Friday, June 03, 2005

Creating Your Own eBooks

I know there are a number of pretty good solutions out there for creating your own eBooks, but today I stumbled across a solution that seems better than most. A post over on turned me on to a solution called "Publish eBook" which is a simple solution for creating fairly rich ebooks for the eReader application. I have converted the first chapter of my first book ( day) and it worked really well. It has a lot of nice features like supporting inline images (simple ones) and hyperlinking quite well. It certainly deserves a look if you're interested in writing your own docs, converting reference manuals, or whatever.

Maybe one day I'll post the above mentioned chapter I threw together and get some geeks to review it and tell me if they would keep reading more or "put the book down"...

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The Palm LifeDrive

Just in case you subscribe to this feed without subscribing to the TinyScreenfuls feed, you should hop on over there and read a little about my impressions of the Palm LifeDrive. Here is the direct link to the post.

Staples EasyRebate

I just got done filing an "Easyrebate" for an item I purchased at Staples last night. For those who have never used this new offering, instead of having to mail copies of the rebate form, receipt, and UPC to the retailer, you just log into a web page and enter the unique numbers on your receipt. stamps, no copies, no hastle!

What an interesting process. Instead of having paying an army of data entry personnel somewhere, why not let the customer enter the data for you? I think that Staples might be on to something here. It saves them money and it was easier for me than having to snail mail a hard copy of everything to them. I like the concept if it can simplify the process of getting a rebate. I'll post something here when I actually see the cash.

BTW, I bought a SanDisk Cruzer Micro and I'll write up my impressions at another time.

Friday, May 20, 2005

I Think I’ll Write My Congressman :^)

I think I’m a pretty even-keeled person in general. There are not that many things that I get terribly passionate about – well, outside of the world of technology, that’s true anyway. This morning it happened though.

I opened a reference document from a company that my employer does tens of millions of dollars worth of business with every year. That document was hands down the ugliest professional literature I have ever seen. There was no attempt at formatting of any kind and the sections of the document all ran together into one nasty stream of literary trash. But to rub salt into the wound, the entire document was written in Times New Roman – undeniably the world’s ugliest font (courier comes in a close second).

It is really time to move beyond that ugly typeface! Why do word processing developers still make that the default font for all new documents? It gives rise to ugly documents from people who are too lazy to change the font to something that is actually pleasant to read. Since I don’t think I can convince Microsoft or Word Perfect to change the default, I’ve decided to write to my congressman and ask him to sponsor a bill to outlaw Times New Roman. What do you think, would you vote for it if it came up on the November ballot?

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Loving My Creative Zen Micro

A little over a week ago, I made a post over on about my "new" Creative Zen Micro. My comments at the time were positive, and I just have to say that I am loving this device! Monday night at Costco I took a few minutes to play with the iPod Photo they had there and it only confirmed my impressions. The interface to the Zen was more intuitive to me than the iPod's.

What prompted this post is that earlier today I was doing a little fumbling around eBay and noticed that you can pick up a 4GB Hitachi microdrive pretty darn cheap. I got to thinking that as much as I love the Creative, that it would be nice if I could eliminate a device from my arsenal. As a test, I dropped a few MP3 files onto my Dell Axim X50v and listened to them while working today. As good as the sound quality is on the Axim, there is a constant hiss in the background when you play media files that I am sure would lead me to an early death. The sound quality of the Creative may have spoiled me for a matter of fact, I might have to invest in a pair or really nice Sennheiser headphones.

My original post over on Tinyscreenfuls was really just a first impressions review. I will have to do a follow-up with more detail some time fairly soon.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Addicted to Batteries

Alright, it’s time to come clean: I have an addiction to batteries. I am often completely obsessed with batteries and battery life. The usage model for most gadgets I own is dictated by the battery life of the device. For example, I would love to do more surfing from my Dell Axim X50v, but I don’t because I am afraid of running the battery down. My laptop is often used on A/C power because I don’t want the battery to get too low. I am admittedly a sick man.

You want to know the really sick part? My concern really kicks in if the battery gets below about 60%. Why 60% you might ask? Well, what if I am suddenly called out of the house for a national emergency and don’t have enough battery power on my cell phone to have that 4 hour conference call between me, the President of the U.S. and the Secretary-General of the UN? I can’t explain it, it doesn’t make sense, but for some strange reason, I’m afraid of running out of battery power somewhere.

So, if you know about some 10-step program for batteryaholics, please let me know. Until then, if you’re interested in a cool, free utility your battery power in the forefront of your Pocket PC focus, there’s a great app called Powerstatus that you can get from PocketGear or PocketPCFreewares. :^)

Been Gone For a While

Well, I’ve been out of the loop for a while. I’ve been terribly busy finishing up my graduate degree at the University of Portland and trying to otherwise manage my life. I have been dedicating all of my geek writing to the Tinyscreenfuls blog for the last couple of months (which hasn’t been much - sorry Josh!). Well, now that I have graduated and am trying to get caught back up on other interests in life, I will be writing more here at Random Musings. I am going to continue to keep posting on Tinyscreenfuls, but I’ve got a lot to say that’s not completely consistent with the theme of that site.

So, I’m back in the saddle and will be posting my observations and other “random musings” here and more serious reviews and such over at Tinyscreenfuls.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Phone trees...

There exists a necessary evil in our society that you experience any time you call for service on just about anything. From issues as diverse as questions about your cell phone plan to changing your primary care provider, when you call customer service, you NEVER get to speak to a person right away. We all know this and most of us have just grown to accept the reality of the situation. There is something new coming in this space that I absolutely cannot stand though!

The current generation of phone trees that are voice driven are a step in the wrong direction. They are offered as a high-tech, friendly new way to interface with the system (as if we were too lazy in our society to even push the button now), but the technology is just not there yet. My single largest frustration is that they pick up on too much of the background noise. I tried to call our cell phone provider the other day while my wife was driving with a car full of kids - that was a joke! It kept telling me, "OK, I can help you..." even when I started telling it, "Apparently not!"

What they really need to do is build in an ability to detect when users get to the point that they are yelling, "WOULD EVERYONE SHUT UP SO THAT I CAN GET SOME #$&^*! HELP?" and transfer you straight to a person - now that would be useful!

I know that phone trees aren't going to go away, but they need to be carefully designed. I swear that Cingular employees have never called their own customer service - if they had, surely they would revise that menu!

Friday, March 04, 2005

New SOP for listening to podcasts

If you own a Pocket PC and listen to podcasts, there is something you’ve got to try.  In our world of too much to do in not enough time, I have found a way to decrease the time it takes me to listen to podcasts.  Here’s what I’m doing:  I’ve installed betaplayer on my Pocket PC and download the MP3 file for the podcast I am interested in to my SD card.  In betaplayer, I go into the “Options” menu and adjust the playback speed to 120% or 150% (as high as I can go and still follow the conversation).

It’s an awful lot like listening to Mickey Mouse do a podcast, but when I crank the speed up to 150%, I can listen to a 40 minute podcast in about 27 minutes!  I have learned to look past the funny voices and now that I have been doing this for a while, the standard playback speed sounds way too slow!

So give it a try and let me know what you think…


Note:  If you listen to podcasts from your PC (which I occasionally do as background noise while I work), Windows Media Player 10 has variable playback speed capability and will allow you to do the same thing.

Digital paper - cool stuff!

Last night at school, we had a guest lecturer from a local tech company (sorry to be vague, but I don’t know how much he was supposed to tell us). He is a sales account manager for a lot of very big hotel chains. I had the chance to talk to him about technology and what he has to offer the hotels.

One of his products they are currently pushing is digital paper. He said they make for great conference room agendas and maps because they can be updated frequently via wireless and consume no power once they have been updated. He said they hope to eventually have a small sheet hanging next to the door in every room that gets customized for each guest. It would say something like, “Welcome back to the Portland Marriott Mr. Jarvis, you have one message waiting for you at the front desk and the concierge has booked the limo you requested.” Or something like that! :^)

Cool stuff and it’s finally more than a rumor on Engadget.