Blog

Welcome, Gizmodo readers. More Shanghai PC Mall photos over here…

Gizmodo’s Elaine Chow has a post up entitled “How To Buy Gadgets in China and Not Get Screwed“, in which she uses (with permission) several of the photos I took at the Shanghai PC Mall when I was there in April.

If you arrived here from the Gizmodo post, and would like to see some more photos of the PC Mall, I have many. There are a few in this post, Photos: Shanghai’s PC Mall – 5 Stories of Computer and Electronic Goodness, and the whole batch of 34 are available in this set on Flickr.


Shanghai PC Mall at night
The Asus Eee PC is popular and widely available
PSPs and Wiis
iPod Nano knockoffs

Enjoy! :-)

Standard
Blog

Two Month Kindle Review (and full text of my Washington Times interview)

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by Kelly Jane Torrance, a reporter for the Washington Times. She was working a piece about the Amazon Kindle ebook reader, and had seen my Kindle unboxing and initial review video. We conducted an email interview, part of which went into her final article in the Washington Times (“The Carry-On Library” – beware popups).

Of course, all of my lengthy replies didn’t make it into the article, so I’m posting them here. Consider this my “two month” review of the Kindle – that’s about how long I’ve been using it. Read on for the rest of the interview/review.

(Update: I forgot to refer you to a couple of other posts I’ve written about the Kindle, namely, my Rebuttal to Kindle Critics, in which I talk in depth about the limits, real and perceived, of the DRM on Kindle books purchased from Amazon, and “Why eBooks are a Better Entertainment Value Than Almost Anything Else“, which is pretty self-explanitory. Both are good background on my thoughts/stance on the Kindle in general, and DRM in particular. I didn’t get into DRM much in the newspaper interview.)

How long have you had your Kindle?

I’ve had my Kindle for about a month and a half, since they became reliably available in mid-April. But I’ve wanted one ever since they were released in November 2007 (and subsequently sold out in 6 hours).

Why did you decide to purchase it?

I’ve been a long time fan of ebooks. I’ve read hundreds of them on various PDA and phone devices over the last few years. Needing to touch a physical book as part of the reading experience stopped being an issue for me a long time ago. The convenience of being able to take a library of hundreds of ebooks with you on a small device is very appealing. Already a fan of ebooks in general, I wanted a dedicated reader device with an electronic ink screen (super high contrast and DPI, low power usage). Among the dedicated eInk reader devices out there (Sony Reader, etc.), I chose the Kindle for a couple of reasons.

First is the Kindle Store – the almost-150,000 books that Amazon has made available to purchase and read on the Kindle. You could have the greatest ebook reader device in the world, and without a great library/store, it would fail. I figure if anybody can do the “electronic bookstore” right, it’s Amazon.

Second, the Kindle has a built-in unlimited cellular wireless data connection. That means it can access the internet and the Kindle Store almost anywhere there’s cell phone coverage, with no monthly fee. Besides being able to look things up on Wikipedia, or browse the web, this means I can go from “I want to buy a new book” to having the book purchased and downloaded to my Kindle in a matter of minutes, from anywhere.

You mentioned you have an iPhone, so are you the sort of person who tends to buy the latest gadgets?

I’m definitely the kind of person who always wants to have the latest gadgets. I’m a geek all the way down to the core. Interestingly, it was when I bought my iPhone that I stopped reading ebooks, because there was no ebook software for the iPhone, and it replaced the other mobile gadgets that I used to carry. So when the iPhone came along, I went back to buying “dead tree” version of books. I lost the advantages of ebooks, and the paper books I was buying started piling up all around my house.

Have you always been a big reader?

Yes, I’ve been a voracious reader all my life. It drives me crazy to have a few minutes go by without something for me to read (either on my Kindle, or reading the web on my phone).

How many books do you read in a month/year?

I read probably 6-8 books a month, around 100 per year (first time I’ve counted that up – yikes!).

What sort of things do you find yourself reading on the Kindle?

I find myself reading mostly books from my favorite genres on my Kindle – science fiction, history, computer books. Besides the books that are available for purchase from Amazon, I read a ton of free books that are available from places like Project Gutenberg, Creative Commons, and the Internet Archive. Many of my favorite authors, like Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross, have embraced Creative Commons (“Some Rights Reserved”) as a way to distribute their work for free in order to gain new fans. Cory Doctorow has written extensively on why he follows this model (the basic argument is that for most authors, your enemy isn’t piracy, it’s obscurity), and in my case, at least, it works. I buy hard copies of Cory’s books to give to friends, as well and recommending they get the free versions of his books. He and others like him have gotten way more money out of me this way that they would have if they followed the traditional publishing model.

Are you happy with your purchase?

I am very happy with my Kindle purchase. I use it every day, and I love it more and more. I read to my daughter from it every day (she calls it my “magic book”, the best way I could think of to describe how it works to a 5 year old). I highly recommend it to anyone who loves reading.

What have been the best things about the device?

As a concept, the best thing about the Kindle and ebooks in general is being able to hold hundreds (or thousands) of books in one physical device. As a device, I love the electronic ink screen on the Kindle, and the built-in wireless connection (and the fact that Amazon doesn’t artificially block you from using the web with it). The battery life is stellar (with the wireless radio turned off, battery life is measured in thousands of page turns, which translates to days and days of active use). The design and layout, while controversial, becomes immediately comfortable when you start using it – you can tell why it’s designed the way it is as soon as you hold it in your hand. For me, it has changed reading the same way MP3 and iPods changed music. It’s a real-life Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Anything you’ve been dissatisfied with?

My only real complaint with the Kindle is that I wish the page would refresh faster when you “turn” it. The refresh time is about 750 milliseconds – three quarters of a second. I understand why this is – the electromechanical eInk screen just can’t flip all those pixels very fast. This will improve as the technology matures. But it’s still irritating sometimes, when the Kindle can’t keep up with me and my page turns. I also feel a little guilty when visiting my favorite local independent bookstores. I still go there, browse, and buy books that aren’t available or wouldn’t work well on the Kindle (photography books, etc.), but I’m spending a lot less time and money there than I used to.

Have you shown your Kindle to others through the forum on Amazon?

Yes, I posted a “See a Kindle in Portland, OR” in the forum that Amazon set up for this purpose. A couple people came, including another Kindle owner (at the time, the only other Kindle I had seen “in the wild” besides my own). Since then, I’ve been keeping loose track of how many people in Portland have a Kindle – we’re up to 8 or so that I know of (and a whole lot more that I don’t know about, I’m sure).

Do you find people coming up to you to ask about the Kindle? And do you enjoy showing it off?

People often come up to me and ask about the Kindle, and I love to show it off, and tell them all about it. I know several people who have decided to buy a Kindle after hearing me sing the praises of mine. Sometimes I feel like I’m working for Amazon and Jeff Bezos, and they should pay me a commission. (Actually, I am an Amazon affiliate, and I get a small percentage of Amazon credit when someone buys a Kindle through the links on my website.)

Have you traveled with your Kindle?

I have traveled with my Kindle, and it’s one of the most brilliant uses for the device. A few weeks before I got my Kindle, I took a two week trip to Shanghai, China. I brought a “dead tree” book with me to read during the trip. I finished the first book before I even left my home airport, and bought another one there. I finished that one by the time I got to San Francisco, and bought another one there. I finished that one before we landed in Shanghai. While I was there, I bought a couple more books, which were sufficient for the rest of the trip. By the time I got home, I had been carrying these five or six books in my luggage all over the world. It was that experience that gave me concrete evidence of how a Kindle could simplify my reading.

Could you see yourself taking it to the beach and places like that?

I take my Kindle with me everywhere I go – it has a semi-permanent place in my cargo pants pocket. I take it to work, to appointments, to meals, everywhere. I love being able to read for a few minutes when I have the chance.

Did this factor into your decision to buy — To me, this seems like one of the biggest benefits, being able to get what you want wirelessly, without having to carry books or worry you’ll run out of reading material.

This is exactly why I love my Kindle – being able to read what I want, when and where I want, and get new stuff to read easily and quickly, and I can carry it all around in my pocket.

/end of interview

Do you have a Kindle? If so, what do you think about it? If you don’t have one, what would it take for you to get one? Have any questions about mine? Post a comment, and let me know! :-)

Standard
Blog

Video: Amazon Kindle Unboxing and First Impressions

I finally broke down and ordered an Amazon Kindle, now that they’re back in stock. It’s an ebook reader device, and since I read so much (borderline obsession), and there are growning piles of dead tree versions of books all over my house, I figured a Kindle was a good idea.

In this video, we go over the packaging, basic functions of the device, discuss its wireless features, have a look at the fabulous (dare I say revolutionary?) electronic ink screen, and generally check out the new gadget.

Camera help and cameo appearances by my wife Rachel and our son Gabe. You can download the higher quality original Quicktime movie file (about 6 minutes, 72MB), or get a code snippet to embed/share this video on your own site by clicking the little “connect the dots” icon in the player above.

I’ll be posting more thoughts as I use the Kindle more (I’ve had it less than 24 hours), but the verdict so far is: I LOVE this thing! I only wish I hadn’t had to wait so long for Amazon to get them back in stock.

You can find out more about the Kindle, browse the books, newspapers, and magazines available for it, and generally get more information at Amazon’s Kindle page (affiliate link – if you decide to buy one, and use that link, I get a small percentage, which helps to pay for my gadget buying habit).

Post a comment or message me on Twitter if you have any questions, and stay tuned for a lot more Kindle information in the days and weeks to come! :-)

Update: There’s a LOT of great discussion going on down in the comments for this post. I’ve been typing like mad, answering questions, so make sure you have a look if you’re interested in what book formats the Kindle can support, what you can use the SD card for, what I think of the DRM on the Kindle, how the design feels in my hands how to use the Kindle to read RSS feeds for free, and more! :-)

Standard
Blog

Photos: Shanghai’s PC Mall – 5 Stories of Computer and Electronic Goodness

I’m starting to get through processing and uploading the hundreds of photos that I’ve taken since I’ve been in Shanghai. Here are some from the “PC Mall” that Richard and Welles took me to the first day I was here. It’s a huge 5 story mall, like you’re probably thinking of. Except that every store, every kiosk, every nook, and every cranny is crammed full of computers, computer parts, cameras, media players, games and consoles, phones, monitors, and every other kind of electronics you can think of. It is a gadget lover’s paradise.

The best way I can sum it up, to people in the US, is that it’s like Fry’s on crack. :-)

Anyway, here are some photos. As always, I love it when you leave comments. Let me know what you think, if you have any questions, etc. You can see all 34 photos in this set on Flickr, and view them as a slideshow.

Enjoy! :-)

Buy Now PC Mall, Shanghai
Shanghai PC Mall
Richard and a MacBook Air
iPod Shuffle knockoff
iPod Nano knockoffs
Shanghai PC Mall
Dopod Windows Mobile phones, and iPhones
Shanghai PC Mall
Shanghai PC Mall at night
Standard
Blog

Gearing up for Intel Developer Forum (IDF) in China next week

Getting Geared Up for China

Some of the stuff I’m getting ready for my trip to IDF Shanghai (no, my drink and my Nerf gun aren’t going – they live on my desk 😉 ). Most, if not all, of this stuff will be on my person in my cargo pants pockets for the duration, ready to capture audio and video on the spur of the moment:

Of course, this isn’t all I’m taking. The “big” stuff not pictured includes my Canon XH A1 HDV video camera (with the accompanying mic, light, tripod, etc.) and my Nikon D40 DSLR camera. (Those are all affiliate links.)

I’ll be shooting video of some of the keynote and demos at IDF – the Intel Developer Forum – in Shanghai next week. I’ll also be spending some time with the Intel Software Network team there.

This is my first time to China, and I’m excited and nervous. Mainly because I always get nervous/anxious before a trip. I worry that something will go wrong, I won’t have the right gear/paperwork/etc. I’m sure it will all be fine, though.

I may not have very good Internet access (I know a lot of services I use are blocked in China, but I will have VPN access back through Intel’s proxies), and I know I’m going to be really busy, so updates might be sporadic. But I’ll definitely be posting stuff to Twitter, etc. So if you want to follow me on my trip use Twitter, and watch my blog (www.tinyscreenfuls.com) and my lifestream (www.joshbancroft.com).

Shanghai here I come! :-)

Standard
Blog

InstaResearch: What the heck IS a MID anyway?

Had an interesting conversation today in a meeting with some of Intel’s web marketing folks – the people who run blogs.intel.com/mobility, to be precise. We were talking about who actually had hands on experience with a “MID”, and that quickly moved on to the question of defining what, exactly, a MID is. And perhaps more importantly, what it is not.

So what did I do? I took advantage of the 1200+ people who follow me on Twitter, and did some “InstaResearch”. In other words, I asked my Twitter network:

What the heck do YOU think a MID is? Not just defining the acronym, but what IS it? What is it NOT?

Within minutes, the answers came pouring in. Here’s what people had to say:

@sunraven01 – It is NOT a device that only provides connectivity inside a provider’s walled garden.

@sharong – as close to omniscience as humans will ever get

@psteinb – Something that fits in my pocket and can give me access to ALL aspects of net platform

@Jerry_Makare – MID, Meat-In-Dumpster: An acronym used to tell dumpster divers that meat products are located within garbage receptacles. Yum.

@clint – Midi file!

@sharong – MID to me is more than just browser-its integrated feeds, its connectedness.M is also more than handheld-could be clothing

Update: a late(r) entry from Tablet PC guru Loren Heiny:

@LorenHeiny – “What’s a MID?” To me: The iPhone & iPod Touch are MIDs, though the iPhone is more a phone and the Touch needs more connectivity

@LorenHeiny – Why r the iPhone & iPod Touch MIDs? Because they provide some of the best browser experiences. Something I think is key to a MID

It’s interesting to note that everyone besides @clint, @sunraven01, and @LorenHeiny are people with whom I work at Intel. 😉

I’m going to withhold my own opinion/definition of “MID” for a little while, but I’ll blog it soon. Instead, I want to gather more opinions, and extend my InstaResearch. So I’m going to ask YOU – What the heck is a “MID” anyway? Is a UMPC a MID? Is a MID a UMPC? Is the iPhone a MID? What about the Nokia internet tablets like the N800 and N810? What about Tablet PCs? Smartphones and PDA phones and BlackBerries?

Post a comment and let me know what you think. I’d offer a prize for the person who gets the “correct” answer, but I’m afraid the whole point of the exercise is to illustrate how broad the definition for MID really is. So no prizes, but bonus points for creativity. 😉

Standard