Sunday, 31 May 2009

... Suddenly, a shot rang out!

The Geek: I start, right, let's talk about our last gadget, the Bebook.

The bebook is a merry, little war machine. Solid, light, cheap (relatively speaking to the concurrents) and efficient.

Other readers have limited type of files they can read ( Sony E reader) or use complex way to upload the data in them ( Amazon Kindle). It is not our case.

The Bebook's ability to read every type of file you can name, sometimes borders ludicrous.

TXT, RTF, PDF, PRC, PDB and many more are supported by the machine and even the misterious FB2 ( which, my good friend Eugene informs me being the Russian format) has its place.

The little Epaper screen is crisp and clear. When I received the unit, I put it on charge and did not realize that the icons on screen were actually the system. I thought it was a sticker :D

You can upload the files in two ways, through the USB port on the bottom ( extremely slow for large books, since it is an old 1.1) or putting them in an SD card ( not included).

Once the file are in, you can navigate through the menu using the numeric keys and, once inside the book itself, advance or go back one page using two buttons on the left of the screen (this function is duplicated in the 0 and 9 key to help the left handed) we have to state that the navigation through the menu is not very intuitive.

The Bookworm: Right, let's come to the reading.

The Geek: Exactly, you know, we are not talking LCD here the Epaper is something completely different. To make it short it is a double layer of polymers wich is filled with a layer of bicolored micro spheres, black and white.

Each time a precise electricity frequency runs through it the spheres roll and show the white or the black side creating the text on the screen.

Two results are immediately clear, the first one each time you "flip the page" the screen becomes black for a second as the matrix lines itself up again.

It is annoying for a bit , but you eventually get used to it.

The Bookworm: I'd like to test this theory...

The Geek: Later. Second result is that once the page is in place no more energy is required by the system.

In fact the machine can stay on without consuming electricity at all and you will always find the last page you did read even if the battery is empty.

The Bookworm: Wonderful, but what does a text look like?

The Geek: I'll let you be judge of this.

Not being backlit you will need a light to read, but since I do not know anyone that reads books in the dark, I will deem this issue as irrelevant.

Using a couple of programs you can find online, you'll be able to convert even comics and manga and although only in black and white, the result is acceptable.

You cannot write on the screen, the Bebook has no touch technology inbuilt. Other readers have this option, so again it is just a matter of deciding how much you want to spend on this.

A little plus. There is a inbuilt MP3 player and you can listen to music while reading if you want.

Nice it is there, thank you, but not for me thank you.

The Bookworm: But why this instead of a book?

The Geek: I reassure you immediately. The Bebook does not give back in any way the sensations that a real paper book gives, that said it solves a lot of little issues the paper has, giving us a host of possibilities.

Let's start with newspapers and magazines, the less defendable, moving them ALL to electronic format would allow an enormous quantity of paper to be spared.

We already said that but we do not need to stop here.

What do you think of paper leaflets? Centralizing the commercials on a single magazine we could get them out form the mailboxes and could do a more precise work in joining our customers (like a mailing list of the supermarket I go usually to).

The Bookworm: Wonderful my friend, you just reinvented Spam, congrats :D

The Geek: Right, forget about it, and let's go a step further: books

The Bookworm: Books??

The Geek: yep, schoolbooks to be precise.

Whomever has been a student remembers three details about those books, they were heavy, they were expensive and they could not be resold the year after because some new edition was printed meanwhile (My first year civil right law manual was divided in three books, 8000 pages, your call).

Move everything to a Ebook reader with touch screen (to take notes on the book itself) and you'll make a lot of families quite happy.

The issue of being difficult to sell back would remain, but at least the paper bill would not be so high each year.

In the office I think at the tons of emails, Power point presentations and technical memos that comes out everyday.

You could centralize data and using wirelss connected devices even collaborate on the same document, even better than real paper!

The Bookworm: fascinating, but no, you did not convince me.

The Geek: And I won't be able. Paper is that deeply radicated in our culture that it is almost impossible to think to be able to live without.

That said, and I beg you to pardon my brutality, we might not have another choice.

Problem is not only the medium, but also the choice. Have you the slightest idea of how many books are not printed because an editor does not want to take the risk?

Heavens, we all know they are rugged professionals and as such know how to evaluate risks, but the simple fact is that if an editor decides against, I cannot read that book.

So here is the Ebook, a low cost method that allows new authors to make themselves a name.

The Bookworm: Look, if they were not published, there was surely a reason.

The Geek: Who says not? But please then do not come to tell me that we allow Britney Spear's Cd's for the sake of human culture!

The Ebook might be the second print revolution after Gutemberg.

Text might be written in real time, the papers could be update immediately and the subscriptions could be tailored on the customer ( please give me Politics business and local news), more than all, once a network has been established, accessible from anywhere.

The authors could receive credibility at a very interesting price, and the use of electronic money would make each transaction clear and limpid.

But we are wandering off, we'll talk about that when your turns come.

The Bookworm: Gladly.

The Geek: So, a quick recap on the Bebook

  • Cheap
  • Light
  • Crisp and clear screen
  • Wide range of supported files
  • You can read Comics and Manga as well
  • MP3 reader
  • Long life battery
  • Books are easy to find and many are free.

  • Screen is in black and white
  • Menu navigation is not intuitive
  • No backlight
  • could break falling
  • Screen blackens when you flip pages
  • Is battery driven
  • It doesn't give the sensations of a book

Final score

8/10 - A good outcome that might become better if in the future some technical issues could be solved (colour screens are announced for 2010).
A good idea for people that like to read from different sources. I recommend it without reserves


Thursday, 28 May 2009

27/05/09 Jean Michel Jarre indoor

I met him first time when I was 16

I burned all his tapes just by listening to them over and over and I had to wait for the CD to have a medium that did not disintegrate under heavy use.

I never did meet him though and tonight, finally, after 20 years, I could.

Forest National 18:30

I arrive under an annoying light rain. That type of rain that gets you wet, but that makes you feel dumb opening the umbrella.

Forest seems a fortress on top of a hill, surrounded from waiting fans a nd covered by the smell of french fries sold in the parking lot.

Thanks to Nathalie, I have a press pass and I go collect it. I sit almost on the front row. Not only I will be able to see him but I will follow the concert almost from his lap :)

Forest National 20:30

Our guest lets us wait, but finally the lights goes off.

I look quickly around and see that the "youngsters" have all my same age, few kids with parents and many ladies. I suppose time passes for everyone.

A light beam bathes the stage and we are covered in a liquid flow of lasers, slightly broken by the tick smoke that fills the hall.

Suddenly a hand pops out from the light and it slowly fades away, like the sea crashing back from the seashore and leaving our artist in front of us. Impressing start indeed.

We notice the shadows of the musicians, three plus Jarre. One drummer, everyone else plays a sinth. No classical instruments, many experimental ones (like the laser Xylophone) and an intimidating tangle of cables and machines that covers the stage on all it's lenght.

Light fills every corner of the hall creating complex shadows, music slides over the laser ramps giving the sensation of a ever present entity.

I ask myself if I'm looking at the show or if we are the show, floating inside the smoke broken by the colored light blades.

Jarre runs forth and back all over the stage, stops at each machine, tunes a volume, pushes a button, pushes a lever. Everything is electronic it is true, but not today's electronics.

It seems like the return on earth of a lost Astronaut directly from the '70. The mussicians seem to fight with the cables and instruments tangle and when the nostalgic tunes of Etranger fill the air it seems a martian version of Anonimo Veneziano.

Magnetic Fields I, Rendez vous II, Waiting for Cousteau.

Light is always present, follows the sounds, strengtens the contrasts of rithm, glides all over the audience.

In "Children of a lesser God" William Hurt cannot mime the music but not us. We can touch it, we are drowning in it and we can feel each note slide down our throats.

Melody is strong, imposing and underscored by little touches that Jarre extracts from some God forsaken button. He does not follow the rules, not even its own partition, he enriches it, inserts sound, distortions. Many years behind the synth have given him control of the medium and we are confronted with the image of a Smith beating sparkles from a red- hot metal bar.

Under our eyes the result grows and grows quickly.

Even when a accordion appears on scene fo Calypso "Fin de siecle" we do not find it out of place at all. It seems natural, as if it has always been there.

But it is a short rest. Chronologie II slices the hall like a razor and we all stand up. It is impossible to sit down, mesmerized from the music, we are overhelmed by the following Oxygen IV.

The group is a well oiled machine and you can feel the giant work that is behind it, but as the notes of the last tune, Industrial revolution, fill the air, the toy breaks apart.

In the central section the Laser Xylophone decides it has had enough and stops working. Jarre is confused, runs forth and back from his sinth trying to fix the issue as his comrades keep on with their parts.

Nothing can be done Jarre opens his arms in defeat and goes finish the last part of the song from behind his sinth.

Nobody has a problem with what happened. A little sparkle of humanity contaminated the perfect machine. It is perfect as it is.

Our guest leaves us , but we get to call him back on stage for a Magnetic Fields II that is drowned by the lights and the cheers of the pubblic.

This time it's really over. Jarre leaves us and I slowly start to go back home.

I close my eyes and savour for some more precious moments the memories of the sea of lights that covered me till a couple of minutes before, happy to have had to wait so long for that moment.

Thank you Jean Michel. it was nice to meet you all over again.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Short update

Linux has enormous potential and qualities.

Among those the fact that it is as solid as a rock, bathed in concrete, covered in melted adamantium and parked under a mountain.

That said if you leave it in the unproper hands of unworthy myself. The one with the charming habit of installing whatever I find "cute", situation could go quickly out of hand

I did not reinstall my main OS since two years ago, which, for a private PC is not bad at all.

That said, after two long year of field tests even a patient donkey as such as my PC started to feel a bit tired and each time I started my session looked grimly at me like as if it wanted to tell me "So many deadly incidents in the world and you're still here lad?"

I would have kept going, mind me, but it started to get on my nerves that each time I clicked on a link Konqueror had to start wipping the hamsters on the weel to speed up the process (Hamsters did not appreciate much as well in fact).

So I took a deep breath and Sunday night I installed the new Kubuntu.

Guess what?

The magic is back :)

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Friday night...

Right, I know, for a Friday night it does not seem much, but see it from my point of view.

You just finished a week long of IT support done working till midnight.

You just come back home after you missed the last Metro ( so by foot).

It is one in the night and you're starving.

If you are in said situation, beer and sausages are GODSENDS.

That way I could even find the time to test a little present I bought for myself some time ago.

Electronic mud

Being a potter in the 2K years is a blast, you are broke as much as your predecessors (personal experience) but have millions of more geeky way to do it and milliards of customers around the world that could or could not buy your pots.

I do not know if Brandon Phillips at Support your local potter shares my opinion, but seen the talent this artist has he should not be too worried.

The shapes Phillips creates are straightforward, linear, but his capacity of wawing the clay using the imperfections to give a peculiar movement to all of his creations gives to his work its originality.

Were this potter really shines though are glazes.

A consistent palette of yellows, ochras and browns, constant, fluid.

The eye is never bored of gliding over the clay's folds, like as if it looked at an inviting and soft pillow. .

Taking in hand one of his pots is like starting all over again as the skin drinks all of the imprefect perfections while sliding over the textured surface.

It was clear that when the 23rd of May Phillips opened his kiln I could not stop myself from buying this.

Oh come on, what is the point in living in Belgium if you cannot enjoy beer at it's fullest?

Naturally since it was a test I started slowly, no use in wasting a Mac chouffe on a tankard I yet did not know.

Each beer needs a peculiar glass with a particular form and reacts differently to all of them ( don't believe me? Come and see how many different shapes there are) so for a start a Stella Artois was more than enough.

The tankard showed immediately to be perfectly smooth, so even if I dampened it a bit, the foam did rise up angrily ( the narrowing in the middle did probably not help as well) so, my idea is that this will be more useful with Dark and triple malted beers ( not a tragedy, I have another cup for blondes).

At this point, all that remained to do was grossly cut a good smoked Polnish sausage, some cheese and add some strong Cren sauce and suddenly my Friday ended better than how my Monday started.

Good weekeend ;)

Thursday, 7 May 2009

It was a dark and stormy night....

In spite of my brother's opinion, I like reading and I like it a lot.

I do not have a great love for classics, that is true, but that is just because whichever molecular phisics book is more exciting to me of any sigh of Madame Bovary ( excellent) or the cast of Wuthering heights ( Booooooooooring).

I have to state that even if everyone almost chokes itself in proclaiming that we live in a figurative Era, the quantity of written documents that is available today is amazing.

Thanks to internet, we can now really reach every bit of information in every part of the globe in every moment we might want to.

That said wherever we find the documents, we will have to read them on the screen of out PC and this, our body ( all of it, eyes, arms, torso, back, butt) does not quiet appreciate.

No matter how refined your LCD screen matrix might be, it will never be at the same level of a plain paper page covered in ink.

Since we started converting each document in electronic format, we had the issue of reading them and for years we dreamed of electronic books that would have given us the same sensations of the real thing.

Loads of Bs, we are in the Lord's year 2009 and are still at the beginning.

Promising beginning, nonetheless :)

Let's start

At the beginnign was the Franklin Ebookman, after that momma Palm and it's PDA took over the low cost market and we geeks felt so superior reading black and white text on 2 inches screen on a 160*160 pixels grid.

The LCD's prices dropped still and still and we told each other that one day we would have a paperback sized LCD screen that would allow us to read an A4 page in one go instead of split in 6 parts.

Then, all of sudden, a new technology took over thescene, the E-ink.

E-paper screens are superior to plain LCD screens. They are yet black and white, but color and backlit screens are on their way, so the future , as they say, looks bright ( if we can get backlight to work, that is)

Digitalize this

So the green holocaust is over? We will never ever have to feel a lump in our troath each time a complete reprint of the Encyclopedia Britannica is announced?

We need to examine the issue from a different angle, starting with the question " what is a book?"

If the book was just a medium to transmit a message, then it would already have disappeared, chocked to death by the power of digital medias.

That said, have you noticed that nonetheless everyone owns an Ipod or similar player, Cds ( even Vinils ) did not disappear? It means that people want first of all quality ( MP3s are nice but tend to compress sound at butcher level) but, in my opinion, more than all a phisical experience of the disc.

With a few exceptions , if you look at any Mithology, Heaven is always the home of unspeakeable pleasures and Hell of unending agony.

Why? Because no matter how much you try to divide the soul from the body, when you arrive to the point in which you have to explain a theory like that you will have to pass through human sensations to make someone understand that one is a price and the other a punishement.

No matter what you could try instead will fail ( let's face it, we Christians have the most boring Heaven and the most Gruelsome hell in the world), because we would not understand it.

I follow the Ebook readers scene since the first moment, but not even now that I own one ( more in that later ;) ) I would ever buy the latest Cornwell in digital instead of paperback format, and that for the simple reason that I want to touch it, feel it and feel that I own it.

Everything I said, strangely, a file does not deliver.

That said there are great advantages in digital content. You can store dozens of books in very little memory and since the price of memory cards is falling, the size of the library of congress might not be that relevant anymore.

The ecological impact would be important as well, if we could migrate all papers and magazines in digital format we could spare our dwindling green reserves another ordeal.

As this artichle shows, a year subscription ( and wasting) of the new York Times costs 147.000 squared feet per person each year. You do the math.

"But paper can be recicled!" I can hear you scream, which is true indeed, but each time you do it the quality degrades and the editors, to spare the image of their papers decide that they need immaculate paper to tell us who slept with Britney Spears this week.

So here I am, in the middle of the battle between the book lover and the geek.

The geek can speak, you'll hear the book lover later :)


Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Still outside

And so we went out.

Yes, "we" because Chiara and Nicola, two good friends of mine decided they wanted to see what my town looked like, thus this weekend was only for them.

Remember me telling you that Belgium likes to surprise you?

While I showed them around we arrived in Grand Place and there, the sun allowed a scarecrows exposition.

Why a scarecrows Expo on a stone covered square in the middle of the town I'll never understand, that said...

My winner.

The diving scarecrow had a pet :)

... You have to give in that when Belgium wants to surprise you, he gets what he wants :)