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Old 04-29-2006, 09:24 AM   #1
Alexander Turcic
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Hands-on with the iRex iLiad

Reader Henrique "Henrycat" Catarrunas got his hands on the iRex iLiad reader during a conference at the Polytechnic Institute of Tomar in Portugal, and he was kind enough to send us a picture of his new baby. From the picture (attached to this post) it's obvious how much better the 1024x768 screen (with 16 grey scales) works for e-content compared to the 800x600 screen (with 4 grey scales) of the now slightly outdated Sony Librie.

Some nifty features of the iRex we didn't discuss before:
  • Native support for PDF documents loaded straight from a CF card or even from a USB pen.
  • Auto conversion of color pictures to grey scale.
  • HTML documents are displayed as one page, which you can "flip" down.
For those miserable about the delayed launch, Henrique was able to get some more information about this too. As we mentioned before, there's a problem with the iRex Web store which doesn't seem to be quite ready yet (according to Henrique, problems are related to processing and authorizing payments). But there are also still some unsolved software issues. The company who does the embedded Linux OS hasn't delivered a final version yet. The software reader, apparently called Apabi Reader and made by a Chinese company (check out this flash presentation) renders PDF documents too slow, which can perhaps be solved by precaching content. Meanwhile iRex is building up stock and expects more iLiad devices to arrive by the first week of May 2006.

Henrique, since you were granted the iLiad as a "permanent loan" (no comment!), please keep us updated as we are all craving for more photos and information!
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Old 04-29-2006, 09:48 AM   #2
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But I have to "put a fly in the ointment"... If "The company who does the embedded Linux OS hasn't delivered a final version yet", folks from Irex have to update firmware in each from thousands device they produce.

I see 2 variants:

- all Iliads are still at a factory (Philippines), not packed in retail boxes. It can take couple of days to udate firmware (if it is already finished), and to pack them in boxes. +shipment to Europe - 7-10 days by a ship. (I doubt, they will deliver Iliads by plane).

- thousands of Iliads are already at Irex, they need much more time to unpack them, make updates, then pack them all "as they were".
So, as I think, the optimistic time for real selling Iliads from their webshop is 15-th May...

And I didn't count time for testing Iliads with new firmware...

Last edited by TaKir; 04-29-2006 at 09:51 AM.
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Old 04-29-2006, 09:49 AM   #3
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You know it is with Linux... it's never really final Seriously, I cannot imagine iRex to hire some people to unpack each and every iLiad device just to run the update. Instead, they will probably include a note that upgrades are available through their wireless IDS service.

Btw, thank Henrycat for the good news, for he is the chosen one by iRex to have received a free iLiad reader!
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Old 04-29-2006, 09:55 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alexander Turcic
You know it is with Linux... it's never really final Seriously, I cannot imagine iRex to hire some people to unpack each and every iLiad device just to run the update. Instead, they will probably include a note that upgrades are available through their wireless IDS service.
Then why did they called it as a reason of delay??? They could sell them and update later, of course. (I think it takes near a minute). But they told it themselves...
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Old 04-29-2006, 10:00 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TaKir
Then why did they called it as a reason of delay??? They could sell them and update later, of course. (I think it takes near a minute). But they told it themselves...
Well, I think it's really the Web store issue that has been causing the delay.

The other issues Henrique were pointing out are merely software-related and could always be fixed at a later stage.
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Old 04-29-2006, 11:47 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TaKir
Then why did they called it as a reason of delay??? They could sell them and update later, of course. (I think it takes near a minute). But they told it themselves...
Just got a little time and decided to write something

The Iliad will update itself through IDS, the user only needs a wireless connection or wired connection, push the button and get the latest OS version, with optimizations, viewers, etc.

I talked with mister Henzen and i have to reluctanly agree that they should sell the device with a "core" set of functions working.

If they say in the box the device reads PDF, XHTML and MP3, it should do those things.

Right now it does, haven't tried mp3 yet :|, but not smoothly.

Although people here at the forum wouldn't mind that, just imagine if the general public heard the Iliads were less than perfect.

Has an owner of a Librie i have a good idea of how the first impressions counts, even when later all the problems got "fixed".

Irex is simply waiting to garantee the quality of it's products.

One of the biggest problems i encountered is that this OS version doesn't have any power management, so the device "only" lasts 5-7 hours with everything on (CF and SD on, wireless on, processor at full, writing on, etc).

When i asked Alex told me power management could reduce battery use 95 up to 99% in the next OS, to be released this week.

Not too bad i think



What would you like for me to do in the review??

Just present your questions and when i get home i start working on it.

- The html page on the pic is offline, i just saved it to the CF card.

- The pdf has it's own viewer, it doesn't use Apabi. Alex said the name of the open source viewer but i don't remenber it -_-'

- I don't if it has been mentioned before but the Iliad screen is way bigger than the Librie screen.

If you rotate the Librie screen it's the same width of the iliad screen.

Librie - 12x9 cm
Iliad - 12x16 (almost double)

I like the screen of the librie for text, has you can see i use it without almost any "inside" margin, but the Iliad is great for comics, manga, and "uncroped" pdfs

Last edited by Henrycat; 04-29-2006 at 11:52 AM.
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Old 04-29-2006, 11:50 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alexander Turcic
You know it is with Linux... it's never really final Seriously, I cannot imagine iRex to hire some people to unpack each and every iLiad device just to run the update. Instead, they will probably include a note that upgrades are available through their wireless IDS service.

Btw, thank Henrycat for the good news, for he is the chosen one by iRex to have received a free iLiad reader!
I think the fact i have been talking with mr. Henzen since february 2004 helped a lot

I have also presented the device to the company i'm currently working and other portuguese publishers.

You could say i'm they sales representative here in Portugal
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Old 04-29-2006, 11:52 AM   #8
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Wow thanks for all the details, Henrique!! I am not so happy that the power management issues, but it's good to hear that they are working on it.

What I'd like to see: more photos!!!
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Old 04-29-2006, 12:21 PM   #9
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well first of all...thanks for doing this.

Review questions?

Well...more photos would be great, especially pics of the Iliad next to the librie, paper and maybe an LCD screen.

You said the Mobileread page was offline...could you view it online as well? I'm going to use this as a book reader, but having occasional access to the web would be pretty cool as well.

The device has power management problems...very bad...why did iRex tell me (or rather tell branko) that the device will last for 10000+ pageturns when they haven't even implemented any power management at all?

Oh yes...another one...

if you read a book (say in PDF or TXT format) and want to jump to page 224...how is that organized? Can you search a book? how well (if at all) does annotoation work, and in which fashion?

Last edited by CommanderROR; 04-29-2006 at 12:28 PM.
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Old 04-29-2006, 01:55 PM   #10
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Is the screen, apart from bigger (which I love!), noticeably better than the Librie? Pics often show some quirky pixels, but I don't know if that's just from photographing a screen, which is always hard, and/or me seeing a 160dpi screen on my PC monitor (like seeing an ad for a better TV on a not-so-good TV, LOL).
From the picture which shows the list of books on the iLiad (from the Irex page): is this something like the tag (ID3) one can put on mp3's in Winamp, so any book I load on the iLiad can have this information updated (by me)? Or will this only be available on books received from the IDS server or otherwise prepared by the publisher?
You say it "only" lasts 5-7 hours (hehe) with everything on, can you actually have everything "off", or at least some of the functionalities, or is that what they're working on?
Can you have folders/subdirectories in the file directory, to be able to organize your books, or is everything in one big bag?
How does it manage html files with accompanying folders (where all the images, css files, etc. are)?

That's all for now, MANY thanks for taking the time to review it for us.
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Old 04-29-2006, 06:27 PM   #11
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Sorry for the delay but my internet provider is messing around with the internet connection

It worked ok yesterday, but today it's acting up again...

Right now i'm using a laptop from a friend of mine that is "borrowing" a wireless connection



Anyway time for some answers, but first you have to consider some points:

- My Iliad has the final hardware, but not the final software. This is important because right now i'm more of a beta tester than a final user.

According to Alex Henzen, most of the problems, like the power managment are alredy fixed. My device doesn't have the last version because it's still being tested, but when it is released next week i just have to update the device.

I decided to write things like i have found them, but a few days from now they will be diferent. I could have waited a few days and then write something up, but somehow i thought you would prefer if i didn't wait

Please keep this in mind when you read everything i write
I hoped not to create negative publicity when i decided to write about the device has it is.





Questions

- Online viewer?
The iliad was never meant to be an online viewer, but since it has been talked about a lot, iRex is considering some sort of web capture. Basicaly there would be a web server catching the user requests, and creating/sending an offline page.

It isn't final that it will be created, but it is planned to begin the study of it's implementation around the end of the year. It's not first priority, because anything that would require constant wireless will be a major power drain.



- Power management

Like i already said the power management isn't working yet, but that gives a good idea of how the device would behave in max settings let's say.

I seriously doubt anyone will be using the reader at full processor speed, writing with the stilus, reading CF and SD cards, and connecting through the wireless.

The page count given by iRex was made using the xhtml reader constantly fliping pages. The page number is actually higher if you would consider only reading. But they had to also consider casual wireless use, CF SD use, and ocasional annotation.

The page count will have to be updated for the "final" OS version, and i was told it will probably be higher because of all the optimizations.

When they mention time instead of pages, they are considering you are writing on screen, using heavily the processor and CF SD cards.

Has you can see it's two very different things.



- Navigation bar
I will have to show pictures, but this laptop doesn't have a card reader so it will have to wait maybe tomorrow my connection will be ok.
Also, any picture that i show of the menus will be temporary because they are being updated for the "final" version.

I can already input the page number using the screen keyboard, and in the "final" OS version use character recognition.

They have also arranged an ingenuous way for the problem of page numbering in various zooms. Basically you have a "fixed" numbering. When you zoom in/out the program breaks the page in various sub pages.

You can still say go to page 244. if it is zoomed you start at the first part of the page, and you can go to the following parts, and the following "page".
The reader shows an icon representation when a page is broken in subpages.



- Annotation
Annotation will create an image file that is "anchored" in the text. Although i can write onscreen but i can't save it yet (one of things working already on the final version).

It will depend on the viewer it the images are seperate or encapsulated. if i remenber correctly only the apabi reader will encapsulate the notes in the book.

Since the device uses independent viewers it is possible annotation will vary in other readers.



- Screen quality
I can see a big diference when reading on the Iliad. It has much better contrast between the black and white. It is also quicker changing pages (after the caching delay).

This is because the Iliad and Sony reader use the "second version" of eink screens. I don't know about Jinke, but it probably also uses the same.




Any other questions? Lets hope tomorrow i will have the internet working ok
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Old 04-29-2006, 06:28 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Henrycat
What would you like for me to do in the review??

Just present your questions and when i get home i start working on it.

- The html page on the pic is offline, i just saved it to the CF card.
I like to read a lot of web news . If I used a program, like Webzip and saved a site like CNN or Fox plus all links within the sites to a CF card, would I be able to click onto those links on the Iliad while offline?


BTW thanks for taking the time to answer any questions. I know it must be difficult to tear yourself away from your prized possession.
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Old 04-30-2006, 02:34 AM   #13
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How's the display rate when you're writing? Is it difficult to write notes, or does the screen keep up?
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Old 04-30-2006, 04:46 AM   #14
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How ist the bookmark Management? I think that will be very important for me.
Do they have a dictionary implemented? Would be very helpful some times.
Anything like Calendar, Addressbook and usual PDA stuff planned or integrated?
Can you stor stuff directly on the Iliad by ftp or the like?
Can you install your own fonts? If so, which type of fonts (TTF, PS, OpenType)?
Can you provide your own styles for XML files?

You wouldnt believe, how jealous I am of you at the moment

Thanks for your work Well, fun would be more precise, wouldnt it?
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Old 04-30-2006, 07:25 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Henrycat
According to Alex Henzen, most of the problems, like the power managment are alredy fixed. My device doesn't have the last version because it's still being tested, but when it is released next week i just have to update the device.
It's great to hear that they are working round the clock to get make this beauty shine

Quote:
When they mention time instead of pages, they are considering you are writing on screen, using heavily the processor and CF SD cards.
So if I understand correctly, with the final software version, you could turn everything completely off when you only want to read a book, and thus maintaining a battery life similar to that of the Sony Reader?

Quote:
I will have to show pictures, but this laptop doesn't have a card reader so it will have to wait maybe tomorrow my connection will be ok.
Thank you!! Cannot wait to see them.

Quote:
can see a big diference when reading on the Iliad. It has much better contrast between the black and white. It is also quicker changing pages (after the caching delay). This is because the Iliad and Sony reader use the "second version" of eink screens. I don't know about Jinke, but it probably also uses the same.
The iLiad has slightly fewer ppi (158 compared to 167 of 6-inch screen devices). But I guess from your account that this doesn't have a visible negative impact.

Quote:
Any other questions? Lets hope tomorrow i will have the internet working ok
Here is one: How is the feel factor of the device? It looks a lot bigger than the other readers, and I wonder if your arm gets tired from holding it for a longer time. Also, how easy is it to "flip" pages? I remember fondly back in the past the good old scroll wheel of my Sony Clie.

Thanks for taking the time, Henrique. You rock!
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