This is a long and somewhat involved piece about my new iRex. Despite the frustrations described below, I’m very pleased with it. In fact I was so comfortably engrossed in David Hirsh’s Anti-Zionism and Antisemitism: Cosmopolitan Reflections that I got on a Loughton train and only realised at Woodford. And it didn’t even matter because I can now read in gloves in high wind.
I took it down the Pole to show off which was dangerous because D, K, A, B and V were tanking tequila on account of it being Christmas. It took a few swipes but we survived. Sysadmin loves it – she now has me down as a pioneer with money to burn. Veg (if you are up to reading this after all you’ve been through in the past days) knowing how you feel about eInk you’d be really excited about this.
But does it go? For £435 it is absolutely imperative to make it do my bidding.
- Created an account at iRex (https://myirex.irexnet.com) for downloading upgrades etc – important to make sure the email address and password on iRex and the device match.
- Downloaded the Companion Software (for more advanced stuff like annotating PDFs, merging the annotations etc) to my laptop. It’s only for XP (they need to sort that out). There’s PDFCreator too if you need it – the optimisation instructions relate to PDFCreator so if you need those it would probably be a good idea to install it.
- Downloaded the manuals for the iRex and the Companion Software to have open on the laptop while tinkering with the iRex – although this turned out to have been unnecessary because
- I should also have immediately upgraded the software – see below.
I could only find 6 pages of iLiad Settings when there were supposed to be 10 (according to the screenshot in the manual) and consequently I didn’t have an option to calibrate my stylus or configure Start-up Settings or try to get the device and laptop synchronise instead of (as currently) the device overwriting the contents of the laptop’s iRex folder.
It took me some time to twig that I had to make an iDS (iRex Delivery Service) connection which would then upgrade the software. This should be prominently signalled rather than lurking in Chapter 14 of the manual.
But I eventually did work it out, though not before leaving a ticket at iRex which wasn’t answered (it’s the Friday before Christmas) and couldn’t be cancelled.
First make an iDS connection and upgrade the software
So once I realised I had to do this it involved making an initial iDS connection. I groped my way through setting up a wireless connection in the Device Manager, and then followed the instructions to connect to iDS for the upgrade. They want you to plug into the power supply because if the connection is broken before the software is downloaded and installed then you have an unusable iRex on your hands.
Then long-clicked the Connect button top right and managed to get a wireless iDS connection and the download/upgrade went pretty smoothly after that.
The iRex then initiated another iDS connection to get some more documentation, but the network connection broke before it finished downloading something or other. Had to restart the router and then became enmeshed in trying to delete network profiles which weren’t connecting but not being able to because it said ‘click’ OK, and all I could see to do was hit OK with the stylus and that didn’t do anything… Oh, you know.
Companion Software – merging scribbles
I annotated a PDF with the stylus and Pen tool and merged my scribbles using the free Companion Software.
- Merging happens as a separate act from backing-up. Scribbles and docs are merged to a new pdf and the entire collection of files goes in an automatically generated folder on the laptop. The jots remain on the iRex version and any new ones are written to the merged pdf with each successive merge.
- Remember to close down any open documents in the folder you’re working in or the merge won’t work and you might not realise why because the error messages aren’t helpful
- If you want handwriting recognition on your merged scribbles (i.e. make them searchable) you can pay for more software.
Some of the options on the Companion Software, including Disconnect, are ghosted out. Plus the Companion Software doesn’t launch on connection – when I open it it flashes up and then disappears to the System Tray, I can go and fish it out but can’t immediately find the settings to make it foreground automatically.
Mobipocket is a free install for downloading ebooks and grabbing news feeds. You can even set up the iRex to wake itself up at a given time and download news each day. The format isn’t so pretty (Harry’s Place comments and posts mingled with each other nightmarishly, but the Guardian Technology feed wasn’t too bad) but there it is.
Also downloaded a sample of Wolves of the Crescent Moon (banned in Saudi) – which consisted of reviews and author information.
All very straightforward – except I couldn’t eject the iRex, kept saying “device busy”.
Expansion cards and drives
It will take a USB drive, MMC, CF cards and, unofficially, SD cards no bigger than 1Gb. Once plugged into the laptop, it behaves like another drive, and will carry – though not read – any type of data.
Getting html, text and PDFs over is fine – I’ve been using USB. PDF format brings out the best in the iRex (handles layout faithfully, you can zoom in and out on images, and it’s the only format in which you can annotate).
The How to Make Content manual gives tips about making optimised PDFs in terms of margins, paper-size of 124x152mm, a reference for how different fonts and sizes appear on the screen etc. But so far PDFs beyond my control have resized fine and you can shave off the whitespace and reorientate to landscape if there’s a problem.
It’s comfortable to read. It’s clear, matt, black against pale-grey and there’s no backlight.
It came with a shoulder bag but in search of a more book-like experience I got a protective case for it – like for a filofax in firey pink. It and has holes cut out for every button and display – except the stylus. You have to dig around for the stylus, or try to nudge the iRex out of the case, which is hard because it’s a tight fit.
What I like though is that with 14 hours of life I’t’s not necessary to switch off – I just shut the case and open it up again when I’m ready at precisely the right spot. Like a book. You have to fold the case back on itself to use the long vertical Flipbar to turn pages, though. Not really a problem.
It’s very comfortable. And I have several 100+ page docs on there already. I’ve got a read_me tag on Diigo I can work my way through.
Stuff that could be better
I want to connect to a computer with mini-USB, not a weird ‘travel hub’.
Since downloading the upgrade I can’t seem to get a network connection – wired or wireless.
This is a big one – I can’t search for keywords in individual documents. Why?
It’s a teeny bit slower than I’d like.
If I lose the stylus there’s a lot I can’t do.
And that’s all for now.