They giveth and they taketh away

Monday 19 November, 2018

Hello all, hope you’re all well. It’s been a while since my last blog. But here I am again, to complain about something. As usual.

So, as I blogged previously at some point, a few years ago I bought a kindle. It’s a basic model, 5th Generation, and I believe that it’s the last version to have page turning buttons along the side on them. I bought it on sale at a time when the newer Paperwhite and touch screen versions were out.

That was in 2013, and five years on, my little kindle is getting, erm, sluggish. I don’t think it’s ready for the great recycling centre in the sky just yet, it’s only five years old after all, but I am getting the White Screen of Death sort of frequently, and even though the experimental browswer was put on there and never got further than basic searching, it now doesn’t work at all without crashing the kindle in to a White Screen of Death, making that feature completely unusable.

So I’m preparing myself to get a newer one at some point in the future, and here’s the problem. The newer ones don’t work for me. The Kindle basic 5th generation weighs 169g, and has buttons either side to turn the pages. Newer models are heavier and have no buttons, it’s all touch screen. I hold my kindle with one hand supported by a pillow, I can’t hold heavier models and if I can’t use the hand I’m holding the kindle with to turn the page, it won’t be any use to me at all.

To give a better comparison, even the latest ipad air 2, 32GB weighs 500g.

If and when my kindle does go on me, I really don’t know what I’ll do without it if the other devices are much of the same as we have today. And if goes sooner rather than later, it could even affect my degree. I put my text books on there and the tutorial hand out material too, so I can read along with the rest of the group as they read the paper handouts.  I don’t want to go back to struggling, but the Kindle solved the problems I had with reading, and if I can’t get something as good as it, I’ll be back to struggling.

For those of you who don’t know, I was fed up of struggling so much that I bought a mouse shaped device which had a camera where a rollerball on an old mouse would have been, called The Vision Booster, and the idea is you roll the mouse over the paper and read as you go… and it was terrible. There was a fisheye effect and you couldn’t read the inside margins, but you also couldn’t hover the mouse over the spine because then the words went blurry.

So, I have to know. Am I the only person affected by these changes with technology? Or are we, like the straw issue, the hidden minority who are forced to either adapt or be left out because we’re ignored in the drive for superior technical progress? Am I missing some really obvious solution


Return of the AFJ

Saturday 20 June, 2015

I know. I know.

I fell down the rabbit hole and didn’t come back up. I’ve probably lost all the readers I managed to gain (those faithful two!), and I’m probably, yet again, talking into the big ether of the ethernet.

I know I’ve said this a few times already, but I moved in 2013, and when I moved I lost a lot of access to my laptop, and then the laptop I had burnt out by way of the motherboard, and the circumstances that followed made it even more difficult for me to update.

In plain english: I lost access to my desk and then I lost the ability to use my laptop on my knee for even limited times. I read a lot on my computer and I manage to type for short bursts, but regular updates need regular typing, and that was shot.

My inability to use my laptop for as many hours as needed even interferes with the Uni work that I swore I’d never do again. (But my brain was rotting and I was desperate.)

But I am back now, and with a bit of hope and luck, I’ll even manage to update infrequently!

To get us started, I’m going to tell you something that has made a nice improvement on my life over the last couple of years. Do you remember this post? I explained about the problems I was having with reading, and how e-reader tablets are the new go-to suggestion. I left out my main reason for not getting a kindle, besides the cost of re-purchasing all of the books I already own, and that was the same inability to hold a book in front of my face also applied to holding kindles too.

Well… As well as the device I mentioned in that post, I also suddenly remembered a device another friend used way back when in my special needs school. It was a magnifying document reader, and it looked a bit like a sewing machine with a tv screen through the side of the top bit  (Describing technology is not my strong suit). Books or sheets were placed on the board like you would put fabric through a sewing machine, and through mirrors, magnifiers and lighting, the television screen part would show the book or the work sheet, blown up to the magnification that you could control with a dial.

It wasn’t perfect, it was it’s own desk that left you no room to write on, and you had to look up to the screen because the the gap between the board and the screen was that big, and the screen itself was also pretty big. But remembering that device got me thinking.

I have read books on my computer. I’d already downloaded some PDF versions of books, but the idea of going through the efforts of finding a PDF version of every book I already owned without breaking the law was off putting. So the solution: Try and find a way to get my books from my shelves, On to my computer.

That’s how I found The Vision Booster Magnifier!

Excellent! Right?

Wrong!

The Vision Booster Magnifier is a device, in the shape of a computer mouse, that is meant to allow you to read documents in your hand (or on a desk or your lap etc), on the computer screen. It uses a little camera inside the body, where the rollerball would be on a normal computer mouse, to send the image it sees to the program you install, and you can live-read like normal.

Here’s the problem. It’s the shape of a computer mouse and is far too big for your average book, so you miss the last words of the line because it hits the margin. Also, as you can see in the image below, the words on the edge of the camera’s view are warped. That’s holding the camera still, if you move it too fast, the whole view you have goes blurry.

  vlcsnap-2012-10-12-15h51m59s234

(Excerpt from McFly’s Unsaid Things)

The image also shows how the last words of the line can’t be read, because of the aforementioned margin problem. So you can’t read words near the margins, and you can’t hover the mouse over those words next to the margins, because they come out of focus, and you end up reading along to books very slowly to keep words readable. I’m not the fastest reader, I know, but this left me feeling like I was five years old, sounding my words out again. It doesn’t make for any sort of enjoyable reading at all.

Also, not that it really matters, but the plastic of the mouse felt light, cheap and as if it would degrade to nothing in the future.

So it was neither use nor ornament, and an all around waste of £19.99.

I do, and did at the time of purchase, know about the pen reader: A device that is pen shaped with a camera at the tip, that you use in much the same way as the mouse, with the added bonus of actually being able to read the end, or the beginning, of the line. Think of something like what they use in Dictionary Corner on Countdown. However, at the time of purchasing The Vision Booster Magnifier, the pen was almost £300. Very much out of my budget!

Another suggestion floating around the internet is to try a page scanner. This device, if I remember correctly, was intended to be used as a portable replacement for a big bulky 3in1 printer/scanner/photocopier, and the suggestion was using it in not quite the way it’s intended to be. You just hold the scanning plate above the book (or a document, whichever), run the software, and you use the live preview setting to read the page. It’s intended purpose is to capture the screen, which is why I used the phrase “Live-reading” above.

My problems with that was this: The device had to be held up at a certain distance from the page otherwise it would be blurry, and I can’t really hold anything up for a long time without my arms being supported. I also couldn’t imagine being able to hold it properly for the time needed to read the page, without looking down at it whilst holding it, and to me it defeats the object somewhat if you’re trying to read the pages on the screen when you keep having to look back at the device and the book. I also couldn’t find any reputable sights that sold it, and most seemed to be imported.

Then the popularity of portable page scanners fell, I don’t think they were working as well as people expected them to, so the fleeting idea was also thrown out of the window.

Here’s the funny thing. A couple of months after I moved, my neck’s quality of existing took a bit of a dip and it changed a fair bit of the way I could sit, and that actually allowed me to be able to, using armrests and/or pillows to support my arms, hold very light things directly in front of my face for me to read them again. It’s also how I knit.

So, low and behold, I bought a kindle! The very basic one, with e-ink display, and without a keyboard and backlight. It doesn’t solve the problem of re-reading the books that I already have in my possession, but it did finally allow me to get back into reading. Which has been nice. When everything else around me has fallen apart just a bit more, I at least have reading back.

For the times when I can’t even read on my kindle, or my concentration’s shot and words are going in one eye and out the other, or I just want to do one thing whilst also doing another (knitting, usually), I listen to Audiobooks.

So, ultimately, I take back all of my misgivings about The Kindle (other e-readers are available). It’s been a lifesaver. I’m currently working my way through some of the classics, and the Wizard of Oz series, so watch this space for some book reviews!

Thank for you for reading. I will be back soon.

-A Failed Journalist.