Archive for November, 2011

Kindle Touch Review

November 27th, 2011, 5:32pm by Mike

KW slate 03 lgIt’s been a while since I’ve done a gadget review — since it’s been a while that I’ve gotten a gadget worthy of putting up here! But last week I got a Kindle Touch, and so far, it’s great.

While I love my iPad, it’s not the best for all situations — the big, bright screen and long battery life come at a price, namely, size and weight. While I’ll definitely continue to travel with it, and use it as my main leisure computer, it’s a little big to whip out on the train every day to read news or a book. On the other hand, the iPhone, while completely portable, is not optimal for reading, but isn’t bad for a train ride. Looking around, I noticed that most people had solved this “problem” with a Kindle — it’s super-light, there’s always light to read by, and the screen is great for reading.

So I got the Kindle Touch, wifi only, with special offers. It was $99, and I also got a $10 power adapter (which I wouldn’t have gotten if I’d realized it was just an outlet to USB adapter — I already have a ton of those.

A few first impressions:

  • It’s super-light. And since it’s relatively cheap ($100), I feel like I don’t have to be as careful with it as the iPad. I have a pocket on my computer bag that’s perfect for it, so probably won’t even buy a case, keeping it that much smaller.
  • The e-ink screen probably is easier on the eyes than the LCD screen of the iPad or phone. I’m guessing that it’ll be nicer to read in the evening, rather than staring at a bright screen in bed (though, of course, you have to have a light on). There have been studies saying that looking at LCDs late at night makes it harder to go to sleep, but I’m not sure I believe those studies, having fallen asleep in front of the computer, or with phone in hand, plenty of times.
  • The battery life is phenomenal. It shipped about half charged. After 4 and a half days of playing with it quite a bit (and wifi on the whole time), I’ve depleted it to about 25%, and haven’t had to charge it yet.
  • I actually don’t mind the special offers — in fact, I kinda like them. They appear as the screensaver, and at the bottom of the home screen — never while reading. I think it’s the equivalent of throwing a magazine in your bag with it folded back to a page with an ad — you never really get bothered by them, and occasionally you see something interesting. The first ad I saw (genius by Amazon) was for 50% off a Kindle case, but you had to click on the offer the day you registered your Kindle. It’s a great way to persuade people to click on a link and see what happens, and that it’s really not intrusive. It mailed me a coupon code that’s good for a month.

My plan is to use it mainly for library books, brief news, and pharma industry RSS feeds to read on the train. Library books work great (I’d already been borrowing Kindle library books on the iPad/iPhone). For news, I got a free trial subscription to The Guardian ($10/month after trial) — it was nice, but it’s a little much to read (while I love the Guardian on the iPad, where they have a phenomenal app (with a 3-month free trial), it’s tough to read a whole paper on the Kindle, I think). I also got a free trial to Reuters ($10/month after trial), and actually like it better — there’s more relevant news.

For work RSS feeds, I’m running Calibre on my server, and getting sending news to my Kindle every day, for free (as long as you’re on wifi, delivery to Kindle is free, and I only have wifi). As such, I’ll probably also use this to replace Reuters’ paid service and just use RSS. Like everything else when you’re running your own server, it probably causes as many problems as it solves, but it’s fun, and so far, it’s working pretty well.

So far, the only problem is that you can’t view mailed items in the Kindle’s “periodical view,” which makes it easy to navigate things with a sections/articles format (including RSS). This is a quirk of the Kindle Touch and Fire — the basic Kindle 4 works fine on this. I’m guessing there will be a tweak for this down the road, or that Amazon will add this back in with a software update. But even if not, it’s fairly minor I think.

What do you guys think of the Kindle? I think I’m about the last one to get one (I know Jake and Serena both have them, right?).

Holiday Spirits

November 25th, 2011, 4:13pm by Kelvin

The in-laws took delivery of more wine than we could ever drink (500 bottle). Let’s have a party!

A month with the iPhone

November 20th, 2011, 1:29am by Jake

Like Kelvin, I too recently adopted a new smartphone platform in the shape of an iPhone 4S.I was happy enough with the Sprint FrankenPre 2 but then I got hit by two errors at about the worst time. First, it stopped retrieving my Yahoo! Mail which is a major PITA. No idea if the problem was on Palm’s end or Yahoo’s end, but no matter. Apparently the two troubled companies couldn’t make their way across Sunnyvale to sit down & solve it. Second, the phantom headphone problem returned. The phone was usable in speakerphone mode as long as I didn’t mind holding it backwards, but really. The Pre 2 was giving problems after 2.5 months, what hope did I have that it would last 8 or 11 months? To top it all off, this all hit the day after I discovered I broke my hand, and the morning I locked myself out, and had to call a co-worker for a lift. And since my phone was acting up, I rebooted so I couldn’t even kill time surfing the web! I walked home that day & stopped by the Sprint & Apple stores to no avail, but easily reserved a black 64GB Sprint phone for the next day. After a false start, I picked it up after work and BOOM! iPhone.

There are some really great things about the iPhone, some which are overstated, and some things I just miss from the Pre. Let’s take this in list form. First the great.

  • It’s so responsive compared to the Pre. I slide my finger on the screen, and everything just moves. Every. Single. Time. No delays. Really easy to overlook and likely unappreciated by folks coming over from the dumb phone world. But for smartphone users– especially webOS fans– it’s almost unreal.
  • The screen is great, no question. The Pre screen was fine, if a little small. Having some more pixels and acreage makes a difference.
  • The camera is loads better. For lots of reasons. #1 is simply the responsiveness… it just works. #2 is the 1001 user interfaces. And editing functions. I’ve been on camera hiatus lately, but I’ll get back there. Finally, the sensor itself is clearly better. That’s not a knock on the Pre, which took good photos. But the iPhone is a cut above nearly everyone.

Then lets get to the overstated.

  • Apps. Don’t get me wrong, they’re great. And yeah, with 200,000+ there’s going to be a new one like Word With Friends that I enjoy that simply didn’t exist on the Pre. But 95% of my use is Safari, Email, Messaging, Twitter, Podcaster, Facebook, Maps and other standard fare. None of those, apart from the maps, is dramatically better than the equivalent app on the Pre.
  • Let’s talk recent iOS upgrades. Notifications are fine and surely a huge improvement from the old paradigm. If they don’t match webOS notifications, they’re close enough. Another is OTA upgrades. Can’t believe it took 3 years. Copy & paste and quasi multitasking (we’ll get back to that) are a few other upgrades that I had for 2+ years on the Pre.
  • Battery life is good. And it mostly gets through the day, but I do have to sneak charges regularly. Certainly better than the Pre. But, at least on the Pre there was the option to swap batteries. Sure there are battery cases & other recharging options, but I’ll call this one a push.
  • Siri. It’s fun. If I drove a lot, I could see it being handy. Fun gimmick right now.
  • Ditto Facetime, except for the driving part.

And the things I miss

  • Touchstone charging was great.
  • Multitasking just doesn’t work as well, and I regularly find my downloads in Podcaster stop when the app is in the background too long. No idea if this is remediable.
  • Synergy & the address book integration was definitely better on webOS. Facebook integration is a bit of a hack, and I find that most times there are multiple entries for each person– sometimes 3 or 4.
  • The keyboard. The best thing I can say about the iPhone keyboard is it works. It doesn’t “just work.” Tons of typos, the screen is just too little and no tactile feedback. Maybe you can type as fast on the software keyboard, but it takes more concentration, too. On the Pre I could just hammer and ignore the screen for paragraphs. On the iPhone, if I go 3 sentences the corrected version might be so unrecognizable that I can’t be sure what I meant to write.

Another new phone, another new platform

November 15th, 2011, 9:48pm by Kelvin

Been spending the week getting acquainted with an HTC Arrive, my 3rd phone in the past year running my 3rd mobile OS. Such is life for the webOS diaspora. For all of webOS’s shortcomings, and there were many, it was really fun to use, in a way that Android was not. Android was very powerful, very functional, but not really fun or elegant. WebOS was thoughtful, and while I didn’t always agree with their choices, I could usually see the thinking behind them. Android is just haphazard and inconsistent; too often, a commonly used feature was hidden in a menu, which just drove me crazy.

Enter Windows Phone 7. Now of course, the obvious question is why not just get a Sprint iPhone and be done with it, but there were 2 things in WP7’s favor– physical keyboard, and it’s cheap. I was able to get my QWERTY- toting Arrive for $160 used off contract. Basically a no cost side-grade after I offload my old Shift.

So far, I’m loving WP7. It’s cohesive, fun and buttery smooth. yes, the app landscape is only slightly better than that on webOS, and the lack of recognition by websites is reopening a lot of old wounds. Both the Board and Flickr, for instance, serve up the full website rather than the mobile one. But overall, I’ll take my lumps, hoping that Microsoft goes forth and evangelizes.

BTW, this Word Press app on WP7 is awesome.

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