This weekend I bought and rooted a Nook Simple Touch. The reason? I’ve been looking for an eink platform that one could make astronomy applications and data available for. Eink is ideal for a hobby where stray light destroys your ability to see anything.
Having written an astronomy application (albeit one that needs a lot more polish) I pushed it over. There are a few rendering issues with the buttons (which completely confuses me), and the fact that there aren’t any real location services means rise / set times are completely off, bother are fixable in software. Computational speed seemed on par with my HTC Evo, which means this is something I can work with.
Sadly, both B&N and Amazon have equivalently limited imaginations when it comes to making Apps for their e-ink platforms (my Amazon knowledge comes from email exchanges with the Kindle team), and don’t see the other possibilties for e-ink.
Fortunately, B&N seem to be lacking on having a crack security team, so the Nook ST can be wedged open to an open platform pretty easily. I’ll be making Where is Io optimized to run on it, and look at what it would take to get Google Sky Maps over there (now that it is open sourced). And, I’ll hold out a small amount of hope, that B&N one day figures out it might be useful to provide this additional value to their customers. Based on email exchanges with Amazon, I’ve completely written them off.
Key Takeaway: don’t let your own limited imagination, and need for control prevent your creations from meeting their full potential.
Update: now that the Android Market finally activated, I pulled down a number of apps to see how they all worked. The Mobile Observatory UI is actually really useful on this size and type of UI, and I think is worth the price of the Nook Simple Touch even if you only decide to run it.
The Android tablet space that is starting to heat up is all running after Apple’s iPad at the moment. It’s got a nice form factor and a nice screen, but it’s entirely unsuitable for a whole set of applications that I care about for one simple reason:
LCDs give off blue light.
Blue light is really the enemy of both sleep and dark. I mostly care about the dark part, because my interest is for Astronomy. It takes at least 20 minutes for your eyes to really dark adapt when you go outside. If you want to see other Galaxies from your back yard, dark adaption is really important. We call them “faint fuzzies” for a reason. Last month at our astronomy party someone brought an iPad with some astronomy application to let them know what to look at with their telescope. After 30 minutes of it blinding them, the finally turned it off and started asking some of the rest of the folks there what they should be looking at, and where to find it.
But, an eink tablet would be great. You could use just enough red light to see what’s going on, and be able to zoom in to your charts. There are 2 things that come close right now, the nook and the kindle, but neither would work without a lot of effort. To do your own apps on the nook you have to hack the thing, and you’ve still got this pesky lcd you’d need to put a filter over. The kindle is a physically better device for this, but it’s not android, so it’s another sdk to learn, and they have all manner of restrictions because the user doesn’t pay for their data usage. As far as I can tell it would be too restrictive for this.
The ideal device would be something like the kindle dx, have a gps, and be based on Android. This device doesn’t exist, but heres to hoping that someone makes one eventually.