Categoryreview

The Alpine Review: What others are saying about it

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The Alpine Review

Now that The Alpine Review has been out for a few weeks, it’s a good time to take a look at some of the feedback I’ve been seeing and hearing.

Besides being featured on Coverjunkie’s list of covers you wanna lick, here are just three links to give you an impression:

 

My friend Peter Rukavina (@ruk on Twitter) very kindly wrote:

As to the magazine itself: wow. My elevator pitch would be “A contemporary take on the Whole Earth Review zeitgeist with the production values of Monocle” (…) I haven’t been this excited about a magazine in a long, long time — perhaps not since I read Louis Rossetto’s pitch for WIRED on The Well back in the early 1990s. What’s different about The Alpine Review, though, is that it seems to be a creation of my tribe — a sort of house journal for those of us lurking at the nexus of hacker/maker culture, systems, ecology, psychogeography. It’s the closest I’ve ever come to a “hey, Pete, here’s a magazine made about exactly the things that are interesting to you right now.”

Thanks, Peter!

 

Magculture gave plenty of constructive input including on layout choices, and finds in closing:

There remains enough in the reading and in the flashes of visual character to make this a really promising debut. At $35 an issue it’s not cheap but you certainly get value from that price – it has the scope of a book. I look forward to the next Springs edition, though I’ve plenty to keep me reading meanwhile.

 

Monocle24’s The Stack gave it quite some praise, too. (You can listen to it here, around 33 minutes in.)

The Stack finds that the Alpine Review communicates these notions primarily – and I’m paraphrasing:

  • The magazine says read me over the course of two weeks. It says important.
  • You know you’re going to be engaged.
  • I’m not sure if I would call it a magazine or a book.

They go on to classify it a bit further, to give you more of an impression of what it feels like – again, paraphrasing for easier reading:

There are those magazines which go on my desk and that I have to deal with that day, and those that I really want to savor, that I want to save that for next weekend when I really got time, like 3 hours, that I want to spend time with. The Alpine Review belongs to that latter category. You feel the power of disconnect, you know you will disconnect totally when you have this magazine/book in your hand.

The Alpine Review

 

They then touch upon one aspect I find particularly fascinating, and it’s echoed by many conversations I’ve been having recently.

It’s the idea that it’s a magazine that you’d want to display and maybe even protect:

I would look at it and keep it and very nice condition and put it on my book case.

It’s something I’ve been hearing a lot, and I can totally relate to it. If something feels pristine, you don’t want to ruin it.

I’d make a case for the opposite notion: That the magazine, like a good pair of jeans, becomes better with use. To quote the good folks over at Hiut Denim:

To those who persevere, there will be a reward. Like a Guinness, it just takes time to reveal its quality. (…) Every crease, every mark, every rip, every splash of paint is put there by you.

I’d say the same thing about a mag like the Alpine Review. It’s choke full of ideas & stories, and like all good things they get even better through sharing. So read the whole tome, or parts of it, lend it, get it full of creases and dog-ears and notes.

In other words, make it your own by using it!

 

(By the way, Monocle gave the magazine two thumbs up.)

Nike+ First Impressions

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So I got around to testing out the Nike+ Fuelband for a few days. Instead of a full on review, some quick, off the cuff impressions, thoughts & notes as long as they’re fresh:

The Fuelband is smooth, feels nicely heavy and well made. The rubbery surface is comfortable to wear, if maybe a bit too clunky, especially if you work on a computer a lot.

The display lights up only if you press a button, so usually you just walk around with a black wristband. The display is a set of LEDs and can show time, steps, calories as well as Nike’s own “currency”, the so-called “Fuel”. Below the display you see a status bar that starts with a single red dot and grows with your activity, going from yellow to green until you reach your daily goal. It’s fairly subtle and works intuitively. Having a watch on the wrist was a pleasant change as I usually don’t wear watches much.

Taking this for a spin. #fuelband Starting out, the Fuelband shows just a red marker: Go get a move on!

The battery lasts for a few days before you have to recharge via USB. Data upload works through USB, too, so it’s simple but not terribly elegant.

To set your goals, you enter your desired activity levels through an app on your desktop or iPhone (I use Android, so no mobile app for me). The default “normal” active day is set so low that I reached it even though only starting my test at 4pm the first day. Ramping it up to “active” days helps a bit, so you actually have to at least walk a bit during the day to meet the goals. I assume if you commute by car and work at a desk all day, it might be a challenge. If you’re somewhat active anyway it feels like you have to set the goals somewhat inflationary. Or maybe I just happened to have a particularly active week.

Over time, you can gather a number of stats, accessible through the Fuel app. Examples for the kind of stats you get, besides some graphs to indicate the overall development, would be Best Month, Best Wednesday, Average Activity etc. It’s intuitive, but doesn’t go very deep it seems.

I expect this will change if the API ever really opens up and more developers can play around with it. If you could use alternative interfaces like the Pebble for example that might become more interesting. As it stands, it feels a bit… how do I phrase it… American? I know this doesn’t quite capture it, but it’s this very Nike-ish tonality that I always personally find a bit off-turning. Then again, it’s their product and it’s a fitness product, so I guess that’s alright.

Right now it’s still in the novelty phase, and several people actually approached me at a restaurant to ask about it.

So in short: It’s a smooth, well produced gadget. Having tested it for about a week, it feels like the novelty and effect are wearing off already. I caught myself not even putting it on anymore after 4-5 days. The API might change that once it’s there, if it’s ever going to really open up.

Nokia E71: You won’t fall in love, but it’s rock solid

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I just switched from Blackberry to a Nokia 71. Since I asked a lot of questions during the switch and the Twitter crowd was incredibly helpful and kind in sharing their tipps, I’d like to share my experiences for those who are trying to decide if they, too, want to switch over to Nokia. So here’s what I noticed, the pros and cons, as well as a few hacks and software tipps to get it up and running as painlessly as possible.

Super-brief summary up-front

Pros:

  • Beautiful, premium, awesome hardware.
  • Great form factor. Very, very slim.
  • Good software support (runs on Symbian S60).
  • Great feature set. (Private/business mode, connectivity etc)
  • Strong battery (3 days).

Cons:

  • Slow, awkward browser.
  • Disappointing camera.
  • Haven’t found a decent Twitter client. (Tipps?)

That said, here’s what the Nokia E71 looks like:

Nokia E71

E71 keyboard

Pros and cons There’s a raving Nokia E71 review on WIRED where you can get the basic info about the phone. After using the E71 for a few weeks, I don’t share all their excitement, but agree: It’s a pretty darn good phone, “rock solid” as a friend pointed out.

First, a look at the hardware: The E71’s form factor and hardware is awesome. It’s plenty of metal and no cheap plastic. It seems very scratch-resistent. It’s super slim (10mm). It just feels great. It has a full QWERTY (or in my case QWERTZ) keyboard. The keyboard has a nice click (maybe just a tad too light) and keys that are kind of small, but still work pretty well. Switching from Blackberry, they feel a little crammed, but it’s lightyears ahead of typing on a touch screen. The keyboard, like the rest of the phone, feels solid and premium.

This picture gives you an idea how the form factor compares to the Nokia’s direct competitors in the field, the Blackberry Curve and the iPhone:

Nokia E71, Blackberry Curve, iPhone

It has a 3.2 million megapixel camera, which sounds great, but delivers surprisingly disappointing quality. The built-in light, it seems, can’t be switched off, and it seems that the camera definitively needs it. Compared to the Nokia N97, the E71 certainly scores low. Particularly in low light, the white noise makes the pictures look really sad. For comparison, two pictures taken with my E71:

Nokia E71 shot of some tags Image: Some tags in the subway shot with the E71 cam in low light. The white noise is unbearable. (Open photo in full size.)

Nokia E71 shot of an airport display Image: An airport display shot with the E71 cam. In bright light, the image quality is ok, but certainly could be better. (Open photo in full size.)

Wireless support and all work a charme. Also, I fell in love with the battery life. Depending on use, the phone lasted between two and three days per charge. After my one-day Blackberry battery, this feels grand. (Good thing, too – the E71 doesn’t charge via the mini USB cable but needs the extra Nokia charger.)

Let’s look at the software side. The E71 runs on Symbian OS, S60 more precisely, meaning it’s open source. (The iPhone’s walled-garden mentality really deterred me from getting an iPhone.) There’s plenty of software and apps available for S60, with more coming out every day.

Applications are plenty, get them wherever you want. You don’t need an Apple store to buy authenticated applications. That said, I’ve been trying to use Twibble as my Twitter client, but I’d love something faster and less awkward. (Can you recommend any alternative? Twibble is no comparison to Twitterberry goodness. I haven’t found a good WordPress blogging app yet. Google Maps, Google Mail and the Nokia software suite are pretty awesome, and even though I haven’t really tested it I hear the office support works a charme. The built-in browser seems slow and awkward at best. Certainly, the browsing experience could be improved a lot. (Strangely, that’s a point the Wired review doesn’t even mention.)

Syncing is a strong side of the E71. It comes with built-in Microsoft Exchange functionality, and a dual mode that allows you two separate private and business life, including separate calendars and email. Neat! My setup as a freelancer is built completely without any of the bigger corporate solutions, and based heavily on the Google suite. It took some tipps, digging through forums and tinkering, but I got the phone to sync with my Gmail address as well as Google Calendars. Mail syncing was easy. (I did screw briefly: Switching from POP3 to IMAP, I accidentally had the phone try downloading some 40.000 messages, which broke it a few times. “Breaking” in this context means anything from freezing to deleting the email profiles and settings, as well as a lot of rebooting.) The calender was a bit tricky, but in the end I got it working with some outside help by using Nuevasync with the phone’s Microsoft Exchange syncing tool. (That way you can sync up to 8 Google Calendars two ways.) It now seems to be working fine.

So where does that leave us?

Nokia E71

Nokia E71: You won’t fall in love, but it’s rock solid The phone does everything it should, and most of it very well. You won’t find anyone worshipping it like an iPhone, though. It’s a tool, and a good one. It’s not the kind of gadget that invites you to play around with it constantly, though. If you’re looking for something a little more playful, you should go for the iPhone instead. If just the camera could just be somewhat better. Besides, I’ll be happy with it the moment I find a better browser and Twitter app. For freelancers it can definitively replace a Blackberry. The full keyboard and the awesome battery life make it a decent choice.

In other words: Don’t expect to love this phone. But you certainly won’t regret getting one.

Images:

Update: WordPress 2.7 running (and it rocks)

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This will hopefully be the last post about my server moves. One thing really blew my mind, though, and I’d like to share it: WordPress 2.7 is an absolute game-changer in terms of how smooth a blogging engine can operate, update, run. It’s fast, it’s smart, the interface is completely new – which takes some getting used to, but it makes sense.

So my setup as it is: Hosting by MediaTemple, which offers a very convenient 1-click-installation for several apps including WordPress. And WordPress offers auto-upgrade and live installations of plugins from the admin area. In other words: Within about 5 minutes you can set up and configure a brand new WordPress blog. It really is amazing after years and years of the download-move-upload-active craziness that used to be the installation of a simple plugin. I love it.

Now that you’ve had to suffer through plenty a moving-my-blog posts, I’m looking forward to provide you with some actual content. Thanks for sticking around.

Zemanta: Semantic Blogging Made Easy

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Image representing Zemanta as depicted in Crun...At Web 2.0 Expo Berlin I bumped into Andraž Tori, co-founder of Slovenian startup Zemanta. There here told me about Zemanta’s service: A plugin (for Firefox, or alternatively for several blogging platforms) that supports semantic blogging. Sounds trivial? It isn’t at all. Semantic blogging is great for both bloggers and the internet as a whole. Since then my life has been somewhat hectic, and as days passed I had it all in the back of my head, but never got around to trying out Zemanta.

For the web it means that the information is handled more orderly, and thereby becomes richer. If a service can figure out by itself that this file is a picture, taken at location X at time Y, you can build all kinds of cool things around those pieces of meta data.

For bloggers it means, as I’m experiencing while typing this post, some really helpful, easy-to-use extra features. More concretely – and I’m writing this as I’m looking at the Firefox plugin – I’m offered some images (like the one of Andraž and the company logo above) in a sidebar inside my WordPress. (Note: The image inserts look sort of code-heavy (lots of divs and stuff), apart from that it seems to be working a charm. Dragging and dropping the image seems to be a simple work-around here.)

Also, I’m offered “additional articles”, links from all over the web that seem to be relevant. With every semantically described post more data should become available here.

Some of the links offered to me for this post while writing it:

Again, in my editor the links get inserted somewhat awkwardly, but overall it works fine. Just make sure you know your WordPress. Below the textfield I’m offered all kinds of links to drag and drop. (I just inserted that last link because I was offered to. How cool is that?)

All in all, this looks really powerful, even though it might be somewhat overwhelming for

Images: Zemanta logo and photo of Andraž via CrunchBase.