Old, real book vs. Kindle alternative: Which wins?

It's been widely debated since Amazon's Kindle began redefining the e-book space: when will e-books become more compelling than the physical books they were meant to replace?

For me, it happened. Today, at 2 p.m. Eastern, I went to Borders and returned a book I bought just a week ago. The reason was this: I found the book had popped up on the Amazon Kindle store for less. So I pulled the trigger.

The funny thing is I don't even have a Kindle. I have an iPhone 3G running the Kindle app. Yet, for me, in a crowded New York ecosystem where I barely have time or room to pull a book out of my backpack while crammed onto a subway, quick-fix iPhone reading does the trick better than anything else.

The book in question was "Hylozoic" by Rudy Rucker, an excellent and weird science fiction writer whose works I've become addicted to. I had tracked the release of his latest, a sequel to his equally odd "Postsingular," for months. I should have ordered on Amazon in the first place, where it was far cheaper than Borders' full retail, but I wanted instant satisfaction and got trigger-happy. Hylozoic wasn't available on the Kindle store when the book first hit the streets.

I submitted a "this should be a Kindle book" request to Amazon and went back to my life, when yesterday I discovered that "Hylozoic" had in fact been added...for $14.95. … Read more

FCC welcomes Apple iPhone 3G S

Less than a day after it was unveiled at WWDC 2009, the new Apple iPhone 3G S got the Federal Communications Commission's blessing. You now can peruse fascinating technical data about Apple's newest device, including its SAR measurements. If you're not an iPhone fan, there's no reason to despair, as a handful of other new cell phones passed through the FCC as well.

Because the FCC has to certify every phone sold in the United States, not to mention test its SAR rating, the agency's online database offers a lot of sneak peeks to those … Read more

iPhone 3G S' processor and RAM leaked by T-Mobile

We already know that apps on the iPhone 3G S will load twice as fast. Apple has made headway with the 3D graphics, while at the same time improving the battery life of the new iPhone. But nothing puts these claims into perspective better than hard numbers.

An over-zealous Webmaster at T-Mobile Netherlands may have gone click-happy recently by publishing specifications that Apple has closely guarded since the announcement of the 3G S. The information has since been pulled from the page, but we all know this: Nothing disappears off the Web without a trace.

As we can see from … Read more

A finger-friendly iGoogle returns to iPhone and Android handsets

Google has been once again revamped its iGoogle start page for easier use on iPhone and Android handsets. It lets you see and interact with your gadgets in a similar fashion to the desktop version, by making use of tabs and displaying content that runs in iFrames. The previous version, which was mysteriously discontinued by Google in late January, simply put everything into one, large vertical stream, and required you to go back and forth to get at different sets of widgets.

One nice feature that was not found in the previous version, is the option to set certain widgets … Read more

Five perfect puzzle games for the iPhone

Puzzle games and the iPhone and iPod Touch go together like peas and carrots (and they're nearly as good for you). They fit beautifully on the small screen, they have no awkward controls to master, and they're ideal when you have 5 minutes or 10 minutes to kill (and don't feel like killing things).

Here's a list of my five favorite puzzle games (so far):

Hanoi A beautiful rendition of the classic Towers of Hanoi game. The object is simple: move a stack of disks from one side of the board to the other. There's … Read more

How the iPhone can overtake all gaming handhelds in five steps

Apple had its own E3 press conference at the beginning of the week, with its newest model in the iPhone line finally being unveiled to the world. The iPhone 3G S, while in some ways a modest upgrade, introduces significant improvements for gamers--some obvious, others not so much. Will it help even further cement their growing position in a handheld games market previously dominated by Nintendo and Sony? Read on.

Faster processor speed, more RAM. T-Mobile leaked the hard 3G S specs, and they're all-around zippier than the old 3G--which Apple confirmed when it promised overall speeds up to 2x faster. This will matter in particular with game load times and game crashes, both of which can tend to plague an overstuffed iPhone. While the spec bumps are relatively modest, the iPhone's game-playing prowess has already been more impressive than early pundits predicted, especially on recent releases like The Sims 3 and a PC-perfect port of Myst. The only thing missing now is...

Proper controller support. Sneaked in under the radar amid the iPhone 3G S news is the fact that the 3.0 software update allows third-party app interfacing with peripherals. While a larger focus on this functionality has been on medical devices, it's now possible for someone to make a clip-on control pad case and to have that controller be usable in any game. What should happen is that publishers gather to designate one universal controller that then gets adopted as the iPhone's "gamepad." The question is, who will make that accessory? For a while last year it was rumored to be Belkin, although it was unclear who would support the device. On consoles, the manufacturer usually settles these issues by making the controller themselves (except in the case of peripheral-driven games like Rock Band).

While it would be easiest if Apple made a gamepad, it's entirely unlikely. The whole appeal of the iPhone is its interface simplicity--too many plug-ins kill the minimalist chic. If a third party makes a controller, there's a likelihood that some publishers would support it, while others splinter off under some other controller accessory. Either way, someone should make sure there's a good consensus. Otherwise, soon enough we'll be buried in plastic miniperipherals, not unlike what's currently happening to (or plaguing) game consoles.… Read more

Friday roundup: Dirt-cheap Netbooks, MP3s, 802.11n, Peggle

I couldn't pick just one deal today, so here are five to jump-start your weekend:

Much as I'm loving the iPhone version of Peggle, I think it's a little pricey at $4.99. Good news: Right now it's on sale for just 99 cents [iTunes link]. No-brainer. Buy it. Thanks to reader Harold for the tip!

I'm not loving Amazon MP3's current selection of $5 albums, but there's one standout: Holst's The Planets, one of my all-time classical favorites. ("Mars" gets all the attention, but "Jupiter" is really … Read more

Live a virtual life and race against the clock: iPhone apps of the week

In addition to the big Apple announcements of new laptops and the iPhone 3G S at this weeks WWDC, other well-known developers used the conference as an opportunity to release some big name iPhone applications. I usually try to balance my coverage of iPhone apps by talking about one game and one useful utility, but with this week's big releases, I'm going to talk about two games. These games are both $9.99, so with the higher price point, I think it's worth it to give you the rundown of both so you can decide if you … Read more

Two cheaper alternatives to Find My iPhone

No doubt about it, Apple's just-announced Find My iPhone app is pretty cool. If your precious goes missing, you can remotely transmit a "Help, help, I'm lost!" message in the hopes that whoever found it will return it.

If that doesn't pan out, you can send a Mission Impossible-style self-destruct command that'll wipe the iPhone's memory, thus protecting any sensitive data from falling into the wrong hands.

Unfortunately, the price of this nifty recovery/security service is a subscription to Apple's MobileMe, which costs $99 annually. That's fine if you're … Read more

iPhone OS 3.0 beta testers get Find My iPhone

MobileMe's Find My iPhone service is alive and ready for anyone using iPhone OS 3.0. Using it allows you to locate your iPhone or iPod Touch on a map, send a message along with a sound to the device, or wipe your device remotely if its been misplaced, lost, or, stolen.

Here is the location screen for an iPhone (iPod Touch is similar in all cases below) in the Account settings section at me.com.

The location screen supports the following actions:

Press the Update Location button and MobileMe will attempt to query your iPhone and display an updated map showing its location.

Press the Display a Message... button, and MobileMe will send a text message to your phone that displays with an optional sound playing for up to 2 minutes. You'll be prompted to enter your message and check the box to include the sound.

The message then appears on your iPhone like this:

Next, you get a confirmation e-mail that your message was sent, received, and displayed on your missing iPhone.

Press the Remote Wipe... button and MobileMe will remotely erase your iPhone. According to Apple:

This will permanently delete all media and data on your iPhone, restoring it to factory settings. This will not suspend your wireless service. Once wiped, your iPhone will no longer be able to display messages or be located. Learn more.

You'll be prompted to erase your device with a warning that you cannot undo this process once it has started.

If the iPhone is eventually recovered, users can restore their data by enabling their MobileMe account on the iPhone or syncing with their computer. It's unfortunate that the iPhone cannot be completely disabled, but at least you have a chance of destroying your personal data if it lands in the wrong hands.

The system isn't foolproof, however. One problem with Find My iPhone, according to Jonathan Zdziarski in a Twitter post, is that, "There's a magic button on every iPhone a thief can use to disable remote wipe and LocateMe; it's called the SIM eject button."… Read more