Category Archives: Nook

Tablet Nirvana



I’ve been playing around with tablets for a while now along with several smartphones along the way, and I believe I’m getting very close to my idea of what the ideal tablet should be.

I started out with a Nook Color. The original Nook Color is a nice piece of hardware with a beautiful 7″ inch color screen, but the hardware behind it was somewhat lacking. The original Nook Color’s processor was a bit slow, and the performance lagged somewhat. I even experimented with other versions of Android on it. What I found was that I loved the 7″ inch 16 x 9 format color screen size, which is close to ideal, but the processor was too slow, it didn’t have an integrated GPS chip, nor did it have functioning Bluetooth capability. Overall, the hardware just wasn’t enough to push it beyond the locked-down version of Android that Barnes and Noble shipped on it. I ended up finding the Nook Color a good home and sold it.

Next, I got an iPad 2. I really like the iPad, and I still have it. The iPad 2 came close to the ideal tablet, but it lacked an integrated GPS chip. It is also a bit bulky to easily handle with one hand. The problem came with the upgrade to iOS 6. I drive a truck over-the-road, and I was constantly using the integrated Google Maps. Google’s satellite maps are very clear and detailed, and I often make use of Street View as I’m constantly having to travel to new places I’ve never been before. iOS 6 ripped out the quite superior Google Maps and substituted Apple’s inferior also-ran excuse for a replacement. I can see no good reason for them doing this, other than a lame back-stabbing attempt to punish Google for coming out with Android. I am still quite unhappy with the loss of mapping functionality. Of course I realize that I can simply go to the Google Maps website and use Google’s satellite maps along with Google Street View, but doing it through the browser is an inferior experience to what the original iPad Google Map once was before iOS 6 took it away. By the way, I’ve never found much use for the integrated cameras in the iPad 2. Mostly I’ve used the forward-facing camera for occasional video Skype or Facetime chats.

A few days ago, I purchased a 32 gigabyte Nexus 7 manufactured by Asus, priced at $249 for the 32 gigabyte version and $199 for the 16 gigabyte version. After using the Nexus 7 for a while, I think I might be in tablet heaven. I love the 7″ inch 16 x 9 widescreen size. It can easily be held in one hand. Also, it will easily fit in many inside coat pockets.

The Nexus 7, which of course comes with Google Maps and turn-by-turn street navigation, has an integrated GPS chip. It also has a powerful quad-core Tegra 3 processor, along with full Bluetooth functionality. It has a forward-facing camera for video chatting, along with great battery life, and a stellar high definition screen.

I’m finding that I’m tending to reach for the Nexus 7 rather than the iPad 2. The Nexus 7 is so light. The iPad 2 now feels a bit clunky and kludgy.

Am I ready to sell the iPad? Not just yet. I want to wait a while and see how it shakes out. It’s still handy to be able to have two separate devices to watch streaming videos on — when one runs down, I can switch to the other if I don’t have them plugged in.

The Nexus 7 is an incredible value. Now that the vast majority of apps also come in Android versions, why needlessly spend hundreds of dollars extra for a product where the manufacturer has a proven history of deleting popular functionality with so-called upgrades?


Eason Fails to Sell eBooks via Billboard



…or “Why DRM is killing ebook sales outside of Amazon or Barnes & Noble”.

Being a international superstar and global jetsetter*, I had the pleasure of passing through Dublin’s Connolly railway station today. In the atrium there was a billboard display of book covers complete with QR codes.

Billboard of Books

“Totally cool,” I thought. Scan the QR code, buy the ebook, download to my tablet and start reading. The bookstore, Eason, had helpfully included free wifi in the area to get on-line. (For those not familiar with Ireland, Eason would be the leading newsagent, stationers and bookstore, comparable to WHSmith in GB). I scanned this book:

Book cover

The QR code took me to this page. Strangely, the book offered was a paperback and not an ebook. Huh?

Book purchase

Then I looked at the original poster, “1. Choose your book 2. Scan your QR code 3. Make your purchase 4. Wait for the post 5. Enjoy your book!”

Seriously…”Wait for the post”. Have these guys actually heard of ebooks or did the Kindle completely pass them by? Sure enough, Eason does have a section for ebooks on their website. It says, “Eason eBooks are compatible with Sony, Iriver and Elonex eReaders, as well as all devices that support Adobe EPUB DRM eBooks. Our eBooks are not currently compatible with Apple iOS, Google Android or Amazon devices – this includes iPads, iPhones, iPods, Android phones and tablets, and Kindles.

So let me get this straight….Eason is appealing to a travelling customer, offering the QR codes to smartphones that will typically be iPhones or Android devices, but ebooks can’t be offered on these because of Adobe’s ePub DRM? Fail, fail, fail.

It’s both totally unbelievable yet completely expected. It’s no wonder Amazon and the Kindle are dominating the market because everyone else is fighting with one hand tied behind their back with DRM. Eason, I had a two hour train journey ahead of me and you had a 100% chance of an ebook sale but you blew it. I’ll turn on my tablet, fire up my Kindle or Nook app and buy directly from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Fail.

* This is completely untrue.


Tech Coming to the UK



It’s a good time to be in a geek in the UK at the moment. Over the past week there’s been a raft of announcements for predominately US-based offerings making it across the pond so here’s a quick round up of the latest news.

NookBarnes and Noble are bringing the Nook to Britain and if the marketing is right, it could be hit. Public libraries are still popular and they offer ebooks in the .epub format, which the Amazon Kindle doesn’t support but the Nook does. Some shrewd money-saving marketing and the Nook could give the Kindle a run for its money. I have the original Nook which I’m hoping will be supported in the UK, despite it being no longer sold. Pricing for the current Nooks to be announced but Argos and John Lewis are on-board to sell the hardware.

Amazon rolled out its Android Appstore to UK residents and parts of Europe, presumably for the as-yet-unannounced launch of the Kindle Fire. Coming with the Amazon Appstore is the App of the Day, which will have some great apps for nothing so it’s worth keeping an eye out for those. I’ve installed Appstore on my tablets already and have downloaded a few apps – all looking cool so far.

If you are looking for a small tablet, I think UK readers will be spoilt for choice with the Nexus 7, Kindle Fire and Nook Color / Tablet all likely to be available soon.

AmazonLocal Finally, Groupon has some competition in the shape of AmazonLocal, offering similar group deals. At the moment it seems to be focussing on London with a few national offers. Presumably city or regional deals can’t be that far away. There’s a 2 hour flying lesson currently on offer for £99 which looks fun. (As an aside, I always thought Groupon was a rubbish name until someone pointed out it was like group-coupon. Duh!)

All round, it’s good news for geeks in the UK.


Ford has In-Car Tablet Compatibility



Ford has produced a brand new feature called SYNC. This is the perfect name for the first system designed to give you in-car tablet compatibility. In other words, SYNC will allow drivers to hook up their favorite tablet device to their car, and access it through voice commands while they are driving.

The voice commands make things safer. Drivers won’t need to actually look at their tablet, or touch it, in order to listen to an audiobook, a podcast, or a song. It truly makes a tablet into a hands free device, and does not require the driver to take his or her eyes of the road.

This is exciting in many ways! This is the first time that drivers will be able to safely make use of their tablets while they are driving. The voice commands that a driver uses to access their tablet make the road a safer place to be. We live in a world where people have gotten into car accidents, and died, while trying to send or receive a text message. The SYNC allows drivers to be entertained without making them into a distracted driver.

Imagine how great this would be for road trips! Tell your tablet to start reading you an audiobook. Choose your favorite playlist, and listen as you drive through places that you have never been before. The SYNC will charge some tablets and e-readers when they are connected through SYNC’s USB connection. You won’t have to worry about finding an outlet to plug your tablet into long enough to charge it. The Ford SYNC will do that for you!

Right now, Ford engineers are testing the SYNC’s compatibility with the new iPad3. The SYNC is already compatible with the original iPad and the iPad2. Other SYNC-compatible devices include: Amazon Kindle, Amazon Kindle Fire, HP Touchpad, HTC Flyer, Barnes & Noble Nook Color, and the Sony Tablet S.

The SYNC also allows you to make a hands-free call with your phone. Answer the phone with the push of a button. Make a call using a voice command. SYNC automatically downloads the names and numbers programed into your compatible phone. Tell your phone to call Mom, and it will do exactly that.

While you cannot put SYNC into an older model Ford, there are several different 2012 models of Ford vehicles that are SYNC compatible. They are the 2012 version of the: Fiesta, Focus, Fusion, Mustang, Taurus, Escape, Edge, Explorer, Flex, Expedition, Transit Connect, F-150, E-Series Wagon, and Super Duty.

Image: Autoshow by BigStock


3feet Universal Smartphone and Tablet Stand



3feet Universal Smartphone and Tablet Stand3feet almost need no introduction. Their universal smartphone and tablet stands are well-known for their neat design and their (probably) unique feature of being dishwasher-proof.

Being universal, the 3feet stand works with iPads, TouchPads, Playbooks, Xooms, iPhones, Nexus, Galaxies, Lumias, Nooks, Kindles… Pretty much anything that’s reasonably flat and you want to see. The 3feet can hold a device at three different angles.

Moving away from the gratuitous product placement, there’s now a wider range of basic colours (11) and the opportunity to have different colours for different parts of the stand. The stand is made from recycled plastic and it’s all made in the USA.

Available from good retailers for around $20.

Interview by Jeffrey Powers of Geekazine and Andy Smith of Geocaching World.

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CyanogenMod 7 On The Nook Color



CyanogenMod 7I’ve had my Nook Color for about a month at this point, long enough to develop a real feel for how it integrates into my life.

Keep in mind, the Nook Color is not an iPad and sells for half the price of the cheapest Apple jewell. I’ve already got the latest iPod Touch with dual cameras, so I don’t need or currently want cameras in a tablet device.

The Nook Color shines best as a word-centric consumption device. It takes the Internet and turns it into a very portable book.

To be perfectly honest, the stock Nook Color version of Android is very locked down. Besides being a good reader platform for books and magazines, you can browse the web, do email, do social networking, and run a limited but growing number of apps (mostly paid but a few for free) from the Barnes & Noble Nook Color App Store. The Nook Color stock software experience is nice for what it does, but still rather limited overall. The included stock Android browser does include the ability to run Adobe Flash. The Nook Color has a bright and very clear 7 inch widescreen capacitive glass touch screen along with about 10 hours’ worth of battery life.

What makes the Nook Color a great value at $249 dollars is its ability to boot into other versions of Android FROM the built-in internal Micro-SD chip reader without affecting the built-in Nook Color’s Android operating system.

After experimenting with different bootable Micro-SD card arrangements, the best pre-built Android solution I’ve found so far comes from http://www.rootnookcolor.com, a website that is selling pre-configured versions of Android to give a good overall tablet touch screen experience starting at $39.99 for a pre-configured 4 gigabyte Micro-SD card.

Cutting to the chase, the best version I’ve gotten so far from Root Nook Color.Com is called CyanogenMod 7, also know as Gingerbread. This version offers great battery life (almost as good as the stock Nook Color Andriod at about 7 hours) and even enables undocumented Nook Color features such as its built-in Bluetooth radio. It also comes installed with the full Android Marketplace, enabling the ability to browse, download and install most of the available Android apps, now numbering in the hundreds of thousands. As mentioned above, since it’s running entirely from the Micro-SD card slot, the stock Nook Color Android operating system remains entirely untouched and completely intact. It’s not even necessary to remove the Micro-SD card to boot back into the stock Nook Color operating system since it comes pre-configured with a dual-boot loader.

While it’s possible to play YouTube and other videos along with apps such as Pandora, by far the most use I find myself making of CyanogenMod 7 is as a highly portable news feed consumption device. I am currently compiling a list of Android apps that take the best advantage of the Nook’s 7” display and will report on these apps in future posts.

Overall, the Nook Color opertated with the CyanogenMod 7 version of Android from Root Nook Color.Com offers a genuine Android tablet experience at a bargain basement price with very good overall performance.