Sunday, April 25, 2010

iPad vs. the Kindle; Reviewed and Compared

I have a Kindle and my wife has an iPad -- which one is better?

First of all, they are not the same. The iPad is the best browsing platform ever invented. After using an iPad it seems unnatural not to click on a link by pointing at it.  News sites, Facebook, Youtube all run great. Frequently, I find myself reaching out to touch the buttons on the Kindle -- because it is so natural to do on the iPad.

The Kindle is made to read books that are mostly text, and it does that well. It is lighter and easier to hold.  The Kindle weighs 296 grams which is less than half of the 692 grams that the iPad weighs. The Kindle is also smaller an easier to carry. The opposite of that is that the screen on the iPad is far larger.  There is a larger Kindle, the DX. I am not sure I see the benefit of a bigger Kindle unless you have bad eyesite.

 It downloads books instantly from Amazon. I can get my newspaper on it.

The Kindle barely surfs the web. There is a text-only browser built in, but it runs slowly, and most sites are not rendered very well. The Kindle downloads for free from a 3G network, whereas my iPad is connected to my local wifi. On the other hand, the Kindle is not able to connect to my local wifi.

The Kindle is made for reading text and it does that well. One can adjust the column width and the size of the characters. The iPad has a Kindle app and an iBooks app. Both create a nice looking page, but the column width can't be changed on the iPad, whereas it can be changed on the Kindle.

The Kindle reads a variety of formats and so does the iPad.

The Kindle can be read in bright light, but you can't read in the dark. You can read an iPad in the dark, but you can't read in bright light. I read more in the evening than at the beach. I'd rather have the Kindle glow in the dark. I bought a clip-on booklight.

The Kindle has a matt screen and the iPad screen is glossy. Bright objects in the room can reflect off the iPad and be annoying, and the Kindle does not do that.

The software on the Kindle and the iPad are both locked down, but Apple is allowing develops to write App(lication)s. The Kindle software gets upgraded only occasionally. The Kindle could be so much better with only a few changes.

The iPad is in Color! No color on the Kindle.

Finally, and most importantly, I can get my local paper on the Kindle. I can't get a local paper on the iPad -- Apple was promising a paid newspaper app, but right now, there is only the NY Times. The local paper is a killer app for me. I won't go back to paper, and I like reading local news on the Kindle. Until I can get the Detroit Free Press on the iPad, I am going to hold on to my Kindle.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Best and Cheapest Fonts

When I got my first PC, there was nothing cooler than Courier, which is this font. Then we all discovered Times on the Mac and soon Times New Roman in the Window's world. For a while I thought Times was the perfect font. So nice and even and round. 

I remember how mad/frustrated I felt when someone told me that electronic documents looked better in Arial, because it did not have the thin and thick of Times New Roman. 

Of course, he was right, and soon I loved Arial. I do almost all my documents in Arial.  Although I still think it looks like Helvetica. 

Now I learn that Microsoft is promoting Calibri and Cambria because they think they look best on screen. They do look pretty good -- except I like the "g" in Arial best. I don't care for the backwards "g" in many fonts. I like the smaller serifs in Cambria over Times. 

The folklore is that people read serif fonts faster than non-serif. Wikipedia claims that children read both the same. 

Now comes the word that we need to use Century Gothic to save money, and I suppose, to fight global warming. This originally comes from University of Wisconsin -- Green Bay. Below is their data.

The idea is the thin spindle-y fonts use less ink. I suppose they can be harder to read, but maybe not.

Note that Century Gothic beat "Ecofont," by a few cents. Ecofont is a set of proprietary fonts that creates white dots inside the letters to make the printing lighter. The brain sees the edges better, and ignores the dots.  Ecofont is the winner of a recent design award.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Pithy Profane Posting

Motivated by Hit Girl's language, in the movie Kick-Ass and all of the reaction to an eleven year old talking like that, I wanted to do a posting on profanity.  Detroit News critic Tom Long said:

Most of the controversy surrounding the movie involves the wisdom (or lack thereof) in letting an 11-year-old girl use language like that.  Very little of the controversy has to do with the fact that the little girl's character probably shoots, guts, gouges and otherwise rips to shreds more than 50 adults in the course of the movie.

I have been interested in the word "Fuck," and how it is possible for a word to be profane for 550 years. Can you imagine 22 generations of boys and girls saying "fuck," and then growing up and telling their kids not to.

In researching this, I found Wikipedia beat me to it. The Wikipedia article on the word "fuck," is more pithy, better researched and more thought provoking that I can hope to be.

It says that the emotional reaction of the "F-word" comes from its twin meanings of destruction and sex.  The two together have kept people outraged for five and half centuries.

I doubt one pint-size super hero can change that.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Detroit and Crime

I was reading that Detroit has the highest crime in the United States. Now I don't live in Detroit, but it is nearby. Some Detroit residents are proud of their city, and they want to improve it. Some don't, but many of them move away.

In 2009, the top murder city of the largest 25 cities was Baltimore, and Detroit was second. Rape is a relatively better with Columbus Ohio having twice the rape rate at 72/100000 or 0.072%; Detroit in 8th place at 0.036%.  2nd in robbery behind Memphis. Detroit was first in motor vehicle theft and arson. I am not surprised about the motor vehicle theft -- people here are obsessed with cars. I would not doubt that that includes stealing them.

The FBI uniform crime statistics are somewhat controversial in that only police reported crimes are recorded. Unpoliced areas, or police departments that are intent on hiding their cities' true crime rate can skew their score. I have not heard that argument used to excuse Detroit, but other cities have claimed this. It may be the reason why a city like Columbus has such a high rape number -- because its population is more encouraged to report rape.

City boosters note that Detroit crime has declined in the last five years. They also point out that the downtown is safer than many city downtowns. This map is busy, but it shows the high crime districts pretty well. This map is clearer, but with less info.

The above figure was made by the Cleveland Plain Dealer in 2007.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Natural Nylon ??!

Back in the aughts, there was a time when food was cheap, and petroleum was expensive. People thought they could make petrochemicals from food -- strange as that seems today. [That is intended to be sarcasm.]  Today people know that it takes gasoline to make food.

Clever biomaterials chemists are training their bacteria to eat garbage instead.

Indeed DuPont is thinking just that. They and competitor Verdezyne have invented a bacteria that makes adipic acid from simpler feedstocks. Adipic acid is interesting because it is used to make nylon -- famous for woman's stockings, and used widely in clothing, but also in auto parts and lots of other things like tire cord and food packaging. (Nylon is called "polyamide" in Europe.)

Verdezyne,  has developed organisms that make adipic acid, which is 1,6 hexandioic acid.  Verdezyne has all the recent press, but DuPont patented a method for using mutant e coli to make adipic acid from cyclohexanol.

This sounds like a "Green Chemistry" project with enzymes being used to do a step that could have been done conventionally with more work. The bacteria arn't making the whole adipic acid -- just finishing it off.  This press release is overstating what they are doing.

On the other hand, there is increasing pressure to make disposable products from renewable feedstocks, and this is an important step on that road.

More:  Verdezyne used a combinatorial approach to designing the bacteria, and so this is one of the relatively few successes for combinatorial chemistry.

Yet More: link  << another link on Verdezyne

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The iPad Adventure

Did I tell you I got a Kindle for Christmas? Yeah, its great, but it means I could not justify a new iPad. You know the Kindle is almost new, and does most of what iPad does.

Happily, my wife Jenny, who has no Kindle has no such problems, so I promised her one for her birthday.

The iPad came yesterday, and we configured it to work with her stuff. Her email account and her playlists -- well I did sneak a few of my playlists.

The iPad works well as a web browser which you knew it would, since the iPad Touch works so naturally. The larger size makes it much better.

I mostly want to read the newspaper on it. I currently get the Detroit Free Press on the Kindle and I am looking forward to a version that has graphics -- even color graphics. A text only newspaper is a step backwards, but still better than the paper one. I never want to go outside to get the paper from the driveway again.

The iPad like other Apple products comes in the fanciest packaging in the industry. As someone who works with packaging, you have to be impressed by it.   The iPad's box is mostly air, and it sits on a polystyrene tray. The tray smells like styrene, I wonder who else noticed that.

The iPad comes in a small box held by two molded paper holders, like egg cartons but less rough.

Naturally, I had to cut one of the holders open since it was so light and unusual. It is glued together from two molded paper sheets into a 3D shape.

Like other Apple products since the Mac 2, it comes with two Apple stickers. I am not sure what you are supposed to do with them. I never throw them away, but I never put them up either.

Anyone want an Apple sticker?

Anyway the promise of the iPad is that it is a new way of reading in a post-paper world. With my Kindle I am shifting away from paper books, and with the iPad -- which is much less locked down, will enable a whole change in the society. You heard it here first.