Close encounters of the third kind

According to the Hynek’s scale, first encounter is an event about sighting one or more unidentified flying objects (UFOs). And in my case, I encountered an unidentified computing objects (UCOs, i.e. computers) 30 years ago and it’s unidentified because those computers are housed in a large room, behind a thick wall and we could use it only through an “operator window” and with a deck of punch-cards.

Then for the second encounter – it’s an observation of UFOs, associated with physical effects like heat, interference with TV / radio reception and lost time. So obviously, my second encounter of computers were the desktop (in mid 1980s) and laptop computers (early 1990s). I could feel the heats, noises generated from the computers and of course I lost thousands of hours with these devices.

Fast forward to year 2011, third encounter is about some “intelligent communication” with “extraterrestrials” and “aliens”. I guess it is pretty clear, the smartphones, eBook readers and tablet computers are aliens to many and those all require intelligent communications if one wants to master one of these.

So, what’s the latest aliens ? It’s the iPad 2 … thinner, lighter, faster, last longer than the original iPad, and it even come in white color. But how is it compare to Kindle as a reading device ? In my view, iPad 2 is the best all-purpose tablet device in the market. It is so good that you will spend all the time (i.e. lost more hours) with the wonderful apps from the iTunes store, and therefore … you won’t spend quality time at all to READ.

So … for book reading, go for Kindle, no matter you like to read it under bright sun or not.

Kindle vs iPad 2

iPad vs. Kindle Part 2

Yes I was asked many times why I use Kindle to read eBooks but not iPad (even though I have both). I guess each of us has different reasons on why we pick one over the other, but apparently Amazon particularly likes to emphasize one point – One can read easily in bright sunlight.

Granted, it is one important selling point for many, but as an IT bug I actually don’t have the luxury to see many daylights … but again your mileages may vary and that’s why I am not that surprised when Amazon release another video on this great feature with a new tagline – “The book lives on”.

Yes right, “the book lives on”, but please release a better ebook reader than Kindle 3 with touch screen, and Unicode support.

The original video of Kindle about that “one-can-read-easily-in-bright-sunlight” feature.

Real page number for Kindle (Latest Generation) … only ?

Amazon just announced the details of their latest Kindle software update, but I have to say I am very disappointed about that release as all the promised great features are made available to Kindle (Latest Generation) only, in other words, Kindle 3 only.

According to the web page, the new software update will be made available soon thru Whispernet. However, if you want to manaually download and install it, you can do it now. The new features are:

  • Public Notes – now you can share your notes to public and even view the public notes of people you “follow”. (Previously, you can share some lines in the book you’re reading to Twitter and Facebook).
  • Real Page Numbers – Now there are real page numbers to match the page numbers in printed books. This feature is very important if you want to reference and cite passages.
  • Before you go – now you can rate a book, share a message etc. when you reach the end of the book.
  • New Newspaper and Magazine Layout – There will be an improved layout … but I doubt how it can match iPad based newspapers and magazines.

Anyway, for those Kindle 3 users … enjoy.

Best Travel books / guides / sites

After I threw away about “two feet of books” (in other words, I don’t know how many) and an hour’s hard work, I have made my travel bookshelf back in shape. After this “shake-up”, now I have “only” 200 travel books, about half of them are in English, and others in Chinese. Compare to my other IT / photography / web design / usability reference books, business books, comic books and novels, it is still quite a lot.

My travel book library

The reason I bought so many travel books is because, believe it or not, I like to “study” travel books … in other words, understand how they were written, how the information is categorized, presented, cross-referenced etc. etc. In Internet’s term, I like to study the information arhitecture of travel books. However, seriously, after studied so many travel books, I still have not found my ideal book.

All along I believe the best way to plan a trip is not to go to Internet to research, as there are too many information in the Internet and you have no way to tell which one is correct and which one is useful for your style of travel. Searching thru travel books and guides are not necessary the better way as well, mainly because it’s hard to search the details in the physical book. In addition, most books are just a long list of attractions but doesn’t tell you how to connect the attractions together.

Out of the 200 books from that mini-library, the best ones so far are the Daytrips series from Hastings House. All these books let you plan your trip day by day with all the attractions, transportation and dining details.

Therefore I think … will it be great if I can go to one single website and plan my all trips, with all the information I need in a day by day fashion (just like the Daytrips series) ? That idea has been planted in my mind for almost 10 years now, and about 3 and a half year ago I wrote this blog post to illustrate the possible database design

Not sure you have the same trouble / idea like this or not but if you believe you cannot buy the best travel book from bookstores or Amazon, and you think you have to make your own travel guides – let me know. May be it is about time to develop the best travel site on earth.

Kindle for the web

I think for those who care about eBooks, especially for those using Kindle to read ebooks, you probably know that you can read the ebook from Amazon in many platforms such as PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Android and Blackberry. However, you will probably wonder how you can read / preview an ebook within a browser, or a blog.

Wait no further, Amazon.com today introduced the beta version of “Kindle for the Web”, which enables people to read and share digital book samples in their browsers without the need to install or download anything.

Kindle for the web

I found it is the perfect way to recommend the books I like, instead of just a name or a book cover image … for example, the first chapter of the one I recently finished – Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose.

http://kindleweb.s3.amazonaws.com/app/KindleReader-min.jsKindleReader.LoadSample({containerID: ‘kindleReaderDiv’, asin: ‘B003JTHXN6’, width: ‘680’, height: ‘600’, assoctag: ’80dayscom-20′});

The best ebook reader

“What’s the best ebook reader in the market ?”, “What’s the best ebook reader for me ?”, “Is iPad better than Kindle ?” … I asked myself these questions many many times in recent months, and I found the answer today.

As you can see from the photo below, I can read an ebook with Kindle, or applications of Kindle for iPhone, iPad, Mac and Windows. I found the Kindle for iPhone is great, just the screen is too small. The Kindle for iPad is also great, just it is too heavy, and you cannot read it under direct sunlight. iPad is perfect for reading eMagazine and casual reading, but to read a good and lengthy book ? No thanks.

And what about the Kindle applications for Mac, Windows, or even Blackberry and Android ? All these are good, but I know I will not take my Mac and my Windows laptop with me all the time; and I don’t have a Blackberry and Android phones (yet). So back to the questions … and there is only one answer:

“The best ebook reader is the one that’s with me.”

In other word the best ebook reader, to me, is the Kindle – as it is always travel with me. May be I will get a new one to replace the Kindle 2 (say, Kindle 4 when they support touch screen or Unicode), but for now, really it is the best. However, if iPad is the one device that always with you … good, it is the best eReader for you – just don’t let other people sell you the Kindle story.

By the way, how did I find the answer today ? I looked at the Shanghai photos I made recently, with my trusty Olympus E-P1 camera and then I reckon …

“The best camera is the one that’s with you.”.

Various eReaders

3 years, 2 cameras, 1 new photobook

It’s hard to explain … I have big hard disks to store all the photos, and of course good software to manipulate / view / backup the photos. However, I still like to print the photos out, and then look at them, touch them, smell them … So here is it, my second photo book – Mirror with memory (this link works for iPad as well).

This photo book is a collection of my travel photos in the past 3 years with Olympus E-510 and E-P1.

Enjoy some samples below (for non-iPad browser only) !!