Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Kobo Touch 1.9.5


The 1.9.5 firmware update (full details here) for the Kobo Touch adds a fully featured text adjustment menu. There is now a slider to adjust margins, a slider to adjust line spacing, and a slider to adjust font size. You can also select left aligned or justified text.

Most importantly, there are new Fonts! The Kobo Touch came pre-packaged with Avenir and Georgia. Now it also has Amasis, Delima, Felbridge, Gill Sans, and Rockwell.

You can even add your own fonts! There is room on the font menu for five more fonts that you can load yourself. Just make a folder called fonts (not Fonts) and put the OpenType or TrueType font files in there. Right now I have Bookman Old Style, Calibri, Charis SIL, Segoe UI, and a modified version of Nimbus (not fully functional on the Kobo) made by the mobileread forum user delphin.

I've also tried Book Antiqua, Cambria, DejaVu Sans, DejaVu Sans Mono, DejaVu Serif, Droid Serif, Garamond, Garamond Premier Pro, Liberation Serif, and Minion Pro.

Note: Italic and bold text in side-loaded books seems to have been broken by this update.

My wish list for future updates: Dictionary and highlighting for side-loaded books, library sorting options (Author, Genre, length, etc.), a notepad, first line indent.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Variable Star by Robert A. Heinlein and Spider Robinson

Sadly, I cannot recommend Variable Star by Robert A. Heinlein and Spider Robinson, but read on if you would like to know more.


A young man with a promising career as a composer, and who also happens to be the son of a Nobel Prize winning genius, discovers that the woman he wants to marry is actually the heir to one of the biggest, and wealthiest, dynasties in the solar system. He has been deemed worthy by the patriarch of the family and everything is ready to proceed. One hitch, he has to give up his career as a musician, his surname, and all the dreams he had for the future.

Sounds like a deal, right?

Instead he joins a colony ship heading out for the stars and far, far away from the only woman he has ever loved.

My thoughts

Let me state right off the start that I have never before read anything by Robert Heinlein nor Spider Robinson. Perhaps fans of either author will find more in this offering. Perhaps not.

To begin with, this is not a Heinlein book. Spider Robinson was told not to write one. This is a book based on an unfinished outline for a juvenile novel that Heinlein shelved early in his career. It also carries on with some of Heinlein's themes and is set in a version of Heinlein's 'Future History' universe. How exactly this version differs from Heinlein's own I can't really say, but there is one rather large event half way through the book that I'm pretty sure mucks things up really well.

It most definitely is not appropriate as a juvenile novel.

I don't know how Variable Star compares to Robinson's other works, but this one was not for me. His language skills are proficient enough; I have no problem there. The problem is that there are really three stories here, each of which could have been given their own treatment. Or rather, they should have received their own treatment. The first is a romance story, the second a tale of a generational ship, and the third. . . well I won't spoil it for you. The storylines sit mostly on their own, growing from the previous story but never returning, not really interdependent. Each could probably have been worked to stand on their own as a short story or novella. Each has enough changes in theme or genre to cater to an entirely different audience than the last.

I also found that too much depended on sheer coincidence. It's a pet peeve of mine. I find that it interrupts my suspension of disbelief. But that might just be me, and I realize that coincidence is not only necessary in some degree for most narratives, but that it actually does happen in real life too.

Parting Shots

Apparently there are three sequels forthcoming. Maybe then we'll get an answer to the mystery of the poppy incident.

I did enjoy the little tidbits of Canadiana that Robinson inserted here and there. Now if he would just learn more about the rest of his adopted country. . .

I wish I had bought the paperback version. I got the hardcover on impulse; it was in a bargain bin at Coles. Normally I like to do a little research before a purchase, but hey, the price was right. What I later learned was that the Cover Art, mostly covered up by a text box on my copy, was done by none other than Stephan Martiniere (whom I wrote about here). As you can probably tell from the article behind my parenthetical link, I'm a fan of his work. Such work as is displayed much better on the paperback edition. . .

Rating: **/5

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Kobo Touch

So, I took the plunge today and bought my first e-book reader. You may have noticed the title of this post. . . yes that's what I got.

The software has already become corrupt once. Smiley

Not an auspicious beginning. I'm not sure how that happened. Perhaps there is some trick to ejecting the device that they didn't mention in the pamphlet type 'manual' that it came with.

Other than that it works well. Reading on the e-ink is much nicer than the LCD on the iPod I borrowed from my sister.

I'm busy loading it up with public domain books.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Eddard Stark

Well, that didn't go the way I wanted. . .

I don't know if I can bear to watch any more.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Hobbits and the Soap Opera Effect

I'm worried about the new Hobbit movie. Very worried.

Not that long ago my family upgraded to a flat panel LCD television. It turns out that our chosen model was not the best (it really could use more black definition) but it works reasonably well. I especially enjoy watching bluray movies on it. What baffled me at first was that one of the 'features' of our new TV, when activated, actually made the viewing experience worse.

That feature is called motion interpolation, or TruMotion (240hz) on our LG. All new flat panels have it, although each manufacturer has their own name for it (Sony = MotionFlow, Panasonic = Intelligent Frame Creation, Sharp = Fine Motion Enhanced, etc.). What it boils down to is that this feature is supposed to create a smoother, apparently more high-def picture by increasing the frame rate. To accomplish this, they add frames between those actually being sent to the television. On some this is accomplished by simply repeating the last frame shown. On others, a computer program interpolates what the new frame 'might' have looked like, had it ever existed. Obviously the former is more prone to judder and the latter is more prone to introduced artefacts.

That doesn't actually sound so bad. In fact there are many advocates for this new technology, including one very vehement employee at my local Sony store.

But I just can't stand it. It makes everything look cheap and artificial, a little too smooth or fast. Some people say it looks like everything was shot with a camcorder. Others say it looks like Corry. I suppose that's how it got the nickname "Soap Opera Effect".

I remember when I first saw this effect in action. They were playing Quantum of Solace at the Sony Store. Having not seen the film previously, I assumed that MGM had simply gone cheap on the production values. Let me tell you, anyone familiar with CBC or BBC programming would recognize the look.

Or maybe not. I know a number of people who can't tell the difference.

Fortunately for me, you can turn this 'feature' off.

48 Frames Per Second

So what does this have to with the Hobbit?

Both James Cameron and Peter Jackson have announced that their next projects will be shot in 48 fps (and/or 60 fps for the Avatar sequels, but who cares about those?). They describe it as smoother, more clear. In fact, they describe it exactly the same way proponents of motion interpolation describe 240 hz TV's.

All possible technical difficulties aside, this will effectively force us all to abandon the familiar film look.


Apparently I'm not the only who's concerned which has prompted Peter Jackson to announce that a regular 24 fps print will be made from the 48 fps master so that every theatre will be able to show the movie. But he also says that it looks different than a regular 24 fps film when taken from the 48 fps master. I'm also anxious about the silky look he's talking about making via a larger shutter angle.

He also didn't mention anything about home video versions.

I don't know, am I a Fossil? A Ludite? Or is it that I simply know what I like?