Small and Cheap, But Is It The Right One? My Nook Tablet Review

We recently got a Nook Tablet.

I had wanted to pick up either the Nook Tablet or the Kindle Fire. I looked at a lot of previews and reviews, and two things drove me toward the Nook tablet. One was the poor/mixed reviews of the Fire. The other was the paper specs on the Nook Tablet. It has twice the processing power, RAM, and storage with an expansion slot. Even after it became known that the internal storage of the Nook limited user content to just 1GB, the expansion slot more than made up for it.

So we got it and have been playing with it for a few weeks.

I find myself wondering if we made a mistake. I know I can always root the thing and turn it into a basic android tablet, but I’d like to keep it as a Nook device. My concerns isn’t about the performance, really, but about something else.

Yes, it needs more apps. Like a lot more. And it needs more free apps. I know the selection will grow, but man. Still, I was able to load Evernote on there so, it’s not all bad. And Hulu Plus and Netflix have been getting a work out. I like the crossword app as well. All the apps work great. Just need more of them.

Text input is a lot different. It’s mostly a QWERTY keyboard, but some of the non-letter keys are located in odd spots. I’m still not used to it,,and I make typos all the time.

Video playback is great. Really great. Netflix and Hulu Plus look amazing, and both have decent interfaces. Watching your own video is more complicated. It takes a bit of navigating to get to them. I’ve tested a few file types, and was able to get a 720p .mp4 to play without trouble.

Of course, reading a book is great. The 7 inch size is really the right size for an e-reader. Lighter than my iPad and bigger than my iPod Touch or iPhone. Some people have said that trying to read magazines and comics leaves a bit to be desired on the smaller screen, but I haven’t tried that yet.

But those are not the things that make me think I may have made a mistake. No, I may have made a mistake because I think Amazon is going to win the low end tablet competition. When shopping for the tablets, most employees did not know anything about the Nook Tablet, and while they may have been mistaken about the Fire, at leas they knew something about it. In store displays are very telling. target and Walmart still does not have a Nook Tablet on display. One store still have the Nook Color listed at $250, instead of the new $200 price. Best Buy did have the Tablet, but had two Kindle Fires o display in very prominent floor space.

Barnes and Noble just isn’t getting the play that the Fire is. Amazon was first to announce and first to market with their device. If attention is any indication of success the Nook Tablet is barely a spark compared to the Kindle Fire. I don’t know how much Amazon spent on promotion, but Barnes and Noble obviously hasn’t spent enough. They are not getting the push the Fire is getting.

I hope the Nook Tablet stays around. I think I’m keeping the one we have. Every time I think of returning it, I see another poor review of the Fire. I’m not saying the Fire is a bad device, just that it’s no better than the Nook Tablet unless you are heavily invested in the Amazon media world (Prime, music store, etc…) If by some chance I end up with a discontinued tablet, I’ll root it and run regular Android software on it. The faster processor and larger memory will be better for that. I’m hoping an update frees up some of the internal memory and we start seeing more apps become available.

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Lessons from the Shoot

This past weekend we shot the Preview Project for my TV Show. It was three scenes from the pilot. The shoots, overall went great. I am overwhelmed that I work in a place that allows me to pursue my dreams, surrounds me with people who are willing to help, and provides me with the gear to accomplish those dreams. I am so thankful for this. I have never done anything like this before.

My experience has always been on the support side of ministry, and to have people supporting me in this is amazing.

I learned some things in the shoot as well.

Schedule: When scheduling a location, make sure you know the schedule of every organization that uses the location. I scheduled our church’s cafe. And double checked to make sure that there was nothing else scheduled. It was clear so we set it up. I had forgotten that the cafe is next to the main kitchen and lunch room for the school. We had traffic all day long.

Sunlight: Always make sure you know where the sun is going to be during your shoot. Especially if you are shooting near windows. I know this is basic stuff, but I really blew it. I checked the first location at about the right time, but before daylight savings time changed and when it was cloudy. The morning of the shoot, right as the actors were arriving, the sun began pouring onto the set. We had to shift the set a bit, and be careful of angles. All I had to do was talk to one of the people who work there every morning and they could have told me what to expect.

Flexibility: This is key. The cast and crew were amazing. They were not getting paid at all, but did whatever was asked. I had tried to arrange extras, and had been told there would be about 15 people at the shoot on Saturday. Four showed up. So we shifted a bit. I would have liked to have more but we worked with what we got. And they were great. The scene still worked. And we got it done.

Amazing People: I am surrounded by amazing people. Great talent. Great heart for ministry. They were willing to give up their time to help me work on a dream. I always knew that there some pretty special people around me, but wow.

Amazing Resources: I am often reminded of how blessed we are with the resources we have. Because of other’s generosity, I had two cameras, a full dolly rig, an audio rig, a lighting kit, and everything else I needed to capture the shoot.

I learned a lot more about how to run a shoot as well, and about preproduction. Even with the issues we faced, the shoots really did go pretty well. I will be editing the footage over Thanksgiving. I hope to have a finished video soon.

Can’t wait to show it to you! Get updates at www.facebook.com/peculiarshow and on twitter at @peculiarshow.

Eternal Disappointment: Money Tracts

On Halloween I took my kids trick or treating. This post isn’t about that. Save it for next year. It’s about the house that was handing out religious tracts.

I was going to write about this earlier, but then Jon Acuff wrote about it, and I didn’t want to copy him. Then I figured, imitation is the best form of flattery, right? Besides, my story is a bit different.

A few houses into our candy run we had established a pattern. They would run to the door, and I would watch from the sidewalk. They would run back, and I would remind them to say thank you.

At this one house, the bowl was left out on the front porch. (Yeah, it’s that kind of neighborhood.) And the kids suddenly got very excited and began yelling about $20. After they calmed down they showed me a crisp $20 bill in each bag. For just about half a second I was amazed by the generosity of the treat-givers. Then I remembered that sometimes people make tracts that look like money.

My kids were very disappointed.

Now, I’m not against tracts. I wrote one (never published) when I was younger. It’s not even all money tracts. We have a $trillion tract at work, I forget who gave it to us. But no one would ever mistake it for real money.

But who though that making tracts that look like actual money was a good idea? Are they that desperate to get someone to touch it? Sure you grab them on the front end, but do you really want to start the most important conversation ever with disappointment?

Some of these tracts even ask “Disappointed?” as a way to start the message.

I have never heard of one person who gave their life to Jesus because they grabbed a fake $20.[Update: I have now heard of 1 person. She found her’s on the floor of a grocery store. Not a Trick or Treat bucket, or left as a tip, etc… So, 1 person in 45 years. She is the exception to the rule.]

But I have heard a lot of stories (both firsthand and second hand) about people who have been turned off by people who leave fake money as a way to witness. The worst are from waitresses who work Sundays. They serve on a huge group of Christians after church, and go to gather their tip to see two or three $20 bills along with a couple of singles. They snatch the money up to realize that instead of a $43 tip, they got a $3 tip and two tracts they will never read. Instead they will talk badly about these Christians who didn’t even care enough to leave 15% with their religious propaganda. If you must leave a religious tract (of any kind) at a restaurant, please make sure you leave it alongside a generous tip.

I’m glad my kids know about Jesus already, because if this had been their first exposure to Christianity it would have started with disappointment, not hope or love.

I will never understand the use of money tracts. If you want to use money to gain an audience for the Gospel, at least use real money! Hand someone a $20 and ask them to listen to you for five minutes. That will be much more effective than the eternal disappointment of fake money tracts.

Flixster/Ultrviolet Review: Maybe it Will Get Better?

[Update: The new iOS 5.0 version of the Flixster app allows downloading to your device, so you can view movies offline. Flixster listens. Now for 3G streaming… and Airplay.]

A few weeks ago I bought Green Lantern on Blu Ray. It’s packaging claimed it came with a digital copy, and on further inspection it was a new sort of digital copy that uses a couple of companies to deliver streaming movies.

I really like digital copies. I use my Apple TV to stream movies from my iOS devices to my TV, and even use an iPod Touch to watch movies on a small TV in the car on long trips. My iPad is almost always filled with video. If a movie comes with a digital copy, I download it. If not, I try to handbrake it. Digital copies are generally a little smaller, look great, and even have nice cover art. Now, they are DRM’d to iTunes, which isn’t great, but since most of my device can handle that it’s normally not an issue.

When I saw this new Ultraviolet/Flixster digital copies I was intrigued. There are iOS apps for the service, and you can stream the video instead of having to load it onto your device. You can download the files as well.

So I started the process of getting my copy. First I had to sign up for Flixster, then in the registration process I was taken to a portal to sign up for Ultrviolet. I spent about 20 minutes trying to complete the registration. I was stuck at the password creation portal. Something was wrong. I finally left the registration. turns out that ultraviolet has a different criteria for passwords than Flixster. The one I was trying to use wasn’t setting off any warnings in the Flixster portal registration, but Ultraviolet wouldn’t let it complete. I signed up on the Ultraviolet site, and went back with that login info to complete my Flixster set up.

I could stream my movie. I went ahead and downloaded the apps and even downloaded the file of the movie itself onto my computer. I logged into the app on my iOS devices and I could view my movies. So far so good.

I soon discovered that there ae a couple of issues with the service, though. I can stream the movies on my devices, but only in a wifi signal. I cannot watch the movie on my iPhone over 3G. well, that was annoying since the main selling point was that i could stream the video instead of having to load it onto my device.

I thought, OK, I’ll just load it. Then I discovered you cannot load the movie file onto your iOS device. It can only be played on the computer. Now I’m annoyed.

I won’t be able to use my movie outside of a wifi network on any portable device. Want to watch the movie on a plane? Nope. Let your kids watch one while diving down the road? No way.

With the iTunes digital copy, I may have to load the file onto my device, but I can watch it anywhere. So, I took the DVD and handbraked the movie. I am not a fan of the Flixster/Ultraviolet digital copy.

The one redeeming thing? Their social media team is very responsive. They have an active twitter, and they pointed me toward their developer feature email. I sent an email asking for what I would consider basic functions. If you want to be a replacement for iTunes, you have to be able to do at least why they do. If you want to be considered a streaming solution, you must be able to stream over 3G.

In the meantime, I will stream the video when i want at home, but will load my ripped copy when I want to take it out. Maybe they will add these features and make the service better.