Archive for August, 2010

Happy and Disappointed

Update 2: The Kindle For Mac application has been updated with the ability to search the books.  I presume the same is true for the other platforms. With the ability to search, the book’s index is not needed.

Two sections are still missing from the Kindle book: “Notes” (presumably end-notes) and  the Bibliography. Both of these do provide good information, clarifications and source information.

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Update: Dorset House publishing responded to my email expressing all this.  They offered me a refund and I accepted it.  They also expressed many things and seemed to consider my suggestions very nicely.  I do have good feelings about the company and feel that my purchases with them are safe. It seems both odd and reassuring to work with real people in an online purchase.  I have gotten spoiled a bit by the instant gratification of buying from machines, but it is nice to get some human attention when I needed it.  I hope to see more from them in future.

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A few days ago, I found out that one of my favorite industry books was released as an eBook.  “Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams”  (2nd edition) was a lucky find for me a long time when my wife gave me the audio version as a gift.

I’ve since bought paper copies of both editions and marked them up pretty well (with highlighters, marker tabs, etc.  You can tell the book belongs to an engineer.)

I’ve looked for an eBook version for a while. Recently, when I was trying to reference the book’s principles for a discussion on employee reviews, I happened to look back on the Dorset House website. They finally released it as an eBook for $9.99. And they accept PayPal. (Credit card only by phone.) Well, that was the high-point.

As it turns out, once you make your Paypal payment, a human will eventually send you an email for the download on the next business day. (I sent my payment on a Saturday. I got my email on Monday. Very disappointing for electronic markets. Sadly ironic, given the nature of the publisher’s content.)

Once I got my PDF file, it turns out that only a few pages contain actual text.  The large majority of the pages are images.  The images are quite fine.  You can zoom in quite a bit. However, the individual characters are some kind of screened black-and-white dots, not grey-scaled images.  It may be that the scans came from the original press files. Or it may just be they rendered the book out to this format for some kind of copy-protection.

So, a great book, but delivered a bit slowly, and it is not searchable. Also annoying, the table of contents doesn’t even link to other parts of the book and the page numbers in that TOC don’t align with the PDF page numbers. (The book’s page 3 is the PDF’s page 20.)  Using images for all the pages makes the file bloated too.  It weighs in around 70 megabytes. An eBook on iPhone development that I purchased from O’Reilly, for comparison, was fully searchable, and only required 6.5 megabytes of space.

So, the eBook is good if you are just reading the book.  I do recommend this.  But for a reference, there is little advantage over the paper book. The price is lower than the paper though.

PeopleWare $9.99 purchase link: http://www.dorsethouse.com/books/PW-ebook.html

Looking for a contrast while writing this, I looked at the Kindle we use.  A few moments later, I realized the book is available for Kindle.  I’m kicking myself now, because I looked for a Kindle version the same day I found the PDF version at DorsetHouse.com.  I thought it was NOT available as a Kindle book.  And it is the same price on Kindle.

In contrast, now that I’ve purchased the Kindle version too, it seems to be a full eBook.  The Kindle reader on my Mac still suffers from a lack of search, but the table of contents does link to the targeted page and the type is fully resizable. And since the Kindle device is able to search the text of the books, I will assume that the Kindle book will be fully searchable when the reader in use can search.  That’s MUCH better.

Water-Proofing Electronics with ZipLock Bags

(Note that you use any of these thoughts at your own risk. As always, You are responsible for keeping people and property safe.)

In at least one other post here, I noted the trick of using a ziplock bag to keep an iPad safe around wet conditions.  I’ve recently tried using a ziplock bag with a digital camera and felt a need to post an update.

You can still damage your electronics even with a ziplock protecting them from water.

If you attempt to use an electronic device in conditions that will make it cold, or just a little colder than it was when put into the bag,  then water can condense from the air already inside the device.

Even more water will be available for condensation when you take the device out of the bag. This is especially true in humid places.

I decided to try the ziplock trick on a recent family vacation to the Florida keys. We were snorkeling in very warm, shallow water. I used my cheap digital camera in a thick ziplock I had and it worked great. We took photos and videos of everything we saw.  The water was so warm, I never thought about the camera getting cold enough for condensation.

When we finished and returned to the beach, someone took the camera out of the bag.  Water condensed visibly under the glass of the screen and the camera quickly stopped working.  I found later that the memory card also stopped working.  My computer could not even tell that one had been put in the reader.

After drying under a fan overnight, both the camera and card started working.  I was very thankful to have our family pictures back as well as the camera.

Notes compiled since:

  • Some of my clever friends suggested drying the camera and card in a bag of dry rice.  Apparently this is a cheap and available alternative to desiccant.
  • Some of my cleverer friends suggested putting the dry rice into the bag with the camera BEFORE going into cold conditions.
  • I realized later that it might have been better if the camera had stayed in the bag until it warmed up. (No way to know now.)
  • I don’t know if water could have penetrated the plastic bag over a long term. I have given no thought to any long-term use of a ziplock bag for anything important.
  • The bag contained enough air to make the camera float. I thought this was a good idea at the time since some of the water was deeper than safe for pressure or deeper than I wanted to swim to retrieve a sunken camera. Now I know I was trading off with more water vapor.
  • I note that I did NOT go very deep in the water.  I have little doubt that water pressure could easily damage a fragile electronics and their cases. In the case of my camera, I was a bit worried about the motor and gears in the lens that pops out when the camera is on.  The pressure could have forced it backward into the case and stripped the gears.
  • The picture quality was also lowered by the bag in a few ways:
    • the bag did not stay flat above the lens. It got bunched up in the front lens a few times.
    • The bag also had moisture condense on it from the inside. Basically it got dew in front of the lens.  (This should have been my first clue to leave the camera in the bag after getting out of the water.)
    • The bag could, and probably did, put scratches, fingerprints or printed letters in front of the lens.
    • The flash probably bounced around inside the bag.  I can’t really tell that it did anything positive while in the bag.
    • Water drops on the outside were held in front of the lens when I tried to take pictures back in the air.
  • My bag was really too big for the job of holding the camera.  It was a thick, 5-gallon bag that I was intending to hold a whole laptop. (No, I didn’t take a laptop to the beach.)  The camera moved around inside the bag too much and the unused part of the bag made everything more difficult.
  • The blue tint of the bag probably changed the color of all the pictures, but I did not find it noticeable.
  • Depending on the bag used, the place and people around, the effort to protect electronics may appear to be an effort to be sneaky. Some people do feel less safe or less comfortable in the presence of hidden or partly-hidden electronic devices.  Such devices may be perceived as invasive or as a sign of something inappropriate or dangerous happening.  This would be especially true near more sensitive spaces like changing rooms, bathrooms or showers. Think about your surroundings.