Thursday, 12 January 2012


So ... I ended up cancelling my order with JB HI FI for the e-reader I ordered. For a retailer apparently struggling with on-line competition they really need to get their shit together: after 7 days, an 'in stock' item had still not shipped, let alone arrived. For online shops who have got their shit together, I typically have much larger items (e.g. a rotary clothes line!) arriving in only a few days.

So anyway, I ended up just going to officeworks; another evil corporation, but it's close. Originally when I looked last week they had it at RRP, then I was there Tuesday for something else and I saw it at the same price as JB Hi-fi, and by the time I decided to buy one anyway (I was nearly going to drop the whole idea ...) they'd dropped another 15$ off that price. Apart from having to stand around like an idiot for 10 minutes before anyone would serve me (unfortunately, the aren't just stacked on a shelf like everything else) it was an easy buy ...

Kobo Touch

So the device is a Kobo Touch.

The hardware is quite nice - solid feel. It's a bit smaller than I'd imagined - it's like a small paperback - but the screen is readable enough. A bit heavier than I expected too, but it's ok. I've never seen e-ink screens before, and the screen is better in brighter light but it's still ok in more subdued lighting. Screen updating is pretty slow - but for it's purpose to read text it is ok, it feels a it like very old LCD displays with a low battery. Using the 'sketch' tool or an event reader from a login shell, the touch input isn't perfect but does seem fine enough and quite responsive.

But the software ... is pretty crap. Usually it's ok, but sometimes it's super-slow. Dunno why - the hardware is beefy enough. Text files (book sized) are really slow, as it seems to re-paginate the whole thing every time you open a book, and for such text files it always forgets where you were up to. Changing display preferences on such a text file also takes about 30 seconds per change ... The touch input (apart from the sketch tool) is a bit hit and miss some of the time, and it is often un-clear if the tool is just too busy to process your input, or it just didn't pick it up in the first place. Which leads to double-actions or nothing happening.

I managed to get telnet working and installed strace (from the opensuse arm7l rpm) to see what the GUI was doing. During one of the long pauses where top showed the system wasn't very busy it spent an inordinate amount of time trying to read a config file with the following sequence was being executed thousands of times:
stat64("/mnt/onboard/.kobo/Kobo/Kobo eReader.conf", {st_mode=S_IFREG|0755, st_size=3495, ...}) = 0
stat64("/mnt/onboard/.kobo/Kobo/Kobo eReader.conf", {st_mode=S_IFREG|0755, st_size=3495, ...}) = 0
stat64("/etc/localtime", {st_mode=S_IFREG|0644, st_size=2202, ...}) = 0
stat64("/mnt/onboard/.kobo/Kobo.conf", 0x7eacbfc8) = -1 ENOENT (No such file or directory)
stat64("/mnt/onboard/.kobo/Kobo.conf", 0x88f080) = -1 ENOENT (No such file or directory)
stat64("/mnt/onboard/Kobo/Kobo eReader.conf", 0x7eacbfc8) = -1 ENOENT (No such file or directory)
stat64("/mnt/onboard/Kobo/Kobo eReader.conf", 0x88f228) = -1 ENOENT (No such file or directory)
stat64("/mnt/onboard/Kobo.conf", 0x7eacbfc8) = -1 ENOENT (No such file or directory)
stat64("/mnt/onboard/Kobo.conf", 0x88f228) = -1 ENOENT (No such file or directory)

Which looks like pretty sloppy coding/mis-using a tool-kit.

The reader application turns off the wifi when you restart it, so I gave up for now rather than trying to fight with it to get stuff done. Might read some books first ...

When I get an arm compiler going again (my beagleboard stuff is all backed up ... somewhere), I might have a closer look. Installing new binaries is pretty easy, and there's some info on the forums about the touch screen and frame-buffer.

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