Saturday, February 26, 2011

Once you go Mac you never go back......

Today the new Macbook Pro's came out and we drove over to the Apple Store in Norfolk and bought one. Now, we have never had an Apple computer before, only recently having purchased the iPad and a year ago the iPod Touches and a Nano. So today after enjoy our other Apple products so much we decided to buy a Macbook.

Words can barely describe how excited I am and now impressed I am with this laptop even though is is only a few hours old and still the baby in the technology nursery here in the Sheep Shack.  The graphics are beautiful, I think that is probably and understatement and something everyone already knows even if you have never used a Mac you know they have awesome graphics, well its totally true. I wasn't sure how I would like something that doesn't use folders the way a Windows computer does, not I can't believe how archaic Windows and folders feel to me.  Everything being at the bottom of the screen in the "dock" is so convenient. Easy to find and makes computing a joy.

 We also got a great deal, with software and a printer, we purchased iWorks and it is normally $79, we received $30 off and then they had an HP all in one printer, copier, scanner for $99 with a $99 rebate, so free printer, that is wireless! So very happy happy people here in the Sheep Shack tonight.

My blog has never looked better than on the Macbook screen!

I still have my Windows laptop that I will continue to use as this Macbook really belongs to the hubby, but I think it won't be long before there is another one here.

If you are considering a Macbook, I would encouraging to not think about it another minute, run to the nearest Apple Store and if there isn't one near you, order it from where ever  you need to order from but get yourself a Mac.

If you do have an Apple store with in any driving distance it is worth the trip. They staff is awesome, we had a young man named Tim who sold us our Macbook and helped us set everything up in the store before we left so when I came home all I had to do was turn it on and start blogging! Apple support is the best!

Have a Mac'rific weekend!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Step Away from the iPad....

Okay, so I put down the iPad for a little while and actually did some knitting. And I have a few more details to share with you about my latest project.  This is the Ladder Rib Vest from the November issue of Creative knitting. It is a KAL project for my knitting group at work. This is my Ladder Rib Vest 5.0 because I have frogged it 4 times! We all thought it would be great to knit it in the round to avoid seaming later since none of us are big fans of seaming. So we did a swatch and adjusted the patter to accommodate knitting on circs. After adjusting for the addition stitches required for seaming we came up with our cast on number, based on the size vest we were knitting. For my project that was 216 stitches. Let me just say right now, I am an experience in the round knitter, I knit socks constantly I have knit sweaters, hats, mittens in the round. But for some reason, this particular project kept twisting now matter what I did to prevent it. After casting on and frogging 216 stitches 4 times, I decided it was time to follow the pattern and change to straights, I'll just have to deal with the seaming when I get to that point. And I have seamed projects before and they turned out just fine, it is just not my favorite thing to do.

So here is my vest in progress, size 8 needles and a yummy yarn from Knit Picks in colorway....wait for it.....Twilight. You knew that was coming didn't you? LOL. I just couldn't resist it when I saw it in the catalog. It is a lovely color!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

P P P Pages...

Okay if you aren't familiar with David Bowie, that title probably has little meaning for you..... But what it does me for everyone it the Pages program for the iPad.

I purchased it last night and I am so glad I did! I had been trying, and I stress trying to us PlainText, because it is Dropbox compatible, but that is the only thing it is compatible with. I couldn't get any documents no matter what format I saved them in to import from Dropbox. So I gave up. I went back to the App Store and investigated all the options and decided that the $9.99 price tag for Pages was worth it. And so far I am very pleased.

I've never been a big fan of Google Docs. I found it to be too limited. The Google Docs app is limited in that you can only edit your documents online. My specific requirements needed to allow for on and offline editing. I've mentioned my frustration with PlainText so that was out. So that sort of put me off the free text apps, so I started looking at the paid only apps for reliable options.

IA Writer comes highly recommended by the likes of Stephen Fry, and I love Stephen Fry and do not believe he would endorse anything not worthy of his time. IA Writer is Dropbox and iTunes file sharing compatible. But, I couldn't see where you could add pictures, and that is a feature I wanted to have. But, if you want basic text/document editing this program is currently on sale for $.99, can't beat the price.

So many of the other programs were "note taking" program not intended for serious document writing and many were handwriting based and not keyboard. But if that is your thing, there are some pretty good ones out there.

But, I went with Pages, for a couple of reasons, one, while not Dropbox compatible yet, it is compatible with iTunes file sharing and you don't have to change your Word document to something else like .txt. Pages allows you to work on line or off and also allows you to import pictures. It has your major editing features, like Bold, Underline, Italics, etc. And you have your on screen keyboard or your wireless keyboard to suit your personal needs. I use a wireless keyboard myself. I also went with Pages for the support, I don't want to have my documents on a program that one day is no longer supported and I'm sure Apple with keep their products up to date.

So if you want something a little more advanced that IA Writer I recommend Pages, if basic text and document editing and creating is all you need for on the go, writing the next great novel, then for the price, IA Writer is the app for you.


Saturday, February 12, 2011

Knitting Minus One Thumb

You know it is nearly impossible to knit with one's thumb in a splint. Not really sure what the trouble is with the thumb, it is swollen, painful, all in the second joint. So the doctors solution at this point is to immobilize it and use anti-inflammatory meds. Seems like a completely logical solution UNLESS YOU ARE A KNITTER, hey doc, seriously I have things to do!
I have a KAL for a sweater vest with my knitting group at work, I've been struggling with a Glomit pattern for longer than it should take to knit the entire pair, and a pair of socks on size 1 needles. And a big clunky plastic thumb splint. Seriously, modern medicine needs some advances when it comes to the fiber arts related fields, we need something a little more pliable and little more craft friendly here people.
I find that the splint does not make my thumb feel better, it fact it feels worse, so today we try a different splint instead of the plastic kind your thumb slides into, we will try the traditional metal stick taped to the thumb and see if that helps.

Alas, I did manage to finish my Van Dyke socks before all this thumb drama started. I'm very pleased with how they turned out.

So knitting will be slow here this week, what is everyone else working on?

And I hope everyone's snow is melting! We got more snow here this week but only an inch or two and only the snow in the shady spots are left. And the bulbs I planted in December are starting to poke their little green heads up out of the ground!  I want to tell them go back where it is warm, it is too cold up here!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

eBook Reader Apps for iPad and Other Mobile Devices

We cover a lot of topics here related to the "stitches" portion of the blog, but I want to to cover a topic for the "stories" side of the blog. Besides the "stories" portion being related to my name, it is also related to my love of books new, old, paper and electronic. I love the smell of books, libraries, and used book stores! But, reading an ebook is about the most convenient way to enjoy your favorite subject, novel or author I can think of. And there are plenty of eReaders out there, we have discussed some here and they have their pros and cons, but lets address the devices that can do more then one thing, the iPhones, iPads, iPod Touch and Android devices. This is for the multi-tasking, want just one device to rule them all, superfreaks out there and you know who you are.
*A personal note, I love my iPad and wouldn't trade it for anything*

The eReader apps I currently have on my iPad and have used are: iBooks, nook, Kindle, Bluefire Reader, Borders, Overdrive and Kobo.

  1. Bluefire Reader, is pretty easy to use, my major concern with this app is the bookmark feature I'm still undecided on if I like it or not. Page turning is simple using the touch screen, just touch the edge of the page and the page turns. This is indicative of the iPad's technology. Touch the bottom of the screen and a menu comes up for Bluefire, you can go back to your library, see the contents page, insert a bookmark, search or change the font settings.  When you select the font settings option, you have two buttons for the font "smaller" and "larger" tap either once to see a change in the font size preview, if that change was not significant enough for you tap the button again until you have your desired size. You can also adjust the brightness of the screen, adjust how you want you pages to turn, flip, slide, fade or cut. You can have the page numbers show on screen and there is a night mode as well. In night mode you have a black background with white lettering, and in day mode you have a white background with black lettering.  The bookmark feature allows you to make notes within the bookmark. I would use this feature more for a non-fiction book perhaps a book with knitting patterns or a book on history rather than a novel. But it is there if you need it. For reading a novel I find it a bit clunky.  Also, it does not appear that Bluefire is currently available for Droid users, it is available for iPad and iPhone though.  It is not my favorite eReader app, but it is not the worst either. 
  2. Borders app, the Borders app is very easy to use, nothing complicated and nothing flashy. My major concern with this app is that once you have the settings menu up on your screen to you cannot tap the bottom of the screen to hide it at will. It will go away on it's own after a few minutes, but I find it distracting while it is there. With that being said, the settings are easy to use and adjust. At the top you have buttons for contents, overview and annotations, which is very handy. The bookmark feature is simple and easy to use, just tap the upper right hand corner and it dog ears the page for you in red. There is a progress bar at the bottom to let you know how far along you are in each chapter. In the font settings you can change the font style as well as, the font size. Changing the font size is as simple as sliding the bar to one end or the other for small or larger. There is also a setting to adjust the brightness and for day or night reading. Other settings include, Borders styling, page transition, either fade or curl, and text alignment. The Borders app on its main page gives you options to view, what you are currently read, your library and connecting to the store. Within the library you can view "All", "Books" or "PDFs", you can also have the bookshelf viewing mode, a list mode with icon of the book and you can browse by title. You can also change the style of your bookshelf, to Modern, Gothic, Wood and other choices, in this mode you can also change your bookmarks style from the default read tab to leather, a tassel or even a monkey or a trout just for fun. The Borders app is available for Android, Blackberry, both Mac and Windows PCs, iPad, iTouch and iPhones. 
  3. iBooks: is the least customizable of the programs, which if having a trout for a bookmark isn't a big deal for you, then the iBooks app will work just fine. iBooks looks most like a book by having two pages on the screen at a time, rather than just the document style of the other programs by having one page on the screen at a time. The bookshelf is not customizable, but it is very functional and you can have the bookshelf style or the list style, you also have the option of going to the iBook store from your bookshelf. If you choose list style then you can organize by title, category or author, you may also choose your collections, either books, or PDFs. You can edit and add new collections for your bookshelf as well. When you book is open, you have your setting options at the top of the page, you can adjust the brightness using a slide bar. Under the font settings you again have two button like the Bluefire app and you just top them until you read the desired font size, you can also choose your font style. You may choose the look of your pages by turning sepia on or off. Sepia gives it an antique look as opposed to the stark white background. You may search within the book and you can bookmark your page. Once you have all your settings to your liking just tap the top of the page to hide your settings menu. Overall, this is one of my favorites for its uncomplicated ease of use. iBooks being an Apple product, is obviously available for iPad, iPhone and iTouch.  
  4. Kindle app: The Kindle app gives you some settings options on the main page, but it is under the "i" icon in the lower right hand corner from there you can choose settings and turn on or off, the basic reading mode, popular highlights and annotations. Also on the main screen you can choose the bookshelf or list modes for your books. Once a book is open you can tap the bottom of your screen for settings within the book. There is a progress bar at the bottom to let you know where you are in the book and you can use the bar to go back or skip ahead. There is a search feature, for the text or you can choose Google or Wikipedia, you can also go to the cover, table of contents, the beginning of the book, a specific location or page number within the book to your personal notes or marks in the book and popular highlights. On the font icon you can choose your font size from six sizes and  you can choose your page background, white, black or sepia. You can adjust the brightness and either single column display or double column display. Tap the upper right hand corner for your bookmark and upper left hand corner to return home. Kindle apps are available for your iPad, iPhone, Windows PC, Mac, Blackberry, Android and Windows 7 phone. Making it the most widely available reading app so far. 
  5. Nook app: I find that I enjoy the Nook app more than I enjoy my Nook. That maybe be because I have a first generation Nook and maybe I would feel differently if I had a color Nook, but I digress. The nook app's main page allows you to have the bookshelf style or the list style. Normally, I prefer the bookshelf style on my other apps but with the Nook, I prefer the list style of display because it gives me some good information. I get my bookshelf on the left hand side but to the right whatever book I have chose or is bookmarked to be read is displayed with the book cover and a brief synopsis. I can to directly to the table of contents, to my bookmark or to notes and highlights. I can move to archive or I can remove it from my iPad (which does not remove it from my Barnes and Noble account and can be retrieved later) you can also select more books by the author. Once you have opened your book, you tap the bottom of the screen for your settings menu to appear. There is a status bar to tell you where you are in the book by page number. By selecting the font icon, you can turn publisher settings on or off, choose from six font sizes, adjust the justification, choose font style and select color themes for your text, page, highlights and links. You have the standard white, sepia and black, but it is adjustable within those choices by a color wheel. Very nice if you like to really customize your book. Under the brightness tab you can obviously adjust the brightness but also the margin settings. You can search within the book. and the information icon gives you information about the book you are reading. The Nook is different in that you tap the lower right hand corner to bookmark the page. By changing the orientation of your iPad you can have either single column or double column for reading. The Nook app is available for iPad, iPhone, Blackberry, Android, Windows PC, Mac and there is even a kids Nook app for the iPad which has a Read to Me function that reads the book to your child. 
  6. Kobo app: The Kobo reader is very much like the Borders app in its functionality. The bookmarks options are the same the bookshelf is very much the same with news, magazines and documents as  options in addition to your books. But Kobo has some added fun features as well for example there is the Reading Life book cover. Where all the covers of the books from your personal bookshelf are in a collage as a book cover and it even tracks the number of hours you have read your current book. A total number of pages and gives you little awards that you can then share with your friends on Facebook. You receive awards for various fun things like the Kill the Commute award for reading five times between 7 and 9am or the Happy Hour award for reading five times between 6 and 8pm. and many many more. You can also share your awards with  your reading friends on Facebook. There is also a stats page for books in progress, books in your library, books completed and reading times.  The settings icon in your Reading Life lets you turn notifications on and off. Once your book is open the settings are identical to the Borders app.  The Kobo app is available for the iPhone, Blackberry, Android, Palm Pre, iPad, Mac and PC. 
  7. Overdrive app: The Overdrive app is design for the smaller devices like iPhone and not for the iPad so like many other such apps you have to enlarge to 2x and it loses a little clarity. It does still have all the normal reader app features, like the status bar at the bottom of the page for each chapter, brightness, font size selection; again you have the two buttons and you tap them until you receive the desired size. And your standard bookmark ribbon in the upper right hand corner. The settings bar will disappear on its own after just a few seconds. Page turning is the typical tap of the page margin. The app does not respond to the gyroscope in the iPad so turning it to landscape will not adjust your page view. The Overdrive website claims it is available for iPad but in the Apple app store there is only the iPhone version, which works as discussed above. It is also available for Android, Blackberry, Windows Mobile, a host of smart phone devices, mp3 players (too many to mention), the Nook, Kobo and Sony readers, Mac and Windows PCs. 
For the most fun, Kobo wins high marks, but for ease of use iBook gets high marks as well. Borders and the Kobo app get the highest marks for my personal preference. I want a little bit of customization but I don't need to redesign the whole book experience. Overdrive gets the lowest marks for not being available in a true iPad version, and advertising it on their website as such.

Enjoy a good read this weekend.