Monday, June 15, 2009

Father's Day comes early

We are going to be on the road for a summer trip next week, so we celebrated Father's Day early at our house. While the standard holidays and birthdays are big deals for the kids, we make Mother's and Father's Day big deals for the grups; nice presents are given and much pampering ensues.

Daddy (me) got a Kindle 2 for Father's Day this year. I've been desiring one, and it showed up complete with a nice pleather case. It took me about 10 minutes to set it up and order $100 worth of programming manuals and such - I'd been dying to find out how this would work for technical manuals.

It is brilliant, but for a reason that I'd not anticipated. It's nice to be able to get a book in seconds (although, for me, this mostly happens when I'm tethered, since I don't get cell service at my house). It's also nice that the prices are somewhat lower, and that the eInk is easy on the eyes. But there are two things I'd not really considered that make this My New Favorite Gadget: portability and usability.

Portability: Sure, everybody talks about having your library with you as a major selling point. I'd just not realized how much I've suffered until the Kindle. To me, the only thing worse than not having an important book or reference file is having it but not being able to access it. I'm constantly finding myself wanting to reference, for example, the OpenGL SuperBible - only to remember I left it at my office. Or I'm trying to think through a programming problem while I'm on the road, but I don't want to have to crack open the computer, log into the Apple developer site and download Yet Another PDF Reference Guide to remember how something works. Having all of this in a package the size of a journal book (along with my latest Pop Fiction and Pop Economics texts) has been an immediate benefit.

Usability: This is the thing I'd not considered at all: the Kindle is simply easier to read than most of the programming tomes I reference, and is far better than reading a PDF off the damned screen. Let's talk about that OpenGL SuperBible again - it is over 1200 pages, about two inches thick, and literally hurts to hold and read. I plopped this on my Kindle and am reading it much easier than I ever would read the paper text. The search functions are also great, as are the bookmarking and notation features.

It's also nice to be able to have a lot of reference books without a shelf dedicated to them. Frankly, since my wife is a bookseller, we are choking on books. They are everywhere, and we are constantly looking for new places to stash them. Being able to get new books without having to chuck out the old (or build another shelf) is an extra bonus to me.

I'm not sure if the Kindle really represents the future of books, but it certainly is the future of books for me. I just want more of the current programming catalog to make it into this format - because I want to eliminate a few more shelves full of books (even though I'll have to pay again...).


Thursday, June 11, 2009

An iApp worth its hype.

I've been doing a lot of OpenGL programming using Max and Jitter, and I needed something to create some interesting textures. In the past I've used Photoshop, but it was always when someone else was paying for it. I just can't (or don't want to) afford it.

I tried some OS X programs, and never found what I wanted. So often, you are prevented from controlling the size of the canvas you are working on - and that is one of the main things I want to control. Alas, I thought I was stuck.

Then, in a recent article in some advertising-focused newsletter I get, I read a discussion about an iPhone app used to create a recent New Yorker cover. Then I read about it in the New York Times. Geez. All this hype can't be good...

Man, I couldn't have been more wrong. This is a simple app, but one that has a depth that is useful. The drawing is easy, the brush selection is limited (but cool) and the color handling is direct. But the coolest thing? It has a mini web server built in that allows you to log into the device and download any of the images you've created. They don't talk about this much in the articles, but it makes the whole "sync" issue a non-issue.

I run it on my iPod Touch, and couldn't be happier. Brushes Away!