Monday, August 20, 2012

Does Google Dream of Electric Sheep?

"Nexus 6 Replicants" graphic by Superior Graphix

I got the urge recently to reread Philip K. Dick's Do Android's Dream of Electric Sheep? as it's been about 20 years since I last read this wonderful novel. It's so much different than the movie Blade Runner, which is based on DADOES?

The novel doesn't have the visual impact of the movie, nor does it have the manic emotions and level of violence of the movie. The novel is a completely different [reading] experience -- and if you are a fan of the movie and have not read the novel, I encourage you to do so.

But the novel notwithstanding, I am a huge fan of Blade Runner and, in fact, I own three versions of the movie: the original version with the voice-over (on video), the Director's Cut and the Final Cut (both on DVD). One of my favorite scenes: following the fight between the replicant Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) and Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), on the rooftop, after Batty saves Deckard, when Batty could have easily just let Deckard fall to his death below. Batty, with symbolic white bird in hand, says to Deckard (and to everyone):
"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I've watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die."

PKD was offered $400,000 to write a novelization of the movie, but he refused, stating that the novel would remain as is and there would be no novelization. Now, to put that $400,000 in perspective: Since the film was released in June 1982, let's assume that the novelization offer was made in 1981. According to DollarTimes's inflation calculator, the inflation rate since 1981 is 3.15%; so $400,000 in 1981 is equivalent to $1,045,988.41 (let's not forget the 41 cents!) in 2012.

So, my question to you: Would you be willing able to turn down a million-plus dollars to maintain the integrity of your novel, your writing? Sorry, but I don't think so, not in this day and age of me, me, me....

In the end, in 1982, Del Rey Books released a mass market paperback movie tie-in version of the novel, featuring the Blade Runner title and promo poster on the cover, with the subtitle -- Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? -- in parenthesis. And on the copyright page the following blocked text was added:

So why my interest at this particular time in DADOES? Because I was thinking about the fact that Google has a tendency to select project names from pop culture. And whereas Philip K. Dick had the Android Nexus 6, Google now has the Android Nexus 7 -- one of which (the 16GB model) was recently delivered to my door:

[Note: This too explains why there hasn't been a blog post since the beginning of the month....]

Since the N7 is made of Corning Glass (and not Gorilla Glass) -- and since I'm a firm believer in Murphy's Law -- I immediately applied a custom fit XO Skins screen protector to the device. It applied easily enough, but be sure to watch the manufacturer's video. Around the 43-hour mark, I was able to use the tab, but I still encountered some degradation in screen sensitivity. However, by 48 hours, all the micro bubbles had disappeared and the tab was good to go.

The first app I installed was the SwiftKey 3 keypad ($3.99). I'm a touch typist; on a familiar keyboard I can type over 70 wpm with about 98% accuracy. (I know this because a few years ago I applied for a contract position and had to take a bloody MS Office test and a typing test!) But on the N7 I'm having to use a single finger or, occasionally, both thumbs, and -- well, I'm all thumbs. But SwiftKey is awesome because it learns your vocabulary and anticipates what you will type next.

In a previous blog post, I wrote about my use of Calibre software for managing my ebook library. So I installed the Calibre Library app ($2.99), which essentially allows me to turn my desktop PC into a virtual server so that I can transfer ebooks wirelessly from my PC to the N7. No need to tether the N7 to the PC using the micro USB connector. As long as my PC and N7 are connected on the same wireless network, I'm in ebook heaven.

I use Amazon a lot -- a lot! So I wanted to install the Amazon Mobile app on the N7 so that I could search, compare prices, etc. Unfortunately, if I select that app on the Google Play store (the default for the N7), a notice appears informing me that the app is not compatible on the N7. However, I've read a lot of posts online from users who state the Amazon Mobile app works just fine on the N7, you just have to install it from the Amazon App Store instead of Google Play. However, there's a catch: to install an app from a source other than Google Play, in the N7's Settings, you have to enable the "Unknown sources" check box. So, once that check box is enabled, you can install the Amazon App Store app from Google Play, then go to and "Get now with 1-Click" the Amazon Mobile app. Open the Amazon App Store app on your N7, and you should see a notice that the Amazon Mobile app is ready to install. Did you get all that?

I've added quite a few other apps as well: the $25 of free Google Play money that came with the N7 purchase has covered everything so far, since the majority of the apps are free.

Next on my list is the Facedroid app ($1.99). I had an interesting albeit frustrating experience attempting to use Facebook on the N7 -- which has forced me to purchase an FB app. If you are an FB user, go to your page and look at it: If you enter a new update, the field has a "Post" button to click to actually post the update. However, select someone else's post on your wall and click in the Comment field. No "Post" button, because the way to enter a comment is to simply hit the "Enter" key on your keyboard when you are ready to post. The problem I encountered on the key pad is that there was no equivalent "Enter" key, so after typing my comment, I then realized that I wasn't able to post it. Plus, I couldn't enlarge any content on the screen so all the fonts were tiny, etc. Facebook has an official app, but from everything I've read, it sucks (and that's being polite). So that leaves Facedroid. It's not perfect, but the developers promise an upgrade optimized for the N7 within a couple weeks, at which time the price will supposedly increase as well. So buy now, and upgrade later.

I have the Pocket app to save web pages offline to read at a later time; I've also installed Pocket on my desktop and laptop so that I can sync across all devices: I save a web page to Pocket on my desktop, and read it later in the evening on the N7. Same for Evernote: install it on all devices and it syncs across all devices. This is a great pkg. for creating notes, lists, etc. If I read one of my offline web pages in Pocket and see something I would like to quote, say, on FB or in my blog, I can highlight any text or graphic and copy it to Evernote, where I can then enter notes, or even begin working on a blog post. Very cool.

Other apps I've installed include Feedly, for reading RSS feeds and blogs; it too syncs with Feedly running on my desktop; Avast Mobile Security; Easy Battery Saver; My Backup Pro ($4.99); ES File Explorer; WiFi File Transfer; and ezPDF Reader Form ($2.99); to name a few.

Obviously, since the N7 is a Google product (though it's built by ASUS, for whom I have a fondness as they are the makers of my most excellent Zenbook), all Google products: Google Drive, Gmail, Chrome, etc. are synced across all devices. On my N7, I can access any bookmark that I've previously saved in Chrome on my desktop, for example.

Apple Corp. may be the best company in terms of financial prowess, but I swear it will be Google that will take over the world.

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