Update on Self, More on E-Readers, Tablets

Now that the holidays are over and the mom-librarians are back at work, I am taking a vacation.  Although FAMU and FSU lurched into the winter term this week, I will mostly avoid dealing with students asking whether the library can supply their textbooks, and consuming reams of paper printing out their assignments and PowerPoint outlines.

Firearms Useless, Says Zombie Expert
I had some reader feedback passed along to me on the question of arming oneself against zombies.  I'm told that KH, who works in the library's Media section, and who has seen many zombie films, believes that arming oneself is ultimately futile, and only delays the inevitable zombie triumph.

Mr. Claudius Stretches Legs, Christmas Over 
After a late breakfast of scrambled eggs, rye toast and pink grapefruit juice, I took Claudius the cat out.  He was so excited when he realized I was going to stay home today, galloping around the house in anticipation.  He darted out the door.  It was quite cold.  Gusts of wind set the bronze bell on the front porch ringing and sent oak leaves sailing across the yard.  Claudius chased leaves and went tearing around the lawn.  But it was so cold that he wanted to go inside after twenty minutes.

I took the four white Christmas globe lights down from the front porch roof and put them back in their box.  I took the fir wreath on its hanger down from the front door.  I removed the bow and ornaments that were wired to it, tossing the wreath in the trash bin.  The phone rang.  R., who's been suffering with a cold all week, was packing it in at work, would be home early.

Now Claudius was recovered and ready for more, so we went out for another twenty minutes.  Back inside, I picked up the new issue of Linux Journal, to which my friend Frogola kindly bought me a gift subscription.  The February issue is a "desktop" issue.

I was ready for some lunch.  I was about to make some instant Thai rice noodle soup when R. rolled up, bearing the remains of a flatbread pizza she'd ordered at Steel City, so I ate that instead.

Linux Dudes On Tablets, E-Readers
I paged through Linux Journal.  I haven't used Linux in ten years, but I recognized the names of familiar graphical desktop shells as they were trotted out in their latest versions, Gnome, KDE, Enlightenment, FTCE, AfterStep.  Most of the articles were way over my head, as was Linux itself, really, when I tried it, knowing almost nothing about systems or networks or programming.

Toward the back I found an amusing piece, Tablets:  Who Wants One?, in which two guys "debate" this month for a regular column, Point/Counterpoint, about the utility of tablet PC's, including the iPad.  You can't read or link to new articles in Linux Journal until they are archived, but I'll give you a taste:
BILL: ...A laptop or Netbook is the tool of choice for content creation, but for content consumption, I think a tablet might be the way to go. I know more often than not I'll reach for my iPhone if I need to check mail real quick. It's just faster and more convenient.
KYLE: See, that's just the point, I think the tablet has long been a solution in search of a problem. Now it has to compete with a smartphone for portable, underpowered computing, a Netbook for inexpensive portable computing, and a laptop or desktop for full-featured computing. Having a large fruit-named company create one (and new companies throw cell-phone software on their tablets) doesn't change that. I had a hybrid laptop that could rotate into tablet mode, and I think used it maybe a handful of times, and even then, it was just as a novelty e-book reader.
BILL: I remember, but that laptop wasn't exactly a powerhouse either. And if I recall, it was running stock Ubuntu, which is not a portable-optimized OS like Android or iOS. I think your definition of computing is different from that of a lot of folks, Kyle. As a system administrator and writer, your use case depends on having multiple windows, a full-size keyboard, and the storage and horsepower of a conventional laptop. However, as iPad sales prove, there's a huge segment of the population who just wants to surf using tablets and play Angry Birds.
KYLE: Unless you are wearing some interesting jeans, a tablet isn't going to be any more portable than any other similarly underpowered Netbook, but you'll pay a premium for the fingerprint-smeared touch screen and the lack of a keyboard. I think even surfing suffers on a tablet. However hyperlinked the Web might be, these days, people keep talking about everyone "contributing to the conversation" and other Web 2.0 terms. It's hard to do that just by touching and dragging on a screen.
Kyle evidently shares my low opinion of touch screens.  Bill is not entirely convincing as a potential iPad owner.  I'll insert the link when I can.  Looking around at Linux Journal online, however, I found some interesting comments to a poll of how many Linux users own an e-reader.  Given the knowledge about computers these people have, I enjoyed their remarks about various e-readers.  What separates the better e-readers from their tablet cousins is the electronic ink display, which several people have told me proved to be a surprisingly satisfactory experience compared to the usual backlit screen on a PC or mobile phone.

And yet I remain unpersuaded.  A paper book is about the most "open" standard in the world.  It needs no expensive and inevitably obsolescent device to use it.  I can get almost any paper book I want at zero cost through interlibrary loan if the library does not own it.

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