Like Moving Ink…

By | July 17, 2017
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It’s going to be a fairly short one today as my two little boys’ school is having the end of year “presentation assembly” this morning so I’m off to that.

But first, I wanted to explain something that I think is really clever – but also a bit confusing.

I’ve been seeing a lot of adverts recently for a device called reMarkable. (The weird capitals is deliberate – that’s how they write it.)

It’s a tablet but it’s a bit different from most tablets because it has a different type of screen. It’s designed to work a bit more like paper.

You can write on it with a stylus like you would with a pen – take notes, read documents, scribble notes on documents other people have written and so on.

Of course, you could do that on any tablet. But it normally doesn’t feel right. It’s because of a few different things.

For a start, writing on a tablet with a stylus (I don’t mean typing, I mean handwriting) feels a bit off because the screen is so slick and smooth. It’s like if you write with a permanent marker on glass – it feels odd and you wouldn’t want to write anything long like that unless you had to.

Not only that, most styluses are a bit chunky to write with. You can try to use the edge of the tip but it feels like writing to write a note with a huge great marker pen.

And finally the screen looks wrong – because of the way it works. What you see is actually light coming from the screen (like a TV). It works by tiny dots (called pixels) turning on to different levels of brightness and different colours. So the black letters you read are where the screen isn’t lighting up.

On paper, on the other hand, the black is actually ink on the page (as you know!) and you see it because of the light from around the room bouncing off the page.

Although you can read from a tablet screen, it feels a bit odd compared to reading from paper. Some people seem to be more bothered by this than others, but it’s also not as relaxing on your eyes.

For a while you’ve been able to buy e-books readers (like the Amazon Kindle – not the Kindle Fire which is a normal tablet, confusingly) that work in a different way.

Instead of a screen that shows different colours by lighting up different bits, it uses something called e-ink, where it literally moves tiny bits of black stuff about to form a picture on the screen that’s actually there – just like ink on a page. So with these you don’t need the screen to be lit – as long as the room you’re in isn’t dark! And it’s more relaxing on the eyes and easier to read.  It’s like moving ink!

As I say, this has been around for a while on the Kindle and other ebook readers. It works well there. But it’s weakness is it takes a short time to move the particles about. It’s not long – maybe half a second (They don’t move around the screen, just from the surface of the screen to lower down, so they don’t have far to move). And that’s fine when it’s the same as turning a page – then the page stays the same while you read it.

So it works well for ebooks.

But for a tablet that you can write on and make notes on – it’d be too slow to be useable.

Which brings me back to the new reMarkable tablet. Apparently they’ve found a way to do something the same, but much much faster. So it will adjust the screen as you draw or write on it with a stylus. Not only that, they’ve added a very precise stylus, so you can write on it without feeling like you’re using a big marker pen and they’ve made the surface feel more like paper when you use the stylus, rather than being slick like glass.

So it can work like a tablet but instead of having a screen made of lots of little lights, the things you’re seeing on the screen are actually there.

There are disadvantages, too, of course. It’s quite expensive and there’s no colour. It’s really only for people who see it as an alternative to writing in physical notebooks.

So I’m not suggesting you should want one (I’m not sure they’re even available yet). But I do think the technology behind it is really clever – and in the future there could be a lot more use of this kind of thing.

“Don’t forget to dust behind the sofa…”
As you might remember, we’re having a bit of a tidy up and sort out of the warehouse while it’s a little quieter over the summer.

And you’ve got the chance to help us tidy up. Don’t worry, I’m not asking you to dust behind the sofa (we don’t have a sofa at work – we got a picnic table instead, for when it’s sunny).

But to help clear out some space, I decided to give some special offers on a few books and videos until they’re all gone. I mentioned the Tame Your PC videos and the Get More from your PC videos. And once they’re gone, they’re gone (and if there are the odd set left over at the end of the clearance, we’re going to scrap them and take them off sale and that’ll be that – but I’m not sure we’ll get that far).

This time I’ve got something different. A pair of books called PC Help is at Hand and Internet Help is at Hand.

Imagine you’re using your computer and things go wrong or it won’t do what you want it to? Or when you go to turn it on… and it won’t Or when you go to turn it off and it won’t… or simply when it crashes… That’s when you’ll really wish you had this book.

The odd thing is, I don’t actually want to clear out all of these books. I’m certainly not planning to scrap any that are left over after July, like I am with the other things in the clearance.

But we do have too many copies! It looks like we got our sums wrong (ahem, that’s not the royal we, I’m just trying to avoid looking like I don’t know my plus from my times…) and printed too many at the last reprint.

So these books will be available at half price – just during the July clearance. Then they’ll be back up to full price and I’ll probably never bring myself to reduce the price on them again.

Anyway, if you want to know a bit more about what they cover, who they’re suitable for and so on (or you’re just curious), you can find out more about them here. Why not have a look?

2 thoughts on “Like Moving Ink…

  1. Tim Maher

    Hello Tim,
    I’ve read your email and looked them up on Amazon and am reproducing part of a review from there

    “The device itself is wonderful and exactly what I was looking for. So why the 2 star review? It relies on using a pen supplied with the tablet. Inside the pen are very small ink cartridges. Without the cartridges the device is USELESS! They are so small that you will require many replacements after very little use, which wouldn’t be a problem if they were cheap and ubiquitous. It is impossible to source these cartridges in the UK and ordering from overseas is very expensive.”

    1. Tim Post author

      Oh – that’s interesting. Thanks for passing that on. Hopefully that’ll be sorted and they’ll get proper UK distribution including the cartridges. But in the meantime it’s certainly not ideal… Oh, hang on a minute – I’ve just spotted that that review is for a different product! I’ve experimented a bit more and discovered that when you type “ReMarkable” or “ReMarkable tablet” into Amazon, you get a result for a Wacom tablet that aims to do something similar – but isn’t the same one at all! You’d expect the top listing to be the tablet you searched for but it’s a totally different one!
      Hopefully the ReMarkable one will be better thought through… and hopefully Amazon will sort their listings out so you don’t get the wrong one when you search for it.
      Thanks for passing it on, anyway – it’s still worth knowing that the one you get when you search on Amazon is the wrong one!


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