Welcome back to another Good e-Reader Comparison Video! Today we take a look at the brand new Kobo Aura H2O and the Kobo Aura. You will get a sense on how the eBook experience plays out in both PDF and ePub books and if either model appeals to you.
The Kobo Aura H2O is not only a waterproof e-reader but it also features e-ink Carta technology. This dramatically increases the page turn speed and cuts down on the quintessential refresh issues that plague lower end devices. Meanwhile, the Kobo Aura came out last year and features a 6 inch screen capacitive touchscreen display. This is most useful for pinching and zooming PDF files and graphic novels.
This comparison video looks at the hardware and what the primary differences are. This is most useful if you have an older device and are thinking of possibly upgrading. As an added bonus, we do a side by side comparison looking exclusively at the front-lit display.
Saturday, August 30, 2014
Friday, August 29, 2014
The Kobo Aura H2O e-reader is coming out in October and the main selling point is the waterproof screen. Earlier in the week we conducted an underwater test to see how the unit performed. Today, due to extensive requests on our YouTube Channel, we are conducting an underwater Glowlight test.
A waterproof e-reader will likely be used while taking a bath. Often the lights are dimmed, or shut off completely and the only illumination comes from candles or the e-reader itself. If an e-reader is submerged or wet, does it affect the brightness of the front-lit display? Does the light become muted while underwater? The video below answers all of these questions.
Barnes and Noble has collaborated with Samsung for the latest generation Nook tablet. Samsung provided the hardware and B&N designed custom reading apps for Android, which gives users a very unique experience. How does this new device compare to the Nook HD or Nook Tablet and is it a viable upgrade?
The Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 Nook features a seven inch capacitive touchscreen display with a resolution of 1280 x 800. The resolution overall is a big of a downgrade from the Nook HD, but not enough to be noticeable for your average user.
Underneath the hood is a 1.2 GHZ quad-core processor, 1.5GB of RAM and 8GB of storage, plus support for MicroSD (up to 32GB) The Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 Nook features a 3Mp rear camera and 1.3Mp front-facing webcam, with the former capable of 720p video recording at 30fps. This is the first time a Nook device will have front and rear cameras.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 Nook measures 186.9x9x107.9mm and weighs 276g. Part of this weight comes from the 4000mAh battery, claimed to allow for up to 10 hours of video, 190 hours of audio, or 10 hours of internet usage.
When it comes to the audio experience there is a single speaker on the back, but it is in stereo. This allows you to listen to audiobooks, music, video or the read aloud feature in kids books.
Barnes and Noble tried to stem the tide of constant financial losses in their Nook division by outsourcing the hardware to Samsung. This is a double edged sword because there is no Nook branding on the tablet at all. If the device is totally powered down, you would have no idea that it is anything else but a Samsung Galaxy Tab 4.
Every single tablet that Barnes and Noble has even released ran a heavily skinned version of Google Android. This was the same tactic that both Amazon and Kobo employed to make their devices stand out in the crowd. The Samsung Galaxy 4 Nook is the first time users get a vanilla Android experience, allowing them to install live wallpapers and even change their keyboards.
Instead of heavily augmenting Android, Barnes and Noble has firmly embraced it. They company has developed a series of custom apps that get users participating in the booksellers ecosystem. There is a dedicated store, Nook Video, Library, eBook Reading Apps, Nook Search, custom settings menu and the ability to view all of the notes and annotations you have ever made.
One of the strongest benefits of the new Samsung tablet is the ability to finally download apps from outside the US and UK. The Nook App Store used to lock customers out of purchasing or downloading apps, due to geolocation. This seems to be disabled in the new Nook, which allows users to download apps not only from B&N but also Google Play. The only limitation placed on customers is Nook Video, you still have to be in the US to buy or rent videos or television shows.
The Home screen mainly comprises of all of your Nook Reading App, Nook Store and a bunch of official Google ones. Chrome, Gmail, Google Maps, Play and all of the standard Google apps are all included in a mini folder. If you swipe the screen from the right to the left on the edge of the bezel there is a side screen full of apps. By default, its all the official Google ones, but you can add or remove any of them there, adding to the customization capabilities.
The one thing I really want to focus on during this review is the Nook content and not really dwelling on the standard Android functionality.
The Nook Library houses all of the purchases you have made from Barnes and Noble. This includes eBooks, comics, magazines, newspapers, television shows. There is a shop button on the top right hand corner, which opens up their online store that sells all of the content.
eBooks are opened by the quintessential Nook app for Android, which has been available on Google Play for years. One of the things I always liked about reading on the Nook is the different backgrounds. Kobo and Kindle have always just had three different background colors, but Nook has six. You can easily change the bright white background to Sepia or different shades of off-white. This makes it easier to read in the dark, without having to strain your eyes. I also dig the way Nook handles animated page turns, wikipedia lookups and built in dictionary.
Magazines and Newspapers are opened via a special Nook for Magazine app that has been completely revised for this new Samsung model. The one thing I really like, aside from the animated page turns is “article view.” This strips away all of the images and CSS and turns a magazine into an eBook.
The Nook Shop was designed as a standalone app that lets you browse books, magazines, movies & TV, Kids, Apps, Newspapers and Comics. The only thing international users cannot access is media content, but all others are completely viable. The Home screen is curated content by the Nook team, currently they are hyping “Passion for Passion” and “Your Favorite Heroes.”
Nook Search is a standalone app that allows you to type in key terms that you want to look for in the shop. You can look at specific keywords, such as “post apocalyptic” or “Potter.” It will then give you a huge list of titles matching your search results in everything B&N offers in their store.
Nook Today scans all of the content you purchase or samples you access from the online store. It then gives you a recommended reading list, which helps with discovery. In addition, it remembers your results from Nook Search and also recommends similar titles.
The last unique aspect of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 Nook is the customized Nook Settings. Now it is important to note that you do have access to traditional Android settings too.
Nook settings allows you to control the way all of the dedicated Nooks apps behave. You can download alternative dictionaries and make them your default. Right now there is only six, but I was told more are on the way.
You can also control the way the magazine and eBook reading apps function. Cool options include turning off animated page turns, or two page layout in landscape. This is also where you can associate your Ultraviolet account with Nook Video to get the digital copies of the movies you buy from retail stores.
Good e-Reader has reviewed every single tablet Barnes and Noble has ever released, from the Nook Color to the Nook HD. This tablet is a step in the right direction. It gives you a unique e-reading experience and allows a deep level of customization.
I like the fact you can opt into dealing with Barnes and Noble, but aren’t exclusively roped into it. Google Play allows you to basically downloading any 3rd party reading app, Overdrive Media Console, Amazon Kindle, Kobo or thousands of others.
Reading digital books is impressive
Setup involved a Google, Samsung and Nook account.
Carrie Anne Philbin, our Education Pioneer and author of the most excellent Adventures in Raspberry Pi, had a dark secret up until last week. She was a Raspberry Pi enthusiast who didn’t know how to solder.
Here’s a new video from her award-winning Geek Gurl Diaries YouTube channel, in which she addresses the issue.
You can read much more from Carrie Anne on the Geek Gurl Diaries blog.
It's back to school time again for our Northern Hemisphere school and library partners! We're preparing for the new school year with a huge back to school sale to add some fresh content to your digital collection. We have also created some brand new marketing resources to welcome kids back to class in style. These materials are available for everyone to use – both school and public library partners. Included in the new Back to School marketing kit are a flyer, a bookmark and a web graphic, perfectly sized to use on Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter.
You will find the full Back to School marketing kit in the "Best of" Marketing folders in the Partner Portal. These "Best of" folders will give you a sampling of what the Partner Portal has to offer all year round. You can download them in the Marketing & Outreach section for public libraries, K-12 schools and academic libraries.
Updates are made regularly to the Partner Portal so make sure to check back often for new and refreshed materials. Popular sections include the Seasonal Marketing collection which helps celebrate monthly holidays; Social Media Images to find easy ways to promote your digital titles while social networking; and the Programming & Events page, where among other event ideas, you can find a marketing kit to support the upcoming Read an eBook Day on September 18!
If you need help or have any questions about marketing efforts, reach out to your Account Specialist.
Melissa Marin is a Marketing Specialist at OverDrive.
Thursday, August 28, 2014
The second generation Icarus Illumina HD offers the ability for users to install their own e-reading apps. It also has its own built in eBook app and this allows you to load in your own books you have purchased from another store, borrowed from the library or simply downloaded from the internet. Today, I will show you how to use Adobe Digital Editions, Calibre and Windows Explorer. Along the way, you will get some bonus knowledge on how to add in your own book cover or even change the authors name.
The Kobo Aura H2O e-reader is coming out this fall and sometimes you want to load in your own PDF files, CBZ comics or ePubs you bought online. In this video tutorial you will learn how to load them onto your H2O using Adobe Digital Editions, Calibre and Windows Explorer.
Calibre is a free download and is used primarily not not only copy PDF or ePub files to your Aura, but also to edit them. If you are copying backs that do not have DRM, you can easily swap out the cover art or edit the authors name. Editing the metadata allows for more flexible control over the way the book is found in your library or searched.
Adobe Digital Editions is also a free download and is mainly used to copy books to your H2O that you purchased from another online bookstore or books you borrowed from the library.
Widows Explorer is the most commonly used way to copy and paste books to your Aura H20, but offers the least amount of flexibility. Still, you can get a sense of the internal directory structure.
Pocketbook has been pumping out e-readers in 2014, like nobodies business. The company has released the Aqua, Ultra, InkPad and has been showing off the Mobius enabled CAD reader at various tradeshows. Pocketbook has announced that at the upcoming IFA tech event in Germany, they have a bevy of new products such as ereaders and tablets.
Pocketbook intends on marketing a new e-reader to the fashionistas of the world. It was exclusively designed in cooperation with an internationally renowned fashion and design house. In addition, they intend on releasing a complete line of stylish accessories. The new e-reader is equipped with a e-Ink Pearl screen with a light sensor for automatic front light adjustment.
When you think of Pocketbook, you will likely think of e-readers. They have been selling tablets for a number of years, but have not really caught on. They are hoping to remedy this situation with three new devices powered by a super fast octa-core processor. There is no word yet on screen sizes, but they will all have 3G internet access in addition dual band WIFI.
Over the course of the next few weeks we should get an indication on the full list of specs and naming conventions for their new products. Stay tuned to Good e-Reader for all the latest Pocketbook news.
Pocketbook to Debut new e-Reader and Tablets at IFA is a post from: Good e-Reader
By a show of hands, how many of you have been in the middle of a conversation with somebody and wished desperately that you could just silence them and walk away? It may be entirely too rude to do that in a conversation taking place in-person, but Google+ has given you the power to do it in their conversation threads. Now with a single click, the flood of notifications telling you that there is activity on a post will stop… and you can let your blood pressure return to normal.
The mute button works on individual people or on specific posts –meaning that person who posts things that constantly rub you the wrong way, will all but vanish! Comment on something without fear, knowing that even though it is a popular topic, you won’t be afraid to check your phone for the rest of the day. Of course, the best part is that muting the conversation doesn’t make it go away –you can always find your way back in, and people will have no idea you were ever gone.
To mute a person, view their profile page and hit the settings button. From there, you click mute and all is well.
To mute a post, bring it up on your screen and click the overflow button that appears in the top-right corner. Mute is found in this menu, click it and silence is golden!
One of the biggest advantages of a smartphone using iOS combined with a computer running MacOS has been the ability to send and receive iMessages directly from either device interchangeably(which is expanding to all SMS messaging with the updates due out this fall). Fortunately for those who aren’t running those platforms, Pushbullet is an app that can help… especially with the latest round of updates. In an exciting turn, Pushbullet can mirror all manner of notifications from your Android device on your computer –including text messages!
Before you say that you really don’t see the need to use text messaging from your computer (as opposed to a mobile device), there are several advantages that I can speak to first-hand as somebody who has used this functionality for some time now. One of the most significant benefits is the ability to type quickly and more accurately –while it’s completely possible to connect a Bluetooth keyboard to your smartphone or tablet, that’s an extra step. If you are one of the many people who work on a computer all day long, not having to look at your smartphone means fewer distractions –it may be argued that seeing them pop up on your computer is just as bad, but it also means not having to look away from the screen to check (and you can keep the volume off on your smartphone, which is a great idea for everybody who works around you as well).
Other features also make texting and messaging life a lot easier, including: being able to review your messaging history across all of your devices (which is especially nice on a larger screen for those with a lot to say), easily send items from your computer (potentially giving you access to all of your documents and images, not just those that happen to be on your smartphone or tablet), save attachments to your computer where they are most useful (while not losing them on your other devices as well), and my favourite –universal copy and paste (copy text from one device and paste it on a different one).
It all adds up to Pushbullet being one of the most productive, productivity apps available. If you haven’t given it a try already, download Pushbullet now and prepare to be amazed!
|The Sony DPT-S1 PDF Reader first arrived in the United States this past May. Sony calls the device a Digital Paper System. It is being marketed to business professionals, mostly people in banking and legal industries, as a paper replacement system. The Sony DPT-S1 is strictly a PDF Reader. It’s currently the only device available […]|
|Earlier this year, Sony decided to bring their giant 13.3-inch E Ink PDF reader to the United States after an initial release in Japan, but when they did so they opted to only sell them through third-party vendors. Sony has added three resellers to their list over the past few months, but they all seem […]|
The Sony Digital Paper 13.3 inch e-reader has been taking the business world by storm, with law, entertainment and tech companies embracing the whole replacement for paper concept. If someone wanted to purchase the $1,100 device they had to buy it from one of three strategic partners, and they were chronically sold out. Sony realized they had a potential hit on their hands and started to sell it directly on the phone, through their business unit. Today, Sony has unveiled a new website for the DPT-S1 and is now allowing anyone to order it online.
Sony has crafted a new landing page for the Digital Paper e-reader in order to address the key aspects or selling points. You can think of it as a replacement for paper and a secondary screen for your workflow. They have also populated the new site with a number of pictures that demonstrate the reader in action, among their key verticals: law, entertainment and education.
Anyone can now order the Sony Digital Paper e-reader directly off of the Sony website, but you have to live in the United States in order to have it shipped out. One thing that made me chuckle is during checkout, if you select Canada it says “We are happy to accept payment from international billing addresses, but we do not ship internationally.”
Sony may be selling the Digital Paper online, but this is a device certainly not for everyone. The company does not have a customer support system in place to address technical support or troubleshooting. It is aimed primarily at advanced users or businesses that have an IT department to handle this sort of thing, this is mainly why Sony has not issued a press release or hyped the fact they are now selling it online.
Attention educators! From September 1 through October 31, OverDrive will be running a first-of-its-kind sweepstakes that gives you the opportunity to win a digital classroom. In conjunction with our Back to School Sale and the introduction of OverDrive Novel Sets, your school has the opportunity to win a set of Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 Nook devices by adding users into Marketplace. In addition, the winning school will receive a visit from our Digital Bookmobile*!
Each time you add a new user, you will both be entered into the sweepstakes. You must, however, notify your Collection Development Specialist who you’ve added so we can keep track of your entries. The newly-added Curriculum Directors, Department Chairs and Teachers can then take advantage of the OverDrive catalog as they plan upcoming lessons for the year. For each order of $500, they will receive another entry; so it is easy to increase your chances of winning. Make sure to name all shopping carts beginning with “WADC” to ensure you receive credit and an entry. There is no limit to the potential number of entries that can be earned.
Keep in mind the strong value proposition that digital titles provide your school:
We will randomly draw the grand prize winner the first week of November as well as a consolation prize winner of $500 in OverDrive Content Credit. Contact your representative or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
|Last month Kobo released a software update for their line of E Ink ebook readers, version 3.5.0. Now Kobo has already released another new update, and somehow it has jumped all the way up to version 3.8.0. The new Kobo Aura H2O accounts for version 3.7.0, but whatever happened to 3.6? Anyway, according to preliminary […]|
Our streaming film catalog continues to grow, and now has over 11,000 titles. Here are just a small handful of the newly-added feature films, television series, and documentaries. Be sure to click on the link to the Marketplace cart for these and 200 of the newest titles, including many classic children's films, documentaries, educational titles, and more.
Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas
Ma and Emmet Otter have little other than each other and Christmas is coming. Can they win $50 in a music contest? Who can resist Jim Henson's creations?
An Iraqui hit man, accompanied by his blackmailing landlady, must transport a corpse across the US with the FBI, mobsters, and a killer on his trail.
The Hairy Tooth Fairy
Lucia loses a tooth, and her dad tells her the story of the Hairy Tooth Fairy—a mouse named Perez, who collects kids' teeth and polishes them into pearls. But when Perez is captured by bandits, Lucia and her cousin must rescue him.
First produced in the 1930s by a church group as an "educational" film for parents to help them warn their children away from marijuana, the film shows high school students lured into experimenting with cannabis and experiencing a hit-and-run accident, manslaughter, suicide, attempted rape, and a descent into madness. While it shows up on many lists of the worst films ever, Reefer Madness became a cult comedy in the 1970s.
Rebecca thinks she's landed her dream job when she's hired to help manage diva Simone who is starring in a Broadway play, but she finds herself scrubbing floors. When she accidentally pushes Simone down the stairs and kills her, she takes over her role and a star is born. But then they bring in an even bigger diva. Could Rebecca kill her too?
War of the Buttons
A pre-teen boy in WWII Occupied France enjoys leading "wars" between different rival kids' gangs, but when he falls for a Jewish girl in danger of being exposed by the Nazis, he must unite the gangs to help protect her.
Astro Boy was a Japanese manga series written between 1952 and 1968 under the name The Mighty Atom. It was made into an animated Japanese TV series embodying the aesthetic later known as anime. We have 104 episodes about the robot boy, for $2.99 each.
Jim Henson's Fraggle Rock
Fraggle Rock was a hit series in the 1980s. Henson himself described it as a high-energy, raucous musical romp with lots of silliness. We have all 96 episodes—each only $1.98. Click on the title link above, then click on the Fraggle Rock series entry to see all of them.
The Prime Radicals
This series was a children's educational television series which showed how math could be applied in everyday life. We've linked here to Season 1, Episode 1, which premiered in 2011 in Canada, but we have all 52 episodes of the first two seasons.
The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss
This television series ran for two seasons in the late 90s, and combined stories from Dr. Seuss with live action puppets from Jim Henson. We have all 40 episodes, again, for only $1.98 each.
Documentary and Instructional
Take four top comedians as coaches—Zach Galifianakis, Bob Saget, B.J. Novak, and Lewis Black—and add five wounded veterans who explore their ability to heal by developing comedy routines based on their experiences, and you end up with a hilarious and uplifting film.
Elvis Presley, From the Beginning to the End
Using rare footage and photographs, this is a full biography of the life of Elvis. Includes interviews with musicians and music historians.
The Hidden Faith of the Founding Fathers
Were the Founding Fathers of the United States really Christians as is often said? This documentary explores the religious beliefs of Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, and George Washington.
The Human Family Tree
A team of scientists swabs the cheeks of 200 random people on a busy street in New York City, then uses genetic testing to show that we are all cousins in the family of man.
Whales in Crisis
An intimate look at four kinds of whales—pilots, humpbacks, bowheads, and orcas—through the eyes of the humans battling to keep them safe.
*Geographical rights may vary by title.
Zen Studios is readying their next masterpiece, based this time on Telltale’s The Walking Dead adventure game. While it is true that the typical pinball format rarely lends itself well to complex story-lines, this release does a surprisingly good job at capturing key scenes from the first season of the franchise (including a healthy sprinkling of ambulatory corpses).
Adding to the authenticity, the original voice cast has recorded a few new original lines to be enjoyed during table play as you navigate through familiar locations while employing choice-driven gameplay: decide who to save and who to leave behind (while trying to raise morale, search for food, and acquire much-needed tools).
The Walking Dead Pinball game is expected to be launched for Android any minute now, but until then you can whet your appetite with the official launch trailer.
Zen Studios Ready to Launch The Walking Dead Pinball is a post from: Good e-Reader
Last month we put out a blog post advertising that I would be doing a tour of America, with a rough initial route, and we welcomed requests for visits.
Over the next couple of weeks I was overwhelmed with visit requests – I plotted all the locations on a map and created a route aiming to reach as many as possible. This meant covering some distance in the South East before heading back up to follow the route west towards Utah. I prepared a set of slides based on my EuroPython talk, and evolved the deck each day according to the reception, as well as making alterations for the type of audience.
With launching the Education Fund, being in Berlin for a week for EuroPython followed by YRS week and a weekend in Plymouth, I’d barely had time to plan the logistics of the trip – much to the annoyance of our office manager Emma, who had to book me a one-way hire car with very specific pick-up and drop-off locations (trickier than you’d think), and an internal flight back from Salt Lake City. I packed a suitcase of t-shirts for me to wear (wardrobe by Pimoroni) and another suitcase full of 40 brand new Raspberry Pis (B+, naturally) to give away. As I departed for the airport, Emma and Dave stuck a huge Raspberry Pi sticker on my suitcase.
When checking in my suitcase the woman on the desk asked what the Raspberry was, and her colleague explained it to her! In the airport I signed in to the free wifi with one of my aliases, Edward Snowden. I started to think Phil McKracken or Mr. Spock might have been a better choice once I spotted a few security guards seemingly crowding around in my proximity…
Mon 4 – NYC, New York
I managed to board the flight without a federal investigation (although I may now be on the list, if I wasn’t already), and got chatting to the 60 year old Texan lady I was seated with, who hadn’t heard about Raspberry Pi until she managed to land a seat next to me for 8 hours. I had her convinced before we left the ground. I don’t know how he does it, but Richard Branson makes 8 hours on a tin can in the sky feel like heaven. Virgin Atlantic is great!
Upon landing at JFK I was subjected to two hours’ queuing (it was nice of them to welcome us with traditional British pastimes), followed by a half-hour wait to get through customs. I felt I ought to declare that I was bringing forty computers in to the country (also stating they were to be given away), and was asked to explain what they were, show one to the officer who took hold of one of the copies of Carrie Anne‘s book, Adventures in Raspberry Pi, to validate my explanation. Fortunately I was not required to participate in a pop quiz on Python indentation, GPIO, Turtle graphics and Minecraft, as he took my word for it and let me through. I was then given the chance to queue yet again – this time about 45 minutes for a taxi to Manhattan. I arrived at Sam‘s house much later than I’d anticipated much she was there to greet me by hanging her head out the window and shouting “MORNING BEN”. An in-joke from a time we both lived in Manchester.
We ate and met my friend-from-the-internet Aidan, we went to a bar until what was 5am on my body clock. A sensible approach, I thought, was to just stay up and then get up at a normal time the next day. I awoke and saw the time was 6.00 – my jetlagged and exhausted mind decided it was more likely to be 6pm than 6am, but it was wrong. I arose and confirmed a meeting time and place for my first visit – just a few blocks away from Sam’s apartment in Manhattan.
Tue 5 – NYC, New York
I met Cameron and Jason who had set up a summer class teaching a computing course for locals aged 18-and-under for 2 weeks, delivered purely on Raspberry Pis! I chatted with them before the students arrived, and they told me about how they set up the non-profit organisation STEMLadder, and that they were letting the students take the Pis home at the end of the course. Today’s class was on using Python with Minecraft – using some material they found online, including a resource I helped put together with Carrie Anne for our resources section.
I gave an introduction about the Raspberry Pi Foundation and showed some example projects and then the kids did the Python exercises while working on their own “side projects” (building cool stuff while the course leaders weren’t looking)!
Thanks to Cameron and Jason for taking the opportunity to provide a free course for young people. A perfect example use for Raspberry Pi!
Wed 6 – Washington, DC
On Wednesday morning I collected my hire car (a mighty Nissan Altima) and set off for Washington, DC! I’ve only been driving for less than a year so getting in a big American car and the prospect of using the streets of Manhattan to warm up seemed rather daunting to me! I had a GPS device which alleviated some of my concern – and I headed South (yes, on the
I’d arranged to meet Jackie at 18F – a digital services agency project in the US government General Services Administration. This came about when I met Matt from Twilio at EuroPython, who’d done a similar tour (over 5 months). After a 6 hour drive including horrendous traffic around Washington (during which I spotted a sign saying “NSA – next right – exployees only“, making me chuckle), I arrived and entered 18F’s HQ (at 1800 F Street) where I had to go through security as it was an official government building. I was warned by Jackie by email that the people I’d be meeting would be wearing suits but I need not worry and wear what I pleased – so I proudly wore shorts and a green Raspberry Pi t-shirt. I met with some of the team and discussed some of their work. 18F was set up to replicate some of the recent initiatives of the UK government, such as open data, open source projects and use of GitHub for transparency. They also work on projects dealing with emergency situations, such as use of smartphones to direct people to sources of aid during a disaster, and using Raspberry Pis to provide an emergency communication system.
We then left 18F for the DC Python / Django District user group, where I gave a talk on interesting Python projects on Raspberry Pi. The talk was well received and I took some great questions from the audience. I stayed the night in Washington and decided to use the morning to walk round the monuments before leaving for North Carolina. I walked by the White House, the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial and took some awkward selfies:
Thu 7 – Raleigh, North Carolina
I left DC and it took me 6 hours to get to North Carolina. I arrived at the University (NCSU) in Raleigh just in time for the event – Code in the Classroom - hosted at the Hunt library and organised by Elliot from Trinket. I set my laptop up while Eliot introduced the event and began my talk. There was a good crowd of about 60 people – from around age 7 to 70!
The talk went down well, and I received many questions about teaching styles, classroom management and the future of the hardware. One older chap, who has been running a summer coding club on the Pi shouted out: “Where were you two weeks ago when I needed you!?” when I answered one of his questions, which generated laughter from the audience. I also had a teacher approach me after the talk asking if she could take a selfie with me to show her students she’d met someone from Raspberry Pi – I happily obliged and showed her some of my awkward selfies from Washington, DC. She asked if we could take an awkward one too – needless to say, I happily obliged!
Elliot had arranged a room next door to the lecture theatre with some Pis set up for kids to play on. I gave out some Pis to the kids and it was well over an hour before the last of them were dragged home by their parents. I chatted with Elliot and the others about them setting up a regular event in Raleigh – as there was obviously huge demand for Pi amongst kids and adults in the area and beyond (I’d heard someone had driven up from Florida to attend the talk!) – and so I look forward to hearing about the Raleigh Raspberry Jam soon! A few of us went out to get pizza, and we were accompanied by one of the smartest kids I’ve ever met – and among interesting and inspiring conversation, he kept asking me seemingly innocent questions like “what do you call that thing at the back of your car?” to which I’d reply with the British word he wanted me to speak! (It’s a boot.)
Here’s a video of the talk:
I thanked Elliot and departed for Greensboro, where I’d arranged to stay with my friend Rob from my university canoe club, and his wife Kendra.
Fri 8 – Charlotte, North Carolina
In the morning I left for UNC Charlotte where I spoke to embeddable systems engineering students at EPIC (Energy Production Infrastructure Centre). There was a good crowd of about 60 students and a few members of staff. When I entered the room they were playing Matt Timmons-Brown’s YouTube videos – what a warm-up act!
Following the talk I chatted with students about their projects, answered some questions, deferred some technical questions to Gordon and Alex, and was taken out to a brilliant craft beer bar for a beer and burger with some of the staff.
In the evening Rob, Kendra and I went out to eat – we had a beer in a book shop and ate bacon (out of a jam jar) dipped in chocolate. True story. We also took some group awkward selfies:
Sat 9 – Pigeon River, Tennessee
The Saturday I’d assigned to be a day off – I hoped to go kayaking with Rob but he had to work and Kendra was busy so Rob put me in touch with some paddling friends who welcomed me to join them on a trip to the Pigeon River in Tennessee! An early start of 6am left me snoozing in the back of the car, which Matt took the chance to snap a picture of and post it to Facebook (I only found out when Rob mentioned it later that evening). We had a nice couple of runs of the river by kayak, accompanied by a rafting party. And another awkward selfie.
Sun 10 – Lawrenceville, Georgia
On Sunday morning I left Rob and Kendra’s for Georgia. One of the requests I’d had was from a man called Jerry who just wanted to meet me if I was passing by. I said it’d be great if he could set up a public meeting to be more inclusive – and he got back in touch with a meetup link for an event at Geekspace Gwinnett – a community centre and hackspace in Lawrenceville. I pulled up, shook hands with Jerry and was shown to the front of the room to connect up my laptop. There was a larger crowd than I’d imagined, seeing as Jerry had set the event up just a few days prior to this – but there were about 40 people there, who were all very interested in Raspberry Pi and after my talk we had a great discussion of everyone’s personal projects.
Liz, who runs marketing for the space, gave me a tour, and Joe, the guy setting up the AV for my presentation spotted the Adventure Time stickers on my laptop and told me he worked for Turner in Atlanta who broadcast Cartoon Network, and offered to give me a tour of the network when he went on his night shift that evening. I went to Jerry’s house where he and his wife cooked for me and he showed me Pi Plates, the extension board he’s been working on.
I then left to meet Liz and her husband, Steve, who has been working on a huge robotics project – a whole wearable suit (like armour) that’s powered by a Pi and will make sounds and be scary! I look forward to the finished product. They also have an arcade machine Steve built years ago (pre-Pi) which houses a PC and which, he claims, had basically every arcade game ever on it.
We set off for Atlanta at about 11.30pm and I witnessed its beautiful skyline, which is well lit up at night. We arrived at Turner and met Joe, who gave us the tour – I’ve never seen so many screens in my life. They show all the broadcast material for TV and web on screens and have people sit and watch them to ensure the integrity of the material and ensure the advertising rules are adhered to. We also saw the Cartoon Network floor of the office side of the building where staff there work on the merchandise for shows like Adventure Time!
Joe also showed us the Turner Makers room – a mini hackspace for the Turner staff to work on side projects – he told me of one which used a Raspberry Pi to control steps that would light up and play a musical note as you walked across them. They’re currently working on a large games arcade BMO with a normal PC size screen as a display – I look forward to seeing it in action when it’s finished.
It’s great to see the space has since set up their own monthly Raspberry Pi group!
Mon 11 – Chattanooga, Tennessee
I then left Georgia to return to Tennessee, where I’d arranged to visit Red Bank Middle School in Chattanooga. I arrived at the school, signed in to get my visitor’s badge and met Kimberly Elbakidze - better known to her students as Dr. E – who greeted me with a large Subway sandwich. I ate in the canteen and while chatting with some of the staff I noticed the uniformed security guard patrolling the room had a gun on his belt. Apparently this is normal in American schools.
It was the first day back at the school, so the children were being oriented in their new classes. I gave two short talks, introducing the Raspberry Pi and what you can do with it – to sixth and eighth graders, and opened for some questions:
I wrapped up, left them a copy of Carrie Anne’s book and some Pis, and went on my way. I’d intended to get online and confirm the details of my next school visit (I’d arranged the date with the teacher, but we hadn’t settled on the time or what we were doing), but access to the internet from the school was restricted to staff so I couldn’t get on. I had to set off for Alabama, and only had the school name and the town. I put the town name in to my car’s GPS and set off.
Tue 12 – Talladega, Alabama
I arrived in Talladega town centre unsure how close I was to the school. I parked up and wandered down the main street in magnificent sunshine and intense heat looking for a McDonald’s or Starbucks, hoping to get on some WiFi to check where it was. With no luck, I headed back to the car and decided to just find a hotel and hope that I was at least nearby. I asked someone sitting outside a shop if they knew of the school – RL Young Elementary School – and they said it was just 15 minutes or so away, so I asked for a nearby hotel and she pointed me in the right direction. As I neared the car, the intense heat turned in to a terrific storm – the 5 minute drive to the hotel was in the worst rain I’ve ever seen.
I checked in to the hotel and got on with my emails – I sent one to the teacher who’d requested me at the school to say I’d arrived in Talladega, that I was staying in the Holiday Inn, and asked what time I should come in. My hotel phone rang 5 minutes later – it was the husband of the teacher. Trey said the principal hadn’t been told about the visit yet, and the details needed to be confirmed with her before we set a time – but they would sort it out as soon as possible and let me know. He offered to take me out for a meal that night so I arranged to meet him within an hour. Just as I was leaving I got an email from someone called Andrew who said he’d just spotted I was in Talladega, and asked if I could meet him if I had time – I said if he could get to the restaurant, I’d be there for the next couple of hours.
As I arrived I met them both, and introduced them to each other. Driving through that afternoon I’d noticed the town has about 50 churches. Trey said he recognised Andrew’s surname, and Andrew said his father was the priest of one of the churches, and Trey said he knew him. Andrew was also training to become a priest like his Dad, and Trey said he’d skipped Bible school that night to come and meet me. We had a nice meal and a chat and Trey said he’d let me know in the morning what the plans for the school visit were. Andrew offered to take me out for breakfast and show me around the town. I said I’d contact him in the morning once I’d heard the timings from Trey.
Once I woke up the next morning my email told me I needed to be at the school for about 1pm, so I had time to go to breakfast with Andrew, and he showed me around the place. I also visited his home and his church and met his family. He showed me some Raspberry Pi projects he’s been working on too.
He also offered to help out at the school – RL Young Elementary, so we got my kit and he drove us over. We signed in at reception where we entered our names in to a computer which printed vistor labels (seriously – a whole PC for that – and another just showing pictures of dogs!
The Raspberry Pi was definitely needed in this place). I was to follow a woman from the Red Cross, who gave a talk to the children about the importance of changing their socks every day. I thought an introduction to programming with Minecraft might blow their smelly socks right off!
The principal attempted to introduce me but had no idea who I was or why I was there, so just let me get on with it. I spoke to the young children and introduced the Raspberry Pi, focusing on a Minecraft demo at the end where I let them have a go themselves. The principal thanked me, said it was interesting and wished me a safe trip back to Australia! I left them some Pis and a copy of Adventures in Raspberry Pi.
Wed 13 – Somerville, Tennessee
I’d arranged my next visit with a very enthusiastic teacher called Terri Reeves from the Fayette Academy (a high school) in Somerville, Tennessee. In her original request she’d said she wasn’t really on my route, but would be willing to travel to meet me for some training – but I explained I’d changed my route to try to hit as many requests as I could, so I’d be happy to visit the school. She offered to let me stay at her house, and told me her husband would cook up some Southern Barbecue for me on arrival. It was quite a long drive and I arrived just after sunset – the whole family was sitting around the table ready to eat and I was welcomed to join them. I enjoyed the Southern Barbecue and was treated to some Razzleberry Pie for dessert. I played a few rounds of severely energetic ping pong with each of Terri’s incredibly athletic sons and daughters before getting to bed.
I spent most of the day at the school, where I gave my Raspberry Pi talk and demo to each of Terri’s classes. Again, it was the first week back for the school so it was just orientation for students settling in to their classes and new routines. The information went down well across the board and Terri said lots of students wanted to do Raspberry Pi in the after-school classes too.
I joined some students for lunch, who quizzed me on my English vocabulary and understanding of American ways – they thought it was hilarious when I pointed out they said “Y’all” too much. I suggested they replace it with “dawg”. I do hope this lives on.
I also took a look at a project Terri had been trying to make in her free period – she’d been following some (really bad) instructions for setting up a webcam stream from a Pi. I diagnosed the problem fairly quickly – the
I then drove about an hour West to Downtown Memphis where I spent the early evening between Elvis Presley Boulevard and Beale Street (no sign of a Clive museum, just a row of Harley Davidsons) where I bought a new hat, which soon became the talk of the office.
When I returned to Terri’s house she asked me to help her with webcam project again – I checked she’d done all the steps and tried opening the stream from VLC Player on my laptop. I’ve never heard anyone shriek with joy so loud when she saw the webcam picture of us on that screen! Terri was overjoyed I’d managed to help her get that far.
Thu 14 – Louisville, Kentucky
I left the next morning for Louisville (pronounced Lou-er-vul), and en route I realised I’d started to lose my voice. I arrived in the afternoon for an event at FirstBuild, a community hackspace run by General Electric. The event opened with an introduction and a few words from me, and then people just came to ask me questions and show me their projects while others were shown around the space and introduced to the equipment.
Check out this great write-up of the FirstBuild event: Louisville, a stop on US tour for credit-card sized computers.
We then proceeded to the LVL1 hackerspace where I was given a tour before people arrived for my talk. By this point my voice had got quite bad, and unfortunately there was no microphone available and the room was a large echoey space. However I asked people to save questions to the end and did my best to project my voice. I answered a number of great questions and got to see some interesting projects afterwards.
Fri 15 – St. Louis, Missouri
Next – St. Louis (pronounced Saint Lewis), Missouri – the home of Chuck Berry. I had a full day planned by teacher and tinkerer Drew McAllister from St. John Vianney High School. He’d arranged for me to meet people at the Grand Center Arts Academy at noon, then go to his school to speak to a class and the after school tech club followed by a talk at a hackspace in the evening.
I was stuck in traffic, and didn’t make it to the GCAA meetup in time to meet with them, so we headed straight to the school where I gave a talk to some very smartly dressed high school students, which was broadcast to the web via Google Hangouts. Several people told me afterwards how bad my voice sounded on the Hangout. Here it is:
I had a few minutes’ rest before moving next door to the server room, where they host the after school tech club – Drew kindly filled in the introduction of the Pi to begin (to save my voice) and asked students if they knew what each of the parts of the Pi were for. I continued from there and showed examples of cool projects I thought they’d like. I gave Drew some Pis for the club and donated some Adafruit vouchers gifted by James Mitchell – as I thought they’d use them well.
Drew showed me around St. Louis and took me out for a meal (I consumed lots of hot tea for my throat) before we went to the Arch Reactor hackerspace. I gave my talk and answered a lot of questions before being given a tour of the space.
Sat 16 – Colombia, Missouri
In the morning I left in the direction of Denver, which was a journey long enough to have to break up over two days. With no visit requests in Kansas City, but one in Colombia, which was on my way but not very far away, I stopped there to meet with a group called MOREnet, who provide internet connection and technical support to schools and universities. Rather than have me give a talk, they just organised a sit-down chat and asked me questions about education, teacher training and interesting ways of learning with Raspberry Pi. Some of the chat was video recorded which you can watch at more.net (please excuse my voice).
I even got to try Google Cardboard – a simple virtual reality headset made with cardboard and an Android phone. A very nice piece of kit! I stayed a couple of hours and made my way West. I’d asked around for a good place to stay that night on my way to Denver. Some people had suggested Hays in Kansas so I set that as my destination. It had taken me 2 hours to get to Columbia and would be another 6+ hours to Hays, so it was always going to be a long day, but at least I was in no rush to arrive anywhere for a talk or event.
I stopped briefly in Kansas City (actually in the state of Missouri, not Kansas) to find almost nobody out and almost everything closed. I think it’s more of a nightlife town. I finally arrived in Hays at 8.30pm after the boring drive through Kansas and checked in to a hotel just in time for a quick dip in the swimming pool.
Sun 17 – Denver, Colorado
I left Hays for Denver, which meant I had a good 5+ hour drive ahead – all along that same freeway – the I-70, to arrive at denhac, the Denver Hackspace for 4pm. I’d also arranged late the night before to visit another Denver hackspace afterwards, so I said I’d be there at 7pm. On my way in to Denver I noticed a great change in weather – and saw lots of dark grey and black clouds ahead – and as I got closer I entered some rough winds and even witnessed a dust storm, where dust from the soil and crops of the fields was swept in to the air. It was surreal to drive through!
I arrived just on time and was greeted by Sean, who had invited me. He introduced me to the members, all sitting around their laptop screens, and was given a tour of the space. He was telling me how the price of the space had been rising recently due to the new demand for warehouse space such as theirs for growing cannabis, now that it is legal in Colorado. I took some pictures of cool stuff around the space, including a Pibow-encased Pi powering a 3D printer. I even got to try on Sean’s Google Glass (I think Cardboard is much better).
I met a young girl, about 12 years old, who told me she recently went in to an electronics shop saying she wanted to buy a Raspberry Pi for a new project, and the member of staff she spoke to had never heard of a Raspberry Pi and assumed she wanted to cook one. Anyway, I gave her one of mine – she was delighted and immediately announced it in the networked Minecraft game she was hosting. I gave my talk in their classroom (great to see a classroom in a hackspace) before heading to my next stop – TinkerMill.
TinkerMill is a large hackspace, coworking space and startup accelerator in Denver. On arrival a group of people were sitting ready for my talk, so I got set up and was introduced by Dan, who runs the space and works out of it. The hackspace version of my talk includes more technical detail and updates on our engineering efforts. This went down well with the group and after answering a few questions we broke out in to chat when we discussed the Pi’s possibilities and what great things have come out of the educational mission.
I also met a woman called Megg who was standing at the back of the room, I got chatting to her and she asked me a few questions. She hadn’t attended the event but just came to use the laser cutter for the evening, and caught the end of the talk. She kept asking me questions about the Pi, and in answering them I basically gave the talk again. She said the reason she’d not come to the talk was that she was looking to use the Arduino in some future projects because she assumed it would be easier than using a Pi, based on the fact she’d heard you could do more with a Pi, so it must be more complex. I explained the difference to her hoping this would shed light on how the Pi might be useful to her after all, and that she would be able to choose a suitable and appropriate tool or language on the Pi, which is not an option with Arduino. She also discussed ideas for creative projects and wearables which were really interesting and I told her all about Rachel’s project Zoe Star and put her in touch with Rachel, Charlotte and Amy. Dan took Meg and me out to dinner and we had a great time.
Mon 18 – Boulder, Colorado
Dan offered to put me up and show me around Denver the following day – I’d originally planned to get straight off to Utah the next day but it made sense to have an extra day in Denver – I’m glad I did as I really enjoyed the town and got to have a great chilled out day before driving again. We drove up one of the nearby mountains to a height of almost 10,000 feet.
I wandered around Boulder, a wonderful town full of cafes, restaurants and interesting shops. I ended up buying most of my awful souvenirs there – including a three-tiered monkey statue for Liz:
We ate at a restaurant called Fork so it seemed appropriate to get a picture for my Git/GitHub advocacy!
Colorado seemed to be the most recognisable state in all the places I visited, by which I mean it was culturally closest to Britain. My accent didn’t seem too far from theirs, either. A really nice place with great food and culture, with mountains and rivers right on hand. I could live in a place like that!
Tue 19 – Provo, Utah
I left Dan’s in the morning and headed West along the I-70 again. After a couple of bathroom breaks I got on some McDonald’s WiFi and checked my email and twitter – I’d had a tweet asking if I would be up for speaking in Provo that night. I thought “why not?” and said yes – expecting to arrive by 7pm, I suggested they make it 8pm just in case. I was actually heading to Provo already, in hope of meeting up with some family friends, Ken and Gary, who I stayed with last time I visited Utah. I hadn’t managed to get hold of them yet, but I kept ringing every now and then to see if they were around. When I finally got hold of them, they asked if they could come to see my presentation – so I told them where it was and said I’d see them there.
As I entered Utah the scenery got more and more beautiful – I pulled up a few times to get pictures. The moment I passed the ‘Welcome to Utah’ sign I realised what a huge feat I’d accomplished, and as I started to see signs to Salt Lake City – my end point – I was overjoyed. I hadn’t covered much distance across the country in my first week, as I’d gone South, along a bit, North and East a bit before finally setting off from St. Louis in the direction of the West Coast, so finally starting to see the blue dot on my map look a lot closer to California meant a lot.
I arrived in Provo about 7.30, located the venue, the Provo Web Academy, and by the time I found the right place and parked up it was 8pm. I was greeted by the event organiser, Derek, and my friends Ken and Gary! I hadn’t seen them for 13 years so it was a pleasure to meet again. I set up my presentation and gave my talk, had some great questions and inspired the group of about 20 (not bad, to say it had been organised just a few hours earlier) to make cool things with Pi and teach others to do the same. I went out to eat with Ken and Gary and caught up with them.
Wed 20 – Logan, Utah
The next day I had my talk planned for 4pm in Logan (North of Salt Lake City) so I had all morning free to spend with Ken (retired) while Gary was at work. Back story: my Mum (a primary school teacher) spent a year at a school in Utah in 1983-84 on an exchange programme. Ken was a fellow teacher at the school, and like many others, including families of the kids she taught, she kept in touch with him. As I said, we visited in 2001 while on a family holiday, and stayed with them on their farm. So Ken and I went to the school – obviously many of the staff there knew Ken as he only recently retired, and he told them all about my Mum and that I was touring America and wanted to visit the school. None of the teachers there were around in 1984, but some of the older ones remembered hearing about the English teachers who came that year. I took photos of the school and my Mum’s old classroom and sent them to her. We visited another teacher from that time who knew all about me from my Mum’s Christmas letter (yikes!) and even went to see the trailer my Mum lived in for the year!
I then left Provo for Logan, where the talk was to take place at Utah State University. I’d prepared a talk for university students, really, but discovered there was a large proportion of children there from a makers group for getting kids in to tech hardware projects – but they seemed to follow along and get some inspiration from the project ideas. Down to my last two Pis, I did what I did at most events and called out for the youngest people in the room – these went to 5 and 7 year olds, and my demo Babbage (I mention Dave Akerman’s Space Babbage in all my talks) was given out to a family too.
My final talk was recorded, but they told me they were recording the other screen so I’m out of the frame in most of the video.
Happy to have completed the tour, sad for my journey to be coming to and end, but glad to be able to sit down and take a breather, I chilled out for a while before heading back to Provo for my final night in America. I thought at one point I wouldn’t make it back as I hit a storm on my way home, and could barely see the road in front of me due to the incredible rain. The entire 4-lane freeway slowing to 40mph with high beams glaring, catching a glimpse of the white lines now and then and correcting the wheel accordingly, I made it home safely to join Ken and Gary for dinner.
Thu 21 – Salt Lake City, Utah
I bid farewell and left for the airport, returned my hire car with 4272 miles on it – which was 10% of the car’s overall mileage!
I flew from Salt Lake City to New York and stupidly forgot to tell them that wasn’t my final destination so I had to retrieve my suitcases at JFK baggage claim and check them back in for my next flight – because, you know, I like stress. Luckily I had no problems despite the internal flight running late and me not having a boarding card for my second flight (I had no access to a printer or WiFi in the 24 hours before the flight!), my luggage and all was successfully transported back to London with me. I was driven back to Cambridge, then up to Sheffield where I bought a suit, had my hair cut and attended the wedding of two great friends – Congratulations, Lauren and Dave.
What did I learn?
- Despite sales of Pis in America being the biggest in the world, the community is far less developed than it is in the UK and in other parts of Europe. There are hardly any Jams or user groups, but there is plenty of interest!
Huge thanks to all the event organisers, the people who put me up for the night or took me out for a meal, and everyone involved in this trip. Sorry if I didn’t make it to you this time around – but I have a map and list of places we’re required – so we hope to cover more ground in future.
You can view the last iteration of my talk slides at slideshare.