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Dr. Horrible and twittering under the table

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

The sparkling new site has coverage of the Dr. Horrible panel at the SDCC (Comic-Con).

All the cast members showed up, including “Penny” who spent the first part of the panel Twittering under the table—an event sure to follow her throughout her career.

Whedon has hinted that there will be more Dr. Horrible shows. Not surprising considering the popularity of the shows. Hopefully Dr. Horrible won’t go the same route as the “Sanctuary” web-based series—staged to use the enthusiasm of web fans only as a means to grease the way to a “real” show on a “real” TV channel (more on Sanctuary in a later posting).


Kindle and book freebies

In between accounts of the smog over Beijing, James Fallows at The Atlantic has been writing about his new Kindle and being able to use the device overseas. He also mentions a couple of free ebook download sites. I wanted to add to that list that the science fiction book publisher, Tor, is making several books available for free downloads through today (including PDFs for online reading). Hopefully this isn’t too late a notice for most of you.

I am still enamored with my Kindle, so much so that I’ve filled it up with free and purchased books, as well as samples, research reports, and other documents. I recently added an 8GB SDHC card, and am now happily trying to fill it up, too.

I do agree with one criticism of the Kindle in that it would be nice if there were a way to categorize the writings, as well as organize them into folders. However, you can search on any term, as well as display them by author, title, and status, so that will have to do for now.

Returning to using the Kindle overseas, Amazon is still not selling the device or Kindle books overseas and this decision isn’t because of Whispernet, it’s because of distribution rights and issues of copyright. Most publishers sell rights to distribution in foreign countries, an old practice that doesn’t live well with new ways of delivering content.

However, if you have a US-based address (in order to receive the Kindle) and credit card that works with Amazon purchases in the States, you could get the Kindle delivered and buy books. It’s just that instead of having them download via Whispernet, you download them to your computer and copy over using the USB cable. You can also use the same approach for updating your Kindle’s software.

It’s not as convenient as Whispernet, but it is workable. Perhaps we in the States should “adopt” our friends overseas, though there are other ebook readers that can be purchased regardless of country.

It’s also important to note that you don’t have to purchase books with Amazon. Many companies, like Tor, O’Reilly, and others are also selling ebooks direct, in formats that should work with a Kindle, a Sony ebook reader, and so on. It’s not as convenient, but other approaches may not be so locked in.

As for whether ebooks will replace the paper books, Fallows writes:

My theory: television didn’t eliminate radio, telephones didn’t eliminate personal conversations, eBooks won’t eliminate real books. People always find more ways to communicate, and this will be another way. Very good for some kinds of information, not so much for others. A welcome new addition to the mix.

Yes, but isn’t Twitter destroying our brains?

update A timely and interesting article on the internet’s impact on reading in the New York Times.


A scathing review is better than no review

Sarah Lacy doesn’t care for the recent New York Times review of her book, and is turning lose the hounds of blogging hell on the article author, Katie Hafner. Without, of course, linking to the article in question, which the egalitarian elite of Silicon Valley never do when peeved.

Lacy believes the review is overly personal, seemingly because to her, criticizing her book is somehow equivalent to criticizing her, as a person. However, the review is focused on the book, including issues of writing style, such as Lacy’s use of incomplete sentences.

The writing is, at best, informal. For instance, the last time I checked the American Heritage Dictionary, in spite of how computer trade journalists might choose to use the word, “architect” was not recognized as a verb, to say nothing of “rearchitect.” And Lacy’s fifth-grade teacher would no doubt wince at the profusion of incomplete sentences. (“Probably a good thing few women work there.” And “The time Jay and Marc were chatting when Sumner Redstone sauntered up.”) Then again, everything happens so quickly in Silicon Valley that perhaps there is no time to write a proper sentence.

Whatever anecdotal information is included in the review is all focused on the book, including the reference to the article that originally inspired the book, as well as Lacy’s seeming familiarity with the people she interviewed.

Though my books aren’t the Big Deal that books like Lacy’s are, negative reviews are just as painful, and I can understand Lacy’s unhappiness with the review. However, letting loose her fans on the review author is, to me, a tacky, rather childish action; especially since Lacy’s book has received primarily positive reviews. Did she seriously think everyone would like it? Lacy would do better to appreciate the fact that her book was reviewed in the New York Times—a negative review is better than no review at all, especially in a prestigious publication like the NY Times.

The worst thing that can happen to a book, and a book author, is no one caring about the book enough to write any review, positive or negative. Probably one of the most important points Randy Pausch made in his “Last Lecture”, linked in an earlier post, was the following:

when you see yourself doing something badly and nobody’s bothering to tell you anymore, that’s a bad place to be. Your critics are the ones telling you they still love you and care.


The Secret of HDTV

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Popular Mechanics has an excellent article of the dirty little secret of HDTV: that there are no true standards or specifications in place defining what exactly is “high definition TV”. Because of this, the article’s writer, Glenn Derene, writes, the quality of broadcast we get from providers, varies. Considerably.

For instance, compression techniques can differ, with fast action shows needing more updates than “talking head” shows. Compression can degrade with the faster shows, than the ones that are more “static”, and with fewer moving parts. This explains to me why the news shows are the best looking shows on my HDTV.