Tag: Technology

My Internet Roots

So I was thinking that perhaps it was the phone’s fault for me being online all the time. Then I remembered I was one of about five people that used to stay in the college computer lab – yeah I’m that old – until 4am almost every night.

I was definitely one of the few people on IRC at the time. Anyone out there ever dwell in #altpunk circa 1993? If you did, message me and I’ll tell you my somewhat embarrassing username – my first username!

I’m kicking myself I didn’t end up a coder or developer or something. I took a one-off course in computer science my sophomore year of college. I taught my professor and the students in my course how to go online and use EMAIL. I tried to teach my boyfriend, who was leaving spring semester for Buenos Aires, how to email me while he was away. There was nary an Internet cafe in the Palermo neighborhood of BA in 1994 Argentina. So that semester, the only thing that took me away from the computer lab was the one week I hopped in a band bus post-concert and ended up in Atlanta five days later. Everybody’s gotta have a spring break!

I miss those early days of the Internet, especially because I knew they had such promise but also because I could envision a future that all the technology I was digging would be easier for others to use. I wish I’d envisioned what we have now (except maybe with fewer animated gifs). I wish I would’ve taken another computer course (and another) and had the guts to switch majors. Or at least minors. A minor in German? WTF?

So yeah, I’m the same age as Marissa Mayer and I kind of want to throw up. But I can’t help but cheer her on because she came of age in the same computer age as I did. We have inhabited roughly the same span of time.

Old and Busted vs. New Hotness and the Elephant in the Room – #sonyholiday

Old Sony Vaio - "Old and Busted"

When a PR representative recently offered me the opportunity to review the new Sony VAIO S Series laptop, I was hesitant. But I realized that it would be a great opportunity to compare my previous Sony VAIO experience with my new one, as well as compare the two laptops to my relatively new MacBook Pro.

That’s right. I am a new convert to Mac after years of using a PC. My last laptop before getting my beautiful, shiny, Steve Jobs-approved MacBook? You guessed it – a Sony VAIO. Full Disclosure: I’m typing this post on a MacBook. I’ll be blogging from the Sony as the review series continues.

We bought a Sony VAIO in 2009 from a Best Buy. It wasn’t an ideal purchase. Our workhorse Dell, which wed had since 2004 and carted to India and Turkey, was old, gigantic (by today’s standards), and died within a week of returning stateside after being abroad for almost four years. We didnt really have a whole lot of time to do research on a new laptop; we just needed to buy one fast so I we could get online and I could continue blogging or whatever it was that I was doing in 2009.

Old Sony Vaio - Worn Out Keyboard
Old Sony Vaio - Worn Out Keyboard

The Sony VAIO was the best looking PC laptop at Best Buy that day and was priced in the middle range – around $699. I was thrilled to have a new laptop again, but the honeymoon period ended fairly quickly. Because we had bought an out-of-the-box model (previously owned for about a week before being returned to the store), we had a limited warranty on the VAIO. Right about the time that the warranty expired, the VAIO’s fan began whirring loudly and my sons got hold of the laptop and ripped half of the keys off. I was typing on the laptop so much, that by the middle of 2010, the paint on the keyboard keys began to wear off. That’s what you see in the photo to the left.

I had had it with PCs by the end of 2010 and coveted a Mac, not only because it was going to work seamlessly with my iPhone but because I had finally eased out of the mindset that computing on a Mac would be difficult. Sure, keyboard shortcuts would change, preferred software wouldn’t be available in some cases, and software I already owned (such as an old version of Photoshop for PCs) wouldn’t be compatible with my Mac. But I was ready for something different, especially since Id heard that I wouldnt have to worry about malware and viruses striking my Mac.

So, here I am, getting ready to really review the Sony VAIO S Series laptop, both in comparison with my old-and-busted Vaio and the elephant-in-the-room MacBook, but also as a laptop on its own terms. Stay tuned for more posts on the Sony VAIO S Series laptop as well as reviews about my experience using the laptop in tandem with the Sony Cyber-shot (DSC-WX9) camera and Microsoft Windows Live Sky Drive. On Twitter, Im labeling my posts with the hashtag #sonyholiday.

Sony VAIO S Series
Sony VAIO S Series - New "Hotness?"

Talking Tech for the Holidays – #sonyholiday


I am no stranger to writing about technology on this blog. While MissAdventures started out as a sort of diary-cum-travelogue, it has evolved to include all sorts of interests and life events – writing, parenting, social media, gadgets, men, apps, clothing, and even baseball. One of the most popular posts I’ve ever written on here was about returning my Kindle. Mind you, it was the first generation Kindle – pre-iPad – and I was smitten with my iPhone at the time.* I’ve even done a few reviews of products sent to me by PR firms, notably the Vinturi wine aerator, which, coincidentally I just used last night after a soft cork popped into a freshly opened bottle of red and I needed to filter the bits out.

Well, the time has come for me to write about tech again, as well as revitalize this poor, neglected blog. For the next few weeks, I will be reviewing a few products for Sony – the Sony VAIO S Series laptop and the Sony Cyber-shot (DSC-WX9) camera – both of which Sony offered to me for review. Simultaneously, I will be using and evaluating Microsoft Windows Live Sky Drive, Microsoft’s cloud service that syncs with Microsoft Office. The idea is that I will test these products throughout the holidays, write about my findings, and Sony and Microsoft will get in me (and the several other bloggers who are doing this) some really cheap, viral marketing. Indeed, Sony offered this opportunity with a very “soft sell” approach. For example, they didn’t even suggest a Twitter hashtag for this whole process. So, I thought, “What the hell? This could be fun.”

Plus, I have plans.

What could those plans be? Well, you’ll have to stay tuned to find out. By the way, I am officially coining the hashtag #sonyholiday for my tweets about this project. Feel free to follow me on Twitter for my take on Sony’s VAIO and Cyber-shot and Microsoft’s Live Sky Drive. Maybe I’ll love them, maybe I’ll hate them. But I can promise you that I will be fair-minded throughout the course of this assignment.

Thanks for tuning in. I hope you’ll come back and check out my subsequent posts.

*Note: I still have neither an iPad nor a Kindle. Oh, Santa!

Photo by Flickr user kwl

You, too, Can Say You Live in New York City

Harold Cooper, the man behind extendny.com, has given all of us who’ve ever wanted to have a New York City address a reason to celebrate. This fun little application uses the Google Maps API to extend the Manhattan grid to anywhere in the world. I’m not exactly sure how it works, but I do know that I currently live at the intersection of the the high-500s Avenue and the mid-3,000s Street.

Give it a spin: extendny.com

Five Reasons Why I’m Returning My Kindle

Update

Attention Readers: This post is severely out of date! It refers to the original Kindle, which I did, indeed, return. Three years later, I have purchased an 8GB, 7″ Kindle Fire (primarily for my son). A review of that gadget is possibly forthcoming; I will not be returning it.

If you’d like to know why I returned my original Kindle, be my guest and read on…

—-

On Christmas morning, I was one of the thousands of people who awoke to find a Kindle, Amazon’s e-book reader and the company’s “most gifted” product ever, under the tree. As my family’s gadget geek, I was definitely excited to test out the holiday season’s most talked about toy, even though I hardly have time these days to read traditional paper books, much less digital ones.

But now that I’ve had a couple weeks to play, I can definitely make a case as to why I should return my Kindle.

1. No Backlight
I shudder to think of life before my iPhone. I can use the iPhone anytime, anywhere. Often, this means catching up on tweets or the latest headlines under the covers while my husband thinks I’m sleeping. My midnight rendez-vous with the iPhone would not be possible without its backlight. In fact, the phone’s incessant glow has become so ubiquitous as to inspire a New Yorker cover.

To my knowledge, the Kindle does not have a backlight (though I understand that the Sony Reader has an LED that you can switch on or off). Kindle uses EPD (electronic paper display) technology for its e-books. This technology is said to reduce the glare on the Kindle screen and “provide the contrast and resolution of traditional ink on paper.” (Computer World article) That’s great if you want to read your Kindle in the bright sunlight. But I want to read in bed and it sure would be nice not to have to turn on a separate light to do so.

2. “Experimental” Features
If you click on Kindle’s “menu” button – one of several buttons on the ergonomic, yet slightly cumbersome device – you’ll see a list item titled “experimental,” whose name already suggests to me that my Kindle 2 will soon be obsolete. The experimental features in question are a web browser, an MP3 player, and a text-to-speech component. In theory, these are excellent additions to the device. In practice, however, they leave much to be desired.

For starters, the web browser is a mess. If I go to a site that is not retro-fitted for text-only viewing, it feels like I’m surfing the web using Netscape circa 1993. The layout is disjointed and all the eye-catching graphics I’ve come to expect from my favorite sites are non-existent. What’s more, typing in a URL using the Kindle keyboard feels less like texting and more like using a scientific calculator.

Likewise, the MP3 player is a good concept, as it allows me to play Amazon MP3 purchases in the background while I’m reading. Unfortunately, I can’t add these items to Kindle using its wireless “WhisperSynch” technology. Rather, I must upload the MP3s by connecting my Kindle via USB to my computer. That seems so antiquated, especially in light of the fact that most smart phones – gadgets that the Amazon Kindle no doubt wants to emulate – allow wireless uploads via wifi or 3G networks.

I’ll admit that I haven’t tried the text-to-speech yet. But judging from the other two components, I am sure that I wouldn’t be impressed.

3. Amazon as Gatekeeper to Your Reading Material
The whole reason Amazon invented the Kindle was to create a market where there was none. Indeed, when all those Kindle giftees opened up their new toys on Christmas morning, they began downloading e-books from Amazon, the only store that sells digital books in the Kindle (.AZW) format. To be fair, many of these books sell for a fraction of their hardback versions. For example, the hardcover edition of the Edward Kennedy memoir True Compass retails new for $21.00 on Amazon, but costs only $9.99 on the Kindle. Amazon also offers a lot of Classics, such as Gulliver’s Travels and Machiavelli’s The Prince for $0.99 or free, and also allows you to download short samples of any of its digital books.

Still, at a price of $259, you’d think that Amazon could throw in a few free books. Better yet, why not allow users to download the digital versions of books they’ve already purchased through Amazon? Having the option to download and read, say, five of the books I already own would be not only a generous gesture on the part of Amazon, but an incentive to get me to buy more books.

Another cool feature I should mention is that you can email personal documents in the txt or PDF formats to a specially assigned Kindle email address. So, if you need to catch up with reading a brief for work or are a writer who wishes to peruse the latest draft of your article while you’re on the go, you can send it to [email protected] I love this idea, but I don’t love the price. Yes, Amazon charges U.S. customers $.15 per megabyte to use Kindle’s Personal Document Service via Whispernet ($.99 internationally). Or, you can go the free but more complicated route by emailing your document to [email protected], where Amazon will convert your docs to its Kindle-compatible format.

I think I’ll just stick to reading documents on my iPhone, either by emailing myself or using one its apps, such as Evernote.

4. Kindle for iPhone
Speaking of apps, I downloaded the Kindle for iPhone long before I had any inkling I would receive the real deal. The app is free – surprise, surprise! – and allows you to shop in the Kindle store just as you would if you had a Kindle. You can even synch your app with your device. So, if you forget your Kindle but have your iPhone, you can pick up in your book where you left off. Sadly, this only works for books: “Periodicals such as newspapers, magazines, and blogs, and personal documents cannot be viewed on the Kindle for iPhone.”

The real Kindle has the iPhone app beat when it comes to the on-screen appearance of books. On the other hand, when I’m reading on my Kindle, I have to unlearn that swipe-scroll motion that I’ve become accustomed to while using an iPhone touch screen. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Amazon roll out the Kindle 3 with a touch screen and built-in, on-screen keyboard.

5. Magazine Subscriptions
Finally, I’m dissatisfied with the Kindle’s magazine subscription service. Amazon currently stocks only 43 magazine titles, including PC Magazine, The Economist, and Shape. While I do like the idea of saving trees and getting my periodicals wirelessly, I don’t like the fact that I can’t synch up with subscriptions I currently have. For example, as part of my New Yorker subscription, I can read that magazine online. But if I want to read that magazine on my Kindle, I must sign up for a completely separate subscription. What’s more, “The Kindle Edition of The New Yorker will usually include all articles, fiction, and poetry found in the print edition and a selection of cartoons, but will not include other images at this time.” A New Yorker without images and minus some of its articles?? What kind of BS if that? I think both Amazon and magazine publishers would be well-served to come up with a solution to this.

The Kindle does allow users to sign up for a 14-day free trial of any of its magazines. Though, if you want to cancel that subscription within those two weeks, Amazon does not make it easy to do so. One has to manage his magazine subscriptions through his Amazon account online, and you can’t even use Kindle’s “experimental” web browser to see or update your account information. That to me is an epic fail.

Magazines aren’t particular cheaper on the Kindle, either. As one subscriber to Shape commented, “I like the Kindle, but I also like my money. I got 2 years of Shape delivered to my home for only $10…why so much on the Kindle?” I have to ask the same thing about Slate, for which Amazon charges $2.49 per month for the privilege of reading “most of the articles from the online edition.” I’d rather get my Slate with ads and all of its articles rather than a lesser – but more expensive – Kindle-ized version.

And A Sixth Reason…
Don’t get me wrong, the Kindle is a fine toy, especially if you are an voracious bookworm. But I still think much work needs to be done before this e-reader becomes essential. Besides, the one thing that Kindle doesn’t do for this mother of two boys under 4 is find more time to read. When the Kindle figures out how to do THAT, then I may reconsider.