“The operating system is called Windows,” claimed Steve Ballmer when asked about Microsoft’s plans for the tablet/slate/pad form factor at the company’s annual Financial Analyst Meeting on Thursday. He expressed dismay at the iPad’s strong sales figures, “[Apple has] sold certainly more than I’d like them to have sold,” he said. Ballmer then promised that Windows-powered devices will be shipping “as soon as they are ready,” going on to explain that they would get a boost from Intel’s low-power Oak Trail platform next year.
The message was clear: Microsoft still doesn’t understand why its Tablet PC concept has repeatedly bombed over the best part of a decade. Apple sold more iPads in its first three months of availability than PC vendors sold Tablet PCs in the whole of last year; in fact, the number of iPads sold in that period is likely to eclipse the number of Tablet PCs sold both last year and this. But still the company is persevering: stick a regular PC operating system on a laptop, give it a touchscreen, and then take away the keyboard and pixel-perfect pointing device. Ballmer even reiterated the company’s position: slates are just another PC form factor. Source
Even for Balmer this is hardheadedly wrong. How can you learn absolutely nothing from the giant sales of the iPad? Some people clamored for Apple to release a OSX version trackpad that would have run the desktop OS. There would be a market for that, but nowhere near the consumer market the iPad received. They wisely realized that this was so.
A touch screen interface is just does not fit your normal keyboard/mouse design. Desktop OS’s have been designed to use a keyboard and mouse and their whole interface is designed around this as it should be. Touch interfaces require much larger buttons and other interface elements. You just don’t have the same precision with a finger that a mouse pointer has. The reason every tablet up to now failed commercially is that they were compromise devices used to work with current OSs and could be functional, but not in a natural way.
The other factor is real portability. You want to take a tablet somewhere and be without power for an extended period of time. Constant recharging or having to carry a power cable with you destroys such portability. To get the power of Desktop OS’s you require powerful CPU’s that suck up power. While the Atom processor uses less power it also makes the same OSs run less efficiently. Nobody thrills at the speeds of netbooks. A mobile OS such as iOS and Android is designed from the ground up with concerns about power and being able to use less powerful CPUs efficiently. The iPad with iOS has great battery power and a processor fast enough so that you never feel like you are waiting for something to load. Whenever a decent Android tablet actually comes to life we will see similar results.
But a tablet based on Windows 7 will be useful for some, but a snooze fest for most consumers. Instead Microsoft should be thinking of using their new Windows Phone 7 OS for a new tablet – that could be something worthwhile. Though their naming of the OS was rather shortsighted.
Instead Steve Balmer will continue to whine about the iPad’s success and wonder why Microsoft which has been developing for tablets for a long time can’t get any traction.
As a long time user and fan of RSS feeds I am always looking for the best reading experience in reading the contents of multiple RSS feeds. I’ve used multiple desktop and online readers and for the last 3 years my RSS reader of choice has been NetNewsWire on the Mac which pretty much has all the features I wanted while having a good interface.
When I got my iPad I bought the iPad version of NetNewsWire which I was also quite happy with and have been using since the iPad came out. That is until a a new RSS reader called Reeder came out and dethroned NetNewsWire on my iPad.
There is a big difference between an app ported over to run on the iPad and an app really designed with the iPad in mind. For me Reeder shows that distinction by really taking advantage of the iPad’s capability and how to best use touch in the interface.
Reeder like NetNewsWire uses Google Reader to manage RSS feeds. So any feeds you have subscribed to in your Google Reader account are used. Google Reader is used as a excellent way to sync your feeds so that you can switch from a laptop/iPad to your desktop reader and only unread feeds are displayed.
When you open up Reeder you see this screen with a list of folders you have on Google Reader. The folders shown can be limited to only those with unread items as shown above. The three icons on the side let you filter this as you want.
You can click on a folder set to view all the items within or select Unread to see all items. You can also use the zoom/pinch gesture to display the feeds within. For example using the zoom gesture I could look at the individual sites I am subscribed to and in this case it is showing how many unread items per site feed.
Clicking on a feed from this screen or from the opening screen brings up the screen where you actually read the feeds.
In landscape mode you have an icon bar, list of feeds, and a window showing the contents of the selected feed.
The same three icons displayed in other views once again let you filter the feeds displayed by favorites/unread/read and unread. Navigation is simple in that you just click on the feed to have it display or you can use the up/down arrows to navigate to the next previous item. I really liked that the icon bar is on the side instead of on the top. It is much more natural to hold the iPad and to be able to access these icons without having to adjust your hand. Very natural to use. The 2nd and 3rd icon from the bottom allow you go go to the top/bottom of the feed list. The icons used for this didn’t make sense to me – though maybe there is a reason behind them. Plus of course there is the refresh icon forcing Reeder to check Google Reeder for new items.
On the top of the preview area there are icons that allow you to set an item as read/unread, shared/unshared, favorite, along with an icon that brings up more options.
This menu lets send information from the currently selected item to multiple locations. Save the item to read later by sending it to email, Instapaper, ReadItLater, or perhaps tag it and send it to delicious. Or you can easily send the item’s url to Twitter along with your message and while having the url shortened. You can also send it to Safari to read the item in the browser from this menu or by clicking on the feed title in the preview pane itself. I have done all of these options and it is extremely convenient to be able to go through feeds and to extract information you want.
Though for many of the services mentioned you have to have an account for that service and the first time you use the options you will need perhaps your username and password to be entered. The preferences allows you to setup your usernames ahead of time. I wish they would have allowed you to be able to do the same with passwords. If you want to email a link it will use the contacts you might have synced with the iPad.
If you have loaded an item into Safari, from the menu bar you still have access to all the options shown above. Like most apps if something is displayed in the Safari window it does not actually leave the app, but shows it in a full screen window where you can easily go back to Reeder.
In the Settings App on the iPad you will find the setting options for Reeder where you have a number of options as to how the app works and setting up services used in the options windows I mentioned. i You can also select which options you want to display and so if you don’t use one of the services you can keep it from being displayed.
Aesthetically the colors used are rather bland gray scale colors. Though I can understand the design reasons this might be so. I would love if they had a couple default color themes to change this up and make this even a better product.
Reeder is extremely simple to use and the interface is there to help you instead of getting in the way of some apps. I have found I much more like reading through all the feeds I follow on Reeder for the iPad then on the desktop version of NetNewsWire on my Mac. Often iPad/iPhone/iPad Touch applications are a compromise that allows you to get some of the experience of a full fledged desktop app. Reeder transcends that and gives you a superior reading experience. This app is currently in a 1.0 release and I am really looking forward to any improvements they have in mind. At $4.99 I think this is a quality product, though like pretty much everything it won’t be to everybody’s tastes.
This ad was previously leaded. They forgot to add one thing though. The iPad is an actual device that you can buy while the HP Slate has will not be made. I don’t know about you but I think a real product over vaporware gets the edge. Supposedly the reason the Slate was dropped was because of sluggish performance with the processor and Windows 7. A desktop and most new laptops runs Windows 7 quite nicely, but put it on an Atom processor and a device that needs to save power and no surprise that is a big fail. In other news Microsoft’s Courier tablet is also now just vaporware and will also not be produced. These iPad killers decided that honorable thing to do was to kill themselves.
Even if produced there were never going to be tablets with sales like the iPad. There is a simple reason why Apple has succeeded with a Tablet computer where so many others have failed. Putting a touch interface on an existing OS just is not enough.
A couple things had to happen for a tablet to succeed:
An Operating System created from the ground up with a touch interface.
An ecosystem of application available to support the new OS. Having a technically superior OS is not enough. There has to be apps for people to use from day one.
Previous tables with Windows or Linux on them were failures mostly because they were desktop OS’s ported over to a touch interface and so natively were not designed for that environment. I think if Apple had created a Tablet that ran OSX then that too would have been a failure – though would certainly have been loved by segments of the Mac community. It would certainly not have had the sales the iPad has gotten in my opinion.
The iPad succeeded because:
The iPhone OS which while based on OSX was never intended to run OSX desktop apps. It was created from the ground up to support a touch interface
The iPhone/iPod Touch app store created a very large ecosystem of applications so that not only could people run those applications immediately, but developers could also support the iPad resolution without a major redesign. So from day one iPad users had a wealth of apps to use with apps directly for the iPad being on the increase.
These are the primary reasons for the iPad’s success. Though certainly credit has to be given both to Apple design and Apply hype. Many people wanted an iPad simply because they really enjoyed the user experience with the iPhone/iPod Touch and could easily imagine how that experience would be even better on a larger screen. I never cared about having a tablet computer – but this realization of how the interface would work on a larger screen hooked me in.
Though I also think there is now room for other successful tablet computers because the two main criteria I mentioned can be applied elsewhere. Android has a good touch interface which is also quite scalable to a tablet device. They also have a growing collection of Android apps and so when a solid Android Tablet appears their users will be able to really use the device from the start. HP’s buying of Palm and thus WebOS also means that we might see a WebOS based tablet. Though the WebOS application ecology is still pretty small. Surely one of the reasons for the dumping of the HP Slate was the acquisition of Palm. I wish them success in this area though since strong competition gives the users better and better devices.
After close to a month of daily use of my iPad I am still extremely happy with it and will be happy to see a growing usable tablet experience for more people.
As a Mac user who is also a full time Windows Developer, being able to run Windows on my Mac is pretty important. While Intel Mac’s do have Boot Camp which allows you to boot into Windows or OSX, I much prefer using a Virtual Machine (VM) instead.
Luckily there are multiple options for running a VM on the Mac. When I first got my Mac and started to look into getting a VM I ended up getting VMWare Fusion 1.0. I was generally quite happy with it. But it only supported displaying on one monitor. They later made the 2.0 release free for owners of the first version and it supported multiple monitors along with being faster and much more integrated into the Operating System. For the most part I was pretty happy with VMWare Fusion 2.0 which allowed me to use Visual Studio and other programs for development tasks. Though sometimes screen redraws were a bit off.
On the Mac platform there are lots of software bundles such as MacHeist which offer multiple programs at a low price and in one of these Bundles I got I got a license to Parallels 4.0. At that time I had read an article comparing VMWare Fusion 2 and Parallels Desktop 4 and shows that Parallels beat out VMWare Fusion speed wise. When I started using Parallels I found that to be my experience that it was much faster, especially in displaying graphics. VMWare 2.0 had some better interface choices and was easier to setup a VM, but Parallels 4 was the superior program overall. I especially liked that the filesystem of the VM was treated like another drive so accessing folders in the VM from OSX was very easy.
When VMWare Fusion 3 came out with support for Windows 7, I switched back to it. My experience with it was pretty solid and there were many improvements made – though the redraw of some windows – especially smaller popup ones in Visual Studio would lag or not redraw properly. Before my beta of this ran out Parallels released version 5 that also had Windows 7 support. For one thing they really improved setting up a VM and the process is much faster now. Graphic wise though it is stunning in that it is easy to forget I am running in an VM in the first place. The integration with OSX is matchless and you really have the best of both worlds in running Windows and OSX side by side as if it was all natively part of the OS. So I ended up buying the upgrade for Parallels.
Parallels pricing and upgrade pricing is certainly higher than VMWare Fusion and I do wish there upgrade pricing was more competitive with VMWare Fusions pricing. Though I guess you get what you pay for and it was certainly worthwhile to upgrade.
MacTech has run some tests comparing the two VM’s and it certainly bears out the obvious difference in speed of displaying graphics. Really quite a remarkable achievement that they have created a product superior to industry leader VMWare.
For the most part I like how WordPress handles Links for a blogroll in that you can manage of list of these links in one or more categories. The widget for displaying these links though is rather minimal in it capability. You have only a couple of display options and you can list either all or by category.
For podcasts I wanted to list both a link with the name of the podcast and homepage url along with an RSS feed that can be subscribed to. The link database does have a field for entering the RSS url though the template tag wp_list_bookmarks() does not support it.
Luckily I found that the get_bookmarks() template tag can be used to achieve this by dumping the bookmarks into an array and then looping through it and grabbing the properties I wanted. For example:
I was then able to access the rss link with $bookmark->link_rss within a foreach loop. The end result was that I could have a hyperlink to the Podcast homepage along with the standard RSS graphic wrapped by the RSS feed url as in the following example.
<!– Loop through each podcast and display link and rss link –>
I am a fan of Leo Laporte and his numerous podcasts, but sometimes he just seems to blow hot and cold on a subject.
This weekend Leo was bashing Snow Leopard basically saying the features should have been released as point releases to Leopard instead of charging $29 for Snow Leopard. Of course previously Leo well aware that this OS was mainly a under the hood upgrade seemed to be excited about it and you have to wonder why he seemed so upset about it on TWIT and his talk show. None of the facts about Snow Leopard changed.
Mainly though his new opposition is not very well thought out. For example Snow Leopard drops PowerPC support and this is certainly the direction Apple needed to move in. Since they went with Intel they have been having to maintain support for two processors which both causes code bloat and is a time drag. With roughly only ten percent of Mac users still using PowerPC based systems it is also a timely thing to do and of course Leopard is still a great OS for those users. It just would not be possible to stop PowerPC support as a point release in Leopard. Besides being a major change it would certainly alienate PowerPC users in Leopard. This is rather a major point for a otherwise knowledgeable tech pundit to make.
There are some other behind the scenes changes that breaks support with programs. While compatibility with programs is pretty good, there is certainly a number of programs that don’t currently work with Snow Leopard. Rolling these changes into a point release in Leopard would have been a major disaster. Right now people can wait to upgrade to Snow Leopard at a point of time they are comfortable doing so and the programs they use fully working. This is certainly not the case with point releases for the most part.
As to Leo saying that Snow Leopard should at least have been free considering that on the surface it does not have a bunch of new features is another point I would disagree on. Snow Leopard has been in development for almost two years and while it has a small number of new features a lot of code has been rewritten from Carbon to Cocoa including the Finder which has been totally rewritten. These changes themselves will increase system response and performance. Some of the major additions such as Grand Central and OpenCL are things that will pay off in the future as software developers take advantage of them. No doubt in the future we will see things like iLife and iWork taking advantage of both of these new features. There are many little touches made in the OS also. As an application developer I think it would be silly for a company to spend this much time improving an OS and then charge nothing for the release. It would be one thing if Apple had charged their normal price for an OS version change, but certainly $29 is not unreasonable and of course Apple really never over-hyped the changes in Snow Leopard in the first place. QuickTime X has been totally revamped and now includes features that you had to buy with a Pro version (no Pro version this time at all.) Additionally Quicktime X supports http streaming over any server which certainly is much more cost effective and does not require a specific protocol. Whether http streaming will take off is another thing, but it is certainly a useful feature.
So I believe Leo to be wrong on both points and calling for this to be just a point release really is not defensible.
Last week when reviewing the Stanza iPhone/iPod Touch book reading app I had mentioned that I hoped that at some point Amazon would open up there store to sell their Kindle format books for hardware other than just the Kindle. I was happily surprised to find out last night that they added a Kindle app to the iTunes app store for the iPhone/iPod Touch.
It is a free download from the iTunes apps store and once you get it you can open it on the iPhone/iPod Touch and enter your Amazon user name and account. This is required before you attempt to buy a Kindle format book at Amazon since they need to have a registered device first.
As of now you can not buy books from the Amazon Kindle store directly via the Kindle app. You can do this via Safari on the iPhone/iPod Touch – but the pages are not really formatted for the iPhone/iPod Touch. The easiest way is on you main computer to go to the Amazon Kindle store and buy the book you want from there. After you do the next time you open the Kindle app the book will be displayed. If you already owned a Kindle all of the books you previously bought will be available. In fact via what they call whispersync the books are synced as far as bookmarks go so that you could easily go from one device to another. I expect in the future the Kindle app will allow you to browse books at Amazon just like the iTunes app. Just like the Kindle you can also download the first chapter of any Kindle book for free. That is pretty cool, though I don’t know if it is something I would ever do. I maintain a large wish list in Bookpedia already without having to find new things to add. Though it could come in handy.
As to the book reading experience itself. Well as a reader the Kindle app has a ways to go. I guess I have been experience by the good experience I had with the Stanza app. As of now the Kindle app is portrait mode only and will not flip to landscape – which is my preference. To change pages you simply swipe your finger on the page, which is easy enough. Formatting options are very basic – you can only adjust text size and not text color or background. So it is a basic reader. That being said it is still quite usable and if you are comfortable reading a book on the iPhone/iPod Touch it gets the job done.
I really hope that they put some effort in this app in the future to make it better and to give you some more options.
As I have written before Amazon has the clout to be able to get publisher provide their books in Kindle format and so we can expect many more books added to the quarter million available. What Amazon really gets right is pricing, especially on new books. Most new books are $9.99 which is much lower than the hardcover version. That price makes me much more likely to buy a book when it comes out instead of waiting till it is in paperback format. The pricing on older books is lower than paperbacks, but not to the same degree as the hardcover price difference.
I think this is a great move on Amazon’s part especially if they do the same for other smart phones such as the Blackberry. Now I had already wanted to buy a Kindle 2. But already having a library of Kindle books by buying them for the iPhone/iPod Touch will more than likely spur to get one even more. The ability to share your books and bookmarks is great. I don’t consider the Kindle all that portable in that it is not just something you can throw into you coat or back pocket. I can easily see using the Kindle 2 a main reading machine, but when out and about and having some time for reading I can switch to my iPod Touch. I really love to read and the ability to download a book when I want is perfect.
Now for Kindle owners who have newspaper or magazine subscriptions, these will not appear on the Kindle app. For myself though I am not interested in newspaper/magazine subscriptions for the Kindle anyway since I get my news content from the web.
I wrote on wanting the new Kindle 2 before, but in the meantime I have been using the iPod Touch as a book reader. When I first got the iPod Touch is was before they had the 2.0 version of the software that allowed applications. So previously I had read some books on the iPod by sending them as a PDF to my mail account and then opening it and reading it on the iPod Touch. Not a very elegant solution, but it worked. When apps became available for the iPod Touch several book readers became available and from what I had read the free app Stanza was one of the better ones. Though because I had a stack of books to read on my bookshelf I never got around to putting it through the paces.
About two weeks ago I finished everything that I had to read and so decided to see if Stanza was a usable ebook reader. There are multiple ways to get content for Stanza. You can do it directly from the iPod Touch via Wi-Fi by accessing the various ebook services listed in the Stanza’s catalog. This of course includes access to public domain books via Project Gutenberg. Though there are also a variety of content that you can buy. This is what I was most curios about and I found that there was a large amount of ebooks available for download from these stores. Most newer books seem to be available, but whether you will find specific authors is largely hit or miss.
I did find a large selection of books that were on my wish list and so did buy and download a book to test out. For my first test I bought one directly via the iPod Touch which was a fairly straightforward process using a credit card and it did not take long before I had downlaoded it to the iPod Touch and I was reading it. The second book I bought I accessed the website via my computer. Whether you buy it online via a computer or the iPod Touch/iPhone they go to the same bookshelf online and are accessed in the same location on the iPod Touch/iPhone. The books are in Secure eReader format and once downloaded and opened you have to enter your name and credit card number since the books use DRM tied directly to the user. Stanza also has a desktop app available for multiple operating systems that allow you to transfer some ebook formats on your computer to your iPod Touch/iPhone. You can also convert PDF files, and of course html and text files via the Stanza app to your device.
The reading experience via Stanza is really quite good. In fact I found it quite a good experience. Once you have your book downloaded and selected it reading it is quite simple. To turn a page you simply touch the right side of the screen to advance or left side to go back a page. Clicking on the bottom shows you where you are in the book or allows you to select a different chapter. You can also change the display options for the text, but the default settings were fine for me. As with most iPod Touch/iPhone apps it is easy using the touch screen to increase/decrease font size. A good book reader does not get in the way, and Stanza is certainly a good book reader. It does not take long before you are just reading and not thinking at all about the mechanics of the reader. I really enjoyed the experience especialy with the automatic bookmarking so that you always return to where you left off. It is also great for bedtime reading since you don’t need a book light and can hold the device one handed with no fatigue. After a while you can even control the device one handed by tapping the screen with your thumb to advance a page. Whether you would enjoy the experience comes down to personal preference. I found though that I prefer this method for reading a book – especially fiction where you would not be marking it up. It is also nice to be able to always have your book with you so you could just start reading anywhere and anytime you felt like it.
The pricing of these books is not very consistent and is all over the map. New books are a lower price than their hardcover version, but not significantly lower. Books that are currently available in paperback are also pretty close to the paperback price for the most part. There are also some large inconsistencies in pricing. For example the first book I bought was book 2 of the Dresden Files series which cost $7.99. When I finished this book and wanted the third book in the series the pricing was $15.99 even though other later books in the series were $6.99 and $7.99. This was not just an isolated example, but an example of the inconsistent pricing I found. I was quite suprised to find the high cost of many ebooks. Publishers are hurting themselves with their pricing model. An ebook of course requires no paper costs, transportation costs, etc – and so material costs are greatly reduced. When you finish an ebook you can’t sell, lend it, or take it to a used book store since the DRM prevents this. So to have an ebook to be very close in pricing to the paper eqivalent makes no sense at all. A 1 – 3 dollar discount for the ebook version is ridiculous considering the cost saving the publisher save by not printing a book. Though most of the ebook stores do some kind of reward system. For example when you buy a book depending on how much it cost you get a dollar to a couple of dollars credit that will be taken off automatically when you purchase your next book.
The pricing model for Amazon’s Kindle catalog is much better with brand new books costing usually not more than $9.99. Amazon has done it right with a much better and more realistic pricing model. I would love the ability to be able to buy Kindle format books to read on the iPod Touch/iPhone. There have been some indication that Amazon is going to make Kindle format books available on other platforms. Though it might be that they mean that they will allow you to use books you bought via the Kindle device to be shared on other mobile platforms. I do hope that you can buy Kindle format books without even having the Kindle device. It would seem to me that the good business model is with the books themselves and not whatever money they make on indiviual (and pricey) Kindles.
I am on my 4th book using Stanza and this has certainly become part of my book reading mix. It is quite convenient to be able to just download a book when you want it. Maybe one day book publishers will learn from the music industry when it comes to Digital Rights Management. DRM is a block for the user when they can’t access content they buy via the device they want to use.
For some time I have been wanting an ebook reader and have been following along for awhile waiting for the device that would want me to dive in. Previously I had looked at the Sony Reader, especially the 2nd generation one, but was not happy with their pricing structure. When the first Kindle came out I was rather disappointed by the features and how it looked and there was quite a lot of negative criticism of it at first. Though I was surprised as time went on actually users of the Kindle were overall quite happy with it for the most part, except for the navigation buttons.
Regardless I decided to wait to see what the 2nd generation Kindle would have. The Kindle 2 certainly seems to be an improvement overall and has improved aesthetically over the original. Though really the most important consideration in any book reader is the catalog. This is the main reason why I thought that Amazon could really take ebooks to the next level. They have the clout to get publishers to submit books in their format. Just like Apple with iTunes was able to shape the downloadable music industry, Amazon will probably be quite significant in the ebook space. Right now they have a quarter million books in their catalog and more an more new books are available in the Kindle format.
I was disappointed though that the price of the Kindle had not dropped from the $359 dollars its predecessor had dropped down to. $359 can buy a lot of books. So I was trying to justify the purchase in light of the fact that I had already bought some expensive tech products over the last year. I was thinking that since books on the kindle are cheaper than the same book in paper that over time it would pay for itself. There is some truth in that since new bestsellers are mostly only $9.99. Though it might take quite a while before the lower prices would offset the Kindle purchase. So I started looking through my wish list of books that I maintain on Bookpedia. I went through them and would click on the Amazon button in Bookpedia to go to the Amazon page to see if they were available on the Kindle.
Unfortunately I found that only about half of the books I had on my wish list were actually available on the Kindle. Now many of the books I have on my wish list deal with Catholic theology and spirituality so I guess it is not surprising that many were not yet available. One of my favorite publishers Ignatius Press now has one book in Kindle format and I really hope they make their whole catalog available that way. I really want to have Pope Benedict XVI on a Kindle along with his writings as Cardinal Ratzinger. I was surprised though that books like the Jack Aubrey series by Patrick O’Brian were not on the Kindle. I have read six books of this 21 book series and was really hoping that I could get it via the Kindle. The new book by one of my favorite SF authors Michael Flynn was also not available for the Kindle. So while I would have liked to justify a Kindle purchase based on price savings over time – it would be quite a period of time.
My poor book shelves are stressed and loaded to the full with layers of books on each shelf. This is one of the reasons I want to be able to go the ebook route. Yeah I love seeing books in a book shelf, there is something about it that makes a book geek happy. But I already have the stuffed book shelves to look at so am more than willing to go to an electronic format. There has been criticism of ebooks from people who like the smell of paper and the feel of the book. I am not one of those critics. I have read books on my computer and iPod Touch and don’t mind the experience and a electronic ink technology like the Kindle has the best of both worlds. There have been many times when I wanted to search for something in a book.
Plus there is the fact that there a lot of public domain books that can be read on the Kindle (or any other book reader). There are plenty of titles of Catholic theology and spirituality that would be nice to be able to read on the Kindle. I convert many public domain books to speech to listen to. But when it comes to theology and spirituality though I want to read it and not listen to it. Fiction is fine to listen to, but I need to put more attention into books of this type and reading it is the best way. I have bookmarks full of links to books I want to read at some point. Though I could read them on my iPod Touch via Stanza. One of the new features available on the kindle is text-to-speech and that is pretty cool. I have listened to hundreds of books via modern computer speech synthesis and It would be nice to be able to switch between reading a book and listening to it as your needs change.
Really though I do want the new Kindle and now over time more and more of the books I want will be available for it and right now there are tons of books that are available. So it is only a matter of time and justifying it financially before I do break down and order it.
The category of info organizing software has been an important software are for me. Being able to keep documents, notes, graphics, etc in a database and to be able to categorize content and find it quickly via organization or searching really makes it quite worthwhile. The central database makes it easy to have the same content on multiple machines. Over the years I have kept such virtual notebooks for programming related codes and notes, Catholic info and apologetics, computer tips, addresses, passwords, etc.
For several years I used a Windows product called Info Angel. Their website is kind of tacky and the name is outputting, but I really liked this program from when it was first freeware and then bought it when it went shareware. Like many note organizers you could create folders and subfolders to categorize content. You could import html and rtf documents and create your own documents from scratch. It has a very rich editing environment along the lines of a good html WYSIWYG editor that allowed using graphics and html elements such as tables. The table editing was also pretty strong. It used an Access database to store content and allowed you to create multiple databases if you wanted. This was useful since I would copy this database back and forth from work to home so that I always had access to the same content.
When I moved to the Apple Mac platform I started to look for a new information organizer. Ideally I wanted to find a program that would work on Windows and OSX and that could share a database. Secondarily I wanted to find one that was free or under $40. There are plenty of information organizers on the Mac and I looked through some of them and did not find a multi platform one. Most of the Mac ones I first looked at also did not have the editing capabilities that I wanted. For a while I settled on DevonThink Personal. The treeview organization was like what I was use to and it had basic editing tools along with some interesting features and a good search capability. But it was not what I would class a the ultimate product in this area, though it works quite well.
Back in March of 2008 the Mac Review Cast interviewed the CEO on the latest version of Evernote. When I heard that Evernote was going to be for Mac and Windows and that it synchronized its database on the web I was certainly intrigued. After getting an invite for the Beta program I downloaded it and started to use it.
Over the almost year since then the program has been constantly updated and I have come to like it more and more. At first the interface put me off. I am use to a treeview where I could add subfolders to organize content. In Evernote you can make multiple notebooks and then add notes to those specific notebooks. Since I keep plenty of notes in various categories I figured it would be quite inefficient to find content and that it would be cluttered. I was proved wrong because of Evernotes excellent search capability. Start typing something and it instantly finds notes that match and then you can simply click on the note you wanted. Additionally you can tag notes. This is quite useful and the tag area on the sidebar makes it easy to find content in multiple notebooks that have the same tag. The fact that I could use the Windows client at work and the Mac Client at home with the notebooks automatically synched made me a really happy geek and I have now switched totally over to Evernote for all of my information management.
The fact that you can use Evernote for free is also quite excellent. The free version is limited to uploading 40 MB of data a month and lacks SSL. In my case even though I use this product a lot I have never come close to the monthly allowance. Though the lack of SSL makes me not put any sensitive data into Evernote. The paid version is $5 a month or $45 dollars for the whole year which is pretty reasonable and gives you 500 MB of upload, SSL, and Premium support along with some other benifits.
As a Mac user one of the things I have come to expect is beautiful and useful interfaces. Here Evernote is no slouch and is quite pleasing to look at while also being easy to use. The Mac version gives you 3 different data views (Windows version has 2 views). You can edit notes inline of the program or have them open in an editing windows. The editing controls are simple word processing ones for font, alignment, font style, color, lists, etc. But there are multiple ways to get data into Evernote fully formatted. You can simply copy and paste from a word processor or from your browser, via email, , drag and drop, or importing from a document directly. On the Mac you can use your iSight to create a new note. Using images is one of the coolest parts of Evernote. While pretty much all information management programs let you paste in graphics, Evernote goes a step further. Once the image is synced on their server it is parsed for text using OCR. After this when you search it will also find text within a graphic. Not only is this cool, it actually works. I scanned in receipts and was able to find content in the receipts with not problem. Would also be perfect for business cards.
The Windows interface of Evernote is pretty much identical to the Mac version which is a real plus. They custom designed the interface not using common Windows controls which look quite spartan when compared to OSX controls. I so wish more Windows programs took this attention to detail and concern for aesthetics in their interface as most Mac programs do. Though I must admit that Microsoft Office products have come a long way in this regard.
One of my favorite data formatting features is to use tables to present data I have stored in notes. Unfortunately Evernote’s table handling capabilities are quite limited. If you import or paste a document with a table it will appear just fine. But if you want to further edit the table by inserting/deleting columns/rows or changing background color of rows you are going to have a problem. The Windows version has some capability to add rows and depending on how you move the cursor via the keyboard you can indeed add rows to an existing table, though there is no way to insert a table from Evernote itself. The Mac version has a table icon and when pressed allows you to select the column/row size of the table you want to insert, though once inserted I found no way to insert/add rows/columns. I hope they fix this in the future and at least should be consistent in the Mac/Windows versions.
This is a pure note taking application and does not include calendars, contact information, etc like many information management programs. Though this is fine for me since I want a note program to do one thing well and Evernote mostly does that in handling note management. There are additional features such a Saved Searches which let you save commonly used searches. In Windows Evernote work with Outlook. You can also clip information directly from most browsers (IE, Firefox, Safari, Chrome, etc) directly into Evernote via a toolbar. Each Evernote account also lets you email to a specific url to add content to your default notebook from any email source. So you could add notes easily from any phone with email capabilities. For the iPhone/iPod Touch there is a free Evernote app that also lets you use Evernote directly and have access to all of your data. This application works quite well and they have improved it since the first release to also be able to show some notes even when using the iPod Touch and you are not around Wi-Fi. There is also a Windows Mobile version available. But you can use any internet capable phone/device to access/edit/add notes via your account on the Evernote website directly.
One problem with Evernote is the lack of exporting features. As far as I could tell you could not export a single note back out. Sure you could copy and paste the data to get it out, but you really should be able to export the information back out as text or html. You though can email an individual note and so could email it to yourself. But you should not have to go to this length.
So overall I quite like this tool and I have no doubt it will only get better. I will always be looking for the ultimate note organization application, but for now it is going to be hard to find one as flexible as Evernote.