Tag Archives: iTouch

Olive Tree Reader Beta

I did this video last week, and announced it on twitter.  The fact that I didn’t put it on my blog is a sign that my on-line activities are shifting a bit.  Though I would like to get in the habit of blogging more provided I have something to say, and don’t become a ranting loony looking for conspiracies in order to drive traffic.  We’ll see.

Anyway, if you have an iPhone or an iTouch, you really should consider picking up the OliveTree reader from the App Store.  Enjoy.

My Mobile Gaming Device? An iPod Touch

I’m a Nintendo kinda guy.  I love Zelda, my kids and I trade pokemon like it’s going out of style, and our Wii is a family pass time.  Nintendo has been a part of my existence since the NES, and I have no regrets about that.

When the DSi was announced I was underwhelmed by the new features.  The camera was cute, and the voice recording features were gimmicky.  Still, the larger screen, the increased processing power, the SD card slot were pretty interesting to me.  When Nintendo added an app store I thought, “My kids have essentially destroyed my DS, and we’ve got enough credit between my trade-in and some games to basically make it a cheap upgrade – so why not?”  I got the DSi on the launch day, and I enjoyed it – for about a week or two.  Then several things happened, all about the same time.

  • Nintendo’s App Store ended up releasing a staggering 1 app a week.  Most of which were cute little utilities that I had no use for.
  • The iTunes App Store started putting out some impressive games in genres I enjoy, none of which were over $4.99.
  • My wife got hooked on Animal Crossing, and since I had apps to choose from on my iPod Touch I didn’t bother putting Pokemon back in my DSi when I wanted a game fix.

What’s happened is that my iPod Touch has become my mobile gaming platform.  I didn’t mean for it to happen, and I really which someone would come out with a physical directional pad for it, but when I think of playing a game now, I play something on my iTouch.  Here’s why:

  • My iPod Touch is my PDA – I always have it with me.
  • I don’t have to worry about carrying or losing cartridges
  • Games with bugs get updated and fixed
  • I don’t have to mess with cumbersome points, if an app is a buck, I spend a buck
  • Apps go on sale, and I can get a good game for under $4.99 – that rocks

Does this make my iTouch a perfect mobile gaming platform?  Not at all.  As I already said, virtual direction pads are an awful thing – the D-Pad in Castle of Magic is particularly annoying to me (I keep ground pounding when I want to move left or right).  The battery life, particularly since I upgraded to the 3.0 OS, pales in comparison to my DSi (which pales in comparison to my DS Lite).  My 1st Gen iTouch doesn’t have a speaker, so I have to use headphones to get a full experience. I can’t re-sell games, which isn’t a problem when games are $2 to $5 bucks – but I’d like to be able to unload my copy of Toy Robot Diaries and get some new games like I can with my DSi.  At the same time, the benefits overcome the shortcomings.

I’d like Nintendo to re-take it’s place as my mobile gaming device of choice but they need to do two things to start on that path for me:

  1. For crying out loud, get rid of points.  I don’t want to spend $10 to buy a $5 application.  I want to spend $5 and be done with it.  The App Store does it right, when I see an app on sale or a new release that I want (like Civilization: Revolution) then I don’t need to fish for my credit card.  I buy it and I’m done.
  2. Turn the tap on the apps already!  I have an SD card in my DSi, I’d really love to use it but you’re app store is terrible.  Slow, terribly laid out, and there is nothing in it.  I should be excited to hit the DSi store every day to see what new apps are out.  Instead, I wait until Monday and find out that a new themed calculator has come out.  Gee, thanks.

Do these two things and Nintendo can take it’s place back into my heart – but, Nintendo, you’d better move fast because the App Store is going to bury you if you don’t get moving.

My First Kindle Experience

Shortly before I left for Seattle I finished Flickering Pixels by Shane Hipps through the Kindle Service on my iTouch.  The experience was pretty good.  I do have to say that the idea of purchasing a book on the Internet and being able to read it in just under a minute is a pretty impressive feature.  While it might be a killer feature for iBook readers, however, I’m hesitant to call it a killer feature for reading in general for several reasons.  Let me just say in advance that I’m fully aware that my age does cause some of these preferences.

  • Getting eBooks from anywhere can’t be a killer feature because the Kindle suffers from one huge problem that kills it’s portability feature.  It suffers from the “please shut down all electronic devices” syndrome that affects all electronics on airplanes.  As an experiment I didn’t bring any books with my on my trip to Seattle, but I had some free eBooks (and my kindle book) with me in my iTouch.  Unfortunately, for significant portions of my time on plane, I couldn’t read them because reading them would have gotten me yelled at (or arrested).  Now, you might say, “Big deal, just talk to people.”  I’d agree, but on 3 out of my 4 flights people refused to talk to anyone on the plane, it was weird.  They also had books, which made me jealous.
  • I finished Flickering Pixels without any problems.  The screen on my iTouch is beautiful and I found myself reading whole chapters without much difficulty.  Yet, mentally I’m hesitant to say that I’ve read the book.  I understand that’s completely a mental category, but it’s there.  There is just something about getting to the end of a book, flipping through the footnotes for interesting ideas, and then hearing the cover close knowing that I’ve finished something.  There’s just no sense of that tactile satisfaction with the kindle.  Yes, it’s mental – and yes, it’s a completely learned behavior that I can re-lean (and most likely will re-learn) – but it’s a hurdle for me nevertheless.
  • I continue to get stymied by the fact that I can’t share this book.  I have this great book that I’ve read (sort of – again, my psyche is in the way here) – and the only way I can letnd them my copy to read it is to either give them access to my kindle account or lend them my iTouch (both of which are not happening).  Until this is addressed I don’t care how convenient the purchasing it – I’m not going the kindle route.

So, kindle on my iTouch has got some impressive features (the bookmarking is actually very good) and works great with the iTouch’s screen – but it’s not a “killer” app…yet.  When I can lend books and turn it on when I’m on a plane that is landing/taking-off then I might think differently (or be willing to train myself to think differently).  Until then, it’s an experiment I ran which let me read the text of a pretty good book – but it’s not going any further than that.

The World of Kindle

When you start the Kindle App you're greeted with your library

When you start the Kindle App you're greeted with your library

Amazon’s Kindle software recently landed in the iTunes app store and so I decided to download it to give it a spin.  So far so good.  Before I give my review of the software, however, let me point out that I’m in no way ready to make the jump into eBooks for three reasons:

  1. Right now I’m locked into whatever annotation format Amazon has implemented in the Kindle (and on the iTouch/iPhone software, that’s none at all).  I don’t write in books a lot, but when I do the notes are indespensible and I like have the annotations work the way my brain does – which is weird.
  2. I love books.  I love the smell of a book, and the feel of the pages in my hands.  I realize that the future isn’t in physical books – but even Captain Picard had physical volumes and if it’s good enough for Jean Luc it’s good enough for me.
  3. DRM.  Jasper Fforde does a brilliant job describing the problems of book DRM in his second novel Lost in a Good Book (read it, really).  The main problem is, I can’t share a book!  Reading is a communal experience for me, eBooks destroy that reality at the moment for the sake of convenience – it’s not a bargain I’m willing to make.

Having said that, there’s some good reasons to switch to eBooks as the technical and philosophical kinks get worked out:

  1. The evironment is better served with eBooks, no more pulped up dead trees to support my book habit!
  2. Technology will eventually catch up to give people the flexibility in annotations they want, and when it does, we’ll not only be able to make annotations, but make them searchable (no more paging through a book looking for my great comments!).
  3. Society will (hopefully) stand up to publishers the way they did for music downloads.  I say “hopefully” because it’s by no means a sure thing, there doesn’t really seem to be a free download culture surrounding books – without that there isn’t much of an impetous to drop DRM.
  4. Portability and Convenience are eBook’s killer features.  Today I just downloaded a book and was reading it on my iTouch in about a minute.  Instead of twenty books in my luggage when I travel, in the future I’ll just carry whatever ereader I want to carry.

Flickering Pixels, by Shane Hipps

Flickering Pixels, by Shane Hipps

OK, so enough philosophy, how does Kindle work on the iTouch/iPhone?  Pretty well, actually.  The flexibility of the interface is pretty nice, and even though the iTouch screen isn’t a pretty as digital ink, the fonts look wonderful at every zoom level.  The application is snappy, and page turns are a simple flick of the finger (much the same way that I advance slides in Stage Hand).  Bookmarks are also easy to manage, and Kindle automatically saves your last position when you exit the app.  As it stands right now, I only have two major problems with Kindle on my iTouch:

  • They’ve hit the same snage that Olive Tree first hit when they released their app – Apple is paranoid about applications selling content apart from the app store.  Right now to get something for Kindle you have to open up Safari, purchase your book, and then open up Kindle to let it sync.  In a word tedious.  Olive Tree eventually got around this, I hope that Amazon gets over this hump as well.  Otherwise, this would not be a way I’d like to purchase books.
  • At the default text zoom, you really don’t get a lot of text on the screen at a time.  This is just a limitation of the environment, I know – but if you want to go back 5 or 6 paragraphs those flicks can add up.
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Fonts really do look spectacular on the iTouch/iPhone, Kindle is no exception

What book did I get?  Well, given that I like to write on Ministry and Technology I decided to pick up Flickering Pixels: How Technology Shapes Your Faith by Shane Hipps.  My friend Chris said that Shane was working on many of the same projects that I’ve been dealing with – so it seemed like an appropriate choice.  While it’s not my first choice for reading a book, the kindle edition saved me about $4 + shipping charges.  I can get into that.

Stage Hand 1.5

My favorite presentation remote is Stage Hand.  It’s slick, it runs on my iTouch, and works wonderfully with Keynote.  A few months ago I did a video review of one of the inital releases of Stage Hand and folks seemed to like it.  Well, it’s changed so much over the last several releases I felt that the time had some to show people the new version.  So here it is, Stage Hand 1.5 in all it’s glory.

ACTPrinter Review

This morning I discovered that an app in the iTunes app store was going to be on special starting on Black Friday.  The special had the enticing price of “free” and, given that I was just waiting to back some spending money back before picking ACTPrinter up, I immediately downloaded it and set it up.

This is an incredible idea for people who are tired of wasting paper in order to print things like e-tickets (bar codes are scannable right off the iTouch screen), directions, or even sermons.  A small helper app gets installed on your mac and you end up printing any document directly to your iTouch/iPhone as a PDF, and the transfer is seemless.  I normally print out my sermon outline so I can prepare my presentation slides, today I just printed my outline to my iTouch and went to town – it worked perfectly.  This will save me a great deal of ink and paper in the coming year!

I do hope that zooming features are improved in the ACTPrinter browser in future iterations, though, it would be nice to double-tap on a paragraph and have the document zoom perfectly for that portion of text.  Even without this, the ability to carry around anything you might want to print from your Mac is a great idea – and one that is well implemented by ACTPrinter.

Here is my video demo for ACTPrinter: