Closer to a good-enough e-book

Despite its fugliness (which I suspect is less so in person) and high price tag, I have been excited about Amazon’s Kindle e-reader for some time. I still have major content concerns (can I at least get a discount on titles I’ve already bought from Amazon, please?) that prevent me from investing in such a platform right now, but I hope it’s successful enough that we see the improvements of future versions.

Udit and I saw the Sony reader at Border’s the other week, and were both initially convinced the screen was a fake demo model. These e-ink devices are really quite pleasant to read from.

Slingbox Pro is superb, but crippled

I got my Slingbox Pro this week, and the easiest way to summarize the experience is that it just works. It comes with all the cables you could possibly need. Plug it into the DVR, plug it into the TV, plug it into the network, install the software on my PowerBook, run the config wizard. I’m only using it on my LAN, so there was no network configuration step. I selected my DVR model and entered some passwords; that was it.

The client software for the Mac is still in beta, and it’s not perfect. Plus, my 1GHz PowerBook 17 can’t render the video at full quality, but it still looks excellent for my purposes. On my more powerful Windows laptop the video quality is stunning, even over wireless.

Bummers? Sling Media apparently is not interested in pissing off any media content companies, so there is no recording. This would suck if I really wanted to use this to watch video over the internets, which a basic selling point for most people. Also, there is only one connection allowed to the device at a time, which makes it less interesting for families perhaps wanting to broadcast living room content throughout their home.

PiP + ethernet = Slingbox

A consequence of using my HDTV as a monitor for my email/webgoofing computer is that while I’m on the computer I don’t have access to television. I’m not (yet) a big TV junkie, so this is usually not an issue, but occasionally it’s nice to have weekend news and interview programs going in the background while I catch up on a few hundred emails. I’m paying for the service, after all.

So use picture-in-picture, either through the TV or a computer video-in, right? My television doesn’t have built-in picture-in-picture, and it would probably get in the way as a full-time video overlay. And, thanks to digital oppression management policies, I can’t find a reasonable HD computer input.

So, I’m going to try a Slingbox Pro to stream video the three or four inch trip from my DVR to my Mac. An added benefit will be that I can do the same into my office area, all for only a little more than the price of a non-HD computer video capture device. Stay tuned for judgements on the video quality.

Dreams of expensive glass

After going through results of a recent photo excursion, I’ve found myself a bit disappointed with the clarity of the shots I’m getting with my Canon EF 28-135mm IS lens. I plan to run a few tests over the weekend, as well as compare it with a friend’s new EF-S 17-85mm IS. Is it time for me to start dreaming of L glass, possibly the EF 24-105mm IS 4L? For my bank account’s sake I hope not, but this comparison, unfortunately, doesn’t surprise me.

Google Desktop Search redux

I have been encouraged with my lastest try of Google Desktop. I’m really only interested in the Desktop Search capabilities (I love Spotlight on the Mac because it finds things really well), and most of that is for searching my horribly disorganized mass of email, strewn across Thunderbird and Outlook.

After disabling the annoying desktop widgets, I was happy to find that hitting Control-Control brings up a quick search bar.

Control-Control brings up quick search

I wish I could Control-Control a cmd window, or notepad, or whatever, even if I had to prefix the string, but I haven’t figured that out. I also wish I had better control over the function of the app. Bottom line, their search works much better than it did a year ago.

It’s all about what you can see

At home, I have a Dell 24″ LCD that is just wonderful for running Photoshop and Lightroom, or anything else graphical. Vista actually looks very nice on the huge, wide aspect (1920×1200) screen. It’s not ideal for programming, which, depending on the environment, tends to be a vertically-intensive task. At $800+, it’s a photo geek luxury.

For a long while at work I have opted for a 20″ widescreen (1680×1050) monitor (to give me extra horizontal space in Visual Studio) paired with a 17″ (a similiar height, 1280×1024) for reading docs. At the time, this was perfect work environment… for the money. $500+ for the 20″ over a year ago, and $200+ for the 17″. Bling, bling.

Only a year later, 20″ LCDs are well under $400 apiece… so I’ve obtained a Dell 20″ 4:3 (1600×1200) monitor for other tasks at work, and personally purchased a second one to complement it. 1600x1200x2 is very nice, but I’m also finding that, with the easy (and fairly efficient) rotational capability of the graphics chipset of this laptop, 1200x1600x2 is a possibility. Do I want to see 87 lines of code at once, or just a still-reasonable 62?

In addition, the entire set-up can be had for $700 or so, which is completely reasonable to someone who once paid $1000 for a 19″ CRT. Cheaper, and far more effective for a programmer, than a single 24″ LCD.