Monday, November 22, 2010

Adventures in Tablet-ing: Part Deux

So, its been a few days since I wrote about the S7 tablet, and since then there's been a new development--I no longer have it. As much as I dug the S7, I was struggling with a few things about it that ultimately made me decide to return it. First, the more I used the resistive touch screen of the S7, the more I struggled with it. At the end if the day, it just wasn't as responsive as I needed it to be. What concerned me the mt was they virtual keyboards--both the Huawei and the standard virtual keyboards were poorly laid out. The keys were too close together, and on way too many occasions, I had trouble getting the correct letters to register. Because I planned on using the tablet for writing as well as for consuming content, that meant I'd need to buy a wireless keyboard to get any real writing done on it. Which brings up another big problem--the complete lack f accessories for the S7. There is nothing out there in the way of keyboards, cases, chargers or anything else fir tyebS7, and no real sign of when thy might be coming. Because of the size of the S7 (its longer than mt 7" screen tablets), none of the generic cases fit with it. You also can't charge the S7 through a usb charger, which is a real bummer since he device has a lousy battery life, which necessitates frequent charging

So, for those reasons and more, I decided to take the tablet back to Best Buy.

Enter the Nook Color. The device that started me on this quest for a tablet computer. Basically, I was getting impatient for the Nook Color's release, and I convinced myself that if could spend $50 bucks more than the cost of the Nook Color and get a more full-featured computer, I should do it.  After failing to find what I wanted with the Cruz and the S7, I went back to the Nook Color.  And while the Nook Color is not really a full-fledged tablet computer yet, it's got a lot of potential.

One of the things I appreciate most now about the Nook Color is it's design.  The device feels solid, and the "power" and "home buttons" are its only moving parts.  The 7" screen is absolutely beautiful, and most importantly, extremely responsive.  The screen is capacitive and supports multi-touch, so you can resize images, including the book covers that populate your home screen.

The eReader functions are the Nook Color's bread and butter, and they work flawlessly.  As I mentioned, you can keep frequently read books on your home screen for easy access, or you can tap the toolbar icon to bring up a menu that can take you to the B&N shop, let you browse through your books and files, or open up the web browser. When reading, you can adjust the brightness of the screen easily, so while the Nook Color doesn't have the E-Ink display of the non-color version, you can adjust how muck backlighting the eReader uses. Paging through books is easy, and you can navigate by either tapping or swiping.  You can also highlight certain text and either make notes for yourself, or share quotes through Twitter and Facebook. The Nook Color can also read PDF files and other documents, so chances are it will read most of what you throw at it.  I loaded a couple of comics onto the device, and despite some slowdown when reading large files, the PDFs displayed well.  I'd like to see the Adobe Reader app in the near future though, as it's just a better app than the PDF reader the Nook Color uses now.

On the "computing" side of the Nook Color, the browser is fine, and I had no trouble setting up my bookmarks for easy access.  I haven't loaded any of my videos onto it yet, so I'll update when I do. So far, the biggest plus I see over the tablets I tried is the virtual keyboard, which is well-spaced and easy to use.  Combined with the responsiveness of the touchscreen., there's a lot of potential for creating content with the Nook Color.  Right now however, there are no dedicated writing apps, or even a simple notepad, and the browser is not ideal for content creation.  I can return emails, or even make blog posts, but the lack of a visible cursor when editing text makes it nearly impossible to edit.  I actually wrote most of this blog entry on the Nook Color, but had to switch over to my laptop for editing and formatting.

There aren't many apps on the Nook color right now, just a few games and the Pandora music app.  However, B&N will be launching their app store in the next couple of months, and I am hoping that there will be some apps that improve the Nook Color's content creation ability.

So, I'm still playing with my new toy, but so far it seems like the Nook Color is a great device for consuming content (books, web browsing, email), that has the potential to be a solid tablet computer.  I'm looking forward to seeing how the platform evolves in the next few months.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Adventures in Tablet-ing

As a nerd, I am a fan of shiny, new gadgets. I have an iPhone and a Nook, but I've been tempted to get a tablet since the iPad came out. I don't really want an iPad, as I am very curious about some of the Android tablets that have been in development for a while. When the Nook Color was recently announced, I decided that I would either get one of those, or one of the android tablets, as they pretty much all run eReader apps now.

Interestingly, most of the Android tablets are pretty new, so there have not been a lot of reviews on them. As I was doing some research, the Velocity Micro Cruz eReader and the Cruz tablet caught my eye, as Borders was partnering with them. Borders has an online eBook store, and they were pushing the Cruz devices, which just launched in the past few weeks. The devices had color displays, ran on Android, and could download apps, browse the web, play video, etc. The tablet was a more robust device than the eReader, so I set my sights on that one.

I went to Best Buy and they had just gotten a shipment of the Cruz tablets in. They didn't even have a display up yet, but I looked at the box, read the specs again, and decided to go for it. $300 for a tablet I could run Android apps on? Sold!

Big mistake.

After getting the device home and playing around with it, I was very disappointed. First off, the Cruz does not connect to the Android marketplace, but instead to a watered down version of it called the Cruz Market. The Cruz Market only has a handful of apps, none of which were really appealing to me. The Borders app that comes installed on the tablet crashed repeatedly. The touch screen was non-responsive at times and overly sensitive at other times. No instruction booklet came with the device, and the manual you could download from the official website was not much help. When I loaded a few PDFs onto the device, the reading program could not process them, so I had comics that featured word bubbles but no art, or art with no lettering. All in all, the Cruz didn't function well as an eReader or a tablet computer. I decided after one night of using it that I was going to return it.

Once I had decided to return the Cruz, I was initially thinking of getting the Nook Color and being done with it. I did some further research on the Android tablets though, and found a few rave reviews of the Huawei Ideos S7 tablet. Huawei is mostly known for their cell phones, so I wasn't too familiar with them. However, the S7 tablet has some pretty sweet features, namely a great processor (Snapdragon) and full access to the Android Marketplace. When I went into Best Buy to return the Cruz, I spoke with one of the staff and actually got my hands on the S7 tablet. It seemed to get right all the things the Cruz got wrong, so I took a chance and exchanged the Cruz for the S7 tablet.

In the past five days, I have put the Ideos S7 through its paces, and I am very impressed so far. First off, the thing runs like a dream. Moving from app to app is smooth, and the user interface is solid. The touch screen is resistive, not capacitive, so there’s no multi-touch, but it’s very responsive overall. While the S7 virtual keyboard isn’t great, I was able to switch to the Android keyboard with no problems. The S7 also comes with a stylus, which I prefer for certain tasks.

As advertised, the S7 does have access to the full Android Marketplace, so I have loaded up on everything from the Opera Browser to Angry Birds. I also downloaded the Adobe PDF Reader app, which means I can view all of my PDF comics with no problems. That alone makes the S7 a better deal than the Velocity Cruz.

As an eReader, the S7 way outperforms the Cruz as well. In installed the Nook app on the S7 and had access to my Nook library in a few minutes. Everything worked smoothly, and the 7” screen is perfect for reading. The one drawback is the lack of E-Ink, so you’re reading off of a backlit screen—not the best for prolonged reading.

So, I’m really digging the S7 so far, and I haven’t even played with all of its features. There’s a 2 megapixel camera (mostly for video calling), and the tablet can function as a phone if you put a 3G sim card into it. The biggest drawbacks so far are the battery life (3 hrs or so), the lack of multi-touch, and the fact that it runs Android 2.1 instead of 2.2. My understanding is that sometime next month I’ll be able to upgrade to 2.2, so that shouldn’t be an issue for much longer. I also want to get a mini keyboard for it, as I can’t see doing any serious writing on the S7 with the virtual keyboard.

I’ll keep people posted on how I feel about the S7 after playing with it some more.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Big Ideas Come in Small Packages

A very good friend of mine by the name of Jeff Rodgers runs a successful photography studio with his wife Allison ( So successful, in fact, that people frequently ask them to come and speak about how they do what they do. Not content with being world-renowned photogs, Jeff and Allison launched a new creative venture in early 2010 called lbobi: The Little Blog of Big Ideas ( The goal of the site is to focus on the creative process and inspire fellow creatives by talking about the things people create and the process of creating them. serves as a sounding board for creatives in every field, be it photography, art, flimmaking, music, or what have you. As it stands right now, photographers make up the majority of the lbobi community, which makes sense, as they know Jeff and Allison for the work they've done in that field.

Recently, Jeff and Allison have been looking at different ways to expand the audience of lbobi into other creative fields, which is where I recently came into the picture.

In August Jeff and I debuted the first episode of lbobi Radio (, the official podcast of the Little Blog of Big Ideas. We put out two thirty-minute (or so) episodes a month, and each one features news from the site, discussions on the creative process, and regular contests that offer cool prizes for those who participate. For example, in our latest episode (which went live yesterday) we ran down a list of some of our favorite desktop and iPhone applications for both work and play. You can listen to that episode here.

So, if you want to hear me talk about something other than comic books, movies and videogames, you should check out the podcast.  AND, if you are looking for discussions that will inspire your creative process, head over to and join in!