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Markus Egger's Blog

Sunday, September 09, 2012
My Houston TechFest 2012 Session Materials (Win8)

Houston TechFest 2012 is in the books! Great event at Reliant Park/Center. Much nicer venue than the prior years, and lots of people showed up. Congrats to the organizers!

I did two sessions. Basically a part 1 and part 2 for Windows 8 development (WinRT/Metro). This can basically be seen as part of our "Road to Windows 8" and "State of .NET" series of events. You can download both slide decks as well as all the examples (including the Xiine example) now. Here is the download link.

Enjoy!



Posted @ 6:50 AM by Markus Egger (markus@code-magazine.com) - Comments


Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Spring 2012 State of .NET Events – The Road to Windows 8

I am getting ready for our upcoming series of State of .NET events, which will take us/me to Philly, New York, and Boston.

As always, these events are completely free of charge. Each is an afternoon loaded with information about .NET in general and also about Windows 8 development. I am hoping you will find the content valuable regardless of whether you are looking to do Windows 8 development (now or in the future) or whether you are just looking for general .NET information.

You can find more information and sign up at www.StateOfDotNet.com.

 

Here is some more information from the official statement about this series of events:

Join Markus Egger and CODE Magazine for an afternoon of free .NET and Windows 8 developer know-how!

The industry is in a state of flux. What does that mean for your software projects today and tomorrow? Will your skills be outdated? Will your current investment become obsolete? What should you focus on right now? And what will become important a year or two down the road? Will there be .NET in the future? And what other technologies do you need to learn?

This free event attempts to answer these questions and more, by taking an unbiased look at current and future development with .NET and other relevant Microsoft technologies. This includes Visual Studio 2010 technologies as well as an in-depth look at what is coming in the next version of Visual Studio (“VS11”) and Windows 8.

Join Markus Egger, Microsoft RD and one of the longest running MVPs, for an afternoon of free information. CODE Magazine and EPS Software are in a unique position to share information based on real world experience in projects that are either our own or one of the many projects we get to see in our role as mentors, trainers and consultants, as well as feedback we receive from CODE Magazine readers. This is NOT marketing hype! We will tell you which information you should invest time and money in, and which ones to avoid.

Topics Include:

  • Windows 8
    • Metro” Development
    • The impact of Windows 8 on today’s development effort
    • The future of C# and VB
    • The future of HTML and JavaScript
    • The future of C++
  • Visual Studio 11
  • WPF, Silverlight, and other XAML technologies today and tomorrow
  • Architecture to serve the needs of modern applications
  • The need for SOA (Service Oriented Architecture) today and tomorrow
  • HTML 5, CSS3, and JavaScript
  • ASP.NET MVC, Razor and jQuery
  • “Visual Studio Async”
  • Windows Phone 7 and other mobile devices
  • and more!

Attendees of this free event will come away with a clear understanding of which technologies to use for various technical challenges. Questions? Please e-mail info@eps-software.com or call 832-717-4445 x13. For additional information, please visit www.codemag.com/stateofdotnet.

Note: This event is co-hosted by EPS Software Corp. and Microsoft Corporation. EPS is responsible for all content presented at this event.



Posted @ 5:46 PM by Markus Egger (markus@code-magazine.com) - Comments


Friday, March 30, 2012
DevConncetions 2012 Session Notes and Slides

I have just uploaded my slide decks from my 2 DevConnections presentations:

  • Road to Windows 8: Architecting Applications for Today and Tomorrow
  • Road to Windows 8: Converting WPF and Silverlight Apps to Metro

You can download them by clicking here.

Also, check out the “XAML Dialect Comparer” tool I used in my sessions, which you can get from CodePlex: http://xamldialects.codeplex.com

In addition, check out CODE Framework at http://codemag.com/framework or http://codeframework.codeplex.com

 

You may also be interested in the upcoming free State of .NET events, which are free one-afternoon events loaded with information. More here: www.StateOfDotNet.com

 

And not to forget, check out some of our upcoming training classes which also cover a lot of this stuff. Details on http://codemag.com/training. In particular, the Windows 8 Development class, the SOA class, the various WPF classes, and the CODE Framework class may be of interest to you.

Enjoy!



Posted @ 4:49 PM by Markus Egger (markus@code-magazine.com) - Comments (1)


Thursday, October 20, 2011
Session Materials for Houston TechFest 2011

Houston TechFest 2011 is in the books, and it was a fun event with around 1000 people. Congrats to the organizers!

Slides

If you are interested in the PowerPoint slides for the event, here is a link. This includes slides for:

  • A Lap Around Modern System Development” which discusses the various aspects that go with building an entire modern business system, and in particular overall system setup as well as the various UI options (Windows, Web, Mobile,…) one has to deal with.
  • Using SOA [Service Oriented Architecture] to Architect Systems that Live Up to Today’s Expectations” which concerns itself with one of the sub-segments of the first session, which is how to productively and efficiently create middle-tiers that are a) easy to build and maintain and b) can flexibly be accessed from all kinds of systems
  • Windows 8” which is pretty much what you’d think it is: An overview of Windows 8 for developers, which tries to sum up just about everything we know about Windows 8 at this point and what it means.

Articles

Also, related to these topics, I have been referring to a several different articles and code samples throughout my talks. Here are links to those:

CODE Framework

Also, if you are interested in downloading the free (and open source) version of our CODE Framework, check out Codeplex: http://codeframework.codeplex.com

Training

Also related (and some people asked about this) are some of the training classes we have scheduled. You can generally find information about our upcoming training classes at www.codemag.com/training. In particular, the following classes are related to the topics discussed at TechFest 2011:

Note that all our training events can also be booked on-site and even customized for your needs, in addition to standard locations and online participation.

Hint: Ping Christopher (creynolds@eps-software.com) and tell him you went to my TechFest session and sweet-talk him into a discount ;-)

State of .NET Events

We have several State of .NET events coming up (these are our free, one-afternoon-long, info-loaded presentations about current .NET topics, which currently includes a lot of Windows 8 but also other stuff). General information can be found at www.StateOfDotNet.com. If you came to my TechFest sessions, you are probably most interested in our Texas events:

 

Enjoy!



Posted @ 12:47 PM by Markus Egger (markus@code-magazine.com) - Comments


Friday, June 10, 2011
Session Materials for the Spring 2011 State of .NET Events

For those of you who have attended our State of .NET Events in the Spring of 2011 (or for those of you who would have liked to but couldn’t), here are download links for the session materials:

Also, check out 2 articles I wrote for CODE Magazine:

In addition, here are links to some of the live sites that were demonstrated:

During the presentation, I also kept referring to a recording of last Fall’s State of .NET events. Here is a link to that:

Enjoy!



Posted @ 3:38 PM by Markus Egger (markus@code-magazine.com) - Comments (1)


Friday, June 10, 2011
Session Materials from DevTeach Montreal 2011

It’s conferences galore these days! I also just presented at DevTeach 2011 in Montreal as well as State of .NET Montreal. I will blog about State of .NET separately (and also visit www.StateOfDotNet.com), but here are my session materials and examples for DevTeach:

Also, check out 2 articles I wrote for CODE Magazine:

Enjoy!



Posted @ 3:23 PM by Markus Egger (markus@code-magazine.com) - Comments


Friday, June 10, 2011
Session Materials from DevConnections Germany 2011 (Karlsruhe)

I just returned from DevConnections 2011 in Karlsruhe, Germany. I presented on a variety of different things:

  • I took over an all-day pre-con workshop from Juval Lowy on short notice. The focus of the workshop was SOA and WCF. (This was an additional item people had to pay for, so unfortunately, I am unable to share the materials here). This one was done in English.
  • I did my “Graphics Design for Developers” session (in German)
  • I did my “Productive WPF and Silverlight through Styling and Templating” session (also in German)
  • And I did my “Better P{roductivity and Reusability with SOA and WCF” session (in German as well).

Here is a list of the materials I am able to share on my blog:

Also, check out 2 articles I wrote for CODE Magazine:

Enjoy!



Posted @ 3:11 PM by Markus Egger (markus@code-magazine.com) - Comments (9)


Friday, May 06, 2011
More Free State of .NET Events Coming Up!

We are getting close to 3 more State of .NET events, where we will provide some beefy information around various .NET technologies and techniques for free. The events take an afternoon. They are geared towards both developers and IT decision makers. And as always, we are aiming to provide some serious information without any marketing fluff.

You can sign up for free and get all the details at at www.codemag.com/training.

Here is some of the official information pasted into this post:

  • Dallas:   Tuesday, May 24, 2011  1:30 - 4:30 PM
    Microsoft Dallas Office -  7000 SR-161 (George Bush Turnpike), Irving, TX 75039
  • Houston: Thursday, May 26, 2011  1:30 - 4:30 PM
    Microsoft Houston Office - 2000 W Sam Houston Pkway S, Houston, TX 77042
  • Montreal: Monday, May 30, 2011  1:30 – 4:30 PM
    Microsoft Montreal Office - 2000 McGill College, 44 E'tage, Montreal, QC H3A 3H3

Brought to you by Microsoft, CODE Training & EPS Software, this free afternoon event presents an unbiased look at the current and future development with .NET. Join Markus Egger, for an afternoon of free and independent information about current Microsoft development technologies! What is the state of .NET today? Which of the many .NET technologies have gained traction? Which ones can you ignore for now? What other Microsoft technologies should you include in your development efforts? This event is completely free of charge and is designed for developers as well as IT decision makers. Specific prior knowledge is not required. Attendees of this event will come away with a clear understanding of which technologies to use for various technical challenges.

This is NOT Microsoft marketing hype - this is based on our real-world development experience with various technologies.

Topics will include:

  • Cloud (Azure & others)
  • The State of Services
  • IE9
  • HTML 5 
  • Windows Phone 7 and other devices
  • ASP.NET MVC, Razor and jQuery
  • Visual Studio Async
  • Productivity Power Tools
  • Various .NET Framework Topics
  • Visual Studio LightSwitch
  • and more!

Enjoy!



Posted @ 12:25 PM by Egger, Markus (markus@code-magazine.com) - Comments


Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Slide Decks and Examples for DevConnections 2011 Orlando

Here is a link to download my examples and slides for my presentations at DevConnections 2011 in Orlando.

This includes the following talks:

  • Super Productive WPF/Silverlight – Styling
  • Super Productive WPF/Silverlight – Layout
  • A Graphics Design Lesson for Developers
  • Using Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) to build better apps

Also, I kept referring to 2 articles in my WPF/SL productivity talks here are the links to those:

Enjoy!



Posted @ 12:54 PM by Egger, Markus (markus@code-magazine.com) - Comments


Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Code PaLOUsa Samples

I recently presented at the Code PaLOUsa conference on super-productive WPF and Silverlight work. You can find the slide decks for my 2 sessions here:

You can also download the samples from here:

Furthermore, there are my articles (published in CODE Magazine) explaining the same general topics as I addressed in my sessions, but they also go into a lot more detail:

Enjoy!



Posted @ 10:25 AM by Egger, Markus (markus@code-magazine.com) - Comments


Tuesday, February 08, 2011
Windows Phone Developer Tools January 2011 Update Available Now

Microsoft just published the January 2011 Update for the Windows Phone Developer Tools. I have just started working with the new version, so I can’t claim a huge amount of experience, but it seems to be a good update and one that every developer should be using.

Here is what Microsoft says about the update:

February 7, 2011
Windows Phone Developer Tools January 2011 Update Available Now
We are happy to announce the immediate availability of the Windows Phone Developer Tools January 2011 Update. The January Update is comprised of two installation files; it includes updated reference assemblies, a new version of the Windows Phone OS emulator image and several minor bug fixes in addition to those previously released as part of the October 2010 Update.

The January Update provides updated Silverlight controls that enable copy and paste functionality. At this time this is limited to TextBox controls, as well as controls derived from the TextBox class. It is important to note that most applications already published will automatically receive the benefits of copy and paste when customers update their devices with the upcoming Windows Phone 7 OS update. However, you may need to recompile your apps to improve user experience if you are using a Map or TextBox control within a Panorama or Pivot control.

Despite not being recommended, some apps today allow users to interact with Silverlight TextBox controls within other controls such as Panorama and Pivots. In these cases, once Windows Phone 7 devices receive the update, customers may unintentionally change panes when trying to copy text. You can avoid this problem by downloading the January Update, recompiling, and resubmitting your applications to App Hub using the updated Pivot and Panorama controls.

Download the updated Windows Phone Developer Tools and read the installation instructions on the Download Center page.



Posted @ 6:48 AM by Egger, Markus (markus@code-magazine.com) - Comments


Tuesday, February 08, 2011
Registration for Mix 11 (Las Vegas) is now open!

You can now register for Microsoft’s Mix 11 conference, which will be held in Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay resort from April 11-14th 2011. If you register by February 11, you qualify for an early bird discount.

I personally always find Mix to be one of the most enjoyable Microsoft conferences. (And the fact that it is at the Mandalay Bay resort this year, is a nice bonus). Mix has always been Microsoft’s “Web and UI” conference, which focuses mostly on all things web (HTML, ASP.NET, HTML5, CSS3,…) and of course the rich web technologies, especially Silverlight. Maybe even some WPF. And with IE9 coming, and Silverlight 5 pending true announcement, it should be an interesting event.

I am planning to go. I already have a very full conference schedule this Spring, but I think this one is important enough to make it happen.



Posted @ 3:04 AM by Egger, Markus (markus@code-magazine.com) - Comments (1)


Thursday, January 13, 2011
WebMatrix Released to Web

Microsoft is releasing the new WebMatrix IDE to the web at CodeMash (www.codemash.com) today. For all the details and downloads, visit http://web.ms/enter or www.Microsoft.com/web/webmatrix.

WebMatrix is an interesting project/product, IMO. It aims to make web development much easier on the Microsoft platform. Web development is not just the domain of experts anymore who builds large and complex web applications and web sites. Instead, there are many things on the web that can be created by anyone. Besides, not every web project done by a professional needs to be made complex and difficult. These are the scenarios Web Matrix aims for. It is not a tool for every need (and neither is any other tool, for that matter), but it serves a very specific purpose.

I often like to look at the development landscape as a whole, and you can imagine it on a graph that plots difficulty/freedom (2 things that are often closely related) and flexibility and supported deployment scenarios on the two axis. Kinda like this:

Now this is not meant to be a scientific chart, and I am sure lots of people have opinions as to why certain bubbles should be in a slightly different place on the chart, and those people are probably right. But that is not the point of this chart. The point is the overall idea it communicates. For instance, if you take Access, it is a tool that gives you a lot less control than tools like Visual Studio. Obviously, you will not build XNA apps in Access for instance. Access has a defined purpose. It also has well defined deployment scenarios. You are not deploying an Access app to an iPhone for instance. And all that is OK. It doesn’t make Access a lesser product. It just defines it’s target differently. So most places on this diagram are just as desirable as others (except perhaps the top/left… although even there are good reasons to be there, such as if you want to do iPad development).

Tools like Visual Studio .NET and Java are in the top/right corner. Awesome flexibility in both freedom/sophistication and supported deployment scenarios. That is great for a lot of things. But here’s the thing. Until recently, Microsoft did not have anything for the bottom/right area of the chart: Scenarios that fit an 80% or 90% need (such as the typical web site/app) that are easy and super-productive to use at the expense of control over every tiny detail.

WebMatrix (and also LightSwitch) fit neatly into that part of the chart (with exact positions up to personal preference). And better yet: If you need the flexibility to combine the easy of these tools with the power of Visual Studio, you can! And thus you are easily elevated further up in the chart. It is the best of both worlds!

So check out WebMatrix! It is an easy and productive web development tool for the masses. It supports the usual Microsoft technologies. It also supports tons of open source offerings and other frameworks and technologies, from PHP to Wordpress to Joomla, DotNetNuke, Umbraco, and others.



Posted @ 6:33 AM by Egger, Markus (markus@code-magazine.com) - Comments


Thursday, January 06, 2011
Thinking about 3D TVs

3D TVs are cool in a way. Or at least, they are supposed to be. A recent discussion on the Puck Podcast got me thinking a bit more about this technology. But frankly, I can’t really get excited about them, and I certainly won’t be buying any any time soon. Here’s why:

The theory of 3D TVs is pretty awesome. Clearly, a 3D picture is much more exciting than a 2D picture. And I get that for a wide range of things, the theoretic experience is awesome. On the Puck Podcast, the technology was discussed in relation to sporting events. Seeing a hockey game (or most other sport for that matter) in 3D is pretty cool in concept. Ideas like putting a 3D camera into the hockey goal to see how quickly the puck travels and all that is certainly something I can get excited about. And beyond that, watching movies like Avatar in 3D is obviously an experience people crave.

But the problem is that all these awesome visions of how 3D should and could be, really aren’t brought to live with today’s approach to 3D TVs.

The Problem with the Glasses

First of all, it starts with the problem of the glasses. You have to wear glasses that are heavy and awkward. And while you are wearing these glasses, you are not doing anything else either. You have to be 100% committed to watching TV. I hardly ever do that. Most of the time, I work while I watch a hockey game, or I eat something, or I browse through a magazine during the commercial break. Not with 3D glasses on you aren’t!

And of course, this works the other way too: I often end up yelling “did you see this goal?!?” and people come running to see the replay of the goal (or I rewind my TiVo to show them the goal again, but I would need a different DVR to do so, and I am not aware of a lot of good ones that do this at this point… but I may not be completely up to date here…). But without their glasses, they won’t be doing that, will they? Like I said: 3D TVs are an all or nothing proposition.

Note also that due to how the glasses work, every other light source in the room appears to flicker. It is an extremely distracting effect that you will not notice when you check out a 3D TV in a store or at a friend’s house, but you will certainly notice it a few days after you bought your own 3D TV. So you better keep your eyes glued to the TV at all times.

I have heard people say to them glasses are not a problem, because they already wear glasses. Oh yeah? So you will be wearing 2 sets of glasses at once now?!? That’s going to be a great experience. Not! I guess you could wear contacts, but I am not even sure how that really works since the distance to the 3D glasses is so short (maybe someone can comment on this post to enlighten us on the success level with 3D glasses and contact lenses). And just because you are used to wearing glasses doesn’t mean you are used to wearing huge and heavy glasses like the 3D ones are. And they are not especially shaped or sized to your head either. So the experience of wearing 3D glasses is certainly going to be much worse than wearing regular glasses.

Not to mention the price of the glasses! At about $150 each, your main expense for your new TV will likely not be the TV but the glasses, unless you always watch by yourself. If you are planning a Super Bowl party with 10 of your best friends, get ready to shell out $1,500 just for the glasses. And then how thrilled are you going to be to have a bunch of drunk dudes wearing $1,500 worth of high teach gear?!?

I also heard people refer to public places that might show events in 3D. “Surely, there must be a sports bar that has the 3D sets” people say. Well, while I do not doubt that there will be some sports bars that are going to use exactly that as their main selling point, I doubt there will be many. These sports bars will be “concept bars” that cost a buttload to equip. Not just will they have to buy the 3D TVs, but they will also have to buy a few hundred sets of goggles. Granted, they will probably get a discount, but still, it is a huge expense. And again: How happy would you be to give these goggles to your patrons? A bunch of drunk people who tend to drop stuff and walk all over it and scratch them, and dip them into the beer, and so forth. You will have to buy new glasses on an ongoing basis. I just do not see that happen as a widespread thing. Not to mention that it might be extremely tempting for a lot of people to slip these glasses into their pocket on the way out. So the bar would also have to invest in a good security system (or perhaps tether you to a wall… a nice experience that would be!). Besides, I wonder what it would be like to be in a room with 20 3D TVs all showing 3D content that appears to be overlapping in the room ahead of you. I have never experienced this, but I would imagine it would be extremely odd.

A Theater Experience? Popping Out or Falling In?

But the glasses aren’t the only problem really. When people think of 3D TVs, they are thinking of the experience they had in an iMax 3D theater. You sit in your stationary chair in a fixed position, and you watch the amazing imagery with stuff popping out of the screen, seemingly hovering right in front of you. And surely, that is the experience we expect at home.

Well, the reality is, it isn’t like that at home. For one, most 3D TVs create an image that doesn’t so much “pop out” of the screen, but the illusion generally is one of there being “a tunnel into the screen” or a “falling in” effect. And besides, most people’s brains are smart enough to figure out (after a few hours) that the illusion really just is an illusion, and that things are not quite right. The image then look “a bit odd” and although you can’t quite put your finger on it, the image quality really isn’t what you’d expect it to be either. It just all seems a bit “wobbly” (which may also be why people may be getting headaches watching 3D TVs). So while 3D TVs generally create a very high quality image (like all modern HDTVs, really…), that is not necessarily the subjective impression you get when watching them.

Also, while in a theater, you are entirely stationary in your seat, with little room to move, this is not the case in a home setup. I tend to move around a bit, even while I am on my couch. And often of course, I may move in and our of the room to get something or I move to a different seat or shift into a different position laying down. I really do not know anyone who sits as stationary at home as they do in a movie theater. Just give it a try: Sit there without moving much for an hour or two and see how realistic and fun that is!

So what is the problem with moving around anyway? Well, the thing is that 3D TVs of course do not create a 3D scene. They just show a picture that is shot stereoscopic (with 2 cameras, basically, that are slightly off, just like your 2 eyes create 2 pictures that are slightly off) from a fixed point (one could really say our current technology is 2.5D). This works as long as the viewer doesn’t move and assumes to be at the position the camera is. But here’s the problem: Let’s say you are looking at a box straight on. What would you expect to see when you move to the left? Correct! You would expect to see the left side of the box. But that doesn’t work with 3D TV. Instead, you can move as far to the left as you want and you still see the box straight on. This creates an effect that is contrary to how three-dimensional environments work in the real world, and it appears as if your TV moved the picture deliberately, anticipating your every move, in an attempt to outwit or annoy you. I find this effect to be at the very least annoying and at worst to be disorienting and nausea inducing. And it certainly destroys the 3D effect.

So in short: To enjoy a 3D TV, you need to be 100% committed to setting yourself up exactly the way you need to be to get a good 3D illusion. You also need to be committed to paying a lot of money. And you need to expect to either get headaches (for some people) or at least have a much more exhausting TV viewing experience (for the rest of us) that will not allow you to watch 3D TVs are leisurely and long as you do a regular TV. But on the upside, you will probably get a more muscular neck from wearing the heavy glasses. Keeping your head perfectly still will more likely result in stiffness and soreness than muscle growth though.

3D Without Glasses

But aren’t there 3D TVs without glasses? Yes, there are some announcements around that (just Google for it). But while these TVs have the advantage that they do not require glasses, they also only work if the viewer sits in just the perfect position. So no Super Bowl party there, unless you all want to sit on each other’s laps. Besides, many of the other problems still apply or are even made worse (like the need to be stationary and the odd movement effect). Also, from what I can tell, this gets us back into territory with picture quality that is not very good, and the overall viewing experience is not very good (yet?).

Conclusion

So I am not going for it! I think the concept is cool, and I think at some point, we may be able to achieve 3D viewing that really turns the vision we all love into a reality. But the point is: We are not there yet. Yes, I love the idea of seeing the puck being shot at me from within the goal and me seeing that at a high level of quality and comfort. But alas, that is not yet available. And we are a long way off, because the current approach will not get us there, unfortunately. But once the day comes where we overcome these limitations, I am going to be among the first to buy!

Currently, 3D - at least to me - is a specialty technology that is best experienced in a movie theater.



Posted @ 4:38 AM by Egger, Markus (markus@code-magazine.com) - Comments


Friday, December 24, 2010
Comparing e-Readers (Kindle, Sony Reader, iPad/iPhone,...)

I love reading. I am a publisher. I am a programmer. Reason enough for me to love e-Readers. In fact, with our own Xiine reading and publishing platform (www.Xiine.com) I have been involved in writing e-Readers starting at the very early days. As a result, I have had ample opportunity to compare various e-Reading approaches and software as well as hardware. Here is my personal opinion on the subject:

Let me come out with it right away: I think the Kindle platform is by far the best offering. Unlike all competitors, it is not just a single device or a single application, but it is a soup to nuts solution the integrates everything from reading on various devices to buying books, and so forth. But the Kindle has its downsides too. From proprietary file formats to poor support internationally. So let’s take a look at the most important devices and platforms:

Kindle

Amazon’s Kindle is both a hardware device and a software system that drives it. The main Kindle device currently is the “Kindle 3”, which is now available with a cell connection (“3G” as lots of people call it, although it doesn’t seem that the actual speed is 3G) and a WiFi connection (the model with WiFi only is less expensive selling for an inexpensive $139 at the time I write this - Christmas 2010). Amazon also sells the larger Kindle DX, which was originally conceived for better magazine and newspaper reading and such, but for most reading purposes, the smaller Kindle is the way to go. It is far less expensive and it is simply a more convenient form factor. And I also recommend the one with the cell connection. It is awesome. It is always there and ready to use. No configuration. No extra cost. It just works. Compared to the hassles with some of the other readers (like trying to get a Sony Reader to recognize a WiFi network), this alone is reason enough to pick the Kindle.

The Kindle hardware is great. The device is light and the size is perfect. The buttons on the device used to flip pages are conveniently located. The built-in keyboard is crappy, but you will not need it much, so it serves its purpose. It uses an e-Ink screen, which may look unappealing when you just check the device out at first, but it is actually awesome in real reading-mode. The fact that it doesn’t act as an active light source is great too. The Kindle screen only reflects light, which means that it reflects just enough light at just about all lighting conditions. You will be pleased reading the Kindle screen in low-light conditions under a warm light source and you will also be happy with it on a beach in glaring sunlight. This fact alone sells me on the device.

There are other nice aspects about the hardware too. The device isn’t super-fast (and you will not use it to browse the Internet, even though is has limited abilities on that front), but it is fast enough so you never worry about speed. And the battery life is awesome. It simply is a non factor. I charge mine once every few weeks. The latest devices have a 1-month battery life. I guess mine gets pretty close to that too. I am not totally sure. I just charge mine on occasion (perhaps every 2-3 weeks) and do not worry about it much. Another one of those worry-free hardware aspects is the always-available cell connection (even International on the latest devices) which is included free of charge (note that international charges may apply). This means that you can get new content anywhere any time, without having to worry about finding a wireless hotspot or needing a monthly data plan and contract.

One of the most important aspects of the Kindle however is the software side and the soup-to-nuts approach Amazon is taking. You can buy new content directly from your Kindle device and its integration of the Amazon.com shopping experience. It is quick and painless the way you’d expect it from Amazon (and much better than anything competitors provide). Or, you can shop on Amazon.com’s regular web site and have the purchases delivered to your device from there. In fact, Amazon always remembers what you already bought. You can remove titles from your device and add it back later. Amazon acts as your “bookshelf in the cloud”. And this integration goes further. You can have multiple devices and shuffle books around. When you read a book on once device, you can pick up another device and it will know how far you read. Why would you want multiple devices? Well, you probably won’t have multiple Kindle devices, but you probably have a phone or slate and Amazon has clients for those. It is a very common scenario for me to read on the Kindle, then go somewhere and I pick up my iPhone, launch the Kindle app, and continue reading just where I left off. Amazon’s pervasive support for the Kindle reader on just about all devices (from iPhone to iPad to Android phones, PCs, Mac, Windows Phone, and more) is another feature that makes the overall setup vastly more appealing than any of the competitive offerings.

It is important to realize that the Kindle uses a different file format from most e-Readers. Amazon purchased MobiPocket a while back, and that is the file format used by the Kindle platform (although with a different file extension). That means that the Kindle can use all files that come directly from the Kindle store as well as MobiPocket files you copy to the Kindle manually. In addition, the Kindle has some ability around showing PDFs and other formats like Word documents. However, to make this happen on the common Kindle devices, Amazon converts these files for you, or at least attempts to do so. Having this non-standard file format also means that if Amazon ever decides to abandon the Kindle, or if you ever decide you want a different e-Reader, you are pretty much out of luck and your entire e-Library is useless at that point.

In general, it should be noted that file formats like PDF and Word are not great file formats for e-Readers. Especially PDF is exceptionally crappy, because PDF is a page-oriented format. In other words: It defines what a page is like. And if that page is slightly bigger than the screen of the e-Reader, then you have yourself one crappy reading experience, as it isn’t reliably possible to re-format the document on the fly. (And a PDF’s pages are almost always larger than e-Readers can show, with perhaps the exception of the Kindle DX). So regardless of which e-Reader you have, PDF may sometimes save your bacon, but by and large, you want to avoid these files like the plague.

Here is one more dirty secret you may not know about the Kindle: If you copy files over either through a Kindle cable, or by sending it to your Amazon.com Kindle email address which then forwards it to your device (possibly converted and almost certainly for a fee) than that is a very different ball of wax than the standard Kindle content is. When you do this sort of stuff, you can only read the document on your Kindle device and not on your phone or iPad or PC. And even if you have more than one Kindle device, the different devices aren’t aware of what is going on on other devices. So if you email a MobiPocket file to your Kindle, don’t expect it to show up on your iPhone. And don’t expect your Kindle DX to know how far you read on your regular Kindle. There is no integration there. I am not sure why. To me, it removes a large part of the appeal of the Kindle. And no third party software (like Calibre) will fix that for you. If you want to deal with your own files, then you simply do not get many of the Kindle benefits. (Note: If you are outside the US, this is especially disappointing, since you will practically always deal with your own files… see below).

A lot of people also ask me about the actual reading experience on the Kindle and how I like the screen. Like I mention above, the e-Ink screen is awesome for extended reading sessions under just about any lighting condition (not to mention the low battery consumption). Of course the one lighting condition the Kindle does not do well at is complete darkness, since it doesn’t have a display that emits any light at all. So you need some sort of external light source. Personally, I have a book-light I clip to the device, which works very well for me. This is the setup I would recommend for all e-Readers that are based on e-Ink technology (like the Kindle and the Sony Reader, among others). Using a book light, I get a very comfortable reading experience. I have also tried to read on my iPad in an otherwise dark room. Of course the iPad has the advantage that you can see the display in the dark, but it is so glaring (regardless of the settings) that it does not result in a nice reading experience in a really dark room in my opinion.

One other aspect about Kindle that I want to go out of my way to point out is their customer service. Normally, when I have to deal with customer service, I am just about ready to kill myself. But when you call Kindle customer service, someone picks up the phone right away. I had 2 broken Kindles so far (on one, a piece of the plastic broke off, on the other, I had a faulty screen that made outside reading a pain). On both occasions, not a lot of questions were asked. Amazon simply overnighted me another Kindle while I still held on to mine. They also included a return-box for the broken one so I could ship the problematic device back after receiving the new one. Quick, painless, and completely hassle free. It is by far the best customer service experience I had this millennium.

So there is a lot of good stuff there and very little downside. One other aspect shall not go unnoticed however: If you are outside the US, the Kindle probably is not for you. Although Amazon offers the Kindle internationally these days, there simply isn’t much available around it. You can buy the Kindle in Germany, but you can only get English books (by and large). It is basically a US offering sold in other countries. If you expect to read the latest novel in your native language, you are out of luck. This is completely puzzling to me. After all, Amazon has a strong presence in a number of countries, and I thought for sure that Christmas 2010 would be when Kindle really hits internationally. But apparently not so. The only option you have is to get books from somewhere else and then somehow convert them over to MobiPocket format. Some apps (like Calibre) can help you with that, but as mentioned above, when you do this sort of stuff, a large number of Kindle’s unique features go away.

So bottom line: If you are in the US, the Kindle is the way to go. Otherwise, not so much.

Sony Reader

The Sony Reader is a slick device. Nicely designed. I would argue it looks better than the Kindle. It uses the same screen technology (e-Ink) and thus exhibits many of the same characteristics. The screen is bigger however, since the Sony Reader does not have a hardware keyboard. Instead, it has a touch-screen that shows a soft keyboard whenever it makes sense.

So in theory, that should all be more appealing. Personally however, I am neutral about the whole setup. I guess the bigger screen is nicer, but I never found myself wishing for the Kindle screen to be bigger. It just seems to flow well while reading. And while in theory, the bigger screen is nice, the Kindle is also easier to hold because you simply have more space to put your fingers. Plus, the next/previous page buttons are much more conveniently located on the Kindle. The Sony Reader may look better, but the Kindle works better in that respect. Of course on modern versions of the Sony Reader, you will find yourself using the touch screen to flip pages, and that seems to work reasonably well, although I find I am more prone to accidently flip pages.

So all in all, I like the form factors about equal. You will certainly look hipper on the subway holding a Sony Reader than a Kindle though.

There is one hardware aspect where the Sony Reader is clearly lagging behind the Kindle and that is battery life. While with the Kindle, you may not have to worry about the battery for a month, with the Sony Reader you will find yourself routinely plugging the device in. With the Kindle, I would easily go on a trip without even bringing a charger, while with the Sony Reader, that might just ruin your vacation. You will also find yourself actively managing your power. You will manually turn the reader on and off, while the Kindle you simply put down like a real book without doing anything special at all.

What’s nice about the Sony Reader is that it uses the standard ePub format for its books. This means that you can buy your books anywhere you want and move them to whatever other device you want later if you decide to get something else. (Well, except for a Kindle that is). In fact, most people seem to buy books from other vendors and just put them on their Sony Reader, rather than going through the Sony store. (Note: I have had great difficulty connecting to the Sony Store, especially internationally, so I never used the Sony Store much… and in general, getting a Sony Reader to recognize a WiFi network is often more trouble than it is worth).

Being able to just deal with ePub files also has the advantage that you can manage your library in a device independent fashion, and you can use tools such as Calibre to help you do so. Amazon really needs to provide something similar for the Kindle, because as libraries grow, managing Kindle libraries is getting to be just about impossible. And while you can use Calibre with Kindle devices, it doesn’t integrate into the overall Amazon system, so it is not very helpful.

Of course the Sony Reader does not have the same overall infrastructure and system in place the Kindle does. So it is generally a one-device affair with no cross-device support. There is no Sony Reader software for the iPhone for instance, so you will only read on the reader device. Of course you could copy your ePub files to your iPhone or iPad and read it with any ePub compatible software (such as Apple’s own iBooks for instance), but there is no integration. For instance, iBooks will not know what book you read last on the Sony Reader and how far you got.

Note that the Sony Reader comes in different sizes and configurations. The “Sony Reader Touch Edition” is what I would consider the standard Sony Reader I recommend in general. There also is a “Sony Reader Pocket Edition”, which is smaller and can easily be slipped into a pocket. I would consider that more of a “companion” or “specialty” version of the device. As is the “Sony Reader Daily Edition” which is a larger version that is meant to emulate newspapers. Is is not as big as the Kindle DX, but still, not the device I would want to carry around all the time.

I also have to point out that the overall experience of getting a Sony Reader is total crap compared to getting a Kindle. The Kindle arrives, pre-configured to your account. The device is charged when it arrives. You can start reading and buying new books right away. The Sony Reader on the other hand is a complete pain in the rear. I recently bought one for someone as a gift. Getting it to connect to the store (and getting it to recognize a WiFi connection in the first place) is like an act of Congress. (I also couldn't set the time zone I wanted, because it only7 supports a handful, and so forth...). Then, you have to register your device with Sony for DRM reasons. To do this, you have to manually enter the exact product type and serial numbers and where you bought it and such. And once again, that does not seem to be up to date, so it acted like the device I purchased doesn't exist and I failed to register it. Then, you have to manually install software on your PC and authorize and pick vendors and are redirected to a gazillion web pages. The overall experience is horrid and amaturish. I would not expect a non-technical person to pull this off. (And frankly, I am still struggling with this latest purchase myself and have not yet been able to complete the process). It is unbelievable that Sony would move to market with this kind of experience. Very disappointing.

All in all, the Sony Reader is a slick device but if can’t compete with Amazon’s integrated offering in the US. But if you live outside the US, or if you want more of an open standard than Amazon provides, then the Sony Reader is a good choice.

iPad/iPhone/iBooks

Apple is also joining the e-Reader craze with their new iBooks offering. This way, you can read books on devices such as the iPhone and the iPad using the iBooks software and you can buy titles through iTunes.

There are a number of pros and cons here. Buying through iTunes is nice if you like Apple. And you are getting books in ePub format, so you get a generic offering and you can use the files on other devices. It might be the best way to buy ePub files. On the other hand, the software used is somewhat simplistic. Your devices are independent and do not integrate the same way the Kindle does, resulting in a lesser experience for people with multiple devices. Plus, there is no over-the-air sync. So if you read on your iPad and you put that down and open the same book on your iPhone, you will not be taken back to your last book and the last page automatically. Bummer! And a great missed opportunity. What were they thinking?!?

As far as the form factor goes: I like the iPhone and the iPad for some things. Certainly, on the go, the iPhone is nice because you can just pull it out of your pocket and start reading (if you have the same book synced to your device, that is). The iPad provides a nice large screen reading experience, and you can flip through pages much more quickly than on a Kindle or Sony Reader (or any other e-Reader, really). Plus, the screen is in color of course, and since it emits light, you can read in bad lighting conditions without the need of a book-light or something like that. (Although in total darkness, I find the screen to glaring to read for hours and hours). I really enjoy the experience for tech books.

The problem with devices like the iPad is that it is more a computer than an e-Reader. That means it is heavier. Holding the iPad for hours while reading a novel is not fun. Plus, the battery dies after a few hours. And of course, the active screen is not nearly as good outdoors and in sunlight as e-Ink. Apple may have one of the best active displays, but the reflective displays simply are more suitable in outdoor conditions.

Personally, I read the occasional iBook when I can’t get a certain title in a Kindle store. I also read PDFs on the Kindle, which works quite well through iBooks (in part due to the relatively large screen of the iPad). Mostly however, I use the Kindle software on the iPad and iPhone. You get the same experience as with iBooks (including color display and such) and in addition, you get the integration with the Kindle devices and other Kindle software.

Other e-Readers

I do not have a lot of experiences with other e-Readers. There are quite a few using similar technology as the Kindle and the Sony Reader. Barnes & Noble’s Nook for instance seems to be quite appealing to some people, but I hear it is slow (especially during startup… the Kindle’s ability to put it down and pick it back up much like a real book is very appealing to me). Many have short battery durations. Most do not have the advanced software infrastructure of the Sony Reader, and none can match the Kindle. I am sure there must be some devices out there that read ePub files that their owners are crazy about, but I simply do not have enough experience with them to recommend one. Personally, I tend to think that sticking with one of the bigger brands is the safest bet at this point.

What Do I Use and Recommend?

I use mainly the Kindle and I read my Kindle books on an actual Kindle device, on my iPhone, my iPad, and my PC. I love reading novels on the device and perhaps get a few extra pages in on the iPhone while I am waiting in line somewhere. Then, I go right back to my Kindle device and it sits right on the page I left off on the iPhone. Awesome! For tech books, I like reading them on the iPad, but using the Kindle app, rather than Apple’s own iBooks. If I can’t get a book in the Kindle store however (doesn’t happen often, but it does on occasion), I buy ePub files through iTunes and read them in the iBooks app. I also tend to read PDF eBooks through the iBooks app on the iPad.

All of this only applies for US readers though. I have given e-Readers as presents to people in Europe, and I would recommend the Sony Reader for that. I generally recommend the regular size Sony Reader, not the tiny one, unless you really need something you can slip into your jacket pocket.



Posted @ 8:13 AM by Egger, Markus (markus@code-magazine.com) - Comments


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