28 August 2012

Sell me e-books

I’m not the first person to ask this sort of question about e-books, but I’m going to ask it anyway.

To whomever it may concern: Why can’t I buy the Kindle edition of Poul Anderson’s The Broken Sword? It is available at Amazon.co.uk but not Amazon.com.

Yes, I understand there are contracts and things. That’s completely missing the point. The point is that this e-book exists. I want to pay you money for it. I’m even willing to put up with your stupid copy protection. Yet, I can’t buy it. How does that make any sense? If you can’t fix it, why are you even clinging to your precious “rights”? Give up! You have failed.

On a brighter note, I paid Baen $35 for the Fafhrd and Grey Mouser collection, and it doesn’t come with copy protection.

Also of note is that some of Jack Vance’s works are available without copy protection. There are regional availability issues there too. Though the ones I looked at that aren’t available in the US are available through Amazon.com in the US...and some without copy protection.

And if you didn’t know: The Harry Potter books are available as e-books sans copy protection from Pottermore.

26 August 2012

Apple, Samsung, etc.

Samsung blatantly copied Apple much too much. That was wrong, but I don’t believe it should be illegal.

Apple is succeeding in the market. There was zero need for them to sue Samsung.

The words “innovation” and “originality” get bandied about a lot here, but I’ve come to see them as overrated. What really counts is execution. It is execution that has put Apple on top, not innovation. What the evidence presented in the case showed was Apple executing. The iPhone and iPad merely seem innovative because everyone else executed so horribly before Apple entered the fray. Seriously, the Blackberry was the pinnacle of mobile phones. It may have been a good product, but it wasn’t great.

By the way, competing in the courtroom is nothing new to Apple. They did it long before Jobs talked about them shamelessly stealing. See Apple v. Franklin and the GEM “look and feel” suit. This has always been the least appealing aspect of the company.

Also, the kind of copying Samsung has done is a far cry from the kind of stealing Apple does. I still don’t think either should be illegal, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a difference.

15 August 2012

Siri update

I use Siri just about everyday. I find it very useful. I don’t remember the last time I got an “I’m having trouble right now” response. The misunderstandings are infrequent enough to be funny rather than annoying.

The frequent recognition problem that does happen enough to annoy me is, “Set an alarm...” For some reason Siri has a hard time understanding me when I use that stock phrase.

My biggest complaint is that too often it seems to think I’ve stopped talking when I’m in the middle of a word. In general, though, I’m not a big fan of that feature with either Siri or voice dictation. If it worked better, it would be OK when using Siri most of the time. When doing voice dictation—and when doing voice dictation as part of a Siri interaction—my speech often needs to pause to wait on my mind.

Oh, and there is one other minor annoyance with Siri. If I say something like, “What is the closest Chinese restaurant?” Siri shows me a list of the closest ones. Once I tap on one of those, it takes me to the map. As far as I can tell, there’s no way to get back to Siri’s list short of asking the question again.

14 August 2012

iOS project organization thoughts

There is one big thing I find missing when working on my iPad.

On my Mac, I might have a directory with these subdirectories and files.

  • Skylands
    • For the players
      • Character Sheet.ink
      • Player Map.hxm
      • NPC Pictures
        • Abe the patron.jpg
        • Bob the retainer.jpg
        • Chuck the merchant.jpg
      • Q and A.html
      • Player Guide.pages
    • DM eyes only
      • Dungeon key.md
      • Dungeon map.ink
      • Reference.numbers
      • Secrets.md
      • Unmet NPC Pictures
        • Victor the minor villian.jpg
        • Xavier the major villian.jpg

There you see files created and edited by about seven different apps. For the most part, I don’t need the apps to see or access the files belonging to another app. I put all these files from different apps into the same directory, however, for organizational purposes. Everything I collect or create or edit for this project is kept together.

On iOS, data is generally organized by app. At a basic level, this is good. Plus it avoids the complications of a traditional file system which is both hard for many people to understand and which may not serve most people as much as the complication it brings. On the iPhone especially, this “each app manages its own docs” tends to work well for me. On the iPad, though, I really miss the ability to organize everything for a project in one place.

You might be able to workaround this a bit by using an app like GoodReader or FileBrowser. (There are a bunch more too.) These apps essentially work like a file system. The problem, though, is that the interaction between this file system and other apps is limited.

Apple could provide a system-wide file system and a Finder app. Lots of people have been calling for that, but I’m not sure that’s a good idea.

Maybe there could a project organizer app. Other apps could let it know what documents they have. The projects app would then let the user arrange these into projects. Then, tapping a document name/icon in a project would launch the document’s app and load the document. The actual data remains managed by the originating app. The projects app just provides a way to bring together and organize links to documents inside multiple apps.

05 August 2012

Sell me video

If you’d like me to pay your company for video, here’s three ways you can do it.

  1. Put it on iTunes.
  2. Create an iOS app for it, and—this is crucial—support AirPlay and wired video out. Do not make me log in with my AT&T credentials unless you are AT&T. I shouldn’t need a cable, satellite, or U-verse subscription to view your content unless you actually are that company. Ensure that I can view your content through this app anywhere in the world where I have a wi-fi connection.
  3. Partner with Apple to provide your content directly to my Apple TV. The relevant caveats from #2 apply here too.

Wait! Before you start telling my why these things aren’t possible, understand this: I don’t care. If you want my business, figure out how to make it happen. If you can’t, get as close as you can, and I’ll consider it.

04 August 2012

Skyland questions answered

One of the first things I did when I started preparing for my Skylands campaign was try to answer Jeff’s twenty questions. It turned out, however, that I didn’t have good answers for many of Jeff’s questions.

Perhaps that is an ill omen. shrug Every campaign is an experiment anyway.

So, I asked the players what questions they would want answered, and I answered those.

I also answered Brendan’s twenty questions.

03 August 2012

Sell me RPG stuff

Joseph Bloch has an article about the PDFs of The One Ring are being withdrawn from the market.

I’ve said enough about how doing this tells a customer that you are either lying or stupid. Let’s look at it from a different point-of-view...

Here’s a problem if you are publishing RPG material: There is enough free, high-quality stuff out there that nobody needs to buy anything to fully participate in this hobby.

Ergo, if you are going to ask us to pay for your stuff, you have to earn our dollars. And today, a big part of that is digital editions.

And I mean useful digital editions. Any restraints you put on how we can view it, search it, print it, etc. makes it less useful and, thus, less valuable.