Category Archives: kindle

Top Ten Technologies of 2010

This is the third time I have written a top ten list of technologies, I did the same in 2008 and 2009. It’s interesting to compare the three lists to see what I was using, what I am still using and what new stuff I am using. This list focuses on physical technologies and gadgets and I have also been working on a list of web tools that will be in another blog post.

So what didn’t make my list?

The MiFi which was number eight last year got used a lot less, partly as I used the Google Nexus one more for portable wifi and the issues I had with the MiFi when trying to use it on the train.

The Sony video cameras in previous top tens got slightly ursurped by both the Kodak and the iPhone 4G this year, they were used, but no where near the level I used them in 2009 and 2008.

The 3G USB Stick I had in my top ten in 2008, didn’t make the list in 2009 and I actually handed back to our IT department in 2010!

10. i7 iMac

The iMac was my number two last year and in many ways is still a really excellent computer. Very fast and more than capable of doing lots of things all at the same time. It’s still in my top ten, as I still use it every day for lots of different activities.

9. iPhone 3GS

The iPhone 3GS was my number one technology in 2009 and I have continued to use the 3GS throughout 2010 as my main home mobile phone. Why is it not higher up, well I upgraded my work mobile phone to the iPhone 4G. The 3GS though is the phone I use at weekends when I am out, it’s the phone I use on the sofa in the evenings and it’s also the phone I use when the battery runs out on the 4G. I use a Logic3 case with an extended battery. It’s also the device I use for sat nav, using the TomTom software. Alas the one key component of the 3GS lets it down and that is its ability to make phone calls. Too often it will drop calls for my liking.

8. Edirol R-09HR

I have been using the Edirol for a few years now, it was in my top ten in 2008, and the Edirol R-09HR now back in for 2010. Recording as either WAV or MP3 direct to an SD card, the audio quality is excellent. Very easy after recording to connect a USB cable and copy the recordings over to edit in Audacity or Garageband. It is very portable and the fact it uses AA batteries means if they run out, they are easy to replace. Main downside is cost, but in this case I do believe it is very much you get what you pay for.

7. Blue Snowball Microphone

I have been recording a lot this year, not just e-Learning Stuff podcasts, but also symposia and other discussions. The Blue Snowball Microphone is certainly a key tool for this. I also use it at home for Skype and making recordings.

The main downside is that the size of the microphone makes it less than ideal for taking to events and carrying in a bag. However the quality of recordings means that I am more keen to use this then any other microphone.

6. Kodak Zi8

This for the first part of the year was a great little camera that I used for both video and stills. Alas I “lost” mine after a mobile learning event I ran at the college in July. We have two class sets at college and I have used the Kodak Zi8 at various events, so that’s another reason for including it in my top ten.

5. Amazon Kindle

The UK version of the Kindle was available from September 2010, and despite owning an iPad I did buy a Kindle and have been impressed. With a battery life measured in weeks, a great book selection, what I like most about the Kindle is that I can continue to read Kindle books on other devices such as the iPad. This is not just about the Kindle device, but also the Kindle app for other devices.

4. Google Nexus One

My Nokia N95 which was number one in 2008 and in the top ten in 2009, I retired it this year after getting the Google Nexus One. This was an Android phone and the first time I managed to use the mobile OS on a regular basis.

I really do like this phone and I certainly over 2010 recommended it to people who didn’t want an iPhone. The main reasons I like it is the portable wireless hotspot (wifi tethering) that came with the Froyo 2.2 update, the screen which is gorgeous and the voice control. It’s not perfect, I do find that the OS is not as stable as I think it should be. However as a phone for making phone calls, it works very well, unlike other phones I could mention…

3. iPhone 4

The iPhone 4 is what the iPhone should have been from day one. Finally the iPhone came of age. It is one of the best phones I have ever used.

The camera was better than ever before and the phone also came with a front facing camera. This is something the Nokia N95 has had since 2007! However the improvements in performance and the wonderful “retina” screen certainly are welcome.

What I like about the iPhone is the ease of use, the browsing experience, the apps. There is so much I am doing on this phone and so much more I could be doing on this phone. I for example have not yet used Facetime, but I wonder if that’s more down to I know very few people with an iPhone 4 and the one time I tried to make a Facetime call, it didn’t work!

Though I could replicate the antenna problem this didn’t impact on me as much as it seemed to in the US. If anything I found the iPhone 4 was much better at making phone calls than the 3GS was. It has better reception, but will still drop calls.

Multi-tasking with iOS4 certainly made the phone easier to use and meant that switching between apps didn’t always result in a loss of data or information.

The key advantage of the iPhone for me is the sheer number of apps and the quality and quantity have changed how I use a phone.

I do think the iPhone 4 is one of the best phones I have ever used and I am really pleased with it.

2. BT Infinity FTTC

When ADSL came to my home town I was one of the first in the area to get it. It was great going from dial-up 44kbps to a broadband connection of 385kbps. Over the years this did rise to 1.3Mbps and for a lot of things was great. However as more and more people got broadband, the contention ratio kicked in and the speed dropped to under 1Mbps for most of the day.

For general browsing it was okay, however downloading large files was a real pain and I use to schedule these overnight. For example upgrading my iPhone would take anything up to 24 hours! Using BBC iPlayer was generally also a non-starter and most of the time I wouldn’t even bother trying.

So when fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) arrived in my area, I signed up as fast as my ISP would let me. With 40Mb down and 10Mb up this is significantly faster than the 1.3 down and 0.6 up I had before.

It has already changed how I use the internet, whereas before I would probably not consider downloading a film from iTunes during the day, as it would soak up my bandwidth and would take hours to download; now it takes under five minutes to download! No problems with downloading large files and updates now. The other key advantage is streaming video, which was almost pointless before due to buffering, and like downloading, previous streaming would soak up my bandwidth, having 40Mb down means I can stream and do other stuff at the same time. Skype works really well too and is a lot more stable than before.

Having really fast internet is making my work and home life easier and I am having less issues with using different internet services and uploading is a dream now.

1. iPad

Announced in January and released (in the UK) in May, I was even surprised by how much I now use the iPad. It has in many ways replaced how I use a laptop at home, at work, whilst travelling and at events. When I ordered mine, I didn’t think it would have that much of an impact, but it has and continues to have an impact.

In July I wrote about how I took just the iPad to an event in London and how I just used the iPad. I did the same at the RSC SW Conference too.

I do think the iPad is an ideal device for conferences and events and wrote quite a lengthy piece on how it could be used to amplify and enhance conferences.

Certainly compared to using a large laptop, an iPad is a much better device for using on the train.

At work I use the iPad for dealing with e-mail and my calendar and quickly checking things on the VLE. For some meetings I do need to take a laptop as some tools we use rely on Flash or Java and that is one of the main weaknesses of the iPad is that these kinds of tools can not be used on it.

At home, I use the iPad on the sofa, in the kitchen and around the house. I like how I can use it to quickly check the news, e-mail, the weather, social networks and general browsing the web. I like the casual games you can get for the iPad and its media capability easily surpasses any other mobile devices I have used. It’s not all perfect, I would like to stream (easily) video and audio from my iMac to my iPad and not all web functions work as I would like them to. Blogging on the iPad is still a bit hit and miss for me.

So my number one technology for 2010 is Apple’s iPad, I wonder if it will still be in my top ten next year?

Are any of your favourite technologies in this top ten? What have I missed?

Kindles are wonderful things

Though we know books are wonderful things they do have a few disadvantages.

They are heavy! Okay carrying a single book is probably okay for most people, but think about carrying all the books in a bookshelf? Yes not a practical solution to carry them all in one go!

You have to buy books, either from a book store or Amazon. Regardless of the route you take it will still take time to either find and buy the book in a bricks and mortar store, or wait for Amazon to deliver it. I have bought books from Amazon.com and it takes weeks for them to be delivered from the USA unless I am willing to pay an arm and a leg for speedy delivery.

Of course if you don’t buy the book, you can always borrow from your local library. Well you could borrow from your library under two assumptions. First that they have a copy, second that no one else has borrowed it. Yes you can request a copy or reserve a copy, but once more that takes time. In academic libraries the problems of scarce real books can impact on the learning process. I recall from my undergraduate days when as soon as a lecturer mentioned a book in a lecture as “essential reading” the entire cohort of students would literally run to the library to get out the single copy available… The library did sometimes under the direction of the academics add the book to a “special collection” that allowed the book to be borrowed for one hour! No more, just one hour! The focus moved away from learning and onto book borrowing and logistics!

One advantage given to paper books is the ability to highlight words or phrases, annotate sections of interest or fold over the corner to bookmark a page. This is fine if this is your book, but can change how someone views the content of the book if they use a book that already has annotations and bookmarks. Their view will be skewed by the previous reader. Also if you annotate or bend pages of a library book then the librarians rightly get a little upset.

If you talk to lost property offices at railway stations and airports you will realise that people lose books all the time. Once lost, the only way to retrieve that book is to buy a new copy.

Finally though for many, books are an accessible format, for some the small text and black on white printing can be inaccessible.

The e-book reader is a technological solution to some of the issues we face with real paper books. There are many models out there from the new Sony Reader with touch interface, the Nook and the well received Amazon Kindle. These e-ink devices allow you to read books anywhere and at anytime, well under the assumption it isn’t dark!

You can put onto these devices an entire library of books. The Kindle is only 241 grams (8½ oz.) so weighs less than a single paperback book, but can be loaded with three and a half thousand books.

The Kindle (and now some other e-book readers) allow you to buy and download books over wifi or 3G without needing a computer and without needing to wait for delivery. A single click and the book is there in almost an instant ready to read. You can also download sample chapters, try before you buy. Well you can do that in a bookshop, but I find the shop assistants always look at me weirdly. In my local book shop, which has a coffee shop inside, has put up notices asking customers not to take books from the shelves into the café area and read them whilst drinking coffee.

Some educational institutions are now providing learners with a Kindle and filling it with the requisite text books, literally providing them with a library on the move. Libraries that use e-book readers, no longer need to guess how many physical copies of a core text will be needed they can provide copies on demand as and when needed. Many e-book readers like the Kindle, allow you to highlight, annotate and bookmark an e-book. However these can be easily removed if you are using a borrowed e-book reader from the library for example.

If you lose your Kindle, you’ve not lost your library. You can replace your Kindle and then re-download your library to the device.

In terms of accessibility, the ability to change text size and contrast on e-book readers ensures that they are more accessible than paper versions. The Kindle also has a text to speech capability, though it has to be said, some publishers do not allow their books to be read in this way, they would I guess prefer you buy the audiobook version.

Having said all that e-Book readers are not there to replace books, they enhance and enrich the reading experience. Just because I have a Kindle doesn’t mean that I am never going to read another paper book again! Far from it, I suspect that reading sample chapters on the Kindle will probably result in purchasing the paper version… likewise though I will admit I can see myself clicking the “buy” link now and again.

e-Books also have a few disadvantages in that once I have purchased a copy of an e-book, it is nigh on impossible to lend that copy to a friend… it is impossible to donate the e-book to the local Oxfam shop… it is impossible to impress your friends as you can with a books on the coffee table or the bookshelf when they come to visit…

e-Book readers, like the Kindle are wonderful things, but still, the iPad is the future of reading…

A version of this article originally appeared on the FOTE10 website.

Holding onto my Kindle

I was looking through my old Evernote notes seeing what I had noted and what I needed to keep and what could go. One notebook had some blog article ideas, one of which was entitled:

Why I didn’t get a Kindle for Christmas

This made me smile, as at the time (March 2010) I was dead set on getting an iPad and did not think I would ever use a Kindle. Another factor that convinced me I didn’t need a Kindle was the thing about having to buy it from the American Amazon, and buy American Kindle books. This was something I thought I probably could cope with, but would the average person really feel comfortable with this. So though I liked the Kindle I couldn’t see myself buying one.

Well…

Things change…

In July, Amazon announced that they would be released a UK version of the Kindle that would be lighter and smaller, and they also announced a UK version of the Kindle store.

As I was doing lots of stuff around e-books I decided that even though I had my iPad, I would order and buy a Kindle.

It arrived just in time for ALT-C where I was presenting a symposium on e-books and e-book readers. I loaded it with some free books and I even bought a few too.

Now a couple of months later where am I with the Kindle?

Well I am not using it as much as I would like to, but when I do, ir works for me. I find it easy to read, just as easy as paper and much easier than reading on the iPad, though I do like the fact that I can read my Kindle books on the iPad. I like the fact that I don’t have to charge it up all the time. I really like been able to buy books on demand and download them really quickly. I like been able to download sample chapters for free, really nice way of getting free reading. I like how I can buy a newspaper on my Kindle.

Anything I don’t like?

No backlight! I know that’s the reason I don’t have to charge it up so much, but does make it difficult to read in poor light.

It’s not quite there for reading complex documents, but for simple text it really can make it easier to do work, typing on the laptop and reading on the Kindle.

Lending me Kindle

One of the main criticisms of e-books over paper books is how easy it is to lend a paper book to a friend.

To be honest that is a fair and valid point. Publishers it would appear would much rather prefer if the secondhand book market didn’t exist and that everyone bought their own copy of any book they wanted to read. I always think that is slightly short-sighted as I know when I lent out copies of The Colour Of Magic, people would go out and buy other books by Terry Pratchett. Hey I must have bought about four copies of The Colour of Magic myself as after lending my copy out and not getting it back I wanted my own copy. As with music I am inspired by others.

However of course with the current way in which e-books are bought and sold I can’t lend an e-book. I could lend my Kindle or e-book reader, but there are certain issues with that (as whoever has my Kindle can buy books).

However Amazon recognising the value that lending books has, have announced a new feature for the Kindle.

…later this year, we will be introducing lending for Kindle, a new feature that lets you loan your Kindle books to other Kindle device or Kindle app users. Each book can be lent once for a loan period of 14-days and the lender cannot read the book during the loan period. Additionally, not all e-books will be lendable – this is solely up to the publisher or rights holder, who determines which titles are enabled for lending.

So it isn’t as far as I would like it to go and you still can’t permanently transfer titles from one Kindle to another, however this is a start.

New Sony Readers

I started writing my previous blog post on the price of Sony Readers last week, but only published it this morning.  Andy Kemp on Twitter told me that today Sony have announced their new range of ebook readers and linked to the story on Engadget.

Sony’s tweaked its entire Reader line up — the Pocket, Touch, and Daily editions — by adding improved optical touchscreens, speeding up page turns with E Ink Pearl displays and slimming down the brushed aluminum hardware. Beyond that, it’s also updated its Daily Edition with WiFi — there’s still no connectivity options for the other two.

Engdget have reviewed all three new models with the cheapest reader now $179 which here in the UK would translate to roughly £136 so the cheap models in Waterstones are still pretty good value for money as is the new Kindle from Amazon at £109.

Listening to TWiT on the way into work this morning a lot of discussion by the panel on the pricing of the Kindle and an expectation that the price would drop again. Remember when the Kindle first came out it was $399 and now is just $139. In a year or two it might be $40 and after that free when you buy four or five books from Amazon!

It is an interesting time for ebook readers.