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Tech Review

Game Review – Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny

Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny
Origin, Systems (now Electronic Arts)

Available through GOG.com as part of a bundled set for 5.99.

 

Yes, I am reviewing a game that is over 25 years old. Hang with me here.

Ultima 5 is quite possibly the greatest computer game ever written. It was also the first computer RPG I ever played. Did that make me biased? Maybe. But I have played MANY games since and none comes close, except maybe Ultima VI.

I’m told Ultima VII is even better. I never got a chance to play it, but maybe now I will. You see, through an agreement with Electronic Arts, all the old Ultimas–plus many, many other good old games, are now available for purchase at gog.com (gog as in good old games). I paid 5.99 for Ultima IV, V and VI.

In Ultima V, you play the Avatar, who achieved Avatarhood in Ultima IV (another good old game, but which feels a bit too primitive even for me). Your task now is to find and free Lord British, the ruler of the lands. To do so, you must banish the Shadowlords, the success of which depends on you retaining your purity as an Avatar.

Unlike many games of today, it is an unabashed quest of good vs. evil. However, there are very intriguing shades of gray. One is the villain, Lord Blackthorn. But Lord Blackthorn is a victim himself, under the influence of the Shadowlords. By banishing the Shadowlords, you free Blackthorn. I don’t know what happens after that. I never played the game all the way to its conclusion.

Why is the game so fun? Let me count the ways:

  • Freedom of movement – you want to travel to the Eastern Deserts? Go right ahead. I hope you’re able to take on those daemons. Any places that are difficult to get to are only so because they are high in mountains, deep in swamps, or down in dungeons.
  • Quests – All quests are linked, and they all have a purpose toward the greater goal. The shrines at which you meditate on the virtues will send you on quests. You must go on quests to locate the objects with which you can banish the Shadowlords. And you must go on quests to prove yourself trustworthy enough to join the Resistance.
  • Awesome! A resistance? It is every bit as cool as it sounds. And getting in is half the fun. Yes, I remember the password for the resistance. But I don’t remember who finally trusted me enough to tell me. So I am going through all the Resistance quests as well.
  • You also have to fake your way into the Oppression. Opposing political factions are one reason this game is so fun.
  • Secret doors. They’re everywhere. Look at walls closely! And some secret passageways are behind fireplaces … which are lit, so you have to take damage to get through them.
  • You can freely raid chests, bookcases and trunks with little fear of punishment unless someone sees you do it. But you will pay a price in your Virtue score.
  • Ships! Horses! Magic carpets! No walking everywhere.
  • Speaking of ships, I am now prowling the coastlines, trying to tempt pirates into attacking me. If I can defeat them, I can take their ship.
  • You’d better take notes. There is no auto-journal of any sort. It’s up to you. If you forget who sent you to talk to someone, you’ll have to go back and get the clue all over again. I have a steno book dedicated to the game.

Here are some screenshots from my game:

Oh, good. I have reached Yew on my magic carpet. Yew is an excellent place to buy magical components, plus I need to ask someone here about the Resistance.

Dang! An “air of falsehood”. Dead giveaway about a Shadowlord being in town. I’d better prowl around the forests and kill orcs for a day, and maybe try again tomorrow.

The graphics are definitely 80s, and so is the interface. But the story is absolutely excellent, and I play these kinds of games for the stories, yanno.

Tips if you play:

  • When you use a moongate, keep track of the phase of the moon and where the moongate took you.
  • When someone gives you a clue about a particular city, go to that city’s page in your notebook and write the clue there, along with who sent you.
  • In each city, you’ll need to find the virtue, mantra for the associated shrine, and power word for the associated dungeon.
  • Buy vast quantities of food, ginseng, garlic and silk.
  • When entering a city with an “air of” something bad, immediately turn around and leave.

If you can get past the 80s graphics, you will find this game great fun, with hours of play. The balance is just right, without endless hack-and-shash, except maybe in the Underworld. Now if I can just figure out a way to get those daemons to stop teleporting in other daemons.

It is definitely worth the 5.99, because then you get to play Ultima VI, in which you are the hero from Ultima V!

An Impromptu Technology Review

I appear to have injured my shoulder. I’ve had this nagging pain going on for about a year or so and it suddenly got much worse. So now I’m dictating this post using Dragon Dictation (for the iPad). So this is also serving as a test how effective Dragon Dictation is. Don’t know if my “voice” would be different if I actually hear my voice.

So I actually had to do a fair amount of editing on that little paragraph. I think I am going to have to speak very slowly into this thing. Also Dragon puts ads along the bottom when you’re recording and processing what you’re recording. You occasionally see little ads about Dragon Naturally Speaking.

Okay so I keep forgetting to say my punctuation. That is going to take some getting used to. I think for a novelist, this is going to be awfully cumbersome. But maybe for writing blog posts it won’t be so bad. And maybe I’ll get used to it.

So now I’m going to mail this to my e-mail address and put it in a blog post. Let me know what you think. Does it sound like me?

Dang I forgot my punctuation again.

(Naturally, I fixed all of my editing problems before I posted this.)

I Heart My iPad

OMG I love my iPad so much. I got the bottom-of-the-line version a couple of weeks ago, and it is just so fun. Why didn’t Microsoft ever try to make Windows a joy to use as Apple did for their products? I finally understand why Apple computer users have been so loyal over the years.

One of my favorite apps is Flipboard. It has made browsing blogs, Twitter and Facebook a breeze. I have been more prevalent on your blogs these days because of Flipboard. It presents the most recent blog (or twitter, or facebook) articles in a magazine-like format, and I just touch the articles that catch my eye. Google Reader no more!

I also experimented with some mind-mapping software, and none of them were free-form enough for my purposes. So I went to the computer and downloaded Freemind on my laptop, an open-source application, and even it wasn’t what I wanted. So I went back to my old Wiki, TiddlyWiki, and I guess I’ll stick with that for my storybuilding needs.

I also downloaded the Dragon Dictation app, where Nuance software gives you a very nice dictation app in the hopes of selling you the 100 dollar Dragon Naturally Speaking. I am VERY tempted …

Pages is promising but it doesn’t have track changes. A big drawback, but it WAS ten dollars as opposed to one hundred and twenty. I plan to use it to finish reading my long-suffering critique partner’s manuscript, and hopefully find a way to write notes at the same time.

My daughter and I are having fun with the Treasure Seeker puzzle games. We are on the first game. I can see buying up and playing the other games in the series.

The native apps are where the iPad shines. The email, calendar and contacts apps are very elegant and make even browsing email fun. The new iMessage app is fun, but not very useful because of a dearth of people I have to chat with. Same goes for FaceTime. (I know my sisters have iPhones, but none seem to be using these apps.) An annoyance was the newsstand, which you couldn’t even tuck away in a folder–except I found a semi-hack to do that, so now I don’t have to look at it. The Safari browser is a bit of a letdown because it doesn’t seem as easy as the version I have on my iPod Touch (??), and the resolution of the built-in camera is not quite up to the standards of the iPad’s own screen resolution.

But on the whole, I have few complaints, and lot of phrase.

So I’m finding that the IPad works well for some thing, but not very well for others. One thing it’s great for is social networking, but it’s not so great for writing blog posts. You can pull the keyboard apart so you can easily thumb-type while holding the ipad, but you can’t pull the keyboard apart at some nice midrange to allow you to more comfortably touch-type.

Will it help me be more productive? Absolutely! Will it help me goof off? Absolutely! Will I read books on it? Probably not. (Too heavy. My Nook is much better for book reading.) Should you get one? I don’t know. Steve Jobs has died and he was a big reason apple made such great products–he was a brilliant designer. I remember being wowed by the NeXt computer — which was also his brainchild — years and years ago. Do they have another designer as brilliant? I don’t know, but I suspect something will be missing from future Apple products–a part of his designer voice, for lack of a better word. Android tablets aren’t even in the same league. That’s why I waited until a bit of a windfall put an iPad in my price range.

(Actually, I think I did just give you a good reason to go out and buy one–it might be the last great Apple product.)

Bottom line–I love it. If you’re looking for a tablet, you might want to hold out for one of these rather than getting a cheaper Android tablet. The difference is worth it.

TV Series Review – Firefly

I’m an eccentric in my family because I’m not much of a TV watcher. I don’t pay for cable or satellite. I get the little TV that I watch for free, off the airwaves. A few years back, I was one of those people who had to buy a converter box for my television because the rabbit ears were going to stop working. You probably always wondered just who those people are. Well, now you know.

Internet had long since replaced the TV for both my husband and I. When we moved in 2004, we canceled our satellite subscription for the last time. The person we spoke to when cancelling our service was a bit nasty. “You’ll be back,” they said. “No, we won’t,” my husband said. And we haven’t.

You’d be surprised at the good television you can get in reruns. For a while, RTV (Retro TV) was playing The Incredible Hulk, Dragnet, and Adam-12 one right after another (woohoo, Officers Malloy and Reed!). When I was pregnant, I planted myself in my chair (I was on bedrest–good excuse, I think) and watched 3rd Rock, Frasier and Seinfeld reruns one right after another. Later, we watched JAG.

But the TV is on for an hour at most, and at eight o’clock, the TV goes off, and the writing begins.

And then … along came NetFlix. My husband had watched all the episodes of Battlestar Galactica, and was trying to find something to watch next. I remembered a Twitter conversation I had with Anna the Piper — aka Angela Korra’ti — in which I asked her who Nathan Fillion was. Um. Dumb question. I got quite an answer, and was told to watch Firefly.

So when my husband was looking around for something to watch on Netflix, I suggested Firefly. And as an added bonus for him, I  told him that I would watch it with him. Because I promised Anna that I would.

So we  started watching it. (And I’m sorry about all the backstory. You know how chattery I get.)

~*~

Try Googleing the word “firefly”. No longer is the top link to a definition of a cute little bug with a rear end that lights up. No, that firefly is passe, a mere product of Nature. The true definition of “firefly” is now “an American space western television series created by writer and director Joss Whedon, under his Mutant Enemy Productions label.” Seriously. The word has been overtaken by a television series that was cancelled after eleven episodes. (Yeah, I know there is fourteen episodes; fourteen were filmed; eleven of them were originally aired.)

Unfortunately, in today’s world, everything must be a blockbuster or it gets cancelled or dropped. Ask any midlist author.

But about the series. If you haven’t seen it, you should. Remember Star Trek? Meh. It’s captain was an egomaniac who slept with every woman he could and who wasn’t particularly likable. I watched it for Spock. And McCoy.

The captain of the Serenity, by contrast, is almost completely chaste.

Plus–get this–there is a preacher on board.

Rather than review the whole series, I’ll give a brief overview and then talk about my favorite part–the characters.

The series is billed as a “space western”, but none of the characters are particularly cowboy-like. Which, I think, is a good thing. It’s about the crew of a Firefly-class space freighter named Serenity. The ship is named after the Battle of Serenity Valley, which is when an organized rebellion was finally defeated by a powerful and heartless Alliance. The captain of the Serenity and his first mate–who fought at his side in the war–now try to make their living on board the Serenity. Their goal? “You got a job, we can do it, don’t much care what it is.”

Malcolm Reynolds – The captain of the ship. Not a lot of his backstory is given, but you do get tantalizing glimpses. In the first episode, he visibly prays and is seen kissing a cross. By the time the war is over and he’s the owner of the Serenity, he is openly hostile to Christianity, and makes it plain to Book (the preacher–see below) that he will not be preached to. He has somewhat mixed morals–does not hesitate to throw one enemy into his engine intake, but will not kill another man who put him through an extensive torture session. Usually does the right thing … but it may take him a while to get to that point.

Zoe Washburne – Second in command, fighter. She was a soldier for the rebellion (or the “Browncoats”) in the war. Zoe and Wash are married at the start of the series. They are very happy, no children. She is a pure fighter and a natural leader. Mal always leaves her in charge when he goes out to get contracts–unless he is bringing her along.

Wash Washburne – Zoe’s husband, pilot. Wash is the comic relief. He played Watt in A Knight’s Tale, and he essentially is playing the same character, except less goofy. Is a totally unlikely match for Zoe, which is why it works. He’s fun and likable, and is often Mal’s moral compass.

Inara Sarra – a “companion”. A companion is a courtesan. I didn’t really get why companions have such a high social status, but I successfully suspended disbelief. She rents one of the ship shuttles, and has it all decked out in veils and bedding. You can’t even see the walls. It looks like the inside of a very lavish tent. Except the pilot’s compartment, where she flies with expertise. There is a lot of unresolved romantic tension between Inara and Mal.

Jayne Cobb – a tough. He’s the quintessential “boy named Sue”. He’s tough and mean, just like in Johnny Cash’s song. He is in favor of betrayal if he thinks it will get him ahead. Has a large collection of guns. He’s also a Mama’s boy who regularly corresponds with his mother. I read in a program guide that he sends her his money, but I missed that in the episodes. Very funny character–watch for his T-shirt slogans!

Kaylee Frye – the ship’s “mechanic” (really an engineer). She’s a sweet girl-next-door type, except she’s a brilliant mechanic. Falls for the doctor (see below) at her first glimpse of him. Loves lace and frills and strawberries. Is sweet and gentle, and would go out of her way to avoid hurting a fly.

Dr. Simon Tam – a doctor. Starts the show dressed in a suit that looks like it comes out of a Regency ballroom. Relaxes only slightly over the course of the episodes. Is the older brother of River (see below), and although they are both brilliant, he acknowledges that he is an idiot compared to his sister. Will do anything to protect his sister, and is somewhat blind to Kaylee’s affections until she pretty much throws herself at him.

River Tam – Simon’s sister, all-around genius and psychic. Was invited to a special Alliance school, from which she later escaped with the help of her brother. Why did she have to escape? Well, that’s one of the major plot points of the series, so I won’t give it away. River is extremely unpredictable, but really comes through and saves the crew a couple of times. Also gets the crew in an awful lot of trouble many more times. She’s only seventeen years old.

Shepherd Book – a Christian preacher. “Shepherd” is actually his title. Has some mysterious clout with the Alliance. Not a whole lot is known about him. Does not really have a function on the ship, but he doesn’t leave either, and proves to have some handy skills, including some mysterious fighting skills.

There’s not one character who I don’t like. And with such a large cast, that’s impressive.

So, yeah, I became a fan. Will I join fireflyans.net or browncoats.com? Maybe. But I gotta tell you–I’m really torn, here. On the one hand, I miss watching the episodes, and even though they closed the Tam storyline in the movie followup, Serenity (which I’ll review separately), there are a lot of other unfinished plots, and I just loved the characters. But on the other hand, I can write again. And lack of writing time was the whole reason I stopped watching TV in the first place. But if there were dozens and dozens of episodes, I could have disciplined myself into watching one show a week. Really. I could.

But as it was, I had two and a half weeks of blissful Firefly watching, one night after another. And I’m still thinking about it. And that’s what storytelling is all about.

I highly recommend the series.

A NOOK Review!


Yes, I finally have an ereading gadget to review–the nook!

The nook really wasn’t on my ereader radar until they came out with the less-expensive wifi version a few weeks ago. At that point, I was eyeing the Borders Kobo. But Borders made a critical error–they failed to install Kobo kiosks in their stores so would-be customers could try it out. Or rather, the kiosks were there–but only with Sony Readers and flyers for the Kobo. I know lots of people bought the Kobo over the internet, but I’m just not that trusting. I wanted to try the device for myself before buying.

Barnes & Noble did not make this mistake.

Armed with a recommendation by Liz Fichera, I went in the B&N store and there it was–a lovely kiosk with an entire row of actual nooks to play with, along with a friendly and enthusiastic salesperson. I left the store that day with my nook along with a lovely green protective folder. To my delighted surprise, the wifi version was much lighter than the 3g samples they had on display, which for me, is quite the perk.

The Display

We buy ereaders for their paper-like display, and I must say I love the display. The first time I saw e-ink, I actually mistook it for a cardboard covering over the screen–right up until I  saw something blink. Words cannot do it justice. It looks like paper–right until the page turns. Then, you have this ugly chaos of black flashes–if black can ever be said to flash–until the next page resolves on the screen. I’m told that this is a limitation of e-ink and we’re just going to have to live with it until they improve the technology.

The text is very easy on the eyes, and each line is nicely spaced apart. You can have the text anywhere from absurdly huge to absurdly small. And the resolution on the absurdly small font is absurdly good–no sign of pixellation unless I take off my glasses, hold the nook in front of my eyes, and peer at the top of an e or an o. And even then, I can only see an extremely faint hint of fuzz if I strain my eyes. And since I can see microprint on a five-dollar bill without my glasses (one of the few benefits of being extremely nearsighted), then it’s safe to say that you won’t see any pixellation whatsoever.

There are only six buttons. Four identical buttons on either side turn the pages back and forth. A button on the top of the nook turns the display on and off (where you get a screensaver that displays continuously). The sixth button isn’t really a button–it’s a touch zone to fire up the touchpad.

The Touchpad

One of the features of the nook is there is a separate color touchscreen display. And here is where I have my harshest critique. The color touchscreen display is rather shoddy. The resolution isn’t great and the screen’s reaction to your touch has a noticeable delay. Seriously, my ancient Palm Treo 755p has a better touchpad. It’s obviously an area where the manufacturers decided to save a little money. Had I spent the original price for the 3g nook, I might have been a bit more miffed about this than I am. It’s servicable, but not much else can be said about the quality of the touchpad. Let’s hope it’s durable.

One thing I do like about having a touchpad rather than a bunch of buttons is that it makes the nook greatly expandable. The interface is not limited by buttons. Barnes & Noble has already added features to the nook such as a web browser, which would never be your browser of choice, but gets the job done in an inventive way.

In-Store Features

B&N has tried very hard to make nook ownership quite clubby. If you go to the store with your nook, you can read books for free for up to an hour. And, you always have free access to AT&T wifi hotspots. I also currently have a coupon to bring my nook in and settle down in a corner of the coffee shop with some free coffee. Too bad I don’t drink coffee. There is also a free ebook featured every week. I guess they were worried that if you had ebooks, you would never feel the need to walk into the store. Even with all these club features, I think this is a valid concern.

The Experience

I read Liz Fichera’s Captive Spirit on my nook, and it was a very satisfactory reading experience. And not just because it was such a good book! I used medium sized text and was not having to turn the pages too often. It was cool to be able to close my book folder, leave it lying on a table somewhere, and to come back a few minutes later to find it waiting for me without having timed out. The default time-out before it goes to the screen saver is 10 minutes, which was quite reasonable.

One thing I have not found is free public domain books, except for three that come preinstalled (kind of–you still need a B&N account to open and read them). Kobo comes installed with 100 free classics, and you can download a bunch of them at the Stanza store with the Stanza iPhone software. I should think B&N would provide some free classics as well.

I was delighted with how it displayed pdfs. Jennifer Estep sent along her e-ARC for Venom, and I promptly loaded it into my nook. The text flows beautifully and the only way you know it is anything other than an epub is occasionally you have a page that is not filled all the way with text. Which considering how badly my iPod mangled pdfs, makes me happy.

I have only charged the batteries one time since I purchased it on Friday the 2nd. It wasn’t fully discharged when I bought it and I had to discharge it (through use) before I could charge it up to 100 percent.

I highly recommend getting a folder for it. I have a folder for my iPod touch as well, and such folders protect these devices very well. I have included a picture of the folder I selected.

I love my nook and I’m so glad I waited before getting it. If you’re looking for an ebook reader, I truly think it’s the best deal out there.

Gadget Review – The iPod touch

The only thing I wanted for Christmas this year was an iPod touch.

Why did I want an iPod touch? One, I recently upgrade my old Palm Treo to a Samsung Exclaim, and it turned out to be a downgrade. The Samsung Exclaim is a nice phone, but it’s just not a PDA phone. That’s when I realized that I missed having a PDA that was not attached to a phone. My old PDAs were standalone Palm-based PDAs.

I also wanted a device that could double as an e-book reader. I don’t intend to do a lot of e-reading, but I do want to do some, especially electronic versions of fiction magazines. I did not want a dedicated e-reading device. I needed a device that could be multi-functional. One of my dearest online friends, Lisa Nevin raved about being able to read do some beta reading on her iPhone for our mutual friend, Kristy Baxter. Ever since then, I wanted the iPhone’s poor cousin, the iPod touch.

Now that you know my reasons for buying an iPod touch, you should know that I do not use this for music. I have plenty of room on my 8 gig version because I only have apps and novels on it, plus my contact data, my calendar, and everything else you’d expect from a PDA.

The iPod touch is both visually and texturally appealing. It has some nice heft without being heavy. It comes with a charging synchronization cable (which is rather short) and a set of earplugs (which I’ve never used). When you set it up, you have to download the iTunes desktop application in order to sync. I don’t have a lot of experience with Apple-based applications, so some of the things the iTunes application did wasn’t exactly intuitive for me. For example, it turned out to be much easier to purchase any apps from the iTunes store directly from the iPod using WiFi, and then letting it download a backup version of the app when I sync later.

We used our router’s WiFi feature for the first time with this device (and belatedly realized we could have used it all this time with our Wii), and naturally, I love it. I knew that the iPods were capable of WiFi, but I had not imagined all the possibilities. Nowadays, I browse my RSS feeds from Google Reader using my iPod. It’s great.

Setting up contacts, calendar and mail was a little involved, but in the end I used a combination of gmail, Google Calendar and Google Contacts. (I went with this route rather than Exchange because my work’s version of Exchange was not playing nicely with my devices when I set it up. I’ve since restored my Exchange on my Samsung Exclaim, and I decided to keep things as they are on my iPod) I use the Google Calander Sync to sync between my Exchange and my Google Calendars, and then my iPod downloads the calendar. This allows me to get to both my family calendar and my work calendar in the same app. Handy. Updating contacts is a bit more involved. I email a vcard for the contact to my gmail account, where I can open it and add it to my contacts with just a few taps.

Here’s some quick app reviews:

Stanza. This is a free e-book application that was recommended to me by my iPod touch-using sister. It doesn’t reflow .pdf files very well (it ignores paragraph breaks), but it nicely turns the pages of properly formatted ebooks. I would like to find a .pdf reader than can handle reflowing text while preserving paragraph breaks. But for ebooks, Stanza seems hard to beat.

Docs to Go. I paid money for this. I use this to edit my stories. No more am I tied to a computer while editing! Any heavy-duty text entry has to wait until I’m at my computer (or I can use my Neo), but if I have an initial draft, I can easily use my iPod to do some fairly intense editing.

Although I was able to create Word documents from scratch, Excel spreadsheets turned out to be much more difficult. In the end, I created the spreadsheet from my PC, and I do all my major edits there, but I am able to use it from my iPod.

Planets. This is a free app showing the constellations and the locations of the major planets. It also gave my exact latitude. All of this is important for stargazing, so the last time I took out the telescope, I had my iPod with me. The 3D Sky feature is wonderful. However, somewhat vexatiously, all the planets are now clustered around the sun, leaving only Mars and Saturn in the night sky.

Safari. This comes pre-installed, but I wanted to mention it because I really like the way it handles multiple browser windows. It was all very intuitive — even when working with other applications. However, it appears that Apple is flexing its muscles and will not allow competing browsers — such as my beloved Firefox — to grace the iPhone store. (Boo! Hiss! And besides, how Microsoft-like!)

I have also downloaded the mobile versions of Echofon (for Twitter-ing), WordPress, Amazon, and Facebook, all of which are free, and all of which are well-realized versions of the desktop application. I also got the Constitution, Bible and My Gov apps, plus a lot more (two screens full so far.)

A complaint? The accessories are very expensive. I still have not found a reasonably priced charger, even at Wal-Mart. Most of the chargers are designed to hold multiple i-devices. And we only have one in the house. I don’t want a car charger. Even the plastic covers for the screen cost more than I expected. Since the iPod is not exactly a new device anymore, I really can’t expect the prices to come down by very much.

Another complaint is only one application “runs” at a time. However, they sometimes work together very well. When I open a webpage from Echofon, it opens Safari quite nicely, and returns to Echofon when I close the browser window. The email client isn’t that friendly, because I have to open the email back up once I close down the browser.

My verdict? I love it. There truly is an app for almost everything, and I’ve even toyed with the idea of developing a completely useless application just to see if I could make money off of it. Kind of like the many lightsaber applications, or an app that weighs jewelery, or an app that tells you whether or not you are a moron. Now maybe one day I’ll actually put music on it.

Review: The Sony Reader

By Superwench83

I was one of those who was slow to embrace the concept of an electronic reading device. One who said a book in hand was worth more than a book on screen, that nothing could beat the old-fashioned feel of flipping through those pages. But I began to see the convenience of having my favorite nonfiction books in one portable little reference. Then I got to thinking how great it would be to carry a sleek e-reader in my purse rather than a massive hardback novel. And thus I began to covet the Sony Reader.

If you’ve already considered these benefits and others, you’re probably already sold on the idea of an electronic reading device. In your case, my goal is to share my experiences with the Sony Reader, Touch edition, thus informing any decision you wish to make. And for those who aren’t convinced, who don’t think e-readers are the greatest innovation in written communication since stone tablets went by the wayside: I am here to make a believer out of you.

The Sony Reader has a number of benefits and features which make for a wonderful reading experience. For starters, it’s instant. With a broadband connection, you can find, buy, and begin reading a book in as little as ten minutes. (Those with dial-up can expect to wait a bit longer.) How many times have you been at home, ready to settle in for the night with a good book, and realized you have nothing to read? It’s pretty amazing to be able to turn on my computer and let a book download while I make some hot chocolate to drink for when I sit down to read.

Another thing I love is the Create Notes feature, which allows you to highlight text and scribble your thoughts right on the page—a sacrilegious thing to do to a paper novel according to many. And all notes can be erased without a trace if you so desire. You can also hide the notes if you want to read a clean copy of the book without deleting your scribbles and highlights. Best of all, every note you make is instantly recorded in a chronologically-ordered table of contents for easy reference. The Create Notes feature means no more interrupting my reading to hunt for pen and paper when I want to write something down. All I need is the stylus which comes with the Reader, conveniently and securely stored on the Reader’s top right side.

Additionally, the Sony Reader’s size has benefits I’d never considered. A paper book can be heavy. With large hardbacks, you need two hands to support the weight of the open book, and even with smaller mass market paperbacks, it’s difficult to hold the book and turn pages using only one hand. This means that laying down and getting comfortable while you read can sometimes be a challenge. But with a slim Reader, no book is too big to hold one-handed. And you can use that same hand to turn the page with ease.

Other features of the Sony Reader, Touch edition: It’s got a larger screen than the Pocket edition. (And as the name indicates, the Touch edition is a touch screen.) It’s got instant bookmark-ing. Any time you stop reading any book, the Reader marks your place so you can pick up right where you left off. (And these bookmarks don’t fall out!) You can create text memos, drawings, and handwritten documents. You can download PDF and Microsoft Word documents to the Reader, making it ideal for almost everyone. Students can make notes on documents while on the go, and people whose jobs require them to review documents on a computer screen will find the Reader a marvelous device. It’s easier on the eyes than a computer screen and more portable than even the smallest laptop. You can even store audio files and pictures there.

Since the Sony Reader, Touch edition is the only e-reader I’ve used, I can’t compare it to similar devices such as the Kindle. But I am absolutely thrilled with my Sony Reader. I knew I would be, but I honestly had no idea I would love it this much. If you’ve been thinking of getting one but aren’t sure if it’s worth the investment, I would bet that it is. This is an amazing piece of technology. And I do believe it is the wave of the future.

Love My iPod Touch

I can now write posts from my recliner! This little iPod Touch is so danged handy! I have been having a blast with it. I have even requested my first digital ARC. It is the only thing I wanted for Christmas and I love it. I’ll have to do a full review when I’ve played with it some more.