Sunday, 28 April 2019

Espresso book machines revisited

A long time ago, over ten years ago in fact, I became quite excited about the espresso book machine.

At the time it seemed to offer the promise of small run book publishers, such as your typical small university press, the opportunity to avoid the costs of printing and holding stock, as well as the potential to on demand reprints of out of print books.

Well, ten years on, the landscape hasn't quite changed as I imagined it. Yes, there are various printers, mostly in India, who will do a cheap reprint of an out of print nineteenth century book, by printing a copy of a scanned edition downloaded from the internet archive, something for which you basically need a laptop, an internet connection, and a laser printer, and access to the equipment required to bind a book, which in a low cost country such as India, where labour is cheap and there is a well established book printing industry, it's probably cost effective to have a semi manual process.

But recently I've bought a couple of scholarly short run Australian books. Even though they were ordered through Amazon Australia's marketplace, due to the mysteries of the book trade, they came from online booksellers in the UK, and they had the look and feel of a print on demand book.

Strangely the front matter that contains the copyright statement and the NLA cataloguing in publication data, didn't list a printer, but at the back of the book there was a QR code and the text Lightning Source Milton Keynes, followed by what was obviously a reference number of some kind.

Being curious I turned to Google to discover that Lightning Source have a pretty informative wikipedia page,

Basically Lightning Source is an offshoot of the same company that developed the espresso machine and provides a print on demand service to small publishing houses - just as I thought would happen all these years ago - and what's more the espresso book machine is most decidedly not dead ...

Sunday, 14 April 2019

Not another bloody thinkpad ...

I've recently blogged about how I finally got around to getting myself a new larger screen laptop to replace my old Dell Inspiron, and of course I bought myself an old Thinkpad around about a year ago, which did a stellar job of replacing my official HP Probook when I dropped coffee on it.

Well I've been so impressed by both of my Lenovo machines I've gone and bought myself a Lenovo Thinkpad Yoga 11E, one of the old touch screen models you can use as a bulky tablet.

Windows 10, 128GB SSD and 4GB RAM, and a reasonably specified processor - all for around $200. I even get 3 months warranty from the refurbisher.

So a bargain, and quite a rational purchase.

I'll explain why:

To get the most out of my old Thinkpad I really should upgrade it to Windows 10, and guess what, the upgrade cost is near enough what I just paid for the Yoga. Now if that was the only consideration I'd probably just have bought the upgrade, but I've two other pressure points:


  • My Chromebook has gone end of life - no more updates, and gradually things will cease to work. At what point it becomes unusable is unknown but what's clear is that the replacement cost will be around $400. One of my major uses of my Chromebook is reading my email and rss feeds in bed - the Yoga with it's touch screen etc is a more than decent replacement
  • My MacBook Air (a 2012 machine) is probably going to drop off the OS X supported device  list sometime soon. On top of that it could probably do with a new battery - it used to manage a couple of hours between charges, it's now managing barely an hour. A new third party battery replacement kit is around $150 if you fit it yourself, or a bit over $200 if you have a repair shop do it for you. The Yoga is heavier than the air and little bit bulkier, but could feasibly make a decent travel computer, and being roughly the same form factor as the Air will fit in both the travel backpacks I own.
So, at the moment, I seem to own a stupid number of computers. However, the old 2008 vintage iMac I use when working with old documents is showing its age, it's already unsupported as regards MacOS and I expect that Google will soon stop supporting Chrome for that version of the operating system, and it will eventually fade away. 

The Air will obviously last a little longer, but one can see the writing on the wall, as one can with the Chromebook. I expect to keep on using my old unupgraded Thinkpad X230 for another couple of years at least.

The Yoga, being ruggedised for educational use, should last as long, and survive trains planes and car trips reasonably well. It also has a decent thinkpad style keyboard to type on (as good as the X230's) which adds to its attractiveness, so I reckon at $200 it's a bargain, and while $200 is a reasonable amount of money, it's not much more than a night in a decent city centre hotel ...

Thursday, 4 April 2019

Coffee 0 HP Probook 1

As I'm sure you're all aware, about six weeks ago I was stupid enough to pour coffee over my work laptop.

Well, it went off to the repair shop, and obviously my prompt if panicked reaction saved the day.

It was stripped down, cleaned up in an isopropyl alcohol bath. The processor daughter card was damaged, but that was replaced with a refurbished spare - tracking one down was the reason it took six weeks to repair my laptop, and it's back, almost as good as new.

All the data has survived, not that it wasn't backed up. The only problems are that it seemed to have lost its network configuration data - hardly a problem really, and the SSID was tied to the processor, so naturally excel whinges that it hasn't been properly activated, again something that just requires the contacting corporate IT dance .

Resyncing the data back wasn't a problem either, all I needed to do was download the data from OneDrive to cover the missing days and open OneNote, and tell it to do a sync. Fifteen minutes work at most.

Obviously before I say it's really fixed I need to use it for a few days, rather than a quick click around but everything looks great.

Oh, and if you're worried that you might be at risk of spilling something on your laptop, check out this sensible advice from the NYT...

[The original title of this post was 'Coffee 0 HP Powerbook 1' - complete brain snap on my part, the laptop in question is a ProBook - a 6470b to be exact]