth of digital content is a daunting task.  Thirdly, and most importantly, my iPad and I are very happy together.  I do not need another tablet computer.

So, if it's not a replacement for my iPad, could it be a replacement for my much loved and used Kindle e-reader?  No.  The Kindle does one thing only, but it does it fantastically well – read ebooks.  While I have been known to read on my iPad, particularly magazines, the eInk screen on the Kindle makes it much easier on the eye for long form reading.  More to the point, no tablet could match the Kindle's battery life of up to a month. 

Having said that, I do believe the Amazon Fire would be a good purchase for someone looking for a basic entry level tablet to view digital content.  It's just not for me at this point.  With Amazon's return policy though, I may have to check it out.

However…  (yes there is a however) as the Apple Insider has rumours of two new eInk readers to be announced tomorrow too.  This rumour is far from substantiated, but I would be far more interested in the touch eInk "Whitney" model of Kindle than the tablet.  We shall see tomorrow -naturally I shall be posting my reaction to the announcement!

Further to my blog entry yesterday regarding ebook borrowing from the BAnQ in Montreal, I received a very useful and informative reply from them which I would like to share with you:

Thank you for sharing your comments regarding our ebook collections. We recognize that the process includes numerous steps and can be cumbersome at some times. Please find below some information about recent developments in our services.

Finding ebooks on our portal

Regarding the visibility of our ebook collections on our website, we have recently implemented a new page entirely dedicated to ebooks. There is a link to it on our homepage, at the right side (where it says Livre numériques on a green banner). The page has not been translated into English yet, but we hope that our subscribers will be able to navigate our ebook collections easily from this page and will find answers to most of their technical difficulties in the page’s FAQ (Foire aux questions
:http://www.banq.qc.ca/ressources_en_ligne/livres-numeriques/index.html. This page is updated regularly.

Once you are on the Livres numériques page, you may use the search box to search for ebooks in the Iris catalogue (it is a different search box from the one that you have used on our Online Resources pages). You may also access the Iris catalogue’sAdvanced search screen and check the Numeric books option. All ebooks are indexed in the Iris catalogue. There is, however, a small indexing delay between the appearance of a new ebook in Numilog or EBSCOhost and its inclusion in the Iris catalogue. We strive to keep this delay as small as possible.

Reserving borrowed ebooks

The portal eBooks on EBSCOhost allows users to add their name on a waiting list for an item that is currently borrowed. However, as you mention it, this option is unfortunately unavailable in Numilog.

Transferring ebooks on a mobile device

Dowloading an ebook from Numilog or EBSCOhost on a mobile device is indeed more complicated than it is for a free ebook, especially for the first time. Numilog and EBSCOhost’s books are protected by copyright. Providers therefore must use technological solutions to ensure that copyright will be respected by users. Due to the wide range of technologies currently available on the market and the commercial rivalries that sometimes cause compatibility issues, it is difficult to ensure that the procedure will be clear and simple for every device.

That being said, as you mention it, this technology will likely become simpler and more accessible as more and more people get accustomed to ereading. We value our users’ comments and keep working towards a better service. In the meantime, do not hesitate to contact our reference services if you encounter any other difficulties or have any other comment.

We thank you for the interest you have shown in Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec.

Do not hesitate to contact us as needed.

User services

I checked out the combined search page they mentioned and it did make a big difference to my searching.  That certainly resolved one of my issues with borrowing from the library.  Many of the other frustrations I experienced were not so much the library's fault

All kudos to the library, I was impressed by the depth of information they provided and their level of commitment to ebooks.  I look forward to seeing how things develop.

Kindle in the Cloud

Posted: August 10, 2011 in e-Reader Reviews
Tags: , ,

So, today Amazon announced the Kindle web based cloud reader.  Currently, it’s available for the Safari and Chrome browsers and the iPad.  It is interesting to note that this is not yet available for the Microsoft browser Internet Explorer.  This allows users to read and download their Kindle content directly from Amazon’s website without going through an app. 

Clearly, this is a hitback at Apple who last month forced Amazon to remove the link to the Kindle store from within the Kindle apps available on iOS and Mac.  By developing their own web based app and bypassing the Apple Store apps, Amazon is effectively giving Apple notice that they will not be bullied. 

Personally, I say you go, Amazon!  Now, I am a huge fan of both Apple and Amazon, but I really did not appreciate Apple’s tactics here, especially coming as it did after the e-book price fixing debacle several months ago.  Apple and Amazon both have an intensely loyal customer base, and with good reason. I am very happy to see Amazon defending its territory in this manner.

I am, and will remain, a loyal Amazon Kindle customer and look forward to see what innovations they come up with.  Now, if they will only let us manage our book Collections via this new Kindle in the Cloud I will be a happy bunny.