49 Euros for the Pyrus Mini ebook reader : Totally worth it.

Aug 25

Books : Some like the smell of paper, the sounds of gentle footfalls in the hushed silence of libraries, some like flipping though pages and the rustling sound of paper turning in  the night … I’m not one of those persons. To be honest : I’ve been reading digital books since the beginning of this century.  From devices as primitive as the Palm to my much beloved Sony PRS-505 I am proud to say that I only read about 2 paper books in the last 12 years. My latest device of choice on which I have devoured many a book was my iPad mini. ( I had ‘loaned’ my Sony eBook reader to my 86 year old gran .. and she’ll never ever give it back).  But where the iPad mini shines in the dark (its active screen is great for reading in the bedroom) it gleams in sunlight (its reflective glass is terrible for outside reading).  So with my holiday coming up and plenty of reading to do .. I thought I would try out something new.

trekstor-pyrus-mini-2

It was in fact Niejana who pointed out the Trekstor Pyrus Mini on our last visit to our favourite geek-friendly store in Aachen. Three  things immediately made me fall in love with the device : The size (It reminds me of my trusty Palm devices) The color and texture (It has this rubbery enclosure thats a dark blue) and its price : 49 euro’s !  I mean : What could go wrong for 49 euro’s ?  

The Pyrus has a 4.3 inch 800 by 600 Pixel E-Ink display. It has 2 gigabytes of onboard storage that you can extend by shoving in a micro SD card. There is no Wifi, Bluetooth or 3G connection. Just some buttons to navigate pages and adjust things like character size and the language of the interface.   In the end this device is horribly horribly simple .. and that is just brilliant !  The Micro Usb connector is used for charging and adding titles to the onboard memory and since the screen is pretty small .. the battery time will last you quite a while. It can read all popular formats (it does have a hard time with large PDF’s) but can not read .mobi (Epub is fine though).

But aside from the price, the one thing I love  more about this gadget is that its so small, thin and light that you can just slide it into your coat pocket and whip it out anywhere without having to bother with lids and casings and having enough room on the bus to read your book. At the size of a smartphone it might appear to small to read on, but the variable character sizing does make up for that. The screen has a very good contrast ratio and not a micron of ‘glare’.  

Sure its not as robust as some of the ebook readers out there, sure it does not have all of the functionality of a Kindle or a Fire .. But for 49 euro’s this is the “paperback novel cousin” to the “hardcover collection” ebook reader that you can find on the market today I’m NOT afraid to use it, loose it, break it or get mugged for it. It just lets me read my favourite collection of Justin Bierbers Fanfic .. anywhere.

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New Year .. new gear : Whats in YOUR bag ?

Jan 10

Well, not really… but I did buy a new bag and did some tweaks and additions to the gear I drag around all day long. Time to check out the pic and run down the list.

gear 

Laptop : 11.6 Macbook Air 4 gig Ram, I5 , 128 SSD. : This is my mobile base of operations. Although I have a 13 inch Macbook Pro at home, the 11.6 goes with me on the road most of the time. Its small, light, pretty powerful, and versatile. The Snow Leopard install is ideal for the podcast production process, but most of the time I run Ubuntu on it. (I dualboot) After the upgrade from 12.04 to 12.10 the Macbook air runs very smoothly under Ubuntu, except for the hypersensitive touch pad so that explains the extra mouse.

Cables : For those places that only have wired internet (Believe me, I know some of those) I drag around my Usb to Ethernet adapter. I also have a small 5 port USB hub for to expand the two onboard usb ports on the Macbook. The 16 gigabyte USB stick makes sure that I can store some additional data, but is equipped with at least 5 different live versions of Linux like Ubuntu, Backtrack, Clonezilla, Mint and Crunchbang linux. With this stick, “All your computers are now belong to me” The micro usb charger also makes sure I can just plug my phone into any usb port to charge or exchange files.

Phone : Not in the picture : My trusty Galaxy Nexus phone running Android 4.2.1. I just pimped it with a 3800 Mah ‘fat battery’ for extended battery life.

Tablet : Yes : that is a 64 gigabyte Wifi only iPad mini. I still use the Nexus 7 at home a lot, but because I need the storage, I switched to a bigger tablet on the road. The iPad mini houses my books, a lot of music, all of my audio and video podcasts and a ton of pdf files. In short its my digital portfolio for everything. In the car I hook it up via Bluetooth to my car stereo to play podcasts and music. At work I plug in my Apple ear buds (or ‘earpods’) to zone out and knuckle down.

Bag :  Samsonite V7609007 : Not a very exciting name but a pretty cool bag. Slung in ‘portrait’ mode instead of landscape mode its a lot lighter to carry the setup. There is not a LOT of room for extra cables and cruft, so I’m forced to keep the setup lean and mean. 

So .. whats YOUR setup for the road ?  Share it with us in the comments. 

 

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Saynonara mr Desktop

Dec 10

Sometimes being a geek means taking risks, trying things out and experimenting with new gadgets, technologies and trends that arrive on the shores between real and Cyberspace. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been noticing such a “looming trend” in my techno-ecosphere and decided to bite the bullet and go head on into it .. 

But first let me explain : I live a very mobile lifestyle. Times where I am actually “in my home office” are quite sparse. I’m on the road a lot, I work abroad and the scarse moments that I AM home, I love to hang out with my beloved better half, our two dogs and our cat. Holing myself up in my office upstairs with the door shut .. is not an activity I favor so much. The result has been that my favorite “batcave” has been largely “unused” lately. The Dual screen I7 Mac Mini setup that I had setup was sparsely used (mostly as a server) and the i5 Linux desktop that sat along side it spent most of its time idling away or catching up on software and security update. Meanwhile I was either working from my Galaxy Nexus phone, reading stuff on my Nexus Tablet or iPad or punching away on the 11.6 inch Macbook Air that I drag around virtually anywhere. 

But when we look at the trends of technology, we are slowly seeing the processor powers of all of these different devices coming up to par with one another. My “Desktop machines” might sport a little more ram then my Laptops but overall, my laptop(s) have the power to haul what needs to be hauled. My phone / tablet enable me to communicate and consume content anywhere .. so the question came up : Why do I still NEED a desktop anyway ? To sit there ?

office

I bit the bullet 2 weeks ago when I disassembled my Mac Mini setup, and hooked the machine, together with a bunch of USB drives, up to our TV downstairs. The “Super Desktop” I had put together a couple of months ago, is no more. I have changed its roll from “production system” to “central home server”. Hooking it up to our tv and stereo system it serves up movies , tv shows and music when we want to, and uses its raw I7 power (and 16 gig of ram) to run multiple virtual machines. The machine is now almost constantly doing “Something” and gives me the power of a mediacenter and a small datacenter at my fingertips. Because all of the content is stored and backed up in a central location, I no longer need to worry about ‘what file is where’ since everything is stored right there on the server. With that I also alleviate one of the major hassles I had where some files would reside on desktop X and some files would reside on desktop Y … no more local files, period.  The i5 Linux desktop went out next. Whatever local data and settings still resided where either transferred to the downstairs sever or copies over to my Macbook air that is also running Linux.

So what am I left with.

So right now my ‘laptops’ have found their rightful place in my office. I’ve devided up the 24 inch Displays between my 13 inch Macbook pro running Mountain Lion and my 11.6 inch Macbook Air running Ubuntu Linux. I’ve given an nice “laptop stand ” to both and a comfortable keyboard. When I do ‘Arrive’ in the office, the laptop of choice can “land and charge” in its designated slot and the comfortable keyboard, mouse and screen give me the perfect “workstation”. (With an extra screen)

Simplicity, portability, elegance, 

In the end, Its not about the speed. If you would honestly ask me if I “miss” my desktops ? No. The impact on speed and disk space in negligible and the fact that I can now “carry around” my workstation everywhere offers me much more perks than downsides. By centralizing my storage and cpu load to the downstairs servers, I now have (with the additional use of Cloud solutions like Dropbox and Ubuntu one) everything I need on every system that I need. The last divide between home and mobile has hereby completely vanished.

What I have lost ? Nothing much actually. Since i’m not an avid gamer, my desktop(s) where no graphical powerhouses. When I do feel like Fragging something I either pop over to my game console or fire up Call of Duty on my Macbook pro (or any good game on Ubuntu, the ‘Air’ is able to hold its own there too)  When on the road I connect to my home shared using VPN tunnels and SSHFS mounts. Most of the file syncronisation is handled by Dropbox, Ubuntu one and my Google Apps environment.  Time to say “Sayonara” to the age of the desktop. The beige boxes, pimped powerhouses or multi-core mega-machines. They have lived long and prosper .. but its time to move on.

 So what about YOU ? Do you still have any desktops running ? Thinking of biting the bullet and dumping the “beige boxes” ? Tell us about it in the comments section.

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Feeling HOT HOT HOT !

Jul 27
willyIts too damn hot.
For about the 20th day in a row, maximum temperatures here in never-ever-sunny Belgium have once again risen above 33 degrees centigrade. We are having a full blown Sahara style heat-wave. Just great ! For those of you who know me : I do not like the cold. I have complained in length to the celestial thermostat to crank up the juice this winter.Yet somehow I fear that the big weatherman in the sky has yanked up the heat and broke of the knob.
And heat is a funny thing , its makes people and machines go totally insane. I’ll give you a short list of how its impacting my life these days.
1- No extensive outdoor activities. : Well : its warm outside, so an ideal time to do stuff around the house, paint a wall here and there , fix some stuff up etc. You’ll be successful at that, right up the the first hour in your endeavor. Afterwards you will probably awake in some nearby hospital suffering from the result of a sunstroke that has rendered you completely inoperable. Like some overheating AMD Duron from 2001 with a pathetically cheap fan you can actually feel your body start to get steamed up without the ability to cool off. And we all know what happens to hot cpu’s. They crash .. then they burn.

2- Speaking of CPU’s
: One of the major things that are suffering these days is technology. With hard disk spinning ever faster, Power supply’s spewing out more heat, more clock cycles and all that , your computer can really become a small source of warmth. Seriously : When I pump up my 3.2 gig machine in my small office (not the big one) it will be able to warm up this large amount of air quite significantly. Not enough to heat it , but enough to be felt. So imagines computers, servers, switches and routers MOANING under the heat these days. My Mac Mini (acting as a server) is too kind in constantly blowing its fan these days and even my macbook starts to “MOO” its cooling apparatus at points where it never used to do it. In overall : the raise of the ambient temperature by a few degrees is hell for machines.
3 – Sleep deprivation ad loss of concentration. If its too hot during the day : BAD.. If it does not cool down during the night : WORSE. I sleep extremely bad these days cause of the heat. Leaving the windows open even makes it worse, OK , you cool down the room enough so sleep BUT the outside noise of a busy city (or my Italian neighbors who  insists on yelling their goodbyes to each-other from opposite sides of the street at 3AM) do knock you out of the light sleep you have. : Result : I look hung over in the morning and feel like i’m ready for a pension plan. I can’t even remember what I was going to write about concentration.
And Finally : The Brain-fry ! Above some certain temperature the mind starts to bubble. I’ve double checked this with fellow cyber-citizens and it does appear to be a common phenomenon. At some point resolving complex processes , or troubleshooting easy problems becomes nearly impossible. As the mind swims in its on sweat , one cannot make heads or tails of the task ahead. So among IT people this results in loss of concentration ,trouble shooting skills and chasing the cute girls around the office in an effective way. I don’t even like coffee when its THIS hot ! An article I read even states that driving in a warm car has the same results as driving under influence of alcohol (loss of concentration , being more easily irritated and so on) quite amazing isn’t it !

But for some it is even worse
. Prompted by exotic temperatures they venture into worlds unknown and actually start doing tasks they have never ever preformed before in their life. As did my father in law who suddenly started OPERATING the barbecue last saturday (where as he former and foremost roll had been to complain about and afterwards consume the food) I knew when dear old willy started flipping sausages .. The heat had gotten to all of us !

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