Category Archives: Kindle

My experience with Kindles released 9/2012 (includes Paperwhite)

I just wrote to Kindle Feedback (kindle-feedback@amazon.com) sharing my recent experience with Kindle devices released September 2012 (Kindle Fire HD, $69 Kindle, Kindle Paperwhite 3g). Here’s that Kindle feedback, in case it’s useful to others.

Dear Kindle Feedback –

I have owned each Kindle sold with the exception of last year’s $79 basic Kindle and the Kindle DX. I enjoy using Kindle products because Amazon offers the best selection, pricing and customer service around.

I want to share my recent experience –

Kindle Fire HD

  • Love, love, love it!
  • Bought the 16GB and found it too small (I’m a big audiobook fan), so returned it and am now awaiting the 32GB.
  • It’s the 1st tablet that offers equal support for audiobook listeners.
  • Immersion reading: I initially pooh poohed this as a marketing stunt but it’s fabulous! After a long day at work, I can read and listen to the book at the same time… it’s a lovely experience.
  • I can watch all my favorite videos on the HD via Amazon streaming (including instant prime), Netflix, Hulu Plus.
  • The volume is crazy loud. I’ve never had a tablet that was loud enough to watch a movie while giving the dog a bath… until the Fire HD!

Whispersync for Voice:

  • As an audiobook fan, I love that I can start listening to a book while out walking the dog and then come home and read the (text) book.
  • THANK YOU for your aggressive pricing on Whispersync deals: I’ve bought many Kindle books + the Audible.com audio version as part of a whispersync promotion for less than the price of the hardcover book! I really appreciate that, as someone who loves to read (and reads alot).

$69 Kindle (9/2012 release):

  • Fabulous device!
  • This Kindle is an amazing value.
  • It is unfortunately dismissed by some as “low end” but I think it’s the best Kindle Amazon has made.
  • It’s light and comfortable to hold. Even with the lighted cover, it’s still light and comfortable to use.
  • The control buttons at bottom are black so they fade into the device (not a distraction).
  • The text is very crisp and bold — easy to read.
  • The page buttons are comfortable and well placed.
  • This kindle is an absolute joy to use — it makes reading comfortable and the device itself doesn’t interfere with the experience — in fact, the $69 kindle hardware enhances the reading experience.
  • I only wish you offered a 3g version of the $69 Kindle, as well!

Kindle Paperwhite 3g: The good –

  • The form factor is lovely — perfect size and weight.
  • I love the textured screen, makes it seem more like reading paper pages.
  • The 3g works very well.
  • The Paperwhite cover is fantastic — love how it puts the device to sleep.

Kindle Paperwhite 3g: The not so good –

  • The 1st Paperwhite I received was clearly defective (the entire right side of the screen was much brighter than the left). I appreciate Amazon’s responsiveness and how quickly a replacement was sent to me.
  • Unfortunately, this is the 1st Kindle product I’ve felt disappointed in — I am assuming my replacement Paperwhite is “normal” but there is still variation in light intensity *within the text area*. If the lighting variations were just in the margins they’d be less distracting.
  • The variations in light intensity (within the text area) make the text on a given page appear uneven — some words appear bolder/clearer than others.
  • Rather than just settling in to read, I find myself fiddling with the light setting to get it bright enough to illuminate the text while trying to keep the light setting low enough to minimize light variations inherent in the screen.


There you have it, a wrap up of my experience with most Kindles released September 2012. If you have any questions, please leave a comment.

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There once was a company named Palm… or how I came to buy an HP TouchPad

Touchpad

Like many geeks, er technophiles, I recently bought an HP TouchPad at fire sale pricing. I bought it partly because it was a great tech buy, and this article describes what I like about it, as well as webOS apps I’m enjoying.

But I also bought the TouchPad for a more nostalgic reason:

Palm ignited my love of mobile tech

Once upon a time, in a decade not so long ago (the 90s), I received a Palm Vx for Christmas.

Palm vx

Suddenly, I could have my calendar and contact list me wherever I went. I could sync my device with AvantGo content and read news articles while I waited to get my allergy shots. I loaded Peanut Press books onto my Palm Vx and caught up on my reading while waiting in line at the grocery store.

The Palm Vx was small. It was stylish. Palm Computing (division of 3Com) had made other PDAs but none so svelte and pocketable.

I’ve had many PDAs and smartphones over the years, but none evoke the delight I felt using the Palm Vx. I dutifully tucked it into its desktop dock to charge every evening, and never left the house without it. It became my first experience of ubiquitous computing, despite the fact that it didn’t directly connect to the Internet.

When HP bought Palm in 2010, it seemed promising. Finally, the Palm brand would be nurtured.

Alas, that was not to be. In August 2011, HP announced it would no longer manufacture webOS devices, including the TouchPad, Pre 3, and Veer.

And so, when HP announced its TouchPad fire sale pricing ($99 for 16GB, $149 for 32GB), I knew I had to get one.

After all these years, what did I think of the current version of Palm OS (now webOS)?

I love it:

  • Easy to use, intuitive
  • Elegant user interface
  • Scales well to tablet use
  • Easily optimized via Preware

And, like Palm OS of years past, there’s a vibrant and committed webOS community.

And the TouchPad? With its webOS underpinnings, it’s probably the best tablet I’ve used, and I’ve tried them all!

While heavier than the iPad 2, its softly rounded edges make it comfortable to hold and use. Docked in its Touchstone, it’s easily accessible and comfortable to use at one’s desk even while charging. It’s plenty speedy after applying Preware patches and a custom kernel (I’m currently running F4 Phantom).

And despite those naysayers intent on complaining webOS and TouchPad are light on apps, I haven’t had any trouble finding apps I’ve looked for. And I’ve stumbled across great TouchPad apps too.

My favorite HP TouchPad (webOS) apps, so far:

InterfaceLIFT: Gorgeous wallpapers

Angry Birds: ’nuff said

Glimpse: Cool app that enables user to select apps to use in a multi-pane view. See these instructions for downloading Glimpse (Developers’ Cut)

Spaz HD: Great twitter app despite the odd name!

AccuWeather: The same great weather data in an app designed for TouchPad.

box: 50GB free cloud storage just for creating your account from your TouchPad!

Flickr Mundo HD: Great Flickr app, and gorgeous in Exhibition mode.

FlashCards HD: Great study aid. Easy to import cards you find online — I’m using it to study for a professional exam.

Audubon Birds: Beautiful photos and lots of great info for aviary fans

NPR Reader: For NPR fans

Kindle: To read your Kindle books. Be forewarned the Kindle icon you see on your newly purchased TouchPad is just a link to the HP Store — you still need to download it!

Quell HD: One of my favorite Android games, beautiful and relaxing

Honorable mention (aka, apps for which I couldn’t find links!):

The WSJ Reader

The Washington Post Reader

Chicago Tribune Reader

L.A. Times Reader

News Republic

USA Today

Guardian News Hub

Guardian zeitgeist

iheartradio

atPeace: Relaxing scenes and music

PodCatcher Deluxe: Nice podcast streamer

If you’re a new TouchPad owner (and even if you’ve had your TouchPad for a while), I can’t recommend highly enough James Kendrick’s TouchPad optimization article on ZDNet. He’s posted several TouchPad articles, all well worth your time.

All in all, the TouchPad is a very good tablet made even better by webOS. If you’re fortunate enough to find one, I say go for it!

Samsung Galaxy Tab: Some favorite apps & resources

After picking up my Sprint Samsung Galaxy Tab last weekend (see my initial impressions post), I’ve had a chancesamsung-galaxy-tab to play and get some interesting apps loaded. Since I’ll primarily be using the Tab at home, you won’t see driving or navigation apps listed below. Also most apps are not specifically designed for tablet unless noted.

The first thing I did to customize my Tab was to install a new font (since Samsung’s TouchWiz UI allows font customization): Humana Sans ITC FlipFont ($0.99)

Then, I got busy installing apps…

News:

  • The Wall Street Journal: This app is specifically designed for Android tablet use. I’ve long had an online subscription to WSJ to keep up with business and financial news. I like the UI and how the app refreshes each morning at 4:30, so I can read news updates when I get up. Note that a $3.99 weekly subscription will apply after the trial period. (free during trial period)
  • Bloomberg: My favorite app for following stock prices & corresponding news. (free)
  • NY Times: A favorite news source made even better by making an Android tablet version available. To download, visit http://nytimes.com/androidtab from your Galaxy Tab. (free)
  • Financial Times: An excellent (and highly recommended) source for business and financial news. (free)
  • Mediafly for tablets: An interesting and varied source for news audio & video. I haven’t used this app much yet but so far find it interesting. (free)

Media (audio / video / ebook readers):

  • Radio 104.1 WMRQ: One of my favorite alternative rock radio stations. (free)
  • TuneIn Radio: A full-featured, free radio app that provides access to hundreds of radio stations. (free)
  • KCRW Radio: Probably my favorite NPR station – love their music and feature programming. (free)
  • Pandora Radio: I love Pandora’s “Spa Radio” enough to ante up the $36 annually. (free)
  • TV Flash: A work in progress app that provides ability to stream (over WIFI) a variety of TV stations  (U.S. & non-U.S.). (free)
  • Kindle: The Tab form factor makes it an excellent ebook reader, and I find the Kindle app pleasant to use. Another benefit of the Kindle app? Ability to download free ebooks from Amazon – some are basic fiction, but sometimes there are some nonfiction gems – list available here: Limited-Time Offer ebooks.
  • Aldiko Book Reader: If you’d prefer not to use the Kindle app or Amazon store, the Aldiko reader is well done. (free, paid version available)

Games:

  • Angry Birds: This fun and incredibly addictive game works well on the Tab. (free)
  • DroidWords: Looking for a Scrabble clone that doesn’t require other players? DroidWords is what you’re seeking. Get the  paid version to avoid the annoying ads inserted into the free version. ($2.99)
  • Sheep Run Beta: Another fun and addictive game. Not sure though if it’s still available in the market since, sadly, my search this morning didn’t find it. (free)
  • Droid Odyssey BETA: A fun side-scroller, the developer warns it’s has problems on the Galaxy Tablet. However, I’ve been able to play it on the Tab. (free)
  • Shortyz Crosswords: Perfect for folks who like to do crosswords and prefer free (vs. subscription) content. (free)

Other:

  • Palmary Weather Pro: In my opinion, the best weather app for Android. Widgets available, too. ($2.99)
  • Springpad: A great place to save stuff you want to remember – I like it better than Evernote. (free)
  • Touiteur Premium: My favorite mobile twitter client. I prefer the Premium version although a free version is available. (free. paid version: ~$2.73)
  • Beautiful Widgets: These are beautiful on the Tab, too. (paid: ~$2.04)
  • Dolphin HD Browser: Of all the browsers available on Android, this is the one I always return to based on ease of use and speed. (free)
  • Bookmarks to SD: After installing Dolphin HD, I use this add-on app to import my desktop bookmarks to my mobile device. (free)
  • WolframAlpha: A great reference tool. (free)
  • Dropbox: A great file archive tool. I frequently save nonmarket apps to Dropbox to put them onto my device for install. If you haven’t tried dropbox yet, here’s a referral link: https://www.dropbox.com/referrals/NTIxOTYzMDA5?src=global (free app)
  • Google Chrome to Phone: If you use Chrome as your desktop browser, this app is a no brainer… allows you to push urls from your desktop browser  to your Android device. (free)

Galaxy Tab enthusiast web sites & forums:

So, there you have it… my favorite Android apps & online resources for Tab to date. If you’ve found some good apps / references, please leave a comment to let me know!

Samsung Galaxy Tab: Initial impressions & comparison shopping

samsung-galaxy-tabIf asked a week ago, I’d have said the Samsung Galaxy Tab was the product I was least likely to buy. Although it looked interesting, I couldn’t understand why someone would buy a 7” tablet. Really, why?

Still, I’d been reading positive articles about the Galaxy Tab by James Kendrick and was intrigued. To learn more, I went to try the Galaxy Tab hands on. It’s a solid, well-built device with a beautiful, responsive touchscreen. I watched a YouTube video and surfed the web. Easy to handle. Text displayed clearly & crisply. I liked it, but wasn’t too sure about buying it @ $399 with 3G contract.

So, I visited some nearby stores to check out products that could be considered similar:

Huawei Ideos S7 7” tablet: Interesting feature set on paper (including Android 2.1), but I found the resistive touchscreen to be frustrating and not worth $299. Screen wasn’t responsive enough, and I didn’t like pressing so hard to activate a function.

Velocity Cruz 7” tablet: Another 7” tablet, but this time running Android 2.0. Build quality seemed cheap. Not compelling enough to spend ~$300.

Archos 7 Home Tablet: Cheaper than other 7” tablets at $199, and apparently running Android 2.1. However, read reports of poor WIFI connectivity. Why is it named the “Home Tablet”? Based on some reviews, apparently due to poor battery life.

I got to thinking, if my main use case would be as eReader, why not consider Kindle, nook, etc.? So I wandered over to see those. Both the Nook and Kindle are well-built quality devices (I owned the Kindle 2, and had used it day in and day out). The free 3G connectivity is enticing. However, while my main use was to read ebooks, I didn’t want a device limited to just one usage scenario. I also find E Ink’s reverse display during page turns distracting. (Note: There are rumors the $249 nookcolor will be hacked to enable broader use as an Android device. Stay tuned.)

Despite finding the Kindle and nook too limited, I realized I loved the device dimensions as a comfortable fit for an eReader. The roots of a Galaxy Tab were planted…

Before buying a Tab, I revisited the iPad as ebook reader. I love the iPad for bringing tablets to the masses, but find it uncomfortable to curl up with like a book. As an eReader, it is simply too big despite its other qualities.

Aside from the quality of the device itself, what finally compelled me to buy the tab-homeTab? RadioShack’s Sprint Galaxy Tab $350 sale (11/21 – 11/24/2010). I went with the 2GB $29.99 data package since I’ll generally use the Tab at home.

Now that I’ve had the Tab a few days, I’m finding I enjoy it even more than expected. I’m reading Keith Richards’ autobiography, Life, on the Kindle for Android app. I’m keeping up with news via the WSJ, NY Times, and Financial Times Android tablet apps. I’m reading PriusChat and AndroidCentral forum posts on the Tapatalk Pro app. I’m reading Twitter posts via the Toiuteur Premium app. I added the Clockr Evolution text clock widget. I’ve played chess on the SparkChess HD Lite android tablet app (requires Adobe Air) and honed my Angry Birds gameplay skills. I’ve taken screenshots by pressing the Back and power buttons simultaneously.

I love the apps that are configured for tablet display but haven’t had seen any display issues for apps not specifically intended for Android tablets.

For my usage scenarios (ebook reading and couch surfing), the Tab is perfect. Comfortable to hold with a crisp, easy to read screen. If your use scenarios are similar to mine, definitely recommend the Tab as an option.

My favorite iPad apps (so far)

ipad I love my iPad 3G, it’s a pleasure to use. While iPad apps aren’t as numerous as  those for iPhone/iPod Touch (yet), I’ve found some worth recommending. Note: Links point to iTunes.

News –

Thomson Reuters Pro: I respect Reuters as a news organization, and their iPad app doesn’t disappoint. Wide range of topics and elegant presentation. (Free)

France 24: Excellent news content and easy to use app. (Free)

SkyGrid: Interesting new app that presents 10 “Featured Streams” based on current newsworthiness. App also provides ability to subscribe to specific news categories. (Free)

npr: Nice content presentation and all the news you’ve come to expect from npr. (Free)

WSJ: Love it for the dead tree newspaper-like experience. I have a WSJ Online subscription and so far using this app has been free. Will I recommend it when I’m paying ~$18 per month? Not sure. (Free app. WSJ subscription required after trial)

NY Times Editors Choice: Not the full newspaper content, thus the “Editors Choice” label. Nonetheless, I enjoy it for the dead tree newspaper experience similar to WSJ app. (Free)

USA Today: If you like the USA Today newspaper or iPhone app, you’ll like the iPad app as well. ‘Nuff said. (Free)

Finance –

Bloomberg for iPad: Think Bloomberg app for iPhone, on steroids. Track your portfolio, monitor Finance news and watch the markets. (Free)

Thomson Reuters MarketBoard: A different presentation than Bloomberg app, with a cool animated market board. Also features news, corporate call information, and ability to monitor your stocks. (Free)

Books –

Kindle: LOVE it! Offers the reading experience I’d hoped for from Kindle hardware. Tip: Want cool iBooks-like page turn animations? On Home screen, tap “i” (lower right of screen), then Settings, and then set “Basic Reading Mode” to OFF. (Free app. Kindle books can be had at a variety of prices, including free)

iBooks: Apple’s own eBook Reader. I think the Bookshelf UI is a bit tired but, nonetheless, easy to use and beautiful interface. (Free app. Lots of books available and many free offerings)

Alice for the iPad – Lite: A great example of what’s possible with eBooks. Beautiful graphics and cool interactive animations. (Free)

Marvel: Gorgeous comic book graphics – even if you’re not into comic books, worth downloading just to check out. (Free app. There are a few free comics available, but most are paid.)

Twitter –

I haven’t found an iPad twitter app that knocks my socks off yet, but here are the frontrunners at this point…

Tweetings: Makes good use of iPad screen real estate and fairly robust. Also offers notifications, which is a plus. ($2.99)

HelTweetica for iPad: Similar UI to Tweetings, but also includes retweet, fav, @ and DM commands on main twitter list. I like how clicking a link drops you directly into the web page. (Free)

Weather & Traffic –

As with Twitter apps, I have found some good options but am hoping there continue to be improvements in this space.

Weatherbug Elite for iPad: A very useful “at a glance” view — main screen is 3/4 map with weather details squeezed into the right-most 1/4 of the screen. (Free)

The Weather Channel Max for iPad: Select from six screens: Maps, Local, Video, Severe, Social, & On TV. Great for when you want more detail than Weatherbug provides.  (Free)

Beat the Traffic: Uses GPS to show your location on large map, along with real-time traffic info and slowdowns. (Free. US & Canada only)

Productivity & Reference –

I’ve purchased Numbers, Keynote, and Pages but haven’t used them much yet. Here are some noteworthy productivity apps…

MaxJournal: Great journaling / note-taking app with a beautiful “Day-Timer” interface. Can be password-protected. ($2.99)

Dragon Dictation: Amazingly accurate voice to text capability. (Free)

MindNode: I’ve tried both MindNode and iThoughtsHD but prefer MindNode for ease of use and its clean, easy to read diagrams. MindNode also supports exporting your maps. ($5.99)

WolframAlpha: The fantastic reference app that used to be $50 is now affordable and should be on everyone’s iPad/iPhone. ($1.99)

Dictionary.com Dictionary & Thesaurus: Straightforward dictionary and thesaurus reference. The price is right. (Free)

Entertainment –

Cartoons HD: MSNBC political/news cartoons. (Free)

Yahoo! Entertainment: Yahoo’s contribution to the iPad – news, book reviews, fashion, comics, and more. (Free)

ABC Player: Love being able to catch up on some great TV on my iPad: LOST!
:-)   (Free)

Netflix: For Netflix fans, this is a must have. Manage your queue, browse DVDs, and watch streaming video via “Watch Instantly.” (Free app. Requires Netflix subscription)

IMDB: Needs no further explanation – perfect app for serious movie fans. (Free)

Audio –

WunderRadio: I like WunderRadio for its flexibility. A great iPhone app is now an equally good app for iPad. ($6.99)

Pandora: Gotta have it. Love Pandora’s Spa Radio Channel. (Free)

Relaxation –

iZen Garden for iPad: Beautiful graphics and soothing sounds. Great for unwinding after a hectic day. ($5.99)

Magic Window: Gorgeous animated scenes with soothing ambient sounds. Love to open this app and then just leave the iPad standing on a desk. ($2.99)

Marine Aquarium: A colorful aquarium available anywhere, anytime. ($.99)

Games –

Scrabble: Disclosure – if there were a 12-step program for Scrabble addicts, I’d be first in line. Familiar scrabble board and tiles. Just wish the board were a bit bigger. ($9.99)

Shanghai Mahjong: Beautiful mahjong game, with a wide variety of tile graphics, board layouts, and backgrounds. ($2.99)

Pinball HD: Beautiful images and fun game play. ($2.99)

Angry Birds HD: I don’t know what got these birds so P.O.d, but this game rocks! Very fun and addictive. ($4.99)

Honorable Mention –

The Elements: A stunning display of periodic table elements. ($13.99)

What cool iPad apps have you found? Add a comment to share your recommendations.

I was wrong about the Kindle…. musings of a new Kindle 2 owner

B000FI73MA In June 2008, I posted an article entitled Kindle: Still too expensive at $359. I shunned the original Kindle as too expensive and frankly, too ugly. As much as I love books and reading, I couldn’t imagine spending $359 for a device that looked so dated.

There, I’ve said it. Even with my affection for shiny, new gadgets, what’s on the inside counts but what’s on the outside counts, too.

Flash forward eight months to February 2009, when the Kindle 2 was announced….kindle2

Suddenly, what I’d previously thought was overpriced became quite compelling. Was it the addition of text to speech? Was it the prettier design? Was it the influence of my Kindle-owning friends? Those answers and more below, in my initial impressions as a Kindle 2 owner.

What I like about the Kindle 2:
Solid, quality construction: My initial impression upon removing the Kindle from its shipping carton was, “Wow, this is really solid.” Of course, it requires the same care in handling as any electronic device. However, it’s thin but doesn’t feel fragile.

Text to speech: It doesn’t quite sound natural but yet isn’t so digitized as to be unlistenable. This feature will be handy for those times when my eyes are tired from gazing at a computer screen.

Intuitive navigation: I confess, I took a quick look at the user guide but didn’t pay attention to navigation instructions. I just picked up the Kindle 2, and started using it.159175-kindle2-350_188

The screen: Crisp and easy to read. It has a matte (not glossy) finish to reduce glare when reading outside. 

On board dictionary: What reader doesn’t at times encounter a word they’d like defined? With the on board New Oxford America Dictionary, one doesn’t even have to put down the book to look up a definition. Nice!

 

Amazon’s eBook selection: I’m a long-time Audible.com (audio book service) subscriber. As wonderful as Audible.com is, sometimes I want a book that’s just not available in audio format. Enter Amazon’s Kindle book store which offers great variety, and pricing (many at $9.99) is still far less than buying the physical book.

3G wireless connectivity without monthly subscription: Considering the cheapest cellular data plans cost an average of $20 to 30 per month, the Kindle’s always on wireless helps justify the device’s pricing. Of course, this always on wireless has its benefits for Amazon – it makes it incredibly easy to buy books.

What I’d like to see improved:
Variety of Kindle newspaper subscriptions is too limited and most are too expensive considering their digital format: I set up a Kindle subscription to The Irish Times since I love the perspective non-U.S. press offers and I thought the subscription pricing was reasonable at $5.99 per month. I love the Wall Street Journal but my current annual online subscription costs less than twelve times the Kindle WSJ $9.99 monthly subscription – I’ll keep my web-based version, thanks.

And, frankly, that’s all I can think of that I’d change. I am delighted with the Kindle 2, and very impressed with its quality and the attention to detail that has gone into its design and implementation.