E-Books on Pepper – not much yet, but promising

I’m no expert, but on the surface, the Pepper Pad seems like a great machine for reading e-books. It’s got a nice 8.4″ 800×600 screen with easily adjustable brightness. It’s got a large built-in scroll wheel, as well as an arrow pad. It’s ruggedized too, with rubber edges and a rubber screen frame.

However, right now the Pepper has a few shortcomings as a book reader:

  • lack of support for PDF and other e-book formats (but PDF is coming soon)
  • short battery life.

Right now the only thing you’ll be reading on the Pepper is HTML and plain text files. Also, there’s no way to adjust the font size of a page on the fly, so you better make sure your files look decent before saving them. The one place where Pepper works well is in the “Keep” functionality – if you can view it, you can save it on your Pepper for offline viewing anytime. In my testing this has worked darn well for slurping and saving books from Project Gutenberg, for example.

The Pepper makes every attempt to conserve power (ie. the external video is off unless plugged in, the speakers are powered off unless in use, etc) but the three biggest power draws are the screen, CPU, and WiFi, in that order. You can disable the WiFi manually to save power, and MontaVista Linux is supposed to support Intel’s SpeedStep technology on the XScale CPU, effectively lowering the clock speed and therefore saving power when the CPU isn’t busy. It’s hard to tell if it is though. I haven’t tested this at all, but personally I don’t think you can get more than four hours of uptime out of the Pepper’s battery, and that is with everything unnecessary powered off and with the screen at the lowest brightness.

Pepper has said that support for formats like PDF and MS Word are coming in the “near future” – I really hope it’s sooner rather than later!


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