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Nate Hoffelder

Nate Hoffelder

Some light reading for the weekend

This photo popped up on Reddit today. You’re looking at an original reference doc for the Saturn V. It was originally published for the Apollo Lunar Program. Do you see the signature? That’s Werner von Braun. Do you have any idea how much that thing’s worth?!? It’s a neat photo, but I’m not the type to be satisfied with just looking at a historical document when I could be reading it. I did some digging , and I found this page on the NASA History website.You’ll find a scanned to PDF copy of this manual, but you’ll also find a bunch of other really shiny stuff.

BTW, some of the comments on Reddit are priceless.

You know what makes this really mindblowing? Not only did they have less computing power than a Commodore-64 did… but they managed to get PDFs to display.

Adobe’s Reader wasn’t so bloated back then.

Apollo 12 Flight Journal via Reddit

B&N’s Nook servers are down

Interesting story today. B&N didn’t bother to keep track how many Nooks they sold this holiday season. The B&N servers that are supposed to support downloading ebooks and Nook activation crashed on Christmas, and the servers are still down. The problem is actually bigger than that. The servers that support the B&N community discussion boards are also down. Apparently so many people are on the site, complaining about their Nooks not working that B&N can’t handle the load. I don’t know how many people are reporting the problem because I can’t even load the site.

How could they have allowed this to happen? Seriously, folks, they should have seen it coming months ago. Count how many Nooks are sold, and subtract the number that number that get activated right away. You’ll be left with an approximate number of Nooks that will be activated right after Christmas. It’s not rocket science.

Every site I know (that is involved with ereaders) saw a spike in traffic on Christmas day (and today, too). For example, my traffic tripled yesterday, and I expect to see about twice nearly triple the normal traffic today. MobileRead saw their best day ever yesterday, and TeleRead also  saw a significant jump. How could B&N not have planned for this?

It’s simply pathetic.

via Twitter

Getting Started with a Cheap Android Tablet

So you’ve just gotten a tablet. This post is a collection of problems I’ve had with cheap Android and questions I’ve been asked.

I originally wrote this post back when Android tablets shipped with almost no apps. The situation has improved somewhat so this post isn’t as useful as it used to be. As always, any suggestions on topics to include would be appreciated.

First things first. Go set the time and date. If they’re set wrong then this will cause a bunch of problems. For example, you won’t be able access your Gmail from the tablet. I know that doesn’t make much sense, but it’s true.

Next, calibrate the touchscreen. Hopefully your tablet will prompt you to calibrate the screen when you start it for the firs time. If it doesn’t you’ll need to do look under the settings for the calibration option. Check your manual; the option is in different places in different versions of Android.

Don’t forget to set up the Wifi. I bet that you’ve already done this, but I’m putting it on the list just in case.

Installing Apps

There are 4 ways to install apps: downloading from a website, through an app store, email it to yourself, and install it from an SD card. The first 3  are relatively straight forward, but there’s a problem with the last one.

It isn’t as simple as you might think. Would you be surprised to find out that some a lot of Android tablets don’t ship with a file manager? Well, then you’re going to be shocked to discover that some file managers can’t see the APK install files (I’m not kidding, either).

You’ll need to check under the apps menu and make sure that you have a file manager. Otherwise you won’t be able to install the apps downloaded to your SD card.

Here’s the file manager I like, and it works with most versions of Android:

You can install this file by emailing the link to your tablet so you can open your tablet’s web browser and visit that page.

Finding apps

Some developers host a copy of their app on their website, but not very many. (Adobe started doing it recently, though.) I always check a developer’s website, just in case.

If you’re one of the tablet owners who have access to the Android Market, I hate you (kidding). Chances are you might not have the official Marketplace, and you might not have any market app installed at all. Here are my 3 favorite places for finding apps:

  • Amazon Appstore – Amazon launched this store last fall, and it’s beginning to gain wide acceptance.
  • Slideme – This is a legitimate app store with both paid and free apps. It even has its own app for you to install on your tablet.
  • 1Mobile – This is a not entirely legitimate source for apps, but it does not pirate paid apps (so far as I know).

Starter Apps

I already pointed you at a file manager and I know that you’ll want other apps. Here’s a list of apps that you’ll probably want.


8 million Kindles sold this year?

That’s what Bloomberg are reporting: Inc. is likely to sell more than 8 million Kindle electronic-book readers this year, at least 60 percent more than analysts have predicted, according to two people who are aware of the company’s sales projections.

I’m not sure if I believe it. Amazon are very close mouthed about their sales. It’s highly unlikely that anyone at Amazon would talk, much less give a figure. On the other hand, this is a reputable news organization.

Actuall, what makes you think that someone at Amazon talked? It could just as likely have been a business partner or some other ereader manufacturer. This industry isn’t that big. Even if they don’t know exactly what Amazon are doing, quite a few people get to see (for example) the screen shipment reports from E-ink. It would be pretty easy to estimate Kindle sales.

via Bloomberg

Apple post 6 iOS developer docs in iBooks

In a rather meaningless gesture, Apple uploaded a set of 6 iOS reference manuals to iBooks yesterday. The titles range from Cocoa Fundamentals Guide to iOS Technology Overview.

If you’d like to read a manual on the device you’re developing for (the tautology is amusing), open iBooks and search for "apple developer". That should help find all 6 titles.

I’m calling this a meaningless gesture because you could already get  these docs on Apple’s developer support site. You can read them online or download them as PDFs. Start here.

I’m also bugged that they’re releasing these docs in iBooks while at the same time hiding the info you need to actually make an ebook for them.

via TUAW

Hands on with the Phosphor E-ink watch (video)

I just cam across a review of the Phosphor World Time watch on the watch blog, aBlogToRead.

Phosphor watches can be credited with a very special honor. That being of the brand the officially popularized and mainstreamed e-ink watches. While they didn’t invent the concept, they made them cool enough and affordable enough for mainstream adoption. With prices under $200, now everyone can have a neat looking, easy to read e-ink watch on their wrist. The newer World Time watch adds just that to the mix – a world time complication. In addition the time and a calendar, you can now scroll through time zones of the world. Aside from one minor drawback, the watch is a nice addition to the Phosphor watch collection.

The video is worth watching, but I really have to wonder: who buys watches anymore? I’d buy this one just to have it, but I am TBH a hoarder. I’d never actually wear it.

Watches used to be something everyone wore. Is it just me or have they been replaced by cell phones?

How to get full screen (reading) apps on your Android tablet

Some time back I heard about an app that would let you trick apps into working full screen on large Android tablets. It’s called Spare Parts, and what it does is give you access to some of the concealed settings menu options.

Update: This post is slightly out of date. Most large tablets now ship with this problem already fixed. But I’m leaving this post up just in case someone needs it.

I didn’t have a copy of the app at the time, but now I do. You can download it at Freeware Lovers. This version is ad supported but the ads aren’t obnoxious. The download and install process is simple and straightforward. I had no trouble with it.

Let me explain how to use it. You see, Android OS has this little quirk called "compatibility mode". Do you know how you sometimes have an app running in a little window  and not using all the screen real estate?  That is compatibility mode.

Open Spare Parts and look for the setting option for compatibility mode. Uncheck the box. Yes, I want you to turn it off. Reboot your tablet. Your apps should now show up as full screen.

I’ve tried it with a half dozen apps, and they all seem to work without a hitch. But your results may vary.

Amazon aren’t planning a Kindle tablet

Just a few minutes ago I posted on the new Cruz T301 Android tablet. This tablet had one really interstinf feature: it ships with the Kindle android app. I didn’t realize what that meant until after I hit the Publish button.

If Amazon had planned a Kindle tablet then they wouldn’t have partnered with Velocity Micro.

One thing that makes this really interesting is that Amazon added the former CEO of Palm to their board of  directors this week. The consensus is that Jon Rubenstein was brought on board to add his development experience to Amazon’s tablet project. I don’t think that’s going to happen.

I’m going to take this one step further: Amazon canceled their tablet becuase they’ve heard rumors about a smaller iPad. A  7″ iPad that costs $250 or $300 would drop the bottom out of the tablet market.

Update: Velocity Micro Cruz Tablet T301 is the first Kindle affiliated tablet?

That’s how Velocity Micro are promoting it, and it’s a big deal. I know of a couple Android smartphones that ship with the Kindle app, but this is the first tablet.

Kindle support is the one interesting detail for this tablet becuase it appears to be the same device as the Cruz Reader, Pocketbook IQ, & white PD Novel. If you look at the product page you’ll see that it has ports and card slot in the exact same place as on the Cruz Reader. (Did they think I wouldn’t notice?) Until I know different, I’m going to assume that this is exactly the same hardware.

Do you want to know something odd? The IQ has a set of hardware buttons for the 3 standard Android buttons (back, menu, home). The T301 does not, even though it was released some time after the IQ. Weird.

Update: I just heard back from mt contact with Velocity Micro. The T301 is a vastly improved tablet. It has a dual core CPU, 4GB Flash, Wifi (n), and a capacitive touchscreen. It’s selling on Amazon for $249.

Now that is a decent tablet.

Review: Pandigital 9″ Android tablet

The 9″ Pandigital Novel is not one of those gadgets that get launched with a lot of fanfare. It  popped up on the FCC website a few months ago, and then it popped up on without any actual announcement from Pandigital. I do find that a little odd, considering that this is the best tablet in its price range.

Update: This review is over a year old and slightly out of date. There’s a new hacked firmware for the 9″ Novel that adds Android Market and other apps. It’s worth getting.

If you want to know how good, this is the device I plan to carry around at CES 2011. I’m planning to go laptop-free on the show floor and only carry this tablet and a Mifi (for the web connection). Yes, that’s what I think of this tablet.

But I feel that I should also add that I keep seeing a hardware problem. My tablet kept turning itself on when left unsupervised.  On several occasions I’ve opened the case in the morning and found the battery depleted.


The 9″ Pandigital Tablet is based on a 9″ LCD screen (800×480) with a resistive touchscreen, Wifi, accelerometer, stylus, SD card slot, and 2 GB Flash. It runs Android v2.0 (which means you’ll be able to install most apps). On the upper edge is the Sd card slot and the USB port. On the left edge is the power jack, and on the right edge is the power button, volume buttons, and headphone jack. There are 4 buttons on the front below the screen: back, home, menu, and forward.

It ships with a case, power supply, USB cable, and an 8GB microSD card. Yes, the card size is strange. But it works, so who cares. And as much as I appreciate the case I do wish it didn’t stink so much; fortunately the smell faded after a few days.

It has a stylus, but I didn’t need it. I was quite content with using my fingers. The screen is very responsive. Oh, and if you are concerned about the screen resolution, I have to say that I wasn’t bothered by it (and I’m picky). I expect that the only ones who will notice and be bothered by the screen resolution are tech snobs (like me). The geometry is a little odd, I must admit, but it works.

I’ve been using this tablet late at night. With the WordPress app I can visit TDR and approve posts as well as leave short responses. I don’t think i could use this tablet for a full blog post, but for short stuff it’s great. And this is the first Android tablet that I thought was worth using for this purpose.


It ships with the same apps as the other Novel tablets, of course: browser, email, Facebook, etc. And like the other Novels this tablet doesn’t have the Android market. That wasn’t a problem, though. I didn’t have any trouble finding apps for this tablet becuase I used to be my favorite app store, SlideMe.

I have my usual apps, but there’s one in particular that I’d like to mention. I recently discovered a web browser called Dolphin. Do you want to know how good it is? This is the first time that I’ve mentioned browsing as a strength of Android tablets. Actually, it’s so good that I stopped installing my usual web apps so I could replace them with Dolphin.

Video & Audio

I tested the 9″ Novel with my usual videos. It did not do well. It had trouble playing the sample video (640×480 at 30fps) that shipped with the tablet without dropping frames, and it completely failed on my test videos (720p MOV). This isn’t going to be PMP, ever.

I also tested it with some Youtube videos. The videos streamed without pause or jumps. Sound quality was okay, but the built in speaker wasn’t nearly loud enough even for a quiet room. But there’s a headphone jack,  so it’s not a serious problem.

Reading experience

The Novel shipped with Pandigital’s usual reading app, of course, but I never like it. I went and got Aldiko and Kindle right away. Now that I’ve imported my ebook library, I’m happy with the tablet.

I also want to mention that the PD reading app does a very good job with PDFs on the 9″ screen. You can use your fingers to scroll around the screen while zoomed, and yes, you can reflow a PDF.


I think I’ve made it clear that I really like this tablet. If you’re trying to decide between the larger and smaller Novels, let me assure you that the extra few inches of screen real estate is worth it.


Kindle – a Made in Israel success story?

If yyou are particularly tech savvy (and a little OCD), then you might now that the Kindle is running a fair amount of software written in the Java programming language.  What you might not know is that a lot of the programming work was done by Sun Microsytems, and in particular it was done by a team based in Israel.

I found an article yesterday on an Israeli news blog. I think it’s worth a read, even though they got some details wrong. The article only discusses the Kindle, but I’m pretty sure that this code was first used by Mobipocket. The Bookeen Cybook came out in late 2007 (before the Kindle), and it shipped with a firmware that used Java code for the reading app. As far as I can tell, it’s the same code as on the Kindle.

I was a little surprised, actually. Some time back I built an organizational flow chart for Lab126, the Amazon subsidiary that designed the Kindle. they had enough people with Java experience that I honestly thought the work was done in house.


P.S. If your wondering why I made that flow chart then you must not know me very well. It was a Saturday night and I was bored.

Next3 Android tablet now available from

Do you recall that tablet with an odd screen size that I showed you last month? It’s now available from the Home Shopping Network for $199.

The Next3 is based on a 8.4″ LCD screen (800×600). According to the spec sheet it has 2GB Flash, a SD card slot, Wifi, accelerometer, headphone jack, and speakers. Like the Next2 I reviewed last week, the Next3 is tied to the Borders ebookstore.

But unlike the Next2, the Next3 runs Android v2.1. This is very good news; it means that you shouldn’t have trouble installing apps.

I’d want to get my hands on it before making a recommendation, but at $200 i think this might be a good value. The Next2 was a decent tablet, and I expect the Next3 to be a good one, too.

What’s wrong with e-reader reviews

There’s no feeling so good as when I read a rant about how everyone is reviewing ereaders wrong and I  find out I’m getting most of the points right, not wrong. It’s a good day.

Mike Cane forwarded this rant to me today. It was written by Beranger, and it’s a pretty good critique of the common mistakes made bloggers when they review ereaders.I don’t claim to catch all these details but I do catch most of them and I’m rather pleased with myself. If you want  to read his entire rant, it’s over here.

There are 5 key points to his rant:

  • reviewers don’t look beyond the hardware
  • the obsession with Wifi
  • library features
  • covers
  • OS independence

I’m going to take his points in reverse order. The last 2 points I generally assume as a given. All ereaders are show up as a USB drive when plugged into a computer, and most screw up covers (if they show them at all).

His chief complaint about library features is that no one discusses how you can organize titles. I do, and I can understand his gripe. This is a relatively simple detail to catch. Heck, just providing a list of sorting options would cover most of it.

I disagree with him on the importance of Wifi, but I do understand how he feels about reviewers harping on it. If the device doesn’t have it, just say so. Don’t turn this one point into the ereader’s biggest weakness.

And as for software features, most reviewers don’t have enough experience with ereaders in order to intelligently critique the software.  Heck, some can’t critique the hardware all that well.This reminds me of a question I was asked by my contact at Entourage way back when. He was bothered by the quality of the reviews for the original Entourage Edge. It still makes me laugh at the reviewers:

Can you tell me why all reviews to date compare us to a Kindle?  Not a Kindle DX, but the 6” version? I didn’t know we weigh 5.5 Kindles, but I guess we do.  I really don’t see the relevance as 5.5 Kindles cant surf the internet or take handwritten annotations.

I think the rant is worth reading. Check it out: Beranger.

Amazon is in the Book Banning Business

This just got forwarded to me over Twitter:

On December 9, 2010, I was contacted by CreateSpace (Amazon’s Print on Demand service) who publishes my print books. They informed me that my title, Back to the Garden, had been removed for violating their “content guidelines.” When I consulted their guidelines I found them so vague as to be useless—were they saying my content was illegal? Public domain? Stolen? Offensive? (All of these were on the list). When I inquired as to the specifics of the violation, they were not forthcoming, and sent a form letter response stating that Amazon “may, in its sole discretion, at any time, refuse to list or distribute any content that it deems inappropriate.”

On Sunday, December 12, the print title that had been removed had now disappeared from the Kindle store, as well as two of my other titles, Naughty Bits and Under Mr. Nolan’s Bed. I have over fifty titles selling on Amazon, all of them in erotic fiction categories. The only thing these three singled-out titles had in common, besides being written by me—they were all erotic incest fantasy fiction.

If right now you’re thinking "eww, I’m glad they dropped those titles" then you missed the point. When it comes to fiction, "inappropriate" is a matter of opinion. The stories you loath might appeal to someone else. Whose standard is Amazon using, exactly? They don’t say.  How will anyone know whether their ebooks will still be listed tomorrow inappropriate?

Also, do you realize that by banning only these titles, Amazon are expressing approval of rape scenes, BDSM, and every other questionable activity in fiction? This is the biggest problem with this kind of censorship. The content allowed in makes you look just as bad as the content blocked. That’s why I think it’s best not to judge at all.

Bookeen Cybook Orizon clears the FCC

Bookeen’s new ereader, the Cybook Orizon, cleared the FCC today. It’s based on a 6″ Sipix screen, and it has Wifi, Bluetooth, 2GB Flash, a microSD card slot as well as a web browser and support for Adobe DE DRM.

At this point you should be feeling somewhat confused. Bookeen have been shipping the Orizon to the US for about a month now, even though they didn’t have certification. Basically it was illegal to import them (I think).

I have a review unit (finally). It’s on my To-Do pile, and I’ll get to it when I can.

Bookeen via FCC