Monday, September 8, 2014

Onyx Boox T68 Lynx Drop Test

onyx t68 lynx

Welcome to another Good e-Reader Drop Test! Today we are checking out the Onyx Boox T68 Lynx. We are conducting a series of tests to see how it holds up in real world conditions.

Here is how we normally conduct our Drop Tests, we stimulate the quintessential pocketbook miss from the 3 foot level. This is valid, because it may fall out of your bag or randomly drop if you are a klutz like me. We also drop it from the five foot mark on its side, rear and right on the screen. See how it holds up, more importantly, does it survive?

Onyx Boox T68 Lynx Drop Test is a post from: Good e-Reader

Pocketbook Ultra e-Reader Review

pocketbook ultra

The Pocketbook Ultra e-reader has just been released and its the first device out there that has a built in camera. Its mainly used to snap profile pics or to scan books. It uses the exact same e-Ink Carta technology employed on the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite 2 and Kobo Aura H20, which will give you faster page turns and higher resolution. How exactly does this e-reader perform in real world conditions and is it a viable investment?



The Pocketbook Ultra features a six inch e-ink Carta display screen with a resolution of 1024×758. This device uses Neonode IR technology, so you won’t be able to pinch and zoom. Instead, users will have to employ single or double taps in order to access the menus or settings.

Underneath the hood is a 1GHZ processor and 512 MB of RAM. Users will have 4 GB of internal memory and the ability to enhance it further via a MicroSD Card.

pocketbook ultra camera

This e-reader has a few things going for it, that make it stand out in a crowded marketplace. It has a 5 MP rear facing camera, that is ironically placed on the bottom right hand corner. There is a small LED light that assists in snapping photos, but the entire process is a bit convoluted.

Lets say you are outside and want to take a picture of a flower. You need to open the photo app on the home screen and wait around five seconds to get a sketch outline. You can think of this is a state that is not fully rendered. Once you take the picture, it will take another five seconds for the full image to give you full resolution. Photos are viewed in the gallery, and can be used for your boot up logo or can be exported to your PC.

The Ultra has a front-lit display that allows you to read in the dark. Unlike smartphones and tablets, the light does not emit from behind the screen. Instead, it has five LED lights on the bottom of the bezel that evenly distribute light across the screen. This lighting system is one of the drawbacks, it does not really illuminate the screen properly even at maximum brightness. In a side by side comparison against the Kobo Aura H20 or the Kindle Paperwhite 2, the Ultra gave a really lackluster experience.

The vast majority of e-readers these days have abandoned audio. Companies such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo are in a race to offer the most affordable hardware possible, and audio increases the overall cost. The Pocketbook Ultra does have built in audio, but the only way to listen to text to speech or MP3 files is via the 3.5 mm headphone jack.

Design wise the Pocketbook Ultra has 2 physical page turn keys, but they are on the back of the unit. Most e-readers have the keys right on the front, on the left and right hand side. Pocketbook went the non-conventional route and has them on the back. At first, I thought this was a weird design change, but when you naturally hold the reader in portrait mode, I found it actually worked. There are also 4 physical buttons on the front, that access the settings, home button and forward/backward.

In the end, the Pocketbook Ultra is a very sexy e-reader. The hardware and overall design principles makes it really stand out. Sadly, the 512 MB of RAM is really noticeable. It many cases you have to wait a few seconds for a new app to open and over the course of our review we had to reboot it. Still, an e-ink camera is very compelling and it really does take great photos.



Pocketbook has been focusing their efforts on developing proprietary in-house apps that make the Ultra extremely viable, right out of the box. The company has heavily invested in features such as Pocketbook Sync and Send to Pocketbook. These two apps allow you to send and receive audiobooks, eBooks and documents from your cloud storage. Pocketbook also wrote their own custom Dropbox app, using the public API. So if you don’t feel like using the Pocketbook cloud system, you can use Dropbox, which is more commonly used. The most interesting aspect about the entire Dropbox system is that you can create custom shelves in your library that house all of your cloud based content.

The Home screen comprises of your Library, Store and Camera, in addition to the eBooks you have recently added or purchased. There are two tabs on the bottom of the screen and top. The bottom ones access app such as your browser, calculator, chess dictionary, documents, gallery, Klondike, MP3 Player, Notes, Scribble and Sudoku. I especially liked the drawing app that has a bunch of different pen sizes and font options.

The top menu allows you to easily access the brightness levels of the font-lit display, task manager and deep settings options. I thought including a task manager was a really positive step forward for Pocketbook. Hitting this button allows you to view all of the tabs you have opened, with options to keep them open or to close them completely. If a certain aspect becomes irresponsible, you can close it and reopen it. This prevents the need to always reboot it. Over the course of the review, a big PDF file seemed to really slow down the Ultra, so we simply closed it and everything went back to working fine.

All the time, we are stuck with the stock button configurations of an e-reader. You might hold the e-reader in such a way, that it is always automatically switches from portrait mode to landscape. Other times you may inadvertently hit the wrong button, breaking immersion when reading a good eBook. To remedy this problem Pocketbook developed a key mapping tool that allows you to disable a specific button when reading or change it to a completely different function globally.

e-Reading Experience


One of Pocketbooks strengths when competing in the global e-reader market is their inherent ability to support many languages. When Amazon or Kobo sell their readers in France, Italy or Denmark they sell localized versions to them, with custom firmware. All Pocketbook models support a ton of dictionaries and can change the entire menu system to Korean on the fly.

The new e-reader supports more than 20 popular text and image formats and also has a set of preinstalled ABBYY Lingvo dictionaries. It even has the official Websters 1913 dictionary.

Your virtual library is going to be the most commonly accessed area of the e-reader. Pocketbook is focusing on customization with the ability to filter by authors, genres, bookshelves, folders, formats or series. You can also change the visual prospective from showing cover art to a list view. Pocketbook sells the Ultra with over 60 preinstalled eBooks, you so will likely want to likely prune them quickly via Windows Explorer or an eBook manager program like Adobe Digital Editions.

The overall e-Book experience is solid with EPUB type files, it is stable and the process tend not to crash. You can either load in your own books or do business with the Pocketbook run Bookland bookstore. It does not have a ton of bestsellers, but they constantly add new content, such as new Don Brown. The majority seem to be royalty free type books, you would find on websites such as Project Gutenberg. Unfortunately, PDF books are severely hampered.

The Ultra does not have a capacitive touch screen and employs older Neonode IR touch technology. This prevents the ability to pinch and zoom, so when reading PDF files you have to hit various settings menu to manually find your optimal zoom level. This is very tedious because every time you turn a page, your options are not preserved. The Ultra is also prone to crash when reading PDF files over 80 MB in size, they cannot fully render properly.

When someone is looking for an e-reader, often they just want to occasionally read an eBook and not have to worry about anything else. I may fixate on the inner workings of the Ultra and let you know exactly how it performs in real life, but its all about just reading. It does a tremendous job with the e-Ink carta display. Page turns occur super quickly, and there is little to no ghosting.

Wrap Up


I have been reviewing Pocketbook e-readers since their very first model. They tend to release three or four different models and Good e-Reader has really seen them grow over time. The Pocketbook Ultra is the best model they have ever released with a six inch screen. It perfectly blends hardware with unique software elements and has a camera.

This e-reader would come heavily recommended for people with disabilities and have a hard time reading. You can plug in a set of headphones and use the text to speech system. It is available only in English, German and French, but this is a big selling point. If you are looking for a cutting edge e-reader that will stand out in a crowd, the Ultra is for you.


Text to Speech
5 MP Camera
All buttons can be key mapped
e-Ink Carta Display


512 MB of RAM hampers a perfect score
Front-lit display is not on par with the Kobo Aura H20 or Kindle Paperwhite
Comes with too many eBooks in different languages
Large PDF files do not work properly

Rating: 8/10

Pocketbook Ultra e-Reader Review is a post from: Good e-Reader

Google Play Movies & TV Adds Offline Playback for iOS


Google Play users on Android have had the ability to save television shows and movies for offline viewing for a while now, but thanks to a new update, iOS users can experience the same convenience. Whether you are frequently on-the-go and find yourself away from an Internet connection or suffer with slow download speeds, being able to save content for later is extremely valuable. Even more valuable when you consider that an investment into content from Google Play is entirely cross-platform, making it useful for the entire family no matter the device they prefer.

Downloading content has to be done over Wi-Fi, which just makes sense –and it can be done in the background, though Google does caution that doing so can decrease battery life (but I am sure we all could have guessed that).

Unfortunately, not all of the news is good… for those of us who use the service regularly, it would be nice if they added the ability to buy content directly from the app (of course, it’s safe to assume that the reason they don’t allow it is due in large part to the 30% cut that Apple takes on every sale made using their platform).

If you haven’t tried the Google Play Movies & TV app on your iOS device, this latest update makes it even more compelling to download it for free now.

Google Play Movies & TV Adds Offline Playback for iOS is a post from: Good e-Reader

Twitter Goes Commercial With New “Buy” Button on Mobile


Rumours are now a reality: Twitter has released their first commerce product. Following the hiring of former Ticketmaster CEO, Nathan Hubbard, mock-ups of a “Buy Now” button have been leaked all over the Internet; today rumours become reality.

The official launch announcement from Twitter reads:

“Today we are beginning to test a new way for you to discover and buy products on Twitter. For a small percentage of U.S. users (that will grow over time), some Tweets from our test partners will feature a "Buy" button, letting you buy directly from the Tweet. This is an early step in our building functionality into Twitter to make shopping from mobile devices convenient and easy, hopefully even fun. Users will get access to offers and merchandise they can't get anywhere else and can act on them right in the Twitter apps for Android and iOS; sellers will gain a new way to turn the direct relationship they build with their followers into sales.”

Initial tests have been built and conducted with partners such as Fancy, Gumroad, Musictoday, and Stripe; ensuring purchases could be completed using only a few taps. A click on the buy button delivers a complete product description, followed by a prompt to enter shipping and payment details. A confirmation follows and your order information is passed along to the appropriate merchant for processing.

Twitter is quite to assure would-be consumers that the process is secure and safe, with your information being properly encrypted and stored. After your first transaction, your details are retained for faster subsequent purchases –with the option to cleanse them from your account at any time.

Is this addition exciting or annoying? Personally, I can’t decide. While it’s nice to save myself effort whenever possible, it’s equally a delight not to be prompted to spend money every moment of every day.

Twitter Goes Commercial With New “Buy” Button on Mobile is a post from: Good e-Reader

Super Monkey Ball Bounce Arrives on Android


Once upon a time, in my console gaming days, I first laid eyes on Super Monkey Ball. Since that time, I’ve been hooked. Featuring game-play that is easy to learn but difficult to master, this franchise knows how to bring the spirit of arcade gaming to any platform it lands on. In that way, Super Monkey Ball Bounce on your Android device does not disappoint.

Offering 119 levels across six unique worlds, Super Monkey Ball Bounce is all about puzzles (instead of the usual balancing, tilting, and rolling required to complete each level). It reminds me a little of what pinball on a touchscreen would look like… if you combined it with the physics-inspired ‘aim and shoot’ methodology.

Led by AiAi the monkey, this title is as bright and colourful as you would expect. While the graphics are well animated, cutesy, and fun –they are also a little over the top and annoying. We have come toexpect that the skill required to complete levels should increase as you progress through the game, it feels exponential and a little random. To make it easier, there are lots of power-ups and multi-shots available –but be careful, using them often will cost you (real dollars via in-app purchases), not to mention the game is littered with tedious advertisements you are forced to watch as you navigate around.

In the end, it’s still a fun game to play –as long as you don’t expect it to deliver much more than a cheerful (and addictive) distraction.

If you find it hard to resist charming little primates, download Super Monkey Ball Bounce and give it a try.

Super Monkey Ball Bounce Arrives on Android is a post from: Good e-Reader

Reddit Allows Users to Ask Me Anything Using Official App


Ask Me Anything (AMA) is one of the more entertaining things you can do online. The brainchild of Reddit (the self-described ‘front page of the Internet’), AMA is basically just a series of chats that allow you to engage in interactive Q&A sessions with all manner of people (usually celebrities or other current news-makers). If you’ve ever taken a spin by the AMA website, your first impression was likely that it’s a little overwhelming; it’s text-heavy and hard to skim. Thanks to their new dedicated app, it is much easier to access and follow particular threads.

Loading the app, you can browse hot, recent, and favourited topics. You can also perform searches based on name or topic, or browse by category (including entertainment, music, sports, politics, games, or business).

There is no question that AMA is pretty much just a time sink, but there are worse ways to entertain yourself. You never know exactly who will be online and eager to answer your questions, but a quick peek today turned up a large number of options. To give you a taste, allow me to share a few that might be of interest:

The son of an Oscar winning actor (but he doesn’t reveal specifically which one) – A series of questions determined that this person has a brother, his name is ‘exciting’ but normal, he grew up in New York, and that he plays all sorts of instruments with mediocre skill.

Somebody who had their upper jaw broken, moved, and plated to fix their underbite – This user shares their post op healing time, discusses what the process was like, and explains why they decided to go ahead with the procedure.

Denzel Washington – The famous actor reveals many personal details, thoughts, and opinions; sharing with Reddit readers that he is “DEFINITELY an Eminem fan.”

If you are curious enough to give it a try, download Ask Me Anything – reddit for your Android devices now!

Reddit Allows Users to Ask Me Anything Using Official App is a post from: Good e-Reader

HomeTube Makes YouTube Safer for Children


If your children are anything like mine, their favourite thing to do when they get their hands on a mobile device is to load up YouTube and watch videos. It doesn’t even really matter what the content of the video is –which is part of the problem. YouTube is filled with entertainment, from cartoon clips to cute cats to music videos to a few dozen categories that are less than appropriate for kids to watch. Even if you set them on the right course, being able to follow ‘recommended video’ paths can quickly move you from good content to bad. Thankfully, HomeTube can help!

HomeTube is free to download for your Android device, giving you the ability to let your children navigate from video to video on their whim (while only being presented with kid-friendly options). If you would like to customize the app and create your own video playlists, a one-time $0.99 in-app purchase will unlock the full features of the app.

If you choose, HomeTube can also take over the logged in account as a home screen replacement. This means you can create a profile for your child that lets them watch videos without having access to any other apps (like your email). Using HomePage doesn’t guarantee a fully locked-down system, tech-proficient older children may still be able to break out of the app –something those of us in the industry describe as ‘security through obscurity’.

HomeTube Makes YouTube Safer for Children is a post from: Good e-Reader

Amazon Fire Phone Available in the UK September 30th


The Amazon Fire Phone will be released in the UK on September 30th 2014 via O2. New and existing customers for O2 can get the Fire Phone for free if they take out the £33 a month Refresh contract. For those who sign up to the Fire Phone contract before 31st December, Amazon will be giving away one year of Prime.

The Seattle based e-commerce giant hopes that its Fire Phone can challenge Apple, Samsung, Sony and HTC in the smartphone market, but its US launch has been underwhelming with only 35,000 phones sold.

"We think the Fire Phone will be a great phone for Amazon customers, amazing for Prime customers, but it's a very competitive phone and good for people who want a new phone in general," Cameron Janes, Amazon's director of the Fire phone. "It's amazing value with a bundled year of Amazon Prime giving access to 15,000 videos and 500,000 books, plus free unlimited photo cloud storage and customer support from the built-in MayDay feature."

The Fire Phone trumpets Firefly as the main selling point, which allows people to scan barcodes & QR codes and automatically pull the product listing up on Amazon. "Firefly identifies printed text on signs, posters, magazines and business cards," the company said, which it does through combining "Amazon's deep catalog of physical and digital content with multiple image, text and audio recognition technologies to quickly identify a variety of items from the world around you."

Amazon's biggest difference from the Samsung Galaxy S5, the upcoming Apple iPhone 6, or Sony Xperia Z3 is its "dynamic perspective", which uses four front-facing cameras to track the position of the user's head to create a simulated 3D experience that moves as the user moves their head.

The United Kingdom is reaching a point of mobile phone saturation, with an estimated 70% of the population owning one. Can Amazon defy the odds and sell enough units to make entry into the UK viable?

Amazon Fire Phone Available in the UK September 30th is a post from: Good e-Reader

Collection Highlights: Publisher Postcards

Join us on a scenic virtual visit to Spain, South Africa, Malaysia, and more in our September edition of collection highlights, Publisher Postcards, where we take a look at some of the excellent new content coming to OverDrive’s catalog from postcard-worthy countries all over the world.

All of the publishers featured in this presentation either have content available for purchase now or will have content available soon in OverDrive Marketplace.

Note: For the best audio experience, we recommend watching this presentation in Chrome.

Carrie Smith is a Technical Writer at OverDrive.

HATs in the wild. And a unicorn.

If you’re a regular reader, you’ll recall that a month or so ago, we announced a new way of making add-on hardware for the Raspberry Pi: namely, the Raspberry Pi HAT (Hardware Attached on Top). You can read James, our Director of Hardware, explaining what they’re all about in the original blog post: in short, the HAT is a solder-less way of attaching hardware which can be auto-detected by the Pi, so GPIOs and headers are automagically configured by the Pi, without you having to do anything.

Gordon Pighat Hollingworth

The pink confection on top of Gordon is a hat, not a HAT.

(A tangentially related question: how do you pronounce EEPROM? Fights are breaking out at Pi Towers: a small majority of us rhyme the first syllable with “meep”, while the rest of us rhyme with “meh”. This is like the scone/scone thing all over again. Angry opinions in the comments, please.)

HATs are starting to appear in the wild. Adafruit are sending PCBs out for prototyping. HiFiBerry have HATs you can buy now: the Digi+, which enables you to connect an external digital-to-analogue converter; and the DAC+, a high-res all-in-one DAC. AB Electronics are carrying several HATs:  an analogue-to-digital converter (ADC); a GPIO port expander; a real-time clock (RTC) and an RS232 serial interface. And the whimsical bearded pixies at Pimoroni have come up with my favourite so far (it’s my favourite because SPARKLES): the Unicorn HAT. I saw it in the flesh on Saturday at the Cambridge Raspberry Jam. It’s a thing of beauty. Here’s Paul, introducing the Unicorn HAT.

Are you making a HAT? Let us know in the comments: I’ll add links to this post if I’ve missed yours out here.