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.

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.

Windows 7

I finally was able to get a copy of the Windows 7 beta (with key). I’ve installed it in vmware fusion to get it a spin. After playing with it for a little while here are some observations:

  • Appears to be more stable than vista
  • Has a more consistent look than vista
  • Loosy goosy interface isn’t as good as windows 2000.
  • Seems to be a bit faster than vista
  • IE8 renders this site correctly
  • IE8 is very unstable (tabs crashed and reloaded about ever 15 seconds and it kept “not responding”)

Symfony 1.2

Recently, symfony 1.2 was released and I have to say it is quite wonderful. I started following symfony when symfony 1.1 was under development. I didn’t really like many of the things done in symfony 1.0 so I had passed over it whenever I was working on a new project.

But, symfony 1.1 began to introduce many great new feature, such as their object oriented form system that makes building forms much easier. Several other internal changes made it reasonable for me to start looking into. Unfortunately, nothing is perfect, and there were some annoyances in 1.1 that prevented me from using it as much as I would like. Fortunately, symfony 1.2 took care of many of those issues.

One of the nicer things is the new admin generator that uses the new form system. I hated dealing with the old system in the admin generator in 1.1. And, another nice thing was the inclusion of task configurations, so I no longer need to reference an application when I am executing a task (it was very counter intuitive).

The only gotcha that I experience was with the plugin system. Since they revamped the plugin manager, you are now required to define what plugins you want loaded in the project config file. In the past everything in the plugin directory was automatically loaded. Once I figured that out I was off the races.