Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Floodgates of E-Readers

I haven't been around for quite a bit with the tech thoughts and ramblings, and I've been meaning to come back around with some thoughts.

Color me an odd mix of dysfunctional and old-fashioned but I seem to read best without justification of text to accommodate ads online and space usage in newspapers. I actually prefer reading articles in NYTimes on their website rather than in the newspaper where the text is smaller, segmented sometimes in columns and disappears to some other part of the newspaper I have to chase if I intend to continue to the end. I'm also not a fan of untangling and unraveling newspapers on crowded trains or dragging around a wet paper on rainy days.

I've done a pretty good job reading news snippets on my Blackberry using the WSJ Reader and on the worthless RIM OS browser, but I don't really find the reading enjoyable since the screen is backlit and small. Sometimes, I'll feel inclined to print out something to drag along and read it but it is a waste of paper to consistently print things out. Dedicated e-readers solve this type of problem for some people. I've heard a ton of arguments about how mighty PDA's, iPhones, and other devices that are well priced for multi-functional uses make great readers, but it's really trying to explain the idea of buying a single purpose product that solves a problem versus a Swiss Army knife solution that doesn't have a proper handle to go with the tooltip. Yes, the mini saw in that Swiss Army knife will cut a few twigs but it'll take a pretty long time to get through a log - which is why small screen backlit lcds reading a paragraph at a time will not be very satisfying if reading is a hobby.

I've tried a Sony Reader before and I found the e-ink text to be crisp on the PRS-505 and the ability to use software like Calibre to convert and put together text to read, it's a very cool but expensive single purpose device. The issues with this device is the slow processor, reformatting text to fit the screen the first time to load the file for reading is painfully slow and the rendering of PDF's are disappointing as it stands. However, it does do well in other areas in accepting a good number of file formats, standard mass storage device for all OSes, and the ability to expand the storage. As it stands, the firmware on the Sony Readers allow for Adobe Digital Editions compatibility to borrow library books from libraries equipped for e-books. The process is very smooth, Adobe Digital Editions recognizes the Sony Reader and it is literally drag n' drop.

I did not get around to trying the Amazon Kindle. I'm a bit put off knowing the device functions mostly to serve as a link to the Kindle Store and the firmware is designed to for purchases rather than open formats. After the lowered price, the device does feel more attractive with its built-in dictionary and wireless access. As it stands, the Kindle is a better buy than the Sony Readers for value and convenience of wireless access.

Sony's new e-reader is pricey ($400) and I'm not quite sure what to make of it since it does not have a partnership with Barnes & Nobles/Fictionwise but does have a direct link for wireless downloads at libraries. I'm not sure if everyone knows this, but libraries only have a limited amount of digital editions for lending, and its likely that items are not always available to be downloaded until it expires for someone else. The glimmer of hope for this device is for enthusiasts to hack the heck out of the Linux based firmware to do some cool things.

What do e-readers need for academics? JSTOR connection is a must. Most things seem to be scanned in JSTOR, the e-reader would need a screen big enough to accommodate those scanned images and deliver crisp text.

I'm pretty excited about new e-readers coming along and creating some serious competition to lower prices enough so they become common devices rather than niche devices most people don't really understand the concept of.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

HBX Report Builder vs. SiteCatalyst Excel Client

I've used HBX Report Builder for a few years and knew the quirks by heart and also its limitations when it came to exporting big chunks of data. I loved the tool because it allowed for cell matching and referencing. Although the tool was limited in most cases, but the design possibilities on a spreadsheet seemed limitless, as long as someone else could use and understand the work.

Fast forward to SiteCatalyst taking over and slowly developing their Excel client since they bought Visual Sciences. I can't say I dislike the tool, it's very graphical and helpful for new users, but it loses a lot of the ability to design worksheets aspect of HBX version. The main difference I can obviously see is that it exports more than the limited 200 rows HBX was able to do at once. I haven't gotten around to test regular expressions on it, and I'm unsure if it is supported.

Graphically, SiteCatalyst creates a more user-friendly tool to export the data but I prefer the old HBX version where I was able to run queries for search totals within a single cell and match cells with data points.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Average Time Spent Per Visit in SiteCatalyst v14

One of the biggest gripes I think people have using this version is the menu is completely revamped. I get questions all the time where average time spent per visit is hidden in version 14. Sometimes, I don't even remember how deeply nested it was in v13.5. But I found somewhat of an easier solution in solving this then rummaging through the menu. The simplest way of getting this metric if you have not started building a Dashboard reportlet is to create one simple reportlet for all top line data - the option to add average time spent per visit is available.

I think v14 favors creating more dashboards and reportlets than using Bookmarks. I used to use Bookmarks in v13 and I missed them because there were reports I wanted to look at but not necessarily report on. The dashboards didn't have the the instant date range option available without modifying the entire reportlet.

What do I expect for v14.5? The default settings need work. The default metric should be pageviews or visits, not revenue where most of the time, the report will show up blank because e-comm metrics aren't available for some sites.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Tech Shrinkage

I'm hoping there is an investment in creating more IT jobs as I know there are tons of folks who love the work and would love to keep the jobs here, on the homebase where students are graduating with IT related degrees and need a place to work. Tech jobs are largely unappealing for starters as most of the entry level support positions are pretty rare and overseas, the ones available usually pay extremely low. People need to start somewhere, at a rate where the vacancy notices don't flat out say they need three to five years worth of experience. Where would they get this experience without opportunities to learn when there are not many helpdesk positions to even get some feet wet?

The price of consumer electronics has actually come down in price a lot within a decade, there are a lot of goods once too expensive like first generation digital audio players and flat panel televisions to being more affordable today. The technologists behind many of these devices usually are not American engineers. I'm pretty certain we've got the intelligence and mettle to become those great engineers, we just need more opportunities to groom young graduates to be tech leaders in the states.

In a shifting trend, consumers are buying low powered devices like netbooks which fulfills many needs for casual web browsing and text editing. Perhaps the desire for the latest gadgets are waning due to the economical circumstances we are facing, but I'm looking for consumers to become more frugal when it comes to their tech purchases. Maybe less is more today, and we're not going to buy all those bells and whistles.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Rayman Raving Rabbids TV Party

The Raving Rabbids are hilarious and I played all three installments of the series. I have to say, nothing beats the first one in terms of originality and comedy but this third one is pretty good for integrating the balance board. Some mini-games have the option of using the balance board but it is not a necessary component to play the game. There are some races where you will sit your rear on the balance board and lean one side to turn and lean back to accelerate. Other race games include using the balance board as pedals for driving, requiring you to sit and rest your heels on the board, and using pressure to accelerate. This is one of the first games to integrate the balance board, and I think it this title does it pretty well.
The mini games will get redundant but it's a pretty fun party title to have around for good times.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Land of Dead Zunes

The New Year is hours away and I don't know what to say, the years always feel so long and so short at the same time. Sometimes it's easy to count chunks of times based on gadget purchases and how long they last. Three years will go by before a new computer enters my life, another three years for a new console, another two years for a new phone, and that's how modern time seems to check itself out. I could probably apply this to car loans and whatever that follows a chunk of time schedule, but this is a technology blog.

Zune 30GB owners woke up with a nasty surprise in the morning with a glitch that won't let the device boot properly. I'm sure there's a patch somewhere to fix this but it's never good to end a year with anything broken. I'm wondering what Microsoft will give away to ensure Zune owners they care. Zune music store passes? A discount on the next Zune purchase? It wouldn't hurt to be a bit more generous!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Madden NFL 09

The last sports game I really enjoyed was probably NBA Jam, way back in the day, it was truly a classic "sports" game with bunch of great boosts and secrets. I'm a football fan and having missed Madden 07 and 08, I figured it was time to give it a spin. The training mode was pretty cool, a nice interactive way of teaching someone to play the game, it took a while to go through the process but I thought it was a great attempt at showing the fluidity of the game

The actual gameplay is pretty boring and I felt finished with it after two matches. I can't say it was an awful game, but it certainly didn't have a shine to it and there wasn't so much a reason to keep playing unless someone were to chase achievement points. As EA is setting to lay off some workers to focus on core projects, I hope Madden 2010 is one of those projects to get some extra attention.