20 April 2010


If I’m going to create something I expect you’ll read on your computer or an e-book device, I’ll probably choose HTML. (Or perhaps something like ePub, but that’s just HTML inside another package.) I’m not going to choose PDF. The best use of PDF is for things meant to be printed.

Hardly anybody—even people who enjoy reading on our computers—enjoys reading PDFs on a computer.

When you download a PDF, that is most likely a hint from the creator that they expect you to print it. PDF is print-on-demand. That’s why it’s the format used to submit manuscripts to Lulu.

If you find that you are reading or wanting to read a lot of PDFs, you should do one of two things...if not both:

  1. Buy the best printer you can afford
  2. Find a good print shop

One of the great things about the iPad, by the way, is that it is the best way to read PDFs short of printing them. (I recommend the Good Reader app.) So, a third option is to buy an iPad.☺Yet, there are still advantages & disadvantages to print vs. iPad, so I’m not selling my printer or my saddle-stitch stapler anytime soon.

15 April 2010

iPad + RPG: The player’s side

My iPad got its first use at an RPG session in a new D&D 3.5e campaign that’s just started.

The Hypertext SRD works well with Safari.

I’m creating a character record in Numbers. Mostly, it’s just a bunch of tables with manually filled in data like a paper character sheet. I do have a few formulas, but I’m not yet sure how much automation I’ll want. It’s a work-in-progress, but the combat and skill sheets worked well in play. The only time I had to reference my paper notes were for my spells, which I haven’t added to the spreadsheet yet.

I used Notes to take some notes. Bouncing between Safari, Numbers, and Notes wasn’t quite the hassle I expected.

Good Reader is the missing app that should’ve been bundled with the system. I’m trying to load up RPG PDFs I have that I might want to use.

So, was it worth it? Does it add any value?

For me, D&D 3e nigh requires making my own custom character sheet for each PC. I expect having a dynamic one that can help me with arithmetic is going to pay off with 3e as well.

Being able to search the rules (SRD) proved useful a couple of times. I also think being able to have a lot of PDFs with me rather than hardcopies will prove very useful. More on the DM’s side of the screen than the player’s side, however.

The iPad VGA adapter

When using the iPad VGA adapter, you don’t get mirroring of the iPad display. Of the bundled apps, only the Video, YouTube, and Photo can display anything on the external display. Even then, you only get anything when you play a video or start a slideshow. Well, except that videos I downloaded from iTunes or “digital copies” of movies won’t work. The iPad claims the external display is not authorized to show them.

This is one area that is not a magical experience.

Keynote will also use the external display, but only when “playing” the presentation.

The last presentation I did involved slides followed by a demo. The demo used a web browser and an SSH client. On my iPad, I have Keynote, Safari, and iSSH. I have everything I would’ve needed...except that Keynote is the only one of those apps that can use the external display.

“Christian militia”

On NPR the other day, the reporter kept referencing a “Christian militia” that had been planning to kill police officers. It’s fairly clear that such a militia is not Christian. Reporters are careful to use “alleged” and “allegedly” since people are innocent until proven guilty. Too bad that their use of adjectives requires no standard of proof.

Which reminds me of an old blog 1.0 post: “Reporting about Serial Killers” (11 October 2002)

Dr. Welner said that the media should change how they cover serial killers. Instead of words like “cunning” and “sniper”, they should use words like “coward” and “shooter”.

14 April 2010

Alice for the iPad

Grubers asks, about Alice for the iPad, “How does the Kindle compete with this?”

This is an app, not a iBook. So this is a question about competing on the platform level.

If I’m Amazon, I don’t want to be in the hardware business. Amazon is a software company that builds a retail platform. If I’m Amazon, I want to write the Kindle app for the iPhone, iPad, Slate, Courier, etc. I want to sell books to people that use other people’s hardware. Amazon created the Kindle hardware because there wasn’t a suitable platform...at least for a certain segment of the market. The iPad has the potential to serve that same market, and Amazon stands to win by supporting the iPad.

It’s with the iBooks app and store that Apple is competing with Amazon.

12 April 2010


People do not fear change. Rather, they have a healthy pessimism about it founded on the experience that change is more often simply different rather than better. Since change is seldom free, the “just different” sort of change generates waste.