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Old 03-22-2009, 01:45 AM   #1
reso
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Question Which one for me? math/sci grad student, tech docs + recreational reader + note takin

Howdy Folks,

Thinking about making the jump and getting an ebook reader. Not necessarily because I think that any of the products out there are "there" yet for what I really want, but I want to support the technology so that the companies will eventually release what I fully want.

What I really want: Wifi and/or cell network (like the iphone), SDHC, 16 gb internal memory, touch screen, with note taking software that automatically renders mathematical equations into the LaTeX typesetting langauge, small sized ultra portable reader (size of sony reader but as thin as ipod) with ultra long lasting battery, backlight, rotate/zoom/next page gestures that work very fast like in the new macbook/macbook pros, audio voice recording of memos, free-form anotation of pdfs, with automatic synching with a desktop PC/mac, very fast searching of many gigabytes of pdfs, no drm and ability to access the Linux shell and/or compile my own programs and scripts for the device.

Well, as you all know, no products achieve all of that ambitious list, but maybe one day.

I am in Canada, so the amazons kindle wireless service isn't available for me, but the features that I *really* need are:

- Ability to read mathematics, physics and technical pdfs that I have downloaded from the web
- External memory support (SDHC)
- Touch screen (I really would like to be able to take notes as well)

I am open to any and all suggestions, comments and discussion about this! I have a bit of a problem with acquiring computers, so I have a couple of laptops I could always use to read media in a portable fashion, but I really like the idea of being able to whip out the ebook reader to read a book or take some notes.

I am thinking of the Sony PRS-700, but a few questions if anyone can answer them:

- How does it do at displaying Mathematics, especially those typeset with LaTex, or multi-column scientific PDF documents downloaded scientific journals?

- Can you take notes on it with the stylus? What format do you download the notes from the device in?

Anyone have any suggestions? Do you think the PRS-700 will be suitable for reading math, physics and other technical documents?

Thanks for the input!!

Last edited by reso; 03-22-2009 at 02:59 AM.
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Old 03-22-2009, 07:28 AM   #2
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I don't know the PRS-700, but from what you describe, you should have a look at the iRex devices or a tablet PC or somesuch. This has been discussed here as well, I think you'll get some answers in that thread.
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Old 03-22-2009, 08:09 AM   #3
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The iRex devices - specifically the DR1000S - would be hugely better for your needs than the PRS-700, but I suspect that a Tablet PC would be even better.
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Old 03-22-2009, 07:35 PM   #4
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I second Harry:
1 - Tabletpc
2 - Irex DR1000S
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Old 03-22-2009, 07:41 PM   #5
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I just had a somewhat similar conversation over here:
http://www.mobileread.com/forums/showthread.php?t=42794

I gotta say, those tablet PC's are pretty nifty, and if you're doing a lot calculating/science applications, having the ability to jump from your PDF to SPSS or whatever other statistical program you're using would likely outweigh the weight issues that come with a full computer (at least IMO).

(And I say that as someone who really likes his DR 1000s quite a lot.)
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Old 03-22-2009, 09:33 PM   #6
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Old 03-22-2009, 10:56 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by reso View Post
How does it do at displaying Mathematics, especially those typeset with LaTex, or multi-column scientific PDF documents downloaded scientific journals?
Currently, none of the eInk based readers have a TeX reader available. The file formats available on most of the current crop of eInk readers are based off of various XML implementations (HTML, Mobi, ePub, Lit, LRF) with pretty much zero support for even MathML (not that MathML is all that capable, you're better off converting TeX formulas to images and inserting the images).
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Old 03-23-2009, 01:08 PM   #8
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well, I decided to get the Sony PRS-700, the getting either the iRex Illiad or S1000 to Canada would have resulted in just over 2x the cost for the Illiad and way over 2x the cost for the S1000. Tipping the scales at well over $1000 CAD definitely breaks the grad student budget, at least for me, and I found the lack of SDHC cards disturbing, as well as some negative reviews, and then, I found those devices kind of a put off. If I want carry something around that is the size of a tablet PC I think I would just rather carry the tablet pc!

Hopefully I can read math/tech journals with some conversion on PRS700, if not, then more room for novels. The price of SDHC cards is so cheap, I got a 4gb one for $13. My entire collection of thousands of technical pdfs is only around 1.6 gb, and I don't need this thing to act as a reference, just to read a select few at a time, so if they take up more size in conversion, so be it.

Thanks for the discussion, just going out the door to pick up the 700 now,

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Old 03-24-2009, 01:50 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by cerement View Post
Currently, none of the eInk based readers have a TeX reader available.
I'm not sure what you mean by a "TeX reader". Isn't .tex source always processed to create something else in order to be viewed anyway... with PDF being one of the standards? Surely, with the right LaTeX package to tweak the page size, etc., this is a problem at all if the reader supports PDF.

For formats other than PDF yeah, you'd be stuck converting to mathML, and I couldn't get the XML with MathML, even if it looked right on my web browser, ever to look good in any XML-based ebook format in some of my conversions.

Anyway, getting back to the original topic... I'm an academic. I read a lot of stuff with mathematical symbols in it, journal articles, etc, and I read them on my 505. The PDF support is better in the 700, so if I'm doing fine, you're doing fine. Browse around these forums for various options, however, for stripping whitespace off of PDFs, breaking up multiple columns into single columns, etc., and you'll have a lot more tools at your disposal. At least for non-DRMed PDFs, I can usually find the right tool for the job.

For most journal article PDFs, I simply strip off the whitespace with SoPDF or Acrobat. For those that have multiple columns, I might resort to PaperCrop, or sometimes just PDFLRF will do what I need well enough, though they may resort in larger file sizes since they convert to image-based files (the upside is that it looks exactly like the original, however).

Last edited by frabjous; 03-24-2009 at 01:54 AM.
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Old 03-24-2009, 02:51 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by frabjous View Post
I'm not sure what you mean by a "TeX reader". Isn't .tex source always processed to create something else in order to be viewed anyway... with PDF being one of the standards?
Bah ... I'm more out of touch than I thought. I had assumed that there had been more updated variants of onscreen viewers for TeX files (like info for texinfo files) created in the last decade or so ...
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Old 03-24-2009, 03:09 AM   #11
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I'm not sure what you mean by a "TeX reader". Isn't .tex source always processed to create something else in order to be viewed anyway... with PDF being one of the standards? Surely, with the right LaTeX package to tweak the page size, etc., this is a problem at all if the reader supports PDF.
Yes, I just figured the person making that comment didn't fully understand latex or tex and left it at that. To answer, yes, both LaTeX and TeX (pronounced 'lay-tech' and 'tech' respectively) are typesetting languages that are compiled to produce postscript or pdf output. TeX is the original language, and LaTeX is a suite of macro add-ons that have become the quote-un-quote "standard"*, and both are oriented primarily towards typesetting of mathematics into print. Any academic journal in mathematics or the physical science with many equations will not only accept articles written in LaTex, but will usually provide style files which will automatically typeset the document into the exact style specifications required by that journal with no additional work by the author other than including that style file. If you are writing a document for submission to an academic journal, which typically does use a lot of mathematics, and it does not accept latex, I would be wary, as it is likely a publication on par with the Southern Manitoba Bulletin for Amateur Astrology and UFO sightings**.

In the last year or so, the default rendering engine for nearly all latex distributions has become PDF, so postscript files of journal articles will likely become a thing of the past. (Anyone involved in professional typesetting and I can debate the merits of this decision to no end. I for one am *extremely* glad that the postscript format, and its step-child encapsulated postscript, a.k.a. eps, are both now completely eliminated from my publishing work-flow.)

To clear things up: in my original post, I said that I wanted a device that would translate hand-written mathematics directly into the latex language. This would be simply amazing for anyone in the physical sciences or mathematics. You could scrawl some mathematics into a tablet, and it would automatically be translated into the language you use to typeset mathematics. I don't think this is that far away from happening. For example, there are programs out there that will interface with a tablet and will automatically render hand-written equations into Microsoft Equation Editor.

Anyhoo, somewhere on this site I found an image of a 505 or 700 showing a page of a thesis which had some equations, so I figure I will be fine with the 700 for what I am after. If I can't get the white space adjusted using soPDF or similar tools, I will just read it on a computer or as a printed copy.

Thanks,

reso

* do you like how I said quote-un-quote, and then used quotes? I sure did, but I was just out celebrating the successful PhD defense of a colleague, so perhaps am not in the right state of mind for such a long-winded internet post.

** sorry, a rather incendiary comment, meant more to incite flame-wars on the internet than anything else. If you are a subscriber to the Southern Manitoba Bulletin for Amateur Astrology and UFO sightings and do believe it to be a noteworthy academic publication, I do hereby apologize.

Edit. Also, I see that cerement has replied, and does indeed seem to know a fair bit about tex and latex, so I will shut up. But since I already wrote the diatribe above, I will leave it, to be archived by google where it shall remain, until the end of time. Good night.

Edit #2: I see that there is a "reason for editing" text area where I can submit a reason for editing, and I already clicked "save" without adding a reason for editing, and just wouldn't quite be satisfied until I typed something into that text area.

Last edited by reso; 03-24-2009 at 03:14 AM. Reason: Because I can.
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Old 03-24-2009, 12:15 PM   #12
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Quote:
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Edit. Also, I see that cerement has replied, and does indeed seem to know a fair bit about tex and latex ...
Don't give me more credit than I deserve Even my previous posts did nothing more than to muddy the waters ...

What I should have said in the first place:
Currently, no eInk based reader has provided a viewer that uses the TeX rendering engine. The closest available is FBReader (under OpenInkpot) that has implemented the hyphenation algorithm and dictionaries, but not the spacing or math aspects of TeX -- so you still get the white rivers running through text and having to convert formulas to images to be able to view them.

As far as the Sony PRS-700, if you have a chance, try to do a side-by-side comparison with the Sony PRS-505. The 700 added a touchscreen and side-lighting and there's been complaints that screen visibility suffers because of it. Out of the current crop of eInk readers, the Sonys handle PDFs the best and, as you mentioned, getting PDF output from TeX is trivial to say the least. At this stage in the game, the next step up from the eInk readers is pretty much limited to netbooks and tablet PCs ...
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Old 03-24-2009, 03:34 PM   #13
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Ok, picked up the PRS-700, first impressions, screen has a lot of glare and low contrast. The sony product managers must be surrounded by "Yes-men" to have let this get through the user-testing phase of their product development.

And this product again reaffirms my experience and belief that sony can make some great looking and great "feeling" products, but is absolutely horrid at writing software. Seriously, I had to format the internal memory card right away, as windows vista constantly wanted to "fix" the file system and the Ebook Library or Windows Explorer wouldn't work with it. Several reboots and a few formats of the internal memory, and I am finally able to upload content.

Why does sony feel the need to write a different custom and ugly GUI for every single application they develop? The default windows GUI may not be "pretty", but at least it has the widgets to have My Documents, and Desktop handy. Now I get the joy of manually browsing to C:\Users\UserName\My Documents everytime I want to upload a book simply because Sony felt the need to write their own UI library. They did the same thing with the minidisc. Sony potentially had a winning format: smaller than CD's, writeable like CDs with their own scratch proof protection, win+win+win. Then they decided to only make it usable through a GUI that was written by a 15 year old programmer with autism in Visual Basic so everyone absolutely hated the experience of using minidiscs on their PCs. Same feeling I have with their ebook software on windows. Anyhoo, enough of a rant. I think I will get used to the low contrast, and mathematics do indeed appear to display well,

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Old 03-24-2009, 03:40 PM   #14
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Seriously, the drivers for this thing are a piece. Why can I plug in any USB device on my computer and it appears ready to use instantly? This thing takes about 20-30 seconds before the removable drive appears ready, and copying files to has a success rate hovering below 25%
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Old 03-24-2009, 05:27 PM   #15
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For your needs, I recommend a slate tablet PC such as TC1100. It is reasonably small and light (10" screen), it has great notetaking and pdf abilities. It is not produced anymore, but I bought it used for ~$400 last year. The only downside I can think of is its battery life, which pretty much less than 3hr.

I also have the 6" eink reader PRS 700. It is very good for casual reading, but for technical journals, the text becomes just to small to read, especially in double column papers. As an alternative, the larger screen IRex that everybody mentioned is good, but it is prohibitively expensive.

edit: oops I noticed that my feedback is too late. Well anyways, enjoy your PRS 700 it is still a very capable device, despite its limitations.

Last edited by gokalp; 03-24-2009 at 05:30 PM.
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