Thursday, April 28, 2011

Disappointment abounds, Eee Pad Transformer is out...

The new Asus Eee Pad Transformer was released in the US today. I have been really looking forward to this tablet, as I use an eee pc netbook constantly. I have wanted a tablet for a while, but am not interested in a closed ecosystem (ios). So my hope was that the Transformer would be (finally) a tablet with all the functions of a laptop, but an improved form factor. I was wrong, and woe is me.

The battery life is great, good processor, runs Android 3.0 (I really want to run Ubuntu, which I suspect will be possible soon enough, but android will do), micro sd slot, cameras, microphone, great looking touchscreen, and I can dock a keyboard and extend the battery life. Sounds great so far. But. But, But , BUT...

No usb (except a micro usb strictly for charging) on the tablet! This is an absolute deal breaker. While I am interested in the dock, as an optional purchase, forcing consumers to buy it to get something as fundamental as a usb port is unacceptable. Other transfer options, like bluetooth/wireless are available, as well as side-loading. But these are all (for me) much clunkier and slower (in the cases where my devices even support these transfers.)

Even worse, all reports are that the docking keyboard is clunky to attach and remove, which is no big deal for occasional use. However, I use the usb connections on my laptop multiple times every day. Keeping the dock attached just to use the usb ports pretty much defeats the point of it being a tablet, no?

So, my viewpoint on the what the Transformer is, and is for, has flipped 180. The Transformer is not a tablet with an optional laptop dock, it is a laptop with the option of removing the keyboard to convert it to a crippled tablet.

Looked at as a laptop, it lacks a hard drive, monitor out, only has 2 usb ports, and so on. Although the processor is an upgrade, as is the screen, those are the only real advantages it has over my several years old Eee pc netbook. At nearly twice the price, it just doesn't present a compelling reason for purchase.

The early Asus netbooks went through (what I hope is) a similar evolution. It took several generations and the Atom processor to get decent sized hard drives and great battery life in a small form factor. I was willing to lose the DVD drive (I can always attach one via usb if I really need one, which has yet to happen.) I am not willing to lose usb connectivity (on the actual computer, the tablet.) So I guess I'll see you in a few generations, Transformer.


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

vacuum exposure

This came up in discussion at Slug tribe last night, so I did a little bit of research. A human being exposed to vacuum will have their lungs burst almost immediately, unless they expel all the air out of their lungs as rapidly as possible. If they do so, they then have around 10 to 15 seconds before they will lose consciousness (the amount of time it takes oxygen rich blood in the brain to be replaced by blood with no oxygen from the lungs.) They can then survive, and still be resuscitated without much or any long-term damage for about 90 seconds total, at which point they will perish due to lack of oxygen (hypoxia). Death from heart fibrillation is also possible. Liquids on the body (water in mouth, on eyes) will start to boil (ebullism) and create frost, but body cooling is not a significant factor in survival. Blood itself won't boil, but other fluids in the skin will, and the skin will stretch and swell (unless restrained by a fitted elastic garment.)

References and further reading:

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

So fast and yet so slow

More of a personal note this time. I am amazed at how much of a fire I've lit under my own ass in the last 10 days. From no web presence, to a minuscule twitter following and an uncommented and likely unread blog. For now. Right? Of course I had neither of those prior to stumbling on JA Konrath's blog while researching IP trends (which lead into ebook piracy, then torrenting as self-promotion, then self publishing on Amazon, then pay-dirt.)

I have been writing forever, but always felt like the gauntlet of agents/editors/publishers was just overwhelming (and decidedly in opposition to the punk-rock diy ethic I grew up with.) I have looked into self-publishing via createspace and the like in the past, but that seemed like slim rewards for hard work. I absolutely hated the Kindle when it was first released, and gave it a 1 star review on Amazon. I cannot tolerate DRM, it was really expensive, etc. But Kindle (and Nook, etc.) have cracked the ereader market wide open, and I have the grace to admit I didn't see it coming. But I sure do love it.

For the first time in over twenty years I feel like there is a way for me to find an audience. I am writing like mad, reading like mad, and soon will be publishing like mad. It is an exciting time to be a writer.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Everybody is always wrong about the future (of paper books)

It's the truth. Every prediction I've ever read about the future either goes too far in a direction predicated on no major  paradigm shifts, or doesn't go nearly far enough. Okay, most predictions. Now a number of indie authors (and other interested parties) are making predictions about the future of print. Especially the future of POD. See here for a good example: A  great read, with a lot of useful information. But I think the prediction section is wrong.

My take: new print books will go nearly extinct within 10 years. Libraries and used book stores will hang on for a while longer. E-readers will hit sub $100 this year. Within a few years they will be available for $30 or less, and/or ad subsidised for free. This, plus integration of e-reading software with cell-phones and other portable electronics means most readers will have multiple, easy, affordable ways to read e-books. The explosion of self-published authors, the inevitable app store pricing crash, and the incredible ease of e-book piracy will mean an incredible variety of readily available, dirt cheap e-books available for these devices.

With that climate, who will want to read paper anymore? Collectors will, I'm sure (think vinyl LPs), Especially for special editions. Speciality applications like technical manuals and cookbooks may still see use. Children's books for those still teething maybe. And that's about it. There are very few things left that paper books can do better than e-books, and the technology to implement these features is just around the corner. Paper will be a very small market, likely best served by online outlets and used book stores. POD kiosks, or online services, or whatever, will be (relatively) expensive and superfluous, and thus not viable. It will never be cheaper to print a physical book than it will be to transfer a file containing an e-book. So: bye-bye paper.

Who won't want to print paper any more? The video game industry is abandoning paper manuals as costly and unnecessary. Most manufacturers of packaged goods will do the same, instead preferring to put up product websites. Authors are finding it far easier to publish (and revise, market, promote, etc.) online. Mapmakers will be driven out by GPS devices and apps. Comic books are going digital, and I expect a self-publishing boom for indie comics as well. Art books will be far more affordable in digital editions. And yes, you guessed it, Self-published art books are due for an explosion as well. Newspapers are getting closer and closer to figuring out a viable model for online editions (Okay, maybe I made that one up.)

A few years ago, the stand alone e-reader was an expensive, rare bird. Now it is a screaming flock of grackles shitting all over the big box parking lot. E-ink displays are one or two iterations from being as easy to read as paper, and maybe four or five from being as colorful as well. Prices have plummeted to mass market levels on readers and content, and will continue to drop. Paper is incredibly bulky, heavy, expensive to produce, and limiting (to the author) as a platform. Soon, for the vast majority of content providers (authors and artists, not publishers), paper will be unprofitable and untenable. So, again: bye-bye paper.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Higher education is dead on its feet

What is the most important thing I learned in college? How to use a web browser. At that time the world wide web was still in it's infancy, and Netscape was a big deal. I was still telnetting onto school servers to check my email. And using ftp to download and print items of rarity and value. Like spoiler list and analysis of the latest M:tG release. And universal role-playing systems.

But the web changed all that. Not my interests, of course, but how I accessed information. Having it all in one place made it so much easier to research. The advent of Yahoo, then Google, made things even easier.  None of this is complicated to learn, either. General web literacy is a matter of weeks (at most.) This means the majority of expertise on most subjects is only a few clicks away. Goodbye expensive degree, and all the headaches that go attending classes at a physical location.

There are plenty of recent graduates who can attest to the decline in the prestige value of a degree when it comes to getting an actual job. The real value of an education, of course, is what you learn. And the networks you develop. Neither of which requires a physical school any more. So goodbye academic degree, so long liberal arts, adios amigos.

Some exceptions: most vocational degree or certificates, any physical pursuit (although honestly most of these are really trades), and any career path that bears a lot of potential for litigation and thus requires extensive vetting (doctor, lawyer, etc.)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The why behind the blog.

        It's easy to write a blog when nobody is reading it. No worries about reception, writing to the audience, yada yada. While it is possible someone someday may want to revisit these posts for whatever reason, odds are nothing I am writing now matters to anyone but me. So, why blog at all? Simple: I need the practice. Really really need. I am keeping a private journal for the same reason. Every blog I put out helps tone and shape the old writing muscles, as well as helping me to work out ideas for my actual work. And hey, who knows, maybe someday someone will actually read this.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The 2 most interesting things about the new ad-enabled kindle

        Of some interest is the promised first week coupon for 50% off a roku box. That potentially $50 savings puts the higher end device squarely in mid to low price range. If you where already considering a Kindle 3 and a Roku player, that is a nice deal. Even better is the 3rd to last offer - get a $100 Amazon gift card when you sign up for the Amazon Visa rewards card. Essentially making the newest kindle a $15 dollar purchase. If this offer does in fact show up on the new Kindles, that is mighty tempting.

Starting Today

This is merely a test post to confirm that this blog actually works. In the future I will be posting about my writing, indie publishing, technology, video games, politics, and whatever else occurs as the blog develops. First order of business, however, is a blog name that isn't quite so literal. Any Suggestions? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?