Sunday, November 20, 2011

You Should Get Yourself One of These Amazon Kindle Fire

After spending a few days with the Kindle Fire I have been very impressed. I don't think it will ever replace my e-ink kindle but it is a great little deice. I have owned multiple Kindles including the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th generation devices. I have also read on android Smartphones, an iPod touch, kindle for pc, and the cloud reader.

PHYSICAL: I love the size of the Fire, it can be held with one hand although after a while the weight forces some positioning adjustments. It is about the size of the past (non DX) kindles and around the size of a DVD case. The power button seems to be poorly placed in the center of the bottom of the device; Right where I want to put my hands. I frequently hit/hold the power button unintentionally. The speakers are surprisingly good for a device of this size although the max output could be louder. I miss the physical page forward/backward buttons of the earlier kindles and volume up/down buttons would make a nice addition. Overall, none of these problems are great enough to cause me to down-rate the device.

SOFTWARE: The carousel on the home screen is interesting. It is a good idea but can be too sensitive and spin when I intend to select an item. The favorites on the home screen remain stationary and are easier to navigate than the carousel for frequently accessed items. I currently have my favorite apps and the books I am currently reading as well as those on the top of my list.

NEWSSTAND: The pages of magazines are a little scrunched on the Fire's screen but zooming in helps a lot. I found that nearly half of my favorite magazines aren't available at all (yet). I don't tend to read magazines as much as I read books so this isn't a huge problem but for people looking at the Fire for magazine reading should check availability first.

BOOKS: The functionality of the reading is more like reading on a cell phone than reading on a kindle. The biggest missing feature seen on e-ink kindles and missing here are collections. There is very little ability to organize your books here. You can view all books you own (Cloud) or all books on the device. You can sort these listings by title, author, or most recently viewed. has a way rating books, listing books as want to read/reading/read/abandoned. It would be great if the Fire accessed this data and allowed for better user management of the list. My list contains just under 200 books and over time that number will only grow. Once you find the book you are looking for (I keep the ones I am currently reading and plan to read next in my favorites) reading is a simple and pleasant experience. The title of the current book is written at the top of the screen and other than that the only thing displayed during reading is text. A single tap in the center of the screen brings up the time, battery, network status, how far you have read, and various other buttons. The display color, margins, spacing, font size, and typeface can be changed through the menu. Font size cannot be changed by pinching.

MUSIC: The music plays well and can be organized into playlists. The music features are most useful if your music is on the amazon cloud drive. But music, and everything else in the cloud, can't be accessed when outside of wireless.

VIDEO: Watching free and purchased videos is a great experience on the Fire. Keeping track of the free Prime videos I want to watch is much more difficult. There is no queue or to watch list so every time you want to watch you have to search around for what you are looking for.

APPS: What's not to love about a free app every day? Some great android apps are still missing here but there are a lot of great options available and hopefully the list will grow.

Overall the Fire is a great product at a great price. A 3G options would be very nice.

Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World

Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World - Michael Lewis spins an entertaining yarn, traveling about the world and joking about the personality traits that led to the varying economic disasters of 2008. One can learn a certain amount about what transpired in each country, but the strictly factual material in this book could probably be spelled out in less than ten pages.

The bulk of the book is composed of amusing vignettes and Lewis's attempts to define each country's travails in terms of broad cultural stereotypes. The Icelandic crash, for example, follows from the that that Icelandic men think they are Vikings and don't listen to women.

The Greek crash results from their inability to trust each other. The German problem comes from their trust in process and their fascination with fecal matter (I am not making that up).

I don't know that my understanding of the world has been advanced by this book, though the book is an enjoyable, quick read.
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