Tuesday, March 31, 2009

As a public service: prepare for Confickure

April first is the day that the hidden and dormant confickure worm wakes up and sends your valuable financial data to the buttheads who created this stupid malware (may the buttheads be publicly castrated and paraded, while being beaten, through the streets of New York).

Anyway, you CAN prepare!! You can find out if your computer has the dormant confickure worm. Just try to go to www.microsoft.com!! IF you have the worm it will prevent you from going there. This was featured advice on the Early Show this morning.

IF you have it, turn your infected computer OFF or turn the clock back on it for about thirty days... fooling your computer into thinking April 1 is not approaching. Then go online on a different computer and look for a way to remove the worm.

MOST good and well-known anti-virus with anti-worm capabilities will protect you!! If you have an older version of an anti-virus, update to one that DOES stop worms!

If you do not yet have the virus, go to Microsoft.com and download the latest patches including Service Pack 3.

Prepare now!!!

I am providing this update in my blog as the EZ Reader uploads from the computer and we want your computer healthy and strong. Our new website, that sells books and much more, will be opening soon (www.goEZebook.com) about 8 working days.

Thank you and good securing!!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Working in an Amazon World

Astak finds the perfect manufacturer in China. The Hanlin V3 was a very respected machine; but there were no companies distributing in North America. Astak had the knowledge of the market but it looked like the Mentor line was going to need work before we could release it. We contacted the makers of the Hanlin and visited them in China. We got an agreement done and promptly placed the first order... detailing the packaging, re-writing the user manual, creating a website to support the unit, and setting up techncial support.

We also decided that the 2009 CES would be the official release point. We had a 1,000 square foot booth at the front of The Sands Expo and hoped we would draw some traffic there.

CES may be fun for attendees but it is a grind for exhibitors. Imagine flying 20 people to Las Vegas, shoehorning 18 of them into a 2 bedroom house down there, ordering the booth design, arranging for cars and vans, and getting up every morning at 5:30 a.m. to start the drive to the Sands. Then you stand all day and answer questions. An exhibitor does not have fun at CES... they only take pride in surviving it. The hours are horrible and every person is needed all day long. We got very fortunate that I had an old friend in Las vegas that was a great salesperson named Phillip Walsh. He was kind enough to help and we could not have succeeded without him. Many thanks to Mr. Walsh from a grateful Astak.

Some people arrived 5 days before the show to start the booth set-up and to start readying the house. The internet at the house was OUT and that took days to get working again. Dust is everywhere in the house and the landscaping needs immediate attention. The people arriving earlt stock the house with food, oversee clean-up, pull maintenance, and then get to the show to oversee booth set-up.

CES would NOT cooperate as they had NO category for eBooks or eBook Readers and would not create one. They failed to see that the public would have any interest and just sidestepped the issue. Without a category, we would be solely responsible for bringing people to our booth. It was really hard on Astak but we wanted to excel anyway.

Every day additional employees are arriving. Management is the last to arrive and frequently misses what the advance crew is accomplishing. It is no picnic. Problems pop up everywhere and no matter what... the advance crew has to solve the problems and make ready. The landscaspe trees at the house are falling over from wind, there are not enough towels, we are short on tools and electric extensions, and where do 18 people sleep in a 2 bedroom house? This is what it is like to do a CES. You learn to relish just finding time to sit and eat. Somehow, it all gets done each year and people start laying out the displays.

Talking of the displays, work starts on next year's booth ten months in advance. Everything from give-aways to electrical panels has to be figured out and ordered to arrive on time. Astak is not only showing eBook Readers but their Security Camera line and many new products like the first plug and play IP camera!! There is only so much room and every division wants plenty of space. New Team shirts have to be ordered and brochures and signage. Having 25 years of CES experience... I train the new employees on what to expect and all year ride herd on getting everybody to start EARLY to prepare.

Finally, the start of the booth is ready the night before the show opens. There is time for a dinner and then getting to bed early. The obvious question is if anybody will show any interest in what we are showing. CES did not seem to think so and we were wondering ourselves.

The first morning dawns cold but clear. We arrive by 6:30 a.m. and stand around waiting to be let into our booth area. By 8:00 the show opens. Within minutes we are overrun by frenzied attendees wondering WHAT an eBook Reader is and why they should buy ours. The pace continues for 4 days. People flood the booth all day and every day. We all lose our voices and our energy. The eBook Readers came in colors and that is drawing rave reviews. Our factory has a kiosk at our booth. There are no breaks as we are flooded continuously. We have to find time to meet with the big and powerful chain store buyers and distributors. A few press come to the booth and do stories on us (thanks to Jim Barry of CEA who was the only one connected with CES to really take an interest). People are loving the novelty of reading books on electronic digital readers and they have thousands of questions. Astak is educating the public on the benefits: energy saving and great on the eyes, no waste of paper and no landfill waste of old books, you can play music while reading books, you can save previously read books for ages, and there are no toxic paper waste byproducts. For all four days the pace just heightens and people are coming back a second and third time. The huge Fluorescent Orange Astak bags are a massive hit in canvas and Astak becomes THE PLACE to see at The Sands. By the third day everyone is exhausted. Legs and voices are giving out. Phillip Walsh has learned well and is doing an incredible job but feels less than fully appreciated; and yet everyone is so tired they cannot express their gratitude properly. Phillip continues to greet attendees like a man possessed.

Finally the great show ends and the break-down begins. The house looks like a tornado hit and people need to fly back and start follow-up.

As a result of the show, CES saw the light! CES is working with me this year to build a special area for eBook Readers and eBooks and this next CES looks like it will be the Year of the eBook at CES. IF you love eBooks, plan on being there!! It will be January 7 thru 10, 2010 in Las Vegas. eBook Reader Manufacturers, publishers, content providers, and accessory makers will be there. Now YOU can try to survive CES too!!

Friday, March 27, 2009

An Exercise with the Kindle 2

I am interupting the main story of this blog to review an exercise that happened at Astak yesterday. One person went out and purchased a Kindle 2 and pre-loaded books and music onto it. They also fully-charged it. It was then given to me and others in the office to try to figure out how to operate the Kindle 2 without reading the user manual. Astak does this so all of its employees find out the good and bad about their competion and to design better eBook Readers in the future. NOW... if only they would expand the exercise to include a one week trip to Hawaii to judge units in the sand. Ah, well, you cannot have everything.

I need to preface that I am male, 42 years old, with a 138 IQ. I am also working for Astak... a competitor to the Kindle 2. However, that means I know my way around eBook Readers and how they work and are used. It also means I am biased; but used to judging eBook Readers. I also compare based on our own EZ Reader device. It allows me to have a good knowledge of what the end users seem to want based on what they have expressed to me.

SO... onto the exercise.

First off, let me say I was a bit surprised that for this much money I got not somuch as a cheap vinyl pouch, nothing to listen to the music on, and nothing that I would want preloaded... if I bought a Kindle 2 the first step is downloading something I can read and listen to. I see this as a flaw with eBook Readers in general... many of these are GIFTS and people expect to at least be able to use the thing for its main purpose (reading a book) right out of the box. Amazon has a huge eBook library! Would it kill them to preload one classic book onto the device?? My EZ Reader comes with a minimum of 8 preloaded classic books for this purpose.

My analysis is my own and in no way expresses or implies the views of my companythruout this review.

I have to say that before turning the device on I could see the quality of workmanship. I give it a 9 (out 0f ten) for precise lines around the buttons and a great finish. I was impressed with the appearance and fit.

The Kindle 2 is LONG! I mean it is very long. That "qwerty" keyboard means a device that is heavy and unweildy to hold in the hand for long periods of time. It just seemed a bit too long for me. It is thin and that is a great improvement.

The Kindle 2 has a search function on it... but it is one of the least "logical" search engines I have seen. Looking for the pre-loaded music I typed in every word I could think up that had to do with music and came up empty. I was able to type in "book" and get the pre-loaded book to come up along with endless device info WHICH IS NOT A BOOK! I never did find ANY music on the device and I knew it was there.

Anyway, I did find a book and found the page advance. regress was great and smooth. The resolution was very good and reading was a breeze. I tried using the note-taking function (what appears to be the main use for the "qwerty" keyboard) and found it easy to use and essentially flawless once you scrolled up or down with the cursor to where you wanted the notewhich can be a chore. However, unless I am a student reading a textbook, I kind of wonder if I would ever use this type of note-taking. SO... high marks for the reading of the book but mediocre for the actual use of the note-taking.

What was really maddening was that once I was in the book I could not get out. There is no button for "return to main menu" or "stop application" or "end book". Frankly, I never did find the Main Menu at all and found that very strange. I am use to turning on an EZ Reader and having it greet me with a main menu that neatly lays out my main categories: "My Music" , My eBooks", "My Applications" and more. THIS, to me, is like "My Documents" on Windows on my PC. I organize THIS way!! Where is this on the Kindle 2? After trying everything I could think of I finally DID get out of the book but I have a suggestion for Amazon: MAKE IT SIMPLE!! Can you imagine a 65 or older person using a Kindle 2?? Yet, they adapt perfectly to the EZ Reader!

NOW, this exercise may prove useless to most people. That is what they have User Manuals for. BUT... if the goal of the eBook Reader is to be easy to understand (MEANING LOGICAL) this is the least LOGICAL device I have ever seen. I mean someone had to TRY to design something so inane as this interface. Whatever happened to "intuitive"?

Now, this is only an exercise and not a real review of the Kindle 2. You might love it if you are a PHD and a Rhodes Scholar. Me... after 90 minutes I wanted my sledge hammer. Amazon: buy an EZ Reader and do the same exercise. I will sell it to you at cost! Talk to HONDA and learn... "Make it SIMPLE".

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The start of my Adventures In EBook Reader Land

You think YOU have problems?? Try designing the best eBook Readers on the market only to find that few even know you are alive. This blog is going to talk about the decisions and difficulties in getting even the top eBook Readers to where they are selling well and the daily difficulties along the way.

I work for Astak, a company that makes and sells eBook Readers in North America. My points of view are my own and not necessarily those of Astak. Here we will discuss everything from technical issues to what it is like competing against the likes of Amazon and Sony. We will discuss the good and the bad and everything in between. You will likely learn a lot about the latest technologies used in eBook Readers, the latest features, and the trade offs that must be made.

Astak came into this with all the best intentions: build a great eBook Reader that is low priced and is solid and dependable. We were blessed with a factory in Taiwan that had been manufacturing Consumer Electronics all along but had zero idea of the North American market. That line was named "Mentor" and it was planned that we would release all three sizes: 5, 6, and 9.7 inch. Astak had tons of experience with Consumer Electronics and had sold already thru almost all of the major chain stores. It all seemed so simple at the start: the factory would build them and we would sell them. Boy, were we uninformed.

The first thing we learned was that eBook Readers need a format: the way that the device can reveal text or pictures. We had heard of Mobipocket and the factory was hot on using that format. We talked with Mobipocket and they seemed happy to license their format on our EZ Readers. That seemed a natural solution and we figured that was done. Amazon purchased Mobipocket and the rules suddenly changed.

In the meantime the first prototypes from our factory came and they were totally "un-Americanized"... not ready for the North American market in our opinion. There were little buttons everywhere and none of them were labeled and none made much sense. We thought we could design better. The probkem was the factory was selling already in Europe and Asia and was not too open to a redesign without huge quantities behind it. HOW do you place a huge order quantity with no solid business decision.

We looked at other eBook Readers around the world. Jinke in China made a great unit and it needed very few changes... just an American touch on service, warranty, support, and marketing. This was the birth of what became known as the EZ Reader Basic. It is a good and very honest rock-solid device that (without fanfare) excels in providing a great read because it used E-Ink and E-Paper technology giving 8,000 pages to a single charge. It was GREEN because of the power saving... and we saw it as a way to help keep the American public from supporting paper waste in our landfill and limiting toxic paper by-products in our streams and lakes. PLUS... people could carry around all of their old purchased eBooks and have it with them wherever it went.

Being less than 7 ounces, and the thickness of a pencil, it was easy to love and lug around. PLUS, all the things that the competition charged for or left out (crush-resistant leather case, ear buds, BOTH AC Adapter and USB cable, replaceable and rechargeable battery, wrist leash, and even a screw driver for the battery door) were right in the box.