Thursday, December 30, 2010

Gadget review: Nook Color

After nearly clubbing me to death over my indecision, Mrs. Poolbar got me a Barnes & Noble Nook Color for my birthday to replace my Sony Reader model PRS-300 which I'd purchased earlier in the year somewhat impulsively. The Sony is a good entry-level reader at a low price point. I knew it lacked any kind of wireless connectivity, but I was OK with that. But I found I was a bit disappointed in its lack of any kind of text search capability or even highlighting. Still, it served me well enough in its primary purpose of carrying lots of books around without, you know...carrying lots of books around.

My indecision revolved around what to replace it with. The Nook Color was a front runner early on once I found out it was an Android-based device, but then I saw the Velocity Micro Cruz tablet at Borders, which gave me pause. While the Nook is Android-based, B&N has locked down the OS so that it is still, first and foremost, an e-reader, with a couple of games and a web browser thrown in. At $249, the Cruz is the same price as the Nook Color, but offers a more full Android experience with the Borders book store/reader app just another app running on the tablet. But then I saw some negative reviews on the Cruz and it was indecision time again. I briefly considered the Samsung Galaxy Tab but just about gagged on the $500+ price tag, not to mention that at present it's only available with a monthly subscription with a cell phone carrier. A WiFi-only model is due out soon, but will still cost around $500. In the end I finally decided that since I'd use such a device about 80% of the time as a reader, the Nook Color made the most sense.

The Nook Color sports a 7" capacitive touch screen and offers a most impressive display. The Nook reader app manifests itself on the home screen with a scrollable bar of recent titles on the bottom. Titles (displayed as book covers) can be dragged from the bar onto the home screen.

Upon opening a book, you're taken to where you left off, or the title page if you're opening it for the first time. You can turn pages either by swiping right to left (forward) or left to right (back). You can also turn pages by tapping on the right side of the page (forward) or the left side (back). Tapping in the center of the page brings up a menu for browsing the title's contents, text searches, sharing (more on that later) and adjusting text size and display brightness.

The reader also has a "Lend Me" feature which allows you to lend a book to another Nook owner. Not only is this a nice feature for the consumer, it's smart for B&N. I'm seriously considering getting Mrs. Pool Bar a Nook simply because we read many of the same authors and this solves the problem of buying duplicate titles.

Now, about the sharing features. You can link your Nook Color to your Facebook, Twitter and Google Mail accounts. You can tweet or update your Facebook status with quotes from a book. The update or tweet will include the quote, plus a link to the B&N store for the title you're reading. Here's an example. You can also rate a book and post reviews, which I believe (since I haven't tried it yet) post to the B&N e-book store under that title.

The web browser is the standard Android browser, and runs well on the Nook. Web pages, particularly when viewed in landscape mode, are rendered very well, with only Flash content unavailable. While there's no YouTube app as found on standard Android devices, YouTube clips are viewable. When you click a YouTube link the video is played through the Nook's media player. The media player plays MP3 and AAC audio files, and MP4 and M4V video. I loaded an MP4 file I'd recorded onto my Nook and the media player rendered it very well.

Under a menu category called "Extras", you'll find a few games (Sudoku, chess and crossword puzzles), as well as Pandora Internet Radio, your Google contacts, the media player and your media gallery (photos, videos and music).

Having used the Nook for a few days, I've encountered absolutely ZERO issues. Performance is snappy and so far at least, I couldn't be happier with it. The docs for the Nook Color say that the unit won't charge while connected to your computer via USB. The docs lie. While the charging indicator on the display doesn't come on, the unit IS charging. What you can't do while connected to the computer is actually use the device, except for transferring files between your computer and the Nook. The Nook Color is fully functional when connected to outlet power.

Now for the best part...the Nook Color is rootable, and it's a very simple root procedure compared, for example, to my Motorola Backflip Android phone. Locked inside the Nook Color is a pretty awesome Android tablet just raging to break free. The current stock Android 2.1 implementation on the Nook lacks nearly all the standard Android apps, and doesn't allow access to any Android market apps. It's not even possible to sideload apps. Word on the street is that B&N is releasing a software update in January which will be Android 2.2-based and allow some very limited access to market apps, so I'll wait for that update before deciding to root. But I'll probably root it at some point, regardless. It'll be awesome to have nearly Samsung Tab power at half the price.

Update: I went ahead and rooted it without waiting for the update from B&N. Rooting took me all of 5 or 10 minutes, including the time it took to create the bootable SD card. The folks at xda developers who created the custom ROM and the root procedure and scripts did a bang-up job and everything went flawlessly. My Nook Color is now one bitchin' Android tablet. :-)

Monday, December 27, 2010

The ugly truth about my dog

My dog sleeps about 20 hours a day. He has his food prepared for him. He can eat whenever he wants, 24/7/365. His meals are provided at no cost to him. He visits the doctor once a year for his checkup, and again during the year if any medical needs arise. For this he pays nothing, and nothing is required of him. He lives in a nice neighborhood in a house that is much larger than he needs, but he is not required to do any upkeep. If he makes a mess, someone else cleans it up. He has his choice of luxurious places to sleep. He receives these accommodations absolutely free. He is living like a king, and has absolutely no expenses whatsoever. All of his costs are picked up by others who go out and earn a living every day. I was just thinking about all this, and suddenly it hit me like a brick in the head...
My dog is a Democrat!

(Thanks to my buddy AB for e-mailing this to me. And yes, that's really my dog up there.)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

More Christmas humor

Yeah, I'm way too lazy to be bothered with posting content of substance, so here's another Christmas joke...

An international chess club was holding their annual meeting at a hotel. During a cocktail reception several of the attendees were gathered near the entrance bragging about their mastery in various chess tournaments. After several minutes of this, the hotel manager threw them out.

When a bellhop asked the manager why, he explained, "I can't stand chess nuts boasting by an open foyer."

Christmas humor

Santa had just finished loading up his sleigh and was climbing on board for his annual flight around the world when a man with a large hunting rifle hopped into the right seat.

Startled, Santa asks the man, "Seriously? You're gonna rob ME on Christmas Eve?"

"Sorry to give you a fright, sir", the man replies. "I'm Bill from the FAA. The powers that be decided earlier this year that you must be subject to an annual check ride so that we can certify your airworthiness and emergency handling procedures."

Santa, looking a bit puzzled, asks Fred, "Well, OK, but what's with the .30-06?"

Fred leans in and whispers, "Well, I'm not supposed to tell you, but you're gonna lose one on take-off."