Micro Adventures

Micro AdventuresIn his new book Alastair Humphreys a renewed British adventurer explains his concept of micro adventures: adventures for the rest of us.  I found this concept of short, cheap and local adventures e.g. camping out under the stars on the local hill to be a most inspiring idea.  Adventures don’t have to be epic trips to remote places!

While people have been going for micro adventures long before Alastair came up with the term for it, having a term or label for the activity makes it a bit easier to explain to others.  Most of the book is given over to examples adventures that Al and others have been on and is great inspiration for your own trips.

The final chapters of the book discuss common equipment like bivi bags, shelters, stoves and bags.  He also includes some camping recipes that he’s used in his adventures earlier in the book.

This is the first book I’ve bought on paper for a while and I’ve also bought it for my brother who as the father of two small boys so I figured this would be good inspiration!!

Manage your day

Manage Your DayThis book is a collection of essays from many different authors about how they work, their creative process and of course how they manage their days.  Some of my favourite authors have contributed essays: Seth Godin, Todd Henry, Steven Pressfield and Gretchen Rubin

The book is organised into four essay collections: building a sold base, finding focus, taming your tools and sharpening your creative mind.  Plus a final call to action by Steven Pressfield the author of ‘The War of Art’ (which is another book I highly recommend!)

As someone who is interested in getting stuff done and tries with varying degrees of success to be productive professionally and personally I found this collection of essays to be excellent food for thought.  The bite size nature of the essay format means its a good read for people with limited amounts of time to commit to reading.

This is a book I intend to reread periodically and I expect I will take some new idea from it each time!  Its also a great introduction to many of the different authors who have supplied essays for the book.

Kindle Paperwhite

Amazon have just released the Kindle I have been waiting for: one with a backlight integrated into the unit, touchscreen and smart cover!  The new model is called the Paperwhite and its features include:

  • Evenly backlight display.
  • Touch screen with multi-touch.
  • 62% more pixels for sharper text.
  • 25% more contrast.
  • More hand tuned fonts.
  • Excellant battery life.
  • Smart cover with auto wake/sleep.

I was particularly excited by this new model as I have a trip to Antarctica at the end of the month that will involve an epic amount of flights!  So I had a friend bring me one back from the states as the Paperwhite is not yet available in Sweden.

The new Amazon Kindle PaperwhiteThe screen is amazing the combination of even backlighting, more resolution and increased contrast really improves the reading experience and make the device easy to read in all lighting conditions I have encountered so far.

Going from the older third generation Kindle with Keyboard to the Paperwhite has been a bit of a revolution as the touch screen interface feels significantly more responsive than the old physical keyboard.  The device itself is smaller and more streamlined with the removal of the headphone jack and volume bottoms which I never used.

The smart cover is a case that complete enclosed the device when closed leaving only the power botton and charging socket exposed.  The cover has a magnet in it just like the iPad smart cover so opening the cover will wake up the device and closing puts the device to sleep which is a nice touch.

The only gripe I have is there is no way to see the books cover art without losing the bottom third of the screen to Amazon’s shop highlights which is annoying as I paid extra for the advertising free model.

This Kindle is a real upgrade compared to the previous generations: highly recommended!

Kindle Skeptic Converted!

I was skeptical about dedicated ebook readers until I bought a second generation Kindle last year.  The convenience of the device: its diminutive size and weight, the massive Amazon catalogue, the epic battery life, the huge internal book storage capacity, built in dictionary, wireless book delivery and the incredibly user friendly reading experience offered by the E-Ink screen combined to rapidly make it the most treasured electronic device I own.

I just received a third generation WiFI Kindle for my birthday and the new device manages to make the older model look completely outdated which is impressive given the iterative nature of the new device.  The first thing that strikes you when you hold the new device is its size: the new device is half an inch shorter and narrower than the previous generation which adds up to an impressive overall size reduction and means the newer device is seventeen percent lighter than the previous model while retaining the same screen size.

Compared to the 3G in the previous model the WiFi is an significantly faster experience: browsing the kindle store or downloading books is now comparable to the speed of the kindle App on my iPhone over WiFi.  I decided to go for the Wifi only model as despite owning a kindle for a year I’ve only ever bought one book when I wasn’t at home so I couldn’t really justify the extra cost for the WiFi & 3G model.  The battery life for the WiFi only Kindle is also significantly longer than the WiFI/3G version (three weeks versus ten days), this is no surprise given the differences in range for WiFi vs 3G: the 3G radio simply needs more juice.

There are several additional tweaks in the new device: the back of the device is now textured so you are less likely to drop it, the screen has 50% more contrast, you can now adjust text line spacing, the screen changes a bit faster and the storage capacity is doubled.  They’ve also moved the power button, headphone jack and volume control to the bottom of the device although I’ve never actually tried out the MP3 or audio capacity of the Kindle.

I would recommend the Kindle to any avid reader, I used to be a binge reader but I have been averaging a book a week since getting a kindle…


The Design of Everyday Things

This book is regarded as a classic in the field of design but it should also be regarded as such in Software Engineering as usability is one of the key features that distinguishes truly great software.  This book discusses designing objects to be truly intuitive to use, which does not just happen during production (at least not very often).  Despite being written in the 1980′s this book is as applicable today as the day it was written, especially to software interface and interaction design which is often so poorly thought out (if indeed it was ever thought about in some products).

Making intuitive user interfaces should be one of the main goals for software developers but tragically it is so often an after thought even though usability is such a strong driver of sales.

Brain Rules

If you are at all interested in how to improve the performance of your greatest asset: your mind then this book is an excellent place to start.  Written by an eminent brain scientist, but don’t let that put you off: his written style is very easy to read and quite humorous.  This book covers twelve key rules to helping improve your brains performance at home, work and school.  Which I think is of interest to all professionals with a desire to improve themselves and their performance.

This book also comes with a bonus DVD featuring some extra content presented in the form of mini documentaries which are quite useful.