Wednesday 2 April 2008

Iliad - The E-book reader

The "heads" here at my workplace have purchased a couple of E-book readers - iRex Iliad models for possible integration into a big launch of a electronic newspaper release (which did not quite make it onto the drawing board) which leaves me with one of the gadgets in my greedy little hands. The preciousss... Oh and did I mention it runs GNU/Linux? This is where the fun begins...

The page has a list of programs of different sorts available for the Illiad reader and the instructions on installing them. You can install additional or improved reader software, or even ssh package that enables you to work remotely with the full shell on the Linux computer.
You can even play mp3's on it while reading your favourite book.

The Illiad is actually quite good with displaying pages from PDF or (properly formated) HTML pages, and with the help of the additional FBReader you can also read plucker, CHM and a bunch of other e-literature types.

Hey and there is also an option of installing a web browser. You can choose between Dillo (minimalist browser) and Minimo (mozilla for memory/screen challenged devices) allthough they might be usable as a last resort with speed being the biggest problem on Illiad.

The computer supports WiFi, LAN connection and USB, it can load media an programs from CF, MMC or USB slots.

You do have to install an additional peace of software to make all of the above work - the "developer shell" which invaluates your software guarantee, so be carefull about it.

It can also download and upload files to/from a network SMB share either via WiFi or LAN, and you can also make it connect and sync at predefined intervals if you want your daily newspapers/comics etc. on it every morning.

Overall it is an interesting toy, but it lacks in certain areas:
  • speed (horrible, horrible, slow..., reading is ok if you dont mind waiting between the pages to switch and resizing of fonts also takes a while)
  • no back light (not by default not by option), which means you have to read it like a book (under some kind of light source)
  • the memory is a bit on the small size, but if you don't actually keep all the books on it, but exchange them via keys, CF, mmc you actually get some good mileage
  • sometimes the pen is off (yes I know there is calibration in the settings page, but none the less on some pdf pages it is _allways_ 5-7 mm to the right of the point where you touch the screen)
Other than that I am quite impressed with the thingy (especially after discovering the possibility to install additional reading software - after writing an half witted CHM automated parsing and HTML conversion service).

So all in all a toy for geeks, but not really useful for general public I'd say.

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