Category Archives: smart phone

Kindle for iPad: A superb reading experience

Although I was curious about everything iPad has to offer, I was most curious about the reading experience on the iPad, since it’s been touted as the potential Kindle Killer in the media by some. So after familiarizing myself with the iPad, syncing my iPod apps and iTunes library, I downloaded the iBook app, Apple’s iPad reader application. The interface is gorgeous as you gaze upon the wood-like (albeit empty) bookshelves of your personal library. Well, almost empty, anyway. There is a lone copy ofWinnie the Pooh, standard equipment on the iPad, if that’s your pleasure.

I have to say, reading on the iBook app is a great experience. There are two things you notice right away using the iBook application. First, the books are in color, something technologically impossible on the Kindle and other similar eReaders. The second thing you notice is the navigation. On the Kindle (and most standalone eReaders) you turn pages by pressing a button. Depending on the eReader, the page turns either slowly—or extremely slowly. There is a significant lag time between the button-push and the actual turn of page.

Reading in iBook is a completely different experience. The page turns as you turn the page; there is no lag. Sweeping my finger (actually very much like “paging” through a real book) at the page edge causes the page to turn. Really. (At least that’s the effect.) The faster you sweep, the quicker you leaf through the pages. Cool. As on my Kindle, I can manipulate the font size so that my presbyopic, middle-aged eyes can read without benefit of the reading glasses I’m always misplacing.

One of the big selling points of standalone eReaders is that they’re reproduced using something called e-Ink. E-Ink provides the reader with a book-like feel and no backlighting (which is theoretically easier on the eyes because it’s not so bright). The absence of backlighting and relative simplicity of the device also means that there is virtually no battery drain while reading. My Kindle’s battery lasts for weeks when I’ve got its onboard wireless signal disabled.
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Live Blogging the Big Apple Announcement – Sci/Tech – Blogcritics

join me at Blogcritics as I liveblog the big Apple announcement here…

via Live Blogging the Big Apple Announcement – Sci/Tech – Blogcritics.

LP to mp3: Zapping Your Record Collection into the 21st Century

Like most couples of a certain age, my husband and I grew up spending our allowance, and then paychecks buying records (and eventually, cassettes). By the time we got married in the early 1980s our combined record collection totaled approximately 1,000 albums, taking up several bookcase shelves in our living room. CDs soon took the place of the LPs and cassettes as more bookcases were cluttered with another thousand (smaller and shinier) disks. Jewel cases seemed to proliferate in all the nooks and crannies of our home.But our vinyl collection sat collecting dust as we, reluctant to fork out cash to replace our outdated and broken turntable, wondered how to once again enjoy our classic rock, folk, Broadway, classical and jazz recordings (many of which were long out of print)  that never made the leap into the digital age. Library of Congress recordings of Woody Guthrie and Big Bill Broonzy; Introducing the Beatles; The Compleat Tom Paxton. Even favorites that had been digitally re-released: A Night at the Opera (Queen); my husband’s Hendrix, Clapton, Johnny and Edgar Winter collection, my original Broadway cast recording of The Music Man (”borrowed” from my parents on a visit home years earlier) lay dormant as we refused to re-purchase CD versions of recordings already in our library on vinyl. We opted to spend our music dollars on new tracks, assuring ourselves that one day, our one-of-kind 1957 Tom Lehrer album—a priceless auction buy–would once again sing to us.And then the iPod thing happened, and mp3 players of every breed propagated on retail shelves, removing us by yet one more technological generation from our beloved record albums. “If only,” we cried, “if only there was a way to stuff those glorious tracks into our iPods;” if only.I searched the oracle of the Internet, invoking the appropriately syntaxed keywords into a Google search and I found there my answer. At least I thought I did.  As I dove into dozens of “how-to” articles written in cryptic techno-ese that I, a non-audiophile, could not decipher, I lost hope. Until I stumbled upon a device called a USB Turntable. Hmmm. Seems easy enough, I mused, glancing through the instructions and descriptions I found online. Plug the turntable’s USB cable into the computer’s USB port. Place album on turntable, start recording software, start turntable. Recording made. (Well, of course you have to flip the record when it reaches the end of side one, but you knew that, right?) Cool. Of course, nothing is ever quite as easy as it seems when you are reading a product review or looking at a user guide without the product actually in hand.However, I was convinced that this was, indeed, do-able. I went out and purchased a turntable. Several manufacturers make USB turntables, including ION and Numark, which can be had for about $150.00. We settled on the Numark TT-USB because it seemed very sturdy and easy to use. And the price was right.The turntable is plugged directly into computer’s USB port; using the computer’s speakers to hear and monitor the recording. And, after a few false starts (I have to learn to actually READ  “quick start guides” before I start playing with my toys), we got the turntable up and working. And thus began a multi-year project (still ongoing) to convert every one of our 1,000 LPs to digital, and upload them into our iPods. That’s approximately 20,000 tracks, making me awfully grateful for our 80 gigabyte iPods. The turntables come packaged with basic recording software, but its worthwhile to buy an upgraded LP to digital transfer software package. There are several out there, including CFB Software’s “LP Recorder” and “LP Ripper.” Nero also includes an LP converter in several of its recording packages. Acoustica is another good package, but is slightly more complicated to use (in my opinion), although it has a lot of cool features.  You can create .wav files or mp3 files.  I suggest first creating a .wav file, the highest quality recording you can create.  Unfortunately .wav files are huge and take up way too much hard drive space to keep forever; and they would obliterate your mp3 player’s storage very, very quickly.  Fortunately you will be able to delete the .wav file once you have completed the conversion process. Most of our vinyl recordings (even the most well-cared for) are scratched and full of “pops” and “clicks.” Therefore, you should run your newly digitized recording through something called a de-clicker. You should perform this task on the .wav file and before you convert it to an mp3.  The de-clicker we use finds typically finds upwards of 15,000 clicks, pops and other distortions in about 15 seconds, removing them instantaneously. Once processed through the  de-clicker, you can save your clean recording as an mp3 file. Then, to save space, you can delete the .wav file.  From that point on, you can do what you want with mp3: burn it onto CD, synch onto your mp3 player or iPod, or phone, keep it in a RealAudio or Window Media Player Library, etc.The only problem is that in our fast-forward, high-speed CD-ripping age, you can’t hurry an analog recording like an LP. Recording an album onto the computer still takes 20 minutes per side. But it’s so worth it. I knew it the moment I was able to hop on the treadmill and listen to Jethro Tull on my iPod. Too cool.

Technological Delights and Dilemmas: A Middle Aged Rant


By Barbara Barnett
Originally Published at Blogcritics magazine.
I am endlessly fascinated with all things geeky: friends laugh at me for the frequency of new (and always improved) cell phones that dangle from my hip (no, I don’t have an iPhone—iPod, yes; iPhone no). I’ve been using PDAs since they were unsightly gray things with dim gray screens and dark gray text. I mystify my other middle-aged friends with my fluency in the sort of ‘Net-ese that their kids speak as they scratch their heads wondering when the “Google” became a word, much less a verb; and “Wiki” ceased to be a sort of patio furniture made of woven bamboo. (”Oh, ‘wiki‘ not ‘wicker,’ they will realize eventually, still scratching their heads). I proudly have Vista Ultimate and Office 2007, including my always-open Microsoft Outlook. (I’m not quite cool enough to have a Mac.) I have all but abandoned paper books for the cool Amazon Kindle that has become my constant companion. It currently contains about 10 novels, the last three issues of Time magazine and today’s New York Times.

I am appreciative of the high-tech toys and tools that enable me to create. Music appears effortlessly notated on Sibelius or Finale, where Ellington standards transpose themselves magically to my vocal key with the mere click of a button. I don’t even have to say “please.”  And as for writing…

My first professional writing gig was for a nationally-circulated 120-page monthly (business) magazine. As an associate editor, I was responsible for one-third of the magazine’s editorial content. Sounds more impressive than it actually was. Big title, lots of responsibility,  high pressure. Very little money.  And typewriters. Anyone remember those? Gigantic IBM Selectrics. They had those little white correction ribbons. Which was a great innovation, if you weren’t typing on a five-layer packet of copy paper. And I don’t mean the kind of copy paper that goes into the photocopy machine.  It was carbon-coated paper onto which you typed your work.  It was a time-intensive and painful experience until you learned to be a very good first draft writer. 

Like many writers, I embraced the invention of the word processor as virtual manna from heaven. I can’t even imagine (and barely remember) life without word processing. In my opinion, the best invention in history was Microsoft Word for Windows. WYSIWYG, and a whole new world (as the song goes).

Yet as I wax poetic, extolling the joys and virtues of my high-tech world, where my entire address book is stuffed weightlessly in my BlackBerry; my email is zipped to me at lunch or waiting in carpool line, I confess that there are some things that are better in real, rather than virtual, life. Take my calendar for example. Try as I might (and try I have) I simply cannot get along without a hard copy of my appointment book.

I am a very visual person and I have to see my week spread out in front of me. I can’t scroll, click and maneuver my way around a virtual calendar with the same ease as I can cross out, scribble notes and draw arrows on my big old paper calendar. Admittedly, I used the computer (an Excel spreadsheet) to create my own customized, but printed out, desk planner, with all of my recurring appointments automatically slotted in. But I can’t make the leap to the purely virtual world. Even something as simple as changing a client’s appointment works better in hard copy. It’s easier, quicker and more efficient. No? Don’t believe me? I herein make my case to you. (Oooh. I feel like I’m going to do a re-enactment of that great old folk song John Henry—you know the one where the mythical John Henry picked up his hammer and pitted his strength against a steam-driven machine).
This time it’s stylus (or thumbs for you smart phone mavens) vs. pencil and eraser.The virtual challenge: move appointment with John Henry (for the sake of poetic justice) from 3:00 p.m. Monday to 4:30 p.m. Thursday.Electronic calendar (be it PDA, smart phone, not-so-smart phone, or Outlook). Step 1: Open appointment. “Do you wish to open this instance or the entire series?” asks EC (electronic calendar). Oh yeah, I forgot to disclose that John Henry has a “weekly” appointment with me. And he wants to change just this week’s appointment. Step 2: I point to “this instance” and click. Steps 3-7: Several more clicks and mis-clicks, do-overs and think I’m done. Oops. I just made his new appointment for 2009. Damn. Repeat steps one through seven. This time for sure. Phew. Got it. Elapsed time: three minutes.Paper calendar.
One of those Week-at-a-Time thingies. Cross out John Henry on Monday. Write him in on Thursday. Done. Elapsed time: 25 seconds.
See what I mean? But something keeps compelling me to try going virtual. Earnest attempt after earnest attempt. The result usually is that half of my appointments are written in ink on my desk calendar at the office; and half are electronically stored on my BlackBerry. The main problem with this scenario is that you can’t synch a BlackBerry with a paper calendar.What someone really needs to invent is an electronic/ink hybrid. Write your notes in a pen that magically inputs it into Outlook, which can then synch back to your phone or PDA. So you can go both ways. Or either way. Electronic pen flowing ink onto the page and pixels into Outlook. I’d be in (a very organized version of) heaven. And ever so grateful.