Dead Nook

Up until this weekend, I loved my Barnes and Noble Nook. Sure, the B&N digital download store doesn’t have the selection that Amazon does, and the software is slow and bloated, but I love the hardware. It has the potential to be a really nice device.

But Barnes and Noble keeps screwing it up.

First, if the paperback version of a book is $16, and the hardcover is $24, charging $19 for the digital version is not a good deal. Stop trying to pretend like it is guys. Especially when Amazon offers the same book in digital format for $10.

But more importantly, and this goes for all companies: stop designing hardware for “optimal” use patterns. Design them for realistic ones.

This weekend I was irritated to find my nook crashed/froze while I was transferring some documents to it. I reseated the battery per the instructions on the website and all was well. Then, after only a few hours of reading, my nook was at  “critical battery level.” When I got home I promptly plugged it in, but noticed the charging light wasn’t on. After a few hours it was clear it wasn’t charging. I went through a myriad of troubleshooting tips from the B&N forums, but the thing is totally dead.

When I finally broke down and called tech support, I was told that charging my nook overnight, or more than 4 hours, is bad for the battery.  So is letting the battery dip below 20 or 30%. Apparently by using my nook the way I use every other portable electronic device I destroyed the battery.

It’s completely unreasonable to expect consumers not to charge devices overnight. It’s likewise unreasonable to expect them to never let  a battery run down.

So now I’m waiting on a replacement battery, and if that doesn’t work a replacement nook. I’m not happy about it. I read my nook almost every day on the subway. Not having it at the beach this weekend was frustrating. Going a week without it while B&N replaces it part by part isn’t making me any happier about it. Thankfully my friends with their dead tree books were kind enough to refrain from saying “hahaha my book never crashes” as I stared at the lifeless corpse of my nook.

The Kindle is looking pretty attractive right about now.

PS: Why on earth is B&N making me wait a week with a broken device when they carry the battery at one of their stores half a block away from me? I’d go down and just buy another battery, but right now I’m not in the mood to give B&N any more of my money. Unfortunately the Kindle 3 is sold out right now.

Update: While the rep on the phone said to expect my battery Monday, it actually showed up today. Later this evening we’ll know if it’s the battery or the nook.

Update #2: As expected, the battery is not the problem. The battery that I got did have cialis generic enough charge on it to boot, and the nook is just not charging it. They’re sending out a new nook, which I should have  Thursday or Friday of next week. I still fail to understand why it can’t be replaced at a B&N store, but at least they’re taking care of it.


Books are dead; Long live books!

My friend Phooky predicts that children born now will grow up with the same attitude towards printed paper books that I, having been born in the 80s, have towards vinyl records.

This prediction invariably causes our bibliophile friends to clutch their dead trees close to their chest, screaming “no, that could never happen,” and retreat into the stacks of books. As though the digital book revolution might bring with it some sort of mass burning. But friends (Romans, countrymen), I’ve had my nook for just over four months now. I have seen the future and I welcome our new e-paper overlords with open arms.

Before I got my nook, I couldn’t tell you the last book I’d read that wasn’t an O’Reilly manual. Reading wasn’t something I really did for fun, and it certainly wasn’t something I’d take with me on a trip. I’ve read more books, fiction and nonfiction, in the last four months than I have in the previous four years. For those of you on the fence about getting an ebook reader, I present my list of reasons digital readers will reign supreme over paper.


My nook remains the same weight, no matter how thick the book I’m reading. I have a herniated disc in my neck, so carrying even a purse around for a day is a big deal. Anyone who has ever lugged a copy of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince can appreciate having a smaller form factor.

On the same note, I live in a 1000 square foot condo which, while spacious for New York standards, is pretty much out of space to store books. My nook on the other hand still has plenty of space in its on-board memory. Not to mention expansion cards.


Carrying an entire library around in your bag is amazing. I’m in the middle of about 4 different books, and can switch between them as the mood strikes. A few weeks ago I got trapped on the subway for an hour, finished the book I was reading, and started right up with the sequel.


With an ebook, your reading selections are your own dang business. If I want to read Twilight, I can do so without embarrassment.  Sure, in a perfect world no one would need to feel embarrassed about their reading material of choice. But frankly, no one wants to be caught reading a self-help book on finding your inner tree spirit when they run into their boss on the A-train.


If I decide at 3am that I really, really want to read David Sedaris’s latest, I can have it downloaded and waiting for me on my nook in the time it would take me to find pants, let alone a 24 hour book store.

I should mention that in the coming revolution, we’re going to end up killing brick-and-mortar stores which sell intellectual property (books, music, programs). Large chain bookstores will slowly die. And small locally-owned bookstores will need to take a lesson from the record stores that are still around if they want to survive the transition. Every time I visit my parents I heave a sigh of relief that Hole in the Wall Books is still open. Many great bookstores won’t make it, and the loss will be no small tragedy.

Why not?

Still, despite everything I love about my nook, the current hardware and software available for digital book readers isn’t there yet. There are still format wars being fought, and not nearly enough books available in digital format. While I love the nook hardware, the software is pretty weak. And there are some types of books, like textbooks, which none of the current ebook readers handle particularly well. So lovers of dead trees have no fear, the end of printed books is still some time off.


The Death Cry of an iPod

Since I viagra online in spain moved to New Jersey and stopped biking to, or even going to, an office, I haven’t used my iPod much. For the last year it has languished in a drawer as newer and fancier generations of iPod are released.

My iPod’s reluctance to awake from its slumber is by no means surprising. And this iPod has not led a particularly cushy life. On an alarmingly regular basis my iPod would fall out of my pocket during my bike ride to work. When it did it would either hang precariously from the headphone jack or, more likely, tumble down the street.

While the industrial strength case I got (shown left) is the sole reason the thing functions at all, my iPod cries of protest want me to know it’s time for a new one. The battery lasts about a third of what it used to and every now and then the whole thing just freezes with a big black bar across the bottom. Not even a sad mac face, just an angry black bar. This is undoubtedly related to the repeated head trauma the little device has faced. The classic iPods have hard drives in them (as opposed to flash) and really don’t appreciate being shaken or dropped.

So now my quandry is whether to stick it out until the thing finally dies, and get the latest and greatest now, or to give into my technophile tendencies and put it out of its misery. While the lack of battery life would be enough for many to give up on a device, I’m frankly not away from a power source for very long stretches of time. Even at the gym there are iPod chargers on every cardio machine.

The sudden freezing can be distressing, although it fixes itself when I re-sync with iTunes. I’ve been listening to a lot of books on tape lately, and having the iPod cut out at a climactic point in the story leaves me furiously stabbing at its little buttons in an attempt to revive the thing and find out what happens.

Looking at a timeline of Apple media devices on wikipedia, the current generation (6) has been around for about as long as mine (5th gen) was allowed to live, which means it’s due for an update. I have an amazing knack for buying Apple devices right before they up the specs. So I suppose the prudent thing would be to wait until the next one comes along and my iPod is really and truly dead, not just begging to be put out to pasture.

While I’m mostly considering another iPod classic, the Nano does have the advantage of being smaller and supports the Nike+ features at my gym. If you have a snazzy enough iPod it will log your workout onto it and then upload it to a tracking website when you do your next iTunes sync. Or so I’ve been told. My iPod is not nearly snazzy enough. But even the 16GB Nano is smaller than my music collection, not to mention video, so it’s less than ideal. And I’m not interested in the iPod Touch, I already have one infuriating touchscreen device rattling around in my purse: the G1.

I keep reminding myself that today’s shiny new iPod will be next year’s whiny old curmudgeon, and as such I think I’ll wait it out a bit longer.


Sparkfun Free Day

Sparkfun, who sell a variety of electronics doodads, held a cheap real viagra england “free day” wherein they essentially gave a $100 credit to the first $100,000 worth of people who claimed it. It’s was pretty good marketing ploy, with press on all your favorite geek blogs. The promo ran from 9am to 11pm or until the $100,000 ceiling was hit.

For the amount of buzz generated, it was probably a good use of $50k.  And they got some general goodwill points for giving stuff away at all. Gee those Sparkfun guys are nice, lets give them a big hug. Unfortunately the “starts at 9am” part of the execution meant that starting around 8 (and some the night before) their servers were slammed so hard checkout was pretty much impossible unless you hit refresh like it was your job. They essentially DDoS’d themselves.

Mind you, they’re giving away free stuff. And few people on the internet feel so entitled as those who are getting something for free. There are a handful of whiners on the internet (very vocal whiners, mind you) complaining that they “wasted” hours of their lives and “will never buy from Sparkfun again.” I suspect most of them never bought from them in the first place.  There are even conspiracy theories about how Sparkfun didn’t really give anything away, or it was all just a hoax. These people are of course crazy blowhards.

But while I wouldn’t call the Sparkfun Free Day a fail (contrary to the twitter hash tag), I’m not sure I’d call it a complete success either. Frustration with checkout undoubtedly left a bad taste in the mouths of some, although I doubt there will be many long lasting effects to that end. But it was a missed opportunity of both marketing and upselling.

Because of the intense traffic, you couldn’t really browse the site during the onslaught. I’m almost positive the only people who made it through checkout are those who loaded their cart beforehand. While Sparkfun’s stats haven’t been released yet, I suspect the number of people purchasing more than $100 worth of stuff is lower than it would have been had they had more time to contemplate their extra purchases. With only every 100th or so request getting through (if that much) you certainly don’t have time to go back and add that thing you forgot. So you’re losing a lot of impulse purchasing. Purchasing that could offset the cost of the promotion.

Sparkfun also made its way into the Twitter trending topics which, and it kills me to say this, is a decent opportunity to familiarize the unwashed masses – non hackers – with the brand. Except during it’s few moments in the godawful twitter sun, the site was unreachable. It made me think of the mLife commercial during the 2002 Super Bowl. AT&T ran a bunch of cryptic ads telling you to go to mLife.com. Except the site was unreachable. So you couldn’t find out. AT&T is an extreme example; Sparkfun failing to reach out to compulsive hashtag checkers on Twitter is nowhere near the level of fail AT&T pulled off. But there’s something to be said for having the mic handed to you and then not being able to speak.

At the end of the day Sparkfun did what they set out to do: give away free stuff and put their new hardware through its paces. It’s unfortunate that some people got frustrated during the stunt, but they’ll get over it. But at the same time I feel like it’s a good lesson in contest/giveaway marketing. The “first come first serve” model of internet giveaways is tired. I can think of dozens of more interesting ways of giving out loot. But if you insist on sending a flood of freeloaders to take down your services, you might want to do it separate from your shopping cart. Let the army of nerds hammer your “get a coupon” site, but leave the cart itself out of it.

It was an interesting experiment, and it sounds like the Sparkfun guys had fun, so all’s well that ends well. But I hope they and other online retailers take away something from it, so we’re not all doomed to repeat it. Or refresh it, as it were.


Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery

I have to admit, I’m more than a little confused by Mark Frauenfelder’s contribution to Mac|Life’s “Apple Products of the Future” article. Specifically, I’m astounded that nowhere in the article does it give attribution to Makerbot, despite drawing liberally from Makerbot’s design.


The imaginary iMake

I’m not sure if Frauenfelder himself directed the “finished product” rendering, as it’s pretty different from his sketch shown 25 mg viagra in the article. But any attribution to Makerbot is conspicuously missing from the article. And they clearly were inspired by it somewhere along the line. It’s extra confusing because Frauenfelder is with Make:, who is currently documenting the unboxing of a Makerbot for all to see.

It’s disheartening. I think this sort of failure to attribute ideas hurts open source. Let’s give credit to the people who are actively realizing their ideas, not just doodling them. The Makerbot guys are taking it in stride, because they’re classy like that, but personally I’m disappointed to see their work being passed off as an Apple Product of the Future. The printer, while still in an early stage and without a high gloss shell, exists. In fact, that “App Store” to download printable models exists too, it’s called Thingiverse. So why are people who clearly already know this acting like they don’t?


Liveblogging a Comic Con

Today and tomorrow I’m selling Tinysaurs at King Con, a comic and animation convention in Brooklyn. Unlike other shows I’ve done this year, I have neither my intrepid booth-mate Sara nor my faithful sherpa boyfriend Chris to keep me company. It’s just me sitting at my booth, trying not to go stir crazy (things are a little slow so far).

I’ve been twittering but at this rate I’m not going to have any followers left if I keep updating my status every 10 minutes. So instead I’m liveblogging the event. If you don’t hear from me for a while it’s because I’m busy making zillions of dollars or have become unconcioous. Or both.

10:45 Most people are set up at this point. What’s surprising is how many tables are completely empty. Not sure if they’re no shows or just running late. There’s clearly a community similar to the craft show vendors. Lots of milling about, chatting, and catching up. A few people stop by and mention that they’ve seen my stuff on The Internet(tm).

11:22 First sale, a belt buckle and a belt.

12:05 A  small child with curly hair comes up to my booth. He points at the large stegosaurus model. “Is that a dinosaur?” he asks. “Yes,” I reply. “Is it made of something?” Why yes, yes it is made of something.

1:23 Sales are pretty good. Traffic isn’t super heavy but lots of folks are interested in my stuff. One thing has become clear: I don’t have enough large belts. I stock mostly mediums because that’s what sells best at craft shows. Guys are bigger. Ergo, bigger belts.

4:40 It turns out there’s not a whole lot to blog about, live or otherwise. Traffic is steady, sales are decent. Not earth shattering, but solid. I’m hungry and tired, but without someone to watch my booth I’m pretty much stuck here. And since it costs admission to get in I can’t easily get someone to bring me some food. Clearly a lack of planning on my part.

5:33 Found out there’s a cafe upstairs in this building, and got someone to watch my stuff for a few minutes while I grabbed a snack. First time I’ve left the booth since I got here at 10am. I was torn between the pumpkin muffin and the apple muffin, but now I’m wishing I’d grabbed both. Or better yet, a hot dog. Not that they sell hot dogs at that cafe, this is much too classy a place for that.

I know, this is riveting stuff.


One kitten forward, three kittens back

On Tuesday morning we took our foster kitten Vader back to Liberty Humane Society. At over 2 lbs he was ready to be fixed and adopted out. He seems to be completely recovered from his surgery and was climbing all over his cage like a monkey. The shelter staff said his size and personality should make him quick to adopt, viagra pills for sale and they’re probably sending him over to Petsmart on Saturday for the weekly adoption event.

Today I went by the shelter in the morning to volunteer, and uh, ended up bringing home three more kittens.
A litter!
I didn’t mean to, really!

There was a lot of cat shuffling going on as there are more cats than places to put them. It’s like a game of cat tetris seeing which cats can tolerate sharing a cage, who needs a big cage and who needs a small one, who dumps their water on the cage below them, and who will steal food from the cage next to them. At the end of the tetris shuffle there was a box of kittens without a good place. After a hard sell from the shelter staff (which was totally unnecessary as I was already weak from missing Vader) Chris and I are fostering them until Thanksgiving.

I think I’ve become a cat lady.


Tinysaur Factory

Big things have been afoot in Tinysaurland. I’m putting together a huuuge wholesale order for a well-known retailer. I’m not sure if I can say who yet. I’m also preparing for Crafty Bastards, a huge awesome craft show in Washington DC. The past few weeks have been spent scaling up my production. It’s something I knew I might have to do, and am more or less prepared for, but still intimidating. 

Trex Trex Trex

I spent the majority of today laser cutting T-rex "bones," tomorrow will be more T-Rex, Triceratops, and the labels to go on the top of the tins. Which reminds me, if anyone has a favorite place for custom die cut stickers, please let me know! I definitely plan on having someone else make the labels next time. 

I cut the bones in batches of ~100, and in each batch there are always a few that fail quality control. This happens when the paper is curled on the edge, or I forget to take the inventory sticker off first, or I otherwise screw up the cut. These rejects (shown scattered above) get turned into pre-made models, as I combine parts from various sheets.

Mammoth in Progress

My paper supplier switched to an ever-so-slightly thicker paper, which is good and bad. The good is that it’s got a nicer finish, and lases better with less charring. No more brown edges! The bad is that the tiny bit extra thickness means I had to re-tool all of my designs. But overall I think it’s a positive change. The photo above is a test model, to make sure the adjusted pattern was correct.

Foam on a RollLased Foam Foam Inserts

I also switched the foam used in inserts that go in the tins. I’m looking into having these custom die cut, but for the time being it’s actually not to painful to laser cut them (yes, the foam is laser-safe). 

I have another 8 hours or so of laser cutting to do, and then on Friday my lovely assistant (oh yes, I have an assistant!) is coming in to help assemble everything. With luck I’ll have my big wholesale order AND my Tinysaur inventory for Crafty Bastards done by Monday.

That gives me what, four whole days to come up with a booth design?

Busy week!


Hold Up Your Pants!

Blast Off!

At long last, I got all of the belt buckles I’ve been slowly designing and cutting listed on Etsy. There are currently 5 different designs in a variety of color combinations. I have a few more designs (including a Lego which I want to write a Corel Draw tutorial for) which I’ll post once they’ve been tweaked a little more. I’m still getting used to the tolerances of the acrylic. Lines have to be much farther apart than on paper!


The belts are $25 with belt, $20 without. They’re making their craft show debut at Crafty Bastards (which, while we’re on the subject, Vote for Tinysaur!). I’m a little nervous about making and bringing a ton of untested merchandise. But I think they’ll be a hit.

If you’ve got a special request for a design, leave it in the notes!