iPhone Syncing on Linux

Sorry to bore you with all this linex stuff but my website is the place I archive information I may need in the future.  Hence this post.  🙂  However, hopefully it will also help other linux users to iron out problems they are facing too.

Regular readers of this blog will know I own an iPod Touch and use it virtually everyday to read ebooks.  When I swapped over to linux last weekend, one of the things I had to put on my “to-do list” was “how do I access my ipod from linux?”

I was pleased to find software in the repositories to help with this.  I chose gtkpod, a manager that will allow me to add music, ebooks, photos, etc without having to connect with iTunes (which isn’t compatible with linux).

Having said that iPod Touches are relatively new and Apple don’t worry about the little people so don’t make is easy for anyone who likes to be different.  They haven’t made it easy for us poor linux users, which means I have to do some extra work to make my iPod Touch work properly.  I found a website called Abort, Retry, Hack? which gives information on iPhone Syncing on Linux.

Guess I’ve got some reading to do and a bit of fiddling about to follow.  Luckily, I enjoy this type of thing because I’m a bit geekish.

Edit (several hours later):
It seems iTouch is meant to work straight out of the box with Ubuntu 10.04, but it doesn’t for me. Typical! The instructions in the page linked to above want the user to jailbreak their unit, but I don’t want to do that. There are meant to be “work arounds”, but none of them have worked for me either.

I tried two apps, but had no joy with either of them. I’m not willing to keep downloading and installing anything else unless I’m confident they will work. I think I’ll put this aside for the time being. I’ll continue to do the research when time permits and see if I can find a solution.

Chris Howard Reviews the iPad

Originally posted on another site on 5 April 2010.

I love technology. I love watching the world change in this area, as electronics improve and shift. I love being able to say that I used the old computers way back “in the old days” (which wasn’t that long ago really). I love knowing that I’ll be around to witness the way of the future.

When I visited Chris Howard’s blog this morning I was delighted to find a long post on his first experiences with the iPad – Chris Howard’s Writing & Art: Okay, I’m sold, Mr. Jobs. I love the iPad.

In recent months I’ve read a lot of ebooks on my wonderful iPod Touch. The screen is small (especially compared to the iPad), but it doesn’t matter as I’m used to it and it doesn’t take anything away from the story I’m consumed by.

I have no intention of going out and buying an iPad any time soon. I simply couldn’t justify paying that sort of money out when I’ve only just purchased the “little” brother (so to speak). Besides, finances wouldn’t allow it. However, I see the iPad as a complete shift in technology. I believe the desktop computer will soon be obsolete, the laptop will hang on for a while, but it too will eventually be replaced by future offspring of iPad type technology. One day, we will all have flat computer that do everything several gadgets do now. I find this thought fascinating and exciting.

In a world where we expect everything instantly, I think smaller, lighter computers are necessary. Today’s laptops are too heavy to lug around. I don’t know what the weight of the iPad is, but I have a feeling it is the lightest form of “connecting to the web” we’ve seen so far, except for phones and iPod touches, of course, but they don’t count. Why? Because I said so. 😀

Anyway, do you have an opinion on the iPad? I’d love to hear it.

What a difference a decade makes!

During my lifetime I’ve seen some changes in the world, especially where technology is concerned. I remember, in 1990, when my boss paid $50,000 for two computers. I was thrilled to be given one of those computers to work on. It was a buzz to use exciting new equipment and I learned quickly that I liked computers. Yet, looking back, that computer hardly did anything compared to today’s computers. There were two programs on it, it didn’t have the internet or email. In fact, I hadn’t even heard of those things back then. When I left that job in 1995, there was talk of this new thing called Windows. I had no idea what that could be…and I didn’t find out for a couple of years.

Back then, in what might seem like the dark ages for some people, reading was only done from printed material. Books were wonderful to look at, to touch, to smell. The stories within the covers were sometimes not so wonderful, but I learned to pick and chose quite well so that I didn’t waste too much of my hard earned money. It’s shameful to admit, but the cover was the first thing that caught my attention. Then…if the blurb on the back was good, I’d open the book and read the first paragraph. If I liked the way the words were put together, I’d consider buying the book. If I didn’t like the word flow, the book was rejected. This method worked well for me over several decades of reading.

In 1997, I bought my first Windows operated computer. I installed a word processor called Word Perfect and happily wrote two 200,000+ manuscripts from start to finish in about three years. What happened to those manuscripts is another story, for another day. Yes, I saw the icon on the computer that would connect me to the internet and email, but I still didn’t know what those things were and had no need for either of them because I was happy doing something else I loved – writing.

The years passed, the millennium came and went without the huge catastrophe that everyone seemed to be warning us about. Instead, things went on as usual and then started to grow and grow. Finally, in early 2001, I was introduced to the internet for the very first time. I remember my fascination with the concept that we had instant access to all this information and we could communicate with people all over the world at any time of the day and night. It was brilliant. And what made it better – and worse – was the knowledge that I wasn’t the only writer writing the next best seller. (I say “worse” because it’s since the internet that I stopped writing at every spare moment I had.)

I learned so much in the years that followed. About everything, not just writing. But then I discovered something called self-publishing and the weirdest thing yet, ebooks. I found it difficult to grasp the concept of books without paper. In a lot of ways, I rejected the notion. It just felt so wrong! As did self-publishing.

That first Windows computer was quickly replaced with bigger and better systems, which were again replaced for newer technology a short time later. This cycle happened several times in the effort to stay up with the times, but we soon realised that it was an impossible situation and we finally accepted that our new laptops would have to see us through for some years to come. We were now completely immersed in the instant world of viewing, downloading, accessing, emailing, blogging, facebooking, gaming, chatting, online buying and selling, paying, meeting…

Still the years ticked by, technology rolling along in front of us, always showing us new and fascinating things. Suddenly, self publishing and ebooks became real, acceptable, the way of the future. I found myself wanting to “try out” the self publishing side of the publishing industry and I certainly looked at ebooks in a more favourable way. This was especially true when technology provided a gadget that I could hold in my hand, allowing me to sit wherever I wanted and read peacefully. Especially when I could carry a dozen or more books with me everywhere I went (or a lot more if I really wanted to), without giving myself back ache from the weight of carrying heavy paper books.

What a difference a decade makes!

This year, I have listened to my first audio book and have read at least two ebooks. I look forward to reading more. I already have them queued up in my iPod Touch. I carry an assortment of books with me every day – fiction and non-fiction – because who knows what I’ll want to read at lunchtime or on the way home?! And with modern technology, it doesn’t matter because I have my pick.

I thought choosing ebooks would be more difficult than printed books. Riskier. But I find the cover still catches my attention first and if the blurb is any good then I’ll proceed to view the first page of the ebook and see if I like the author’s style of writing before I decide whether or not I’ll part with my hard earned cash. This method always worked with printed books and, so far, it’s done me well with ebooks too.

If the last decade has given us such changes, I wonder what the next decade will bring. I can’t even begin to imagine.

Living in a Technical World

ipod-touch-stanzaRecently, I posted on Forms of Reading and the Future and another post entitled Kindle, Sony and the iPhone. Both these posts generated a lot of traffic and I received several comments and even a couple of emails, which was wonderful.

As a result of these discussions, I did a lot of research and finally decided that buying an iPod Touch was the way for me to go. I’ve had it for a few days, and I’m still getting used to the way it works, but my first impressions are all good.

I love the fact that I have one small, light device which carries all my music, photos, contacts and event reminders all well organised and easily accessible. However, what I find really outstanding is that same small, light device also holds heaps of books – audio and ebooks – as well as games to pass the time on a very long train trip, which I do five days a week.

It’s brilliant!

So now, armed with my mini-computer and my iPod Touch, there’s no excuse as I have everything I need to get the things that are important to me done – namely writing, reading and gaming. In fact, with a forced four hours a day to concentrate on these things, I should be as productive as I can ever be…unfortunately, I’m not, but I’ll leave that for another post.

Living in a world when technology is advancing every day, I feel lucky to be able to step into the future armed with the tools that should make a blank page fill with words. Words of a story I want to write, words of a story I want to read and words of other kinds that make life more pleasant. How did we ever survive without these wonderful gadgets?

Kindle, Sony and the iPhone

What started out as simple observations about forms of reading, ended up turning into a major research project for me over the last few days. I’ve been all over the internet during this time, starting with Alan’s post called eBooks are the Future and from there going to countless other websites. It was informative and interesting to see what other people think.

It seems that more and more people are thinking along the same lines as me…that ebooks will be the way of the future. However, it is also evident that it will be a while before they “take over the world”. From what I can fathom, this is mainly due to two reasons:

1. Format. Until a worldwide standard format can be decided on, there will be on going problems due to the fact that readers (the device, not the person) will be limited to the formats it is compatible with. This limits the person using the device to what they can read and also what price they have to pay to buy the ebooks they select, as they won’t be free to shop around. Whilst this is an issue, paper books will remain popular.

2. Price of readers. They are expensive! When the cost of these devices come done then I believe ebook sales will climb through the roof. But…technology is the only area I know of that prices DO come down over time, which means if we wait long enough ebook readers will be as common as the mobile phone.

During my research three names cropped up continually: Kindle, Sony and iPhone. Each time a new name came up I got excited and my research turned in another direction, with the hope of cheaper devices…that didn’t happen.

Kindle is about $US299 and is associated with Amazon, and for that reason alone I felt an invisible barrier come up as I am reluctant to head in a direction that I know will be very limiting for me. Amazon, in my opinion, are trying to grab this corner of the market by offering their own reading device. I understand that the device reads pdf and doc formats as well as its own format, but I also understand that Amazon are charging at least $US9.99 for an ebook, with some as high as $US16, which I believe is too expensive. Why spend that money on something digital, when you could buy a paper book instead. It makes no sense to me. Besides that, I wonder how much the author gets of the cost? Half? Less than half? A couple of dollars? If asked, I’m sure Amazon would say that the publisher and/or author sets the price, not them, but I know that Amazon would set the rules and their charges which force the prices up, up, up. OK, they are in it to make money, that’s the way of the world, but the whole thing smells of greed to me and I’ll be staying away from that option.

Sony is another option and it sells for about the same price as the Kindle. From what I can see the Sony is compatible with more formats, which makes it a better option for me because I could purchase ebooks from all over the internet. In other words, I can shop around and get the best deals and not be limited to just one outlet. But, the cost of the device is high and I have a little voice in my head saying to wait until the kinks have been ironed out and the price drops dramatically.

Then there’s the iPhone, which could be a good alternative for some people. Especially if they install the Stanza application, which is a free (open source) ebook reader. The fact that I saw the words “open source” made me feel comfortable with this option straight away as I’ve been a Linux user and understand how software of this type works. To me, it means improvements are always happening and the latest software is always available. It also means that as many formats as possible will be compatible through this software, which is a good thing. And, as an added bonus, I could listen to audio books as well. Now that sounds perfect! But…I don’t have an iPhone and if I want one I would have to go onto a plan to get one, which I will not do. Currently I am prepaid on my mobile and I spend about $30 to $60 a year (I rarely use the thing, as you may have gathered). A plan would be that amount each month! Or, I can buy one outright, but the cost is around $AU800 to $AU1,000 which means this option is definitely out of the question for me.

At the end of all this, I’m still no better off. I still think printed books are the better way to go. And I will continue to check out what’s available in the future for when a company finally realises that they could conquer the market by not being greedy and offering the consumer something that is inexpensive and full of format compatibilities.

I will wait for that day!

Forms of Reading and the Future

The publishing world is changing and I think it’s important for readers to keep up with technology and know the options available to them. Each form of “reading” has its pros and cons and in this post, I’m going to discuss my thoughts on them.

The Printed Book

For me, nothing beats the traditional printed book. It’s a solid object that I can hold in my hands. I can admire the cover, the new smell of its pages and I can sit comfortably anywhere I like and read to my heart’s content. I can use my favourite bookmark when I must put the book aside. And, when discussing the book with others (whilst reading or afterwards), I can flash the book in front of their eyes or lend it to them. It’s the form of reading that I prefer, because … well, I suppose it’s because it is the way I’ve always done my reading and I’m not really a person who embraces change.

However, the printed book does have its disadvantages. Some books are quite thick and heavy, so when you want to read whilst travelling, such as on a train, carrying a bulky book can be a bit of a nuisance (even if you do wear a back pack). And, what about when you are nearing the end of the book? What happens then? Who wants to carry two heavy books to and from work on the train, just in case the first book is finished and a new book is required? Not me, so I end up with nothing to read and the journey instantly feels a lot longer.

Finally, the price of printed books are going up, up, up. It’s actually becoming an issue for me to buy books new, as I simply cannot afford them any more. Therefore, I must rely on the library (and my local library is stuck in the dark ages so my chances of getting a new release is zilch) or second hand book shops (again, I have to wait a very long time to get anything new).

The Audio Book

The audio book is only a new experience for me, having only listened to one book … ever! But that one book left me with a knowledge that reading can be enjoyed without a physical book to look at.

In fact, I quite enjoyed listening to a book whilst leaning back in the seat with my eyes shut (resting them for a change) or whilst I quietly minded my own business and knitted. At the end of the book, I felt as if I had accomplished a lot, which was a good feeling.

Also, the mp3 player that I used is quite small and very light, so I hardly knew I was carrying a book. I only had the one book on the player, but I could have had several books, which would be handy upon reaching the end. It felt wonderful not to feel like a pack horse for those few days. Although, I did tend to load myself up with other things because I had extra room. 🙂

However, not being used to it, my ears suffered from the earphones. I’m not one for plugging music directly into my head, so my poor, tender ears felt the pain as they grew accustomed to foreign objects being in them. I also found myself wondering if the constant use of earphones (which I would have to use because I’m listening to the book in a public place) would cause permanent damage (much like constant computer use weakens the eyes).

The biggest disadvantage, I found, was that the mp3 player didn’t hold power for long. This might have been due to the fact that the player was an inexpensive one, but it runs off a single AAA battery with a life of about four to six hours. Remembering to charge it each evening was an issue, but I guess it would be something I’d soon get used to.

As for cost, the book I listened too came from the library, but from what I’ve seen, audio books are around the same price as printed books…and some were a lot dearer! I can understand the reason for this as a lot goes into them, but when finances are tight, this can be a big issue and I’ve rarely seen audio books in second hand shops. Having said this, there are audio books that can be freely downloaded if you know where to look…and by “freely” I am not talking about obtaining illegal versions.

The eBook

This is something I have never tried. I’ve always felt it was an option I wouldn’t entertain, until recently. Now, I find my thoughts wondering if this could truly be an option for me. I guess I’ll never know until I’ve tried it, but the readers are so expensive! What if I paid the money and discovered I hated it? It’s a shame I couldn’t borrow one for a trial period and see how I go with it first.

Ebooks are the way of the future. I realise that. It’s inevitable that “saving the planet” will force the issue and I’ve witnessed the change towards this option over recent years. I feel that when the readers are perfected (and cheaper) then there will be a sudden surge in ebook sales because out of all the options available to readers, ebooks are the cheapest. And so they should be! What’s more, most (if not all) of the proceeds from sales go directly to the author (which I think is how it should be too).

I’ve been doing some research on the readers and they do look interesting. However, our “in shop” experience is that we have been unable to find anywhere locally that sell them. That may have changed in recent months, but when G was thinking of getting himself one last year it was like we were asking for a piece of Mars or something. All we got were blank stares. We might give this another try soon to see how things have changed.

With an ebook reader, I could have several dozen (or ever several hundred) books with me at any given time. My research tells me that once charged, the power source will last approximately two weeks (or about 3,000 page turns). The reader is light and compact, which would suit my travelling needs too. The cost of books are much more within my reach too; and I wouldn’t be buying second hand which would mean the author would get their royalty.

The only disadvantage, that I can think of right now, is that I wouldn’t have a bookshelf filled with wonderful smelling books that would inspire me to read…and write. But, then again, I’d then have more space in the room to fill with something else instead, so it’s not all bad.

In Conclusion

I still love the old-fashioned book and I believe I will continue to favour this form of reading for some time to come, but I realise that the world is changing and at some point those books will become rare, collectible items (possibly even worth a bit of money, but I doubt that will be in my lifetime).

With my current situation, I believe the ebook would be the most financially friendly option for me, giving me lots to read at a reasonable price. It’s only the reader itself that would be a bit of a burden to me. I like the compact unit, but I’m not sure how I’d go reading a book on a small screen.

Even though I think audio books are expensive, I truly like the idea of reading and knitting at the same time. It’s one way of getting more out of my day.

In short, all forms of reading should have their place in all our lives. Why should we restrict ourselves to one or the other? If it wasn’t for the cost, I’d be happy to do all three…I think.

What do you think?

The One, My New Friend

It has become apparent that now that I’m a commuter my writing time is suffering. In fact, I know that unless I take steps to change my situation I will not write again. Sounds dramatic, doesn’t it? Well, I might have gone a bit over-the-top with that last bit, but I can safely say that I will rarely write again!

My life has changed. My routine has changed. I now spend several hours a day travelling and when I get home I’m too tired to write.

This leaves Friday night, Saturday and Sunday. I already know that Friday night (in the past, one of my best writing times) will be no different to any other work day – the only difference is that I’ll be nodding off at the computer instead of in front of the TV, so that’s out of the question. Sunday night I’ll be heading off to bed early as I have to get up very early the next morning, but I might be able to squeeze in an hour or so during the day/evening. This leaves only Saturday as a real possibility. But what about my family? They deserve some of my time now that I’m away from home for an extended period during the week.

As I said at the beginning of this post, unless I take steps to change my situation my writing is going to suffer in a big way. Between family, work, travel and sleep when can I write?

Luckily, I have an answer to the problem and I am taking steps to rectify the situation. On Monday, I’m going to buy myself a mini-laptop (I see they are more commonly known as “netbooks”). I’ve been looking at an Acer Aspire One (I don’t really care what colour I end up with but blue is a favourite colour of mine). I already own a “normal” sized Acer laptop and it’s been great so buying a mini version doesn’t feel risky to me. The Aspire One is compact with an 8.9” screen and it weighs less than a kilo, but the keyboard is a manageable size which is important. It doesn’t have CD drives or anything fancy like that, but that isn’t a problem for me. As long as I can get my writing files on it, and possibly my family tree, then I’ll be “happy as Larry”.

With “The One” my writing time will improve dramatically. In fact, it will be better than ever as I will have no distractions for a very long train trip as there will be no internet and I’ll be forced to sit and continue typing as I’ve got nowhere else to go. The mornings (on the train) are virtually people free and I envision a good hour and a half dedicated writing time, five days a week. That’s seven and a half hours a week. Woohoo! The trip home will be dedicated to reading. So this means I will write more and I will read more. What can possibly be better than that?

Roll on Monday!