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Friday, August 27, 2010

Oh My Word! Books - Paper or Electronic?

Much has been written, lately, about the introduction of the new Amazon Kindle in the UK.  In case you've been living on another planet; or just don't know, the Kindle is, what is commonly referred to, as an eReader.

An electronic book.

It's been available in the USA for some time, but it's only now that it can be bought from the UK version of the store.

Now, I am an avid reader; as has been written about on this blog in the past.  When I first read about the Kindle; my initial reaction was "it won't be the same, especially without the 'new book' smell!"  Strange? Maybe.
However, since I acquired my iPad, I decided to 'give it a go'.

Let's look at the positives:

  1. The pages won't get torn
  2. You can carry more than one book with you (reference, novel, guide book etc)
  3. There is no need to worry about stock being available - there is no physical stock
  4. The books are cheaper than their paper counterpart
  5. No rustling of pages when people want quiet!!

The Negatives?

  1. You can't lend the book to someone else
  2. It's not easy to tell how far into the book you are (I got caught out when I finished the book, but didn't know it was the end!)
  3. It's not the same as holding the actual book
  4. They're more difficult to read in bright sunlight

Initially, I downloaded the Apple iBooks App and went to the store. WOW! The book prices were extortionate; certainly no savings to be had there.  Indeed, Apple seem to be more concerned with selling the technology, and less interested in the content.

Then I downloaded the free Amazon Kindle App. Yes; instead of purchasing an actual Kindle; Amazon have also created apps for use on a variety of devices; which, if you think about it, is quite clever.

Amazons' core business is selling books.  They are not a computer manufacturer and are not interested in making and selling eReaders.  What they want is for you and I to visit the store and buy books.  The Kindle is a means for us to read them.  With the right pricing structure, and ease of delivery (the book is available within seconds of the purchase being completed), Amazon seem to have taken the lead.

I'll tell you another clever snippit about Kindle.  Because the book is electronic, it can be read on any device.  Amazon have created apps for use across a range of devices.  You can download it to your laptop, desktop PC, iPhone/iPad, and android phone.  Now, all you need to do is synchronise with your Amazon account and you can read the book virtually anywhere.  At no extra cost.

The Apple iBooks can only be read on the Apple device (iPhone/iTouch/iPad)!!

I now have access to the huge range of Kindle books, at much cheaper prices than the Apple equivalent, and I am reading my third book.

At this point, I should mention the price of the device.  The Amazon Kindle is available from £109 (for the Wi-Fi only version).  The cheapest iPad is £429.  However, before you ooh and ahh, and make your decision; just bear in mind that the Kindle is black and white only, and whilst it includes a web-browser, it is designed for reading books.  The iPad, on the other hand, is a complete multi-media device and as such, the price comparison is an unfair one.

It must be said that the 'ink' used on the actual Kindle will make reading easier than on the iPad; but the iPad wasn't designed purely for reading books; and so far, I can't complain.  I agree that the smell of the printed page is severely lacking, but it is so handy, being able to carry more than one book; dip in and out as the mood takes me; and I even have books I use at work.

Will the Kindle (or other eReaders) win over the printed page?  At the moment, I doubt it; but with screen and electronic ink technology becoming increasingly more common (and therefore better value); I don't think it will be long before we see them more frequently in public places.

Do you have a Kindle or other eReader?  What is your experience?

PS. At the time of writing, Amazon have sold out of the Kindle, in the UK. They are quoting mid-September before stocks are replenished.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Platypus - Not just a semi-aquatic mammal

Whenever I hear the word platypus I always think of the strange looking creature, endemic in Australia.

However, when out shopping at the weekend; in a well-known outdoor/camping store, I was introduced to the bladder from the company of the same name.

You may have heard of Camelbak - a company that produces handsfree hydration systems; amongst other products.

Well, Platypus do the same sort of thing, although it's not a full back-pack design.  You have a bladder (the one I chose is 2 litres) and a drinking tube and bite valve.  The concern about the 'plastic' taste was soon dispersed, as the water tasted just as good as usual.  I did fill it from a jug of filtered water - but that's just my preference.

The bite-valve took a bit of getting used to; primarily because you need to synchronise biting and sucking.

On Sunday, it was given a full 'road test' when we visited the Crocky Trail.  Maybe because it was a novelty, or maybe because it was fun, the initial 2 litres was drained quickly; meaning the boys were drinking without being nagged!! I soon had to ask the nice person in the cafe to re-fill it.

We carried the Playtpus in the ruck-sack, which helped to keep the water cool, in the heat of the day.

The road test was successful; and I'm looking forward to putting it through it's paces on our holiday in the next few weeks.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Crocky Trail

Great fun was had by all when we visited the Crocky Trail today.

Luckily, the sun was shining, and we arrived not long after it opened.  It's a difficult place to describe, since I've never seen anything like it.

It's like a giant outdoor play area, for kids of all ages (and I mean the adults too)!!

It's one mile long, with loads of activities along the way.  There's swings, mazes, slides, tunnels, not to mention the different bridges across the stream.  It's ideal as a family day; and is welcoming to prams/buggies, as there are always alternative ways to get around the more challenging obstacles.

Whilst it's always nice to enjoy the sun, this place lends itself to mud as well; I suggest you take a change of clothes (at the very least, a towel) so the kids can experience everything the place has to offer.

You can reach the Crocky Trail, down the M53 (not far from Chester) and whilst it is open daily through the main summer season, the hours change during winter.

Find out more at their website; where you can also see video of some of the activities.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

AFCBournemouth - This Week

Second match of the season, and Bournemouth have put their loss during the week behind them as they trounced Peterborough in their first home game.

You can read the match report here.

The boys did good, and that puts them 8th in the league.

It's early days, but another positive step forward.

Friday, August 13, 2010

iPad - Diary and Task Management from Pocket Informant

Boy oh boy! Another review I hear you cry!  This is fast becoming less of a blog and more a place to read reviews about 'stuff'.

I suppose, that's what a blog is, in some respects.

Anyway, I digress, as I want to tell you about an app I have started to use on my iPad.  Whilst I don't lead an amazingly busy life (home - work - home....) it's important that I know what's going on, and, possibly more importantly, keep track of the jobs I need to do.

The iPad has quite a good calendar built in, but it's not amazing; however, there is no ability to manage tasks.  Invariably, if there's a job to do, it shouldn't have to be added as a diary event; even if alarms can be added as reminders!

What's needed is a task managment tool, that's integrated with a calendar / diary so everything is in one place.

Try Pocket Informant from WebIS.  They've been involved with mobile solutions for a long time, and have created Pocket Informant for the iPhone, iPod , BlackBerry as well as Windows Mobile devices.
Unfortunately, it's not compatible with my BlackBerry; otherwise I'd be tempted to include it on there too!

So, what's so good?

Firstly, it's very customisable, so you can get it to work the way you want it.  The calendar can be synced to desktop clients; such as Outlook and to Google Calendar online.  What's more, it will sync with any number of calendars you use, so they can be managed independently.
Of course, you don't need Outlook or Google; and this can be used as a stand alone diary.

Since my main calendar of choice is Google, the ability to add events online and sync with my iPad makes it easy to keep everything in one place.  What's more, you can add notes on either one, after the event is created, and the notes are synchronised too.

Tasks can be set up as projects folders, so you can assign tasks to a project, for example if you are decorating, and need to track the associated jobs (choose paint, buy paint, cover furniture - you get the picture).  Similar to mini project planning.
It's good for one off tasks too; and you can set start dates, end dates, add comments, and if necessary, you can email the task too.  The Contacts on your iPad has been integrated, so you can look up the address you need.

There are all sorts of filters that you can use to manage tasks, making it easier to track those overdue jobs from the less urgent.

I had been using the native iPad calendar until I saw this.  It's great to have tasks and diary events in one place; and now the tasks are presented to me, there's less chance I'll forget.
Of course, it doesn't guaratee they'll get done; but I can't escape the need to do them (or delete them!!)

You can find Pocket Informant at the App Store - and this one isn't free; it's currently a worthy £3.99

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Cherries v The Saints

Last night, Bournemouth met Southampton for the first time in a very long time, in the first round of the Carling Cup.

It didn't quite go the Cherries' way, but they put up a good show, and confidence must be raised as the season begins.

You can view the match report here: BBC Sport - Football - Southampton 2-0 Bournemouth

Anyway, whilst they may have lost last night; there are two further meetings of the clubs, in the League One fixtures, and as I write this, Bournemouth are ahead of Southampton (albeit by one place!)  Gotta take what you can!

Come on you Cherries.....

Monday, August 09, 2010

IMDb - Movies in your pocket(?)

Review time once more, and this time it's another FREE app, available for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad.

I'm a bit of a cinema fan; as you may have gathered from previous posts, and I'm also a user of IMDb.

What is IMDb?  It's the Internet Movie Database.  Part of the Amazon group, IMDB tells you everything you ever wanted to know about films, actors, directors, what's in production and lots, lots, more.

As described on Wikipedia:
The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) is an online database of information related to movies, television shows, actors, production crew personnel, video games, and most recently, fictional characters featured in visual entertainment media. IMDb launched on October 17, 1990, and in 1998 was acquired by

It's a veritable treasure trove of information. From film reviews, to useless information; from comments by users, to quotes from directors et al.

There is now an app on the iPad, that, for film lovers, is an absolute must have.  Not only does it highlight the latest releases, but you can search on the actors, see which films they've appeared in, and watch trailers of most movies.  Indeed, there are some classic trailers to watch.

I love the fact that you can seamlessly drill down further, from details about an actor, to films they've appeared in, to looking at other actors, directors etc.

The App does allow you to set your current location, but that appears to have no effect; that I have noticed, so I'm unsure as to the reason behind this.  I can only assume it works better in the US, where the local film times can be displayed.  It would be great if you could do this for the UK too.

Overall, it's presented beautifully, and takes full advantage of the graphical ability and screen size of the iPad.

The A Team - Theme

The A-Team is a fun-packed, not to be taken seriously, movie, set before the men become "imprisoned for a crime they didn't commit".

Here is the theme tune as you may never have heard it before.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Toy Story 3D - The Toys Are Back In Town

Second visit to the cinema this week, and let's be honest, it was a much lighter film this time.

Toy Story 3 (in 3D) is, without a doubt, a cinematic feast.  Pixar have, once more, produced a film that is light hearted, funny, emotional and so well delivered, that you have to remember that this is just animation.

I can hear Oscar calling already.

The voices of Tom Hanks and Tim Allen once more take the lead roles of Woody and Buzz Lightyear, and Joan Cusack, John Ratzenburger, Ned Beatty, Don Rickles and Michael Keaton also appear.

Jon Morris, the voice of Andy, first appeared as the young boy, in the original, so it's nice that they brought him back as the 17-year old, about to go to college.

Walt Disney Pictures summarise the story as follows:
Woody, Buzz and the whole gang are back. As their owner Andy prepares to depart for college, his loyal toys find themselves in daycare where untamed tots with their sticky little fingers do not play nice. So, it's all for one and one for all as they join Barbie's counterpart Ken, a thespian hedgehog named Mr. Pricklepants and a pink, strawberry-scented teddy bear called Lots-o'-Huggin' Bear to plan their great escape.
The great thing about this is that Pixar don't use the 3D effect as a gimmick.  There is nothing 'flying' out of the screen at you; the effect is purely used to tell the story.  It's bright, the characters well drawn, the textures of the materials are perfect. It's most definitely worth a second viewing.

Oh, and have your kleenex handy; Pixar have become masters of tugging at the heart-strings, and this is no exception!

In true Pixar style, the programme started with a Pixar short, called Day & Night.  A lovely film about two characters; one a bright sunny fellow, the other a stranger of darker moods.  Their suspicions turn to curiosity, and over time they find their friendship can offer a new perspective on the world.

Make sure you're not late to miss this....


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