Archive for November 13, 2009

E-books: Reading on a computer vs. reading on a reader

Amazon Kindle PC computer app

Amazon Kindle's new computer app

Amazon this week unveiled its Kindle app for PCs, available free for Windows 7, Vista, and XP machines; a Mac version is also promised "soon." Since similar apps are offered at the Barnes and Noble E-Bookstore and Sony's EBook Store, you can now read books from the three leading digital bookstores on a computer or an e-book reader. (These devices include Amazon's Kindle 2, Barnes and Noble's upcoming Nook, the upcoming Irex DR800SG, and Sony's line of Readers, including the upcoming Daily Edition.)

There are also apps for the iPhone and, sometimes, other smart phones, from Amazon and Barnes and Noble, though not from Sony. So this face-off focuses on the respective advantages of dedicated readers and computers:

Advantage e-book readers:

  • Compactness. Compared with portable computers, readers are smaller–and especially thinner–than even a netbook; most measure about 5 by 8 inches and are about as thick as many smart phones.
  • Better ergonomics. Readers are "sit-back" devices that fairly closely duplicate the experience of holding a book. Computers are "lean-forward" devices on which extended reading isn't that natural or comfortable, even on a laptop or netbook. Tablet computers, another flavor of portables, are more booklike in shape, but they cost upwards of $1,200; see this guide at
  • Superior battery life. Where laptops and netbooks run for hours on a charge, e-book readers run for days, thanks to e-ink technology that sips rather than drinks power.
  • More comfortable ergonomics. For extended reading, e-ink screens are easier on the eyes than the backlit screens of computers. And e-book type is easier to read in bright sunlight.

Advantage computers:

  • No hardware costs. Assuming, of course, that you already own a computer.
  • Bigger screens. While the six-inch screens found on most e-book readers care adequate in size, extra real estate can be helpful for some uses. Specifically, for newspapers and magazines, available by wireless subscription with the Kindle and coming on other readers, and for textbooks, which are increasingly available in e-book formats. Readers with bigger screens, including the Kindle DX and upcoming Sony Daily Edition, cost $400 and up.
  • Color capability. E-ink screens are black and white for now; color editions aren't expected until 2011.
  • Cheaper, fresher news. Where online news is generally free, at least for now, you have to pay for e-book newspaper and magazine subscriptions; the Kindle's are $5.99 and up. And where online news sites are continually updated, your Kindle subscription buys you only the morning edition of the paper, frozen in time; there's no updating, despite the Kindle's continuous connection to the Sprint wireless network. (It appears the upcoming readers will provide subscriptions in the same way.) 

One factor is too hard to call: Getting new content. That's fast and simple on computers, as it is on the Kindles, which wirelessly download books in a minute or so. Other upcoming wireless devices look promisingly fast and easy too, but we haven't yet tested their downloading. The Sonys, excepting the upcoming Daily Edition, which will be wireless, require connection to a computer.

The best option, especially if money's no object? Buy an e-reader, download its software to a computer or smart phone, and read on both devices. One plus to the Kindle software is that a book you were last reading on your Kindle will resume at the same page when opened on your computer or smart phone, and vice-versa. The same capability is promised for the Nook's software, but isn't available from Sony. —Paul Reynolds

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Daily electronics deals from The Consumerist

Today's deals, courtesy of The Consumerist:

  • Apple Store: Refurb iPod Touch Models from $139 Shipped
  • Walmart: $100 Gift Card with select Blackberry phones (2 year contract required). Offer runs Nov 14-20.
  • Asus WiFi Wireless Router $28 & Free Shipping
  • Newegg: HP MediaSmart LX195 Home Server w/ 640GB Hard Drive $199 Free Ship
  • Dell Home: Dell Inspiron Zino AMD 1.66GHz Mini PC for $229 + $39 s&h
  • Amazon: Magellan 4250 GPS Nav System $100 Shipped
  • Adorama: LG 47LH55 47 inch LCD HDTV (240Hz, 1080p) $999.99 Free Shipping
  • Buydig : LG 50" Plasma 1080p HDTV + Blu-Ray Player + HDTV Hook-Up Kit for $779 w/ Free shipping
  • Lenovo: Lenovo IdeaPad S10-2 10-inch LED Netbook + Sleeve $275 + free shipping

Neither Consumer Reports nor The Consumerist receive anything in
exchange for featuring these deals; the posts are intended to be purely
informational. These deals are often fleeting, with prices changing or
products becoming unavailable as the day progresses.

These posts are not an endorsement of the featured products or
the Web sites that sell them—though some of the sites may be included,
and recommended, in our Ratings of retailers for computers and other major electronics (both available to subscribers). Price shouldn't be your only criterion. Be wary of lower-priced deals that seem too good to be true, and check return policies for restocking fees and other gotchas.

For general buying advice for many of the products on sale above, check out our free Buying Guides.

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How Connected Are We?

One of the coolest things about the Internet is the ability to interact with the audience in almost real time. As a “writer” I try to post things that are of interest and concern to get you timely information. If one viewer is having issues, then surely there are many more experiencing the same issue. The whole point in this particular blog is to get you that information quickly, and in a format that suits your needs.

Being from the male perspective, I try to include pictures and video to help visually demonstrate what I am talking about, because let’s face it, science can be boring without a few explosive experiments to go along with the lectures.

During the pre-transition months, we had phone banks set up to answer questions, and we still have hotline in place today to answer your questions. We heard many people say they did not have any form of Internet. As a matter of fact, many were adamant they didn’t even want Internet access in their homes.

Personally, I can’t survive without it. Maybe I am addicted, or a victim of my work, but I have to have that connection most of the time. I can log into my transmitters from anywhere and control them instead of having to jump in the car and drive out to the site, which could take close to an hour.

The Internet can be a pain, also. I recently got hit by a virus on my home  PC and had to wipe it clean and re-install everything. Sure, I have the firewalls and anti-virus software in place, but I stupidly opened something I shouldn’t have the software did not detect. It’s just another lesson that frequent back-ups and restore points are a good practice, so I didn’t loose anything but a few hours of time.

Thankfully most hardware drivers are available on the Internet! (Thanks Dell!)

But, getting back to you, I was very curious how you get this blog. I can post videos all day long, but if you are using a dial-up connection, it doesn’t help you unless you are willing to download all night and view the next day.

So let me know how or if you connect to the Internet. Some people only get connected in Libraries or at School, while others like me, are connected 24/7 with high speed Internet, EVDO and Smartphones. Take a few seconds to take the poll below to let me know how the best way to deliver information to you might be. I try to post text to cover the topics any videos I post demonstrates, but I’m not sure if that’s necessary, so let me know how you connect, and leave a comment on how connected you are.

View Poll

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Save money on your holiday cards with these 8 photofinishers

Consumer Reports Holiday Headstart

Printing your holiday photo cards through a photofinishing Web site can save you time and money, especially if you do so in the next week or two. A number of sites are offering limited time discounts and free shipping. Below are some deals that I found at larger sites.

To take advantage of an offer, you must register with the site and provide contact information, such as your e-mail and shipping address. You'll also need to upload any photos you want to use on the card. Be sure to note the expiration dates on all offers:

  • Shutterfly
    Save 20 percent on holiday cards. (The offer does not apply to note cards and calling cards.) Also, you can get free shipping on your order if you spend $30 or more. A comparison page lets you compare card types. Shutterfly has a wide array of other gifts, many of which are also being discounted.

  • Kodak Gallery
    This site is offering free shipping on orders of $75 or more.

  • Snapfish
    This site is offering free shipping on orders of 40 or more flat cards. They are also offering 20 percent off on everything in the Snapfish catalog.

    They're offering 10 percent off orders of 25 or more photo greeting cards. Also, buy one photo album, get $10 off a second album.

  • Walmart photo center
    Free shipping on greeting cards.

  • Winkflash
    They're offering 40 percent off all holiday card orders.
  • Clark Color labs Has several promotions: 40 percent off photo greeting cards; free shipping on photo gifts of $25 or more; 7 cents per prints; $8 off hardcover photo book orders of $20 or more.

  • Photoworks
    Buy one photo calendar, get one free.

In addition to holiday cards, these sites also offer other photo-related products, such as ornaments, calendars and photo books. With any promotion, be sure to read through all details and check back at the site for any new promotions and special offers.

Print your own photos online

Here some other factors to consider when using an online photofinisher:

  • There a various types of formats you can use to print your photo, including folded cards, flat stationary cards, photo cards and other formats, like according-style cards.
  • You can choose between traditional photo paper, and more expensive premium card stock, which may be easier to write on.
  • Some cards are available in different finishes, such as matte and glossy.

  • Some sites let you add more than one photo.

  • Generally, the more cards you buy, the cheaper each one is.

  • Most offers include envelopes.

  • Card sizes vary. Common ones include 4×8 and 5×7.

If you have a favorite photo-related product that you give away as a holiday gift, let us know about it. —Terry Sullivan

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Phishing scams hit Xbox Live

Xbox Live phishing screengrab

If you’ve got an Xbox, or are planning to buy one this holiday season, you should know that Xbox is the latest platform to be victimized by phishers, according to security software maker F-Secure.

Victims are first conned by a YouTube video claiming to give away free Xbox Live memberships and Microsoft points (which are the equivalent of money in the Xbox world). You’re told to go to a Web site where you have to enter, of course, your Xbox Live gamer tag, password, and e-mail address. F-Secure’s blog points out that, while the Web site looks authentic, it’s got a country code from East Timor.

If you know anything about phishing, you know what happens next—your Xbox identity is up for sale. The more software you’ve got on your Live account, and the higher your gamerscore, the more valuable your Xbox identity. Don’t be taken in by phony deals, and never give away your password to an unknown Web site.

Here's a screen grab of the phony Xbox Live site:

new iMac computer review

Think you can spot a cleverly disguised phishing scam? Take our quiz and find out. ——Donna Tapellini

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