Georeference Trail Map Image to mobile Google Earth

Nutshell

Start with a raw PDF/PNG/JPG trail map and load into mobile Google Earth (GE) to provide live GPS tracking while you’re hiking the trails.

Basic tools to obtain:

  • A “KMZ Builder” (Android) – to convert raw image into a KMZ file. The primary task here is mapping specific pixel points on the image to their real life lat/long (aka Georeference). The easiest freebie I’ve found so far is Google’s tool for Android. It sounds like ArcGIS also provides this capability but that’s a fat commercial PC package.
  • A “KMZ Loader” (Android, iOS ) – for whatever idiotic reason, current versions of mobile GE only load KML’s not KMZ’s. Windows GE actually does load KMZ’s directly so maybe there’s hope this will fall away in future revisions. Annoyingly, GE will only retrieve these suckers from a web URL, not a local file. The Android app fires up a mini web server to provide the KML how GE wants it.
    • KMZ’s are convenient in that they carry both the KML data as well as the map image file together in a bundle. The bundle is common zip format; So if you’re curious about the contents, simply rename to .zip and drill in.
    • KML is simple xml describing pertinent info like the lat/long points and an href to the image file.

Background

We’re new to Seattle after being spoiled in Germany where detailed digital trail maps were readily available… presumably there are numerous trails everywhere but I’m not finding much logged in the usual products (Google maps, Garmin, Open Street Maps).

However there does seem to be decent trail coverage provided from PDF/image based trail maps on all the various fed & state .gov sites. Typically the same that is posted at the trail head. It’s frustrating that these raw image maps were probably generated from a digital geo accurate source… if only all those tax dollars at work could yield more accessible information… this approach doesn’t result in a perfect match but it’s a decent option above nothing at all.

Steps (using Photoshop)

  1. Mainly we need to “cut out” the background leaving only the trail lines on a transparent background. This way the GE satellite imagery will show through our trail overlay – Use the Select > Color Range menu, hit the background color of your map with the eye dropper and play with the “fuzziness” slider. You’ll get all of the background selected to where you can hit CTRL+X to delete it, leaving the trails freestanding on transparency
  2. CTRL+SHIFT+I to invert the selection to only the trails and then
  3. Image > Adjustments > Replace Color to flip the lines from black to white to make them stand out when overlayed onto the generally darker colors of GE map.
  4. save as PNG file format
  5. finally, load into your preferred KZM Loader (referenced above)

Here’s an example KMZ I’ve slapped together from this source PDF. It’s not perfectly lined up and I couldn’t really reach perfection.

If you load GE on your PC, you’ll be able to double click this file to see what I’m saying. It all rotates in 3D and even gets “clamped” to the terrain! From what I can tell, once mobile GE has cached the map tiles for your desired area, you can count on it displaying even while offline on the trail.

Before
Before
With Map

Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 (P6800)


(My previous go to device, the Samsung Q1 Ultra.  She served us well. 🙂 Have we come a long way in 5 short years???

Highlights:

  • 7.89mm (0.31 inch) thick – just amazing to hold
  • 345 grams (0.76 lb) – makes for a great eReader… the brushed Alu back is nicely grippy after your hand has warmed it up for few secs (our Kindle 3G is 247g, 8.5mm and eInk is definitely cool for reading but it’s not color, smaller screen, lower res, not touch and isn’t app-tastic. Kindle Fire is 413 g, 11.4mm.)
  • Super AMOLED Plus screen, 1280 x 800 res – very pleasing as everyone points out. But to be totally frank, I ride outdoors a lot, and these are really no better in direct sunlight than anything else LCD based… indoors or even in a casted shadow, the screen is very nice.
  • 1.4GHz – everything runs nice and peppy on Android 3.2
  • 3G – HSPA+
  • microSD – surprisingly, the 8.9, 10.1 sibling tabs do not support an SD card. The original 5” Note and Tab 2 10.1 & 7.0 do, however.
  • full HD video MPEG4, H.264 play very smooth… I’ve tried just a few, one MKV wouldn’t play audio, another would.
  • 5100mAh battery

Some rather obscure downsides I’ve noticed so far:

  • When USB connected to a PC gtab 7.7 does NOT mount as a mass storage device; It mounts as an MTP device. For one, we don’t get a Windows drive letter. Drag and drop from Windows Explorer is basically the same… but various sync tools only work with mass storage. This post indicates that Honeycomb’s mixing of filesystems in the system folder structure is what renders mass storage infeasible (to PC’s).
  • The microSD card natively mounts to /mnt/sdcard/extStorages/SdCard … there doesn’t appear to be an Android standard established so (some) apps don’t know where to find it.

[Update: 2012-12-18] Upgrading to Samsung OEM Ice Cream Sandwich Android v4.0

Recommended (and not) Accessories:
The Tablet 🙂
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I got mine for $645.50 from Amazon Market Vendor “Transformersandgsmphones” … it shipped very fast and was a brand new unit. Caveat: From what I understand, units purchased through grey market like this will be difficult if not impossible to submit for any warranty claim.
AmazonBasics Stylus
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  • $11 from Amazon
  • Highly reviewed
  • Soft tip seems bulbous at first but in actual tablet usage turns out to be very appropriate. Still, I think I would really like the pressure sensitive line thickness capability of the Note models’ smart pen.
SanDisk 64GB microSD card
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  • class 6 but speedy enough
  • it actually works
  • 7.7 formats it as fat32/vfat by default… there are some tools for getting it mounted as NTFS, IFF you think you need >4GB files… I found the tools not working right away and think I’ll be fine on fat32.
  • Got mine for $119 @ Amazon but that price is dropping almost daily! hold out as long as you can!
RAM-Mounts Cradle
(RAM-HOL-TAB-SMU)
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  • I love RAM-Mounts and this is the absolute *PERFECT* fit for the GTab 7.7 in scenarios like bicycle handlebars.
  • The middle sized cup is a very satisfying fit for the GTab 7.7.
  • It will work great with a rubber case or naked. The grip spring is very strong. I bounced along a VERY bumpy 8 hour bike ride recently and there is no way the tablet is coming loose.
  • $28 from GPSCity
  • For bike handlebars I recommend pairing the cradle with this RAM kit comprised of a “strap rail base”, medium arm and diamond plate.
  • DSC_5916-50%-1530x1701
Sea to Summit Waterproof TPU Case
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  • Make sure you get the LARGE version… it’s a nice fit for the tab 7.7
  • I’m using it in tandem with the RAM-Mount cradle above and it does fit. The extra material at the top is kind of crammed in there and there’s a bit of bowing in the plastic surface.. but the touch screen works fine.
  • Honestly, depending on how often you plan on needing that sort of thing you might just get by with a new heavy Ziploc bag each ride… hi-ho landfill! 🙂
  • I went ahead and got some Desiccant packs while I was at it just in case… you may have some in an old shoe box or something
  • $20 @ Amazon
Samsung OEM “Book Cover” Case
OEM Samsung Book Cover Case for Galaxy Tab 7.7 EFC-1E3NBEOEM Samsung Book Cover Case for Galaxy Tab 7.7 EFC-1E3NBE
  • A bit pricey around $40 street and often out of stock
  • I definitely like how this fits into day-to-day usage
  • it’s thin, light, hard shell, unbreakable kind of plastic
  • tab snaps into stiffer corners so it won’t fall out
  • there is some corner drop protection… not extensive rubber pads, but some extra shock absorption plastic there on the corners.
  • there is rubber on two edges so theoretically you could stand it up in landscape mode but I have found that the angle where it will stand up without sliding back down flat is not really conducive to real usage… one would have to rig something behind it to block it from sliding.
“OTG” USB Host Adapter
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  • OTG = On The Go… apparently it’s a standard that allows for swapping the master-slave role … not sure why that helps since we’d want the tab to be the host in all scenarios I can think of… flash drive, hard drive, keyboard, etc.
  • $6.70 @ Amazon
  • See USB Mass Storage Watcher in the apps section below.
  • No surprise, the tab couldn’t power a 2.5” USB HDD.
USB Charge Adapter (aka “Filter Plug”)
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  • This little bugger takes some explaining… the nutshell is that some of these devices like the gtab are checking for a special USB pin configuration to take a charge from a USB connection.
  • This is an example thread to get some more background… including self hacked cables.
  • The other thing to be aware of is that the stock AC charger pumps 2.1Amps… so if you go with another source (e.g. external batt), then you want to shoot for that higher amperage to ensure the fastest charging… see “External Battery” section below,several units are addressing this requirement now.
  • Got mine on Amazon for $5.90 + $5.50 shipping (gip)
  • They go for super cheap on eBay and DealExtreme
External Battery
PowerTraveler PowerMonkey eXtreme
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  • I wound up getting a yellow model for $180… it’s smaller than I thought it would be (which is great). Very light and portable. I like the overall package even if it is a little too pricey. I honestly haven’t used it much at all since my whole paradigm shifted once we left Germany and moved to Seattle. Hopefully this will all swing back into normalcy once we get moved into our new money pit and can hit the trails in a camper with the kiddos.
  • review
  • $190
  • 9000Mah
  • 2.1A USB with a pigtail
  • 242 grams
  • AUTO-OFF
  • completely WATERPROOF
  • comes with a CASE, lots of tips & outlet adapters
  • does NOT come with the required USB adapter for the gtabs; see USB charge adapter above. PowerTraveler does sell their own version of this adapter.

Alternatives:

Bluetooth Keyboards
Think Outside/Sierra Stowaway AND AmazonBasics model
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  • Foldup styles:
    • Long since discontinued, the Think Outside is slick, fragile, but very slick… the key feel is great and the outside snaps shut into a cool shiny, chrome case… they’re experiencing a funny price spike circa Q1 2012, going for $250 on Amazon is crazy… this thing probably retailed for $100… I got mine for $65 on eBay a couple years back… there is another Stowaway model – iGo Ultra Slim that only folds once and seems practical as well.
    • Nomad Mobile has a good rendition of another common style single fold … these go for cheaper elsewhere.
  • Non-foldable:
    • The Apple Bluetooth Keyboard is the gold standard really… razor thin, aluminum, awesome feel to the keys.
      • one catch, no friggin delete key… there’s a backspace but no “forward” delete, you have to hit FN-Backspace to get forward delete.
      • also, no true numpad but that’s sort of what you want in a portable anyway.
    • I noticed Amazon has a nice knockoff of the Apple style now.
      • It has a delete key and there’s a customer image that shows it’s actually a tad shorter than the Apple.
    • Logitech has a polished looking tablet keyboard option with integrated case/stand now too:

           image

Media / Charging Dock

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  • Has HDMI but it’s annoyingly the mini version invariably requiring more hanging adapter bulk 🙁
  • Also has headphone audio out if you need it.
  • The usual plastic quality build, basically works but feels kind of wobbly when you insert.
  • I’d give this a mild recommendation… didn’t see anything else as a worthy challenger at the time.
Zephyr HxM – Bluetooth Heart Rate Monitor

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  • You can also go with a Nike+ wireless protocol, Polar makes a Nike+.
  • or there’s the more open ANT+ protocol, for which Garmin has a couple ANT+ monitors and are the cheapest… ANT+ sounds reliable but,
  • I went with Bluetooth to avoid the need for an ANT+ dongle… some phones are starting to include this radio natively.
  • Bluetooth options are slim, the Zephyr seemed to review better than the Polar Bluetooth.
  • Amazon wasn’t stocked so I ordered from Endomondo for $75 bones (ouchy)
  • Pairing worked as instructed, showed up right away in the Endomondo sports tracking app and reported numbers similar to my arm band blood pressure monitor.
  1. Make sure it’s fully charged, plugged to the strap, the strap pads have to be pretty wet & you have to put it on
  2. Do normal Android bluetooth pairing; code: 1234
  3. Then go into the Endomondo app > Settings > Accessory Settings > Connect To Sensors > Scan
Mujjo Capacitive Gloves
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  • Couldn’t resist springing for these while I was at the Endomondo store – $35 … kinda pricey
  • They work… Angry Birds is playable, I wouldn’t want to type with them though… I got the Male M/L size… I would say my hands are medium and there’s just a bit of extra length to the fingers… with normal gloves I wouldn’t care but it obviously matters for touch screen precision… if you have small hands, consider the women’s size… they are very stretchy material.
Not Recommended
Motorola S10-HD Bluetooth Stereo Headphones with Microphone
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  • $60 @ Amazon
  • too expensive in my opinion
  • the headphone sound is “OK”
  • the microphone sound quality is pretty bad
  • they’re really tight on my ears with my fat head and the design just makes them that way with no relief … I basically hate these and wish I never got them at this point… anybody want a deal on a completely unused pair?
  • all the buttons you’d want… volume and pause/play, fwd/rev and probably a call hang-up
Case Logic LNEO-7 7-Inch Sleeve
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  • Update 2012-07-4: I wound up going with the OEM Samsung “Book Cover” case and haven’t looked back. See those comments above.
  • It’s “OK”… fits pretty well…just a little snug around the corners but not bad
  • no room for much of anything in the cramped pouch… the USB cable and a pigtail would be about max.
  • Can’t lose for $14.50 @ Amazon
Armor Suit – Screen Protector
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  • This one looked good to me because it has a liquid approach to ironing out the bubbles … update 2012-07-04: the spray bottle solution was a good trick, I still got dust in there but that’s hard to avoid.
  • I paid $17 + shipping @ Amazon and it’s already down to $10… feeling a bit gipped 🙂
  • After I got the Samsung Book Cover case (see above), I ditched the screen protector, feeling that it took away from the display a bit and the case is plenty of scratch protection during transit which was my personal biggest concern… this is definitely personal preference area.
Wish List
Keyboard Stands & Charging Docks
Incase Origami Workstation for Apple Wireless Keyboard

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  • Haven’t found anything perfect yet… everything is missing something… at the moment, a makeshift cardboard stand with the charge/usb cables is working better than I expected.
  • Samsung’s keyboard dock – doesn’t have HDMI port
  • Also just considering a case/stand for my Apple Bluetooth keyboard – Incase Origami Workstation: demos ok, not great
 
 
Recommended Apps:
 
App Name
Notes
root.zip (free)
(gtab 7.7 specific)
rooting instructions
BusyBox (free) Loads grep, awk and ash (shell)
SuperUser (free) Everything cool requires it
Android Terminal Emulator by Jack Palevich (free)
  • Make ash (from BusyBox) the default shell: /system/xbin/ash –
  • Make this the initial command to be su by default: su –c /system/xbin/ash
Root Explorer ($$) Has a nice and easy “mount as R/W” button.
ES File Explorer (free) Does everything in one shot… nice icons, *fast* SMB client (Windows File Sharing), FTP client, built in text editor, image viewer, even movie player
NtfsSd (gtab 7.7 specific)
  • Found in this xda-dev thread; mounts your NTFS formatted external sdcard in the native path (/mnt/sdcard/extStorages/SdCard) which is a bit of trick… main advantage for me is that external SDCard shows show up in Explorer when USB connected to PC; other NTFS mounting approaches (e.g. Drive Mount) were not showing SDCard on PC.
  • Symbolic links don’t work to fat32/exFat/vfat hence why NtfsSd is doing an interesting trick of some sort.
  • There is a native linux command for mapping external filesystems (i.e. a FAT drive) to internal paths but it doesn’t hold up across reboots which becomes more of a pain than you’d initially think.
    • mkdir /mnt/sdcard/extStorages/SdCard/Music
    • mount -o bind /mnt/sdcard/extStorages/SdCard/Music /mnt/sdcard/Music
USB Mass Storage Watcher OTG (free) (by Skidmrk) Mounted my 2.5” USB NTFS HDD via the OTG USB pigtail just fine (the HDD required external power).
OsmAnd (free, but buy it) This really makes my day… Open Street Maps (OSM) with the Open Cycle Maps (OCM) layer is the bees knees… this App readily downloads the map tiles for whatever is currently displayed, with whatever zoom levels you choose and then you’re ready to go off-road/offline… couldn’t be easier… it even does offline routing!!
Evernote Skitch and all the integration on a mobile device is pretty killer.
Tasker, Locale Execute Plug-In I came across this as a way to re-run mount commands after each reboot (see “mount –o bind” notes above).
doubleTwist (free) + AirSync ($$) It basically works but I punted… The issues I have are probably mostly related to the still settling Android SDCard ecosystem.
Music WithMe (free) Currently trying this as my iTunes sync’er after doubleTwist (DT) would only see internal storage Music folder… Tasker + Execute + bind mount (above) probably would’ve bridged that gap but Music WithMe (MWM) has a simple music storage path setting, looks promising. MWM seems to report its sync status more robustly than DT. MWM integrates through FaceBook so you get into sharing what you’re listening to and what friends are listening to. I’ll check that out if the basics pan out.

GPS Receivers

Garmin GPS Models

Here’s the main page for the receiver only products (so called “OEM”) 10x (BlueTooth) – this is the one Andrew and I have

  • I finally got it to work well with my WinXP BlueTooth stack by turning off “AUTO CONNECT” checkbox buried under the BlueTooth virtual serial port properties
  • Andrew has always said it works well with his HP WinCE based hand held
  • Runs on a rechargeable battery so you do have to tether it (with included USB cable) every once in a while to recharge
  • Garmin also included the cigarette lighter power adapter in my package… Pretty sure I wound up with two of these due to a screwed up initial shipment so I have a spare in case you don’t wind up with one… cigarette lighter to mini-usb is kindof a handy thingy to have in general these days… would charge other USB power based stuff like MP3 players etc.
  • $107 retail
  • Garmin GPS 10x Receiver for mobile devices
  • The annoying thing is I managed to find an actual Garmin.com link where it was posted as $50… BUT I DIDN’T SAVE THE DANG LINK <ARG!>
  • Cheapest new street price I’ve seen is around $80 (from reputable vendors like TheNerds.net, etc)
  • eBay has a refurb for $50 at the moment

I still wonder if USB might be slightly easier to deal with than waiting for BlueTooth to connect, especially if you’re primarily using in a static environment like a car and it avoids the rechargeable battery dance so here’s a couple of those… 20x (USB)

  • $70 retail
  • this seems to be the one Garmin “recommends” for their PC oriented mapping products

18x (USB)

  • $85 retail
  • says it’s magnetic to hold onto your dash or something

Mapping Software

Maps

Samsung Q1U-V Ultra Mobile PC (UMPC)

[Update: 5 April 2012] Just popped for a Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7. Loving it. Took a while to find a worthy successor to the Q1U. Way to go Samsung. UPDATE [19 Aug 2009]: Windows 7 totally rocks on this thing!!! At least as peppy as XP, probably better.
   Snap1

  • Buy.com has some more good photos **AT THE BOTTOM**
  • some of my own photos
  • Samsung’s Q1U landing page
  • (Interesting, they _just_ (Sept. 19th, 2008) withdrew their links for the Vista model that I got –for obvious reasons– looks like the new "Premium" model with a beefier CPU is the currently promoted Vista solution)

Samsung Software & Drivers Page

Specs on the model I got:

Model Samsung Q1U-V (NP-Q1UA000) (official spec PDF)
Weight 1.52 lbs
Display 7" 1024 x 600 touch screen LCD (nicely bright)
Standard Battery 4-cell Li-Ion Battery, 29.6wh Capacity (rated ~4.5 hours) (6 cells available)
OS Windows 7 absolutely rocks on this thing!!!
Dimensions 8.96" x 4.88" x 0.93" (think of a letter size sheet of paper, portrait orientation, folded in half, top to bottom)
HD 60GB 1.8” 4200rpm PATA ZIF (Toshiba MK6008GAH)
WiFi 802.11 b/g (Atheros AR5006X specs, drivers)
Wired Ethernet 10/100 Base TX
Bluetooth Bluetooth® 2.0 + EDR
USB 2 x USB 2.0
CPU Intel® Ultra Mobile A110 800MHz clock 512Kb L2 cache/400 MHz FSB
Video Chipset Intel GMA950, 128MB shared memory (specs)
System Memory 1GB DDR2 400MHz stock (upgraded to 2GB)
Memory slot SD/MMC
Audio HD Audio, SRS TruSurround Sound
Cameras Front facing low res web cam & rear facing video & still (1.3MP)
Speakers 2 x 1.5 Watts
VGA 15 pin out Max resolution 2048 x 1536 (nice)
Headphone out Yes
Microphone Dual Array
RJ45 (LAN) YES
Warranty 1 Year Parts and Labor
Fingerprint Reader NO

Update [29 Oct 2008]: Unfortunately my touch screen went all whacky, exactly like I’ve read about:

  • A Samsung rep (apparently) even fesses up to a bad batch of screens: Q1 Ultra Screen Issues 
  • Problem with screen in Q1 Ultras
  • Mine went bad on me while I was using it quietly on my desk… tried everything suggested with calibration tools… small improvements but nothing usable
  • Could’ve been due to cramming it in a tight backpack through airport few days prior so I’ll be a little more delicate with the new one
  • Servicing seems to be very speedy, turnaround is days not weeks… waiting for it now… will advise

Update [12 Nov 2008]: Servicing totally fixed the touch screen tracking problem.

  • They even went ahead and loaded the Samsung XP image rather than bothering with Vista
  • And swapped out the "Designed for Windows ___" sticker, nice touch.
  • Turnaround time was excellent.
  • It is definitely a new screen, old one had a telltale scratch on it … very nice to ditch that in the process.

Highlights:

  • I was a little surprised to realize the Q1U-"V" does NOT have the fingerprint reader (official spec sheet from Samsung breaks down the differences pretty well if you look closely) … kindof a bummer from a lost/security standpoint but fortunately this isn’t really where I plan to leave any "life data" anyway
  • Stock 4-cell, ~4.5 hr battery seems to get right to that mark if you’re not doing WiFi… I’ve since ordered 2 of the 6-cells so I can roll through a big/hike w/o concern
  • Going in/out of sleep mode is very instantaneous
  • Vista just kept going off into wait cursor lala land too often so I flipped it over to XP Tablet after a couple days of usage just like everybody else
  • You definitely wind up waiting on Vista for everything… as an IT guy it amazes me it ran as well as it did in 1GB of RAM on such a small CPU… I can’t imagine an average consumer actually putting up with this configuration though
  • Power slider switch doubles as full system input lock so you can’t accidentally bump anything while it’s on … very cool usability feature that goes to show Samsung engineers put some real usage design thought into this bugger
  • Watching a typical AVI movie over WiFi via VLC works like a champ under XP… Vista could barely pull it off.
  • The screen is great … super bright… you can see all normal Windows widgets at the native 1024 x 600 resolution … you definitely need the stylus to hit normal sized Windows widgets (min/max/close, scroll bar, etc.)… fingers work for bigger stuff or widgets not next to another … the Microsoft "Touch Pack" has a "Touch Improvements" tweak that makes the scroll bars double wide so you have a chance at hitting them with a finger… that’s a nice "touch" 😉
  • It does have a little heat to exhaust… nothing like a laptop of course… there’s actually a little fan in there… but it’s absolutely silent
  • Last but not least, it fits very well as an eReader:
    • 1.5lbs is very doable… holding it up to read from the lying down position definitely works
    • Adobe Reader has some nice features I never realized.. it’ll rotate the page so that rather than rotating the whole Windows Vista desktop (which is way slow) I can just rotate the document in Reader so that portrait viewing utilizes the longest dimension, awesome!
    • You can also flip Reader into full screen mode to get rid off all scroll/nav bars/buttons and take advantage of full real-estate…
    • a test Macworld PDF was fairly readable a full page at a time… shrinking an 8.5 x 11 inch page of text down by at least 50% while technically readable, would probably cause eye strain after prolonged reading at that size…
    • what works quite well is to zoom in to 125% and simply use a finger to drag the page into view as one reads… it’s very usable and intuitive this way
    • I am VERY glad I didn’t cave in for a cheaper unit in the popular 4"-5" screen size category (Nokia n810, etc.)… this is absolutely the smallest you could work with for reading full pages… and honestly, a little bigger (9"??) would not go to waste.