Impressions of the Kindle

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I’ve finally had a chance to play with the Amazon Kindle. I won one for my company t-shirt design contest about a month ago. I have to say I was really skeptical at first about owning one. First the price tag was too high. $300 buys me a lot of books so I have better things to do with $300 than to drop it on yet another electronic device which comes with no books. Sure I can download some free public domain books but we’ll get to that. I even bought a leather cover made specifically for it since the Kindle looks like it would get dirty and scratched really easily.

First and foremost, the Kindle is thin. When I first opened the box, I was amazed by how thin it was. I was not expecting iPod touch thin, but that’s about the best I can describe it.

Can’t touch this. My first impression of the Kindle was that it was a touch screen. Maybe it was the clear display or perhaps the vague UI, but somehow I was mislead to try to touch the screen. Of course nothing happened because you are not supposed to touch the screen. You use the buttons provided. There are navigation buttons on the left and right on the screen to go back and forth between pages. There’s a joystick nub to let you go up/down/left/right.

Easy on the eyes. Reports about the refresh rate on the screens are true. The Kindle screen definitely beats staring at the monitor. You won’t even notice reading on it for hours. Too bad they don’t have it in color.

1 Click shopping. I purchased my first e-book on the Kindle today. The process was painless. Almost too easy. All you had to do was search for the book you wanted, navigate to it, and click the buy button and your e-book will be downloaded in the background through WhisperNet. It literally took a few minutes to download the whole book.

Free books. So the cool thing about the Kindle is that Amazon lets you download some public domain books for free. I’ve downloaded some fairy tale classics as well as The Art of War by Sun Tzu. So that’s great right? Wrong. They don’t make it easy for you to find all those free books. At least the iPhone app store sorts by free and paid apps. You get no such thing here. It’s up to you to try to sort through the mess.

The Fine Print.Here’s where they get you. You can also read blogs. However it’s not as easy as putting in an RSS feed. Well, you can read the ones they’ve prescribed for you which are popular blogs. However, it’s gonna cost you. Usually it’s $1 a month subscription for EACH blog. I was surprised to learn that you DO get a cut of the action if somebody subscribes to your blog. However, it’s a measly 30% as opposed to the iPhone app store’s generous 70%. So if I were to subscribe to my 300 RSS feeds that I currently get for free through Google reader on my G1, I’d be paying $300/month on subscription fees. Insane. Yeah, screw that.

The extra stuff. The Kindle comes with an experimental browser. I played with it for a few minutes. It was a painful way to browse the web, from entering the URL to actually perusing websites. We won’t be replacing our iPhones and netbooks anytime soon.

The UX So I decided to give the Kindle a fair shot before I wrote it off, seeing as I got it for free and all. To that end, I’ve bought a book – which I thought could not be made any easier and started reading on it. I’ve read it on the train, on my breaks and on the couch. It’s pretty awesome. There are 3 things about the Kindle that make it a better book.

  • You don’t have to turn the page. It’s much easier to move to the next page by hitting a button than it is to flip pages. You get lost in the flow of reading and not interrupted by page turning.
  • You don’t have to constantly alternate between reading the left and the right page. Again, it’s a subtle change in the way you read, but I like this better.
  • You can read while you eat. If you’ve ever tried to read a thick paperback while eating, you’ll know what I mean. The chunkiness of the paperback forces you to have one hand on the book at all times. If you want to turn the page, then you are forced to use your other hand. Makes reading and eating a bit hard. However with the Kindle, your hands are free to eat.

To sum it up, I like the Kindle because it’s thin and convenient. I don’t have to lug a huge book(s) around. Also, I save a little money since e-books are a bit cheaper. The drawback is that I can’t lend it to my friends of course. I also like to stick post it notes in my books. You can write notes on e-books too but it’s a bit awkward. I probably won’t buy all the books I want to read on here. Some of the price difference between real books and e-books was so small I would rather spend a few more bucks to get something physical and tangible. Plus Amazon can’t decide to later revoke my book. All in all though, I like it. Would I have spent $300 to get it – probably no.

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Hardware Review: Eye-Fi Wireless 2 GB SD Memory Card

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What’s the worst part about taking pictures with a digital camera. If you’re like me, then the hardest part is getting the photos OFF the memory card. It’s a big pain and hassle. I always never do it as often as I should resulting in MEMORY CARD FULL errors every time I have a need to take photos. My lazy approach is to just keep buying new cards as they get cheaper, but that doesn’t solve the problem.

Well, rejoice, a solution exists. Behold the Eye-Fi Wireless SD card! It’s a standard sized SD memory card that goes in your camera. However, it comes with BUILT-IN Wi-fi. What it allows you to do is to wirelessly upload photos from your memory card straight to a media server at home OR directly to many of the popular online photo sharing sites including Flickr, SmugMug, Picasa, Shutterfly, Facebook, Photobucket and more.

I’ve read about this way back. I thought it was an awesome idea but I didn’t think the problem warranted this sort of solution. After being so lazy about offloading photos for so long, I decided the purchase would be worth it if it just makes my problem go away. So does it? Indeed it does. Set up for the Mac was a breeze. You just have to register your SD card and make sure it can see your WiFi network. Then you can set up where it uploads the photos. I had mine upload to Flickr and set to private by default. I took some photos the other day. To my pleasant surprise when I looked into my Flickr account, sure enough, those photos were there. That’s why I decided to blog about it right away.

There are several flavors of the card at several price points. The cheapest one (blue) only uploads to your computer. The best one comes with free hot spot access for 1 year, unlimited geotagging, unlimited websharing and uploads. There are 2GB and 4GB versions.

I highly recommend this gizmo. I like simple and elegant solutions like these that just makes your problems go away.

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Weekly Favorite Links

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Some of these links are kinda old, but I figured I’d share them with my audience anyways. The focus of this week’s links are robotics and user interfaces.

Boston Dynamics Big Dog Quadruped Robot Showcasing real time walking and balancing. Your jaw will hit the floor when you see it recover from slipping on ice.

Dean Kamen, inventor of the infamous Segway, shows off his “Luke” (as in Luke Skywalker) prosthetic robotic arm. I thought this was amazing and even more profound than the segway.

Hot along the heels of the movie Iron Man, this is a real life exoskeleton suit reminiscent of Ripley’s powersuit in Aliens. It augments the wearer’s strength and is quite mobile.



Other Links

  • The Eco Zoo is a site done in Papervision3D (an open source 3D library for Flash). This is probably the coolest Papervision site I’ve ever seen bar none.
  • Browse the Flickr universe not just metaphorically in this Papervision browser.
  • Some really creative advertisements.
  • Livescribe digital pens. Not only does it digitize what you write, it also records the audio to go along with it. I want one of these, but I’ll wait for Mac support.

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Terminator Judgement Day is Coming

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Cyberdyne exoskeletonJapanese company Cyberdyne is developing a robotic exoskeleton. It’s able to augment the wearer’s strength 10-fold. They’ll crank out 500 of these robotic suits by October. I thought, “Wow, that’s really cool.” Until I realized, “Wasn’t the company in the Terminator movies also called Cyberdyne?” Why the heck would you name your company Cyberdyne if you were developing robots. Talk about foreshadowing. I guess now we’ll have to go through all the Sarah Connors in the phone book and protect them before Skynet sends a Terminator back in time to kill her. Or we could just blow up Cyberdyne right now and save humanity. LOL

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