Sony’s new digital paper

It was Steve who first pointed me at Sony’s new digital tablets. Its impressive but of course I don’t read japanese, even with google translate. But of course others do and did the work for me.

sony dpt-rp1 eink A4 tablet

Although it looks amazing, I can’t help but think about the software.

Using the digital pen, users will be able to annotate PDF documents, as with the previous version, but the compatibility is still locked to that format, so you won’t be drawing on anything other than PDFs unfortunately.

Maybe I’ve been slightly spoiled by the Eink tablet I bought, which runs Android 4.3 allowing most Android apps to run smoothly. I can’t imagine living within Sony’s view of the world hoping someone will hack it. It reminds me of the Ipad pro in more than just looks.

Updated

Jason pointed me at remarkable which I hadn’t seen before. Its also pretty pricey but looks very nice. The worry is lack of support for 3rd party applications and their FAQ doesn’t really encourage any joy.

The reMarkable will not initially ship with an officially supported SDK. We might initially, however, release an unsupported SDK for developers we choose to work with.

Shame… but interesting tablet regardless.

Android eink reader wish-list complete?

Energy Pro HD 6 vs Amazon kindle paperwhite 2

I remembered the blog I wrote over 5 years ago!

In a few things I’d like to see on my Kindle

I’ve gotten into this lovely routine where I have Calibre automatically turns my subscriptions into ebooks for me and then I connect my Kindle to the USB to automatically sync the items. Then I sit in a nice coffee/tea shop reading my google reader unread subscriptions, readitlater, instapaper, etc. With the experimental webkit browser any links I want to check out, I can check them out using the cafe’s public wifi. The only issue is I really want some way of bookmarking with delicious or even readitlater the important stuff that I read.

This is a while ago and of course I switched from instapaper to wallabag. Then installing the actual app on the android tablet completely changes everything. Of course if Google reader still existed I’d install that, but I’m using Greader pro, which does similar with the standard android intent menu. Also added Diigo to replace delicious bookmarks.

I don’t know if you can add bookmarklets to the experimental webkit browser but that would be ideal.

My other alternative is some kind of note taking app on the kindle its self. I know you can add annotations to books but it seems getting them off isn’t as straight forward as it should be. Although I love just being able to read stuff on the kindle screen, I wouldn’t mind some blogging app. The keyboard is not bad and being able to draft up a blog entry would be great, specially when you google reader on the device its self. I’m also wondering if I can make use of Conduit again to do some transferring of notes, like I had planned for my Sony Ereader.

I have simplenote installed on the tablet, but also google tasks. The keyboard isnt bad so typing a blog post might not be ideal but I can start drafting one. Once again as I’m using the actual android app and they all have their own syncing mechanism when theres connectivity.

So in ideally I’d like to see a full blogging app, a browser with bookmarklets and Ideally a evernote client.

I can draft a blog with simplenote, save bookmarks and links via diigo and store notes in google tasks & simplenote.

Its all good, well almost

Of course now I’d like Bluetooth for access to a physical keyboard and maybe speakers/headphones and some tweaks to the software, especially around the previous/next buttons. Ideally USB C over Micro USB and although I have seen one OS update already; I’m still interested to see what happens if they upgrade to Android 5+. Material design seems very incompatible with the current generation of eink/epaper screens unfortunately.

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…

Building your own private cloud?

Head in the clouds

I recently saw this from Gizmodo Australia, and read it with lots of interest.

Movies and TV shows come and go on Netflix on a regular basis, which means you might be half way through your favourite flick when it gets yanked from the service. The solution? Buy all your own content and set up your own private cloud-based streaming service you can get at from any computer or device.

The stand-out contender here is Plex, which we’ve recommended before. It’s new Plex Cloud service, now in beta, lets you use an Amazon cloud locker to store all your movies and shows and stream them from anywhere.

Previously, you had to host the files yourself, so that meant leaving a computer or network drive switched on all the time to get at your content over the web. With Plex Cloud that’s no longer necessary, though you do need to pay for a Plex Pass(from $US4.99 ($7) a month) and sign up for some Amazon storage (it’s $US59.99 ($79) a year for unlimited storage).

We’ve included a couple of other options if you’re not taken by Plex Cloud. They’re not quite as Netflix-like as Plex Cloud, but if you already pay for storage on these services then they’re good alternatives to consider.

Interestingly there was no mention of the friends sharing option which I have been using without the plex pass or plex cloud service. Its the advantage of self-hosting and having plenty of bandwidth at my disposal, but I like the fact you can also switch to have support from them too. Useful if your server goes down or something. This represents a more ideal solution.

I’ve always been interested in what happens when things are much more distributed. Plex is just the start, I already started looking into Emby and some other solutions for media. But for a long while I have been thinking about replacing some of the services I use which I believe I could run myself on my own server.

The whole owncloud thing has always interested me, but I’m weighing up having to be a sysadmin and my time. Although I found Docker which might take some of admin out of this in future. However I don’t want to replace everything, just the things I’m feeling less comfortable with (its about personal choice).

The ones I’m thinking about currently are Evernote, Last.FM and Instapaper.

Evernote I want to replace with something like simplenote (although I admit its not self hostable but my evernote’s recent restrictions have made me wonder why I pay for a pro account?). I looked at using Turtl but its not reliable and mature enough currently. On a related note, I’ve been tempted to install a GIT server at home. Then using a combination of GitignoreMindmup and some kind of GIT repository syncing between home install and Bitbucket; could be great for working on mindmups.

Last.FM with GNU.fm. I only use last.fm to scrobble/track my music playback. I also hooked up Libre.fm but noticed the actual server for libre.fm was just GNU.fm. It seems like a very simple service and useful when looking back for a song or podcast. Especially when placed in a calendar type system, it really triggers my memory. Its also worth noting the last.FM data lost recently has also made me wonder why I even need it. I mean I never use it for music discovery (as I found it rubbish) or anything else. I might as well dump my logs of usage to my google calendar?

41Mxf-vJwzL

I just discovered Wallabag to replace Instapaper. Before I was using readitlater which became Pocket. I switched to Instapaper because of the deliver a mobil 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.

Theres no doubt I’ll start running more on my own server in future, already considered Open VPN and Zeronet. I think the money saved from certain subscriptions will easily pay for the electricity of hosting it myself?

Large scale epaper displays from Fluxuri

At long last after much much talk and some interesting developments from some of the bigger players. Fluxuri have showed their huge displays.

Fluxuri establishes a new type of innovative display technology that offers to affordably create mutable surfaces of any shape and size. It is a thin, highly flexible and reflective passive medium that only requires mechatronic or manual action to change its characteristics. In the former, special plotters and printers become feasible means even for very large areas. For the latter, hands and fingers themselves are amazing means enough to write and draw. Depending on their orientation, light strokes reveal different colours.

Fluxuri has a characteristic granular surface that is capable of variability in pixel sizes, densities and optical properties such as colour, finish, reflectivity, iridescence, fluorescence, phosphorescence, and more – and even in materials, with plastic used today, and other surface materials highly possible in the future. This makes Fluxuri a unique, sustainably versatile, and aesthetic medium.

Its fair to say I have been talking with Fluxuri, and although the video is blury. I have personally seen the display working close up. Its impressive and has plenty of great things which are certainly exciting at such sizes and so thin!

Expect to see them coming very soon…

Colour eink, but how large?

Colour Eink display

Collagues sent me a link to mashable piece about colour eink. Mainly because I have writtern about large eink/epaper screens in the past and still not had much of an answer.

E ink, the company behind the pigment-based, low-energy monochromatic displays found in many of today’s popular readers finally figured out how to create up to 32,000 colors in what is almost the exact same technology.

The new display, which E Ink will publicly demonstrate for the first time, is a 20-inch, 2500 x 1600 resolution display that actually shares monochrome E Ink’s impressive power capabilities. Mancini told Mashable that it’s equally power-efficient. He explained that it could be used in bus stop signage. “Bus stops are powered with solar cells, you could power this with solar cells,” he said.

He also noted that even though the prototype will be less than 2-feet wide, size is actually only limited by E Ink’s manufacturing capabilities.

It looks impressive although the question still remains about how big? 20inches isn’t bad but when they mention bus stop size, do they mean like the pervious stuff or actually what we all think about when mentioning bus stops. The glass wall currently reserved for posters and in some cases LCD screens?

 

Embracing e-paper displays in banners

Epaper bus stop

Read on BBC News that…

Transport for London is trialling e-paper bus stops that can display real-time travel information.

Fitted with solar-powered panels, they show how long passengers have to wait for the next buses, as well as route maps and timetables.

Although this is a small trial, it certainly indicates there might be more large scale use of epaper displays. To be fair its not the first time they have been used  Ideally I’d still like to see larger displays as I have talked about previously.

Of course display boards are nothing new in epaper. But what we really need is billboard size.

World’s largest e-paper sign

Some of you may remember I have been asking the question, why is there no large eink/epaper displays/screens? Then I came up with a solution which could scale (maybe) by creating a kindle array.

Well someone nicely pointed me in the direction of this article which claims to have the world biggest epaper sign. As you can see its really an array but its still pretty impressive.

Its also interesting to see where else epaper is being used.

Large eink displays?

Maarten Pieter emailed me after reading my blog post asking why there were no large eink displays and then my solution building a Kindle array.

Dear Ian,

I came across your blog on large e-inks displays and the kindle array idea. Have been looking into this myself for some time now but not found a good solution yet. There is another initiative out there from a Japanese company called soken to create a Eink wall.This would be what I wanted but by now I settle for the NEC a3 screen 😉 (which btw is supposed to have only a 1 mm border so could make tiles as well). I was wondering if you made any progress with your project or inquiries. I did not contact NEC yet did you give it a try?

I have some ideas on the software but the hardware is staying elusive and indeed it is not clear why these devices are not on the market. I am now considering contact some local people connected to Philips here in the Netherlands and see if they can explain why these large screen are not here. Some years ago I worked for a newspaper company and during my research in that period I know there was a test production line producing epaper. I think it will be hard to make the kindles fit well together but otherwise it is a good idea. Another lead would be http://www.epapercentral.com/ but the blog died some time ago though gives a good insight in what is happening.

kind regards,

Maarten Pieter, Netherlands

I did contact quite a few eink vendors but never got a reply… I did float the idea at work and it went down well. However I later found a photo of a large eink display prototype somewhere and I’ve become maybe too busy to experiment in the area myself right now… The A3 sized eink displays sound great and a 1mm border means its almost perfect for setting up an array!

Thanks to Maarten for emailing me and hopefully someone will email me and say, hey its been done or I’ve started work on the eink display array (good old lazy web style)…

Eink demos

Sriram Peruvemba, vice president of marketing at Eink, gives us the latest news from Eink, they announced that they will ship between 25 million and 30 million Eink screens this year, just for the Eink e-readers like the Kindle 4 and Nook Touch. Yup you read right, 30 million of those devices to be sold this year.

Is it only me but does the device he’s playing with look exactly the same as the new touch screen Amazon Kindle? Can’t believe I didn’t spot it before really. Anyway its a interesting little interview, but still odd there not going for the bigger display areas?

 

Kindle Array the answer to the large scale e-ink display?

First Rasterbation

I have been asking the question over and over in different circles, is there such a thing as a large scale eink display?

It seems the answer is no but I’m more interested why not?

Then yesterday while at lunch with a couple of colleagues in BBC R&D, Robert was asking me questions about my Kindle because he was considering buying one for his girlfriend and I was running through the advantages and disadvantages. Somewhere in the conversation, Andy mentioned my question about a large scale eink display (the advantage of being public again). I explained why I think it would be good and somewhere along the conversation one of us 3 suggested (think it was Andy) taking a Kindle apart and stitching them together.

I had quick thought, you could make an array of kindles and then control them to display what you want. My next thought was if you could tile post to the Kindles/eink display.

And that was it! An array of eink displays fed the right part of the whole document.

The advantage of a Amazon Kindle over a standard eink display is the wifi radio and email address, which means you can send each one a document remotely via something like rasterbator and if you can control them, you can remotely make them display a document as a screensaver. Later in the lab while eating cake (we seem to eat cake quite a bit on Fridays) I thought maybe this could be done via Arduino using the USB shield. Practically you would only need to root each Kindle using this method. Then by uploading a slightly different image to each one, you could create a tiled display or as I’m calling it a digital array.

Ultimately you want some software running on a Kindle which you upload the document/image to, it interrogatives its neighbours to work out how big the array its in is and only displays the part which makes sense. Because the Kindle is running gnu/linux, it would be possible but to be fair I’m not even going there, but if someone else wants to be my guest.

I’ll be hacking around with this concept in the near future, and welcome any thoughts or ideas on this idea.

Currently I’m just double checking if there is a large format eink display and trying to work out what is the best eink display to start with? The Wifi Kindle makes sense because its cheap enough, software hackable and easily hardware hackable. Although the Kindle DX does also look pretty good. I’m hoping for the Kindle Fire sale to start pretty soon, maybe.

My manager Adrian at work set me the challenge of putting our whereabouts system on the array or even the MCUK status updates. Right now, I’m going to just get two going then build on that… Hopefully there will be more details as and when it happens…

An update…

Of course I’ve been doing my research and it seems NEC created a A3 size eink display a while ago, it also seems I wasn’t the only one thing about turning them into tiles.

Additionally, e-paper modules can be used to form large screen displays by combining up to eight modules, which incorporate the company’s original multi-tiling controller. The A3 e-paper module is composed of especially narrow frames, with two sides measuring just 1mm, which enables the creation of large screens that feature effective multi-tiling

Also I noticed on the eink site… This recent picture…

2.4 meters certainly counts as a large eink display… So the question is how do we get our hands one and how much do they cost?

Well I’m looking at NEC, Neolux and  Motion Display if there listening…

Hacking together my digital artifacts with a wifi picture frame

My Wifi UPnP digital picture frame

For a long time now

I’ve been thinking about the problem of digital artifacts in a physical world. I remember clearly, a fantastic conversation I had with the amazing Jas Dhaliwal about this exact subject when he was up in Manchester recently.

He was looking through my book collection and DVD collection and we got talking about how most of the books on my shelf I’ve never actual read through. Not because I don’t read but because of my dyslexia and I far prefer to read digital books. Which begs the question, what am I doing with a ton of interesting books? Why don’t I just get rid of them and buy the digital equivalents?

Well two reasons…

  1. Physical artefacts are much easier to lend to people and much more likely to be taken seriously by friends currently.
  2. Physical artefacts are easier, cheaper and better suited for display.  And I want to display who I am through my choices of the media I buy (rightly or wrongly*)
* Now you could have a massive debate about should you be defined by the things you own or what but… frankly this isn’t the time do that.
As Jas said in the latest techgrumps, its all about the digital artefacts representing you… And with that all in mind, I bought a wifi enabled picture frame for a very good price at my local Currys outlet store.
I bought one before but it was crap because it couldn’t connect to anything on my local network, just remote services. However this one does have the advantage of Universal Plug n Play, which raises it above most of the wifi enabled picture frames.
I complained on the same techgrumps podcast that I couldn’t get anything to talk to it but I finally used Ushare and bingo everything started working. So right now, I got the plan to either,
  1. Install Ushare on my xbmc box so I can share movie fan art and titles from XBMC
  2. Setup a rsync between my xbmc box and my server (already running uShare)
  3. Move the xbmc database to my server which has the benefit of a shared library system.
  4. Investigate the built in xbmc UPnP server
Either way, it looks like I’ll be keeping the photo frame strictly for the purpose of replacing my digital film collection with something an analogue artefact. This is also where a large scale eink display would be ideal.
I’ll post something along these lines on the XBMC forums to see what people think. Maybe they might even be able to help, the recent fan art stuff certainly will help too

Why is there no large scale eink displays?

Data visualization in bbc Manchester

I took a picture of a paper display in the BBC Manchester office the other day

It seems like every week they may replace the old informational display with a new one. But it got me wondering… its quite a simple visualisation and yes you could project the same thing or even put it on a large lcd screen but why not a massive eink screen instead?

Then I did some digging around… Where’s all the large scale eink screens?

From wikipedia

Other proposed applications include digital photo frames and information boards

But where are the information boards? Sure they will be expensive but over a course of years they can’t be that bad compared to a projector or a large LCD display

My only thoughts are…

  • A large eink display won’t be as cheap as paper, so no ones really attempted it
  • eink is difficult to scale in some way?
  • eink power consumption ramps up the larger you go?

So odd because I can certainly find reasons to use a eink display, even a A3 and A2 sized display. Imagine photo frames which you can change every once in a while but very flat and light. Perfect for hanging on the wall…

The ebook dilemma

My sister and I spoke on Skype the other day and I said to her I finally got around to reading What the Dog saw by Malcolm Gladwell which she bought for me about 2 years ago at Christmas. Yes about 2 years to read a book (of course it didn’t take that long in reality) but it did take a while in between all the other stuff I was doing. I guess I should have read it while I was in hospital last year.

She said she had watched a programme on BBC Three called Kara Tointon: Don’t Call Me Stupid. It was all about Dyslexia. And she had kind of got it. I had watched the same programme a while ago on demand and to be fair I did think it was going to be crap but actually it was pretty good, even though I had never ever heard of Kara Tointon, and to be slight blunt don’t really care.

I’m a hard person to buy presents for and of course I want to make it as easy as possible for loved ones to buy stuff for me if they would like to. Books are a regular choice but they usually end up on my book shelf and read by myself sometimes up to a year or so later. In actual fact I have a fantastic book which Si Lumb lent me a while ago around late Summer. called Last night a Dj saved my life. Its right by my bedside but I’ve never read more that 5 pages of it so far.

We talked about the possibility of ordering a ebook and sending it to me via Amazon’s Wispernet but it worries me. So far I’ve never bought a kindle book, just uploaded ebooks from elsewhere. My problem with ebooks is simply the DRM. Yes I have a kindle right now and there’s readers on most devices and platforms (no linux client by the way, but there is a web client now) but what happens when I don’t? What happens when Sony bring out a decent ebook reader which is colour and half the weight of the kindle (aka the weight of a feather) or maybe someone develops a foldable eink display… How am I going to move my books from the Kindle to what ever? On top of that, don’t even get me started on the sharing aspect….

So in light of this, I suggested to my sister that she should in future just get me Amazon gift tokens and I can use them for books or ebooks. Its not as personal/nice as buying a book but it also works and theres much more chance of me actually reading it.

Instapaper’s wireless delivery

I didn’t notice Instapaper now supports wireless delivery of epub’s.

Reading on the Kindle’s non-reflective, e-ink screen is easy on the eyes and great for longer content.

Instapaper provides Kindle-compatible files, easily transferred at no charge via USB, containing the Text versions of your saved pages in any folder.

Additionally, you can set up wireless delivery to automatically send your most recent Instapaper stories every day or week. Note: Amazon assesses a surcharge for each wireless delivery, and wireless delivery is not available in all countries.

Instapaper also provides ePub files for other electronic reading devices that support ePub, including most Sony Readers and the Barnes & Noble Nook.

Ok besides the Amazon surcharge (which doesn’t seem to apply if you have a wifi only kindle it seems), this is fantastic. I use to use Instapaper but switched over to using Readitlater. I might have to switch back? At least till readitlater enables the same feature (i and others have already suggested it)