Posts tagged Nook HD

Whoa

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Just got the latest upgrade for my Nook HD. It now has native access to the Play store and I was able to bring in all my apps from my rooted Nook Tablet that I hadn’t been able to bring over as yet.

In addition to access to the Play store, it also installed the Chrome browser and a number of other apps like Maps, Facebook, Gmail, Google+, Spotify and a few others.

In short, my Nook HD is now pretty much a tablet with all the capabilities there in. Even the standard Calendar application has properly synced up with my calendars.

It’s almost certainly too little, too late. But I appreciate the move at least.

Now I’ll have to see what other goodies might be lurking.

Flipboard

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So, apropos my issues with the Pulse Reader app I’ve been having, I decided to start looking into other possibilities. Really, this is the biggest problem any product- when things have degraded to the point where a customer decides to look elsewhere for solutions.

I’ve known about Tatptu and even tried it, but ultimately didn’t like it. The interface was similar, but different from Pulse in the wrong way for me. Plus, it seemed to have difficulties updating the various feeds I like to read.

As it turns out, a friend had shown me a slick little app called Flipboard and it just so happens to be available on the Barnes & Noble App Store. The interface was very different from Pulse, but still very intuitive. It also has a large selection of feeds and categories and also has some topical categories where multiple feeds are presented in through a single “board.”

The interface itself consists of a grid of tiles with the various feeds, be they RSS, Twitter or other. If there are enough feeds, then there will be multiple pages of these tiled layouts. To move through them, simply swipe like a book and the current page “flips” to the next one presenting the next set of feeds.

When a feed is selected, say National Geographic for instance, a summary view of the articles from the feed are then presented in a variety of layouts that can be paged through with the swiping and flipping. Touching an article allows for reading it. To exit from reading an article, simply use a two-finger touch and the interface returns to the summary view of articles.

In all, it’s a pleasant experience and, near as I can tell anyway, the program is very stable. I’ve yet to crash it in normal usage.

There are several other niceties which I’ve yet to take advantage of like “Read Later” services, the ability to filter out certain authors and a few other things. For those of you using Google Reader, there’s a way to configure it to access your Google Reader account and present that as a channel. It also can serve as a Twitter client, simply enter your Twitter account info and then your Twitter timeline will be presented just like any other feed; thus, potentially eliminating the need for a dedicated Twitter client. It also supports Facebook news feeds and status. Nice.

Another nice feature is the “Cover Story” feed which appears to present a sampling of the latest musings from all of configured feeds. Thus, it creates a quick way to see if there’s anything of interest. Looking into the help a bit, this appears to be some kind of “learning” feed that picks out thing you might like based on the articles you choose to read.

The hardest part, by far, is the setup. The builtin search for feeds is pretty good as long as they are of the mainstream variety. Unfortunately, I had a few favorites that just could not be found. Fortunately, it’s possible for Flipboard to find them by providing a full URL for the feed. Thus, I spent some time finding the RSS feeds with a browser, copying them to the clipboard, then pasting them into the Flipboard search.

Initially, my only hang-up was with some of the built-in feed search results- they seemed to get stuck and wouldn’t present updated information. Once I provided my own URL’s for those feeds, those problems went away. The only other complaint is that not all of the articles are presented in strict chronological fashion. The designers say that because they take article presentation issues into account. That said, I haven’t seen anything too egregious to complain about, nothing like articles from months ago being presented at the beginning of a feed.

All of the expected “social” functions appear to be available, though aside from configuring my Twitter timeline, I haven’t made use of them as yet.

So, in summary we’ve got a program that can be configured to present the information I’m interested in using an attractive presentation template with an intuitive UI. Configuration was the only PITA, but that’s a one time thing and gets easier as I become familiar with it. Plus, most importantly, it doesn’t crash during normal usage. I’ve found myself using it more and more and Pulse less and less as my confidence grows that I’m getting the most recent stuff.

What’s Up With Pulse?

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I’ve been using the Pulse reader for as long as I’ve had my Nook tablets. I installed it on my original Tablet and now my HD. For the reading I do, it’s better than a browser since all those sites already have RSS feeds that I can hook into. Overall, I’ve been very pleased with it.

But the recent update leaves something to be desired. For one, I don’t like the extra manipulations to switch between RSS categories. The previous version had a menu up top where a simple touch took me to whatever category I’d wanted. Now, I have to either push the button up top, which launches a side menu with a list of my categories for me to select from. Alternatively, I can swipe from the left edge to bring up this menu. That extra action is not appreciated. Also, the edge-swipe version is annoying because it can get confused with either refreshing a feed or scrolling through a feed’s articles.

The bigger problem, though, is that app is not stable. It constantly bails on me and the only reason I put up with it is because there isn’t any other option available to me. In particular, switching to and from a web view seems to be particularly difficult for it to manage.

A couple of other issues:

  1. When tapping on an article to read, it will frequently bring up an empty screen, causing me to go back to the tile view where I’ll have to reselect the article again and hope for the best.

  2. When bring up an article, there is a Read on Web button which, upon tapping, provides no feedback as to whether the press has registered. It’s annoying behavior since it will not infrequently result in nothing happening, so I’ll tap it again. And again. And again. There is no usual resolution to this “feature”: sometimes the app crashes, sometimes a press registers, sometimes I just give up.

  3. I like to use the Twitter functionality, but the tweet dialog box has a horrible font color which is only a shade darker than the background, meaning I have to strain my eyes, squint and use smoke and mirrors to compose a tweet.

  4. Tapping on web links frequently results in nothing happening or an app crash.

I’ve used the updated version on both my Tablet and my HD, with the same problems apparent in both so I don’t think this is a Android version issue per say. Looking at the reviews at the app site, I can see I’m not the only one. Hopefully they get some kind of improved version in the pipeline soon.

Thoughts on the Nook HD

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My big Christmas gift was a new Nook HD, the updated version of the previous Nook Tablet. So far, the biggest disappointment is a less than obvious way to root the sucker. It has been done, but I’m not clear on whether it’s a permanent thing like can be done on the Tablet.

That said, it’s definitely an improvement. Almost all of the UI stuff is better including responsiveness, scrolling and speed. This isn’t entirely surprising since it’s based on the version of Android that supposed to have been a big breakthrough in terms of performance and polish. The HD is also lighter than the Tablet, which is noticeable when reading. It has a better feel when holding it one handed as well. Physically, I kind of liked the old carabiner look- it was distinctive and unique. But I’m not going to pitch any fits over it’s loss.

A pleasant discovery was that K-9, my email program of choice, is available from the Barnes and Noble store. It’s vastly superior to the stock program currently available. The HD also comes with calendar support, though so far I haven’t been successful in getting it to import my Google Calendar. The Store also now has Calengoo available, but I already purchased it from the Amazon Market, so I’m kind of holding out a bit before I repurchase it.

Another pleasant surprise was how all my previous purchases were immediately available upon entering my account information. In that, Barnes and Noble did well.

The screen is the other big differentiator and I have to say that it’s vastly improved from a reader perspective. Reading the small text is much easier on the eyes than on the previous Tablet, and I always felt the Tablet had a pretty damn good screen. The HD’s blows it away.

Battery life seems to be a bit worse than with the Tablet, I’m sorry to say. It’s not awful and I may be able to tweak it a bit to lend myself some improvement there, but it’s definitely not the same.

In all, it’s definitely an improved experience. If you’re looking for a general tablet, I wouldn’t recommend it until a reliable rooting procedure is available. But if you want a good reader, then it would be hard to beat the Nook HD.

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