Tag Archive for ipod

iVerse Media Digital Comics

Now that I’ve had to upgrade my iPod to a shiny new iPod touch, one of the first things I did was download all the free comics offered by iVerse Media via Apple’s App Store. A friend showed me a few of them on his iPhone a few weeks back, and I hadn’t realized anyone actually ported comics over just yet (though I shouldn’t be surprised, I suppose).

There are a few others out there, but I started with iVerse’s offerings. Each comic is a stand-alone app, and the comics are broken down into single panels (or sets of panels) that appear on the screen one at a time. A simple swipe turns the virtual pages. I was surprised how easy they were to read, and at 99 cents a pop, I can see even casual comics readers downloading a few titles. I showed Atomic Robo to my sons, and they instantly picked up on how to navigate the pages. My seven year old can even change the preferences in the comic so the panels will slide instead of curl (he likes the former transition, I prefer the latter), he can use the slider to find the page he left off on after daddy “messed it up,” and he can even open and close the app himself.

In all, it makes an incredible little package.

There is a downside, of course. Some of the comics aren’t so easily broken down into the iPod’s screen dimensions. For example, a couple of the panels were obviously one larger panel cut into two or three screen pages. Half a character isn’t so bad when you’ve got the top half, but when you turn the page to get only legs, it’s kind of strange. I suspect some of this may have been lazy (or cheap) remixing, as not every comic had this problem. It can also be chalked up to the newness of the technology: artists aren’t thinking about the iPod yet, they’re concentrating on the printed page. Why would anyone want to cut up their beautiful art?

The other downside is a device problem. I took it outside and, even standing in the shade, I had a tough time making out some of the panels. Bright panels with a lot of contrast were readable but washed out, and dark panels turned to blobs of shadows and silhouettes. Laptops aren’t much better, so I’m curious to see how new screen technologies from Fujitsu and Ricoh turn out (once they become widely available for an affordable price, that is).

If I could offer one iVerse-specific criticism, I’d like to see them have a universal setting for the apps. I have no idea if this is even possible, but if there were a function call to a central app setting that determined the preferred page transition across all the comics, that would be great. As it is, I find myself having to drop into the settings of each app to make the switch.

Still, it was very cool sitting at my desk at work and burning through a comic book while waiting on some file transfers. If someone were willing to whip out a Kindle to download a book while sitting in a doctor’s waiting room or at an airport terminal, they could just as easily download a comic on their iPhone or iPod touch.

Is it the future of comics? I don’t know about that, but it certainly seems a viable future. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go download Atomic Robo #2 for the Midget and I.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Run for Your Life

Tomorrow, Troy and I officially start the Cool Running Couch-to-5k Running Program. The late cold weather delayed us several times this month, but now it looks like weather for both of us will be more cooperative this week and we’re going to get started. Anyone else feel like joining us?

I spent some time the last few days preparing for the program. I’ve never been much of a runner, so I’m doing everything I can to eliminate excuses and make it as fun as possible before I even get started. I set up some running tunes on my iPod nano (lots of punk and metal), injected a little tech geekery by setting up a Nike+ account, and selected Pantera’s “Cowboys from Hell” as my PowerSong.

I’m finding the Nike+ site is flexible with its goals and resolutions, letting experienced runners set up marathons and sprints or allowing folks like me to set simpler goals. For now I’ve set a goal to run 10 times over the next four weeks, which should be a piece of cake if I follow the Cool Running program properly. It recommends running three days a week, so if I stick to it I should hit 12 runs. I’ve made my progress public here, and there’s also a new widget to track my goal in the sidebar of my blog.

I’ve mentioned the plan to several of my friends and family member, and by far the first question they ask is “Why?” Two reasons: lose more weight and to increase my endurance.

I’ve already mentioned I lost about 35 pounds in my first year of karate, and there’s no question it has helped me make dramatic improvements in my overall health. However, my weight loss has kind of stalled out since December. I’m thinking I’m making a trade off by packing on new muscle, but in general I’m floating in the same five-pound range and I wonder if I’ve hit a plateau. A running program should help me get past that point and burn off some more fat.

The endurance is also karate related; when I spar, I come away gasping for breath. The matches rarely go the full two minutes allotted, and they’re mostly bursts of activity rather than constant motion because we’d trade a few blows, one of us would score, and the judge would call a quick stop to award a point and reset. The few times we’ve done Judo matches I’ve been even more exhausted, and in one match my body just about quit on me before the match was over. Don’t get me wrong, I expect to be at least winded. However, I feel like I should be able to last longer than I do, and that I should be less exhausted and recover faster when a match is over.

As a bonus it will help my endurance when we do our hundred front kicks, ideally preparing me for having to do 500 front kicks in a black belt test at some point in the future. It should also be helpful for running strings of wazas in rapid succession. For example, running the first four ippon kumite katas out of kiba dachi for my first review as a blue belt wasn’t terrible, but those numbers will increase as I climb in rank and I’ll perform the technique to multiple directions, so I had best prepare now.

So the motivation is there and my intentions are good. Let’s see if I can’t make this happen.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Plateaus

I hit a definite plateau in my weight loss recently, holding the same weight from late December through the middle of February. I thought I was going to have to start the running program before I saw any change, but then I got sick. That fever and infection knocked seven pounds off me in a week, and I’ve only gained one back since I started feeling better on Monday.

The good news is I didn’t let that plateau discourage me. I practiced my karate as often and as hard as ever, and I continued to set the same weight goal for January and February rather than trying to compromise and find a middle ground. Now that I feel better, I may up the intensity of those workouts and see if I can’t sweat a little more.

I expect the running program will be the next real breakthrough, though. I like that it’s simple and realistic, especially given that I normally hate running. I like how the goal is just to do it, not attach any kind of speed or time limit to it. That should help me burn some weight as well as build up my endurance for sparring matches and our more intense karate class workouts.

I’m also happy to report the same plateau didn’t hit my karate progress. I learned a new speed form that I struggled with at first. Given I spent all of last week on my ass, I worried I’d have some trouble with it again. Fortunately on Tuesday night, the first of two review nights this week, I was able to bang it right out on request, and I nailed it the first time through. Same goes for the two new Judo throws I had to demonstrate. Not too shabby.

Tonight’s the second review, and I’ll finish it by interpreting my kata, Anaku, and doing some form sparring. I’ve been reviewing the interpretation in my head most of the day, so I should do fine. If all goes well, I’ll make my next belt in April.

If anything demonstrates I’m not stuck on a plateau, I would think a new belt would be it.

This weekend I buy some new running shoes for the running program. The high school staff at the district I work for surprised me with a Visa gift card, so I’ll be taking that to the local Dick’s to grab a pair of Nike+ shoes and the Nike+iPod transmitter.

As soon as the warmer weather hits, I hit the track.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Drinking the Apple Kool-Aid

One of the Apple execs I met yesterday made a good statement about their products: you don’t get it until you try it.

Apple users extol the virtues of their OS all the time. Three of my friends, including (former) die-hard PC user John Roling, have switched to Mac and vow to never go back. A school in Indianapolis employing a 1-to-1 initiative dropped their PC laptops in favor of MacBooks and couldn’t be happier. A Minneapolis-area school switched their 8 buildings from PC to Mac and offered to load Windows for anyone who wanted it; not one teacher requested it.

The rest of us ask “It costs how much?

The MacBook I purchased in December was my first real experience with a Mac, and it’s been growing on me ever since. Wednesday, on the way up to Chicago for our Apple briefing, my superintendent and I stopped off at the New Lenox School District 122. A teacher showed us how she used Macs, and I picked the tech coordinator’s brain about the back end. Both of them couldn’t be any happier with their Macs, and the downside on the back end is far from a deal-breaker.

That night, we hit the Apple Store on Michigan Avenue. I played with an iPod Touch. I fiddled with an iPhone, then browsed the MacBooks, Apple TV, and the iMacs. I chatted with the sales reps, and I damn near came home with an iPod Touch for the Wife.

Yesterday we sat in on the briefing, learned about Apple’s sales and growth, and got a lot of hands-on experience. We created a podcast in Garage Band in minutes (complete with pictures), and fiddled with a lot of the features that would really help in an educational setting, such as the built-in Dictionary and the Speech text-to-speech engine. We even got to see a lot of the thoughtful extras, like Webclips.

We drove home stunned.

Sure, I still have a few beefs. The closed nature of some of their products, for starters (the iPod Touch may be open to more developers soon, but the iPhone will be AT&T-only for some time). The lock-in to iTunes. The lack of true GPS on the iPhone and the Touch (every time someone tried to show me the triangulation feature, it failed or at least failed to build directions off of it). The way the Nike+iPod is restricted to the iPod Nano. And, of course, the price tag.

Yet it’s hard to argue with the value. Like people say, most of this stuff is just cool to use. Apple has put a lot of thought into the layout and design of both the hardware and the software, and I’ve heard nothing but good things about the system’s stability. OS X is loaded with features you just don’t get on Windows (or at the very least aren’t as polished in Windows), and the iPhone and Touch interfaces are an order of magnitude better than the Palm’s (there’s no stylus to lose, either).

The Wife scoffed when I told her I almost brought home a Touch for her. She had been looking at one of those credit card-sized photo viewers to show pictures to people, and she carries a calendar and address book in her purse. The Touch would fill all those functions and then some, saving her space in her purse and give her a much better screen and interface to boot. When I got home, I sat her down in front of my MacBook and gave her a tour of the Touch on Apple’s site. Sure enough, she’s impressed and looks forward to getting one in the near future.

Even tonight, despite my irritation in being forced to purchase an iPod Nano if I want to use the Nike+iPod gear when I try the Cool Running 5k plan this Spring, I found myself pricing out both the gadgets and a pair of Nike+ shoes or the Shoe Pouch. All day I’ve been trying to figure out if I should sync the Wife’s iPod Touch with my school MacBook or if I should buy an iMac for the family, and she doesn’t even have the damn thing yet. I yammered about Apple crap all night, and the Wife says I haven’t been this excited about computers in a long time.

Right now, if someone asked me what kind of computer they should buy, I would tell them “If you can afford it, buy a Mac. If you can’t, buy the best machine you can afford and slap Ubuntu on it.”

I feel so dirty.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Reading the Future?

Sony Reader

Originally uploaded by MikeOliveri.


The Wife and I spotted the Sony Reader at Borders last night and we stopped to take a look.

I’d heard a lot about the crisp, clean display, but the reviews really don’t do it justice; this thing is just plain easy to read. Hell, you can almost read the screen in the picture attached to this post! It’s a little wider than a standard paperback, but about the same height and quite a bit thinner and lighter. I took a look to make sure no Borders employees were watching and tried to flex it, but it felt sturdy (though I still woulnd’t try sitting on it). The screen didn’t distort when I pressed on it, either.

On the down side, there was a slight delay when turning pages, but it wasn’t too terrible. The controls weren’t very responsive, but I wonder if it was just the book in question (a manual for SD card from the look of it) or if there was really a problem with the software. And last but not least, it costs $300.

I think that price tag puts it well out of reach of most consumers. If it were cheaper, it might be more enticing, especially for someone who reads a lot of books. As it is, I’m thinking unless I did some extensive traveling, I could put up with the grief of carrying a paperback or two. You would also have to convince me I could save enough money to justify the cost.

If I were Sony, here’s how I would change my focus on this thing:

1) Bring the cost down. Assuming the tech and manufacturing allows it, this thing’s got to be sub-$100. At $300, iPods and similar devices look a lot more appealing than a glorified book, and really only appeals to (very) avid readers with a lot of extra cash.

2) I’d find a way to make it just a little more portable. Relocating the buttons along the right side would be a good start. In fact, I’d put a button in each of the upper corners, either along the top or side if not flush with the front, and leave everything else along the bottom. Readers are already used to reaching to the upper corners of the page to turn pages back and forth, so why not put the buttons in the same spot? Take advantage of what’s now instinct, and get this thing a little narrower so it can slip into a pocket.

3) Make a big push for commuters and travelers, and make it easy for them to obtain electronic books. Plus, make it easy for them to adapt their own documents to the book. If they can load it up with things like technical manuals, insurance directories, legal documents, maybe even schematics, it may become more attractive, even when compared to a Palm.

4) Make a bigger push in education. If they can make partnerships with textbook publishers and maybe even set some schools up with grants, they may see a lot of students taking these things home. I think it would have been great to carry one of these and a notebook to all my classes, both in high school and college, rather than lug around a heavy stack of books. And it’s a lot more affordable — be it at $300 or $100 — than a one-to-one computing initiative, both for the students and the schools.

5) If the e-book pricing allows it, demonstrate how much the average reader can save as well. With paperbacks up to $8 a pop and hardcovers floating in the neighborhood of $25, savings could add up quickly even for a sporadic reader. I would also demonstrate how it could make it more palatable to pick up new books. I might be more willing to take a chance on an author I’d never read if it only cost a buck or two.

6) Finally, talk to newspapers and magazines. If someone could subscribe to the Chicago Tribune and have it show up on their reader every morning before they get on the train, or have Cigar Magazine appear automagically, that might be fairly enticing.

You might say “But Mike, now you might as well carry a PDA!”

Not necessarily. First and foremost, the screen on a PDA is not near as conducive to extensive reading as the Sony Reader, and the power consumption is a lot more. This thing only draws a tiny amount of power when changing the page, so the battery lasts a long, long time. Those irritating moments where you’ve forgotten to charge the damn thing become a thing of the past, or at least very infrequent.

Furthermore, cell phones can handle most of the PDA tasks. Carry a smartphone for your communication and organization, and carry this thing for your documents when necessary. Sure, you can’t do much document creation/editing on this guy, but I still think people who do creation on a portable device like a Palm are few and far between, and the smartphone may still be an option there.

But hey, what do I know? I’m just a consumer.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.