Latest Entries

Reading on the iPad Rules

The iPad is an awesome e-book reader. I thought I would miss holding a real book, turning the pages, and closing it shut when I finish the last chapter. So far, I haven’t missed any of these. I must be clear that I have not tried a Kindle or other e-book reader yet, so a lot of the advantages and disadvantages of reading on an iPad may or may not be shared by other readers. Let me know in the comments!

My friend John lent me his iPad for a week-long trip, so I decided to buy ‘Delivering Happiness‘ by Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos. Several people at Mobilization Labs have given it high marks, and I’d been thinking about picking up a copy. $10.99 versus $12.99 for a physical copy though? Fair enough, I’ll give it a shot. The book downloaded in less than ten seconds over Wi-Fi, and my previously bare iBooks bookshelf was now occupied by ‘Devliering Happiness’ and ‘Winnie the Pooh’. Not sure how the latter got there, I’m guessing it was a freebie from Apple.

Shortly after boarding the plane for my trip I realized I wasn’t going to be able to read through takeoff and landing, which is something I like about regular old books. There’s no on-off switch or airplane mode on a paperback. Minus one, iPad. Once we got in the air, however, I launched iBooks and tapped on ‘Delivering Happiness’. I was greeted by an image of the book’s cover. Not quite the same experience as holding a newly purchased book in your hands and checking out the blurb on the back cover and the jacket notes about the author. I swiped through the table of contents (all hyper-linked) and started reading the foreword. I wanted the font a bit bigger (I probably shouldn’t be allowed to drive with my eyesight) which was simple to achieve. I played around with the other fonts and quickly discovered that they all suck except Georgia and Baskerville. Also, there’s no way to revert to the default font size and face, which is probably the ideal setup for most people.

Delivering Happiness cover

After a few pages, I was engrossed in the book, as I would have been had I picked up a physical copy. Having never read a book on an electronic device before, I thought I’d have a hard time focusing, but that’s not the case. I read for two hours straight on the plane and would say the eye strain was less than what I’d experienced reading a physical book, probably because of the backlit display on the iPad, which is adjustable.

I’ve been reading a lot of business books recently (Made to Stick, The Art of the Start, Making It All Work) and will often take notes on my iPhone using Simplenote. I’m not a fan of highlighting or taking notes directly on the pages of a book, and neither is the library. My initial question about reading on the iPad was whether I’d need to take notes on my iPhone or switch apps on the iPad just to jot something down. Neither was necessary, as the iBooks application lets you highlight and take notes. To access the highlighting and notes functionality, you tap and hold as you would when copying and pasting on the iPhone. What I really like about the highlighting and notes features is the automatically generated notes page after the table of contents. Your highlights and notes are listed on this page, with the date you created the note or highlight, and a hyperlink to the location in the book. You can’t email this page to yourself, but perhaps you could take a screenshot of it on the iPad, save it as a PDF, and have Google’s OCR convert it to real text.

Table of Contents

I’m a big fan of reading on the iPad, but there is room for improvement. Here are some changes I’d like to see in future iterations.

  • Font choices and sizes – I’d like to see more font choices, and the ability to revert to the default iBooks face and size settings.
  • Export or email notes – It’d be fantastic to be able to email the notes and highlighted text to myself. Right now they’re stuck in the iBooks app unless I manually copy them out, or do a few copy/pastes into an email or doc.
  • Syncing across devices – I have the iBooks application on my iPhone and have downloaded the books I’ve purchased, but there’s no syncing between devices. I’d like to see my current reading position saved, along with my bookmarks, highlights, and notes.
  • Desktop app – Why is there no way to read books I’ve purchased on the desktop? I suppose the main concern is piracy, but I wouldn’t mind reading within iTunes, perhaps in some sort of built-in Preview PDF-type reading app.
  • Back button for returning from hyperlink taps – When you tap on a hyperlink in a book (from the table of contents or elsewhere) I’d like to be able to hit ‘back’, but there’s currently no way to do this.
  • Share quotes – I’d like to be able to share a quote from a book as a tweet or in an email, with the book’s title and author info, along with a link to the book in the iTunes store or elsewhere.

On a side note, ‘Delivering Happiness‘ is a great read, even if you’re not into customer service or developing business culture. The Zappos story is a good one!

Are articles touting 10+ resources actually valuable?

I subscribe to quite a few RSS feeds and read them via Google Reader daily. All too often, about a third of the articles, usually coming from Doggdot.us have a title like “40 Best Design Blogs” or “100 Resources for Sharing Files”.

Personally, I rarely read these articles because I don’t find there’s much value in a large list of resources that usually lacks a per-item description. If I want a list of resources, I can perform a Google search. A long list of resources usually means the article’s author hasn’t actually reviewed anything.

I would find greater value in an article titled “Top 3 Recommended Design Blogs” with a subjective review of those three items, and perhaps a link to a larger list. I personally don’t have any need to read about more than 3-5 resources in the same category. Granted, there are situations when a large list is valuable, such as when you have a very specific need for a tool or website, but that’s a rare case, at least for me.

Of course, using “valuable” in the title of this post brings into question the value of this rant.

Converting and Optimizing PDFs Online

Anna over at Productivity 501 wrote Adobe Create PDF/Share Review about Adobe’s website that converts and stores various document types as PDFs. I’ve been using the current Create Adobe PDF Online website for quite a while, and did a quick comparison.

I converted the same Word doc which contains several photos and is 6.2 MB with the current Adobe PDF Online and the new one. With the current website I was able to choose to optimize for Web, no such option in the new version. The Current conversion was much more efficient. I also saved the document as a PDF on the Mac for comparison.

Original doc size: 6.2mb
Apple PDF: 6.2mb
Current Adobe PDF Online: 164kb
New Adobe PDF Online: 3.7mb

In addition, the New site messed up some of my formatting and did not preserve web links.

Hopefully Adobe will take what they already have in the (fairly outdated, but much more functional) Create PDF Online and incorporate it into the new version.

I have uploaded the three docs (Original, New PDF site, Current PDF site) to drop.io for comparison. Note, the current Adobe PDF site only allows 5 free conversions per email address.

Working on Site Redesign

The time has come for better things. I’m planning a site redesign for this site and for Wizkid Sound which I also maintain.

I’ve decided that WordPress might not be the best option anymore, mainly because I’m not in need of all the features it offers. I’m looking for more simplicity, and I think Tumblr offers that. Getting started with Tumblr is really simple, and their website claims you can be up and posting in 10 seconds, which I can attest to. All you need to enter on their signup page is your email address, a password, and the URL you want (i.e. whatever.tumblr.com).

I’ll be using Disqus for commenting. The main advantage is that Disqus allows you to track conversations across multiple websites, meaning you don’t have to sign up on each blog you visit to comment (or leave anonymous comments).

I will be using Sweetcron for my “lifestream”, which includes Twitter posts, Flickr uploads, Youtube favorites, etc. Sweetcron checks the sites you specify at a specified interval and converts any new items it finds to individual posts. I’ve incorporated Sweetcron into Daniel Novick’s website.

Sweetcron is self-hosted, whereas Tumblr is not. However, a Tumblr blog can be embedded into a site, which is what I plan to do. I am currently using Dreamhost, but have a Slicehost account I have been playing with. I’m going to benchmark the two to get some sort of speed comparison. I’m hoping the Slicehost account will beat my Dreamhost account, because that means more geekery on the backend. I must be clear that I’m using the bottom account for both Dreamhost and Slicehost and that I’m confident upgrading either one would yield very different results.

The general theme is streamlining and centralizing, and I think this combination will help achieve that. I plan to use the same tools to build the new Wizkid Sound website, but with more media-specific elements including a music player and some sort of embedded Mogulus feed.

As for the design, well, I’m thinking Helvetica. That is all.

Trying out Google Voice, SMS is promising

A while back I signed up for GrandCentral, which was bought up by Google and recently rebranded/upgraded as Google Voice. I’m going to talk about the SMS features, as that’s all I’ve messed with so far. There are plenty of other reviews of Google Voice, and you can request an invite here.

It appears the final goal is to have voicemails and SMS messages show up in Gmail, but for now you have to log in to the Google Voice interface. Sending text messages is dead simple, and if you have all your contacts’ info in Gmail (or synced with your OSX address book) you can simply click the SMS button and type the person’s name. Messages show up in a thread-like display, and you can archive and mark as read as you would a Gmail message.

There are a couple of things that I’m hoping will be improved with the SMS interface. One of those things is the SMS notifications. If you have your Google Voice number linked to a cell phone (as I do) by default you will receive any SMS messages sent to Google Voice on your cell phone as well as in the web interface. This is ideal if you’re not at your computer, but what if you’re sitting there with your browser open? It seems counter-intuitive to read SMS messages on your phone and in the interface. What I’ve been doing is disabling SMS notifications in the Settings > Phones > Edit when I’m at the computer. But what if you forget to do this, or don’t re-enable it when you leave the computer? You’ll either end up with double notifications or none at all.

Another item that is slightly confusing is, when someone sends an SMS to your Google Voice number, it shows up on your phone as being from some random 406 number. This is so that when you reply to the message it gets routed through Google rather than through your cell provider, and Google explains it here. Makes sense, but still confusing.

Overall, very promising, particularly from the SMS side. I like not having to get my phone out when I get an SMS…I can just stay at my computer and get to the SMS when I want to. I’m not going to port my number over just yet, but would entertain the idea if the features continue to improve.

Antivirus for Mac

There’s been a stir in the Mac world recently about whether or not antivirus software is necessary for OS X, mainly due to Apple’s “release” of a support article detailing their encouragement of the “widespread use of multiple antivirus utilities”. According to this Gizmodo article, the support article was actually an older article recently updated to include the latest versions of the antivirus software mentioned. There are plenty more articles about this support article and the use of antivirus software on Macs, and I won’t get into them. I’ll leave that to Lifehacker, PC Magazine, and CNet.

I decided to check out the free antivirus software options for the Mac. I’ve been using AVG’s free package on PCs for a while with success. There is no version for the Mac, but there is ClamXav. It’s based on the open-source virus scanner engine called Clam AntiVirus. The installation is fairly simple, apart from the installation of the Clam AV engine separately. I did have to log-out and log back in for the engine to install successfully.

ClamXav is barebones and simple. You tell it what to scan, and it does the job. The preferences are straightforward, including options to schedule scans, and add folders to the “Folder Sentry” to be scanned continuously, for example, your downloads folder.

Until there’s a real virus threat to Mac users, ClamXav is a great option for those not willing to shell out any cash (or clams) yet.

(Not) Syncing Twitter and Facebook

I use Twitter and Facebook on a daily basis, and recently installed the Twitter Facebook App, which updates my Facebook status with whatever my Twitter status is. The problem is, I don’t necessarily want to update my Facebook status as often as I want to update my Twitter status, and the Twitter Facebook App has no filtering mechanism, except for tweets that are directed at someone using @.

The obvious workaround is to put “@ ” at the beginning of any tweet that I don’t want to show up on Facebook…but that’s kind of annoying.  I also use Ping.fm which I have  written about previously.  So, I thought, how about I sync my Facebook status to one of the other services that Ping.fm posts to?  Unfortunately I couldn’t find one that had a decent Facebook app. Supposedly the Pownce app can sync, but I couldn’t get it to work.

The upside is that Ping.fm will be able to post to Facebook soon. They had the feature for a while, but with the recent Facebook upgrades the feature broke. Once it’s up and running again, I’ll be able to use the “triggers” feature to choose which services to post to post to select networks only.

All this for pretending folks want to know what I’m doing :)

Import Flickr Albums to Facebook with Flickurbook

I don’t post many photos to Facebook as I have a Flickr Pro account that I use to share with family and friends. Sometimes I do want to post photos on Facebook as well, and it’s always been a seemingly redundant process of uploading each photo to Flickr and then to Facebook.

Flickurbook is a very barebones way to transfer a Flickr album to Facebook. It’s as easy as typing in your Flickr username, authenticating with Facebook, and choosing which album(s) to import.  The import takes a few minutes (it took about 5 minutes to import a 22 photo album). The Flickr titles you have for your photos are transferred too, which saves some hassle.

What about transferring the other way, from Facebook to Flickr? You’re better off uploading the originals straight to Flickr since the resolution on Facebook photos is pretty low, but there are apps out there, including this one for the Mac. There are also quite a few Facebook apps for displaying Flickr photos on your Faceobook profile.

A-1 Appliance Parts

This is the first “money” post I’m making. I’m not trying to be Get Rich Slowly or The Simple Dollar
those guys have got “blogging about money for a living” covered. But I would like to share some of my own personal money and purchasing experiences.  Here goes.

A-1 Appliance Parts sells parts for just about any appliance you could possibly have at home.  I personally buy water filters for my fridge from A-1.  Water filters are one of those things that you don’t think about buying until you absolutely have to replace them. I almost bought at regular retail price from the manufacturer, but a bit of Googling led me to A-1, where I saved $6/fiilter (on a $30 filter, so 20% off) and received free shipping.  Great deal.

In addition to great prices, they’ve got fast order turn-around times…I received my package within two days of ordering. I’d recommend A-1, check them out.

A reading MBA with PersonalMBA.com

I recently embarked on a “personal MBA” program using The Personal MBA, which is essentially a list of 77 books. The site’s creator, Josh Kaufman, links you to each of the books through his Amazon affiliate account, which I’m sure generates him enough money to pay for hosting and then some (no skin off my nose).

“Top MBA programs don’t have a monopoly on advanced business knowledge: you can teach yourself everything you need to know to succeed in life and at work. The Personal MBA Recommended Reading List features only the very best business books available, based on thousands of hours of research. So skip b-school and the $100,000 loan: you can get a world-class business education simply by reading these books.”

The reading list is broken down into several sections, and there is no need to read in order.  It’s not all business, either. There’s a whole section on “Psychology & Communication”.

You may have already read some of the books, as I had…such as “Getting Things Done” by David Allen and “The 4-Hour Workweek” by Timothy Ferriss. So far I’m enjoying the reading list and getting a fair amount of benefit from it, especially considering I haven’t paid a dime for the books I’m getting from the library.

The Personal MBA isn’t a substitute for an MBA program, but is more than adequate for those of us who want to get some basic MBA knowledge for our own endeavors.



Copyright ©2010. All rights reserved.

RSS Feed. This blog is proudly powered by Wordpress and uses Modern Clix, a theme by Rodrigo Galindez.