Friday, December 23, 2011

Six Months With the Kobo Touch

According to the receipt that I found yesterday, I have now (as of today) owned my Kobo Touch for six months. Coincidentally, a new firmware version has also been released today.

At the time, the Kobo Touch seemed like the right choice. I had considered buying the first Kobo eReader since it was cheaper than a Sony and it didn't lock you in like Kindle, but several things held me back. The biggest thing was that change was promised to be on the horizon. "Price drops by Christmas," they said, "colour e-ink next year. . ."

Of course, those promises were broken. So by the time the Kobo released a new touchscreen I was tired of waiting and ready to buy a device just to 'get me by' until the good stuff came out.

By and large, the Kobo has worked. Most of the time. Right off the bat the reading experience wasn't great. There was little support for sideloaded content (the main reason I bought the thing) but you could read with it. It just wasn't very easy. There wasn't much control over how the text was displayed and the 'page' number would often overlap the text. Through quite a few firmware updates all this has changed, of course.

But the story doesn't end there. It hasn't always been an uphill experience. With each firmware 'update' it seems that new bugs are introduced. Sometimes old bugs come back. There was one bug that cut off the last line of text on every page. There was one bug that broke the functionality of SDHC memory cards for some users. There was even a bug that caused some Kobo databases to become corrupt forcing constant 'factory resets'.

Currently, the only bug that really bothers me is that it will sometimes not turn the page when I tap the screen, a second tap will then turn two pages. This bug has been around for a long time. . .

I hope that the new firmware I just installed will fix this, but I doubt it. It isn't listed as one of the fixes. Also, there is still no way to organize the library into collections or shelves.

Conclusion: while buggy and often frustrating, it works. Still, I can really only recommend the Kobo Touch to users who won't mind mucking through CSS and XHTML to make their books work, or who can hack the Linux based firmware. Furthermore, within the last six months, new ereaders have come on the market that are priced competitively with the Kobo. Sony and Kindle (Amazon) both offer much better customer support and can pump far more resources into their software updates.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Kobo Touch 1.9.14

For those of you considering buying a Kobo Touch for Christmas (and as penance for yesterday's post), here are some of the features that Kobo has added to the Touch since it's initial release (my notes in italics):

  • Choice of five new pre-loaded fonts (seven in total)
  • Add your own fonts!
  • Adjustable margins, line spacing, justification and more
  • Search within a book
  • Enter text for dictionary search in all supported book formats
  • Select words within ePubs for dictionary search
  • Set your preferred language
  • Translate words in a book into other languages
  • Full German dictionary now included
  • Sleep and power off screens now show full screen book covers!
  • Support for free ebooks from Internet Archives
  • Book progress available in Library
  • Customize how you tap on the screen to turn pages (including left-handed)
  • Check the time while you are reading
  • Revised EXTRAS page under Settings (extras include Sudoku, Sketchbook, and the internet browser)
  • Make notes within a book while you read
  • Browse and edit your notes with the Annotations List
  • Tap the upper right-hand corner of your page to bookmark it
  • Add notes to your bookmarks from the Annotations List
  • Sync your notes and bookmarks to the Kobo Cloud (Proprietary ePubs only)
  • Share passages and awards with your friends through Facebook
  • Recieve awards for sharing your reading life
  • Share book on Facebook
  • Quickly preview Footnotes and Endnotes from linked text in a book (not working properly yet)

I have found the Kobo Touch to be very buggy. Each firmware release fixes some problems but invariably introduces more or resurrects old bugs. Strangely, these bugs do not affect everyone, but everyone will get a bug at some time or another.

One persistent bug which has affected my Kobo is that it will randomly not turn the page when I tap the screen. I could then wait forever staring at the same screen, the interval is not a factor, but the next time I tap the screen the page will process two taps. This means that if I tap forward a second time the reader will quickly turn two pages. If I tap in the center it will turn the page once and then bring up the menu. This problem presents more frequently under certain firmware versions than others but it has not gone away.

I still cannot recommend this device to the average user. There are plenty of alternatives on the market now such as the Sony PRS-T1. If you can find the discontinued Sony PRS-650 I'd recommend that over the new Sony. Personally, I would avoid Kindle at all costs, but they reportedly do have great customer service.

And just recently colour eInk eReaders have started to show up. . .

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Kobo Touch Malfunction

What is this? Some sort of cosmological retribution for finally getting a functional Bluray palyer?

Last night my ereader started acting up. Basically, my SD card no longer functions with my Kobo Touch.

This is a known problem, has been for a couple of months now, it just never bit me before. Kobo keeps telling us that they've fixed the problem, but that doesn't seem to be true now does it. In fact, the Kobo Touch has many problems and lacks in some industry standard features (like the ability to organize your library), although firmware updates may address these issues in the future. For instance, they have added many features since the original launch such as search within the text of a book, highlighting, and notes. Yes, those are standard features on other ereaders, and yes Kobo Touch owners had to wait until quite recently for those last two (note that they list the SD card problem as 'fixed'). Mostly they've given us clutter like reading awards, post to facebook, and other crap like that.

And how do they reward us loyal early adopters? By giving away free ebooks to new adopters. . .

I was going to post about all the nice features that Kobo has added to the touch, but I'm too pissed off at the moment. As it stands now, I cannot recommend this product to anyone.

Edit (12/09/2011): Oops, my bad. The problem was caused by a poorly formated epub. . .

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Finally, a Bluray Player that Works!

So, finally fed up with a growing collection of Bluray discs that I can't watch, I went out and bought a new player last night.

And I'm shocked to report that it actually works. And no, that is not me being facetious.

The list of failures my old player presented me with is long and stretches back all the way to the day I got it. A specific example would be Batman Begins, a problem disc to be sure.

I like this movie. It really is a shame that the sequel is a steaming pile (I hope the third is better), but even more disappointing is the fact that I have been unable to watch the Bluray that is in my possession.

Okay, that is not entirely true, I was able to watch it once on my computer, but that was a struggle in itself. The digital lock would not permit me to watch past the warning and logo screens. I naively tried to update the software that came with the computer, a move which locked out all the movies I own, including the ones I had previously watched on my computer; such titles as Iron Man, Get Smart, Stargate, and The Fifth Element. I finally resorted to a trial version of an on the fly DRM stripping program called AnyDVD. It worked. . . the first time.

My old LG never would play this disc. I always found this to be rather odd. Batman Begins is not a new title. It was not even when I bought the player. The digital key should have been available even then, and certainly via firmware update since. It never was.

Begining to doubt that the player was at fault when I tried to watch this movie on my computer for a second time, I even tried dropping the disc in boiling water for ten seconds, a remedy I had read about that had cured some Xbox discs. No go. In fact the computer would no longer even recognize that the disc was valid.

I thought I had killed it.

Not so. Last night, and continuing this morning, I began going through the list of discs that wouldn't play on my old LG. So far so good; they all play. With trepidation, and little hope, I placed Batman Begins on the tray of my new Sony BDP-BX58. Success - an FBI warning! Then the WB logo! Then the menu! Wonder of all wonders, the movie even played!

Okay, so the picture quality of this old bluray isn't the best. DNR all over the place. At least the movie itself is good. And more importantly, I can see it again!

Rating for Sony's BDP-BX58