Techie toys

I am an early adopter or, as my family puts it, a sucker for new techie toys.

I am currently using an iPod (well, several), an iPad and a Kindle. I don’t have an iPhone, mostly because I don’t like phones much, but am thinking of the Nexus S using the latest version of Google’s Android operating system.

I am not sure about the Kindle. It is a neat piece of technology . It uses a process called e-ink which results in a screen much easier to read text on than the iPad or any other similar product I have seen. It handles text very well, but only in grayscale and it does not do pictures or graphics well. I understand a colour e-ink is coming. You order books or magazines for the Kindle through the Amazon store. They arrive through the 3G network (Telstra, I think) and the delivery cost in included in the price of the book. The price is, at this stage, not too different to the hard copy price, though that will surely change. Cross subsidizing the printing and distribution costs of books from the price of e-books won’t work for long. It is very neat to order a book online and have it turn up on your Kindle within seconds.

Still, I find I don’t read from the Kindle all that much. Perhaps I’m just not comfortable with the format yet – I still prefer a paperback.

The iPad is a different kettle of technology. I am still not sure what it is for – what it does that nothing else can do for me. It connects to the net via wifi and (some models) 3G so it is a mobile device. It does email very well – the only drawback being the virtual keyboard which touch-typers don’t like much. It has a browser – Safari – though Apple is betting on apps which you download through the iTunes store. Some are free, other cost a few dollars. Apps include games, news, weather, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and so on. If you have young kids around, I recommend Itsy Bitsy Spider. MOMA (New York) has a wonderful app through which they will make their whole collection available. Most things that you might normally access through a browser have an app. But I suspect we ain’t seen nothing yet – thousands of developers are out their writing apps. Although Apple is technologically a walled garden (that is the big battle building between them and Google) they recognise that a decentralized network of developers can create much greater innovation than a central department.

The screen of the iPad is beaut. Photos (you can store your photo album on the iPad) are spectacular. Some magazines with a lot of graphics look better than in the dead tree version. New Yorker, Wired, Travel and Leisure are especially good.  Strangely, you can’t subscribe to a magazine, you have to buy each issue separately. It does, by the way, have a Kindle app which I have not seriously investigated.

So, so far, my conclusion about the iPad is that it is a beaut product but I’m not sure that many people will find they can’t live without it. I don’t think I will travel with it alone. The fact that the iPad is selling like gangbusters shows the trust people have in Apple and its products. I can’t think of  another business with that degree of trust.

But of all these, it is the iPod that I use most often. I have three: the Classic with a fair chunk of my music collection onboard, an iPod Touch and an iPod Nano (the model before the latest).

I use the Classic to listen to stuff on long flights and to carry music to the beach house. It has a 160GB harddrive and I use it really as a portable storage device. There is talk of the Classic disappearing as the solid state storage on the Touch increases. The Touch is an interesting machine. It’s like an iPhone without the phone. It stores Music, photos, calender, address book and all that stuff as well as many apps designed for the iPhone. It connects to the internet  by wifi so you can use Skype or iChat for phone or video calls. On a bike trip we did in Spain and Portugal a while back, I used my Touch through the hotels’ wifi to investigate and book the next hotel through Tripadvisor . You can do that with the iPhone (I was the only one of the four in the team that did not have one) but the iPhone roaming charges are horrendous.

Finally, the iPhone Nano. I use it most of all. On it I have lots of podcasts and several audiobooks, bought from I listen to these on long walks, at the gym and on flights. In other words, in situations that might otherwise be very boring. So far, an audiobook is just about my favourite way of reading, partly, I think, because I can do something else at the same time.

At the moment I am listening to Tim Wu’s The Master Switch, a book about technology I recommend highly.

I have been playing with online stuff since before the internet opened to the public. I still have no idea where it will lead and which products will prove indispensable.  Most predictions have proved to be empty. We can be pretty sure, though, that it is a disruptive technology  that will bring about much creative destruction (two ideas discussed in Tim Wu’s book). And unless we work for one of those industries that will die, it will all be a lot of fun.

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50 Responses to Techie toys

  1. rog says:

    Ken, there are more that just games and entertainment to the iPad. They include very good spreadsheet and document apps and are only $12 ea, which must be hurting the big software producers. You can create and transfer pdf files, download and reconfigure photos and use it as a document storage device. Formatting could be a bit of a challenge if you are used to a conventional keyboard. I find the iPad great as it is only the size of an a4 sheet of paper yet very easy to read and is much handier to haul around when you are travelling.

  2. Bryn says:

    If you want magazine subscriptions, check out Zinio. you can read them on the Web, in an iPhone or iPad app & much more. Very cheap too.

  3. ACTOldFart says:

    And isn’t it telling that, as Steve Jobs has introduced each one of these developments, no-one has ever heard him say ” … and this little socket here is where the national fibre broadband network plugs in … “

  4. FDB says:

    “And isn’t it telling that, as Steve Jobs has introduced each one of these developments, no-one has ever heard him say ” … and this little socket here is where the national fibre broadband network plugs in … “”

    No, it isn’t.

  5. Sinclair Davidson says:

    Just goes to show how out of touch with new technology Steve Jobs is. 🙂

  6. John H. says:

    Well I hope the creators of all these gadgets have the good sense to minimise blue light emissions from the screens.

  7. Jacques Chester says:

    I have a Kindle DX. I’ve knocked over dozens of books since I got it. It’s particularly excellent for holiday reading. Whereas you used to have to carry kilos of books to tide you over for a few weeks, now the device has dozens of books at hand. Bloody marvellous.

  8. Infidel Tiger says:

    Sounds like there’s some cool stuff coming out for nom-Apple cultists too:

  9. Ken Nielsen says:

    Dunno I F I did not see anything reported from CES that I won’t be able to live without. All a bit derivative.
    I reckon Google is the one to watch. Android 3 (Gingerbread) seems seriously good and when the manufacturers figure out how to use it on pads we might see Apple leapfrogged.
    The fight between Apple and Google on walled v open garden is fascinating.

  10. Ken Nielsen says:

    Glad to hear that Jacques. I guess the DX is just bigger?
    My trouble is I have an unread inventory of paperbacks likely to last me years. For quite a while I was buying faster than I was reading. Bloody amazon.

  11. Jacques Chester says:

    Yeah, the buying-faster-than-reading thing is very much a problem. The Kindle makes it worse because it’s so quick and easy to buy with.

    On the upside, the Kindle books don’t take up shelf space. As it is I want to reduce the physical size and space of my library to improve my ability to take advantage of new opportunities.

  12. Ken Nielsen says:

    I’m doing a book and CD cull at the moment. Stuff that I have read or decided I will never read and which I don’t feel a need to keep will be liberated. In Sydney 2MBS FM raise a lot of money from their book and record sales.

    I’ve never thought about it – can you backup the Kindle Jacques?

  13. Jacques Chester says:

    For books you buy from Amazon, you can reload them at any time. Books you add yourself can be backed up manually by plugging it into a computer — it will present itself as a USB drive.

  14. Entropy says:

    The AppStore is a walled garden only in the sense that all Apps must be approved by Apple. More like a walled continent.

    I am not sure what is open about android. as a hardware manufacturer you can alter the GUI, and there is no central, curated AppStore. Apart from that the OS is controlled by google. It has to be that way for google to be able to use it for its revenue model. In fact some android phones are a set up to make it difficult to root it (like jailbraking for iPhones)
    I guess you could say it is open in the same way MS windows is, ot open as in Linux.

  15. Ken Nielsen says:

    Sounds pretty open to me Ent. But I agree not as much as Linux.

    One of Apple’s rules for apps is that they not compete with any Apple app or application.

  16. Ken Nielsen says:

    This is not totally irrelevant to the matter under discussion.

  17. AJ says:

    Dunno I F I did not see anything reported from CES that I won’t be able to live without. All a bit derivative.

    The new generation of SSDs look good. It would be nice if they became a bit more mainstream before I bought my next laptop.

    I have thought about buying an ipad to use as an ebook and emagazine reader, but I really don’t want another product tying me to itunes. As it is I will probably dump my iphone at the end of my contract, just so I never have to use that piece of shit programme ever again.

  18. Rococo Liberal says:


    Our experiences sound very similar (except I am setting up an orchestra rather than an Opera Company:))

    I enjoy the Kindle, because it has allowed me to get a lot of obscure Edwardian novels that are not available in print versions, for free.

  19. jtfsoon says:

    Call me old fashioned or reactionary but I will always prefer a physical book.

  20. ken n says:

    I’ve pretty well moved on from the opera company RL and am now setting up a record label.


  21. Gab says:

    Ken – in that vid link, what was the grey object with an embedded large roller ball? (Serious question)

  22. Jacques Chester says:

    It’s a trackball. Still used for precision CAD work.

  23. Jacques Chester says:

    The downside of trackballs is that the sensors and mounting points accumulate finger cheese like crazy.

  24. Jacques Chester says:

    The new generation of SSDs look good. It would be nice if they became a bit more mainstream before I bought my next laptop.

    Prices have been stalled for about a year now. It’s very frustrating.

  25. Gab says:

    Thank you for answer, Jacques, and consequently looked it up. Learn something everyday. Have a Blackberry with a trackball but still didn’t make the connection. (How embarrassment).

  26. ken n says:

    Why have prices stalled, Jacques? They orta be coming down steadily.
    I’ve got a Dell Mini with an SSD running Ubuntu which is fast to load n all.
    Some time ago there was talk of a hybrid – with OS on SSD and HD used for the rest. That made sense to me.

  27. papachango says:

    The first mouses (mice?) were basically upside down trackballs. Eventually they’d get jerky and you’d have to take the ball out and remove all the gunk from the rollers with a key or a pen.

  28. Gab says:

    Eventually they’d get jerky and you’d have to take it to the geeky IT guy and let him know it didn’t work anymore and ask for a new one.

  29. ken n says:

    Remember this?

  30. Sinclair Davidson says:

    Slightly OT – does anyone know how to disable the touchpad on an HP probook 4320s? I use a mouse and the touchpad is driving me bonkers as I keep brushing up against it.

  31. Boy on a bike says:

    I like the look of a wall of books. I love visiting people and browsing thru their library to see if they’ve got anything worth pinching. Kindle removes all the fun of having a serious collection. Put a few interesting bookcases worth of stuff together and it even starts to look like a work of art.

  32. Infidel Tiger says:

    Bloody oath. It’s a great way to discover how many of your friends are secret communists, new age weirdos or tantric sex enthusiasts.

  33. John H. says:

    Slightly OT – does anyone know how to disable the touchpad on an HP probook 4320s? I use a mouse and the touchpad is driving me bonkers as I keep brushing up against it.

    This might work:

    Control Panel



    DEvice Manager

    Right click on touchpad(if there)

    Option -Disable.

  34. I trust that ken has noted that rog started this thread with a completely snark free, positive comment about something he really likes.

    Ken, you need never press rog about never being positive again, OK?

  35. Sinclair Davidson says:

    Thanks, John. Tried that.

  36. Greego says:

    This app is almost enough to make me buy one:

  37. Jarrah says:

    God, I remember playing around with an 808 back in the day. And now we have a computer emulating a synthesiser emulating a drum kit.

  38. Gab says:

    how to disable the touchpad on an HP probook 4320s?

    Sinclair, no doubt you’ve also tried the “quickly double-tap the very top left corner of the touchpad surface”. In which case, maybe read the manual even though that’s an abhorrent concept to males 🙂

  39. Sinclair Davidson says:

    Gab – I am so desperate that I have read the manual – unmanly as that is – and found the ‘quickly double-tap the very top left corner of the touchpad surface’ and tried that too. But to no avail. 🙁

  40. John H. says:


    I had a quick look around. Apparently the touchpad is not found in control panel. You can disable in BIOS but you need to be familiar with BIOS for that and will require reboot.

    Or. ..

    Note links at bottom of this page.

  41. Sinclair Davidson says:

    No luck. thanks for the links. I’ll get onto the techno-geeks tomorrow.

  42. I have had the same problem with an ASUS. One site suggested trying some free software that would disable it whenever you start typing, but it didn’t seem to work with my laptop. Still, might be worth a try…(sorry don’t have link handy.)

  43. Pedro the Ignorant says:

    I have walked the Earth for few decades, and I seriously believe that the Kindle (and/or its knockoff e-readers) is one of the greatest technological advances in a generation or more.

    The ability to access and store the written word in thousands of books in a device that will fit in a jacket pocket, costs short change to buy and load, and will work faithfully anywhere in the world is a gift beyond price.

    No bells and whistles, just the world’s accumulated knowledge and finest literature at anyone’s fingertips for less than a couple of hundred dollars.

  44. Boy on a bike says:

    As far as travel is concerned, I think the kindle and it’s ilk are the best thing since bottled beer. However, I still like to stroll from room to room at home, finding a pile of half read books beside each chair. I sometimes have a dozen or more on the go at once, and I need to physically see the book to be reminded to start reading it again.

    Taking a dozen books on a plane though is a pain, so the kindle certainly had it’s place.

  45. ken n says:

    When ebooks are priced to reflect their cost – removing printing and physical distribution – we will have to pay quite a premium for paper. We might quite quickly get used to ebooks.
    My guess is that readers are a WIP – before too long there will be a new model that is a big leap.
    BTW Seth Godin is doing some interesting stuff.

  46. Just Passing By says:

    Sinclair, you need to enter the BIOS. When starting the PC you will need either F10 or Del key. Each model is a little different depending on the chip set. When the BOIS loads you will see a menu list at the top. One of the items you will see is Device options. Under this list you should see an option to enable and disable “pointing devices”. From memory you can turn it off there.

  47. Sinclair Davidson says:

    JPB – thanks for that. I’ve now got a job logged at the IT people.

  48. ken n says:

    Or Sinc, have you got a 12 year-old kid in the neighborhood?

  49. Sinclair Davidson says:

    Thanks to all for help – the IT people fixed the problem.

    ken – the 16 year old just grunts while the 11 year old is expert at the TV but not computers just yet. 🙂

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