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Introduction To EReaders

March 12, 2010

If you are considering buying an eReader, but are not sure where to start, I would recommend listening to episode 200 of CNET’s The Real Deal podcast, which covers a lot of the basic information on the major readers available, and is very easy to understand. It’s more relevant to the US than anywhere else, unsurprisingly, but does make relevant points on the various proprietary formats used by the different readers, and highlights that if you buy a certain brand now, you may not be able to transfer your content to a different brand at a later date.


Stepping Off A Cliff

March 9, 2010

I have finally succumbed. I have today taken delivery of a shiny new iPod Touch. This was a big step for me, because I have consciously avoided Apple products until now, but my beloved Creative Zen is about to die. It performed valiantly for three and a half years, but since Christmas, I have noticed that the battery life was significantly less than usual, and in the last month it started rebuilding itself at random. Last week it rebuilt itself every morning, at which point it was clear I needed to put it out of its misery.

I had bought an iTouch for my husband for Christmas, which was the first Apple product in our household. I had briefly used iTunes once, a good few years ago, and it was such a horrible experience that I made every effort to avoid it ever since. However, the other half was determined he wanted the Touch, and I wasn’t that bothered as I wouldn’t be the one using it. That lasted about two days, then I discovered the Stanza ereader app, and from that point on, I was constantly pinching the thing. I only used it for browsing and reading, but it was terribly addictive!

I spent a good chunk of last week looking at what was available to replace the Zen, only to discover that the answer was ‘Not an awful lot’. If I wanted to spend a lot of money, the various Archos tablets were tempting, but given that the majority of my usage is listening to podcasts, they seem a bit OTT. And big, and expensive. The Zune was seriously tempting but not sold in the UK, which still strikes me as insane. Creative didn’t have anything new, and I found a lot of less than favourable reviews for the newer versions of the Zen, which is a shame, as it was a great little player. This really left me with Sony and Apple, and then I found out that Amazon were giving £50 off certain media players, with an Audible subscription, which brought the base 8gb iTouch below £100. At this point, I decided that I would have to give iTunes another go, as there was no point even thinking about buying this, if I couldn’t get to grips with iTunes, due to the way it’s all locked together.

I have to say that the iTunes process was much less painful than last time. It didn’t go off searching every inch of my computer for music, as it did many years ago, and whilst it has installed QuickTime, it has yet to cause me any issues, which really wasn’t the case before. I managed to get all my music copied over to the library, but I do wish that there was a really simple way to remove duplicate tracks (or that it could avoid importing them in the first place).

After that, I went in search of my podcasts, which gave me my first introduction to the iTunes store. I would have preferred to be able to browse the podcast section without having to sign up for an account, which forced me to enter an address, telephone number and credit card number. Yes, I could have used a gift card, but in a way that would be worse, as I would have already given Apple money for purchases I’ll probably never make. So, any way, I signed up, and found the podcasts. I didn’t find browsing this section particularly easy, and reverted to searching for the ones I was looking for. I think maybe there’s so much choice that the categories need to be broken down a bit further – sport and arts in particular, and probably entertainment, too. I did get completely stumped at one point. The fabulous Christine and Mr C of Sidepodcast also have a tech/media podcast, Media|Future|Change. I know this is is available in iTunes, because they are both Apple devotees (and it has been mentioned on the show), but for the life of me I could not find it. Fortunately, Mr C has included the details of the feed on the blog, so when I used that, I found it ok. Strange.

So, anyway, I survived my first brush with the iTunes store, and I had two days of using iTunes on my laptop without any incidents or problems, so I decided to take the plunge. The Amazon offer was too tempting, given that I already have a monthly Audible sub, so it wouldn’t be costing me any extra. Also, there was nothing in the terms of the offer to say that you had to be a first time subscriber, so I decided to give it a go.

At this point, I must give serious credit to Audible for how easy it was to cancel my existing subscription – one quick search of the online FAQs to check I could do it online, and a simple three click process, and my subscription was cancelled, but with confirmation I could still access my library of content should I wish to. I was really impressed with this, because it’s usually the case that anything involving subscriptions is horrendous to cancel.

I signed up again, via the Amazon offer link, with no problems, and was immediately given my code to use against the purchase. The code worked with no problems, and my shiny new iPod was delivered this morning. So far I am very happy with it, although I am off now to look for a way to sync podcasts but not music, as I don’t have space for all my music so I will only be loading my favourites on, and will change them manually as and when I need to, but I get new podcasts almost every day, so I’d like those to update automatically. I’m sure there’s a way, but it hasn’t leapt out at me so far. My only complaint so far has been that Stanza have been forced to remove the ability to sync books via USB. I would really prefer to be able to drag and drop my chosen books to the player, but instead I have to upload them to a website, and then download them via the app. I suppose it’s a fairly minor irritation, but it just seems spiteful to me.

It’s going to be a bit of a learning curve, I’m sure, as once I have figured out the sync thing, I may explore the world of video podcasts – I always avoided them before, as the Zen re-encoded video, which always took ages, plus when I started listening to podcasts, I was working. It’s hard to convince your boss you are giving your job the attention it needs if you’re watching video at the same time! I also have to figure out what other apps I should have, and try to convince my other half that spending £20 on the F1 app is really something I need to do!

Dancing With The Stars Season 10 Cast

March 2, 2010

Tom Bergeron and Melissa Rycroft announced the cast for the new season of Dancing With The Stars last night. There are eleven celebs this time round.

The guys:

Aiden Turner – actor, All My Children (oh and he was born in England too!)

Buzz Aldrin – former astronaut

Jake Pavelka – reality TV star

Chad Ochocinco – Cincinatti Bengals football player

Evan Lysacek – Olympic gold medal figure skater

The girls:

Shannon Doherty – actress

Nicole Scherzinger – pop star

Kate Gosselin – reality TV star

Erin Andrews – anchor, ESPN

Niecy Nash – comedian and actress

Pamela Anderson – actress and reality TV star

My initial thoughts: Yes! No Nicole Scherzinger at the first couple of F1 races. And if I watch on Sky+ I can fast forward through her on the show. Unless they put her with Maks, which could be epic! Oh, and I think if Evan Lysacek is at all capable, he’ll probably win, based on previous Olympians.

Details of who is paired with whom will be announced today. I think there’s every chance Maks will get either Shannen or Nicole, just so the producers are guaranteed a fight at some point. Of course, this also means he probably won’t make it past week 4 again. Please let Cheryl get someone good this time. Preferably Aiden Turner, if he is any use.

Ebooks – What The World Needs Now

March 1, 2010

I came across a very good article on Paper Not Included today, which covers just about everything I would want to say about the current situation with ebooks.

Why do I use iTunes to download my music instead of torrent sites? Why do I pay for albums instead of typing “band name + torrent” into Google?

First – because it is wrong and illegal, but secondly and perhaps, for many people, more importantly it’s because iTunes is easy. I can buy an album with one click – I don’t have to worry about it being in an odd format that my iPod won’t play, I don’t have to worry about it being a fake file or it being a low resolution thing that sounds bad.

*Click* = *bought*.

I’m not an iTunes fan. I use a variety of places for music downloads, but mostly because a lot of stuff I like never makes it over here. I use Zencast for my podcast subscriptions, and so far I am not attached to any one retailer for ebooks, because I still don’t have an e-reader. A big part of this is because of the proprietary formats – once I choose a reader, I’m also committing myself, at least in part, to a retailer.

If I had the choice, I would like to be able to buy my ebooks, in the format I want (or even better, an open one) from Amazon. I love the site, and the customer experience I have had with them, as a buyer of paper books over the last 10 years. I know what I am dealing with, and I also find that most of the time, their recommendation system will come up with something interesting.

So, if some of the major retailers were to come up with an alternative to the Apple bookstore, which would work for any device, I’d definitely be interested. Especially if they could kill off the regional issue at the same time!

The previous article on the Paper Not Included blog is also highly relevant to me. I really want to make the move to ebooks, but I have at last count, a couple of hundred books I keep around and have read many times. Most of these would not win any literary prizes, but they are the books I turn to again and again, when I need cheering up, or I’ve run out of shiny new ones to read. If I was really ruthless, I could probably cut the selection in half, but it would hurt. My problem is that I really cannot justify spending all that money on ebook versions of these. I don’t think that there’s really a good solution to this – extras would probably push me into buying some of them, but it wouldn’t work for them all.

Bringing Back The Sparkles

February 24, 2010

Winter must be almost over, surely? There are signs that it is in the death throes, mainly because the cast for the new season of Dancing With The Stars has been confirmed and will be announced shortly, ready for the season premier on March 22nd. A new season of sequins, glitter and lycra always cheers me up no end!

There are a few changes in store for the new season. Samantha Harris will no longer be the co-host, to the relief of many. She is about as well-liked as Tess is on Strictly, although I don’t understand the hate for either of them. This time around, Samantha is being replaced by Brooke Burke, who won a couple of seasons ago with Derek Hough.

Brooke has experience as a presenter, and was pretty well liked when she was a contestant, so she should get a fair chance in the new role. I would also have been happy with Melissa Rycroft, runner-up last Spring, who was rumoured to have been considered, or even with Drew Lachey, an early winner with Cheryl Burke, who stood in when Samantha was on maternity leave.

Another big change is that the number of couples taking part has been cut back to twelve. This is mainly because the show lost a ton of viewers last time out, and it’s thought that this was because there were too many contestants. I think the increasing number of gimmicks they have brought in and the ridiculously long result show might have something to do with it too, but no-one asked me! So, 12 couples means cutting down to six male and six female professionals. Some have already confirmed they will not take part, such as Dmitry, Jonathan and Lacey. There’s also a rumour Kym won’t defend her title. So far, Chelsie and Cheryl have confirmed they will take part and Derek and Maks have hinted heavily that they will. Tony Dovolani posted recently that he was about to leave his family for three months, which would fit with the schedule, so I hope he is in, too. Louis, apparently, is still waiting for his potential celeb to sign the contract!

I’d like Derek to be there, but the most important ones for me are Maks and Cheryl. I just hope, given that there are less celebs this time, that they give my favourite professionals two people with some potential!

True Blood Season 2 Coming This Month

February 6, 2010

For those of us in the UK, this is fabulous news. FX start showing Season 2 of True Blood on February 26th at 10pm. They have a lovely trailer video on the site, which features a nice amount of Eric.

If you are a patient person, ie not me, then you’ve probably been  counting down the days for this. I have to say that this season is quite a departure from the books, unlike Season 1, but it still has all the key True Blood ingredients – lots of sex, death and Eric.

If you are not a patient person, you may well have watched this already (that would be me), but I’ll definitely be watching again in preparation for Season 3, when all the attention will be on this man:

Joe Manganiello (via

Can Joe Maganiello make the role of Alcide his own? I have no idea, because apparently he used to be in One Tree Hill and I have never seen it! And do you make of the actress who will play crazy Debbie?

Brit Morgan via

Brit Morgan (via

I have never seen or heard of her before, my only concern with this role is her hair. I have a very definite picture in my head of how her hair looks, given that Sookie describes it so vividly in the books, and I just hope that they come up with something close to it!

In the meantime, I have a gratuitous Eric picture:

Eric. Yum.

And if you are still suffering from lack of vamp action, try The Vampire Diaries, which started on ITV2 this week. It didn’t get fantastic previews in the papers, but I am enjoying it now. I would say, though, that it took me about 6 episodes to really get into it, so I would recommend giving it a few weeks.

E-Reader Indecision And Second Hand Book Woes

February 6, 2010

I have come to the conclusion, finally, that I definitely want an e-reader. I went through a bit of a phase of thinking that it would be a waste of money, and get outdated really fast, but the reality is that I could definitely use one.

I have two bookcases stuffed full of books in my bedroom. I have piles of books around the living room, and a couple on the stairs. There are also several (and I think it’s about six or seven) boxes of books in the loft, which have not been looked at since we moved. There is some organisation in effect here, the books in the bedroom are my favourites, which I will read over and over, and many of which I have owned for a good few years. The books in the living room are mostly those I have bought fairly recently and either I have just finished, or have just been returned by my reading buddy. At some point, the best ones will make it onto the bookcase, and the others will go to another friend to read, or maybe to my parents’ church for one of their sales.

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