Author Archives: ari

Here is a big 13.3-inch ereader that can also be used as a PC monitor

2017-12-09

A new application has emerged for ereader devices that originally were intended for reading ebooks alone: they are also used as secondary monitors for PCs. So far, tech-savvy PC users have had to hack an ereader to plug it into a computer as a monitor, but now, the Onyx Boox Max 2 provides the feature out-of-the box.
Onyx Boox Max 2 ereader and PC monitor
The Onyx Boox Max 2 is a big ereader with a 13.3-inch E ink screen. A device like this is optimal for reading PDF documents and PDF books (the product can open all common ebook file formats). The Max 2 has been developed with this in mind – it lets users write and draw on the screen with a stylus. The device can also be used like an ordinary touch screen device by touching the screen with fingers.

One more key feature that at the moment separates the Max 2 from competitive products, like the Sony DPT-RP1, is the HDMI port that lets you plug the Max2 into a PC and use it as a secondary PC monitor.

People who stare a monitor their entire work day or can’t setup their PC displays for ideal lighting conditions, can greatly benefit from a E ink screen that doesn’t flicker and provides high contrast. It is, of course, a grayscale display without even the possibility to watch videos – perhaps an important feature for easily distracted workers.
Onyx Boox Max 2 e-reader with stylus for handwriting and drawing on screen
The Onyx Boox Max 2 is available in a few online stores for 800 Euros. The official Onyx stores are listed on the company’s web page.

The product is shipping to customers, some of whom have had time to record hands-on videos of the Max 2. Here is one:

As the video and the reviewer’s reply to questions on YouTube indicate, there are some teething problems in the product that may cause problems for some users, but may not affect others.

Onyx Boox Max2 key features and specifications

13.3-inch E Ink Carta display. Made of plastic, it is light and flexible.
Resolution 2200×1650 pixels, 16 levels of grey.
High contrast 15:1.
Electromagnetic (WACOM) and capacitive dual touch screen. With the included stylus it is possible to write and draw on the screen. The capacitive layer allows touching and controlling the screen with fingers, just like using it as a tablet.
Four buttons: Menu, Back, Next Page and Previous Page.
WIFI
Bluetooth 4.0
1.6 GHz quad-core processor.
2GB RAM + 32GB of storage space.
Android 6.0 operating system software.
HDMI port for connecting the ereader to a PC as a secondary monitor.
Speaker and microphone.
3.5mm audio port for text-to-speech, playing music or audio books.
Ebook and document formats: PDF, EPUB, TXT, MOBI, CHM, DJVU, HTML, RTF, FB2, DOC, PDB. Audio: MP3, WAV.
7.5 mm thin.
Weight 550g
4100mAH lithium-polymer battery. Up to 4 weeks of standby time.

Onyx Boox Max 2 e-reader and computer monitor

Via The Verge.

For writers who like to jot down notes with pen and paper: Smart Moleskine paper notebook connects with PCs

2017-11-29

Even today, when practically every writer is carrying a powerful computer in their pocket, many like to write notes, ideas and short texts on paper. A common tip from seasoned authors to novices is to always carry a (paper) notebook and a pen along. Now, Moleskine has introduced a product that lets writers use pen and paper, but conveniently connects paper to the power of computers.
MOleskine Smart Writing Set with tablet
The concept behind Moleskine’s writing system that connects paper with computers is to let writers freely write, scribble, and draw their notes on paper, and automatically transfer all those notes to a smartphone, tablet or PC. If the writer is near his or her computer, the transfer of notes happens at the same time as the pen touches the paper. If the writer is separated from her computing device, the notes are stored in the Moleskine pen and automatically transferred to the computing device once reunited.

The Moleskine Smart Writing Set product consists of three elements:

1. A paper notebook. It looks and can be used like an ordinary Moleskine notebook but it has some special features for use with the Smart Writing system.
2. A pen with a standard replaceable ink fill. It can be used as an ordinary pen for writing on paper, but it can also wirelessly connect to a smartphone, tablet, or computer via Bluetooth.
3. An application for a smartphone, tablet or PC that connects and interacts with the pen.

The Moleskine ink pen connects via Bluetooth
All the elements are included in the Moleskine Smart Writing Set that costs $199. The product has been available since 2016 for smartphones and tablets, and in 2017, it has also become available for Windows 10 devices. The Moleskine Notes app must be downloaded from the Apple App Store, Google Play or Microsoft Store to the device that connects with the pen.

There are many features in the Moleskine Smart Writing product that let writers enhance their notes, such as recording voice memos, applying colors to notes, but for a writer who jots down more than a couple of lines of text, the key feature is transcribing. The application on a PC can turn handwriting into digital words that can be further processed in a writing application.

Moleskine’s tutorial video below shows how the system works with a tablet, but the functionality is the same on a PC or a smartphone.

There are other similar products, like Wacom or Livescribe in the market that are priced lower than the Moleskine Smart Writing Set, but the products also have many differences in features and functionality.

For writers who prefer handwriting, another option is the use a tablet, such as the Apple iPad, Samsung Tab, or Microsoft Surface to write directly on the screen with a stylus. It is not the same as paper, but the technology has developed quite close mimicking the paper and pen experience.
Moleskine smart writing set connects to Windows 10 PC
The Moleskine Smart Writing Set product contains:
– Paper Tablet (notebook) dotted with special paper designed to work with Pen+ in dotted layout. (Once the pages have been used, you must purchase a new one with the special paper for it to work with the pen).
– Pen+ smart pen.
– 1 pen tip ink refill.
– USB cable for recharging the pen.

Via The Verge.

European Union stops geoblocking between EU countries

2017-11-25

European Union (the Parliament, the Council and the Commission) has agreed to make geoblocking illegal in specific situations where consumers want to buy a product or service from another EU country. The EU Commissioners who are championing the new legislation see the new policy as an important step towards the Digital Single Market for Europe, a key EU strategy.
cartoon character looks at a computer with an error message
Geoblocking is a technique commonly used by online services that enables a service provider, such as an online shop to block access to their web pages because the customer’s computer seems to be located in another country. The conclusion is drawn from the network address of the customer’s computer (IP address). Another way to block access to services and products is to only accept payments from customers who have a local payment card.

Especially for citizens of small countries, the product and service prices, and also choices for products and services in large European countries are often more attractive than in their home countries. Buying and downloading an digital product from Germany is in many cases a good deal for a consumer in Denmark, for example.

Naturally, language issues may still stop consumers from shopping around in other countries, but English is a common second language at many online shopping services.

Removal of geoblocking doesn’t mean avoiding value added taxes. EU has already earlier ruled that the taxes must be paid in the country of the customer.

The end-of-geoblocking rules apply to three specific situations only (according to the EU announcement):

1. The sale of goods without physical delivery. Example: A Belgian customer wishes to buy a refrigerator and finds the best deal on a German online store. The customer can order the product and collect it from the shop or organise delivery to his home at his own cost.
2. The sale of online services. Example: A Bulgarian consumer wishes to buy hosting services for her website from a Spanish company. She can buy and access the service without having to pay additional fees.
3. The sale of services provided in a specific physical location. Example: An Italian family can buy a trip directly to an amusement park in France without being redirected to an Italian website.

The new regulation does not impose an obligation to sell and does not harmonise prices. It does, however, address discrimination in access to goods and services in cases where it cannot be objectively justified (e.g. by VAT obligations or different legal requirements).

The geoblocking legislation will come into force by late 2018.

At the high level, the new EU legislation is easy to understand, simple and fair. Details concerning, for instance, purchasing digital content products from currently geoblocked stores will be interesting to discover. Many small EU countries don’t have a local Amazon, or another large online store. If someone in Estonia wants to buy a digital product from Amazon.de, the buyer is redirected to Amazon.com. In 2018, the buyer should be able buy directly from Amazon.de?

These two ereaders are the best – which one to choose?

2017-11-22

Two most acclaimed ereader devices at the moment are the Kobo Aura One and the Kindle Oasis 7-inch model. Both are larger than an ordinary 6-inch ereader and both have practically every feature required in a reading device – they are even waterproof. If you are planning to get the best ereader available at the moment, which one to choose? Here is our guide.

Kobo Aura One and Kindle Oasis 7-inch model
The Kindle Oasis 7-inch model (also known as the Oasis 2) and the Kobo Aura One have many similarities, but also some crucial differences. Let’s take a look at the features and then, view a video that shows how the devices feel and behave when used for reading ebooks.

The Aura One comes with a 7.8 inch E ink screen and the Oasis 2 with a 7-inch screen. This is a major difference in real life, even though on paper it doesn’t seem a big deal. Both screens are very sharp: 300 pixels per inch (PPI). Screens also have a front light for reading in poorly lit nooks.

The Kobo Aura One price starts from $229. The Kindle Oasis starts at $249.
Amazon KIndle Oasis 7-inch model is waterproof
Both devices are waterproof, which makes them also sand and dust proof.

The weight of the devices is similar, the larger Aura One weighs only 36 grams more than the Kindle. The Kindle Oasis 2 measurements are 159 x 141 x 3.4-8.3 mm and the Aura One is 195 x 138 x 6.9 mm.

The design of the Kindle Oasis is unique, but you can hold it in right or left hand, and it has dedicated hardware keys for turning pages. The Aura One doesn’t have dedicated buttons, but its design is easier to approve.

The Aura One has plenty of fonts to choose from and it is possible to adjust the fonts and the page layout. The Kindle doesn’t provide as many choices.

The Oasis 2 lets you listen to Audible audiobooks via Bluetooth headphones or speakers.

The crucial difference between all Kindle ereaders and all other ereaders (of any brand) is the ebook file formats the devices can open. The Kobo Aura One can open EPUB, EPUB3, PDF, MOBI, TXT, HTML, RTF, CBZ, CBR documents. The Kindle can open AZW3, AZW, KFX, TXT, PDF, MOBI, PRC documents, which means the Kindle Oasis 2 (and all other Kindle) devices are intended for ebooks downloaded from the Kindle Store only. Amazon has a separate file conversion service that can be used to send HTML, DOC, DOCX documents to a Kindle ereader.

Below is a video where The Ebook Reader Blog compares the Kobo Aura One and the Kindle Oasis 7-inch model.

Hardware aside, this is what really matters when choosing an ereader

The key difference between any Kindle device and all other ereader products (be it Kobo, Onyx, Cybook, or another brand) is the commercial system where the device can connect to. What does it mean in practice?
kobo aura one ereader by a pool
Amazon has created the world’s largest bookstore, but ebooks purchased from the Kindle Store can only be opened in Kindle ereaders, Fire tablets and Kindle reading applications. The Kindle ebook system is a closed system that you can only access with Kindle devices and applications. Kindle ereaders, like the Oasis 2 can not open EPUB ebooks (without troublesome tweaking of ebook files on a PC).

The world outside Amazon uses an ebook standard known as EPUB. It is the file format for ebooks purchased from practically all bookstores, except for Amazon, across the world. If you have a non-Kindle ereader, such as Kobo, you can purchase ebooks from practically all other stores except for the Kindle Store.

My recommendation is: first, carefully choose which commercial ebook system you want use – Amazon Kindle or the rest of the world – and after that, choose the ereader you like the best.

More information on large-screen ereaders and a few tips for deciding on the screen size.

Investors are betting big time on an ebook startup in China

2017-11-11

Tencent is a large social media and gaming enterprise in China, but the company has also been developing an online book publishing business. The ebook arm of the enterprise grew so rapidly that Tencent decided to detach it from the mother ship by issuing an IPO (Initial Public Offering) at Hong Kong Stock Exchange on November 8, 2017. Investors couldn’t get enough of shares, raising the price so high that it became the largest technology related IPO in Hong Kong since Alibaba.com was listed in 2007.

Chinese book cover images
The new startup is simply called China Literature, but the development of its digital publishing business was not simple.

China Literature already has a mind-boggling catalog of 9.6 million works from 6.4 million authors. Sure, China is a vast market, the largest in the world, but still, the numbers are incomprehensible. Here is how it is possible.

The company has developed two popular applications: QQ Reading and Qudian. Readers can use these apps to download ebooks, see what their friends are reading, rate and review titles, and receive recommendations from others.

In addition to purchasing titles from established publishing houses, readers who have written a book can self-publish their works directly to China Literature’s ebook store.

China Literature’s apps have proven to be the drivers for reader engagement. The applications let readers interact with writers and it helps writers to learn about their audience. For example, micropayments are used for allowing readers to download sections from ebooks. That is one of the features of the QQ Reading app.

Opening chapters of books are free, but after the first chapter readers have to pay 5 yuan ($0.75) per 1,000 characters. China Literature also has a subscription service that gives customers full access to select titles. The subscription fee is between 10 yuan and 18 yuan per month ($1.51 and $2.71).

New developments include readnovel.com that promises “literary works concerning campus life and contemporary romance”, and possibly TV shows and movies as well.

Via Quartz.

Tips for making successful research work for a nonfiction book

2017-11-06

In order to write a nonfiction book manuscript, the author has to do research to make sure all the facts are correct. A motivational book on igniting a career is more about excitement than historical facts, but a book about the application of artificial intelligence in electric vehicles certainly must be based on facts. Research can be time consuming work, but it can be conducted effectively and without wasting valuable time.
man writing at office desk, stack of folders in front
Jeff Biggers, a narrative nonfiction author, has collected tips for research that he has learned during his long writing career. He has written nonfiction books, articles, radio stories and plays, and monologues. His published books include travel books, memoir, cultural and literary history, and investigative journalism. Biggers says that the research strategies he employs in one genre typically are the same for others, including fiction and poetry. Here are his tips.

Notebooks

Jeff Biggers recommends carrying a notebook (paper and pen) everywhere you go. Some writers may agree with the pen and paper strategy, while others prefer a tablet or a smartphone. The advantage of an electronic note-taking approach is that the notes can (and should) be copied to a safe storage instantly after new points have been written down.

Read

It is elemental that the author thoroughly understands the topic. Reading, listening and viewing all kinds of stories about the subject is helpful.

Interviews

Interviews of people who know something about the topic not only adds information to the research, but also adds color to the book. I couldn’t agree more. In addition, interviews can be the most fun part of the entire research project.

The scene

Movies are made of scenes, as well as many fiction books. Nonfiction book can also use the same techniques: have interesting characters, a plot and a conflict.

Folders

Jeff Biggers recommends organizing research material into folders. He uses physical folders, but the concept is the same if you use folders on your computer. Again, it is vital to backup folders to a safe place if anything terrible happens to your computer’s hard drive.

Enough research

It is likely that all nonfiction authors do more research that they can use for their books. It is inevitable. It is practically impossible to know in advance if a lead or a hint of information will lead somewhere that is valuable for the book.

I believe one of the best ways to restrict the amount of research work required for a nonfiction book is to really carefully plan its scope. And one of the best ways to quickly assess the scope is the Table of Contents of the planned book. It is even possible to show the TOC to someone else, say, an editor, agent or publisher and ask their opinion about the book’s planned scope.

EU country Portugal has banned the use of DRM in ebooks in certain cases

2017-10-25

Portugal may not be a forerunner of digital media business within the European Union, but Portugal’s lawmakers have taken a significant step towards consumer friendly digital media and ebooks. Portugal has banned the use of Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology in ebooks when the works are in public domain or they are published by the government.

woman reading an ebook on the beach. Photo by  Michael Mol.
The new restriction for DRM technology in Portugal is included in the law (Law No. 36/2017 of June 2, 2017) that has been effective since June 2017. Three key points that deal with DRM technology in the law are permission to break DRM in certain cases, prohibiting the use of DRM completely in certain cases, and the requirement to have the copyright holder’s permission for the application of DRM.

1. Permission to circumvent DRM protection in digital media products.
In specific fair use cases, anyone is allowed to break or circumvent DRM restrictions in digital products. The cases include reproduction of content for private use, for news reporting, for use by libraries and archives, for teaching and education, in quotation, for persons with disabilities, and for digitizing orphan works.

2. DRM is not allowed at all in specific types of digital products.
The new law prohibits applying DRM to any works that are in public domain and to works published or financed by the government. Citizens are allowed to break DRM in these works if the technology has been applied.

3. Copyright holder must give an explicit permission to the use of DRM.
This may not have a large effect on the business of ebooks since all distribution agreements already include a statement if DRM will be applied to the products and what kind of technology is used.

What is Digital Rights Management (DRM)?

Digital Rights Management is a software technology that is used to control the ways a digital media product, such as an ebook or a movie download can be used by customers. The most common application is to restrict the number of copies a customer can make from an ebook he or she has purchased.

Some big digital media stores, such as the Amazon Kindle Store and the Apple iBooks Store have their own DRM technologies that are built in to the purchase process. Customers don’t see that the products have DRM until a built-in restriction is triggered.

Other stores that use Adobe DRM for controlling the use of downloaded products tend to have issues with the technology. Customers must create an Adobe account and a store account in order to purchase a product, which makes it a somewhat troublesome system.

News about Portugal’s new law via EFF.

The five tech giants are also media business giants that dominate the distribution of ebooks

2017-10-23

Five tech giants, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft are marketing products that most of us use daily – some people perhaps use them most of the hours they are awake. Each of these tech giants is – one way or another – a media company. Amazon, Apple, Google, and Microsoft sell digital media products from their online stores. Facebook and Google are categorized as publishers in a number of markets, because they distribute news and information to the public. All these companies have enormous powers to promote or block items and products.
Microsoft ebook store in the Edge web browser
Facebook reports it has more than two billion active users on its social media service. About 45 percent of American adults get news from Facebook. Although Facebook doesn’t admit it is a media company, that’s how it is treated, for instance, within EU.

Google’s search market share in the U.S. approaches 86 percent, whereas in Europe it is over 90 percent. Google’s primary business is advertising, but the Play Store features music, movies and ebooks as well.

About 43 percent of all online retail sales in the U.S. last year went through Amazon. The vast majority of ebook sales in the U.S. is conducted by Amazon.

Microsoft has a dominant position in PC software with its Windows software, and Apple has grown to the most valuable company in the world because of its computers and mobile devices that customers are ready to pay premium for.

Curiously enough, four companies out of five tech giants are also booksellers. Only Facebook hasn’t opened an ebook store.
Amazon Kindle Store
Amazon, of course, gets the credit for facilitating the ebook’s breakthrough into a mass market product with the Kindle and low ebook prices. The company is the undisputable leader of the ebook business in the world. Not only has Amazon a role as a book retailer, but the company is also a book publisher, translation firm and a marketer.

Apple was the pioneer of music downloads with the iTunes Store where people could find MP3 songs for their iPods and PCs. Ebooks were introduced to the iBooks store along with the iPad tablet.

Google started scanning printed books from libraries because the company wanted to archive and index all the information in the world. Many years and legal problems later, Google has agreements with publishers to sell their ebooks at the Play Store.

Microsoft has marketed applications and games in its digital download store, and has added ebooks to the store as well, although the market coverage is limited at the moment. The new Edge web browser can open EPUB books without any additional plugins or tricks.
Google Play Books store for ebooks

What do the tech giants’ media businesses mean for ebooks?

If we think about the global ebook business, the tech giants dominate the distribution of digital products to customers. Only Kobo has the global reach that is anywhere close to the giants, but Kobo probably does not have the customer base to generate the same amount of sales as the tech giants.

In every market, local online bookstores compete against the global giants. In many markets, local booksellers may have a larger market share than the giants. Tolino in Central Europe, for instance, is a strong brand and sales channel for ebooks in the German speaking part of the world.

For tech giants, ebooks are not necessarily the core products they will bet their futures on. Tech companies’ priorities are in software, cloud services, hardware, artificial intelligence, and in other new technologies. Amazon is the only company that (at the moment) is an online retailer first, and technology supports that goal.
Apple iBooks Store
Let’s take a look at other types of digital media products and which companies dominate those markets. Online movies and television shows are streamed and downloaded from Netflix and Hulu. Music is discovered and streamed to homes and mobile devices from Spotify and Pandora.

Only ebooks are purchased from tech giants. Isn’t it a bit strange?

Perhaps ebook subscription services, like Scribd, 24 Symbols, Storytel, Bookmate will change the landscape of distribution of ebooks one day. Perhaps Kobo is able to compete against the giants in the future. Perhaps a group of investors believes there is a place for an independent global bookstore and establishes one that is in line with the interests of the ebook trade.

The new class of ereaders: products with 8-inch screens

2017-10-09

For many years, people who read ebooks on ereader devices have settled on products that have six-inch screens. Nothing wrong with a 6-inch display, but there are people who would like to read on a larger screen. Now, the time has come for more choice. Not only has Sony introduced a huge 13-inch ereader, but a number of 8-inch ereaders are available from renowned brands and less known manufacturers.
Cybook Ocean 8-inch ereader

Cybook Ocean.


There are, at least, four products available with an 8-inch E ink display at the moment. In fact, some of the products come with 7.8 inch screen and others with 8-inch, but we will refer to all of them as 8-inch ereaders.

Boyue Likebook Plus 172 Euros.
Cybook Ocean 189 Euros.
Icarus Illumina XL HD 199 Euros.
Kobo Aura One 229 Euros.

If you need help in deciding which device size is the right one for you (from 6 to 13 inches), read the article that also has a video where different ereader sizes are compared.

Here are the most important features for each four ereaders.

Key features and specifications of the Cybook Ocean ereader

8-inch Eink display, touch sensitive.
Display resolution 1024×768 px (160 PPI), 16 levels of grey.
Front light for reading in dark.
CPU: Cortex A8 TI OMAP3611 (800 MHz)
RAM : 128 MB
Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n)
4GB internal storage for ebooks.
MicroSD memory card slot for additional storage space.
MicroUSB 2 port.
Dedicated keys for turning the page.
25 user interface languages.
Web browser.
Ebook formats: ePub, PDF Adobe DRM, HTML, Txt, FB2, DJVU
Li-Polymer battery 2100 mAh.
Dimensions: 196 mm x 150 mm x 7 mm
Weight: 300 gr with the battery.

Kobo Aura One key specifications

kobo aura one ereader

– 7.8-inch E Ink touchscreen, 1872 x 1404 resolution, 300 dpi
– Front light for reading in places with inadequate light. ComfortLight PRO technology that reduces blue light exposure.
– 8 GB on-board memory. Storage for up to 6,000 ebooks.
– 11 fonts and over 50 font styles. Font weight and sharpness settings.
– 14 file formats supported: EPUB, EPUB3, PDF, MOBI, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, TIFF, TXT, HTML, RTF, CBZ, CBR.
– Access to public libraries that use Overdrive ebook library system.
– Wi Fi 802.11 b/g/n.
– Micro USB port.
– Battery life up to 1 month.
– Built-in device languages: English, French, German, Spanish, Dutch, Italian, Brazilian, Portuguese, Japanese, Turkish.
– Weight 230 gr.
– Dimensions 195 x 138.5 x 6.9 mm.

Highlights of the Icarus Illumina XL HD ereader

Icarus Illumina 8 inch ereader.

7.8-inch E ink screen.
300 DPI resolution.
Touch screen .
Powered by Android software. Google Play.
Front light.
Wi-Fi.
Bluetooth.

Key features of the Boyue Likebook Plus

Boyue Likebook 7.8 inch ereader

7.8-inch display in 1448*1072 resolution. Touch screen.
Ebook formats: Html, Epub, Pdf, Mobi, Html, TXT, Djvu, Rtf, Fb2
WiFi.
Android operating system.
Bluetooth
Dimensions: 198*144*8.3 mm.
Micro USB port.
3.5 mm headphone jack.
16GB storage space.
2800mAh battery.
Weight 290gr.

Google Pixel 2 and Clips cameras have special potential for travel photography

2017-10-07

Google has introduced two cameras that will interest travel photographers: the camera in the Google Pixel 2 and 2 XL smartphones, and the unique intelligent camera in the Google Clips product. Both cameras make use of artificial intelligence software technology, setting them apart from competition at the moment.

Google Pixel 2 smartphone with 12.2 megapixel camera and AIGoogle Pixel 2 smartphone.

Google Pixel 2

The Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL are high-end smartphones from Google that come with a 12.2 megapixel camera. The special feature in the camera is that it lets you capture images like photos taken on a professional camera where the subject is in the foreground and the background is magically blurred. Usually, that kind of images are taken with SLR cameras that come with changeable lenses and sharp optics, but the Google Pixel 2 can do it with a fixed lens.

The Google Pixel 2 comes with optical image (OIS) stabilization feature, a rare but valuable thing to have on a smartphone camera. The feature automatically reduces shake and movement when taking a photo, resulting in sharper images and better pictures in low light.

The camera on the Pixel 2 smartphone uses artificial intelligence software technology to create the blur effect. The software recognizes the main subject in the frame, and slightly fades the background. In order to recognize what is foreground and background in an image, the Pixel 2 combines two images (the photographer takes only one frame and doesn’t notice anything) allowing the software to conclude the depth. The result looks the same as a portrait photo taken on a dedicated high-end camera.

Google is not the first company to apply this technique to smartphone photographs: the Apple iPhone X has the same feature.
Google Clips camera with intelligent photo capture

Google Clips

The Google Clips is a totally new kind of camera. After you switch it on, the camera takes photographs by itself. It doesn’t snap a continuous stream of images at preset intervals as some life-capture cameras do, but the Clips monitors what is happening around it, who is in the frame, and is the situation worth taking a picture. The magic is achieved by artificial intelligence software that decides when to take a photo. It also decides the settings for the image capture.

For instance, set the Clips on a kitchen table, and it learns the faces of a family. Then, it can take photos when something interesting in the kitchen is happening.

The Clips is a standalone camera, which means that it doesn’t need a connection anywhere to work. All the intelligence is inside the unit, and all the photos are stored in its internal storage.

It is the camera owner’s choice which images he or she decides to share once the photos have been imported to a PC from the Clips. Battery life is only three hours. The price is $250.

What is Artificial Intelligence and what it has to do with a camera?

Google Clips camera with artificial intelligence (AI)
Artificial intelligence (AI) is a software technology that seems to be able to make conclusions like a human. If ordinary software applications can only respond “yes” or “no” to a question, AI software systems are trained to take into account more variables. Speech recognition and image recognition are the first popular applications for the AI technology. Since AI systems are made of software, humans have coded them, and the quality of the systems depends on the engineering skills of the system designers.

What does this all mean to people who are photographing their travels?

First, it means that photographers who are carrying multiple cameras and/or lenses may consider leaving a camera or a lens home. Since the smartphone, in this case the Pixel 2, can take good enough close-up images of subjects, for non-professional photographers it is an easy decision to drop extra weight from the luggage.

Second, the Google Clips has new kind of potential for the future. At the moment, Google says the camera learns the faces of a family, and the product is focused on delivering photographic moments for the family. That’s fine. The potential is that once the camera and its AI system are developed further, they may be used for other applications as well.

Street photography is an obvious application for the Clips. Capturing images of street life, subjects in animal parks, events in leisure parks, or what happened during a cycling trip or kayak tour are some examples of the other applications.

The Google video for the Clips camera that highlights the family aspect of the product:

Amazon managed to make the low-cost 10-inch Fire tablet just right

2017-09-25

For quite some time, the price range of 150-199 has been the level where it is possible to find 10-inch tablets from major manufacturers. Since it is the lowest price point for 10-inch devices, tablets often lack features or have too restricted resources. Amazon, however, has managed to create a 10-inch tablet that has every key feature in place at $149 price point.

Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet
The Fire HD 10 tablet, its October 2017 edition, is an improved, upgraded version of earlier models. This one is a complete product that makes you wonder why pay more for an Android tablet or even more for an Apple iPad?

The bottleneck of low-cost tablets (and phones) is often too small RAM memory size, very limited storage space, low-resolution screen, and so-so camera. The Fire HD10 avoids these problems and still manages to keep the price low.

The Fire HD 10 comes with 2 GB of RAM memory which is fine for Android based devices. Also the amount of storage space 32 GB is sufficient. The 10.1-inch display has high resolution 1920 x 1200 pixels which makes dot density of 224 ppi. It is a nice display for reading ebooks, and of course, for watching movies and tv shows. The cameras on the Fire HD 10 are something that you can forget about, and take photos with your smartphone instead.
ebook reading on Fire HD 10 tablet
For ebooks, the Fire comes with Blue Shade feature in its reading app. It can automatically adjust and optimize the backlight for comfortable nighttime reading moments.

Alexa voice control system, the brain behind Echo, is a new feature on Fire tablets. You can use your voice to give commands to the tablet. For instance, you can tell Alexa play a video, music, or an audiobooks. It is also possible to ask Alexa questions, see your calendar, get news, and view sports scores. The hands-free mode lets you wake up the tablet (and Alexa) even when the screen is asleep.

Fire HD 10 October 2017 model specifications

Alexa on Fire HD 10 tablet

Display 10.1 inches.
Display resolution 1920 x 1200 (224 ppi).
Processor: Quad-core up to 1.8 GHz.
2GB of RAM.
0.3 megapixel front-facing camera, 2 megapixel rear-facing camera with 720p HD video recording.
Dual-band a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi.
Location based services via Wi-Fi.
Bluetooth. A2DP compatible stereo headphones can be wirelessly connected.
Storage: 32 or 64 GB (expandable up to 256 GB) + unlimited cloud storage for Amazon content.
MicroSD memory card slot.
Micro B USB port.
Dolby Atmos audio technology, Dual stereo speakers.
3.5 mm stereo headphone jack.
Built-in microphone.
Voice control: Alexa can be used in hands-free mode.
Colors: Black, Marine Blue, Punch Red.
1-year limited warranty.
Weight 17.7 oz (500 grams).
Dimensions 10.3 x 6.3 x 0.4 inches (262 x 159 x 9.8mm).
Battery life: up to 10 hours of reading, surfing the web, watching video, and listening to music.

Nonfiction writing tips from a writer who has won the Pulitzer Prize

2017-09-18

Bret Stephens, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, recently joined The New York Times. One of his first articles for the newspaper was a collection of tips for writing news, articles and columns. Altogether, Brett Stephens shares 15 tips for writers, from which I selected 7 that apply to all nonfiction writers.

Somy DPT-RP1 ereader: reading and making notes
1. Get to the point.
Every sentence counts, and must deliver value to the reader. Some writers (and editors) believe the first sentence is the most important to hook a reader, but surely the attention span of readers is longer. Nonetheless, in order keep the reader’s attention the story and the delivery of information must move forward without slack.

2. Write to the broad community of people.
Don’t try to impress experts of your own field with industry jargon. A normal person has to easily understand what your message is. This applies to most articles and books ever published. Naturally, there are publications that target at experts of a niche, but that is another story.

3. Authority counts.
Readers have to trust the writer’s expertise on the subject he or she is writing about. Credentials help, but usually the authority has to be built with time.

4. Establish a confident voice.
Avoid passive voice in your writing, and unnecessary filler words that don’t add anything to the information you are delivering to the reader. Confident voice is not too modest and not too hyped-up, but – confident.

5. Doublecheck the facts.
It also means checking the spelling of names, verifying the dates and times.
[I would check the links at some point as well, because nonfiction articles and books usually have links to sources and more information. As an editor of nonfiction book manuscripts I have done some fact checking and the worst errors have originated from Wikipedia that some authors had used as their only source]

6. Drop all empty phrases.
It may feel that using a cliché is a shortcut to delivering a wealth of information, but more often it is an entirely empty phrase that is wasting everyone’s time.

7. Respect your editor.
Even if you are self-publishing, you should hire an editor to improve your text. If your article or book manuscript is being reviewed by the publisher’s editor, learn from it.