A Nook Book


I just received a newsletter from Barnes & Noble trying to drum up pre-orders for their new eBook reader, the Nook. As you can guess by the graphic above, the first thing I noticed was the fucked up line spacing in their promo shot.

The shot on the left was from the newsletter I received. It’s a pretty good shot, and makes the device look attractive, but it sadly falls flat on its face if you actually look at the most important part: the screen. The featured book is Pride and Prejudice (which seems to be a defacto advertising standard for ebook readers…go public domain), and you can clearly see that the line spacing is messed up as the first five paragraphs are all bunched up.

Now, if you look at the screen on the right, you will notice that the line spacing has been corrected. So, I find myself wondering, how will these books actually perform on the device? Is Pride and Prejudice really screwed up, or did somebody notice and fixed it in photoshop? Or, was it just an early prototype that was not rendering correctly?

Based on my experiences trying convert some books to mobi reader format for my kindle, getting the paragraph spacing correct is a bit of a nightmare. I think that ebooks are basically just a compressed markup format, and the styles that get applied are related to the markup used. For example, the equivalent of the <br/> tag always seems to equate to a single line break, rather than a paragraph break regardless of how many you have.

I first came across this when I was converting some essays that were in PDF format. Occasionally my importer would split some paragraphs with two <br/> tags instead of using <p> tags. When this happened, the paragraphs ended up jumbled like the left promo shot. I assume this blunder has put the developers on their toes, and I would expect this to be right before launch.

Generally speaking, I am pretty excited about launch. I love book stores, and haven’t really been in one since I picked up my kindle. And, I really like the idea of having the in store perks for Nook owners. The Nook also has a couple of other interesting features, it looks sexier than the kindle, it supports wifi, has over one million books available, and it supports a replaceable battery. But, it isn’t all rosy.

I am concerned about the lack of qwerty keyboard. Granted, I don’t use it often on my kindle, but when I do, I cannot imagine functioning without. I am wondering if they have some kind of input system using the color touch screen in the bottom. Speaking of which, am I the only one thinking that would be pretty distracting while you’re reading? Hopefully it turns itself off when not active.

The Nook is expected to launch in late November, and should be available in a B&N near you for a test drive. I plan on giving it a once over in person, and with low price of $259 (same as the kindle), it deserves some level of consideration.

Distraction Free Writing in 2009

While Dark Room has been mostly dormant, many things have changed. I originally got the idea for Dark Room from Jesse over at Hog Bay. WriteRoom was really the first in this modern era of retro text editors. Back then, WriteRoom was the only game in town, and it was, and still is, Mac only.

Unfortunately, around this time my powerbook passed into the after life. This meant that I had to switch to my windows laptop as my primary machine for a while. And, since I had gotten so used to WriteRoom, I needed something. After spending a couple of days searching, I was quite surprised not to find anything available for windows. This is when I decided to pick up the torch, and write Dark Room. However, it did not remain alone for long.

Now, there is a glut of this style of program. Here are just the few that I know of off my head:

Cross Platform:

  • Dark Room X
  • jDarkRoom


  • Dark Room W
  • Q10
  • WriteMonkey


  • WriteRoom


  • PyRoom
  • RubyRoom


  • DarkCopy
  • Writer
  • MyTextFile

I would love to hear feedback on what you love or hate about these programs, as it will help me determine how best to shape future development of Dark Room.

An interesting factor here is that even though there are more programs, they are still pretty fragmented, as people are sort of just porting over functionality from applications exclusive on other OS’s.

jDarkRoom was the first cross platform implementation. However, I have not had much luck with it using an OS other than Windows. Which reminds me, I need to get with that developer to help him work out some kinks I experiences while using the app in OS X.

Dark Room X is my attempt to build an application that does everything you need, and nothing you don’t. I want users to be able to pick it up, love it, and be able to use it on anything. Be it their wife’s spyware loaded windows box, they’re sweet MacPro work station, or the linux box they keep as a guilty pleasure.┬áIt is just the first step in my ultimate goal: the ability to access, and work on your writing in the interface you love from anyplace at anytime.

wubi installer’s pyrun.exe says “no disk”

Ever since Ubuntu 9.04 came out I have been trying to figure out how to do an install inside Windows. For this task I typically just use wubi, which has always worked wondefully in the past. Unfortunately, this time it did not go so smoothly.

Apparently, for 9.04 they decided to do a rewrite of wubi from the ground up. Normally these refactoring excercises result in a better program. Unfortunately there appears to be a rather nasty bug in this version. Whenever I tried to run the installed I would get “Windows – No Disk” error, with a really nasty message in the dialog. I tried everything short of reformating the machine to get it to work. But, today I finally found the answer.

It appears that the new wubi installer gets confused if you have a bunch of drives. Many people who had more than one cd-rom drive had to burn two copies and have the disk in both drives for it to work. In my case, it was the built in card reader that was the problem. After stopping it, and ejecting the drives I was finally able to get the installer going. Hurray.

Crucial Rocks

I’m glad to say that at least someone had gone out of their way to make the world a better place.

As a mentioned in the last post, I am attempting to get some ram for my G5 since I only have a meager 512 MB per processor which causes many of the single threaded apps to choke.

So, I ordered some RAM at 6 PM EST, and low and behold they shipped it today. Apparently, they are shipping out of Salt Lake City (if I only I had stayed around there I would have it by now).

Now, all I have to do is sit back, relax, and wait for UPS to screw this up by holding it over the weekend or some other lame reason.

Keyring Digital Camera

Well, I got my Philips Wearable Camera today. It is a pretty neat little invention. The picture quality totally sucks, but the only reason I got it was to take quick snap shots of things throughout the day for the express purpose of either putting them here in the blog, or just capturing the moment when it would otherwise be lost (making better chances for capturing a WPE moment).

The image on the right is a demo shot from the camera that I took moments ago, just to make sure that it works, and what not. It looks like the reviews I read have been pretty much straight with you. The picture quality indoors kind of sucks, simply because there is not enough light. This one was taken of my monitor again against the wall to get the contrast of light. It looks like the image on the monitor came through pretty decently, but everything is just so so. Also, I should point out that this image has been reduced in size. The default image size is 640×480, whereas I reduced this one to 300×225, since that is pretty much as large as I ever make images in this log.

On a side note, my development in my side project was progressing at an insane rate, meaning that I finished all four hours of work in just under two. If you finished four billable hours worth of work in two hours, that is still billable as four right? Anyhow, this gave me time to play around with a couple of ideas that I had been toying with but not a chance to attempt.

RSS apparently is not as easy as I originally thought to implement. I spent about fifteen minutes whipping up a PHP script that would Parse Phil’s weblog (since I do not like his music). Well, it all looks right to me, I’m not exactly sure what the problem is, but it will not pass verification. It is the weirdest thing. At the moment, the only thing that I can think of is that it is coming in as text/html, when it should be coming in as rss/xml. I don’t know, I may play with it some more tomorrow. If you want to check it out here is a demo of my alpha version up: Phil RSS Demo.

That’s all for now, well except for, at this very moment, VANLANDW.NO-IP.COM is DOWN!