620 – Prep Work • 03

The Friday Blog

Are You Gonna Get an iPad?

To go ahead and destroy the tension, I probably am.

Lena and I were already shopping for an e-reader, and having the rest of the capabilities of the iPod as well, with an enlarged viewing screen and a nearly full-sized keyboard pretty much sealed the deal. I’m looking forward to pairing it with a Slingbox and being able to watch live and recorded television with it too.

I’m praying that Apple can get Avery Brooks to do the commercials for the thing. Functionally the iPad is just a better-looking datapad from Deep Space Nine. (The undisputed — by me — best of all the Star Trek series.) If Steve Jobs can get Captain Benjamin Sisko to hawk his product, I’ll sell the cats to put an extra one in the bathroom. Actually, I’d be willing to pay someone to take the cats.

On the Slate Political Gabfest the hosts were discussing why it was possible for Steve “the Man” Jobs to accomplish so many amazing things in his lifetime while Congress can’t even pass a bill. The easy answer is that Steve would have fired obstructionist filibustering employees, but I think also much of the answer has to lie in the fact that the people who work at Apple all actually want to get something done. It’s a vastly different culture.

(This is unrelated, but I wanted to tell you about it. I bought a Windows laptop about six or seven months ago. I wanted to be able to inexpensively run the D&D Insider software and easily bring it to the gaming table. As I told a friend, I didn’t need a whole computer, so I bought a PC.

It was before Windows 7 released, so it came loaded with Vista, with a way to get 7 for free when that came out. When the date arrived, I went to the company website to get my software upgrade. The server told me that there was an error with the server code and I would have to fix this code in order to process my request. I waited till the next day and tried again. The third day was the charm and I got my upgrade a mere month and a half later.

So now I’m upgrading my OS. It took several hours but I didn’t have to babysit it, so it wasn’t really an inconvenience. Afterwards the computer seemed a little slower, but my expectations for Windows are fairly low, so it didn’t bug me. I went looking around to see if anything had been moved, corrupted, or deleted, and everything seemed in order… with the sole exception of everyone’s character sheets from both D&D games I participate in. ((The one and only thing that was of any importance to me at all on the computer.)) Really. It’s almost like Microsoft has never done this before.

I opened up my Dropbox and downloaded the copies I had made of the character sheets and put them back where they belonged, chuckling and shaking my head. PC people don’t understand the loyalty Appleheads feel to their brand. If they had one of their own to contrast and compare every day, they would.)

No, I wanted to talk about comic books. I’m thinking there will soon be an amazing new era in comic books, centered on the Man himself. With the iPad there will finally be a full-color monitor quality e-reader, and with Jobs sitting on the board of Disney which now owns Marvel Comics… well I’m sure you see where this is going. See, unlike regular books, the production costs of a comic book relative to it’s actual price is enormous. Remove that, and you have the potential to drastically reduce the price of a single comic while actually increasing the cut for the publisher. It’s win-win. Hollywood has shown the viability of the characters with mainstream audiences, and the world of comics drastically needs a huge goosing right now.

Apple loves placing their products in schools, and the iPad has the potential for replacing textbooks entirely. Just think of all those little potential buyers of comics. Further, the elimination of Flash from the devices is helping to officially usher in HTML5 and CSS3, which will finally put the ki-bosh on that unwieldy data-stopper of an plug-in. (Between them they seem to be able to do everything Flash can without any of Flash’s abnormally huge load times.)

So how does any of this matter to you? Let’s say you’re browsing the Amazon Kindle store, or the Apple iBook store, or the Sony Whatevertheycallit store, and you come across Heroes of Lesser Earth. Not just the comics but the actual books, with all the extras that you can’t get online. I’m thinking $2.00 each. What would you do? Would you recommend it to a friend?

What would you do?

44 Responses to 620 – Prep Work • 03

  1. Heh.

    Meanwhile, us PC-heads who know what we’re doing chuckle at you for spending ~3x the price for an equal-specs mac. If you really REALLY hate Windows THAT MUCH, just get a pc and… try linux.

    Seriously. Apple is a terrible company to their consumers; they just know how to market it properly. Appeal to the “computer-dumb” people, appeal to the wanna-be-different hipster snobs. Once you get your hooks in them, proceed to price-gouge mercilessly.

    When they venture back into the world PCs, they will inevitably make a mistake – probably the exact same mistake they would have made with a mac – and heuristic bias and availability bias will make them love Apple EVEN MORE.

    It’s quite bothersome.

    On the subject of comic books: dudes, webcomics are where it’s at. Pete Abrams figured this out in NINETEEN NINETY SEVEN. You still make paper books once you have a big audience, though, because sometimes that paper copy is just really really wanted.

    • I ran Red Hat on an older mac once to get it to be a router… back before you could just saunter down to the store and buy one and having a router was sticking it to the man. (Originally, the cable company tried to charge you per computer you had hooked up to the internet. A software router was a way around that.) Although I was given to believe that this experience was pretty simple for someone who understood linux, it wasn’t all that easy for me, and it sent me back to my instruction sheet every time the power went out.

      The argument that Macs are for the “computer-dumb” is tired and inaccurate. It’s like saying that Fords are for stupid people because the are more reliable while Chevys break down more often and are thus only for really smart cats who know how to build their own cars from the ground up. I would posit that the smart ones are the people who bought a car they don’t have to spend all the extra time on. The car that just works. A tool that works better and with less effort than other similar tools does not make the user a slacker, it makes him someone who recognizes a superior tool. Why would I want to spend the time to learn to use a more difficult operating system just so I can be as effective as I am now? What’s my incentive? (I would MUCH prefer to spend a little extra cash up front for the privilege of not HAVING to know how my operating system works. Why else would I do it?)

      As for the books… I’ve had books available here at this website for 3 years now. I think I’ve sold about 40 of them over that time. I always do really well taking them to cons but the only way I’ve ever been able to move any here was with sketches. (Not that I’m averse to that, but it’s not a great long-term model.) Since I’ve already got everything in electronic format, it would be fairly easy (and free to me) to make e-pubs out of them and put them on Amazon and other book lists. I was just curious if anyone thought they might sell.

      • To be clear, my last blurb WAS supporting you in that endeavor. I personally won’t be buying any (sorry – college budget) but you know, if you can make a few bucks you might as well. $2 isn’t much, people probably WILL buy it. And then it will be money you didn’t have before.

        Jeez, guys. There’s servers out there that have not gone down since they installed Windows 2000 on them. When my computer blue screens [rare] it’s because I did something really dumb, like testing whether the driver installed before auto-shutdown (which I forgot to turn off) by running a game. What are you guys doing to make macs a ‘better’ computer? Seriously.

        • In truth I doubt many people here will buy it, most have already read the comics and are acclimated to reading them here, and I’m okay with that. We have an arrangement already, and I’m comfortable with it. Mostly I was looking to see if anyone thought that people in general would buy, or if they would recommend the ebooks to others.

          What do mean when you ask what I do personally to make Macs better computers? I don’t build ’em, I just use ’em! They’re already better computers! 😆

    • I have to take issue with the “computer dumb” comment. I’ve been in IT/computer support my entire working career (20 years and counting) and have worked on/with PC’s, Mac, servers, mainframes, you-name-it. When it comes time for me to buy computers at home, I buy Macs. I “can” work on Windows machines and make them work. I know “how” to keep them in good running order. But why bother with all that hassle? The Mac does everything I need it to without the hassle. Sure, it does cost a little more (although on an exact component-for-component equal machine, it’s very close), it’s worth it to me. I buy the better machine and expect to pay a little bit more for it.

      Another thing that most PC fanatics seem to get wrong: just because we like Macs, doesn’t mean we love Apple. The two are completely different entities. Macs are wonderful smooth-running computers. Apple is the company that makes the Macs, but it’s a corporation with all the baggage that entails. I love my Mac, I tolerate Apple.

      • There are exceptions to every generalization. I am willing to bet you’re more knowledgeable about computers than I am.

        Doesn’t mean I don’t think you’re crazy for preferring macs, though.

        • I am aware and even tentatively agree that serious developers and sysadmins choosing to run closed-source at home are doctrinally betraying the free software cause. This one consideration trumps that: You’re telling people off for trying to escape their day job when they come home.
          Apple goes out of their way to make everything prettier and to hide all the stuff you don’t want to see when you’re trying to do something simple on your computer. I do concede that simple in this case can mean to do only what it was designed to do and tested for doing. I’m aware that this may be limiting.
          I personally run an array of *nix dominant boxes, some of which with native Microsoft boot options on them because as a consultant I end up doing most of my work at home–so let me be clear I’m not one of the Apple pod-people you seem to have a problem with. Still, unless I’m mistaken about this I’d say good manners demands that you have some respect for fellow IT professionals choosing an OS for sound reasoning that happens to be different from your own preferences.
          Don’t make me quote/cite ESR at you!

  2. Because it’s so much worse to have your hard drive wiped in exactly the same fashion OS upgrades have always worked and must work than it is to have to buy a new computer and throw your old one out.

    • I think I’m missing your point here. Maybe you could restate it? I’ve had Macs in the house for 15 years and never had an OS upgrade lose anything, while both of the Windows boxes I have ever owned have. I’ve never bought a new computer because of it though.

      • Actually, when I upgraded to Snow Leopard it trashed my Applications folder. As part of the upgrade, it REPLACED the entire folder – so all my personal (non-Apple) applications got wiped. Luckily (being the geek I am) I had a separate “Games” folder for all the really important stuff, so I just had to reload a couple of seldom-used apps in Applications. On the flip side – that’s the very first time an Apple install/upgrade has ever wiped anything of mine.

          • I make sure to include–varyingly labeled and varyingly hidden–directories of porn and games on every computer I possess. This is, as I learned it, sysadmin tradition because we are dungeonmasters; our computers are dungeons under our dominion and there has to be treasure in the dungeon no?

  3. I use a PC because its compatible with video games, that’s why I own a computer mostly anyway.

    anyway I was just catching up on about 2weeks of updates I missed due to being very busy. and I have a comment on that Gamma game you mentioned a while back,

    have you seen Fallen Earth? its almost EXACTLY as you described Gamma world I wounder if Fallen Earth is based on it? if you have a decent PC (you’ll need some good specs) there’s a 12 day free trial its pretty fun and its set in a recreation of the grand canyon (using satellite images)

    if any of you check it out let me know Ill see if I can pay you a visit

    • Man, I used to play video games all the time… then I got WoW…

      I took a look at the splash page of Fallen Earth, and it looks like a sort of cross between Gamma World and the Road Warrior. There certainly could be a little cross-influencing there.

    • I was in the close beta for Fallen Earth for many months. Really a fine game and good alternative to ‘fantasy’ based MMORPGs if you are looking for something different. My only problem is don’t really have the money to spend on a subscription game :/

  4. and Kevin maybe it would be better if you sold paper books online, not saying I would buy a copy but the risk would probably be smaller then sending em to stores, pretty sure that’s how Ryan Sohmer and Chris Hastings does it

    • Yeah, like I mentioned above, selling the paper books online hasn’t ever worked that well. I think the problem is that pretty much the only people who know about the books are you guys, and you guys don’t have any real need to buy books. (And I’m not interested in trying to make you buy them either.) The e-books seemed a possible way to introduce a new market at a low buy-in who are used to purchasing books for a particular type of experience.

      • My advice: Is this currently something you can cite as something you’ve done and are able to do in your art/design skills resume? If not then at least look up how hard it is to do and try it if it isn’t too expensive: It will be something you can say you know how to do and have done before to prospective clients.

  5. As regards electronic versions of your books – if I can have a full collection, plus extras, for $2 instead of having to find a place to store the paper version, and paying $15, you can bet your ass I’d buy the eBook version.

    My Mac is in service to my wife, whose Mac is ailing – it’s 3 years old, and just about to fall out of warranty, so to the shop it goes – so I’ve been forced to be PC all day, instead of just while I’m at work. Can I just say that, as a person in the IT industry for 15 years, and always in PC (be it Windows or Linux) shops, I will give up my Mac when someone invents something better. Windows 7 feels like XP with training wheels in comparison to OS X.

    Oh, and when it comes to the DDI programs – I run those using the VirtualBox emulator, and an old copy of XP that came with a PC laptop that is long since landfill.

    • I felt the same way about the ebooks, I just wanted to know if I was thinking about this in a vacuum.

      Sorry your Mac is sick! 😥

      The truth is that if I could have justified the purchase of a Mac laptop for the DDI stuff I would have done it. But TSED isn’t wrong when he says PCs are cheaper than Macs, and for the extremely limited use I would have for it, the PC was adequate to my needs. I just have to work a little harder with it to stay ahead of it’s SNAFU curve.

        • It’s no sweat dude! I have a close friend who gets so angry whenever anyone within earshot says “Mac” that he can’t speak below a full scream for the next ten minutes. (So I have to say it every time I see him.) You were well below the pain threshold.

  6. I was thinking of the application of the ipad for medical use in hospitals. Imagine this:

    The network is set up at last and healthcare information is available through a search on a single database.

    Every doctor and nurse has access to an ipad at the patients bedside.

    What could go wrong?

    • Actually Joe, the iPhone has been being used as a medical device almost since it arrived, with exactly those intentions. It’s used to email pics of x-rays and other patient info worldwide to collect second opinions, and even my veterinarian uses hers to help diagnose her patients. The truth is that this tech has some serious medical breakthrough potential.

    • I read about the 1 GB/sec network experiment Google is up to a few days ago. Apparently Google is irritated over American internet providers being so behind the rest of the industrialized world and is creating this “experiment” to force our providers into a race to be the first to improve up to these new standards. Personally I dig the idea, and hope it works as well as they want it to.

      • American fat pipes and low charges have been historically envied by much of the rest of the world.

        Fortunately the greed of your Service providers forcing extra crap onto your systems and failures by the American companies and their employees to remember why people buy their products cheer us up immensely 🙂

  7. “the iPad has the potential for replacing textbooks entirely”
    LOL – spoken like a true non-parent. Seriously though, until they can make an iPad-like device that is indestructible and has GPS homing built in, it won’t replace paper books. Kids absolutely destroy textbooks. One reason schools use paper books (even around here where Macs in schools are everywhere) is they are cheap and easy to replace (compared to any electronic device). It would be cool though – Math, Science, Social Studies, etc. all in one ‘book’ and the content could be easily updated as needed. Hey Steve – that’s your next task – the iTextbook – get on it!

    • To be honest, I had a more rugged version in mind when I said that, but I definitely think the idea has merit. When I was a kid the school was paying $40 a pop for textbooks, I can only imagine what they cost now. If you made an iPad with somewhat more limited functionality… or hell, why not a built-in right in the desk?… I think a school could easily save a ton of cash over the long run.

  8. uhh… I hate the debate over Windows, Mac, and Linux.

    The thing is they are all now Graphical interfaces (to a lesser degree), as which are expected to have bugs. The only operating systems that are almost totally bug free are DOS and command line only Linux. Only these two operating systems (there are other simplistic systems out there but these are large market) have the ability to function ~perfectly~ because it can only do what the User tells it to. Once you start adding auto-buttons, quick links, and user auto boot scripts you are guaranteed bugs. The best system is the Human Brain.

    Now I would never own a Mac, for the single reason that like all Apple devices you cannot modify them without breaking them or really shooting yourself in the foot later. I am very savy around Windows but that is because I have always used it, grew up with it (windows 3.1), so I know how it likes to function, and how to make it function how I want it to. But I am not the major market, and Apple sells a product to people who don’t want to mess with their product, they want it to work and that is it, which is great!

    What gets me the most about Mac vs PC is when Mac users start gloating about Speed and power. Mac originally had it’s own CPU but now they use Intel chips, so technically given the same components they are equal. The Mac operating system is faster at what it does, but Windows does other things, and Windows is better at multitasking, which in a proffessional world is the workhorse they want. So to me Mac’s are entertainment pieces that do what you BUY them to do, and Windows is a workhorse that does what you WANT it to do. – then you have the argument for Windows if the system was custom built or standard store bought cause this plays a Huge roll in ‘speed’.

    Now in any sense other than Gaming, Linux wins out all because for a user that knows the language it can do anything Mac and Windows can do but much much faster – albeit you have to know what you are doing.

    Now I have just dug myself out of 10 foot snow drifts after being stranded in the country without any communication, and let me tell you neither Mac, Windows, or Linux helped me in the least bit… now my 40 horse power tractor (that also comes with many cool gadgets) did the trick.

    So it all comes down to what you need it for and how much time you want to put in it. Familiarity wins the race here.

    • I certainly agree that the tool you’re the most familiar with is the one you will be the most productive with, but I’d like to address your specific points too.

      Macs’ speed has never really been in their chips, but their architecture. Even when they they made their own chips the speed difference was because of much higher bus speeds that eliminated data bottlenecks. They were (and are) able to maintain more efficient architecture because Apple make the soft and hardware, and are able to tailor both pieces to each other. Windows is forced to take a “greatest common denominator” approach to their software, knowing that it will be asked to perform in a thousand different types of machines and architectures. In truth they are probably doing a herculean job of making a piece of software that works at all, much less one as sophisticated as Windows.

      I use a computer in my job every day, as does my wife. For me the question is between a computer that is more reliable vs. one that is less reliable. The workhorse in my stable, the machine that can always be relied upon to perform, is my Mac. The entertainment computer… which I have to be ginger with lest it become hopelessly bogged down with viruses and the like… is my PC. Now I do like my PC, it’s handy and it does what I want out of it, but I would never want to place my livelihood on it.

  9. LOLZ I get to work on a SUN box since last week I am very happy. Macs are awesome I do not dispute. But if you think Steve is any different from Bill see Pirates of Silicon Valley (even if you don’t own a computer it’s AWESOME). Steve was fired by his own company for being an ASSHOLE. Then Bill put him back in charge. Think about it.

      • Retract your question while there’s still time, before the madness arrives!
        Seriously, a high-priced platform designed for heavy-duty processing in ages past, still alive because (last I heard) they still put together hardware above the spec of the PC world and that’s important for some things. The Sun company is responsible for inventing Java, amongst other things.

  10. I won’t buy an iPad until the market plays out, if at all; a search for “iPad competitors” yields like a dozen products in the works. I’m also not sold on big flat devices; laptops have hinges so you can sit them anywhere and adjust for viewability. Holding a big slab might get annoying. I think I’d rather spend $600 on an upcoming CULV laptop with a new Intel i3 or i5 Arrandale processor & Windows 7 (and Verizon’s wireless broadband adapter). Speaking of which, 3G in America is massively overpriced compared to, say, Scandinavia, where unlimited 3G costs like $150/yr (vs the US standard of $60/mo for 5GB/mo, or a whopping 480% MORE). Also, Oslo and Stockholm already have 4G services whereas American carriers are struggling not only with getting basic 3G coverage but with simply getting what services they do offer working correctly. Pff.

    I’m a PC enthusiast but I recommend all my non-gamer friends get Macs if they can afford them; I even recommend Macs to Windows-bound business types if they can stomach the extra cost of dual-booting and/or virtualizing. They pay anywhere from 50-150% more than they would equivalent PC components, but they get Mac OS (which just works) and access to Apple support (which also just works) and extremely nice Apple enclosures and chassis (which are durable and sexylicious).

    I dunno why W7 would slow down your computer unless you do an “update” as opposed to a reinstall. Never use a Windows update/upgrade service! You should always reinstall. If you have a competent backup system it shouldn’t be a problem. I just install Windows and vital apps on C:/, then image the system and store that on another drive (I use Acronis True Image, but there’s free cloning software). Every 3-4 months I just revert to that old image and have a fresh install again without the hassle of actually reinstalling (it’s a 15 minute unattended process). Takes another ~5 minutes to grab pending Windows updates.

    Regards store-based versions of your work: it depends on the format (and thus, the publisher & platform). If your stuff is in a proprietary container that can only be accessed on certain devices or in certain programs I probably won’t bother. If there’s a particularly good collection I might buy it and figure out how to remove the DRM so I can put it on whatever devices I want. That’s really just a stupid proposition, DRM — “we’re going to make the user experience worse for the people who legitimately buy our content and better for pirates.” That’s not a good way to gather patrons.

  11. To answer the original question: I would and do buy electronic versions of books. I’ve even paid the same, hardcover price for say, a D&D monster manual in e-form when I didn’t want the hard copy. Gaming materials are particularly useful when they can all live on your laptop. Now, If the books are in a proprietary format that I can’t read on my Linux lappy, then… no. I’ll do without.

    I recommend Macs to regular folks who want a computer. When folks get bent out of shape about the price (which is, IMNSHO, too high) I just point out that it’s a matter of the cost of their time. When their Redmond OS screws their ability to work because of an upgrade, a virus or just poor coding, and they have to take hours or days to rectify the issue, what did *that* just cost them.

    Hellfire, I also recommend that they get Ubuntu, but I can’t be an impartial judge. My Linux distro has 15 virtual desktops, with the Avant Window Navigator (looks and kinda acts like the Mac OSX Dock) and all of the eye candy switched on. It makes me happy and does what I need for work, which is being a sysadmin. It also looks sexy while doing it.

    If Apple would just provide me with a 15″ MacBook Pro with 1690×1200 screen real estate, I’d buy it. It would have Parallels on it and I’d have Linux for Unix-ing, Mac for day-to-day and MS for D&D Character Builder, KotOR and if I could make it work on W7, Vampire: Bloodlines. I miss that one. Maybe WW will get their MMORPG together soon.

    And to whoever said that Windows can multitask, I salute your miracle. This lappy of mine dual boots, has a 512Mb nVidia chip, 4GB of hard Ram and screams in Linux and on its best day, ambles in Windows XP. My personal experience.

    • Computers: I use a $700ish desktop PC that I assembled myself. It handles anything including a dozen simultaneous windows quickly and without delay or problems or viruses. I finally got around to getting an antivirus and it has only been a mild annoyance. All you need to do is read up on what hardware actually matters and keep your PC clean of all the extras that get installed alongside your software and run in the background even when it isn’t running.

      For example $300 of my $700 was the video card. “512 MB nVidia” is not a video card. Since you didn’t tell me anything about its actual speed or model, it is probably a $5 chip that is one of several minor components on the $50 motherboard. I avoid slow-as-molasses lap tops like the plague, and wrap my PC in a blanket for transport when needed. Or you could spend $2000 on a lap top that can actually do something (and if you want something that can run office software or linux, gimme $200 and an old version of windows it can handle to do it on a PC, anything can do that).

      To remove extra software use msconfig, uninstall, and check for anything new running with ctrl-alt-delete (I like to save it to ms-paint). Cleaning up other files that aren’t actively running will do absolutely nothing. If that’s too much trouble and your computer has gotten so slow you want a new one, try backing up your documents and reinstalling windows and all your software instead.

  12. I prefer a hard copy comic, because it never has to worry about malwares, or OS upgrades (is that a redundancy?).
    If I want to share with a friend I can give it to them, and then later after they total fail to return it, they can can give it to other friends. I also never have to worry about DRM or redundancy of legacy support for good stuff (which includes H.O.L.E).

    Flipside is: Hardcopy costs big money to ship here. Distribution and production are -major- loses everywhere. And while big runs are cheaper and a large readership will get a writer/gfx work snapped up by a commerical publisher quick enough, but getting to that size is hard.
    Would I buy a H.O.L.E. lot of eBook? – if it’s cheap and not crippled (ie common format eg cbr or even pdf). Because $5/book electronic is $5 over the net (paypal or SWReg).
    But Hardcopy if even only $2/comic is _$25_ of postage! (and I have to -wait-!!!!)
    So doing eBook makes a huge increase in your available market population.
    … Then you can follow-up with some extras and tidbits/expansions in hardcopy once you have softened your market.

    I believe a similiar technique is being looked at by Thunt

  13. Way late to the party here (just found the site and am reading back through the archives, awesome stuff) and this will probably never be read, but I feel like I must say something in the face of such a great injustice.

    TNG for life.