Friday, January 27, 2012

Get the letters right

I'm still enjoying my Kindle, (and Quantum is very good by the way), but I do wish they had taken more trouble over converting the text. All Greek letters seem to have been scanned as images and come out the wrong size. In a book concerning wavelengths (λ) and wave functions (ψ) this is annoying.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

In which I join the electronic age

I bought a Kindle (model 4) a bit before Christmas, and I'd like to record some impressions before it becomes too normal.

The size and weight are very good. I find it fits in the hand nicely and is comfortable to hold (and how do they get that slightly matt texture on the back?). Getting started was very easy once I got the key for my WiFi hub sorted out. In doing this, I found the on-screen keyboard to be quite hard going, but then you don't buy this to do a lot of typing, do you?

The famous e-ink screen delivers pretty well. I found it easy to read and the font is crisper than I expected. The screen is 800x600, which isn't much these days, but given its scale that is plenty. Since the power consumption of displaying a page is zero (changing page takes some tiny amount of energy) the battery life is really long between charges. I've only just recharged after its initial tankful, and I could have waited for longer.

I do find a tiny awkwardness about using the buttons to change page. Hard to say what is wrong, but I have had a few misfires and the page jumping when I didn't expect it. But a very minor point.

So what have I been reading? Well a couple of free ebooks to start with. My first was The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (and what would he have made of it?). I have now stumped up for some modest purchases and am, for example, 59% through Salt by Mark Kurlansky. It's an interesting read, which I'd recommend. It is also longer than I thought - it's a minor flaw that you can't really tell the length of an ebook, though you do form a rough idea from how quickly the percentage on the progress bar changes. So far, that's the only place that I think I miss the physicality of a book. The other area where the paper version might score is in illustrations. Salt has some, so I've been able to test this out. The Kindle allows you to zoom in on pictures, and flips the picture round if necessary to make the best use of the screen. The results are fair, I'd say. Some pictures have not been scanned at a very high resolution, and any that include a lot of mid-tone look a bit murky, as the screen only runs from light grey to dark grey. But then you don't buy this to look at pictures either.

I also have Quantum still to read, as it was dead cheap on Amazon a few days ago. The pricing does puzzle me somewhat. I reckon publishers are still a bit wary and in some cases seem to be discouraging buyers of e-books by making them a bit more expensive than paper. I think if the pricing is right, they can sell more books (i.e. it's not a zero sum game).

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

New Year bothy trip

Up to about 15 years ago, most of my New Years were spent in a bothy somewhere in the Highlands. This fell away rather recently, what with people having children, moving away to jobs and suchlike. But myself and some friends decided to revisit the bothy experience this year.

We walked in to Cadderlie on Hogmanay. This is a faintly odd walk-in, starting as it does in a quarry, but soon the view looks more like Argyll, with dripping birch and alder woods. We needed the headtorches by the time we arrived to find an empty bothy. Later, two other parties arrived, also from Edinburgh, and took up residence in the other room. We joined them for the bells and some refreshment was had.

On the 1st, we mostly gathered wood for the fire. This was possibly the best day and I took some photos.

Just after taking this I walked down to the shore and saw an otter run into the loch (too fast for the camera, unfortunately). It surfaced some way out and watched me for a while. In other wildlife action, the bothy mice had chewed up a pair of Crocs.

The morning of the 2nd must have been one of the grimmest I have experienced. Mid-morning it started getting darker again, then there was a peal of thunder and it sleeted for a while. The green-grey scene outside was like a definition of the word "bleak". Later, things improved a little and we went for a walk along the loch a bit.

This looks like being the winter of the high winds, after two winters of snow and ice. On the way back, we had snow from Tyndrum to Glen Ogle, then an increasing number of fallen trees, a field full of water at Callander that was emptying over the road, and two lorries on their sides on the road just outside Stirling. This all felt very ominous, but although there had been high winds in Edinburgh too, my flat seemed to be in one piece.