Thursday, March 31, 2011


I’m spending today and tomorrow at the PBI Intellectual Property Institute.  The course materials were distributed as PDFs on a thumb 1 GB drive, which is a nice alternative from a pile of the normal yellow paperback books.  I brought Hobbit, my MSI Wind netbook with me but the PDFs PBI created have problems displaying in Foxit Reader.  So, I wanted to tether Hobbit to my Droid and download the Adobe Reader installer.

Unfortunately there’s no WiFi and yet again, PDAnet decided to not work.  Previously it’s been mostly usable under Windows but the Mac port was very flaky.  Today, I couldn’t get online in Windows 7.  I decided to give Easytether a try.  I installed it through the Android Market, then downloaded the desktop client on my Droid and transferred it to Hobbit via USB.

So far, so good. I’ll give it a try for awhile and if it continues to work well I’ll buy it.  For $9.99 if it continues to work it’ll be worth it.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Bought an Amazon Kindle

Up until my mid-20s I could have been classed as a "compulsive reader." Even through college, I devoured fiction and non-fiction books (mostly sci fi, fantasy, and history) constantly.  As a kid, when bored I was known to pull out a random volume of the Worldbook Encyclopedia and get lost for a couple hours.  (Yes, I was a nerd.)  Then, I went to law school and had very little time for recreational reading.  Simultaneously, I got hooked on online fora -- first via FidoNet, then the Internet.  Thus, my book reading became very intermittent.

When I left my job as a field engineer for an office job back in 2004 I started commuting via train.  Rather than getting back to reading books I got myself an MP3 player (Creative Labs, IIRC), and then in 2005, a 60 GB iPod.  I've been rotting my brain with rock and roll ever since.

Last Friday my iPod locked up solid.  It wouldn't mount as a disk on my Mac and I had to let the charge run down.  In the interim, I loaded up the SD card on my Droid with a bunch of music so I have something to listen to.  I currently have the iPod connected to my Mac and hopefully it'll work OK after charging.

But I've been wanting to get back into reading more and took this as a motivator to do so.  This being the 21st Century, I decided on getting an e-reader, and currently the standard to judge them by is Amazon's Kindle.  On Saturday, I picked up a 3rd generation WiFi-only Kindle at BJ's Wholesale Club.  I went with a WiFi-only unit since I have WiFi at home and at work, and it also allows you to access AT&T WiFi hotspots for free.  So I didn't feel the need to get one with 3G.

The Kindle came with a quickstart guide and a charging cable. The charging cable can be plugged into a computer's USB port for either power or transferring files, and also includes an A/C-to-USB adapter. Unfortunately, it does not use a standard micro-USB cable.  See below. A spare charger is $20.

I also bought Amazon's leather case with a built-in LED reading light that gets its power from the Kindle. With the case on the device feels more like a book and seems well protected.

I. Am. In. Love.  While I'd briefly considered getting a tablet, the Kindle has some advantages.  First, at $139 it's a lot cheaper than an iPad or Xoom.  So far, the reviews of Android-based tablets have been mostly meh.  Second, with wireless turned off, a fully-charged Kindle should not need recharging for nearly a month.  Third, and to me most important, the Kindle's "e-ink" display is perfect for reading text.  I probably spent about 20 hours over the weekend reading books on the Kindle and I had no eyestrain.  There's no way that I could say that if I'd been using a tablet with a backlit screen.

One of my favorite publishers -- Baen Books -- has been especially good about embracing e-readers and providing content for free via and  I downloaded several of John Ringo's novels via the latter over the weekend and so far have blown through Into the Looking Glass and Vorpal Blade, and I'm now about halfway thorugh Manxome Foe.  (Links are to the paperback versions since they aren't currently available through Amazon's Kindle store. Go to the Baen sites for e-book versions.) But don't worry, I'll be buying some e-books to support Baen's authors once I get through the free stuff.

You can buy Kindle books from Amazon right on the device but so far I've used my Mac to browse the Kindle bookstore.  If you have One-Click enabled for your Amazon account and you have the device connected to WiFi, you get your book within a minute or two.  This morning I purchased Finland's War of Choice: The Untidy Coalition of a Democracy and a Dictatorship in World War II.  (The Winter War and Contiuation War have been of interest to me for a long time.)

The Kindle's UI is simple and very good.  Reading a book on the device is much like reading a "real" book.  Instead of physically turning a page you just press the right or left arrow key.  If you turn the Kindle off it comes right back to where you left off, when you power it back on, no need for a bookmark. You can set book marks and make annotations.  There's also the ability to access a dictionary from within a book you're reading.

The Kindle also supports MP3 format files so you can listen to music while you read, or listen to audiobooks. It includes a WebKit-based browser, but having a grayscale-only screen, browsing pages with any kind of images is going to be a less than optimal experience.

E-book files tend to be small and Amazon claims that it'll hold up to 3500 of them.  The ability to carry around a library in a package which will fit into a large pocket is remarkable.

I can't recommend the Kindle highly enough.

Edit 3/29/11:

I am apparently a moron. Because the micro-USB port on the Kindle is rectangular instead of a trapezoid like normal micro-USB ports, I needed to rotate the plug but didn't notice that.  It will in fact use a regular micro-USB cable. {sigh}