Android eink tablets are a dream reader?

Energy Pro HD 6 vs Amazon kindle paperwhite 2

I recently bought a Energy Pro HD 6 inch tablet from Amazon (oh the irony) to kind of replace my Kindle Paperwhite 2.

I wrote about my thoughts previously in passing

I just discovered Wallabag to replace Instapaper. Before I was using readitlater which became Pocket. I switched to Instapaper because of the deliver a mobi ebook to kindle every morning feature (heck I pay for this feature). But since i’m considering a epaper display android tablet which means it could read anything including PDF, RSS, ePub and Mobi. Plus I wouldn’t lose my kindle books because the Amazon app will run on it too. Having a smarter epaper device will squeeze out instapaper and likely mean I will read even more than I currently do (well worth the investment). I still far prefer to read longer stuff on a epaper display.

but its time to dig more into it. Especially because there are quite a few people interested in a critical review

I heard about eink/epaper tablets running Android a while ago but hadn’t really done any more research. Then I saw a friend at work with one he just bought. I had a little play and pretty much decided I was getting one.

Energy Pro HD 6 vs Amazon kindle paperwhite 2

The tablet is multitouch (which is weird on a eink display), runs about the same rez as my kindle paperwhite. Its almost the exact size including the thinness. Unboxing was nice and you tell they had spent a little time thinking about that experience. Its also eink not epaper which most people won’t care about but eink is a registered product, and usually more expensive that epaper (which the Pebble watch for example uses).

Its battery life so far seems pretty good. I turned off notifications, turned on wifi and no shutdown mode which you can enable if you want stupid battery life. So as I write this, I have charged it once when unboxed and its on 71% battery and thats over 2 days ago. There is a standby mode it switches to after a while, once again this can be set and changed in the settings. The one thing which is a pain is you can’t set a actual lock, which is something to consider as you hook up your google account. I disabled my gmail and other things.

Energy Pro HD 6 vs Amazon kindle paperwhite 2

Putting in the google account details was a bit of a pain due to my very long password and 2 factor auth. I was tempted to put keepass on it but the keyboard is the default google jelly bean one and theres no auto suggest stuff. You don’t want to type a lot of stuff on this tablet, especially with the screen refreshing. Its good for short notes, but not writing a essay. If it had Bluetooth, you could connect a bluetooth keyboard but it doesnt.

That is the big advantage of the ereader/tablet. Unlike others, there is a massive store of apps which can be put on the device (including a lock screen I assume). Currently I have Wallabag, Instapaper, Greader, Tasks, Wikipedia, Simplenote, Google drive, Amazon Kindle and a couple more thing installed. It comes with a file manager, a epub/mobi/pdf book reader and few other things like a comic book reader.

Energy Pro HD 6 vs Amazon kindle paperwhite 2

I always wanted Kindle apps to take notes, etc but Amazon kept tight control over that SDK. Because of this the ecosystem of apps was super limited, making it almost useless. There are some apps which just don’t work on the ereader, mainly because they are built for Android 5.x (lollipop) upwards. The reader comes with a special launcher which is simple and mainly monotone, I can see it working for Android 4.4 (kitkat) but not Android 5, 6, 7 due to material designs user interface requirements. Not sure how security will work on this device, as Google isn’t doing patches for such old operating systems but thats another reason to keep it simple.

Energy Pro HD 6 vs Amazon kindle paperwhite 2

Another thing the ereader has is MicroSD storage. I threw all my ebooks on to a 1gig micro SD card and it indexed them all no problem. Sure I could put much higher storage in the device but 1gig holds a lot of ebooks, even PDFs. It also has the default Android mass storage file transfer and MTP mode when plugging in a MicroUSB cable for charging and storage. The backlight seems to be almost exactly the same as the Kindle paperwhite 2 with the same level of light but it seems brighter.

Energy Pro HD 6 vs Amazon kindle paperwhite 2

In the first few days of using this device, I’m amazed how useful it is and why I didn’t ditch my kindle earlier. Just the ability to read epubs on a eink screen makes it winner in my book. Actually reading books on it is simple and not much different that reading on the kindle. I did find the Amazon app painful to read with but its just the app chrome which isn’t setup to deal with eink displays. Greader and instapaper are almost perfect with the ability to use the volume buttons to control the page. The side keys on the device are really just volume keys, but the device has no sound at all. Having audio would be a massive plus agreed…

I expect I’ll write another review in the coming months but right now I’m a big fan and can’t wait to drop this in jacket pocket instead of the kindle. Will have to think about who might want my 2nd hand kindle for xmas…?

Theres a much more detailed review of the Ereader vs the Kindle if thats what you are after right now. But expect a follow up…

Visual Calendar for Tablets

visual calendar

I have been looking for a way to combine calendaring, tasks and mindmaps. It just happened that I was searching around and found visual calendar for tablets.

Visually link the things you plan to do, creating logical chains. Think Mind Map for your project turned into actual tasks and dates, or events and appointments from your organizer presented in an intuitive, task-oriented way.
You can easily see all your events arranged in time, prioritized with color and categorized with icons, linked together.
Events created in Visual Calendar appear instantly in your Google Calendar. If you already have something planned in Google Calendar, Visual Calendar will import that in on first launch.

Its £3.99 but the feedback isn’t too hot. And I’ve not even considered the lock-in and portability issues

I can only assume because its a new concept and the app isn’t too mature. But I was wondering if it would be possible to take Mindmup and combine it with Google Calendar or something else?

Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 or 7+

Galaxy Tabs

There is something funny going on with Samsung Tablets… I swear the 7inch Galaxy tab line up is almost exactly the same every year… Actually the only thing which seems to change is the operating system?

The new Galaxy Tab 3 has the exact same specs and screen resolution as the Galaxy Tab 2, and that is very similar to my own Galaxy Tab 7+

I’m sure my Galaxy 7+ running CyanogenMod 10.1 is the same as the Galaxy tab 3.

Galaxy Tabs2

Android 4.2 here I am

Rooted my first generation Kindle Fire and installed an Android 4.2.2 ROM.  It's like having a new device.

I had enough of waiting for Samsung to officially update the Samsung Tab 7+ to Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean). So one night when not able to sleep I rooted my Tab 7+. Its very easy to root and with something like AirDroid (which I swear by since Android doesn’t support mass storage anymore) its even easier. Yes middle of the night at about 4am, I looked over and thought I reckon its time I just rooted the Tablet. Within a 30mins I had found the correct files and done the rooting. Then went back to sleep…

About a month later, Android 4.0.4 was bugging me, specially since I have Andorid 4.1 (Jelly Bean) on my HTC One X phone. What bugged me the most wasn’t the Samsung touchwiz crazyness, it was a bug in the copy and paste system which Samsung are not going to fix until the Jelly Bean update. The bug meant copy and paste failed to work at all!

So I found decent up to date instructions and went through the process and installed the latest and greatest… Thank you cyanogenmod for once again extending the life of devices. Crazy to think it shipped with Android 3 (Honeycomb) and its now up 3 versions to Android 4.2 already. Root your devices people!

Of course before my phone was ahead and now its behind, so expect there to be some midnight rooting once HTC Sense bugs me enough.

Pacemaker playback

Blackberry Playbook

Some of you may have noticed my tweets about finally getting a Blackberry Playbook.

Some of you maybe wondering why the hell I bought one of those?

Well the truth is the original pacemaker guys (Olof Berglof, Jonas Norberg and Willem Demmers) sent me one after my experience of the pacemaker app during Over The Air earlier in summer. Blackberry/RIM suggested they might send me one but after the blog post, they pretty much didn’t want anything else to do with me. Bear in mind, this was after I asked them to send me the playbook to test out before I got to Over the Air.

Thanks from the Pacemaker Team

Anyway after the blog post, I shared it with the un-official pacemaker community which had started when Tonium wouldn’t answer any of the questions. This is where the original pacemaker guys (now free after Tonium) saw it and got in touch with me.

The guys admitted the version I was using was a early beta and it was a lot more stable now. We got talking and they agreed to send me a playbook maybe they felt it was the right thing to do or they wanted to keep me involved in the pacemaker community. Either way I’m happy to say I got one thanks to the Pacemaker guys! And its running the Pacemaker App Trial right now.

Pacemaker App

I won’t talk about my frustration with the actual playbook. Including how the mass storage mode failed to work on Ubuntu and how I had to transfer my music collection over wifi using Samba till I discovered this USB hack. Weird thing is it was just as slow. I won’t talk about the pain of trying to get the latest OS update but it not letting me till the battery was over 20% (I left it over night charging in the end). Finally I won’t talk about the pain of getting a blackberry ID.

The Pacemaker trial is rightly so much more stable than the version I experienced before. Its not crashed on me and it does seem a lot more together. But I have to say I still find some of the latency problems are still there (maybe Android 4.1 Butter is needed but you would have thought QNX would be ideal for this). For example don’t try and do hard cuts with the crossfader as you will be very disappointed. The layout makes a little more sense now but I’m finding lots of things are missing from the pacemaker device including recording, effects and of course external output to a mixer. The later means everything you do is played out over the headphones or split into mono.

Pacemaker App

The Pacemaker guys are going to put me on the beta list so hopefully I’ll get a feel for changes and progression soon enough. Right now, its a much poorer relation to the pacemaker device. There is no way I could play out with this, only have a play now and then when in the mood. Still early days and the pacemaker guys have done some great stuff, but I do wonder if it will get good at the point the platform goes away or dissolves. Of course the Pacemaker guys can’t/won’t talk about beyond the playbook but I’m already thinking of solutions around the dual stereo output problem involving usb sound cards or even 2 devices (phone and tablet anyone?)

I’m greatful to the Pacemaker guys for what they did, its really cool. Because although I was thinking about buying a cheap playbook, after my experience I was dead set against Blackberry and the playbook. Good to know certainly people can take feedback on the chin and move forward…

Replacement for those #kindle tweets

Amazon kindle 3

I use to tweet from my Kindle to tweet interesting things I was reading but people and followers complained there was no link to the actual article or post. And to be honest they were right.

Its frustrating that the Kindle can do so much but Amazon’s ecosystem refuses to support self-published content.

However I finally given up on the Kindle for tweeting interesting news bits. Don’t get me wrong, its still my device for long form reading – because frankly the e-ink screen is still the best screen to read text on for me.

This change was made easier with GReader and Plume Twitter client on the Samsung 7+ Tablet. Plume will hold the twitter messages in a queue till I get back online, which is usually at home or work. This also slightly eases the need to enable wifi teathering on my HTC One X (something I can no longer do, till I root it).

The only issue is, when I’m finally back online, all the tweets are posted one after another, which can look like a bit of a tweet flood to some.

I’m also thinking about paying for Instapaper because its rather handy for sending stuff to my kindle (I know I can do it via the free.kindle.com address but I quite like the fact it groups them and sends one a day when theres something new). On top of that Ars Technica’s subscription model isn’t so bad. And access to the full text RSS feeds would be very handy.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 7++

Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus

I finally got a tablet from Samsung, the 7.0 plus. You may not know but I was holding out for a Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 when the 10.1 was released. I remember seeing the Motorola Xoom and thinking that it was a shocking size. Then Apple started getting itchy in the court with Samsung… Anyway after a few months Samsung announced they were creating a 7.7 version but once again it was like gold dust due to the (poor) Apple court case.

I’ve always liked the old Samsung Tab 7 but running Android Froyo (Android 2.1) was never going to be a goer for me. Even with the OS upgrades. Specially because I already have a Archos 7.0, which I bought a while ago for the sake of having a very nice XBMC remote. Even weirder, the Samsung Tab 7 always seemed to hold its value, even with the new Galaxy Tabs.

Finally Samsung upgraded the Tab 7 with Android Honeycomb (Android 3) to a dual processor, lots more memory and space. Then named it 7 plus to avoid confusion with the 7.7 which is still not available in the UK (as far as I can tell).

Long story short – I’m finally got it and am somewhat happy with it.

Everyday I kind of want to root it and put Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4) on it. Honeycomb is nice but I find the Samsung Touchwiz stuff painful. Even more painful than HTC’s sense. I’d heard bad things about Touchwiz but never experienced it till now. I assume it won’t be long till I root it at this pace.

The tablet size is good and fits nicely in the same pockets as my Kindle. Yes its quite a lot heavier but very comfortable to hold and use. Compare to my Archos, its runs super smooth. For what I need it to do, it works great. I also finally worked out how to install apps which I’ve already paid for, which is good to know.

I HATE the proprietary power/data connection. For years I’ve laughed at Apple iOS users for there proprietary connection and now I have to feel the same pain (thanks a bloody lot Samsung) I really hope they also have to do a micro USB dongle for the EU too. I’ve not really found a reason for the IR port yet, but I can imagine it replacing my universal and Wifi remote.

The tablet does sometimes reset its self but reboots quickly, I assume its something to do with Touchwiz personally. Generally the Tablet or slate as I prefer is great and I may have to loose my Archos Tablet to a ebay auction soon. It doesn’t replace my Kindle which still has that super light and amazingly readable screen. Actually its great to push stuff from the Tab to the Kindle for committable reading…

So generally I’m happy and making full use of it at work. Its good, now if only Samsung would bring Android 4 to it, if not Cyanogen is my friend.

Amazon Kindle Fires off

Kindle Fire

First impressions of the Amazon Kindle Fire?

Fantastic! Its roughly a 7inch Kindle/Tablet with some decent power and enough storage for general consumption… And its only 199 dollars!

That means even if they shift the dollars price over directly into pounds its still a very reasonable price. Funny enough its about the same price as the HP touchpad when it was on sale.

Theres still quite a lot which is unknown such as side loading apps, which version of Android and ultimately how hackable the device will be but Amazon have totally blown the Nook Color out of the water ($249). In fact a lot of the tablets will struggle against the Kindle Fire, even the Ipad. The Kindle fire is just so cheap that it will be come a thing people will just have. Amazon have gone for the mass which frankly isn’t a bad idea at all.

Not having the Android Market isn’t a massive deal because frankly its just a matter of getting the developers to submit the same application to the Amazon store instead. Amazon have really taken the ideals of free and open to the maximum, now if only I was in the States! Maybe I can buy one off the back of the amazon account confusion…?

The other Kindles all look good and finally its good to see Amazon releasing a Touch screen version for all those who can’t live without touching the screen. But for now I’m sticking with my Kindle as I’ve not really seen enough to make me switch, plus I like the keyboard anyway.

Which Galaxy? The Samsung Galaxy…

Been thinking about getting a Tablet for a long while for the purposes of aiding with my needs to better write notes, recite things, etc. I was hoping the 7inch Samsung Galaxy tab would have dropped to much lower price by now but its holding its price quite well still.

So avoiding all the Apple crap, I was pushing for the Samsung galaxy tablet 10.1, then they announced the galaxy 7.7inch (not to be confused with the older 7inch) and at the same a 5inch sudo tablet which actually looks like a oversized phone. But I quite like it because it reminds me of the ipod touch (not in looks but more in how could be used) and I’m it would make a very good note taking device specially if I can get a bluetooth keyboard working with it?

Yes it won’t have Honeycomb (android 3) on it but to be honest I’m not that fused. Gingerbread (android 2.3) has most of the things I need, would use. I’m also expecting Icecream sandwich (android 4) will be hacked on the device once the source is made publicly available.

Will be interesting having a stylus too, specially since theres very few apps which support the stylus…

Google technology is a dyslexic dream

There’s a number of things Google is handy for as a person with dyslexia. In actual fact I’m just about to invest in a tablet running Google’s Android for this exact reason.

Some of the guys have suggested a iPad2 but there missing all the lovely little features which make it easier for someone with dyslexia to manage the world around them.

For example… Google just launched a new Google Docs application on the marketplace. On first look it just looks like a pointer to there google docs service but what people miss is the evernote style functionality of being able to turn written text into words.

Today, Google introduced the Google Docs app for Android, finally providing a native environment for the service, as well as some convenient new features.

The app lets you create, edit, upload, and share documents from your phone, and allows for near real-time collaboration.

You can also take a photo of an actual, physical text document and convert it into a Google doc, without the need for a third-party app. This feature should be handy for keeping track of receipts on trips (expense reports, anyone?) or quickly sharing other important textual information with your phone’s contacts.

This is pretty killer functionality and adds to the automatic spell checking, lookup and voice functionality of Google android already. I already have it on my own HTC desire phone.

So the question still remains, what android tablet/slate do I get?

Virtual goods on display

I was talking to Si Lumb on one of our short get togethers (really need to get together more with him, as we always cover so much)

We got talking about many things including… [1][2][3][4]

ideas on how virtual wardrobes, bookshelves and DVD racks are an area ripe for a startup UIs for filtering, sorting and organising are in massive need of a makeover, as digital browsing is awful. where are the "experience" adventures, like the film "The Game"? Surely there’s a market? Why can’t movies make more of the "trial" approach – give away the opening scene instead of trailer lies

 How conditioning to multitask/multiscreen makes watching passively feel antiquated. Why Red Dead Redemption is an amazing achievement yet inaccessible to girls because of gunplay & controls. On game completion: why Portal is something you have to play the whole way through and deserves the time. TV box sets and why 6 seasons of 25 episodes is a real commitment – and is it really worth it?

In short we covered a lot including some of the thoughts we had on Digitalization of the DVD rack.

The problem is when you have mainly digital or virtual goods, how do you show and share your collection with friends and family?

I’ve been thinking about how to show my media collections in the real world. On XBMC, there is a great screensaver which shows all the fan art/backdrops on your machine as a slow slideshow. Great but I don’t always have my TV on and energy wise its hardly very efficient. So I’ve been thinking, since I learned about sharethe.tv. It might be possible to push this information to a digital photoframe.

In actual fact, I had planned to buy a special wifi connected photoframe today at the local currys/pcworld clearance centre to do the task. But forgot after my scooter ride turned very cold out near Huddersfield.

The thinking is I can create a feed (some how) which the photoframe will accept. In actual fact with a bit of XSL knowhow, it should be possible to create a combination of the information of the movie from IMDB with the fan art of TMDB.

Ultimately I’d like to experiment with a Android Tablet like the Samsung Galaxy Tab running a cut-down/custom Android XBMC remote. Of course I’m not the only one who is thinking this, other hackers have tried the XBMC remote on a android tablet. But no ones really developed a photoframe interface optimized for showing your collection.

The Apple iPad: Underwelming but not a bad price

Apple Ipad

Apple release the islate, itablet as the ipad today. I’m sure many people will write about the device and how they really want one but even with my mac bashing hat on the table its not enough.

If you’ve not seen it, think of a ipod touch and grow it quite a bit and you got yourself a ipad.

The first thing which puts me off is the size, its too big to slot into my life. I want something which I can discreetly hold on the bus without people going hey whats that he’s got there? Something you don’t need another case or bag for. Something I can just carry with me just incase I got 30mins to do something. Some of you will argue that the smartphone is that device but I’m not so convinced. Its also quite weighty, which don’t get me wrong – is good for a large LCD but I want something really light. The real deal breaker and to be fair this was always the case even before it had come out. The Apple App store and Apple Ecosystem.

I can’t express how sick to death of the Apple Ecosystem I am. Everytime I even consider the ipad, I think about my experience with the ipod touch I bought last year. I couldn’t even turn on and use the device without the device talking to iTunes, which meant installing itunes on a work machine to just use the damm thing. Then there was the problem with storage. If I wanted to transfer something over to the device, it had to be via iTunes again. Not even Bluetooth push/ftp/send would work.

Compared that experience to my Sony Ebook reader. First day, I plug it into my Ubuntu machine and it pops up as a storage device with simply named folders for ebooks, pictures and audio. This also means later I can do automated file transfers from any media player I’m using at the moment (I tend to bounce between Rhythmbox and Banshee). Yes the Sony is a less complex device but they got the basics right. In actual fact the Sony ebook reader is the model of what I’m looking for. When I first bought it, I never knew I wanted something like it for size and use outside of reading ebooks. This is why I switched from the Sony PRS505 to the PRS600 with touch screen and ability to write/draw notes.

Since all this hype about the ipad (the last 4 weeks at least) I’ve been thinking what would I personally do to the Sony EReader to improve it.

Essentials

Add Bluetooth for file transfer, dialup, networking, etc. (Sony could still do this if the SD slot is SDIO)
Run an open operating system like a cleverly crafted Andriod on it
Add accelerometers, proximity sensors and some haptic feedback
Wireless 802.11b/g (Sony could still do this if the SD slot is SDIO)

Some would ask why not a colour screen? Well the problem is colour screens require a LCD or OLED as mentioned in the last blog post, which means less that 12hours battery life at the very best. Having over 2 weeks battery life on E-ink takes some getting use to, but I think the benefits of having e-ink certainly puts it in a different category of device and thats a good thing. Steve Jobs was trying to create a device which is in a different category but I think ended up which is too computer like in hardware but too consumer device in software.

Android would be great to have on there with a open marketplace so people can really develop for it. I don’t know if Android would work on a e-ink screen but you could imagine it wouldn’t take much to build a custom build just for E-ink screens. Bluetooth, Wifi and Accelerometers would open up a whole bunch of applications which the ipad has demonstrated. But the smaller screen would be much more mobile and friendly.

Agreed it wouldn’t be as flash but boy would it be useful and something which people might happily carry around more that this massive pad thing.

I also hope this isn’t going to start a media revolution, because if it is the publishing industry is going to put its eggs in the Apple itunes/apps store they’re crazy. This device isn’t anywhere near impressive. The only slightly impressive part is the price but I assume Apple are gambling that people will use the store to make up the difference in price. Maybe in the end the store will be the undoing of Apple, if developers move elsewhere and/or get fed up of Apple’s treatment, a sudden drop in app downloads and itunes usage could spell a lot more trouble than expected.

My thoughts on the Microsoft Origami

Founder Origami

A friend of mine Birch, sent me a email.

I think this gizmo has a future because of its price point, wireless capability and mobility. i might even be sold on one. what do you think?

And my reply as I've only covered it not really put any of my thoughts down yet.

Honestly I think its too expensive. If they got it down to about 400-500 pounds it might start selling. Having a TabletPC already I know there good but not worth a extra 250 on top of a reasonable Laptop. If they did get the price down I would dump my HP Ipaq which runs PocketPC 2003. I would still keep my 12 inch Toshiba TabletPC because you can't beat a decent keyboard although my Bluetooth Keyboard isn't bad once its paired and running. But even 12 inches is too big for holding on a packed London train in the mornings. The 2.5 inch Ipaq is good but a little too small for playing video back. And don't even get me started on playing back H.264 content on a PocketPC! I'm sure its simply not possible. With a 7 inch Origami or other like device (ben), its going to be possible to playback h.264 with VLC without having to transcode the video first. Hey and its not just about watching and consuming. The Origami is going to be a great device for taking notes, recording audio and maybe even recording video has it has a Camera and USB2

Its generally a interesting device but I wouldn't give up my Laptop of it. But we can certainly say this could be the end of the road for PocketPC and PDA devices now. I mean the next phone I'm really interested in has everything my Ipaq has, so whats the point of having both I guess.

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