Review: Barnes and Noble Nook eReader

Nook!

My house is full of books. There are bookshelves full of them in my living room, my bedroom and my office, and I always have a running list of books that I want to read that I haven’t had time yet to add to the home collection. I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve run out of space for more, and since I can’t imagine parting with any more of my current stash, I needed to find a solution. I’d heard about the kindle, but there was just something unappealing about the large white surface and the keyboard. It seemed, so… clinical. I like the size of my books. I like the smell of a new book, the feel of the pages, and the sound the pages make when I turn them. I like books. How could an electronic device give me that same feeling?

Last fall, as my book ownership was reaching the limit of my apartment and my husband’s tolerance, and I was sneaking books into the house and hiding them so it would appear they’d been there all along, Barnes and Noble announced that they were coming out with an ereader, a competitor to the kindle.  I’d already decided that I wasn’t interested in the kindle, but the new ereader, named nook, had a different look and feel.  It was smaller than the kindle in length and width, sized about the same as a thin trade paperback.  Instead of a keyboard, which seemed silly to me on a “book”, there was a small touchscreen that would show images of the covers of the books in my collection.  And it was from Barnes and Noble, my national book haven, the place that I could go, no matter where I was in the US, and feel at home.  It was as if the book gods where sending me help in my time of need.  How could I not at least give it a chance?

Not being one to rush in lightly, I waited until the sample nook arrived in-store to make a decision.  Excitedly I arrived at my local B&N and bee-lined my way to the giant “NOOK” sign in the middle of the store.  I couldn’t believe how small and sharp-looking the nook was, but I also couldn’t believe all the issues the salesperson was having with the display device.  It seemed to take forever to turn the pages and to navigate the menu.  I asked if the contrast on the e-ink screen was adjustable, and the staff went back and forth, unable to give me an answer.  I left frustrated, deciding to wait until some of the issues were resolved before I made my decision.

A few weeks later, on December 26th, I was back in Barnes and Noble, taking another look.  I’d heard that there’d been a software fix, and sure enough, the page turning and navigation were much faster.  I placed my order, and anxiously awaited my nook, scheduled to ship on February 2.  In the meantime, I read the nook forums an a lot of online reviews, and I started to worry.  The reviews were bad, and the nook owners had a lot of complaints – issues registering, freeze-ups, losing their pages, parts of the book being cut off, sideloading issues, etc.  I started to think I should just get a kindle.  But I waited it out, wanting to see for myself if my nook would have issues.

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Review: Dell Mini 10v Netbook

Dell Mini10v

Dell has recently released the Mini10, the newest addition to its line of netbooks. There are two versions, the Mini 10 and the Mini 10v, the 10v being the slightly economized version with fewer ports and a few different options. I chose the Mini 10v as it was available with a solid state drive on a Windows XP platform, whereas the Mini 10 options only include a solid state drive with Ubuntu, and I wanted to be able to install software that I already owned onto the machine.

The SSD option with the Mini 10v is a 16gb drive, which seems small compared to what most of us are used to, but it’s perfect for my needs. I already have a 13-inch Vaio SZ, so I wasn’t looking for a laptop to meet all of my computing needs. I wanted a second machine that I could take just about anywhere and that would fit into just about any bag, and that wasn’t so expensive that I would drive myself crazy worrying about it (the way I do about the Vaio). I planned to use it for surfing the internet and writing. I wasn’t looking for a computer that I could use for photography as I prefer a larger monitor for post-production. The 16gb hard drive prevents me from installing too many applications (which means a quick startup) and keeps me from storing my files on two different computers (I put any local files onto a flash drive or online storage and transfer them to my Vaio when I get home).

In the last month I’ve taken the Mini 10v to the lake, for tacos at the Tin Fish, shopping at the swanky local mall, out for coffee at various Starbucks and Dunn Brothers and book hunting at Barnes and Noble. It fits nicely into my little Timbuk2 Eula bag that looks like it couldn’t possibly have a laptop in it. It boots up quickly and runs smoothly, and with its candy pink casing it’s a great conversation-starter.

Outside of portability I really wanted a nice monitor, a keyboard that would be comfortable to type on and an easy-to-use touch pad.

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Crumpler, and Why I Love It

Crumpler in Red

When I think about taking my camera with me, sometimes I cringe. Do I really want to bring my camera THERE? What if something happens to it? The solution to these fears is having a really great camera bag. For me that means a bag that will keep my camera safe but at the same time give me easy access to it. A bag that can hold whatever gear I need to have with me, and that won’t make it easy for thieves to steal it. And I want the bag to look nice too.

The line of camera bags by Crumpler has fit my needs perfectly. I own two of their bags: the 5 million dollar home and the 6 million dollar home. These bags do not look like camera bags, they look like basic over-the-shoulder bags that could pass for messenger bags. They’re made of a water-resistant nylon shell to keep your camera safe from the elements, and the inside is super-soft no-pill fleece to prevent scratches. The dividers for the camera gear are all fully configurable so you can arrange in the way that works best for you. They have both a shoulder strap and a top handle, and I’ve found I use both fairly often, but if I wanted to remove the shoulder strap I can do so simply by lifting a piece of velcro.

The 5 million dollar home is great for a small or mid-size SLR and a spare lens or two, with two dividers and extra pockets for your wallet, lens cleaning cloth, etc. Generally I carry my 50D with a lens attached, one additional lens, my remote, a lens cloth, moo cards, basic necessities (wallet, keys, blackberry) and my “just in case” items (a Clif Nectar bar, kleenex, lip balm). There’s still enough room to add sunglasses, a small notebook and an ultralight rain jacket if I need them. All this in a bag that looks almost too small to be a work bag and that could pass for a purse if I needed.

The 6 million dollar home is quite a bit bigger, but not so large as to be cumbersome. It has two large dividers and two smaller dividers that are great for supporting a small-to-midsize SLR with the lens pointing down. I can fit both my 50D and my film rebel inside with all four lenses, two battery chargers, remote, etc. This is the bag I bring when I have no idea what I need, or when I just want to bring the basics but need to store a sweater or heavier jacket that doesn’t fit in the smaller bag, or I want to pack a lunch.

Crumpler also makes great backpacks for when you need to bring a laptop or just want a more even weight distribution. And they make smaller bags for compact cameras or for organizing gear within another bag. Since I take my camera everywhere, a great bag is a must. For me, this is it.

My New Toy

Is that a new toy?

Yesterday afternoon I finally went out and got a new Canon EOS 50D. I decided to go with the kit EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM lens as it was only an additional $200 (the lens sells on it’s own for around $450), and I could use an updated zoom. The lens is heavy, but the pictures so far have been decent, and the image stabilization is nice.

I don’t have much of a review for the 50D at this point, other than to say it dances circles around my SD1000 point and shoot. I’m still learning how to use it, and there’s a lot to learn. If you’d like to read a good technical review, Popular Photography has done a great write up in the November issue. If you’re more interested in my personal experience with it, post a question or check back here once I’ve gotten a few more shots under my belt.

So far I’ve played a bit with higher ISO and have gotten decent shots with relatively low noise up to ISO 1600. I’m gaining familiarity with the manual shooting settings and while the aperture adjustment seems a bit counter intuitive at first I’m adjusting to it. I’m really happy with the LCD screen – it’s amazingly crisp and clear. Tomorrow I’m going to shoot a bit more in bright light and take a look at some low ISO shots, and play a bit more with the settings. Maybe I’ll try out shooting in RAW. You can see the shots I’m taking in my flickrstream. I’m going to try to post a little something every day.