on TUAW (or WTF, AOL?)

I never really thought I’d be a writer. In fact, for a long time, I thought I was going to end up being a physicist. Fast forward to freshman year in college when I realized that calculus wasn’t for me and I waved goodbye to my aspirations of a career in the hard sciences.

I didn’t immediately think, “Well then, I’ll just be a writer!” I had to pick a major, so I went with English. I graduated, started looking for careers and ended up in Higher Education (which is where I still work!). I never really thought of myself as a writer until I saw a post by Barb Dybwad on The Unofficial Apple Weblog. They were looking for bloggers (not writers) and since I had been blogging for awhile and I liked Apple stuff I figured why not apply.


I sent off an email and waited. I didn’t hear anything, so I figured that was that.


This was all 10 years ago, mind you, but I still remember seeing that email from Barb asking me to join up with TUAW. I did, and wrote this first post, and after a few years I ended up becoming the Lead Blogger at TUAW. I covered a couple of Macworlds for the site (that first Macworld I wrote something like 25 posts A DAY, which meant that I didn’t talk to anyone at the actual event), “starred” in a couple of videos, and wrote and wrote and wrote (my back of the envelope math shows that for the 3 years I was there I wrote 2.7 posts a day on average, or a little over 3000 posts).

More importantly TUAW gave me the opportunity to meet lots of people: fellow bloggers, writers,  developers, and fans. So many people, in fact, that as I started listing them it grew so long that I decided not to include it with this post.


I left TUAW 7 years ago mostly because of AOL’s incompetence, so it came as only a mild shock to hear that AOL is shuttering the site and waving goodbye to all the talented folks who worked there. There’s some corporate speak saying that TUAW would be “rolled into” Engadget which means, I assume, the content will be absorbed into Engadget’s archives so they can still put advertising around it (and sip on that sweet, sweet SEO juice). A sad end to a fine site. A site that is directly responsible for the fact that I now honestly think of myself as a writer (though I still find it hard to believe that I’ve written books that you can buy in a bookstore! Sure, no one actually buys them, but they could and that’s what counts!).


Since today is the last day of publication for TUAW I wanted to thank everyone who read the site, anyone who was involved with it, and everyone I’ve met because of it. Writing for TUAW gave me my first taste of limited highly specific notierity (there was a time when I was recognized whenever I walked into an Apple Store), and my first realization that somewhere on the Internet there is someone who has nothing better to do than to tell you how whatever you’ve shared sucks (now I just go to Twitter for that).


You can read some more about my thoughts about TUAW in my farewell post (which used to have lot of lovely comments from readers wishing me well, but they seem to have been axed whenever TUAW changed commenting sytems. You can see why I have my doubts about the TUAW posts being around for the longhaul).




Books you should read (or give as a gift!)

Since it is the holidays here in the good US of A (and elsewhere I presume, but I don't concern myself with the goings on outside of our fine borders) I thought it only appropriate to share some of the best books I've read this year. Along with affiliate links and a plea for you to buy them for friends, loved ones, or enemies.

The Golem and the Jinni


Golemjinni
Hard to believe I read this book in 2014, but I did (finished it on Jan. 25th, 2014). This is a great book, as discussed on this episode of The Incomparable. And at the moment it is only $2.99 in ebook format. Why haven't you purchased it already?

Ok, so you want to hear a little bit of what this book is about. A golem is shipped to NYC, as you do, and he master dies. She's left to fend for herself and ends up meeting a Jinni. It is great.

Amazon | Kindle | B&N

My Real Children

MyrealchildrenI love Jo Walton. Well, I love her writing (I'm sure she's a lovely person though). After reading her Small Change series I decided that I would just buy whatever her next novel is without question. That's why I preordered My Real Children and read it as soon as it appeared on my Kindle.

This book is science fiction, but with a light touch. The main character is an old lady who is in a old folks home and remembers living two lifetimes. Is she crazy? Nope, she is just remembering two different timelines of her own life.

Fantastic. And there are moon-bases, so: science fiction.

Amazon | Kindle | B&N


The Bone Clocks

BoneclockDavid Mitchell knows how to write a book I tells ya. The Bone Clocks is definitely science fiction, but since Mitchell wrote it people you'll find it shelved in the "Fiction" section of the bookstore (serious writers don't do science fiction, you see. Even though the Cloud Atlas was also SciFi).

This book pings around the world and history following the story of Holly Sykes who ends up involved in a war that she knows nothing about. I devoured this book (after I got through the first 30 pages or so).

Amazon | Kindle | B&N

Station Eleven

StationelevenI'd never heard of Emily St. John Mandel before (but what a name), however, this book is crazy good. It is a post-apocalypse book, but it isn't apocalypse porn. Most of the action happens a good while after the fall of society, when new rules and societies have been formed and life is somewhat stable (though nothing like we know it).

A traveling band of Shakespearean actors are the main vehicle of the plot with characters connecting threads across time before, during and after the pandemic.

Amazon | Kindle | B&N

And the sequels

There are two other books that I quite enjoyed this year, but it is difficult to recommend them since they are both a part of a larger series.

The Causal Angel by Hannu Rajaniemi blew my mind with the bizarre stuff that it contains. This is a science fiction lovers science fiction book (though if you don't like rather baroque writing, this might not be your cup of tea).

Last year Ancillary Justice was my favorite book, and this year the sequel (Ancillary Sword) is on my best of list. You should read the first one though, and then pick up the second.



Random Trek T-shirt

Randomtrektshirts

I have a podcast called Random Trek in which I discuss a random episode of Star Trek with a non-random guest. It is a hoot. You should listen to it.

You should also buy one of these nifty Random Trek t-shirts (available for a very limited time). Why? Because my little podcast could use the support, and I could use the ego boost of having more than 12 people want to wear a t-shirt promoting a project of mine (really, it is all about me).

Buy a shirt, damn it!

Also, if you haven't been listening to the podcast why not check out a few episodes. The most helpful review on iTunes raves:


ITunes

Why wouldn't you listen?


Cube

Cube

Going through my closet I found the box for my beloved G4 Cube. Man, I remember ordering that computer like it was yesterday.

I really shouldn't have ordered it, since it was super expensive and I really couldn't afford it (thank goodness for credit cards). I did order it, though, and I was even so excited to get it that I had them hold it at the FedEx office so I could pick it up myself.

Here's the Steve Jobs announcement that got me to order it immediately:

All told it was a great computer, though probably more successful as an exercise in industrial design.

It sits on a shelf in our living room now, after a few years of faithful service and the box is now in our storage unit.


Amazon Voyage Cover

The Kindle Voyage is a sturdy little device, and it doesn't need a case. That being said, I'm very happy that I bought the unimaginatively named Amazon Protective Cover for Kindle Voyage (I have the "royal" cover, though I think I'll be giving that to Marisa and replacing it with a black cover).

I fell in love with this type of cover when I got one for my Kindle HDX (Amazon called those covers Origami covers, which is a far better name). It converts from a cover to a little stand, like so:

Image

This solves one of the big problems I had with my Kindle: reading as I'm eating lunch. I used to prop the Kindle up against whatever was laying on my desk. Now I can just use the cover!

It is a little odd, I suppose, that the cover flips up and over inside of opening like a book. I actually like it because it makes me feel like an old time reporter opening my notebook to take some notes for some important story. That might just be me though.

There is one minor disappointment, though it is more of a failing with the Kindle's software. The Kindle DX (yes, I owned both) had an auto rotating screen. Turn the device on its side, and the screen would rotate. You could even turn it upside down and the text would rotate.

The Voyage doesn't auto rotate, but you can set it to Landscape Mode which is handy. Sadly, you can't rotate the screen 360 degrees. Why does this matter? While the cover is nice standing upright, you can lay it on another angle like so:

IMG 3209

Which would be great if the screen wasn't upside down. Sad Panda.

That being said, I like the cover and I'd buy another one!


Kindle Voyage Screenshots of possible interest

It seems the old tap on opposite corners of the Kindle screen to take a screenshot does work on the Voyage (though I found it for me a little finicky as compared to doing the same on the Paperwhite) so I thought I'd share some screenshots.

The home screen is pretty much the same:

Home

There's a new Auto Brightness option that auto-adjusts the screen's brightness depending on the room's illumination. I have disabled it because I know better than my Kindle:

Brightness

PagePress can be toggled on and off:

Pagepress

And you can set how much Feedback you want. Also, this is the first set of Kindle setting screens that uses a graphic (as far as I recall):

Vibration

And you can also set the amount of press it takes to turn the page:

Pressure Settings

If you want to see any more screenshots just let me know in the comments or on Twitter.

Update 1:

Here's a look at the font options (which are unchanged):

Fonts


Kindle Voyage thoughts


Kindle1andvoyage

A year ago I reviewed the Kindle Paperwhite for TechHive and I said:

I’d like to see Amazon bring back physical page forward and back buttons. Having dedicated buttons allow you to rest your finger on the button and press down when you need to turn the page, instead of moving a finger to tap on the screen. A minor detail, but one that would make for a more pleasant reading experience.

Amazon listened, kind of, with the Kindle Voyage. The Voyage doesn't have dedicated page buttons in the traditional sense, it has page turn areas either side of the screen. One is marked with a dot (page back) and the other is a line (page forward). Squeeze either and the Kindle buzzes to let you know and the page turns.

I love PagePress, though I will say that the first few times I used it I accidentally paged back by touching the screen when trying to squeeze the PagePress button. It isn't happening now that I've got the hang of it, but something to be aware of.

Now, this isn't a full review because other people have done that, but I will say that screen is great. Not being recessed makes a big difference (even though I didn't think it would), and the light seems a little more even than the Paperwhite 2.

The Voyage is without a doubt the best Kindle ever. You should buy one and use my link to do it.

Since this isn't a full review I asked folks on Twitter if they had any questions, and some did. Here they are:

I think this is a reference to Kindle Unlimited (Amazon's subscription library of ebooks). I haven't tried it, and Oyster doesn't work with the Voyage.

Not fragile at all! In fact, since the front is one solid surface it feels a little sturdier to me than the Paperwhite 2 (which wasn't a flimsy device itself!). I don't think a case is needed, but I do like the Amazon case that I bought.

Nope.

I think so. The screen is much better, and I didn't like the unevenness of the lighting on the Paperwhite 1. The Voyage (and the Paperwhite 2) doesn't have the same issue (and the screen is much better).

Sometimes you should believe the hype, and that is the case with the Voyage's screen. It is great.

The Voyage's software is nearly identical to that on the Paperwhite, which means the typography is the same as well. No cool auto-hyphenation or widow/orphan prevention.

Yes and yes.

I didn't have a cover on my Paperwhite, but I'm a fan of the origami cover for the Voyage.

I like the little buzz when you use PagePress, but you can turn it off (or make it even more buzzy).

It is just as responsive as the Paperwhite 2, which suited my needs. There is a slight lag when you press to select something, but page turns are quick (and that's what I'm doing most of the time on the Kindle.


The Amazon Fire Phone

FirephonebookHey, I wrote another book! This one, as you might suspect from the title, is all about the Amazon Fire Phone.

The phone didn't get rave reviews from the tech press, but I think it is a pretty nifty device (I may be biased). It has a bunch of neat features, the OS is pretty clear and easy to use, and it makes getting your Amazon content (books, movies, and music) very simple. Also, can I tell you how much I love browsing the Kindle book store in a native app? Because I do (you can't do that on the iPhone because Amazon won't give Apple the 30% that they charge for in app purchasing).

Anyway, buy my book if you have a Fire Phone. Or if you want a Fire Phone. Or if you want to support my writing career. Or if you're bored. You know, just buy the dang book!

Note: Some people will wonder why I wrote a book about the Fire when my every day phone is an iPhone (a 6 plus to be precise). I wrote about why I really can't switch from an iPhone before but it boils down to: unlimited data and iMessages.